Thursday, February 8, 2018

Patrick Henry, Painter, Tells His Story

When I became an adult, my mother told me that one of her girlfriends was concerned about me when I was a child. Seemed she observed that while my siblings were bustling about doing what children do, I was out in a corner of the yard staring at weeds. The pattern for a life of drawing inspiration from nature was set early on.

Golden MushroomsOil on Canvas, 28x22, 2018

In those critical tender years of developing an “eye”, I drew upon, what I discovered later, the words of Lord Byron’s poem, There is Pleasure in the Pathless Woods;

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods:
There is a rapture on the lonely shore:
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar,
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

Waiting for Fries, Oil on Canvas, 18x24, 2017

Fason Purnell, a grade school friend of mine recently wrote:

“...I remember there were three of us who were pretty good little artists as kids. We were quite competitive. We would always keep an ear for the comments made by passersby about each other’s work. 'Oh, how nice' or 'I wish I could draw like that' or 'who did that' admiringly. But for Patrick, it was never 'Who did that' because one look and everyone knew, Patrick Henry did that."
 Transitions, Oil on Canvas, 24x20, 2018

Thing is, I had no clue that it was this “way of seeing” that was carrying me into a life of passion and “obsession” with the creative process. It came with a cost as I had to work hard to assimilate into “societal norms”. My private world carried more inward gratification then the things society equates as rewarding.
Sliced Tomatoes, Oil on Canvas, 18x24, 2018

This passion earned me titles such as “Most Talented Senior “in high school and in college, but I never felt qualified. Now, in my adulthood, as I’m receiving accolades for my efforts in “Best of this” or “Best of that”, I know it’s the inspiration and proper motivation set in my youth as I held close within my being the spiritual essence of the Creative “calling”.

At the Beach, Oil on Canvas, 24x18, 2017

I recall years ago, very early in my career, being asked to include an artist statement with my painting inventory. 'Why?', I asked myself. 'Aren’t the paintings enough?' Grudging I sat down and drafted a statement that has become a lasting mission statement, not only for myself, but hopefully from which others can draw inspiration:

“When painting, I always reveal some tidbit about my
 life. My paintings are about the people I’ve met, places
 I’ve been, things I reflect upon, or fleeting moments that
 have left an impression on my personal world. No greater
 sense of fulfillment is possible than to have you to pause
 and assimilate for a moment that which more often we
 allow to pass on into time.”

Mushrooms, Leaves and Sticks, Oil on Canvas, 18x24, 2018

My desire now is for anyone that views my work to rethink their relationship with the world around them and possibly discover new ideas and values.

Super A, Oil on Canvas, 18x22, 2018

This is Week 5 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Patrick’s story today. To connect with Patrick and see more of his work, please visit the following links:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bryan Jacobs, Chef & Founder of Vets2Success, Tells His Story

Bryan & Kevin Jacobs  - The Beginning

It was nothing like any movie you had seen, there was nothing that truly compared to what was to come. Two boys, with nothing more than the love of their country in their hearts and they swore an oath like many others that came before them. It was an honor to serve, it was even more of an honor to serve together. Not many since the Sullivan brothers had done it, so knowing that one of us could make the ultimate sacrifice for our country we were ready as boys could be.

January 2003 brought more than we could have anticipated - long training, poor chow, and a fly problem that only existed in movies with mummies, and an endless supply of sand and sunshine without a drop of water or a bikini in sight. We had not been told when or why, but we knew the Marine Corps was shipping us halfway around the world to deliver a singing telegram. We knew something was up when they made an over-the-top effort for every brother that was serving in the tip of the spear to spend a day with each other. Seven days later it all made sense, the reality of war was present, and boys became men as shots of anger raged the quiet world that existed, nothing was the same, especially us.

Kevin - Not all wounds are visible

Not every Marine, Solider, or service member has a wound for the world to see, many have been wounded beyond return in the trauma’s they have lived and seen. It had been years since the sounds of war, and the experiences still lived fresh in his mind. Often tears of sadness of not knowing why you have made it, and questioning the morals of right and wrong and the decisions you had to make and the lives you had to lose. 

The trails of adjustment and disbelief of the reality that had set in is sometimes more than most can bear. Many can’t believe the struggle that exists in finding a place amongst a society that you swore an oath to defend till death. We all signed a blank check for our lives not knowing if we would truly cash it in. Those who don’t cash in must pay in some way, whether it be with the memories they must drink away, or find a magic pill to subside the demons. Some have that fight, but for Kevin, his loss was on May 27th, 2014.

