For Waco artists John Storm and Cash Teague, art answers both ends of “Lost & Found,” the Art Center of Waco exhibit of their work that opens Thursday.

They diverge, slightly, on exactly what that means, but that difference of thought and expression goes to the heart of what both men do: teaching art at school, where students learn fundamentals of technique and observation in order to express individuality.

Teague, 31, teaches approximately 100 middle and high school students at Rapoport Academy, where he’s taught for five years; Storm, 37, leads the basic art classes at Midway High School after five years with the district.

Both find art as a medium in which they can lose themselves, even as it connects them to a sense of self.

“Thomas Merton said that art was the only way to lose yourself and find yourself at the same time,” said Storm, a Sioux City, Iowa, native whose love for art was shaped in part by his father, an engineer whose precise drawings and sketches gave physical shape to ideas formed in the imagination.

His 32 paintings and drawings on canvas, paper and wood show a restless energy through color and a wide range of subjects: yellow outlined shapes like elbow macaroni, suggesting artist Keith Haring; series of ping-pong players; sketchbook pages blown up to giant size; studies of concentric circles whose rings filled with cars, trees, time stamps and molars look identical until a closer look finds the object or color that doesn’t fit.

“I love getting lost in the work, finding the flow and zone. That’s what I love about creativity. And finding — I think the experience (of making art) changes a person. You’re learning about the creative process and yourself,” he said. “I find a sense of playfulness and inspiration during the work.”

Experimentation drives some of his work as he creates an image, gets an idea, then repeats the image, but with the change. It’s that willingness to try that Storm hopes to share with his students and he often paints or draws in his classroom to demonstrate what art in process looks like. “My work has lots of imperfections and I’m OK with that,” he laughed.

The classroom also gives back. Scraps from a student’s colorful lettering that she was throwing away found themselves worked into one of Storm’s circles while a nonsensical quote in his sketchbook enlargement came from a student’s scribbled note left after class.

Teague’s detailed, realistic pencil drawings and watercolors, on the other hand, reveal his attraction to the work. “I really like the monotony and the tediousness of how art can be,” he confessed. “The way I get lost is the tediousness that drives other people nuts.”

Part of that attention to detail comes from family members who were carpenters or woodworkers — his father built a bassinet for his and wife Lauren’s infant son Ryder, for instance — and several of Teague’s pieces are studies of carpenter’s tools and supplies.

Art, like wood working, takes time and focus, lessons Teague hopes to leave with his students. “I try to show my students that you may not be the best, but if you’re willing to put in the hard work and the time, you will be successful with what you have,” he said. “Our culture is one of instant gratification, instant culture, and that’s getting more and more difficult to do.”

Several of Teague’s works dabble on the opposite side of that, however — quick portraits painted live at events, often auctioned as fundraisers. Even with a teacher’s schedule of holiday breaks and summer vacation, Teague finds time often short when it comes to art.

Storm, who with his wife Laura has sons five-year-old Samuel and two-year-old Jack, agreed, but noted that he sees part of his job as creating company with more artists. “I think that everybody’s an artist,” he said. “They just don’t know it.”

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor