Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Early Years Part 2 (Del Mar location)

Del Mar location

I did not have a lot of time to consider the move from downtown to a new location and again I found myself with a dilemma. The only location I could find that would rent to a school would double my previous rent. I had no time to asses if the demand would be there to meet the numbers we needed.  I ended up sub-leasing a small space on Jimmy Durante Road next to the Del Mar Race Track.  It was overpriced and I had to share use of the space with a new age school.  I had only one teacher other than myself who would prove to be a detriment as he would unexpectedly leave in the middle of a term with no notification.  I was now left teaching both his classes and mine putting the total at 14 classes a week.   

Jeff teaching illustration

 As we were sharing this room with another tenant that was running a new age school we had to accommodate the other classes by moving out all of our art stages and benches.  A young student by the name of Erik Gist would assist Krista and I in taking down the entire set up and put it up before each class.   I don’t think he knows how much I appreciated this small unsolicited gesture.  The routine of tearing down and setting up the school would carry on for the next year until we moved again.  It was almost the end of the Atelier.  Erik was starting to show great promise and our friendship had slowly began to develop.  It was this kind of generosity of spirit  that I had noticed early on from Erik that lead me to believe he might become my next teacher.  He had just graduated from San Diego State University all the while working full time as a cook in an Italian restaurant and attending our Atelier.  He grew up in the same area as I did and we shared many mutual friends.  I came to have great faith in Erik and knew he would be a good fit for the Atelier.   This was one of the best decisions I made while designing and envisioning how I wanted the Atelier to develop.  I asked Erik to join me as a new teacher and he accepted.  To this day he is one of my best friends, my right hand man, and the best teacher I have had.  Teaching in this manner is extremely demanding and Erik always rose to the challenge.  This is not to play down the importance or significance of the other teachers to come.  They all had a part to play in the rich history of Watts Atelier.  I could talk about each of them for pages but I will try to keep it relatively brief as to not make this into a small novel. 

Erik M. Gist plein air painting
We were barely meeting our numbers so Krista took a job in the same building and swapped her pay against the rent.  She too deserves a huge amount of praise for her willingness to follow me on this crazy journey.  She has always been there to pick-up the slack in the many areas from accounting to graphic design and all the particulars that have kept this venture going.  She deserves a medal for her patience and effort.  

Jeff demonstrating illustration techniques

The school was starting to grow and word had spread to many artists/students who had always wanted to attend but were either unable or unwilling to chance the long drive to downtown when the school was on 5th Avenue.  I knew that I could not keep on with this ridiculous regimen and would need to look for yet another space.  As I looked around I happened upon a space in Encinitas that was in very close proximity to where we lived.  Fate was smiling as the same land lord I had in Del Mar just happened to own this building as well.  He was an artist himself and an architect by the name of Herb Turner and loved the idea of us moving into this space.  I did not know at the time how lucky I was as many owners do not allow or want a school on their premises due to the many problems with parking, logistics, etc… 

Stay tuned for chapter 3 The Encinitas Years....

Robert Watts plein air demonstration
Ben Young plein air painting