Rejuvenating Creativity!

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As primarily a landscape painter, I'm repeatedly asked how I get inspired. Really? I live in an absolutely gorgeous part of the country! How could I not get inspired? Creative inspiration is all around me. Other artists live here, constantly creating (over 220 of them within a square mile of where I'm sitting). Asheville is full of amazingly creative restaurants, buskers, craft breweries and (last but oh not least)...nature. Quiet, peaceful and restorative nature. So, if you take just a bit of time, inspiration is really easy here. 

Yesterday, I made time. It was my day off (thanks Ruth for keeping the studio open for me!) and I needed to slow down and breathe a little. It being high tourist season, I've been really busy with commissions and paintings for my own studio here in Asheville's River Arts District. I love the pace this time of year but after several weeks of "pedal to the medal" frantic painting, I really needed a breather. And my gosh, I got one yesterday. 

Yesterday morning, I'd read about a trail I'd not tried before "the "Bust your Butt" trail. I couldn't resist it with a name like that.

I packed my lunch into my camelback, put on my hiking shoes and drove 3000 feet up! Nearly to Mt. Mitchell (highest point east of the Rockies), it was a pleasant 71 degrees (compared to 85 degrees back home in Asheville). Yesterday morning, I'd read about a trail I'd not tried before "the "Bust your Butt" trail. I couldn't resist it with a name like that. I soon found out why it got that name. It was a real workout. But here and there, I had to stop walking and just stand still and listen. Nothing. Really -- nothing at all. Silence. Some clouds enveloped the mountaintop and I walked through silence in the woods. Oh my gosh, "this is where good introverts go when they die!" I thought. Awesome. 

I've written before about the concept of "inhaling" in order to be able to create (or exhale). See my blog on that topic if you're interested. Why did it take me so long to slow down? I think I'd actually get more done if I made myself do this more often! 

This was definitely a very pleasant afternoon of "inhaling". I can't wait to get back to painting today. I'm so ready. 

A Word About Accolades

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Since it's Sunday and my "day of rest" in which I can enjoy some down time to think and relax, I was mulling over this past week at my art studio. There were moments of listening to critique and moments of listening to praise. I've written previous blogs about some of the critique artists can get, and learning how to gracefully listen to that critique (without punching someone) is a useful skill. But there is one skill infinitely more important to master and that is how to deal with praise. Not dealing with praise correctly, I think, can destroy creativity and ruin a life and I'm not being overly dramatic when I say that. I'm speaking from personal experience. 

When I was a kid, art was the only thing I did well. I was teased a lot and easily crumbled emotionally. But I found that if I created something artistically, the same people that teased me earlier would praise me. So...I wanted to be the best at art. And the insidious thing about it was that this determination was unrecognized by me (or anyone else) as being dangerous at all. What's wrong with wanting to be really great at something? We praise people who have grit like that. But I didn't just want to be great. I wanted to be greatest. And because I probably had some natural abilities in art, and because I applied myself to the extreme to creative endeavors, I was consistently the best artist in all my school classes and life was sweet. Until...

When I entered high school, I met a guy that toppled me from my throne: John Howarth. John was a nice guy and popular. But I kept my distance. I did not like John Howarth, because he ruined life for me. He was the first person I met that was a much better artist than I was, and for the next three years, I was forced to deal with being "second best" (which to me, felt like utter failure).

Thankfully, I can honestly say I learned something from that whole experience. I learned that praise is addictive. It's nice but the more you get, the more you need. It's never enough. I learned that I was USING my art and my abilities to create and bolster a sometimes sagging self image. But I came to believe that creative ability was not given to me as a means to an end. I firmly believe that art is a joy in and of itself. It is the gift, not the means to the gift. And interestingly enough, I can look back at my high school years and the emotional-spiritual processing going on in me and can see that that was a real turning point for me, and my creativity radically increased. When I stopped using art to get attention and "be someone" and simply enjoyed art, creativity opened almost unbidden, like a flower in my hand.

