Where did the art come from?

When I was growing up in Tehran, my parents were away in college until I was eight. Although I was with my aunts and grandparents, I didn't have any siblings or many close friends. I developed an imaginary friend that stayed with me 'till I was almost 12. In a way, he was my first art teacher. We would paint a lot of coloring books together while we talked and criticized and learned from each other. I practiced with crayons and watercolor and soon I was doing my own cartoons. I even developed a few stories that I drew on a long roll of paper and would show it to everyone in a little wooden box equipped with a light bulb that I had made into a shape of a tv.

Later in high school, when I got more serious about music, I discovered dancing lights. Since I couldn't afford a real system, I rigged up a sensitive switch to a thin plastic membrane and placed it in front of my speakers and created my own dancing lights. I was living on the top floor of a three story house and had a whole flat to myself. A paradise for a teenager and his friends. I converted one room to a workshop where I would build models and toys and my bedroom was the drawing, painting and the party room.

Around the same period, I got interested in photography. At first with my dad's camera and later with my own, I took a few thousand shots of everything I saw. I worked with black and white, slides and color prints. The unspoiled richness of plant and wild life around Shiraz is incredibly inspiring. I took a lot of shots from mystical, secluded places I used to discover on hunting trips with my dad. I doubt if I can make him part with those photos. But, I'll try to get him to send them to me for a scan.

My drawing and painting skills continued to improve also. I paid more attention to coloring and constructing charts and graphs than I did studying the text on algebra and trigonometry. I put more time into drawing a T-rex than I did reading about it. I drew portraits of my teachers instead of listening to them. I aced all my drawing and shop courses and I flunked chemistry miserably. That drove my dad nuts. He's a biologist and this boggled his mind. He'd scream: "How can you flunk chemistry? It's what you are made of! Your body IS chemistry". Poor old man was almost in tears. But, it didn't matter. I couldn't help being so quickly bored with the text books.

When I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, I got heavily into Fine Arts. And I was very good at it too. Everyone knew it. I always got applause when I put my drawings or paintings up. Everyone said I was on the right track and had a lot of talent. Everything was perfect. So, it only made sense when things went wrong.

Maybe it was a part of me that wanted to please my dad more. Maybe I thought drawing alone wasn't enough for me. Maybe it was the fact that the new government of Iran wouldn't allow its people to study art abroad. Maybe it was all the above. For what ever reason, things began piling up against a courier in art. I decided to treat art only as a hobby and study something else. I used to build a lot of models and toys in high school and was always interested in the more technical aspect of how things worked. But, I didn't have the patience for math and calculus to get into engineering. So, I aimed for architecture.

That was a big mistake. All my professors told me not to change majors when I was doing so well. But I had made a decision. And it was a decision based on everything exept my heart and soul. Architecture was interesting and I did learn a lot. I convinced myself that I liked it. But, it wasn't me. Besides, I didn't like any of my classmates. They were, for the most part, frat boys. Conservative, pretentious, rich, spoiled, opinionated, racist frat boys. I liked my teachers even less. They were rude and arrogant and they kept saying it was for our own good. I kept asking myself: "these are the type of people I will be working with? What am I doing here?". Still, I knew the Iranian government wouldn't allow my parents to send money for tuition if I studied art. So, I pushed on. I missed my old school, my art teachers, my classmated and true friends. Still, I pushed on.

It took me three years to admit to such a big mistake. I lost interest in everything. My grades began to fall. The situation in my homeland was hell and I fell into a deep, cold depression. I finally dropped out in 1983 and embarked on a new quest. I decided to become a bum. I just let myself go and became very comfortably numb. Gliding through life on a distant ship, smokin' on the horizon, I drifted from one odd job to the next. I worked on a farm for a retired college professor, I worked in a kitchen making bread and soup for a restaurant and I bartended in a basement gay bar (I never gave in, but boy, some of those transvestites really know how to wear leather). I even worked in construction for a while, pouring concrete and grinding mortar on high scaffoldings. After about three years, I realized no matter how depressed I thought I was, I seemed to be still having a shitload of fun. I didn't have to go through any twelve step program to stop feeling sorry for myself - I already had.

In 1986 I re-entered college in graphic design curriculum. I had realized that I was a combination of many deep experiences and many interests. I was still very much interested in visual arts but now, it was more than just art. It was communication and meaning. What did it all mean and what was the best way to explain it. I got interested in graphic design because it approached solving the problems in communication through the most efficient visual means. In graphic design, boring, monotonous words are replaced by colors and forms, lines and spaces, and definitions are communicated through a poetry of visual expressions. Graphic design began to explain the world to me all over again and I began to use this visual language to explain the world I saw to others.

This was not an overnight revelation. This was a part of my ongoing growth and endless quest for all I could learn. I realized that for me, there is no single, simple answer. I like to try and do different things. I like being different things. A painter one day, a photographer the next, and so on. What I like about graphic design is its versatility. It encompasses all forms of visual communication. Now, with the introduction of computers, it's not about the printed form alone any more. And for me, the possibilities are limitless again.

Darvazeh Qoran (Qoran Gateway)

My Favorite Martian

Six Flags

Six Flags

San Francisco


Parks Library

At the library


New York

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