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Sunday, July 17, 2005
For Young it was like being reborn.
"It was a pivotal moment for me. We were walking through galleries and sketching like crazy during a month-long tour from Rome to Milan, visiting 50 museums and churches.
"It was very intense, very informative, a fabulous experience. I hadn't done any art since school, but from there I said, 'Let's go!'
"It was so wonderful to travel and devote all our time to art, talking about art, drawing and painting, eating and drinking wine in an interesting environment, a rich cultural environment. What a life is that?"
She found herself adopting her father's methodology of committing moments, experiences and moods to her sketchbook.
"What I learned from him wasn't hands-on. He was not one to guide my hand in drawing or painting, but I learned from my father in a vicarious way, watching him interact with paper and canvases. He didn't need to carry a camera or sketchbook. He would work from memory and recollection.
"He could not keep his hands still. He could not help himself. He was always drawing, whether it was a wall with lipstick or on napkins at a restaurant. Maple Garden is full of his artwork. Instead of a tip, John would leave a napkin with a drawing.
"I don't quite have that sense of confidence.
"His eye was so tactile, and it was one of the gifts I learned from him. It was something there all along."
Her sketchbook was invaluable on her journey.
"You see so much, you don't remember it all. When you draw, it heightens your power of observation, and that's how you develop as an artist. When you draw something, you pick up so much information, you've got it forever."
She also learned that art has the power to connect people who don't speak the same language.
"The nature of art is universal. No matter where you are, it has the same power. With a sketchbook, you can communicate by that process."
Young returned to Italy the next three summers, and quit her job to pursue art-making full time. She is now trying to persuade Naughton to offer another tour of Italy in 2007.
Even when not traveling, she carries a small sketchbook to capture anything that intriques her. She enjoys drawing musicians while listening to live jazz, her quick sketches inspired by the rhythms and sounds or the pure visual theater.
It's a rare but happy occasion when a child chooses to follow a parent into a family business, carrying on a legacy that in Hawaii has been rooted in restaurant, florist, convenience store, and construction and hardware companies dating three or four generations back.
By nature, family businesses often present a picture of unity, with strengths of grandparents, parents and siblings meshing for the common good.
It works when all understand that the family unit matters more than the individual.
When it comes to the arts, it's another story because making one's mark requires a burst of individuality, a task made more difficult for sons and daughters of the famous, who are often viewed as extensions of their parents. Many schoolchildren experience a milder form of the phenomenon when "sister of" or "brother of" is tacked on to their identities when following in the wake of an older sibling's accomplishments.
John Young was a colorful figure when he was alive, and his contributions to Hawaii's artistic landscape were formidable.
He was a self-taught artist, born in 1909, who incorporated the bold brush strokes of calligraphy, learned in Chinese language school, in his work. His drawings and paintings continue to grace island homes and institutions, and his legacy lives on through several local galleries bearing his name. Chief among them are the John Young Gallery of Southeast Asian Art created at the Academy of Arts through his gifts, the John Young Museum in Krauss Hall on the University of Hawaii campus, and works on view at the Wo Building on the Punahou School campus. The John Young Foundation -- of which his daughter serves as one of three trustees -- also funds and promotes arts education and exhibitions throughout the community.
While Debbie has been able to share her development as an artist and her role as a co-owner of the Gallery at Ward Centre with her mother, her father died in 1997. She says, "I think he would be proud to see me doing this now."
But it's not because she is following in his footsteps or even that she chose an artist's life, but that she's finally being true to herself and giving voice to her muse.
"My parents never made any expectation of me. I was an only child, and they never told me not to do this or that."
"I've pretty much always been a solo papaya anyway. I'm happy I chose the art, because its a way of expressing myself and being true to who I am."
Chuck Davis, a fellow co-op member and drawing instructor, said of Debbie Young's work, "She has not followed the style of her father. She has her own voice. She's progressed so quickly, and it comes from her background, but it's not a replication of her father's voice."
In turn, Young credits Davis as one of her teachers, along with one of her early teachers at the Academy of Arts, Joseph Feher, and George Woollard, with whom she's recently studied monotype, printmaking and painting, and whose encouragement led her to plunge back into the world of art.
She also has a supportive second family at the Gallery at Ward Centre, where each of the 14 artists involved is a cheerleader and an equal contributor to its success.
"The co-op concept is what makes it work," said Davis. "We divide up all the jobs and tasks that need to be done, whether it's bookkeeping, being the janitor or hanging art, and it functions very well. Each of us has a sense of ownership."
WHILE YOUNG IS currently living an artful life, she's learned it's really something she's known how to do all along.
It doesn't necessarily involve daily art-making, she said, but being conscious and appreciative of what's around you -- "driving down the street and noticing the light that's unique to Hawaii.
"I start my day in my yard, and that keeps some order in my life. One of my friends' father just passed on, and that was something he always said: 'Keep your garden in order, and that way you know your life is in order.' It's a reflection of yourself.
"To live an artful life is to find yourself looking for good things. You're drawn to it and people are drawn to you.
"It's having a real zest for life that goes onto the paper or canvas. It's living life to its fullest."