When I began attending Art Center College of Design (ACCD) in 1977, I was 19 years old. I was one of the youngest students in the school. Younger than me, as I recall, were Frank Ordaz, Emmanuel Amit, Tia [Wallace] Kratter and one or two others.
I was scared. Seemed everyone was 23 or older. They had been to college already.
There were requirements that were daunting. Only a few years earlier the administration had stopped requiring male students to wear white shirts and ties to class. It was still a strict environment—many of the teachers were at the new facility in Pasadena, but had come from tenure at the “old school on Third Avenue.” They brought with them the old ways.
I, for one, thought that was a good idea. I wanted to learn Illustration the old way. I wanted to learn to draw and paint from teachers who were working and succeeding during the Illustration Heydays; the 1930s–1950s.
We were required to keep a sketchbook with us at all times. At least one teacher would make this a demand, pretty much covering for the rest of the teachers who would make the same requirement.
No one told me that All Caps in a display face is just bad typography.
In that sketchbook I would keep my class notes, my required “daily drawings” (I never did them daily) and my ideas. Along with all that were my “A.D.D. Compensations.” These little artworks were — as crazy as this may sound to someone who does not sport ADD — my way of focusing on the lectures.
There is nothing more painful to a 19-year-old art student influenced by ADD and nearly entirely visually driven, than having to listen to a lecture about visual things.
So I drew.
I usually sketched cartoons or caricatures of my teachers while they talked.
She droned on and on about color theory in the most absolute terms, finishing each paragraphical statement with “It’s all relative…”
Now when you’re ADD enhanced—as I like to call it—your mind picks up on repetitive sounds and patterns. They are just rhythms and sounds. Not words. And so, like a catchy beat in a song, like the piano and drums intro in Rikki Don’t Lose That Number the pattern gets absorbed and memorized, only later to be studied and analyzed for content.
I thought it was odd that I was being taught a basics course that was all theory, reduced further by its mere relativity.
It would be decades before I would come to understand the enormous value of everything I was taught by Judy Crook in my second term at ACCD. She had a way of burning-in the meaning and correct naming in the terminology of color: hue, saturation, value, tint, shade, intensity… but what would baffle me for years was the concept of the relativity of it all. All the rules were only good so far as the way they were described, but would fall apart in varying degrees based largely on the colors surrounding—and thereby visually influencing—a given hue.
It’s still a difficult thing to pay attention to even as a painter, some 29-odd years later.
Judy Crook was brilliant.