I painted this about ten years ago in Arizona. I know it was about ten years ago because, a tiny bit more than ten years ago, just before we moved to Arizona, I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
This painting reminds me of the mysterious and my life has often been a mystery, even to me.
I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I spent some time cutting concrete and pumping gas. I thought being a Marine would be a nifty idea and the Marines is one of the best ideas I'd ever had, but that's another story altogether.
When I was young I had trouble choosing a direction. I couldn't figure out if I wanted to be a brain surgeon or a fry cook.
So, I drifted, and I dithered. I had dreams and inklings of what I wanted to do but never really went for it.
I've always been hesitant to go for it. You know, to go for it with everything you've got. What's wrong with going for something that you want to do. Well, it's pretty scary.
As a consequence, I think I've spent too much time thinking about doing things and living in my head. I've discovered that being out where the rubber meets the road, doing the things that you love to do, is so much better.
For a long time, I liked playing the guitar, and I dreamt of being in a rock and roll band. I never thought I would be good enough until, about ten years ago, I started hanging out with my friend Doug. We'd periodically get together in his basement to make music. Perhaps we only approximated music, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
We started telling friends what we were doing and how much fun we were having. Eventually, Jon, Wayne, Harold, and Kevin joined us. They may have known what they were doing, but I certainly hadn't a clue. All I knew was I was having fun and more fun than I'd had in a very long time. I loved getting together and making music with those guys.
Eventually, we went from playing in the basement to playing out at various places. I got such a thrill from that experience. If I could have glowed, I would have. It was relatively short-lived, but for that brief time, I had so much fun being a rock and roller.
Eventually, I moved away; the guys kept playing together, and, of course, they've been getting better all the time.
When I come back to Dayton, I look them up to see where they're playing. I love to go to their gigs and experience a bit of rock and roll vicariously through them.
I feel great that, at that time, I went for it.
Maybe, someday, I'll pick it up again. Maybe.
For now, though, I think I'll stick to writing these letters, and instead of picking up my guitar to play, I pick up my brushes today.
With any luck, I'll continue to get more creative, more proficient, and better able to express myself.
I hope you've found ways to express yourself. It feels so much better doing than just thinking about it.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
This guy's a one-man marketing dynamo. He calls himself the worlds greatest living artist. At least he's got a goal. He's prolific, and he does come up with some work that I like. His name is Jose Trujillo.
What I like most about this guy is his enthusiasm, initiative, and his willingness to "go for it."
He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He came to the United States with his parents when he was around nine years old. Kinda like me. I came to this country when I was nine years old with my parents too from that northern border!
Jose lives in Tucson, Arizona. Maybe I should take a little drive down there. I've got other friends there I've love to see.
His paintings are impressionistic and he says he wants to follow in the tradition of Monet and the Impressionists.
I follow Jose on YouTube. He puts out a video almost every single day. He is energetic and does his best to share his knowledge with anybody who will listen.
In this video he shares his background and why he does what he does. He is a full time working artist. That is a feat all unto itself. It takes guts and a willingness not to hide your light under a bushel. I admire his moxie.
If you ever lacked confidence. If you ever needed a kick in the backside to get going. You might want to look up Jose Trujillo and see how he does what he does.
You can find him at these fine internet outlets.
Iguanas are exotic creatures. They're in just about every nook and cranny on the island.
Iguanas remind me of hanging out at the beach. They can show up just about anywhere.
They look like fierce creatures. You might even think they're dangerous, but they're not. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of iguanas, but I do prefer to give them a little distance.
I do, however, have another phobia. It's a fear that has to do with humans; a particular type of human.
Like lots of people, I hate going to the dentist. I avoid going to see anyone until it's absolutely necessary. I know it's wrong, but I'm guilty.
I equate the dentist with pain. I'm either in pain when I go to the office, when I'm in there, or when I leave. It's all pain.
I've been told I grind my teeth at night. I wouldn't recommend it if you want any kind of longevity out of your pearly whites. Over the years the constant pressure can end up putting cracks in your teeth. It wears them down.
It doesn't help that I like eating lovely crunchy things like nuts, ice, hard candy.
A couple of years ago my grinding and abuse cracked one of my teeth, and it got infected.
I had to find a dentist on St. Thomas. I hadn't even located a barber let alone a dentist.