So, I feel sorry for people who are criticized. Unasked for critique especially is difficult to hear and not become instantly defensive. But I'm terrified of people who can't bear to not be "the best". I've been nearly destroyed by people like that. But I'm probably scared of them because I was just like that, so it's like looking in a mirror if I can be honest (and it's my blog, so that's my prerogative). They say that the things that bug you the most about someone else are probably your own weakest areas. I have found that to be true.

So for what it's worth, here's some advice:

If you're criticized for something you do, don't let criticism crush you. Listen to it. I mean, there may be some helpful nuggets of truth mixed in with all the garbage, so sort out the critique like someone sifting through a latrine for a wedding ring dropped into it.

If you're praised for something you do, just enjoy the praise for what it is in the moment it's given. Don't live off it or for it, and don't make adulation and attention that thing you need to base your life on. Personally, I need something much more stable and eternal for something that important. That's just my opinion. Happy Sunday!

Where it Began

 "Autumn Reflections", April 2012

"Autumn Reflections", April 2012

When I was a kid, I used love to look through my grandparent's old photo album. In it, were scary photos of dead ancestors -- dressed very smart, unsmiling, staring into the camera. Something about the thought that "I am related to these people -- this is where I came from" kept drawing me back to that old book of ancient photos.

I thought of that memory just the other day, as I looked back at the first first photos I posted on my (then brand new) Facebook page. Wow. I cringed and laughed out loud. I found myself staring at the very first painting I had shared back in 2012, "Autumn Reflections". This was one of the very early "landscape" pieces I had done using my new technique I called "Dialuminism" ("Light Passing Through"). See, when I started working with painting atop aluminum leaf and finishing with resin, I was doing all abstracts. Separately, I was painting small quasi-impressionistic landscape scenes, but I really wanted to figure out how to paint landscapes using the tools of dialuminism but I had no idea how to coax the materials and ingredients to create what I wanted to create. The painting I'm showing here was my first attempt at a landscape. I had so much fun with it (and these new reflective landscapes were SELLING!), that I quit doing my more typical oil painted landscapes and jumped head long into my technique, using dialuminism for every piece I did. It became my trademark.

I enjoy seeing where I come from. I was all about ancestors long before ancestor.com. I like seeing progression. It's fun. And I thought it would be entertaining to share that progression with other people. I hope you're enjoying the ride as much as I am!

 "Until Tomorrow", July 2018

"Until Tomorrow", July 2018

Funny Things People Say in an Art Studio

River Arts District, Asheville

Most of the time, being artist in the River Arts District in Asheville is a blast. I mean really -- all of us down here are living out our passion, and making a living doing it! Who could ask for a better job than that? And honestly, about 98% of the people who visit us are super nice people. Some of become regular clients and dear friends of mine. The fact that we artists don't create in a vacuum is one of the huge benefits of our "open studio" business model here in the Arts District. This keeps us socialized (which honestly, is really emotionally healthy) and ithe fact that I can see and hear what I do that resonates with visitors helps me make a living as a painter. 

"How Ready are you to Sell These?"

So honestly, all 220 of us artists in the Arts District love our jobs and we very warmly welcome any visitor who comes in to feel free to chat with us and take a look at our artwork. That said, there is a really funny 2% of studio visitors that either make us laugh or cry. A few weeks ago, one of the artists posted an entry on our River Arts District Facebook page asking for artist contributions to a growing list of "funny things people say when visiting an art studio". I cracked up reading this list and thought others might crack a smile as well. This is what keeps life as an artist entertaining...

Visitor walking out the door:  "But how much can a painting really cost? Paint and boards aren't that expensive"...

Visitor to friend: "We should buy some of these and make these and make them ourselves!”

"How ready to sell this are you?"

"I have a group in China that copies oil paintings like this for a quarter of these prices."

“Does the city pay your rent?"

"Is this your 'real job'? Can you really make a living doing this?"

“My cousin is an artist. You should see his work! He sells his.”

"I've paid less for a car!"

