This isn’t a story about art, it’s about life.
My father, Bill Border, started his life as an artist around the age of 7 or 8 with simple pencil and a legal pad from his dad’s office. When you ask him why he sketches and paints, he responds that he is “simply driven to create.” Growing up as his daughter, I know this to be an honest answer.
Driven to Create
Not only did I watch my father illustrate biology textbooks and interpretive panels until late at night, painting on the weekends, but I also watched him create in all other aspects of his life. He cared for our mountain home just as if the property belonged on a canvas.
Every brick on our patio he laid to perfection in a perfectly leveled bed of sand. The bricks alternating direction to create a pleasant quilted pattern. As a kid, my parents paid me a penny per weed to keep this masterpiece clean and sully free.
If my mom or I left a grocery list or note on the kitchen table, we returned to find it illustrated with a comical character and an appropriately goofy message. Or sometimes he imitated our handwriting so perfectly, that we didn’t realize he’d added “56 sardines” after the milk and bread on our list.
My grandmother collected smooth rocks, which she kept in a planter in the corner of her living room. Periodically, they’d appear perfectly painted, a little grey mouse or a bunny with whiskers, peaking out of the greenery.
Make your bed.
A video traversed the web a few weeks ago profiling a graduation speech by a respected general. Start the day by making your bed, and you will have already accomplished one task.
“Make your bed” is also my father’s mantra and perhaps alongside his drive to create, the second indicator of his lifetime success as an artist.
Each night, my father prepares a to-do list on a small yellow legal pad. He preps his coffee machine with fresh water and coffee grounds. And he goes to bed.
In the morning, the very first thing he does is make his bed. If you knock on his door even a few minutes after he wakes up, you’ll never know he slept the night before. The bed in the corner of his room already made with military precision.
Before he gets in the shower, he lays out his uniform for the day. The outer layer will vary depending on his plans, but the underlayer never changes. Each morning he selects from his dresser drawer, a neatly folded white crew neck tagless undershirt, white boxers, and white socks, rolled up military style.
During my early childhood, my dad laid these items out on his bed, before he got in the shower. During my late teenage years, a feisty Himalayan cat named Thani joined our family. My dad adored the cat. The cat loved stealing my dad’s socks, while he was in the shower.
Ultimately, my dad had to relocate his socks to the top of his dresser. A few years ago he confided in me that he is such a creature of habit that even though Thani passed over the rainbow bridge a decade ago, he continues to lay out his socks up high on the corner of his dresser.
Practice Makes Progress
My dad is now 84. Except for the past few years of his life in which he has, unfortunately, had to spend a few nights here and there in the hospital, my dad has created art every day of his life. As his daughter, I can recognize his brush stroke in an instance, but I am continually surprised by the works that come out of his studio.
Recently I heard a rephrasing of the old idiom “practice makes perfect.” The new idiom is “practice makes progress.” I think my dad is the epitome of this philosophy. The act of painting is never to create perfection, but rather as my dad says, “to capture a fleeting moment in time, realistically frozen or perhaps an abstracted essence that flows eternally.”
Whatever you want to be or do, don’t strive for perfection, strive for progress. Work on it every day that you can. And you will arrive.