Heading home from a recent road trip, we took an unexpected detour. We wound through the Vermilion Cliffs of AZ, amazed at the beauty all around us. It was the anniversary of my father’s death, and I’d been trying to think of a good way to honor him.
When we reached the Navajo Bridge at the confluence of the Little Colorado river, an idea came to me that felt right. I left an offering of CA white sage (which he’d picked before he died) and a prayer for the water, the land, and all the life connected to them.
Today would be my father’s 78th birthday so I’m dedicating this “inspiration Wednesday” to him. My dad made his living via his art at a time when that wasn’t so easy. He was a redwood sculptor and also a very talented tattooist, but I think his greatest love was oil painting. Growing up, I dreamed of being an artist too.
He used to have a gallery in the California redwoods and he also worked with other galleries along the coast. I got to tag along when he sold at shows and galleries, and watching this taught me a lot about the the art of craftsmanship.
working on a tattoo
He had a powerful commitment to his work — to him, creativity was a spiritual practice. He treated it with great respect, and he taught me to do the same. He always impressed how important it is for an artist to take great care of your tools –especially your hands and eyes! — and also to use the best materials available. He stressed the value of really learning your craft, paying careful attention to detail and quality, and always striving to hone your skills no matter how much you think you know. Beyond these practical skills, he taught me a lot about the healing properties of art. I won’t go into that too much in this post because it’s highly personal, and because I don’t know how to write about it without sounding corny or lame. Suffice to say that like my father, my creative process is also a spiritual process.
I suspect it was my dad’s influence that first exposed me to beads and beadwork, and he is indirectly responsible for my learning how to do leatherwork too. His soul mate Michele is a talented leatherworker who makes beautiful buckskin garments and bags. She taught me to work with garment leather back in the early 90’s, which quickly led to my interest in tooling and sculpting leather. So I guess he’s ultimately responsible — or at least, influential — for my career choice and my choice of materials.
My dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always loved and admired him. There was nothing traditional about him, so he was never a traditional father figure (thankfully, I have an awesome stepdad who has more than filled that role in my life). Still, he was an amazing individual and a talented artist. He passed a few things along to me, and they’re some of the things that I like best about myself. Thank you dad, for sharing your art and spirit.