Pasadena man celebrates life through art
Since he was a boy, John O'Dell has been unable to resist opportunities to learn and to create art.
The 47-year-old Pasadena resident has devoted much of his life to these pursuits. He has worked in an architectural firm and in a print shop, in radio and for a museum. And through most of that time, he's been creating artistically.
Currently, O'Dell is teaching introductory acrylic painting workshops at Michael's Arts and Crafts, 5730 West Fairmont Pkwy., Pasadena.
The next round of workshops began this week. The sessions take three hours each, and students leave with a completed painting.
O'Dell, who was born in Shreveport, La., started drawing around age 5.
"I had always been drawing to drawing," he said. "I would get in trouble because I'd pick up anything that was blank and draw on it."
It was also around age 5 when an accident left O'Dell blind in his right eye. Today, he said, he can see how that loss resulted in a blessing.
Right-handed people usually are right eye-dominant, O'Dell said. In college, art students often are asked to learn to paint with their non-dominant hand to encourage use of both sides of the brain.
His accident forced him to get an early start on that process.
"It kind of gave me an advantage in art because I always used both sides of my brain," he said.
While art was an important part of his life, O'Dell also has been passionate since childhood about golf and martial arts. In fact, he met his first martial arts instructor on the golf course at age 9 and struck up an agreement to help the man improve his golf skills in exchange for martial arts lessons.
O'Dell would go on to teach martial arts himself and continues to offer private lessons.
Meanwhile, he went on to earn a degree in fine arts from Louisiana Tech University.
During his senior year, O'Dell's illustration instructor was seriously injured in an accident.
On his instructor's recommendation, O'Dell was asked to complete the course.
He also spoke regularly at Caddo Career & Technical Center in Shreveport, where O'Dell took art instruction during his junior and senior years of high school.
After earning his college degree, O'Dell became an instructor at the center.
"I just loved it," O'Dell said. "Not just passing on what I learned, but I learned so much.
"That's what life is about, learning from your experiences, if you can, and passing it on."
O'Dell has a way of making an impression, long-time friend Jody Raney said.
"John is 6-foot-6. He is a big guy, and he's gentle as a dog. He's a 'Marmaduke' kind of guy.
"He was always a teacher. He could teach all kinds of people anything. And he's an excellent artist."
O'Dell got his start at Michael's in the framing department several years ago at Raney's suggestion. He had woodworking experience, but frames represented a new skill to add to his repertoire.
"That was a new adventure for me," O'Dell said. "In six months, I was the (framing) manager."
But O'Dell stepped down from that position when he learned about the opportunity to teach art at Michael's on behalf of Grumbacher, a brand put out by art and drafting supplier, Chartpak.
He applied for the position last year and began teaching in August.
"I've had several people who've never painted before in their life walk out of there and say, I can't believe I did that," O'Dell said.
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