My newest studio was built in 2006 and is an inspiring space situated in a natural setting. It is located along the Front Range of Colorado at an altitude of about 7300 feet. My original studio at this location was the original garage of the house located to the left and out of the frame beyond the current garage. I started the way most artists’ start; i.e., with a commandeered space under the stairs, a corner of the laundry area, and some borrowed tools. It is difficult to see progress day to day. But looking back, I am left speechless by a sweeping vista of change.
I always knew that I would be an artist. I remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up”? From the 4th grade on I remember always answering: “I will be an artist”. I answered with the intention of being a painter, because that was my concept of what an artist is. That changed as I learned that there were more possibilities.
I was raised on a farm near the Flint Hills in Kansas and educated by a very small rural school district. By small, I mean that I graduated 12th grade as one of 22 enrolled in the 4-year high school. Needless to say, with a total of five teachers, the class sizes tended to be small by current standards. Each student received all of the individualized instruction necessary. But art was not among the offerings in the curriculum, irregardless of how fervently I lobbied for its inclusion. Formal art studies would need to wait until after graduation. This small school was large enough to field basketball and baseball teams, but not football. All in all, I moved on without much regret.
I took my meager portfolio to an application interview for admittance into the Kansas City Art Institute and was accepted. I was not surprised at the time but probably should have been. It simply has never occurred to me that I might need a Plan B.
My parents, on the other hand, couldn’t see any possible way that this path that I had chosen would work out. To their credit they did allow me to choose the route and also helped with costs, as parents often do, but the seeds of their doubt finally took root. I transferred to Emporia Kansas State University to get teaching certification in art so that I could, in my father’s words, “get a job and feed myself”, upon graduation.
I taught art in public schools in Kansas and Colorado for 11 years. But somewhere about the 7th year of this stint I realized that I was not fulfilling the reason that I went to art school. I thought long and hard about what it would be like to retire as a classroom teacher without having lived my dream. I was not at peace with the thought. I was compelled to begin working in earnest on my art skills when possible.
Long before my 11th and last year of teaching I had tenure, which meant a nearly guaranteed income for life, unless of course, I somehow would manage to really screw up. I also was married to a wonderful and supportive woman. Together we had two small children, a mortgage, and all of the responsibilities that come with adulthood. Together we reached out and cut that “Umbilical Cord”, and together we embarked upon the Great Art Adventure.
We have always believed that we should work hard and play hard. And so we do. In my art, I explore a philosophical and spiritual approach to life. In leisure time when we are in Colorado, we ski, hike, and ride bicycles, depending upon the season. We are also beginning to spend more and more time in Mexico. There we fish, swim, relax, and volunteer. Occasionally I have taught art in a local school. I love to accompany local subsistence fishermen friends out into the Pacific on a panga and see what we can catch. We helped bring Engineers Without Borders to a nearby village and solve a nagging community water problem. Currently we are helping local women find markets in the US for some of the things they sew. We don’t know exactly where this life is headed in either the art or leisure front, but it continues to be one fantastic ride.