In 1964 I was 16 years old and I thought I wanted to be an artist. Willem de Kooning was my art hero. But I became an engineer instead. The Vietnam War might have affected my thinking but more likely than not I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. 40 years later in 2004, I retired from the best job I ever had to become a full-time artist at age 56. I could afford to define success in my own way. So It took a few years to find my voice – you know that which differentiates my work and specifies a moral foundation and vision.
I read this great quote by Gauguin – “Learn to paint from your imagination, then you will find your soul and avoid the scrutiny of the amateur”. So for me finding my soul is like finding my voice. This of course applies to all that we do but for me as a painter, I choose to interpret it as referring to what I stand for, my goals and how I accomplish them.
I believe that success is a moving target that in my heart I will never attain. I am comfortable with that.
Yes I definitely like certain of my paintings and I am pleased to show my work. A check in the mail is good but let me tell you what really drives me and it begins with a question.
What is the larger conversation; the wider dialog that I want to be part of? How can I affect viewers and what are the skills I need to do that? For me this painted dialog is one of the characteristics that define a successful work of art along with virtuoso skill, and the ability to provoke an emotional response or cause someone to act or react.
Today I have more than a quarter of a million followers on social media. Many are from war torn areas like Syria and Iraq. They write to me. One day a woman from Syria wrote to tell me that one of my paintings saved her life. That is success and that is why I paint.
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