At the end of every school year, students pack up their things, say goodbye to their friends and teachers, and then go off to enjoy the summer. When they return at the beginning of next year, they meet back up with friends and maybe greet their previous teachers before starting their school year anew. However, art teacher Mr. Parker will not be around next year, as he’s retiring from his long career of teaching fine arts to students.
Everyone I know that has taken his class, even if they won’t admit it, learned a lot from Mr. Parker. It didn’t matter if someone came in with incredible abilities, or no experience with art whatsoever, he’d teach them something they didn’t know, and they left his class a better artist. Many people originally take Foundation for what its literal meaning is: the basic art course that is taken to qualify for all the other art courses. But what they don’t know is how different it is from previous art classes taken.
I remember in the beginning of the semester, Mr. Parker said to us, “This isn’t like other art classes. Those classes sit you down, check your pulse, and give you an A.” True to his word, the art we produced always needed to be our best work, and we really had to meet that standard. Each project spanned a few classes, and took care and precision to complete. What we are taught in foundation is that even if we think that our work isn’t that great, we need to stick with it to the end, and put 100 percent into it.
Throughout my time in Mr. Parker’s class, I never really got to know him as well as I could have, and I’m sure others didn’t either. To fix this, I sat down with him and asked him some questions, in hopes that others and I could learn from him, and really understand why he’s here for us.
Warrior Weekly: What inspired you to become an artist?
Mr. Parker: I was always encouraged to do so by my parents. I’m totally a right brain, so it came to me easier than others, and I grew up loving Looney Tunes and Walt Disney. Also, I loved creating my own work, and that’s the important part. To be an artist, you need to really love making art.
Warrior Weekly: Were there any artists in particular that influenced you?
Mr. Parker: Quite a few actually. In particular, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, and Milton Glaser. They’re all very professional, and by looking carefully at their work, it’s like a lesson in its own.
Warrior Weekly: Why did you decide to teach art at AHS?
Mr. Parker: I started by teaching at the college level when I was asked to. Then, former principal Peter Anderson asked me to teach here. I’ve been teaching here for seven years, and I’ve really enjoyed it, about as much as anything I’ve ever done. It’s been much more enjoyable than teaching [at the] college level.
Warrior Weekly: What is your favorite moment of your career?
Mr. Parker: I don’t think I could name just one; there’s been a lot of big things, but also a lot of memorable small things. I’ve won some awards and those meant a lot, but sometimes when I’m trying to explain something to a student, and I break through to them and they really learn something, that’s something truly special.
Warrior Weekly: What qualities do you try to express when you create a piece?
Mr. Parker: It depends on whether or not I’m being paid, or if it’s by choice. Art tells a story, so if I’m creating a piece for a company, I really try to reflect upon what’s going on in the story. If it’s by choice, I just go by my inspiration and what I discover during the process.
Warrior Weekly: I’ve seen that you enjoy creating pieces about maritime scenery. Why is this?
Mr. Parker: It fits in with what I do. I love the ocean a lot; in fact I have a house on an island in Maine. I really love a lot of the stories that go along with maritime tradition, so there’s lots of inspiration for creating art from them.
Warrior Weekly: Which piece of your art is your personal favorite?
Mr. Parker: Well, that’s like asking someone to choose their favorite child. If I really had to choose between them all, then there are some I really enjoyed working on more than others. One of them is a painting of Santa Claus flying in his sleigh, but instead of reindeer pulling it, I put a bunch of wild animals. It starts off with a fox, and then by the end there’s an elephant and a giraffe.
Another of my favorites was a portrait of my granddaughter and her cat. The twist is that she wanted me to make her a mermaid, and when your granddaughter asks you to paint a picture of her as a mermaid with her cat, you don’t say no. I even gave the cat a fish tail too. I ended up giving this to her for Christmas, and she loved it.
Warrior Weekly: What advice would you give to those hoping to become professional artists?
Mr. Parker: If you want to be an artist you need to be able to focus. You can’t have any distractions, and you need to be able to observe things as they are in real life. That being said, you shouldn’t be too logical. Dismiss any what-if questions about the art. The more an aspiring artist draws and understands how things work and develops essential skills, the more this triggers the creative side of the brain.
Anyone who has ever taken Mr. Parker’s class, or even someone who doesn’t know him at all, should really take a few minutes to stop by to wish him luck in his future endeavors. He’s a really great teacher, and being a student in his class was a really great experience for me. He devoted a lot of his time to helping his students, and we all really need to appreciate what he has done to enrich our art program. Thank you, Mr. Parker, for all you’ve done for our school, and all you continue to do in the future.
By Ryan Platts