Thursday, March 3, 2011

If You Can't Jump The Train -- Float The River!

     In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about jumping trains as a kid, and how this concept can be applied, metaphorically, to your art career.  I explained how taking some chances could work in your favor.
Shoal Creek after a flood
     This week I’m going to tell you about another childhood adventure.  If you live in Central Texas, you may remember the 1981 Memorial Day Flood, when North Austin received over 10 inches of rain in less than 4 hours.  Shoal Creek ran from its normal 90 gallons per minute, to 6 million gallons per minute.  This was a definite anomaly. 
     Shoal Creek was where I grew up, and to my delight, that creek flooded often.  My best friend, Greg, and me would spend every waking hour knee-deep in this “Wonderland for boys”.  Slingshots, pocketknives and packets of Red Man, with a good pair of Creek shoes, were the tools of the trade.  That whole summer was like a coming-of-age movie.
     One of my best days on the Creek was spent floating in a tube from the bridge at Greenlawn Parkway to the bridge at Koenig Lane.  As the crow flies, this was probably less than 4 miles, but to a kid riding a flooded creek in a tube, it seemed like a Snake River run.  A 2-inch rain above Austin would run the narrow limestone-based creek fast enough to burn adrenaline.
My pals were just like the boys in "Stand By Me"
     So me, Greg, and any other daredevils in the neighborhood would meet at Greenlawn Parkway with our tubes, and enter the swollen creek.  An older brother of a kid down the street had a Buick Electra and would pick us up at the end of the 4-mile run and drive the gang, plus tubes, back to our starting point for another run. 
     It never occurred to us that this was in any way dangerous.   There were no concerns or fears of floating tree stumps or broken glass---and definitely no life jackets!  I can remember floating the creek several times and I knew it was something my parents (especially my mom) would not approve of, but I was determined to enjoy the ride, no matter the risks.
     So how does this equate to our art careers?  I was thinking about this art path I’ve chosen.  So often I am taken down stream artistically, with no idea of what’s coming next.  For me, it’s one of the rewards of being an artist.  So much of what comes along requires getting in the tube with no idea of what’s ahead.  At some point, we must gather up our tools and skills and head down stream . . . . Get the adrenaline flowing!
     There are times when we know what’s coming, and a plan can be put in place.  But so much of embracing an artistic career is engaging in the fluidity of this path.  Art, by its very nature, is organic from conception to execution.  By that, I mean it is a natural process, and an entity all its own.  It’s humbling to realize that your body of work will out-live you.
     Being an artist is its’ own reward.  So beware of the white noise (and the nay-sayers) that will try to steer you off your path.  The economy, the recession, bills and the pitfalls of business can all cause cracks of doubt to creep in, but stay focused on your craft and step in to your Creek shoes.  You’ll find it can be one helluva ride!      


  1. Mark, the detail of your art is always amazing, but I am finding your "childhood stories" equally as amazing...they are very interesting, insightful and quite revealing. Am anxious to hear the next one!

  2. OOps, just how much are you willing to reveal there buddy! I remember that flood as well. It was quite an eye opener for us Austinites.