Mick Elam, artist

Art takes us beyond the restrictions of realism. When this restriction is removed, you enter a very confusing world. I try to remove this confusion by making “beauty” my new defining boundary. There are other interesting boundaries, but for now, “beauty” is it for me.

Beauty is an illusion. And, the real kicker is that everyone’s perception of beauty is different. Also, everyone’s perception changes with time (with life experiences). So, the illusion is allusive.

I know when I see beauty. But, that’s my own perception. What about others? Each person’s perception of beauty is just not the same. Aarg! This makes an interesting and thought provoking conundrum for an artist to deal with. I like to paint what I think is beautiful, but I also want everyone else to see the beauty that I see. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as I want. That’s what makes an artist’s job challenging and really, really interesting. That’s what attracts me to this slippery world which allows me to go beyond the realism boundary.

So, what is the solution to this situation? There is overlap in most people’s perception of beauty. Thank goodness! This overlap is what I strive for. Simply put, my goal is to capture highly overlapping beauty illusion. When successful, I can bring some enjoyment and engagement to a significant number of people. I find that to be very nifty.

I break down art into fundamental tasks:  (1) recognize beauty that many people see, and (2) capture it. Number (2) is putting paint on canvas. This can be difficult but is manageable. Number 1, however, is a slippery beast that consumes a lot of my attention.

I have not always been an artist. Matter of fact, so far, it has consumed of small fraction of my days. I have, however, always been working hard at Task Number 1 by generating vivid and wide ranging life experiences. My first career was serving as an Air Force Fighter Pilot. This adrenalin pumping job was full of risk taking, world touring, interacting with many of the world’s people, and meeting some pretty memorable compatriots and characters. My second career was “Defense Industry Engineer”. Long story, but during this career I was immersed with lots of very high end intellectuals working at solving extremely difficult engineering problems. This rewarding career provided a very orthogonal view of the world as compared to to flying fighters.

My first two careers were totally immersed in realism. I had to stay in the real world in order get things right. As a fighter pilot, if I didn’t keep things right, the chance of not getting the job done (or worse) was a real possibility. This provided lots of motivation to get things right. As an engineer, slipping off into the direction of non-realism happened too often. These slips were called “mistakes” and is what an engineer strives very hard to avoid. I had to stay real.

So, I view my 3rd (and final) career as being pretty darn nifty. Not bounded by realism? Can you really do that? Wow. I don’t know where this is going to take me, but so far, I am enjoying the ride.

-- Mick Elam