Artist Torenzo Gann shares his compelling personal story and a collection of figurative works from his contemporary portfolio. See more by visiting his website.
Persevere, Persevere, Persevere! As an artist that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. To persevere is to succeed!
When I was a young child, I discovered that making art—specifically drawing—helped me escape the prolonged and unpleasant noise of my parent’s daily arguments. Drawing quickly transported me to the realm of cars, trucks, and imaginary landscapes, and helped smother the verbal gymnastics on the other side of my bedroom door. My affection for drawing led me to wide-eyed creative excitement when I began using crayons and poster paints, and I found the possibilities were endless.
Following elementary school, I enrolled in numerous school art classes. However, as much as I enjoyed them it was my eleventh-grade high school art teacher, Ms. Richards, that had a profound effect on me. She was so inspiring and encouraged me to create with boundless experimentation. Because of her major influence I decided to become an artist and enter the world of art.
I began my formal art training at Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Following the challenging and successful completion of my first year I felt that I wanted a broader variety of art courses than those available there. Fortunately, I was counseled by one of my art instructors to consider leaving the commercial art school and its focus on illustration and advertising art, to pursue a comprehensive fine art education. I am so grateful for Mr. Hansen’s recommendations.
Following that first year at Kendall I took courses in creative writing, pottery, and independent study in studio painting at other colleges and universities, and during my twenties and thirties, I enjoyed a modicum of success with a variety of shows, exhibits, and in art in public places and venues. However, my life was soon to dramatically change.
At the age of thirty-eight, I finally admitted that I had a serious alcohol and drug problem. Even though I tried for several years to stop on my own, I just couldn’t do it. It took four more years of struggling with my alcoholism before I entered a treatment program and permanently stopped drinking and using other drugs. The recovery process was very challenging, requiring a massive personal commitment to never drink or use drugs again. This required persevering one day at a time.
This experience was so transformational and life changing that I left the art field I’d been pursuing full-time and returned to college to become a certified addiction treatment specialist to help others. Returning to college was another colossal challenge requiring a full-time day job, taking classes on evenings and weekends, and learning how to operate from the left (analytical and logical) side of my brain! It was quite an adjustment for me. Nevertheless, I persevered.
After acquiring numerous certifications, masters and doctorate degrees and working in the treatment arena for a couple of decades, I decided to leave that career behind and reignite my art career. What an exciting ride it is!
In just six short years of persevering and dealing with the massive amount of rejection letters, periodic discouragement and other setbacks, I’m delighted to say that I have been juried into numerous national exhibits and two international Palm Beach Art Fairs. My work is currently featured in a two-artist exhibit, Free Electrons, at the Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida. A recent painting will be featured in a juried exhibit at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, Florida. My work is also in numerous private collections in America, British Columbia, and Bogotá, Colombia.
Among other things I’ve learned in my life, I’ve learned to persevere through life’s problems and challenges by seeing them as opportunities. Most worthwhile opportunities require some risk. So be bold and take those risks. Some of them will become successes and some will end in failure. Persevere through the failures. After all, victory is just an accumulation of failures before your final breakthrough to success.
Think of Thomas Edison, the man who invented the lightbulb. It took only 1,000 failures, or unsuccessful attempts before he finally achieved his victory and effectively changed the world. Now that, I would say, is perseverance!