Don’t Get Caught Chasing Shiny Objects


“Above/Below”                                    #1, Red Iris Series
Mixed media on cardboard            Mixed media on cardboard
5″ x 8″                                                  5″ x 8″
These are originals, not prints.  They are matted to size 8″ x 10″ and sell for $35 each, including shipping.


T.S. Eliot was wrong about April being the cruelest month.  At least wrong for this year.  January was cruel indeed around here, and instead of spending the time I wanted in the studio, I took to my bed with pneumonia.

Anyone who loves their work, whether it’s art or writing or restoring old Buicks, knows how tough it can be when forced to put it aside for a while.  That’s the down side.  The up side of such a hiatus is that the time away can bring a new perspective, a new vision and renewed enthusiasm when you return.  I’m happy to report that my January saga has had a happy ending with just those results.  And with two opportunities to show my work coming up, one in February and one in October.

The time away also gave me a chance to review and re-evaluate some of the earlier work, including my collages from a few years back.  I was happy to see that even then, before painting, I had color in mind all the time.  The two small pieces above are examples.  “Above/Below” was constructed with colored tissue and images collected from old books.  The line across the center reads:  “A Stirring Western Showing How the Lighthouse Keeper Captured A Marauding Desperado.”  Collages speak in ways that paintings can’t.

The Red Iris series of four began with an antique postcard and went from there.  Each has a statement about life, and this one laments or celebrates“My well-filled curriculum.”  One of the series has been sold, but two others are still available.

After reviewing my older work, I saw what was missing in some of the newer pieces with which I’ve been struggling.  It’s always interesting for an artist to try new things in our work, but there’s a danger, too.  The temptation to go too far afield can be great; the sense that what we’ve been doing has become stale and we should change the whole game.  I realized I was sliding into that painful trap, and worse, that I was losing a sense of who I am as an artist.  Worst of all was the sense that I had lost confidence in my own work.

I’ve come to think of it as “Chasing the Shiny Objects”.

I blame a couple of things for this phenomenon.  And it’s entirely personal.  First, I moved to another country just as I was becoming known in my southern California community.  Just as I was lining up art shows and feeling confident.  Life in the other country, while educational as hell, put me off-balance.  Nothing that counted at home meant anything there.  Talk about losing confidence.

Second, we live in a culture these days that encourages the endless chase after the next shiny object.  Our smartphones and other media push the chase constantly.  And it works to distract us all no matter what work you do. For artists, endless coverage of any blockbuster show or mega-bucks art sale can at least temporarily throw us into the Ditch of Despair which is pretty similar to the Slough of Despond and just up the road from Why Bother Lane. We can’t compete with that, so – yeah, that’s it -why bother?

If this is happening for you, I’ll tell why you should bother.  I’ll tell you why you should drag yourself out of the Ditch of Despair and get back to work.  I have my bout of pneumonia to thank for this “where did it come from?” insight.  I don’t recommend such an extreme jolt,  but when a person is really ill, you don’t think of anything but getting better.  You don’t care who sold what for how much or why your own work feels so awkward or why you don’t just chuck the whole thing and open a donut shop.  You’re also not bombarded by the damned shiny objects.

And when you come out the other side, you thank the angels for making you well and you remember why you bothered in the first place.  You step out of the Ditch of Despair, regain your firm footing and get back to it.

As my friends Bayles & Orland put it – and I’m paraphrasing, guys – you do it because it’s your work to do and if you don’t do it, who will?







6 thoughts on “Don’t Get Caught Chasing Shiny Objects

  1. You’re an inspiration to do just that! Love all the recent posts; the breadth of your musical interests is a fine match for the Jazz Cookie!

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