Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

September 2010

Legacy of OPSU Professor Lives on Through Students


Yvonne Sangster lacked confidence as a young, aspiring artist until she attended a workshop taught by Ben Konis in November 1984. Under his tutelage, she blossomed into the artist she is today.

Sangster continues to give him credit for helping her realize her dream, and she maintained a close relationship with Konis until his death in 2006. The Oklahoma Panhandle State University graduate and art instructor was recently asked to help memorialize Konis in a documentary television program produced and broadcast by KACV, Amarillo's Public Television Station. Ben Konis: The Artist's Artist premiered on Aug. 26, and much of Sangster's interview was used. She said, "I am honored to have been asked to be a part of it. Ben Konis was an amazing artist, and the world will be less bright without the man who painted the West in Technicolor."

Konis' influence on Sangster is easily seen in her vivid, energetic Southwest art, and his inspiration did not stop there. Yvonne said, "I eventually realized that I wanted to follow his footsteps not only as an artist, but also as a teacher. The color theory, pastel procedure and drawing techniques I learned from Ben are how I teach today." With the encouragement of daughters Linda and Amy, Yvonne finished her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at OPSU, and then earned a Master of Arts. This semester, she begins her seventh year of teaching several art classes at OPSU, and she also teaches art at Keyes High School three mornings per week.

Sangster particularly appreciates Konis' work ethic. He said he never had a jolt of inspiration. Instead, he worked every day whether he felt like it or not. Sangster tells her students, "Got to work every day; the inspiration will follow." Konis won the "American Artist Teacher Achievement Award for Excellence in Pastel Instruction" in 1992 after dozens of his students expressed their support for his nomination to American Artist Magazine.

Even just a few months before Konis passed away from a lengthy illness, he encouraged Yvonne to bring her pastel students to visit him, and she said it was typical of the Ben Konis she loved and respected - he was thinking of others even while he was ill. Sangster added, "Any person in love with color, the Southwest, and art will appreciate the work of Ben Konis. He was not only an amazing artist and incredible instructor, but also my mentor and friend."

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