Artsy

cocktail-party-_2502341b-11247034466.jpgSuppose you are at a party.   Trying to make small talk, you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know.  Sooner or later, you are likely to ask the ubiquitous question, What do you do?  If the person replies, I’m a doctor … or even better, I’m a neurosurgeon … you are likely impressed, as well as encouraged that a path for an interesting conversation lies ahead.   If your new acquaintance says, I’m an engineer, not so much on either account.   But what if the answer is, I’m an artist?  How do respond?  With interest or skepticism?  Do you subtly check her out to see if she looks like an artist?  Are you intimidated?  Do you silently wonder, Do you have a real job?  If instead of introducing himself as an artist, your new friend says, I’m a painter, do you automatically assume he paints houses?  Or, if she says she’s a writer, do you ask, Have written any books?  Which means, for sure, Have you published any books?  Do you mumble, I don’t now anything about art, and escape to talk to someone else.  Or do you say, I used to like art but I wasn’t very good at it?  Or, recall that when you began to dabble in drawing, your parents cautioned, You can’t make a living as an artist, you know.

I am an electrical engineer, a good one.  But I have been a writer most of my life, not just technical reports and articles, img_20171119_234448720185190310.jpgbut letters and stories and over 2000 posts on my blogs.  It has only been in the last ten years or so that I have been comfortable referring to myself as a writer.   I have also drawn and painted somewhat regularly for much of my 73 years, but the words, I am an artist still stick in my throat.   I have recently discovered a talent for taking stunning photographs,  but I don’t consider myself a photographer.  In her groundbreaking book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron uses the term shadow artist to describe people like me who love the arts, are drawn to the arts, who participate in the arts but butterflynever really become an artist in their own mind.  There are lots of reasons, some of which I touched on in the first paragraph.   Me?  I am fortunate … I was always encouraged artistically by my Mom, who was herself an unacknowledged artist.   But I have a hard time saying I am an artist if I don’t make a living at it.  It’s easier to refer painting as a hobby, a term which unfortunately often carries the connotation that I am not very good at it.

There is more to it than that, though.  When I solve an engineering problem, my solution may be or may not be what is required by my customer but it reflects an application of years of math and science education.  Although I take pride in my work, it is not really about me, and it can be evaluated by precise scientific principles.  When I write a blog post or paint a watercolor, I am on the page in a way that is completely different than my engineering work.   Done right, art both establishes an intimacy with the viewer and makes the author vulnerable to the viewers judgement.  That is why no less than Earnest Hemingway said, There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  I would suggest that for me painting original work is sometimes more akin to slitting my wrists.

So, why this expose on Oldereyes’ reservations about being an artist?  As I was gathering supplies to begin painting again, I found a dozen watercolor pads filled with paintings I did between 2004 and 2006.   It was a period of time when I was painting regularly.  Some are art journal pieces, combining words and paint in unplanned ways.  Others are beautiful, interesting, and peculiar.  I like most of them but have shown few of them to anyone.  A few I’d say are good.  There are also folders and folders of photographs that I like.  So, I’ve decided to create … yes … another blog to show my work.   I’ve named it Artsy in honor of the sometimes sarcastic term artsy-fartsy.  I like being artsy fartsy, you see.  The slug line will be The Artsy Side of an Seventy-Something Engineer.  Stop by if you have a minute.  It’s right here.

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