I've had a number of people ask me how I learned to paint. Have you always been artist? Did you paint and draw when you were young? No I reply. I never had art classes when I was a kid. I went to a small christian school that didn't offer art. I remember checking out a book of Edgar Degas' portraits of children from the library when I was 12 or 13 and copying his drawings. So I had early interest in art but It wasn't until I joined the army at 17 years old that I began painting. I bought my first set of oil paints when I was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. I figured out oil painting on any surface available, small table tops, random pieces of wood, and even a small mural in the arms room behind a poster showing all the parts of an M-16 assault rifle. Almost got in serious trouble for that one.
I didn't take a painting class until my last semester in college. I had taken a number of drawing classes. Drawing for me has always been somewhat of a struggle, but put a paint brush in my hand and I feel like I can render anything. My first real painting, in an intro to painting class, poured through me and materialized before me on the canvas in a magical and natural action. I remember being completely in my body and focused inside the act of putting paint on canvas and yet at the same time hovering slightly above my body observing myself paint. This sensation filled me with incredible joy.
I wondered why holding a paint brush felt so good in my hand while holding a pencil or pen or any other writing utensil felt awkward. Then It dawned on me that I most likely had a paint brush in my hand long before I held a pencil or pen. I imagine a very small paul following dad around holding a very large paint brush, or bumping into and falling over his paint cans and painting gear as I tried to help him with his work. So in reality, my dad taught me how to paint. This narrative makes sense.
Dad taught me how to clean brushes, put down drop cloths, tape base boards, fill holes, tape and mud, cut in walls, roll ceilings, spray cabinets, all the jobs of a painter. Mostly though, beyond the tricks of the trade, dad taught me how to work hard, work diligently, work patiently, work methodically, and to trust in the universe. I know that dad prayed constantly while he worked and that his faith brought him through the struggle, pain, and exhaustion of being a painter.
The summer after I graduated with my philosophy degree, I took a long adventure trip into the northern wilderness. When I came home after six weeks of living off the land, I decided that I would dedicate my life to art, and specifically that I wanted to spend my time putting paint on surfaces. A large part of my decision came from a desire to pray. Painting offered me a contemplative space, a space of presence, a space to be filled up. Thanks for teaching me how to paint dad.