Yesterday, October 21st, 2009, my mentor, professor, and dear friend M. Wayne Knight passed away from complications of pneumonia and H1N1.
I can not possibly express what an important man he was to me as an individual and an artist. When I was 19, I eagerly went into his office for the first time, and told him, "I want to be an illustrator." He looked at me over his glasses and said something to the effect of, "You're going to need a lot work!". I told him I was up for it, and this was the start of our friendship.
After I exhausted the graphic design courses he taught at the university, he began taking me on as a private student. Then I became his T.A., and the head lab tech for the computer lab. When I graduated from college, he found me my first real design job, working at Tomas Jewelry.
When he fell ill, he requested that I temporarily teach his classes for him at Humboldt State University. And now that he has passed, it looks like I am going to become an appointed lecturer for at least the rest of the semester. I really don't know what I am doing. I am only 24, barely out of college myself, and now I am responsible for the education of 30 young artists. But teaching was his passion, and I will do the job to the best of my ability to honor him.
It is incredibly painful to loose your mentor. I had thought ours was a lifelong relationship. To pass away at only age 60... it is so cruel.
On September 27th, I got my last e-mail from Wayne. I had told him that my life kept throwing me curveballs, and that I was getting depressed. He wrote me back the kindest letter- it's so bizarre, it is almost like he was preparing me for his passing. Here is the letter below:
"Clearly there is not much I can say to soften the twists and turns of your life. Losing loved ones, lovers and friends is as hard as it gets. I will not try to tell you that there are reasons. Nor will I say that you will learn from these events and life will be easier.
I will stick with what I know. My mother died and I did not grieve for 20 years. My father died and I only wished I could have had another chance to tell him that his drinking cost us love and unity in our family. But my son was born and it was and still is a thrill. I have painted some brilliant paintings. The people in my life have created who I am and I am happy and lucky. Change is the constant and I recognize when it is good and it is worth the wait.
Aja, you are talented, beautiful and at the beginning of your life. I cannot say a bus won't hit you in an intersection tomorrow but if it doesn't you will use your skills, determination and luck to make others and yourself happy. It may be for a moment, a month or years.
College was a good idea, two years is nothing and I am a happier person because you were a part of it. So look both ways and cross the street - the other side might be kinder. Remember the first time you drew a happy pig - I bet you smiled."
So here is to a remarkable, beautiful, wonderful man. I'm sitting in your lab right now, that for so many years was home to me. I will always love you, and you will carry on in my heart, always.
Please view his beautiful paintings and illustrations at www.mwayneknight.com/