I had this nice bio all written up and then it was rewritten and then edited and then rewritten. Something just didn't seem right about it. Maybe it was that I was too honest. Maybe it was because I thought it wasn't as truthful or as revealing as it should be.
So here's the skinny as they say. All I can do is give you an account of my life and how important art and creativity have been to me. Some people do everything for King and Country, some for Love or Money. I did it because I was being me. I had to do it. I think when you read this with this fact in mind you'll understand.
Somehow I imagine this as more of a patient-on-a-psychologists-couch scenario (do they still do that?) than the bio of some successful artist.
" Well Sir , or Madam, it all began when I was 5 or 6"....uhm, well, it did! " So then", says the Doc. quoting lyrics from an old Box song, " tell me a story of dreams..." " Okay," says I, "It all began when I was 5 or 6 when I found myself growing up in a remote , rural farmscape."
My Mom ignited my imagination with all the crafty toys she built from ordinary cardboard. She made a dump truck that would actually work and a Tarzan tree-house complete with a swinging rope. I never once thought of our family as poor however we lived in a two bedroom trailer on my grandparents land. My Mom looked after me at home and did a postal run with our car while my Dad worked operating machinery for road work and forestry. Before my brother came along it was just the 3 adults and me. I invented my own friends. Two of which were my toy Gumby and dog, Lassie. Basically our home was parked between a large upper field and lower field and all this surrounded by thick Nova Scotian forest. (Yeah, sort of like Middle Earth.) This vastness of space encouraged my creativity and imagination I think.
My Mom had a B&W television set and it treated us to a window on another world. I remember watching clamation puppets and being fascinated with the faux forests and river-streams as sets.
Art came to me from some inner desire to create or recreate what I saw, felt and experienced.
My first mural was a drawing of a stubble faced man smoking a cigar. It appeared on my bedroom door. Yes Mom...it just appeared, 'same as those drawings of different trucks I coloured and then pasted on the wall of our small living room.
Eventually my Dad had to make a hard decision. It was tough on Mom and I living alone. I'm sure he felt an obligation to his parents but the decision was made for us to move closer to Mom's kin and we settled upon Shelburne as our new home ( about a 5 hr drive in those days).
For one thing , living in Shelburne gave me years of exposure to the beautiful coastlines of Shelburne, Lockeport and Sandy Point. I had many happy years here and shared a great family life with my brother. However there was one thing always missing. I was still lonely. Like a character from the Chrysalids novel I felt there was no one like me or who really saw life the way I did. Mom always loved the appeal of movies and television and kept up on the different stars and actors. I shared in that interest.
About the age of 12 I began to see serial re-runs of the original Star Trek. This fueled my imagination astronomically. To see the starship wooosh by on the screen of our little TV on a trek through the stars assured me that others had dreams as well. I was no longer drawing trucks and stubble faces but sketching spaceships, dinosaurs and robots.
After finishing high school I did the same in essence as my Dad many years before. I stayed home and took jobs mowing lawns and working as a painter and labourer in a local shipyard. On my spare time I started making Super 8 movies recruiting my brother and his friends to act out parts. This began prior to graduation. I also created cartoon characters based on our two house cats. I created a short cartoon flick using them as subjects. It was called " Who's Afraid of da Vacuum Cleaner". I still have it fading away on a reel somewhere.
"So what happened next?" asks the shrink.
Next, after completing an Electronics course in Yarmouth and then trying my hand at TV repair ( while secretly flirting with watercolours), I decide to head for New Brunswick to attend a Christian college. It didn't work out for me. Mostly because I ignored my work and involved my self too much in what I saw as stupid politics. Yep. That's that. No diploma, no sentimental alumni moments. I could pretty it up but that would be untrue.
However. It was there at the college that my passion ( and skill) for cartooning really blossomed. It was like giving me a magic wand or something. I posted cartoons (mostly editorial in nature) in the hall where they could be enjoyed by those lining up for lunch. I used my skills to design posters for the school ( my Mr.Potter/ George Bailey compromising moment). On a couple of occasions I used the chalkboards of vacant classrooms as supports for grand sized chalk murals-usually dedicated to my girlfriend and soon to be wife!
I did make a few lifetime friends there but basically ended up in a confrontation with the faculty waving my finger ( without a cigar) and exclaiming , "You sit here and spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you...etc, etc, etc" I think I watched too much television coupled with a social anxiety to boot.