Pain Can Be Powerful

The loss was more than I thought I could bear, I too had been dealing with horrific thoughts of what was and lived with demons of my own, but now I lived with a burden I had never thought I would have to carry on my shoulders. I was my brother’s keeper ... I was supposed to be all he looked up to, I was his big brother. I now had to take into consideration a life that had been lost, but a legacy that could be lived. I decided to make a difference in those lives that needed a difference - not a hand out, but a hand up. 

I started a program to celebrate the legacy of my brother, one that would reflect his needs and his hopes, called Vet2Chef. All chefs pictured here are veterans, all had been down a road longer than they had ever imagined they would travel in their post military careers. This first set of lives that changed showed me a reason for living and, it gave me the reason to continue living. I now had purpose with a passion. All I had ever known was cooking. Food saved my life in so many ways. It challenged my mind, it consumed my every day, focusing my mind on so many things other than the trauma I lived and the burdens I carried.

Something to Believe In

Every life can be given a purpose, but many must find the passion behind the purpose. Many veterans miss the basis of what military service stood for. They leave the military not quite understanding why they don’t fit, and their search begins. Many of us are looking for the things that made the military home, camaraderie, brotherhood, support, team, courage, commitment and a sense of belonging to something bigger than life itself. That search can be relentless, that search can be never-ending in some cases, and tragic more often than necessary. 

Every branch of service is represented here, and all understand these simple yet harsh realities that we face. Who am I is, what am I, who have I become, who will I become, these are all questions that are asked daily of veteran. We can’t seem to always find the answer to these questions especially by ourselves. It takes a team, a mission, a focus and a dedication to excellence to see change, with this a life can be changed. Each of us has the tools to paint the picture our desires have and to live, but many of us need support to help paint that picture. Some use a canvas, some sand, others clay ... we use food.

Build It

The most amazing thing in the world is when people see your dream, they feel it, the can see it, experience it, and they can help make a difference in their own way. Everything this is comes from the love of so many, pictured here:  USF-SM faculty (left) and the cofounder of Vets2Chefs Marine Corp Veteran and Applebee’s Founder Burton “Skip” Sack (on right). 

This program represents a community that wants better for their veterans, the people who make this happen are people who believe in change. Many of our supporters have never served this country and are just loyal patriots much like all those who have served. We are blessed by so many community partners its unreal, together we are making a difference. The change that is evident comes from all the support this community provides, they help support discharge upgrades, living situations, emotional support, food, and direction.

Continue to Serve 

Many veterans are looking for a reason to serve, many can’t turn off what is still on, they must find a way to use it. Having a focus, backed by passion and purpose, can change the way a mind is used and the way it will progress. I have seen so many lives touched in so many ways by all the support and effort each of these veterans bring to the table. Many often say they never had a desire to cook nor do they understand how to cook in general, but all find a passion in their own way. 

Each of these veterans have a mission ... some are focused on becoming a chef and some are focused on having a stepping stone to the next level of life. I can honestly say my life is touched more by all they accomplish. Though I have seen and done so much, I think the biggest change for me is the healing I get from seeing the success of each of my students. Each of them has shown a desire for something you cannot put words on. They yet again have raised their hands and swore an oath, one that they take upon themselves to support, and help their new brothers and sisters on a new mission in finding a true meaning and purpose in life again.

New War New Mission

It has been one of the most amazing things to see others become inspired by change. Pictured here is a Vietnam brother who spent multiple tours in Vietnam and now on his own has found a new reason to give back. Chef John is an amazing person with more desire to see change than most can wish to see in their whole lives. Chef John has an amazing story, one that has to be heard, he says how much he looks up to us but he inspires me to move forward in a bigger dream. Chef John is single handedly planning and supporting our newest addition to our original, Vet2Baker. It takes special people like him and those yet to join us to make a bigger difference in the lives and communities that we live in.

Change is Coming

With our fifth class finishing we are proud to announce a change is coming, veterans are finding a purpose again, a new team, a new mission, with all the purpose behind them. They are clearing the way for a new breed of opportunities to be opened. With their continued success we will together forge new empires in the food and brew industry. They have given so much for the freedoms we enjoy. Now we can give so much in return by giving them a new opportunity in the communities they love to live in.

