original art by john allen
The extent of my involvement with art, at the present time, consists of pencil drawings of people and pets and watercolor painting. I do draw the occasional still-life when the muse strikes me. The watercolor painting is mainly of landscapes and still-lifes, although I am experimenting with pet portraits. We'll see how that progresses.
Whenever I become interested in something new I tend to immerse myself in it until I learn everything I can. Computers were no different. I bought my first computer in 1988. As happens all too easily with me, I fell in love. One year later, I was writing custom computer programs for small businesses.
In 1992 I received a call from a small manufacturing company in the Detroit area. They wanted to computerize their drafting department and wondered if I would be interested in the project. After the project was completed they asked me to stay on and manage the art department and the office network. What was supposed to be a short-term project turned into an almost six year job.
The only catch was that I had absolutely no training for computer graphics. The closest I had come to the art field was a semi-serious interest in photography. Luckily, that wasn't too much of a handicap, because most of the work was simple drafting or the process of recreating existing pieces of work.
As long as I was doing most of the graphics work by myself I could get away with learning as I went along. This changed when I began to have people working under me with college degrees in art. Perhaps it was only in my own mind, but I felt they questioned my qualifications and, hence, my judgement. Then the president of the company outsourced some print projects that should have been done in-house. I realized that the only way to salvage the situation was for me to demonstrate some artistic ability.
My first stop was the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn where I checked out a few books on drawing. After reading the chapters on supplies I went to an art store and purchased everything I thought I needed to get started.
Over the next two months I spent several hours each night drawing a variety of subjects. Once I had a couple of drawings that I liked I framed them and hung them in my office at work. The result was everything I had hoped. There was an obvious change in attitude from the people I worked with and there were no more outsourced art projects. Since I had accomplished everything I'd set out to do I stopped drawing and moved on to a newfound interest - the Internet. This all happened in the fall of 1995.
The Internet soon became my new passion. It seemed the perfect outlet for my interests in programming, computer networking, writing, and graphic design. I've been creating web sites ever since. For part of that time I held the position of Lead Content Developer for a fast growing 'Net company in Troy, Michigan. The company had several talented artists who created the designs for all of the sites. My main function was as an Information Architect and usability specialist. I remember telling the Chief of Creative Services that I had no interest in being an artist. I would rather be a writer. Oh, what deluded creatures are we.
That's where matters stood until early in 2003. Then, during a move, I found my old drawings. When I looked at them after all those years I realized that I could do better. That alone wasn't enough to get me started again. At about the same time, I acquired a charcoal drawing done by an artist in 1920. I became fascinated by the simplicity and elegance of this drawing. Shortly after that, I met a young woman who's face gave me an almost irresistible urge to draw.
All of this, in addition to one other event, coalesced into a desire that I could not resist. I took a few pictures with my digital camera and started to draw. After a couple of less than satisfactory sketches I decided to start from the beginning. As before, the first stop was the library. What a lucky decision. I found a book by Anthony Ryder that improved my drawing enormously. Thanks, Anthony.
One other important event contributed to my decision to start drawing again. My mother was diagnosed with a debilitating disease and needed someone to care for her. Since I was the only one in the family not working a 9-5 job it was natural for me to become her caregiver. This meant that for long hours at a time I sat and drew while she watched television or read a book or newspaper. Since she could not be left alone, my social life dropped to nil during the last year of her life. When I draw the world seems to fade away until I am focused completely on the drawing. I think this period had a great influence on my ability to concentrate.
Time has passed, as has my mother, and I have neglected my art for several months. It's time for me to take up my pencils and paintbrushes and, once again, begin the search for perfection in my art.