Sunday, October 28, 2018

You Are

Just as in my paintings, I have certain recurring themes in my writing. It’s not because I’ve run out of things to say. It’s because there are certain things that are so important to me that I want to express them again. And again. On a new day. With different words.

Roses keep smelling like roses, and no one rolls their eyes and says they’re repeating themselves.

I am so grateful and so humbled by the support that has come to me from my community.

The words people say to me boggle my mind. When I am riddled with self doubt, people tell me I am an inspiration. When I think I am boring people, they say I am articulate. When I feel like I am crazy, I am told that I am filled with so much love.

I am filled with so much love.

So much love that it hurts sometimes.

To those who have contributed to my GoFundMe campaign, to those who bid so generously on my paintings to support the expansion of my family, to the anonymous person who set up a recurring deposit into my bank account, to those who have voiced their support through Facebook comments, and those who give me hugs when they see me around town... I can not find the words to adequately express my thanks.

If you think I am performing some noble feat to help someone in need, YOU ARE.

You sacrifice to help make my dream a reality.

I just had the best weekend I have had in over 22 years.

Everywhere we went, we were met with such warmth and attention. Here’s that word again... such love.

I saw this town and the world through a new set of eyes.

Thank you.

I love you.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Art Talk/Silent Auction

Once again, I am humbled by the love and support from this wonderful community. Thank you to everyone who came out to the Higher Ed classroom last night, and to those who were unable to attend. Thank you to for the beautiful photographs, and all your help carrying stuff and setting it up. I feel very blessed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

kaikki on lelu (everything is a toy) 12" x 36"

At the beginning of July, I adopted a kitten. I was not looking for a kitten. I already had a beautiful cat. But I saw a picture of him and could not resist. So Poika joined Lempi and me, and has brought a lot of energy into our home.

He plays all the time, and everything is a toy to him.

Lempi hid for the first week or two, but now I think she’d agree with me that we’re glad he’s here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Novelty with a purpose

rantakiviä (beach stones)

These new paintings are a departure for me in many ways. They are smaller, and they are painted on illustration board. I’m using more knives and scrapers to apply the paint, building up the surface in a way that I haven’t in the past. This impasto is something I have admired for a long time in other artists’ work. So I’m using fewer brushes, and less water.

The frames are from second hand stores. After art school, I stopped painting on paper because I wanted to avoid the expense of framing.

yksi punainen lehti (one red leaf)

Expensive art supplies don’t make me a better artist. If anything, they make me more cautious, and that is not a good thing. What I love about the act of painting, is the sense of fun or exploration. I don’t feel free to experiment with expensive paint. I don’t want to dirty an expensive brush.

I buy the absolute cheapest paint scrapers and spackling knives... the kind at the hardware store, in the three-pack, with plastic handles.

I remember applying paint with bits of cut up or torn cardboard when I was in art school.

What I’m doing is not new, but new to me.

I heard a podcast this week that said, Creativity is the only way human progress happens.

It went on to say that creativity is Novelty with a purpose. Expectation, fulfilled in a way we haven’t seen before.

I have to strike a balance between Regulatory and comfort vs. surprise and novelty.

I’ve eluded to this previously in my blog. I want my art to be familiar enough to be accessible and yet innovative enough to be interesting. This refers to the physical application of paint to a surface, but it applies to the intellectual content as well. I want to express something in colors and shades, lines and shapes, that expresses my impression or emotion, so that you can look at it and say

Yes. I have felt that way, too.

The words I write here can inform or surprise you, but only because they are familiar enough to be understood. If I made up my own unique language, it would be useless in conveying a message.

koivikko (birch grove)


My Grandparents, Alfred and Lempi (Wiano) Young

Over the past year or so, I have been tapping into my Finnish heritage by looking at a lot of abstract art by Finlanders. They have influenced the paintings I've been producing. Here is a little collection of the type of Finnish work that has inspired me and/or caught my interest. I don't have to try to paint like a Finn. Finnish blood runs through my veins.

EVENT this Friday!

Here we go!

I met with a wonderful group of beautiful transgender people yesterday. I was kind of the odd man out, since I identify as the gender that I was assigned at birth.

Everyone is different. Every single person. No two people are alike. Each one of my new friends, and every one of us expresses our unique humanity, and completes the portrait of the human race.