"This piece has been on your website for  over three months...so...I'm going to offer to pay you 50% of the prices..."

"What exactly is this material?" (as they are sticking their finger into wet oil paint)

"Does your job give you insurance? I couldn't take a job without insurance."

Man to girlfriend: “Babe, you could TOTALLY do this!” Man to me: “so HOW do you do this??”

Woman entering and looking around the studio: "Are all the pretty paintings gone?"

Man looking around at the walls: "this must be the stuff that doesn't sell right?"

“So how does it feel to be selling out?”

"It's so sensitively done! I thought for sure the artist was a woman!".

Visitor whispering...“Heck, honey I’ll make you one of those”

"Can you give me a break on sales tax?"

"Do you have any 95% off prices?"

"Did your real job not work out, so now you're here?"

"How long does it take ya to paint one a them things?" (I think they're trying to figure out your hourly wages.)

Visitor showing the artist photos on his phone: "I wouldn't charge you much if you wanted to use any of these photos. Just pay me a commission if your painting sells."

"Oh, the kids make those."

A few weeks ago, a woman came in the studio with her little high strung, fashionably dressed miniature curly haired dog and after a few minutes of browsing she walked quickly up to me and asked where her dog could pee.

"It's a nice little hobby you have here."

"I would love to just play like this all day but... I have a job."

A man came in to our studios, looked around quickly and then asked me where she could find "fine art".

From a woman at a local museum..."I love your work and we're committed to promoting local artists. We'd like to have you paint a 10 ft x 20 ft mural." (Then she explained that the museum would pay for the paint but needed me to donate my time to design and paint it.)

"I absolutely love your work! I always go to the ***** art auction and I always look to see if I can get one of your paintings at a good price."

 

 

"The Time Between Times"

 "Time Between Times" (22" x 34")

"Time Between Times" (22" x 34")

Sometimes when I am trying to get ready to begin a painting, it's difficult to know what I want to paint. I hear other artists say things like "I'm just waiting for inspiration...I'm in a dry season right now." That's not me. I've never been in a dry season. I've never waited for inspiration. If I dive into something (whether or not I feel inspired at the moment), inspiration comes quickly. It's like that inspiring little muse is always there (albeit quiet sometimes) but it can always be coaxed out. Sometimes it's like a pouting little kid that doesn't want to play and is sulking in the corner. And so you say "okay that's fine! I'll play without you" and before long, the kid slinks out of the corner and joins the play. 

So I am not slowed down when I don't feel "inspired". What I'm talking about is when I'm between projects and want to paint...am ready to paint...NEED to paint but I don't know what I SHOULD paint. How to decide...

What I usually do at that point is to look through all my photos in my camera and go to Bing or Google images and start the search for something to inspire my painting. I always tweak the photo so it's not a "copy" (I need the painting to be a unique piece), but I feel free to get inspired by a sunset, sunrise, interesting foreground or general composition of a piece. But the really big thing I'm looking for in a photo is not whether or not it's beautiful. There are lots of beautiful photos that make lousy paintings. I'm looking to create an emotion in the viewer. Manipulative, huh? It's true. 

The above painting is one I just finished this morning, "Time Between Times", and it depicts that five minutes of time between day and night that the world becomes magical with the quality of light and color. I'm looking to create a piece that evokes a sense of awe. I can imagine being there in the scene and thinking "Oh...my...gosh. (long pause) That..is...amazing". If I were standing on the shoreline of this lake at that time of day, I would feel awe. My goal is that I can share that sense of awe with the viewer of my painting. 

So to me, it's not my primary goal to create nice art. That's part of my goal, but utmost in my mind is that I want to elicit emotion (usually a sense of awe or peace or joy, but sometimes sadness and pain). If I can do that, then I've touched on something powerful and that is a very heady thing to try to master. I'll always strive to that end. 

