Sometimes the strangest things can send you on your perfect path…

I spent years messing around in the studio playing with different mediums and subjects. I lacked focus. And because I lacked focus, I also lacked motivation. I had no “Big Why” for my artwork. I didn’t know what to paint. I struggled for at least two decades. Worst case of artist block ever!

My artistic training was very traditional in its approach. I studied color theory, perspective, figure structure, drawing, painting, and lithography. I was lucky to go to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for my Fine Arts degree. It was an amazing program, and I studied with some of the best contemporary Utah artists out there. I did have to stare at a lot of naked people in this program, for 5-6 hours a day during the week (like I said, it was very traditional).

I never seemed to know what I wanted to paint (aside from the naked people assignments). And even though nature was my sanctuary, I loathed painting landscapes. I found them to be a rather boring topic. And lucky me, they were a VERY popular subject matter in Utah. I wanted to do more than paint a pretty picture.

I wanted my work to express something deeper (Cue the black turtleneck and Beret). Then an event happened in 2001 (no, not the one you’re thinking of) that would set the foundation for finding my artistic style. I had an out of body experience that completely changed the way I looked at the world.

So what happened?

I was working as a casino dealer in downtown Las Vegas at the time (yet another State), and I had just gotten off of the night shift. I was chilling on my sofa minding my own business with my cat Izzy resting on my chest. I had just closed my eyes because they were irritated from the cigarette smoke from the casino, and the dry desert air. I felt a strange pulling/floating sensation within me. While this was happening, the cat started to growl. I opened up my right eye and looked at her, wondering what the hell she was growling at.

In a flash I was moving at a tremendous speed, enveloped in darkness. I started to see light emerging from somewhere, and then like a movie camera zooming out, I’m was in full view of the Earth from Space (oh, and for the Flat Earth people, sorry to tell you this, but the Earth is ROUND). The dark area was cloaked on my left, and the brightly lit part, on my right. At this moment I was seriously wondering WTF?!! I then shot down to the light side without warning. I gazed around in amazement, and finally figured out that I was having an out of body experience.

“I think I’m in China!” I pondered to myself, “Those mountains are shaped just like the ones you see in Sumi paintings”. The landscape colors popped, far more vivid to me than in real life. Everywhere I looked, the landscape was shimmering with an energy of aliveness. I could sense the connection between everything.

I was then taken to another area of Earth. I got the impression it was in Eastern Europe. The place had narrow cobblestone roads, and row houses made of similar material. I remember that there was a bright yellow, flat-faced train emerging from a tunnel next to the buildings.

Whatever was guiding me on this spiritual adventure must have thought I had had enough at that point. I was rapidly and rudely slammed back into my body. My heart was pounding in my chest like I had ran a marathon. The cat was not amused at my sudden return, and leaped off of me like something was chasing her.

This kind of experience might freak some people out. I found the whole thing quite fascinating and exhilarating. This adventure got me thinking… Was the Spirit responsible for aesthetics and creativity? I wasn’t in my body at the time I ended up on the other side of the planet, so it couldn’t have been my mind that was seeing all this wonderful beauty and connection around me.

You would have thought this life-changing experience would have immediately given me plenty of inspiration for my art. Ummm….no. Sometimes the obvious escapes me. I continued to struggle with my art for years after that. The one bonus after-effect of this event was that I could feel the connection to the “Creator” whenever I found myself alone in nature. In my book, that was a pretty cool thing.

To be continued…