The School of Art at Texas Tech enumerates several notable alumni who, after graduation, have taken different paths in the art world.
Most of these artists do not forget to give back to the school that laid the foundations for their successful careers.
Philip Monaghan, an alumnus of Tech’s School of Art, said he is grateful to Tech for grounding him in the technical skills for painting and drawing. The school helped him develop the ability to think originally.
Coming out of school in the 1970s, Monaghan’s way of thinking was out of the box because he did not follow the conventional path of a visual artist. Monaghan said he is a painter and a branding executive and has travelled a lot and met different visual artists, photographers and graphic designers.
“I was able to develop the curiosity to pursue my passion and to articulate the goal of what I was trying to accomplish,” Monaghan said. “I could have never done that if I didn’t have so many wonderful guides at Texas Tech.”
Real Musgrave, artist and creator of the Pocket Dragons, said he came to Tech in 1967 because it was the only school that offered a five-and-half-year engineering degree in professional art.
Musgrave’s father was a geophysicist, so he pushed Musgrave to study engineering as a back-up-plan in case art did not work out. Ultimately, Musgrave graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art.
One of the best things Musgrave experienced at Tech was meeting his future wife, Muff Bauer, Musgrave said.
Now, they have been married for 48 years, Musgrave said, and Bauer has played an important role in managing his career and helping him with his work.
Ken Little, professor of art at University of Texas at San Antonio, has a similar opinion about the Tech art faculty. Little graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Ceramics.
“Amazing teachers like Mr. Paul Hanna molded me in what I am today,” Little said. “I always knew I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t know what an artist was.”
Although these three alumni share the same gratitude for the educations they received at Tech, they had different artistic careers.
Monaghan spent 25 years in the creative branding field. During that time, he said he got the chance to live in Milan and work for Italian companies. He also worked for American companies and created some branding that people still see today.
After retiring in 2001, Monaghan said he turned his attention back to painting. In 2015, he came back to Tech for the exhibit “‘Why Are You Doing This To Me?” The show featured a collection of original paintings based on a poem by David Trinidad, poet and friend of the artist.
Musgrave’s career went a different direction. After graduation, he said he started producing prints that were sold in a little gallery in Dallas.
After several years, people started appreciating his work, and he started participating in art shows put on during science fiction and fantasy conventions, he said. During these conventions, Musgrave exhibited his pocket dragons, realistically drawn whimsical creatures that he developed while hitchhiking around Europe with his wife.
“The pocket dragons were based on this little dog we got at the dog pound in Lubbock,” Musgrave said. “Flower (the dog) was very sweet and intelligent. She had a magical way of seeing the world, a funny little grin on her face and very expressive eyes and ears.”
Musgrave created 2-D and 3-D pieces to showcase in museums and galleries. The pieces were real-life dragons with the personality of the dog, he said.
Musgrave said he was then asked to become the official artist for the Texas Renaissance Festival. His dragons were the face of the festival and helped him gain popularity in the art world.
“In 1988, I got contacted by two companies in England that had seen my work in galleries on the east coast, and they asked me to do a line of collectible figurines,” Musgrave said.
Musgrave started sculpting hundreds of pockets dragons and selling them in 23 countries. He said he then travelled around to promote his art by making personal appearances and signing autographs.
“After 15 years of doing this, Flower, our dog, died, and I thought my career was over, but it turned out that she has been secretly training some cats to act as model for the pocket dragons,” Musgrave said.
In 1995, Musgrave said he produced with BKN network an animated television series called “Pocket Dragons Adventures” that was translated in 30 languages and aired in more than 60 countries.
Although none of these artists live in Lubbock anymore, they still keep in touch with Tech and try to help the university in any way they can.
Monaghan is set to meet Tech President Lawrence Schovanec in New York later this month. They are going to have lunch together and walk through some museums, Monaghan said.
“There is such an interest at Texas Tech University in rising the profile of the institution through the arts,” he said.” The leadership has realized that in order for Tech to be considered a top-tier university, the arts must have a big part. This is my new mission: to help in any way I can.”
Little is also a really passionate advocate for the importance of the arts. Going to art school at Tech opened his eyes to a bigger world, Little said.
“Arts are under attack particularly in higher education because of all the pressure for the STEM programs which de-emphasize the humanities and the arts in favor of science, technology, engineering and math,” Little said. “However, art practice and creative learning are important in every field.”