Friday, February 27, 2015

Why am I an Artist and not some Rich Lawyer or Doctor, etc.

All of my life, I've wanted to create new worlds. My first clear memory of television was the Moon Landing at 3.5 years old (yep I saw the first landing on the moon) and I remember my parents crying with joy and their looks of amazement as we touched down on another planet. I vaguely remember the television screen but I do remember the landing and seeing it live. The family gathered around, I remember the den with the green carpet, everyone with their eyes glued to the television as the the words that shook the world were said.  "Houston, The Eagle has Landed". Then came the words...."That's one small step for man, one Giant leap for mankind!" - Neil Armstrong.....

I wonder if that moment solidified the rest of my life and my dreams of changing the world and my extreme love for anything science fiction. When I was 5, I remember watching reruns of Star Trek.  That did it! I was hooked and inspired me to draw as best I could what I saw and what I imagined.  I remember asking my father as I watched the "clear and beautiful" images dancing with vibrant color of beeping, chirping small lights on consoles, crystals that lit up like Christmas and the red rails on the Bridge.  I inquired to my father, "what is that room and what are those things lighting up and changing?!?!" I was excited at the visuals and my eyes fixed on the screen.  He said, "It's a bridge son and those lights are annunciator lights for computers."  I laughed and told him "That's no bridge Dad, bridges are roads that go over water".  My father was an Electrical Engineer and he patiently explained the answers as more questions came from my mouth, "why is that room called a bridge then, what are those lights blinking on and off for? What is that place?" Then came the shots of the whole ship in space.  "Now what is that Dad? Where are they!?"  My father replied "That's a Spaceship and it's full of people traveling through space to another planet".  Lightning fired in my mind! The Promethium spark of fire ignited my imagination as he explained to me about space, how big it is and why they need a spaceship to go vast distances to new worlds.  That was the moment I took paper and pencil in my hand and started drawing the Enterprise over and over again.  The bridge, the chair, the lights.  I quickly became frustrated as I couldn't get on paper what was in my mind.  I wanted my drawings to look as good as what I saw.

Over the next 10 years, I would be exposed to amazing music from Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Kansas, ELO, Boston, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles along with Creedance....I remember waiting on the floor of the theater for hours to see movies like Star Wars, Jaws and Close Encounters.  I remember being amazed as skeletons and stone statues of Shiva came to life on the theater screen while I watched The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and marvel at the brilliance of Ray Harryhousen.

At 9 years old, I remember watching Logan's Run in the large screen cinema after eagerly waiting for months to see the film. After seeing the movie on the big screen I knew then I wanted to grow up to create that city, that domed world that at the time looked mind blowing.

I then saw 2001 A Space Odyssey on television as my father allowed me to stay up until 12:00 on a Sunday night before school as I was amazed at how "real" everything looked.  Then, finally at eleven years old, after waiting for hours on the floor in the mall, I saw Star Wars for the first time.  I remember seeing the Starship moving across the screen that looked real and then seeing a larger ship that seemed to go on forever before the reveal of the lights from the glow of the massive engine exhausts of the Imperial Cruiser.  I watched in amazement as the story came to life in a believable universe with realistic looking special effects and spaceships that took my whole world by storm.  It wasn't the storyline or the characters so much that hooked me, it was the models, the sets, the worlds that I saw and at that moment I realized that my life would be filled with trying to create something like Star Wars.  I wasn't interested in being the star of the show, I just wanted to be the person behind the scenes that created the worlds, the machines, the starships and the robots along with all the elaborate but believable technology.  I watched that movie 37 times in the theater.

