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What I've Relearned in the Last Week


Painting is something that I've always enjoyed, and I'm a decent painter. With practice, I might become quite good, but I'll tell ya - my game sucked when I got on board the cruise.

Things I had to learn (again) and discipline myself:

  1. Painting is drawing before it is anything else. If I don't get the drawing right, I don't have anything - unless I'm going for abstract, which I never do. I had to force myself to remember this truth several times, and I proved to be a slow learner. Evidently, I'd gotten myself in a big hurry about life prior to the cruise.
  2. Streaky colors in my brush kill the confidence of my painting. Determine the solid color that I need, mix it well, and then paint that section. Streaks of color can be a technique, but only when it's rare and deliberate. When it happens by accident, it's not a cool effect. It's like changing font in mid-sentence. Colors that are bold and strong are confident. Streaks only weaken the work.
  3. Let a section dry before going over it with a new color - otherwise it becomes streaky. See previous point... use the time to change water, study the subject harder, go for a stretch break, etc.
  4. Really stop to focus on the section and forget what I'm looking at. It's never a bottle of mustard - it's just colors. Paint the colors and shapes, not the object my mind tells me that it is.
When I get home, I'll post pictures of my efforts. I'm not overly proud of anything I did, but it's always about the journey, and not the destination. I journeyed a long way, and I'll be a better painter for it.

All of the work I did was plein air - no working from a photograph, just live and in person based on what was in front of me. I need an easel for that kind of painting, and I never had one. An easel sets the canvas straight, allows the eye to move very little from subject to canvas, and forces me to look at the subject more often to drop my assumptions.

The big lesson I got from this round of painting was this: first impressions are never the complete picture.

That applies to a lot of life. We seek patterns, and we love to categorize. It allows us to move more quickly. Assumptions help us - if we recognize them as assumptions. Too often, we don't. We believe that our first impression, which is really just a proud assumption, is true.

What I believe is that first impressions allow us to move intuitively in the right direction, but it's rarely the final direction. It takes fine tuning, and that only happens when we continue to look at the subject for what it is. I can take a mustard bottle and paint it in the sunlight, not touch it at all, and I guarantee that before I finish it, it's become a completely different bottle of mustard because the light changed for the movement of the sun upon it. It can't be the same painting again.

A lot of people watched me paint on the trip. The first fifteen minutes that happened, I was self-conscious. Then that feeling left me. At one point, I sat at the first table on the huge patio in Margaritaville in Grand Turk. A ton of people moved past me, several of them commenting on how I was doing. It was a cool experience.

A couple of comments about the trip:

  • I left programming behind for 6 days. I needed that. Usually, I code while traveling. Not this time, and it helped me. The next year is gonna kick my ass, and I think we'll try to do this a couple of times in the next year.
  • I've always wondered what I would have done in centuries past. No question now - I would have been a sailor and an explorer. I love the ocean. Staring into it, it's impossible for me to tire of it. The infusion of millions of bubbles into the blue water as the massive boat cuts through it brings this play of turquoise and white and sky blue. Fascinating. I can't count the number of times I stood on our balcony just looking into the water.
  • The lives of the crew... we had fantastic people working hard to make our trip wonderful, and they succeeded. Mark, our steward, and Romel, our evening waiter, have very interesting stories. My heart goes out to them and I'm thankful to have met them.
  • Politically, I'm a changed guy. The early-December conference I attended started that change, and this trip has expanded upon that. I didn't pay attention to the news of the day, but I did see that Obama's theft of health care passed the Senate. There are two directions I can go from here: I either work to make as much money as I can before it all comes down, or I double down on my political work. The answer is probably both, with the former preceding the latter. I'm convinced that the Republicans are worthless to defeat the Democrats. I thought I might try to work with them, but they're completely hapless and don't believe in preserving freedom. But you know who's even more hapless than Republican politicians? Republican voters. I worked my butt off this past year to help organize them, and I'm done trying to light a fire under their collective butts. It's a waste of time. I'm skeptical of right-leaning politicians, and even more skeptical of right-leaning voters. I have no idea how much corruption and theft in Washington it takes to get people off the couch for more than a rah-rah session, but I'll spend my free time working on other more productive things. (I've met a few real patriots, but they're very uncommon. I love them, and God bless them.) (P.S. Yes, I'm pretty torqued about politics...)
I got lots of pictures of the trip, and I'll upload some when I get home.

It was great way to end the year and I'll be uber-productive going into the new year. Time to kick ass for my family.


by Brett Rogers, 12/26/2009 1:30:05 PM


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