Announcer: Please direct your attention to the blank canvas.
David: When I first started in high school, I wasn't that focused. I failed a lot of my classes starting out. I was into graffiti, and you could find me painting on anything standing up -- trains, walls, just a long list of things I did not own.
And it wasn't until my junior year of high school. I walked into the classroom of Mr. Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan introduced me to a new art form called animation. Now, it wasn't new, but it was new to me. It was a new tool to use.
David: Meeting Sullivan, it was like a switch that just clicked, and he just simply told me that I didn't need to create in railyards. I didn't need to create in back alleys in the dark in the middle of the night, that I could create things that people will appreciate, that it can take me places beyond my neighborhood and the city. So my perspective completely changed about my art and also what it could do to change my life and other lives.
I remember this reporter asking me. So I said, "I call it Rhythm and Hue." "How does it work?" I said, "It's simple. I take some brushes. I line up my paints, my canvas. I turn on the music, and I let the music paint the portrait." "And he says, "How does the crowd react?" I said, "The crowd makes a lot of noise too."
David: One of the things that stick out to me that I learned in high school was how to be tenacious, and I remember Sean Sullivan. He said, "Look up the word 'tenacity.'" And I said, "What does that mean?" Tenacity, I had never-- It was like a new sound. I was like, "What language is that?" But I looked it up, and it was sort of, you know, being tenacious is just not stopping, you know, always having a momentum and going after the things that are sort of living in your heart. And that was something that was brought out of me. That was something that was taught to me through example.
When it came to the end of high school, I couldn't graduate on time. So now, after high school, I'm living from place to place, working odd job to odd job, and I was so frustrated. I was living in this little one-bedroom apartment. I was sitting on the couch, frustrated with the direction of my life.
David: And it really wasn't until a few years after high school I started employing the creativity that was living inside of me, but also employing the tools that were given to me through these art academies at Sheldon High School.
David: 2003 I started teaching myself how to paint. I started turning my illustrations and all these figure drawings that I had been doing in my animation classes into paintings, and that led to starting to paint live in jazz clubs and nightclubs and eventually developing into this performance painting show. So it was-- I definitely took an unconventional path after high school, but I give all the credit to the tools that I had gained through the art academies at Sheldon High School.
Narrator: For more information about what works in education, go to Edutopia.org.