This autobiography seems to be taking my whole life to write, so I've decided to open it up unfinished. If you venture in be careful. It's a construction zone. There are areas of clutter and rubble in places.

Tom Van Horn

Right Light

I don't know how it went by so fast, but it turns out I've been messing around in these artsy areas for a lot of years gone by.

As life progressed for this dingbat hippy dreamer, finding the right light, even the Right Light, has been a major aspect of my walk.

So how I'm suddenly in my 60's is beyond me. In a lifetime of diddling around in artistic endeavors I have come to these days when I'm in the midst of a ceramics era. Its all hand built at this point. I'm not interested in a mass production of teapots on a wheel, in fact, I once stated to my studio full of one person, ceramic pieces, and paintings, occasional cat, that I want to express as far away from the common pot as I can without making stuff that I and everyone else wouldn't like.
So like in my paintings, the ceramic piece speaks itself into existence. I'm good at letting what comes be what is.

Below are two examples of the work I'm doing these days, 2012. On the left, a pot, vase like. I like to call my pots nonfuncional. I don't want them to be a dish. They're sculptures. The other is a figurine moon, one of the genres of my ceramiac work.

Well, the ceramic era comes at the end of this story. What progress has occured to become this body of work that took my whole life to do.
It all started back in 1948 when I was making horrible messes for my mom. I grew up a sensitive kid with some kind of eye even in my childhood. Sometime in grade school we were instructed to paint something on glass and then press that onto paper. So I painted a stick man wearing a hat and the print came out looking like this. What a precursor to my whole creative movement. Throughout my life most of my works resulted by what one could call accidentalism.
It took seventeen years for me to consider that I might have some creative streak weaving around in my foundations. In fact, as I graduated from high school, I signed up to go to college to study art, hoping to become an art teacher and a track coach. My highschool sweetheart, Louise, and I made plans to marry.

Ah, but Vietnam put a plug in that. To avoid getting drafted, I joined. United States Air Force. Instead of becoming a college student, I became an Air Force radar operator and instead of becoming a war infantryman doing overseas duty in Vietnam, I went north of the Arctic Circle to watch for Russians. Considerably safer unless nuclear war breaks out. Anyway, Alaska was a most memorable era of my life but I don't remember much art happening there, although once when I was slapping paint on an office wall one of the sargents told me I held the brush like an artist. OK.

Kotzebue, Alaska sat on the coast of a bay that extended off the Bering Straight, just a few hundred miles from Russia. How can I forget the number, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle. That's north, not all the way north, but damned north. Way up north. We watched the Russian jets and our jets play their tag games on the radar scopes and drew their routes on a huge lit plexiglass map with grease pencils. Far from art but I suppose if all out war broke out that board may have taken on an abstract expressionism appearance. I was well aware that I sat right in the bullseye of some nuke with our name on it. Every time we played the simulated war game we were always dead early and were off to chow while the rest of the United States continued to defend itself and retaliate. The biggest of booms on Earth. Thank God that never happened.

I always like to say that nuclear holocaust didn't happen on my watch, so I'm proud.

Kotzebue was a genuine eskimo village with all the stuff a Disney documentary would cover. Blanket toss, fish drying racks which gave the town a distinct smell. Muktuk and mukaluks. It was a fasinating place. Those folks would drag a Buluuga whale up on the beach and everyone would come running like it was the icecream truck. They'd cut chunks off that creature and eat it raw there and then. Fat dripping with whale oil. I never tried it and that disappoints me now.

One thing about the military, they send young citizens to places that are far different from their downtown USA.

That year finally ended and the Air Force gave me a month to get to the next duty. Othello, Washington. From tundra to sagebrush.

In that year Louise had moved on without me and things were a bit different back in my home town. One year and we had gone from some American Graffiti scene to something else which I was about to find out about.

