Posted by on May 23rd, 2022  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

For 15 hours of the 30 hour learning curve I could not pedal farther than 3 feet. Some days I’d barely go 10 inches. But after doing it for at least half an hour for two weeks I made some progress. Four days of that two weeks I wasn’t riding. I’d broken our cheap second hand uni and was waiting for a new one to arrive from Unicycle.com. In hour 16 I suddenly started putting a lot of things together.

You can watch all the youtube tutorials you want, and you can fill your mind with do’s and dont’s, but at a certain point you have to turn off all the noise and just pedal. It’s called launching in uni world. It means to leave the fence you’ve been leaning on and head out into the open, pedaling this impossible contraption called a unicycle.

Due to a disease I got in my ear in 1999, I only have one working ear…which of course contains the balance organ. Normal people have two, I’ve only got one. I thought that might impact my riding…but it hasn’t. From 3 feet at hour 15, I progressed over 4 days to 120 feet. I look like I’m really riding. In reality, I’m barely hanging on and have zero steerage. But I’ve learned to not fear the launch. There is safety and grace out there pedaling into the wind. I can stay up just fine. Not every time…but maybe 70 percent of my launches go at least 40 feet now.

Looking back, I’m amazed I stuck with it. I was so bad and so hopeless for so long! It’s really true that you just have to keep trying. I’ve heard people say that your body needs time to get used to the process. You have to strengthen critical muscles. Learning to fall safely and reliably is extremely important. No one wants to break bones. I’ve almost mastered the simple “step off” maneuver…from every possible angle. Forward, backward, to the side, at speed. I’ve done them all soooo many times, it’s automatic. I’ll be pedaling along, feel a crash coming and simply step onto the ground, easy peasy.

I did a big run today across three tennis courts in a row…about 120 feet. Never, ever thought I’d get there. I’m too old to remember how excited I was to learn to ride a bicycle….but it must be comparable. Maybe even better since the uni is much harder. I mean, a bike pretty much rides itself once it’s going. It’s totally stable. A uni must be ridden every inch. I was dripping sweat today after a couple hours of riding.

And just yesterday I nailed my first free start. This means I wasn’t holding onto a wall for balance as I started pedaling. My friends are laughing at me for entering this bizarre sport. I seem to have a knack for picking activities that are completely out there on the fringes of normality. Ping pong, climbing, painting, blues harmonica, inventing, metal working, and now Uni. One wonders what will be next?

Broke my artist block

Posted by on May 3rd, 2022  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Chimney Rock

I’ve been sort of down in the dumps lately. I’ve been cranky around the house…just generally off my feed a bit. I think it might have started back in March when we got shut down by weather at Indian Creek. When I’m not painting (or working) I guess I rely on climbing as a source of…what is the right word…satisfaction? But life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

Anyway, I’ve also been fighting off a bad case of artist block going way back to last fall. I don’t feel at all like painting. Not even a flicker of interest for sketching around the house. Which is weird because I’ve got sketchbooks going back to my teens in 1971 where I’m drawing something every other day. It might just be a sketch of my hand, or a car in a parking lot. Point is, there was something driving me to make art.

And I know it is totally normal for that to come and go. Grandma saw this in me back in 1989. I was driving her home from a family dinner at dad’s house. I had shown the family some recent paintings and I’d also mentioned that I was blocked again…didn’t feel inspired.

She looked at me with those 94 year old eyes and said: “Mark, promise me you’ll never stop painting.”

“Okay”, I said, not really meaning it.

Grandma had an aunt who was a famous painter. She took grandma on a tour through Europe when grandma was a teenager…which would have been 1910?. She is listed in a book entitled American Women Artists of the 19 century. I checked it out once from the local library and there she was. I have one of her paintings, as does my sister.

A few days ago I had to repair a painting a collector had broken. I was really surprised that I was able to get inspired standing on a strangers back deck, painting a mountain that wasn’t there. I didn’t even have a photo, just a few other similar paintings from my “unsold” box. And yet, there I was, living in the moment, happy as a clam. I had my tunes on, she was coming and going but it was just like painting at the mountain. Nothing mattered but the magic flowing from my hands. I was happy. Go figure.

So with that recent history I finally followed through on my promise to Grandma. TBH it was also on my todo list. I brought a few monotone paintings of Josh out to the garage, set up my easel and painted Chimney Rock in full, glowing color. Just stood there and created from thin air. It was so good I was busting some moves to my iPhone playlist. Even more impressive is that I’ve been afraid of using full color in Josh. I could never color rock with oil. Always did it in monotone. Like, twenty in a row. Now that I’ve popped that cherry, I’m going to do one of Rainier. Watch out Grandma, Unky Mark is back.