Coming back into teaching after 12 year break working full time as an
artist, having an art rep/agent and major gallery representation was, if
you'll forgive me...somewhat humbling. Such by professional artists and the
market appears to demonstrate you are not able to make it on your own,
therefore...you are not good enough, and such.
My wife, unfortunately for her...and for us...developed an illness and is on
SSDI, with fibromyalgia and restless leg syndrome. It was a no brainer no
matter how successful you are in your personal business that without
adequate enough insurance, your financial resources drain fast. Coming back
into teaching was for me a logical and necessary step for benefits alone.
Still....I have to balance strange feelings I have from time to time, and
with some people that don't make it any easier. I am working on a cdrom art
book, another one that is hardcopy, and two national art magazines have
asked me to put together articles...one on mediums for oil painting, and
another on my plein air painting methods. I'll have dealings with people
that recognize my professionalism as an artist and ask certain things of me,
and some of those are the types that would believe if you have to teach you
musn't really be all that good an artist.
Then...there are the types that ask favors of you in school and the
community that haven't the slightest inkling who you are in the eyes of the
national and international community. Big shots in their own eyes...as
movers and shakers in the small local community and think you should be
impressed. I'm not...but, I'm here as a public servant so I smile and go
I guess what I'm getting at is...I've tired of all the favors I'm asked and
expected to do, but at the same time there is at stake the whole issue of
the legitimacy of art as a subject in a state cutting funding, aide, many
layoffs...and so forth. I feel I have to be cognizant of the importance
(for the sake of my wife if anything else) to impress the importance I
provide to the district.
Little did I know that my own knowledge working with photoshop, power point
and other software as an artist would make me eventually a "go to" guy on a
school staff. In fact, I've more or less subcumbed to pressure to agree to
be the technological staff person that will receive some training this fall
at a local technical college who can turn around and then show staff how to
use our existing equipment and peripherals. In return they are giving me
$1000 to use for personal software or peripherals.
Since here in this small northern logging town....I've been asked to speak
at the national honor's society, to do standup comedy (because I know a
gazillion Ole and Lena as well as Steve Wright jokes!). I painted last year
a 30' mascot on the phy ed walls, a design I and my son collaborated on. We
are working on new images of conference schools.
I did a river painted scene on a 4' near 300 pound steel saw for a local
Hardwoods company to put up in their display room, and now someone wants me
to do a 5' long saw. I put in an extra 20-30 hours per week for the last
seven months of this last school year designing and then painting three
separate signs for the town's 100 year centennial celebration which will be
at each entree way into town. These signs are 12' x16' in length and will
be sitting on cement pedastals with telephone pole framing around them.
Lighted and all...
I will get paid $900 for each sign from the local Lion's club...but,
hahaha...I sell a two hour plein air depending on size from $450 to $1200 in
galleries, so what's that!
all in all though...my superintendent told me two years ago I was the best
art teacher he ever knew in his 30 years (he didn't have the good fortune to
meet many of you here..!), and arranged for the state superintendent of
schools to meet me last year. I received a great letter from her which is
in my personal file now.
So...these things I've done have worked to create some sense of value to the
Operating in a national forest...only 15% of our operation expenditures
comes from the tax base. We get much from aide...so hard to tell what the
future will hold. I've felt pressure to prove my worth...and the
department's worth to hold viability in these hard and difficult times.
In hindsight though...I've had to swallow some humble pills in sacrificing
my time and talents, which has been I think good in the long run. At least
I played in a very popular big hair era's rock band in the late 80's...and
its difficult getting older and finding by default of age that you phase out
of any longer being cool or legitimate/relevant. That genre is unique too
in that one minute you're signing photo autographs...and next you become a
Many creatives struggle with bipolar issues and depression because they
allow their accolade and performance environment to become a distortion of
their real world. Play before thousands one night, get flipped off as an
obscure unknown the next day.
I think we tend to feel cheapened, unappreciated, our areas under rated by
these demands and requests to use our talents. Talents they think come easy
Yet...it is a strange time we are in when modern thought has forgotten that
art and music were once thought to increase student's intelligence and
scores, and we find ourselves fighting to retain value.
I told my wife....heading into my fifth year at this school...that I've been
practicing the word "no, I'm sorry!"
I've been assigned to be a class advisor now for next year with the incoming
7th grade. (I teach K-12)...and here that leads up to a senior class trip,
prom...much fundraising and so forth. I asked the board where I will find
the time for such?
I had a mother call me just this past week to say we needed to put up a
fundraising booth for the centennial next weekend to sell strawberry
shortcakes. I more or less told her..."go ahead!"....and that during the
summer I am a working artist. The board at least listened to me that I
think money would be better spent with the class building a house for some
underprivileged family with Habitat for Humanity then some prurient interest
in thongs on a Mexico beach and booze in a hotel room. Or at least an
educational trip to Washington DC...
They wonder why teachers eventually withdraw, don't show up at athletic
events to support the kids, and so forth. People want and expect too
much...and for a pittance of pay.
Makes me feel...if something the worse ever came of my wife and I lost her,
I could get by sleeping out of the back of my truck and paint to the glory
of God...and such would be enough.
Yep folks..we forge and plow forward...but still, all this has served to
keep the reputation I developed for my personal artistic talents and success
at a humble state. Everyday is a lesson in humility...and I got to believe
God knows what He's doing.