A few months ago, I wrote a blog on finding my artistic voice. I should have known at that time, like any voice just beginning, it was the voice of a child and would eventually deepen after going through puberty. The buddhists say the only thing that is constant is change. Yes, I should have known that my artistic voice would always be changing. I should have remembered the life I knew would always be changing. I should have continued to be aware that I will always be changing. No matter how old I get.
This past February, I was fired from my job after surviving it for fifteen years. Don’t feel bad. It was a corporate thing. There was nothing you, nor I, could have done to change the direction of that train. Today’s blog isn’t a campaign for sympathy though. It will not be a rant against corporate evils like you may find in some of my other blogs. It is simply a testament about the change I’ve found in the world since being freed from my employment — a newness to look forward to that I forgot was part of being alive — a breath of fresh air — a reminder of the natural current that is my existence and how I can manifest that in my art.
Of course, one of the first things I did after being informed I no longer had a purpose at a place I struggled to find purpose for the better part of two decades was to stop shaving. It was the perfect time to see what I was capable of growing by myself both literally and artistically, unencumbered by the daily indentured servitude of traditional societal parameters of thought, attitude, and personal grooming.
As the progression of my whiskers sprouted from my face, so did my ideas concerning what I wanted for myself and for my art. Even though I needed to find another job, I didn’t let that weigh on me. Instead of feeling I had to jump right back in the fire, I allowed myself the opportunity to look around and see what was available in the cool breeze that swirled around it. I woke up naturally and well-rested. I listened to the inviting cadence of the day beyond the vapid rhythm my job had conditioned me to believe was necessary to fit into society.
I set my own pace. I ate when I was hungry, shat when I was shitty, and started painting like it was the only job I had.
This new work was hard and fulfilling. I spent hours upon hours hunched over my painting table, trying new colors, new methods, new shapes. The progression of my days were not measured by the clock, but rather the occasional turning over of the sheet of glass I was working on to see how my piece of art was progressing. That’s the wonderful thing about reverse painting — you don’t really know how it’s going at the time you’re working on it. You just have to let it unfold naturally, like a plant that you water and nurture but have no real control of. Then you flip it over to see how it is blossoming. Sometimes it’s prickly like a cactus and other times it’s smooth like a blade of grass. But I’ve found that it is always a fruitful and interesting outcome whether I like it or not.
This fevered production of painting over the last couple of months has healed me in a way. It has made me feel like a new man ready for a new adventure in some fresh direction instead of a washed up middle-aged guy who just got fired from his job.
The only problem with painting as much as I have lately is finding a place for all the pieces. I’ve been storing them around my office, but space is running out. It’s starting to look more like a dishevelled gallery with each new addition. Perhaps the next generation of my own creative blossoming is to not just create the art, but to actually do something with it. I recently gave the piece below to my daughter for her 23rd birthday. I wanted to paint her something and she told me she liked earth-tone colors. This was different from my earlier attempts with muted blues and grays. It forced me to take a chance on new colors I wasn’t yet comfortable with. Luckily, I like the way it turned out. More importantly, SHE liked the way it turned out. This piece now adorns one of her walls. That is as much a present to me as it was meant to be a present for her.
It is a wonderful thing to look around and realize the options you have. I never truly felt that way until I was fired two months ago. Before, I just looked around and told myself I was lucky to have a job. Now I look around and don’t have to tell myself anything. I just let my life make up its own story.
Of course, I need a new job. But should I go back to work for a different company? Should I study and take the bar exam again? Finish my novel? Become a beekeeper (I’ve always been interested in bees and started two hives last year). Do I want to make my living being an artist?
Whatever I choose, I know that it will be a step forward instead of backward — a vote for progress instead of stasis.
I feel a little guilty being this giddy at my age. But that’s how I get when I’m hopeful. I’m like a kid seeing something new for the first time all the time. I can’t stop it. But why would I want to?
Oh, I almost forgot. This is how the whiskers are progressing as well. It’s weird though. I don’t remember using so much grey in any of my earlier attempts.