Society wants to tell us who and what we should be. I don’t believe anyone should be anything. Just be you. You are enough exactly as you are.

Your anxiety lies to you.

Sometimes the mirror lies to you. We are our own harshest critic. We question everything good about ourselves, while being kind and generous to our friends and loved ones.

There is nothing wrong with you.

These are exhausting days for me. I don’t get enough sleep. But my days and nights are sprinkled with beauty.

Things are changing. I might get more rest in the near future, or I might be even more tired.

Either way, hang on tight. Here we go!

Friday, October 19, 2018

EVENT: One week from tonight!

pitkä ajaa kotiin (long drive home)


käteni maalataan

Artist's Talk and Silent Auction

Friday, October 26 in the big classroom at Cook County Higher Education in Grand Marais.

Please join me at the Higher Ed building between 6 and 10 pm. I’ll give a talk at 7 pm about my art and my philosophy, followed by a Q&A.

A collection of my new paintings will be available in a silent auction ending at 9:30. Bidding will start at just $10.

Come by for a hug and a glass of wine, and I will do my best to entertain, inform and inspire you.

I don't labor over paintings. I breathe in and out. I ponder things, places and people. While my brain is doing this, my hand paints.
To paint like this takes some confidence. I think people expect to see a representational form in a painting, be that a landscape, an object or a portrait.

That expectation is what, for me, has made abstract painting difficult. Especially when I was in my 20’s and going to art school.

To express a feeling or thought without spelling it out for the viewer can be challenging.

In my painting “long drive home”, I tried to capture the feeling of coming up the highway from Duluth after a day of shopping. The sun sets behind the trees, and blue shadows fill in the rock faces along the roadside.

The weariness of the drive makes arriving at home that much sweeter.

Saturday, October 13, 2018



I believe that every person has the ability to be creative. Not everyone has the confidence or the drive to act on that creativity, and creativity manifests itself in many different ways... through many different mediums and disciplines. It is not exclusive, and it’s is not a competition. Since we all have a unique viewpoint or perspective, we all have the ability to teach and inspire each other.

Your strength may lie in my area of weakness or limitation, so we are puzzle pieces that come together to form humanity, complementing each other. What is a challenge to you should not be a source of embarrassment.

I think I found my creative niche because of my weak areas. As a child, I was not able to find success through academics. This was a problem, because the main thing I was judged on was schoolwork. Art was fun for me. It was easy. It was easily dismissed. Even when crowds of kids gathered around me to watch me draw, I did not consider it special. It was not important.

While I believe that we are all innately creative, I think a lot of people valued other things more.

We get good at what we practice. And I think it’s true that if we don’t use it, we lose it.

But what is lost can be found again.

I don’t think it is ever too late to learn a new skill. We can tap into a dormant ability. It might take more effort, or more thought, but I firmly believe that it can be done.

I learned English very easily as a toddler. Learning Spanish as an adult is very difficult.

Everything I have experienced influences my art. Some things are more obvious than others. The challenges I am aware of are are often the main subject of my paintings. The unnamed, forgotten or repressed challenges are just as much a part of me. Just as real, though they may not wear a label to identify them.

Artists and art teachers have certainly influenced me. They have worked out many things for me, and I benefit from all the art that all humans have made throughout our history. Even the art I have never seen. Artists have been influenced by each other, and pass that influence on to the next generation. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

I have always wanted to make art. I haven’t always wanted to show it to anyone else.

Spirituality and culture are at the very core of creativity. We have the unique ability to express our feelings and emotions like no other earthlings can. Visually, through the written word, dance or theater to name a few. Culture is our context.

Education is important, because it gives a framework to learning. Learning is a lifelong endeavor. An education doesn’t make you creative, but it supports creativity.


Red Rocks, Grand Marais. 16" x 17"

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why flounders?

Why flounders?, you may ask.

They’re not a Lake Superior fish, but how could you not like a flounder? They are beautiful. Adorable. Or grotesque.

They’re always on the bottom, always looking up.

I started painting them because I felt like I was floundering. Not the kind of floundering where I felt lost or hopeless, but more like I had taken way too big a bite of something so delicious that I couldn’t help myself. My mouth was so full of this wonderful food that I questioned whether I could actually chew and swallow it.

