They Call Me Grace
This painting of tranquility and peace hangs with my daughter in Wisconsin. I hope it helps her to keep warm in the winter time. I thought of this painting because my Holly brought something to my attention last month that has solved a forty-year mystery.
You see, I am not the most graceful person in the world. That's a fact. When I was a kid, I excelled more at sports that were more "bull in a china shop." I'm more gorilla than gazelle. It's just how it is.
I've come to accept that over time, but recently I've kinda found out why.
At the tender age of 21, I found myself adrift in the sea of life. I dropped out of college, and I needed some direction, so I turned my life over to the United States Government. Being the slacker that I was, I thought I would join the United States Marines. Heck, I was looking for a bit of discipline and direction. What I needed was a transformation, and I got that by the bucket-full.
When I told my friends that I had joined the Marines, these were their standard reactions.
The third, I thought, was phenomenal and actionable advice. So as a recruit at MCRD San Diego, I had only one thing in mind. Don't get noticed.
I decided that keeping my head down was the least cost method of getting through boot camp. By least cost, I mean, minimal effort for maximum reward. I wanted to do the job well enough that I didn't get in trouble, but not good enough that I would get noticed. I tried to keep to myself, follow orders, and simply do the job. Easy, right?
It turns out that just doing your job and following orders is a skill. It gets you noticed.
My Drill Instructors made me a Squad Leader. What does it mean to be a squad leader? Well, it means that, not only to you get the brunt of the Drill Instructors attention and displeasure, you get special attention when someone else in your squad screws up too. Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Somehow, in their attempt to make the platoon a cohesive marching unit they made me the Guidon Bearer or as we called it "The Guide." The Guide is the guy in the front of the platoon carrying the platoon flag. He sets the direction of the platoon. He also gets thrashed when ANYBODY in the platoon messes up. The blame goes all the way to the front of the class where the Guide sits.
Drill Instructors take a lot of pride in making their recruits a solid marching unit. It's their job. Marching is essential to Marines. Marching is the orderly movement of masses of people from one place to another.
There is also a competition at the end of the recruit's time in boot camp where the platoon and the Drill Instructors get graded on their performance on the "drill field." That makes it very important.
I have to admit, when I see and hear an experienced group of Marines in time, covered and aligned, moving as one, I get filled with a bit of that "je ne sais quoi." It can bring a tear to your eye. Click on the photo below or here to see a video of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. I never get tired of it.
Marching requires a couple of things. The following requirements are not from the Marine Corps Drill Manual, but rather, they're my private interpretation.
Now, let me tell you, I was a fantastic marcher. I could strut with the best of them. I could do my column lefts, and my column rights, half-steps, quick steps, and even the most complicated rifle movements with ease.
One thing I didn't mention above is that marching well also requires you be able to walk in a straight line. That, I am physically and woefully incapable of doing.
I walk like an alcoholic on a three-week bender. I can't help it. I could never really figure it out. Why the hell can't I walk in a straight line?
I swear I would fail any field sobriety test.
Alas, they fired me. Well, not so much fired as relegated. I was no longer the Guide. I was demoted to squad leader all because I couldn't walk a straight freaking line; I was outta there.
But why can't I walk a straight line?
Why do I run into things all the time?
Could it be slamming my head into a metal pole when I was 12?
Was it the pucks, sticks, and fists that connected with my face when I was playing ice-hockey?
Did I suffer too many concussions from my ill-fated attempt at a boxing career?
Finally, after sixty years, I may have come across the source of all my woes.
Last month, when we were in Montreal, Holly happened to be walking behind me. She said, "Dad, do you have problems with depth perception?" She said it was fascinating to watch me nearly careening off of every lamp post, blind man, and building corner in my path.
She explained that it might be because of my astigmatism or more accurately, my amblyopia (lazy eye). When I was about six or seven years old, I was made to wear an eye patch over one eye to try to strengthen the weak one. I was a child pirate. Imagine the ridicule that one brought.
