Melvin Nicholas Strawn Biography

Melvin Nicholas Strawn




Painter, printmaker, digital artist, and educator Melvin Nicholas "Mel" Strawn was born August 5, 1929, in Boise, Idaho. As a child his family relocated to Riverside, California, and Strawn's introduction to formal art education took place at Riverside College. While awaiting his induction into the Army during the Korean War, he traveled to Berkeley, where he visited the California College of Arts and Crafts and met his future wife, Bernice, a painting and sculpture student. After serving in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, he enrolled in courses on the G.I. Bill at the CCAC (now the California College of the Arts), earning his MFA in 1956. Following graduation he and Bernice relocated to Texas after Strawn accepted a teaching post at Midwestern University. 

Following a two year stint in Texas, Strawn found another position at Michigan State University, subsituting for a professor on sabbatical for another two years. He then accepted at position at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where the Strawns remained for ten years and started a family, and Mel became chair of the college's art department. In the early 1960s they began visiting a friend in Denver, Colorado in the summers, and in 1969 Mel was offered a position at the University of Denver. They moved their family of nine to Colorado, where Mel and Bernice would remain as artists and teachers for the rest of their careers, save for brief stints in other schools from time to time.

Strawn retired in 1988 and focused on his personal art output. He worked in lithography and oils as he had at the beginning of his art career, but also found inspiration in mediums he had been introduced throughout his time as an artist and teacher, including Japanese calligraphy and, beginning in 1981 with his Commodore PC, digital art - with the hope of seeing digital "libraries" of art in people's homes, placing him ahead of his time. The Strawns were both active in the arts community in their hometown of Salida as well as Denver. Mel continued to exhibit, lecture, and publish until his death on May 17, 2020 in Salida, California.

More information on the life of Mel Strawn found in this Colorado Central Magazine article by Mike Russo.