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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.