Because sometimes we need to look back and see all that we’ve accomplished to fuel our future fire.
By Ranch Hand, Becky Bonar
I just got back from a trip to Austin, a city I love. It was where my brother spent all of his adult life, and he had a deep, abiding affection for the city and the hill country around it. He was an artist and photographer who painted and shot Austin and its people and its landscape for some forty-odd years, gaining certainly a substantial local fame and following and some national acclaim. Six of his large landscape canvases hang in the Bergstrom airport there. He passed away nearly two years ago, a profound loss for all of us who knew and loved him, and the purpose of my trip back was the opening of a retrospective show of his work at a local gallery.
Jimmy was an incredibly prolific artist, who was also always changing and challenging himself, and it was so evident in the brilliant and incredibly evolving work on display. The pieces ranged from one of his first photographs taken when he was 14, to prints he finished just weeks before his death.
There were large landscapes and books of photos. A small series of water colors that took our breath away, using a technique for color saturation that he had developed. Photos using his own method of multiple exposure he perfected as a teenager and later as an ace at Photoshop. Paintings of details he photographed from sculptures he admired and nature hikes he took in his travels around Texas. As I walked through the gallery, absorbing all of my brother’s legacy, I wondered, did he ever get to see this? Did he have a true idea of the scope of his own work? I mean, artists store things away and give things to friends and stick works in attics. My sister-in-law is still finding storage spaces and pulling canvases and prints from closets and drawers. And while I think, I hope, he was present somehow in the exhibit halls that night, I wonder if he could see just what an impressive body of work he was leaving to us? Did my brother have a handle on his own retrospective?
Because I have to confess, I give myself one of my own every now and then. And I cannot recommend it highly enough. I sit down, and listen back to certainly not all, but a good sampling of, the spots I’ve produced over the years. Review not just my accomplishments, because we all know we don’t always get the awards for our best efforts, but simply the work. The funky little spots for the smaller clients who let us serve both their advertising needs and our own creative ones. I pat myself on the back for the rhythms I achieved in the spots I wrote. Enjoy that way I elevated the ones written by others. That fun little effect when the astronauts ordered fried chicken in space. The nun getting her pictures back from the drugstore. That wacky public access tv show I created on the radio. Amazing performances from fantastic actors and memories of rollicking times in the studio. An ego boost? Sure. But also a spirit boost, when your creative well feels like it’s finally gone dry, and you hear the critics say you’ve spent your life working in a medium that might itself be spent. Sit down and listen. Learn. Enjoy.
You will bring a renewed vigor and perspective to your next client.
Rest in peace, Jimmy. You left us too soon, but you left us so much.
Retrospective event details here.