by Heidi Youngkin

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My father, Ted Youngkin, was something of a legend to a generation of students at Art Center College of Design. For many of these young and aspiring designers, illustrators, and painters his class was their first experience at the college, and possibly the most terrifying. He demanded nothing less than their absolute best. He challenged them, taught them to think, and made them work harder than they had ever had before to achieve more than they ever thought they could. He was absolutely and ferociously dedicated to honing their skills and drawing out their talent. But as scary as “Mr. Youngkin” might have been, it’s pretty hard to argue with his results. The students who passed through his classroom are the absolute best at what they do. It was a great source of pride for him that his students are in charge of the design future of major car companies in nearly all industrial nations. And not just the automotive industry—he was fond of saying that most of the products we use in modern life have probably had his students working on them as part of a design team that made the product come to life. He loved that.

I had a privileged view of my father’s teaching, as I was born just a few years after he started to teach, and was always a regular visitor to his classes. My father was a talented artist and designer in his own right—his own contributions to the design world are significant. But it was always obvious that his greatest joy and gift was teaching and developing the talents of others. As hard as his students had to work for him, he worked just as hard for them. I’m enormously proud of him and his legacy.

My father passed away last year, at the age of 88. In keeping with how he lived the rest of his life, he died quickly, quietly, and without fanfare—almost matter of factly. He was never sick a day in his life. In the months since then, our family has heard from many of his students, sharing their sympathy, memories and incredible stories. It’s meant so much to us, and it is such a tribute to him. So thank you to all of daddy’s students. You’re all an essential part of his remarkable biography.

—Heidi Youngkin

 

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I have very fond memories of Ted Youngkin from my student days at the Art Center College of Design (1969–73). I remember he ordered a new blue Chevy pickup, and when it was delivered he realized that the instrument cluster had a blank where a gage could have been. He called it his humility gage, because it reminded him he didn’t have everything.

He also had some opinions about colors and textures. He said that wood is a great material if you are making a tree, but it doesn’t belong on the inside of an automobile. Same thing about the color green. Makes for great grass, but don’t paint a product that color.

I was thinking about another memory from ACCD. One day Ted brought in a sample of his design and illustration work, I assume for a product design client. It was a gorgeous chalk rendering of a plastic… port-a-potty. In my world high-end design only included cool stuff like sports cars. That was an eye-opener to me. That so much thought and expertise went into designing and improving the more mundane things in life. That every project was worthy of the best you can give it.

I remember in class one day he saw some airplane cartoons I had done, and told me I wouldn’t graduate unless I gave him a portfolio of the cartoons. That made a big impression on me, that he would take the time and the interest to want to keep some of my work. A designer’s world is one where nothing is ever good enough, but those simple drawings were something that your dad thought was good enough. It meant a great deal of encouragement to a struggling student. Recently, Heidi contacted me and returned the portfolio that her dad had kept all of those years.

There is an excellent photo essay about visiting Ted at his home on the Gurney Journey blog entitled Ted Younkin in Perspective.

—Gary

14 Comments
  1. Heidi Youngkin

    The port-a-potty renderings are long gone, but I’m sending you a photo of one of the several final products from that project. I remember the life-sized models sitting in my dad’s studio … He liked doing this project a lot, as I recall, and the client was very happy with the results. My dad was always quick to point out that this particular project meant he was the “head” designer. Typical.


    Ted Youngkin’s Port-a-Potty

  2. Nick Bentivegna

    Heidi,

    Very sorry to hear of your father’s passing. I graduated from ACCD in 1987, and had him for several classes, including one where we designed ride-on toys for small children.

    Ted was famous for his drill sergeant demeanor, but, from the very first day, everybody knew he was a nice guy. His disciplined approach was very effective in the Introduction to Drawing class, of course, but he really came into his own in the product design class, where he took a personal interest in each student’s developing design.

    Ted was both an artist AND a designer. Even at ACCD, not everyone was good at both.

    Nicholas Bentivegna
    Ebensburg, PA

  3. bouldoukian

    Hi,

    The first class I had at art center on a sunny spring morning was with Ted Youngkin. At the time I was not aware that I was in the same room with a legend, and on top of that, I was being educated by this legend.

    He scared the hell out of me as he explained to us, what took us about a week to confirm, that from 9.00 o’clock that morning on we had to leave our previous lives behind and eat and breath only design until the moment we graduated. His speech, with very funny interludes and anectodes was an eye opener. Speaking about eye openers, he asked us on another occasion whether we would scream in pain if he stuck a sharpenned drawing pencil in one of our eyes. Five seconds later the whole class burst into laughter.

    I loved his classes and I realy tried my utmost not to disappoint him. Few people have had such a long lasting impression on me, and Ted is the most important. It was a real honor and privilege to have known the man and to have been educated my him.

  4. Walter

    Yeah, Ted Youngkin’s rendering class was my first class at Art Center; Monday, February 7th, 1975. He walked in wearing his usual coat and tie (most other instructors didn’t wear a tie), welcomed us, and then proceeded to tell us that two of us would drop out within the first two semesters, and went on to let us know that almost half of us wouldn’t graduate. He then told us what paper we needed to use, what brand of charcoal, and if he saw any fingerprints on our presentation renderings that he would flunk us! This certainly woke us up!

