Art Through the Back Door
I’m kinda an all-in person. Well, not even kinda. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not a smoker.
We can’t even keep candy or sodas in the house, because I will eat them. All of them. Usually at one time.
I know, it’s gross. Good thing I married someone who has some sense.
In college, my best friend Luke and I started long boarding (skateboarding). And long boarding was on the menu at every free moment. Before long boards was bass fishing. And after long boards was table tennis. No, not ping pong, the game you played as a kid. We played table tennis. We had our own paddles, and our paddles had cool zippered cases, and we preferred a certain kind of ball as well. Luke and I participated in a regional tournament one time. And only one time because Luke got beat by a 13 year old girl, and I got beat by her little brother, or the other way around, I can’t really remember. They were wearing uniforms. We were wearing our signature cotton white tees and athletic shorts. I’m pretty sure I was sportin my favorite Duffs skate shoes.
That pretty much ended my serious pursuit of table tennis. I think we went back to ping pong after that.
Then came sneakily through the back door: art. Though it didn’t introduce itself as such. Hidden behind simple mechanics of a Canon AE1 Program, art entered my life.
I was fascinated with it. Not fascinated with “art”, I was fascinated with photography. “Art” was that silly stuff they did down the hall with pencils and paint. I, was a photographer, definitely not an artist.
After 18 credit hours of Art History, 4 drawing classes, and a load of photo classes, I suddenly realized, that art indeed was what I was doing. I also met Teysha during this time, who I consider a real artist. I’m just a poser. She’s creative, like truly creative. I have to actually try.
In 2011 we got married and moved from Texas to Boise, Idaho. Teysha started grad school and I took a part time retail job. In college I’d taken an oil painting class as an elective and had started setting up simple still-life’s on the kitchen table. I was terrible. There are definitely a few gems on canvas that will be fun to look back on.
During this fun and free still-life painting era, I met someone who would change my focus from photo to paint.
I met Gary Holland at the Boise Saturday market. He would occasionally come down the mountain from his little house and set up some work in the market. The prices were way out of range for most market goers, but I think he gained a fair amount students from the visibility. I walked in his booth to look at his work and he struck up a conversation.
That simple interaction lead to two years of intensive study with Gary. I saw a lot of students come and go, as I’m sure most teachers do, but I was determined to learn how to paint.
Outside of two, sometimes three classes per week (and my part-time job), Gary was asking me to paint about 16 hours a week.
It took a few months to show up, but my “all-in” personality finally kicked in. And too bad too, because I had just started playing FIFA 2015 online, and was totally destroying folks all over the world. And if someone wanted a rematch, I’d have to take it, so I could just beat em again.
We sold the tv to our neighbor and PlayStation to my brother-in-law. It was time to get to work.
Only problem was that I was really bad at painting.
I can very clearly remember Gary looking me in the eye and asking me, “Are you color blind?” No, I’m not color blind, I just couldn’t mix accurate color to save my life.
After complaining to my mom on the phone one evening about my painting woes, she asked, “Why are you doing this? You don’t even seem to enjoy it.” It was a completely fair question. I was spending a decent amount of money (that I really didn’t have) to study with Gary, and I was awful, and not seemingly progressing. I honestly did not know how to respond to my mom's question. But what I said was, “All I know, is that I’m going to learn how to paint. In 10 years I don’t want to look back say, man, I wish I had done it then.” The answer was good enough for my always supportive mother.
It’s been seven years and I am “all-in” now more than ever.
The challenge of painting is exciting to me and I love that it can be a life-time pursuit.
I read an article years ago in PleinAir Magazine about CW Mundy. CW was encouraging artists to always be a student. A student of the craft itself. I just saw a fellow painter, Stephanie Paige Thomson, post a photo online of her and CW Mundy sitting side by side, at Sherrie McGraw’s workshop. That, is dedication to learning and always growing.
I hope to be as humble and open to learning as CW.
In 2010 I graduated with a BFA in Photography from Stephen F. Austin State University. In 2011 my wife, Teysha, started graduate school at Boise State University while I undertook a two year apprenticeship program with oil painter, Gary Holland. In May of 2018, we sold everything, quit our jobs, and hit the road! We currently live in a rusty 1986 Toyota Dolphin named Dolly.