Three Questions That Will Change Your Luck

“Most who attain the higher brackets of success seldom do so until they have gone through some event that reached deeply into their souls and reduced them to that circumstance of life which most call failure.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Opposites attract?  I beg to differ.  It’s been my experience that when it comes to good and bad fortune, otherwise thought of as luck, “Like attracts Like”.  Have you heard the old saying that bad luck comes in three’s?  It is more likely closer to the truth that we allow bad luck to feed upon itself several times in a row, before waking up to the idea that we have the ability to alter our consciousness, thus ending the chain reaction.

When something goes wrong, terribly wrong, it is our tendency to become defensive, regretful and angry.  Our first inclination is to feel sorry for ourselves and from there we focus our minds on fear, hoping that something else bad doesn’t happen.  In my experience, bad luck will not even end at three unless I find within myself the strength to alter my own mind-set, rejecting fear and embracing hope.

Less than one year ago, I was living in a train wreck of hard luck, a sequence of negative events that seemed endless.  Cancer in the family, business disappointments being associated with people I did not trust and respect were the headliners, but my string of like kind fortune didn’t begin or end with these circumstances.  It really seemed as though things would never go right again.  Today, the cancer appears to be defeated, I am moving forward in business and I am wiser in choosing with whom I am associated.  Above all, I am off to a great start in the pursuit of my passion to be a successful artist and well, a lot of things are really going right.  What caused my luck to reverse course so abruptly?

I think everything really started to turn around for me when I picked up and read The Law Of Success, a thousand page book written by Napoleon Hill a hundred years ago.  I didn’t just read his work, I studied it as if my very life depended upon it.  I began to understand that my own mind more to do with my own luck than any external force or circumstance.  I began to believe that I deserved a better life than the one to which I had become accustomed and low and behold, little by little, hope returned.

My transformation didn’t occur overnight, it took many months.  I still struggle with the pain and anger over past events but I now know that I have the ability to alter my course.  When the beast rears its ugly head and I begin to dangle my feet in those turbulent waters of despair again, there are three questions that I can ask myself that somehow seem to get me quickly back on the path of good fortune.

WHAT IS GOING RIGHT?  This list should be as long as your arm if you have the mindset of thankfulness.

WHAT IS GOING WRONG?  This list should be short if you disallow things that are temporary.

WHAT DO I WANT?  You have to be able to say it to get it.

If you are having a rash of really bad luck and you are losing hope that it will ever end, I hope that you might ask yourself these same three questions.  It may be the beginning of a string of great luck.

A Colorado Artist Field Trip – New Life

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and in less than a month the days will begin to get shorter (bite my tongue).  It seems contrary to logic that here at 10,000 feet in the mountains of Southern Colorado Spring has barely sprung and that when summer finally arrives, it will stay for 8 or 10 glorious weeks.  Up here, a person forgets how alive the forest becomes in the summer.  The sound of the breeze pushing it’s way through the aspen leaves, the singing and the humming of the birds, the sound of rushing water,  the scent of the grass and the flowers, the shape and texture of the clouds and the warmth of the sun are all things forgotten that must be remembered as if they are being discovered for the first time.

For an oil painter, the contrast of the seasons here is a double-edged sword.   So lucky am I to have a new inspiration for subject matter every few months but to paint with the seasons means to change the colors in the palette almost constantly.  For the last few months Titanium White, Payne’s Grey and Coeruleum Blue have been the staples of my work and I have so thoroughly enjoyed painting the tones of full moon winter night scenes.  I may paint a few more of them in the next week or two but I know that I will not be able to resist expressing the feeling of summer any longer than that.

The Way That You Wander Is The Way That You Choose

"A Perfect Night" oil on canvas 16x20

“I want to see these houses solid, I want them to feel like houses.  I don’t care about your drawings and your values-they are your affair.  They will be good if you make me sense the houses and they will be bad, however “good” they are, if you do not make the houses live.”  ~ Robert Henri

My fascination with log cabins and wilderness adventure surely began somewhere in my pre-teen years, for the first time in my life I searched for something in my identity that made me unique from my parents, sisters and friends.  Yesterday, I found within a box storing the remnants of my sentimental possessions, a book entitled “How To Build And Furnish A Log Cabin” by W. Ben Hunt.  The back cover was missing but otherwise it was in perfect condition, just as it was when I carefully studied it’s pages and dreamed of one day hoofing it into the wilderness and building a cabin of my own with my own two hands.

