On a hot summer day in July, I found myself lying on a blanket in the dappled shadows of oak tress with a fellow painter, talking art, life, and the topic that stuck with me most: gratitude.
In these past four months of vagabonding around the country I’ve done a lot of painting. Of course, not as much as I would like, but that’s a topic for another day. And while standing out in the middle of a field or on the side of a mountain, hands covered in paint and completely surrounded by nature, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been overcome with an unbelievable sense of thankfulness and gratitude.
I’ve said to myself so many times “WHO. GETS. TO. DO. THIS?!!” (well, a lot of people actually, ha)
If I were my sweet and gentle wife, at that point I would cry. But naw, my eyes slightly moisten and then it’s gone. But in that moment, all seems right with the world and I have a clarity about what it is I want in life.
But of course, as soon as I pack up my gear and head to back to ol’ Dolly (our RV) the unwanted thoughts of doubt and confusion inevitably return.
Anton Pavlenko and I have known each other for 4 or 5 years now. We first met through Ulrich Gleiter at one of the Plein Air Conventions in Monterey, Ca. Since then, we’ve seen each other a handful of times and follow each other’s work online, but we hadn’t had the chance to just hang out and chat. So while both participating in the Maryhill Museum’s Pacific Northwest Plein Air Event, we made a point to spend a day painting together.
We got kind of a late start and rolled up to Herman Creek about 10am. Both being quick painters, we each knocked one out before the hour was up. After a solid 45 minutes of hard work, we decided it was time for a lunch break.
Grabbing my turkey and provolone sandwich, I expected to find a rock or log to sit on, and quickly scarf down lunch before another painting. But to my surprise, Mr. Fancy was laying out a picnic blanket along with his cooler and bag of food. “We aren’t barbarians” he said.
Before we knew it, we were both on our backs, staring at the sky, talking about the things most important and relevant to our lives: spouses, pets, spirituality, and of course, art.
These moments of overwhelming gratitude came up in our conversation. Anton could definitely relate to such experiences.
The issue he brought up and challenged me with, is how to hold on to gratitude.
You know, when you get that dream job, the one you’ve always wanted, only to realize that 90% of your time is now spent doing paper work. Or you finally you get the plein air easel everyone else has, only to be completely frustrated that it won’t fit in your backpack and it constantly falls off your tripod while painting. Or maybe you get into the gallery you dreamed of, only to be placed on the back corner wall with no light on your work.
It happens. Or maybe you live in a tiny RV with your family of four and think that you can actually lead a productive life, haha.
Whatever it may be in your life, I’m sure you can identify in some way.
So the problem Anton brought up is that as artists, we strive really really hard towards a variety of goals. Technical goals, and financial goals, and a myriad of other things. And once we’ve obtained that certain thing, we only look for the next thing to tackle, easily leading towards of life of simply chasing something — an exhausting and unending chase.
I could definitely relate and easily see myself slipping into this type of rhythm.
Anton posed the issue not to discourage, but only to make aware of such a life.
Our conversation bounced on to other topics but I’ve yet to stop thinking about it.
For my particular scenario as a painter, I can currently think of only one way to limit such chasing as much as possible.
And that solution is to strip away all of the complicated and confusing things I’ve brought into painting, and remind myself why I began painting in the first place: to enjoy the process itself. I think of my two-and-half year old daughter who happens to love to draw and paint. She has no fears of sales or galleries or success. She just likes the colors and sticking a brush in them. That is what I want.
I am a very self-driven and motivated person and want to be conscious of my endeavors at all times. If you’re like me, I hope you too will fight the temptation to live a life of chasing.
So, for now at least, I am grateful, and I’ll try my very best to hold on to it.
Let me know in the comment section below how you've dealt with a similar issue.
P.S. I recently put some new work up for sale, you can check them out here: https://www.turnervinson.com/available-paintings
Check out Anton's work at www.AntonPavlenko.com
After Anton and I snapped out of dreamy afternoon discussing life and art, we got back to painting. We did another couple of paintings from the same location and ended the day with Anton stabbing a hole through my largest canvas. He say's it was an accident but I'm still skeptical. Listen to him tell the story on Sergio Lopez's "Waiting to Dry" podcast! That part start about minute 25:30. http://www.waitingtodry.com/2018/08/14/31-za-vue-anton-pavlenko-blue-ribbons-burn-the-cleanest/
In 2010 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Stephen F. Austin State University. In 2011 my wife, Teysha, started graduate school at Boise State University while I undertook a two year oil painting apprenticeship. 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.