26 11, 2017

Life Boiled Down to Two Words


Fog has kissed the long, winding driveway, wet from the dew. Yellow light saturates the giant oaks as the morning sun streaks across the low fog lingering atop the grass, making an eerie effect of yellow light hitting slightly lavender-colored fog. I’m wishing I had a camera about now because I know it won’t last long enough for me to run, get my easel, and set up to paint it. I’ll have to rely on my memory for another time. Mornings make for great paintings.

Normal Sunday mornings are quiet and filled with solitude, but this morning I sit on the front porch, having just said farewell to the last of the visiting family members who are getting an early start in hopes of beating the traffic on their long drive to a distant city.

A Big, Beaming Smile

Flashbacks of our time together bring a smile to my face … playing games around the table, sitting up late nights talking, laughter, meals together, and more laughter. And though it’s hard to see them go, knowing it may be another year before we connect, there is also a sense of relief that things will return to normal around home.

Earlier in the week I posted a challenge to friends on Facebook, suggesting they post six days of photos that represent things they are grateful for. I’m surprised at how many have done it, but most enlightening is how special it makes them feel.

Take a Turn Around

A wise mentor once told me that when you’re feeling a little down, a little like things are not going well, do an about face … turn around and look backward at where you are, compared to where you started. Suddenly things come into focus when you realize that our sometimes unsatisfied striving to do more is met with the realization that we’ve all done so much. Looking backward instead of forward is a great gratitude exercise.

Human nature, I suppose, is always wanting more, wanting to improve, to grow, to take things to the next level.

Not Good Enough

Take my art studio, for instance. It’s not good enough … or so I was thinking. After all, the dream is to one day have a tall room with giant north-facing windows and a space big enough to do 20-foot paintings, and room for more visiting painters on Wednesday nights when I paint figures. One day, I think, maybe I’ll have that ultimate studio.

Yet this week a visiting guest was telling me how wonderful my studio is and how fortunate I am to have it, and as I stopped and looked back, I realized they were right. Before moving here and converting an old pool cabana into a studio (the previous owners never built the pool), I thought back to the days when I had a small corner of the garage. I’d go out every night, winter or summer, and be either too hot or too cold, but I was grateful to have it. It was better than when I had no garage.

By the act of someone else pointing out how lucky I am, and by the act of looking in reverse, I came to the realization that I’m lucky to have what I have and that the ultimate studio isn’t necessary. Somehow this has made me feel so much more grateful.

Of course, this exercise isn’t about a studio, it’s about all things and all situations. By turning around and looking backward, I see there is so much to be grateful for. I highly recommend it.

Things Are So Much Better

I’m also grateful that when I look back, most of my circumstances have improved. I know that’s not true for all, which makes me even more grateful. And it drives me to want to help them find a way that they too can look back and see that their own circumstances have improved.

Mining for Gratitude

I’ve spoken about gratitude before. Life gets easier and is more pleasant when approached with the spirit of being grateful. Though I don’t always accomplish it, there is value in thinking about three things you’re grateful for each day before you fall asleep, and first thing when you awaken.

Since I started this process, I found I was less grumpy and stopped taking things, and people, for granted.

A Single Notification

I also, at the urging of a wise friend, started trying to find one great thing about someone I know and making a point of sending them a note to point it out to them. Not only does it make their day, it makes me feel better by making them feel better. Therefore I try to do this every day, and because of it, I start the day with the right tone … gratitude passed along.

The concept of Thanksgiving is truly a blessing. A little prayer, a little round robin around the table where people talk about what they are giving thanks for, can be powerful stuff. A chance to speak well of others, a chance to let them know how much we care, though it may not be said often enough.

I’ve realized that the gift of Thanksgiving is something I need to repeat more frequently, not just one time a year, not just on holidays.

On Friday after Thanksgiving we were all barraged with the pressure of buying gifts for others and the obligations of Christmas or Hanukkah. This will continue tomorrow on “Cyber Monday” and will be repeated constantly for the next four weeks. Yet the gift has already been given for many of us — the gift of being grateful for others and what they have done for us.

