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Mike Simpson- Rest In Peace

While most, if not all, of you have never heard of Mike Simpson, his influence on my life  was and remains profound.  Mr. Simpson was my high school art teacher (graduated in 1992) and later in life as a friend.  I took 4 years of art and was a mediocre student at best, but he always encouraged me to try something new and different.  The most profound moment came during my senior presentation to a group of community members and professionals in the area.  While my work was not that impressive, my ability to present my position and argue it was what lead me to where I am today.  Mr. Simpson profoundly noted to me "your work may be a C, but your ability to sell bullshit is an A."  I don't remember my final grade in Art 4, but I loved that class.  I also loved the art history class he taught and the train trip he made us take from Ohio to Chicago to see their Art Museum.  What a great man.  

Later in life when I started painting using @Mark_Carder s method, he was still there encouraging me and like me was surprised at how well the paintings were turning out.  He was always a man who cared about the success of those he knew.  He helped athletes and artists and any student or person that was smart enough to ask.  I count myself lucky to have met and known Mike Simpson and just wanted to share some of those stories with you all, to remind you of that person who was a great influence in your artistic life.  

He was also great at painting in oil  He had a unique method painting dark to light using wood blocks instead of brushes.  As you can see the results were unique and fantastic.  His work is in the National College Football Hall of Fame and I am fortunate enough to own a couple of his works, a painting of a poppy and one of Abe Lincoln.  

Here are a few to enjoy:

Rest in peace Mike Simpson and thank you for all you provided to my life and so many others.  For the rest of you, I hope this brings back that wonderful memory of that person who believed in you and encouraged your love of the arts.  Feel free to share any of those stories as we start the new year.  

Happy New Year and Love to you all in the New Year,

dencalSummerFlattyEstherHIrishcajuntassieguy[Deleted User]michalisMeganS


  • Very nice paintings and very nice commemoration. 
  • I agree, a very nice remembrance.  Josh, you said: "He had a unique method painting dark to light using wood blocks instead of brushes."  Can you explain further what that means exactly?  Thanks.  Summer
  • @Summer he would paint the canvas black and then allow the layers to dry and work with little wood blocks anywhere from 1 x 3 inch to bigger by painting them and then rubbing the wood blocks on the canvas with the specific color he wished to add to the canvas.  He would tape his canvas on the wall and tape off the edge to be removed when he was done painting.  Something I had never seen before, nor since.  

  • SummerSummer -
    edited January 2017
    Thanks Josh, for the explanation.  He found a unique way of painting that subsequently became his distinctive style.  Very nice.  Summer 
  • edited January 2017
    I am happy for Mr. Simpson, that one of his students cared so much about him and all he had to share, that he stayed friends for the rest of his life. This is a beautiful story for the beginning of a new year. Thank you.

    He had a unique style. I like it a lot...
  • @martenvisser thank you for sharing that story.  Glad my post made you think of it.  Interesting the logic put forth by others, the good news is you are clearly blessed with a great talent and his grading did not discourage you from pursuing what you love.  Keep up the wonderful work.  


  • edited January 2017
    Nice story, @jrbgolfs. He sounds like a great guy. Love his paintings.
  • @tassieguy he was a great man.  @EstherH I am sure I am not the only one he reached, he was brutally honest and cared more than most teachers.  

    Here is the Abe Lincoln that hangs in my office.  

    And here is Mr. Simpson with some concrete sculptures he created.

  • You were lucky to have such a mentor and friend. He was lucky he had you to look up to him and we are all lucky to have you share his memory and art with us. Thank You.
  • @BOB73 he was a great man.  Here is a write up in the local paper, if we could all be so lucky to have such kind words said at our passing.  

    Simpson honored for art, history

    Longtime high school art teacher left behind architectural record in paintings

    By Casey S. Elliott

    [email protected]

    Longtime teacher and artist Mike Simpson’s legacy will be in the buildings he memorialized in art, the students he taught and the athletes he trained. Urbana resident Simpson, 76, died Dec. 30, 2016, at Mercy McAuley Center. His obituary appeared in Wednesday’s Daily Citizen.

    He was a 1959 Urbana High School graduate, who received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1963 and a master’s degree from Wright State University in 1971. He was the art teacher at Urbana High School for 50 years and spent 30 years as the athletic trainer at the high school. He was an adjunct instructor at Urbana University, for the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville and the Lon don Correctional Institute in London. He was also an adjunct professor through Clark State Community College.

