Last night I gave a speech on the Artistic Life at a Regional Scholastic Awards Ceremony at the Historic Everett Theater. I drove to Everett early in the afternoon to avoid rush hour, and had coffee at The Loft with a best friend of mine from high school, Steve Sieverson, who was fully outfitted in his police gear. Steve never lets me take or post pictures of him. He’s a real shy guy. I asked him to serve as my bodyguard for the evening but he declined.
Then I spent some time touring the Schack, which I had never been to before.
It’s a real impressive space with a great shop, terrific galleries, a glass blowing area, and plenty of working studio spaces.
The student’s art is displayed at the Schack and it was fun to see the creative gifts of these emerging artists.
I had planned on my daughter Jackie joining me as my special guest, but she had to work. So I called Dad and Mom to see if they could join me. They could. We enjoyed a nice dinner together at a delicious Italian restaurant on the same block as the historic Everett theater.
It was cool to be able to be able to share this special night with them.
The Historic Everett Theater was packed with kids and parents and teachers. This is one of the few Scholastic award ceremonies west of the Mississippi, and the only one in Washington State. It’s great to see creative, artistic youth encouraged and honored in this way.
Here is the speech I shared. I spoke the opening and closing remarks. The bulk of my talk was the video that I’ve included below.
Thank you, Nancy Bell, for having me. It is an honor to share my heart with you all tonight! Thank you, Gail Merrick, for inviting me to speak. Gail, you’ve left a legacy of artistic education and gifted students at Stanwood High School.
Finally, I want to thank my mom and dad who are my special guests tonight. Thanks for raising me to be creative and to live an artistic life. Mom and Dad, please stand!
Tonight I call you to live an Artistic Life.
Living an artistic life does not necessarily mean you will be a full-time artist, though some of you will. It means that you will live artistically, bringing your God-given creativity into every part of your life.
Here’s what the Artistic Life has looked like in my story.
I was born into a family of artists.
My great-grandmother on my mom’s side, Fanny Y. Cory, was a nationally famous artist. She moved to NYC when she was seventeen and attended a year of art school but quit to provide for her sister who was dying of tuberculosis. By age nineteen, Fanny had become one of the leading illustrators in the US. She illustrated over forty books, and many magazine covers.
To provide for her children’s college education, Fanny took up cartooning. For 35 years her “Sonnysayings” was published five days a week by King Features syndicate in newspapers across the country. Her “Little Miss Muffet” was a rival of Little Orphan Annie.
Fanny had an incredible imagination. Her greatest work is her Fairy Alphabet that was published by her family after her death. She painted 26 exquisite watercolors of fairies, and wrote the rhymes to correspond with each letter of the alphabet. These paintings are now preserved in the Montana Museum of History.
In 1969 my dad and mom moved to Camano Island, into a small house without running water or electricity, given to them by my mom’s father, so that Dad could be a full time artist. He was a professional artist for the next ten years and had two solo shows at the prestigious Frye Art Museum in Seattle, WA. Dad painted wonderful, fresh, crisp watercolor paintings at his studio that he called “Sunnyshore Studio” because we lived on a plot of land called Sunnyshore Acres.
I like to say, Dad and Mom were artist pioneers. They were very poor, but happy because they were doing what we loved. Mom made sure I had paint and paintbrushes growing up, and Dad let me paint at his side, and when I got older, in his studio made out of a converted fox shed. In 1979 Dad went to work at Boeing to provide for his growing family.
My artist awakening happened in 1985. I was sixteen. I went into Dad’s studio, and painted a full sheet watercolor which finished in the top seven in the WA Scholastic Art contest.
My Mom was my biggest encourager in my painting journey. She made sure I had art supplies, always loved my paintings and even bought some! She was an artist too, painting soft watercolors. More recently she has started painting in Acrylics inspired by my brother Jed, who is a professional artist and just recently launch Acylic University.
Dad was my biggest critic. He always pointed out what was wrong with my paintings, what I could do better. You need both to flourish as an artist, Encourager and Critic.
I attended Western Baptist College, Now Corban University, in Salem, OR. They didn’t have an art program. But they did have cute girls. I fell in love with one, Jenny Wallace. My senior year I held an art show at Western to help Jenny pay her tuition. It sold out. I’m so thankful for the friends, collectors and patrons who have appreciated, and purchased my art over all these years.
