Coping: With the “Artistic Urge”

Every so often, I get the “urge to art something.”  (No “Where’s the f?” jokes, if’ you please…)  Problem is, like most people, I haven’t discovered my “gift” in art, yet.  Writing doesn’t count, lol.

When I think art I think of things like what my buddy Gaye over at talks about in Pursuing Your Passion: Getting Started With Adult Coloring.  Since we’ve been friends since ’73, or so, I’ve talked to her several times about this kind of art – and what she says makes it sound like something that might be worth trying.

Truth be known, I was a pretty good “paint by numbers” guy,  50-odd years back.  Want a million-dollar idea?  Come up with a paint-by-numbers kit that you could project onto your own canvas that would colorize the painting and put in the numbers for you.  THAT would be cool.

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My tastes in Paint By run to paintings like these:

As you will notice, I like rural, mountains, woods, and waterside things in general.

But, like I was saying:  If there was a service where I could send in a picture, like the boat we lived on for the first year and a half we were married, THAT would be fun to turn this into a painting.

Since the “regular” painting kits, in the 16X20-inch range, run in the $15 and under area, I would think a $50 kit with the right paints and the numbers would be a really cool service.

Maybe it’s out there and I just haven’t stumbled into it yet. But, if someone has done it, Paint By Numbers (PBN) is a form of making.  And all making is good.

Meanwhile, Elaine’s got a corner of the guest quarters/gym staked out for her artsy side.  She’s one of those people I envy – not needing numbers of lines to stay in…

There’s actually a forest scene that will emerge from that canvas one of these days.  A big problem painting while looking out at the woods is there’s just so damn much to see.  It’s distracting as hell… deer, owl, hawks, cats…it’s all out there somewhere lurking.

Activity Scheduling for Later in Life

As much as I would love to be working on a painting – that’s just one more time sink in life I don’t need right now.  Still working on web site revisions – which will be done— when they’re done.

Doing a paint-by-numbers looks to me likek something that could be pushed back into late-stages of life.  Assuming there’s not too much of a palsy, of course.  Heck, even if there is, it’s just turning that into a bazillion brush strokes.  Not stippling, but near enough…  Attitude and overcoming is the point of life, is it not?

For now, I can still handle most of the Big Work around here single-handed.  Where I need/or cautiously rent – a hand now is for high work on ladders and such.  Cleaning out gutters, comes to mind.   Sure,  CAN still do it all, but statistics say that’s dumb.  

Lifting heavy weights (much over 80 pounds) seems like an unnecessary strain, so those go onto the “for hire” list.  Painting the house might be on it this spring, too.

On the other hand, gardening seems like it could go on much longer (80 something?) IF you have been studying that weed-free gardening book I mentioned to you recently ( Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich).

Reich’s approach doesn’t involve turning over the soil – and that appeals to me more every year.  Love-hate- with the tiller this time of year.  We have plenty of pine straw around, toss in a few bales of real straw and a couple of 166-foot rolls of Trimaco Red Rosin Builders Paper, should  give us a good start on that Weedless Garden Reich writes about.  Five minutes to a half hour a week?  Pinch me.  More on this as we give it a try this spring.

At some point in aging, it will be time to shelve the power tools, too.  That may be when we get serious about moving to the ideal dream retirement home.

We keep collecting the list of specifications (one level, short walk to store, low crime, inside city, 3-minute medical response times, modest climate but not too cold, low taxes, no HOA ham radio nazis, etc.).

With that big picture done, the subordinated task becomes figuring out what hobbies, pursuits, and pastimes will be put into that “some day” dwelling.   Thing is, we know when people either don’t have projects, or if projects get stalled, then ill health almost automatically follows.

I was talking to a fellow who has an airplane for sale  (at the right price we still think about it…) the other day (flying, like sailing is something you never get over).  Gentleman selling a mint Cessna 175 is 80-something and has been retired for more than 15 years.  He’s building what will be his second or third airplane now.  An RV-4, if you’re interested.

Knows he probably won’t be flying it much.  But, as a retired A&P and inspector, he just loves keeping active.   “People die when they sit down” he confided…and we agreed.

It’s like that with ham radio around here.

