It is 2015, and well, this is my first blog ever!
Now comes the hard part, what should I write about? Who would ever read it? Is the purpose of a Blog for others to read your posts and to pass judgment on what you say?
I am already in my mid-thirties. And as I get older I often contemplate if this was it. What do I do now at this point in my life? I had accomplished a lot of my own personal goals set for myself back when I graduate high school. While this journey to get to where I am today wasn't easy it had been enjoyable. How do I keep it enjoyable? Am I missing something in this life? It is a very hard question, but personal for everyone. I believe I have accomplished everything that I had set out to do since starting college. Working hard had helped me to develop my own independence. Independence is key because our parents will not be around forever. You have to be in charge of your destiny. There are people in your life, that can help you along the way, but you, and you alone, are the only obstacle you have in finding your purpose. Have I found my purpose in life. Yes, I enjoy being a pharmacist and helping others in selecting the best treatment to heal. The goal, do no harm! But I want to be more than just be a pharmacist.
We all need a space just for us so that we can continue to find joy in all the small things life has to offer. Think about an interest you enjoy - and go after it! After all, you can't take it with you. Yes, you will die, sorry! It is the experiences you create in this life that make life you lead worth more than all the gold and money in the world.
Picking up a brush again didn't just come to me. It was more of an accident and having a lot of time on my hands shortly after residency. It took me opening up an old closet and fumbling through some papers to see out of the corner of my eye my old high school paint box. Putting down the papers and pulling out the paintbox, I saw that my paints still seemed in good shape (15 years later....eh). Would I donate these? What was I going to do with it? So it lingered in my brain to consider getting back at it. But it took a while for that to happen. I was not the best then, but I did enjoy it. That really is all that matters. You have to have fun doing it.
It had occurred to me that back in high school my dreams and aspirations were to be an artist later in life. I wanted to great at it. Not a bad goal, huh? I wanted to produce artwork that draws people in and a creation of works that express emotion. There were many artists that I admired while in high school (Edmound Manet, Claude Manet, Lucian Freud, Gustave Courbet (best self-portrait ever!) John Singer Sargent, only to name a few). But no matter what I did in school I could never achieve what they achieved. Was I setting my expectations too high? Maybe, not always a bad idea to know what your endpoint should be. But you have to give yourself a break and know that failures are the building blocks to success. Is it too much to try to aspire to achieve that level of artistic ability? They all are each vastly different from another. Their works speak for themselves. I have always truly admired their abilities in taking a very basic palette of colors and transforming them into colors that really made the final composition and mood of the painting sing. I have always been enthralled with their ability to paint a landscape and wished that I could somehow get to that level of painting.
I remember in high school, art class was my favorite class. It allowed me to explore my creativity and new mediums that I had never really done before. My teachers were very enthusiastic about my progress and it was something that I felt like I could do for a living. But my father believed that art was only a good hobby but it's not a good career path for a man who will maybe be the sole provider for his family. He did not want me to choose an Arts degree. My father passed away when I was in Pharmacy school, but thinking back to this moment as an adult I cannot imagine how hard of a decision it was for him to tell me that. I miss him a lot and I do really admire him still to this day for all the things he taught me. But going back to where we started I really enjoyed all the accomplishments I made in high school academically and artistically.
Taking art in high school allowed for me to explore other mediums such as acrylic, oil, clay, printmaking, watercolor, and pastel. One of my favorites at the time was pastels and pastel pencils. I mainly like this medium because I have so much more control of the outcomes of the finished work. Acrylic and oil painting were hard for me because the brush strokes and the mixing of color have to be right so that the product you are painting looks like a real scene. [Theme: I found it hard so I avoid it = if you avoid things because you find them hard, you can never learn or advance = never grow = if it was easy everyone would be doing it]. I liked pastels so much that I applied for a state-sponsored scholarship, The Archibald Rutledge scholarship. Here I submitted a pastel pencil painting of two apples and an orange over a crumpled blanket. I called the final composition, “StopLight”, secondary to how the fruits were arranged. The piece took me about two weeks of blending and layering to get the effect I wanted. After submission, I found out a month later I was one of 10 finalists to compete for the college scholarship and that I had to appear up at the state capitol for the final interview. When I arrived I was up against some really good competition. There were students from all around the state with varying talents which overshadowed my work. The final interview was split into two sections, an in-person interview, and a drawing section. The interview I felt went well but the drawing section was weird for me. The task was for us to draw an imaginary city on mars...I was like, what? You have to be kidding! I attacked the picture (don't really remember what I drew but it was dumb) as best as I could but in the end, I failed to meet their requests or expectations. I did not win the scholarship. However, as part of the perk of qualifying for the scholarship, the South Carolina Department of Education hung my