Friday, January 31, 2014

Recognizing the Artist Within

NOTE: The following is an Op-Ed that appeared in the Ventura County Star in 2010 as part of the ArtsLive Initiative.  My father-in-law recently wrote an article about my wife's grandmother, an artist, poet, cake designer and a regal Southern lady.  It made me think about her influence on me and the world and so I share this again.

Recognizing the Artist Within
I have been involved with creative endeavors for all of my life but I never really ever thought of myself as an artist or creative person, mainly because my creativity was part of what I did to make a living.  I wrote, produced and directed while working for an advertising agency.  I also wrote screenplays, newspaper columns, speeches, you name it, but it was just something that I did because it came easily to me.  It wasn’t until I met my wife back in 1999 and she introduced me to her grandmother, Gertrude Smith, an eighty-something visual artist from a small town deep in the middle of Mississippi. Gertrude was the epitome of Southern belle charm who had spent her life in the rural country-side raising four kids, working hard and being the dutiful wife who catered to all her husband’s needs.  But she had begun a life-long love of visual art as a young girl when her grandmother bribed her to milk the cows with a box of crayons.  Being resourceful, she took those crayons to school and sold them to friends and earned enough to buy two boxes. She then drew on anything she could get her hands on and never stopped.

Her artistry had to be suspended since Southern girls in the 30’s weren’t able to seek careers in the arts or careers in anything, for that matter – they married a handsome boy in town and followed him on HIS journey.  Working in factories on both coasts during World War II Gertrude did get a taste of the world outside Mississippi but returned with her husband Percy to start a simple life back in their hometown of Collins.  She never abandoned her artistry totally and to this day remnants still remain from her younger days.  She was never trained.  It was just inside her to replicate what she saw and felt onto paper, canvas, mason board or anything that she could find around the house. As a devout Christian she always insisted it was God’s work but as we all know God works in mysterious ways and you could see in her abstract paintings and collages that her art was the means to which she could express her independence, her true self that was hidden to everyone else, perhaps even to her.  God may have given her the tools, but it was obvious she was the creator.

It wasn’t until the kids all left home and her husband loosened the reins that she became more serious with her art and began spending more time painting.  Percy even converted their cow barn into an artist studio for her.  She began attending art colonies and selling her work, but it was local and mostly to friends and neighbors.  My wife had always wanted to spend the time to help promote and market Gertrude’s work.  When I came along, being another kindred artist, it became a reality and we took on the challenge of inventorying and photographing her works (over a 1,000 filled her studio).  We created marketing materials, formed an LLC, got articles in Southern Living and other publications, got her on TV, flew a gallery owner from New York to evaluate and offer advice.  She received honors and art shows and she and her art were beginning to gain a reputation around the country – all in her eighties.  By helping Gertrude blossom as an artist so late in life, especially after her artistry was stifled for such a long time, I became more introspective about my own creativity and realized that I was an artist, as well, and that I had not allowed myself to “blossom” as I should have if I had known that it was possible.  Sometimes when a talent or skill is so innate or natural its importance goes unnoticed by the very person who possesses it.  Gertrude passed on a few years ago but her art lives on – I look at it every day as a reminder that I not only need to realize that the arts are a part of me but that I need to let people help me gain deserved recognition. This help comes from all of you who can help promote the artists in our communities.  Through patronizing galleries and attending performances or simply by just appreciating the artists that reside here in Ventura County you can spread the word on how they all enrich our lives.  Gertrude never forgot the smell of those first crayons she received from her grandmother.  I’ll never forget the first book I wrote in second grade.  For Gertrude and myself, art doesn’t imitate anything, life is art and hopefully, with a little help, we can give others the same thrill we get when creating our art as when it is experienced.
March Wind
Blue Bayou

Rich Burlingham - Writer/Filmmaker and Actor.  He resides in Moorpark, CA with his wife and two children and is working on a documentary called Brain Games: The Amazing Story of Academic Decathlon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Women Can Rule the World Without Being On Top

I was listening to NPR’s On Point the other day and the topic was why there were not more women running Fortune 500 companies. They had on an expert who had just written a book, of course, with her theories and explanations.  Many people called in with various comments, theories and suggestions but nobody had the simple revelation that men and women simply think and do things differently.  It doesn’t mean that either is right or wrong or better or worse.  Just think in your own lives – those you know of the opposite gender.  You can come up with a multitude of examples of how they did something in a way that just astounds you - which you can’t comprehend.  John Gray was right with the whole Venus-Mars thing.  I racked my brain and came up with one reason why 95% of men occupy the top spots in companies.  Men have an innate need to be on top.  I’m not sure if this has a genetic or evolutionary component to it, but they like to be above everyone else in order to feel successful and fulfilled. 

Women, generally don’t have that strong need to be number one, but they have a stronger need to feel desired.  I don’t just mean in a sexual manner but a need for the people around them to think they are needed, respected, and wanted.  On the other hand, a man doesn’t necessarily need compliments to feel superior.  He needs to show off his prowess and in business this is done either through sports, such as golf or through normal business life, such as besting a co-worker in front of a boss.

Imagine a split picture - on the one side a giant mountain of people with one man standing on top in triumph, while on the other side is a woman surrounded by a group of people telling her she’s smart, looks great, is a terrific mother, wife, boss, colleague, human being, etc.  It’s not that men don’t crave the same desire for validation or that women don’t have an aggressive drive to be the top dog but their core modus operandi are different.  And that’s okay.

The other issue is that men and women manage people differently.  Women have had to bow to the way men do things in order to get ahead.  Now that women make up 50% of middle management positions female leaders can now manage their own way, but they have to figure out a means to convince or train the men under them to go along.  And since men aren’t as savvy when it comes to changing behaviors and attitudes or how they do things, it will be difficult for women to take the reins of business.  Once women figure that out I believe there will be far more women running corporate America.  Women are as cutthroat as men but they are also more collaborative and work better in groups.  Men tend to work more alone and manage with a more aggressive style.  And just as a bunch of men trying to get on top can be ugly, a gaggle of women all trying to be the one that is more desired than all the others can be just as or even uglier.  Men come out physically bloody.  Women come out emotionally bludgeoned. 

I think it’s just a matter of time that the majority of companies will be run by women.  All businesses will have daycare or child care as part of their systems of management so kids are near where their parents work so women can have it all.  More husbands will be primary childcare givers but work itself will be done more organically – 9-5 work days/5 days a week will be gone.  People will work a few hours here and few hours there that fit in with their overall lives.  Of course, there will still be workaholics but that’s an issue for another time.

Thursday, January 23, 2014



It's been a long time since I've updated this site.  A lot has happened in six years.  I continued my path to becoming a teacher, which had a lot...and I mean a lot...of twists and turns.  I finally gained my single subject social science teaching credential in 2018 and soon after my CTE credential in Arts, Media, and Entertainment.  Unfortunately, the job market was tight and I have yet to find a full time teaching position.  In the meantime I tutor with C3 Education part time and I was driving for Lyft until the pandemic hit.  This summer's teaching job search came up empty with only a few interviews.  So it's back to also searching for jobs from my past work as a writer, director, producer, editor, actor.  We shall see what happens but as it may, I will try to contribute to this blog more often and hopefully someone out there will read it.  Please, if you do, let me know and comment so I know there are actual eyeballs on this material.  See you in the funny pages.