The first time Lucas Simmons painted, he hated it. He said he was covered in oil, and the self-portrait he was struggling to paint more closely resembled a "sunburned version of Shrek" than his own face in the mirror.
Regardless of his frustrating first attempt at art, the OBU senior did not give up. The culmination of his hard work will be exhibited on Friday, April 20, from 7-9 p.m. when he debuts his senior art show, titled "General Proportions of the Human Head," at SIPS Kafé in downtown Shawnee. The show will be on display for several weeks.
An art major from Weleetka, Okla., Simmons chose the theme for his show based on his fascination with the human figure. Part of the reason he chose to create a series of portraits, he said, was the appeal of limitless possibilities.
"I am just beginning to learn how to push paint, and I find that the subject matter is binding in no way," Simmons said. "The size gives me room to play, room to explore a broad range of painting techniques while retaining a central theme."
The motivation for creating came in a moment of irritation, Simmons said. He said Chris Owens, adjunct professor of art, gave him a piece of advice that "changed everything." After taking a few steps away from the canvas and adjusting the view of his work, he said he knew from that moment he wanted to paint and teach others to paint.
Simmons said his favorite piece, titled "Robert," is the first portrait he painted for the series. Based on a photograph of his grandfather in his garden, the piece differs from Simmons' later works because of the vibrant color palette as opposed to the "muted, more realistic skin tones" in later pieces. While the piece seems less developed, he said, the painting remains his favorite.
"It has an overall innocence to it," Simmons said. "I put less awkward pressure on myself to perform because there were no prior pieces to compare it to."
Simmons expressed gratitude for his OBU art professors, explaining how each person has helped him develop a solid foundation for an art career.
"Julie (Blackstone) has shown me the importance of precision, taking each line and movement into consideration," Simmons said. "Chris Owens always encourages me to focus on the entirety of whatever I am working on, so that I could stop at any moment and the composition would maintain a sense of unity. Steve Hicks encourages ambition and has a wealth of information. He has expressed the importance of doing research and having knowledge of existing art and artists. Corey Fuller has shown me the importance of planning before diving into a project. Brad Price has shown me what it looks like to be a professional artist and that a career in art isn't something that just happens in books and movies."
Blackstone is assistant professor of art; Hicks is professor of art; Fuller is assistant professor of graphic design; and Price is adjunct professor of art.
Simmons also thanked his parents, grandparents and friends for encouraging him to pour himself into what he loves to do. He said one of his closest friends, OBU alum Kacie Sherrard, consistently encouraged him to pursue an art degree.
"I usually responded with 'No, I don't think I would enjoy that,'" Simmons said. "But after floating through four other majors, I landed in the art building. Kacie was right. I should have been here the whole time."
Following graduation, Simmons plans to apply to graduate schools in the fall and complete another series of paintings. He said his desire is to become a professor so he can impact students the way his OBU professors have positively impacted him.