Friday, March 11, 2011

STARTING A CAREER

From my earliest memories I wanted to draw.  I wanted to be an artist.  We would take field trips the famed Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City and I would look at wonder at some of the art on display.   The sculptures from the ancient world interested me but what really got my attention were the paintings and the drawings.  In the modern art section of the museum they had some of Andy Warhol works on display.  They seemed so simple yet complicated.  I began a life long obsession with Warhol and the Factory not only focusing on his drawings but also his films and the Velvet Underground that stick with me to this day.  His painting and drawing though was what drew me in.  It was almost like an invention.  Anyone could have thought of drawing a Tomato Soup Can but it was Warhol that did it.  It takes a lot of guts to be an artist and and put your work out there  for others to see.

We studied art in school starting in Kindergarten all the way up to high school.  I tried to draw, I really did but everything I drew looked like scribblings.  When I was in the fifth grade I bought a book promising to teach you how to draw.  I studied that little fifty page book and finally learned to draw a decent elephant.  I could only draw it in one pose from one direction but at least I could draw something.

As I grew older and more frustrated with not being able to draw I went the paint by number route.  It was satisfying to a degree that I was able to basically color but it was still someone else artwork.  I still wasn't an artist and I came to the sad conclusion that I never would be one.

Then one Saturday I went to work with Dad.  While dad was downstairs in the shop making his own kind of art out of sheet metal I wandered around the offices upstairs and came across a very special room.  There were big tables in this room and taped to this tables were drawings of things that my dad would be making in the near future.  The lines were all straight and neat.  This would be how I would learn to draw I decided.  I asked dad about it and he explained the occupation of drafting to me.  All they did was draw pictures so that others could understand them.  I believe it was at that second that I decided to become a draftsman.

When I took shop in the seventh grade we had a section on drafting.  They gave us little boards with T-Squares and triangles and I discovered that I could indeed draw.  I was thrilled.  I must have let my excitement show to mom and dad because one year for Christmas they gave me a drafting kit.  It included pencils, a couple of triangles, a french curve, a board  and T-Square and some paper.  It was one of the most important gifts I ever received.  I took to drawing things at home in mt bedroom.  I checked books out at the library on drafting and when I entered high school I took classes on drafting.

The summer I turned sixteen my dad got me hired at the company where he worked.  My job was to be cleaning floors, cleaning restrooms and picking up trash.  It wasn't too exciting but during the course of these duties I met Loretta.  Loretta ran the drafting department and I began to drop hints that I thought I could do that.  It didn't seem to be getting me anywhere though.  I continued to pick up trash and work in the shop with dad during times I wasn't doing my janitorial duties.

When school started again in the fall my job became part time.  I would go in after school and pick up the trash and sweep any floors that needed sweeping, drop some more hints to Loretta then go home with dad.  After about a month and a half of this routine Loretta stopped me when I went into her office to pick up her trash.  She asked me if I really wanted to be a draftsman.  Of course I said I most definitely did and so she made me an offer.  She didn't know if I really wanted to do the job but the only way to find out was to do it for awhile.  She had talked to my boss about letting me continue to pick up trash but then give me and hour or so helping in the drafting department and he had agreed.  I had the chance I had been waiting for.

For the rest of the school year I didn't get to draw hardly at all though.  MY duties in the drafting department were mostly running blue prints, folding them and putting them into instruction manuals.  I would file away drawings that had been pulled during the course of the day while the real draftsmen worked.  Still it was exciting.  When people asked me what I did for work after school I didn't have to say I was a janitor anymore.  I could say I helped in a drafting department.

When summer came around again Loretta got more time for me.  Half my day would be janitor and sheet metal work and the afternoons would be working in the drafting department.  It was then that she assigned me a table and gave me my first professional drawing assignment.  It wasn't much of a drawing, just a little letter size drawing of a piece of plastic cut into a certain shape but it was a drawing.  I made a blue print of it and took it home to put in a scarp book where it still sits today.  I can look back on that first drawing and it wasn't very good, but it was a drawing and I got paid to do it.  I was on my way.

The next year was my senior year and I had been working after school in the afternoons solely in the drafting department.  My janitor days seemed to be behind me.  At semester of that year, the school decided I had enough credits to graduate and I could finish my high school years out by doing on the job training in the drafting department with Loretta.  I now had a full time professional job doing what I wanted to do.  I was drawing and getting paid for it.

During those years at my dad's company I learned to tape printed circuit boards and to use the huge camera to make exact images of the artwork for boards to be made from.  I was thrilled with my job until I needed to make a change.

Barb and I had decided to get married and the money they were paying me was not really enough to feel comfortable starting out in life on.  I decided I had to find another job to make more money.  It was bittersweet.  I got a new job without hardly interviewing for it.  Someone I knew needed some drafting help at her place of business so I went in with Alice's recommendation and got the job.  I told Loretta that i was leaving and she tried to get me a raise to keep me there.  She tried her hardest for two weeks until the last day I was there they agreed to counteroffer.  I could not take it at that late date.  I had another company waiting for me.  I later learned that Loretta had shed a couple of tears over me leaving.  I felt the same way about her.  She was a wonderful person.

So my career really began.  I worked for a year at the new place before coming to where I am employed now.  I have been here since nineteen seventy nine and I love it.  I went to college nights and weekends so I could say I had an education.  I don't draw anymore though.  All my work is done on computer.  There may be two or three days that go by without me even touching a pencil.  I have learned how to make using the computer an art form as well.  I still draw pictures and I lay out printed circuit boards with my computer.

When my very artistic uncle moved to Kansas City he brought his art with him.  He would ask my opinion on some things and even let me help him with some of his sculptures.  This was exciting but I never would have been able to do the things that Dan did on my own.  He was the artist, I was a helper.  My art was still in the engineering department where I used a computer for my art.

I am one of the extremely lucky people in the world who has had the opportunity to do what he loves for a living.  Most of it is due to Loretta, a wonderful lady who effected my life as much as anyone has.  I will never forget her or be able to thank her enough for taking a chance on a kid sweeping floor and picking up trash.

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