Thursday, February 24, 2011

Artists out of work

It seems such a shame these days that many artist friends of mine are not working full time in their field. The ability to create visual worlds is a gift, and a relatively rare one I am discovering. But, I have always taken it for granted. And as a result, it's taken me many years to place the appropriate value on my work. Sometimes I'm good at valuing it, other times, not so good. I think it's difficult to put value on one's work until someone else puts a price to it for you. But one thing is universally true for artists, and that is that we live in our own world…the world of our making.

A painting student of mine said she had recently watched a video of Bob Ross yesterday. I'm taking it for granted that everyone who has ever painted or aspired to paint knows who Bob Ross is…if not google him. My student commented on his dialog while he painted, how soft and gentle he was. I have watched Bob paint at least 100 times in my life, and I never grow tired of him. He is in "his own little world" as he paints, and much like a gifted storyteller, he takes you with him on the journey. You can feel the peace in him. I have never seen an episode where he has not used the words, "this is your world, you can paint whatever you feel like."

I feel the same way about the real world that I live in. I can create any reality that I want. I can create a reality where I am working as an artist, or a reality where I'm not. And, I can change my mind about what it is to be artist.

As a child, when I was being taught about all the great artists in history, I noticed that almost all of them were starving or suffering during their lifetimes, but after their death, their paintings sold for millions and I wondered why. I still wonder why. Artists are unique individuals with unique gifts. Every one has a different perspective on the world and most likely, different training and skills…and therefore the expression of the art is distinctly unique. Why then do artists so often falter in their ability to express and value themselves during their lifetimes? I think it is a mindset, a lie that has been taught to artists that we have accepted.

When I was in high school, I did a sculpture of Mozart. It was a beautiful bust of his head and I was very proud of it. I had completed it in two days. The next day, I came back and unwrapped the clay to admire it again and found the face punched in, the imprints of the knuckles clearly visible in the clay. I wept. I did not understand why anyone would want to destroy something so beautiful. Now, after many years, I understand the destroyer.

The statue of David was damaged about 15 years ago by an angry and jealous sculptor who threw a chipping mallet at David's feet and broke off a toe. Everyone seems so shocked at his actions, but I understand them now. He had bought into the lie. The lie that tells us that only a few of us succeed, and that it is difficult to make it in our lifetimes as an artist even with great talent.

Don't accept the lie. The lie comes from a source that is talentless, void of creativity and filled with anger and jealousy. An artist's life can be filled with love, because we create our own worlds….and the world I choose to create is one of optimism and beauty. My paintings never contain parking meters, or power grids, visions of death, pollution or violence. They reflect the best of mankind and nature and this is intentional. You attract that upon which you focus your time and attention. So, if sunrises, sunsets, trees, waterfalls, animals, light and happy people are not to your liking, you probably won't like my work. But it's my world and I can create whatever I want. So far, being an optimist has worked for me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Biting Problem

It's true, I expect a lot from my dogs. I expect them to travel with me without complaint or concern for where we are going or what we are doing. I expect them to tell me when they need to go out, but to know that I often won't be able to take them out immediately (like when I'm on the interstate). I expect them to be off schedule, as I often am, and except eating dinner late, going to bed late and often in strange places. In fact, about the only thing a dog with me can count on is that I'll always be there with them and for them. That's always worked in the past with the three dogs that have chosen to spend their lives with me. So, imagine my surprise when my most recent dog started biting me for no reason at all.

The attacks came at odd times. When I asked him to do something he didn't want to do, during playtime, before he went out, after he went out and during his time out. The worst times were during these last three. He would often fly at me at high speeds, slamming his body into me while showing his teeth and snapping. It didn't look much like playing, even if someone had taught him to do it. After less than a week, I had bruises up and down both arms, on my shoulders, calves, ankles, torso and rear...pretty much everywhere. He never broke the skin, but the pain was as bad as having someone pinch me hard with a pair of pliers all over my body.

My friends all told me that I had adopted a "biter" and that I should have him put down. I was less inclined to give up on him. I looked up the problem on the internet and decided that he was a dominate aggressive dog and took the steps suggested on the websites. After a few days of isolation from everyone but me, he got a little better. But the attacks during his trips to "do his business" continued.

He had had loose stools since I had adopted him. The Humane Society said they had done worming on him and that the stools came up negative, so I just assumed it was nerves. But, after three weeks with no improvement, I suspected that there was something else going on. It turned out that he had bacterial infections in the small intestines and was in quite a bit of pain.

It's now been a week and a half since we treated him. The stools are normal, and the biting has stopped....completely. I'm posting this, because I had started to doubt my belief that there are no bad dogs, only bad people. My faith has been restored. He was in pain, and he couldn't tell me, so he bit me to let me know something was wrong. It seems strange, but when you think about's not. People do strange things when they are in pain too. I'm just glad I figured it out before someone decided that he was a "biter" and had him put down.

He's sleeping peacefully at my feet as I write this.

Painter and Classical Singer in Michigan

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