Becoming An Artist

I didn’t go to art school.

In fact, I didn’t even pick up a paintbrush until I was 30, and already building a career as a computer programmer.

But… it was something I always wanted to try.

As a gift to myself on my 30th birthday, I bought a simple oil painting set, and got busy.

The first painting was terrible.

The second painting was terrible.

The third painting was terrible.

And so on… until at a certain point they started becoming a little less terrible than the ones before. By that point, I was hooked.

For the first few years, I painted mostly landscapes. I painted them outside, on location, regardless of the weather. You have to work fast, because the light changes rapidly. I still think that’s the best way for a painter to hone their ability to see clearly and accurately.


One February morning, I got up about two hours before I had to leave for work. At the time, I lived in downtown Boston, about a block from the Charles River Esplanade – that’s the park where the Boston Pops plays its annual Fourth of July concert.

I wanted to go down to the Esplanade so I could paint the ice-covered river and one of the bridges that crosses it.

“Longfellow Bridge In Winter” Oil on canvas, 18×24 inches / 45×60 cm
“Longfellow Bridge In Winter”
Oil on canvas, 18×24 inches / 45×60 cm

It was cold.

Brutally, bitterly cold.

So cold that the oil paint was freezing onto the palette, and I could hardly move my fingers to control the brushes.

But I kept going…

After about an hour of this, I had a realization of sorts: When pursuing their hobbies, most people don’t subject themselves to this kind of treatment. Painting was much more than just a simple hobby to me.

It was a passion – a meaning.

That understanding changed the way I looked at painting, and I started to become more serious about it. I also began to wonder if it might eventually become a career.

At that point, I sought out formal training. Not for long – about a year – but with an exceptional teacher, and I learned as much as I possibly could.

During that year of study, I began to move my focus from landscape to still life. I was – and still am – fascinated by the range and variety of possibilities that still life offers. Entire worlds can be created – the only limit is the artist’s imagination.

I also began researching some of the traditional, centuries-old techniques that I use to create my paintings.

Several years after that February morning, I left my career in technology and became a full-artist.

I have never looked back.