The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

I think back to Thanksgivings past and pine for the people who once shared the table but who are no longer with us. Though I’m thankful for their too-brief time in my life, I know that one day my chair will sit empty, and it is my hope that people will one day look back on their times with me and regret that I’m no longer there.

I feel as though that won’t happen, though, unless I spend my life doing more for people and expecting nothing in return. What can I do to leave them happier, feeling better about themselves? What can I do to encourage others? What can I do to help them live their dreams? What can I do to share my gratitude for knowing them?

The secret to living is giving. It’s taken me decades of being self-centered and selfish to realize that self has nothing to do with a rich life.

How we each give is personal. And if we give to get something in return, it’s empty.

A Great Year in the Making

In the next few weeks I’ll go through my annual exercise of planning my year, setting my goals, evaluating this year and what I did well and where I failed. In that process I will set some lofty goals, but those goals are not all about financial progress. They will measure how well my team and I did in serving others. How many more homes can we build in the local rehabilitation center to help homeless people get on their feet? How many more meals can we serve? How many more people can we teach to paint, so they can find the soul of an artist? How many more can we encourage? How many can we train to market their art so they can accomplish their dreams? What can we invent, create, or get better at doing so we can amplify these efforts and touch more lives?

Though today marks the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, for me it marks the beginning of my month of planning before I enter a fresh start for a new year.

Doing More

I realize I’ve not done enough. I can do more, my team can do more, and I can be more giving, more encouraging, and find more things to be grateful for. I know I’m held to a high standard by my maker, not to earn anything, but to share what I’ve been given because I’m moved to do so.

I’d like to say that I give thanks to you because you’ve taken precious time that will never return in order to read this little note today.

I’d also like to encourage you to adopt the one thing that changed my life, which is living with a spirit of generosity and gratitude. Start by selecting ways you can remind yourself of the things you too can be grateful for. Sometimes we forget and get caught up in all of our wounds. Next, seek ways you can encourage others, and help them see how much they are appreciated. Then start focusing on what you can do for others and take baby steps every day, starting today.

You see, it all boils down to two words. Thanks and giving.

Have a great day … and relax. You deserve it.

Life Boiled Down to Two Words2017-11-21T10:58:27-05:00
17 11, 2017

The Crying Child in the Woods


The air is thick with moisture and the distant mountain in my view is a grayish purple. The silence of the morning is so still that I can hear subtle little sounds, like the baby bird chirping quietly in its nest in the rafters of the porch. I can hear things in the distance I would never normally hear.

The light is flat. Somewhere the sun is nestled warmly inside a giant cloud, keeping the light from escaping.

Treetops gently sway to the mild breeze, like ballerinas rehearsing graceful moves on their toes.

I hear cries echoing in the distance, breaking up the gentle sounds of the morning. Coyotes, perhaps?

A Screaming Child

My ears perk up, my defense instincts kick in, and the adrenaline rushes to my heart. I’m suddenly hyper-aware, realizing the cry is that of a little girl. Though I cannot make out her words, her screams are deafening in the silent morning.

Should I call for help? Should I put on my shoes and run out into the distant woods to come to her rescue?

Three screams of desperation, and I make out “Daddy, help me! Daddy, help me!” She is screaming desperately, with all her might.

Tears well up in my eyes, I feel helpless, trying to make out the direction of the screams, but not knowing if I can get there in time, and what will I face. Surely a child is not alone in the woods in this early morning, just after sunrise.

Then, in the distance, a male voice is heard. “I’m coming! I’m coming, honey. I’ll be right there.” Relieved, I know I no longer need to be the rescuer. The screams stop. The silence returns. The mystery will never be resolved.

As I sit here I realize the moment has rattled me in so many ways, as tears continue to stream down my face.

Memories Flood My Heart

Memories of my own children at young ages flood into my heart, of moments they needed their daddy to come to their rescue. Though with triplets, those days were hard, it was wonderful to be the hero, to be needed.

