I believe success is a measurement of self. It is based in perception and how you see the world, measured by how you fit into it. Do you meet your own expectations? Those are the only ones which truly matter. Except pleasing parents and making them proud…yet it still comes back to you. Ricky Nelson’s wise word lyrics for Garden Party, “…only got to please yourself.”
The definition is so very simple, yet the personal meaning to those words, are not. Success, fame & fortune, is it what we really want? Nope. We want what recognition gives us. VALIDATION. I mean for real. Success gives us a sort of freedom, yet success also takes away a part of you – privacy. You have to become a public personality to be successful. The extend you push for in achieving your recognition, all depends on what you are willing to give up for the dreams you have. Scary that success is what we all strive for based on that premise…give privacy away to gain recognition. It’s what we do.
Deep within me is an insecurity of losing myself, which threatens my personal security. Those unseen aspects in the cost of fame…loss of privacy, plus possibly losing who you are from the changes of who you become… brought me to undermine and sabotage my own life repeatedly in pursuing Art as a full-time career…unconsciously, yet for many years. I was my own worst enemy. I prevented myself from that very glory I had sought since my early youth, because deep down inside, I had a very real fear of who I’d become with success. Yet knowing the meaning of the word: success, which I have had in many different ways, well, that didn’t quite cover it either. I may be a bit touched in the head. Perhaps? Oh yes! and “for sure” on numerous levels. I won’t kid myself there, for I’ve known for years that I am generally a mental nut-job as compared to other people, but gentle as the hurricane kid in a Loony Tunes cartoon.
While I’ve always fancied myself more a Marvin the Martian personality, on the construction jobsite I was like the Transylvanian Devil, earning the nickname “Mr. C”, where the C stood for catastophe. I am excellent at channeled destruction and pouring concrete. The rest of the time on the job, unless I was running a piece of equipment from a crane to a backhoe, it was, “Give that guy with the big guns the jackhammer and cut him loose destroying stuff.” And I did, all up and down California. Built some nice-looking stuff too, from hospitals to water-treatment plants and a few bridges. I started with a shovel in my hands and retired just the same.
So, a crazy person I am. I mean, hell, who really sees an angel, much less the Archangel Michael, and talks with him for hours? Although my Mom said I had German Measles at the time, I truly believe who I know I saw sitting beside me.
So that verified I was totally bonkers, or, at the least, one of those someones who’d better keep my mouth shut. Don’t wanna get burned at the stake like Joan of Arc, a relative traced back on my Dad’s Mother’s side of the family. Cool, cool, cool! So, anyway, I didn’t tell anyone until I was grown up, and then only to a very close loved one; ’til now. That she didn’t keep it a secret is a whole ‘nother story in itself, reading like a die store novel…but that’s for a later post. Now that I’m back, I plan to stay writing for a bit.
the Shadow Loom
Life got dark at an early age, so I escaped into art and crafts…beauty through creation. That wasn’t enough to satisfy me easily however, it also had to be difficult to achieve, a struggle. Unless there was struggle, it took far longer for me to get into the “zone” of the void. Then, I was free, so I became addicted to the zone, naturally!
Succumbing to a free-floating of mind and spirit, without body, out farther and farther into the void and that comfort zone of solace, peace and solitude…where beauty was only a thought away…instantly traveling within, at whim’s notice, and to wherever I wanted to go in my daydream; no responsibilities, no duties, no time, nobody hassling me. I was addicted to art, it truly was my greatest escape. Everybody was cool with it too!
So, to make it seem a worthwhile pursuit, I demanded my art be more technical, deliberate and detailed. Tight control. Forcing my right hand, by shear willpower, to endure the finest of control, be it a light stroke or dark, it was all about commanding my body to the most finite control possible, creating that 1/4″ area into perfection, then blending all the rest to fit. Over and over. Finish, repeat. Tight detail, overall matching detail.
Years later, when I found airbrush, gifted a single-action Pausche for Christmas by my Mother, it was about control of the dot from the very beginning. My eyes burning and tearing from intensity of focus to see as fine as my eyes could tolerate, I began to “see” the dots of paint as they escaped the gun and floated onto the canvas with my God-given 20/15 vision. Now I don’t really see in the sense that you’d see…say, like a period on the end of a sentence in detail; instead it is a feeling, like developing your sixth sense to control the paint as it exits the spray-gun, as if you can mentally move the paint droplets and form the direction they go in.
