Testing 1, 2, 3.

My school years were filled with plenty of stomach-churning opportunities. As the years went by and my engagement with the public educative system – and the accompanying social structure of the said system evolved — the specific impetuses for abdominal discomfort changed accordingly.

Alas, one thing never did change. Taking tests.

I’d venture to guess I was not alone in this category of pupildom. While not unique, when it came to be test time, I fully owned my anxiety.

The experts say a little bit of anxiety can be helpful when it gets to be time for a final exam or a pop-quiz. But if it is too much, it can get in the way of performing well.

I reached the grades at school when all of the serious tests were those standardized ones that you needed to fill in little ovals with a #2 pencil. I would start off fine, knowing I had the first four answers correct but then I would notice, to my horror, that each of my suspected correct responses were ‘A’s’. My sensibility in the area of probability told me there was no way that the next one could be ‘A’ even though I was more sure than ever that ‘A’ was the correct answer to question 5.


What to do? I had to go back and reread all the questions since doubt was cast on all of my previous answers. Of course, you will recall, that most of these tests were timed. Yet another source of anxiety.


The clock on the wall was ticking. Time was running out.


Another expert said that if you don’t know the answer, mark something down because if you don’t answer you for sure will get it wrong. The same applies if you are out of time.

Each exam got to the point where I was out of time. Without having any idea then that I would be an artist and a graphic designer, I felt an irresistible urge to arrange my guesses so they were appealing to my aesthetic sense.

…maybe that’s enough of a look at me a shell-shocked schoolboy.

Now that I have reached a certain station in life, tests and testing have taken on a new and healthy part of my practice and life.

As an artist, the concept of ‘study’ is essential — as essential as studying for a test. And testing out ideas for me now in paint, without any intention to create a finished piece of art is essential, and a powerful personal exercise.

Not all students are fully synced up with the way schools teach, but at some point, some half a century later I do see the wisdom.

And while I have traded in my #2 for an HB, I really don’t really ever want to have to keep an eye on the clock.


Here’s to Your Heath

Disclosure Statement: As a young person I may not have been the most attentive reader.

My grandmother Emily and her sister, my great aunt Mina, were both staunch health food fanatics — even though my grandmother smoked Lucky Strikes.

Our summer visits to their home in Arizona included an array of culinary experiences.  Wheat germ flakes and raw goat’s milk were offered — very different from what I was used to. My sisters and I quickly came to the conclusion that “health food” was a secret code for bad tasting food.

As a kid, with a dime burning a hole in my pocket at the candy counter at Clark’s newsstand I had to decide what bar of candy would be mine: 3 Musketeers, Payday, Snickers, Nestle’s Crunch…but never the lowly Heath Bar.

Remember here, I was not a great reader.

I thought that was a “Health” Bar! 

Imagine my surprise when I finally had the courage to try a Heath Bar. Maybe I was just desperate for a sugar hit?? but I thought, ‘Wow, this is the best “health food” I have ever eaten!”

I stopped to read the wrapper again. HEATH not HEALTH. What a difference a letter makes. To this day I still can’t look at a Heath bar without a wry smile.

How important it is to read carefully.

Child Development

Child: Where do babies come from?
Parent: When a man or a woman loves a canvas very much…

Nine Months Later–

When a painting is born it can be as helpless as a newborn baby. You literally have to do everything for it — an awkward time because paintings don’t come with instructions or an owner’s manual like a bed from IKEA. Often there is that “trial and error” technique of parenting.

If you are patient and pay attention you will be the lucky recipient of baby’s first smile. What a joyful moment. If you have your phone handy, you probably turn this into an Instagram moment. (If you miss this one, don’t despair, there will be more opportunities along the way.)

Before you know it this little creature is developing a personality and will start to crawl around. Probably your next Instagramable moment. But be ready, because first steps are in everyone’s future. Depending on the child, or the parent, this is where things start to get tricky. Remember, we are still dealing with a less than fully-formed entity and it is our complete responsibility to keep baby safe. Gates on the stairs and cabinet locks are helpful.

Until now our newly born painting is fun. Fun like having a puppy is fun. The first “mama”, or “daddy” will melt your heart. But words that follow will often be demanding and yes, sometimes even annoying. Opinions shared by this youngster now are not always rational or well-reasoned. Remember, you’re still the parent.

As your toddler becomes more stable and coordinated you can begin to ease up on some of the safety precautions. The parent and child now will also occasionally have conversations that include full sentences that are both amusing as well as proof that there is such a thing as independent thought.

As the maturation process moves along, suddenly you will find that you have a teenager on your hands. Not only do we notice hair growing in places that there was none before and that lessons on personal hygiene need to be reviewed, but the age of defiance may be upon you. But with defiance also comes flashes of brilliance, and if we are wise we will pay attention to these pearls that our young ones present.

The closer your painting comes to being an adult, the more and more we need to switch our parental approach yet again. Because as our babies grow up, eventually they very well may know better than us what is best for them.

These serious discussions can be quite painful for us. Especially if we had other ideas for outcomes. But if we are really the loving parent we claim to have been all along, this conversation will likely be a real eye-opener for us. They are still our precious little bubbies and parenting is never really over. But the sooner we realize that our best move will be to help them be exactly what they want to be, everyone will be happier.

Even if it doesn’t save the world…

In 1928 Sir Alexander Fleming was working in his lab on a cure for influenza. After a two-week holiday he returned to his lab and found mold growing in a petri dish containing staphylococcus. He realized that the mold was inhibiting the growth of the bacteria. Penicillin was born.

We don’t often make discoveries in our studios that impact the world quite in the same way as penicillin. But that element of unexpected surprise may not be as rare as we might think.

Last week I discussed my relationship with ‘Easy Street’ enough to point out that the creative struggle is real. For artists to achieve progress a certain amount of blood, sweat and tears must flow.

Once a level of familiarity or proficiency is acquired, we often are lucky enough to enter into a well-deserved plateau. If we are wise stewards of our practice, we will create as much work as possible in this new place.

At some point, we will reach a degree of exhaustion and probably just have to stop. Oft times, while sitting in contemplation we realize that (often to our own surprise!) we have taken our work to a new level…a rather similar experience to that of our Sir Alexander Fleming.

The takeaway? Working within the confines of a pretty tight series, it is likely that good things can and will happen after yielding to a necessary amount of repetition.