The Wandering Path

The name for my creative journey is a link back to many different aspects of my life and my practice. I wanted to use this idea, rather than just my name, because I feel like there is something larger I want to tap into.

When I started making art as a kid I had an implicit understanding that it needed to be a part of my life. At the same time, it was also made quite clear to me that pursuing art as a career would not provide a stable or successful outcome. I understand now that this is buried deep within my midwestern upbringing. There is a strong undercurrent telling children not to attempt anything risky, and not to stand out from the crowd. It certainly sank home for me, and became a strong but muffled tug of war which bubbled up every once in a while.

After getting through my required classes in high school I filled up everything else with art study. I wasn’t the kid who was drawing non-stop, or doing a lot of skills building on my own, but the interest was there. When I left high school I had built a desire, but only limited skills, or so I thought.

When I went to college I avoided art entirely for the first couple of years, but instead of sticking with something more concrete in the hard sciences, I found myself swept up in a philosophy class that completely changed my world.

Deep within me I felt the desire to ask the important questions, and to try and find out how to match up what I was experiencing around me, with the values I had buried deep within.

As I slide further into Philosophy I also re-embraced art classes, and finished college with a mad dash to fit in as much art as I could. Plenty of interest, no significant depth, and a deep lack of personal value kept me convinced that art was not a serious option.

The next decade followed a similar pattern of avoiding art and philosophy so that I could focus on a “real” job, which is pretty easy when it means keeping up with the bills and groceries. With stability, however, the art came creeping back in, refusing to be left alone.

We were living on the east coast in Providence, RI and I had the opportunity to attend continuing education classes at RISD. I decided to focus on a “practical” degree in print design, and spent the next five years completing it. During this time I learned how to follow a concept and develop a product. I began making art prints to sell and actually got up the courage to attend a few art fairs, with very little success. I still had the idea that I would ride my art business out of my current job and into something new.

At that point my wife graduated with her PhD was offered a job in Nebraska. We moved to the Midwest once more, and the cycle repeated itself. I put art aside to focus on a new phase of my job which required regular travel away from home. We also started a family and were finding a new balance.

I couldn’t leave the practice of art alone any longer after we had been settled for a couple of years. This time, however, instead of trying to do art with a mindset of where it would take me, I returned to it with a perspective of curiosity. I started with watercolors, a medium I had not spent much time working with, and simply allowed myself to explore. Everything else has come from that perspective in which I let the art process lead me to the next logical step, the next evolution.

The wandering path of avoiding and returning to art is about so much more than the art making. It has been about discovering myself, and connecting to my values. It has been about overcoming fear and getting clear on what I want out of life.

Taoism, a philosophy/religion that began in ancient China and continues today, is the art of following the “way” or “path”. This way is unique for every person. Philosophy has helped me identify the larger project, but art has been the major driving force in helping me to cultivate myself as I follow my own path. It is not straight, and the destination is not clear, but it is through the wandering that I am able to live by my values and experience of the beauty of the life around me.