Remembering Trevor ~ Following Dreams

It took me quite a while in life to figure out what I wanted to do for a living.  I wrote a blog about how I finally figured out what I wanted to be and about how important it is to follow your passion.  I feel very fortunate to be living my dream of being an artist, but dreams don’t come easy. It takes commitment and hard work.

For the last ten years, I’ve witnessed a young kid, Trevor Times, from age 8 to 18 totally committed to the game of golf.  He knew what he wanted in life from an early age and he worked hard toward becoming the best he could be at the game.  I admired the fact that he knew his dream early in life.  With his gentlemanly nature, politeness and tremendous talent, Trevor was going places.  He had already competed in the U.S. Junior Amateur.  He was about to graduate from high school and in the fall was going to East Carolina University on a golf scholarship but sadly his life was cut short this week in a swimming accident. 

I loved hitting balls next to him on the range, emulating his long swing and trying to keep up with his ever increasing distance.  I’m devastated that Trevor’s dreams were cut short.  My heart goes out to his family. 

His tragic loss is a brutal reminder of how fleeting life is and how we should all make the most out of every day.  I’ll miss seeing him go by my studio window, playing golf with his mother Virginia, but I’ll never forget him.  His level of dedication and commitment from such an early age will always be inspirational to me. 

Country Roads ~ Small Town USA

I’ve always wanted to live near the water but many times I’ve thought to myself if I were to live inland, Lexington, Virginia where my brother Tom lives, would be on the top of my top list.  This last weekend I went on my quest to find inspiration for my art from the Virginia countryside. 

It all started with my trip to the Muscarelle Museum in Williamsburg, VA, when I saw the Impressionist exhibit and wrote the following blog, Finding Inspiration in Art.   Beautiful landscapes by Degas, Sisley, Hassam, Robinson and others that were so painterly and serene that I thought to myself, I’d like to paint something like that!

The town of Lexington is “Small Town USA” and I could write a blog about it but on this trip I was focused on the surrounding countryside of Rockbridge County.  I got up early to make the three hour trip, attempting to time the morning light just right upon arrival.  Winding my way toward my brother’s home down Route 252 off Highway 81, I had my camera ready. 

Within minutes of turning off the highway, I was winding through the rolling hills, along little creeks and pastures and I soon realized this might be difficult.  It was hard for me to keep my eyes on the road with so many photo opportunities.  There were no shoulders to pull off on.  I drove by a few photo opportunities just because there was no place to pull over.  Already frustrated, I then spotted a single horse standing next to his white barn, looking at me across the mirrored pond that reflected the weeping willow tree that helped frame the shot.  I drove by and then backed up, mustering up the nerve to pull into the farm’s driveway and park, blocking the entrance just for the few minutes I needed to run along the side of the road snapping pictures.  Of course, all hell started breaking loose as the three barnyard dogs came running down the driveway, all barking at me and notifying their owner of my arrival!  Would they stop or would I find myself with them clamped on my leg????  I then pictured a farmer with a sawed-off shotgun running toward me.  I would have loved to have taken more pictures but it was rapid fire and I was on to the next scene. 

Rain set in and I headed to Tom’s.  After showing him my shots he said “We can do even better”.  When the weather cleared up, we hopped in his pick-up truck and that afternoon and the next morning Tom took me on a guided tour of Rockbridge County.  Tom is the kind of guy that can be driving 50 mph over a winding country road and spot a wild turkey off in the woods or a hawk going after its prey.  I’m the kind of guy that has two hands on the wheel and is looking for the oncoming truck coming around the corner! :-)

Tom is a residential builder of beautiful homes and knows the area backwards and forwards.  He is also a nature guy, loves the outdoors and appreciates the beauty of his surroundings.  So with my camera in hand, the two brothers set out on our photo expedition. 

He took me out old Route 60, took a left on Beatie Hollow, we merged onto Turnpike Road, took a right on Sugar Creek and went up and back, then up and back on Bird Forest Road and took a left on Collierstown Road, right up Kyger’s Hill, left on South Buffalo, right on Spring Branch Road, right on Blue Grass Trail and then headed back into town!  The road names I thought would fit nicely into a country western song. Only a local could have mapped out such a pretty course!

Tom said everyone in the area thinks they have the best view in town.  I can certainly see why.  The area is full of picturesque and panoramic views.  Even though the weather didn’t fully cooperate, I arrived home full of inspiration and new painting material. 

Thank you to my brother Tom for going out of his way for me.  Like Maine, going to Lexington, Virginia feels like you’re stepping back in time.  It makes you think of the “good old days”.  The heartening thing is that there still are wonderful places like Lexington to visit and to live, not to mention to set up an easel and paint!

