• March 7, 2021

Professor combines creativity, instruction - Odessa American: Local News

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  • Inspiring Artisists

    Odessa College's visual art professor Dan Sorensen, center, gives feed back to his student Nayeli Bracamontes during painting class Tuesday in Sedate Hall. Sorensen has been the visual arts professor at Odessa College for the past seven years and recently named to the Texas Association of Schools of Art board in 2020. Sorensen obtained his master's degree in painting and drawing from the University of Idaho.

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2021 3:30 am

Dan Sorensen has always enjoyed creating art, especially drawing and painting with oils.

A visual arts professor at Odessa College for the past seven years, Sorensen helps students get the most out of their work.

“I was very interested in drawing, especially mostly because I have an older brother who was he was older than me and therefore better at just about everything. He could run faster than I could; do math and read. The only thing I could beat him at was drawing. That became kind of my thing,” Sorensen said.

He grew up in Orem, Utah, and went to college at Brigham Young University-Idaho where he earned a bachelor’s degree in two-dimensional studio art, and a master’s from the University of Idaho in painting and drawing.

Sorensen said he had a job offer from another college in East Texas and was planning to go there.

“But I came here and I interviewed and met some people here on campus, interviewed with (President) Dr. (Gregory) Williams and I was just really impressed with the administration and the faculty here and kind of changed my mind and decided to come here instead of going to the other school in East Texas,” Sorensen said.

Portraits are what Sorensen enjoys painting and drawing the most. His favorite mediums are oil paints with charcoal coming in a close second.

“I like the challenge of drawing people,” he said.

When you draw a landscape or still life, no one is really going to know if it’s right or if there are any problems with it.

“But if you’re drawing a portrait, you have to get it just exactly right otherwise it won’t ever look right and everybody will know. I like the challenge of that. I enjoy being able to do the difficult subject matters. I teach art appreciation and I teach the painting and drawing classes. So I have Painting 1 and 2 and after that I have a Life Drawing class. In the fall, I’ll teach Drawing 1,” Sorensen said.

Drawing 1 starts with perspective and understanding the way the world changes based on your position in space. “Then we talk about shading. We talk about just different techniques … different materials for drawing,” he said.

The pandemic hasn’t really changed the way he teaches very much.

“One thing that’s nice about art is that we’re always having to adapt to different situations. I feel like it’s almost easier for us to adapt because we’re used to adapting. So we just we spread out. We try to stay six feet apart. Fortunately, I’ve got space here where that’s not too much of a problem,” Sorensen said, referring to his class at Sedate Hall.

Sorensen added that his students have been “awesome” about the adjustments and everyone has been willing to do what’s necessary.

“It hasn’t been easy necessarily, but it hasn’t been nearly as challenging as what I thought it was going to be,” he said.

Used to being around mountains, Sorensen said it was an adjustment moving here for him and his wife, Katie. The couple has four children.

“Being in this job, I can travel during the summer so of course we always just go where there are mountains and trees. It’s been a good experience for us,” he said.

He’s found that he enjoys teaching, although he still creates his own art.

“One thing that’s a huge advantage for me as an artist is there’s a lot of time just being alone, just working on the canvas or the paper; just being completely isolated, so I like being able to have people to interact with. I don’t like being completely isolated all the time. Sure that’s necessary for some of it, but I like to be able to interact with people that are doing the same thing that I’m doing. And also when I’m teaching I’m actually also learning,” Sorensen said.

When he offers pointers to students, he can figure things out in his own work.

He said artwork goes back and forth between relaxing and not. To get better, you have to try something new so he may do a “bad” painting followed by a better one.

The main thing he likes about oil painting is he doesn’t have to wait.

“… If I’m painting in acrylic, then you’re waiting for layers to dry. You paint a layer, then you wait for it to dry; then you paint another layer and wait for it to dry. With oil painting, it dries so slowly that you don’t wait for the layers to dry. You just paint and then you paint into the wet paint and then you paint into the wet paint and you keep doing that … so you never have to wait. …,” he said.

“I love doing that because it’s just so enjoyable to be able to put something down and then work into it. It’s just so forgiving. With acrylic, you have to paint over it and I feel like I’m starting over.”

Students Nathaniel Jordan and Kate Mahoney say they are enjoying the classes they’ve taken with Sorensen. Jordan even changed his major as a result.

He would pass by classes of Sorensen’s and art instructor Daiken Asakawa’s and saw some of the students’ work. Sorensen also had his paintings out. Asakawa teaches ceramics.

“… I’ve always loved art. I love making things, so I decided I would try it out and actually try his class and see what it was like and I actually ended up changing my major to an art major because I loved it so much,” Jordan said.

He was into art when he was younger, but was more focused on making money and “being a productive adult” when he got older, so he let art go.

“He (Sorensen) really reinvigorated my passion for it. He’s got this quiet confidence that teaches you and shows you how to really bring out the creativity and the perfectionism …,” Jordan said.

Mahoney said Sorensen’s classes are very well organized. She has taken several art and photography classes at OC.

“He does a great job of encouraging you; helping you to correct mistakes before you’ve gone too far and you’re almost done. Sometimes somebody just showing you how to move one line can make everything fall into place,” Mahoney said.

Sorensen was recently named a board member of the Texas Association of Schools of Art. Its website says TASA has been a forum for art department faculty members at two-year and four-year public and private higher education institutions to discuss trends and issues in art and academia.

Sorenson was named to the TASA board in 2020 and his term ends in 2023, the site said.

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