Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Just call me the UPS driver. These past few weeks I have been traveling all over the midwest delivering paintings. The Lugano Train Station went to Lincoln Nebraska, the Missouri Bales went to Columbia Missouri, and the La Crosse Church went to Minneapolis Minnesota. So three paintings went out the door in less than a month and I feel relieved, happy and depressed at the same time!

LaCrosse Church Complete!

I have always thought that painting “for” someone else rather than “for” yourself would be easy. But it really isn’t. It’s not like it was when I designed websites. I could get to the point in website design where you are completely unattached to the outcome. Thickskinned mind you. It’s just business and advertising and it moves fast. Art and painting on the otherhand is VERY emotional. You still put in all the work of researching, sketching, planning, feeling and loving that painting. Then you are hoping that YOUR vision for the painting is the same as theirs! You are putting yourself out there and it’s a total rush! And then suddenly you are whisking it away to the owner. It’s probably what Empty Nesters feel when they send their youngest off to college.

Early morning drive. I'm going to have to put a max size on my canvas, this JUST fit in the back of the vehicle, plus the car seats.

I was very lucky with subject matter. The Missouri Bales painting is an iconic vista of a harvested family farm that has and will span more generations. The Lugano Train Station was the view from a rented apartment of two wonderful lovebirds as they trekked the globe. And the LaCrosse Church was symbolic of two people remembering their vows and faith adorned in fall colors that hat tips to their autumn wedding. All of these paintings are very special and personal to the clients as well to me. But if you have been following my blog, you know it’s a hard and long road to get there!

When painting a commission, I find that I become “Two-Face” during the critique stage. Half the time I’m patting myself on the back, the other half wants to scratch all the oil off and burn it. This is me in college all over again. It’s an understatement to say that I have ridiculously high expectations both in my art and life in general. It’s an obsessive perfectionism that I think all artists have to a point. (And secretly it will be my downfall!)

This reminds me of a side story: FLASHBACK 1999: In college I would average about 3 sketchbooks a semester. Freshman and Sophomore years I had at least 14 black bound moleskin sketchbooks full of crap. I had filled them all with attempts at graphic design thumbnails, terrible layouts of letterhead, envelopes and business cards, badly drawn logos and ridiculous manifestos that would never come to fruition.

I had carried these sketchbooks, which I hated I might add, for so many years that I couldn’t get past them. They became weights. Past performance and failures in written form sitting on my desk or on the bookshelf or eventually in a box in the corner. Why do I have these? This is not what I want to remember from college. So in the spring of 1999, 3 weeks before my senior show, I burned them. I’m not a pyromanic mind you, but none of it was good, and more importantly, none of it was me. It was a college professor telling me, “I need 500 thumbnails by tomorrow morning”, “I need 100 logo sketches by friday” ,”I need you to jump and you say how high”.  The quantity was there, but the quality was laughable. And although this whipcracking got me in the right mindset for the real world pace, the sketchbooks themselves had to go.

Don’t worry, two sketchbooks survived the burning of ’99 mostly because I had forgotten them in a box at my parent’s house and I just unearthed them a few weeks ago.

Flashforward to a couple weeks ago: So Casey and I are in the car driving back and I’m flipping through the surviving two sketchbooks. They were from Graphic Design IV, my senior year which explains why they weren’t burned. They were my VERY last college sketchbooks. And I found my very first notes on my very first website. It was a website on Herbert Paus and the website was 5 static pages and a photo gallery with 10 photos. I also saw the beginnings of what are now called flowcharts as well as my first wireframe. I even had written, WRITTEN mind you, code in that sketchbook.

Here is a page from that sketchbook outlining my Herbert Paus website. Click to enlarge the awesomeness of 1999. Remember, this was my VERY FIRST website, from college, with no help. Pretty crazy.

I had totally forgotten about this. Completely. Once I had landed my first job, there was no reminiscing about college, there was just moving forward, looking ahead to the next level, day, client. And now looking at this I had mixed feelings. I should burn this sketchbook to stay with the pact I had made way back when with my college buddies yet I can’t deny that it was my very first website. Casey found the whole thing fascinating and basically forbid me to burn them. And unlike my other burned sketchbooks, I was happy to see that I had no regret or failure with this simple sketched website. It ultimately landed me an internship and a job and shaped my future for the next 10 years. So I’m keeping this one. On the bookshelf, as a reminder that you have to start somewhere and eventually that part of your life ends for the next great thing to begin. Which brings us back to my painting.

I have kept all my paintings up until this point from college and beyond. I have gifted only a handful of them, mostly to friends and family and now I’m going to “start somewhere” with these first commissions. This is a new experience for me and good therapy besides. To be able to say “It’s DONE!” and also to be able to let go. Letting go of the past, letting go of the materials and letting go of your faults. Also this is a way for me to share. Share my feeling and my talents with new people and hope that they have those hidden feelings resurface when they see a piece of artwork completely customized for them. That’s very rare in art, usually it’s the other way around. You see something you like, rather than a piece of art is made for you and you only.

The good news is I don’t have an On/Off switch. I’m always in the mood to paint or draw which I think alot of artists don’t have. I’m also taking on projects that I’m passionate about and WANT to do, which I think alot of people in general can’t do. So attacking a new project is exciting and exhilarating, but then I remember, I need to do laundry, pick up my daughter from school and since I don’t have a dishwasher, the dishes in the sink aren’t washing themselves!

So this blog is my “freshman” sketchbook if you will and you are the lucky one that gets to see my failures and triumphs as they happen. (Yay social media) But if your computer suddenly catches on fire, I’ve decided to burn this blog and start over. You’ve been warned.