20 January 1977

My Life in Pictures Part Seven: Teenage Wasteland

I started high school in Durand, Michigan in 1976. My drawing skills had been taken note of, and put to use on school dance posters and various teacher assignments since fifth or sixth grade, but in high school it started gaining momentum. I had thought most of this work thankfully lost to the dustbin of time, but thanks to Facebook a lot of high school chums have been reminding me of what my drawings and artwork actually looked like back then, and perhaps it should have remained lost. The image above was thanks to one such Facebook friend (I don't actually remember the circumstances of this one, but it looks to be a doodle on notebook paper).

I was also enlisted to draw a series of cartoons for the school newspaper (no examples of this remain, as far as I know). One of my teachers also enlisted me to draw a series of posters on various topics for class decoration (it got me out of an hour of schoolwork during the day).

I didn't actually take an "art class" until my senior year, when I had my first chance to dabble in oil paints. A student purchased the painting after the spring art show, and it got passed around over the years, until it ended up in the possession of the mother of one of my friends, who allowed me to revisit it and take a photo (circa 2004).

I could also be regularly called upon to draw caricatures of various teachers, and below is an example of our Band Director from a 'Band Banquet Program' that also resurfaced recently.

I was drawing a lot, but I was also rather conflicted about my future. Besides drawing, I was also in love with music, playing saxophone in the school band, and teaching myself piano on our family's upright. Me and a few friends formed a short lived 'garage band' and we played a few times for school banquets and backing up choir solos (we only actually learned a few songs). Below is a yearbook photo of the group (I'm on piano, and my little brother Tom is on the drums). I never actually gave up on the music, continuing to play guitar for my own amusement, and around campfires through most of the 80s and 90s, and then starting to take it more seriously once I reached my 40s. I was probably right in assuming that 'making a living' at music would have been a lot more difficult to pull off than the illustration route that I eventually settled on.

In my last year of high school (1979-80) I was enlisted to illustrate the cover and several interior pages of our school yearbook, and the examples of that are pictured below.

My first job was working as a paste-up artist for a family printing firm, Counter Printers Ltd. on Corunna Road in Flint. I worked there for approximately 3 months, ending abruptly at the end of the summer when the building and business caught fire during an aborted robbery attempt. I first learned to use a stat camera on a limited basis, shooting halftones of photographs and artwork and making metal plates for the printing press. I did some paste-ups, and made delivery runs to a typesetting house for 'chunk type' (what most small shops did in those days who couldn't afford a full fledged 'typesetting machine').

Aside from that, I did occasional caricatures for my Mom's co-workers at the Buick offices in Flint (retirement & birthday parties, etc) and I would get paid ten or twenty dollars for an illustration of this type. The example above is actually a caricature for my Mother that I did in the late 90s, but gives a feeling for the sort of things she would commission from me. Below is another example of these 'mom commissions' from the same 'late 90s' period of time.

Then suddenly, in the spring of 1980, I was astounded to discover that I had to pick out a college to attend. The 'real world' beckoned. I wasn't ready for it.