Monthly Archives: November 2017


It has been about four months since I have painted, and now I’m going back into the studio.

I’m always trying to think of something new to paint. Some new direction to take my art in…

It doesn’t usually work that way, though. If I just paint, the images evolve. It’s in painting that I learn to paint.

I took a few months off. I bought a house down south and moved away from Grand Marais.

What a silly thing to do. But I didn’t know better. I’ve been here for 30 years. I thought I could go to a new city and that everything I had done here would translate.

I was in the truck heading south, towing my car behind me. By the time I hit Indianapolis, it dawned on me that I was probably making a mistake.

I closed on the house anyway, and took a job at a big hospital. I kept saying “I want to be me again.”

Two months later, I was back in Minnesota trying to put the pieces back together the way they were before.

I’ve said I’m not going to paint fish in trees anymore. But guess what… I am.

Fish in trees. It was my idea, and it was a risky one. I had to explain “Why?”

And so I pointed out that this area was built on fishing and lumber. I referenced many instances where fish find themselves swimming amongst the branches of trees in the real world.

I was drawing and painting from an early age. Before I could read and write, I was drawing pictures. I took every art class available in my high school, so in my senior year, I got to teach a class (with the real art teacher present).

I think art should challenge us. To ask questions. To think about a deeper meaning, not only in art, but in our lives.

So I am not afraid of questions. Or of criticism. I would much rather have someone say they despise my work than shrug and say it’s ok. “Whatever.”

So yes. There will be more fish in treetops. But not only that.

For me, painting is so much more than just creating an image. It is therapy. It is meditation. It is breathing. It is being me.

I am connected to this place.

Collective Unconscious

Before I went to art school, my father admonished me not to make abstract art.  I think it was because he didn’t understand it.  I didn’t understand it, either.

  When I was in 4th or 5th grade, we took a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.  There was a large canvas by Mark Rothko hanging over the staircase in the museum lobby, and I remember the other kids laughing at it.  A tour guide pointed out that an abstract sculpture was worth just as much as one of the old marble statues.  Our minds were boggled.

At the end of our tour, we went to the gift shop, and I bought several postcards.  All of them were of abstract art.  The other kids couldn’t believe that I had chosen those.

Nonetheless, years later when I got to art school (which was right next to the DIA), I had a kind of mental roadblock that kept me from embracing art that was not representational.  In my mind, a drawing was better, the closer it resembled the subject.  I admired abstract art, but found myself unable to create it.

I think my parents thought it was just throwing paint at a canvas and calling it art.  And I guess you can do that.  Of course you can.

You can express a lot with color or lines, even if they don’t conjure up objects or landscapes.

A friend of mine was in art school when his father died.  After the funeral, he had to do some paintings for a class, but he didn’t feel like painting.  So he told me he painted “nothing”.  Just filled four canvases with paint.

I own two of those paintings, along with several other abstract pieces by friends, and I love them.

I love them for the colors, for the shapes, and for the stories they remind me of. The stories my friends told me about creating the images, and stories my mind tells me when I look at them.

I do a lot of abstract paintings now. Bright colors flow out of my thoughts and work their way down my arm, and out of my hand, through the brush and onto the canvas.

My father also makes beautiful little abstract paintings sometimes. My daughter saw some of my dad’s painted blocks, and said, “Now I see where you get it from!”

“No,” I said, “I was doing this before he was.”

Our paintings are similar.

My grandfather was a painter too, and an art teacher. Something from him was passed on to my father, and from my father to me.

We dip our nets into the collective unconscious and we catch similar things.

I think this is how we are reincarnated. The cells of my ancestors live on in me.

I like to think that my brain cells can inspire, and live on in others through my art.

Or better yet, that we can be mutually inspired and changed by each others’ creativity.