Perhaps you’re wondering just how it is that I have the time to devote to being the general contractor for my new studio build. Heck, even my wife just asked me last night, in a round-about way, and I had to remind her what she should already know full well: 

because being a full-time artist is now my bread and butter, it follows that everything flowing from it is peaches and cream.

Full-time artist

To be one was a desire of mine, to varying degrees, for years. 

It’s been my occupational descriptor of choice ever since resigning from a staff position at the Colorado College approximately three and a half years ago. 

It’s satisfyingly succinct, unlike my typically verbose posts. It connotes a lifestyle in which, if not carving a surfboard with a coconut shell under a Tahitian palm tree, the bulk of the day is spent in one’s private studio, playing one’s own eclectic mix of music at whatever volume one cares to, free from the kinds of demands – especially time demands – that “working for the man” and relegating one’s creative work to the periphery of the day, as I did for years, entail. 

To set the visual stage for such a devil-may-care character, one might picture the paint bespattered, silk pj bottom-wearing Julian Schnabel, while perhaps from the waist up, the (even more) bare-chested and bronzed Picasso of waning years, cigar in hand.

Beyond the trappings, it’s a footloose and fancy free sort of life, where one can really focus on their art, yet without stress or strain, in a leisurely, almost gentlemanly sort of way. If one chooses to. 

Either way, do or do not, there is no try. 

I’ve tried and failed to figure out how anyone with five kids and three “this old houses” (soon to be added to with two more rental units currently being built) ever thought there’d be a time when “their time” would not be divided and subdivided and sub-subdivided with all the multifaceted interwoven-ness of multiple income streams and repairs and balancing one’s work world with marriage and parenthood (and, no doubt soon, grand-parenthood) –

from which, having perhaps rather spontaneously entered, one may not check out, let alone ever leave. 

Possibly one origin for my romanticized notion of what it meant to be a full time artist was from a few years ago, when I made a five hour drive from Colorado Springs to Snowmass to attend a sold-out lecture at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center featuring the late, celebrated American artist Wendell Castle, then in his early 80’s, who, in another interview, once said,

“I’m not really interested in taking vacations – I’m on vacation all the time.” 

See what I mean? Peaches and cream, folks! Bon bons, beach chairs, and ocean breezes. Or at least the artist’s equivalent of that for someone wired like me.

From my recollection, Castle described his typical day thusly:

It would begin with him sitting with his wife, unhurriedly reading a newspaper and drinking coffee. Then, he’d meander over to his adjacent studio, a massive building where nearly a dozen assistants were already hard at work at various stages of completing Castle’s whimsical, stack-laminated artistic furniture pieces (of which the studio would produce, on average, about one per week, and which would often fetch six figures apiece). After checking in with each assistant, coffee still in hand, he’d stroll back to his more private, yet still expansive studio space to design and create scale models for new work or perhaps put some finishing hand-tooled touches on a piece before it headed to the finishing room.

Mid afternoon, I imagine, he might have looked down and noticed the wood dust accumulating on his clothes. Foregoing the pneumatic air with a blower attachment, he’d have headed down to his garage, past the Jaguar XKE and the Porsche 911, and hit the road in his open-topped 1949 roadster. I can clearly see him now, out there, somewhere, the wind blowing away all traces of dust from his lenses, his clothes, and his flowing, white hair…

Sounds dreamy to me, especially the part about having flowing hair.

If I could, I’d add the sound of a needle scratching an album at this point in the post.

This morning, I thought I’d spend the rest of my time contrasting the exotic, highly romanticized notion of “full time artist” I’ve established with my current, highly dichotomous reality. What follows is, I’ll admit, being written more for my progeny than for the general public, for whom, a thorough evaluation of my last year such as I’m about to subject you to, may be just a bit much. Which is the point of writing it, if I can get all tautological.

Before I start, I’ll mention the time Nan was pregnant with Sophie, our eldest of five kids, and told me she thought we ought to talk about how having a child would change our life. My response was inappropriately dismissive, but, it turns out, quite accurate. I said we had no clue how it would change our life. It was all theoretical at that point. We’d find out as we went.

I could’ve said the same thing, had I been asked, prior to resigning from my full time position at the Colorado College in order to be a full time artist, what I thought my days would look like, once I was unshackled from the multitudinous responsibilities associated with running a 3,000 sf. sculpture facility and assisting students in a wide variety of ways, all the while, creating art in what free time I had that wasn’t already consumed with family matters.

The bulk of what follows is an abbreviated recounting of my “full-time artist’s life” for the past year or so. 

