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  • Acclaimed artist celebrates half a century sharing his craft

    Dec 19, 2022 | Read More News
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     Wollam portrait
    Larry Wollam self-portrait 
    “I’m a photo realist,” says artist Larry Wollam. “I’m serious, and I want my students to be serious about art.”

    It’s that mindset that has inspired Wollam to share his love of art over the last half century with students enrolled in Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation’s Arts & Leisure Class Program. Staff, volunteers, and former students celebrated his 50-year milestone at a reception at NRPR’s main offices Dec. 8.

    Wollam, a Wyoming native, arrived in Tucson in 1960 during his last two years of active duty with the Air Force. He started teaching drawing classes with the County in 1972 and is still going strong. He first taught drawing at Fort Lowell Park (then a County property), moving on to Overton Fine Arts Center, Agua Caliente Park, then to his current location at the Northwest YMCA

    “I remember at Overton seeing Harris’s hawks flushing their prey from the bushes outside. Packrats were caught in a bucket trap inside and left outside. Roadrunners made a meal of them,” he says. He used to teach five days a week, sometimes teaching two classes each day.

    “He’s taught over 1,000 classes,” says Grant Bourguet, program manager at NRPR. “We’re lucky to have such an acclaimed artist teaching with the County.” 

    Wollam says that some students have been coming to his classes for over 30 years, “so I must be doing something right.”

    Wollam’s credentials speak for themselves. He gained international recognition in 2014 when he was accepted into the “America Park II” international competition and exhibition, sponsored by the National Park Service. The exhibit traveled to museums throughout North America. His art was also accepted into the 2010 International “Birds in Art” show at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wassau, Wisc. Earlier this year, Wollam won a “Best in Show” award from the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild.
     Wollam in class
    Larry Wollam celebrated 50 years with NRPR at a Dec. 8 reception held in his honor. 

    Students outside of NRPR also have benefited from Wollam’s tutelage. He has taught classes at the Susan Kathleen Black expo in Wyoming each summer for 10 years. Locally, he taught at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum and the Lew Sorensen Community Center.

    In his drawing classes, “We always start with graphite, then when students have mastered that, we move on to colored pencils, pen and ink, and pastels,” he explains. “I have beginners and advanced students in every class, so I set up different still lifes for them to draw.” 

    Wollam said he doesn’t have a favorite medium, but enjoys working with graphite pencils and watercolors. In his own art, “I try to challenge myself, do something intricate. I like drawing from my thousands of photographs. I want to satisfy myself. It’s not for anyone else.”

    He will start teaching again for NRPR in 2023, with watercolors on Wednesdays and drawing on Fridays. Getting the basics right is critical for the development of new artists. He tells his students, “Don’t be afraid of the dark, people need to involve themselves with the contrast of light and dark.”  

    Basically, says Wollam, “I teach them how to see.”  

    Interested in an art class? Check out what Pima County has to offer at NRPR Activity Search.