Those who know me, know that I once painted as my creative outlet. People are often surprised to learn that I have stopped painting altogether. I find that I only need a creative outlet, it doesn’t have to be painting, and I find myself equally well served, nay, better served, by crafting words rather than by creating paintings.
I blog because I’ve had a life that’s been rich with experience. I also blog because I’m a story teller. When one combines a wealth of experience with an ability to imagine possibilities and to use words expressively to tell a tale, blogging seems a natural outcome.
In the late 1960s, I was a student at Southern Connecticut State in New Haven, Connecticut. I was studying to become an art teacher. I was more fixated on art than I was on teaching. As a result, I chummed with other artists. Robert Rondeau was my life-long buddy and room-mate. He attended Paier School of Art. Tino Zago, a Yale MFA student, http://tinozago.com/ lived in the apartment above me, and I would occasionally meet with Tino and Jack Lembeck, http://jaxart.tripod.com when Jack was also an art student at Yale.
Like these other guys, I was serious about my art. I was serious enough to rent studio space in the same old factory building in which one of my professors, Jack Smith, rented studio space. I was in a fairly select group of focussed artists, I thought, and I liked where our discussions and activities were taking us. I thought of myself as an artist. I was not. I was on a path toward becoming an artist, but events larger than my notions of becoming a painter took over and directed me differently.
I was strongly attracted to the idea of applying for admission to Yale’s MFA program. I thought I had what it would take to be admitted. I received encouragements from Tino and Jack who were both in the program. But military service deferments for graduate school attendance ended, and I had to make another plan. Maybe someday I’ll write about the limited choices I had and why I chose coming to Canada. Suffice to say that I knew I could only live with either jail or leaving the U.S. as my paths out of the moral quagmire of possibly being forced to kill people on misguided principles.
But then what? What happened to my artistic ambitions? They were gone in a considerable hurry! I had to make a living and making money by making art was…well, lets just describe it as ‘unpromising.’ I had come from very poor roots and there was no possibility that any source of family support might be forthcoming nor even possible. At the same time however, those “poor roots” gave me such exposure to a wealth of short-term, part-time and seasonal jobs and unusual experiences as to fill my mental larder with treasures upon which to draw in all my creative endeavours. Carnival roustabout, mill worker, house painter, roofer, retail clerk, chauffeur, handy man, taxi driver, truck driver, construction worker, door-to-door salesman, gofer in a stock-car pit crew, all these in addition to my three main career branches as art teacher, television producer, and ESL teacher.
After a fairly rewarding time teaching art at the high school level, I found myself struggling to reconcile my earlier desires to create, with the demanding, time-consuming nature of teaching adolescents. I noticed that I was increasingly drawn to music videos at a time when such videos were in their infancy. I successfully experimented with editing audio, and I began to think, “This is where art is today. Not static, fixed-in-position paint on a surface! Today’s art presents itself in people’s homes. It moves with light, at light speed. It has sound, performance, time, colour and light as its design elements. I need to get into TV production and receive pay for being creative!”
Despite my initial stimulant, I never made any serious music videos. I made a few, very basic videos, but by the time I made them, I had veered onto a different path entirely. My new path was ‘community programming.’ I started in community programming with the local cable operator and stayed with community programming throughout that part of my life. I really got something from helping people to make shows, from presenting interesting people and ideas to my community, all outside the normal strictures of commercial TV. I could be creative. I was encouraged to be creative. I was paid to be creative. Poor pay, admittedly, but I received a living wage and the work was rich with experience. I loved it.
Life has its ups and downs, and that career was terminated at my choosing in protest of being ‘required’ to do more than one person could ever possibly hope to do. When I resigned, my former manager wrote a general letter of reference on my behalf. In that letter, he wrote, “For two years, at my station, Jake accomplished the work which would normally be assigned to twenty or more people in a broadcast environment.” I was no slouch. But my new manager demanded that I more than double that work load, probably knowing that I would resign and then the company he represented would not be on the financial hook to pay me an on-going retirement pension. If that was his plan, it worked. I thought, “I’ve earned national awards for this company. I received only excellent performance reviews in my work. I’ve been a model of productivity. I have figuratively given my life to this company. I refuse to give up my life more literally on their behalf.”
Then I went back to teaching, first as a substitute art teacher in most of London’s schools, then as an ESL teacher for another 13 years. I loved that too – the teaching, not the zany administrative end of things, meeting policies that regularly flaunted common sense and were, often enough, counter-educational.
My forty-one year marriage foundered in an atmosphere of indifference. Then I was on my own. Just before I retired, I met and fell in love with the artist, Johnnene Maddison http://johnnenemaddison.com/.
Curiously, after comparing notes with her in 2012, it turned out that I remembered seeing her as a beautiful young woman at the Guggenheim Museum, 49 years earlier, in 1963! See blog posting Three Amazing but True Tales Johnnene denies this possibility, but I did know that she had attended that show alone, and I didn’t just guess that odd possibility out of the blue. Besides, what 20 year-old female university student would remember seeing a 14 year-old boy on a field trip with his high school, even if she caught him staring at her? But I remembered her! I went back for a second look at her that day in the Guggenheim!
After my retirement, Johnnene encouraged me to take interest classes at the local seniors’ centre. I took two creative writing classes because I had already been writing and sending my long e-mails to a list of people, and I wanted to see if my writing compared well with other writers’ work. Happily, there were several good writers in those classes and they encouraged me in my writing, much like Tino and Jack had encouraged me to paint in New Haven a lifetime earlier. One woman in particular said to me during my last class, “I hope you’ll find a way of sharing your writing with more than just the people in this room.”
I shall spare you the specifics of setting up the blog, but ‘thanks’ to Kailey. I went with a blog because I didn’t care to become involved in the various tests to prove myself print-worthy. If a person enjoys an article I post, they’ll read it. If not, they won’t. I make no money from any source by writing and maintaining the blog. Nor does it cost me any money. Fair trade, I’d say. If wordpress.com can sell advertising on my blog, more power to them. It gives me a platform upon which to express my views, to continue to be creative without having to paint, nor buy materials, nor frame art works, nor provide storage for large works of art that have no other home.
That’s where I am today! Just living, enjoying life in all its fascinating variety, making mental notes, then writing observations, sometimes drawing conclusions, sometimes simply letting the observations carry their own meaning. If I am able to entertain a reader along my journey with a well-told tale or two, I will be happy to have contributed to their entertainment.