The road to home isn’t paved in gold and opportunity when we leave the service, we often find ourselves back in the same place we initially tried to get away from. It takes a lot to decide in your life you need support. It takes a lot to once have represented something so big, to becoming something you don’t even recognize in the mirror. 

Together we can make a difference in the lives of those whom have given us all the freedoms we enjoy. Stand with us in making change, stand with us as we pave the road of success.

This is Week 4 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Bryan’s story today. To connect with Bryan and his program, Vets2Success, please visit the following links: 

Instagram: Vets2Success 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Joe Ganech, Digital Artist, Tells His Story

I am a digital artist, born in Spain and grew up in Belgium. I spent my first 4 years living with my paternal grandmother in Spain because my parents, like thousands of Spaniards of that time, decided to leave Spain for better days in the north of Europe where there was no military dictatorship. When my parents found work in Belgium, my grandmother brought me over to join them.

Icon #5
I did all my studies in Brussels, from primary school to middle school. I have always loved art and since I was a child I loved drawing and inventing universes. Maybe the fact of being an only child opened the door for creativity to fill long afternoons. Fortunately I had a lot of friends and the balance between introspection and sociability is still part of my way of life today.

I did not have formal training in art; I learned how to make digital creations by painstakingly teaching myself different types of software. Through many hours of watching YouTube tutorials and reading articles it has now evolved into a wonderful passion. Of course this did not happen overnight, I spent every day trying to understand others, to see how they were doing processes in order to progress without giving up. Art, for me, is personal. When I present a drawing or painting to the public, it’s like unveiling a child’s treasure which has been kept secret for a long time.

I have loved 'Art' since boyhood, and I have no favorite artist or style. I think all artists have their visions and their own universes ... and every artistic visions forms an artist’s unique and magical whole. What interests me above all, is how my thinking has expanded with the methods I discover and then incorporate into my artistic practice.

Very often, before starting a new piece of work, inspiration comes to me in visions and voices directing me to paint like this way or that way. I know it seems strange but that's how it works. I am not a medium or magician. I seem to be an instrument, with the media as my musical score and the resulting artwork being the performance.

My creations are therefore like messages that each viewer perceives according to their personal experiences and feelings. The greatest joy for me is when I have the opportunity to meet the public and hear their opinions and their personal interpretations of the images. Feedback is always important to me as it is with every artist. So my work is never complete ... as the audience continues with their comments and reactions."  

This is Week 3 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Joe’s story today. To connect with Joe and see more of his work, please visit the following links:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Alexandra N. Sherman, Watercolorist, Tells Her Story

I have always used art as a tool to process what is going on around and within me. I believe what I now call the landscape of the mind has always been the focus of my work despite my having painted many different subjects. I consider making art a journey, and mine seems to be cyclical. It takes time for themes to emerge as I continue to discover, the seeds for what I am doing now were in my previous work. I often have ideas about what my work means as I am creating it, but it is time and distance that bring true understanding. I continue to re-work old themes but in new ways. Cloud forms and silhouettes, for instance, have made appearances in my work repeatedly, but always in a different contexts. Being able to paint what’s on my mind allows me to make sense of the world, to take things apart, re-arrange them, and reimagine them differently.

As a child, I drew and painted things I was interested in over and over again. In high school, I began  my journey with watercolor by painting signs I drew for pep rallies with a cheap set of Prang paints on copier paper. I can’t think of more frustrating tools with which to work in watercolor, but something clicked for me . . . the transparency, the flow, that lent itself to tiny details, and the jewel-like color. In college, I began painting self-portraits from blind contour drawings. They were odd and surreal. I distinctly remember painting them in a stream of conscious manner, which is something I’ve returned to recently. Although I feel I’ve always had the soul of an artist, I certainly didn’t always have the skills. I spent many years learning to draw and paint, and I am still continuing to do so. This is something I stress frequently in the classes I teach. That art is like anything else, if you want to become good at it, it requires a lot of practice. It isn’t a magical inborn gift, although some of us are born with more facility to begin with.

For many years, I drew rather than painted with watercolor paints. I used them to create miniatures of a sort, surreal landscapes inside silhouettes of women. I started this series in the last year of my MFA program with a painting called Winter Within. My best friend and painting partner had recently committed suicide. She was someone with whom I felt I would have had a lifelong friendship, as we had an understanding of one another that I consider extremely rare. The silhouettes were a way to turn my dark and depressing experiences into something beautiful, and to deal with crippling loss. I find art that rides the line between ugliness and beauty is the most powerful and satisfying to me, as it jolts and soothes the system simultaneously. I painted my friend over and over again, I filled her silhouette with butterflies sucking the life-blood out of flowers, poppies alluding to the glass being half empty, birds in flight and even painted her with a crow on her shoulder in My Dark Side.

