Art Scene: Those Who Can, Teach
Deloney began painting on cabinet doors last year while recuperating from surgery. He purchased them from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and uses several materials — such as alcohol and pot scrubbers — techniques and layering to build texture.
photography by Janet Warlick
North Little Rock, Ark., native Rex Deloney’s career began with a package of paper. “I’m the youngest of seven children. All of my brothers drew. I picked it up from them,” Deloney said.
The “it” he refers to is his love of art, a talent that he has honed since childhood. “I started in church. As a child, I created a chalkboard drawing during a meeting at Holy Temple.” The pastor there, the late Elder Lawrence Dade “had a big hand in my world.” Teachers also recognized Deloney’s talent; he often designed bulletin boards in their classrooms.
In high school, he became more serious and gained focus. “Ken Dickson was the first teacher I could identify with,” Deloney said. At this point, his love for sports and for art had merged and he often created “action shots” of athletes. He said Dickson helped him illustrate more and with greater detail.
Upon graduation, Deloney attended the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) where he majored in commercial art. While there, he earned extra money, selling his illustrations of athletes — UCA alum Scottie Pippen became a friend — and many of his pieces were displayed in the now-closed Spaulding Sporting Goods store in downtown Little Rock. In fact, by the time I graduated from UCA, my artwork was all around the store.” His compensation was Russell Athletic sweatsuits, which were among the most popular sportswear items at the time.
Another Little Rock landmark played a significant role in Deloney’s career: Pyramid Art, now Hearne Fine Art. “Working at Pyramid with Garbo Hearne opened my eyes. While there I saw the work of and met many African American artists. Before that, I hadn’t realized the contributions that African Americans made to the art world. I really identified with William Tolliver,” Deloney said.
After college, Deloney moved to Yakima, Wash., where a cousin lived. “My goal was to do sports illustrations. I freelanced for the Seattle Supersonics, and in 1992, I was first published in Beckett Sports Journal; it was an illustration of Charles Barkley,” he said. That year, he earned accolades as he was named one of the top 10 sports artists. “Now, there is so much photography, but in the early- and mid-90s, illustrations were the ‘thing.’”
The notoriety was good; however, the pay wasn’t as much, only about $250 per publication; thus Deloney worked various jobs at a local school; eventually he earned his teaching certificate and taught art at a middle school where a majority of the students spoke little or no English. “ I was so green to the profession and I struggled to communicate with the students; however, after a time, I became versed in total physical response. There were many classes during which I taught without talking, but we got good results,” he said.
For 13 years, he coached and continued to paint, selling work at local events. He also painted murals. His teaching career advanced; he moved to a high school with a strong art department. Deloney returned to Arkansas in 2003, and in 2004, he joined the faculty at Little Rock Central High School. Deloney serves as chairman of the famous school’s Fine Arts Department. A number of his students have served as models for paintings, and he has a collection of several pieces from some of his more talented students. Deloney counts the opportunity to influence and encourage young people a privilege — “I create assignments for my students based on my experiences. I try to reassure them,” Deloney said, indicating that art is not an exact science. “I often start paintings over and over. I look at my students and realize they’re as uncertain as I once was.”
Deloney’s also had the opportunity to display his expertise and commitment to youth through three 10 foot-by-14 foot murals he has conceptualized and created at P.A.R.K. (Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids) in south Little Rock.
He honed his talent for detail and picking up the nuances in the human form and face with his life-like sports illustrations. Today, much of the art he creates has a familial or spiritual connection.
“Family photographs and other items such as newspapers and magazines are often my resources,” Deloney said. “However, I was born and nurtured in church, [and recognize that] my talent is a gift from God, thus a lot of my pieces deal with spirituality and faith. I’ve often felt that I’ve been ‘visually haunted’ by images. I can see things and remember things from years ago as if it were yesterday. I try to make sure each piece has a voice, that it has a message. I’m not conceited or vain … I realize [the ability to create] is a gift from God.” This is a message he conveys to students daily.
For more information about Deloney or to purchase his works, log onto deloney.myexpose.com or call (501) 224-0087.
*Artwork 2The artist with a painting — “Big Daddy” — of his grandfather. “I have vivid memories of Big Daddy. His backyard was always so lush and green.” Thus, the background color of “Big Daddy.”
*Artwork 3“Uncle Joe’s Newsstand” is a painting of the artist’s uncle. Deloney used purple to express the nobility found in man, generally speaking but specifically in Uncle Joe.
*Arkwork 4“Setting the Atmosphere”
*Artwork 5Deloney ‘s pieces are full of expression and color. The colors in “Complements of Harlem” are indicative of serenity and intensity.