It all seems to make sense now. I don't know what the heck I'm going to do about it. There's probably nothing I can do, but knowing makes me a bit more comfortable and confident.
That brings me to my upcoming trip on the Appalachian Trail. I'll need to make sure I don't trip over roots, run into trees/snakes/bears/poison ivy, or misjudge the edge of any cliffs I pass by while I'm easin' on down the long green tunnel.
I'll take all that under advisement.
But, I'm sure Brian will throw me a line if I need one.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
TRAIL MINUS 284 DAYS AND COUNTING
Sarah Graham - Artist Of The Week
f you like realism and you like bright colors you'll love Sarah Graham. Her work was first introduced to me by good friends of ours. I am very happy I was introduced to Sarah's work.
After I learned about Sarah, I was all over the internet trying to find her work online. I also remember going to a reception at Gallery 1066 in Baldock a couple of years ago and saw one of her paintings there as well.
The detail she puts into her paintings is phenomenal. Sometimes, I think her paintings look more real than the real thing. The colors in her paintings are amped up and they make her painting so vivid.
If you just took a photo of a bunch of candy it wouldn't really be that interesting. However, if you can find one of Sarah Graham's paintings of candy; now that's something sweet.
Sarah was born just a few miles up the road from us in Hitchin in 1977 and got her Fine Arts degree from De Montfort University in Leicester in 2000. Since then she has been a living breathing working artist. She now works out of her studio in Letchworth. Hertfordshire.
I am happy to introduce you to Sarah's work. Her work is hung all over the planet from China to South America.
You can find her at the following fine venues on the internet.
Here's a relatively recent Lighthouse painting I did. I could have used one of a lighthouse, or even some direction on Tuesday night when I was navigating some rather narrow country lanes.
The way we approach life has a lot to do with how much we enjoy the experience. If you think you're going to have a good time, it doesn't mean that you automatically have a good time, but you have a better chance to have a good time if you start in the right frame of mind.
We usually get what we expect.
I came across one of those situations this last week. I certainly got what I expected.
On Tuesday night, I was driving from St. Evenage to Chorleywood to meet up with Lynn and Fred before The Pretenders/Fleetwood Mac concert. When you get off the M25 (Non-UK readers: Big-Ass Motorway Circling London) at Chorleywood, you head right off into one of these meandering Lilliputian Pathways. It's more of a capillary than an artery.
I'm convinced elves, trolls, and maybe even ancient Druids designed the paths they call country roads in England. Sometimes it seems you can't fit two horses next to each other on these tiny trails let alone two cars.
We don't stand a chance. The big ole SUV we drive doesn't stand a chance in hell in this land of paved Hobbit Trails. It's downright nail-biting to drive, and I don't know how local people get used to it.
I'm always on the edge of my seat. I'm constantly on the lookout because, invariably, some miscreant will come barreling down the road like a lunatic careening off the embankments.
As I was white-knuckling down the road on Tuesday, the traffic was pretty light. No worries, I thought. I've dodged the bullet again. We've made it through unscathed, and, in fact, we did. We got to Hannay Hilton right on time - no dings, no scrapes, no missing mirrors. Whew!
We then took the train to Wembley Stadium and had a great time at the concert. On the way back, on the train, I started wondering how I was going to attack the drive home down that long and lonely alleyway.
I was already starting to feel a bit nervous and claustrophobic.
But then, I thought it's dark; there won't be too many people on the road. It'll be easy. So we said our goodbyes to Lynn and Fred (kiss, kiss, hug, hug, bye, bye) and set off for home I had all the confidence in the world.
I put my high beams on so I could see if a deer, an endangered box turtle, or an even elven sprite might try to dart across the road. There was none of those, but another car was coming up the lane.
I had just passed a slight layby, so I thought I would back up in there. That didn't work.
The car in front of me wasn't moving. We weren't moving.
He flashed his high beams at me. I was oblivious he meant for me to turn off my high beams and left my high beams on.
