I spotted this stork nest yesterday and now I know why.
Because this giant nest built on top of a big chimney top reminds me of how mothers build context for children to feel safe and loved. Today is mothers day and it causes me to reflect on motherhood. I had two mothers. Athea my birth mother who died when I was nine. And Roberta who my father married two years later. I’m fortunate to have had this experience of two very different mothers. These two mothers taught me the twin hard lessons of how to recover from deep loss and how to adapt to big life changes.
Partnering with the mother of my children rewrote my internal software.
Creating a home with the mother of my children for twenty five years did a lot to shape me into the person I am today. Brenda helped me to understand what it means to take care of children not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. I am grateful for this experience because it made my life richer. After divorce our relationship has certainly been redefined but it’s also true that a new kind of partnership continues as our children move on with their own lives.
I have had so many mothers.
Perhaps the truth is that I have had more mother’s then I can count because of all the women who have been in my life over the past 59 years who in one way or another stepped into that role. I had a great babysitter in Mrs. Graff when I was five years old. Her house was the last one on her street and where the street ended a large hardwood forest began. We often when for walks in the afternoon and I always found lots of cool leaves, acorns and sticks to bring home with me as souvenirs of these little excursions. Those times with Mrs Graff were just what I needed when my own mother couldn’t be with me and she gave me something my own mother would not have been able to.
Getting Lost is welded together with getting Found.
I have just arrived here in Germany for a four week visit. This is my third extended stay since I first came July 31st last year. It’s two thirty in the morning in a timezone six hours ahead and I feel lost, alone and vulnerable and tho I don’t like this feeling I choose to embrace it. I embrace lostness because I know that it proceeds foundness and I love getting found!
Growth happens when we leave our comfort-zone.
Coming to Germany has lead me into expedited personal growth because it brings with it some many personal struggles that are mixed in with delightful cultural experiences. The strange language, the off kilter six hour time change, the high cost of air travel, creating a studio on the move… all of these challenges and many more are pushing me past what feels comfortable and stretch me into a larger version of myself.
I choose to be a cultural influencer and If I am to make this a reality I simply must continue to go beyond what I know.
When you are cast adrift into situations that leave you feeling lost and ill equipped you are forced to do whatever you must in order to get back on track and find your way through. I am convinced that purposefully putting myself into this kind of context over and over again is enabling with me a deeper sense of who I am and why I am here. With this stronger self image I care less and less what people may think of me an when this is the case I find all kinds of wonderful new opportunities presenting themselves. A lot of really cool shit is happening in my life these days y’all.
When Orville and Wilbur Wright were seen as crazy by many people before their weird machine took off to change the world forever.
The fact that no one building internal combustion engines would sell them the power plant they needed didn’t stop them. They just figured it out and built their own. I love this story because it reminds me of their tenacity and dogged determination and for the way it stirs these very qualities within myself on a long dark night when I feel lost and not yet found.
My first exhibition in Germany will be in Landshut which is a charming medieval city very close to Munich. I spent three months last year and three weeks this past February drawing and painting in this city. People have asked my why I didn’t travel to more places while I was in Europe. My answer was that I wanted to stay focused and dig deep in one place. This is exactly what I have done with Landshut and it has now paid off with this upcoming exhibit.
The exhibition will be in the Röcklturm (Tower) which has three floors available to display art. It is actually part of the remaining wall that once surrounded the entire city as a form of protection from invaders. The Röckiturm was built to give soldiers a defensive advantage. Speaking of towers, Landshut also has the largest brick tower in the world with Saint Martin’s Church right at the center of the old city proper which took 100 years to build finished in 1500. The Literary Cafe is on the first floor and provides a great built in . flow of traffic to the exhibition space above.
Working with Claudia Spegele
I met Claudia last September when I was painting on the edge of the forest in her village of Vilsheim. We became quick friends and the more. Claudia is working along with me to develop this exhibition in the Röckiturm this summer. She is German and speaks excellent German and English and is connected to a good network of friends in the area. This exhibition would not even be happening without her help which I am very thankful for.
Have me make you a painting
The above painting was done for my friend Sam who lives in Grand Rapids Michigan. I was commissioned to create six paintings for people back home. This was a nice way to both help cover my expenses and export Bavarian culture back home. If you would like to participate like Sam go here and pick out the option that suits you. Join Claudia and I and lets do this together!
