I hope that it encourages beginner artists to know that I didn’t start painting until I was almost 40. And that I basically “taught myself” because I just didn’t know any better at the time. I didn’t have the money for going back to school and I had no idea that there might be free tutorials on the World Wide Web. But that was 1999 or so and I don’t even think we had a decent computer for doing so at the time. So, I plodded along, as best I could, looking at pictures and trying to paint. Try and try again, right? Well, that is just what I was doing.
I did become more aware of things as I began to paint. I “opened my eyes,” so to speak, at the environments around me. I really began to “look” at art. I began to think about colors. How would I make a certain color? What color is that cloud, really? Also: How would I mix that color? But the other thing I really began to notice, was that I had collected a LOT of art, without really thinking about it.
One day, I asked myself, how did I come to this “hobby,” of collecting art? I thought back to my childhood. I was that teenager with posters covering every inch of my bedroom walls; but where my sister’s, were covered with Elvis posters, mine were covered with nature scenes with inspirational quotes. I was infatuated with nature: rainbows, sunsets, waterfalls. And then I thought about my childhood home: and yes, there was art. Good art. Original art. From regionally very famous people, come to think of it. So now, my modest collection of art began to make sense. I had graduated from inspirational posters to original art. And the first real “investment,” of art came from none other than the Red Piano Art Gallery on St. Helena’s Island, SC.
I became an avid reader around 7th grade. It was those little Scholastic Book Club order forms that are so vivid in my mind. I remember checking the little boxes and waiting for those books to arrive. 34 years later, I actually still have a few of those paperbacks in my library right now. Some of those first books that I chose for myself, left lasting impressions on me. So reading became a very important component of my life. I share this because it was a little paperback by Og Mandino, titled The Choice that became the impetus for my first original art choice. I love Og Mandino; his way to weave a story and teach a lesson is epic – as anyone who has ever read The Greatest Salesman in the World, will tell you.
The Choice is about a lighthouse and making choices in your life. When I read it I was at a crossroads of making choices. I really wanted to make the right one. When I came upon a painting of the Morris Island Lighthouse, which is located off Charleston, SC, I knew it was something I wanted to have as a reminder of this book, and as a marker, for the choice I wanted to make. I did not have much independent income and I remember that I had to put it on layaway over a few months. But when I got that painting to my home, I was so excited. It was a good choice all by itself.
I walk past this painting every day in my home. It always reminds me of the book and the subsequent choices I have made that brought me to this point in my life. It is a “marker,” of sorts. It is a sentinel: both in and of itself, and as a point in time, that reminds me of the consequences of our choices.
I don’t know anything about this artist. I wish that I did. Google turns up hundreds of Robert Johnsons in South Carolina. The gallery owner knew that he was also an accountant. That is not much to go on! The painting was painted in 1993. I suppose he is still out there. And if he is: “Thank you.” This painting has brought me joy and gratefulness for many years now.
The choice had been clear to me, though it would take me a while to know it. This painting reminds me of that every day.