Today those hero-seekers aren’t crying out for Dad’s or Mom’s help anymore. Instead, in their teenage years, they tend to be annoyed with us, relying on us for sustenance and coin, but little else. Though I used to be the knight in shining armor, now I’m just “Oh, Dad.”

The Speed of Parenting

Time travel really is possible; I’ve lived it now for 15 years as I watched little seeds grow into saplings and then young trees — in what seems like a flash. Though others warned me, no words can really prepare a parent for the speed at which our children grow ready to jump from the nest, hopefully prepared to fly.

Driver training will soon lead to drivers’ licenses, the first true freedom, and the beginning of our separation. Truly we are caretakers for but a brief period.

The prospect of life without our munchkins at home in just three years is both frightening and exhilarating. Life as an at-home parent ends while a whole new empty-nester chapter of life unfolds. In our case, we’ll see all three jump the nest at one time. No chance to try it once, then another a couple of years later, and then another. It will be cold turkey.

Looking Forward to the Empty Nest

I feel guilty for looking forward to days when driving them to school at 6:30 for band practice is replaced by awakening to go paint or to get to work early, or maybe even sleeping in. Yet my heart already aches knowing my little entertainers won’t be around to brighten each day.

Friends who have experienced this transition tell me it’s the hardest, yet the best time, seeing kids go out on their own. But of course parenting never ends. Thank God for small favors.

An Unexpected Gift

Hearing that child cry out hit me in an unusual way this morning, a way I wouldn’t have expected, a way that rocked my heart and made me wish I were more needed by my offspring. My hope is that, as uncool as I am today, maybe there is some double reverse psychology, and their hormonal convictions of my uncoolness are really hidden signs that Dad is needed still.

The little girl’s cries remind me that we all need someone to run to, someone to rescue us, to be there in our moment of need. Though our hardened shell of adulthood often does not allow those cries to be heard, they are there, somewhere under layers of self-protection.

Friends who have lost their parents tell me they would give anything for one hour more. We all need someone to run to, to rescue us, to reassure us, to let us know that everything will be OK.

A Lifetime Commitment

A parent’s role never really ends. My calls to my aging parents, now in their 90s, are still reassurance, even though sometimes we have reversed roles and their cries for a knight in shining armor have turned to us. Parent becomes child, yet still remains parent.

It’s an amazing phenomenon that parents raise us and prepare us for life, and eventually we become their caregivers in turn. My parents prepared me for that role, and my hope is that I am a thoughtful enough parent that my kids will one day be willing to play the role for me, and hear my cries for help in the forest when I’m feeling frightened and alone.

I realized this morning that we all have moments when we’re crying out for help, wanting someone to rescue us, to be there for us, to save us.

Seeing Through Misbehavior

Though people act out and misbehave in ways that make us want nothing to do with them, perhaps we need to understand that sometimes they just don’t know how to ask for help. Their arrogance or nastiness or negativity may be a hidden code that’s saying, “Be there for me, help me, pay attention to me, understand me, save me.”

Cowardly Hit and Run

Recently I ran into a critical person on social media — someone who has never met me, never attended one of my events, never gotten to know me, but who slammed me, berated me, challenged me, and was as nasty as it gets because of my success and their perception that I’m “raping the land” because I’m an “opportunist.”

It hurt badly, not so much because I knew this originated with someone I knew who had betrayed me, but because someone made assumptions when they did not know my heart and my passion to help people grow, improve, and find the creativity inside themselves. They don’t know that my life changed when I discovered painting and that my passion is to help others find what I found. They just assumed I’m all about the money.

Too often these things lead to Facebook duels where anything can be spoken by people who would never have the courage to say something face-to-face.

What if we were to look at such behavior differently and ask ourselves, “Is it a cry for help? Is it a cry to be understood? Is this anger and vitriol present because someone just wants us to see their side of the argument?” Then perhaps we could lay down our swords, listen, and find peace between us.

We all just want to be heard.

