I've been thinking about life in general recently.
Eldercare isn't easy. For me, though, it hasn't been horrible either.
I've been able to spend more time with my father in the last two years than I have since I left high school.
Its prompted me to think about things while I still can.
How will I approach that time when I might seem okay on the outside but the gears aren't really meshing under the hood. I really don't know. All I can control is how I live now.
My dad has a 30 years' head start on me, so, hopefully, I have about thirty years. I think reaching the age of 90 would be excellent.
I saw this the other day.
According to the 2012 article, Top Five Regrets Of The Dying, in The Guardian,when people come to the end of life their biggest regrets are, and I quote:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I'm determined to not have those regrets when the clutch starts slipping and the pistons start misfiring.
How do I accomplish that? How do I counter those things most people regret? Countermeasures baby! I have a choice.
That's my list. Those are my countermeasures. It sounds like great ammunition to me.
And - I'll make it fun! Shouldn't it all be fun?
I will make what I make and do what I do the best way I can and I promise not to take myself too seriously.
I'll keep on creating till I get to the end of this journey so I can "... skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
When I see you on the road or on the other side, I hope you’ll have no regrets.
Until then, I wish you peace.
I was in Barnes & Noble the other day, and I bought a book. Yes, it was an honest-to-goodness book. It had real ink and real paper and occupied real space.
Nowadays, I almost exclusively buy e-books. Every so often, though, I love rummaging through the shelves in a real bookstore. Holding a physical book in my hands makes me happy.
What convinced me to switch over to e-books?
I switched over to e-books when I was moving from Phoenix back to Dayton about eight years ago. Our shipping bill doubled from when we moved to Phoenix only two years earlier. Surely the shipping company was ripping us off. Someone was taking advantage of me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. How in the world could that have happened? Did we get new heavy furniture? Did we buy some extra lead flashing? Did I pack the limoncello? Were we shipping stuff that wasn't ours? Did our neighbors sneak some of their stuff in the truck?
I had to scratch my head. Then it finally hit me.
What caused the big jump in shipping costs? I had to put it down to the books we bought over the previous two years. We had bought tons of books. Okay, maybe not tons, but a lot of books.
Why was I paying to ship something I might never use again? I could donate the books and save shipping costs. Then, I could buy new books on the other end. It would have been a net win.
But, it is so difficult to get rid of books. You have time, money, laughter and tears invested in them. When you read them, they become a part of you. If you give them up, it's like giving up a piece of yourself. Would you want to lop off even a finger or a toe?
It was then that I decided I would only buy e-books. There are advantages to owning e-books. Like:
So, I've made the switch. I'll stick with e-books for most things, but when I need indulge my emotional attachment to paper and ink, I reserve the right to head down to the bookstore to entertain my tactile nature.
Like life, I am full of caveats.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Just like any other American family, when I was a kid, we'd go to amusement parks.
On some random weekend or other, we'd pack the car up and head out for a day of magical fun and adventure.
Though mom was keen, I think dad would have rather been mowing the lawn, vacuuming the carpet, doing dishes, or sticking needles in his eyes.
I can see them now, waving excitedly, as I stepped on the roller coaster, the tilt-o-whirl, the spinning teacups or any other medieval torture device. Were they out to kill me?!?! I don't think so, but I'm sure it crossed their minds a few times when I was a teenager.
Just think of it - death by teacup.
Amusement park rides and I have never played well together. I dread long lines. I hate carnival food and, of course, who can properly describe the overwhelming joy of expelling, at velocity, carnival food you didn't even like traveling in the other direction.
I'm sure heredity has nothing to do with it either. I think my brother loved all that stuff. Dad was in the Canadian Navy and spent five years at sea. Mom could probably sleep upside down on a train moving at the speed of light. She could sleep anywhere.
Me, I got the seasick gene.
Going to fairs and festivals isn't horrible. I like going for the music, the spectacle, the camaraderie. I can even enjoy them as long as I'm not asked to get on some spinning whirling rickety nausea-inducing death trap.
I used to go to fairs and such because I wanted to be with my friends. My so-called friends, however, always intended to get me on some spinny thing. They'd goad me or somehow coerce me into getting on a ride.
Sometimes I'd give in. Maybe, it was the excitement. Maybe, I wanted the same experience my friends had. Maybe, I didn't want to be left out. I don't know why. It could have been a combination of all those things.
When I did get on the ride, I'd remember why I didn't like them. First, there would be that flush feeling. Then, the color would drain from my face. That pallor would soon be replaced, in due course, by a lovely shade of green.
