“If You Don’t Fall For Something, You Will Stand For Anything” – An Artist’s Mantra

“Tying One On” 18″x18″ oil on canvas

We have all heard the saying “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.   We might see this popular quote on a bumper sticker or a church marquee or hear it within the lyrics of a popular country western song.  Who in their right mind could argue with the wisdom of these words?

I guess this is where I have to raise my hand and admit that I dance to the beat of a different drummer.  Last evening while driving home from a weekend getaway to Santa Fe with my Wife, a profound thought popped into my mind.  As I often do while driving, I had slipped into a deep hypnotic state of thought and I was pondering my progression as an artist.   It wasn’t but just a few years ago that my ambitions to be an artist were packaged away in the closet and my ego was absorbed in my efforts to succeed in businesses that seemed to choose me rather than the other way around.  In so many ways, I was drifting from one endeavor to the next looking for a fulfillment that did not exist.  Then, one giant decision at a time, I began jumping (or falling) off of a series of precipice’s that I would have no way of ascending again in the future.  The motivation for those bridge-burning life changes were founded in what seemed like nothing more than a compelling hunch or gut level inclination.  I now know with conviction that I did not fall from grace, I fell into passion.

Call me a rebel, a non-conformist or even accuse me of blasphemy if you want.  My mantra seems to be that                                                                                 “IF YOU DON’T FALL FOR SOMETHING, YOU WILL STAND FOR ANYTHING”.  You see, if I had not truly followed that which I am passionate about, I would have settled; stood for just about anything.

Maybe it is simply a matter of left-brain versus right-brain that determines whether one sees the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog here.  I’m certainly not alone in adopting this antithetical world-view.  I am accompanied by a great number of people who go against the grain, challenge the status quo and think outside the box.  Think of a great creator or artist and you will observe a person who took great risks to pursue their passion, you will also see a person who refused to settle for just any subject matter in their work, their work resonates that which they are passionate about and that is what catches the eye and the respect of the viewer.

As I share this new painting (“Tying One On”) with an audience for the first time, I can only hope that all of it’s technical flaws will be overshadowed by the passion that I have for the subject matter.  I never was obsessed with fly-fishing, but I did tie my own flies as a youth and I know that wading into a mountain stream can be a spiritual experience.  I now find greater satisfaction in attempting to capture the essence of fly-fishing on canvas than I do participating in the act itself.

Triple Wonderful – Painting My Wind River Memories

"Triple Wonderful" Oil on Canvas 24"x24"

My childhood was filled with adventure and some of my most memorable experiences took place on fishing trips to the Wind River Indian Reservation in the mountains of Wyoming.  This is where my Grandfather, William Butler helped to organize an annual pack trip that would introduce hundreds of Men and eventually Women and Children to the pristine wilderness over the course of two decades.  The memories of Wind River are made even more special as they are shared with my parents, sisters and some of my closest friends.

At Wind River, I learned to ride a horse over mountain passes and across streams just as the Mountain Man Jim Bridger did when he explored the home of the Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe Indians.  The days at Wind River were spent fishing from sun up until sundown.  Dozens of low elevation lakes surrounded the camp and the native brook trout were plentiful.  One day, each summer, a group would organize a one-day expedition to timberline, pressing on to the upper lakes in search of gigantic Cutthroat Trout.   These upper lakes ran in a chain, each one spilling itself out through waterfalls to the one below.

I have often considered going back to this special place.  Even after so many years, I find that the essence of Wind River finds its way to my canvas when I paint.  While painting “Triple Wonderful”, I found myself asking if places like this really exist and it is because of Wind River that I know that they do.  My good friend Andy, who was there with me in the seventies, returns each summer on a solitary week-long walkabout, touching and feeling the country that made such an impression on him as a kid.  Perhaps I’ll tag along with him one of these summers.