Willamette Week: Best of 1999

She was the quietest person in his class, and he was almost afraid to approach her to critique her work as the series of drawing seminars came to an end. Then she displayed her paintings from class and made a confession to her teacher, Joseph Mann. "I quit my job because of you," she told him. "I had been dead for years and this class brought me back to life. Thank you." Though this tale may seem a trifle melodramatic, it is just one of the many stories born out of Mann's inspirational teaching style. The Parsons grad with a sweet Southern lilt has been turning Portland housewives into avant-garde artists and depressed arty kids into confident professionals since 1994. His drawing and painting classes at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland Community College-Sylvania are a collage of debates about artists' works (don't get him started on Picasso, he's got "issues" with the exalted abstract painter), wisecracks, personal anecdotes and free-flowing exercises in drawing and painting. (He's likely to stand behind you as you paint, whispering, "Get it, get it, get it.") His own accomplishments are very infrequently shown at Augen Gallery, because he's skittish about selling one of his babies to someone else's crib, but take one of his classes and he'll often show slides and recount the torturous years it took him to get the leg just right. Mann is art's most popular lifeguard.