Art teacher’s work gains recognition
It's been six years since Tim Mispagel entered an art competition. He may have many more brush strokes left before being hailed as the next Vincent Van Gogh, but a recent art-competition might have inched him that much closer.
An art instructor at De Soto High School, Mispagel was awarded second place in the Heartland Artist 2002 Exhibition which ran March 2-24 at Merriam. He was chosen among 100 artists and 300 entries for the competition.
"Winning this show, I earned some credibility," Mispagel said. "It validated me as an artist."
His winning painting, "Fallen w/Free-Loader," shows a rhinoceros lying on the ground, dimly colored by the grayish hue of the animal's weathered skin and a cloudy background. A small, colorful bird rests on the mouth of the fallen beast, eyeing the situation. The image is portrayed though graphite and oil, giving a dark-light contrast.
"I added the bird in separate," Mispagel said. "I wanted to draw something with a lot of wrinkles in the face, so the texture of the rhinoceros that's why I went with it. In any piece of art, it should be the artist's objective to keep the viewer there as long as possible. I thought in placing the bird there, that might be just what the painting needed."
To pick the subjects for his artwork, he takes photographs and then sifts though the images until he finds something that catches his eye. For "Fallen w/Free-Loader," the rhino he painted was taken from a picture he took at a zoo in Omaha, Neb.
"Working from my own reference makes it such that it's mine completely," he said.
Mispagel said he likes to practice what he teaches, and said he spends a couple of hours each day outside of the classroom working on projects at his home studio in Kansas City, Mo. He sometimes brings his work to class, not merely to log more hours on a piece, but to encourage students.
"My approach to teaching is I try to model everything I want my kids to do," he said.
The modeling approach spills over into sports. Mispagel graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison after earning a baseball scholarship. He now coaches baseball at De Soto High. He recently became engaged to Amy Otto, special education teacher and head volleyball coach at the high school.
At 31, Mispagel said he'd started to find his niche. He now works in different media, including sculpture, pottery and drawing.
"I'm very diverse in my interests, and I want that to show in my artwork," he said. "I'm just to the point where I've got the focus, and I want to move forward with art. I've done so many things, but when one does so many things, sometimes it's difficult to know what it is you're supposed to be doing."
As he tackles challenges and faces his future, Mispagel said he hoped his experience would enhance his artwork and help it find an audience.
"I'm absolutely, bar none, trying to build a following," he said. "I want to build interest in my work to where it's something people want to have."