In 2000 I started a journey that would forever change my perspective on beauty and art. That was the year I enrolled in the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. I hoped to take my love of illustration and become an animator.

Young, naïve, and with just enough experience in adulthood to think I knew it all, I was ripe for a very rude awakening.

Clothed Figure Drawing, Nude Figure Drawing, Sculpting, Anatomy: these are just a few of the prerequisites for an animation major. They sound fun at first because most people have some strange ideas about what art is, including budding artists.

My Heart Wears Black. A photograph of the artist's wife taken in the spring of 2015.

My Heart Wears Black. A photograph of the artist's wife taken in the spring of 2015.

They imagine the body of a goddess, the light wrapping around the nude figure of the ideal form, and eager students illustrating Aphrodite. But it’s that sameness, that ideal, that is the very anti-thesis of what artists actually strive for.

This misconception is shattered when you arrive to class and find a portly, and incredibly immodest Santa Claus looking fellow sprawled out on the platform in front you… in the buff. The only way to survive the next four hours is to find the beauty in that which others do not.

The crook of a nose; the masculine set to a woman’s shoulders; that most wonderfully feminine of all curves, the pooch — these aren’t things that you shy away from; you embrace them because that is what makes the image stand out.

Soon you find yourself looking for subjects based on their uniqueness, not their ‘standard’ beauty. Instead, you chase after individuality, the faces with character, the hips with a little more curve, or the arms that reveal the frame underneath, the wrinkles that tell the story of the many smiles a person has enjoyed in their life.

I never did go into animation, but the lessons I learned in those halls still guide me.

Many years later I would marry a beautiful, artistic, and caring soul who helped put the final piece of the puzzle in place for me. She helped me to see things from a perspective outside my own and reminds me that so much more beauty lies beneath the surface.

Curves, thoughts, emotions, lines, shadows,… art. That’s how I see what I do.