The Day After Yesterday

the-day-after-yesterday-23-x-30-mixed-media

The Day After Yesterday”

We had a few clouds blow into our lives over the past couple of years. Some small, some not so small. Small or large, however, they all seemed like a big deal at the time. Some of these clouds were on my mind this morning when I went out to feed and water the horses. When I walked outside I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise, which reminded me of a lesson I learned long ago but momentarily forgot (if I could remember everything I once knew, I would be a genius). It is commonplace, in times of difficulty, for us to think that things will be better tomorrow.

Or, as “Annie” sings:

The sun will come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on
’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away!”

Tomorrow, the day after today. By definition, however, tomorrow never comes. Even the ever-optimistic Annie admits it… “You’re always a day away!”

So what are we to do? Are we doomed? Nope. You learn to find your Peace, even on a cloudy day. Today. Or, put another way, “The Day After Yesterday”.

Whenever my life gets – how should I put this – let’s just call it …interesting, I have to stop and remind myself that a sunrise is much more beautiful when there are a few clouds around to accent the brilliance and beauty of the sun.

Life is like that too.

I think George Harrison had it more right than Annie:

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right.”

This painting of 1949 Chevrolet is one of the first paintings I sold in a professional setting. It was sold years ago as the result of a show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, a beautiful museum that I highly recommend.

Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski

Tomorrow” is a song from the musical Annie, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, published in 1977. The number was originally written as “The Way We Live Now” for the 1970 short film Replay, with both music and lyrics by Strouse.

“Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison from The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road.

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A Little Late Getting Home

a-little-late-getting-home-24-x-33-mixed-media-acrylicSome experiences are so enjoyable that we are tempted to try recreating them at a later date. However, life has taught me that any attempt to do so will lead to an unsatisfactory result.

I first noticed this phenomenon as a child. There were times when all of the kids on the block would get together for a sandlot baseball game, a pick-up football game, a snowball fight, hockey in the park on a big frozen puddle… times when everything would come together to create a magical experience. Later, in an effort to recapture the magic, we would gather the same people in the same place at the same time of day and everything would be EXACTLY the same and …. pffft. Nothing, it was just not the same.

Disappointment.

My realization was confirmed as the years passed. You can never recapture the wonder and beauty of a sublime experience. What you can do is recognize the magic when it occurs, try to make it last as long as possible, and treasure it as the miracle it is.

When I am in the midst of the adult equivalent of the perfect sandlot baseball game, I try not to hurry through it. I know it is something to be savored, so I do what I can to make it last as long as possible.

When this happens, I am always “A Little Late Getting Home”.

To express these thoughts I painted a scene with a hot air balloon aloft at dusk. Most hot air balloons are set up for daylight-only operation and it is unusual to see one airborne after dark. In this painting the sun is setting and night is rapidly approaching but my balloonist is in no hurry to return to earth. Instead, he fires his burner to slow his descent and maybe even ascend once more. He savors the moment when the sun slips away and releases the sky to the waiting stars, hinting at another universal truth… Even though you can’t recreate a perfect experience, there will be other, different, wonderful experiences in the future.

A careful viewer will note a sprinkling of early evening stars and a very faint jet contrail crossing the sky, hinting at our restless nature and our ingrained urge to move from where we are… to whatever comes next.

Painting and text © 2016 James Golaszewski

Making The Best Of It

Making The Best Of It

Making The Best Of It 29 X 29

I always try to leave people and things better than they were when I found them, and I love spending time with people that share this philosophy. I think of these people as “creators”, they create beauty, optimism, and opportunity; and help people reach their full potential. On the other side of this coin, I avoid at all costs spending any time with those that I think of as “destroyers”, those that always have a negative interpretation of any situation. “Destroyers” make no effort to build and improve people, places, and situations; rather they take every opportunity to criticize, belittle, undermine, and obstruct.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “make the best of it”, but we usually think of the phrase only in the context of making the best of a bad situation. I prefer a broader interpretation, where the phrase applies to everything we do and everyone we meet.

In this painting, we see an old farmhouse that has a few obvious flaws. The roof is old and worn and the small room “addition” is starting to settle a little bit, making it lean slightly outwards. Nevertheless, the homeowner has applied a fresh coat of paint and lovingly planted numerous flowers. “Making The Best Of It” is a tribute to those that try to make the world a better place, and a recruiting poster for the uncommitted and unconvinced.