I learned much later in life that it's okay to say yes, but it's okay to say no too. It takes some of us a bit longer than others to catch on.
Now, I don't go on those kinds of rides anymore. I can admire them from afar but I don't go on them.
While at San Diego State, millennia ago, I knew a guy who followed this principle to the letter. If you asked him if he wanted to do something his answer was either yes or no. There was no equivocation. If you thought there might be some explanation coming, you'd be wrong. I admired him for that.
It took me a lot longer to put that lesson into practice.
You can say no politely. You can offer an explanation if you'd like but you don't have to.
No is often the best answer.
The next time somebody asks you to jump off a bridge, you can say no. I know I will.
This week's painting was done a while ago. It hangs in our house and I see it every day. It's a bit creepy but I like it very much.
Until the next bridge comes,
I wish you peace.
Some people like to multi-task, but me, I like to take it one step at a time.
I learned the value of concentrating on one thing at a time playing golf.
When my brother and I were teenagers on summer break, a little to old for babysitters and a little too young to be left to our own devices or to create new vices, dad would sometimes drop us off at the golf course on his way to work and pick us up on the way home.
I suppose it kept us out of trouble most days. We spent lots of time on the golf course. It's a good thing we liked it.
I learned a few things on the golf course like how projecting into the future can be a bad thing sometimes. Most great golfers will say they visualize their shots before they even step up to the ball. They pull from their experience to project into the future.
The problem is that I had a lot of experience hitting bad shots. So I'd visualize everything that could go wrong and didn't pay enough attention to what could go right.
Negative forecasting is a bad habit to get into.
My projections really worked against me. I'd get all flustered and nervous and nothing would seem to work. I'd become my own worst enemy.
If you spend too much time thinking your ball is careening off a pine tree into no-mans land it will happen. I've been told that trees are 90% air but somehow my golf ball never got that memo.
I learned to take my mind off the bad stuff by focusing on keeping my head down, keeping my eye on the ball, and following through. That's it. It's what they call "swing thoughts". Yup, it's a real thing.
Swing thoughts, for me, exist to block out the negative so I can concentrate fully on what's happening now. I think they might call it mindfulness today.
It's the same thing when I sit down at the easel. It always goes better when I concentrate on what I'm doing right now rather than worrying about the results. I think about applying each brush stroke, paying attention to the brush as it hits the canvas, and focusing on what happens as the colors come together.
If I stick with doing one thing at a time, most of the time I get a pretty good result and the experience is much better too.
I just show up and paint.
BTW- I did show up and I did do some painting this week.
I have included a little video of my brush hitting the canvas. I hope you enjoy.
Until next week - I'll keep painting and ... you ... well ...
I wish you peace.
The last couple of weeks have been busy. Very busy. I was running around like a chihuahua chasing its tail. To paraphrase the Duke of Edinburgh, I've ..."been running around like a blue-arsed-fly."
I say that right up front because I feel a bit guilty for not publishing a blog or the newsletter last week. I've always known consistency is important but it home last week.
That is the concept. You show up consistently without fail. Well, last week I failed.
Because I was so busy with everything I let the newsletter slide. I let it get away from me. I gave myself permission to give this one a pass. I thought nobody will notice. I thought nobody will really care.
I was wrong. I got a stream of emails asking if I was okay and asking where I went. One emailer even demanded, "where’s my little artsy newsletter!?" - you know who you are!
Conclusion - If you say you're going to publish every week, by gum you should publish every week.
Big publishers don't miss an edition. Professional publishers don't give themselves a pass. I couldn't imagine National Geographic, Scientific American, or the New Yorker would miss an edition.
Though I'm not a big publisher, I do consider myself a professional.
The three keys to professional success, as I learned them from a salty ole Gunny, are:
1. Show up on time
2. Be in the right uniform
3. Do the job.
Passion is great but you need consistency to get things done.
Show up on time and do the work. The uniform is optional for me today.
I'm moving on. Fall down, get up, move forward.
Oh yeah - My drawing this week is a cardinal, it's the state bird of Ohio. I've been thinking of seeing my friends next month in Ohio. I hope I see a cardinal there and I hope I see you there too. If you live in Ohio that is.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
It's a gamble when you start a drawing. What you want to be a masterpiece could end up in the bin. The result could lead to endless sobbing in your pillow - or - it could actually turn out okay. It's a risk. There was no sobbing or gnashing of teeth involved in the making of this drawing.
