M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Monday, December 21, 2009

Your First Art Exhibition

My drawing is the one in the middle of the 1955 newspaper magazine article.

The photograph in the middle was staged after the newspaper decided to publish my drawing.

[This blog was first published on the American Artist website (http://www.artistdaily.com/) on June 29, 2009, but my mother recently sent me the newspaper article referred to in the blog so I though I would re-post it with those two pages].
If you are like most artists, you have a clear recollection of how you felt when one of your drawings or paintings was first put on display on a school bulletin board, in an art-school exhibition, or in a commercial gallery. All of a sudden, the artwork you didn't think much about became the focus of attention among your fellow students, family members, neighbors, teachers, and friends. And if you saved that early work of art, it has taken on even greater significance in the passing years. In fact, the importance accorded that first publicly displayed picture may have contributed to your becoming an artist today.
My first public recognition as an artist came when I was in second grade at Bienville Elementary School, in New Orleans. My crayon drawing of the classroom with my best friends standing at the blackboard and the clock accouncing the 3p.m. end of the school day was reproduced in the February 27, 1955 edition of The Times-Picayune newspaper in the Dixie Roto magazine section, along with a phtoograph of the actual classroom and selected students. That's the day all my friends and relatives decided I was an artist.
Your experience may have been more nerve racking than mine. After all, most young people are very nervous during their first public speech or exhibition, and many adults hate attending the opening of their art shows. Nevertheless, the recognition can be extremely encouraging to artists of any age because it allows them to see how others respond to their intensely personal, private activities in the studio.
I'd be interested to know if you also have clear recollections of that first public display of your artwork and the bundle of emotions that came with the experience.


  1. Steve, I just commented on your post in Facebook too. I was so pleased to see that your mother found that article. You must be so proud of your mother and she of you. I had an early public recognition when I was 8-9 years old in 1964 when I won 1st place in a statewide California DMV hazard poster contest. I remember drawing a similarity to Tony the Tiger from Frosted Flakes (boy did he influence kids back then) but I drew this large tiger between two parked cars that came roaring out to warn children not to walk between parked cars. I just had fun drawing it, but it won and everyone in the school made a big deal over it. The principal, the teacher, someone from DMV, all the kids in the school, I was totally red faced for days. The prize money went to my large family probably to feed us. I can't remember if they took a picture and placed it in the newspaper, but it overwhelmed me and no one let me forget that I was the school artist from then on. At first I was thrilled but then it became a little annoying as kids would ask me to draw something for them. That kind of went to my head I think, it was a turning point. I was asked to be the one who painted large posters for dances or make Christmas decorations and more. It was a feeling of being special and like no other. You are right, a vivid event like this can change a young person`s life and have lifelong effects that are encouraging with positive reminders when we sometimes feel a lacking in our artistic abilities. I had an earlier but not so positive recognition when I was in kindergarten and drew these morbid horror pictures, my teacher saw them and literally freaked. She asked me not to draw such sad pictures anymore and asked my mother what I was watching on television at home. My mom said the scary movies probably got stuck in her head. I never drew the people hanging on nooses or heads at the guillotine anymore after that!

  2. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for posting your drawing. How special that it surfaced and you shared it with all of us.
    I grew up in Louisiana, too and we are of the same vintage.
    I was living in Baton Rouge in 1955. My parents gave me a Jon Gnagy "Learn to Draw" set and another budding artist sprang to life. I don't remember when my work was first hung in public, but my grandmother was proud enough of my colored chalk drawing of fruit, copied from a calendar, to hang it in her breakfast room. That was very encouraging to me at the time!