It was March of 2012 and I was driving from Cleveland to Louisville to attend a nonprofit board meeting. By all accounts, my life was successful. I had owned my own small advertising agency for the past 15 years, was happily married, had two great kids, we lived in an affluent suburb of Cleveland in the house of our dreams, I was active in our church and several civic groups; but still, I wasn’t happy. To be honest, I didn't know what was wrong with me. But, I had a five hour drive ahead of me, so I turned up the music and lost myself in my thoughts.
A few months earlier, I discovered that a new friend had been an artist ever since college. I don't mean he just painted pretty pictures. I mean, he made a living at it. He was married, he had a son, he lived in the suburbs... he was ‘normal.’ Painting is how he supporting his family, and he was my age. He'd been doing it for decades. Up until this point in my life (I was almost 50), it had never really occurred to me that art could be a viable occupation.
Creating art (drawing, painting, taking photographs) was an important part of my life all the way through high school. It was a major part of how I defined myself. But when it was time for college, I didn’t have the nerve to go to art school. I didn’t want to become a ‘starving artist.’ I was the first person from my family to go to college so I felt like I needed to do something ‘significant.’ It was time to ‘put away childish things.’ So I did. I attended Case Western Reserve University, where I graduated in the mid ‘80s. The Cleveland Institute of Art is located in the same neighborhood so I had several friends who were art school graduates; but, all of them eventually had to find other careers to make a living. It all seemed to prove my belief that art was not a viable occupation. Then life happened. I got married, started my own company, and had kids. I stopped doing any art all together. But now, there was this guy I knew who actually made a living as an artist. It seemed so unbelievably cool.
So there I was, driving south on I-71 trying to figure out why I wasn't happy. That's when I realized that creating art was not something I ‘wanted to do’ so much as something I felt ‘compelled to do.’ I had been denying my creative urges for 30 years. That was the cause of my unhappiness and, frankly, it wasn’t healthy. It was quite an epiphany. The whole idea for "Artist in Denial" came to me all at once. It was a little overwhelming, but the most important thing I realized was that I wasn’t alone. I knew there were lots of people just like me. As I drove, the thoughts flooded my brain. I felt like this was what I was meant to do. I needed to get back to creating art. That's what was going to make me happy. But, there was even more, I also could do something really meaningful. I could share my thoughts with others that are going through the same struggles as me and help them find meaning and happiness in their lives as well. Ever since, I've been thinking about what it all means, what I want to say and how I want to say it. I don't have it all figured out, but I've decided I've gotten to the point where I just need to start. So here it is.
In this blog, I want to start a conversation and eventually build a community of like-minded people. I know there are people out there who feel the same way I do. If it's not you, you probably know someone who does. Please share this with him or her. I've had a lot of thoughts over the past 5 years and have a lot to say. I can't promise that it will follow any kind of nice outline or structure but I can promise it will be thought provoking. Thanks for reading.