Why I Do What I Do

All of my life I have been involved in art in one form or another.

When I was very young that art was very similar to the art I do now as an older man. The art then, and the art now, was, and is, drawings and paintings. The subjects have always been landscapes and people and the family dog or maybe a rendering of a photo I saw in a magazine like a cat, a moonlit night, a naked woman, the lunar surface, etc.

Art was always very natural for me. It came easy.

Maybe because of how easy it seemed to be I didn't place much value on it. But other people did. I have always been asked to do a drawing or a painting of something or someone.

The other art form that is a huge part of who I am is music. I have always loved music. When I was a small child I would listen to my parents' vinyl albums and put a discreetly made mark on the label so I would know which side of a record was my favorite.

I begged my parents for piano lessons when I was a small child. We lived in North Merrick, on Long Island, just outside of New York City. The music school around the corner from where we lived taught guitar and accordion so, because of the piano keyboard of the accordion, I received accordion lessons for several years. 

As I entered my teenage years I taught myself how to play the guitar and found myself attracted to recording artists like the Beatles, Donovan, Elton John, Melanie, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, etc. The fame of the musicians I liked was interesting to my ego but the artist side of what some of them did appealed to the artist in me. 

John Lennon, for example, was a great artist in the truest sense of what an artist is. So were some of my other favorites like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Tony Bennett, and Patti Smith.

In fact, Patti Smith made a statement in an interview with talk-show host Mike Douglas that has stuck with me for many years and applies directly to what I am writing about here.  Mike Douglas pointed out that she was a very talented artist and asked why she wasn't pursuing that talent as much as she was her musical talent. She answered, something to the effect of, "I'm young now and Rock and Roll seems a good fit. I will save the art for when I am older." (Keep in mind that I am paraphrasing her answer. It's been a very long time since I saw that interview.)

Well, and here's the point of all of this, I followed that 'rock-and-roll' dream, too. I didn't become famous at it but I did everything a famous musician did. I wrote songs, I recorded records, I did live shows, I went on tour, I appeared on TV and radio shows, I received royalties, etc. 

Through it all, the art has always been there.

And now, as an older man, it has become the bigger part of me once again, as it was when I was a child.

To the left is the oldest painting of mine that still exists (as far as I know). It is of a cat. I titled it "The Cat" and dated it 9/22/67. I was twelve years old. I remember walking door-to-door in my neighborhood to try to sell it to help my Mom with some bills she was worried about. A neighbor, who also happened to be an artist, came by the house and told me to hold onto the painting because one day I would be glad I did. She was right.

So, there you have it, I do what I do because it is within me to do it. - Larry Whitler

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