Oil field drawing of an oil rig under low clouds
Eighth oil field drawing in a series
I ’m sure you’ve noticed, but the whole world has filled to bursting with lazy people.
They get indignant when asked to do the job they were hired for; they dog it, they don’t care about the quality of their work, and don’t think twice about walking away from any job that calls them to task – and it’s not just teens and 20-somethings anymore either.
Occasionally you come across folks who put a little snap into their work, not that I’m entirely capable of it myself. They‘re as rare as udders on a duck, but there are the people who are industrious, who hustle, who care for their tools and equipment, who can put up with a little discomfort without whining, who don’t make excuses, and who care about doing a good job…even when nobody’s looking.
As an artist, the whole concept of work is kind of a paradox. I grew up with small business owners on one side of the family and farmers on the other, so I was raised with some very specific ideas of what work was – mainly, hard, painful, and necessary.
Of course, when you look at these guys I’m drawing and the kind of work environment they had – the heat, the cold, wind, rain, danger, bugs, and doing actual no foolin’ horsepower generating labor,
I fully understand that I don’t do anything remotely resembling work. I sit on my arse in front of a drawing table or computer for weeks on end.
I’m the drum sergeant in the Spruce Grove firefighters pipe and drum band – or whatever the hell we’re called. One Wednesday the Fire Chief and I stepped out for our post-practice beer and wings (I have the beer, he has the wings) and as I stood there blinking at the sunset, I realized that I hadn’t set foot out of doors since last weeks’ practice. I’d spent a full seven days stuck in my studio.
I got home and asked The Colonel not to let me do that anymore, but the point is that I’m fully aware that I don’t work in the textbook sense.
In another sense, I find very few people share my capacity for work. It’s not just the drawing – which can take well over 100 hours – it’s also the research, travelling, shows, commission clients, writing the newsletters, publishing the prints, signing and numbering every one of the prints, publishing catalogs, managing the Spotty Internet Trolls who screw up my online presence, keeping up pretenses at the gallery The Colonel and I own, while managing to be husband and dad as well.
People have this idea that, as an artist, I sleep till noon, wander around in a housecoat drinking unpronounceable teas and waiting for inspiration to come and whack me in the back of the head.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
A day in the life
Typically, my day starts around 7:30 getting the kids up, fed, watered and groomed and The Colonel drops them off at school on her way to the gallery. I hit the studio and apply nose to grindstone until the boys get home around four. I make supper, and it’s family time – meaning no work – until the kids go to bed around 9ish. Then I go back to my studio for almost another whole day’s work – until 1 or 2 in the morning.
So I may not be horsing around steel pipes in inclement weather, but being an artist is its own work.
I can’t wait for ‘inspiration’ to come to me before I go to work anymore than the guys in this drawing could wait to go to work until they ‘feel like it’.
It isn’t ‘relaxing’
You see, drawing is hard mentally. I tend to snort derisively at artists who gas on about ‘how relaxing’ it is to draw or paint, or ‘how it releases their stress to create’. Well, okay, good for you I guess, but it’s not that way for me.
I wish it were.
To me, drawing is more like how Red Smith described the process of writing: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
It’s lonely, frustrating, repetitive, and frankly boring work where entire weeks are spent doing nothing but moving fingers back and forth while my neck and back scream in torment. I don’t like the act of drawing any more than getting a tooth drilled….but I love having drawn, and I get a huge rush out of finishing a piece that I’ve opened my veins for and set loose upon the world.
And yet – because I’m not working with my back or doing any kind of hard physical labor, I have an odd recurring sense of guilt that my career means I’m somehow getting away with something…
Maybe it’s this weird sense of guilt that keeps me at it day after day, year after year…
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Hobknobbing in Tinseltown
Legendary Hollywood producer Peter Guber wasn't really poking Owen in the eye with his portrait, but as Peter used to head up Sony Pictures and racked up 120 Academy Award nominations and Executive Produced blockbusters including Batman, Gorillas in the Mist, The Color Purple, Rain Man, Midnight Express, The Witches of Eastwick, and about a zillion others...well, who are we to discourage a little ocular trauma between friends?
Owen has also done portraits for Hollywood stars Adam West, and William Shatner (neither of whom tried to poke Owen's eye out).
Owen also won the Los Angeles TV Festival with a 6-minute video clip slid in on a lark at the last minute. Apparently nobody else bothered to enter, because Owen won the $10,000 first place prize and got flown to LA for a schmancy reception at the Highland Club, where they used to film American Idol.
Which ruffled a few feathers among the locals...
You can read about that little adventure in The Adventures of The Pencilneck Blog.
(with a Bostonian accent)
"I'd like to tank Owen for dis here pahrtrait by dabbing him in the eye wid it..."
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