Are We Born Artists Or Is It Just Something We Create?

When I first began this project I brought up the question are we born to be an artist or is it something that we learn.  I talked to a number of different artists and remember there was a mixture of responses.  For me I grew up on a family cattle ranch in the mountains of Montana where I wasn’t really exposed to much of anything creative, yet as a kid I was drawn to coloring and creative hobby type things as gifts for Christmas.  My parents must have recognized some semblance of talent there because they always gave me things that captivated me or mostly things I had to build.    When I colored I worked had to stay within the lines.  My grandmother taught me to cook and sew when I was about ten and I began to make clothing I would wear to school.  My parents tell stories of how I gathered all my brothers and cousins and created stage shows in the barnyard for everyone to see.  I was a drama nerd in high school and created a drama club and began doing stage productions.  I then won a scholarship to the University of Montana in Missoula for theater and earned a degree in performing arts with an emphasis on directing live theater production, essentially creating my own program at the time.  I was mostly interested in lighting design and work anything back stage.  I worked in professional theater for many years until I got burned out of constantly being on the road, returned to Montana, and took up photography.  Looking back, everything about my life has been creative and I feel fortunate to have made a living pursuing my passions.  I still make a living and do quite well with it and still live a creative life.

So was I born to it?  I am not entirely sure.  I was born with a strong curiosity and probably a stronger ability to make things happen.  I do know as a creative soul my focus becomes more concentrated the older I get.  Downright obsessive.  I am drawn to photography because it is something I never stop learning or growing with.  Though it has become relatively simpler from when I started with, processing my own film, it is still a challenge.  I probably have most every piece of equipment to filter or channel light in most any conceivable way.  I have found one of the key tenants of becoming an artist is to always bring yourself to the creative table.  Every day if possible.  Once you recognize this the world automatically sorts it self out and makes way for your creativity to flourish.  But be relentless in your pursuit.  After a while self doubt and constant questing vanishes and you get to a state where everything becomes a part of your creative evolution.  I learned not to be so critical of myself in the beginning and accept my mistakes as part of the learning process.  I see so many young artists who say this really isn’t very good about something they have created, expecting it to be a masterpiece right from the get go.  It never is.  They give up to easy and find something simpler to do, when this is really the impetus of something remarkable that has completely compelled and engaged them.  Yet they can’t see the remarkable beauty that brought them to it from the beginning.  They are only looking at the end result and judging everything else on that.  First and foremost believe in yourself and trust that all will be resolved.  To realize all of life is a creative process and an evolution along an expressive continuum.

A Defining Moment As Montana Finally Accepts Gay Marriage

I was out and about on Friday and happened to glance at our local newspaper to see that gay marriage had finally come to my home state of Montana.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat in a public space as waves of overwhelming feeling poured over me.  For some reason it become a defining moment in my life where I have now become totally accepted for who and what I am.  I guess I knew in my heart it was on its way, so many other states have already adopted it.  One of my best friends married a truly remarkable partner last year in Seattle, I was not able to attend but when they described how overwhelming the whole experience was to be surrounded by people so much family, such close friends, people who admire and adore you to celebrate their love and commitment to each other.   I felt a little pang with jealousy that they were already there and we were not yet.  I was born in a small Montana community and partially raised on a fourth generation cattle ranch that was homesteaded by my great grandfather.  I always realized I was different, and most of my life became a battle to defend that difference.  It was not genetic and it was not choice it was just the simple fact that I was what I was, gay!  I have always been open about my feelings and my passions, even though most of my youth I was encouraged to overlook or suppress what I was.  Over the years it has created a certain amount of anguish, as if I was living on the outside of society but not actually able to enter within it.  It made me stronger, I developed a resilience to become comfortable as myself.  It defined my character but built my personality.  I have always been drawn to the creative arts as a means of expression.  It was through this expression I found myself, told and showed the world who I was, through my work and was actually define and explore all my feelings and emotions.  The struggle to define one’s self is what makes truly interesting artistic expression.  Though I don’t feel compelled to rush out and marry the man of my life, whom I have loved and adored for 17 years I do see what a remarkable and blessed journey I have been on.  It somehow feels awesome to be accepted with open in a place I have always been a part of.

