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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Why I am an Art Professor, A Personal Thank You O Captain!

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Chris Stewart BirdBy Derrick White

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” – said by the character John Keating from the film “Dead Poets Society”

Chris Stewart 3It is sentimentalized in books and movies all the time, the impact another person, especially a teacher, can have on one’s life. I am sure if we all paused for a moment to think, there would be a short list of human beings, other than family members, who have helped shape the people we are today, hopefully for the better. “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could,” is a quote from Zig Ziglar. This applies directly to my daily life, and the reassurance and freedom I have been given to do my job my way and with the confidence of knowing someone believes in me and supports my decisions even when he doesn’t agree with them. I am able to do my job well for one simple reason; I have the full encouragement of my boss.

In 1998, after the birth of our daughter, I knew I had to do something to better provide for my family and so I quit my full-time warehouse job and began working at the Arlington Museum of Art, Tarrant County College, and teaching night art classes at Eastfield Community College in Mesquite, all concurrently. Two years later I applied for a position at Tyler Junior College and although I interviewed, I did not receive the job. Fortunately, due to continued growth in the TJC art department another full-time position opened up the following year (the imbedded lesson here – persevere). I applied again and was hired by an inspiring professor, artist, person, and the most proactive and effective leader I have ever known; frankly, the world’s best boss.

Chris Stewart 1Art department chairperson Christopher Stewart is leaving Tyler Junior College after over 21 years of dedication and service to the East Texas arts community and managing a department of working professional artists and professors he has formed into a family. Chris is advancing to an opportunity awaiting him in West Texas. I have worked alongside Chris for 15 years feeling like a collaborator in building something great. Something we both believe is important. One of my colleagues still celebrates what his family calls ‘Saint Christopher Day’ – the anniversary of receiving the call from Chris Stewart telling him he had been hired to join us at TJC. Chris Stewart’s leaving is a huge artistic, educational, and creative loss for East Texas. Ouch! There needs to be a way to know you are in the good ol’ days before they are actually gone. Somehow, we will endure.

Chris Stewart 4One of the great things about having Chris Stewart as your boss is he can be intimidating. Even after all this time, he will call me into his office and I immediately think I am in trouble, only to find he wants to share an interesting film trailer or website he feels I might find useful. He is a very tall, brooding, red-headed man capable of riding 50 miles on a bicycle and crushing argumentative students with merely a quick Eastwood-style stare. As another colleague puts it, “Chris Stewart’s patronus (powerful magical guardian) is himself.” He is the precise guy you want in your corner, on your side, protecting your interests, and backing you up, which he does justly, honorably, and faithfully. I am an art professor because Chris Stewart believes I should be one. He gave me a chance when I needed it and allowed me to find my own teaching voice. He permits his faculty to do their job, expects them to do it right, discover their style, and exercises their strengths. Over the last two decades Chris has built the most vibrant and dynamic department on the campus of Tyler Junior College and one of the best art programs in the state of Texas.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. He is very intelligent and knowledgeable, but can also comfortably discuss current events, films or have casual conversation with faculty and students. His door is literally always open for advising, student arbitration, or a good joke. Chris has an inspiring and outstanding work ethic. Chris is an impressive professor and motivator with a love for art, teaching, and learning. Chris Stewart’s strength is his ability to lead by example. He has very high expectations for himself, our school, our students, and the arts in our region. He has served our community well, and I consider him a great supervisor and an even greater friend. He has guided me through both professional and personal life issues and has been a source of amazing support and understanding for my family.

Chris Stewart  4There has never been a problem Chris hasn’t been able to resolve. He is supportive of department decisions, willing to lend advice, and make fair, prudent judgments when necessary. Chris Stewart has been instrumental in building an energetic and profitable program at Tyler Junior College. The growth of our department has steadily increased, even when overall college enrollment has fluctuated. Our reputation on campus and in the local and state community is strong and respected. If we are credited with getting things done right, Chris Stewart is the reason why; he’s an inspiration for living YOUR best life. The movie “Dead Poets Society” makes references to a Walt Whitman poem, especially when the teacher tells his students that they may call him “O Captain! My Captain!” if they feel daring enough to do so. At the dramatic end of the film, the students show their support to the parting instructor by reciting the phrase while standing on their desks. I’m standing atop my desk right now. Chris, you will be missed. You have made an important impact on many, especially me. Thank you.

Chris Stewart received a BFA degree from Texas Tech University and his MFA degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He has accepted the position of Department Chair for the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.

To see more of Chris’ art visit www.christopher-stewart.com.


