I have been thinking about the widely held idea that good art can only come from deep pain and I have rebelled against this idea since I heard it but it keeps coming back when I create a particularly moving piece. Not necessarily moving to me but when people see those pieces somehow the depth of what I have gone through comes across to them. The pain and the joy, always so closely linked.
I don’t paint gruesome scenes or people in pain. I have never liked the idea of shining the spotlight of art on those things. I want my art to be an encouragement. Something that helps us keeps going. Aspirational. Do we live in the world my work represents, most likely not. But you’ve probably had one or two or maybe many of those fleeting moments that my work tries to capture.
I am working on a painting of a boy riding on his Dads shoulders. Recently loosing my Dad has been earth shaking. He was one of my best friends, he never wanted me to change, he accepted who I was and I could always count on him. When I think back to my years as a child one of my favorite memories was riding piggyback on his shoulders in the swimming pool. Did these times happen often? No, they were rare. We had a pool at our house when I was in high school but those years of piggybacks were long gone. It was when I was a boy. I loved grabbing big chunks of his thick brown hair and holding them like horsey reins and most of the time he played along. Yet the most powerful sensation was when I was on his back with my little arms doing their best to wrap around his strong neck and him swimming. The feeling I remember was of my Dad being in complete control and that nothing bad was going to happen to me. Life, the pool, things our there were dangerous, but I was safe. That is the kind of thing I want to freeze in time with my art. My Dad had a rough childhood and most of his parenting came from not doing it the way his folks did, and he worked hard at it. We didn’t have a perfect relationship; in fact I didn’t really know him until we had more in common as adults.
Some of my other paintings are intimate. A Sunday morning, the sun poking through the curtains and laying around in the covers together before facing the day. The few minuets of warmth before all the responsibilities come rushing back and move us through another day. Some people don’t have those times anymore and the pain of loss is almost constant and yet some do and it is good to remember them to keep pushing through the chaos and complexity of our relationships so we can have more of those sweet times.
Maybe my work is like markers along the road of life. I don’t know about you but when something goes really right, I want to stop, pitch a tent and stay right there where it happened. Throw away my phone, forget my responsibilities, just be right there and make that piece of time last forever. But how many times have you been having a heart to heart conversation or locked in a warm embrace…and the phone rings, or the kids rush in your bedroom, or your coworker comes in your office and you have to hang up on that call where things were finally working out. If you are like me, they happen ALL THE TIME, and the moment seems lost forever. But isn’t it good to know the person on the other end of the phone isn’t going anywhere? That the one you love will be by your side on the couch tonight or in bed at the end of another long day or that your child will have another accomplishment that you get to be a part of and you shoot your fists toward the sky and yell, “That’s my kid!!!”
I try to grab those times and make a painting of them. Write about them. Freeze them in time or bring them back up in our souls to keep us going a little longer. Give us enough energy to say we’re are sorry and try again with the ones we love. To do the hard, thankless job of parenting kids who need some much and give back so little. These are the real jobs in our lives and I want to give you a boost along the way to keep at them. That is what I want my art to do.