We will be taking a number of casino trips this year – loading up the memory banks with some of the great entertainers who are still around.  Going to see Johnny Mathis is early March, for example.  Tom Jones in May.

You see, that’s the thing:  We don’t enjoy the cattle call experience or wife-grabbing that air travel has evolved into.  So, we plan to take leisurely drives.  A cruise now and then, maybe….sure.

But our main goals are to fill in all those blanks in life we’d never gotten around to earlier.  Write the Great Novel, find the hidden keys to life, master spiritual realms ahead of time…little projects like those.

Which gets me back to painting.  Even if rudimentary and by numbers.

I told you a good while back about Karl Hansen, one of the last of the real master model builders of sailing ships out of Portland, Oregon, was a friend of the family growing up.  He sailed them all:  Tall Ships from about age 10 as a cabin boy around 1890 on…

As an Able Body Seaman, he’d sailed the last of the big ships – ones used in the lumber and grain trades, mostly.  Knew every line aloft by heart and has been up there in gales around the Horn and more.

There’s a “doing magic” part to those eras.  Like the steam engines. Something more of a “hard contact sport” of life than the sissified world gone virtual, accessible, correct, and boring.  There’s still some frontier land in Texas, and many other states.  But the people are softer now, less determined, lacking the broad vision.  Don’t know how to put it into words.  But seriously, is getting consciousness out of a body and onto a chip a worthy goal or charade – a kind of last act of self-delusion by a world of people driven mad by their own devices?  Bit questions these.

It would be just a dandy decorating project for the “last home” to have something in the den/office that would be a focus on a single ship.  Maybe old Cutty Sark, or Thermopylae would be good.  Bigger?  Sure: something like this Model Shipways USS Constitution 48” Long Wood Kit. Easier to work the lines (shrouds, ratlines, and such) if you’re dealing with larger.  On the other hand, hand-laying the plank on frame models IS more difficult than an inexpensive plastic variety.

Plastic isn’t bad.  Hansen built a goodly number.  Where his genius was he knew better than modelmakers where each line went, what it’s purpose was, and how it was stowed.  Modelmakers who’d never been to see made some stupid decisions on some lines.  You don’t just put up lines for fun and appearance on a real ship, though.  Purpose…focus on that.

Between a painting, a good-sized model, and a writer’s over-active imagination with a penchant for travel, the whole package might be spun  into quite a painting, a finely crafted model, a book, or two, and travel adventure to see the old harbors.

I plan to continue banging on  a Morse key well past the medic unit showing up…and with so many books to read (and many more to write) it isn’t like there’s not having enough to keep us busy around here.

Still, when the sun’s out but still too cold for real gardening work, it’s tempting to eye the “art spectrum” and figure up how to  “stage” some of that into the order of appearance for the tail end of life.  I don’t think any of us every get to sample enough or it, though.

Assuming this smorgasbord doesn’t stay open forever, there’s still empty-space between our ears into which we can all pack a ton more experiences and knowledge – the currencies of the soul that you really can take with you when you go to the Big Sleep.

Busy people don’t die.  People with no goals, on the other hand, seem to be pushing themselves to the front of that line.

Additional Weekend Column?

Hobby and Making discussions:  I’m thinking about adding a column on Saturday or Sunday from time-to-time.  Topic would be Making & Electronics.

There are lots of “moving parts” to this little enterprise, but some of the more interesting ones (to me, personally) are those involving electronic projects.  Ham radio restorations, explaining the fine art of being The Radio Detective – plus I’m well over 100 pages in a slow-motion writing project I’m working on called “The Art of Ham Radio Repair.”

This is aimed at the retro tube-type equipment which is far easier (thus more fun!) to work on than SMT (surface mount technology).

So let me know if there’s interests in the further adventures at the dumb end of the soldering iron, scope, RF signal generator…etc. etc….

Been a ham since 1963 or 64 (memory blurs) but in that time I’ve made most every mistake someone can make…no reason you should have to…

Write when you get rich…

23 thoughts on “Coping: With the “Artistic Urge””

  1. George, I may be wrong, but I think you can do the Paint By Numbers thing already (sort of). Photoshop can convert a photograph into what looks like the final result of a paint by numbers. Then that image can be printed onto canvas. You would then just paint over the colored areas of the canvas. You can mix your own colors, or just pick the closest color in a kit.

