Although he was born in Southern California, Don Lawrence lived in a half dozen states during his first eight years. His father worked for North American Aviation as a technical representative to the U.S. Air Force, and the family moved to accommodate his nearly annual reassignments to different Air Force installations. In 1958 the family returned to Southern California and remained there.
After high school, Mr. Lawrence worked for a year, then went into the U.S. Army. During 1970 and 1971 he was stationed in Vietnam, where he served as a truck driver. Returning home, he enrolled at El Camino College, where he concentrated on courses dealing with various aspects of building engineering, such as air-conditioning and heating. Pursuing a long-standing interest in art dating to his childhood, he also took courses in oil painting and freehand drawing.
After receiving an associate of arts degree from El Camino, he continued his studies in building engineering at Los Angeles Trade Technical school. Afterward he worked for a variety of businesses, including an automotive air-conditioning installation company, an office furniture manufacturing company, and a hospital. In 1985 a friend of his who had recently begun work at the J. Paul Getty Museum told him about a position at the newly established GCI. Mr. Lawrence applied and the same year became the Institute's first—and thus far only—building engineer.
The Institute has grown a good deal since then, and his work has expanded as the size of the facility and the amount of equipment have increased. Any matter involving electrical systems, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and the phone system—and not requiring a crew—is his responsibility. He has also been involved in implementing the numerous safety measures put in place at the Institute in recent years.
When not at work, he still finds time for his art. Among his subjects are landscapes, animals, people, aircraft, and ships. Since college he has worked with a variety of media, including watercolor, acrylic paint, and oil paint. His favorite at the moment is a basic and durable one—crayon.