That doesn’t sound like floundering anymore.

Ok. I was feeling frustrated about a painting. That doesn’t usually make me flounder, because I can just paint over it. But I was painting in public. People were watching. They wanted to see what I was doing. I was painting trees. As you may be aware, I am known for painting fish in trees.

When I mentioned floundering, I put the two together and put flounders in the branches.

Then I eventually obliterated the whole thing.

It was fine. It was valuable to me.

I sold the canvas and came away with flounders... the binturoung of the fish world. I haven’t mentioned them here before, but I love them. For as long as I can remember, if you asked me what my favorite animal is, I’d say binturoung.

Binturoungs to me, are like sloths are to my daughter.

I’m not sure why I associate them with flounders, but I do.

Maybe the color. Something about their facial expression. I don’t need to justify this.

Binturoungs smell like popcorn.

So why flounders? Just for the halibut.




Friday, October 26 in the big classroom at Cook County Higher Education in Grand Marais.

Please join me at the Higher Ed building between 6 and 10 pm. I’ll give a talk at 7 pm about my art and my philosophy, followed by a Q&A.

A collection of my new paintings will be available in a silent auction ending at 9:30. Bidding will start at just $10. I am raising funds for expenses associated with my adoption of a group of siblings.

Come by for a hug and a glass of wine, and I will do my best to entertain, inform and inspire you.

While I hope people like my paintings, I really want to be remembered for being generous, open, and for helping you see, accept, express and love your own soul.

- from my blog,

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Big Brush

It’s ok to flounder. We try a lot of things that don’t work for us, but just by trying, we learn. Mistakes are an opportunity to improve.

Having a big new idea is a wonderful thing. But it’s just the beginning. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to bring that idea to life.

When I have an idea for a painting, I am often unhappy with what initially comes out. If I’m too rigid with that original concept, then it’s very difficult to improve. On the other hand, if I look at my attempt with an open mind, and am willing to change course, then the piece can take on a life of its own. It can become fun for me to work on, and fun for a viewer to see.

It can become my next big thing.

The idea is like a seed. The seed looks very different from the plant that grows from it!

When I say floundering, I’m talking about the feeling of frustration that comes from my expectations not being met. So once again, I think the expectation is the culprit.

Sometimes I think a picture is unsalvageable. It looks messy. Muddy. I work and work at details, and it ends up looking worse and worse. When I have nothing left to lose, I grab a big brush, and any color at all. Or black. Or white. Or I mix every paint color on my palate. I obliterate that frustration in large, confident strokes. Sometimes this brings the painting to life in a way that surprises me. Even if it doesn’t, I’ve gotten rid of the problem and have a blank slate. A quick, solid background around the subject is often all it needs to set it apart.

This is what I do when I paint. It applies to life, too.

If I feel frustrated about a situation, I try to fix it. I monkey with the details, and remain discouraged. Sometimes sweeping changes are called for. So I reach for life’s big paintbrush, and load it with paint.

I have the power to change things when I need to. Whether it is a bad relationship, a toxic work environment, boredom, loneliness...

We invest a lot of time and resources into those details that aren’t working, so it can be scary to bring them to an end. But when I am ready, I can take that big brush or paint roller, and start over! Not from scratch, but adding the latest lesson to everything that has come before.

Please. Be kind to yourself if you find yourself in the doldrums, or overwhelmed by too much stuff surrounding you.

I have done this before. I found myself in a situation where my finances were not sustainable. My credentials were not adequate.

I took the biggest brush in my paintbox and went back to school. At age 50, I set out on a new career path, and it made all the difference in the painting of my life.

Monday, October 08, 2018

syksyn lehdet lumessa

Autumn Leaves On Snow


When Fall Turns To Winter

A lot of my friends love fall. I love summer. All winter, I long for the warm days when I can sit with my friends around a bonfire in my yard. Fall tells me that winter is coming. We usually get snow around Halloween, but this year it came earlier. I accept that. I can't change it. Fall is pretty, but it is so short, and it tells me what is coming. Months of longing for summer again!

I recently painted watercolor leaves with Trish Hunter. Then my friend Vickie showed me pictures of the snow at her house. Red and orange leaves hung over a carpet of white, and it was beautiful. I love seeing autumn leaves on the snow. It's a transition.