In no particular order:

My time, since last September at least, has been dominated by one project after another to shore up deficiencies in our primary “this old house”. One of the first was the Murphy bed I built for my wife’s new, dedicated literacy tutoring room. The bed, when folded up, doubles as a magnetic chalk board.

(Speaking of Nan, she continues to balance homeschooling Nate while maintaining a private practice out of the home to tutor students with dyslexia and sit on the board of the local chapter of the Academic Language Therapy Association. Despite all my activity I’ll continue to recount herein, she works just as hard, if not harder, than me.)

At long last, I pulled the six storm windows I’d started for our home years ago and completed and installed them. As nearly all such projects are wont, that one, which at the outset seemed like it might take a week, turned into at least two, after repairing and repainting sashes… which in turn made me consider completely repainting the windows’ interior frames, then the interior walls… the floor…

We had a handyman install beadboard wainscotting to our bathroom and an electrician install and wire a new exhaust fan. But then I spent a day priming and painting the beadboard and cleaning the tub and floor tile grout – quality and quantity time on my knees, old toothbrush in gloved hand, scrubbing around the toilet.

Up in our attic room, having cut a hole through the drywall where the electrician accessed and installed the fan above the bathroom, I discovered that the insulation I’d blown in years ago had piled like a snow drift due to Colorado’s high winds battering the eaves, and spent some time in the confined space, wearing a dust mask, installing cardboard dams to block the wind and re-level the insulation.

I bought a new porch swing to replace our increasingly rickety one, which despite its age had never snapped like a twig like the first pretty replacement did when one of my big galoot sons, Will, gave it an inaugural test swing with his then girlfriend-now wife, Hannah, simply adjusting his weight. Sheesh – it took the better part of a day to piece together a makeshift cardboard box to mail it back for a refund. Should’ve billed my son for my time, but then, how was he to know the swing was hardwood in name only? 

We’d been wanting to but dreading the monumental task of detaching all ties to the insatiably excess fee-hungry mega-bank we’d been associated with for years, but I finally spent the requisite week or so that it took to transition our checking and savings accounts to a highly rated regional credit center. 

Then I spent at least the same amount of time answering query after query from mortgage companies while investigating the best financial vehicle for funding our current builds. Word of warning: don’t fill your info out on Lending Tree unless you want to know what a bitch in heat feels like at a crowded dog park – only, like, for weeks. 

Please, please, I’ll do anything – just leave me be

I bought a stool and an old desk off of Craig’s List for $20 to put in my wife’s and my attic bedroom. Being a bit too short for my legs yet too large to get up the stairs, I cut its legs off, then built new longer, screw-on legs in the studio, and added some blue paint in places.

My 1990 Toyota Pickup, our beloved “Beans”, in which the first four of our kids learned to drive and hence increasingly looked and sounded like it was once pushed off the side of Pikes Peak, and which Peter, 18, most recently drove, required three tows in its final few months and finally kicked the bucket. Here’s the sad text thread where I announce the impending loss of our four-wheeled family member:

Let’s see… what else… I installed a new trailer hitch on my Ford Ranger, during one of the brief windows of time when Peter wasn’t needing it to get to school and work and the girlfriend’s, with Beans in the shop, to attach to the flatbed trailer I was recently gifted. All the trailer needed was new wiring, which I did, and a title, which, after a half dozen trips to the DMV and State Patrol, I now have in hand.

After making the trailer operational and legal, it was used to make a number runs to pick up reclaimed wood from numerous deck demos, to take items out of my studio and storage garage to an off-site rental unit, to take the apple tree I cut dow to Rocky Top Resources, to make at least eight trips to a concrete recycling center with chunks of concrete I’d demoed, to take the one car garage I demoed to the transfer station, etc. At least such labor-intensive errands are new studio-centric.

Then, my Ranger died, and I purchased an F-150.

Believe me, I could go on and on – there have been a number of equally absorbing home and rental home projects that have done just that – absorbed my time this year, and which have nothing to do with a studio build (or “building” a blog. As if I needed something else to do.) Why, one entire month of the summer alone, you’d have found me prepping and painting the walls and the ceilings in one of our rental properties. A whole month where I didn’t darken my studio door.

I won’t run down an equally full list of family matters, the 2x daily drives to swimming lessons for our son Nate, the teaching him to drive.

But in overview, since last July, our three oldest have gotten married, and while that does mean the front door of our house isn’t being opened and closed with nearly the frequency it once did, and the street and driveway in front of our home isn’t jam packed with vehicles, we still have two active boys under our roof. Not to mention, a dog who still needs walks, etc. 

