The Art Kids of San Diego County

The Art Kids of San Diego County Ily Sky Alfred, Elian Gomez and Desiree Lawrence behind one of the many murals around town painted by the students. This latest mural is one of two at Cow-A-Bunga. 

Twelve years ago Howard Woodward decided to start a program with the goal to keep art alive for San Diego kids with The Art Kids of San Diego County (TAKOSDC). “Schools are not teaching art they way they used to, if they teach art it’s elective. I wanted to do a different program and used my hero Michelangelo, a genius when it came to art. He was a sculptor, illustrator, fine art painter and also an architect,” said Woodward. Based on that idea, Woodward and his instructors teach painting, sculpting, drawing, photography and even face painting and jewelry making.

A goal of TAKOSDC is for the young artist to sell their work and become professionals in their field. Ily Sky Alfred is one of them. “Ily has owned a face painting business for two years… She has made $1,600. She is one of the most talented artists we have,” said Wodward. 

Recently the Art Kids had 66 of their pieces displayed at the Bonita Museum for a month and Woodward explained three of Alfred’s paintings were also there. One of them pictured Sylvester the cat with Tweety. 

Elian Gomez is another young artist who started the program a year ago. “He’s really good at painting and drawing. He had a portrait of Marilyn Monroe at the Bonita Museum. He’s helped me with four murals, one at IB grooming and the other at Cow-A-Bunga,” explained Woodward. Desiree Lawrence is another artist and student who has helped Woodward paint a mural at Bibbey’s Shell, Rocks & Gift Shop. She specializes in fantasy drawings and she currently has a proposal for a mural at Big Kahuna restaurant. Her Hawaiian flowers which feature faces are whimsical and unique. 

TAKOSDC focuses on beautifying Imperial Beach and the students are helping the community look more beautiful with their art. TAKOSDC is based in Imperial Beach where Woodward makes his home, but his students are from all over San Diego County. Woodward holds weekend classes held en plain air at the tables at Pier Plaza where the kids can get inspiration from the outdoors. 

Woodward who is the founder and director of TAKOSDC grew up on Montrose, Ca, as well as Imperial Beach. He is a Pepperdine University graduate and has been an artist since the age of five years old. Although he was an artist, he did not work as one until later in life. For 35 years he was in executive sales and marketing and travelled all over the world working with artists, photographers and graphics designers. He finally retired in 2003 and started TAKOSDC.

Woodward’s students start at different ages from the young to the old. One of his youngest students started at 19 months old and by the time he was five years old he was flown to Miami for a taping of the show “Sabado Gigante.”  The same child also sold one painting for $500 when he was only 3 years old.

“We usually start the kids at 3 or 4 years old if they show potential. I concentrate on kids 4 to 21 years old,” said Woodward. Some of his students eventually become instructors for Woodward like Lawrence who is now 19 years old. “She works with younger kids. She gives them a lot of inspiration,” he said. Gomez also helps teach the younger kids.

Kids who want to be part of TAKOSDC are given a drawing as an entry test. They are to take it home and can add to it as they please using their imagination. When they bring it back to Woodward he will decide whether there is potential he can work with. Woodward explained the process. “I interview them, I audition them. Everyone in the program is on scholarship. I provide lessons year-round and basic art materials with no cost to them. When I audition someone and they prove they’re committed and dedicated they go on a scholarship,” he explained. Woodward estimates the scholarship to be worth $7,500 a year. “I’ve been funding it for the past 12 years. I’ve spent over $100,000 of my own money,” he said. After  receiving TAKOSDC training nine of Woodward’s students are now professional artists.

Alfred, who is 14 years old, has distinguished herself as a creative artist. Her design won first place for a competition this year for the Sun and Sea Festival logo. Her design features a woman surfing on a wave and sandcastles. “My first day was when I was 9. I do mostly painting and drawing now,” she said. Her grandparents heard about Woodward’s class and encouraged her to apply.

Lawrence,19, started with TAKOSDC at 14, left for a while and now is back. Lately she has been into water colors, ink drawings and painting.  Lawrence is in college but continues with the art. [The program] has kept me motivated in something I like to do and I get to express myself,” she said.

Gomez,13, has been with TAKOSDC for a year. “When I was younger I saw kids  painting utility boxes and I thought I wanted to be in that  group,” he said. Gomez was inspired by his grandmother. “When she was drawing we would all gather at the table around her,” he said. Gomez said the other students inspire and motivate him as well.

When Woodward is not teaching, he keeps busy with art projects like murals, sculptures, painting and drawing. He is currently making a sculpture of a tree for fairies and pixies. He also recently worked on banners  for the U.S. National Sprint for kayaks and canoes at the Olympic Training Center. 

“The imagination is so essential for kids for them to exercise and create and turn into artists,” he said. TAKOSDC have painted murals for Silver Strand Beach and utility boxes in Coronado. TAKOSDC come from all over the county including San Ysidro, Coronado, Chula Vista and Tijuana.

For more information log on www.TAKOSDC.com.

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