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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Derrick White

Written and Photographed By A. C. Slaughter

Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe artist Derrick White. Crazy, cool, fun, excited, motivated, inspired and dedicated might get us started but there are so many words, yet none, that capture the essence of a man so committed to his art, his students, his community and his family that he is hailed as ‘The man who does it all’, everywhere he goes.

derrick white 2Derrick has been a full time Professor of Art at Tyler Junior College for 13 years, the TJC Art Club faculty sponsor for 11 years and the Gallery Director for the Wise Auditorium Gallery for 13 years. His work can be seen at Soju Sushi Bar and Asian Bistro here in Tyler, Grande Hill Estates Apartments, Tyler Junior College West Campus and One Realtor on the East Loop, also found here in Tyler.

And now, a little about why his students and the art community love him so much.
Every year the TJC Art Club, under Derrick’s leadership, makes cash donations to the “Make A Wish” foundation. The Art Club also provides food for “Tyler Aids Services” by hosting a school-wide can food drive every semester right inside the art department. The Art Club paints murals for local businesses and has helped the TJC Dance Studio earn $15,000 by donating paintings for a fundraising auction. Also under Derrick’s brave and never ending encouragement, TJC students were awarded scholarship money from paintings that they donated, made possible by Jim and Margaret Perkins via Citizens State Bank.

It just doesn’t stop.

Derrick’s commitment to the greater Tyler area has been more than well received. He is one of the funniest and youthful artists we have here. Just ask his students. The Art Club has an annual event called the “Annual Art Club Thunderdome” held the last Wednesday of April right behind Jenkins Hall. Students participate by bringing one of their pieces to be judged by the cheering crowd who decides the one winner of the day. There is only one winner but the catch is that if you lose, as all but one do, you agree to have your work destroyed by a Mexican wrestling style sword drawn devastator who kicks, punches, mutilates student’s art work right before their eyes. As the crowd looks on, student artists are encouraged to remember that no one piece is sacred in the art world and once that lesson is learned, artists can actually start making art.

even the floor of his studio is paintedSo when does Derrick White have time to make his own art?

That’s a great question. The answer is: always.

“There are so many college professor burnouts who stop producing once they start teaching but I found the opposite to be true. I find I gain energy from the students and being an art professor makes me a better artist which makes me a better professor.”

Many times artists fall into day jobs that take away much needed time and energy. The key to any successful artist is to find the balance. Part of that balance is having a support group and Derrick’s support group is his family. Married to his beautiful wife, Alicia, for 20 years they have two children, 13 and 16 who are both budding artists. When you first meet the Whites, you get a sense, instantly instinctually, how wonderful their lives must be. Engaged and talkative the family tells stories of each other growing up, all funny and all laughing; they are a real treat to meet. Support group? Check! Studio? Check! Art? Check!

Having a family who backs him, Derrick is free to sling paint around all hours of the night. Having a studio at home makes him one of the lucky ones who can run out at a given moment and make marks. Derrick’s work is process based. “The painting tells me what it wants to be.” With the use of text, lyrics and poems Derrick’s work is loose and free but decisive and specific.

“Word is interesting in the sense that it’s playful but can be menacing too. Words get caught in your head and lose meaning once it’s in your head so it has to come out but it’s sometimes my subconscious that does it, as I am listening to music as I work. Using words out of context allows the viewer to make up their own mind.”

Graffiti-esk at first sight, the cartoon like gestures in his work want to be something that you can’t quite make out yet sometimes you will get a pearl and can recognize something. Our brains tend to WANT to make out a recognizable object and Derrick’s work teeters on the verge of image and non-image. Challenging and rewarding, one must take the time (and you will want to take time) getting to know his pieces.

