In his profile on Amazon.com, Clyde San Juan is described as an “author and illustrator, backpacker on crooked trails, amateur photographer and, more recently, creativity encourager.”
He is and has been all of those. And more.
“Currently, I’m an author and teacher,” says San Juan, the Plaza Review’s digital artist. “That’s the season I’m in right now.”
To be more specific, San Juan is the co-author and illustrator of a children’s book, I Spy a Tiger, re-released in August with Redemption Press. As an art instructor, he teaches watercolor and acrylic painting.
“Even with all the wacky things going on this year, there’s a lot of cool and hopeful things happening,” he says.
A self-taught artist, who began drawing at the age of 4, San Juan says that for most people, learning how to draw with pencils in black and white is the beginning of a series of progressions.
“Moving forward in age, one begins to delve into color and painting. Watercolor is my favorite painting medium for its fluid, serendipitous inspirations,” he says, adding that he was fortunate to have encouraging teachers along the way—starting in elementary school and continuing through college.
In the fifth grade, his teacher entered one of his works with the Los Angeles County Fair, where he received an Award of Merit. Later that year, the school held a show featuring his paintings. At Cypress College, an instructor in San Juan’s beginning art class moved him up to join the advanced students.
“He saw my potential and let me run with it,” he recalls.
The artist who never had formal training at an art school, is now teaching watercolor, acrylic and drawing techniques to students during weekly classes, which previously were held in-person at Hobby Lobby stores, recreation centers and other locations, but more recently have shifted to online via Zoom, due to the pandemic.
“I enjoy encouraging people to aspire to the creative aspects of painting and drawing. That has really been a joy for me,” he says.
Cora Serviss of Long Beach, one of San Juan’s students for nearly five years, decided to finally learn how to watercolor, a longtime dream, after she retired from her career as an office manager and signed up for classes with San Juan.
“He has taught us about the color mixing mechanics, complementary colors, different brush strokes, composition and more,” she says. “As an instructor, he’s patient and truthful. If he thinks you can improve in an area, he will give you constructive criticism and tell you how you can do the technique better.”
Another student, Gloria Krieger of Garden Grove, signed up for classes four years ago after seeing a poster in the Huntington Beach Hobby Lobby.
“He is very knowledgeable about watercolor,” says Krieger, who previously had done oil painting and was eager to learn a new discipline. “I really look forward to the weekly Zoom classes.”
New students can register for beginner classes on San Juan’s website, crookedtrailscafe.com. It’s also the place to discover more about I Spy a Tiger, originally completed in 2008. By coincidence, after deciding to update and publish it as a new edition, he learned about the arrival of his first grandchild, due in December.
And there’s more: San Juan is working on a fiction novel, which would be his third book (The Continued Flights of Icarus was released in 1984). And he is compiling a cookbook with “tasty” recipes for people with food intolerances like him.
“Luckily, it’s intolerances and not allergies, which are more acute,” he says, adding that he has issues with chiles, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant—all members of the nightshade family of plants.
He also has plans to make his already dynamic website even more eclectic by adding a place to sell his artwork, including original art from I Spy a Tiger. And he plans on featuring a blog.
But, in this current season of his life, there’s a more immediate priority.
“I’m looking forward to reading I Spy a Tiger to my grandson; it’s going to be exciting. In easy rhyme and bold illustrations, it makes for interactive reading and bonding,” he says. “That’s the nice thing about books—you can handle them and be intimate with them. Books are great.”