Stop Solving

As a husband and a dad, it’s something I struggle with every day because I want to spout my own opinions before I’ve properly heard what’s being said. And, in typical male fashion, I want to solve the problems even when people don’t want solutions, they just want acknowledgement and someone to listen.

The little girl crying out in the woods lives inside each of us. The rescuing daddy also lies in each of us. All the roles we are given can be reversed. One minute we’re the crying child in need while another moment we’re the rescuing father or mother. It’s a complex world.

Training Future Behavior

Sometimes I fail to remember that the way I treat my children today will determine if they are there for me in the future. And the way I treat my parents is a model for how I’ve trained my kids to treat their parents.

It’s not an excuse to let bad behavior off the hook, but it is a reminder that we all need to be treated with respect. As my kids have grown from babies to toddlers to young adults, I’m reminded that they can handle more, and have to be treated differently in each phase. Like me, they want to be treated with respect and listened to. And it’s a reminder that the same is true in my time with my parents, who devoted their lives to making sure I turned out OK (it’s still too early to tell), and I need to be there for them more.

I’m reminded to see the other side. To listen for clues. To react less and to listen more.

Unknown Behavior

We are all crying out for help at times, even when we don’t know it. A therapist I met with once helped me understand that sometimes when I clam up, don’t talk, and don’t share my feelings, it’s because I fear I’ll be hurt, and I fear that others won’t listen.

Today that child’s cry for help, echoing in the woods, is cemented into my brain, as a reminder that my primary goal is to be there to rescue, not be rescued, and that if I give to others as I want to receive, I’ll bring joy to them and rescue myself.

Why Now, Why Me?

I find it odd that as I stepped out onto the porch this morning, wondering what I was going to write, God placed that child there with a cry for help at the very moment I walked outside. A moment that lasted less than 30 seconds, and has never occurred before, the entire time I’ve been living here. And I have no idea why it struck me, why tears welled up in my eyes, and why I drew the conclusions that were laid upon my heart. But I’m happy it happened, because I needed a reminder to be a knight in shining armor for everyone in my life.

Today, as you enter your day, you will encounter others. Some will be gentle and loving, others may be angry or annoyed. Some may be downright nasty. We cannot control how they act, we can only control how we react. We can RE-act by reflecting their actions, or we can RE-act by changing the tone and the dynamic.

Stop. Listen.

Perhaps today, and all week, if you too remember the crying child in need of rescue, you can ask yourself why someone is saying what they are saying. What do they really need? How can I react with love? How can I listen more? How can I be there as their knight in shining armor?

And I want you to know that I’m willing to listen. If you have a need, if you need someone to hear your voice and there is no one there who can do it, or who is listening, drop me a line. I will respond.

And thanks for listening and letting me be heard. It means a lot. It’s probably why I write these missives each Sunday. I just want to be heard.

The Crying Child in the Woods2017-11-19T05:25:37-05:00
12 11, 2017

Humiliated for Dreaming


The annoying buzzer in my iPhone startles me, and my eyes open to the patio door overlooking the seven-story-high view from the classic Biltmore Hotel in Miami. As I look out over a mist-covered golf course, the birds are singing happy tunes and the gray billowing clouds are decorated with glowing pink edges as the sun emerges from the ocean. Shadows of palm trees seem to extend six times their length across the manicured lawn.

Coffee from the little in-room machine awakens my brain as I sit observing the distant city, lights still aglow. As I think back over my week, a smile comes to my face. A very big, very hard-to-accomplish dream has come true. The feeling, and the impact of it all, make my eyes well up in gratitude. This was a long time coming, after years of discouragement and roadblocks. It all came from daydreaming, which, I was told, was a bad thing. I start thinking back to my fourth grade daydreaming experience. It wasn’t pretty.

School with Brown Bricks, Massive Chalkboards, and an Old Clock

Sitting at my little brown oak one-piece school desk, with 40 years of names carved on it, I looked up to find Mrs. Burkett staring down at me, hands on her hips. “That’s, it Rhoads,” she said, as she grabbed me by the ear and walked me all the way down the long, locker-lined hall to the principal’s office. “I’m tired of this daydreaming. You’ve got to pay more attention, and since you’re not willing, there will be consequences.”

