VOL. 126 | NO. 235 | Friday, December 2, 2011
Memphis Standout Profile
For Westminster’s Baker, Teaching is an Art Form
By JOHN LINTNER
Clint Baker, an upper school art teacher at Westminster Academy, hasn’t always been an educator.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Baker started his career in graphic design at small firms. He eventually worked his way to The Discovery Channel before starting his own graphic design firm, Baker & Hill LLC, in the Washington, D.C., area.
After moving around a bit, he returned to Memphis – his hometown – and began teaching at Westminster.
The school takes a classical Christian approach to teaching. Its foundations are in ancient and traditional liberal arts, and Baker enjoys his chance to impact children through these teaching methods.
“Having an eye for the market of illustration – style and seeing where it can be used – it is interesting to watch what my students are doing,” Baker said, referring to his approach to each student’s individual education. “At Westminster, our focus is an objective, academic, classical view to drawing. If I ask a student to draw a human face, I want them to do it accurately. I’m not concerned with their style. I’m looking at the discipline and skill of it.
“Anyone can learn it – just like anyone can learn to play the piano. No one will ever draw a line like you, except you. No one ever has, and no one ever will.”
Though he got his degree in English literature from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala., Baker’s skill as an artist is what drives him in his interaction with his students, and he’s been impressed by the work they bring to the table.
Many times, they create illustrations that are marketable, Baker said.
“Graphic design is probably the one sure shot for any artist,” Baker said. “It’s the one place that you can get a job and make money. If I see a kid who is interested in graphic design – and there are some that certainly are – it’s really nice to be able to go, ‘Look, you can have a good career doing animation, video, package or logo design or illustration.’ As a designer myself, I think I’m set up pretty well to give them a path they might want to consider taking if they’re interested.”
“Having an eye for the market of illustration — style and seeing where it can be used — it is interesting to watch what my students are doing. At Westminster, our focus is an objective, academic, classical view to drawing.”
Upper school art teacher,
Baker began working with The Discovery Channel in 1999 after a stint at an advertising agency. He enjoyed the fast-paced work of the satellite and cable channel and eventually landed a position as the website art director for Discovery Communications’ subsidiary, The Learning Channel.
When his contract was up, Baker and business partner Mark Hill started a design firm. Baker & Hill LLC immediately landed The Discovery Channel as a client, and the firm grew from there. Baker has since designed Web games and interactive activities for many Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet shows, including “MythBusters” and essentially all of Discovery’s Shark Week programs.
“My buddy Mark Hill joined up with me, and we just started being available for people and doing work,” Baker said. “We really like the idea of doing design ourselves and didn’t want to contract that out. Also, we saw a lot of fat companies, and that helped us to decide to keep our overhead really low. Today, we can sort of pick and choose what we want to do.
“By the grace of God, it worked. So then I pulled a fast one on Mark and said, ‘Hey, I’m going back to Memphis.’”
Baker continues to do freelance work locally. He recently designed the logo for Bluff City Thrift, which was started by Westminster director of admission and events Peter Baur and Amy Hoyt. Sales from the startup store benefit local nonprofit organizations.
Baker’s success is a small part of a greater philosophy on life, he said. Teaching his students, he added, is similar to teaching his own children.
“The pursuit of Christ doesn’t negate the pursuit to be the best human you can possibly be,” he said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, we’re a Christian classical school, so that’s good enough to get by.’ You want to stretch out as far as you can and do as much as you can.”