Don’t Forget To Celebrate Your Accomplishments

"Mission Accomplished" 18"x24" oil on canvas

Goals are good, they keep us moving in the right direction.  I find that if I fire up the computer in the morning and jump straight away into my web browser without having a specific goal in mind, I’m likely to end up following bizarre and enticing headlines in whatever direction they take me.  The next thing I know, I’ve wasted the most productive hours of the day.  The same principle holds true for visits to the store.  Walking into Wal-Mart without a shopping list is ALWAYS a recipe for disaster.  Without a specific goal in mind, I’ll likely wander around under the oppressive florescent lights for far too long, then leave the store with a load of stuff I didn’t need while forgetting the things that I did need.

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time defining your goals.  Actually, if you are like me, you spend so much time defining your goals that when you accomplish one, you often move on to the next without remembering to celebrate, not necessarily a healthy habit.  I guess you could call me a goal junkie, always looking for the next fix, the next step towards the ultimate high of realizing my life’s purpose.

In this painting, an imaginary trio of backcountry skiers have obviously ascended and descended a sizable mountain under the sweat of their own effort.  Upon arriving back at their cozy cabin, we fully anticipate that a toast or two are in order, that with smiles on their faces they will recall, discuss and appreciate each powdery turn that was carved under the moonlit sky.  You see, goals are great for productivity but it is the celebration of our accomplishments that make them meaningful.

The Art Is In The Flaw

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

In a perfect world, each moment would be divided and proportioned in such a way that all of our priorities would receive just the right amount of attention from us at just the right time.  Our Family, Spiritual, Work and Social lives would be in perfect harmony with each other and we would skate through life in a state of balance.  Dream on you crazy dreamer or wake up and smell the coffee, this is not a perfect world.

We can search the high heaven, the depth of the sea and every nook and cranny of this earth looking for perfect balance and we will not find it.  The truth for most of us is, if we found true circles and squares and straight lines in nature, we would decide that we like the semi-circles, almost squares and nearly straight lines better.  Most of us see art and beauty in that which is imperfect.  Consider how many people photograph, admire and paint the Leaning Tower of Pisa each-year?

So, if it is easy to prefer the imperfect in Art, why is it difficult to prefer the imperfect in Life?  As for me, I allowed my life to become so out of balance for so long that I could no longer see the Art in it.  Now that I’m swinging my life back the other way, I have the tendency to write off any circumstance that is less than perfect as unacceptable.  In doing so, I miss an opportunity to look for the Art in the Flaw.  With this realization, I am learning that life is a moderation thing.  Balance and Art are found in life’s shades of grey, not in the black and the white.

"Finding Balance" 18x24 oil on canvas

Who Moved The Meatloaf? – 3 Things You Can Do To Find It

Pondering my next post at 10,000 feet.

I launched this blog just about a month ago in hopes of creating an outlet through which I could express my thoughts and share my art.  So far, I’m not disappointed.  I never would have guessed that I’d have 350 visits to my site, get a few comments and subscriptions and actually meet some wonderful talented artists in other parts of the country and world, all within the first month.  I’m a happy camper.  On the other hand, I’ve learned that having a “build it and they will come” attitude is a business model doomed to fail.  Floating a blog into cyberspace without taking action to drive traffic to it would be kind of like putting a lemonade stand on an iceberg.  And so, along with the blog came the realization that this 50 year old must jump on the social networking bandwagon and start beating the drum.

I can’t say that the process has been painless.  I have adamantly resisted facebook since it’s inception, joining only to spy on my kids and viewing the concept suspiciously, perhaps as a tool of “big brother”, the KGB or the CIA.  And Twitter, I really had no idea what it could possibly be used for other than to follow the likes of Charlie Sheen over a cliff.  In one short month, I have gone from zero to over 300 Twitter Followers and it is thanks to thirsty Tweeters that I’ve had to order another load of lemonade.

It has been wisely stated the “the one thing in life that is constant is change”, a truth best remembered by us mid-lifers as we try to figure out where we fit in to the new world.  The rules have changed, not for the first time and not for the last.  We are the only group of people in the history of Mankind to experience life before and after the invention of the personal computer and the internet and that makes us special, but it does not make us unique.  Every since the discovery of fire and perhaps long before that, each generation of Mankind has laid claim to the ingenuity required to adapt as the wheel of invention turned.

Yes, the rules have changed.  In the United States, masses of boomers and thirteeners are doing the “dog paddle” after swimming hard for decades toward islands that no longer exist.  World wide, our contemporaries are experiencing the same growing pains at the same time as us.  Thanks to the advent of the internet, we now belong to common human generation.   So what can we do to adapt to the new rules and find a new path to prosperity?  From a “big picture” vantage point, it is my opinion that there are simply three things that we need to do to succeed.

