I had to search around to find a photo to put here of Mr. Murphy. I will describe him for you. "Murph" as we called him, had a full beard and heavily framed square glasses. He bounced when he walked. He had a ready smile and laughed out loud. I don't remember any first impressions, or the first time I met him, but I remember years under his mentoring as a high school student.
By this time I knew I loved art. I knew I was pretty good at it. I was excited to be in an art class. I found it hard to choose between the classes he offered and never did get to do any ceramics or pottery with him. I wish I had. But what did this man teach me in 3 short years that I have carried with me for the next 24? SOOO much.
This was the beginning of Art History, Art Appreciation, Art Critique and Composition for me. Murph got out the slide projector and showed us Art History slides. He told us stories of the lives of artists. I loved the stories behind the art. He showed us how to read a painting through the composition. I learned to pay attention to how my eye traveled through a piece of art so that I could in turn guide someone's eye through my own composition elements. Each Thursday Murph required us to turn in a Thursday sketch. Groan! But as we each hung our work on the wall and took a look we got the opportunity to learn to critique each other's work and also how to accept the critique of others. It was nerve wracking at first, to hear the criticism of your peers. But as they pointed out that my values weren't dark enough or my work looked unfinished and needed more time spent, I learned to do better. I improved my work. And I learned a more educated way to look at artwork. I learned what made art better and what made my art weak.
Murph's class was a world of discovery for me. I did a lot of work in colored pencil (I learned quickly that only Prisma colors were even worth using), He had watercolors and acrylics and oils. He taught us airbrushing and silk screening. We did work in pastels and charcoal. He taught me to measure and cut a mat. We learned the importance of presentation. Art was inexpensively matted and shrink wrapped for shows. We learned responsibility. I knew I could spend my art time on other homework, or braiding my friend's hair, but I had a deadline. And if it didn't look like I had spent the adequate amount of time on a project it showed in my grade.
For many of us, the art room was our haven. We chose the music we listened to as we worked. I ate lunch there and stayed after school to work on projects. I painted a giant portrait of Jim Morrison on the wall in the art room. I loved to be there. I became the Art Club president. We made the T-shirts for the school clubs, learning design principles along the way. We made posters, programs, entered local contests and art shows. I sold my first drawing to a perfect stranger at one of these shows. It was a milestone I will always remember.
I left Prescott High School with more than my memories of Murph. He gave me a mug he made and it is a valued treasure to me. He gave me a few donated supplies to continue working with. I have been excited to go find him at the high school and reconnect in the years since. I remember calling him years after graduating and telling him I was experiencing a dry spell and he told me to find and read a book that helped him. I am thrilled that my brother Ammon also took Art from Murph and was equally inspired by him.
I knew I wanted to continue in Art, and I have found that because of Murph's example I have become a really good teacher. Like Murph, my mind is an open book to my students. I share with them my love for Art History. I make sure they see examples of lots of different approaches to art. I foster creativity. I allow freedom of expression. I provide the inspiration and let my students create something of their very own. I will never want everyone's project to turn out the same. I tell them to keep pushing a project. I tell them how they can make a good project even better by applying art principles Mostly, I LOVE what I do. Murph loved what he did. I know I am not alone. He inspired many. I hope he knows it! Recently a friend from High School and I were talking about the amazing number of us there are who went on to careers in Art from just our own generation in his class. There are gallery owners, Fine artists, teachers, CAD designers, Auto Art designers, and lots of hobbyists too. I think it's amazing how many of us went on to successfully pursue art. I wonder how many artists we will mentor along the way too. I almost think its the only way to create an artist. Art is brought about through inspiration. What better way to create an artist than through the same route.
Thank you to Jill Gomas Faison for her blog Art for Elementary Teachers with her article on Mentors that challenged me to write about my own mentor!
Flowerstone Art School
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