The Power of Passion!

Wednesday of last week, my wife and I made the nerve wracking journey up 95 to 495 to Bethesda, Md. from Williamsburg, Va.  We managed to avoid the man reading the newspaper while tailgating the car in front of him.  We avoided all of the texters, the people with their I Phones attached to their ears and the road jockeys.  We made the relatively short but dangerous journey :-) because we had a date to see the musical Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center in D.C. with my wife’s mother.  After a wonderful evening of culture, including dinner at the Rooftop Terrace Restaurant at the Kennedy Center and seeing Billy Elliot, I thought there must be a blog here!

Not quite sure of what to write about, we came home bringing my mother-in-law and her Billy Elliot movie with us.  We watched it and for many reasons it moved me, compounding my desire and need to write about it, relating it to art. 

I remember well seeing The Russian Ballet Company of Delaware perform in our little town of Camden, Maine in the mid-1990’s.  I was taken by the beauty of the movements, the discipline that it must take to be so precise and make it look effortless.  I remember vividly from art school the ballerina paintings by Edgar Degas.  Degas’ passion for painting and for the ballet came together to produce a prolific, profound body of work  having completed over 1500 paintings portraying the Paris Opera Ballet. His paintings captured the hard work, movement, emotions and the beauty of the ballet. Prima Ballerina by Degas is pictured below.

 

On a recent tour of a collector’s home I was just admiring a modern marble statue of a ballerina that spun effortlessly around a vertical axis.  Ballet produces an elegance to the human form that goes unnoticed in everyday life.  We have a friend whose daughter is on her way to becoming a prima ballerina, dedicating herself to her craft from a young age.  I appreciate the artistic nature of ballet but embarrassingly so, that is about the extent of my knowledge of the art. 

So what affected me so much with the musical and movie Billy Elliot?  There are many life lessons to take away but here is what moved me:  The passion for dance that Billy developed, first because he enjoyed it, second because he became good at it, but most of all because he was able to express what he called “a fire inside of him”.  He said he felt like he was invisible and that he was flying when he was dancing.  It took him to another place where he was at peace and happy.  Dance became a possible way out of what others expected of him.  Billy was willing to follow his dream even if it wasn’t what others expected, even if others found it odd and even if he was ridiculed. 

It took me a long time to discover what I was passionate about.  I feel fortunate that I am doing what I love to do.  I was lucky and had a wonderful childhood, unlike Billy, but for years I thought you had to make a living carrying a briefcase and work in accounting or a similar field.  Deciding to become an artist whether it is a painter, dancer or musician really is putting yourself “out there”.  It is scary to most and many unfortunately don’t take the risk and miss the journey. 

I loved Billy’s passion and how he was willing to put himself “out there”. I love to meet successful people, hear their story of where they came from, what drives them, when did they know who they wanted to be, whether it is in business or the arts. 

Whenever I need a little motivation, a boost of energy or to rekindle my passion, I will watch the movie Billy Elliot again and remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I love to do. Without a doubt harnessing one’s passion and applying it to one’s craft will help an artist take his or her work to another level, whether it is expressed through a paint brush, by musical instrument or in a dancer’s movements.  It is a wonderful emotion to feel inside and to be able to express in ways that others might appreciate.

Raindrops Kept Falling on My Head......

As we drove into the charming little town of St. Michael’s, Md., water was overflowing some of the parking lots out onto the street.  Light rain had followed us throughout the 4 ½ hour drive up the eastern shore from Williamsburg but apparently St. Michael’s had the brunt of the storm. 

I dropped my wife off for her weekend reunion with her high school friends. Staying at a beautiful second home that one of her friend’s owns, right on the water on the outskirts of town, their weekend would be at the perfect venue.  This casually elegant estate includes a guest cottage, pool, dock and power boat just waiting to be enjoyed! I drove with our two shih-tzus to my one bedroom cottage in the heart of town right near a working boatyard.  The contrast between the estate where my wife would be reminiscing with long time best of friends and my Sunset Cottage was stark.   

It’s an old, historic waterman’s cottage, with just enough charm to make the coziness livable.  It is perfect for someone on the run, taking photographs.  But mix in a rainy weekend, two dogs in new surroundings and the coziness becomes much more pronounced. :-)   Our shih-tzus, Gracie and Gatsby are shall we say somewhat spoiled!  They are used to their mommy being in charge and they weren’t quite sure where daddy was taking them.  This was going to be a productive working trip, lots of photographs taken, exploring and getting to know the area. 