Ambiguity is the nest where creative thoughts emerge.
I enjoy looking at the art of Rick Stevens because there is the sense that as I parse through the ambiguity I know I’m gonna learn something. When you are looking at something that could be one thing as well as another, you have just entered a liminal space. It is these in-between spaces where life emerges. Think of that the edge of the pond where the frogs lie in wait to snatch a fly out mid air, these “edge of the pond” areas in our lives are where you want to dwell.
The forest is calling
The natural world is where we come from and must often return.
Rick Steves paintings are testimony of an artist who has a lifelong love affair with the natural world. His time spent in nature sensitively absorbing color and sounds and patterns have allowed him a huge visual vocabulary when he is developing his next painting. He may be working in the studio and not out in the woods but it is all there with him while he works and his paintings bare witness to this.
Rick at his easel
Rick Stevens is one of the most disciplined and tireless workers I know of all my artist friends.
I met Rick 34 years ago when he was just finishing up his art school days and had attached himself to a local artist who he admired and was learning from at the time. All the way back then Rick’s work ethic was evident in the way he was single mindedly pursuing his dream of becoming the best painter he could be. It is a pure pleasure to see how he has so beautifully bloomed over the past three decades which is a testimony to everyone to hold on to your dream like a pit bull and work your ass off like a boxer training for his big fight every day!
Sailor and the Mermaid, Love will find a way watercolor drawing BUY NOW!
Why is it that the best things are also the hardest things?
I began a love relationship with a wonderful woman who lives in Germany late September of 2018. I was there for three months and then she came for a week in December. I went back in February for three weeks and now have booked a flight for a one month stay all of May. This relationship has been so rich and rewarding but it also represents a great challenge.
We can do so much more than we realize.
I remember hearing the analogy of the flight component in an airplane that warns the pilot if he flys too high. The speaker was telling us that we had a sort of inner gage inside of us that warned us when we were going too far, trying too hard. the problem is that our gage is set way too low and we can “fly” in our lives much higher than we think we can.
Sailor and the Mermaid, Love will find a way watercolor print BUY NOW
Press into what feels impossible and surprise yourself.
I am writing this blog from the living room of Carter Foster’s home in Austin Texas. It was just six years ago that Carter came to my home town of Grand Rapids Michigan when he was still a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. I crashed a private party I wasn’t invited to in hopes of meeting him. Six years later I am doing a two week artist residency in his home here in Austin. Go take a leap doing something that scares you and see how good it feels once you’ve taken that first step.
I have five daughters and this has informed me towards the birth of a New Feminism.
My daughter who is now 19 years old is not a her or a she but a they. This is by her choice which is a challenge to my understanding of gender definition. I respect her decision to be a they and at the same time I feel an inner tension as I am being stretched beyond my outdated understanding of what a girl is.
I was born in 1960 and times have been a changing.
I know things are changing and I want to allow myself to change with them. I don’t want to be the generation left behind with a musty riged understanding that holds me back from embracing an important revolution poised to open up a richer, freeer experience of what it means to be human.
I grew up within a very traditional fundamentalist suburban culture that created a strict boundary around what was good and what was evil. There was very little. Everything was painted black and white like the moving picture on our old TV set with the rabbit ear antenna outfitted with tinfoil. I have had to fight myself free from this rigged and narrow way of seeing the world and. The fight for my freedom has cost me dearly but it has been more than worth it.
I don’t claim to understand the New Feminism but that doesn’t hold me back from embracing it.
I see the female characters in Game of Thrones as harbingers of a new way of understanding what it means to have a vagina. This is exciting for there freedom is connected to my own freedom. We all either rise together or go down together whether we completely understand each other or not.
I am on my third day in Austin for a artist residency with Carter Foster. Carter is a curator at the Blanton Art Museum here in the city. He invited me to come last year and together we worked out the details. I left Michigan with it’s snow and ice and later that day I was in 70 degrees watching butterflies visiting flowers.
How do we learn?
I am convinced that in order to continue to learn we need to continue to step outside of what we know. To keep growing we must put ourselves into new environments that challenge the way we think and possible even upsets our typical routines.
