BraveryThe first known interview with a VampBlogger – Confessions of an artist

I was recently asked for an interview by eminent art therapy blogger, Stuart Cline.  Here are his fascinating questions, along with my answers:

What got you into blogging? I enjoy communicating directly with the people.  A big part of my mission is converting “civilians” to a life of self-expression and creativity and freeing the captive soul.  Art just makes the world a better place.   I’ve always sent email newsletters and have been a columnist for the local paper.  One of my books, Point of Art, is partly the result of that column.  I hosted a TV show called Artbeat on PBS, which was sort of a video blog.

At what age did you start blogging and how long have you been doing it?  I’ve really begun blogging in earnest just this year, with the updating of my website.   I’ve had an arts website since the early 90s, but somehow always manage to fall behind the latest technologies.  How does that keep happening?

Where were you born?  I’m a Detroiter.

Did you always want to be an artist? Did you have any set backs.  Set backs?  I could write a book!  Wait, I did.  My other book is a semi-autobiographical novel about my surviving a sexual assaulted when I was forteen.  That one’s called “The Fishfly.”   It has become clear that often what I thought were opportunities were really setbacks.  And vice versa.   I knew I was destined to be an artist as early as Junior High.  But which discipline?  I set out to be a musician in College, painting for extra cash on the side.  Then I supported a struggling acting career by painting portraits.  Finally, in my mid thirties, it dawned on me that I should really devote myself to the thing at which I was most successful: painting.  Everything else became a hobby after that and life began to come into balance.

Who inspired you to do art? Do you have any artist’s in your family?  I grew up in a house full of artists. My parents met in art school.  Now if that’s not a recipe for disaster, right?   My father was a famous portrait artist. Music was blaring all the time and it was chaotic.  As an adult, I’d developed a romantic infatuation with the idea of a stable childhood.  But the lack of structure prepared me for anything in “real life.”  At least that was the theory.  I’m not so sure.  I’ve come to believe stability is a fine goal.

What artist’s influenced you?  Growing up I copied the masters, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Sargent, Van Gogh, etc.  I was one of the stalwarts who’ve held onto the quaint notion that beauty is still a viable element in art.  Although my taste is as wide as the sea, I prefer to emulate nature in my work.

Do you find your art work has helped your mental health?, Life? How? ( Many of my blog readers are art therapist like how it relates to mental health)  I believe there are many correlations between the work of an artist and the spiritual truths.  As a teacher, I find the only path to success is through dealing with fear.  Our greatest fear is that we are not good enough.  And no where is this fear more acutely revealed than in front of a blank canvas.  My art has been the vehicle by which I have trained myself to be brave in the face of my fear.  And what is this fear behind a blank canvas?  The fear of the unknown.  This is how art has saved my life.  And I have seen the powerful impact it has had on countless students, who are struggling to validate themselves by creating something meaningful through their art.  Eventually, we all come around to realizing we were born good enough.  Once we realize this, then our art really takes off.

If you were a superhero what powers would you have and why?  The power of empathy.  Imagine, if I could read the hearts and know the truth behind anyone who has ever lived, to see from their perspective.  The power to connect and be one and understand others, as well as myself, without the distortion of our ego to get in the way.

What is your favorite color?  I only see color as it relates to other colors, which is one of the myriad of spiritual lessons of an artist.  Everything is relative.

What is your favorite medium to work in. I prefer to paint in oil, particularly wet on wet.  This way I can move paint into paint and enjoy the most primal aspects of creation:  Playing in mud.  I am a painter, not merely an artist.

What challenges do you have in being creative? and how do you over come them?  The greatest challenge is time management.  But then, as I have found at various times throughout my 34 year career, we find ourselves asking the existential questions.  Why am I here?  How best do I fill this brief moment we have on Earth?  What is my dharma?  Sometime the answer to this question shifts and the Earth under your feet, that has always been there, moves.  And then it’s time to stop and re-evaluate.  The management of time only matters when you know what you need to do.  If that is uncertain, time no longer matters.

What helps you be more creative?  What you put in is what comes out.  Our intuition is only as good as what we put in.  So I read, I write, I explore, I ask questions, I try new forms, I get with others and bounce ideas around.  I listen to music.  I keep that constant flow in and out, all the time, with every breath.

How have you seen art help people you have worked with?  I have seen people transformed.  With a little tenacity,  mixed with some basic know how, I’ve seen people begin to believe in themselves.  With a few tools, people have so much to say.  People just need a chance, a vehicle to speak.  Art can provide that.

Are you able to make a living as an artist?  It’s the only job I’ve had in 34 years.  But I haven’t always made a living.  The field changes all the time.  Sometimes I’m leading the change and sometimes I’m barely keeping up.

What words of advice would you give to someone who is young and wants to be an artist?  Business schools are now hiring people with art degrees.  And hear I’ve always told kids to get a business degree, because art is a business.  If you want to make a living you have to treat it as a business.  My art is my brand.  If you want freedom to do anything, have a ball, but don’t expect the public to support you.  They won’t.

What would life be like for you if you could not do art?  I’d be dead, more than likely.  The feelings would have gotten so pent up, with no appropriate place or way to express the absurdity, the irony, the incongruity, the chaos, and the intense improbable beauty of it all that I would probably have driven over a cliff in search of the meaning I find in a simple stroke of paint smeared across a canvas.

If you were given a wish to change career’s and do any profession in the world what would it be?  I guess I’d either be a psychologist or a minister.  I appreciate people who are broken; I enjoy seeing them overcome their challenges as they come to realize they were never really broken in the first place.  It just felt that way.

What subject matter do you like painting/drawing the most and why?  I enjoy painting people.  I enjoy painting natural forms.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?  The art business is changing dramatically.  Technology is allowing many people to enter the field and it is getting crowded.  By enabling people to find their voices as artists, ironically, I have over the years contributed to reducing the value of my own voice.  Many of my students have surpassed me in their careers.  It all depends on how we measure success, I suppose.  I think making others to find their voice is the greatest calling a person could have.  Where will that leave me in 5-10 years?  Happy.

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