As in all things, there are ways you can keep from whimpering like a child who's lost his toy.
Practice the basics. It might sound trite but I really believe it's true.
This is why.
Long ago and far away, when I was growing up, my family was very sporty. I'm pretty sure my parents used sports as a pseudo babysitter.
Our days were filled with ice hockey, football, baseball, golf, basketball, and I even had a stint as a boxer. I was okay at most sports. Not great but okay. I have to admit that as a boxer I got pummeled more times than I care to remember. Come to think of it, that might explain a few things.
We played lots of sports but our drug of choice was ice hockey. I could have called it hockey but hockey, to some people, means a game played with an upside down shillelagh on a soft grass pitch.
I'm talking about ice hockey. The hockey that has pucks, blades, sticks and missing teeth. It's a hostile game of speed, skill, and brute force. It's gang warfare splayed out on a sheet of ice.
Originally from Quebec, our family has huge gnarly chunks of St. Lawrence River ice cutting through our veins. I'm sure you'll find it in our DNA somewhere.
I can still smell the locker room, feel the ruts in the ice, and see the steam rising off my uniform. I loved the game but I never really liked that nudge at five in the morning, and yes we played at 5 in the morning.
In every sport, a player knows they have to practice the basics endlessly to get good. Here are just a few:
If you want to get better at art, practicing the basics is essential too. You have to study:
This week, I'm getting back to basics - just because.
In this drawing, I was practicing the fundamental elements of drawing: composition, shape, form, and contrast. The basics of producing an interesting image.
If one thing is off, the whole thing can look horrible. Unless, of course, you're Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso.
This bird made it in my sketchbook this week.
I hope you enjoy it.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
"The early bird gets the worm" or at least that's what I've been told all my life but I think this morning was pushing things a bit.
At 4 am in the morning on Tuesday I was doing what most peoples do. The insides of my eyelids were getting a thorough inspection.
While I was enjoying my very own oneness with the universe, I heard a mind piercing chirp. It was either the loudest bird I've ever heard or it might have been the loudest, highest-pitched gunfire anywhere in the known universe. That little chirp at oh dark thirty had me perched upright in about 0.00001seconds flat.
It turns out the battery in the fire alarm had just gone out of commission and the alarm was warning me that it might be time for a new one. Note to the manufacturer: Please use a nice soothing Siri or Alexa type voice or better yet HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey. "Scott, your alarm needs a new battery." I can hear it now.
As it happens that little helpful chirp had enough adrenaline pumping through my veins to lift a 2-ton truck off a mother and child and do a great impression of Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. Okay, hyperbole for sure, but how the heck does a body recover from that. Even the sun has more sense than to get up that early.
I was dog tired but sleep wasn't ready to do me any favors.
I guess I should be grateful that I live indoors and it wasn't a copperhead getting cozy or a coyote nuzzling my cheek. That's probably a good thing so I'll put it in the win column.
It wasn't too much of a problem because I get up pretty early anyway but the question remains ... Why do these things always happen in the middle of the night?
I've found most really bad news comes in the middle of the night (Yes, I consider 4 am the middle of the night).
Nobody wakes you up at 4 am to tell you they've won the lottery and they're giving you half cause you are a fabulous human. I have, however, had several lawyers and bankers from other countries tell me I've inherited millions of dollars or they want me to distribute their millions because they are so concerned with getting the money out of their country. I am apparently their last resort. And all this because I'm divine and saintly.
But even they don't call! They just send me endless emails promising me "riches beyond the dreams of avarice". Isn't avarice one of those seven deadly sins?
That's why, when I go to bed, my phone goes into airplane mode.
As if to pile insult right smack on top of injury, at 7 am (still not a civilized time for noise) the gardening crew showed up next door with their gas-powered hedge trimmers, gas-powered leaf blowers, gas-powered chainsaws, and the accompanying gas-powered megaphones attached to brainless human gas-bags yelling orders at each other.
I try to be tolerant. I really do. So I don't say anything. You have to pick your battles well in this life.
I understand it gets hot here in the middle of the day. I understand they want to get going early so they can get home early to their beers, burgers and bourbon whiskey. I know all that. So I go with the flow.
I'm just glad this doesn't happen every day. Most days I can ease my way into the day with thoughtful, quiet expectation and exuberance.
I think I'll work toward that.
Until next week - I wish you peace.
It's been a great week here in the desert. The temperatures are starting to rise a bit. This week's highs were in the eighties and next week is promising nineties.
You know where this is heading, don't you? Last summer the highest temperature here was 120F / 49C.