    He did speak of designing a toilet and how he called Joe Farrer in the middle of the night to let him know that the model he built for him was slightly off; water would splash on the user! Some time during that first semester he did show us a rough concept drawing for a production line for canning some sort of product that he was working. The drawing had all kinds of belts and wheels all perfectly drawn in perspective, and like Gary, didn’t seem like the kind of work we all hope to one day be working on!

    And oh, two students did drop out after the second semester with another one switching majors to something “easier”!

  5. Hello Heidi,

    I was a student of your dad’s back in the spring of 1990. I was an illustration student and was fortunate enough to be in Mr. Youngkin’s Perspective drawing class during my second semester at Art Center. He had an incredible energy and focus while we were in class. He would deliver his lectures using very detailed explanatory diagrams drawn on the chalkboard from memory. I never saw him use notes. I learned a tremendous amount in 15 weeks from him. He did push us all to be our best. That was the toughest B+ I ever earned. I missed an A by just a few points, but took away a wonderful notebook filled with his diagrams, and a love for the subject.

    I now teach Perspective drawing at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and have been doing so since 1995. My class is based on a lot of the content of your dad’s class. I always tell my students stories about your father, how hard he made us work, and how much it meant to get a good critique from him. He was an amazing instructor and I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to learn from him. Thanks for posting this blog.

    Best regards,

    James Freed
    ACCD Illustration Graduate 1992

  6. Tom Reddie

    Heidi,

    Well…what can I say…Ted was absolutely among the best teachers in my life. Due to my avid interest in mathematics and geometry, his perspective class was a great joy to me. Beyond my degree in Illustration at Art Center, I have written several computer programs for my own use that embody what he taught. When I was a child I loved anything I could find about the concepts of perspective, but they were seriously lacking. When I was a student at AC, his information was a GODSEND to me…it answered nearly all of the questions I had about the subject and inspired me to figure out “all” the rest. Not only did his class give me an advantage in the professional illustration world, it showed me the beauty of the geometry and mathematics of it all. Right now, I am working on one of those computer programs and I find myself staring at a 3-point perspective grid, admiring the beauty of the geometry. It is like staring at a fire…mesmerizing. I understand it because Ted taught it to me.

    In my final semester at Art Center, I fought to exchange one class for what I felt was a more important one. That more important class would be Ted’s Industrial Rendering class, and I DID get that class! As in his Perspective class, he demanded only the utmost out of me and everyone else. I must confess, that as an Illustration major at AC and with respect to the style employed by the students of Automotive and Industrial Design, I could not hold a candle to their work in that genre. I could paint, I could draw, but I longed to be able to master the techniques that were “reserved” to those departments. I cannot say that I ever mastered “it”, and I truly marvel at the work of the present day Automotive and Industrial Design students at Art Center. I simply ran out of time during my brief stint at Art Center.

    Maybe in some future life I can take another Ted Youngkin class! I know I would not be disappointed!

  7. Dennis F. Otto

    Mr. Youngkin (always) was without a doubt among the very best ever, and one of the two best (along with Mac) instructors I had at the “old” ACCD. Like many others, his was my very first class at ACCD, and by Art Center standards it was a large class…about 20 students.

    My very humble efforts quickly attracted his attention and each Monday morn-no matter where I “buried” my sketch, he would unerringly critique it first. Where the others work got maybe 5 minutes of critique; my work was so “SPECIAL” I always got 15-20 minutes worth!!! Of course this was after, early on, he discovered I was a former Marine just like he was. After that…stand back! Of course the thing was, everything he said was always correct…owch. I did learn from him though!

    Later on, in a Product Design class I EARNED a B+ from him…that meant far more than any other grade I got from any other ACCD instructor.
    Mr. Youngkin was a very special person and thousands of ACCD students thru the years benefited immensely from his teaching and from knowing him. A true gentleman, like Mac was, too. DFO

  8. I graduated from the Art Center in 1984. I took a year of night classes (hoping to build up my portfolio to be accepted as a fulltime student) and one of those was “Perspective” with Ted Youngkin. I’d decided, since my big brother had taught me perspective when I was about 10 years old, that it would be easy. I already knew perspective, I could do it and I needed the class credit. I had the class on Tuesday and Thursday nights for three hours each and on the second Tuesday Mr. Youngkin snuck up behind me and watched me draw. He was as quiet as a churchmouse and then he said something to the effect of, “Have you had perspective before?” I just about jumped out of my seat and then proceeded to tell him that my big brother had taught me one, two and three point perspective when I was a little kid and that I’d taken out books from the library after that to teach myself everything about it. He asked me why I was taking the class and I told him I needed the credits. He told me that “from now on you’re my assistant. Help me teach these other people. But you still have to hand in your “Perspective Book” at the end of the semester.” So I spent those nights whipping out the assignments (in class!) and then walking the other students through the difficulties they were having. I did the “Perspective Book,” was the only one to get an “A” and at one point during the semester I told him that he reminded me of my Uncle Dick (Hugo “Dick” Teebken-he hated the name Hugo and why he picked Dick is beyond me) who was a (retired) sign painter in Inglewood and had taught me many things, including the use of a mall stick when I was a kid. I started calling Mr. Youngkin “Uncle Ted” to his face when everyone else called him “Mr. Youngkin” and no one could figure out how I got away with it. Walking down the hallway at ACCD, seeing him, “Hi, Uncle Ted,” and continuing on my way. After graduating I’d go back to school once in a while and always look for him to say hello. He was one of my favorites. I know for a fact that other students in my class started referring to him as “Uncle Ted” behind his back as an endearment: “You got Rendering with Mocarski? I got Uncle Ted.” I always wondered if the nickname stuck somehow with later students. He was a wonderful man and a great teacher.

