How did I become an artist? Sometimes I ask myself this question. I’m always interested in how other people get to where they are in life. Did they always know who they wanted to be, was it by accident or was it evolutionary?
Here is my story:
When I was in elementary school at Wood Acres in the suburban town of Bethesda, Md., I thought I wanted to be Mickey Mantle. Baseball was everything in the Beebe house. Well, fast forward a number of years, I found myself starting in some games freshman year at Catawba College but standing out in left field, literally and figuratively, knowing I had a rag arm from throwing it out so many times. I also knew I was no Mickey Mantle and I had no future in baseball.
Plan B. I was fortunate in high school (Walt Whitman) to have a professional football player named Duane Carroll teach me how to punt. Fast forward three years and I was punting in college. We had a great season. We were invited to play in the prestigious Coal Bowl in Kentucky. :-) But at the end of the season I realized I didn’t fit in. Football wasn’t for me. I was tired of people trying to rip my head off or break my leg. I was a geology major at this point with a geology teacher that reminds me of the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. The only A’s I was getting in geology was when we had to draw the rocks! I certainly wasn’t going to become a geologist. “Who am I” I asked myself. What do I want to do with my life? I walked away from football, geology and Catawba and said to myself “What’s it all about Alfie”?
How did I figure it out? I remember finger painting in Mrs. Stanley’s kindergarten class, getting an A on my paper mache duck in Mrs. Leaning’s 5th grade class, drawing various animals, drawing maps in geography class, doing caricatures of teachers in high school, dabbling in cartoons, drawing rocks in geology and finally taking my first painting class in my junior year in college. I took the class to boost my GPA during football season.
All of my drawing in pencil, copying and creating images gave me a strong foundation for my portrait painting class. I didn’t even know I was developing a skill that could be used to make a living. The geology teacher that was teaching masters-like geology in undergraduate school actually did me a favor. He weeded me out of his program, causing me to take the portrait painting class which I ended up loving. My art professor Dr. Walter Hood told me I had a Renoir like quality to my portraits from live models. He changed my life.
In the end it was my high school sweetheart and eventually my wife who talked me into finishing my education in art and who encouraged me to take a chance on becoming a full-time artist. Along the road there were a few diversions and self-doubts. I pursued my accounting degree and worked in accounting for about 6 years before it finally dawned on me that an artist is really who I am and how I wanted to be defined.
The journey was a round about one. There were many clues along the way. I just didn’t see them. Evolution; some things take time. The forks in the road, the paths one takes are fascinating to me. The journey continues …