Hitting the Pavement

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My friend Ian Anderson

Every morning at 6 a.m., my friend, the talented painter Ian Anderson, loads up his bicycle with art supplies and heads to downtown Houston. He sets up and waits for the sun to emerge and highlight the buildings — and then he paints tiny landscapes of the skyline with a limited palette of a colors.

I spent some time with Ian in his studio recently and leafed through the piles of paintings on paper. He said that he hopes to have a show of the works one day, but in the meantime, he’s glad to be painting as much as possible. And, more than anything, he really enjoys what he is creating, every aspect of putting brush to paper and every pedaling adventure in the early morning.

Ian also showed me his failed ideas — the things he started working on but no longer wants to pursue. For a painter who once had trouble getting motivated to create, he seems to be on a hot streak.

Before heading to Ian’s, I popped into visit my other super talented Houstonian artist friend, Kevin Peterson. His studio was also full of new works, which means tons of time spent at the easel, for someone who paints every realistic detail in his fantasy pieces of children walking through the detritus of a city with wild animals at their heals.

I always have liked to spend time with Kevin and Ian, not only because I love the paintings they create. They are hard-working, dedicated and critical in a way meant to promote progress. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who have a work ethic and dedication that you would ideally like to share.

A lot of people will agree that talent is secondary to putting in the hours of work required to create something great. But then again, few people actually will sit down and toil until they reach a breakthrough. I really do believe that it’s all about hitting the pavement and being dedicated to taking the journey, spending years trying to get better and constantly striving.

When I was in college, one of the visiting photographers came to our classroom and said, “Look around you. Some of you are already talented photographers and some of you are just learning. The ones who are already good will never be great. The ones who are just beginning will have the potential to be great photographers. They’re the ones who will take rolls and rolls of pictures to try to get better. They’re the ones who will learn daily and push themselves harder. The ones who are already good won’t feel the need to try as hard — and consequently will remain where they are today.”

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” — Winston Churchill

The Company We Keep

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Yesterday, I met my friend Andrew for coffee. He’s a religious person, a former preacher who now focuses on music as ministry. He talked about “the void” and “the glory” — that vast unknown that is reality and the emotional transcendence that is on the other side.

He said that most people think of the two as opposing forces, but instead he believes people must traverse the void, live in it, face it fully — to find God.

The idea hit home to me. Andrew and I talked at length about how we have to face hardship to grow, to die to be reborn. Andrew said the void is the only thing that’s real — everything else is a creation, a distraction from reality, which in actuality, is chaos, the unknown. He said that we have to face “death” as we constantly evolve on our journeys.

Sometimes, we find ourselves feeling lost — and we long for change, renewal and growth. To get there, we might have to suffer, to pass through a rough spot, to let certain go of certain past traits, experiences and people. We have to let part of our old selves die to become who we will be in the future.

Andrew said that to get through the void, it’s essential to have faith — to believe that you are loved and that there is a purpose. For him, that comes from religion. For me, love comes from family and friends.

“When you agree to be someone’s friend, you are basically saying, ‘I allow you to shape who I am as a person,'” Andrew said. “We are giving someone permission to help shape us in our continual transformation.”

He cautioned about letting the wrong people in. He said we should be careful about the company we keep.

My friend Mac Scott said, “When you are around extraordinary people, you will learn extraordinary things. Let this be a lesson — pick your friends wisely.”

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

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Artists are known to suffer from occasional depression and regular mood swings. But creative types are not the only ones who may from time to time dip into fits of melancholy or instances of doldrums.

I usually like to dive into my emotions, dissect them, figure out the root cause and act accordingly. Depression may stem from a living arrangement that no longer suffices, the lack of strong friendships, missing someone — just as an episode of anxiety may reflect a need to exercise, eat, sleep or do something you love/have to do.

Sometimes, however, there’s a deeper blue. Sometimes, it all feels too overwhelming to analyze. Perhaps it stems from things that have happened to you. I admit to being the type who is more consumed by the past than I should be — and despite efforts to not act the victim, I often find it a hard habit to break. It simply hurts to have a broken heart, to have misplaced trust or to have someone cause harm to you in whatever way — and these are things we adults must face as we venture out into the world.

Meghan Austin wrote a story for the New York Time’s Style section on Modern Love, saying “I don’t regret any of it. Love often doesn’t arrive at the right time or in the right person. It makes us do ridiculous and stupid things. But without it, life is just a series of unremarkable events, one after the other.”

Even those things that haunt us — past mistakes and past pain — are markers on our journeys. They give us guideposts. They give us turning points. They give us identity as well.

We venture out even though we may feel scared. We open up even though we are scarred. Sometimes taking a risk is not a poor gamble but just a sign of a life being lived. I think it’s important to be a little wild, to try regardless. And perhaps learning to live with a bit of pain is a part of the process.