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Artist Showcase: Al Higdon

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The modern economy moves at breakneck speed, and it often seems we must move at the same blistering pace as the rest of society in order to keep up. But that leaves little time to stop and get to know the person standing next to us, or the neighbor down the street. Fortunately, for the sanity of all, artists like Al Higdon find joy in freezing time—capturing subjects in a single moment and thereby giving us a glimpse into the plurality of humanity.

Although relatively new to art and graphite drawing, Al strives to capture his subject’s story, not just a likeness. “I would like for people to see an expression or something in the eye that gives them a glimpse of that person behind the face,” he says. It’s an ongoing challenge, but Al feels that if he can help viewers to see what he sees in the people he draws, then perhaps they can see a bit of themselves in that person as well.

Art is a hobby for Higdon; he still works full time as an aircraft inspector for American Airlines, a position he has held for the past 28 years. It wasn’t until about three years ago that Al, at the coaxing of his artistically inclined wife, focused his free time on learning how to draw. “Even though I have loved and appreciated art since grade school, I never dreamed I could be an artist. I didn't think I had any talent.” Al admits: “I tried several times through the years to draw something, but I always failed miserably. Later, I discovered it was simply because I didn't know the right techniques.”

Now, with all of the kids out of the house, Al and his wife have converted a former bedroom into their own personal studio. It has become a refuge for them both and, more importantly, a place where they can leave their art supplies set up. “I had everything set up in the bedroom, so it was just a mess most of the time,” says Higdon. But now, “she has an area to do her mosaics, and I have a place to draw and paint. And we are able to leave it all out when we're done for the day.”

Though he has faced his fair share of artistic challenges, Al has no plans to give up on art. He sometimes finds himself at a point where he begins to ask, “Why am I doing this?” or “Who told you that you could draw anyway?” When that happens, Al simply walks away from his work, takes a break, and returns when he feels ready. At that point, he says, “the mistake or solution will usually jump right out at me, so I continue.”

Al encourages other budding artists to do the same. “I think just about anyone with enough desire can learn to do art,” he says. “Have fun first and foremost. Don't beat yourself up if you don't think you are getting anywhere. Instead, try to focus on where you went wrong and find some help—through books, the Internet, or somewhere—but don't throw in the towel.”

The book that has most inspired Al as an artist is Geoffrey Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated. In it, Colvin explains that almost anyone can achieve world-class performance through “deliberate practice” in his or her chosen field. “If I hadn't read this book,” says Higdon, “I would still be drawing stick men—seriously!”

If you would like to see more of Al’s artwork, be sure to check out his profile at 5pmc.com.

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