Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's A Guy Like You Doing In A Blog Like This?

I started Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man at the beginning of January. It is a yearlong project of self-portraiture and writing to mark my sixty-fifth birthday, which will happen on May 14. This is the year I officially become an old guy and the blog is one means of paying attention to an important milestone in my life. My original concept was that I would document the year by creating a self-portrait once a week and writing a reflection on aging. Now I am one quarter of the way through and it feels like a good time to do some assessment and course correction.

A guy I know, Jeff Elsbecker, sent me an update of what he has been up too over the last year. He is an artist and designer. The document he emailed me was a well put together collection of words and pictures telling about his art, his teaching, and his family. It included a sweet story of taking his son out for his first legal beer on his twenty-first birthday.

In a subsequent email, Jeff wrote me, “I'm always conflicted about sending out my now semi-annual 'journal entry'. It's basically the same as a 'Christmas letter'. The reluctance may be midwestern self-effacement. Maybe it's low self-esteem. Maybe it's a healthy check on being egotistical that I should listen to.

Beyond whether I should do it, I have a continuing curiosity as to why I do it. The urge to blog … hmmm . . . where do you think that comes from? Why do you? “

I wrote back to Jeff as follows:

I decided to do the blog for a few reasons:

1. I wanted to pay really close attention to this year in my life. I think of turning sixty-five as a big deal. Like your son’s transition to manhood at 21 that you wanted to pay attention to. This year is my transition to being officially old. Oldguyhood?
2. For quite a while the idea of doing a series of self-portraits as a way of documenting a year had been floating around in my head. I tried it once before. Actually, I tried to do one a day for a year, but I ran out of steam around #30. One a week seems more manageable
3. I love to write and this gives me a discipline that keeps me at it.
4. I thought other people would find it interesting and maybe get something to think about out of it.

So how has it been going?

For me, great! I love doing this blog.

Coming up with a self-portrait a week is a challenge. I’ve been fudging it by using old ones and portraits that other people have done of me. I may bend the rules even further and say that since any artwork is a self-portrait on some level, this painting of roosters counts. (I gave one of my rooster paintings to a friend for his birthday and wrote on the back, “Old Roosters: Too tough for stew, but still able to cock-a-doodle-doo.”)

I am very gratified and stimulated by the comments that people share with me. For example Jeff wrote:
"I wanted to comment when I read your first entry, way back, but didn't explore how to sign up and then just kept forgetting to check in.
In particular I was thinking about Miss America. As a kid she was the icon that we males were to desire. And it wasn't an egregious duty, at least for me. The point where I jerked the end of my leash was when I realized if I pursued her now I'd be a pedophile."

This is a good point for you to share your assessment of Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man. I’d love to hear comments, suggestions, questions, and/or criticism.


  1. John, I love the blog, especially the romantic memories. I'm glad you love the blog too. I think it's simply amazing that someone can share so many rich memories, thoughts and pictures so succinctly. I really liked the comment about preferring that Dr. Maguire played by Richard Jenkins, not Tom Hanks.

  2. Nice blog & good artwork. You have beautifully maintained, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!