  2. Anyone considering Weedless Gardens should probably read the 1 to 3 star reviews on Amazon before going whole hog. Seems to work for some but not all.

    As for keeping active in retirement, YES! My fountain of youth is helping maintain a fleet of small sailboats used to teach kids sailing. As someone said last night at a dinner for all of the volunteers, “What more can one ask than to hang out with a bunch of guys working on boats and playing with power tools?”

    My “bucket list” finished last week with a 3 night trip to the ice and snow festival in Harbin, China. This weeks project is “Bucket List V2.0”–to be without goals is to die.

  3. The heck with the canvas, the photoshop computer programs can take any of your cherished photos and give them an oil painted look. My husband judt did a “portrait” of our farm and i was shocked at how awesome it was. WELL worth your time, there are a goodly number of “painting” photograph programs out there. I know folks making a living using these programs to make “art” out of their photos, The end results are often stunning!

  4. George,

    I believe you would feel much more satisfaction with painting, and with yourself, if you learned the skills necessary to build a painting, rather than do a paint by numbers project.

    For one thing, drawing and painting engage different areas of the brain than writing and most of your hobbies. Monkey mind quiets down. It is a different experience of being.

    This “different experience of being” may be behind the coloring book craze. It becomes something of an active meditation that quiets mind chatter and allows adults to shift gears and destress.

    You can produce your own greyscale coloring pages very easily.

    Find a photo you would like to ‘paint’.

    Use almost any photo manipulation software to turn it into greyscale. Then there is usually a tool to add some graininess to an image. This is useful for coloring pages.

    Next, think about your paper size, or frame size. You will probably start with 8×10 as an easy framable size off an office printer. You want to place the main point of interest on a ‘rule of thirds’ intersection line. (Easy to find instructional material online on ‘rule of thirds’ – it isn’t hard).

    Next some comments about paper and pencils. See what your local craft shop carries in pencils that you can buy one at a time (for refilling or adding to your initial purchased collection — Prismacolor is good). Then buy that same brand in a large collection 72/144 pieces. Buy an introductory book on drawing with colored pencils — not a book on coloring — so you get some instruction on pressure, layering, white space and etc. Lastly, buy some quality paper. Don’t try to colorize a photo on office copy paper. Spend some $ on good stuff. It makes a difference even for a beginner. I recommend kid finish/cold press Bristol paper. Buy a pad of 9 x 12 cold press (as opposed to hot press/plate finish) Bristol paper and trim the sheets down to size for your printer. Keep the scrap edges to practice on.

    Print your image on office copy paper to gauge whether it is too dark. The greyscale is there to add dimension to your drawing, too dark and it overtakes the color. The greyscale also means you do not have to concern yourself so much with the color of shadows as the darker greys take care of that.

    This is a reasonable cost and time project to help you ‘get your feet wet’ in a visual arts project. You may not like pencils, but this is a good learning experience about composition and color. What you learn here is transferable to any other work inside a frame.

    Any questions?

  5. There is an equivalent to “paint by numbers” in adult coloring called Grayscale coloring. It starts with a black and white (greyscale) photo. By shading the light areas with light pencils (or markers) and the darker areas with darker pencils, the final picture emerges with almost photographic detail.

    I am still learning the technique but a quick Google search of Grayscale coloring images will give you an idea of what I am talking about. It is used mostly for animals, landscapes, and flowers. The results are stunning.

  6. I worked at GM as a robot programmer and operator. I enjoy building electronic circuitry, but now with Radio Shack closing and so many other stores closing I find it diffcult to walk in a store and get the stuff I need. Same with hardware stores, i go to all the small local ones i can find, that way I can pick up parts and assemble them as the ones I am replacing (plumbing) are no longer in use. I’m an old guy living in large small town south of Nashville tn. weather mild, taxes low, great local large hospital. But you must stay busy or have projects or —-!

    • Arduinos and such may be at the local RC hobby shop. That I saw. Consider seeing if your area has a makerspace and odds are people in that have stuff on their shelves if you need something that day VS waiting overnight from wherever or a month from China-based ebay.