During that time I practiced drawing and painting constantly spaceships, battle scenes, worlds, cities, fortresses and those were the happiest days of my life as nothing was impossible.  I just knew in my heart I would become the next George Lucas or Steven Spielburg.  I grew up having that belief as I practiced drawing and creating art and in high school I won pretty much every award including bringing back to Berkeley County the State Art Award to my city after Charleston held that title for 20 years. Unfortunately a wrench was thrown in the cogs of creation as I listened to other people tell me what i should paint. "people like barns, beaches, portraits, Charleston scenes, landscapes of this world. You should paint those things".  I was naive enough to listen to the bad advice and my "destiny" was averted for the time being.  Of course there was another "dangerous" distraction that would come along that I had no control over....Adolescence, , Partying and dating Girls. I also discovered the Apple II and TRS 80 Computers and became hooked on computer programming.  Being a sci-fi nerd and a being locked away inside a small room with 4 computers and working with large VAX systems at 15 made me an interesting geek that also loved to party and socialize!  So down went the pencils and the world of parties, girls, computers and liqueur would alter my path for a while. I also believed a lie that I was too young to sell my art and start making money with it. Big mistakes all around except learning computers.

By the time I was 22, after attaining a Marketing Associates degree along with Engineering drafting and design at a local vocational college, I did go back to drawing and painting and even airbrushing whilst drafting at a day job as I had been a manual board drafter since I was 18.  I was also one of the first CAD operators as I was hooked on computers since 15 (1982) and programming languages as I tried to learn Assembly and Hexidicimal along with COBOL and Fortran. My mind just wasn't that focused then. I then studied Architectural design along with civil, electrical and mechanical design.  I also wanted to be an architect since childhood.  I believed the lie that people were telling me that artists don't make money and could not make a real living drawing or sketching. What they should have said was, "You Can make money, a lot of it if you practice your craft daily and learn business at the same time).  Most artists are amazing but know very little about the business models that are needed to make their paintings and creations financially stable and desirable to where the escalate in value. I agree, however, that an artist needs a good team of motivated people around them to help launch and motivate their careers. I made up excuse after excuse of why I didn't pursue an art or film career. Then, at 24, I dared to open an art gallery in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, a very historic city of America filled with beautiful architectural masterpieces of Antebellum Architecture.  At that time mainly every gallery only sold or were interested in tame and "safe" tourist art and not progressive art at all for sales nor were the buyers.  They wanted paintings of the city, wildlife and landscapes of the city and the surrounding lands of Charleston that they either visited or lived in.  I decided I would dare showcase alternative art and not the art of Charleston that catered to tourists as so many of my artist friends painted those various scenes and no doubt were fantastic at it.  It just wasn't in my heart to repeat what other people do and do well.  However, after almost a year of running a gallery, working three side jobs and getting various commissions to keep the doors open, unforeseen circumstances arose that were beyond my control and my gallery had to close.  Depression sank in and so did partying and distractions from art.

Shortly thereafter, I met my first wife and decided to work very hard for 3 years working on average 90-110 hours per week drafting both for the government and for private and commercial clients on a freelance basis. That's what a good husband should do right? Provide? Day job and side work kept me working around the clock and then At 27, I couldn't take living a lie anymore as my soul demanded of me to return to art.  I applied at Ringling College of Art and Design.  They choose about 45 students out of over 1000-2000 entries per year per major, hence the college was a very difficult college to get into and I told myself, if they did let me in, we would move to Sarasota, Florida and I would go study art formally. I was accepted and so after my wife finished med school, we bought a nice house near the beach and settled in as I started my first year of college at 28.

I learned that computer animation was the back door to getting to work with Industrial Light and Magic and George Lucas along with Steven Speilburg; so I chose the CA major so I could get back on track of my childhood dream.  As I studied hard and devoted my life to the pursuit of art, I lost everything in my life around me, my first wife, as we simply drifted apart by not spending time together though we did part amicably which made a divorce SO much easier, our house as I just let her have it, my good paying jobs, and all my investments and money all in pursuit of being an artist and learning formally the craft. I buried myself in my school, made a great GPA near 4.0 every year, but doubt and fear swept in over and over again as various circumstances arose and I was nearing my 4th year of college and then graduation. What would the future hold? What would I have to show for spending almost $350,000 of my life's finances and losing a wife, becoming bankrupt and losing my home?  Would the journey of my first 30 years of life into a slow descent into Purgatory and then into the 9 levels of Hell be worth chasing a dream? ....tune in later to find out the answer......

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