Bacon, Eggs and Lettuce?
My host does not eat bread. No bread in the house. Yesterday I was cooking up some breakfast for myself and half way into the process I realized I would not have a piece of toast to drag through my egg yoke. Dang! So I did what artists do, I improvised and instead of toast I added some of yesterday’s lettuce to my breakfast plate and in doing so discovered that eggs and bacon go very nicely with lettuce.
Back to Germany
I have booked my flight back to Bavaria for April 28th. I will be there for a full month. During this time if you would like a piece of art made for you I would love to do just that. My last three week stay I made six small 11x14 inch plein-air oil sketches of Bavarian street scenes for people back home in Grand Rapids. It was such a nice way to export some of this European culture back to my hometown. Please click here and enter into this wonderful cultural exchange.
I have just finished the above portrait commission and it was such a wonderful experience all around. It was really fun to get to know this family through the process of making the painting. I feel like I did an important service for this family in capturing their boys in a time they will soon pass through. The making of this painting became an important event for the family, one I suspect they will never forget.
Having a portrait painted is both archaic and totally cutting edge at the same time
Having a portrait painted is in some ways like stepping back in time. When you have a photo taken it is over quite quickly but painting a portrait takes me about three weeks to complete and includes one or two drawing sessions. This gives me an opportunity to get to know the person I am painting which is an important part of the process.
The cost of a 20x24 inch painting is $1000.00
This may seem expensive at first but you must remember that this is an investment. Art does not depreciate in value like most everything else you spend your money on. Art also makes our homes and place of business more beautiful and more livable.
Contact me today to explore having your loved ones turned into a painting.
I have had two recent tours of Bavaria to paint, draw and get to know the people and their culture. The refugee situation remains a very hot topic.
The refugee situation is Germany right now is so huge and complex that it can seem completely overwhelming. I want to make a difference this time when I go back and I have decided to give $1,250.00 (25% of my crowdfunding goal) to Bethany Christian Services, a non profit in my hometown of Grand Rapids Michigan that has a longstanding successful program working to help refugees around the world make transitions into stable new homes. This will be my small way to help.
Painting and drawing is my way to learn about a different culture.
This will be my third time going to Germany to paint and draw and I am really excited to be able to return again to what is coming to feel like a second home. I have done a lot of work plein-air which is a artsy word for painting what you see right out in the open where anyone can see you and talk to you if they have the desire to. The performer-extrovert in me loves this opportunity to meet new people but it is also a very effective way to become immersed into a new culture and learn a lot very quickly.
Please join my GoFundMe team with your donation.
This is a project I simply will not be able to do well on my own. I am offering you this opportunity to join me in this great adventure of making art and building a cultural exchange between Germany and the United States and also bring real help to some of the worlds most vulnerable by coming alongside Bethany Christian Services as they continue their very important work with refugees.
I ask myself this often being an artist who would like to live long enough to enjoy my grandchildren. I walked out of the recent makeover of A Star is Born feeling crummy. I said to my date, “Do we really need to keep telling this same story over and over again: the young tortured artist who blows himself to kingdom come with his self-destructive lifestyle?”
Living your life on the border that separates the seen from the unseen world can take its toll on you.
Borders are sometimes dangerous and the border between the seen and the unseen world maybe very dangerous. As artists we cultivate an unusual keen sensitivity to our environment. We raise our sails and tack with the wind of inspiration letting it takes us where ever it is going. We ride waves of excitement with new projects and sometimes crash when our projects fall to pieces.
We need to build supportive communities around us.
I have just recently entered into a very challenging time of my life as an artist when one of my top clients pulled the plug on their support. The first day I felt like I had fallen through a trapdoor. I was frightened by the sudden financial unknowns in my future. That very day I began to reach into my community of support and as soon as I did this I began to be able to put together a plan of action which came together over the next several days. Having just had this experience reminds me of how important it is for us to continue cultivating our community. We can not do this alone. We need REAL friends.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga broke our hearts with this movie and the song Shallow.
I left the theater upset that night but over time I began to appreciate the telling of this tragic love story as a cautionary tale. Make great art, fall in love and gather friends around you so when you have to deal with your shit you can have plenty of help. We can not do this alone.
