We were in the Art District of Old Town Scottsdale. It was hot, but not unusual for Arizona in the slightest. The dry heat blanketed us like a transparent shawl and the subtle wind kept us cool momentarily while we stopped by a few galleries. Each one had a theme and a personality.
Whether it was a sculpture, painting, or photograph, each piece of art left a piece of its soul on the canvas it chose to imprint on. Art has the uncanny ability to allow us to escape and enjoy the beauty as it was meant to be enjoyed. No words, no thoughts, and no other action needed except to pay attention.
David Frederick Riley was the artist that we’d love to buy a piece from when we can afford it. It wasn’t just the way he painted but more so his reasoning behind why he paints the way in which he does. His story resonates with much of what I believe in. He uses his artistry as a philosophy for living.
He paints extraordinary pictures of animals, cowboys, and Natives. His signature touch is dousing his pieces with mineral spirits, which are used primarily as a solvent to clean painting material.
The irony is that his technique was created out of an accident. What is used to remove color is the very component that has given his canvas’ a unique and special touch.
This accidental blessing of a technique allows the paintings to take on another life. His work is revelatory of a concept voiced by many cultures.
The cardstock that Riley gives away at his art studio reads the following:
“‘I have hopes for what the mineral spirits will do, but ultimately, it does whatever it wants. The nice thing about this point in life as an artist is that I have spent so much time working on my technical foundation, I don’t fear risk anymore… Embracing the unknown has become almost second nature for me. There are times when I get lost in value, form, and color or I paint too thick for the effect I want. Those moments fall into acts of nature. It’s easy to want to control everything, but the technique I developed unintentionally makes that impossible. By letting go of the outcome, I get results that are unplanned and often exceed my expectations. Sometimes letting fate win is a win for me too.’”
His words had me thinking…
- No matter what our occupation is, we must build a strong technical foundation. Once confident in one’s ability to perform a task, we can play with the mineral spirits and create our own unique artistry. I believe an engineer is like a painter, in that they both use their artistry to evoke a message. Both experts can deliver something meaningful to society while making them feel something special.
- All of life is unknown. Control is an illusion. Once we let go of control, we can be free to live moment to moment as it was intended. Planning for the future is essential and important, but it needs only a fraction of time and energy compared to being present and living and dying for the day.
- Let life surprise you. These days I find that many are in a rush to know everything before it happens. People don’t want to be surprised, astonished, or amazed by much these days. Our system of convenience has created an unhealthy synergy with instant gratification which ironically has pushed us to leave gratitude in the wind. Put away the digital devices from time to time and see what new things you come across. For every new thing, savor in it and be grateful to have encountered it.
When I was 20, I thought I had all the time in the world, and now at 36, I am realizing how special of a gift this short trip is.
Be mindful of what type of energy, thoughts, and emotions encircle your mind. If they don’t uplift your soul, challenge you to become better, or present themselves in a manner in which you can be a vehicle of good for others, then let them be and act on them little.
Each and every one of our lives were destined to bloom like the lotus and perfume-like the cherry blossom.
Like the mineral spirits spilling on Riley’s canvas, we are also unexplained mistakes. Simply being here and experiencing the moments that make our life means you have already won.
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