Monday, December 3, 2007

Ted Youngkin in Perspective

On the way up Highway 101 yesterday, we decided on a whim to try and visit Ted Youngkin, our favorite art teacher, who taught us everything we know about perspective (and a lot more that we’ve forgotten). I think of him every time I do a drawing.

Jeanette and I met in Mr. Youngkin's class 27 years ago. He was tough and scary back then, only because he demanded so much from us, and wouldn't stand for anything less than our best. He has been retired from teaching for a long time now. We have exchanged many letters and photos over the years, and I know that beneath that scariness is a real love for his students, based on a desire to see them do well.

It wasn’t easy to find him. I have never had his phone number, and he’s not listed. He has no email or website. No one at Art Center seemed to be in touch with him anymore. I had his address on a scrap of paper, and a guy in a gas station in Solvang found the street on a tattered map. When we got there, it was a gated community.

I rang the house from the gate, and amazingly he answered. At first he thought someone was pranking him. A minute later he met us in his driveway and I handed him a copy of the new book.

He and Martha graciously invited us in. Incredibly, he is still working every day, creating complex drawings of architectural facades in Pilot pen and marker, based on his travels all around the world. He has recent sketchbooks full of drawings, not just of architecture, but also of people.


He asked to see Jeanette’s sketches, and looked through her sketchbook page by page. An hour went by in a moment, but we had to go.

As we drove on north on the coast highway, Jeanette said something that really struck me, and I think she’s exactly right: “Perspective is the basis for all drawings, even figure drawings.”

18 comments:

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Jim, what a blessing to PAY a visit to an old teacher.

I cannot speak for other teachers, but the pay I get in salary isn't the main thing that keeps me on the job; just as important is intangible income, like visits from students like you, that makes the job worth doing.

Bill said...

Hi Mr. Gurney, looks like you're heading to my neck of the woods. Are you giving any talks at Academy of Art by any chance? I work next door to one of their main buildings and would love to slip in if you are...I will try to catch you at the Booksmith if not. And if you happen to be near Howard and 2nd, stop by and see Three Rings, the crazy game studio I work at:

http://www.wired.com/culture/design/multimedia/2007/06/gallery_nemo_office

Hope you enjoy the city!

Dik Pose said...

What a wonderful story... thanks for sharing it!

Nathan Fowkes said...

What an incedible trip! I hope you keep blogging after the trip is over.

Cat said...

How wonderful!

My husband and I bumped into his high school art teacher at the train station last year. It was a really wonderful surprise.

James Gurney said...

Hi, Bill. I'll be at Academy of Art tomorrow (Tuesday), and should start around 3:30, but you should try to come around 3:00. I'm not sure which room--ask around.

Today was the visit to PDI DreamWorks. There were so many great artists there, and a real privilege to learn how you make those incredible Shrek movies. Everyone should check out DreamWorks artist Nathan Fowkes' blog. The demo painting of the plaster cast rivals Sargent himself.

DweezelJazz said...

What a lovely visit. Some teachers give so much that they become part of our lives. Your post brought a lump to my throat as I thought of a few teachers I had that gave so very much.

Thank you for your blog, I really enjoy it.

Bron Smith said...

What a wonderful surprise to see my old Art Center perspective teacher, Mr. Younkin again! You probably know that Mr. Feitelson died many years ago. I, too, found Mr. Younkin intimidating. I will always remember the chewing out we got from him upon returning from our sketch outing at Travel Town. We spent too much time goofing around there, and Mr. Younkin really let us know about it. .

David R. Darrow said...

Wow! I am so deeply touched that you found Ted Youngkin. He was the "scariset" teacher I had there, but mostly for reasons that were entirely my fault -- but lets not get into that here.

I always respected him more than most of my other teachers. He actually taught -- which is what I was there for. He was thorough and demanding. He gave me my only B+ that semester, and considering the demands, I considered it an "A" in spirit. :-)

Thanks or sharing this. You brought back an important part of my schooling, 1977 - 1980.

God bless Ted Youngkin.

hyoungkin said...

Hi Jim - just wanted to let you know that my father was so pleased with your recent visit! He's spoken of it often since.

He always takes great pride and delight in the successes of his former students, and your visit was a great occasion to him.

Ken Tiessen said...

