Life of art: Wes Schaffner


An illustration of Wes Schaffner wearing his reading glasses and wearing a bright shirt with tropical print of yellow and green goilage with strong sky blue background, sitting in front of a desk by the window painting. The window is a view of the ocean with two big birds flying by. Jars of colored liquid and water paint tray lay on the desk while Wes is re-creating a water painting of a photo with colorful flowers and green foliage.

By Marissa Adams

Remembering a friend of the SAC Art Department.

For Wes Schaffner, life was a work of art. He was never seen without a colorful Hawaiian shirt and his signature handlebar moustache. He gave a satisfied grin when people stopped him on the street to snap his picture.

“He had a character that he initially invented, and it became real,” said Wes’ older brother, Jim Schaffner.

The long-time SAC gallery preparator died Sept. 7 at age 62.

Wes was born Dec. 7, 1949 in southern California on the eighth-year anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“Our father and uncle were both young sailors at Pearl Harbor the morning that it was attacked on Dec. 7,” Jim recalls. “My dad liked to say that it was the worst day of his life and one of the best days of his life.”

As a “navy brat,” Wes traveled from place to place with his family, meeting new friends wherever they went.

He joined the Marine Corps as a young man and was deployed to Vietnam at the height of the war, an experience that would come to shape his character.

“For the young men who went there, like my brother who was still a teenager, putting it behind them was hard,” Jim said.

He began attending classes at SAC shortly after he was discharged. He explored his love for art by taking a gallery production class, which lead to his hire as SAC’s gallery preparator.

Wes’ naturally friendly demeanor made him adored by the faculty and students he worked with.

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“They loved him. They thought of him as more of a teacher,” Gallery Director Phil Marquez said.

Marquez remembers a dedicated man who did far more than his job description called for. Wes was committed to keeping the gallery at its best, forging many lasting relationships along the way, Marquez said.

“I don’t know of a single person who didn’t like him,” Marquez said. “He had a great relationship with everyone I knew.”

Upon learning that he was ill, a group of his art classmates created portraits of their beloved colleague and brought them to his home. They are currently displayed on the second floor of the C-Building.

His diverse interests ranged from antique cars and anything “vintage” to guns, and the arts gave him an eccentricity that couldn’t be forgotten, Jim Schaffner said.

Dean of Fine and Performing Arts Sylvia Turner said she is grateful for Wes’ years of selfless service.

“He understood and loved the arts and Santa Ana College. He told me often that he was ‘energized’ by being around art and by seeing how hard the students work. He was truly a part of the art department family,” Turner said.

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