Lessons in Life and Art

Onondaga Community College Alumnus and Illustrator London Ladd spoke with students at McKinley-Brighton Elementary.

London Ladd has an extraordinary skill and a wonderful life story about perseverance. He shared both with 4th and 5th graders in the Syracuse City School District’s McKinley-Brighton Elementary School last week. He explained to students how he became an illustrator and showed them some of his famous works including books about Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and Oprah Winfrey.

Ladd showed students his sketchbook before they begin drawing in their new sketchbooks which were donated by OCC.

Ladd also spoke with students about life. He grew up in a single parent home and only recently learned who his father was. He told students about his journey through the Syracuse City School District, graduating from Corcoran High School and coming to Onondaga Community College where he earned a degree in 1995. Twenty years later he was named a distinguished Alumni Faces honoree.

During his conversation with students Ladd shared a quote which is one of his favorites: “Some quit due to slow progress never grasping the fact that slow progress… is progress.” “I wanted to let them know I’m not just an illustrator,” said Ladd. “I’m just as regular as anyone else. I want them to know my beginnings and how I started. I didn’t want them to think their beginnings were a deterrent. The journey starts somewhere. The level which you achieve is based on what you put into it. I’m as human as they are.”

A student told the class about her drawings as Ladd held up her sketchbook.

Ladd also held a workshop with a smaller group of students. Each attendee received a sketchbook supplied by OCC. Ladd showed students his sketchbook and worked with each of them as they created their first drawings. He gave students only one rule when drawing: don’t use your eraser. When they were finished drawing each student was given the opportunity to stand in front of the class and tell the story behind what they drew.

Ladd will do a similar presentation and workshop next month at Meachem Elementary School in Syracuse. His amazing work can be seen throughout the city of Syracuse. Earlier this year he painted murals of Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglas beneath the bridge at the corner of Salina and Taylor Streets which is the gateway to the south side of Syracuse. He has also painted a huge logo on the side of Phoebe’s Café on Genesee Street.

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