Either I'd get it taken care of, or I'd have to suffer the fever, and pain that came with my cracked tooth like some demented bonus, indefinitely.
Pain killers weren't touching the lightning bolts generated in my mouth, firing through my eyeball, and escaping out my right temple. It was seriously destroying my island serenity.
I got right to it. I looked up a few dentists online and came up with a list, and a three-pronged strategy.
First, I had to understand the receptionist. I have real trouble understanding people on the island sometimes, and I didn't want any lack of communication where there's pain involved.
Second, after leaping over hurdle number one, the dentist had to be busy enough he couldn't see me immediately. If the dentist was too busy and couldn't see me right away, they were in high demand. If they were in high demand, they were good. Pretzel logic, I know, but I was in pain.
Third, being too busy to see me, maybe they could recommend a dentist who could. A good dentist wouldn't want to ruin his reputation by referring me to a bad dentist. So, if that dentist were too busy to see me, he would recommend someone good who would.
I got lucky! The first dentist I called passed test number one with flying colors. The receptionist was friendly, courteous, and best of all, understandable.
They passed the busy test too. The doctor couldn't see me right away, but he might be able to fit me in tomorrow. Bingo!
I made the appointment right away and was sure to show up on time.
When the doctor did the exam, he found the job required some heavy lifting he couldn't do. He'd have to refer me to an oral surgeon.
Surgeon?! Yikes! Holy Moley!
Finding decent bread on the island is difficult at the best of times. For heaven's sake, fresh vegetables are hard to come by. From what magic hat are they going to pull this mythical animal called an oral surgeon?
I had visions of being medivacked.
I'm happy to say the dentist had contacts. He knew of an oral surgeon only 15 minutes away. He called up and got me right in. I hoped it was one professional doing a favor for another expert. I didn't want to think the oral surgeons were hanging out at Floyds Barber Shop playing checkers just waiting for customers.
He told me the oral surgeon was excellent, so I got in the car and drove over the hill to my savior's office.
When I got in the waiting room, things got a bit blurry.
I remember some irritating and inconsiderate people. For some reason, they assumed it was okay to play videos with the volume up on their smartphones for entertainment. It was like they thought everybody should listen.
I remember getting into the dentist's chair.
I remember getting a shot of Novocain that felt like it penetrated my optic nerve. It numbed my entire throat. I felt like I had to swallow continually. Then, I felt like I had to cough. Then I felt like I couldn't breathe. Gasp.
Was I going to die in this freaking dentist's chair?
The doctor came back it to see if the numbing agent had done its job, and I was apoplectic. He told me to calm down. He said it was normal. I said that his normal felt like crap. He dismissed me like I was a petulant child. (I probably was).
He got to work with his jackhammers, hammers, and chisels. He pulled out several things I'm sure I saw in my studies of the Spanish Inquisition.
I thought to myself, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Thank you Monty Python.
If they were questioning me, I would have confessed right away. I've seen Marathon Man. I know what happens. But I had nothing to confess. I'd have to make something up quick.
After much tugging and prying and digging out of tooth parts, the carnage was over.
The only thing left was a bruise on my chest from his knee.
I staggered on my way with a suitcase full of Vicodin and a bunch of gauze in my mouth.
All I wanted to do was sleep for three days. I think I did just that. The problem was solved, but at what cost?
It was a very stressful time on the island.
Last week, when I lost a crown. It fell off in my mouth, and my eyes bulged to the size of grapefruits. I waited for the lightning bolts behind my eye; the stabbing pain in the temple.
My previous dental trauma flashed in front of my eyes.
Luckily, there was no pain.
I did feel an extreme desire to wait for help until I got back to Dayton.
When I got here I went to my friend Dan is a dentist. I shyly went to him and said, "Can I come to see you in your office? I think I have a problem."
He said, "Of course."
I was delighted he said yes. There's no gnashing of teeth. It's all in the bag.
I have not regretted my decision to wait to come to Dayton. It was the right choice.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Peter Dranitsin is an abstract artist who lives and works out of North Royalston, Ohio. That's way up there close to Akron and Cleveland.
Okay, I'll have to admit, and I just learned this, this artist is a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. He did a combat tour in Iraq. He's a brother - Semper Fi!
It's nice to see a Marine with an "Artsy Side."
I like Peter's art. It has vibrant colors and themes. He has a style that I have tried to replicate at times but it difficult to make it look good.