My romantic inclinations of building a solitary paradise in the wild likely started with the release of the 1969 movie “My Side Of The Mountain””, which was a loose adaptation of the 1959 novel by Jean Craighead George.  In brief, the story was about a Boy who finds inspiration in the words of Henry David Thoreau before running away to the mountains to live off the land, the animals and his journal being his only company.  I’m sure that the part of the story that grabbed my attention was how he built his home, he carved and burned for himself a cavernous sanctuary within the trunk of a giant Hemlock Tree.

And then in my mid teens there was the movie Jeremiah Johnson, my fantasy instantly renewed as Jeremiah put the finishing touches on his log fortress.  With these song lyrics that fire inside of me was rekindled.  “The way that you wander is the way that you choose, the day that you tarry is the day that you lose.  Sunshine or thunder, a man will always wonder.  Where the fair wind blows”.

As it turns out, the fair wind blew me in the direction of starting a family and building a career for the next couple of decades.  Then in my late 30’s, I read the amazing account of the life of Christopher McCandless in John Krakauer’s book “Into The Wild”.  The adventures of Alexander Supertramp and his short lived utopia in “Magic Bus” made me smile from ear to ear and in the end I find that I have personally come to the same conclusion as he, that “Happiness is only real when shared”.

So this is why I am compelled to paint the things that I do.  When I paint subjects that are close to my heart, the process ceases to be just an exercise and it becomes an expression of who I am.  Somehow, painting my adventurous memories and my dreams gives me the best of all worlds.  In this work, I can make my happiness live and I can share that happiness with others.

Not just a book - lost and found

What My Front Yard and Hot Springs Arkansas Have in Common

"Manataka" - Place of Peace

When we moved to our current home high along side of the West Spanish Peak, I felt a strong compulsion to name it.  After all, we have 35 acres and it is easy to envision a massive gated entry with a ranch like name overhead for everyone to see.  I grew up with romantic ideas of old west wealth, watching television shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley and High Chapparral and the idea of branding my property excited me.

This is a magnificent forest.  Short walks from our doorstep in any direction put us in the midst of wild beauty, which can especially be appreciated from the first hint of spring until late fall.  During that season, babbling brooks meander through tall stands of Aspen and Pine trees and exotic vegetation and fungi.  Insect and animal wildlife is everywhere around you.  The spotting of deer, elk, coyotes, bear and large cats is expected although the presence of our three dogs limits those visitations.  I can easily envision Native Americans hunting and living in peace and harmony on this land centuries ago.

After quickly eliminating ridiculous cliché’s and copycat names for my ranch, a quick google search for the Native American word for “place of peace” I dubbed the property “Manataka”.   The story behind another place called Manataka is fascinating, heartbreaking and woven into U.S. history.  Manataka was a magic place where many tribes of Native Americans met as one to celebrate the life given to them by a great creator.  The description of a hidden valley filled with lush vegetation and warm healing waters makes me think of a Shangri-la or a Garden of Eden.  It must have been quite an experience to make the pilgrimage to this site, despite perhaps great distance and difficulty, to experience Manataka.

Manataka is now known as Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Generations have come and gone since the western migration of the United States quickly ended the very spiritual use of that land.  Many bitter tears must have been shed over such a huge loss.  The Native Americans never wanted to own Manataka, they simply wanted to be one with it.  The idea of the grand entry to this place using the name Manataka is now absurd to me.  I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to dwell here for a time.  When this is no longer my home, I will find another Manataka.

Research on the subject led me to a great website: http://manataka.org/page2.html, please check it out.

Building a simple fence at "Manataka"

Artist Video Spotlight – Sculptor Honors Hero

There are people from all walks of life that have great ideas and great talent but fail to have the drive and determination to put those virtues into action.  La Veta Artist Joan Hanley is definitely not one of those people.

Just over a year ago, Joan was inspired by the incredible story of Doris Tracy and today the ambitious project to build a monument for the local hero is nearing completion.  It was on a wing and a prayer that Doris jumped into a flight suite during WWII and on a wing and a prayer that Joan began sculpting an ideology, that “dreams can come true”.