Allowing me to draw with air and a watery mix of paints, was like a new discovery, allowing unbridled passion anew! Though the guts and grit was much the same as pencil, I could create so easily in full color, and totally without worry of smearing! Pushing myself harder and harder into the most confining spaces of extreme detail,ever smaller, deeper into the smallest dots of paint…then coming back out hours later. This was a divine escape, a dream fulfilled into the reality of life itself. Ahhhh!
the Balloon Deflates
Up until I was in 2nd grade, we had a pretty normal life. “Nineteen twelve, Bailey Road, Concord Cal-i-forn-ya!” was a nursery rhyme song, taught to me for kindergarten. Life went on without much incident. Dad had started at Pacific Bell working on telephone servicing, and switched over to PG&E later, working his way from groundman to lineman.
Mom raised us four kids and worked odd jobs on occasion as we started getting older; bank teller, secretary and even drive-in cashier. Life was good except the time she was held up at the drive-in. That was scary and she got hurt when the gunman knocked her to the ground to steal the till, but nothing else came of it.
Then my parents got a little over-extended, so Dad changed to the PG&E’s construction unit, building Goat-Head Towers for high-voltage power transmission lines. The plan was for Dad to work on the road until the power line run was completed, then transfer back to his lineman job and come back home to live with us again.
"The best laid plans..." Dad said relating the story to me at my request. "Well, I guess you're old enough to understand now," he said, then slugged down his beer and gave a heavy sigh. I was about nine or ten then. "It was about ten weeks into the job and a crane operator was transferred in to cover for the regular
guy who was out sick. On his second day, this operator was moving a girder past me and somehow grabbed the wrong handle by mistake, setting the girder down onto my shoulders.
"'Oomph!' I said as it knocked the air out of me. In response to my look, he said, "No, it didn't hurt...at first. It just pinned me on the beam I was straddling so I couldn't move anywhere. The operator, seeing his mistake,
panicked a little at first, and tried to move the beam off me too fast. Son, heavy weights work differently on a crane and the cable. Let me explain. The weight kinda stays in place for a second and the cable's properties change a little, so even though the crane started pulling the beam up and away, for
an instant, the beam will stay in place and the cable will stretch. You know how rope is twisted? (I nodded) Well, cable is made the same way, only with steel wire instead. So when the crane started to move up, the cable actually untwists slightly, and stretch a little more...then...will finally lift." He took a big draw of his beer, crushed out a smoke, lit another, then continued.
"So I'm still straddling the beam and the cable stretches, but he did it too fast, so, like I told you, the cable strands stretches just another an inch or so. That inch was too much and that's when it hurt! So I tried to twist out from under it...guess that's what gave me the nerve damage, deadening the muscle on the front of my leg, so I can't lift my foot up like others can...like you raising your toes...and also messed up the bottom of my feet." "Anyway, throughout the entire ordeal, I never, even for a minute, lost consciousness. The crew put me in a manbasket and lowered me down
from about 200' up, high off the ground. I remember the ambulance ride, all the bumps in the road and the ride all the way to the hospital. Then they gave me a shot and next thing I knew, I was in the room wearing that big old cast as a girdle, from my hips to my shoulders."
Tragedy had only started it’s run on our family with Dad’s accident and continued several more times. An accident claimed one of my sisters, the middle of my three sisters, she was in kindergarten and I was only in 2nd grade. THen my Mom;s first cousin’s child, a five year old girl, was walking across the street in the crosswalk and was hit, killing her instantly. Then, only a few months later, Dad’s father died. This all happened in a 2-3 year span. A dark cloud dropped over life at our house. I was old enough to see all the effects and how it affected our family, yet too young to really understand or help with any of the situations when they arrived.
The effects of those incidents on our family were devastating, especially my sister’s death. My parents never really recovered, and another sister only eleven months older, who was confused by most people thinking they were twins, was the hardest hit and affected far more than the rest of us. Understandably, she had lost her confidant and best friend in the entire world. She felt alone and abandoned. It took a long time for family life to settle into some form of normality again, yet changed us all.
Being the oldest child, the effects of those traumas were quite devastating! I did feel abandoned, feeling like I’d lost my parents. Laughter was gone for a long time from our house. Mom cried all the time and Dad got extremely quiet.
I discovered at an early age, when I started drawing a picture, I felt more relaxed, forgetting everything around me, transported, wandering about the cosmos, not even hearing anything. Life simply went by in the background, seldom registering, my art a total focus of present in life. That time spent drawing was a place of solace, oblivious to anything and everything; my personal place of healing. Nobody said a word. It was awesome and so I went there more and more often, becoming addicted.