Image and Text © 2016 Jim Golaszewski

Damaged Goods

Damaged Goods  16 X 30 Mixed Media AcrylicFunny, how life imitates art. A few years ago I painted this picture featuring a big old tree missing one of its main branches as the focal point. Who knew that I would have a tree that looks just like this in my yard after a storm on July 13th , 2016?  Even better, who knew the missing 30 inch diameter, 55 foot long, branch would crash on to the roof of my house?

Eighty-Five mile per hour winds will do things like that to a fine old tree.

The tree removal company gave us the option of removing the remaining tree, or leaving it as is…

Guess what we decided to do?

Yup, it is still there. I respect the tenacity of life, of living. The remaining half of the tree will either live – or it will not. Not my call.

Here is the original essay for “Damaged Goods”.

I frequently hear people saying that life is a struggle. At one time, I dismissed these people as being pessimistic “glass half empty” people. As time passed and I gained more life experience I realized that the “life is a struggle” comment is really just a statement of fact and has no inherent negative or positive connotation. This started me thinking about struggles in general. I began to wonder if the things I have learned from over 34 years as a street cop about prevailing in a physical struggle might have some value when applied to the struggle of life.

One of the first things I learned many years ago as a rookie cop is – if you go into a physical struggle with the intention of not even getting your uniform dirty, you are going to lose. You will be focused on keeping your uniform clean and avoiding injury, rather than on winning. I am not recommending that you go into a situation, or life, intending to get hurt. My point is that you should not be focused on avoiding injury because when you get hurt (and you will get hurt) you give up. Why wouldn’t you? Your goal was to avoid getting hurt. You got hurt. Game over.

In a physical struggle, as in the struggle of life, you should be focused on achieving your goals rather than on avoiding pain. If you take a little damage along the way, don’t be surprised; keep moving.

I certainly hope you never find yourself involved in a physical confrontation. I mention it here because the same rules apply to the struggles of life. If your goal in life is to avoid getting hurt you will not be happy with the results. If you focus on avoiding pain rather than on finding joy, you will miss most of what life has to offer.

In this painting, I have used a fine old tree and a passing storm to express this concept. When you look at the painting, you will quickly notice that the tree has lost one of its major branches at some time in the past to a lightning strike or high winds, but it still embraces life and reaches for the sky with the branches that remain.

If you are actively involved in life, you are going to take some damage along the way. As long as you survive and thrive, there is nothing wrong with being “Damaged Goods”.

© 2016 James Golaszewski

July 4th Blues

July Fourth Blues

I painted this in the middle of a long cold winter several years ago. I imagined a place of warmth and peace as I painted. I had to immerse myself in the illusion, and in the process I went a little crazy(er). As I painted I imagined myself in the world I was creating, walking down the road on the Fourth of July. The whole scene existed only in my imagination at first, and each element in the painting ended up with a back story (kind of like Bob Ross and his “happy little trees”).

To celebrate the 4th of July, lets take a walk together down this idyllic country road. You can’t see it in this tiny little image, but there is a dog in the yard of the house at the bottom of the hill. His name is Max, we can say high to him as we walk past.

A beautiful moment on a beautiful day in a beautiful place in the middle of summer…you are invited to stroll down the road and bask in the peace and beauty.

Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski

“I guess my feet know where they want me to go…
Walking on a country road.”

James Taylor “Country Road”

Awakening

Awakening  18 X 26 Mixed Media Acrylic

I struggle with feeling the need to warn the world about all the nasty people hiding behind masks of decency.

There are people in this world that are abusive and dangerous, but only to a select few chosen victims. These monsters have neither the strength or skills to dominate everyone, so they carefully select their victims. Sadly, the victim most often is someone that initially trusted the offender. To the rest of the world they present a carefully constructed act that hides their true nature.

These people fall along a spectrum from bad to worse. The scale ranges from gossips, to bully’s, to child abusers and those that engage in domestic violence, and on the extreme fringe to those that kill and commit sexual assaults.

Quite often there will be extensive news coverage about someone who was caught doing some horrific act. As the story unfolds over a few days a predictable pattern seems to be followed. After the initial story, people that think they know the offender make proclamations about how they can not, or worse, will not, believe the allegations because the offender has shown only a carefully constructed false face of decency to them. The evildoer has been acting like the “perfect” friend/neighbor/coworker in the presence of those they are fooling. You hear statements such as, “That can’t be true, he (or she) always waves when he sees me/brings in my elderly mothers’ mail/shoveled my snow/helped me change my flat tire/is always nice to ME…”

This serves two purposes. First, by doing so the offender is able to avoid detection. The second, and more sinister, reason is so those who know the villain’s true nature are not believed and find no support in their struggle with and against the villain. The villains also proactively take steps to discredit those that know their true nature so, should the victim gather the strength and courage to speak out, they will not be believed.

