My First 40 Years
2. “1st” Self Portrait 1978 oil on canvas 30x24” $5000
I knew I liked art and science and thought I might join the two by becoming a medical illustrator. But I was recruited, and given scholarship money, to wrestle at Kent State University, where there was no medical illustrating degree… I would have to take courses that I thought would help me develop the skills needed to succeed in that field. Unfortunately, most art classes were closed to incoming freshmen, so my first 2 quarters were spent fulfilling required credits such as freshman English. I didn't do very well my first year at Kent State.
My initial attempts at painting my sophomore year were pathetic. My first painting class at college was taught by a graduate student who wasn’t a painter, but who needed the job. He taught very little, so I bumbled along on my own. At one point he brought in a friend, Chuck Basham, who could paint figuratively very well. My teacher asked Chuck to take a look at my work to see if he could help me. He could.
Chuck did a demonstration on a painting of mine where my shadows on a yellow brick wall looked like mud. Chuck used crazy colors (alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and yellow ochre) to paint those same shadows and in a short time my “mud on the wall” looked like shadows on a brightly lit wall! I was stunned. I didn’t learn to paint that day, but I knew that Chuck knew something I didn’t, and I was very curious to learn what he knew.
One of Chuck Basham's teachers was Joseph B. (Joe) O’Sickey. Here you can see the many colors that Joe O’Sickey taught, the high contrasts and the use of different colors in the lights than in the darks. I call this “First Self Portrait” not because it was my first, but rather because it’s the first oil painting I was proud of, that I thought successful. I painted it over the summer of 1978 in a basement under an incandescent light in terrible painting conditions. Nevertheless, I emerged from that basement with a new enjoyment for this challenging medium.