Seven Truths About Being an Artist

All About The Journey 2500

“All About The Journey” (24×24) Acrylic on Canvas (12/2017)

To be an artist is to know what it is to be terrified and thrilled about what you do all at the same time.

To be an artist is to understand that every time we share a tangible form of our creative expressions we risk being judged and ridiculed.

To be an artist is to know that the sting of another’s criticism pales in comparison to the bite of our own.

To be an artist is to understand that embarrassments are temporary and dreams are relentless.

To be an artist is to comprehend that continuing on with our quest is not an option, it is something that must be done.

To be an artist is to know first hand how good it feels to grab a thought from the universe, work with it until it materializes then release it back into the universe. .

To be an artist is to understand that we no longer strive for a destination, we simply accept that the journey is what it is all about.

If you like this one please watch the Two Minute Video to see how I did it.  The original painting and giclee prints are available in my Etsy Shop.

 

A Time To Celebrate

Luke and Carina Framed 2500

A Painting and a Poem for my Son and new Daughter on their wedding day.

Inhale this moment with all of your senses and hold it in your heart forever. It will be the second wind that will carry you over the peaks and through the valleys ahead. It will be a cache of gratitude that you will draw upon when the bitter headwinds blow. Pause and feel the warmth of the summer sun on your shoulders. Notice the gentle breeze, how it cools your brow and causes the fields to sway and vibrate. Breathe in the fragrance of the flowers and the fresh perfume of life. Hear the velvet noise of the distant tumbling water, a fitting accompaniment for the Lyric of the songbird.

This moment is special! In your mind’s eye you can see pools of deep turquoise colored water reflecting granite and snow and sky. Emerging trickles meander without haste through the high alpine meadows. Ever so steadily these head-waters gain might and agility and vigor. Youthful streams rush down the mountainsides as if there were no tomorrow and in the mist of the cascades, indigo and violet complete the spectrum before you. In your minds eye, it is here that you witness and celebrate the merging of two streams. From this point forward the path will be carved by the strength of the two together. Yes this moment is special! Inhale it with all of your senses and hold it in your heart forever.

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Healing With Art

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“This is no place for wimps” declared my Father as he coped with the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease. It was a mantra that would be repeated often between us, a go-to phrase that seemed to take the edge off. It was an attitude that had enabled him to adjust to a new normal as the physical casualties mounted. Up until the day he died, he managed to focus on the things that he could do rather than the things that he could not.

Just last summer I was celebrating a major life accomplishment. My photography/video production business had finally become self sustaining and I was ecstatic to be doing what I loved. The long daylight hours meant more time to squeeze in more images and I loved every minute of it but I also began to notice that my energy level was dropping and I began to feel body pains that I hadn’t felt before. By Fall, around the time of my last blog post the pain and stiffness in my muscles was so severe that I could barely walk much less lift a camera to eye level. Soon thereafter I was diagnosed with a debilitating auto immune disease known as Polymyalgia Rheumatica.

I’m not going to be the old me again anytime soon. Best case scenario is that the disease will go into remission within a year or two. In the meantime I’ve being forced to recon with a new normal that I didn’t anticipate. This is no place for wimps! Healthy daily doses of a corticosteroid are now keeping me mobile but not without continued physical challenges associated with systemic inflammation and side effects from the drugs. I’ll spare you greater details of my struggles and get straight to the point of this post.

Just like my Dad did, I’m being forced to focus on the things that I can do. At first the creative void seemed bottomless and I moped about drinking cocktails of self pity mixed with overdoses of political television, a deadly combination. After about a month of that nonsense I forced myself to pick up a paint brush and I haven’t set it aside since. I’ve learned that healing is a powerful byproduct of the act of creating art. My depression has been replaced with a calm knowing that my journey as an artist is continuing just as it was meant to. While painting I’ve learned that I can reach a meditative state that pushes physical and emotional pain to the background.

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I’m very excited to begin sharing my new artwork on a regular basis and it is my hope that someone out there might be inspired by me to embrace the healing aspects of creating art just as I have. As always, I welcome your comments and I hope that you might share your own stories about how art has helped you heal.

me with moonlight series copy

How Digital Art Can Help You Become A Better Painter

In The Studio..How do you know its done?

In The Studio..How do you know its done?

At a very young age, I learned from my Father the virtues of working hard and finishing what has been started. In our house, quitting was not an option, at least not if I wanted to avoid disappointing him and the consequences that would likely follow. Somewhere around age six, I decided that the guitar was not for me. I had been taking lessons in the back room of a music store for perhaps several months. I remember how sore my fingers became, pushing down on the steel strings for hours each day while I struggled my way though Camp Town Races and Clair de lune. The deal breaker for me undoubtedly came on the day of my first Recital. I was baptized by fire in that overcrowded room as it fell silent in anticipation of a performance by Moi. I may as well have been naked, for right then and there I exposed to the world my frets and my fretting. This was not for me.

