Art and Education – An Interview with Don Moldstad

Art and Education – An Interview with Don Moldstad

When I was a little boy, my babysitter claimed that even when I was three, four years old I loved to just draw and would sit at the kitchen table and draw all the time. I didn’t think I did it more than other kids, but she said I did. Her nickname for me was Leonardo, for Leonardo Da Vinci. I never knew why she was calling me Leonardo until years later.

My brother got into art when he was in about seventh or eighth grade. Then, all of the sudden, he just dropped it and didn’t want to do it anymore. So all of his tablets and books and pencils for art he gave to me when I was about sixth grade. I decided to experiment with it and started really getting into it. I never really had a teacher. I did have a couple that knew a little bit, but nobody that really knew how to teach you to draw. When I got to high school, where MLC is today, they didn’t have any art classes there.

Watercolor of the Mission at Carmel

When I came to Bethany, it was before Professor Bukowski had come, so they had a couple of interim teachers that were good at textiles, making rugs and things like that, but not drawing and painting. After Bethany, I went for two years to a junior college and then to Mankato State, and finally went into the art program there. So, the first time I really had an art instructor that really knew how to draw was when I was 20 or 19.

Art class at school,  for most kids, becomes recess at your desk with crayons. You don’t really learn what is it that makes someth ing a really good piece of art, or think, ‘Can I teach myself to do that?’ I think a lot of people can, but we’re so afraid to. The way math and writing is taught is so structured, but with art we say, “Take out the paper and draw whatever you want”. Nobody says, “Have you thought about how big your head is in proportion to your body, or where your eyes are?”. They don’t teach kids to analyze it in that way. I personally believe there are many good artists out there who never learned that skill because they never got enough of the basics to see they had some talent. My wife and I argue about this all the time- I always say give me any person with two hands, or even one hand, I can teach them how to draw.’

I’ve always loved architecture and how it plays off of nature. Nature is often wild looking, with leaves and flowers and whatever, and then you have this very orderly architecture next to it. I’ve always been fascinated between that play between the two. I’m particularly drawn to church architecture. Quite often, if you go into old cities, the most beautifully designed architecture is old churches, and stuff that was from the late 1800s, early 1900s.

Close up of watercolor done in Ephraim

Most of the paintings and drawings I do are often when I’m on vacation and I bring along paints. I have a nice chair with the big canopy over it that I can just take, it’s very portable, and set up anywhere. For instance, last year, at the end of the school year, we went up to Charlotte, NC, and every day I would go out for about three, four hours and just draw and paint, for about a week. Occasionally, I’ll see a beautiful old house when we’re on vacation and I’ll sit down across the street from it and do a painting. Then I’ll go up to the people at the house and offer it to them for a couple hundred dollars. Sometimes, it even helps pay for our vacation.

I’ve done some oil painting, too, but with oil painting, you have to bring a whole different set of supplies along and it takes longer to dry. It’s not as portable and is a bigger mess in your house or wherever you’re at. So watercolor is a nice medium; you’re able to pack into your backpack, go off into a city somewhere, sit down, and paint. And then, when you’re done, you can pack it all up and come back.

Don Moldstad has a BFA degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with an emphasis in watercolor painting. He also graduated from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary (ELS) in 1985, and currently serves as the campus pastor (Chaplain) at Bethany Lutheran College, where he has been for the last 13 years. He enjoys working plein air with watercolors painting landscapes, but also works in pen and ink.





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