Stop and Draw
Mid recession, a blue collar worker quits job for art.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
From a young age, Todd McClair worked. He worked in food service at the DLI; he worked in catering at the Marriott and Quail Lodge; more recently he paved roads for Spirit Road Oil in Morgan Hill.
But six months ago, at age 40, something struck him and he stopped.
“One day I was working,” he says, “sweating, standing there looking at the road. And it came to me: ‘Is this how you’re going to finish your life?’”
Without hesitation and without much preparation beyond prayer, he politely quit and dedicated himself to pursuing his dream: art.
From a young age, McClair had been secretly and compulsively honing his artistic skill. His father, former Seaside mayor Lance McClair, enlisted him to design and paint signs and banners, and as an adult Todd got commissions doing portraits.
But he had a son to support. “I had to struggle,” he recalls, “work two, three jobs.”
His son now 18, McClair found himself inspired by a man he has never met: Barack Obama.
“When he announced he was going to run, I knew he was going to be president. People thought I was crazy.”
He drew a picture of Obama with a presidential seal behind him. He drew Obama in montage with the Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez. He put the drawings on T-shirts and consigned them to the local Democratic Party, which could not get enough of them. He got a booth at the Tuesday Farmers Market in Monterey and people snatched them up.
“I’m going to make this pencil sing,” he told himself. “One day I’m just going to do art.”
McClair didn’t always think so expansively. Four years ago, his mom had shown him a story about Obama in Jet Magazine, telling him the man would be president someday.
“‘Mom,’” he remembers saying, “‘They ain’t electing no black man to be president.’”
Now, the realm of what is possible seems bigger.