When I was young, I though everyone moved around like we did, maybe not as much but, I saw families come and go and thought it was normal. Someone new would show up at school or someone would leave, it happened all the time. It never crossed my mind that we were going to stay put in any one town. By the time I was 10, we had already moved six times or lived in six different houses. Like anything else, you just get used to it, stability was a word reserved for something financial and had nothing to do with location. This must have set a precedent in my mind because as an adult I have lived in dozens of places. In New Jersey alone I moved in and out of 14 different houses over a span of six years. Again, I didn’t think anything of it and it always seemed like an adventure. Maybe I’m a glass half full kind of person although my wife would strongly disagree.

Lately, I have been wondering what the effects of moving around did to me, more importantly, how it affected my work. Different towns or, cities have their own vibe. If you’ve never lived anywhere else other than your hometown, you may not know what I’m talking about. Visiting other cities for an extended period of time also gives you some insight about how those places work. I was obsessed with living in New York. I thought an artist could only make it in the Big Apple, I realize now that it was just a mindset.

I spent some time in California and the atmosphere was so calming the it bordered on hypnotic. The people were nice and the scenery was intoxicating. There were plenty of festivals, concerts and galleries. It felt as though it was deliberately designed to allow people to be creative, if not just carefree. The only thing missing was the edgy starving artist feel, which I’ve never cared for anyway. Maybe cities like San Diego and San Francisco are just too expensive and weed out the poor artists so they’re relegated to the fringe. I spent a little time in LA and it was similar to NYC with more heat. Unfortunately, the only places most artist’s can afford, if they want to live in a hub city are broken down apartments in bad neighborhoods – that might be why a lot of the work from there has an air of desperation. On the other hand, if you go inland to New Mexico, the Art is spiritual and meditative. If, you’re like me and live in a city with a high tourist season, you’ll find the Art caters to them, beach scenes and seashell lamps. There’s a large amount of high quality work here but, nothing in the way of mainstream Art like you see in Art in America magazine. – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting of a sunset with the light coming through the waves in a single issue.

I think most artists, willing or not, end up trying to sell anything that – well, sells. It’s the other function of being an artist, after all, we have to buy more paint and pay bills like everybody else. I see plenty of artists that have several, “Styles,” for lack of a better word. They paint what sells and they secretly paint for pleasure. It’s that personal work I’m interested in, the paintings that keep you up at night, the painting in your head that will not go away.

Your physical location has a direct correlation to what is at the top of your mind. And, other factors, play a key role in what you’re thinking about like paying the rent on time, nothing stops the wheels of progress faster than financial problems and it easily become the foremost thought in your mind. Keeping an idea at the top can be difficult, let alone a priority. But, if you’re determined enough or, if you’re somehow, “Broken,” in the good way, you’ll be able to keep a single idea at the top. You might even find that it is indeed possible to live in your own head, like multiple personalities. Does location affect what you paint, sure it does but, so does everything else. Swapping out environments might alleviate a pressing concern but, life has a way of creeping in, the challenge is to stay focused, keep painting. There are plenty of things that can distract you regardless of where you live, TV, the internet, parties, friends, etc. With a little planning, you can practically eliminate the basic distractions and you’ll be able to stay the course. (More on that in another post)

Painting is just an idea, what you do with it is what matters. Remember, you’re here to paint, you’re here to grow, cultivate your idea into something meaningful. Ideas often start small but, with a little tinkering begin to snowball. It may start with a color scheme or some lines but before you know it, it has grown into something tangible. But be careful, if you try to carry several ideas or thoughts at once, you’re likely to lose all of them. This holds true for worrying, if you live in a city filled with noise and crime, safety and noise pollution become a real concern and those thoughts can easily replace the idea as the top spot. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful, I’m saying that you need to learn how to block out your surroundings, live in your head.

We are fortunate enough to be living in the information age. Want to see what’s going on in the NYC galleries, jump on YouTube. Need mentoring, sign up of an online course. It’s practically endless in what you can find on the internet. With social media, you are able to make more connections and faster than you would in the real world, you’re able to let people from all over the world see your work in seconds. From TV and the internet, you probably have a good idea about what living a big city would be like so, you don’t have to actually live there to produce mainstream Art. What you paint is coming from between your ears not from between 5th and 10th Ave. If all else fails and you feel compelled to experience the big city life, you’re in luck, flights are cheap but, you’ll have to come back someday and you’ll still be sitting in front of that canvas painting what’s in your head.