Into The Brush – How I Started Painting

Into The Brush - Saving the Future of Wilderness - One Stroke at a Time

As you may or may not be aware, I grew up in the resort business of northeastern Minnesota.  At about 13 years of age, because of taking my dad’s woodburning pen and burning my drawings into wood, a private art teacher who was staying with us at the lodge, suggested I begin painting.

My immediate thought was that I could NEVER do that and said as much.  She, having a private art school in Mountain Home,  Arkansas,  politely disagreed and went back to her camper down by the lake, saying she’d be back a little later.   When she came back in an hour or so, she handed me a flat rock about as big as my hand in 1974 and told me to turn it over.  On it, she had painted a deer with a spectacular sunset and a treeline.  It was AWESOME!  I’d never seen anything like that before!  Having no exposure to people who could paint prior to this, I was blown away.

She then, in a matter-of-fact tone,  insisted that I could do that, too.

That older lady was like a dog with a bone about my  starting painting.  She told me to start out cheap and see how I like it.  She had me write down a list of paint and the types of brushes I needed to get.  She also told me about her favorite paints and made certain to mention how Grumbacher came to her school and offered her a big discount for exclusively using their brand of paints.  She refused because she felt that move would limit her students to only one brand of paint and the different strokes by different artists shall not be infringed.  It’s like the First Amendment of Painting, I guess.  My experience and opinion with paints has changed somewhat over the years.   I’m not saying how, because I’ll discuss that during class.

Like that art instructor told me, I went to town and bought $7.00 of paint and brushes.  I found a rock, cleaned it off and sat down at the kitchen table to paint for the first time feeling like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at the time.  First I experimented with blending colors and then jumped into painting my mouse under a mushroom picture.

Within a few months, I was selling paintings on rocks and then I moved to canvas.   I was buying better paint and brushes.  I also bought an 8 x 10 steel tool shed from Sears which was a nightmare to assemble.  That became my studio for about $180.   I put in a tiny wood stove that my brother built in shop class, 4 stools for resort guest kids to sit at, an easel which I still use today, an airbrush, canvasses, etc.   A guy I painted a picture for brought me a gas regulator that would fit on a 100 lb. propane tank that was empty and I filled with air for my airbrush.  There I sat, night after night, all summer long painting canvases and selling them with several kids watching and talking while we listened to an 8-track of Jesus Christ Superstar over and over.  Initially, I thought it was hippy music but found it to be very engaging and well suited to painting.   Throughout college, I did a lot of commissioned work which paid for my books, computers (Time Sinclair ZX 81 with 16 Kb of onboard memory) as well as other stuff I needed including more paint that I bought at the UMD Bookstore.

Dancing Loon

Dancing Loon

All this activity stemmed from one lady artist who was our guest at the resort and who painted a rock for me.  It’s amazing to me how when the stars align at just the right moment, everything clicks into place.  It doesn’t happen often, but is quite notable when it occurs.

If you want to take the time and yes, spend the money, I’ll help you get started with your own rock and other surfaces as well, including canvases and glassware depending on which which package you select.  Will you become a millionaire by selling your work?  Gosh, I really do hope so.  Nothing would make me happier!  Will you sell some of your works?  Maybe so, maybe not.  Is that your goal?  My recommendation is to “lightly” make it your goal.   Dream about it in the back of your mind.  A capitalistic spirit does wonders for learning but the “art part” tempers it with enjoying the path more than anything.  The path in painting remains the inspiration to paint.  One really can’t begin with “painting for dollars” in one’s mind.   It’s the blending of colors, following shapes, and observing, interpreting and emulating the details that has to be applied in order to paint.  One also needs to draw inspiration and not forget that there will be moments of “blankness” just like writers (another artform) are so afflicted on occasion.

Trapping Shack

Trapping Shack

The end result of your painting is the end of the path for that piece.  If you sell it – WOOHOO!  The best part is the affirmation that someone else values your work enough to take it home with them.   That is very inspiring in itself, but the competitive human spirit many times tells one to “beat” that last work.  People tend to strive for a “better” end result on the next piece.  And, if it doesn’t turn out, you can always repaint and try again!  Determination and practice always aid in the development of any skill.  Give it a good shot and see how it goes for you.

At Into The Brush at Northwind Lodge,  the goal is to learn key points that separates artists from people who believe they can’t paint.  Based on my own experiences, which I realize are different than everybody else, I still maintain that with proper attitude, a little bit of guidance, and exposure to wilderness, most people will be able to do something in a short amount of time.  Lay down the foundation and the house will go up.


Paint about it – Into the Brush

Into The Brush – How I Started Painting

Into The Brush – I believe you CAN!

Into The Brush – Painting & Wilderness

Into The Brush – Goals

Into The Brush Rates & Dates

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