Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Post for Habitat Earth

It's my pleasure to share the blog post below. I'm delighted with the administrator's choice of images to illustrate it. 

To revisit my posts on this art education, please drop in on these archives: 

As well as this recent post: The Interview with Dustin Garnet.

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The Arts


In junior high I spent inordinate amounts of time working up detailed drawings to illustrate what I thought women throughout history might have looked like.  Concurrently, as the eldest of two sisters in a neighbourhood of predominantly girls, I'd have them open Eaton's catalogues, select garments and draw any clothes they wanted for the dozens of cutout dolls I made them.

The foresight of my grade eight teacher, Mr. Harold Holden, and his recommendation placed me, an inner city kid with poor grades from an impoverished family, on the right path.  Rather than wither at an academic high school, I thrived in Central Technical School's high school special art program.  Being blue collar, my parents thought this was cool.  

Neil Sharp, yours truly and Mark Thurman  April 26, 1964

From 1962 to 1966 our class of the same 30-35 students (some came, some went) became like a family. Often socializing outside of school, we learned and played our way through the grades together.  We were keen, budding artists, wanting to excel and this promoted a healthy competition among us.  Central Tech's top-notch teachers seriously impacted us.  Among the staff were Charles Goldhammer, Dawson Kennedy and his wife Kathleen Kennedy, Virginia Luz, Doris McCarthy, Robert Ross (not the TV Bob Ross!) and Paul Summerskill.  Our instructors were practicing artists who continued to explore, experiment and build their skills.  Their unspoken gift was their living example.  We knew they had rich, full and delightful lives.  It was as if they said 'Here, take the art we teach with you;  it is our way of life and it can be yours also.'

Mark Thurman, me and John Williamson (RIP), January 1966

We drew nude models almost daily.  By this repetition we really learned how to draw. Preparing for careers in fine or commercial art we were taught classic fundamental basics of design and layout.  Mr. Kennedy assigned a project where we mixed colours for and hand painted 109 little 5/8" square chips of colour.  These were then laid out to show the subtle changes in hue when we added white, black and three shades of grey to each of eight pure colours.  With that type of hands-on scrutinizing of colour the knowledge of it became intrinsic.  We studied history of art.  In anatomy we learned the names of every bone and muscle in the human body.  We were taught lettering (pre-computer age) by hand painting classic and decorative fonts, and studied methods of printmaking.

Colour  Charts - 109 chips

Unlike students today, who respond poorly when told to do things over and over until they are mastered, we listened and we did as the instructors asked.  It was a time when teachers weren't questioned.  As art is best learned by watching others make it, our teachers would demonstrate then leave us to work it our for ourselves.  They laid on us the blunt reality that if we were going to succeed in the art world, we'd need to be serious and diligent in our independent work or we'd end up slinging beer.

Life drawing was a daily event, April 1966

In our final year, we were advised to assemble a portfolio of our best work for prospective employment or further education.  Behind the scenes our portfolios were shown to people from the industry who came to the school - head hunters of young souls!  I was offered a job as a cartographer with the City of Toronto and began work immediately upon school finishing.  I didn't know what a cartographer was, but I soon learned it wasn't for me.  My map-making career lasted a week before I quit.  Back then, jobs came easily and, on the basis of my portfolio, I was quickly employed again.  I worked as a commercial artist for a number of years.

Figure painting, acrylic 28"x15"
Fourth year, 1966

Ah, but school wasn't the only thing to shape my destiny.  Three years out of Central Tech I met and married Bill, a man with curiosity and wanderlust.  He has always been a huge supporter of my art-making practice.  In 1972, when we first moved west we lived in a rural area, and me without a driver's licence.  At his urging I settled in to becoming a fine art painter.  What has followed are decades of glorious opportunities and experiences, thanks to art as the driving force.  Like my teachers, I'm happily living a life where art is a daily mindset even if I am not actually painting, and I can't imagine it any other way!

Alice Saltiel-Marshall, August 4, 2012

You can see an article by the Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein here about the contemporary focus of Central Tech's arts program.


  1. You bring back great memories of our school!

  2. Just a terrific post, Alice! Congratulations.

  3. What a great post Alice! All the best.

    1. Thank you, Laura ... I am awfully passionate about my school!