An Artist’s Journey
Todd Saal, Nashville, TN
January 20, 2017
Recently after years of traveling and living in New York my wife and I relocated to Nashville, TN. During the hectic transition my wife and I decided it was probably time for me to make another career change. Reinventing myself every few years seems to be the norm for me. I started working by creating art and music. Struggling like many young people do, consistent income and other responsibilities soon took priority. It was the easiest excuse really. 2 careers later I met a computer programmer/consultant working for my wife at the time who was also a musician. We soon became friends. He ultimately mentored me in making yet another career change to what he was doing for a living. I learned so many things during this period but the most important things I learned were the ability to focus and to have an entrepreneur’s mindset. Even when taking full time jobs. I am forever in his debt. What came out of this experience is that I do extremely well by observing situations, learning about them, and then creating new solutions.
Spring skies in Middle Tennessee
Photograph taken from my studio in Nashville
After many years though, it started to become very repetitive. Even with the constant change. Yes, the situations and circumstances were different but the process was still the same. Technology hadn’t changed; only how it’s applied. I became bored. Without realizing it, I lost sight of what excited me about it all. I started to phone it in as the old cliché goes. I became stressed and generally just unhappy. I needed something to reenergize me. So I took up art and music again as these were the things that never really felt like work, even though they were far more repetitive in their execution. In the process of learning the techniques again I realized that I was applying the same principles that I’d developed to manage and mentor the many groups I was responsible for. It also facilitated ways for me to discuss the parallels between my technology, operations, and creative groups. The tools each of these areas used to create were just different. It was interesting to realize that I was giving advice on the creative process and how to execute things more efficiently to others. Even as I was trying to figure things out myself. This just came naturally. Everyone should teach what they learn. You start to understand the craft at a much deeper level. This has been what I’ve done my whole life. I had come to terms with the fact that I’ve always been an artist.
“This brought me back to experience the same great feelings I did as a kid. No judgement, just pure creativity.”
I felt I finally had the best of both worlds. I started to focus a great deal on my creative side. This brought me back to experience the same great feelings I did as a kid. No judgement, just pure creativity. Only this time I had a lot more life experience to draw from as I created. Soon work became just that again – work. I was a lot happier though as I explored the rudiments of art and music again.
Guitars and Art, what’s not to like.
Most of the art that resonates with me is created by artists using watercolor. I’m drawn to the uniquness of the medium as the different pigments and water merge together unlike other mediums. I attempted watercolor when I was younger but failed to grasp the technique in the same fashion as I did with other mediums. Too many things to think about. You also have to almost think in reverse. Light to dark instead of dark to light, reserving negative space vs layering positive shapes. Determined to overcome this prior inability I put in many hours of reading, watching others and then painting. So much for relieving stress, right? You see, for me, watercolor is a medium that you never really have complete control over. To a certain extent you need to let the medium dictate the outcome. Starting to understand and more importantly, accept this, allowed me for the first time to not be in complete control.
I now carry a palette and a sketchbook everywhere I travel. I sketch all the time. People at airports, at hotels and scenes of whichever city I am in. Even the local coffee shop. I spend a lot of time people watching. It has become my time to just be, observe my surroundings and think. I also love the portability of watercolor as it allows me to capture the feeling of those different people and places. Each tells its own story. I enjoy the journey. Mistakes and all.
Todd Saal is an American artist and musician currently residing in Nashville TN.
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