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Art major selected to study in Italy

Woods painting
Michael sketching on the Walnut Street Bridge

Woods' art
Woods' art

When UTC junior and native of Chattanooga Michael Woods’ dream of being a football star at Tyner High School was sidetracked by a broken wrist, he decided to indulge his real passion.  He picked up a brush, dipped it in oil paint, and began to master portraits, landscapes and figure drawings. Woods became the Tyner liaison to the Hunter Museum, where he took classes, and then brought his new knowledge back to his high school to share with fellow students.

Last summer, at the age of 21 years, Woods learned he was one of fifteen students selected to study in Italy at the Florence Academy of Art.  He was judged on ten slides of his work, and one short descriptive paragraph.  This opportunity was recognized by the UTC Office of Cooperative Education and International Programs, which awarded Woods a scholarship.

“I will be drawing six hours a day, five days a week.  It’s kind of boot camp for artists,” Woods said.  “Student teachers will critique my work.  At the Florence Academy of Art, my completed assignments will be assessed, and in the end, I will either pass or fail.  In June, Professors Allan White and Matt Greenwell will look at my work.”

Woods credits his mentor, Daud Akhriev, for helping him arrive at his current level of achievement.  In 2003, Woods won the Most Thought Provoking Award at the Hunter Museum with his submission of “The Garbage Man.” “It was a likeness of Jesus Christ coming to save mankind, taking out the trash and putting it on himself,” Woods said.  Woods also earned the 2005 Excellence in Drawing Award at UTC.

“Michael was chosen for the drawing award purely on the quality of his drawing,” said David Young, UTC Professor of Art.  “He has a natural talent that was evident from the first assignment he turned in. Michael has a very facile hand and good observational skills - he is very good at rendering something so that it looks just like what he is drawing, and that is largely the focus of the foundation level drawing classes. But he also has a much rarer ability - to do that accurate rendering with an ease and effortless flair, so that each drawing looks like it was done quickly and without much work. The combined effect was more often than not simply gorgeous drawings.”

Last summer, Woods quit his job and became a sketch artist on the Walnut Street Bridge.  He earned $10 for ten minutes of sketching.  “It was very interesting,” Woods said.  He admits, “I don’t like people, but I like painting people.  I think I don’t like people in most cases because they don’t like me.  I tend to be very distant.  My only way of getting to know people is through painting.”

Woods said his father, Ezell, who died when Woods was seven years old, could draw and paint, but he chose not to pursue an artistic career.  Woods says his mother is very excited that he is taking the opportunity to study abroad, and his brother and sister are very proud.  Professor Young agrees, and he says the academy will be a good fit for Woods.

“Florence will be a good experience for Michael because they focus on a more intensely academic kind of drawing than most American art programs; the drawing is all intended to be realistic and accurate,” said Young.  “Plus the benefits of studying abroad are immeasurable, the rewards he will accrue from spending a year in Italy will be with him forever. Every student should spend some time studying in another culture.”

As he talked about his future, Woods also reflected on his past.  “I took one year off between high school and college.   I worked at Orange Grove as a hotel clerk,” Woods said.  “I didn’t like working full time.  When I enrolled at UTC, I became an art major.  People ask me how I do what I do, and all I know is this is the thing I know I can do.”

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October 6, 2006

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