Then, as the story unfolds, more victims emerge. Others that the offender has chosen to victimize see an opportunity to be believed so they come out of the darkness to call out the true nature of the offender.

Still, those that have bought in to the offender’s act of presenting a false face of decency line up and defend the evildoer by pointing out all the wonderful features of the offenders carefully constructed false persona. They invariably note that the offender is a pillar of the community, and declare that the accusers are all self-serving liars. Then, time passes. Facts are revealed that make it impossible to believe the lies any longer. The truth becomes clear.

Then comes the really sad part. The defenders, who now know the true nature of the villain, remain silent. They offer no comfort or support to the victims who, by their silence and earlier support of the offender, helped victimize further.

I have a problem deciding how to deal with people like this. I feel the irresistible need to call them out, to point out their true nature for all to see. This most often ends in frustration because the believers are unwilling to let go of their illusions.

During my lengthy career in Law Enforcement I have known more than a few people on the middle and top end of this scale of villany. I have had the satisfaction of placing many of these individuals in the back seat of my squad car … the seat with the cage. In my personal life I have been victimized by these people and, even worse, people I love have been victimized. Because of these experiences I am a bit more adept at spotting these individuals “in the wild” as they try to move undetected among us.

Day to day, my main problem is with the monsters on the lower and middle end of the scale, the gossips and abusers. We all have people like this in our worlds; people that have revealed themselves to us to be monsters; abusive, petty, mean-spirited, gossips, and child/wife/husband abusers. Yet, any attempt you make to reveal the true nature of the villain is met by disbelief. In the age of Facebook this is even harder to deal with. You will see posts about these villains – those that have revealed their dark nature to you – where those among the fooled describe the monster as being “fantastic”, “amazing”, and “wonderful” (oops, I forgot the exclamation marks. Here are a few: !!!!!!!!).

What to do about this? Like I said in the beginning, I struggle with this question.

Like a lot of seemingly unsolvable problems, I think the best solution is to do what you can, when you can, where you can.

I have chosen to visualize these thoughts by using my old friend, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. Through the hours of darkness, the lighthouse tries to warn boaters about hidden dangers and guide them to a place of safety. Some heed the warning and take the advice, finding safe harbor. Others continue to wander in the darkness. Like the lighthouse, all you can do is give warning. The rest is out of your control.

I have set the scene at sunrise, that moment when the sun rises and reveals the truth to all. A time of “Awakening”.

Image and Text © 2016 James Golaszewski

 

Hope In The Fog

 

Hope in the Fog 22 X 40 Mixed Media Acrylic

Hope In The Fog 22 X 40

Life is full of uncertainty. This can be very stressful for those of us who like to have things “nailed down”. As my life has unfolded I have come to feel like a roofer in a hurricane – every time I get one loose shingle nailed down another one begins to flap in the wind. When it gets really bad I have had to give up on nailing shingles for a while and concentrate on not getting blown off the roof.

But I am still here.

What a lifetime of these experiences has taught me is that all you have to do to survive is hang on tight and have faith that no storm lasts forever.

To express these thoughts, I painted “Hope In The Fog”. It is about having faith that things will turn out well, even when you are lost in the fog and have no idea what lies ahead. In the original composition, there was to be a country church barely visible through the fog in the background. The church symbolized stability, safety, and security. As I painted, I used a translucent glaze to create the fog effect. With each layer of glaze, the church became less and less visible. Things were going well until… I added one too many layers of glaze and the church disappeared completely. With some painting techniques you get only one crack at getting it right, and this was one of those situations. If I repainted the church the thickness of the additional paint would have created a subtle change in the surface texture that would have ruined the illusion.

Isn’t it always that “one last thing” that gets us in trouble? As I thought about it I decided that I liked it better with the church not being visible. If the painting was about having faith even when you could see no way out, having the church be invisible was a better concept. It is not hard to have faith in something you can see, faith comes in when you have to believe in something you cannot see.

In this painting, we see a horse named Hope on a cold foggy morning.

Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski