Category Archives: The Creative Life

Military Memorials

Gold Star Moms

I received a couple of emails this morning from two Gold Star Mothers. They both watched their sons leave for the war in the desert; both bold and ready and strong. And then … an awful day … he’s not coming home. His presence now is in proud pictures, precious memories, and a folded flag.

They asked about a sculpture to help honor their sons. How am I qualified to step into that place… with them? I’m not. But I will do my best.

Military images should be easy; soldiers, guns, drama. The easy stuff can be found on the walls of tattoo parlors; crazed warriors, muscles bulging, guns blazing, piles of skulls, smoke and fire…

But how do you sculpt honor and dignity and sacrifice? I’m trying to learn. I know that when a mom holds one of my sculptures in her hands and it is supposed to tell her story and her son’s story, I feel the weight of that moment. So, when I’m alone in my studio, shaping the clay in front of me, all those families and fallen soldiers are looking over my shoulder … whispering … so I get the story right.


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Listen to your heart

Sitting at my computer this morning rather than driving to my studio where the room is cluttered and the list is long. Remembering when I worked at a job that was sucking the life out of me while my soul dreamed of a day like today. In those times, when I thought my creativity was stifled because I was working at what I didn’t love, I dreamed of a day like today; work waiting on my bench and clients waiting for the result. However, I can say, looking back on those days, my creative energy was on fire. I dreamed ideas…new ways to say things…storied shapes speaking clearly…imagining my vision becoming reality and someone actually would care.

It all felt so alive and vibrant. And now I have work that isn’t drudgery. And I have the opportunity I hoped for. But I have to say that I miss those days when it felt like every nerve was on alert and my creative fire burned white hot.

So, if you find yourself conflicted between what you do to feed your family and what your heart longs for, embrace that conflict and the passion it reveals because in it you have been given the gift of seeing and knowing what is in your heart…. while many never know.


Posted by on March 7, 2012 in The Creative Life


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Science and Art

The choice between science and art is not really a choice between opposites. Rather, I think they are twins that we separate at birth. Both seek truth. Both seek wholeness. Both seek to understand life and shed light on that understanding so others will see what we have discovered. And both are always seeking whatever is over the horizon. In those moments of discovery, it’s as if God whispers, “Pretty cool, huh? Wait and see what I have for you next.” Science and Art may come from different parts of our brain , but they both come from the same place in our heart.

” A work of art is good in itself. What is good in itself glorifies God because it reflects God.”
Flannery O’Connor


Posted by on February 20, 2012 in The Creative Life


Skill vs Purpose

The execution of my craft and the level of my skill, is not the end purpose of the art but it is the means through which the idea is delivered. If my idea is flawed, excellence in my craft won’t matter because it’s just a bad idea. If the excellence of my craft is bad, the meaning can be lost because sloppy skills can detract from the message. This is true for me.

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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in The Creative Life


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 “He who sells himself to style, turns his statues into bad literature.”  Auguste Rodin

I had a meeting in Aspen yesterday with a client about portraits of him and his wife. Afterward, Hermine and I walked around and enjoyed the art and atmosphere of a town designed for people who are way above my tax bracket. What great art.

I am reminded of the trap of “imitation”. Many times a style becomes successful and everyone starts doing it. Looking at things that I find terrific lures me into that thinking. Especially when I see art that is at a level I want to reach. Learning from how other artists use color and texture and space is what we all should do. But beware of imitation… find your own voice but use the great techniques that can be learned from other artists to be original.

"Harvest prayer" sculpture at Mid America Nazarene University. Photo by Cliff Henderson

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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in The Creative Life


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Structure and Discipline

I prefer lack of structure… let’s me get away with a lot. But, when I have a deadline, I have to get creative whether I feel like it or not. I acknowledge that as just the price of being professional in how I approach the work. I don’t always like it, but that’s the price. Yeah…structure stinks, but it is also what pays my bills and gets the next job.

When I am working, I am focused on communicating with the observer, whether that is the end client, a gallery visitor or the people simply passing by one of my pieces. So the very process of thinking about that person who will see my work…. and I won’t be there to explain anything…. requires that I become a storyteller and my sculpture is the narrative that people will “hear” and the story must stand on it’s own merit.

That process exercises my communicator muscles because I’m focused on meaning, symbolism, purpose…. the “heart” of a piece.


Posted by on February 16, 2012 in The Creative Life