Photo by Creed Holden
John Clovis, retired Fairmont State University art professor, contributed heavily to my development as an artist. I've mentioned his impact in the past here and here, and intend to write more blogs about how his influence is still felt today. In this blog I'd like to share another story about how one of his comments 20 years ago brought about one of my recent paintings.
In his "Intro to Design" class, Clovis loved to create projects centered around the Elements and Principles of Design. During the project on Composition, he set up a still-life with a cow skull which he had us draw, then cut up the drawings and arrange into a composition that we then painted in acrylic.
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 1999 - My attempt at this project. On the back he wrote: "Pretty Good" Well painted with good contrast of value. Composition - your choice of content could have been stronger. 3.7 (out of 4 or maybe 5?)
While we worked, he usually enjoyed discussing stories from art history, contemporary art, his own experience, and many other topics. On this particular occasion, while we intensely studied the skull, he asked me if I was familiar with the story of Samson and the jawbone. I told him I was not, so he briefly explained how the biblical hero had defeated an entire army of Philistines armed with only the jawbone of an ass. Maybe it was the skull that I had been looking at for so long, or maybe it was the way he told the story with such feeling, but the image of Samson always stuck with me. Recently the story came into my mind again and I determined now was the time to put that scene into paint.
Samson and the Philistines, latex paint on canvas, 43 x 55", 2019
Many thanks to John Clovis for all his influence and the faith that he had in me from the beginning. I've always appreciated that and wouldn't be where I am today without his belief in me.
4/2/2019 09:50:25 pm
Amazing how teachers do leave impressions on students. As a teacher I’m aware that actually it’s not what I teach - that is invariably forgotten - but who I am as a person that is remembered (sometimes forever)... I certainly remember instances from school, college university of little statements or gestures from teachers that have left a mark on my development.... Thanks for sharing and acknowledging teachers!!!
4/3/2019 03:57:08 am
Denis, very well put! I think you perfectly expressed John Clovis' strength as a teacher - through enthusiasm and example conveying a curiosity and love for art. Thanks for commenting!
Nancy Price Biggs
7/20/2019 05:54:12 pm
While cleaning off one bookcase shelf today, I came across a 1982 exhibition booklet of work by John Clovis that was held at Oglebay Institute. I really liked his work both then, and now that I found the booklet and went looking on the Internet. You are fortunate to have had him as a professor! ( I grew up in Shinnston-- never had any real art instruction in school or at WVU. but making up for lost time presently). Booklet has quite about 20 of his pre-1982 works. Want me to scan and e-mail you a few?
7/20/2019 06:09:09 pm
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