He uses a lot of free-forms and colors. I can usually see some technique or other I'd like to try every time I see one of his videos. I took a couple of his tutorial courses many years ago trying to get a handle on how to do it.
You can see him in the process of painting this one on YouTube. I've watched a lot of his videos trying to decode the process. I keep trying.
I have to say that it looks much easier than it actually is. Pete uses sponges, spatulas, cling film, and other unusual materials to make his artwork.
He also creates digital art in the form of Logos that he sells on his website.
You should give him a look at these most excellent venues.
If you're me, sometimes life runs right up and bites you in the backside. Something like that happened last Saturday night. It was payback time.
We went out on Friday night. Friday is the day we decide to get off our backsides and escape into the wilds of St Thomas for an evening. It takes strong external motivation to head beyond the walls of your hermit(ish) existence.
Last Friday brought some external motivation. We met a colleague of mine for dinner. Well, I might say he is a colleague and a patron as well. You see Phil and Bonnie Jacobs bought one of my paintings of St John (see painting above).
They retired and moved to Kentucky, near Louisville, with acres and acres of land, five horses and a whole passel of other critters.
Fast forward a few years, and we moved down to St. Thomas. He may have been a bit envious of our move, but he has a great life where he is too. He loves to visit the islands and this year he came to our island. Yay.
Hurricane Irma devastated this place, and there's still a lot of damage around, but repairs are ongoing. Some places, like Fresh Bistro, survived the onslaught of the storm better than others. Fresh is in full swing. The restaurant has good eats and friendly service, and, I must say, they make killer mojitos.
We had a lovely evening and want to thank them for looking us up and taking the time to see us while they were in town. Meeting up with old friends is one of my favorite things to do.
When we came home, we settled in for what we hoped was going to be a relaxing and pleasurable weekend - until Saturday.
Saturday is often referred to by people in the travel business here on St Thomas as "changeover day." It's the time when the sad, sunburned, waterlogged, and detox-ready visitors take their big silver birds home, making room for a new crop of mainlanders whose livers, libidos, and psyches are ready for a tropical makeover. For many, that includes a lot of sun, sea, and relaxation. Others take it up a notch with rum-runners and loud music.
Saturday, for us, brought us a relaxing walk on Magens Bay Beach. It started to rain a bit, so we hopped in the car and boogied on down the road to our house about a mile and a half up the Peterborg peninsula.
When we got home, we decided to kick back and have a cocktail or two and some dinner.
Unfortunately, one of the newest crop was Loki.
Do you know Loki?
Loki is a Norse god, like Odin, Thor, Tyr and that lot, but he's not a nice guy. He's one of those troublesome gods. This guy, who can be a woman too, likes to stir the pot. He is a shapeshifter that doesn't play by the rules and will put a monkey wrench into any good times.
Sometimes they call him a "Trickster." I call him annoying.
We live next door to a rental property that runs $22K per week. I guess if you pay that much you want to let your hair down a bit. But this guy, Loki, when he let his hair down, it covered the earth around him. He had more hair to let down than Rapunzel.
Actually, he was a short, stocky, middle-aged, balding, investment banking party animal from Philadelphia in a tropical blue Hawaiian shirt - and he was the owner - ugh. As he puts it, "I like to party, man."
As we were in mid-chill, we heard a cacophony from the house next door. Just imagine Led Zepplin, AC-DC, and Guns-n-Roses turned their amps up full blast, pointed the speakers at your home, and let it rip.
Well, that puts it a bit mildly.
We yelled a couple of times to ask him to turn down the music. He didn't hear the neighbors above us, or us, screaming, "Turn the F^@*ing Music Down!" So, I strapped on my indignation, slipped on my flip flops, and stomped down in the rain through the open gate to find the culprit.
When I got inside the compound, my jaw dropped at the opulence. There were marble floors, glass walls, Greek columns, and a fountain behind the pool that must have been dripping champagne. I thought I was in Shangri-La.
I found Loki and sidled up to him. "Hi," I said, "My name is Scott. I live next door."
"Hi Scott, how can I help you?" Actually, it sounded like "Hey schlotz cn I hepz-ya?" He was clearly well on his way to funky town.
"Dude! Can you please turn the music down or at least turn the speakers off that point at our house?" I said.
