Keeping Dreams Alive
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau
I was reminded of this quote recently in a Facebook post by artist and FB friend Bill Kassel. When I saw it, I had to ask myself if I had lived up to it. As a teenager, I was a dreamer, but my dreams were not like those of most of my peers. The life I had imagined was a bit bohemian for the times: sidewalk cafes, poetry, jazz, coffee shops and cool art galleries. Keep in mind I was a teenager in the late 50s. I remember being interested in art, Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac. My dream was to be an artist. It wasn’t a life pursuit that was encouraged, so I probably didn’t go after it with confidence. At some point, reality stepped in and making a living became the driving force.
Fast forward to just a few years ago, when the new president of the last company I was employed by interviewed each employee. During our interview, he finally said “…so basically, you’re an artist who has spent his life working at crappy jobs to make a living.” Talk about cutting to the chase. That was one of the most concise descriptions of my life I had ever heard. Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve had some good jobs, some in art, some in management, a couple of them have taken me to some interesting places, and provided a good living. But there was always that underlying desire, almost like a life force, that said “but you’re an artist.”
The ultimate dream was to actually make my living as an independent artist, working in my own studio, selling my art through galleries. That did happen a couple of times, but through a variety of course deviations and some setbacks, usually of my own doing, it didn’t happen often or very long. Now, in my seventies, I sell some paintings and drawings, but it certainly isn’t a living. Did I fail in the pursuit of my dreams? Some would say yes, but I’m not so sure. Throughout my lifetime, drawings and sketches may number into the thousands. In the past few years, in what I suppose are my “golden years”, I have produced several hundred paintings and studies.
Today, the internet is my coffee house, where I can share and converse with other artists, and my sidewalk café, where I can watch the passing parade of humanity. It is my Jackson Square, where I can lean my art against the digital fence for the passing world to see. And it is my art school, where I can continue to learn from others, and study the work of old and modern day masters.
I’ve been writing this art blog for several years. Much of it has been focused on my use of gouache as a painting medium. When my enthusiasm has flagged and I’ve wondered if I was just having fun listening to my own voice, and if I should continue, I get another comment or email from someone thanking me for the inspiration an article has given them. So here we are, still at it.
Being a studio artist is a sedentary activity, and now, at 72, my body complains when I’m more active. I now have checkups with a cardiologist, my primary care physician wants to see me more often, and a recent back sprain has me seeing a physical therapist.
The physical therapist asked me what I wanted to accomplish by working with him. Without a second thought, I said I wanted to be able to hike to a good painting location, carrying my art equipment, and stand for hours at an easel. I don’t even consider myself a plein air painter, but maybe in order to keep my body in better condition, I need to become one. In that regard, expect to see more mediocre paintings as I struggle to learn a new painting medium, continue to stretch my wings and produce new art.
So what is the point of all of this? The point is that, however haltingly I’ve done it, even with all the meanderings and detours, yes, I have followed my dreams. All those years ago, I honestly imagined myself living in a little place either in the woods, or in the mountains or near a beach, spending my days painting and drawing. While my studio may be tiny, I still make art, and I share my life with the most wonderful partner I could ever have hoped for, in an environment not too far from the original vision. If it’s not the life I imagined, then it’s pretty darn close.
The dream only dies if you let it