Today, I see how my Dad’s lessons on quitting have helped me with my patience and perseverance. I’ve done a lot of things and succeeded as well because of what he taught me. The problem is I now I have a difficult time knowing when it is appropriate to quit, a confusion that plays out nowhere more than in my art. When is a video as good as it can be, when is a photograph ready to be archived, when is a painting really ready for that signature, not to be touched again? The answer most often only comes with the test of time. My painting studio is also a gallery. I hang my more recent work on the walls so I can use it as reference but also so I can study it often. What I find is that over time it becomes clearer to me whether or not a piece is finished, unfinished or worthy of the junk pile.

Experimenting with a painting on iPad

Experimenting with a painting on iPad

Thanks to Steve Jobs, I now have a new way of using technology to experiment with and make hypothetical changes to my existing work. Take my most recent painting called “Perpetual Motion” as an example. I basically completed if fairly quickly, at least to the point of its first critique. My wife accurately pointed out that the lines between the water, wet sand and dry sand really needed more definition. I agreed and identified a number of other things that bothered me as well. After downloading a photo of the piece into the ArtStudio app on my iPad, I was able to experiment with enhancements in a most fearless way. Throw in fine lines or broad washes, not a problem. Add opacity or transparency, piece of cake. Change course and try something else, simply click the “undo” button and start over. I’m actually blown away with how realistic electronic “painting” has become and how effective it can be as an aid in my process.

"Perpetual Motion"  (12"x 48") Acrylic on Canvas

Finished! “Perpetual Motion” (12″x 48″) Acrylic on Canvas

No doubt, digital art is becoming more and more prevalent. You might say it would even impress the Impressionists.  Look online and it won’t take you long to see how some folks are painting en plain air on tablets and with impressive results. Go to the movies these days and you’ll see how much this art form has been embraced by Hollywood. For Me and for now, I see it as a tool that can help me be a better painter. Do you think digital painting is cheating? Have you worked with a digital painting program? If so, I’d like to hear about your experience.

Larger Than Life

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“Larger Than Life” (36″ x 96″) Acrylic on Canvas

It always feels good to unveil a painting. A process of letting go of it and knowing its good enough, its finished. The ritual of photographing my work is always a celebration. For precision I’ll engage a tripod, a level and a measuring tape and then I’ll wait to position the painting in the best ambient light possible. The completion of this painting is extra special, significant in ways that its difficult to describe. I recently posted a picture of me at the easel working on this one and I think most people assumed that it was current, it was actually taken about a year ago. Despite the mass of canvas I was working on, it came together very quickly. I have more total hours in many paintings one tenth the size. It took a year to complete because of the events that took place in my life during that time. I’ll try to explain.

Happy with the progress - a year ago

Happy with the progress – a year ago

The year began with the purchase of a new home. We had been living in a tiny apartment for a year and it felt good to have more space for ourselves and for visits from family and friends. The wall of the long skinny living room begged for attention and a very big painting was born. For a long time, it was good enough unfinished to just warm the space up with light and color. It hung on the wall somewhat askew and strips of blue painters tape held the two canvas’ together.

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A Grandfather’s Advise

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Unfinished painting hangs on the wall

Last June, my youngest daughter was preparing to get married and a Bridal Shower took place at our home. It turned out to be the first and last opportunity to bring my Dad to our house. He so much enjoyed being part of the celebration. While the Ladies sat at the dining room table, He and I sat in the living room eating finger foods and talking about life. Dad had really not seen much of my work in person before. He knew about my artistic ambitions and he more than anyone knew what I had given up to pursue them, but he had never felt the space that I create in. He stared at the big painting for the longest time, impressed by the details and the colors, he loved it. On a number of occasions during the following weeks he would ask me if I had finished the painting. Dad died on August 12th.

I procrastinated on finishing the painting for the longest time. I think I was fearful of painting over all of the love and warm memories that had attached themselves to its surface. This week, the finishing touches went on effortlessly in the end and the two pieces are now held together tightly by a border made of red oak. Well, what do you think Dad?

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A side note to all of my readers.  I’ve entered a few photographs in the national FineArtAmerica.com photo contest and I’m pushing one in particular just to make it to the judging round.  If you would be so kind to look at my post titled “Three Inspiring Quotes About Thinking Big” and cast a vote my way for “Back In The Day”, I would be forever grateful.

