Inside the Artist’s Studio:
And so become yourself.
Lifelong Learning: Clara Hicks and Barry Jacobs
By Derrick White
A definition of lifelong learning is to continuously expand one’s knowledge and skills from one’s life events. Fine arts is the perfect example of staying healthy – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Lifelong learning advances human development and is essential for people to be actively involved in life. TJC offers to let members of our community audit (enroll and participate without receiving college credit) many classes. Studio art classes are where many people seeking personal enrichment, find a place to belong. Residents residing inside TJC’s taxing district over the age of 65 may be eligible to audit courses tuition-free.
It is great for a creative studio environment to have students ranging from 19 to 90. These students discuss and exchange ideas, work socially, and volunteer collectively. With a range in age like this, it is always interesting to see different approaches to ideas and materials. Years ago, while on a field trip with my school class, I asked the group the time of day and only one student looked at her wristwatch. The lone student not staring at a smartphone was Clara Hicks. Clara repeated art classes at TJC for over a decade for the experiences, friendships, lifelong learning, and personal development. She first attended TJC in the late 1960’s. She had an exhibition of her art spanning over 42 years of work shown in the Jenkins Hall art department hallway gallery in March of 2009. “When I first took a painting class I did not know which end of the brush to hold,” states Clara, a Tyler resident and accomplished artist in landscape, portrait, and still-life painting as well as weaving and ceramics.
“Classes at TJC’s art department are very uplifting. I am inspired by other students who focus on their work with a positive mental attitude. The faculty has set the bar high so students may achieve both their short and long-term goals. I see controlled attention and a lot of enthusiasm,” states non-traditional art student Barry Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs has been repeating TJC art classes for several years. “With no formal experience of art education, I just took on projects. At the Electronics Machine Accounting College in Chicago in 1964, using punch card computer programming, my first piece of art was an image of President John F. Kennedy made from many x’s, o’s, and dashes. I was 21,” remembers Barry. He first took an art class at TJC in 2009 and has explored painting, drawing, design, printmaking and screen-printing, ceramics, sculpture, and art appreciation. Barry has won numerous awards for his artwork including several different place ribbons from the recent East Texas State Fair. Barry’s ceramic tile mosaic artwork was selected to be included in the 2018 Bell Tower Arts Journal of TJC student work (including paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, poetry, and short stories). Jacobs works with acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, pastels, and graphite. He has sculpted in concrete, wood, clay, as well as fiberglass. Barry also won the art club’s 2017 Halloween costume contest with his reconstructed old cancer treatment radiation mask. Barry became interested in art from a previous job working for R.L. Polk City Directory. He recalls, “The job was to sell directories to businesses and get them to advertise. I would make sketches which included logos, pictures, business descriptions, and phone numbers.” Barry has also been practicing Tai-Chi for 15 years in order to get more cardiovascular exercise. “Over the past two years, I have also included Kung-Fu. The benefits have exceeded everything I was expecting,” says Barry. He feels taking studio art classes connects him to his family stating, “My father’s sister, Lilly, was an artist and my sister, Joyce Lynn had an art master’s degree and enjoyed creating still-lifes and portraits in oil.” Barry recommends, “Art club is a time where one can break away from routine; receive positive feedback, information about what is happening in the arts community, volunteer opportunities, competitions, and personal stories from professors on lessons in life as they experience it.” Time is almost always a frustration when it comes to the creative process. “I make mistakes when I rush to finish. I sometimes come in after class to do additional work. I also learn from defeat and self-discipline.”
Barry Jacobs works in what may be classified as a folk/fine art style. Folk art will sometimes have a freshness and naiveté in its formal composition. Folk art is generally (though not always) self-taught or accomplished with nominal instruction. The difference between fine and folk art is essentially traditional, rather than educational. Folk artists may have a variety of different styles and work in a wide range of media. The results are unique, creative, and distinctive for each individual artist.
Barry joined the Navy in 1961 and served as a machinist mate on the Destroyer USS Witek. He was not deployed to Vietnam but did serve in the Cuban Missile Crisis after the Bay of Pigs invasion. Jacobs recalls, “We were to intercept any ship carrying missiles to Cuba and we did just that and also protect the aircraft carriers if they were attacked.” After the Navy, Barry Jacobs went to computer school, worked in construction, as a floor covering contractor, and insurance salesman. Currently, away from the art studios, Barry spends his time volunteering at Christus Mother Frances Hospital making arts and crafts for oncology patients, phones potential donors at Urology Tyler, volunteers at Texans Against Crime, is a neighborhood crime watch captain, and previously conducted craft projects and patient contact for 13 years at ETMC. You can see the benefit of having an individual like this in one’s classroom and sharing their experiences and ideas with an 18-year-old kid.
Barry gets inspiration from the work of artists like Norman Rockwell (American realist painter and illustrator). Barry has battled and beaten cancer multiple times and has overcome triple bypass surgery as well as other health concerns. He states, “I am a survivor of several issues. It has to do with attitude and activities.”