Uncle Ian sends me the best birthday cards.
My dad's older brother and only sibling, Ian was my earliest creative role model. Two of his large-scale abstract paintings currently hang on the walls of my Brooklyn apartment. He's a handsome charmer; a doer, a creator, an explorer, and a life-long entrepreneur.
While my parents have lived in the same house for 35 years, Ian has never really had a long-term home-base. He is a modern nomad. He's lived in Iowa, California, Washington, Alabama, India, Costa Rica, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado and New York. During the holidays, he sends thoughtful gifts packaged in amazing handmade gift wrap from wherever in the world he is. The Ratowsky Wrap (complete with drawings, shapes, words, and paint) trumps any roll of fancy Christmas wrapping paper you'd find at Paper Source. In April, I always look forward to Uncle Ian's birthday cards - which have ranged from hand drawn notes on napkins to photos of children in Indian markets holding up signs that say "Happy Lindsay!" If you've ever received a greeting from me written in wet beach sand, it's because of Uncle Ian's influence.
When I was a teenager, my family had two gigantic old wooden Indian doors in our garage in Huntington Beach. Ian found them while living in India and had them shipped to California. He’s always said that he wants to build his entire home around one of those doors one day.
That direction of thought is reflective of his personality. Ian has a vision, an objective -- and then in the most creative way possible, he reverse constructs the scenario to fit that objective. Efficiencies or logistics of the end game don’t necessarily concern him. Instead, the focus is how to enjoy the process in the most unique and beautiful way. To him, everything is about creating a story.
Ian's younger son, Grason, is an artist as well. Years ago, when G was 23, he lived in a groovy Bushwick work/live space that he converted into an art space calledMontrose Gallery. This was pre-GIRLS Bushwick. The one time I visited, I thought the neighborhood was pretty sketchy. He loved it. While living there, Grason discovered he had a mouse problem. So like most people, he planned to set up a few mouse traps around the space. For some reason, he mentioned the issue to Ian, who didn’t understand why Grason would kill the mice. Ian immediately offered a far more romantic and creative (though far less effective) solution to the problem. He suggested Grason buy a two-liter bottle of soda, empty it out, and construct a miniature mouse night club with sexy paper mice and entrancing mouse music playing inside. All the mice would enter the one way door of the mouse night club, then Grason could take the bottle and release them into a place they would be happy. I love Ian because he seriously encourages everyone in his life to think differently. (Grason bought the mouse traps.)
Ian currently lives in New Mexico and has a gallery show called Dual Realitiesopening April 25th. This is his first opening since a father/son exhibition at Montrose Gallery in 2009 called The Last Waltz. The artistic waltz continues.
1. Find what you love - then do those things.
I have a lot of creative friends who are striving to make a living as photographers, writers, and makers. Most of these friends are in their late 20s and early 30s. So, what does a life-long artistic journey look like? Amongst other things, Uncle Ian has been producing art for over 40 years. How do you keep going, even when your work is criticized? What do you do when you're not making enough money to support yourself?
“I had to make art.”
Ian's artistic and personal journey have been one of constant discovery. He has found comfort in creating art since his first youth theater production. My grandmother, a charismatic artist who passed away when my dad and Ian were teens, encouraged him to try acting -- and he nailed his first role as "The Tree." : ) When he is expressing creativity, Ian feels at home.
2. What you create does't have to be perfect.
He said that "painting has always been a safe spot for me. That's when I feel 100% like my authentic self. And making art is one of the few things I can feel. Quite literally, I can feel the brush in my hand against the canvas. I feel it." Art is an expression of self and doesn't have to be anything more than that.
“I keep the flaws in my work. They’re the reality in the paintings. The marks show progression and accumulation. The flaws give them life.”
3. Experiences change you.
Ian told me, "After these coffees, you're going to be different, Linds." I think he's right. For now, I'm not solely focused on the logistics of how I will pay my rent come June. Instead, I'm enjoying this process in the most unique and beautiful way possible.