Today’s image was part of a series I was shooting for book cover art for Dream Spinner Press.  I have been selling many of my images for cover art for romance novels but never quite got around to submitting this series yet.

When Artistic Passion Ignites Into Fire

This past week, partly because the temperature dropped into the teens, I have retreated back into this project.  In fact, it has renewed my obsession with The Naked Man Project.  It’s almost like I have to completely deconstruct it to bring it back into existence.  God what was I doing before to create such a hodge-podge of a mess. I’m actually quite surprised it even functioned for as long as it did, but I’m having a blast revitalizing it.  In fact I feel on fire with it.  Working on it from the moment I get up and then late into the evening on my laptop in bed.  I have never believed in something as much as I have this project.

So many people have reached out to me via texting, Facebook, and email in response to the project this past week, it just continues to fuel me.  It is finally becoming the project I envisioned when I started it back in 2011.  In a greater sense destined to become a global collective of other peoples obsessions with the male nude as a higher form of artistic expression.  I have always wanted to feature the drawings of David Vanderpool and I managed to complete that this week.  In fact it became the model for the new guest artist project that I have reworked the others toward visually.  In reworking this section I have been in contact with all the other artists to clean up and relink their images.  I feel like I am part of a greater global artistic community.  I didn’t realize how much I missed all these conversations.  Living and being in Montana, and not generally recognized as a creative individual is very easy to become reclusive.  But this site still remains strong!  Thank goodness for the Internet in this regard.  This project began with the subheading of “One man’s exploration In finding himself and his search for light, beauty, desire and art.”  When I began the project I really was searching for some sort of acceptance for my “alternative” creative expressions.  A way to link to a new found community dealing with their one vision.  Now I see how many people have been touched by this endeavor.  In the beginning I did not see my own work as very interesting, but just a means of expressing my feelings and emotions as I examined my connection to the culture around me.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I posted some of my images on a site called ManArt, which collapsed shortly there after due to censorship issues.  I now see how much I have grown since those days and now nothing no longer seems taboo. I am on fire again and it feels great to feel alive once again.

Today’s image was the very first attempt I had at creating male nude art.  It was of my friend Daren Eastwold, who was a dancer with a body to kill for.  We went into his apartment and I had a single incandescent light fixture.  We rolled up the carpets, and removed everything from the walls.   The place was on the verge of collapse, in fact condemned, and later torn down.  I was nervous as hell as we began to shoot because I had no experience at this sort of photography.  This was back in the predigital days and I was shooting actual film. That meant I was limited on how many exposures I could take, and that I really wouldn’t know the results until I could process the film and print the contact sheets a couple days later.  Those contact sheets turned out so dark I could hardly see them and thought I had completely botched the shoot.  But there was one image that stuck out that even looked remotely worth working on.  Just one.  I put it into the enlarger and began to print and this beautiful piece began to emerge.  To me that was the defining moment of so wanting to become an artist.  I remember becoming on fire then, the same as I am on fire now.  Life is about passion.  Not being afraid to embrace it.  And from that moment forward to this moment hence I have followed that dream.

“Don’t Dream It Be It…”

Have we changed culturally since the inception of Rocky Horror 41 years ago or do we still live in a delusional fantasy world of manufactured dreams?   I guess I really question how many people actually live their lives instead of dream them.

The lyrics from the musical Rocky Horror have been drifting through my mind all week “Don’t dream it be it, don’t dream it be it…” Missoula was privileged to see one of the most extraordinary productions of Rock Horror I have seem in a very long time.   It was a small independent production company who produced it at the old historic Wilma Theater downtown.  I had shot the promotion photos and received some comps to the show.   I took some friends who where not familiar with the play or movie and boy were they in for a ride.  The Cigarette Girls, a burlesque troupe, whom I have also photographed, opened for the show, and got the audience revved up.  The audience went wild throughout the entire show, like I have never seen an audience get so into a show before.  I began to think about what a powerful show Rocky Horror is and question how relevant it is to where we currently are culturally.  The stage musical first premiered in London in 1973 and I believe became one of the most inciting reasons from the sexual revolution in the 70”s.  It showed us a side of ourselves we had never seen.  It opens in the quintessential American Dream of the time, boy/girl marriage.  Brad and Janet represent where society stood at that moment in history.  They enter a world where they are titillated and tempted to escape that safety net they are conditioned to accept socially and explore a pleasure of the senses and taste the temptation of forbidden desires.  It teaches us to face our fears and give way to what we are destined to become, to live without fear, without judgment, and to follow our passions and fulfill the object of our dreams.

