Who am I is perhaps the toughest question an artist, or any person for that matter, might ask themselves. How did I become the person/artist I am today? I’m one of the fortunate ones who grew up in a happy home with loving parents who gave me full support in my efforts towards becoming an artist. I was encouraged to follow the creative path partly because both of my parents exhibited their own brand of creativity when I was young.
My Dad liked photography and could take a good picture. From the photos I have seen, he was very interested in composition. He would talk to me about how to frame a landscape with leaves or trees in the foreground to give the image depth. He was all about the drama in a shot! I recall one image of my older brother standing in the sunlight of a room with strong, deep shadows crossing his body and face creating a mysterious narrative. Later, I discovered a similar effect in the paintings of Andrew Wyeth.
Dad was very proud of an article he wrote about a hunting trip he had taken with friends to Colorado. To this day, I’m also proud of that article and the fact that he put himself “out there” for others to read and see. Just as a side note, he played a mean “boogie-woogie” on the piano, too. He had a lot of music training and a great love of “big band swing” when he was young but playing music drifted away after the war years.
Mom, on the other hand, likes to write poetry. The words and rhymes seem to come to her with great ease in the oddest of times and situations. I guess you could say she is the poet laureate of the family. I’ve never known a time when she didn’t write poetry. Many times she called me with a poem she had written when she couldn’t sleep the night before. I feel her writing gives her a sense of pride and purpose. It’s also an integral part of my creative history.
Like any artist, she writes about topics that hold sentimental meaning for her. Her themes are simple with casual rhymes without the baggage of formal structure. Her friends and family are always ripe with stories and events that inspire her poems. She is in the process of transcribing her poems into a handwritten volume as a family heirloom.
Our family didn’t travel to world-class museums to see great works of art. Those types of opportunities were not possible. My first exposure to great art was in college in the 60s and that was in textbooks. I didn’t visit an important museum until the early 70s while in the army in Germany. I am the sum of my experiences.
My work isn’t the result of any great emotional or psychological pain I experienced growing up. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m not suggesting I didn’t experience some version of adolescent or teenage angst growing up, but with the type of life my parents provided—encouragement in a safe environment—I have been able to pursue a lifelong career of art making.
And like I say, I’m just tryin’ to make small talk.