Darrow honored for lifetime of achievement

Ninety-year-old artist and Scripps College Professor Emeritus Paul Darrow isn’t one to expect accolades for his accomplishments, even though he continues to produce notable work as he draws ever closer to his centennial birthday.

Mr. Darrow was never interested in creating art for the honors, the “red carpets” or the fame. He is an artist because it is what he loves to do. And thankfully, he is able to make a living from it.

Last weekend, however, the humble artisan got his “Oscar gold.”
Mr. Darrow was honored on Sunday, April 1, with a Lifetime Achievement award at the sixth annual Art Star Awards in Laguna Beach, where he now resides after raising his family in the Claremont area.

For the honoree, known—among many things—for his witty cartoon illustrations seen in the Claremont COURIER for the past 50 plus years, it is a humbling experience to be honored by his peers and the faces of his past.

“To see your students in an audience of 250 people who paid to be there…it was lovely,” Mr. Darrow said. “It makes you feel like maybe you did something right.”

Mr. Darrow helped provide his own revolution in the art world, according to members of the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts, who host the Academy Awards-like Art Star event.

“His resume reads like a who’s who in the arts,” said Faye Baglin, president of Laguna Beach’s Community Art Project who nominated Mr. Darrow for the award.

When Mr. Darrow received a letter in February notifying him of the banquet and award in his honor, it came as a shock. It did not come with as much shock for his family, who have watched and grown from his artistic talents, all becoming artists of their own. How about: His family was not as surprised, who have learned and grown from him over the years, all becoming artists themselves.

For Chris Darrow, one of 4 Darrow children, it is an honor to watch his role model receive widespread recognition of this kind.

“He gets letters almost every day from students who say he helped them get started. You would be surprised at how many artists out there were students of my fathers,” his son said.

“When he used to work at the L.A. County Fair art [exhibit], I would go to help him hang up shows,” Chris reflected. “I learned a lot about presence, art and its ideals from watching him work and working in conjunction with him.”

One of Chris’s fondest and most distinct artistic memories of his father revolves around his hands. His father has kept sketch upon sketch of his hands over the years. “For an artist, the hands are the connection to the soul, and I think that my father drawing his hands all the time is his connection to his artistic soul,” he explained it.

This lifetime achievement award recognizes the artistic presence and freedom of expression within his father that has been there since day one, Chris says. It is part of the family DNA, as they explain it.

“It runs very deep in our family, and it’s because of our father,” Chris said. “He set the criteria. He never told anyone what to do, never anything like have to do it that way, he was just a good example.”

As far as Mr. Darrow’s artistic journey, his mother would often recall her son lying on his back in the front room at age 2, Crayolas in hand, incessantly focused on his “works of art.”

“We had this roll of brown wrapping paper and she would quietly roll it up on one end as I continued to draw,” he laughed.

Along with crafting his journalism skills, Mr. Darrow continued to hone his artistic vision, which caught the attention of renowned artist and Scripps College Professor Millard Sheets. Mr. Darrow worked with Sheets until Sheets’ retirement, and then continued lessons in his stead.

Throughout his career, and to this day, Mr. Darrow enjoys experimenting with all different types of art, whether drawing, painting, ceramics and writing. The renaissance man’s latest enjoyment is collages.

“That can either mean I am good at a lot of things or I am really bad at a lot of things,” he joked.

But his artwork, especially his illustrations, have certainly left a lasting impression. He started his illustration pursuits with cartoons in the books section of The New York Times and other New York magazines.

“It pay much in those days,” he remembers.

His illustration endeavors further flourished in partnership with his friend, the late COURIER publisher Martin Weinberger, who would publish his drawings weekly. This relationship continues even today. He draws his inspiration from other publications, politics and age, among other things. “Desert islands are always great, and talking animals,” he said.

That creative mindset has not dwindled, nor does it show any signs of doing so, his son added.

“He has gotten more energy and up and at ‘em than I do,” Chris admitted.

As long as he still has that energy, he will continue to put it to good use.

“My mother used to knit and petty point when she was stressed or emotional. I draw,” Mr. Darrow said. “Art helps get me through the rough spots.”

—Beth Hartnett


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