It was early 1968, an interesting time in the USA. A quite the disgruntled subculture had developed and I found myself relating to them. Certainly, I was less than Uncle Sam's ideal of a military man. In the state of mind that accompanied that subculture I began to dootle, often with felt tip pens.

Tom Van Horn was going through some changes with a little help from his friends.

I call them Hippy Dootles.


Hippy Dootles. What can I say. Late 60's.
I know the above dootles aren't all that impressive, but this is a history and those dootles were the beginning of me laying color and form on paper on purpose. Actually, looking back, I can see the relationship of those compositions to my more mature works of later years. One can see that they came from the same head.

Later in my military moment I switched over to pen and india ink, still at a dootle stage but gaining a bit of "sophistication."

Things like this pic to the left and the two below of my favorite musical maestros, with op art and flowers decorated my barracks room. Certainly out of conformity to the warrior image.

Strangely, in those days I put together a collage not knowing that twenty years later collage would be a major era of my life. It also hung in my room in the barracks.

"Give me a head with HAIR" indeed.

A friend and I took a road trip from Othello, Washington, north to Penticton, xxx, Canada. What a neat little town that was. I really don't remember all the details, even why that was the town we ended up at. But I do remember meeting some cool people and hanging around with them, doing what we did. Their place was across a parking lot from the Pentictan Fire Department and as chance would have it there was to be a city parade. Somehow I got the job of painting a panel on the fire department's float. This is it to the right. Now, I, being of the hippy nature, even as a military man, can't figure out why I made such a comment about my "kind" but I suppose I was trying to be cute and impress and entertain the establishment. What a traitor to the revolution!

My days in Othello, two and a half years, were filled with fun. The area was a sage brush desert and irrigated agriculture. The radar site had a motor boat that we checked out for a day of skiing on a lake called Moses but apparently there were days we couldn't get the boat because I remember skiing behind a car that was driving along side an irrigation canal.

Wow. The memories come flooding back. I'll keep this brief, but I remember chasing respectfully tall and powerful whirl winds or dust devils across the open landscape on my motorcycle. The bike was a Yamaha 350. Although it wasn't a biker's bike, it was a hot little machine. What a great feeling to ride so close to the earth with nothing but my face to break the wind.

Ron, a good buddy even to this day, and I took a trip to the coast of Oregon on that bike. I still have a vivid memory of the campfire and sunset way up on a hill overlooking the ocean. The fire was an orange glow in a field of night time purple.

Well, I'd better mention the other end of the scale from bike bliss. Late one dark night, picture this, desert hiway must have been moonless, riding towards a hill which, of course, is a big dark spot upon an already dark sky. I sped along at 55 miles an hour when into my headlight beam steps a black angus steer. Very dark animal. Big like a boulder. Hit the brake, skid for an instant, and broadside the beef. After that eternal instant of unconciousness I awoke laying on the pavement. As an old financial saying goes, I wasn't broke but I was badly bent. So was my bike. One of my ankles received a sanding but more significantly my helmet had a flat spot sanded into it. A cow/motorcycle collision, one of my few claims to fame.

There were girls and hamberger stands. There were the Pot Hole Lakes in a place called Rattlesnake Flats. I used to take my kitten out on an inner tube on one of those lakes, Goose Lake. What a happy kitten that was. Pets were not allowed in the barracks but mine wasn't the only cat and a guy downstairs had a German Shepard for awhile. I'm not sure how we got away with the things we did.

As I write this, it's not the first time I felt a little crappy about having all that fun while my brothers in arms endured the horrors of war in Viet Nam. Strangely sometimes I regret the fact that I missed the war.

Well, the days finally counted down to just one wake up after a year of being "short". They sent me home as a civilian. By then I had the illegal cat named Puss and drove a 1949 royal blue Cadillac. The Cadilac was big enough to put my motorcyle in the back seat and Puss rode on my shoulder all the way back home, a free man.

By the time I got out of the military I was well ready to try on some long haired fashions.

....Trying to Find the Right Light....INDEX....
21. To Conclude