Sometimes it just makes more sense to throw it all away and start over. I’ve been making art, or at least something like it, for most of my life. By most standards I have been fairly successful with it too, certainly exceeding the expectations of friends and family alike (except my kids, they think I can do anything). I’ve sold art all over the world. My art has been published in more magazines, both national and international, than I can count with my hands and feet combined. My art has been sought out for commercial purposes from several highly visible brands. I’ve done numerous interviews, signed autographs and posed for photos with strangers. I wouldn’t call it fame, but at times it can seem that way, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed it all.
The only problem with being recognized for one’s art comes when one is no longer able to make art. The wheels of opportunity have gathered such steam that just to avoid being run over I end up working double time on all sorts of things that are anything but making art. Just keeping things from falling apart is a full time job with correspondence, websites, media, the busy-ness of business, and just generally moving the art machinery from one place to another just to get it ready to move to the next place again. Did I mention my three kids? Yeah, I’m not making much art at all these days.
But there’s more to it than the classic dilemma of seeking a balance between business and creativity. Over the last year or so, I think I just may have begun to systematically dismantle my entire art career. It all started with a conversation over a romantic dinner with my wife where we realized we wanted to do more with my art than just make it and sell it. At the time I may have dismissed it as the wine talking, but a few months later through a series of circumstances I found myself organizing and spear-heading a project that aimed to bring together the best artists I could find to team up with surfboard shapers and have them create one-of-a-kind boards that would hopefully be used to raise funds for an organization that actively saves lives and empowers lasting positive changes.
Now the project itself isn’t something I would have ever thought I’d pursue. Surfboard art is not exactly my passion, and I myself prefer surfing with a nondescript board so I can take in the most amazing art of all, creation itself, without being distracted by the doodle on my deck. I love art, I just like it on walls better. This unusual project felt more like a matter of it choosing me because the circumstances of my life put me in the right time and place to make it happen.
How that all came together is a long story that’s best told elsewhere, but the place it’s taken me is either the brink of disaster or the pinnacle of passion, and I’m still not sure if it’s not both at once. On the one hand this project is the best chance I’ve ever had to really do something worthwhile with all the skills and connections that have contributed to and arisen out of my career as an artist. But on the other hand it also requires so much time investing in recruiting artists, running the site, and doing what I can to try to promote all of the artists involved that I don’t even think about making my own art on most days as of late.
I’m sure it’s good exercise in practicing a little selflessness, but I’m an artist after all, and that is not a trait that comes easy for us who are for the most part ego driven lunatics who somehow think the world should revolve around the marks we make on canvas or wood or foam & fiberglass, or whatever. Lately all I can do is watch as ideas for new bodies of work taunt my mind and then slowly drift away as there is no way to get to them while still putting my full effort into this project. I’ve invited most of these artists personally to take part in this project, so when one of them expects “x” and another demands “y”, I don’t want to let them down. Before I know it I’m engaging in Board Art Algebra attempting to figure the value of “z”. And so it goes. I’ve made the choice to not make art. At least for now.
Nobody did this to me; I did it to myself, born out of a desire to bring something truly good into the world. To build community, to bless others, to enrich lives, to inspire others to higher action, and ultimately to make the difference between living and dying for a few folks who hang precariously in the balance between the two.
When I look at the art that has taken place on all these boards that have been created for this project, when I see people brought together from all facets of surfing’s subculture, when I see the faces of art-loving folks as they take in the body of work that I have essentially curated for the cause, I smile because I know it all stemmed from that one conversation with my lovely wife a year and a half ago. Somebody needed to light the fire if it was going to happen at all, and I just happened to have some gasoline and a match.
So as I watch the remains of my own hobbling art-making life go up in smoke, I realize that maybe, just maybe this is my art after all. Out of these flames comes a different expression in a different medium, a living breathing canvas of humans from all walks of surf culture coming together in a dynamic composition of generosity, using their unique gifts and abilities to ultimately paint the world a better place.