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Art

Michael Brundidge: Inside the Artist’s Studio

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Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

By Derrick White

“You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it,” exclaims local artist Michael Brundidge. Michael is a cheerful, energetic, friendly, and laid back personality you are more than likely to encounter during your next visit to True Vine Brewing Company, where he works. His artwork may also be seen there, perhaps being displayed in a one-night, pop-up art exhibition or permanently installed in spots around the brewery. Michael’s art is primarily collages. This is something I personally value because about half of my own artwork is in the medium of collage and I appreciate it when I see it and when I see it done well.

The word collage comes from a French word meaning “to glue” and it is a prevalent and accessible visual art technique, where the composition is created from grouping different colors, forms, and images and creating a new, and sometimes very different, whole. Collages may include drawings and sketches, magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbon, paint, handmade papers, text lettering or phrases, photographs, prints, and other found objects selected and attached to paper, canvas, wood panels, or other supports. The ancestry of the process of collage dates back hundreds of years. 

Brundidge explains, “My main focus in style lately is mixed media collage artwork. Outer space has been the most prevalent theme and inspiration in my current series “Space Is The Place.” I like to mingle Pop Art, Surrealism, and a splash of Neo-Dadaism (an absurdist combination of daily life and art using playfulness, iconoclasm, and appropriation).” He goes on to add, “I use plywood as my canvases (or supports) and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. I love how the acrylic soaks into the plywood. I think the textures really visually pop creating a combination matte and glossy finish to my backgrounds. I use clippings and cutouts of various images found in old magazines from the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. I really enjoy the textures and color palettes used in those decades. I juxtapose images of people, places, and things I find interesting onto my painted backgrounds. I like to call it manual Photoshop. The images most often reoccurring throughout my pieces are large ominous hands, planets, women, and astronauts.” After Michael creates his collages he then finishes them by creating a custom frame for each individual piece using weathered or repurposed wood, which adds to the charm and content of the work.

Other than elementary school art classes, Michael Brundidge does not have any formal training in visual art. He is a self-taught artist, sometimes referred to as an outsider or folk artist for the unique qualities of style and practice. When making art to make art, there is no critique deadline and no teacher to please. This is one of the open-ended concepts I love about creating art: the fact you can just decide to do it. If you feel inspired to start making, sharing, and selling art, you can put a sign in your yard today and become just as much of an artist as anyone else. No degree or certification, training, or experience required. This does not mean you will automatically have any success, be any good, or make anything interesting, but you might. You get to express yourself and your unique human experience to the rest of us however you feel compelled to do so. This concept applies to everyone, of any age, of any skill set, and by any means. You cannot do this with most other occupations. You cannot decide to randomly put a sign in your yard and start practicing dentistry, for example. Or as Michael Brundidge puts it, “You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it.”

What inspired Michael down the path of pursuing art was, as he states, “Honestly, it was loneliness and alienation. I know it sounds dismal and depressing but I was truly hard-pressed to do something. I did not feel as though I had much of an identity. Making art brought back vitality, confidence, and purpose in my life.” Adding, “It has developed my trait of persistence. Art has given me the will to continue on despite ridicule, hang-ups, and depravity.” What Michael finds frustrating about being an artist is, in his words, “Exclusivity and competition. I disagree and do not participate in any art based competitions. Art is extremely subjective. Critics and the upper crust held in high regard can make or break an artist. Anyone can make art. I dare and laud them to do so. I truly believe art is a party and everyone is invited.  Make art to make art. Elitism is too common in the art world. The idea that money talks and has unquestionable influence in the art world is a fallacy. Every artist matters and all content must be considered.” So everyone could, and I believe should make art. The process is emotionally healing and therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in playing the game of the big money buying and selling art world, which is an economy just like every other commodity-driven economy in the world. Make art by you for you, and let the rest fall where it may whether you are a joker, a lover, or a sinner.

Speaking of jokers, Michael finds inspiration in the works of artist Ray Johnson, who was primarily a collage and correspondence artist. He was described as New York’s most famous unknown artist. Michael exclaims, “He was relentless and continuously persistent in his artwork. He was a recluse staying vigilant and persistent in his process. His media ebbed and flowed at his inclination. Johnson was a prankster in expectation. His content was his own and he did not sway his ideology and process. He even determined and called the shots when it came time for him to leave this world.” On January 13, 1995, Ray Johnson dove off a bridge and then backstroked out to sea in an apparent suicide or perhaps final performance art piece. Strange aspects of Johnson’s death involved the number 13 (date; his age, 67 (6+7=13); his motel room number 247 (2+4+7=13) … and the number of letters in “Me Space Cowboy”). Learn more about Johnson in the documentary film “How to Draw a Bunny.” Learn more about Brundidge by going to True Vine and having a beer.

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For the Love of Art: Art Events, Classes & Exhibits

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Discover your inner artist by taking a fun class ! These are for all ages and all experience levels!