After Jenny and I got married in 1992, I did a one-year pastoral internship at Camano Chapel on Camano Island. I painted a lot that year too and had considerable success. I was accepted into many national and international watercolor shows. I even published a few art newsletters called “Sunnysayings”. I considered going into art full time, but put down my paint brushes to attend seminary.
In my first job as an assistant pastor was at Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle where I organized Art nights, that wove art, film, music, poetry and dance together to explore universal themes like Longing, beauty, love, etc.
In 2002, our family of six, moved to Indianapolis, IN. where I served as pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church, a new church that had just purchased the historic first Presbyterian building that had been turned into an art and cultural center. After I got there, the board of elders decided to create a separate not-for profit organization called the Harrison Center for the Arts. For the next 13 years the congregation and Harrison Center gracefully shared the building [they continue to share the building today; I was in Indy for these thirteen years]. The facility eventually became home to four art galleries, 35 artist studios, and monthly art openings. Over 100,000 people came through the building for art events each year. I had two solo art shows in the beautiful gallery there over those years, so I didn’t completely give up painting.
In January 2015, my mom called to tell me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That opened up my heart to move back to Washington to be there for my Dad and Mom.
Mom’s diagnosis also made me realize that it was fear holding me back from building a creative studio that I had dreamed of on a piece of property mom and dad had gifted me just south of their home on Camano. Since 1998 I had worked on this piece of land, clearing brush, tearing down an old cottage, having it graded. But fear kept me from pulling the trigger. Now I decided to go for it. I pulled the trigger before I knew we were moving back to WA.
In September, 2015 our family moved to Redmond, WA, where I now work as pastor [of Redeemer, Redmond, a presbyterian church]. In December 2015 we broke ground for Sunnyshore Studio and builiding began in earnest March 2016. The grand opening of Sunnyshore Studio was in December 2016.
The mission of our Sunnyshore Studio is to share beauty through art, books and film.
Since our opening we have held quarterly art openings, like our upcoming Vintage Watercolorists of Washington that celebrates the life and legacy of some of the greatest living watercolorists in WA. It is named the Jack Dorsey invitational in honor of my dad.
We’ve published a number of books that weave words and art to tell stories about people and the places they love, like Beaches of Camano, Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist, Queen of Montana Beach a biography about my great grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory, and the second in my series of twelve Children’s Picture books, I Remember Running Through the Woods.
We’ve made films. My first being a documentary on Fanny titled Fanny: The Artist who made America smile. I’m currently working on a documentary of an inner-city high school basketball team in that against all odds won the Indiana state championship and inspired a whole city in doing so titled “We are Family.” I’ve even made some playful videos of my quest to sight a real life fairy with my mom, who is a Fairy Master herself. I call them “Fairy Sightings.”
In November, I partnered with my brother Jed and his Acrylic University, to create an Access to Art program that provides artistically gifted youth ages 15-22 with access to high quality art instruction, art supplies and an encouraging art community. We have three young people in our pilot program.
Currently I’m planning a month long painting trip with my daughter Jackie, a senior at Redmond High School. Jackie is going to create a sketching/painting journal of our travels, and I’ll paint the scenes along highway 101 from San Diego to the Olympic Penninsula. Our goal is to have an art show and sell the paintings and sketches, and ultimately create a coffee table book, to help pay for her tuition at Corban University.
I share these stories to show you how I lived an artistic life.
Here you are today, with all your road before you. Your story will look different than mine, because you are an original. You have your own story to write, your own path to walk.
You ARE an original, one of a kind, hand-crafted! I call you to live an artistic life, a creative life, whether you are a full-time artist or not.
God endowed you with incredible gifts of creativity, imagination and courage. Leverage them to create beauty, cultivate community, paint pictures, tell stories, make films, design books and buildings, write code and right injustice, for the good of the world!
Lift up your head and have hope. You don’t have to be smart or rich or talented or beautiful or famous to create. You just have to care… and create!
I encourage each on of you to:
· Cultivate your Imagination
· Be a Pioneer,
· Take Risks,
· Be Courageous
· And make the most of the opportunities that will come your way…And they will!