Well, the weather didn’t cooperate for photography and doggy sitting is much more time consuming than one would think.  I couldn’t get WiFi the first day but all was not lost.  The pups and I got to know the area, driving through town, up and down side streets in the rain and discovered a town that has historic, charming architecture combined with a waterfront backdrop.  

The first night for dinner, the easy thing to do would have been to stay dry in my cozy cottage, make myself a peanut butter sandwich and watch the 15” wide screen TV.  My early research though had produced a must stop Italian restaurant called Ava’s that is highly rated.  I put the dogs out in the rain, loaded them in the car for the very short drive to Ava’s, as I didn’t want to leave them in unfamiliar surroundings for too long. 

I figured if the photography wasn’t going to work out at least I should enjoy some good food!  I had to try the meatball slider appetizer.  I fancy myself to be a meatball aficionado.  I also had to try the white pizza after it had been highly recommended.  Ordering was a tough decision because the menu was full of tempting choices.  The carry-out order was ready in 10 minutes max.  I got back in the car, drove the short drive back to Sunset Cottage, put the pups back inside, went back to the car and got the carry-out.  All made more challenging by the steady drizzle!

It turns out that the three large perfectly seasoned meatball sliders, served stuffed in a thin pita pocket with cheese, combined with an 18 ounce bottle of brown ale were exactly what this lonely bachelor needed!  Even as a carry-out order the meatballs were outstanding!  Much better that I pushed myself, made the effort and experienced the local cuisine instead of having a peanut butter sandwich.  The white pizza was also perfection and didn’t disappoint. 

The normal tendency for us after discovering a restaurant that does everything just right is to go back again and again.  It was killing me to not try Ava’s Big Cheese Veal Parmesan.  But while in seafood country, I felt it would be a crime to be in St. Michael’s and not try some of the local seafood.  This time I decided to try leaving the pups in the cottage. Eating a broiled seafood platter or a crab cake sandwich in the car might not be such a good idea and eating it cold back at the cottage didn’t appeal.  I did manage to take the pups on a good walk Saturday afternoon when the rain let up and they were feeling more comfortable at Sunset Cottage.  They missed their mom terribly though and every car door outside got their attention. 

Well I walked to the St. Michael’s Crab & Steak House and enjoyed a broiled seafood platter that included the crab cake I was longing for.  The fresh seafood was a real treat, again a reminder of our time spent dining on the coast of Maine.  As I sat at a corner table overlooking the water, by myself, I caught a quick glance of a yachting print to my back left.  It was a Tim Thompson limited edition print.  Then down the row of maritime art there was a beautiful harbor scene of St. Michael’s by John Barber.  Thompson and Barber, both talented maritime artists, have been very successful at marketing their prints and have become nationally recognized.  I appreciated that the restaurant was highlighting the art of contemporary maritime artists.  Unfortunately it wasn’t mine!  :-)

Sunday morning, after wolfing down a homemade cherry Danish that I had picked up the day before at a little bakery on Tilgman’s Island, I made one last attempt at exploration.  Mother Nature cooperated enough to get a few shots of the quaint harbor town called St. Michael’s.  I came to the conclusion that if I seriously wanted to capture the area on film, so to speak, the way to do it would be from the water.  Motoring around the many inlets and coves would make for much stronger images than what I was seeing.  The John Barber St. Michael’s print at the seafood restaurant I thought captured the area to perfection.  After seeing his exceptional work of the area and being familiar with his many wonderful Chesapeake Bay paintings, I thought to myself “What can I express that he already hasn’t?” 

In Maine it was easy for me.  I wasn’t aware of how other artists had interpreted the coast and I dove into my work with blinders on.  I couldn’t wait to move on to the next painting.  Around every corner was another harbor or lighthouse guiding me and inspiring me.   I’m trying to regain that enthusiasm.  Certainly the Eastern Shore is beautiful and worthy of putting on canvas but for now it is not calling me.   

Sometimes it takes rainy quiet weekends to take the time to reflect on ideas and direction.  What do I want to paint next?  What do I want to express in my work?  What subject matter inspires me?  What fulfills me?  What will sell? Did I go to the seafood restaurant and not Ava’s so that I would see the John Barber painting on the wall next to me to make me rethink future work?  Or was it just because I love seafood? :-)

I do know that it’s always good to be home and “Off the Road Again”.  I’m anxious to finish up the cottage scene that I’ve been working on.  I have an exciting project coming up, painting a double portrait that I’ll write about at a future time.  I’m constantly searching for direction and inspiration, trying to push myself and grow as an artist. Thank you to all of you for taking the journey with me, reading my blogs and being interested in my work.  That is inspirational in and of its self!