For more events, check out EGuideMagazine.com ‘s entire

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Art

Lauren Pitre: Inside the Artists Studio

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Painting the Town: Lauren Pitre

Derrick White

“I can say without a doubt art has brought me confidence. I always struggled with confidence growing up but it seems after each milestone I pass within my art career I gain more confidence, in particular with my murals,” affirms local artist Lauren Pitre. You may have experienced Lauren’s work even if you were not aware of it at the time. If you’ve been to the Longview Mall, downtown Mineola, The Discovery Science Place in Tyler, or the Lindale Candy Company, you probably noticed her dynamic and engaging murals. Lauren received her Associate’s degree in Art from Tyler Junior College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Tyler, focusing on painting. She prolifically creates beautiful and enchanting still lifes of antiquated objects but during her time at UT Tyler she gained experience in painting murals. Now murals and commissioned portraits are Lauren’s full-time job.

“The Importance of Community Murals” is an online article from the website productcare.org stating, “From the 30,000-year-old animal murals in France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave to Banksy’s Balloon Girl, murals have been part of our cultural landscape for thousands of years. Community murals are a mode of expression for artists in every graphic style imaginable: abstract, photorealistic, surrealist, expressionist and graffiti, to name just a few. Most recently, murals have become community centerpieces bringing people together to celebrate the heritage and history of their home. They create vibrant neighborhoods people want to visit and live. Murals attract new local businesses, help bring customers to pre-existing locations, and boost the economy of an area. Murals encourage people to slow down and admire your surroundings. Part of slow living involves appreciating our surroundings and their beauty. Murals create important conversations and expand thought. They also act as collective thought spaces. A great example of a dialogue-provoking mural project is American artist Wyland’s Whaling Walls. Over a 30 year period, Wyland painted 100 life-sized whale murals across the globe to help people appreciate our oceans through art.”

Lauren has an excellent painting skill set, creating works quite capable of attracting and holding the viewer’s attention while provoking conversation and thought in her murals as well as her fine art. “My vintage still lifes are mostly painted on wood panels with acrylic paint. I use wood panels so I can get more layers and am able to lightly sand between coats to get a smooth surface I like. Acrylic paint works best with the wood. It dries quick enough to get more layers of detail,” Lauren describes. She adds, “The style of my pieces is realistic with an exaggerated use of color as well as the background behind the objects. Typical objects I choose to depict are old cameras, clocks, books, and radios. As far as commissioned portraits and murals I tend to stick to realism as well, depending on what the subject matter is, along with the look and design of the surrounding area I will use a specific color palette directed towards a particular style.” 

Lauren grew up always drawing people and facial portraits. After she graduated high school she began working at a local Goodwill store. It is there her fascination with distinctive items began to take hold. Lauren explains, “I enjoyed seeing different objects from different decades, mostly old cameras and clocks. One of the Goodwill tasks specific to me was creating displays for end-caps, toppers, and windows and I usually ended up using the older items, to give them a new life. I decided to collect these vintage items and make still lifes of them and paint them. Another one of my jobs was to paint the outside of the windows for holidays and special sales, the more I did them the more elaborate they became. It was then I felt this was where my path as an artist was truly starting.”

Lauren took a mural painting class at UT Tyler with Professor Alexis Serio Hughes: “We planned out and painted one of the exterior walls of the Discovery Science Place in Tyler over the span of one semester. After that semester I was hooked. I spent a later semester working on a mural there at UT Tyler in the Biology building. I was able to come up with a design, color palette, and work schedule, as well as assigning tasks to the three of us working on the mural,” she states. 

After graduating, Lauren was able to start her first large commissioned mural downtown in her own hometown of Mineola. Soon after she completed the mural in Mineola, she was commissioned for multiple murals in towns around East Texas. “As an introverted person, I never really saw myself branching out and doing large projects like city murals, but art has given me the confidence to do things like that. Although art has given me the confidence to branch out and do large projects around our region, it brings problems along with it, like talking to people, in particular groups of people. I can say the path to get my degree in art helped me tremendously in preparing to speak in front of people but I have noticed, as an introvert, it takes a while to get over. However, after speaking in front of crowds a few times I have come to see it gets a little easier each time,” describes Lauren.

Lauren finds inspiration in the work of other artists like Christopher Stott (contemporary still life painter). She states, “He uses a lot of vintage objects in his work and highlights all the formal qualities of the objects I find most interesting, like contrasts in surface texture in vintage cameras and the shadows they produce. He adds non-vintage objects like wooden chairs and pencils in his pieces, which add another element of contrast.” Lauren concludes, “I also have a favorite muralist, Anat Ronen, who does a lot of work throughout the Texas area and surrounding states. She is a massive inspiration to my mural work; keeping up with her and her work pushes me to keep expanding my work throughout East Texas.” 

For more information and to see examples of her work on Instagram, check out: @artbylaurenpitre

 

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