egypt, tower of terror mural

Thursday, November 12, 2009

After many years of working in the animation industry I decided to go back to school and get my degree.

Initially I started right into college after graduating from East High School in 1975. In Salt Lake City, East High School sits on the east bench right below the University of Utah, so for many of us, it seemed an all too natural extension of our high school campus. Even more so for the graduating class of '75, because just prior to the commencement of our freshman year at East High, someone set fire to the building on 13th East. It was actually during the summer months so there was some time to assess the situation before the start of the school year.

It was deemed that in spite of the extensive damage throughout the building, the structure was sound enough for East High to be rebuilt. In time, it was restored to "normal", but for most of the three years that I attended the school some of the facilities were not functioning, and arrangements were made to utilize the facilities at the University of Utah. For example, our school play, and other theatrical events were held at Kingsbury Hall. Our graduation exercises were held at the Special Events Center. Both at the U of U. So in addition to a long standing tradition of East High students attending the University of Utah, we had become even more "at home" at the "U".

After a couple of years at the U, I decided to try out the big school to the south, BYU. By this time I had become employed as a scenic artist at a local playhouse known as the Promised Valley Playhouse. The primary creative leads there, Pat and Cliff Davis, lived in my neighborhood, and invited me to come downtown and give scenic art a try. Several of the stage crew/staff that were working there had graduated from BYU in theater arts and when I announced my intention to attend the "Y", they made arrangements for me to meet the people who ran the scene shop. This worked out quite nicely, but I have to say that the designs at the Promised Valley Playhouse were much more fun to construct and paint.

Before long I met the beautiful young lady that was to become my wife. SueDette DeMille was from Cincinnati, Ohio, and had moved out West for school/work. When we married I needed to gain employment so I returned to the one place that I knew best, the Playhouse in Salt Lake City. That's when I left college. That was in 1980.

So, I worked about another year as a scenic artist, then made a fairly radical career move. By this time we were living in Park City, and a friend had persuaded me to join the Volunteer Fire Department. I wasn't the kind that had spent any of my childhood dreaming of being a fireman, so the decision kind of surprised even myself. It was just part time, you know, volunteer. The main reason that it appealed to me is because my grandfather had belonged to this same organization, and it seemed to be a marvelous idea to become a part of something that would connect me to my grandpa. I was a great experience to be trained by an old-timer that had worked with my "Gramps".

After about six months of this experience I had truly fallen in love with the idea of being a full-time Firefighter. To make a long story short, I spent over eight years with the Salt Lake County Fire Department. Over six years were as a Paramedic. Although this profession seems very detached from that of an artist and illustrator, I had an artistic reason for the idea. It's hard to come home after a normal work day and get involved with an art project after hours, especially when you're young, poor, and just starting out. Just about the time you have things set up and you're getting into the grove of it all, it's time to pack it up and hit the sack.

I figured that as a Firefighter working 24 hour shifts, I would have the 24 hours off-duty to really get some stuff done as an artist. Then , after three such shifts we had four straight days off. Now just so you don't get the wrong idea about Firefighters, is you add up the hours on duty it averaged 56 hours per week! Those who work a full-time, 40 hour week have more hours off than they sometimes realize.

I did over the years, get a lot of artwork done while being a fireman. the day came that I decided to get back into an art field full-time. I had been published nationally, been juried into regional and international art shows, and felt like I had hit the limit of my progression as a self-taught artist.

In 1991 we started the year off by moving to Los Angeles (Burbank, actually), and I began a fifteen year career in feature animation. Don Bluth Entertainment hired me off the street. For this I will forever be grateful. I'll have to tell the whole story of how that came to pass some day. It was nothing short of miraculous.

In 1993 I was hired by the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studios in Orlando Florida, and we, of course, moved across the country. Although I had never finished my college education, and had actually completed very little by way of art training, the ongoing training that I experienced both in the animation studios and after hours at the Animation Guild in North Hollywood proved to be an exceptional and abundant indoctrination of a vast variety of concepts and realities, many of which are difficult to find in even the best art schools. I was mentored by some of the very best in the field.

In 2004 the Walt Disney Company decided, much to my chagrin, to close the Florida Studio and cut it's traditional animation staff down to bare bones. I was now unemployed, or perhaps better to say "self-employed" which is often times a very similar thing.

I moved back to my home state of Utah in 2005 and wound up residing right next to Utah Valley University. Actually, at that time it was Utah Valley State College, having recently been advanced from Utah Valley Community College. I got the idea that maybe I could find opportunity there. Maybe I could get a teaching job. After all, there didn't seem to be many "Former Disney Artists" hanging around these parts, and I might be thought of as some kind of commodity.

I started teaching as an adjuct professor and taking classes that would complete, after so many years my own degree. A BFA in Illustration.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting story. The kind of artistic talent you have is so foreign to me, it might as well be magic.

    I've been to Kingsbury Hall recently. Katie's graduation from medical school was held there last May. Four years before that we attended her white coat ceremony there. My sister's house is walking distance from there. My niece is also an alum of East HS.

    We really miss you and your family since you left Florida.