When I first picked up a paintbrush, I felt like I had come home. It was a hugely powerful feeling, angels singing, bright lights, the heavens opening up, all of it! I had finally found my passion and my purpose. Finally, I had the answer to the question, what the hell am I doing here?
So what did I do with this newfound purpose? I painted. That makes sense, doesn't it? I painted and I painted and I went to the library and took out books and studied everything I could get my hands on about painting and painters. And then I painted some more. When I was done with all that, I painted even more. I wanted to develop my style, I was driven to become the best I could be. Nothing else mattered. As I began to see glimpses of success, things I used to enjoy were pushed out of the way, a nice walk, a bike ride, cooking a good meal ... all of it had to step aside in favour of my mission. It was a fun and exciting time in my life and nothing could go wrong. I was making some decent money for the first time in my life and everywhere I went, people wanted to talk to me about my work. People wanted to be around me, to know me. Me! Suddenly, the weird kid who never really fit was in high demand. Nothing could go wrong. Until it did.
When I said everything fell by the wayside in favour of the almighty brush, I mean everything, including myself. It didn't happen over night, it happened slowly, so slowly that even though you notice little changes here and there, you can explain them away. I'm just tired, I work a lot, I'm getting older, this happens to everyone. See the guy on the left, you know the old fat, tired guy? That was me in 2014, after years of being completely obsessed with painting. The only things missing from this picture are the cup of coffee, the hot dog and the cigarette. Somehow, I had gone from a fit, rather good looking (If I do say so myself), energetic and fairly well rounded guy who liked to do stuff to someone who did nothing but paint, eat and nap. I began to feel like I was 74 instead of 44 and I wasn't looking much younger. Changes had to be made. The paintbrush had to be set aside. I had to find a way to separate myself from the one and only thing I had ever found that made me... well, me. Sounds easy, right? Put down the brush, eat an apple and take your fat ass out for a walk. Well, it's not, not even a little bit! The brush had become an extension of me, every bit a part of my being as my arm or leg. Painting was me, and besides, I was too tired to go for a walk. But somehow I did it, slowly, really, really slowly. And I'd be lying if I said I discovered or did all of it on my own, I had not so subtle help. I had to retrain myself, painting was what I did, not who I was. So, I began to take breaks, I put down the hot dogs (and all the other processed foods) and I went outside, sometimes only by the sheer force of a tiny nagging certain person we all know and love. Some days it sucked, especially at first, but eventually, I began to enjoy the breaks, and as the weight came off, I began to feel and look better. I began to rediscover things that I used to enjoy, like playing tennis and fishing and walking around looking at nature. I found the person behind the canvas, he's the guy on the right, happy, healthy, full of energy. And the funny thing was, my painting didn't suffer at all from this lack of exclusive focus, in fact I began painting better and better! My mind felt clearer, I was enjoying it more and more and I felt more creative.
So the biggest lesson I've learned as an artist really has nothing to do with art at all, it has to do with balance. Too much of anything isn't a good thing because man cannot live by paint alone.