I am making prints available of some of my older more popular paintings. I am working with a local print shop to create good quality prints on a good heavy stock paper. I am signing and numbering these prints. They are only $25. I am excited to make these prints available at a low cost so more people who would like to own one of my paintings but can’t afford them can now have a nice quality print suitable for framing.
This painting I did ten years ago now titled Hummingbird Girl measured only 8x10 inches. The painting started with this wonderful old dress from the 1960s that somehow made its way into the girls dress up box. One day my oldest daughter Rose was wearing it and I just knew I had to make a painting of her with it on.
Five girls and one boy and over the years they have been a huge part of my art making. I did not go off to work and the children did not go to school. We remained pretty much all together throughout the day. I mean we were on the property but off doing our own things and then coming together for our meals. It was a wonderful way for us to be a family for a long time and we really got to know each other in a way that was never possible for me when I was a child and did not see my father much because he spent his days at the office except on the weekends of course.
Now that the children are older things have changed.
The kids got to the point where they got kind of tired of posing for me and were beginning to push out and create their own lives. Also my wife and I ended our marriage a year and a half ago and I moved out to my own work-live studio downtown. So when I sort through these artworks from these earlier times when our children were younger and we all lived together there are bittersweet pangs in my heart for a time that has passed by. I liked what we had then and I like what we have now. Life is always shifting and changing and I want to remain present to what my life is now and appreciate it and live into is with a fully awakened consciousness.
I came across this drawing recently and today made it available in my etsy shop. Just looking at this image with the old victrola which was already long obsolete when I did the drawing but the boom box and the landline were not. I am turning 59 years old this Spring and it is amazing the changes that I have lived through already in my short life.
I am really grateful for how my children have been really helpful in keeping me abreast on what is bubbling up in the culture. I have done my best to fight that impulse to see look down on what the kids are into because I know that young people have a special ability to keep in touch with the pulse of the new and maybe important next development.
This quote from Julia Cameron says so beautifully what I have been experiencing my entire life, a constant shifting and changing. I am in a season of trial right now in my life which is causing me to do a lot of extra introspection. I am taking long walks, spending a lot of time alone writing and reading and trying to bring my life into order. I know that I have made a lot of mistakes and I have created a lot of messes in my life that stem from this quicksilver shape-shifting Cameron is describing in this passage.
Earlier today I was attempting to organize my flat files that hold my prints and drawings. It was so difficult because some of these works go back now thirty years and I have tried on all different kinds of styles and subject matter which makes organizing this inventory very difficult and time consuming. But difficult or not I simply must press on because I can not allow chaos to just have its way.
I went to church this morning. The church I go to has a large amount of elderly people. A big pip organ and definitely no drum kit! This is the kind of church where most of these men are wearing a suit and a tie. I was wearing black jeans, a t-shirt and a vintage black leather jacket this morning. I like the contrast of going to a church where things feel like they haven’t changed much since the 1940’s because I find it a good foil to my mutability. That community cautious of change somehow helps me to strike a better balance in my life.
I have a new mantra this year. Every hardship is an opportunity. I found an image of the Chicago fire for this blog because it was a extreme hardship that leveled this great city and allowed it to be rebuilt to a tremendous new standard that now has some of the most beautiful buildings of any modern city in the world. I also chose the Chicago fire because I am writing this blog at Union Station in Chicago tonight waiting on the Pier Marquette train that will take me back to Grand Rapids Michigan the last leg of my long journey home from Munich Germany. I had an amazing time in painting in the streets of the medieval city of Landshut. I met cool people and my luggage contains six paintings that are going to friends that paid $200 to have a painting done in Bavaria. All this is really cool but also last Tuesday, in the last week of my three week tour, I found out some news that at another time in my life I would have said it was “bad news”. Now I am calling it a great opportunity to grow. A hardship yes, bad no!
I think that how we choose to frame life situations makes all the difference in the world. When I was ten my mother died in her sleep. One day I had a mother and the next day I didn’t. This has become a powerful reference point in my life because I can look back and see so many really important good things that came into my life because of this tragic alteration in my early life. I once again remind myself of this tonight as I begin to work through what is sure to be on more powerful transformation in my life and my artistic practice.