  1. Keep your sense of humor.  Many of us find ourselves coming home to a proverbial empty kitchen as the character George did in the movie “Pleasantville”.  “Where is my dinner?” we ask, and there is not a meatloaf in sight.  Can you keep a straight face watching William H. Macy expectantly say “ Honey, I’m Home” and “Where is My Dinner”?  Then why not get a chuckle out to the bizarre twist in the road of mankind that we are learning to negotiate?  The truth is, feeling sorry for our-selves will not produce anything good.  Finding humor in our plight is an outward expression of our acceptance of it.
  2. Open your mind.  Yes the younger generations seem to have an unfair advantage when it comes to social networking, they have been doing it their entire lives.  But, I believe we older folks have the advantage in finding the most effective ways of using the technology, after all we have been around the block a few times and experience still matters.  Yes the rules have changed, but we can still find the “meatloaf”, or something better!
  3. Get Busy.  There are other islands out there, better than the ones we sought before but we will never get to them unless we start swimming.  If you haven’t already done so, start a blog, open a facebook account, tweet your heart out, all the while keeping your goals in sight.  Something that most of us have learned in our years on this earth is that “You Can’t Go Back”.  Which means that if we want to keep moving, we must move forward.

The Imagination Is A Great Kaleidoscope

 

“Life on this earth may be likened to a great kaleidoscope before which the scenes and facts and material substances are ever shifting and changing, and all anyone can do is to take these facts and substances and rearrange them in new combinations” ~ Napoleon Hill

In the words of King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun”. I suppose the same could be said of the moon. I am not the first artist in the world to be mesmerized by the mystical beauty of a moonlit night and I’m certainly not the first person to have the urge to paint such a scene. I’m also not the first person to paint a tree, a skier or a log cabin.  If I can take any credit at all for the originality of my work it is due to the combination of subjects that come from an inner place of “feeling” or from my imagination.

The dictionary defines Imagination as “The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses”.  This is not to say that a painter of realism who uses reference does not use his or her imagination, not at all for the process of converting that reality to the canvas demands an imaginative mind. For me, I am finding that when I free myself from reference material as much as possible, I give my imagination or my ability to “feel” the greatest opportunity to perform.

If you watch the video posted above, you will see that this painting was totally ad lib. The only reference material used were sketches of skiers that I created with my imagination. As the composition was laid out on the canvas I put in the shape of a pond on which I was going to place ice skaters. As work on the painting progressed, the work started talking to me and it said “forget the pond, go with skiers”, so I did.

Five Minute Holiday – Reflections Oahu

 

A near perfect June morning rises from the east and the sounds of the forest are alive and happy.  The absence of wind is welcome and in the stillness, the smoke from wildfires two states away has settled in, throwing hues of magenta into the atmosphere.  The warmth of the early summer sun is laced softly on the left side of my face and body and I sit quietly in my favorite chair, sipping coffee and soaking up the peacefulness of the moment.  This is how I’d prefer to start every day.

For most of us, life becomes so busy and cluttered with responsibilities and worry and noise that we forget to make the time to find peace in the beauty of a moment like this.  How different would life be if each and every day we made it a priority to free our minds of the clutter, if even for just a few minutes yielding to the simple side of living, no matter where we are?

Tammy and I have accumulated a great deal of video footage over the course of the last few years while visiting my parents on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  After each visit, we unpack the bags and download the footage into the abyss of the digital archives, and we get busy again with our lives in Colorado.  This past week, I finally made the time to pull together some of my favorite images and set them to music for a video Birthday card for my Dad.  I was so inspired by the power of that video, that I took another step and put together this five minute video for myself and anyone else who takes the time to watch it.  It is for me, a quick meditative escape to simplicity, peace and beauty and I hope it is for you as well.

Finding an Identity – I’m a Romanticist

 

"Cross Country" 18x24 oil on canvas

Over the course of the past few years, I have often seached for a label for the genre, the subject and the motivation that is in my art and in my Heart.  Being relatively new to painting and having such a powerful desire to express myself through art, the experimental stage of my growth has seen me attempting abstract and surreal, portrait and landscape amongst other hybrids of the four.  This winter the wings of good fortune lifted me up and I was allowed more time to devote to painting than I have ever had before, and I chose to paint a series of twelve full moon winter landscapes, each one with some element of adventure from my past, my fondest memories.

I’ve painted these types of paintings in the past.  Moonlight, Log Cabins, Skiers and even guys fetching water from the stream, and then I went off and tried other subjects, sometimes with success and sometimes with nothing more than a thick textured layer to sand and gesso over so I could try again.  The whole process of discovery has been enlightening, but a greater sense of satisfaction comes from fact that I seem to have found my identity as a Romanticist.

I’ve always admired the great moonlight seascape artists.  In February, Tammy and I made our way to Oahu, our annual visit with my parents who live in Hawaii Kai.  No trip to Hawaii is complete for me without seeing the original brush strokes of a group of painters that I’ve come to admire and respect.  Names like Casay, Wyland and Tabora come to mind when I think of art that truly captures the feeling and essence of a Hawaiian sunset, moonscape or seascape.  These artist all have a quality that I embrace.

One afternoon, we found ourselves in the Tabora Gallery in Waikiki(taboragalley.com) and it was there that I realized that I am a romanticist.   On his website, Tabora says about his work, “I romanticize, The scenes I portray are memories I have imagined…memories of when the footprints of men were not so prolific and deep. Nature alone is the subject of my work. Its allure is exquisitely pure.  That’s what I wish to convey. I see Hawaii’s land and sea the essence of beauty itself. It reaches to me with a richness of emotion that I simply must express.” .

Like Tabora, I romanticize some about the nature of the ocean.  But it is the richness of emotion that the adventure of the mountains evoke that I feel compelled to express.  So as I progress, you will not find me painting portraits, abstracts, surrealism or realism.  I am a romanticist and under that label you will find my work.