Growing up in Springfield, Ohio, Eric Bess knew he would go to college, and although at one time he wanted to be a heart surgeon, his passion for art took him in another direction.
“I started drawing my favorite cartoon characters when I was around six,” Bess said. “My friends would ask me to make them copies. I loved it, but when my grandfather had a heart attack, I was so impressed by his doctors that I wanted to be a doctor.”
However, by the time he reached high school, his artistic talent had become unmistakable – his ability to reproduce any scene, picture or person filled him with pleasure, and he discovered his passion for art.
Today he works primarily in charcoal, graphite and oil, and he defines his original work as surrealistic.
“My family told me that I needed to stretch myself,” Bess said, explaining that his ability to produce exact copies challenged him to find a way to make the work his own. “I begin by drawing each piece realistically, and then I draw on ghost images.”
Following high school, Bess began his secondary education at Clark State Community College where he earned an associate degree in visual arts before transferring as a junior to Wittenberg.
“I always knew I was going to get a bachelor’s degree,” Bess said.
A self-starter, Bess never relied solely on professors and classroom experiences to provide the background and knowledge of the subjects that interested him.
“At the beginning of every semester I took out books from the library,” he said. “I believe that when you learn yourself, it sticks longer.”
The artist has already built a substantial resumé as teacher’s assistant at Project Jericho, a community-based program that serves at-risk youth from the Springfield area by providing various performing and fine arts workshops. He has also worked as an art consultant, nude model, adjunct professor at Clark State, and he hopes to spend the summer as a portrait artist at Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Although he considered going to grad school next year, he has decided to work a year or two before taking the next step in achieving his educational goals.“I thought about going to grad school in San Francisco for my masters, but I want to stay closer to home.” His plans include completing either a master of fine arts or a Ph.D. in art history. However, he admits that he has yet to decide whether to focus on art history or studio arts – his love for both continues to grow.
- Written by Phyllis Eberts’00
- Photo by Robbie Gantt