Accompanying one of my most recent Instagram pics, I wrote the following: 
Sometimes you’re handed opportunities in life. Other times, you create them. You lean on invisible, locked doors leading in the direction in which you’re hoping to go and, providentially, from time to time, they open. Other times, they don’t.
Sometimes – all too often – I lean too hard, and get off balance. I spend too much of my mental energies on tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. I miss too much of what’s happening in the present. It’s a repeating pattern I need to address more fully.
Repeating patterns. Currently, I’m gearing up to do some work that reminds me of other periods in my life when I was in a similar mental state – one of expectation, of knowing that you’re about to embark on a journey. 
But it’s not (just) about the destination.

The documentary Gerhard Richter Painting ends with the artist behind the camera lens, doing a panning shot of his paintings on the walls of his studio, and declaring, “Man, this is fun.” You can clearly hear the enjoyment in his subtitled German voice, and it’s just as clear that he was talking not about operating the camera but about being a painter – being an artist for a living. Sometimes, despite the associated challenges, it just hits you: this is fun.
If the process weren’t fun, I doubt I’d go to all the effort that being a full time artist can entail. 

There have been many occasions in my life marked by effort, but I can think of two where I drew things out, quite literally: spending unnecessary time and effort to make preparatory drawings for two museum shows, one, Chuck Close’s, the other, mine. In both cases, much more expeditious means were available, but dismissed.
Why? I think for the very same reasons Gerhard Richter expressed. Not to create opportunities, though that’s often one unintended byproduct. 
For pleasure.
Commenting on that post yesterday, a friend and former co-worker wrote,
“Now you may find that you have the opportunity and the urge for introspection – to connect not only recent experiences that are outwardly similar but older and early formative memories of events and actions in your past which will provide some unexpected surprises. Artists always find ways to incorporate them into their work.”
The topic of the blog post I wrote that day, Hardly At Work, draws out the two circumstances mentioned, but my friend’s comment made me think about the following post. 
It’s not good to dwell on the past, and I don’t; I’m typically much more forward thinking. I’m also no psychologist, but I’ve found that looking back is a bit like the view of a cloud covered world from a passenger plane at 35,000 ft. Memories that poke up through the obscured carpet of time, sharp and crisp, like snow covered peaks breaking through the clouds, typically do so for a reason; we need to learn (or relearn) a lesson or be reminded of our proclivities or in some way need resolve them. In today’s post, I recall two periods in my life, one, in early adolescence, the other, three years ago. Two introspective examples of how rhythm and harmony, at times, harmonically converge while the steady drumbeat of time continues to play out.      


In 5th grade, I started playing the drums – though I’ve forgotten his name, I remember the patient older man who began to teach me the rudimentary notes in Stratton Elementary; quarter note, half, full, etc. By 7th grade and a move to next-door Horace Mann Junior High, I was already wanting to be marked primarily as a drummer, carrying my drum sticks with me wherever I went. Either in my back pocket, or, if I was wearing anything long sleeved, I’d have my “sticks” tucked up against my forearms, like Wolverine from the X-Men with his always-at-the-ready, retractable claws.

With or without without them, I was constantly drumming on nearly all available surfaces.

Around the same time that I was beginning to learn about paradiddles and drum rolls, I remember an almost daily ritual: at the end of the school day, I’d walk home and my mom and I would put some music on the record player, make some popcorn, and just sit and listen together. For her, perhaps, it was primarily about connecting with me, but my focus was on the music. I’ve noticed the same thing with my kids – there’s a certain age when their interest in music skyrockets.

My mom and I had a similar taste in music, then. Then and now, my musical tastes include a thick slice of ’70’s rock and pop/disco music. I clearly recall some of the artists mom would put on the record player – the Doobie Brothers, the Bee Gees, ABBA. Nothing too heavy (unless you experience, as my kids do, a certain heaviness times when some of the above reverberates within earshot). In 5th grade, I fell under the spell of those four New Yorkers who wore face paint, armor, padding, and high heels, KISS, but it was, I now know, more about their look and their masked mystery than anything musical. A few years ago I watched a number of YouTube videos of the band that reinforced what I already knew: their musicianship wasn’t the reason I gravitated toward them.

When I was in 6th grade, I was rummaging around in my dad’s print shop and unearthed a box containing a new eight-track tape player, that brief evolutionary stepping stone between record players and cassette tape players. My dad said I could take it home, and soon thereafter bought my first eight track tape: Head Games, by Foreigner. Next, High Infidelity, REO Speedwagon. Next, Journey’s Escape. Next, I believe, it was Queen’s The Game.

In the musical arena, I enjoy rhythm and harmony. As for the latter, it’s nearly a curse: no matter how insubstantial or unrelated to my life the subject matter – ABBA’s Fernando, for example – if the song has great vocal harmony or vocal/instrument harmony, I’m hooked.

Around the same time, I was also starting to rock to the beat of drummers like Journey’s Steve Smith, the Police’s Stewart Copeland, and Rush’s Neil Peart. 

Give me a song that has both amazing harmony and a great beat, and I could virtually listen to it on repeat for hours without tiring. One of the current top picks: the Doobie Brothers’ It Keeps You Runnin’. The song grips me in a serious way, despite my joking that it would make a great commercial tag line for a laxative:

It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’ 
It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’
It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’
It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’

Oh, I know how you feel

Hey, you know I been there…

Keeping a consistent beat was something I recall Mr. Kraud, my Junior High band teacher, saying that he wanted my fellow drummers and me to be able to do. He wanted to be able to leave the room while the orchestra was playing, come back three minutes later to find that our beat still matched the one he was keeping in his head. 

