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 Tony Sheets  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: Easel and mural painting, show room design, sculpture

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John Anthony Sheets is primarily known as Tony Sheets

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Biography from California Watercolor:
John Anthony “Tony” Sheets (1942- )

Tony Sheets was born into the Claremont artist’s community of Southern California in 1942. His father, Millard Sheets, was a renowned artist and teacher, and the head of the art department at Scripps College at the time. Millard was also an architectural designer and designed their home, which he built the year Tony was born. It was in a small artist’s colony in the foothills just north of Claremont. Tony grew up with horses, which his Father trained, and he and his two brothers rode the hills surrounding their home as kids.

Tony was introduced to the world of art at a very young age. Besides the artistic talent of both his parents, his neighborhood was filled with professional artists working in every medium imaginable. By the time Tony was 10 years old he had a standing invitation from most of those artists to visit their studios to talk and learn. In return, he learned the necessity of cleaning up after the work was done, a skill which Tony endeavors to teach others today.

Tony enjoyed his early and high school education and tolerated the learning aspects. He attended two years at Cal Poly, Pomona, studying landscape architecture until his enjoyment became more important that his studies, and he was asked to move on. That was a major turning point in his artistic life, and his father gave him some very timely advice, ” If you really want to be an artist, learn from artists who have made careers in the art world.” Tony did just that, for 13 years in all.

In the early 1960s he began working as an apprentice for sculptor Albert Stewart who was the head of the sculpture department at Scripps College. Tony would work in Stewart’s studio in the mornings and take classes at Scripps in the afternoon.

Millard Sheets, being the Art Department Head, and Scripps, being an all women’s college, overlooked Tony’s presence there. On weekends Tony worked in the studios of other artists to learn other mediums. Jean and Arthur Ames taught him enameling on copper. He watched and listened as Harrison McIntosh, Rupert Dees and William Manker created ceramic artworks, and he was amazed to see petite Betty Davenport Ford create massive ceramic sculptures, often larger than her, in techniques that she created. While at Scripps during the week, he studied with Paul Soldner, ceramics, Phil Dike, painting, Paul Darrow, print making, and others.

He even found time to marry his high school sweetheart, Carolyn Curtis, which was not long lasting but produced offspring, Heidi and Tim. With marriage came the necessity of having a paying job. Tony went to work for one of his father’s longtime friends, Walt Disney at WED (Walter Elias Disney), helping to create exhibits at Disneyland. He was there long enough to discover once again that this wasn’t what he really wanted to do.

At that time a close friend of the Sheets family and an artist, Tom Van Sant came to Tony’s rescue. Tom had received a commission for a large mural in a new downtown Los Angeles Crocker Bank building, and needed an assistant. So Tony became his apprentice, and Tom became Tony’s mentor, a relationship, which lasted seven and a half years, and continues today. In those seven plus years, there were many changes in Tony’s life. The beginning of a nine year stint in the California National Guard; the end of a marriage to Carolyn; and a year-long working relationship with Sasse and Associates while Tom Van Sant was away in Vietnam as an Art Correspondent with the Marines. Tony helped Ron Sasse create the first show rooms for the brand new El Toro subdivision in Irvine California.

Tom Van Sant, with Tony as his assistant, created artworks in California, Hawaii and Taiwan. They developed new processes for the creation of cast concrete wall sculptures as well as applied sand and cement wall reliefs. In the late 1960s Tony entered Officer’s Training School (OCS) with the National Guard. There he met a cadet who became a friend and through him met Flower, who became his wife in 1972.

Tony now, (2013) is the Director of the 12,000 square-foot Fine Arts Building at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Named the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex, it is named after Tony's father, Millard Sheets, who was the Director of Art there for twenty-five years, 1931 to 1956.

Tony and his team create an exhibit, which is seen by its 375,000 visitors through the gallery in 25 days of September annually. Tony’s seventh year as Designer and Director is 2013.

Source:
Michael Johnson interview with Tony Sheets-2011
California Watercolor


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