Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I asked a few talented visual artists and actors to be my guest here.  I thought it would be interesting and inspiring to pose the same question as I did to my fellow artists last month at Art on The Lane Fine Art Gallery:  What inspired you to become a professional artist?  When did you know and at what moment did you decide to take the plunge.

My guest artist is Steve Simon.  I met him through the owner of Haleakala Trading Company in Kihei, Maui where I had my art work for sale.  Harry gave me my first opportunity to sell in Hawaii.  I visited with Harry in Maui and he showed me Steve’s impressive art portfolio and book of Maui paintings.  Harry is a big supporter of the arts and he knows of my ambitions.  Harry said I should contact Steve.  And so I did.  I sent Steve an e-mail and he suggested I follow up with a phone call.  We had a nice conversation.  He is a warm, positive soul who is knowledgeable and also kind to offer guidance to a fellow artist.  His work is diverse, beautiful and has a spiritual quality.  He writes poetry to accompany his visual creations and has several You Tube videos, a couple of which are referenced below.

Steve Simon
As a child, I loved to draw and paint.  As a teenager, more “practical” aptitudes such as math and science overtook my career path.  I had originally wanted to study architecture to combine the artistic with the technical but a counselor advised me to make art my hobby and focus on engineering as my career.

I accepted this seemingly sage advice and studied mechanical engineering and would work as a robotics engineer in Germany and later as a management consultant in the US and Brazil.  Neither profession, however, truly stoked my true passion so I chose to return to school to redirect my career path.  This time I studied business, receiving an MBA from an international program during which I studied in Paris, New York, and Tokyo with seminars throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.

I had hoped the international business studies would help me uncover some unknown passion but upon graduation, I accepted another consulting position.  This one, however, was in Paris.  As part of my compensation, I was furnished with an apartment in Montmartre, the storied artist quarter of Paris.  In my free time I plunged into the art world that I had neglected since childhood.  I visited the local galleries and studios and, of course, took in the world-class museums.  I purchased art supplies and returned to painting like reacquainting with a long lost friend.

One fateful evening, I attended a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in the church of St-Germain-des-Prés.  The tickets were expensive.  On my limited budget, all I could afford was the least expensive of seats.  The church is built in the shape of a cross.   The orchestra was situated on the altar with the choir positioned at the apse above the altar.  My seat was to the right of the altar, somewhat amusingly situated behind the kettledrums. Acoustically, the seat was dreadful but the vantage point incredible.  From where I sat, I literally felt I was one of the musicians.  As the performance proceeded, I realized I was witnessing something quite spectacular.

Most conductors seem to have a predisposition for dramatic flair and this conductor was no exception.  He appeared to completely embody the full emotional weight of the Requiem and pour it out through his animated baton, just as I would imagine Monet or Renoir would serve up their impressions with their brushes.  At one point the conductor appeared so drenched in sweat and physically exhausted, I thought he would be unable to continue.  He stood slouched between movements, wiping his brow.  Then, suddenly as if reinvigorated by the bold challenge of the next movement, he stood erect, gazed intensely with furrowed brow at the choir, and with steely determination whipped his baton into action.  With angelic exuberance, the choir exploded into beautiful song.

I had never seen anyone in such fervent and passionate creative bliss as the conductor at that moment.  Sure I had read about the importance of following your bliss, taking the road less traveled, and all that sort of thing.  Never before, however, had I seen and felt it so dramatically animated in person.  By comparison, I thought about my lack of passion for my livelihood at the time and realized I was desperately missing the boat.  So it was that a conductor forced me to listen to my unrequited love of painting.  I am forever grateful for his powerful impression.

The next day the spine-tingling charge from the previous evening was still stirring my creative juices.  Today, I thought, I have to allow my childlike artist to replace the businessman persona.  I took my easel and paints to the stairs leading up to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur.  All afternoon among the tourists and local Parisians, I strived to absorb the atmosphere surrounding the basilica and recorded my impressions on canvas.
Though the painting was by no means a masterpiece, the day certainly was!  In the early evening, I returned to my apartment.  I opened a bottle of Côtes du Rhône and had a candid conversation with my inner child.  It was then I made the decision to start a career as an artist.

Steve Simon
Painting the Spirit of Beautiful Places