It took me a long time to be able to look someone in the eye and say, “I’m an artist.” I thought for the longest time that lacking a formal arts education and not painting realistically disqualified me from using that phrase. After 2.5 years of creating art, I can finally say it confidently.
I’ve been reflecting on this process of becoming an artist recently. Soon we’ll move to the town where my wife works and the new house is smaller. In our current house, I have a whole art studio to myself. In the new house I won’t have that luxury. These last few weeks, the art studio has been a flurry of packing, cleaning, culling, and rediscovering the things acquired in the 2.5 years since I picked up my first paintbrush and painted an orange dot on a wide, black canvas. It was a memory of a boat trip in Lijiang, China where I saw another boat captain’s cigarette at night under a new moon. Not knowing what I was doing, I was terrified and excited as I tried to turn a memory into something tangible.
My most recent creation is a CNC-milled 3D topographic map of Avery Island, where Tabasco is produced. It’s painted with a Tabasco-colored paint and encircled with empty Tabasco bottles. I had to learn how to navigate GIS, 3D imaging, and milling software, some of which was supported by a grant by Austin Emerging Arts Leaders. I received that scholarship, in part, due to my community service as the founder and chairman of North Austin Creatives. The group works to strengthen the arts in North Austin and is almost 600 strong. I’ve steered it through grants and big events in empty buildings.
And it all started with an orange dot on a black canvas.
Hopefully, I’ll have another 60 years of making art. Shoveling through the flotsam of a new artist, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and excited about the future. I’m writing this to encourage people who, like me, may not have a formal arts education and may not paint realistically. Just start and stick with it.
I’m also writing this to invite you to my home. For one night only, all my art will be on display in every room in the house. You can see the whole arc of my journey. Additionally, I have an under-the-closet bar with over 60 bottles of spirits (+wine and beer) that I just don’t want to haul up to the new house. Come and see my progress, drink all my booze, and make me an offer on my art. If it’s up on the wall, I want it to go to a good home. Maybe once it’s in a new home, it’ll inspire someone else to start their own artistic journey.