when i was a junior in college, i signed up for a course within the design school called design process: creativity. it was a new course and no one really knew what to expect. but once in, we knew it something different from our other design courses: it was taught by illustrator carl wesley, and he wanted us to spend the quarter letting go of the rigidity of graphic design and learn how to be creative again.
we went to movies, to his studio, to a commercial billboard company to meet his buddy that drew gas nozzles with lightning coming from them for a gas station billboard advertisement (the best part was digging in the trash area behind the building: the dot grain of the printed work was so amazing to look at/work with). i’m sure we took a few more field trips, but i can’t remember them now…
mid-quarter i called him and left him a message that i would not be going to class that night because it was my 21st birthday and i had some boozing to do. he called me back within an hour, and said that he was coming to get me to take me out to lunch and what was my address? he picked me up at my apartment in loring park (in minneapolis), and drove us to st. paul for a slice of pizza and a beer at cosetta’s. a little unorthodox? yes. but it was only lunch and a beer.
weeks later i somehow ended up at his studio in lowertown st. paul at night, to work on an assignment. it was me, carl, beer, and other artists in the building who would pop in and out. i had been struggling to create a piece, and he opened up his studio and supplies to me, and after a few beers i created the piece above.
i dug it out of my office closet last weekend.
it’s not an amazing piece, but it was one that i was proud of at the time, after struggling so long to create something. the other piece? total shit and is long gone. should i have been drinking beer with my instructor late into the night? probably not. but nothing happened, and his studio seemed so magical at the time.
a few months after the school year was over, carl called and asked if i could give him tell him about the 2-dimensional design course i had taken my freshman year. he was teaching it in the fall and apparently needed some guidance. i gave him my final project, and a book that we had used during the course. and i never heard from him again.
2 years after graduation, i picked up a city pages (our equivalent to village voice), and carl was on the cover: portrait of the artist as a killer. it was heartbreaking to read. and while there is no excuse for the horrible thing he did, it’s so sad that his work has seems to have disappeared with him. i cannot find any of his work online, other than the article about his crime. and it’s so sad that we lost someone so talented.
so i’ve kept this piece for years, to help me remember those early days of adulthood, and to remember carl.