I spent my childhood on a remarkable farm outside of Bangor, MI. My parents called the farm the School of Homesteading and used it for teaching young people organic farming and self-sufficiency. It was a real working farm where the weather and seasons guided the work we undertook. A farm and livelihood that resulted in cold feet and fingers in winter, the wonderful flavor of maple syrup in spring, sweat and sore muscles from summer haying followed by a farm fresh BLT, and autumn’s storing of firewood in the midst of Michigan’s kaleidoscope of colors.
In 1973, during the school’s first year, in the middle of Bruce Lee’s reverse roundhouse kick, our television died. I was 10 years old. Twelve years went by before a television showed its face in our home again. With that media vacuum, I had to find ways to entertain myself. The farm provided a background for such creative efforts.
A farm is always filled with a myriad of tools in order to maintain itself. Our farm also had my mother’s grandfather’s and father’s woodworking equipment. Over time I learned to use most of these tools and while the finished products were rough in appearance, I did learn to take raw materials and create something interesting and sometimes useful from them.
In 1981 I graduated from Bangor High School. With steady and purposeful stride I walked through my high school’s gates and straight to the hallowed halls of Western Michigan University. I was intent on a dual math and art major. Diligently I began the mandatory beginning art classes and floundered in boredom. Forsaking both art and math, I spent the next seven years studying anthropology. I graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s in science and discontinued the pursuit of a master’s in anthropology short of completion.
In 1992 I was coaxed into submitting a proposal for a mural competition at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Although I was not awarded this commission, I was asked to recreate the design in another area of the library the following year. Following this first mural, the request for murals trickled in at an ever-increasing rate. In 1995 the creation of murals became a full-time profession.
By the end of the 1990s I found that murals were becoming a little much of a “job”, and I needed something to fulfill a personal creative need, so I began painting landscapes of Southwest Michigan on canvas, which continues to this day. Fortunately, both mural work and landscape painting feed and nourish each other, and this has only improved both genres.
Over the last few years I have continued to add various mediums to my arsenal. Lately, artsy furniture of wood and metal have intrigued me. I find it fascinating to take a substance like metal with its inherent feel of solidity and structure, and force it to take on an organic shape, then pit this against a geometric structure of wood.
2020 threw a loop for most of us, “especially” artists. Suddenly the future of “art as a living” dropped into the abyss of the unknown. A dark year. The crisis, however, has faded and art continues as a living. In 2021 I returned to an art fair circuit, commissions continued to appear, and life went on as usual. I did, however, eliminate murals from my repertoire. I have retired from the mural business. Murals are for the younger folk to do, and I am getting too old.