I was raised hearing “with every award comes a concession.” As an adult, understanding “cause and effect” of the universe made sense, yet life in youth began undulating in greater arcs. I focused more towards “waiting for the ball to drop,” I suppose a natural course in thought patterns, given all our traumas. It changed how life affected me, creating effects not before seen in any light. As I grew older, I followed a more spiritual path and started letting religion go, seeing religion as a means to make sense of life for some people. For me, once I started an investigation into religion for a report during my freshman year of parochial school, I came to see that almost all religions followed a similar path in belief systems, reaffirmed by the “Zeitgeist” movies in an more obvious sense, many years later. A lot of people don’t like the message of those movies, but they came to me after a broken back and another divorce, losing a second soul-mate down my life’s path, creating a massive pain inside my heart.
I got a taste of fame while painting a mural on the main intersection of my hometown. It was a two-fold project: giving a gift back to all the townspeople where I grew up, and also sort of a billboard to showcase my talents, hopefully establishing means to do art full-time as a living.
However, inner conflicts and insecurities raged a battle deep within. Although very passionately devoted to creating, success gain easily by the project, breaking new ground as an airbrush illustrator was a lot more difficult than anticipated. Having a family with two sons to raise, although hindering in some ways, has never deterred the direction of my life. What helped change that path was my generosity. My ex-wife’s Daycare needed to survive for her self-esteem, so whatever was left over in profits which any other artist seeking success would reinvest into their business, I invested into her daycare. I always liked children, but the daycare was a leech to my making it full-time in the art world.
There were no other airbrush artists in the upper Northern California area of Red Bluff. People simply had no idea what could be accomplished with an airbrush. I pioneered the trail, doing advertisements for the local newspaper, painting signs in reverse on glass (beginning with highlights and working until the background was finished) and other trailblazing techniques. Problem was I kept having signs come in the door — great during the lean times in construction, yet not my cup of tea. I never liked signs because of the mechanical side…and although I could do lettering great by hand, letters don’t look as great when you have “coffee shake” and so nix on the idea of a pinstriping business too.
Art was always an escape which allowed me to vent frustrations, and was exponentially more rewarding as I grew, developed and honed my skills. By 45 yrs of age, when my back was broken, making a new start on life by incorporating my art and construction into a new career like drafting made sense, so while I waited for opportunity to strike, I started becoming involved in our local small town politics… eventually forcing me to face my fears head on, and learn move beyond them. That last paragraph took about five years to happen in real life.
Art is a right brain thing, whereas, language is a left brain thing. With each budding artist in the family, eventually they will be gifted with Betty Edwards, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” I can’t say enough about how the exercises in this book show people how to view life with an artist’s eye. Her exercises teach how to see the shapes everything is made of and she uses fun exercises to accomplish this which anyone can learn.
Having a strong personal interest in advertising, eventually led to study of marketing too. Regardless of who you are and who you know, the scope of your art must appeal to both sides of the brain effectively for it to be desired, then subsequently purchased. This is why television marketing has claimed such success, it accomplishes the engagement of employing both sides sides of the brain simultaneously. This is easy to understand, yet takes a lifetime to do successfully…unless you are innovative, creative and brash in trying new experiments for getting people to see your work.
Advertising by methods of traditional marketplaces are the means that are generally favored, by most. However, art is an exception. Buying a billboard on the busiest Los Angeles freeway only set in motion an ostracization from the art world for Charles White, considered the “father of the modern airbrush” while seeking greater fame and fortune. Eventually he moved to Japan and started the “sexy robot movement,” during the 1980’s in advertising. Change can be a good thing, making us spread our wings in different directions than we would have without the “disaster” life presents us.
Pioneering new methods and formats can bring greater dividends and results. Experimenting has an “out” if ever needed, in that you can always drop back into more traditional market practices. Use as many aspects as possible to display your product, and as wide a dispersal as is available, then measure the effects. Your timing might just strike that vein of gold!
Finding solutions without banging your head on a wall is always a better choice. Otherwise, go move a mountain or two! Life is about channeling energy — do it constructively — GO CREATE SUMPIN’…
I spent 20 years as construction laborer & general illustrator, with a specialty of airbrush, pushing my body to extremes, simultaneously working in both professions. Once I can enter the “zone,” that place with a feeling of connection to the universe & it’s expanse, time itself seemingly broadens, everything getting all light & airy…tra la la…nothing like channeling the cosmos through you. It’s awesome!