Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The New "Old School"

     It’s something that I pride myself on.  I’m not sure where it’s overwhelming influence emanates from.  Maybe it’s the people I come from, or the effects of the society I keep.  But nonetheless, it’s true.  I’m “Old School”.  I jostled this around in my head, trying to figure out why I’m constantly drawn to all things handmade, old and antiquated.
     Really, it’s not an affliction, but I have found myself in unique situations because of my appreciation of tradition.  Here’s an example:  Pam and I are in Montana roaming around an antique store, looking for interesting objects to add to a still-life painting.
     In every antique store, there is always one consignor who leans heavily toward hand tools.  Hand tools rarely fit into the type of still-lifes I enjoy painting, but I find myself holding a cobbler’s hammer, and I am completely enthralled with it’s small hickory handle that is as slick as porcelain from years of use in another “old-schooler’s” hand.  The sweeping curve of the claw and d the over-sized face of the hammer are, in themselves, a work of art.  Clean lines, American-made quality.  And I can’t put the damn thing down.  I decide I can’t justify the $25 price to Pam, without a vision of a painting nailed down, and yet it continues to haunt me these two weeks later.  Rest assured, I will buy the next one. 
     When I look at my entire existence, it’s clear.  I love traditional bows, both recurve and longbow.  And I prefer to shoot two-blade broadheads that haven’t changed in a thousand years.  I still enjoy the time spent sharpening them with a file. 
     There are split bamboo fly rods, leather goods, silver work, wool jackets (Filson or Bemidji).  For knives, it’s carbon steel over stainless (preferably 01 or D2 tool steel).  Maybe it actually is an affliction!
     I like Japanese water stones and oilstones over any modern sharpening widget.  Give me a Dutch Oven (Griswold), old butcher knives, lever guns, and I damn sure want my film camera back.
     I know this world is out-pacing my bush craft ways, and me and in many regards, I must find a way to embrace new technology, new media and a future, that on first appearance, will spit me out.
     But the real truth is I fight back in my own way.  Pam and I, if nothing else, chose our own road.  We turned our back on the ‘burb house (with two trees of your choice), company car, and profit sharing.  We built our own version of a secluded homestead.  I have the dog kennels I can’t live without and the music of coyotes most every night.
     I have chosen a simple life of painting what I choose to paint, and refining and reveling in all things “old school”.  All indications are that this world is changing fast and might get tougher from here on out.  Who knows…. Maybe the new “Old School” is coming back around.  Count me in!

All content © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. Could it be that being "old school", one appreciates the craftsmanship and time that went into a piece. In other words, seeing the artistic beauty in everyday objects. A craftsman's name stood for the quality of his work. Pretty good work ethic. too.

    Ever catch National Geographic: Living Treasures of Japan? Talk about "old school" - impressive!

  2. Maybe I can take a tax deduction on the Gary dunshee saddle I bought this year if I use it in a couple of western still life paintings:)