Monthly Archives: March 2017

Household Name

My friend Anne once told me not to feel bad about painting the same subject over and over. She said if you paint it once, one person can have it. If you paint it many times, many people can have one, and that’s how you can become a household name.

Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the same painting again, but that is not true. They evolve subconsciously. I wouldn’t be able to do the same painting twice if I tried.

These fish in trees paintings are hanging in many homes now, and that’s a good feeling.

I was feeling stressed after work this morning. I was so wound up I couldn’t just go to bed. So I went into my studio and painted for an hour or so. It relaxed me and gave me some clarity, or at least calmed my mind enough to go to bed.

Working the night shift takes a toll, even though I love my job. As I said in an interview once, my jobs are things I do, but art is who I am.

Be Yourself

Click here to see my ARTSCULTURE Q&A on their site

What role does the artist have in society?

To me, it’s like that old adage, “Think globally, act locally.”

As an artist, I want to reach the whole world with my message, but I have to create personal expressions right where I am. From my own “local” mind.

And what is your message?

It’s pretty simple really… that you matter. That what you feel and what you have to say, is valid and important.

Society seems dead set on making us feel bad about ourselves.

Almost anyone who has ever heard me speak in public, has heard my soapbox. That you are unique in all the universe. No one else has your particular viewpoint and experiences. Being you is all the credential you need to be a true artist, whatever form your art may take.

So going back to your first question, I think a good role for me as an artist in society, is to instill a sense of self confidence in others.

People will criticize you. So take constructive value from that critique and ignore the rest. Find the gift in it and continue to shine rather than feeling bad about yourself or quitting.

The really important things in life are invisible.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

I think an artistic outlook is seeing the meaning or significance in something. We have the power to interpret what we see. Our bodies collect information through our senses, and our brain then has the ability to metabolize that information into spiritual meaning.

Every word in this sentence is just a string of letters, or symbols. Our brains understand the meaning because we’ve learned the language they are written in.

In the same way, our brains or spirits can extrapolate spiritual meaning from the beauty or pain of the world. As artists, we can highlight and share what we see and how it makes us feel or think.

I think that’s an artistic outlook.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

As nice as it is to hear someone say “I love that,” it is also valuable to hear negative comments.

Someone once told me “I reject your thinking” because he didn’t like the order in which I layered paint into a landscape.

It really made me stop and think, and only strengthened my instinct to capture light at the end rather than paint the furthest away objects first.

Criticism offers us another, objective viewpoint. I think the comment made me a stronger, more focused and intentional artist.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I think life is lonely. I don’t think art makes it so.

Art, for me, is social and interactive. Sometimes friends come over to watch me paint in my studio. We play music, talk, laugh. Sometimes I go to other artists’ studios to paint with them. Not necessarily to collaborate, but to commiserate. Sometimes I paint in front of a gathering of people, doing a painting demonstration and talking about my life and my art.

But mostly I paint alone in my studio. That is not sad or lonely. It’s regenerative. I often say that painting is like a meditation for me. But even those paintings most often end up on a wall and become interactive.

For me, it takes work not to be lonely. Art is one way I connect with people. It is also a way for me to connect with myself. Is the artistic life lonely for some people?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Long after his death, I found a handwritten note from my grandfather which said “Don’t imitate your teacher. Don’t let your teacher make you imitate him. Be yourself.”

Letting Go

Someone recently asked me about my affinity with the subject of trees.

First of all, I live in the boreal forest where I am surrounded by trees. The Norway pine, or red pine is the state tree of Minnesota, and the white pine is the state tree of Michigan, the state where I was born.

I think the white pines are king of the forest here, especially the old growth individuals. Each tree has its own personality, the way each person does. Earthlings. We’re all living inhabitants of this fragile planet, and I try to capture the uniqueness of each one. But as an artist, I also want to bring a sense of whimsy to the images.

When my daughter was born, I planted fir trees around my house. Those saplings now tower over my home, dominating the place I live. When her son was born, I planted more trees, creating my own private forest in town. These are trees that truly represent people that I love.

If I were to think of selling my house, leaving the trees would be the thing that would make me the most sad. But children grow up and find their own life in this world, as they should. And the trees grow tall and strong, no longer needing me to protect them like when they were the size of a twig.

So once again, it is a lesson in letting go.

I’m learning to let go of my kids. And to detach from stuff. The way I let go of my paintings. The way we will all let go of our own lives one day.

When I write fiction, the details of my own life automatically show up in the story. It’s the same way with paintings, just in a different medium.

Fish Witch, 2017


We go through so many transitions in life. Some are happy, and there are some we would rather not experience at all. But that is life. It feels like a string of isolated situations, but it’s really a fluid stream of highs and lows. Darks and lights.

Recently some of my friends transitioned right out of their bodies. It’s an inevitable sadness we must embrace as we continue to ride the peaks and valleys of our own daily transitions.

Our brains evolve with each new scenario.

I meant to write about the ebb and flow of stuff. Objects. Possessions that sparkle and promise, only to eventually become clutter that frustrates me.

Imagine living with only what we need. That is what I’m striving for. Everything I need and only what I need or love.

And where does that leave art? I need art. I love art. Art is communication and expression. Art is also objects… stuff. Like all relationships, my relationship with art takes work. Passion and dedication. I must be willing to change and grow.

And later, I see how the sadness and joy, the resentments and forgiveness make their way from my spirit to my brain, from the paint to the canvas. Unintentionally. That’s all very introspective.

When another person sees, relates and is inspired, that is the true purpose.