The Golden Staircase And The Demise Of The Self-Taught Artist

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Stairway to Heaven 20x24 Large framed

Stairway to Heaven (20″x24″) acrylic on canvas

Have you heard stories from the late 1800’s of the Klondike Gold Rush? If so, you’ve probably also learned about how the pioneering prospectors crossed Chilkoot Pass on foot to get from coastal Alaska the Yukon interior? While climbing to the summit, any man who ventured off the path would fall through the snow to his waste, he would quickly discover that the path less taken was not a good thing. The Golden Staircase was the way and step by step the benefit of following the person ahead was indisputable. The Golden Staircase made it possible for each man to go up and down repeatedly until he hauled all of the supplies that would be necessary to become independent on the other side. Every man’s goal was to stake his own claim.

The Golden Staircase at Chilkoot Pass  (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Golden Staircase at Chilkoot Pass (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The creative process can also be a slippery slope and we all go about gaining traction in different ways. Some seek out as much instruction as possible. Why re-invent the wheel when if you don’t have to. Some strike out on their own and forge new ground, holding fast to the notion that creative Nirvana is the product of autonomy. Perhaps the person who only imitates others will never experience the joy of expression. Likewise, the person who never seeks guidance or help from others might get bogged down in minutia of the process, never to see the light of day in the land of innovation. Luckily for us, we live in a day and age where we can learn about art everywhere we look. I believe we are living in the greatest renaissance in history thanks to the golden staircase we call the internet. Today, it’s practically impossible to not be influenced by other’s work and not to be inspired by other’s originality. The open sharing of ideas is creating solid steps that will allow us to climb to creative heights that were unimaginable 100 years ago.

A few years ago, I mistakenly considered myself to be a self taught painter because I’ve had very little in the way of formal instruction. In fact I held fast the false notion that the influence of others would taint my independence and originality. Only in the past couple of years have I come to realize and appreciate that greater heights of independence and originality are made possible by participating in the greater whole. The collective body of knowledge, inspiration and interaction that I’ve found via the internet has become my Golden Staircase. Do you think originality will Benefit or Suffer, because of the internet? How have you been inspired by others through the internet?

Please Vote Yes On The Resolution Rewind

Finding Balance (24"x36") oil on canvas

Finding Balance (24″x36″) oil on canvas

Hold on, Hold Everything! Has the expiration for New Years Resolutions past? Surely there is a grace period, right? If not I want one and I want it Now. Does 30 days seem reasonable to you? If we had a grace period of 30 days, all of those resolutions that are blown within the first 48 hours could be resurrected for another try. Failed resolutions could be replaced by new, easier to keep versions or we could go back to the drawing board and re-imagine the resolutions that will make a difference. A rule change would be good for all of us, do you agree?

Today is January 11th and I’m gonna make my case for Resolution Rewind. You see, I am absolutely worn out, sick to death of allowing selfish, negative people to influence how my time is spent. We all have a finite amount of time in this life to learn, love and create, yet there are troubled individuals out there who apparently have made it their mission to prevent folks from accomplishing those things. My new goal for 2015 is to learn how to remain calm when confronted with one of these Unfortunate Souls. For lack of a more sympathetic name for the contemptible type that I’m focusing on I’ll just call them PTA’s (People To Avoid).

You can usually identify a PTA pretty quickly when you observe the following characteristics:

1. The PTA is intolerant and has no capacity for authentic compassion and understanding.
2. The PTA already knows everything and has no interest in learning, therefore they make the same mistakes over and over.
3. The PTA spends all of their time looking for faults in others and none of their time looking four their own shortcomings.
4. The PTA takes no responsibility for mistakes that they have made, yet they hold others accountable for theirs.
5. The PTA lives by a social balance sheet, making sure they never give more than they receive.
6. The PTA loves to talk and hates to listen.
7. The PTA is long on talk and short on action.
8. The PTA is short on facts and long on opinions.
9. The PTA prefers complaining to helping.
10. The PTA slanders others indirectly, thereby robbing their slandered victims of a reply.
11. The PTA accuses others of exactly the same things that they are guilty of.
12. The PTA brags about immoral victories, then quotes enlightened words when they feel that they have been wronged.
13. The PTA always has to have the last word.

Normally this blog is a complaint free zone, all positive, no negative. But I am the self proclaimed Mayor of Art Spirit Village and I really think that we need to follow through with this Resolution do-over thing. Nothing could be more positive. In 2015 I will breathe in peace and fairness and I’ll breathe out the toxicity that radiates from these unwanted PTAs. I may discover that Yoga, Meditation and Prayer are the magic ingredients to succeeding in my newfound resolution. Or perhaps just really focussing on compassion for these less fortunate individuals will help me to accept and move on. I’m really excited about the prospect of liberating myself from the tyranny of the PTA. I will reclaim the time that has been stolen to me and I’ll apply it to a greater realization of peace, grace, productivity and above all Creativity.

There is always the possibility some PTA out there might take offense to this post, To that person I say in the nicest way possible…”GET A LIFE, ASS HOLE”. 🙂

Two Questions: What do you think about the Resolution Rewind concept? Is there a PTA that you need to free yourself from?