Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lessons From A Fighter Pilot

     During my high school years I shot skeet competitively, and I had a coach who clarified something for me, and this piece of advice has stuck firmly to this day.  His name was Art Sideras and he was an Air Force Colonel, fighter pilot, competitive shooter, as well as first-class mentor.
     He has passed away, but not before (like most good men) leaving a positive mark on the world that continues to bear good fruit.   My youthful problem originated on Station 2 High House, also known as High 2 in “Skeet Speak”.  This particular station had never really given me a problem, but after losing a 4-H match in Dallas by one target, I had let the shot into my head.  Art saw me struggling with the target and came over with his low key and patient manner to help me with my problem. 
     “Mark, you’re taking yourself out of the moment.  Don’t recruit your brain to the wrong thing.”  He reminded me of a shooter we both knew who was constantly throwing temper tantrums when he missed targets.  He explained to me that top shooters don’t do this.  When a top shooter misses, he goes on without incident; no whining, no verbal excuses, and no tantrums.  He doesn’t take himself out of the moment.
     As a former fighter pilot, he explained that in a dogfight, if you take yourself out of the moment, it would get you killed.  He pointed out that I was recruiting much of my brainpower to worry about the shot, or how it could affect my score, instead of directing that power to making the shot. 
     Earlier this week I was doing much the same thing with one of my paintings.  I had let an unresolved issue get in my head and shut me down.  The white noise of the studio was getting in my head and made it hard for me to even start the painting.  What if I mess up this $10 sheet of paper?……what if I waste three days on this, and it doesn’t work?......what if, what if…..
     Painting is much like competitive shooting.  A series of mental exercises combined with fine motor skills.  Painting watercolors demands that you be in the moment. 
     Watercolor, unlike oil painting, suffers no haphazard fools.  Any mistake you make can’t be covered over, and excuses or whining will only impact your efforts in a negative manner.
     We all have our artistic Station 2 High Houses to deal with.  It will eventually come, but make your studio a haven, clear your mind of all the white noise, and get in the moment.  You all have great watercolors in you----so get started!

1 comment:

  1. I liked this post. I need to find a time to get back to Texas this year.\, so I'll be giving you a call later.