Michael Willard, writer, painter, columnist, entrepreneur
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On Being a Painter

"It's never too late to be who you might have been."
- George Elliott.

I was 49 and living on my boat on the Potomac River when I decided to take up painting in a form other than slapping latex on the side of a house. It was more than a whim. I think it had something to do with thoughts of creeping mortality. 

Was there a creative gene bouncing around inside of me like one of those silver balls in a pinball machine, waiting through skill or luck to light up the board? Was this desire to paint a primeval call or just age knocking on the door?

That was about 425 canvasses ago, not to mention hundreds of sketches and a pastel tossed in on occasion when canvas wasn't readily available.

I had been a reporter for daily newspapers starting at age 19. I had been a bureau chief and editor of a major news wire service. I had worked on Capitol Hill in Washington as a chief aide to the U.S. Senate leader.

I had owned - and had just sold - an advertising and public relations business. I later was to buy another in Ukraine. But back then, I was working as an executive with a worldwide public relations firm. Other than the enjoyment I obtained from living aboard the Kelly Dawn, I was very bored.

A friend who lived on the houseboat moored next to my boat greeted my first efforts at drawing with the suggestion that his pre-school children could do much better. I was not deterred.

My first pastel painting was of an old man with a cane.  My mother, who had fairly good eyesight, asked: "What is it? A dog smoking a pipe?" I knew then that I had a long way to go.

That was about 13 years ago. Since then, I have painted most every Sunday, feeling rather sad when I occasionally missed an opportunity. To me, the mixture of oil paint and linseed oil is the stuff of perfume.

Over the years, I have never been comfortable calling myself an artist. Painter will do.
But if you happen to wander through my work and see "a dog smoking a pipe," I can only say, sir, madam, that it was not meant to be.