2012 started off well. My wife and I spent New Years Day at Santa Anita Racetrack celebrating our 20th Anniversary with four of our favorite ladies. All are smart, vibrant, independent-minded women who live life with zest and intellect. It was a positive, sunny start to a new year. I felt I was sealing the deal by distributing black eyed peas and cornbread to the party goers at the end of the day.
Then Tuesday came and brought the first signs of the flu. My illnesses usually signal themselves by a feeling of helpless pessimism, along with the usual physical symptoms. I spent most of the past week in bed, too sick to hold a conversation with my wife beyond grunts. Instead, I slept; plagued by frightening dreams involving mutilation, murder and lots of blood, then flight from the law. The dreams were serial; another dismal chapter continuing each time I went back to sleep. When I was awake, my eyes hurt too much to read, I had no patience for television and thinking about work completely overwhelmed me. Finally, Joan dragged me to the doctor for chest X-rays (to ensure I didn’t have pneumonia) and antibiotics. They seem to be working. By this morning the feeling of doom, along with the awful headache and congestion, had passed; a sure sign I’m on the mend. Another sign is a return of my interest in creative pursuits. Creativity has always been my refuge and usually the healthiest aspect of my life.
I’ve been very lucky to have had a number of inspiring, creative mentors pass through my life. One of them, Leo Monahan, celebrated his 79th birthday yesterday. Leo is an artist known for his paper sculpture. A couple years out of school, I was lucky to work as his production manager. Leo is quick-witted, unpretentious and talented beyond belief. I used to watch him produce his sculptures without use of any mechanical guides, hand cutting and bending the paper to follow the vision he’d composed in his mind. There is a spontaneity to his work and persona that appealed to me, along with the solidity of old fashioned ethics. I learned from him: work hard at what you’re passionate about, don’t over think things, and, in all things creative: go for it.
Both of my parents were artistic, but my father probably encouraged me to adopt the “just go for it” attitude regarding creative work long before I met Leo. My father was a psychology major who went from running a small printing press out of college to becoming an art director by the time he was 30. Artistically, he was largely self-taught and was rather literal in his approach to painting and illustration. What he instilled in me was to try things; don’t TALK about doing; DO. No excuses, follow the creative vision wherever it leads! Mercurial in temperament, I believe he tried to maintain balance by focusing on learning and expressing himself creatively. Both parents encouraged writing and artwork from an early age; my sister and I were allowed to use pastels and watercolors when other children were only allowed to finger paint at school. As tumultuous and upsetting as home life could be, the high points involved the sharing of creative endeavors; reading poetry aloud after dinner, learning to create woodblock printed and silk screened Christmas cards from my father, attending Broadway musicals and concerts in San Francisco throughout my childhood.
So, I look forward to being creatively inspired by whatever comes next in 2012. Hopefully, my subconscious won’t be limited to expressing itself through horrible fever dreams. Perhaps some of the work will manage to be good; lots of it will probably be so-so. It’s the process of creating that seems to console, heal, and motivate me. Fanning and igniting that creative spark, then keeping that flame alive will be my theme for 2012.