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.

 

Three Tips For The Self-Taught Artist

"Patio At The Inn" 30"x40" Acrylic on Canvas

The notion to apply paint to a canvas came late in life for me, long after acquiring a business degree and charting my course towards a life in the retail industry.  In 2006, at the age of 46, I picked up some pencils and sketch pads and discovered that I could lose myself for hours in the process of creating expressive subjects and compositions.  Roughly a year later, I found myself in the aisles of Hobby Lobby gathering together tubes of acrylic paint, canvas boards, brushes and a color wheel.  I really had no idea what I needed and I was too embarrassed to ask for help,  so I ended up bringing home what I now realize may be a lifetime supply of some items.

The feel of the wet acrylic paint moving around on the canvas resonated with me and I quickly found myself back at the store buying large panels of stretched canvas.   One of my first paintings was a 30” x 40” impression of the restaurant patio at the historic inn that my wife and I were operating at the time.  I felt that the canvas was too large to use little brushes to apply the paint and I did not yet like the way that a palette knife felt, so intuitively I took an old credit card and went to work.  Within a few hours I had completed a painting that would become a much admired and talked about conversation piece, hanging on the restaurant wall until we sold the business in 2010.

Five years and perhaps a hundred paintings later, I have yet to produce a piece of art so quickly, intuitively and easily.  I now paint with oils, I know how to use brushes and knives and I don’t even know where that color wheel is, but the process of completing a painting of lasting value is certainly no easier than it was when I painted that patio.

If you are a self taught painter at the beginning of your journey, there are three tips that I have learned that I want to share with you:

  1. There is no such thing as a self-taught artist.  I finally took my first formal painting class just last year, but I have been a student since making that first trip to hobby lobby.  We are all students, no matter how long we’ve been at it and we learn from every image we see and every artist we meet.  The inter-net gives us all the opportunity to learn an share in a way that the old Masters would have never envisioned.  Initially, I was very defensive about being self-taught, stubborn in resisting the idea that someone might influence my growth in a direction that was not authentic for me.  I now know that there is no way you can avoid your own originality if your true purpose is to express yourself.
  2. Paint what you are passionate about.  For the first few years, I tried painting just about everything that I saw.  Often times I tried to paint something that I thought others might enjoy seeing or that someone might want to buy.  It took a few years to realize that it really works the other way around.  If you paint what you know and feel and love, somebody will love what they see and want to buy it.
  3. Just do it.  Paint does not end up on a canvas by thinking, talking or planning.  There is no other way to create than to put the brush in the paint and begin taking chances.  If you fear that you won’t do it right, then you won’t.  Every mistake is a tool, a barometer.  If it is used properly, it will tell you when you are painting with fear rather than with knowing and feeling.

aLL oF LIfE iS An eXpeRimeNt

Try, and try again.

Cracking open a fortune cookie after enjoying a meal at a favorite Chinese restaurant is one of life’s odd rituals.  The routine is familiar to most of us.  Eat until full, put leftovers in box, then break the tiny dessert into two pieces revealing a little slip of paper that has something wise written on it.   When I like my fortune, I slip it into my wallet for safekeeping.  When I don’t particularly understand its relevance, I bid for a trade or light heartedly ask the waiter for another.

A few days ago while pulling a credit card out of my wallet, a fortune fell out that said, “Do not be too timid or squeamish about your actions, all of life is an experiment”.  I know well why I tucked this one away.  You see, I am in the midst of big life changes and have been for some time.  I left behind the safety and security of a successful, yet ultimately un-fulfilling business path years ago and have been searching for creative enlightenment and fulfillment every since.

Along the way, I have tried many new things and I have suffered failures.  At times, these failures have caused so much pain that I have literally coiled up into the fetal position wishing to return somehow to what is sure and safe.  Fortunately, the bridge to the past is no longer standing.  Fortunately, I have no choice but to move forward, taking the lessons that I have learned from my defeats and applying them boldly to my future “experiments”.  Am I talking about art, or business, or relationships?  The wise message in my fortune cookie applies just as it says, to “all of life”.

An Artist’s Summer Vacation – Getting Kicks On Route 66

Historic Route 66


Hum a few bars of the iconic Nat King Cole song “ Get Your Kicks on Route 66” and you will find yourself trying to recall the lyrics and the names of the cities mentioned in them. A lot has evidently changed since the song was written. Today’s route 66 is more commonly known as I-40, and Kicks? I was “kickin” it into high gear and awful lot trying to keep up the eighteen-wheelers heading west. Gallup, Flagstaff and Kingman are all still visible from the four-lane ribbon of asphalt but the song says “don’t forget Winona” and I missed it altogether. The Eagle’s hit song “Take it Easy” also came to mind as we zipped past Winslow, Arizona. I couldn’t help but think that today’s lyrics might be “I was standing at the exit in Winslow, Arizona” and somehow it just doesn’t have the same magic.

Back on the old route 66, I’m sure that there were plenty of attempts to pull people off the pavement to see two headed snakes and buy moccasins and sand paintings. I have to admit I felt both gullible and nostalgic while taking the exit to the Meteor Crater in the middle of the high desert east of Flagstaff. The colorful signs billed the crater as the “First Proven” and “Best Maintained” meteor crash site” on earth and I pondered how in the hell do you maintain a meteor crash site?

Up Close and Personal with an Extra Terrestrial Rock

It turns out that Meteor Crater literally is a national landmark worth seeing. At some point in time, a rock, about 15 feet wide found its way through the Earth’s atmosphere without breaking up. It hit the earth with such an impact that the crater was immediately formed, 500 feet deep and three quarters of a mile across. This site proved to be the chosen training grounds for NASA to train the Astronauts for the Apollo Moon Missions. What better place to prepare them to drive rovers and collect rock samples on the crater riddled Moon?

Besides walking along the rim of the crater, snapping photos and looking through lousy telescopes we had an opportunity to view and touch a chunk of the meteor itself, a dense chunk of rock about two feet wide that weighed 1406 pounds. After wandering through the meteor museum and watching the ten minute meteor movie, we found ourselves in the gift shop ordering a Subway Sandwich and I realized that we were after all having the modern experience somewhat akin to seeing the two headed snake.

As for the gift shop, they need a bit of help from an artist type in designing their hats and shirts. I wish I had snapped a picture, oh well. And so back on the road we went, my mind spinning with marketing ideas for the crater. What about a hard had that says “watch for falling rocks”? How about I had a Blast at Meteor Crater, Meteor Crater-America’s Holy Ground, Meteor Crater Rocked My World, Meteor Crater -Conveniently Located Next to I-40 and Hey! Whatever Happened to Winona?

An Artist’s Summer Vacation – Oregon or Bust!

Coos Bay, Oregon 2004

Why would anyone wish to leave the high country of Southern Colorado in August? This is the time of year that most folks head our way to escape the heat of summer in the southern states, looking for daytime temperatures that are tolerable and a sensory shift that can only be found at elevation. You know how the saying goes however, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, a perception that is often reality.

A change of scenery is good for the artist’s soul. Traveling not only gives us the opportunity to escape our routines and habits long enough to see the world with a renewed clarity of vision, it helps us see that which we are most familiar in a new light upon our return home. And so for the next two weeks, Tammy and I will call the road home. Our plan is to leave the dogs and cats with our beloved pet sitter, jump into a thirty foot motor home and head west to the coast of Oregon, a 4000 mile, 15 day journey. The last time we made this journey, we had three teen age kids with braces in tow, this time it will be all about us.

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.

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