Friday, April 12, 2013

Sneak Peek at my new book

I am currently writing a book about drawing. It's a work in progress, so I thought that you might like to see some selections and get to know me as I write. These sections are first draft with minor edits.

This is from the forward, I hope you enjoy this and want to return as I post further updates.


"Art and creativity have been a part of my life from the very beginning. I still remember the day that art entered my life. I was five years old. It was an early evening during an Illinois winter season working its way well into March. A whistly' calm breeze drifted through the three story apartment buildings while a bitter smell of sour combustion was flowing in behind us from the Interstate 90 Toll road. Mom and I had just returned from Woodfield Mall with fresh velvet coloring posters. Up two creaky flights, through the cold heavy metal doors and ethnic smelling hallways, and back to her boyfriend Don who greets us at the door.
"Hey there little man,"  Don said with his raspy bearded voice. I remember being glad that we had posters, because Don was hogging the new TV. Mom and I went back to their room and laid out the posters and markers on her bed. My fingers moved around the texture of the scratchy velvet stuck on the smooth poster paper. I remember thinking how cool the monsters on my mom's poster were, and I asked if I could help her get started. I recall that during the last few weeks, my drawings had been showing the early stages of competence. In sizing up this big moment, it was clear that my budding skills were preparing me for a crucial pay off... and then it came! 
Mom looked at me. She gave me a smile and said, "I forgot, you're a good little artist."
She handed me the yellow and told me to start by coloring the big star shapes in the upper left hand corner. I'm not sure what my brain got from that moment, but it put the rest of my life into motion. It was March 1975 on the third floor of the great Rolling Meadows Apartments, and it was the day I began to forevermore draw with purpose.

Whatever else my mother didn't give me in life, she did give me a career. That night made all the difference as to how I was going to survive the rest of my life. For my moms' life, it marked roughly five years since she lived the life of a  hippie revolutionary. Even though she was a young single mom, she was still a drifting soul. By my Junior year, I had attended over 17 schools in four different states. You can easily guess how much of a valuable escape my drawing skills were. As I relocated through the years, it was a rare occasion that any other kids would ever come close to my abilities or determination, and it was always an effective game changer. Drawing skills were somehow perceived as super-powers, and I was spared the full brunt of forever being 'the new kid.' Regardless of my awkwardness or low social standing, you give me a paper and pencil, and I was a Titan among twerps.

This book is my effort to give you the same opportunity that I had. In simple terms, my mom took away a huge roadblock to an otherwise mysterious skill. My brain never had to process a negative view on drawing or creativity. But you, dear reader, have spent the better part of your life under many misconceptions. I have crafted this book knowing that your head is full of doubts and pre-wired defenses, so trust me, and trust the process.

Finally, like anything else you begin, it is important to build a solid foundation. This book will NOT be a 'how-to-draw-along-with-me' program. What I am offering to you is a wind tunnel to blow away the mental chaff and get a clear picture on how easy drawing really is."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Build to Survive!

Not every storm is a metaphor…


It was an anxious Sunday afternoon, the weather was getting fierce and storm clouds were coughing up torrents of anger. Just east of the Kansas state line, a vicious funnel touches the earth, and on May 22, 2011 Missouri was about to make history.

A record breaking thunderstorm hit the people of Joplin Missouri with unprecedented intensity. A rare EF-5 Multi-vortex tornado touched down reaching a mile in width and hitting speeds of up to 300 mph. The tornado went through Joplin like a wrecking ball. Homes were completely swept off their foundations, large buildings were flattened and debris flew for miles. The tornado was so intense, the entirety of St. John’s Regional Medical Center was said to be shifted 4 inches from its foundation.

The impact area of the tornado
When this maelstrom finally ended, the destruction was heart breaking. One could scarcely believe the extent of the damage inflicted on Joplin. Survivors have said that their minds had no way to cope with what they saw next. Yet, before there was time to comprehend the destruction, a far more gruesome shock set it; what about their neighbors? 158 people in Joplin were directly killed and over 1200 injured. The loss of human life was staggering. Shocking stories from the survivors began to be told in the news. Parents describe their children being torn from their arms, entire families were found crushed under rubble, and droves of homeless people had to find shelter.

Forever burned into the minds of the city were the satellite and ariel photographs depicting the tornados trail of destruction. It is estimated that 25% of Joplin was destroyed or made uninhabitable.

One of the many photos of the aftermath
However, as such moments of history tend to contain, one lone building survived the maelstrom. The Edward Jones financial building remained intact. It was located on Connecticut Avenue in one of the hardest hit areas in the tornadoes path. The building was brand new to the area, and while every structure around it was demolished, it remained standing. Apart of minor damage, the building was fully functional and safe to enter. The business was able to assist the community during the ensuing year, and remains a symbol of hope to the community. Naturally, people were very curious how an 8 story building survived a direct hit from an F-5 tornado.

The secret? Hurricane straps. A small feature with mild additional costs that allows the truss system in the roof to endure the cyclical nature of high impact winds. When Don Swanson added this feature in the construction of his building, it made all the difference.

Each of us makes decisions every day about how we are going to build. We build relationships, families, partnerships, financial plans, and business. When we face the costs of building, do we decide to build cheaply? For the people of Joplin, the phrase, ‘preparing for a rainy day’ is no longer a platitude.

How many of us miss the opportunity to slow down, plan better, and build smarter? Do we cut corners that presume ideal weather conditions. What happens to us when faced with real storm fronts? What happens to us when we face family drama, relationships going cold, illness, loss, bad business deals, accidents, or life savings drying up?

While I’m sure that comparing our own trials to the losses suffered in Joplin seems very glib, it's the people of Joplin themselves that ask this question. Many have spoken about what it took to recover, and how it changed the way they choose to live thereafter.

Thousands of people poured into Missouri to help their fellow countrymen in this time of need. Are we also willing to help one another as we face our own storms? Are we willing to forgive, talk, and take actions that bring us all closer together?

A memorial now stands in the city of Joplin. Paula Baker, president of Freeman Health System, pulled down a cloth to reveal the structure at the memorial ceremony. A choir of Freeman employees sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

The sun, obscured by gray clouds, suddenly broke through." 
Said Baker: “Joplin is proof that from tragedy can spring hope. That even the darkest night is followed by dawn. That a once-stormy sky can again be filled with the colors of the rainbow.”