This week as I began working through and cleaning up The Naked Man Project site this musical keep creeping into my subconscious.  I began to question my own reality, am I actually living my desire or do I live in my own delusional fantasy world.  In a sense my world of photography becomes a fantasy, I manufacture my own illusion that is based in my own reality.  I am an artist and so I create every day.  This is certainly my reality.  But I also live in a world where I see and talk to so many other people who have an idealist aspiration for their reality but still live in a dream.  Perhaps too afraid to show the world who they really are.  There seems to be a lack of self-confidence.  Our modern world of Internet chat seem to allow us to escape into alter personas and allow us to embellish or disguise who we really are.  When we should just be accepting and put our true selves out there, even for our odd synchronicities or proclivities, because it’s really what makes each of us unique.  For many we are still trying to fit into the norm of what is acceptable culturally.  Unfortunately we are constantly conditioned toward this sort of heighted reality, when we access the Internet, it is about perfect abs and big dicks, no wonder we all feel so inadequate.  It feels like everyone is racing to the climax and forgetting to enjoy the ride along the way.   I personally think since the sexual revolution of the 70’s we have actually taken a step backwards.  People are living the fantasies of what they desire to become within the creation of their online profiles.  Thinking the world will not accept them for who they really are.

I was thoroughly excited all week working on this project because I realize through this project I have become “it”, and have moved beyond my own dreams and exceeded my wildest expectations!!!!   I have faced my own fears and doubts and am now have become what I always dreamed.

Adaption of a Creative Impetus

I am beginning to feel like Meryl Street in Adaption where her world of reality begins to blur with the fiction of her creation!  Where does one draw the line between themselves and artistic integrity?  I have always been intrigued by the age-old question.  Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

I have recently reconnected to this project.  Not that it has ever really been out of my sight, but I recently met someone who asked if I had done anything significant with my life.  I wanted to say “Sure a while back I took a year off and created something that I put my entire soul into for the duration of an entire year”.  Creating a body of work that oddly enough still remains online, and even odder thousands of people each month still follow and peruse.  I am still contacted by people, particularly young artists who find my story and imagery inspirational to their own journeys toward creativity.   My heart is and has always been full of passion toward anything creative and I am quick to encourage others to seek their own.   Looking back I see I am one of the most blessed people in the world to be able to pour out my thoughts, feelings, concepts, and ideals (utterly express myself) and still make a living at it.  The project didn’t quite take me in the direction I had planned, but it did increase my notoriety as a seasoned photographer who had an imitative eye and loved to work with light.  To me it has always been about the light.   This work progressed my business in other areas, mainly portraiture, headshots, and other artistic creations.  I began to get work from clients whose talents as Internet escorts I could help bolster their own talents and boost their businesses.  The one thing I can honestly say is that I have laughed a lot over the past couple of years and created or worked on some very imaginative projects.  As usual I digress…

So I wanted to share this project with my new buddy and sent him a link to the site.  He came back somewhat surprised and astonished at the caliber of work.  I then jumped on the site from my cell phone and I began to see how clunky the site was to navigate via hand held devices.  I had not put much work into the site the past few years.  About a year or so ago it crashed. I guess due to neglect, so I had to do some major upgrades to operational platform and system modules and plugins.  I found a new template that would make it more accessible to mobile devices.  I was so busy at the time I never got a chance to actually adapt everything to the new system.   Viewing it I was quite embarrassed.   I have recently caught up with my regular work and decided I would spend a little time adapting it.  Suddenly I am totally falling in love with the whole project again.  I never stopped shooting this sort of work and have a bigger body of work yet unseen.  So here I am back at it again, realizing how much all this sort of free flow spewing from my inner psyche I had missed.  I think I am going to revive the blog, not to an everyday occurrence, but to once a week, after all I do have a life and need to make a living.

As a young lad all fresh faced I used to argue that life imitated art, now as a seasoned fresh faced (no I did not have a facelift) elder I actually see that art imitate life, it’s an expression of life.  So here goes…