I was extremely fortunate to grow up with so many artistic influences around me. Everywhere I looked, it seemed. I remember my childhood as such a time of magic. And I drank as much of it in as I could. Perhaps no individual made more of an impact on me creatively than my father, Leonard Schneider. In addition to semi-pro boxing and playing Triple-A ball for the Yankees as a catcher, he could do everything artistically and do it well. A real Renaissance man. He had studied acting and majored in theatre at the College of William and Mary. He appeared in a couple of Warner Bros. films in the early 1950s in minor featured roles. And then, after receiving his official draft notice, he signed up to study photography while serving in the army. When he went back to civilian life, he began working professionally as both a still photographer and motion picture cameraman in New York, most notably for Life Magazine and “The Patty Duke Show,” respectively.
After we moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in the mid-1960s, he got a job as a director and writer with a local educational film company called Centron. They were one of the three established mini-studios that made so many of the 16mm films we all saw in grade school back then. Soon after, he launched his own educational film company and broke away from Centron. But by the mid-1970s, my dad was painting almost full time. He had drawn and sketched his entire life. He was very serious about it, too. He had even seen his work published on the covers of sheet music and in books of the 1950s and ’60s. He had also designed sets and costumes for stage productions, ranging from dramatic plays to full-scale operas. He was a visual guy, to say the least. While Dad was working on these educational films, he began renting a huge loft in downtown Lawrence above one of the stores on the main street in town. It was his painting studio. I remember it as such an incredible place of creativity.
This was around the time I started drawing myself. Like father, like son! And up until my ninth grade year, when I began focusing my energy and passion on music and theatre, I made quite a few sketches. Even one or two acrylic paintings.
Naturally, my sketches included Oz-related subject matter from time to time. I recently found a few of the old drawings inspired by the MGM film while digging through a row of crammed file folders. I wanted to share them with you. All are from my early junior high school days when I was roughly fourteen or fifteen years old.
I’m sure I have more drawings lurking in folders. I just need to unearth them. I find it both strange and comforting to see these old “creations” from yesteryear. A simpler time in my life. The world was a different place thirty years ago (gulp!). And I was a young and eager adolescent, dreaming about all the possibilities. Celebrating creativity, both mine and others.
Though much has changed since the good old days—with me and with the world—I have tried valiantly to hold onto the inspirations of my youth. The spark inside me that drove me to create. Or “the magic what-if,” as my father used to call it. Perhaps this is why, thirty years after I made these drawings, I find myself a published author with a book called “Silver Shoes.”