Friday, August 20, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have To Give It Away

     One of the great things about being an artist and selling my own work is that I can do what I want with it.  I only do a couple of shows where I set up a booth and sell directly to the public, but it has been my particular pleasure to have a small original painting that I intend to give away sometime during that show.
     I will tell you this:  sitting idle at an art show for 2 to 3 days can teach you some very interesting things. Here are just a few:
- Some dog people are stranger than cat people.
- Most people have an aunt “who paints a lot better than you”.
- Hot dog grease isn’t that easy to get off glass.
- And the comment that claims First Prize for Genius was the man who asked “So, who does the paintings for your wonderful frames?”  Yes, you read it correctly.  I just shook my head and chalked it up to Darwin.
A Christmas Carol by John Groth 
     But here is the upside to all the foolishness….there will always be one kid; one who stands out and who seems way too young to stare at a painting.  They will be completely mesmerized, not so much by the subject matter, but more by the technique.  They will be a kid who already has developed an appreciation for the subtleties in a painting that no one that age should be aware of.
     I love talking to these kids.  We have much in common. They draw incessantly.  I draw incessantly. We both love horses and cowboys and couldn’t stop if we wanted to.  Their parents always seem concerned, as if this “art thing” is (hopefully) just a passing fancy, or a minor affliction.  If only they knew.
     I feel compelled to tell them about the road that has been chosen.  I want to steer them away from discouraging their children.  I want to tell them, “Don’t teach it out of them”, and “Forget your dreams of Law School”, and finally “Focus on the Gift”.  If their children are anything like me, Algebra 1-4 will be a series of unsatisfactory report cards (all with the forged signature of my father), followed shortly by a low D or a high F.
Korean War by John Groth
     Kid gloves are a necessity for parents who have the sudden realization that they have a hopelessly focused artist on their hands.  This is where the painting comes in.  It’s a gracious gift given to a child who has an artist’s soul; it’s framed, it has a personal message from me to the child on the back of the painting, and it will do it’s magic for many moons.
     How do I know this painting will have so much influence?  That it will talk for me when I can’t?  That it will inspire and encourage?  And that it will set a high bar, and maybe provide a direction or a path?
     I know this because someone did it for me….a good man named John Groth.  He was staying at the Villa Capri Hotel in Austin, Texas (where my mom worked as a secretary for Guest Relations, and I spent many summers). Mr. Groth was a well-known book illustrator, and he took note of my artistic disposition.  The year was 1975, and with one drawing signed by him to me, he changed my path.  I had always been obsessed with drawing, but this was the first nudge that I got from a real professional.  And it made a difference.
     If you are reading this, no matter what your field is, you will have the opportunity to meet that kid; the one who wants to be a cowboy…or an artist….or writer….or is good with his hands.  He has a gift and he needs you.  Just give it away.

All images © John Groth.  All content © Mark Kohler Studio. 

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