It's funny how often things seem clearer while looking backwards, isn't it?
The Olympus camera that Dad got for Christmas wasn't getting any action. By him, at least. But by me? Well, I couldn't leave the darned thing alone. Then he got a telephoto lens for his birthday. Guess who shot rolls of film with it?
Since I was a child in deep South Texas, I always had talent in art. Painting, drawing, sculpting, and photography came naturally to me. Throughout high school and college, I was always in some sort of art class. And, while the As on my report cards and the blue ribbons in art shows were great, another experience meant so much more.
While he was still on this earth, I hope I expressed to my Dad how much it meant for him to enroll us both into a photography class at the local community college when I was in jr. high school. I was the irritating student in the class who had my hand up the whole time, and Dad was the one mostly puzzled but impressed by how fast I was learning about that Olympus camera.
The idea of a career in design and photography didn’t really occur to me. So, I started exploring.
I studied International Affairs and Sociology at Trinity University in San Antonio. After some sales experience I then went on to grad school and received an International MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix. During this period in my life I did extensive traveling abroad and even lived and studied in London, England and Guadalajara, Mexico.
My journey then brought me back to San Antonio, and I went to work in my field of study. First, I went to work for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, assisting small businesses in exporting their products into Mexico. This was the era of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and cross-border trade and manufacturing was increasing in leaps and bounds. I also worked with a Mexican-owned steel manufacturer importing products into the U.S.
That’s when things changed.
Despite the fact that I was working in my field of study, I didn’t feel like I was “in my element.” It was rewarding to help businesses market their products, but something was missing. Was I perhaps ignoring that artist inside me?
After a lot of prayer and courage, I found a great job at a “service bureau” in San Antonio that did digital pre-press work. I worked with graphic designers, ad agencies and printers, learning all about high-end scanning, film output for printing presses, proofing, and the software and hardware that produced graphics. This job gave me exposure to businesses needing graphics and printing work, and I knew I was in my element.
Then, in 1996 I jumped.
I founded Van Wyk Design to put my marketing and art skills to work for companies with a commitment to quality marketing. I suppose there is another reason: I was just crazy enough to become self-employed!
For 20 years I worked for clients doing catalogs, websites, digital newsletters, branding, and email marketing.
My graphic design career has now morphed into a portrait photography career. Since 2014, I have thrown myself into classes, workshops, peer-tutoring, and every other imaginable form of learning. Come to think of it, I might again be the kid wagging his hand in the air in class.
It didn't take me long to learn that portraiture is my love. I think photographing people is the highest calling in the profession. Working with clients in the studio or in the field is a gift. And then, in the quiet of my studio while I pull those images up on the computer, I always get chills up my spine. Pure and simple, photography is magic.
Of course, I'm not all business and no play.
After wrapping up the latest creative project, I'm probably hanging out with my wife and high school sweetheart Sandra. Or, I might be flying a drone with my talented college-aged son Caleb. Or, you may find Sandra and I jitterbugging at some Austin honky-tonk. And, if you are driving through Mueller in Austin, don't be surprised if you see me skateboarding on my longboard.