World View #8: Post Modernism

 "The Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp

"The Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp

I'm an oil painter in Asheville, North Carolina and I love living here. It's a unique little city. Asheville is an odd little cultural "melting pot". It attracts bohemians, artists, hippies, and hikers. To a great extent, we're a cool version of "the Island of Misfit Toys". Asheville is a southern American town with a handful of "locals" who were born here, and the rest of the population are transplants from all over the country. The vibe of the town, the beauty of the surroundings, the art, music (and craft beer) scene -- this is what draws people here (it's not the job opportunities!).  This makes Asheville a really interesting place to live, because you live your life amongst people who all have different views on things political, social and spiritual but (for the most part) respect the right of their neighbors to hold their own views. In fact, the only thing people here seem not to tolerate is intolerance. That sentiment leads us right into our next (and last) world view: Post Modernism.

To be accurate, a post-modernist would say that post modernism is NOT in fact a world view, but an “anti-world view". They would say that no single narrative is able to make sense of all our little cultural stories. In other words, "worldviews" are now out of fashion (which in itself is a world view).

Per this world view, there is absolutely no absolute truth.

Because our world views create the sense of how we interpret life here on this planet, how we make sense of everything we experience, a post modernist would assert we all create our own reality, and that it's pointless to try to convince anyone else that your particular "take" on things is the correct "take" on things. Post modernism would insist that there is no authoritative "take" on anything.  

Per this world view, there is absolutely no absolute truth. Yes, I wrote that sentence that way intentionally, because it points out to me the weakness of this world view. To say there is no absolute truth is in itself an absolute truth claim, so when I say "there is NO absolute truth", I'm contradicting the very assertion I'm making.  But because of the abuses of power by all who have held the previous world views discussed (see earlier blog posts), post modernists  distrust of all authority and dogmatism.  And if you listen to people speaking around you (from the news on TV to social media), you'll notice that the phrase "I believe this is right or true" has been replaced by "I feel this is right or true". I.e. post modernism appeals to our "gut" rather than reason and logic based on an accepted set of principles we regard as absolute truth.

Because of this, tolerance, freedom of expression, inclusion, and refusal to claim to have all the answers are the only universal values. And honestly, that sounds really good but...but it's a world view of contradictions.

Consider the following conversation between two friends:

Sam:  "I don't think you should do it. It's not right.

Tom:  "I think I should have the right to do whatever I want to do."

Sam:  "I just don't think it's right."

Tom:  "You're just pushing your morality on me. It's YOUR morality. Not mine. You're just judging me. Who are you to tell me I'm wrong?"

Sam:  "Wait, so you think judging people is wrong?"

Tom:  "Of course judging people is wrong. Everyone knows that."

Sam:  "So you think I'm doing something wrong when I'm judging people?"

Tom:  "Yes, of course you're wrong when you judge people."

Sam:  "But you're judging me. I think I should have the right to do whatever I want to do. What if I want to judge? Who are you to tell me I'm wrong?"

Logic like that is really hard to debate. So I personally find post modernism really frustrating and most difficult to scrutinize, but it is an absolute truth (pun intended) that this world view has very deeply affected twenty first century culture.

And so, we've reached the end of our very over-simplified discussion of world views. Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Modernism, New-Age Pantheism and Post Modernism...these are the world views that have shaped the western civilization since time immemorial. And because of that fact, they have drastically affected the art produced by our culture.

So in light of all we've discussed, how do we use our knowledge of world views to understand art? I would suggest it boils down to asking two questions when we are exposed to artwork (painting, photography, ceramics, poetry, music):

1) What world view is it speaking from and to? The answer to that question has a whole lot to do with what is the artist is probably saying.

2) So in light of the answer to the first question...is there a message in the art and if so, what is it?

“BUT IS IT GOOD ART?”

I think that's a fair question to ask and a rather simple question to answer. Once we have at least some idea of what the artist is saying, I would consider one more point: What level of skill is involved in the execution of the art being considered?  I mean, do you look at the piece of art with any degree of wonder? (i.e. “Wow, how’d he or she do that?”)   

