At Davis Vocational and Technical High School, standard academics were taught in the morning while in the afternoon there were electives ranging from automobile mechanics to art. Of course, Armand chose the art classes with the kind of enthusiasm he certainly did not direct toward his morning classes. Soon he was skirting those requirements.
When the truant officer Charlie Larson walked in things changed. At 6’7” Larson stood out as a larger-than-life figure with bushy eyebrows, butcher-block hands, and a no-nonsense grin, his teeth gripping a stout pipe. Nicknamed “The Lovable Liar” for his tall tales about his days as a lumberjack, Larson quickly befriended his latest truant.
At the time Armand was longing for an oil painter’s box, the sort with slots for paint tubes and holes for brushes. He had already approached an aunt, just hoping she could spare $3.50 for a paint box, only to be reminded how little he deserved such a luxury.
However, when Charlie Larson learned how much his newest truant wanted that paint box, he took a walk with him, heading toward the store where it stood on display and bought it. On the return to school Larson suggested that the classes Armand had been skipping might actually lend valuable insights, insights a promising young painter surely needed to gain. Soon the young truant was returning to class with new vigor, learning now that history offers the context for composition, literature tells its story, geometry shows how angles can create tension, and biology will tell any observant artist that nature abhors a straight line. Always grateful, Armand painted a portrait of Larson a year before the man died.
Beginning in Armand’s teenage years but extending throughout his life, there were others who became his personal heroes. Individuals, all of them men, with whom he became acquainted, who each possessed acute critical intelligence, masterful sensitivity to art, and astonishing integrity of character. The sort of sublime humanity to which he aspired. . . In Merizon’s life, the struggle to preserve his own freedom, to frame a philosophical outlook accounting for it, and to paint in a way worthy of his heroes takes the foreground and presses the usual landmarks into the background.