"Sure, man, no problem, come on in, can I offer you a drink? You say you live next door. Do you know Ken? I know Ken. I've tried to buy that house off him a hundred times. He keeps turning me down. Can you talk to him for me?"
"Sorry, no, I don't know Ken."
"You know, I spent $11 million on this place, and when I visit I like to party, you know? I like to party. I'm a party guy. Did I tell you I have 700 rental properties all over the world?"
"I understand (I didn't), but do you need to music quite so loud?"
"Here, let's go in here." By here, he meant his sound room, yes sound room, off of his glass-walled bedroom looking over Magens Bay. "Here it is. I think this is the right knob. Let's see if this works."
"Is that better?"
"Well, the walls are still shaking, can you crank it down a little more, so the earth will stop liquifying."
"You know, I come here every once in a while, and when I'm here, I like to party. I like to get along with everybody. I'm a party guy."
"No problem, I understand, can you please not shake the foundations of our house while you get your party thing going, though?"
My bitching was going nowhere, we didn't have anyplace to turn, and I was sure Loki honestly didn't care.
When I came out of his room, I saw Andrea talking to his wife who was acting clueless. She couldn't understand why we thought it was so loud. "Oh, you'll have to talk to Loki," she said. "He runs everything here. Don't worry; it'll calm down soon enough."
Anyway, we had said our piece, and he had made a small concession. Not nearly enough but I was tired of pushing the point. We scampered home, tails between our legs, shut the windows, turned on the air-conditioner, and watched the television on the other side of the building.
Sunday, more of the same. It started at about 2:30 in the afternoon - not quite as loud but I could still hear it in my marrow. We huddled around the television for a while, wore our noise-canceling headphones, and then went out for a walk. When we got home, I turned our music on to drown out his music.
I was so conflicted because I liked the music he was playing. It was a mixture of the 60s and 70s rock and roll that you can get your toe tapping and your head banging. (Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, The Eagles, and many more.) It was the thought he was playing the music loud to spite us which infuriated me.
Tuesday evening Loki came knocking at the door and said, "We're going to have a little party tonight. We have a chef coming in and a bunch of friends; and you know I like to party. We promise to have the music down by 9:30. Then tomorrow we're out on a boat and Thursday we're most likely leaving. I hope that's okay; and you know I like to party. But we'll have it down by 9:30 at the latest." Hilariously, the loud music never manifested.
The fact that he came over and warned me or discussed it with me made me feel a whole lot better. He was at least trying to consider us. He wasn't an ass for the sake of being an ass. I didn't feel so much like he was violating my space anymore.
Earlier, I mentioned it was payback time. Here's why.
When I was 17 or 18 years old, I wasn't the fine upstanding citizen you see before you today. I was a bit of an angsty, self-absorbed teen. I think we all were. Didn't you think the world revolved around you?
Anyway, in 1977 or thereabouts I was playing some Jimi Hendrix on my parent's cool-ass stereo. My dad was an electronics engineer, and he built our entire stereo system, from scratch, which my mom got in the divorce. Lucky me cause she got me too.
Dad's stereo was terrific. You could break eardrums with that thing. Unfortunately, we lived in a quiet, smallish condo in Los Altos with paper-thin walls. Our neighbor (I can't remember his name) was a retired man and his wife. The poor guy came over to ask me to turn down the music. Oh no, not Jimi. You can't turn down Jimi! I gave him a few choice words and slammed the door in his face. I'm sure he was dumbfounded and bereft.
I caught hell from my mom later on that evening. She was a good one for giving hell. Suffice it to say; I had to go and apologize and never played the stereo that loud again.
Now, fast forward about forty or so years and as they say. Payback is, shall we say, a bitter and painful pill to swallow.
So, when you least expect it. Your past might jump up and bite you. If it does, grit your teeth, take a big breath and be thankful you weren't an even more horrible child than you in fact were.
I am grateful for all the lessons in my life. I might not like them, but I am thankful.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I've been following Lori McNee for a long time. She's one of the first artists I came across on the internet.
Lori lives in Central Idaho, but one day in 2012 she came out to St Thomas.
Here she is doing a bit of plein air painting at the Ritz on St. Thomas.
Lori paints great landscapes but what I especially like are the bird paintings she does. What she calls her still life paintings are more quasi-still life because they all have some bird or other in the picture, and, of course, they are alive.