That’s it. You don’t have to be sophisticated to figure it out.  When my kids were little, we took them to a modern art museum. For the record, I wouldn't suggest this outing for most kids, but it was pretty hysterical. Everyone there looked like they were quietly viewing the artwork (one was a blob of red paint in the middle of an 8' square white canvas) with wrapped fascination. To me, it was so interesting just to watch the people. It really felt like a modern retelling of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes and I felt like the little kid that was laughing at the emperor because he was in fact naked (though everyone was acting like they saw such astute wisdom in the king's choice of royal finery). Everyone else in the museum was acting like they saw such wisdom and depth in the artwork on display. Into that scene, my kids come racing around the corner and shout (so embarrassing), "Mom! Dad! You gotta see the stuff in this room over here! It's even weirder than the stuff in this room!" There were gasps from the museum crowd. Truth hurts.

What level of skill is involved in the execution of the art being considered?

There's a true story about an art auction in New York some years ago. There was an abstract painting auctioned off for millions of dollars. It was prized for its frenetic energy and non-traditional use of color. It was later found out that it was painted by a gorilla. The interesting thing is that everyone was completely insulted to find this out and the buyers demanded their money back. This is fascinating. Was it good art or not? Everyone thought it was great before they found out it was painted by an ape. Again -- think "Emperor's New Clothes".

Look, bottom line is: If it’s good art, you can probably tell.

Since I'm obviously giving my opinion at this point in my blog series, let me go one step farther:

I don't believe that everything called art is art. There. I said it.

  • Just because it’s shocking doesn’t make it art. It may well be a visual expression. But unless there is skill involved, it is not art.
  • Just because it is clearly conveying a message doesn’t mean it’s art if it is not skillfully pulled off.
  • Just because no one else has thought of doing it doesn’t mean it’s art.

For what it's worth, I think good art says something TO the viewer (which is why we need to interpret the art in lieu of the artist's world view) or that art does something IN the viewer...and is skillfully done.

That’s it.

World View #7: New Age Pantheism

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I've been looking at the major World Views of western civilization and have briefly described the affect those world views had on society in general and art in specific. This is because, as an artist in Asheville's River Arts District, I see the effects and influences of world views every day as I enter into conversations with people visiting my art studio / gallery. So personally, I find all this fascinating because it helps me know how to interpret the art I see around me, not just in Asheville but in every art museum and art gallery I visit.

In discussing this subject, I left off with the world view commonly referred to as "Modernism". A modernist would look at technology and design, and assume that the problems of mankind could be addressed and solved with the tools technology brings to us, thereby negating a need for a "higher power" to "take care of us" (so to speak).  At the turn of the 20th century, society in general was quite optimistic about the many benefits the industrial revolution had been bringing to society, and many people were convinced that the "golden age" was unfolding before them. Technology and design were seen as finally creating a world of peace and prosperity that we've always longed for. That infatuation with this new "faith" ended abruptly however when the world plunged into the first World War, a massive economic depression, and then the second World War.

And so, by the 1960's, society went shopping for another world view, and the return to spirituality was at the core.  Enter New Age Pantheism.

Pantheism was an attempt for a society which was "weaned" (as it were) on Judeo-Christian assumptions (see my blog on theism) to return to spirituality, but return in a way divorced from the assumptions theism espoused. For instance, New Age Pantheism taught: 

All of creation is One.  

Since all is One, all is god.

We are god.

Morality was viewed in terms of gray, not black and white. So typically, if you ask a New Age Pantheist "is this or that right? the answer would be, "well, is it right to you?"

In the 1960's, we see a society disillusioned with organized religion but still hungering for all things spiritual. For a couple hundred years, it was "old fashioned" to admit this spiritual longing if you were an academic elite, but now, people were "talking faith" once again.

