A Pivotal Moment
When I was in high school, and even college, I was never a fan of school. The clear evidence is in my high school transcript listing the eye-opening number of days I missed my senior year. The exact number is confidential, in case they decide revoke my graduation due to absence. I always did well, but I never thoroughly enjoyed school.
For my Sophmore year of college I transferred from the University of New Hampshire to Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine. I was familiar with Bates since I had friends there, but arriving on campus and navigating my way through the beginning of the year was still challenging. And it was, after all, school. Chase Hall was the hub of campus and was one of the original old buildings from the early 1900's. Upstairs were the dining hall and meeting rooms. But downstairs, you could feel and see the history of Bates. The mailroom, just outside of the bookstore, still had a wall of gorgeous old brass mailboxes each with dual brass dials and a mini window.
On that hot summer day in early September, after checking Box 630 for mail or a package slip, I hit the Bates Bookstore to pick up my textbooks. I was an English major, but I wanted to take as many art classes as possible. Figure drawing was on the list for my first semester. I will never forget the moment I came across the book for my Figure Drawing class, I literally stopped in my tracks. I abandoned all of my other books on the floor and picked it up to study the cover.
I literally stopped in my tracks. I abandoned all of my other books on the floor and picked it up to study the cover
The book was Figure Drawing by Nathan Goldstein. Here is the cover, scanned from my actual book:
The din of other students excitedly checking their mailboxes and helping each other search for textbooks melted away and I didn't hear a thing. I was so mesmerized by this amazing drawing. I quickly flipped to the credits page and found that the drawing was by Richard Diebenkorn and is titled Seated Woman No. 44 from 1966. "Perfect," I thought, "the artist is still living (it was 1987) and I've got his name. I can't wait to see more of his work." That was my introduction to Richard Diebenkorn, one of my favorite artists and creative heroes to this day. I love this drawing.
What I know now, years later, is that the moment in the bookstore is the moment that I realized how art and design can make you feel. Connected and curious, in this case. There is a story in this drawing. Who is this woman? Has she been somewhere or is she getting ready to go out? What is she doing with the comb in her hand? Her legs intertwined and the tilt of her body add to the story. Casual and relaxed, even pensive. Possibly she is having a conversation with someone. It just draws me in. This work helped me realize that art and design should tell a story and evoke a feeling. It was a pivotal moment for me.
This work by Diebenkorn helped me realize that art and design should tell a story and evoke a feeling. It was a pivotal moment for me.
With everything I create, I strive to bring about this feeling in others. A connection, a memory, and a story. That magical feeling that a song, a work of art, a pattern, a design, or even a visual detail (those old brass mailboxes!) evokes. For me, it's not always easy and a lot of work can end up in the "revist later" pile. Still, achieving this connection is at the heart of what I do, and for me, it started the day I saw the cover of this book.