Graphic Design always appealed to me and seemed like a means to support my wife and perhaps potential children that might arise out of this "interesting situation." My attempts to get in a school for design seem to fail for one reason or another. Being dogged by a moderate student loan didn't help either. The short story is that being married made me think that leaning on my Electronics training was going to help. It didn't. My heart wasn't really into it. At job interviews my eyes danced about the paintings that were hung behind the Boss's desk more than my ears listened to their boasting about their company's greatness. I still remember a painting of birch trees that was on the office wall of an electronics company some 25 years ago!
I did , however, land a job in a cellular business. Installing car cell phones wasn't for me. Back then you had to install tranceivers, hand sets, antennae etc in peoples BMW's without getting a scratch on them. Seemed I wasn't fast enough.
On my off time I learned oil painting, having mastered watercolour.
We left the city where we were living and headed for the Annapolis Valley. One reason was still to get into a Graphic Design course. Out of desperation for money I began working nights at a nearby Burger King as an all night cleaner.
After that I spent some 15 years in the cleaning business. Yeah sort of like Sparticus at the oars. We fed and raised 3 kids. I build the business up to contracting two elementary schools for custodial care. At one school I instructed students over lunch hour to help me paint eventually two large murals which I believe are there to this day.
Things took a down turn after that. I struggled to leave the cleaning business by taking on other part time jobs. We lost our home to it's real owner ( that would be the Bank). On my 40th birthday I had no money in the bank and no means to open an account. Revenue Canada can do that. Fortunately my wife survived the ovarian cancer ordeal we were put through as well.
Most of my painting during this time was landscapes and wildlife. I forgot to mention I was developing cartoon strips and created my first childrens' book. I made the odd sale of art during this time.
"Well Doctor, laying on this coach is getting hard on the back which reminds me of why I simply HAD to get out of commercial cleaning. The stabbing pains in the spine were making life miserable and then it happened..." "What happened?", says the Doc as he pulls himself up from nodding off.
A friend got me a part time job in a music and movie store ( CD's and DVD's). The pay wasn't great but it allowed me to dwell amidst creativity and do art work on the side. Things went, for the most part really great during this time. I have no serious regrets for working there for almost 8 years. The store was located in a mall and for 9 years ( I started one year before the CD store) I did the Christmas Mural an the Mall Tim Hortons windows. It took me up to 35 hours of work to complete not including the at home prep time. I loved it! Got paid for it too! Some said the murals marked the beginning of their Christmas season. Others said the murals reminded them of years gone by spent with loved ones.
Not only did I get to do murals I also started my own caricature business. Beginning in the Mall (stores under one roof) I expanded my caricaturing to nearby schools and a farm market. A local candle company hired me to do illustrations for their labels and it kept me quite busy while working at the CD store as well. These candle labels and graphics were placed nationwide across Canada and in Eastern United States. They also ended up at the Toronto International Gift Fair in 2004.
"Sounds like you had a busy go of it, " says the Doctor. "Yep", says I but here's where things get really psycho..."
In 2005 my Boss bent the company rules and let me do Hallowe'en displays for the front of the store. My 2006 Hallowe'en display was based on the Hitchcock movie Psycho. Staying away from the shower/slash/murder scene I created a large Psycho house from cellfort foam, a paper mache corpse ( Mother Bates) and a painted window background with Hitchcock's profile in the clouds. The entire thing was painted in grayscale with a touch of magenta to mimic old black and white televison. I've done other Hallowe'en projects as well including a hovering pirate skeleton and sunken underwater scene.
Sadly the store I worked in closed down in 2011. I had started a gallery in the large old farm house where I live. It was a beautiful gallery but lack of exposure, poor location and my failure to give it enough attention lead eventually to a soft close as I focused on my own Art and Design business.
I left out mention of many other small jobs and art I've sold over the years. Even in Middle school I won an award for some logo/crest design which I can't even remember what it was for. In high school I took three years of Industrial Drafting. I have suffered personally over the years with an anxiety disorder which I believe stems way back to my early days and formative years in a remote countryside.
My wife has been my strength all these years. She never discouraged me from my art. She never saw it as a bad thing even during times of financial hardships. My faith in a God that intends good for believers and the gift of Art and Music which he gives to us has been what keeps me as little sane as I am.
"So what do you think Doctor? Am I crazy?" Hey where'd he go? Guess I imagined the whole thing.
Anyways I invite you to never give up on who you are no matter how tough things can get. Find a way to keep going. Your gifts, your words, your song just may be touching someone in a special way in which you may never know the full extent.
As for me, I accept the challenge to do what I can artistically for as long I can.
Please join me and share you life with me on my blog and facebook page. Thanks for reading!
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