Frankly, this was a trip I had made many times before, in every grade. My mind was elsewhere through most of school, and I’m sure the principal rolled his eyes when I was there again for daydreaming.

Knocking Knees in the Principal’s Office

I can remember sitting nervously in the chair outside his office, knees knocking, palms sweating. In those days, if we did something wrong we got whacked with a paddle. I’d had it many times before and honestly could not understand why daydreaming was a crime so bad that someone would bend me over for a WHACK!

Worse than a spanking was a call to my parents. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to mind my daydreaming. “It’s what I do at work. It’s how things happen,” said my dad. “I’m not too concerned. You’ll be fine even if you get poor grades in school. Don’t let them get you down. Daydreaming is a good thing.”

The Luck of Great Parents

Maybe they worried secretly behind the scenes, but I got nothing but encouragement as a child. I’m thankful I won the lottery and was born to loving, encouraging parents, and I’m thankful I got the daydreaming gene that helped my dad build his business into some life-changing products.

Daydreaming may have been met with punishment in fourth grade, but it placed me into a wonderful world of ideas and a life of “What if?” curiosity. I clearly did not fit the school mold, got horrible grades, did not go to college, and though I struggled for lots of years building out my ideas in business, it’s been a grand ride so far.

Daydreaming resulted in a lot of things that are hopefully making life better for those around me, especially my artist friends, who need encouragement, process, training, and tools to help them succeed.

One of those dreams came true this week.

As a dreamer, I have learned that the best dreams are the ones that come with the most discouragement. Whenever someone tells me something is impossible, it’s like putting jet fuel in my brain. It makes me want to prove them wrong.

A Special Place for Special People

I had this dream to create an event for figurative and portrait artists. My dream was not to try to imitate or replace the Portrait Society conference, a wonderful event. It was to create an event for museum-quality artists who felt they didn’t fit into the world of commissioned portraits. An event that helped them understand the differences in how they need to proceed with their careers, and a hands-on event where artists could practice on the spot what they had learned.

Everyone told me it couldn’t be done. Everyone told me my dream team of instructors could never be put together. Everyone told me there was no need for a second conference.

Fighting Doubt

Though doubts crept into my brain from time to time, I pushed them out and continued on the path. It was not easy; I got a lot of resistance. In fact, I got so much resistance I almost pulled the plug. But I didn’t.

Instead I moved forward, created FACE (the Figurative Art Convention & Expo) and brought in TRAC (The Representational Art Conference) in an effort to keep their good work alive after their own event had been shuttered.

My own team, in some cases, tried to discourage me from producing the FACE convention. “It’s too risky. If we fail, it could put the entire company out of business.” But they said the same thing when I launched the Plein Air Convention & Expo.

But frankly, that made me very nervous. My head was full of doubts. “What if they’re right? How will I feed my kids?”

Well, in spite of it all, yesterday we wrapped up the first FACE event, and I’m proud to say it was well attended and well received. (You can read all about it in Fine Art Connoisseur’s next issue.)

The most satisfying part was the gratitude of those in attendance, many of whom were not in a position to move to a big city and attend an atelier. They threw around words like “life-changing,” “historically important,” and “unlike anything else.”

I’m humbled.

A Redheaded Encounter

One young man — I can’t recall his name, but he had crazy red hair — came up to me to talk and asked, “Why you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you decide to do this convention? What made you do it?”

I hadn’t thought about that. I knew why I did it, but I had not stopped to think about why me.

I’ll tell you what I told him…

Sometimes ideas come to me that are so important, I know they need to be done. I look around and try to find out if anyone else is doing them, and if nobody is, I feel so driven by the need and importance of the idea that I have to go ahead. I figure that if I don’t do it, it may never get done at all.

Driven by Need and Passion

I told him that I was passionate about two kinds of painting, plein air landscape painting and figure/portrait painting, and that I felt the museum-quality artists — and those who want to be — were not being served, that there was a need for unity in our type of painting so we can build a bright future, and there was a need for a training event to train our brains in technique, tools, philosophy, and ways to see it all grow and blossom into something bigger.