I started to back up more to get into a better position for him to pass. He still didn't move.
We were at an impasse.
At this point, I thought, oh hell, this is silly.
The other car wasn't going forward, so I did.
Then he started to move forward.
I started to back up.
They started to back up.
I thought I was in some Laurel and Hardy adventure.
Andrea's getting impatient. I was getting impatient.
Smoke started coming out of my ears.
I'm sure whoever was in the other car was getting a little miffed too.
Finally, we each eased forward ever so slowly — one small revolution of the tires at a time. Step by step, inch by inch, we passed each other with less than a badger's hair between us. I could see the whites of his eyes, and he could probably see my scowl. Grrrrr!
No obscene hand gestures passed between us, however, I did think of a few choice ones along the way.
Thankfully, the road opened up ahead. I crossed my fingers, my toes, and even some bits of me I didn't know I had. We made it back to the M25 and home without any more incidents.
Sometimes, even going down the road can be an adventure. You never really know what to expect. If you like a challenge, I recommend English Country Lanes.
For the coming week, I hope your roads are clear and have ample width. I wish you smooth seas and following winds.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Gary & Kathwren Jenkins are pioneers in painting instruction and up until very recently continued to publish their television shows and videos.
I remember Gary Jenkins from his PBS program in the 1980s and 1990s. Gary and his wife Kathwren hosted 21 series of programs from 1983 until1999.
He will be familiar with lots of folks in Europe as well as his shows have aired in places like France, England, Germany, and even Bulgaria.
Their videos are still available on YouTube.
Gary Jenkins is one of those PBS painters like Bill Alexander, 1915-1997, and his "Almighty Strokes!" (The Magic of Oil Painting), Bob Ross, 1942-1995, and his "Happy Little Accidents" (The Joy of Painting), or Helen Van Wyk, 1930-1994 (Welcome to my Studio). They were instructors who made me believe I could paint too.
I spent a lot of time sitting in front of the television watching them paint. I continue to spend a lot of time watching their videos on YouTube.
These folks may never have their paintings hanging in the Louvre, but they are iconic painters who came along just the right time. They provided me with much-needed encouragement at the time.
I'm sure, along with the biggies I mentioned above, Gary may have convinced one or two of you that you could make art you wouldn't mind hanging in your own home.
Gary is the only one of those television painters who are still kicking. He and his wife live up in Sedona and continue to do workshops from time to time.
Though they do not currently produce any television or videos, they have developed an online course of instruction; and encouragement.
I remember all of these folks very fondly. As I highlight Gary Jenkins here, I also would like to recognize the others who made significant contributions.
Now, go out and make some ART!
Things Ain't Like They Used To Be
This little drawing reminds me of St Thomas where the chickens run free. It also reminds me of waking up in the morning, which is appropriate given today's little bloggy topic.
When I was a youngish man, boy, whatever, I remember I didn't like getting up early. So many mornings, our hockey practice came at some ungodly time in the morning. I later found out it was because it was when the ice time was least expensive.
We will do just about anything when we're young, and we bounce back. After that ungodly early ice-time, we'd pack our lunch and go to school for the whole day and come home for some other sports practice. It was just the way it was. When you're young, you adapt.
I can still manage to get up early if I have to. I often have early calls with folks on the other side of the planet to discuss exciting things like the relevance and findability of data or some equally fascinating topic.
I know I've been changing a bit because, when we were in Dayton last week and Andy said, "Hey, let's play golf this weekend." My immediate response was, "Please, not too early." at which point he chimed in with, "are you f*$%ng kidding, I'm not getting up early on the weekend."
Well, I can still get up early if I need to, but I prefer not to.
I want to put off the following morning routine as long as possible because mornings have become a tiresome, tedious ritual. There is just so much that goes into becoming conscious nowadays.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I went through my usual routine.
I don't know what has happened to me. Has there been some breach in the space-time continuum? One day I was spry as a newborn then, it seems I just turned around, and my body has begun to inflict a torturous morning routine on me.
