First of all, I appreciate your patience with the change-over from the "old" to the "new" website.  Once we finish with the transition I think you'll be happy with the new look and modifications.  And thanks for checking this journal out.  I am new to it, and everything else about this website.  I can string together a weeks worth of 15 hour days in the studio and never get tired of making art.  Trying to understand computer/internet/software technology CRUSHES me before I even know I’m in trouble.  But that’s all going to change.  I hope, down the road, to include some interesting photos, and short videos which will add some texture to my words…but I don’t know how to do that yet, so for now, we have words.

I’m not too sure how this journal is going to work, where it’s going to go, what direction it will take, or what it’s going to do for you or me.  Stick with me though.  I do know I’m going to give it an honest shot, and see what happens.  My goal is to always make this something good for you and something good for me too. 

I figure we begin in the beginning by answering the question: “HOW DID YOU GET LIKE THIS?”

I get asked that a lot.  

So I started thinking back a little.

It was August 16, 1956 and like most every other day that summer I was down at the beach with my mom, my four siblings, a bunch of neighbour kids and their parents.  On this particular day my mom and I were walking along the oceanfront where the water met the sand.   I had one more test to pass.  As the water from a small wave rushed between my legs I immediately, without any conscious thought,  moved with the water towards the beach, thereby avoiding being sucked back into the ocean by the ever increasing high tide.  I had observed thousands of shore birds make this maneuver to safety.  I’m certain my mom had helped me practice this smooth escape many times, while walking with her hand in hand.  But this was my first time doing it on my own, and most importantly, I didn’t have to think about it.  All the signs were there and I just made the move.  And with that, I proved that I was perfectly at home at the water's edge.

Of course, I have no memory of that EVER happening, I was only 2-years-old, but I’m certain it did.  My mom had to be confident that her five children were completely safe in and around the wildly powerful ocean. Reading the sand, water and sky accurately was literally the difference between life and death.  My mom taught me how to read.

And then the fun started!

My Mom was my first art teacher.  She taught me how to make art at the beach using only those materials found in the sand, water, and sky.  That is to say, my options for artistic expression as a young child were LIMITLESS. Again, I don’t have any conscious memory of my Mom showing me how certain colors go together or the difference between morning and afternoon sand.  I don’t remember her showing me the interesting textures created by a strong Santa Ana wind.  Nor do I recall her teaching me how different light was created by the summer sun vs the winter sun.  But she did.  All that and a ton more. 

And I don’t recall learning ANY of it.  It was just part of me.  Part of my life before I could make any lasting memories.  Remember how I instinctively went with the flow of the wave?  I just did it.  The same thing happened when I began to observe the aesthetic differences and similarities at the beach.  It’s just the way it was.  I was simply living my life.

I call them my “unconscious years,” and here’s what Mom taught me during that time.  Art is everywhere.  ART IS EVERYWHERE… if you know how to look for it. I didn’t know it then, but Mom was teaching me how to see.

Fast forward to my 6th birthday, and I absolutely do remember this.  True story.  My Mom gave me a putty knife for my birthday.  That’s right, a putty knife.  Before I had a chance to fully respond to this “interesting” present, my mom took me out to our back yard where we had a HUGE dirt mound.  She began to show me how to “Play” with this material and see the possibilities.  First she used the knife to carve a funny face into the side of the mound.  

That was fun.  She then  demonstrated how I could create caves for my real and imaginary figures. Now we’re getting somewhere.  Finally she showed me how to carve tunnels into the side of the dirt mound where I could race my hot wheel cars.  I was sold!  Best present EVER.  I’ve said this to my Mom a few times over the years…”For the price of a putty knife, and your time teaching me how to use it, you provided me a lifetime of creative joy.”

Now we get to my high school years and things get real interesting.  By then Mom was seriously into photography.  It was so exciting to be with her when she was shooting photos.  She would kind of talk out loud about what she was seeing and what she was trying to capture.  It was just fascinating to see how she viewed the world and what made a “good picture.”  She noticed my interest and gave me a camera for my 16th birthday.  Second best present ever!  That camera literally opened my eye to many new ways of looking at the world.  My ability to take photographs increased the quality of my life and pushed me to fully engage with what was going on around me.  It changed me forever.

So, there’s my first art teacher.  Anna Marie Ott.  Here's a pic I took of her in 1973... looking every bit an artist in her own right! 

Anna Marie Ott in 1973

I dedicate this journal to her.

There is no doubt in my mind that my Mom has been the most powerful influence on my journey as an artist.  She taught me these things:  learn the basics, realize that art is everywhere, using simple tools can lead to amazing art, and finally, one way to be fully present in this world is to focus deeply and intensely on what it offers you.

Periodically, over the years, I get into the middle of an art project and just feel like I am on fire!  Whatever I’m doing was just oozing out of me and I felt as if I could go on like that forever.  “Where’s this coming from?”  Whenever I get like that I always call Mom and let her know that I am so thankful for the blessing she has given me.

So when you see me at a show and hear someone ask, "How'd you get like this?"...you now know a big part of the answer.

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Love the pic. of your mom you included here. Over the past several years of substitute teaching in elementary school, I often marvel at how amazing children are with each other. Kids in the same class spend so much time together, and during that time they support, love, and learn from one another in such amazing ways. Then life plays this dirty trick on them, like it played on us, because we remember relatively little from those many hours of comradeship when we reach adulthood. But I suspect that experience is a lot like how you learned from your mom—at some point, maybe sooner, maybe later, we don’t remember what we learned from each other, we have just become what we learned. Then perhaps something tragic happens to an old friend and we are able to reimagine experiences that we haven’t remembered for many years, that greatly impacted who we have become.
Enjoyed looking at your work. Happy for you that you have found such a meaningful and inspirational method of expression.

John Giovati

What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful Mom!!

Peggy Casey Nisen

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