My Dark Side, Watercolor on Arches HP, 15” x 11.25”

I think of watercolor like walking a dog in which the length of the lead can be controlled by the push of a button. In the silhouette series, I had the leash in close and the button locked. The watercolor was forced to do my bidding and stay exactly where I put it. In my current work, I’ve let go of the button. Although I still maintain hold of the leash, the watercolor is allowed more freedom to do what it chooses. This interplay between tightness and looseness has taken me years to achieve, as I think it was both a psychological and technical issue. I had to grant myself permission to loosen up. I used to think that if I didn’t paint realistically, I wasn’t proving my worth as an artist, despite the fact that I had long admired the work of many artists who weren’t realists.

At some point the constraints of working tightly and representationally became so painful that I realized I could no longer continue to make work in that way.  I had solved most of the problems with the silhouettes, and I was tired of transcribing visions I saw in my head. Of course, what came out on paper never looked like it did in my mind, and on rare occasions it was better! I found it difficult to leave the Silhouette series behind and move into the unknown. I no longer had fully formed paintings appear in my mind’s eye. What was I to paint? What would it look like? For some time, I created very little, and I worried I would never paint again. I felt stuck and wasn’t sure how to proceed. I needed to learn to experiment again.

In 2011, I had an artist residency in the Luce Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary, for which I will be forever grateful. It gave me the time and space to make work simply for the sake of creating. The stipend allowed me to give myself a pass on making paintings that had to be sold, and it opened the door for experimentation. I had a palette cleanser of sorts. I worked in conte crayon and charcoal on grey paper without much color, which led to the watercolor paintings in the Actus et Potentia series. Looking at them now, I can see a battle happening between the tight and loose manner of working. The twister form became more and more prominent in my work, and would eventually lead to Twists and Falls, a series that explores relationships with others and  my battle with chronic pain.

There be Dragons Here, Watercolor on 4ply gray museum board, 40” x 32”

In 2013, I was invited to teach and use the studio at Welsey where I once again embarked upon experimental work, this time on yupo, which is a synthetic paper made of polypropylene plastic. The Wayfarer and Map for the Eyes series are both painted exclusively on this surface. Yupo’s non-absorbent surface allows for nearly endless paint removal. It facilitates additive and subtractive painting in a way that the smooth and delicate hot press paper I’d used for many years cannot. I let the paint pool on the paper, dropped-in color, and worked in a manner I refer to as controlled chaos. The fact that I could make corrections or wipe everything back to nothing emboldened me in my application of paint. If I didn’t like it, I could start again! In contrast, some of the silhouettes took me upwards of 90 hours each and there was no place for experimental painting in those works.

In my Head, Watercolor on yupo,18” x 26”

Sin Options, Watercolor on yupo, 26” x 40”

Despite the fact that I paint quite differently now, I still remain attracted to lots of negative space around a subject. The white of the paper serves as a resting space for the viewer’s eye. I have (surprisingly to myself) returned to the silhouette recently in Bodies of Water, but they are looser, amorphous beings pulled from my subconscious. Now I start by laying down a few strokes of paint on the paper. I let the focus of my eyes go fuzzy and I begin to see a loose silhouette, sometimes they change position before my very eyes. Being back on hot press paper is a less forgiving surface, but I still employ the additive and subtractive methods I used on yupo to try and carve the figure from the pool of water. It was recently pointed out to me that I am making monotypes, but not printing them. This method of working depends a lot on chance, the weather and temperature can affect the way the paint moves and dries.

Storm is Coming, Watercolor on yupo, 8” x 5"

I’m excited to see where this series goes. I recently bought a large roll of watercolor paper and plan to make paintings that are scroll-like and roughly five feet tall. I can loosely envision what it might look like, enough of a daydream to spur on my exploration, yet undefined enough to leave room for chance and exploration. I will attempt to paint these works vertically on a wall rather than flat on a table, something I have never done before in my 23 years of watercolor. This will cause all sorts of new problems to solve and embrace.

Drifting, Watercolor on Fluid HP, 12” x 9”

This is Week 2 of Artists Tell Their Stories in 2018. Thank you for reading and sharing Alexandra’s story today. To connect with Alexandra and see more of her work, please visit the following links: