I grew up in the Midwest during the 1930s Depression. My first awareness of art was attending Saturday classes at the Toledo Museum of Art when I was 9 and 10 years old. We moved to Detroit in 1944 and as a 14-year old boy, I was treated to a tour of commercial art studios in downtown Detroit. I’ll never forget that first impression of seeing artists at work, hunched over their drafting tables, concentrating on the rendering of automobile illustrations or hand-lettering slogans for magazine ads. The whole scene was intoxicating—everything from the pinned-up sketches to the shelves loaded with pens, brushes, inks, and pigments. That was when I decided I wanted my career to be art.
When I was in graduate school at Yale, one of my professors, Josef Albers—the renowned artist from the Bauhaus School in pre-war Germany—hired me as an assistant to print his “inkless” intaglio prints. Spending time in his studio, I was struck by his creative process—the way he focused so intently on his work and how this in turn shaped his entire life. It was the kind of lesson you can’t get from a classroom alone, and it helped guide me in my own work and life.
In 1965, I was appointed assistant professor of Design in the School of Art at the University of Washington in Seattle. We packed up the kids and the dog and drove out west in a ’65 Ford Falcon station wagon. From the first moment we saw Seattle, surrounded by forests and gleaming mountains and water, we knew we’d found home.
At that time, Seattle was a small, laid-back city, and except for the Space Needle, the Smith Tower was the tallest building in town. But the University was becoming a major research institution, the art scene was well-established, and the city was poised to take off. Painter Bob Jones (Robert C. Jones) and I rented a studio space in Pioneer Square in the long-neglected Collins Building, a relic of Richardsonian Romanesque design with ancient elevators and no heat. We had a huge loft space for $44 dollars a month—split between the two of us.
I spent many hours in that Pioneer Square studio working on large acrylic geometric paintings that are part of what is now called the “Mid-Century Modern” movement. My paintings were exhibited throughout the West, and were often reviewed by the writer Tom Robbins who was then an art critic for the Seattle Times. The Seattle Art Museum purchased two of my paintings for their permanent collection, and shortly after, I had a “two-man” exhibit together with the then-emerging glass artist Dale Chihuly at the just-opened Attica Gallery on Capitol Hill. In 1967 I was one of twenty-one artists nationally selected to exhibit my painting “Orbit Organization” in the 30th Biennial Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.
In addition to painting and teaching at the UW, I had many freelance design projects: designing a series of book covers for the University of Washington Press; designing posters and catalogs for the Henry Gallery; and designing the project report for the West Seattle Freeway project, led by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. Later, together with my wife and daughter, I started an interpretive sign design business, starting with designing natural history signage for the then-new Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
When I retired from teaching, my wife and I traveled in Mexico and discovered the village of Sayulita—which is now a bustling surf-tourist town, but at that time was still a tiny village on the Pacific coast, with stick huts, unspoiled beaches, and virgin jungle. We bought a house on the hill above town and built twin art studios, where we spent sixteen happy years creating art and enjoying the colors, climate and culture of Mexico. We started “Sabado, Art for Kids”, a free Saturday school to teach art to the Mexican 5th graders.
Now, back in Seattle, my newest fascination is working with digital images and their endless possibilities. Using the computer as my latest tool, I can bring alive many of the ideas that have been filling my sketchbooks for a very long time. It is a new and exciting focus in my life of art.