Ah, the transformation begins. During my second year of high school, I made huge efforts to get in with the "popular" group. Something about wanting to belong, fear of loneliness and isolation, that sort of thing. I remember hanging out with several friends who had seemed to have "connections" with some of the popular kids in my grade. I also remember this being the year I learned a very important lesson: the more people you meet, the more artistic favors you do. Drawing for acceptance seemed like such a whimpy thing, but I didn't care. I was easy going and eager to please. A pushover, if you will. I didn't seem to mind the attention that my artisic talents seemed to garner -- it was actally kinda fun to watch the faces of my friends change the moment they realized I was drawing Smurfs, Boy George, or Prince on a sheet of what was previously a blank college-ruled notebook paper. My talent was an anomally to them; to me, it was as natural as going to the bathroom. My only fear was that my new-found friends were using me, or had befriended me just BECAUSE I could draw. In later years, I would cut back on drawing favors -- I wanted my friends to like me for who I was, not what I could do. Which didn't always work. I was constantly introduced as "The Artist" Ward Jenkins.
Check out my feeble attempt at wings. I was trying. Unfortunately, my super straight hair was not wing-worthy.
It was during my freshman year that I discovered Prince. My first glimpse of the Purple Wonder was from a crudely shot video for his song "Sexuality," where, by the end of the song, he is slowly taking off his clothes, ending up in only his underwear. It wasn't the graphic nature of this video that got to me, it was the electricity I heard in the song -- something so gritty and funky and crude and bizarre -- all at once. It was intoxicating. And here was this dude singing in such a way that I had never heard before. It wasn't until "Little Red Corvette" came out that I realized it was the same dude in the "Sexuality" video-- I had to buy his music RIGHT THEN AND THERE. **1999** came out in late '82, but I wouldn't own the album until a year later. My mother absolutely positively did not want "that garbage" in our house. But my persistence paid off and I was able to drop the needle on that double vinyl album for the first time later on that Christmas. The tunes from that album sounded so much sweeter to me than hearing it on the radio. Thus began the constant answering of questions and explanation of lyrics to my folks and fellow classmates time and time again. Is he gay? What is that song about? Did he just say what I think he said? Etc, etc, etc....
My freshman year was also the year my parents split. I never thought that it affected me that deeply until the day my English teacher took me aside and asked if anything was wrong. I said, no, I don't think so...why? Well, she explained to me, she'd noticed a big change in my grades for that quarter. I'd made A's and B's all throughout my sub-freshman year and for the first two quarters of this year, but this quarter, I was making a D. She asked again, is there anything going on maybe at home that might be affecting your grades this quarter? Well...my parents did split up. Ahh...the light in her eyes sparked with sudden realization. And I'm sure my face reflected that same realization. I was immediately aware of my personal situation (and the potential ramifications) and for the rest of the year, tried to deal with it as best I could. In retrospect, I believe that my art became my solace.
1983 also marked the year that I created my very first animation. See previous post (scroll halfway down), as well as this one to read more about it.
Typical quotes from classmates who signed my yearbook:
"Your [sic] a really nice guy, and a fantastic artist." (from a guy)
"Hope you have a super summer and stay out of trouble. See you next year! Have a good one! PS: Stay sweet + cute as ever!" (from a girl)
"I had a great time in Impact class with you in there. You made it all the more interesting. Especially with all of your drawings. You have a terrific talent. It will take you far I'm sure. Stay sweet OK." (from a girl)
In the back of my 1983 Yearbook: Events That Filled The Year...:
Chariots of Fire
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
An Officer and a Gentleman
Richard Prior [sic] Live on the Sunset Strip
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Boy George -- Culture Club
The Producers (remember them? they were a local band with a hit)
Men at Work
The Gap Band
Various current events that were mentioned: John DeLorean charged with conspiring to sell cocaine; Faulkland Islands seized by Argentine troops; Seven people died from cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules; John Hinkley's trial -- innocent by reason of insanity. Notable deaths: John Belushi, Henry Fonda, Grace Kelly, Vic Morrow, Ayn Rand, Karen Carpenter.
Jeez, hate to end on a downer note. Well, stay tuned for 1984: Sophmore, which was perhaps my most favorite year.