For me, there’s a similar fixation with rhythm and harmony in the visual art arena.

Ever since the college years, my drawing style has exhibited a fair amount of loose hatching – if you will, two dimensional rhythmic patterning. Lay down another “track”, perhaps at a slightly different angle, and viola – you have a kind of visual harmony going on. Add another and another and pretty soon there’s a convergence of harmony. Nearly all of my self-directed work is marked by such mark making, including my sculpture, and anyone whose work is similarly distinguished, be it in the second or third dimension, is usually right in my visual wheelhouse. 

Same thing goes for color harmony. Layer color upon color to produce a symphonic tapestry, and you’ll arrest me in front of your work. 

Weave harmonic mark making and chromatic concordance throughout your piece and overlay it all with significant meaning, and I might just dissolve into a puddle. 

I’m not making a value judgement here – as with music, different strokes for different folks, and even I like a wide variety of work that doesn’t necessarily conform to the above visual criterion – I’m just saying that my personal bent tends toward such work. 

Let me add a fourth dimension, another wrinkle, if I may:

Maybe it’s this intrinsic love of harmony and rhythm that has made me somewhat interested in numerology, especially as it relates to my life, and that of my family. For instance, I find it fascinating that I was a stay-at-home dad for seven years nearly to the day. I began my custom design/build business, Artworks, on September 16, 1998. Seven years later, on Columbus Day, October 10, 2005, I started working at the Colorado College.

Seven years and seven months to the day after that, I find myself sitting at the dining table in the early morning hours this morning, writing about rhythm, harmony, and convergence.

Ed. note: the version of this post you’re reading combines the post I wrote on that day and the following one written later on which, having already shared some personal, potentially damaging (primarily past) penchants (KISS, ABBA), I’ve added one more to today’s discussion.

Perhaps it would be wisest for me to keep the following info closer to my vest. I typically only mention such things to people who have demonstrated a level of trust. 

Not so with you, my unseen reader. Some of you know me but plenty of you don’t. According to the stats, some of you are reading this, or, at least, a poorly worded Google Translation of it, from as far away as… well, here, I’ll show you last week’s stats:

Pageviews by Countries

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
United States

All that to say I don’t necessarily trust you with this information. At the very least, you may believe it’s manufactured. 

Be that as it may, it was on February 3, 2012, that I first had an inkling that it was time to make art again. It had been 23 years since I’d last done so, though, during that period, I’d completed many marketing-related projects, some of which definitely called on a fair bit of artistry. And it was about three or four days later that I took off my client-driven apron, replaced it with a more self-directed one, and began gluing up pieces of redwood for a sculpture. 

I know plenty of artists who juggle commercial work and personal work, but February of 2012 for me was the point where I made a definitive break from the former to the latter. When one already has a day job and a family, there’s only so much time to create. For me, it had to be one or the other; either commercial work or “fine art”, and having chosen the latter, whenever juicy projects in the former category have dangled in front of me since, I’ve politely demurred. 

Fast forward to February of 2014. Joy Armstrong, then Assistant Curator at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, asked me if I would be interested in having a show at the museum that summer. Though I was, I responded that I just didn’t know how I could create enough new work in time, and declined her offer. Joy emailed to say that, after our conversation, she’d talked with Blake, the Museum Director, and that they’d agreed with me; a show four months hence was asking too much – they’d keep me penciled in for a show a couple of years down the road. On the surface, things were settled.

A couple of days later I asked Blake if they’d decided on the summer lineup and he said they were working on it. I said I’d been reconsidering things, had an idea, and would love it if he’d come by the studio. On February 19, 2014, he showed up, and I showed him a nearly completed drawing (Drawing #1 for unfolding sculpture) and a few sculptural prototypes I’d played around with. Before leaving, he asked me if I wanted to commit to a summer show and I responded that I first hoped to see the space they’d chosen for me to fill. But later that morning, prior to doing so, I emailed him with the subject line “No Way”, saying therein that I thought I’d pique his interest with that subject line but that there was in fact no way I’d turn the show down now.

As I was leaving the shop at 5 pm that very day, my iPhone vibrated. It was an email. I read it. I read it again. I was confused. It was an alert from Google Calendar, an application I vaguely recalled trying to start using a couple of years prior.

At first, I had no clue what I was looking at. It was only after talking with my wife, Nan, that we were able to kind of recall what the message was about. Seems she and I were having a typical end of the day retreat in our upstairs sanctuary one day exactly two years prior, and I must have had some sort of hunch I’d be having a show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in two years’ time. What made me think this I have no idea – I’d literally only been making art again for just over two weeks. I had no connection with Joy, Blake, or anyone else at the museum. I was nowhere close to finishing a single piece of art. 

Perhaps it was hubris. Perhaps it was just a gut feeling heightened by a bit of wine. It was perhaps the only time I’ve used Google Calendar, or any calendar for that matter, to “predict” something. 

When Joy asked if I’d be interested in having a show at the FAC, I was in no mood to create art. There was absolutely no way I had put the possibility of a summer show in the heads of anyone at the museum. Things simply opened up seemingly of their own accord. A door opened that I didn’t know existed.

My “prediction” arrived on the same day my Open show became a reality, two years to the day from when I’d written it. 

Rhythm. Harmony. Convergence.