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The School Assignment That Launched A Toronto Artist

by David Crighton August 29, 2018 12 Comments

The School Assignment That Launched A Toronto Artist

This story is about my path as an artist and my life as an illustrator. An underlying theme here is the idea that anyone has the ability to carve out a wonderful career by staying the course and becoming really good at one thing.
 
It didn’t start with a business plan. It didn’t even really start with a plan at all. If anything, it was equal parts circumstance, happenstance, being ready for an opportunity, a competitive spirit and plain old fashioned hard work. In every person there’s a voice, a vision that is unique. As a teenager you can’t see that, but when you’re able to look back, or look sideways at those with success, it becomes obvious. 
David Crighton 1972, toronto artist
David Crighton circa 1972
Yorkville AvenueThis story starts in 1972 when my teacher gave my class the assignment to go out around Toronto and draw architecture. I was 19. My friend and I decided to go shoot pool on instead.
Central Tech Toronto produces toronto artists
You have to first understand the culture that was the Central Tech art department. It was very much a come-as-you-go atmosphere. I would think nothing of wandering the halls between classes. That was totally cool. Everyone did. The art department did not seem to have much in the way of structure. From my point of view, this was everything I always hoped school could be.
Central Technical School, Toronto - David Crighton's Alma Mater
Central Tech was a massive school that had turned out legions of technical students since the turn of the century. I don’t know that there is anything quite like it in Toronto. Staring up at the grand entrance you’d swear you were about to enter the halls of an Ivy league University.
 
No one can deny the school’s regal structure, but the art department was anything but structured. Unlike the technical students who turned out to instantly fill a job position, most of the art students were expanding their thinking about art and growing up all at the same time. It was more like a college in that it was largely left to us to supply our own drive and find a direction to pursue.
Central Technical School by Toronto Artist David Crighton
See My Pen and Ink Illustration of Central Tech
 
Don’t get me wrong, Central Tech is not without its pedigree, A.J. Casson, Joyce Wieland, Robert Steward Hyndman, and Aba Bayefsky all studied in these halls. Highly respected artists such as Charles Goldhammer, Doris McCarthy, Bobs Cogill Haworth, Elizabeth Wyn Wood, Donald Neddeau, and others all taught at Central Technical School.
 
A bit of history. In 1929, Peter Haworth a Royal College trained artist and designer from England, was appointed head of the art department. The conditions of his hiring included and encouraged the development of his own personal creative work. To this day, the majority of the art staff devotes a sizeable amount of time towards the development and promotion of their own work. This feature is significant to the school’s tradition. The legion of graduates often became ranking artists in Toronto, and made national names for themselves in all artistic disciplines, including graphic design, illustration, stage design, painting, sculpture, and ceramics.
Historic Image of Central Tech
Around the start of the 20th century, the northwest limit of the city was essentially Bloor and Spadina. It was here that the horse-drawn trolleys of the Toronto Street Railway turned off Bloor Street and made their way south towards the lakefront. Early suburbia! 
Street in Toronto
Where Central Tech now stands was a large apple orchard owned by members of the Saywell family. As early as 1888, the Association of Stationary Engineers had requested the City Council to consider the establishment of a school for technical training to meet the need for skilled workers for Toronto’s booming industries. Originally the school mainly catered to older students with the classes being held in the evenings so that employees could attend after work. In 1955, Charles Goldhammer, painter, illustrator and draughtsman became Head of Art. Under his leadership, the new art building known as the Art Centre was built in 1961. In this new facility, fully equipped studios were designed to accommodate a new generation of students. This wing is where I spent much of my time.
Central Tech Toronto
However the assignment of the day was to get the heck out of the school and go draw something! It wasn’t as if we’d been chained to our desks, but this opportunity practically begged for some extracurricular activities. I must say that Carlos and I started out with nothing in mind. Nothing in mind but to get as quickly away from school before someone changed their mind about this idea…

Looking forward to upcoming blog posts? Subscribe above to receive "David Crighton's First Illustration of Toronto" where I will tell you the story of the very day that I created my first architectural drawing - the one that started it all!

   
 
 




David Crighton
David Crighton

Author


12 Responses

Rob MacDougall
Rob MacDougall

January 22, 2018

I follow your posts on Facebook. I remember your stippling and wonking up buildings. Your approach was architecturally stylized whereas Ted Michener’s buildings were strictly cartooning but effective. I was a cross between your approach and Mich. I got away from stippling because if you go too dark.. there’s no turning back. I enjoy seeing your work and your online social marketing approach. It’s great to get looked over as opposed to getting overlooked. Keep up the great work DC. Rob M.

Google/Lori tipper
Google/Lori tipper

March 05, 2016

Seems like yesterday that we were at Central Tech!! Congrats on your work. It’s wonderful.

Rico Booker
Rico Booker

February 25, 2016

New to the site, my name is Rico from Cincinnati, Ohio United States of America. I Just found 3 signed, numbered earlier prints (El Motambo Tavern, Maple Leaf Hall & Massey Hall). I called the number on David’s site and spoke to a very nice lady I believe her name was Pam who told me that they were from his earlier work. I noticed that each piece was slightly different from his current prints of the same venues. I could not be more excited, I love the detailed work, and they look awesome on display in my home.
Rico Booker
Cincinnati, Ohio

Jen Leis
Jen Leis

February 24, 2016

Hi David – this post is incredible. I am currently a teacher at the Art Centre (ceramics and painting, among other things). It’s so wonderful to hear stories like this from alumni who have worked before us in this amazing space. Thank you!

Jen Leis
Jen Leis

February 24, 2016

Hi David – this post is incredible. I am currently a teacher at the Art Centre (ceramics and painting, among other things). It’s so wonderful to hear stories like this from alumni who have worked before us in this amazing space. Thank you!

Evan Butchers
Evan Butchers

February 22, 2016

Hello David – I think I might have met you earlier in life. Did you have a brother, Ian and was your father, Pender Crichton who had a studio in St.Catherines and was related to Margaret & Robert “Bob” Crichton?

Gail Taylor
Gail Taylor

February 20, 2016

Hi David
It’s me -my dadwad a stationary engineer and his dad was and you are the only I know that recognizes that position! Means a lot to me

Cliff
Cliff

February 16, 2016

Say David,

Where was this pool table on Yorkville Avenue??

Cliff

Bill Lloyd
Bill Lloyd

February 14, 2016

You must of went to Dinkles or PWD in Yorkville great party plac

Yvonne Gostick
Yvonne Gostick

February 14, 2016

My Husband went their in the 50 Ty’s , he took Dry Cleaning , went back to school, went to teachers collage, teaching Dry Cleaning.

Nancy McGuire
Nancy McGuire

February 13, 2016

I remember those early days David…I bought one of your earliest calendars and have framed some of the prints. Love your artwork now :)

Brian Denyer
Brian Denyer

February 13, 2016

LOL —I remember those days and look back on the adventure it was. It still is wink emoticon never stopped learning and discovering. The traditional graphic techniques can still be used today without the need of computers. A few times others see my graphics and ask -‘What computer program is that?’ It is just basic illustration with the good old paper and pencil!

Sure Dave —it seems like last week we went to CTS lol

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