My Interest in drawing and painting came to me early in life , as an only child I had to find ways to entertain myself . My Great Uncle was an oil painter and attended a small art school in Pennsylvania for a short time . It was a painting he had done of a lighthouse that really inspired me to draw and paint . The painting hung in my grandmothers livingroom and I can remember playing with matchbox cars on the floor while all the time looking up at it . It wouldn't be long that I would put the cars up and ask my mom if she had anything to draw on , she was use to this , so most of the time she carried small notepads and a pencil . The winters of 1977 & 1978 were two of the worst winters in the history of Ohio . I found myself getting bored and restless , the weather was at times to severe to be outside . January of 1977 was the coldest on record , not to mention the blizzard itself that month . Columbus public schools closed due to the cost of energy to heat them . As an alternative , students were asked but not forced to attend class only twice a week . I myself went to school for a half day at a near by church and again on Fridays at Independence high school which at the time was the newest school in Columbus , Ohio . Local television station , channel 10 ( CBS ) made national news when they had school without schools on tv. Local teachers volunteered to teach using television as a way to reach the children . One of the programs was an art show , I can still remember my mom coming to get me and yelling ' Your art show is coming on !' (Yahoooo) I would sit at the coffee table and draw along , most of the shows were more for older kids but that didn't stop me from drawing too . I still have a certificate from the Columbus Public Schools for not missing a day during this crisses . The Blizzard of 1978 was even worse , but my mom and dad were more prepared for this one , I had a surplus of paints and crayons . Back in those days before I was allowed to paint , I had to be sworn in and had to promise the following ---
I DARREN MCGRATH WILL PAINT ON THE PAPER PROVIDED AND ONLY THE PAPER . I WILL NOT PAINT THE KITCHEN TABLE , MYSELF OR THE FAMILY DOG , PEPPER . I would spend hours sitting at the kitchen table drawing and painting as the snow blew past the window like sand in an hour glass . Soon evening would fall , my Dad would come home from work and I knew then it was supper time and my time was up using the kitchen as my art studio . The years following I found myself drawing and painting less and less and video games became my newest love .
In 1985 I started my Freshmen year of high school at Columbus Eastmoor and enrolled in an art class . That same year my mom became ill with a rare bone cancer . Not able to leave the house , like the blizzard years of the past , I turned to my old friend the pencil and paint brush to take my mind off my problems . I also found a couple of art shows to watch , The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross and the Magic of Oil Painting with Bill Alexander . My mom would also become a fan of the shows often comparing Bob Ross paintings of waterfalls to her childhood home that was across the road from Old Mans Cave , Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County ,Ohio . In January 1986 my mom made me make several promises , one of them was that I would never stop drawing like I had before . My mom passed away later that month and I would leave Columbus to live with my father in the small village of New Straitsville , Ohio .
Those years after moving were just as tough as my last year in Columbus . I didn't really fit into the small country school I was attending , the students weren't friendly and the teachers weren't much better . My art however sure didn't struggle with the adjustments . In 1988 I would become the first art student from Miller high School to win a blue ribbon at the Perry County Art show . During my 3 years at Miller , I would win more ribbons than all the other art students combined and .... I have NO problem reminding them of it !
Christmas of 1989 I recieved a box of soft pastels and paper from my Dad . This was a far tougher medium than I had been using (pencil) and I had lot's of problems at first , everything from smearing to using fixative . I would go on to use pastels for sometime but my heart was still thinking of trying oil painting . On June 27th , 1990 , I finally bought my first set of oil paints , The Bob Ross Master Paint Set . On July 4th , 1990 I painted my first oil painting . I used a Poppa Toms Pizza box covered in foil for a pallete and leaned the canvas against a tree because I didn't have an easel either . It has been over 20 years since that HOT summer day and over 25 years since my nightmare in Columbus . I have without a doubt painted well over 100 Alexander - Ross style paintings , some I still have , some were sold and others were given to charity events . In 2009 and 2010 My paintings were displayed at the Lancaster Festival Art Walk . Photos taken by the festival in '09 were used to advertise the art walk in 2010 and 2011 on their website and programs . Another great moment was finding out one of my paintings had been chosen to be printed in the Bob Ross newsletter ( BRUSH STROKES ) in March of 2010 . I was one of twelve picked after a call for entries with a mountain theme was announced in the newsletter that is shipped all over the world . In May 2010, my painting of the Fairfield County Fairgrounds was one of the featured paintings of the week on the World Art Foundation Website .
My sadddest art moment had to be watching several of my paintings being auctioned off to help a young girl who was suffering from the same cancer my mom had suffered with years before . The bidding started at $25 and in a blink of an eye had rose to $200 ! I couldn't help but think back to 1985 when I regained my interest in art , but even more , the memories of my mom mixing my paints at the kitchen sink , hanging my masterpieces up in the kitchen and painting my way through a
blizzard !! !!!