Side Gigs: Mr. Grissom Impresses with Art Skills
Keller Neighbors, Staff Writer
Daniel Grissom’s art desk, located on the second floor of his home in Highland Park, is filled with pencils, pens, and coloring tools all crammed into the drawer. It is, as he jokingly calls it, his studio. A 9th grade English Teacher, Grissom is an artist who draws anything but normal drawings. His work was being showcased this month in Side Gigs, a new way to celebrate teacher’s talents and passions outside of the classroom setting. When asked about his influences, Grissom tried to paint a picture of his childhood memories: the Looney Toons cartoons he watched when he was in elementary school, learning how to draw Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Taz from memory. He remembers reading the old Batman comics, and the action that went along with them. Even today, he is taking inspiration from Instagram artists like @ugly_ink and @joverine. All of these things have left an impression on his life and are what gives him the cartoony comic style that he has.
When he is drawing at his desk, sometimes the art he draws is thoroughly thought out and well planned, while at other times it is just improvised creations. Sometimes, he just lets the pencil glide across the paper, creating the line and seeing where it takes him. Other times he tries to think back to a certain time, place, sermon, book, or something else that left an impression on him. Once the drawing has been completed, he takes a pen and ink and draws over the lines to give it a more finished look. Sometimes he adds color with markers, watercolors or colored pencils to make it really stand out as a finished piece. His art might be described by the phrase, as a friend said it, “grotesque fantastical.” For example, he has drawn animals portrayed as humans, humans being attacked by tentacles filled with slime, and even a giant purple head with binary code stretching across his forehead.
Though Grissom drew a lot in elementary school, it all came to a halt around middle school. The only drawing he did as an adult were doodles on the sides of pages during long teacher meetings. Originally from North Carolina, he earned his undergraduate at North Carolina State, then moved to New York in 2013 to get an English Education Masters at Columbia University Teachers College. About two years ago, he took some drawing classes while he was still in New York, which is what revived his interest of drawing.
When asked about a deeper meaning to his art, he started talking about one piece that he currently has on display. It has a preacher shouting towards a frenzied crowd, an American flag waving in the background, and a lonely child sitting behind the stage. That piece was inspired by a sermon he heard on James 1:27, which claims christians should “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” Yet many christians can name their favorite pastor, pundit, or politician, but not a single orphan. Though he doesn’t always name his pieces, he titled that one “Revival.”
Grissom say that the best tip he can give someone would be to study and practice. “Study other artists and their work and try to copy it to help you find your own style, and study tutorials whether in books or in YouTube videos,” he said. “Whatever aspect of art you are trying to get good at, find masters you can study from, and find books or videos you could study from, and then spend time practicing.”
Learning Commons Collections and Writing Center Director Camille Platt has started the Side Gigs showcase to help teachers to help relate to students, taking them out of the teacher spotlight, and putting them on a more personal level. Grissom’s art was the first to be featured in the showcase in the Commons alongside some of the drawing and art nonfiction books recommended by himself for students to check out. To see more of his art, visit his Instagram page at @grissomd. He said that when a teacher builds a relationship with a student outside of the classroom, they are able to relate with them better. He said, “There are actually studies that have been done that show one of the single, if not the biggest factor, for improving student achievement is how much a student sees that they have in common with the teacher… [and] Side Gigs is a very tiny part of just being authentic before kids.” Teachers, if you draw, sing, or do some other kind of art, contact Mrs. Platt at firstname.lastname@example.org. It could be a great way for you to showcase your talents to the school and connect with the student body.