The following is a speech I presented in May 2003 to the Topics II Book Club - a group of teachers and educators associated with St. Mark's School in Dallas. My purpose was to talk about art and artists in general, and painting in particular. From an artists point of view I also hoped to bring encouraging words to those wishing to develop their creativity. It's a privilege to be invited to speak to you this afternoon. As I look out over this audience I see highly educated, well-dressed, sophisticated people and I feel like I'm out of my element. Artists after all are perceived to be moody, unconventional, eccentric, weird, unpredictable, irresponsible, undependable, undisciplined, drugged, either a loner or a communer, illogical, disorganized, definitely a leftist, and probably poor, but not really concerned about it. If you see anyone like this, I advise you to turn the other way and run as fast as you can. You know, these perceptions saved me a traffic ticket one evening. Those were the days when I had a studio in the Turtle Creek area. One night after a long, hard day at the "office", I was in a hurry to get home and see my wife and just zipping along in my little car when I noticed those awful red lights in my rear view mirror. The police officer, I could see, already had his pad out before he got to my car. "Do you realize how fast you were going?", he asked, as he began filling out that unwanted ticket. "No Sir", I said, "I had my mind on other things and wasn't aware of my speed. I'm hurrying home to see my wife." Then, for some reason, he asked what I did for a living. "I'm an artist", I said. At that he threw up his arms and exclaimed, "Oh, that explains it! My brother-in-law is an artist and you're all eccentric." At that, he put the pad back in his pocket and bid me a good day as I slowly continued on my way, grateful for being an artist. These perceptions that others have of us artists have contributed to creating an atmosphere in which just about anything is called ART. So we wonder, what makes something art and what gualifies one to be called an artist? I've compiled a list of the art movements occuring within just the last 100 years or so and I don't even know what some of these are and I'm sure I have not listed all of them - but here goes...Realism, impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism, expressionism, naturalism, neo-impressionism, minimalism, futurism, primitivism, surrealism, cubism, abstract-expressionism, dadaism, mannerism, romanticism, conceptualism, symbolism, regionalism, modernism, post-modernism and neo-classicism. Are all these "ISMS" art, just because they're new and different and some critic declares them so? Is it original? That's the primary concern of many art critics and art show jurors. That means, is it different (cutting edge). And that usually involves pushing back the spiritual boundaries of our culture resulting in the vulgar, obscene, crude, blasphemous, brash, offensive, demeaning, immoral, loud, abusive, shocking, embarrassing, AND the untalented...all for "recognition." The art critic and museum director appears and tells the so called 'ignorant masses' that this NEW ART is good, chic, modern, original and revolutionary...and if you're "with it", you will embrace it. That reminds me of one of my favorite art stories. An art collector entered a big-name New York art gallery and was immediately blown away when his eyes fell upon a massive, totally white canvas with a small black dot right in the center. Standing in awe before the canvas for sometime, the collector's amazement was interrupted when the gallery owner mentioned that this artist was their biggest seller. "Oh, the painting is unbelievable, it's so strong, thought provoking and passionate", said the collector. "I must have it. How much is it?" "Three-hundred thousand", said the gallery director. "Send it to my home immediately", said the collector. "I just couldn't bear the thought of being without it. I can't wait to put it up so I can just sit in front of it and soak it all in and if the artist ever does something similar, I want to be the first to know." Well, the big-time gallery owner let it be known that these kind of paintings take a lot of time, thought, and life experience. The artist can't just whip them out. Well, about eighteen months later a new painting arrived at the gallery and the collector was called. The new painting was again massive...a totally white canvas with two small black dots right in the center. This time however, the collector just didn't experience that same burst of excitment as he did with the first painting. "What do you think?", the gallery owner excitedly asked. "Oh, it's OK", said the collector, "but I just don't care for it as much as the one I already own. This one's just too busy." The artist who can't draw, might say the work is not about drawing because that's outmoded. It's about self-expression, the concept, the color, texture or shapes. What becomes really important is the process of painting, just being creative - the result is really not that important...and that too is called ART.