painting in the South Carolina State House for one year (see picture above). After that experience of failure, I then went on to explore different painting mediums such as oil, acrylic, and other forms of pastel (soft and hard). At the end of my senior year in high school, it was time for the submission of my advanced placement (AP) portfolio. I produced quite a bit of artwork for this portfolio. I learned how to take photos properly of artwork so that a photo can relay all the true colors as if seeing it in person. I ended up scoring a 4 out of 5 which was pretty good. It was an exciting time. Later that summer prior to college I enrolled at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. Instead of majoring in art or minoring in art I declared Biology as my major and chemistry as my minor. I took no art classes. Looking back, there is some regret. Though in college, from time to time, I would doodle and sketch. I do remember my first summer back from college I met up with my old art teacher from high school, Mrs. Stafford, and we went downtown and we both painted together in the historical district of Charleston. It was a great time. I really wished I had asked her more questions about how to approach a painting outside, but I didn’t. But it was in that period of time the picture that I created absolutely looked nothing like the landscape before me. It dawned on me at that point in time that I had put no effort into thinking before painting. I wasn't painting what I was actually seeing. I was painting what I think I was seeing. If you are going to be any good, you have to at least learn how to execute. I never really grasped in High school art class how to perceive a still life, landscape, and how to transmit what you are visually seeing to a canvas. It is a hard concept that takes a lot of discipline. They would usually just have a still life there and say, good luck everyone! I knew then that I had a lot to learn if I was ever going to be good. When I returned back to Winthrop for the fall I somehow just forgot all about art. It wasn't important to my current goals at the time, I guess. Time and responsibilities have a way of doing that to you. From the time of graduating high school, I never picked up a brush again until 2015. Fourteen years had gone by that I had neglected myself the ecstasy/enjoyment of painting or just being creative. Painting or escaping into some type of creativity never occurred during that period of time in my life. It wasn't until the fall of 2015 I finally picked up a brush again. This time I experimented with acrylic paint versus oil that I had done in high school. Acrylic was less messy and it sure did dry fast which allows me to get in multiple layers without making mud...I worked from a photo of a landscape in Earlysville, Virginia (close to where I lived). Right then and there the passion flowed back to me; however, I could tell that I was severely rusty. Slowly through the next year, until now, I would begin to paint again. I would paint a picture and then walk away and come back to it 2 to 3 weeks later based on my work schedule and adulting duties. My wife and I decided to change jobs and move closer to our families. This was very important to us! But as I get older I still want to experience those cherished memories again that I did back in high school. I was just so naive then as I feel I didn’t take advantage of my art teacher's instruction in helping me get more comfortable with other mediums.
Now that I am painting again, off and on, I'm enjoying it but I'm not having fun. I'm finding it's a really hard struggle to balance work life, married life, and getting enough free time to complete the enjoyment of finishing a work of art. So in my quest to figure out how to improve I came across a book called Daily Paintings by Carol Marine. The book is very fascinating and it really does touch upon elementary concepts on how to improve one's painting skills. It focuses mainly on how you should paint daily but paint small. She defines daily literally daily, or just about as often as you possibly can. These paintings would be anywhere from 6 x 6 or 8 x 8. Where you will spend roughly anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours on one painting. This way, by painting small, you can accomplish more and give yourself a chance to branch out and try something new. If the painting is a flop, you really haven’t given up much to try again. And if you find something that works for you you should take that skill and carry it over until the next day's painting per her instructions. The book also touches on the skills that you learn in these small paintings that will carry you through larger paintings. I will have to see how that goes. So in reading this book I've taken a lot of the advice and I've explored different blogs and different Facebook groups. I've noticed that the big artists never really paint big pictures they're always small (usually under 20 x 20). This is one thing that I never learned in high school. I always thought bigger was better. So I'm going to take Carol Marines challenge. I am preparing to embark on a challenge of trying to paint daily for 1 hour (or maybe even draw if time is tight). So I'm going to take the next couple of days and assess how do I really want to attack this challenge. The biggest and best part of this is that if you can shave out one hour of the day doing something that you love and enjoy it should be well worth it in the end. So my challenge not only is to paint daily but not to complain, procrastinate, or not paint. I could even draw if I wanted to instead of painting. I want to do this! I need to do this! I will strive to be better with each painting and with practice, I can get there. But the struggle is to carve out that niche of time that's my time, but not sacrificing current important obligations. My intent in doing this challenge is to find the love once lost that I had with art and to get really good with how I interpret and assess a landscape or still life. I want to get good at mixing color, good at "seeing" what is before me. This is a very tall order. But I can do it. So fasten your seatbelts kiddos let's enjoy the ride. Happy Painting!