  9. Rick Cusick

    I had Ted Youngkin for perspective and industrial drawing (or industrial rendering or something like that) in ’70/’71. I wasn’t that great in either class but I always looked forward to them. His perspective lectures were so impressive; no notes, often long stories to make a point (and he ALWAYS made his point), and someone didn’t get it he’d tell a different story that came back to the original point.

    My favorite memory from his class was the “cow-catcher crit.” We were showing sketches after our day away drawing trains. On one of the drawings he pointed out that the “cow-catcher” was not in perspective. The student who did it basically became belligerent and argued with him about it so Mr Youngkin got an Exacto-knive, cut around the cow-catcher, tilted it slightly, then taped it back on the drawing, and said: “Now it’s correct.”

    Two personal things I remember were that he kept my final drawing for that train project. Not because it was good but because I incorporated it into a calendar page design which he seemed to like. As I recall we had to draw it on blotter paper. Another kind gesture he made was a comment on my notes in the perspective notebook we turned in at the end of the semester. It was more than “interesting handwriting,” he was very complimentary about it, encouraging actually. I doubt it influenced my grade (I never opened my final grades so I don’t know), but as it turns out, lettering and calligraphy have been an important part of my career in design. Ted Youngkin was a great teacher.

  10. Bill Marks, Art Center, TRANS/PROD '67

    I did the first assignment for Mr. Youngkin’s class in 1964: Draw a cube box in perspective. It seemed so simple. (Since then, I have had others ask me to teach them to draw, and when I said, “Draw a cube box.” they just laughed. They thought it was a stupid assignment and I was saying that just to put them off.)
    Mr. Youngkin looked at my drawing on the class room wall and said, “That far side always wants to be too long, doesn’t it?” I saw it was true. The private-house’s maid’s room I lived and worked in for the next three years was so small I couldn’t get back to see my work from more than a few feet. I learned that drawings look different from way back in a class room. I never made that mistake again.

  11. Gary Morales

    Heidi: I just stumbled across this site and had to share a few moments I experienced with your dad, with you: During a critique, Mr. Younkin was verbally dissecting a project and the student started to cry. Mr. Younkin looked shocked. He stopped and asked tenderly, “Why are you crying? “She whispered something to him. He got closer and said quietly “What? The last person that whispered in my ear I married! Then she said quietly “You hate me.” His eyes opened wide with surprise—”I don’t hate you, I think you are a terrific person! This is what needs work!” and he pointed at the project. We all laughed as she wiped her tears laughing too. That was the most important lesson I learned at ACCD—Separate your work from your personal self. Yoda was my most favorite and treasured teacher. I miss him so much. If only I realized what I had then.

  12. Richard Dahl

    Mr. Youngkin was one of the greatest instructors that ever was. Mentioning Tink Adams occasionally and the way ACCD was at the old campus encouraged a few of us guys to actually wear ties in his classroom.

    Loved learning of the Plumb-bob and hearing a few Great Depression stories too.

    Happy I have a few Youngkin notes to the side of some of my drawings I’ve kept. the guy was such a ‘plumb’ artist. I wish I would have had the courage to ask for one of his napkins back in the day. It would be on the studio wall.
    Thank you, Mr. Youngkin

  13. Don Shanklin

    I was an Art Center night school student in the fall of 1959 at the age of 21. The Art Center was still in Los Angeles on 3rd Street. I was in Mr. Youngkin’s perspective class and I still refer to the 3/4″ thick workbook that I did in that class. Since I was also from Iowa (Cedar Rapids) we had occasional chats about subjects other than perspective. I recall him telling about the time that he and I believe his wife were driving in his 1950 Oldsmobile in a rural area and hit a horse that wandered into the road. It did severe damage to both the Olds and them. Another thing I recall is that he just purchased a new red Corvair coupe, of which he was very proud of. After that class I only met him one time in the cafeteria at Art Center in 1984 when I was taking a follow up class there. He was surprised that I remembered him from 1959.

    I have been retired for several years now, but I was an independent product designer for about 45 years after about 15 years in the automotive accessory industry.

  14. Don Shanklin

    Correction, in the above submitted article: I attended Ted Youngkin’s perspective night class in the fall of 1960 – not 1959.
    Thanks for the opportunity to remember what I learned from Mr. Youngkin.

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