Sunday, August 05, 2007


I can remember my first mentor his name was Oraston Brooks. He was an exceptional artist, who could draw or paint anything. For several years, he worked as an illustrator and comp artist for various advertising agencies in New York City. When he visited, we would briefly discuss our common interest as artist, and he'd always encourage me to develop my skills. Oraston wasn’t always readily available, but the times we shared discussing
art were greatly appreciated.

Several years passed, when I learned that Oraston suddenly passed away. My Aunt, who was a very good friend of his, and I attended the funeral service. There I met his nephew, and had the opportunity to talk to him about my relationship with his uncle, and the impact that his acts of kindness had on my life. I told him how, I vividly remembered meeting him in the early 1960’s. At that time, Oraston was dating my Aunt, but whenever he visited he would always take the time to acknowledge me as a fellow artist. One day, after several requests he sat with me, and did a pencil sketch of one of my favorite hero’s, Hercules unchained.

I was eight-years-old and in the third grade at the time. That-single act of kindness, and kinship, had a greater impact on my life and career, than my education at both Art & Design High School, and Pratt Institute, my twenty-plus-year career as an artist, designer, mentor and educator, simply because it made it all possible. When he passed that sketch to me, he was passing the baton, and daring me to carry on. He acknowledged and validated my talent, when others did so in passing. Most saw my ability to draw as a hobby, but he showed me that it was a beautiful gift from God, and for that I am forever in his debt.

When passing a baton you don’t give it back to the runner, who gave it to you, but past it on to the next runner. I always encourage my students to stop, reflect and remember those who’ve helped them, to consider developing and strengthening their ability to give. To actively create in their lives the cycle of giving, the returns are immeasurable.