By the time I hit Jr. High School, I had made up my mind to try to be the class clown, so I spent a lot of time down at the principals office. If I was going to get in trouble for disrupting the class anyways, I figured I might as well disrupt the class!
One of the few classes I was not disruptive in was art class of course. I loved art class. It was nice to have a time each day to do art as opposed to once a week like in elementary school. I learned how to do scale drawings, mix and use different kinds of paint, sculpt with clay, shade and smudge with pencils and a little bit about perspective. The basics… I got along well with the art teacher, was recognized for my talents on occasion and was confident enough to help some of the other students to figure out the lessons when asked. I learned how to draw from photos in magazines and spent much of my free time drawing.
I drew so often in classes that the teachers sometimes would come see what I was drawing and usually complimented me on whatever it was. I found ways to go out of my way to draw. Study hall for instance. I would draw for the entire period. Cartoons, pretty ladies, cowboys, motorcycles, hot rods, space ships, ninjas, super heroes, etc… The fact that middle/high school has more students and different teachers each period didn’t seem like a big deal at the time but thinking back on it, having that opportunity to blend in with the other students and escape a domineering teacher that you have one period for a friendly teacher you had in another period really helps a kid’s development and self confidence a lot. Especially when they have been conditioned to feel like an outsider.
When I went up to the high school I was a much calmer in my classes and still drew a lot. I became interested in being a good student again but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself though and had to cut up a little in class. There was one teacher in particular that the students used to have quite a bit of sport with. We did awful, awful things to this poor teacher, and I feel bad about it now, but I drew some horrible caricatures of her. Terrible!!! The other students liked it though and they would pass the drawing around the class. Of course the teacher found it and sent me to the principal, Mr. Dorr’s office.
I spent a lot of time in Mr. Dorr’s office… He as a pretty nice guy as far as principals go. He always asked to see what I was drawing when I came in to his office. He saw the picture of the teacher (giggled) and asked me if I had ever thought about doing caricatures for a job after high school (presumably at Cedar Point) We talked a little bit about that. He asked me to draw him. I did. He liked it and asked the other principal to come in and get drawn. I did. Then the secretary, some girls who worked in the office, etc… By the end of the class I had drawn everyone in his office. He told me that he would get me some work drawing stuff around the school and he did. I drew decorations for Christmas time of the principals with santa hats on and stuff like that. I drew backgrounds for the proms and homecoming dances, etc…
I had loved my art teachers and got along really well with most of the people in my art classes. We were a fun group. We saw each other in a lot of the same classes each year. I took some other ‘liberal arts’ type classes and some of us even went on field trips to the Pittsburgh Art Museums and other out of town shenanigans. Among the new art classes was painting, sculpting, dying, drawing, printmaking, etc… I learned all sorts of cool techniques and the teachers often challenged me to come up with something more creative than whatever it was I was working on or offered an extra credit project if I got done with my project and still wanted something to work on in class. I was a skateboarder and I drew a sweet 3-5′ pastel painting of Tony Hawk grinding a jersey barrier that won me an award in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition. I had participated and gone to the show several times, but as a junior, I was honored to be chosen to attend an award ceremony in Columbus with a few other classmates. Our artwork traveled the state and was hung in the Governor’s mansion for a while. On the last day of my Junior year, me and a couple of the other boys got a little too rowdy with our goofing around and Mrs. Schuman, -one of the art teachers- told me that because I was being a dork, I couldn’t participate in the Advanced Placement art class as a senior, which broke my heart. I kept hoping over the summer that she was just kidding but when I got my classes senior year… no AP ART.
Senior year I actually made the honor roll more often than not. Mom and dad and I had the talk about school after the Art Institute of Pittsburgh people came around and I was thinking seriously about going to college after high school. They were a bit surprised I guess! As for art classes, I think there was only one other art class other than AP I could take, so I did. I think the teacher felt bad she kept me out of AP Art, but what’s done was done. Since I did a lot of extra credit artwork my senior year, I was given a special display space in the hallway for the spring art show as a senior since I couldn’t participate in the AP show (which was very nice) and I was asked to do live caricatures at the show. It was my first time ever, I didn’t want to do it and I was terrified! There was one other student there doing them and he was better at them than I was. He told me that he watched them doing them at Cedar Point before and so I took a few pointers from him the second day.
The first one I ever did, I did in pencil first, then inked it, then had to go back and erase the pencil lines. It took 20 minutes, was terrible and I made a quarter on it! I might have done about 12 more that day. All horrible! Ha ha ha!! People told me they were nice though and paid their quarter. The other boy told me that if I stopped using the pencil it might speed up my drawings and it really wouldn’t be so bad if I made a mistake. I could probably correct it with the marker and he was right. I was a perfectionist when I drew my artwork. Often drawing the same line over and over again till it was just right. Shading something, erasing it and then shading it all over again till it was perfect… All that went out the window the second day I did caricatures at the high school. I had to let go and trust in my ability to not screw it up! I did probably 20 of them that day. All in Sharpie marker. I made money for the art club. …And that’s how I officially started my professional caricature career!
(Copyright Adam Pate, 2013)