Al Ochsner, my high school art teacher, is one cool dude.
He has survived a battle with thyroid cancer. He has trained the fish in his coy pond. He is an artist not only in his career, but in his way of life. He lives life to the fullest, and he helped guide me to be the person I am today.
As I have grown into my career, I think back to crucial points that have lead me to No Limit Agency and my high school art teacher has a lot to do with it. He was my favorite teacher and guided me in the direction of critical thinking and art. I took my first design class because of this man, and I appreciate everything he has done for my career--although he may not know how important it was.
What sparked your interest in art?
Art is something I have always done. I was voted the most artistic in high school and did art for my school paper, but never took a formal art class until college. My mother is an artist, so I do not remember a time when I didn’t live and breathe art. My mom likes to joke that my first fresco I created was when I was one year old--I made a mural with the contents of my diaper.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
I always taught art non-accredited. I started substitute teaching to make some extra cash and didn’t think it was going to be this much fun. It was such a positive experience. I went back to school and got my degree in teaching and now it is my passion.
What is the most rewarding part about being an art teacher?
The kids. Honestly. When there is a student like you and your sister, Erin, who make a career in art that is just the icing on the cake.
What was your favorite assignment you have ever given your students?
I really enjoy the project where I have the kids randomly draw three cards. One card is a theme, the second card is an art reference (like watercolor, 3D, etc.) and the last one is a quote. The students take these three things and try to find a way to combine them all. I have gotten some really memorable results from this assignment. It is all about problem solving and using your experiences to come to a conclusion.
How and where do you find inspiration?
I honestly can’t give you a direct answer on this one--it is the way I am wired. It just comes to me. I am most creative though during still times. Things come to me during meditation and reflection. My house and backyard are total Zen for me.
What qualities do you look for in the people you hang out with?
They have to be funny. If I can laugh with them then we will have a good time!
Who has influenced you most in life?
My dad is not artistic, but has been the biggest influence to me. He is a nice guy. He has been through the wringer many times, and by that I mean he was diagnosed with liver cancer with a 20 percent chance of survival and fought. Just when he cleared that hurdle I was diagnosed with cancer. There have been lots of scares, but he just bounces back and has so much strength. It is really inspiring.
What is your greatest strength and weakness?
My greatest strength would have to be my creativity. I love to critically think. I would say my biggest weakness would be occasionally trusting the wrong person.
What has been your biggest challenge in life thus far and how did you overcome it?
I would have to say being a single parent. I relied a lot on family and friends to get me through those difficult times. I overcame this by making sure I put my sons interests first and everything turned out exactly how they are supposed to be. Flaws and all!
What are five books you think I should read, and why?
"The Tao of Pooh," by Benjamin Hoff
This book is really insightful. I study a lot of eastern tradition and I find this book so interesting. It is super simple and easy to follow with a deep root in eastern tradition. When you look it up, it is not a kids book. I promise.
"Embrace by The Light," by Betty Eadie
This woman had a near death experience and wrote a book about it. It is such an amazing read and very spiritual.
"Symbols, Signs & Signets," by Ernst Lehner
This is a must have book for any artist. This is the book I would run into the burning house to get.
"At the Earth’s Core," by Edgar Rice Burroughs
This one is really goofy but very good. I just couldn’t put it down. I love everything Edgar Rice Burroughs writes, but this is the best. It is a series that I highly recommend!
"The Art of Happiness," by 14th Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
This is a really, really good one. It is very insightful.
What would be your piece of life advice for me?
I would like to quote Joseph Campbell and say: “Follow your bliss.” To achieve success and have a life worth living, you need to do what makes you happy.