Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Don Crowley: : "I wanted to stay home and finish that painting."

Some things may be destined. In Don Crowley's case, its seems he was destined to be an artist. Like most children, 4-year old Crowley loved to draw with crayons; coloured swirls and circles brightened his young life during the dark days of the depression.


When Crowley was just six years old he found a book in his house by Frederic Remington called "Done in the Open." He immediately became interested in art. "It was really inspirational," Don told me when I spoke with him on the phone. "I loved [Remington's] work and he became my favourite artist from then on."

"The Night Rider" by Remington, from the Apr. '67 cover of American Artist

When I asked if his parents were supportive of his early interest in art, Don shared the following anecdote:

"I remember one day I ditched school and I went out and hid in the chicken coop. I was working on a painting and I wanted to finish it. My mother saw me sneak out there and came out and asked what I was doing," Don chuckled. "I told her I wanted to stay home and finish that painting. And she said, well if you're that interested you can do that today, but don't do it again."


In junior high, Don met his second great inspiration: a young lad named Mervin Corning. Don said, "We met in about Grade 7, and from then on we were drawing together. He was a great inspiration because he was so damn talented."

(Corning went on to become an important California landscape painter)

“Station Eleven (Playa Del Rey)” by Merv Corning

These two ambitious young artists enjoyed a fast friendship that lasted throughout high school and beyond. Together they studied Rockwell Kent's World Famous Painting and made attempts at copying, in oils, the masterpieces therein. Don and Merv were enthralled by Disney's Pinocchio when it was first released. They hoped that some day they might be good enough to work at the studio.

After high school came four years in the service (two years in the Merchant Marine, two years in the Navy) then the G.I. Bill provided Crowley with the means to study at Art Center College in L.A., where he met his future bride, Betty Jane ("B.J.") Brown.

In the spring of 1953 Don and B.J. married. Don's father, an ordained minister, presided over the ceremony and Merv Corning was Don's best man. Two weeks later, with $500 and two portfolios the newlyweds flew east to New York City to find their fortune in the commercial art mecca of the 1950's. There, after a false start in a second-rate studio, Don Crowley hit the jackpot: an apprenticeship in the Charles E. Cooper studio.

Full page fax print
Continued tomorrow...

* Most of today's images are from the Greenwich Workshop Press book, "Desert Dreams" by Don Hegpeth and Don Crowley © 2003

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