Change is all around now as one season gives way to the next. I'm sure it's the same in your neck of the woods.
I like to get out for a walk almost every day. Walking just makes me feel good, especially when the weather cooperates.
By stepping out and moving my legs I keep myself sane(ish) and in better shape than I'd otherwise be as I sit behind a computer or a painting umpteen hours every day. Operative word, "sitting".
Sitting's not one of those nice active verbs. It's not like running, jumping, swimming, climbing, or walking. It's passive, reserved, shy, retiring, blah. Though I do like a nice sit after a long walk. That's relaxing and restoring and not blah at all. It's also easier to read a book, drink a cup of coffee, or use a knife and fork, or type while sitting. I guess sitting does have a use.
It's just that sitting and I have a far too intimate relationship. I like to keep my distance so I don't get sucked all nice and cozy into the armchair vortex of slothfulness.
Walks give me a chance to "stop and smell the roses", admire the clear blue sky, or the mountain views along the way. There are so many beautiful things to see if you pay attention.
I love watching the trees begin to unfold their leaves and the flowers open up to show off their goods.
I guess lots of people like this time of year because poems about flowers and spring are all over the place. You won't find me waxing lyrical with eloquent profundity about their beauty. I'll leave that kind of thing to the likes of Mr. Shakespeare. Okay - here's a bit of one I like by Mr. Wordsworth.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
William Wordsworth, Lines Written in Early Spring
Let me say simply that the flowers here are gorgeous.
Of course, many pretty things have very effective ways to protect themselves. I'm not talking about bodyguards either but I've found the prettier the flower the more vicious the defense. Some of the plants that sprout flowers here happen to be prickly, unforgiving and can be downright dangerous. I wouldn't want to get too close.
To get the best effect when you stop and smell the roses though you have to pay attention and appreciate them too. That's what I try to do. I'm usually irritating to walk with because I'm always stopping and snapping photos of things that I find interesting. I'm kind of like a child.
Have you ever seen a cactus flower? It's quite a sight.
Here's a selection of photographs I've taken over the last week of flowers, shrubs, cactus, and trees here in Sun City Grand. You can see them below in their fantasmagorical spring splendor. The reds are really red, the purples very purple, the palo is quite verde, and the saguaro is just itichin' to pop. I'll have to keep an eye on that one.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy the changing seasons in the next month or so before you have to start mowing the lawn all over again. Every season comes with its chores.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I'm going to the AIIP Annual Conference in Minneapolis next month (April 19th - 22nd.) I was inspired to draw something for the conference. This flyer is the result. It's the iconic Spoon Bridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. I thought it was kind of cool and I wanted to share it.
This conference is where Independent Information Professionals meet up and share the secrets of making and delivering world-class information products. I look forward to the conference every year.
I didn't learn to build information products overnight. Experience has been my best teacher, more than 25 years worth.
I had a bit of aptitude for it. I understood things rather quickly. It still took a lot of water under the bridge to understand what I do today, which, in the grand scheme of things, is just a grain of sand on a very large beach.
Then why did I think that I would be able to be so good at drawing right off the bat? I suppose it was a bit of fanciful/delusional/wishful thinking.
That's kind of changed in recent years.
It all happened when I made up my mind to be better. I stopped saying I wasn't good enough and only strove to be better regardless where I was in the process.
I'm talking to all of you who say, "I can’t even draw a stick figure." or "I wish I could draw."
I'd like to say that you CAN draw a stick figure and if you can draw a stick figure you CAN draw.
And wishing is what you do with your fairy god-mother or upon some star or other. It's the same as saying, “Let me have X and don’t make me work at it.” It’s wanting something for nothing. Believe me, I've often wished I was better but practice works much better than wishing.
Here's a little tidbit. Did you know if you wish upon the first star you see at night - it’s most likely not a star but a planet? BTW - Who is this guy Tid and why do we care about his bits?
Work is the only way to get there. It's really sad that proficiency doesn't fall out of the air like manna from heaven or grow on trees. You can have a bit of talent or aptitude but even Michelangelo worked his tail off to get better. One of the reasons he got so good is he did more and worked harder than other apprentices at the time.
I'd like to tell you, "If you can write you can draw." What is drawing but representing something on something else with some medium or other that is understood to be what it is or evokes some emotion?
Can we agree on that? Maybe or maybe not.
Do this - take out a pencil and write the letter "A".
Does it look like an “A”?
Do you think other people recognize it as an “A”
You just drew a stick figure that was recognizable to at least the entire literate English speaking world. That’s a lot of people.