I could write on and on about Derrick’s expressive, bright, inspired work but you are better off seeing it for yourself. Go to
www.flickr.com/people/canvashead/ but be aware. You may be so inspired that you have to throw some paint around after viewing.

derrick whiteAnytime I see Derrick’s work I run home to my studio and blurt out a new piece. It can’t be helped. His work has a way of getting inside you, filling you up, until you explode creatively. This is what he does. This is why he is such a great professor and this is why he has such a following.

Participation in recent shows includes “500X Gallery: Hot and Sweaty: The Open Show” in Dallas, Texas, as well as the “56th Annual Delta Exhibition” at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A couple of years ago Derrick was one of the top 100 finalists for the Hunting Art Prize out of Houston. The Hunting Art Prize is the Cadillac of Art Shows. Every year the show awards one Texas resident $50,000. Yes, that’s right, fifty grand and its open to working artists, living in Texas who paint or draw. Out of the thousands who enter, to end up as one of the finalists in the top 100, is pretty awesome.

And Derrick’s accomplishments don’t stop there.

It is success stories like Derrick White’s that make East Texas a great place to live.

Each month I will bring you “Inside the Artist’s Studio,” a personal look at artists right here in our own backyard. It may shock and surprise you how many fabulous, creative beasts we have living amongst us but I think it will fill your heart and soul to see what each one of these great people do for our community.

And isn’t that really what’s important at the end of the day?

How we treat each other and ourselves?

If you know of a great artist, a gentle gem who shines in our piney woods, please let me know. Send an email to eguidemagazine@gmail.com, attention: “Inside the Artist’s Studio” and we will be delighted to read your suggestions.

Check out canvashead.net, facebook.com/TJCArtclub, look him up on YouTube, or email Derrick at derrick@canvashead.net with any questions or comments.

Until next month, stay classy East Texas and MAKE ART.

Art

15th Annual Life in Tyler Photography Contest Now Seeking Entries

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The City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is seeking entries for the 2020 Life in Tyler photography contest. Entries will be accepted from March 2nd to 10th.

Photos will be exhibited at the Rose Garden Center during the 2020 Azalea Trails, March 21st through April 5th. Ribbons and prizes will be awarded for the Best of Show entry as well as first, second and third place for each of the 12 categories.

Registration forms are available online at TylerParksandRec.com, at the Parks and Recreation office at 2000 W. Front St. or at the Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Dr.

For more information, please call Debbie Isham, special events/recreation manager, at (903) 531-1214 or email disham@tylertexas.com.

About the Tyler Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation Department provides oversight for the City’s open spaces, athletic complexes and recreationally oriented programs for the use of all residents and visitors. Staff members diligently maintain a proactive maintenance program for over 26 park areas including oversight of maintenance activities on 23 playgrounds, traffic islands and medians, landscaping at City buildings, cemeteries and the downtown square. They also provide for the propagation of seasonal and perennial plant materials utilized in the Parks beautification programs, as well as the maintenance of trees in the Parks system. The mission of the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is to improve the quality of life for our residents and guests by providing superior parks, cemeteries, recreational and tourism opportunities. Our vision is to provide residents and visitors with attractive outdoor spaces that are well maintained while continuing to be fiscally responsible. Learn more at www.TylerParksandRec.com.

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Art

Bloom Where You are Planted, Buy Local

ben wheeler

By Derrick White

Glasstire is an online art magazine covering topics in Texas contemporary art. They produce thoughtful art criticism and are the journal of record for our extensive Texas visual art community. The website’s name is a reference to the glass tire sculptures of East Texas native Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008), who was from Port Arthur. Glasstire holds the belief that great art can come from anywhere. In the last few years the website has expanded into the realm of podcasts. In their podcast titled Art Dirt: The Personalities of Texas’ Art Cities, Publisher Brandon Zech and Editor-in-chief Christina Rees discuss what makes each of Texas’ distinct art regions tick and the potential for success for visual artists. 

Rees was the juror for the University of Texas at Tyler’s 34th Annual International Exhibition and witnessed some of the dynamic art aspects happening here. As you might imagine, the bulk of the podcast is devoted to the larger visual art market cities of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston; but they also talk about the panhandle, West Texas, southern border cities, and East Texas gets a shout out towards the end.  

