A cold winters day, raining as usual, and I’m stopping in a coffee shop to warm up and get a fix. It’s early and my brother has picked me up to help him with a job. The pump that keeps his basement dry has failed in the night, and we need to dig it up and replace it.
Gil’s not actually my brother, but I always just say he is. Some friends are just like that. Saying ‘my friend Gil’ never really got the right message across. We’ve been friends since we were kids.
As is the case in most coffee shops in Portland, there was a good deal of artwork on the walls, several artists had displays. As I sipped my house drip and waited for Gil’s complicated coffee drink I wandered around looking at it, in particular being drawn to a set of Star Wars inspired stencil art.
I am a nerd at heart, and that sort of thing really speaks to me. There were stencils of several of the main characters, a Boba Fett piece in particular had caught my eye and a few of ships in space, with that classic spraypaint space art as a background. I was overwhelming impressed with the quality and general ‘coolness’ of it all and found myself quite transfixed. My brother wandered up behind me with his fancy coffee.
‘How do you suppose people can make this sort of thing just out of their brain and onto a wall like this? Man, people do some cool things.’ I said to him over my shoulder.
‘Nah. This sucks.’, he scoffed, ‘You could do it way better.’
Now my brother is about 5 or 6 years older than me, and throughout our lives, he has always been way more grounded than me. I will often get super excited about an idea, especially when we were young, and not easily see any of the possible hurtles or negative outcomes. He has always been the antithesis of that, a hard realist who makes sure we keep our heads during projects or adventures, who keeps us from doing most of the dumb things that young men do.
For him to say something like this frankly surprised me. I am not in any way an artist, I was a cook. I could certainly not make anything like this in my wildest dreams. I was blessed with no artistic talents like the artist who’s work I had been admiring.
‘What are you even talking about Gil? Look at this.’ I motioned to the Boba Fett. ‘Some guy made this with spraypaint!’
And then my brother started verbally destroying this painting, pointing out all the flaws. Things like overspray, wavy lines, off-center layers, and other blemishes. He pointed out how the artist could have done better, how anyone can do this kind of art if they want to, and how easy it would be to get into if I wanted to do this and be good at it.
I gotta say, he was really only mistaken about the last thing.
It’s funny but it was hard to see the paintings the same way as I had just a moment before. The way he had described it, it became more of a thing somebody figured out how to make then a thing that came pouring out of someone via some mystical sort of inspiration. More of a craft than an art. Like a well made rocking chair.
Could I really do this?
I had always been kind of person who picks up a new hobby every couple months, gets super into it and learns everything he can, and then moves onto the next thing. I am a jack of all trades but a master of few, as the saying goes. As I dug holes in the rain that day, I decided I would give it a try.
I bought 25$ worth of Krylon spraypaint and some cutting blades at the local department store the next day, and painted by moonlight on my sons old easel. The moment I sprayed my first layer on top of another, and saw the effect, I knew I wanted to be really good at this. Here was my first piece.
Gil helped me build a spraypaint table, a contraption that pulls air through pegboard and shoots it outside, after he found me high to the point of drooling on paint fumes a few days later. He had a serious talk with me about carcinogens and safety. If I was going to do this seriously I needed to do it correctly. Since then it’s always been a priority. I will do a future post on how I have my studio set up.
All this happened about 10 years ago, and art has just gotten more interesting and exciting the more I learn about it. Since then, I have painted at least one painting every week. With the opportunity to practice so much and the will to just make cool stuff I just can’t help but improve.
I’m here because I just don’t want to keep it to myself anymore. The more I can show people about how easy this is the better. If you want to create art every bit as awesome as mine you totally can, all it takes is practice. Literally anyone can do this, you just have to decide to, and then practice a lot. People will soon think that you have a ‘natural talent’, but you will know it is just the result of grinding out paintings and learning from mistakes.
4 years ago I quit my job as a Chef of over 20 years to paint awesome pictures in my shed, and so far I haven’t had to go back. It’s an amazing life that I never could have dreamed about those years ago in that coffee house. I have a sincire hope that someone see’s one of my Boba Fett paintings one day and says, ‘That sucks, you could do way better..’