So with the birth of New Age Pantheism, we see we see a return to the “spiritual” once again (albeit a decidedly "eastern" form) and we see people unashamed to talk about their faith. And by faith, I can not use the "western" traditional view of faith (a faith based on an agreed upon, established and authoritative "truth"). To a New Age Pantheist, faith is "believing something is true even if there is no evidence that it is objectively true. Faith makes it true for you." And so, once again, you heard people speaking of "the miraculous" and that there was more to reality than just the material world.

As far as the effect on the arts, consider the poem “Life's Journey” by Joy Light

You are the earth, and I the sea,
You hold and nurture me
While I play restless in your arms.
The sun warms and lifts me from your gentle touch,
Into the vast oceans of the universe,
Where I dart and fly in my human race with time and space,
Until in the light I blend,
Misty eyed with nature I transcend,
Like a raindrop drifting in the wind,
Then touching softly your arms again,
Knowing now life never ends,
Feeling now the peace within
.

Although the tenets and assumptions of New Age Pantheism felt "new" to those in western civilization, they actually were borrowed directly from Hinduism and Buddhism and packaged in a way that would be palatable to the western mind.  So at this point in history, we had a milieu of world views competing for the minds of people. If you went to a university in 1965, you'd be taught naturalism in your science class, nihilism in your philosophy class, pass some Hari Krishna's in the hallway, and get lectured by your modernist parents about keeping your grades up so you can get a good job. This created a western society with very little "common" assumptions about truth, morality and spirituality. And THAT discord leads us to the last world view we will discuss next time: Post Modernism.

A New Opportunity -- A New Idea

 "Azure Spirals"

"Azure Spirals"

 "Azure Spirals" close up

"Azure Spirals" close up

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Tony Morton, connected me to 30a Home, an incredibly cool company in Oklahoma City that is both an interior design warehouse (furniture and furnishings) as well as top notch interior design resource, working with builders, designers, architects, and one on one clients, providing ideas and resources for both residential and commercial projects.

Their headquarters / showroom is in Oklahoma City and it is beautiful. My assignment was to come up with several new abstract and installation pieces that would fit into this contemporary space, because 30a Home agreed to represent me. So...where to start?

In the middle of the night a couple weeks ago, the idea came to me (I don't know why this always seems to happen at 2:30 AM but that's pretty common for me). So I came up with a brand new way of creating an abstract oil painting. I am still (and always) painting on top of aluminum leaf (which reflects light back through the oil paint, creating vibrant color), but I figured out a way to leave some of that leaf raw (no paint at all), creating a painting that almost reminds me of batik -- with glimmering silver lines between fields of color. When the paint is all applied, then I cover the whole piece with solar-resistant resin.

I'm including photo examples of the first two pieces I did, "Azure Spirals" and "Aqua Matrix", but I have two more pieces nearly done, as well as a large triptych which is well underway. So...more photos will follow. The abstracts will be delivered to 30a Home in July, and a large installation piece scheduled for an October delivery.

I'm excited. People visiting my studio often ask me "When did you invent this type of artwork?" and I always laugh. I'M STILL INVENTING IT. That's what makes this job so much fun. Always dreaming, scheming and playing. Sometimes the results are awesome. And then...sometimes those ideas do not work at all. But photos of those bungles don't end up on this blog. :)

 "Aqua Matrix"

"Aqua Matrix"

The Art of Dinner (at the Grove Park Inn)

 Ashville's Historic Grove Park Inn

Ashville's Historic Grove Park Inn

Last night, several artists in Asheville's River Arts District were asked to take part in a very special dinner at Asheville's Grove Park Inn. We each submitted a piece of our art to the executive chef along with an explanation of our technique and the story behind the piece. Then the chef created a course of the dinner that was inspired by the art and the story. What an amazingly creative idea! And the ultra cool part of it is that this was all put on for the Dallas Cowboy's!

The painting I submitted was one of my favorites: "Stroll Through the Birch Trees". The inspiration for this piece is from one summer up in British Columbia (Canada) at Francois Lake when I was a teenager. We were staying on a family farm (an ancient log cabin) on the lake, and there were fields of wheat right on the lake. But there were also "upper fields" which you could only get to via a walk through the now overgrown forest path. One sunny morning after a rainstorm the night before, I explored this path and it was magical. Sun rays were glinting off the mist rising from the forest floor. I remember the smells of the woods, of damp, of water, of pines and birches...this is what became the inspiration behind this painting. 