Christina states, “What happens if you go out to East Texas, with a place like Tyler, is you’ve got the universities, you’ve got schools, you’ve got faculty. They are there to stay. They make art and they are bringing up students through their programs and it’s sort of a ‘bloom where you are planted’ thing. Start your own art scenes. Have an art community, busy making work and making it for its own audience – you know, those aren’t necessarily places to move to if you don’t already live there but if you are there, there is a way to make something, however small, feel quite thriving and to have dialogue and to have a community, an actual working community.” 

Brandon Zech responds, “Or maybe they are places to move to depending on if you have this really cool idea as long as you can get local support and you can band together with people who also think your idea is awesome, especially if you are moving into a community you don’t know. But the real crux of this: it only takes one person to really change and make an impact on an art scene, be it in Tyler or in Brownsville, or really even in Houston.” 

Rees concludes, “Once you reach a certain age you will have friends who have moved to big art centers, New York or Los Angeles, and have burned out. They got up there and they had to work two full-time jobs and they stopped making their art because they were too busy making a living and paying rent. They want to come to Texas, or come back to Texas, or figure out a way to be able and have a studio and make work and live comfortably and be creative. I don’t think being completely stressed out by having to make a living all the time and not getting to make your work is necessarily ennobling. I don’t think it’s creatively inspiring, and I think this whole character building up exercise of moving to New York City and living in a (dump) and working sixty hours weeks and trying to get some traction is not necessarily the only way to go anymore. There are a lot of different art worlds and you can make your own art world. Things are changing rapidly.”

Things are changing rapidly. That statement struck a sympathetic chord with me and reiterated a belief I stated in a podcast interview with ETX Creatives founders Addie Moore and Lisa Horlander. “I like what is changing in East Texas and in our visual arts community and the arts community in general. It’s got legs and a driving force it hasn’t had before. East Texas, in general, is changing for the better and I think there are more opportunities coming for visual artists in our region than before. Sixteen years ago, if I had an aspiring visual art student in class, the best advice I could give them was … move. Go to Dallas, go to Austin, go to Houston, go to Abilene, all these different communities supporting their arts so much better than we used to. I really believe this is changing now better than it ever has been, and if we could introduce some of the money here in East Texas to some of our local creatives and get it all off the ground, then I think the sky’s the limit for what is coming in the future,” I declared. 

We are at critical mass for visual art. We have excellent regional museums, universities, and colleges with inspiring art programs filled with professional artists, and we have amazing emerging student artists who are sticking around and building supportive, innovative communities. We have support from new and established locally owned businesses and civic communes throughout East Texas giving opportunities to local visual artists. What we need is collector financial support, people willing to invest in budding talents here at home. Start buying original, local art.

There are many reasons original art brings fulfillment to those who collect. When purchasing art, you may think about décor and how it will fit into your home. Are you looking for an exciting piece, something comfortable and welcoming, or are you looking for something striking out as a room’s focal point? Whatever original art you choose, you will eventually find yourself enchanted by how it becomes a part of your home and a part of your life. By seeking out and supporting emerging artists, collectors may find the pieces they have bought increase in value as emerging artists become established. 

Owning original art enriches your life and has the potential to make you happy. You enjoy the satisfaction of having a good eye for what fits your personal aesthetic. You get the gratification of having helped and encouraged a local creative who may have depended on your purchase as sustenance they needed to keep going. You have added to the cultural enrichment of our region. You own one of a kind art not existing anywhere else in the world. 

Writer’s note: The Art Guys, a collaborative performance art duo based in Houston, sadly lost Michael Galbreth, who died in October 2019. Galbreth was married to Rainey Knudson, the founder of Glasstire. Condolences.

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Michael Brundidge: Inside the Artist’s Studio

ben wheeler

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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