David Stuart MacLachlan Hoornstra has lived for over 30 years in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, mostly doing commercial art. In the eighties, he was creative director of a small Ann Arbor “art house.” Since 1989 he has mixed freelancing with in-house work. In January 2012 he took on oil painting full-time and continues in a state of excitement about the next few series of canvases.
David’s tastes have always favored the classic. His Upper Michigan family was economically poor but culturally rich. The house was like a book club; David’s first hardcover was by Howard Pyle, who both wrote and illustrated the story of Robin Hood. Education? a “necessary pleasure.”
By the time he turned 7, David’s art was noticed by the high school art teacher. Between junior high and high school, he took five years of art classes and was painting in oils by age 15. But another great teacher and a sense of what was “practical” made him a journalism major. In four years, he did every job the high school paper had to offer and won every journalism award.
His language skills were noticed. While registering as a freshman at the local college, David was offered a job by the Humanities department chair: grading his sophomore essays. The college paper was a non-entity, so he joined the yearbook staff. Inspired by great teachers and surplus film, he advanced his photo skills, spending countless hours in the darkroom.
The following summer the ambitious new college president asked him to re-invent the college paper. David stipulated an office, salary and a full-credit journalism course to build a workable newspaper staff. Since no faculty member there had ever taken any journalism, he ended up teaching the course himself. That highly-successful year won him his impossible dream: a journalism scholarship at the University of Michigan. Plus a specially-created summer printing apprenticeship.
The scene in Ann Arbor in 1966 caught small-town David unprepared and threw him right off the rails. Spending most of his time with other attractions, he still breezed through all but a single, very necessary, class. His journalism career over, he returned to his old school, now a four-year college.
All through college, art commissions had helped him along. In 1967 he designed a tourist mall – “Old Town” – to capitalize on Sault Ste. Marie’s 1968 Tri- Centennial. That led to operating an “olde-tyme” newspaper/print shop in that mall, in which he and two friends lost their shirts. All along, he kept on painting. As a senior in 1969, he sold two of ten paintings in a one-man show. He knew then he wanted to be a painter, but having grown up scraping by, he could not see a way to his new dream. He finished his BA in English and contemplated his future, where the Vietnam war and the draft still lay in wait.
David and his best friend interviewed some U.S. Coast Guardsmen and decided to join. They both served four years’ active duty. During two years “before the mast” on CGC Kukui – literally a slow boat to China – David managed to do more photography and earned an admiral’s Letter of Appreciation.
The experience released his drive to go after his dream. Turning down a $10,000 re-enlistment bonus, he took an early out for school in September 1973. He had been admitted on his portfolio alone as a junior in Fine Art at Michigan, skipping basic studio. This time there were no hiccups, but after one great year, the savings were gone and the GI Bill wasn’t enough. He dropped out, determined to have a career in art no matter how low the level.
Four years of pasteup and stat-camera work got him into Ann Arbor’s premier type house, Typographic Insight. But TI partner and sales whiz Larry Bell had foreseen the end of typesetting. In 1980 he took David with him to start a new “art house” to win automotive work away from “Goliath” agencies.
Before long David was shooting GM accessory catalogs and Oldsmobile brochures in 4 x 5. At first, he designed and wrote everything; even retouching color transparencies. But by 1986 he was a VP/Creative Director with a staff of eight.
Then everything changed. Larry sold the company and it fizzled. The era of traditional advertising agencies was over. In the new age of computer-based graphic design, companies took their print work in-house and paid creatives diddly.
Continuously developing his computer skills, David landed on his feet on the new ground floor. Working both freelance and in-house, he edited magazines and did design. Two international companies involved David in multi-lingual owner and service manuals, packaging and marketing materials in both print and video.
The artist today
As freelance work slowed down, David spent more time at the easel. Inspired by the old Dutch Masters, he created realistic landscapes based on his woodsy neighborhood. In 2012, fine art took 90% of his week and he was “juried” into three local events. By the end of the year, it was time to have a go at the 2013 art fairs. Hoping to get into two or three, he applied for six. He was accepted into five, including one of the Ann Arbor fairs, and made second spot on the wait list for a sixth. They were a terrific learning experience. Next year? We’ll see.
David started fencing in 1962 and shows no sign of stopping. He competed in local, regional and national areas for 14 years and has taught for his entire adult life. In 1977, he co-founded the Ann Arbor Sword Club where he is still principal instructor. In the 1990s, the translation of medieval combat manuals brought a revival of the Western Martial Arts. The Sword Club became one of very few clubs to offer both modern and historical swordplay. (annarborsword.com).
David caught the photography bug in high school and pursued all three of its major paths: journalism, fine-art and commercial. U-M professor Phil Davis brought David to a new artistic and technical understanding. In 1980 he toured Scotland, making 1500 images in 35mm and 4 x 5. While sharpening his commercial skills at TI Group, he also ventured into figure and fashion. Now it’s mostly landscape in digital SLR, but he hopes to get the 8 x 10 Eastman View working soon.
Medieval Scholarship. In 1974, David discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA.org). In 1978, he cofounded the Ann Arbor chapter of what is today a large international group, getting addicted to calligraphy, illumination, heraldry, armored combat and armor making. That led to actual scholarship: he has translated medieval French charters, given papers at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, and has recently been published in a scholarly book series.