That’s MY art!

That’s MY art!

Journal Entry #2

Who does that?  I do.  I did that.  
That’s MY art.”

There are a couple of very distinct parts of being an artist.  There’s the creative output and all the skills associated with that.  That’s where my mom distinguished herself as an amazing teacher.  Makers, doers, movers and shakers…this is the production end of things. I LOVE making art. 

At some point, however, as a fine artist, your work will be seen (and judged) by others.  Even those of you who want to believe you are “just making art for myself” will find yourself in the very awkward situation of dealing with others’ perceptions of what you are doing.  Sooner or later your work will  be unleashed to the world and WILL be noticed, for better or worse.  The first thing to know is that we don’t have any control over how others evaluate our artistic expressions.  No control.  I think that is SO strange!   I work almost exclusively by myself in the creation of my art, yet, I am totally dependent on others for my “success” or “failure” as an artist.  This aspect of an artistic life requires a completely different set of skills than those used in the creation of art.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is where Dave Sisson, “The Old Man,” played an instrumental role in my life as an artist.  I had no idea what an important teacher he would become.  I met Mr Sisson, the father of some lifelong friends of mine, when I was in first grade.  I knew he was different right off the bat because this bigger than life, barrel chested Marine Corps veteran of WWII, wanted me to call him Dave.  Who does that?  Certainly no other parents of kids I grew up with.  Well, as I got to know Dave, I learned he was different in just about every possible respect.  He and his wife Mary had eight children and lived in a large rambling house two blocks from the beach.  I always thought of myself as their ninth child, and later found out that there were all sorts of other kids who felt the same way.  As an honorary member of  the Sisson family, I spent many a “sleep over” at their house, although we didn’t always get that much sleep.  It wasn’t uncommon for all us kids to be awakened by Dave and taken outside to view the full moon and then roast marshmallows over a roaring fire … AT MIDNIGHT! Can he do that?   Who does that?

I will forever remember the first time Dave took the whole crew (plus Pirate the dog) down to the beach for a late night swim.  It didn’t occur to me until my feet had touched the water that I didn’t have a bathing suit to wear.   That didn’t seem to be a problem.  The whole family was enjoying a hot summer night in the boundless Pacific Ocean…in various stages of dress…all the while Dave was pointing out the beauty of the ocean that could only be appreciated under a night sky. Who does that?   While most other eight-year-olds were sound asleep, I was romping in the ocean with the rest of my class, learning that there are different ways to experience the world around me.

High school was more of the same, although I found myself being less and less surprised by Dave Sisson’s unconventional view of the world.  For example, I always kept my surfboards at his house and it was an unstated rule that I had to have read the front page and Op/Ed section of the Los Angeles Times BEFORE I could go in the water. These regular conversations about current events with Dave made me feel like my ideas were valued.  Like what I was thinking about and what I had to say was important.  I learned that I have a voice. Who does that?!  No other adult in my life treated me that way.  By then I was old enough to realize we were living in turbulent times and we were often called on to make our private beliefs public.  I saw Dave Sisson, over and over again, make a principled stand on any number of issues…and he was often the only one standing.

So Mr Sisson became Dave and Dave became “The Old Man”…and to this day he remains one of the most important teachers in my life, while influencing my art tremendously…especially how I move my art from the studio into the world.  The most important lesson from the gospel according to “the Old Man?”… Find your own path and don’t be limited by others who want to block your way just because they don’t understand where you’re going…with your art…and with your life.  Focus on what YOU want to stand for and then screw up your courage and stand for THAT. 

So, the question is, can I be a “successful” artist if I am standing alone?  In other words, what if I put all this time and energy into making my art , I present it to the world, and nobody likes it?  

Well, I learned from “The Old Man” that there’s going to come a time when you just have to own up to who you are and what you do.  He taught me how to say, with confidence, “Who does that?  I do.  I did that.  That’s MY art.”  And you stand up for what you believe in. 

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