Though I never stopped to think “Why me?” I kind of take the attitude of “Why not me?” If I’ve been blessed with the tools, or an idea or a vision, and if it needs to be done, why not me?

I say this with complete humility, and don’t want for a second to send the signal that I think I’m special or important. I just feel as though an idea was laid in my lap because it needed to be done.

Though I’m a little more established than I was when I started this wild journey, I’m not a wealthy man, and what money I make, I tend to put back into the business to do more cool things to help people grow as painters, as collectors, and as professionals or hobbyists. A conference like this put hundreds of thousands of dollars at risk, and if it failed, I’d be almost on the streets, painting full-time for a living and trying to pay off my debts and feed my family. It’s a little scary, which is why I was relieved when we sold enough seats to almost cover my costs.

Little Voices with Big Ideas

But when that little voice in my head sends me ideas, I feel as though I have to act on them, and it’s irresponsible to the cause not to act on them — even if it’s scary, even if I don’t have the money. I figure if something is truly worthy, I’ll find a way to do it.

With that, I ask you the same thing: Why not you?

Each of us has ideas, burning desires, and those dreams need to be acted on. You don’t want to wake up in old age wishing you had done something important.

I find that ideas come, probably several a day. If one idea keeps coming up and gains more and more importance in my mind, I’ll persist, run it up the flagpole with my team, and see how they react. Then I’ll do what I want anyway. Sometimes I listen to their wisdom, sometimes I change the direction of an idea based on their input, sometimes I put it aside till the timing is right. The problem is that some ideas have a time, and if they don’t get done in that time, they won’t serve their special purpose.

Listen, Can You Hear Your Heart?

I’d like to encourage you to listen to your ideas, listen to your heart, and follow your passion. Yes, it’s frightening. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it may take months or years. Yet if you don’t follow your passion, you’ll always regret it. No matter what the obstacles, you will find a way to get around them because your passion to change the world in your way will drive you.

Conditions will never be perfect. People will always tell you why your ideas won’t work. Don’t wait. Go for it anyway. I’ve launched many ideas that people said wouldn’t work. Some failed, but some succeeded.

Fail Forward

If you fail at first, don’t give up. Keep finding a way. Keep failing. Just like painting, you have to do a lot of bad paintings before you can do good ones. Failure is growth. So if you’re asking yourself “What if I fail?” just know that if you don’t fail, you don’t grow.

I recommend you write down your ideas, pick the one that will help others and will change the world, and run with it. Don’t walk. RUN! Run through roadblocks. Run past negative people. Run to the goal, and if you do, lives will change and you will have made a difference in your own life.

Don’t think that doing life-changing things is for special people with special skills or talents. It’s not true. People who change the world in their little way are just people with passion that is so strong that it overcomes their fears.

I wish you well in your journey and ask you to consider today: What has been in my head and my heart that needs to be done? Then ask yourself, “Why not me?”

Humiliated for Dreaming2017-11-16T16:30:45-05:00
5 11, 2017

The Warm Hug of Tradition


Shivering as I stepped out of my cozy bed this morning as the sun warmed my lids, I put on my warmest and oldest sweater, a cherished gift from my father at Christmas over 30 years ago. It’s a brown, hand-knitted sweater with a Native American pattern, and real antique buffalo nickels as buttons. It’s soft, it’s warm, it’s a little baggy now, and it’s one of the few things I’d grab if there was a fire, because it’s part of a family tradition. All the members of our family have two … one brown, one blue. These will become family heirlooms because they were knitted by an artist, Charles Atwood King, in Upstate New York.

Glowing Light

This morning’s light is glowing orange as it dances across the plants and grass in the backyard and lights up the side of my studio building. I’ve painted it many times, but never captured that Sorolla look of light. I’ll keep practicing, but this morning, staying warm is my priority. I’ve made my way over to the outdoor fireplace, something that makes these mornings even more special.

