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Keeping Dreams Alive

July 23, 2016


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

20 Comments leave one →
  1. hannastocksick permalink
    July 23, 2016 3:47 pm

    I can so relate to this! Same here! Recovered my true identity at 54 (last year) when I discovered bible journaling. And then… I started drawing again and very recently painting.

  2. Jane permalink
    July 23, 2016 4:52 pm

    Looking forward o seeing your plein air work. Thanks for posting!

    • August 30, 2016 1:00 pm

      Jane, I may have to wait for cooler weather, but it’s right around the corner, I think. Thanks for visiting.

  3. pc50 permalink
    July 23, 2016 5:53 pm

    I’m glad you’re continuing to blog–I enjoy it very much. Good luck with your physical therapy!

  4. July 24, 2016 3:33 am

    Good for you Ralph, I hope you can get to those wonderful locations. I look forward to seeing the results.

    • July 24, 2016 8:54 am

      Hi Doug! Nice to hear from you… and thank you! I’m beginning to experiment with acrylic landscapes. It should be interesting.

  5. Catherine Hensiek permalink
    July 24, 2016 11:00 am

    Ralph, I can relate to the feelings you expressed so beautifully in this blog post. Finally in my retired years I have the time to write, paint, draw, and collage. I feel like I am at last living the life I dreamed about during my working years. Please continue to blog about your art and your ideas…you inspire me and a lot of other people. Thank you!

    • August 30, 2016 1:04 pm

      Thanks so much, Catherine. Sometimes I think life is backwards. We should be doing those things when we’re young. But then, maybe they require some life experience.

  6. MARSHA LAYMAN permalink
    July 24, 2016 8:14 pm

    I’m glad you’ve stuck with it, too, Ralph! I love to hear your thoughts and see your latest work. Doesn’t sound to me like you’ve failed to meet your goals – you are living our dream for us!

    • August 30, 2016 1:06 pm

      Marsha, that means a lot to me. Nowadays, each new day is not only an opportunity, it’s also a blessing just to have it.

  7. Kathryn permalink
    July 25, 2016 3:10 pm

    Very inspiring words, Ralph…and the beautiful landscape painting you present in this post could sit comfortably next to the work of Paul Salinas and Julian Onderdonk. Thank you for sharing.

    • July 26, 2016 12:53 pm

      Kathryn, I couldn’t find anything on Paul Salinas, but the comparison with Onderdonk was a huge enough compliment. The man did know how to paint the Texas landscape.

      • Kathryn permalink
        August 1, 2016 1:45 pm

        Hi Ralph…Porfirio Salinas…my mistake! You capture Texas beautifully, and Maine as well. Amazing work.

      • August 30, 2016 12:53 pm

        Sorry to be so late getting back on here. I love Porfirio Salinas’ work! Thanks for the introduction.

  8. SitaRasa permalink
    July 25, 2016 4:26 pm

    Thank you! I so loved reading this. Best wishes 🙂

  9. Beryl Omega permalink
    July 28, 2016 6:22 pm

    I have enjoyed viewing your art work and hearing of your continued search for different ways of looking at things. Recently I have read the same thoughts and questions that many people have at our age when we suddenly have a strange pain or cannot move as fast as we have always been able to. It is a shakeup remind us that we better get with it whatever it is we always wanted to do. There is never a need to quit trying or to stop “learning.” I think that is what keep us young.and reaching beyond those things we can see. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful art work with those of us who need the inspiration. I am 77 and now trying to refocus my life on the creative side that has been whispering in my ear since I was a small child. Thank you again.

    • August 30, 2016 12:51 pm

      Great to hear from you, Beryl. Listen to those whispers and take a crack at it.

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