Barron Storey is a real teacher. I say this with great admiration and some envy. Seven years ago when I accepted the offer to chair the Illustration Department at the California College of Arts and Crafts, the first call I made was to Barron.
I had heard he had recently resigned from a local art school in principled high dudgeon. This is nothing new: Barron is nothing if not passionately committed when it comes to teaching his vocation, illustration.
I begged him to come out of his self-imposed retirement and help me build a decent program. After asking a lot of questions and extracting from me some commitments of my own, he accepted.
I have since told the school’s administration, the students, our faculty, and him, many times, that I might be able to run the department without him, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to. He keeps the students alert and excited and the department honest. In fact if not quite in title, I’m exceedingly proud that he’s my co-chair.
This is who he is: Whenever I hang out at the bar in the Society of Illustrators building in New York and we’re telling war stories and such, if I mention Barron as my colleague at CCAC, I am immediately surrounded by people saying with pride, “Barron was my teacher.” And they say it the way a cellist might say, “Pablo Casals was my teacher.” Never mind that they had a dozen or so other teachers during their college days, Barron had clearly made the biggest impact on them. We then have a fine time telling each other wildly improbable Storey stories on into the night.
Legend is a wildly overused word. It’s misapplied to one-hit wonders and ephemeral commodities, so I hesitate to use the word, even when it applies. Nevertheless, as an illustrator and mentor, to me as well as hundreds of our colleagues, Barron Storey is a truly legendary example.