Lori has written for numerous magazines like Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, The Artist's Magazine, and her blog, Fine Art Tips. She was an early adopter of blogging and social media, and it has served her well.
If you'd like to read more about Lori McNee to learn a bit about what makes her tick this article is a good read, Lori McNee-From Duck Stamps to Monet’s Garden.
I like reading her blog too, but you can find her in these exciting places across the interweb.
Practice can mean a couple of things.
You can practice something to get better, or you make something your practice to do something. You make it your habit. It's how you apply your time.
As in - it is my practice to take a walk every day.
Doctors have a "practice." That doesn't mean that they're still working the kinks out. They make medicine their practice. They apply their medical knowledge and skills to healing others.
Lawyers practice the law. They apply their legal expertise to a particular area of the law in service to others.
To be good at anything you have to make it your practice to do that thing. It has to be a habit. It's not just practicing as in rehearsing for a game, but the practice is the game.
I played golf a few weeks ago with my friends Jan and Brian in Arizona. I hadn't played a lot this year.
Because I hadn't played much, I wasn't very confident. I'd miss a lot of shots I should have made. I duffed way more shots than I should have.
I know when I play more, I play more confidently, and I play better.
It's quite stressful trying to hit over a water hazard when you have no clue where the ball's going to end up. Stress will give you the yips, or you could miss the ball entirely. But if you play a lot, and you've hit tons of shots over the water, you expect it to work.
I did have a great time. However, if I had made it my practice to go to play golf every day (or even a couple of times a week, or at least go to the driving range), I would have played much better.
I want to get better at drawing and writing, so I have built a practice of showing up to write and draw every week.
You see, I love making things. Publishing them here gives me the incentive.
I'm grateful you read, and I maybe get something out of it sometimes too.
I want to make you smile, I want to make you think, and sometimes, I only want to divert your attention from all the yuckiness out there and make your day better.
I want to make it my practice to make your life just a touch better from time to time.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I've been following this guy on Instagram and I love his work. He specialized in multimedia portraits. His name is George Papadakis.
His portraits of athletes are very popular. The portrait he's standing next to here is of a pole vaulter called Sandi Morris.
Here is a portrait he did of Tiger Woods.
These are places you can find her on the internet.
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I'm not always crabby. Maybe it seems that way sometimes.
Last weekend I saw these little, teeny, tiny Fiddler Crabs on the beach. Most of them were no larger than a thumbnail. They don't get big at all.
They're called Fiddler Crabs because have one dominant claw that can remind you of a violin. They use that claw for digging, and a waving mating ritual — the crab with the most prominent claw and the best wave wins. It means they will be great providers. Then can dig the best and safest burrows. A perfect place to raise their young.
Their big ole claw is their Valentine card!
Every species has its rituals. Rams butt heads, giraffes bang heads, frogs croak, and have you ever seen a peacock. Now, that's a display.
I suppose we humans have Valentines Day. But we're far more sophisticated than that, aren't we?
We're so far beyond comparing claws.
This year I'll think of you fondly on Valentine's Day. I hope you have all the love you need in your life and more.
Rick, I remember you with love on your birthday. Happy Birthday Rick!
I'll remember all those I love, and I wish them well.
I've never been very good at sending cards. I'm still not very good at it at all.
If you ever thought I shunned you on Valentines Day because you didn't get a card, I'm sorry. I apologize unreservedly.
This week, I'll send lovin' vibes out your way.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I was introduced to this week's artist's work about six months ago by Clint Goodwin, one of my weekly readers. Clint is an award-winning author who writes historic fiction looking through the eyes of a cavalry horse. Very creative.
This week's artist is Caroline Towning. She is a great equine artist based out of London.
Originally from Yorkshire (near Harrogate), she's been around horses all her life. She said she was taught to ride even before she could talk properly.
She went on to University in Hertfordshire where she studied Digital Art, then went on to work at an animation studio. She worked long hours and there was a lot of pressure. Finally, she got a bit burned out.
In 2015 she decided to follow her dream and become a full-time artist and painter. She bought an easel and paints and got started.
She paints portraits and horses and wants you to feel the horse's breath on your neck. Actually, she says she wants you to feel like the horse is in the room with you.
I think she's got something there. I'm happy to present her to you today.
Here are the places you can find her on the internet.
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Go out and make some art!