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Artist Ted Baker

Ornicorn, one in a series of 25 - 2015, acrylic with oil pastels on canvas, 11 by 14 inches

THE ARTIST: His first significant piece of art, in eighth grade, almost landed Ted Baker in trouble. The teacher took one look at Baker’s illustration of a World War II bomber and said, “You were supposed to do this yourself.” Consider it the accidental compliment that launched an art career. The son of a Disney film cutter, Baker has degrees from UCLA and Claremont Graduate University and worked as an art educator for 40 years, the last half of which were at Orange Coast College, where he served as dean of fine arts. He plays clarinet in the Orange Coast College Wind Ensemble and just last year was still bodysurfing at Huntington Beach. Baker, 82, and his wife, who have three grown children, live in Costa Mesa. His paintings can be found at Nottingham Art Gallery in Newport Beach.

IN BAKER’S WORDS: My 26-year-old grandson is studying Norse mythology, and he said, “I’d like an image of Odin.” Odin is the omniscient god, typically represented by one or two ravens. So I got a bird book and found ravens. Ravens are in almost every culture. I think it’s their look. Ravens are bigger crows, and they are a little scary-looking. And I think because of that, and because they’re very smart, they lend themselves to stories. So I did the first one. Then I went to the library and got a big book on all birds in mythology. When I started reading all these myths, I just started drawing different kinds of birds in different positions. I started thinking about how the mythology should be expressed. If I have this sun, which is energy, and this bird, which represents life, how do I show this (scene) is a myth and not just representational art of a bird? And I thought, “Ah, put a unicorn horn on the head.” And people will say, “What the hell is that?” It’s the myth.

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