  7. HiYa George,

    Yes, definitely interested in the dumb end of the soldering iron, scope, RF signal generator…etc. etc…. Would love to learn more about scopes and freq. generators, how to create interesting coils, how to generate high voltage a la Tesla to try to activate coils and things, how to generate high freqs. for experiments, etc., etc. Also what happened to the audio-studio lab course/book you were working on? I’m still wanting to get my hands on that too. Thanks.

  8. I was just thinking about the relationship of freedom to creativity, especially when freedom combines with a surplus of labor, allowing us to do what we want, rather than what we need to do.
    Also important to distinguish between creativity for self-realization and for monetization.
    Because while almost everything is a business model, my creative expression isn’t always.

  9. I need your assistance if possible. I would like to be able to reread the paper the Dr. published about the red light therapy. Cant seem to find the the address. Thought it was in Dr. Mercolas health publication. When talking to MDs they think I am talking trash.

    • Hey Joe
      there are more than 5100 papers in the FedGov’s PubMed database and here is a short search on “LLLT” – which is short for low level laser light therapy.

      Go read ’em.

      If your healthcare practitioners don’t know about this stuff, they need to take their continuing ed requirements more seriously than just learning which pharma companies have tbe best kickback schemas…sorry REFERAL BONUSES this year…

  10. More electronics foibles to read about?? Always! Picked up an antique AMECO code practice oscillator to brush up on rusty morse code. Damn thing has a harsh buzzy tone with massive ‘chirp’ frequency shift when keyed. Doesn’t sound anything like pure CW coming off the radio, and is unusable for code practice. (sigh) Now I gotta find a clean oscillator circuit and replace the guts…
    “It’s always something…”

  11. Model Railroading (I do “N,” and “G” myself — N for indoors, and G for outside) is a fine pastime. It’s like 3D painting, or small-scale sculpting. Many dozens of tricks one will learn or invent.


    I haven’t seen this aspect of it written anywhere, but when one takes up Model Railroading, one becomes exquisitely sensitive to looking — really looking at one’s world. The way ivy grows on buildings. The structure of a house or store’s gutter drains, and all the little ancillary “stuff” that surrounds any structure. Fireplugs, trash containers, seagulls sitting on top of a piling at a wharf, deck lines on a boat, the general effluvia and incidental Trash Of Life. It’s quite amazing at how it sharpens one’s powers of detailed observation. Sounds silly, I guess, but it’s like I just can’t look at the world hard enough to really SEE all the details…

    When you go to model something, all this hard-looking kicks back in and allows one to create extremely convincing scenes.
    …and so much of it is pure whimsy —

  12. George

    I would love some of your stories about
    electronics. I have been looking at YouTube
    programs on vintage computers lately. Lots of memories for me. Commodore PET, VIC,64, IBM clone’s,PLC’s. Ham radio and computer programming gave me the opportunity to get
    a great job in the IT industry.

    I never went to school for it, but had a lot of interest in how they worked.

    What computers did you start out with. I use LINUX now.

    If that does not keep Ure mind going nothing will!!

    I know you do not have not much use for it.

    Enjoy the reads.

  13. “Pursuing Your Passion: Getting Started With Adult Coloring”

    My favorite artists are the beautiful colored hand drawn and signed. First edition creations by the little kids in my life. Some end up on the wall.. Some on the fridge. The really nice ones framed and cherished forever.

  14. Yes. Sounds very interesting.

    So let me know if there’s interests in the further adventures at the dumb end of the soldering iron, scope, RF signal generator…etc. etc….

  15. I’ve always felt nothing but boredom when attending art shows and museums. I fail to see any value there, though obviously others disagree. I do find photorealistic pictures of nature, pretty naked women, and surrealistic science fiction themes to be worth seeing and contemplating. Actually producing them just seems like work.

    For me, art is drawing a schematic or design that I know intuitively will work as desired, imagining a machine or building and implementing it, seeing a derelict machine and repurposing it, or creating high quality repairs and improvements to anything. Experimenting with the unknown also feels expressive and worthwhile.

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