Jim- One of the most fascinating and classes for me at Art Center was Ted Youngkin's perspective. He was tough, but kind if you worked at it. My "A" was earned the hard way! A real treat was his sharing a tape from the '50s of Norman Rockwell's talk to a class with us. I'm teaching a perspective class now (a surprise to me), and my "book" from his class is the guide-knowledge and skills like these are always timely. Thank you for getting in touch with Mr. Youngkin- he is a gift. By the way, I've enjoyed your work a great deal.

Robin Neudorfer said...

This was such a wonderful post to read. Mr Youngkin was a true mentor to me. I never met the "scary" instructor that others did. I respected this man and he me. I learned a lot about professionalism from him and my greatest gift of all was due to him. That is "How to See".

It was lovely to see him in such good health, and for once to see the beautiful work he produces. He never shared with us his work while he was an instructor.

I was lucky enough to have him twice during my 2.8 yrs in the ID dept. I rarely forget his smile and encouragement to do my best.

Thank you for the treat.

rich dahl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rich dahl said...

God Bless Ted.... I learned so much from him. A few of us even humored him & wore ties to class.

Him and Tink Adams.

I'll never forget... he cried when he heard my mom had died (during the semester) & we spent some time having coffee & he told me family stories about during the depression.

What a guy. AND what an eye for perspective!!!!! Remember the plumb-bob!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Weaverville Studios said...

I was one of the first students to be admitted to Art Center fresh out of High School and at age 17, I moved from an east coast small farming town (585 people)to the thriving metropolis of Los Angeles/Pasadena and to say the least, it was quite a culture shock.

A little Ted Youngkin story...It's my first term and I have Mr. Youngkin for Industrial Drawing 1 on Mondays...One evening in the cafeteria, I'm having dinner with Rosa Farrer and Mr Youngkin joins us and Rosa introduces me, not realizing I have him as a teacher...and Rosa precedes to tell Mr. Youngkin my story, how I'm 17, from a small town , from the east coast etc etc...and Mr. Youngkin leans back in his chair, looks at me and exclaims " Oh, you're just a babe in the woods, they shouldn't have done this to you...you really shouldn't be here, you're just to young...." then he says " Now what do I do ? With all of this new knowledge, I can't be hard on you now...Geez...I like you kid, but I didn't know you were that young...Now I CAN'T be hard on you, that changes everything...Oh well, we'll get through it together won't we? I'll teach and you'll learn and it will all work out won't it ?!?"

Such a great teacher...I quote him all of the time and for me, he is a great example of the BEST of Art Center, the best teachers, the best of competition, the best at encouraging you to take the opportunties Art Center offered you seriously-to become the best designer you could be...like David Darrow said, Mr. Youngkin TAUGHT...he didn't just 'Instruct'...there's a huge difference. I wish Mr. Youngkin and his family all the best that life can offer and God Bless You.

-Mark Weaver ACCD 1985-1998 (yeah, it took that long)

Macy Family said...

Dan,
We probably just missed each other at ACCD. I quit teaching art (at age 39) to attend from 79 thru 81. Bailed out after 6 terms as I already had a BFA and the economy was headed where it is now. Ted Youngkin was my intro to the many travails of Art Center. I had him for Industrial drawing and Perspective. My wife just framed some of those old pieces that I was preparing to throw out.
Thanks for reviving some memories,
James Reynolds

Ken Bowes said...

I was very much saddened to hear of Ted's death in December 2008.

I attended Art Center from 1973 to 1975, and Ted was my instructor in at least two courses.

I was forever impressed by the way Ted "laid down the law" when we entered first year. The ground rules were to be followed at all times or 'we would find ourselves on 3rd Street looking north".

In Industrial Sketching, we learned a whole variety of good techniques, including the insight that lines have to be a lot bolder if you do a presentation in a large room!

One day, discussing the merits of various tools, a student asked Ted
what was the best pencil. Ted responded that if you know what you're doing, you can do a convincing sketch with a dirty fingernail!

It's been 33 years, but Ted's affect on my lives on, and it lives on in my students too!

Tony Gleeson said...

I have only now discovered this blog, and was delighted to read about your visit to Ted Youngkin. I remember his perspective class at Art Center back in the early 70s. It was rigorous, challenging, and sometimes scary. He had us constructing elaborate pieces every week with large finishes done on blotter paper with markers-- learning to control that medium was a bear! As is so often the case, the instructor who caused me the most heartache and anxiety is the one who left the deepest influence on me and the one I remember perhaps the best. Thanks for this lovely story!