    Simpson’s artwork stands as a testament to the architectural history of Urbana and is displayed in many Urbana homes and offices.

    Local artist Mike Major first met Simpson when Major came to Urbana as Ohio’s first Artist in Residence in 1974, he said.

    "We had a lot in common. He was such a wonderful spirit. It was easy to get to know him and work with him, along with his students, and see him try to bring the best out of his students," he said. "He was a tremendous influence. I have said there is a ripple effect of his loving touch on hundreds and hundreds of students and others in the community that wil l go on for decades."

    Major remembered Simpson as a "wellrounded, creative person" and sports enthusiast. His home with his wife, Leigh Ann, "is literally a work of art and is symbolic of his creative abilities."

    And Major is equally impressed with Leigh Ann: "She was quite an inspiration to Mike, too," he said. "I think she amplified his artistic ability and his relationships with people. I think she really was a catalyst for much of his successful career. I commend her for all she does for her family and for all she did for Michael."

    ‘Generous in his praise’

    Sally Johnson, a former member of the Champaign County Arts Council board and a member of the Champaign County Historical S ociety, said she knew Simpson personally and professionally.

    "Mike was always generous in his praise of anything we did together," she said. "He was beyond reproach in anything he ever attempted. He seemed simply to be precise and have very high standards in everything that he did."

    Simpson’s capture of Urbana’s architectural history in his paintings is one of the more notable contributions he made to the community, Johnson said.

    "He preserved a great many of those buildings in his paintings," she said.

    Champaign County Historical Society Board President Dan Walter said he first met Simpson in high school. He said Simpson led architectural walking tours in Urbana during the annual Art Affair on the Square downtown.

    "He knew what he was talking about," Walter said. "He wanted the better elements of local architecture preserved; he wasn’t interested in the poor designs that popped up."

    Walter added Simpson designed his own memorial monument at Oak Dale Cemetery. Walter said Simpson’s headstone is next to Simpson’s parents’ headstones and displays Simpson with the Urbana High School "Castle" in the background and Simpson holding a paint brush and palette.

    "He really loved this community, and he would do about anything for the people around here," Walter added. "He will be missed. We need more people like him."

    Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson took over Mike’s former job as art teacher at the high school after he retired, and it was difficult for him to leave it behind.

    "He loved teaching," she said. "He would come in every single day and even come in during the summer. He loved being at school and interacting with the students. He didn’t want to retire. He tried it a couple of times but he wasn’t very good at it."

    Mike Simpson also enjoyed singing for his local church choir, Leigh Ann said, something he did for 58 years. That dedication reflected in everything he did.

    "He was unwavering with his dedication to something he believed in," she said.

    ‘The historian for Urbana’

    Urbana High School Athletic D irector Chuck Raterman first met Simpson when he was a student at the high school.

    "I had a tremendous amount of respect for him as an athlete back then, when (Simpson) was our trainer. He was the historian for Urbana. I am going to tremendously miss that. He was the person I would always go to if I had a question about the history of Urbana athletics, and I don’t have that resource anymore," he said.

    Raterman said he remembered Simpson bringing him an old Urbana Junior High emblem referring to the Rams. He said he was always bringing nuggets of history to people in the district and around Urbana. He was also responsible for starting memorial trees for past athletes and students important to the school.

    That led, according to Raterman, to the inception of the George Scott Ring of Honor, where Simpson became one of the initial inductees.

    But Raterman most remembered the respect everyone had for Simpson. He noted that it is tradition that students on the high school honor roll for all four years to select a teacher to present an award to, and it was often Simpson who received it.

    "Almost every single time I attended that ceremony, he was getting the award from someone," he said. "The amount of respect the kids had for him is just unbelievable.

    "I will sorely miss him," Raterman added. "He cared about Urbana, he cared about kids, he cared about the sports teams, and he cared about the history of Urbana. He was just such a great person."

    Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

    Simpson’s artwork stands as a testament to the architectural history of Urbana and is displayed in many Urbana homes and offices.

    Mike Simpson’s art can be found in several local buildings, including the Depot Coffeehouse, which features a Simpson painting of the former train station.

    Mike Simpson designed his Oak Dale headstone to include what he enjoyed most – Urbana High School and art.

    Casey S. Elliott | Urbana Daily Citizen

  • Good role model for youngsters.  My fondest memories of high school were of my art teacher as well.  :)
  • @Summer thank you, glad it reminded you of your teacher.  Amazing how one person can influence so many others.  I aspire to be such a positive influence in life!  
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