New teacher at CTEC inspires with art


New teacher at CTEC inspires with art

8:43 a.m. PDT April 19, 2016

A fantastical creature — part horse and part bull, with some giraffe — sprang into existence Monday afternoon before about 200 Sprague High School seniors in the nearly pitch-black Pantheon Auditorium.

Artist Graham Toms spoke to the students almost casually as he sketched the scene on paper with ease, his images projected onto a large screen.

With each stroke of charcoal, the creature — which Toms said he “Frankensteined” from his imagination — came to life, with five or so faceless people riding on or walking near the large animal.

Toms was there in part to speak to the students for their career fair, but also to demonstrate the work he will be teaching when he joins the Career and Technical Center staff in the fall.

He is one of the seven new teachers who will start at the center next semester.

“Art has provided me with a vehicle for my ideas … and helped me realize my capacity to share with the world,” he said.

Toms, 50, will be moving to Salem this summer from Texas, with his wife and two of his three children so he can teach 3-D digital art and video projection full time at the center in the fall.

He has worked in art for companies such as the Disney Institute, but he remembers storytelling and expressing himself always being core parts of his life.

As a child, Toms said he became destructive when his creativity got away from him — like when he “graffitied” his parents’ wallpaper with lipstick as a 4-year-old.

He said his mother soon learned he was less destructive if properly supplied with paper, pencils and crayons.

As he spoke to the students at Sprague, his accent — a mix of Irish and English — came through. He told them every job needs creativity and imagination, and all jobs require hard work. He said it is vital the students see the importance of what they choose to do.

As Toms gave his advice, he sometimes interrupted himself to tell the students what he was doing to his sketch. He talked about the shading of the animal, coloring in the negative spaces and using the eraser to add volume and depth to his drawing.

Toms has dipped his toes into a variety of different types of visual art over the years — including watercolor paintings, sketching, photography and creating gaming landscapes.

“If I’m enjoying this, we’re going to have a great time,” he said, laughing.

Tomes said he wants his students to have a focus, but to also have the freedom to explore what they like and want to pursue.

“For the students, the buy-in comes if they are excited,” he said.

Some of Toms’ art can be seen on his blog at For more information, call the Career and Technical Education Center at 503-399-5511, visit the center at 3501 Portland Road, NE in Salem, or go to, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter@Nataliempate, on Facebook at or on the web at

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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