Doris Tracy was one of only 1000 or so women who served in the war as Women Air-Force Service Pilots (W.A.S.P.).  Tracy, along with the other W.A.S.P.’s, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal shortly before her death last year.  Joan’s life-sized monument will be located next to the museum and library in Doris’ hometown, La Veta, Colorado.

Joan is not new to sculpture and the art of building monuments.  Decades of experience precede this project and from that experience she decided to involve experts, each step of the way.  Recently, Joan employed Carla Knight of Loveland Colorado to produce the mold for the project.  Carla is the master mold maker who made the mold Glenna Goodacre’s Vietnam Women’s Memorial located in Washington D.C.

Tammy an I became engaged in Joan’s project when local real estate broker Eric Bachman (discoverbachman.com) hired us to do a local interest video for his website.  With that video, the door was opened and we were hired by Joan to produce the video shown above to raise awareness of the project and to assist her with her money raising efforts.  I hope that you will take the time to watch the short video and pass this post on to anyone who may be willing and able to make a tax deductible contribution to help pay for this worthy cause.

A Colorado Artist Field Trip

In 2007, I picked up a book titled “The Artists’s Way” by Julia Cameron that changed my life in two ways.  First, Julia’s “Morning Pages” concept sowed the seed within me that has now become a habit of daily journaling.  Second, Julia’s suggestion that one makes time for “Artist Dates” also took hold over the course of time.  At first I scoffed a bit at the idea of going out and spending time with Me doing whatever I desired so that I might be inspired.  After all, I had a family, responsibilities and a job and those things had always sat higher on the Totem Pole than my self-indulgent desire for creative inspiration.  I now realize that my family and my “job” are dependent upon my inspiration.

Artist Field Trips are now so much a part of my life that they often occur without planning or intention, they just happen.  That painting that inspired me so while Tammy and I walked around in the streets of Key West, that sunrise over North Lake last winter when the sound of cracking ice echoed through the frozen air and then the summer day when I captured video in the spectacular mountains of Southern Colorado, those are the Artist Field Trips that shape who I am.

Colorado Snow and Painting

"Midnight Crossing" oil on canvas 18x24

It started snowing yesterday, which made it a perfect day for painting winter scenery.  I have been working on a series of full moon winter adventure paintings since January and I don’t want to stop.  The foot of very wet snow that fell overnight is a blessing for two reasons, we have had an extremely dry winter in the mountains of southern Colorado and I’m not sure how I can justify painting the cool tones of winter once the forest comes to life in an explosion of green and yellow.  These spring storms are helping me delay a shift in focus.

Mid May Snow Brings June Flowers

I so much want to share the entire series right now but as you can see, I have not even signed them yet.  Most likely I’ll release images of them one by one as they are completed.  This painting is called midnight crossing.  The mountain the West Spanish Peak, a near “fourteener” that literally is my back yard.  The rest of the props come from my imagination and memories of backcountry skiing with friends around Gunnison and Crested Butte, back in the early 80’s.

Full Moon Skiing and Oil Painting, A Match Made in Heaven

Stairway to Heaven - alt text

"Stairway to Heaven" oil on canvas 18x24

I have been discovering that my skiing memories are one of my great sources of inspiration for artistic expression.  As a kid growing up in Vail, Colorado, my skiing counterparts and I lived for adventure on the mountain.  Each significant snowfall was like a permission slip from heaven to jump off the school bus at the village and spend the day seeking and jumping off of cornices and cliffs.  For me, it wasn’t like what you see in the Warren Miller Movies, some fearless (or insane) soul cascading down avalanche prone slopes and catching “big air” at break neck speed.    No, I was more cautious.  Each drop was carefully looked over and calculated as I understood that once I took flight, there was no turning back.  In the end I always overcame my fears and took that “leap of faith”.

Thirty years and a couple of surgeries have passed since those days of adventure but I continue to live much as I did back then.  Today, I find myself ready to take another leap of faith as I am about to click the publish button, sending this first blog post into the abyss.  There is a lot that I have yet to learn about what is on the other side of this cliff.  Yea, I’m a bit scared and uncertain and I know that there is no turning back.  But hey, that is what life is all about.  I hope to see you on the other side.  So here goes nothing…and….PUBLISH.