I'll keep on keeping on. Should I ignore it? Should I go with it? Should I power through? I don't know. How do you handle the onslaught of decrepitude? I think I'll power through.
I asked my dad once about all these aches and pains I started to get when I passed the half-century mark. I asked, do you ever get used to it? Does it ever go away? Does it ever get easier?
His answer was plain and unequivocal, "No."
Really, I'm grateful for all I've been able to hang on to. But I wish it were a bit easier and I hope the wheels don't start falling off any more quickly.
Things just ain't what they used to be.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
One of the beauties of the internet is that it brings far away things right to the comfort of your own home. I don't know if I would have ever heard of this artist if it weren't for YouTube.
Knut André Vikshåland is a Norwegian artist who works out of the former stable in his childhood home. He is quite a character which, to me, adds to his charm.
In the photo above Knut paints a portrait of Samuel Steinmann, the last Norwegian survivor of Auschwitz. Samuel died on 1 May 2015 in Oslo, Norway.
His paintings will evoke something in you. That's for sure. He sometimes tackles some pretty uncomfortable subjects. I don't think anyone would have any trouble discerning how he stands on any particular issue.
Watching him create paintings on YouTube gives me the sense that I could do it too. He's a self-taught artist who simply spends a lot of his time painting. That's how he gets better. That's how any of us gets better, isn't it?
He says, "A good painting will give a sense of meaning, like music, philosophy, poetry, literature, and especially science."
I like watching him paint. He usually shows the whole process. For those who are just interested in the outcome, I suppose this can be a bit tedious. But, for me, it allows me a closer look into the process and how to get things done.
I hope you take a little bit of time to look up Knut and see how he does his paintings. I enjoy watching this tattooed tradesman of art do his thing on YouTube.
Now, after this little dose of inspiration - go out and make some ART!
D-Day 75 Years Later
I thought my painting of poppies might be appropriate on this week of reflection and appreciation — this precious little impasto painting is hanging above the bed here at Old Cottage.
I'm in a bit of a somber and reflective mood. It's been a week of ceremonies and remembrance. Seventy-five years ago soldiers landed on the beaches of northern France.
Every time I watch something having to do with the war, I get choked up and find it difficult to hold back a tear or two. No matter how noble or righteous the cause, it involves so much pain and so much loss.
Many people gave their lives on that day. It was that sacrifice that helped bring a brutal conflict to an end. There was plenty more fighting to do, but it was undoubtedly the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
“When you go home.
Tell them of us, and say.
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.”
-- Patrick O'Donnell
A few years ago, we went on a tour of World War I and II battlegrounds. If you haven't done it before I would highly recommend it. We went from the memorial at Vimy Ridge to the landing beaches of Normandy. It was extremely memorable. We sobbed our way from memorial to memorial, and from beach to beach. It was a bit overwhelming.
I believe being there gave me a better understanding of the scale, challenges, and courage they had. Of course, not having been there, I don't think I can ever truly understand.
So, this week, I've opted to forgo my usual mindless drivel and reflect on their sacrifice.
We should all remember their sacrifice this week and contemplate the efforts of that "Greatest Generation."
I hope we can remember and learn from the cost of war and the folks that operate on the tip of that sword. Bless them all.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I think I've been following this artist for as long as I've known about YouTube. Sergey Gusev is a very talented artist from St Petersburg, Russia.
This is a recent photo of Sergey with one of his paintings. If this is what he looks like now, then when I started following him in 2012, he must have been ten years old.
Sergey is so accomplished for such a young age.
His style runs the gamut between loose and impressionistic and expressionistic with bold color and strokes to meticulous, detailed, and refined portraiture.
I love his style; I guess I'm a bit jealous he's so young. But that's relative, isn't it?
Give his work a chance.
Others have - his art hangs in private collections in USA, Russia, Denmark, France, and England.
Now, after this little dose of inspiration - go out and make some ART!