You CAN draw something other people can understand and recognize.
Yes, some people write better than others. People who write well often care about writing more than those who don’t. There are calligraphers and there are doctors. The chasm is wide and deep.
The rest is just getting better. That takes educating yourself, practice, and the most important thing: Desire.
What do they say? "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." So find your desire and watch the teacher appear.
The saying is often incorrectly attributed to Buddha. Its likely origin is a charlatan called Mabel Collins. She actually recanted her claims in an 1889 letter. Why not use a "Fake Buddha" saying if it sounds good? It just sounds better coming from Buddha. There's no harm in that. Is there? I like the sentiment.
The rest is just - wash, rinse, repeat.
You don’t need any special tools. You can start with a pencil and paper.
If I draw something poorly, I just try again, and again, and again.
I guess you also need a high tolerance for repetition and failure.
The next time the spirit moves you, make a horrible drawing. You have to make a whole bunch of them. I’m sure the next one will be better.
It’s not always about the result but sometimes it’s about the process and the process can make us better people.
If we feel better about ourselves, aren't we are more likely happier, healthier and nicer to be around?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Finally, My Dale (Scott's Dale) had an art festival for me. I wasn't sure when it would happen but it did happen and I got to go there last weekend. I should be used to these type of honors but it still overwhelms me a bit when a whole festival is thrown in my honor. I want to thank the state of Arizona and the City of Phoenix for the honor. I hope to be picking up the royalty checks very soon. I think they're in the mail.
I really shouldn't have been surprised though.
Gosh, "they" even named a whole village after me in England. Who would have guessed?
Attenborough is a little village south of Nottingham in, of course, Nottinghamshire. That really put me on the map - literally. Been there.
Did you know "Attenborough Studio" is a real thing? It's at the Darwin Center in the Natural History Museum, London. Though, to be fair, there's a guy named David who thinks it's named after him. We'll keep that one quite - just between us for now. Yup, been there too.
As I was driving to "My Dale" Art Festival I was eager to grace them with my presence. I looked forward to being able to wave to my people. Then, as if a crushing weight fell on my head, I realized how far Scottsdale is from where I currently hang my hat in Surprise. It takes almost an hour to get there.
Why do we live in Surprise and not in Scottsdale - you say? Partly because stuff is really expensive in Scottsdale and - well - nope - that's it. It's expensive. There are a lot of other reasons but I don't want to bore you with them right now.
Scottsdale has a great "Old Town". It gets overrun with tourists this time of year or at least it was last weekend. Partly because the weather is great but it's also spring training season here in Arizona. Scottsdale Stadium hosts the San Francisco Giants. Fans were out it droves drinking, merry making, and basically whooping it up to a karaoke version of "Take Me Out To The Ball Ole Ball Game". Fans can be loud.
Nevertheless, I was there for the Art Festival.
When I go to these things I like to learn something. I look at it as gathering intelligence at a trade show. How do they do this and how do they do that. I pay particular attention to the artists, how they set up and how they sell.
There were a lot of fabulous works on display and some less fabulous. I would say all of the people exhibiting were really professional. Nothing looked amateurish or poorly executed. I did notice a lot of the same old stuff but there were some interesting new takes as well. There was high end (ish) art. Nothing even close to the $100,000 range but nothing was bargain basement priced.
There were bands playing the whole time on two different stages, the beers weren't outrageously expensive but the food was a bit more than I thought it should be.
Even though it rained while we were there (mostly an irritating drizzle), we had a good time slinking in and out of booths, commenting on this, admiring that, giggling profusely, and generally spending a wonderful Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale with friends.
I spoke to exhibiting artists about how they applied to show their work at the festival.
That's how I learned about a web app called ZAPPlication.org.
I've been playing around with the ZAPPlication website, exploring different venues to exhibit and sell artwork. There are several shows where I might be able to play show-and-sell. Who knows, I might come to a town near you! Some of the artists I met go from show to show every week selling their artwork.
I could paint during the week, sell my wares on the weekend. Doesn't sound like a bad gig to me. It would be better than working during the week and painting on the weekends.
I'm in the middle of trying to figure all this nonsense out. Hang with me, please. It's good to make meaningful progress toward a worthwhile goal. It makes me feel good.
I hope you have a wonderful project that you're working on too. I hope you have something that makes you happy and makes you feel good. It does create a bit of brightness and lightness in life.
For now, I leave you with this bright and cheery bird for the weekend.
Until next week, I wish you peace.