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. Little family traditions, little things that warm our souls … like sweaters, fireplaces, old shoes, or the photo albums we’ve not fed since digital entered our lives. I’m sure one day, once the hard drives have crashed, kids sneaking into the attic to look at the chronicle of our lives won’t be the same. I must get around to making prints, but that is so 1980s.

Home, as you know, is my center. The sound of the old wooden screen door slamming behind me, the squeak in the bathroom door I should fix, but kind of like, and the marks on the doorjamb that show each child’s height over the years.

Homeward Bound

I returned home just yesterday. Wanting to be home, I got up in New York at 3 a.m. after getting in bed at midnight, took a car to the New York airport for a 7 a.m. flight, and was home by 10. The kids were still in bed, so I was there to cook breakfast and start their day. I’ll do the same today, then board a flight out to Miami to prepare for ourFigurative Art Convention & Expo.

My 24-hour trip to New York was a complete luxury and a trip I didn’t need to make, a trip whose expense was not necessary — but there was something so special that I wanted to be a part of it, because history is so important in art.

We Are Old Photos to Come

I love old photos of artists from the 1940s (or 1840s), and I love to look back upon traditions, which is why I wanted to be at the event on Friday night celebrating the Salmagundi Club’s 100th anniversary in its Fifth Avenue location. I also knew it would be an opportunity to see all my friends and meet people I’ve always wanted to meet. It was a grand event, and you’ll read about in Fine Art Connoisseur and Fine Art Today.

Can You Say Sleepy?

My first visit to the Salmagundi Club was disturbing. I was the guest of a member, and we ate in the downstairs dining room. The walls were covered with historical paintings by members — the history as rich as it gets for a painter. Yet everyone I saw in the club seemed to be over 70.

As I looked into it, I found the membership was on the decline, and there were few activities to draw younger artists. It was my prediction that this wonderful club would die off with its remaining members.

A year later, in the same dining room, I visited with a man who had just joined the club’s board and had the same feelings about its future. He managed to step in, get beyond the politics and deep resistance to change, and slowly rebuild the club.

New Oxygen in an Old Place

Today, about 10 years later, the club has returned to its former vibrant prominence and become a venue for important art shows and activities. It was the vision of Tim Newton and his board, and key members like Roger Rossi, that brought the club back to life. Had this not happened, I’m not sure the club would have ever made it to 100 years on Fifth.

The California Art Club was going through the same thing. Great heritage, but dying a slow death. But it was saved and revitalized over 20-plus years by Elaine and Peter Adams.

Ties to a Tattered Past

My visit to the club on Friday got me thinking about the importance of being a part of something old, something with roots in the past, something that held on to deep tradition. As an artist and publisher, I want to be a part of something that artists cherished 100 years ago. I love walking through the library knowing the great artists of the past were in that room, smoking cigars and telling stories about paintings. Those same artists’ paintings fill museums today.

There is something magical about being a part of these kinds of traditions. Maybe it’s knowing that perhaps artists in the future will look back at the old pictures of us at the 100-year event, wishing they could have been alive to meet the iconic artists of our time.

Icons of the Future

We often don’t think about or realize that artists like Joe McGurl, Don Demers, John Stobart, C.W. Mundy, Quang Ho, and others, too many to mention, will be hanging in major museums (some already are) and will be the icons people look back upon and wish they could have known.

This is what drives me to do so many art instruction DVDs with interviews … it’s recording history and technique, because I wish I had video of Sargent. It’s for that reason our library of over 200 videoscontinues to sell, even videos shot almost 30 years ago. These are historic documents.

I’ve realized that linking to history is important to us all, and that each of us needs to find a way to create traditions. Someone, probably a group of a few artists over dinner or drinks, started the California Art Club and the Salmagundi Club. What can you and I start? What traditions can we be a part of?

Give some thought to traditions you are a part of and the gifts they provide, and perhaps something you can do to start traditions or fix something in need of new life.

The Warm Hug of Tradition2017-11-16T19:28:43-05:00