And here’s the thing. All of the above took place prior to actually breaking ground on the studio build. Things have gotten much busier since.

Ok, so I hear you asking if anything occurred that falls under the “full time artist” category.

Well, I said yes to a couple of group studio visits, which, any time such visits are planned, you can kiss at least three work days goodbye, between studio organization/art setup, the visit itself, and then wrapping the art back up, returning it to storage, and reorganizing the space for art creation.  

A few all-day trips were made into the mountains to deliver art to/from Red West Contemporary gallery in Steamboat, CO. 

As for art creation, in the spring, a final piece of art was created out of my old studio, a 9′ long sculpture of two connected hands, entitled Cor, which sons Will, Peter, and I installed in our friends Megan and Conor’s home. 

This past summer, when possible, I focused on applying for a substantial public art project, and, as already announced in a few previous posts, received the commission. Over the past few months, while insurance and other contractural items for the Tulsa, OK-based project have been worked out, the design for the proposal has been receiving a thorough once-over by a structural engineer. Fabrication should begin soon, at least for the portion of the piece that I won’t be building in house.

Prior to GC’ing my new studio build, which began in earnest in September, I frequently texted, emailed, and met with John Hockman, of Prospect Builders, to work out details pertaining to three separate projects he designed for us. I spent many hours digging in the back yard next door, to install new water and sewer for the builds.

Since starting to GC the studio – leaving the other two builds for John to GC – our conversations, along with ones with numerous sub-contractors, suppliers, city employees, the building department, etc., have only gotten more frequent. 

Thankfully, the studio build, and more to the point my ability to be as involved in it as I have been as well as the anticipated “move in”, slated for December, is occurring at precisely the right time in relation to the public art project. Starting right around the first of the year, Niels Davis and I should be beginning to put the new space, outfitted with a number of new machines, through its paces.  

And speaking of paces, as I’ve already made mention of recently, I’ve begun working out again on a consistent basis, and am just beginning to see some positive results in my endurance, strength, energy level, and, last but not least, my waistline. 


Lest you come away from today’s post thinking I must have no down time whatsoever, let me dispel that notion. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I demoed our spongy, cracked porch floor, reinforcing the joists and replacing the flooring with reclaimed Cumaru, a Brazilian hardwood, that I got on the cheap, had planed at Wellco Hardwoods, and then ran through my table saw’s dado blades to create tongue and groove. 

(In the first of the following sequence of photos, note just how jam-packed my old studio was. The weeks of my life I’ve spent moving things around in order to have enough space to work!)

After the porch project, I then spent (how could I forget?) at least a month putting more of my Cumaru haul on the stairs to the attic. No more creaks. 

But I only made mention of the porch project because, believe it or not, despite all of the above, Nan and I have somehow spent way, way more time sitting together on the porch this year, since the new flooring has been in place, than ever before. We’ve taken our tandem kayak out on various lakes throughout Colorado numerous times. We’ve made a number of trips – to the northwest a couple of times, to North Dakota a couple of times, to Tulsa, to California… We’ve biked. Hung out regularly with friends and family. Attended a weekly Wednesday night dinner group at Craig and Susan’s. We’ve gone on date nights…

So yeah, how could I have known what having not one, but five kids would entail? What home ownership and land lording and owning and operating a number of businesses, not the least of which, that of “full time artist”, as well as, at times, a nocturnal writer, would be about?

Truly, though, I believe that if Nan and I could have somehow watched a slideshow that accurately portrayed what life would be like for us these days, way back when, there’s no doubt we would have signed up for it – all of it – the downs as well as the ups. The swirling and the twirling. The busy times as well as the moments we are able to sit down and assess our days, our weeks, our plans, our hopes and dreams for our kids, our friends, ourselves.

And I’ll close, at long last, with the thought that it feels like despite all the years we’ve been at it, we’re only now at the threshold. That for me, knock on reclaimed wood, life is about to more fully resemble what one might imagine being a “full time artist” would look like, as opposed to going at it, full tilt, only peripherally.

And truth be told, I’d much rather live a life of full-bore activity, especially in the “making” department, than sitting on some remote beach and watching the surf. I could only take so much of that before I’d be cutting down some palm tree to make a new and improved hut. Yeah, I’m getting close to living the life I’ve always imagined.

Sans lounging on a couch, bare-chested, in silk PJ’s, and smoking a cigar.