Dinner was spectacular. I've never eaten food like this. There were more eating utensils around my plate than I'd ever seen (except on Downton Abbey maybe). The company, the friends, the art, the music -- what an honor to have been a part of it! 

So to help you get an idea of how this all went down...here are some photos! Bon appetit!

FIRST COURSE

 Matt Tommey's basket/art sculpture was pared with smoked foie Gras macaroon, black garlic dirt, apple honeycomb and micro flowers.

Matt Tommey's basket/art sculpture was pared with smoked foie Gras macaroon, black garlic dirt, apple honeycomb and micro flowers.

SECOND COURSE

 My painting ("Stroll Through the Birch Trees") was pared with salsify, fennel, pea tendrils, local cheese and smoked onion ash. Note: there was fog coming from the bottom plate, wafting up around the pea tendrils. Amazing!!

My painting ("Stroll Through the Birch Trees") was pared with salsify, fennel, pea tendrils, local cheese and smoked onion ash. Note: there was fog coming from the bottom plate, wafting up around the pea tendrils. Amazing!!

THIRD COURSE

 The wood sculpture of Melissa & Graeme Engler was pared with braised butternut squash, garden crust, pickled melon jus, basil cream and local snap pea.

The wood sculpture of Melissa & Graeme Engler was pared with braised butternut squash, garden crust, pickled melon jus, basil cream and local snap pea.

FOURTH COURSE

 John Almaguer's Venetian glass vase was pared with sous vide beef tenderloin, sweet pea puree and butter poached North Carolina shrimp.

John Almaguer's Venetian glass vase was pared with sous vide beef tenderloin, sweet pea puree and butter poached North Carolina shrimp.

DESSERT

 Hayden Wilson's Venetian glass vase was pared with vanilla cheesecake, blueberry cream puff, blueberry compote, with chocolate Chantilly and lemon sauce.

Hayden Wilson's Venetian glass vase was pared with vanilla cheesecake, blueberry cream puff, blueberry compote, with chocolate Chantilly and lemon sauce.

What a night. I'm dieting today, but not too strict -- these portions last night were small, but I have to say, it's the best tasting food I've ever had. This was gastronomic art at it's best.

National Geographic?!?

Asheville artist.jpg

My day began like any other day: I woke up, showered, had my coffee and walked the three miles to my art studio/gallery in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District. Little did I know this day could change my life...possibly forever*.

Back story: As a kid, I grew up totally addicted to any National Geographic television specials. These productions would take me away from my life of drudgery (as a second grader) and to far off, exotic places like Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania or the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Peru. I would be immersed into the fascinating (and usually tragic) life of the wildebeest, gazelle or the giant sea iguana and forget I still had to practice for my spelling test in the morning. It was bliss.

"Little did I know this day could change my life ... possibly forever"

So back to yesterday at my art studio...I began working on my next series of oil paintings (which consist of a totally new and ultra cool form of abstract art, and I'm totally excited about that but...I digress). Around 1:00 PM, a nice young woman came into my studio and asked me if I would mind being filmed for a new National Geographic special called "Asheville Rising". Mind? Are you kidding?! You're asking if I want to be IN a National Geographic television special? (Do I get to go to Tanzania? Do I need an agent? Can I wear cool TV star sunglasses now? But I digress again.)

Obviously, I said yes. My gosh, the crew was super nice and I really enjoyed having them all in my studio. Basically, the segment was of just me painting (no wildebeests or gazelles). I have no idea if they'll really use any of the footage, but still -- National Geographic?! The show is supposed to air in October I think, but I'll keep you posted. Any NatGeo special about Asheville is bound to be great whether or not I make my TV debut. Whatever.

*Just kidding about changing my life forever. But then again....who knows?