Artwork by Len Jagoda
A scholarship to art school was thwarted by a call from Uncle Sam. The Army pay scale encouraged a decision to go to Officer Candidate School, but that meant more than two years. Seven years and two tours in Vietnam later the military life was over and it was college on the GI bill.
However, now older and married, the more practical curriculum was business, and then a “real job”. (I wonder why artist’s are asked, “what ‘s your real job”? I wonder why being an artist isn’t a “real” profession.) I wanted to be an artist for as long as I could remember but the practical elements pushed that desire into a closet where it remained dormant, waiting. Life must go on in the world of real jobs, and so it did.
The good news was that the business world also afforded a life with horses and dogs. The equine experiences included riding, training and breeding and of those experiences, delivering a foal was the most exciting and gratifying. Rescuing dogs seemed to be a part time “real job” as well, and living on a small farm allowed us to keep and care for many over those years. Thirty-seven dogs (might be a couple more) and several other critters to date and likely more in the future. Perhaps St. Francis is working as a guide in our neighborhood; but that’s fine with us.
That real job also included a significant amount of travel, domestic and international, providing the opportunity to visit museums in England, Scotland and France and the fun of horse racing in Europe. During this 30 year phase of my life, passion and compassion for animals would provide knowledge and experience that would prove invaluable in the next phase of my life; although I did not know it at the time. Museums and experiences at places and events created an album of images in an atmosphere waiting for an opportunity, just not quite yet.
A series of highly stressful business endeavors and extremely long days were taking a toll. An acquaintance from racing world who also had a passion for dogs became a friend. I soon learned that he was an accomplished sculptor who together with my wife encouraged me to try sculpture. I bought materials and tools and began playing with them, learning how to create three dimensional art. I chose to leverage my familiarity with animals as a genre, and so the seed was planted. That dormant desire was stirring and again with the encouragement of my wife, I left the suits and ties and began the next phase of my life.
Finally an artist. Once the commitment was made, the passion and desire returned. Knowing that the absence of formal art training would never be totally overcome; I decided to build a foundation with sculpture and drawing. Form, shapes and values, but no color, not yet. After a little over a year of this self imposed limitation a level of self satisfaction was achieved and it was time to add color. I wanted to paint in oils but felt intimidated by the medium and the lack of education.
I made the decision to work in pastels first to get the feel of colors and how to use them. Working in pastels began around 2009 and I eventually realized a level of proficiency with that medium. I believed that I was ready for oils. I started working in oils (part-time) four years ago and now realize how much more the lack of training impacts on someone using this medium. I am self taught in sculpture and pastels but have taken a few workshops in oil painting. Those workshops help, but so much is missing in fundamentals which is costing time, and preventing me from reaching an acceptable standard. I need to fill the education void.
When I was in school (during the 6th – 10th grades) I used to read biographies about several renaissance artists. Even now I am reading Leonardo Da Vinci’s biography by Walter Isaacson; but in this book, to study his methods and techniques rather than a history with a few “trademarks”.
I want to learn more about organizing a palette and how to select and use colors beyond the local color of a subject. Determining the temperature and hue is totally trial and error for me, mostly error. There must be a better way. I am doing a lot of glazing and especially want to learn more about it.
My art will be my legacy and unfortunately I got a very late start. Old Masters Academy has the potential to fill many of the voids in my art education with a focus on the elements that are the most meaningful to me. I can’t turn back the clock but I hope to be able to progress more rapidly and avoid losing even more time or missing some elements entirely.