A few weeks ago, I was in a bar with my friend Derek talking to the bartender, his friend Kat. Much of what we talked about, and later shared with each other, was about art, and expressing yourself through your work, showing the world what you see of it through your eyes, so they can interpret it through theirs. She was an exceptional artist; and would have a successful gallery opening a few short weeks later.
I’ve realized over the years, in order to feed your soul, you must explore and grow the talents given to you. As Roy Hobbs’ dad said to him when he was a kid playing catch, “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.” The other day, I saw on Instagram a snippet of a video of my friend Yana, playing a piece her aunt wrote. She played wonderfully, and the melody was simply moving and beautiful. Then I thought of my friends Derek and Tammy, who have over the past few weeks provided me with such inspiration to paint, their work impressive, pushing me to new heights, i.e. what friends are supposed to do. Derek’s use of colour astounds me; and Tammy’s eye for composition and emotion on canvas is unparalleled.
I’ve been drawing since I was 8 years old. I remember one day back then, barely able to speak English at the time, of a girl named Joy whom I had a crush on, but because I could not speak the language, I didn’t know how to tell her. So I just admired her from afar. One day she didn’t make it to school; and that day seemed like the longest day ever. At the end of the day, I had drawn a picture of a Triceratops (cos they were, in my mind, the coolest dinosaur that could stand up to the bully Tyrannosaurus Rex); and gave it to her best friend Christina. I simply wrote my name and her name. (I was just learning how to spell; and spelling my name and hers was a lot more difficult than drawing the dinosaur.) Kind gesture aside, I don’t think she ever said anything to me afterwards. I’d find out later that she had a thing for Richard. It’s tough being an eight-year-old. Who knew at that time there would be so much drama? Back then I didn’t know I needed to save it for my mama.
As a kid, I drew dinosaurs, animals, and superheroes. Later, portraits of family and friends. Mostly pencils, pen and markers. Later in my 20s, I really got into charcoals, then colour pencils, later still watercolours; and now oils. There is a massive sense of freedom a blank canvas provides, especially when I have breathtaking Sausalito in front of me, and my loyal dog Taylor behind me, every so often his big, pink tongue licking my calves.
I have for years, but now specifically with oils, take a mental snapshot of everything I see (which is extremely easy given where I live), filing it away for a future walk down memory lane in front of a blank canvas. What spurs me on are the talents of family and friends around me, whether it be art or writing or music, etc.
And so that got me thinking to all the amazingly talented people around me, a list that includes but is not limited to the following. If you have a chance to see any of these people’s work, or listen to their music, or read their writing, do it. You will be forever enriched. (I’ve included links where appropriate.)
Tad.Ro.Superstar – quite frankly is the most talented person I’ve ever known, a phenomenal guitarist and musician. His indie rock band Pinq was a San Francisco staple before he took his talents to Los Angeles to form his new band Stereotype (their latest show at The Troubadour killing it), amidst the other myriad of projects he dives into.
Derek’s impressive use of colour. He’s only just starting into his adventures in painting, a testament to it’s never too late to pick up a brush or bang the drum or pick the six string. Your talent lies within you; it’s up to you to uncover them. All people take their time in finding them; some early, some late. They are both fine.
Tammy’s eye for composition, element and emotion unparalleled. She’s shared with me her work from high school and her two latest pieces, all renewing a fervor for painting to share with the rest of us.
Yana’s beautiful rendition of her aunt’s composition. Trained since she was little, her playing actually reminds me of my biggest regret. When I was in the sixth grade, my mother signed me up for guitar lessons at St. Lawrence, the church we grew up in. Already a nerd by every definition, I thought this would only make it worse. And so I rebelled, fiercely. My mother relented. Let’s just say that I was very wrong about my assessment of that situation.
If anyone rivals, or perhaps surpasses Tad’s talents, his brother Jay could be that person – a child prodigy at all things music, from song writing, arranging, violins, guitars, vocals, etc. leading his band Parts Per Million all over Chicago from Reggie’s Lounge to The Elbo Room.
My friend Fergus is not only an executive at a well known company, he’s also an amazing guitarist and musician, having introduced me to funk back in the mid-90s when we would sit in his apartment in Chicago, exclaiming “funk is not about the notes you play, but the notes you don’t play. Remember that.” And so I have. His band L’Avventura‘s album reminds me of one Brian Wilson would be proud of. Their latest single aired on an episode of True Blood.
Roland Oria, simply out is the best artist I have ever known. His work adorns many places in Chicago, from wine bars to galleries (specifically the one in The Flat Iron Building in Wicker Park, Chicago) to club events. His use of various mediums, and the realism of his work, continuously astounds me, especially his piece where he only uses cigarette butts for the entire composition.
Joe O’Leary, a phenomenal writer (besides his blog on the Appalachian Trail years ago, just published a children’s book Huggable Lou and The Wiser Amuser) and a phenomenal photographer (gallery openings in Boulder and Denver, CO), taking scenes we’ve all seen, but with a different eye and a different perspective, each shot with a story his own.
Speaking of writing, Erin’s blog is literally side-splitting laughter. I love her take on every day life, which is a lot funnier than what you find on TV.
Erin McCabe whom I remember years ago in Lake Tahoe teaching herself how to play guitar and writing songs, when Tad and I drove there from San Francisco to see her and her sister Eve. A minister also, her music evokes such emotion, a fantastic blend of gospel, country and folk.
Melissa Rose my favourite vocalist, someone I would see all over (from when I first met her at Brother Jimmy’s to Betty’s Bluestar Lounge to small coffee shops to The Melting Pot to The Abbey Pub to The House of Blues) during her stint in Chicago in the late 90s and new millennia. I have all of her cd’s and they are all still in regular rotation. Her vocals have a fantastic mix of sass and soul, much like her personality.
Jason Lichon and Alan Ruffin, the other Chicago musicians that I would follow from bar to bar religiously (from Schubas to The Subterranean to The Elbo Room to The Abbey Pub), whether their original work as Silver Atlas or their seminal Radiohead tribute band Kid A. These guys are technically perfect, and when I think of attention to detail, I always think of the music they produce on record and perform on stage.
Speaking of Radiohead, I worked with one of their biggest fans and nephew to one of the Heartbreakers, Marc Boggio in Chicago before he moved onto bigger and better things, the guitarist for the indie rock band in Los Angeles- Golden State.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention potential future superstar Nico, who as a 12 year old sang my favourite song her father wrote, “Change” at the Double Door one night in Chicago. After she sang the song, there was not a dry eye in the house.