The cycle of the seasons reminds me that my whole life is in transition. I'm excited about the changes taking place, and looking forward to seeing the changes in real life!

kun lunta tulee aikaisin

When Snow Comes Early

Early Snow

Saturday, October 06, 2018


For whatever harm I have caused others,
may they forgive me.

For whatever harm others have caused me,
may I forgive them.

For whatever harm I have caused myself,
I forgive myself.

Just imagine what it would be like if we forgave ourselves as readily as we forgive others. It’s easy for me to cut other people slack and encourage them when they are feeling down on themselves, and yet I am hard on myself. I hold myself to a higher standard of expectation than I would ever impose on another person. Especially someone I care about.

What if. What if I could advocate for myself as unashamedly as I can for my loved ones?

I’m proud of you for trying. It’s easy to say to someone else, and really, really hard to say to myself.

Friday, October 05, 2018

There’s no place like home

One year ago, I passed through a black hole. I feel like getting through this month will help me put it all behind me. It was a dead zone in so many ways. No internet. No house insurance. No friends. No art.

I could not find my way around that city.

It feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone (or as Maddee said when she was little, “Toilet Zone”). Because when I thought I had lost everything, I got to the other side... woke up one day back in my own life mumbling “There’s no place like home.”

It was a wake up call, for sure.

I’ve said this before, but it is amazing how much difference a year can make.

I might flounder from time to time in the little details each day brings, but now I know. I know where I belong. I don’t flounder in the big stuff. I have a new confidence. A new voice. Contentment.

I often think back to a question my mother-in-love asked me one day many years ago.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Think about that.

What would you do
if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Whatever it is, do that.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


I recently wrote about the fact that I am friends with my kids. As long as I am alive, and able to help them, they will have a lifeline in this world. A place to go with no judgement, no conditions. If they ever need me to care for their kids, I will welcome my grandkids into my home for as long as they may need to be here, with my number one priority being to reunite them with their parents as soon as possible.

I am a third culture kid. I am an American who graduated from high school overseas, in a third world country.

When I turned 18 years old, I found myself homeless and alone in the US. I had no one to turn to. My family was still overseas. I had no place to sleep, no food to eat, no money, no job or job skills. No plan. I had escaped what I saw as an abusive situation where I had been the ward of an institution until my 18th birthday.

That day, I got on a bus and headed to a town I had once lived in. I got off the bus with my duffle bag and no clue what to do next.

I felt guilty for being alive, and for the next year, I was a burden on anyone that agreed to help me. Furthermore, the director of the place I left warned me as I got on the bus, that if I left, I would be turning my back on God’s will for my life, and would have to settle for second best from that day on.

I never wanted to feel that way again, and I don’t want my children to feel that way, ever.

I endured difficult times after that, because I didn’t have the tools to navigate life on my own.

Over the years, I have learned a lot. I have gained new skills and confidence that have made me now able to help others who find themselves in need.

I have several titles or labels which include Artist, Minister, Nurse, Teacher, Foster Care Provider, Writer, Father, Grandfather...

As many of you know, I am in the process of adopting again. This is a sibling group of three teenagers who desperately need a home and guidance to help them transition into adulthood.

I am grateful to everyone who has voiced their support of this endeavor, and I look forward to being able to share more information with you when I am free to do so.

October 15 is my collateral meeting with the kids’ teachers, foster parents and other providers of their daily care. Coincidentally, October 15 is the birthday of my 22 year old (though I couldn’t get to her until October 16).

October 15 is also my dad’s next doctor’s appointment. He is having serious medical difficulties and I know he would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Thank you. Thank you for your friendship, kindness and love.

Monday, October 01, 2018


I spent the weekend doing a 3 day Artist-In-Residence at Kah Nee Tah Gallery in Lutsen, MN. I was scheduled to do a painting demonstration for the first couple of hours each day.
The first day, I set up my easel and started painting the trees just to the east of the gallery. I wasn't happy with what I was producing. I couldn't shake the feeling that I should paint something awesome. Something that people would go crazy over. That is always a bad way for me to think. I was frustrated, and eventually took a big paintbrush and blocked out all the detail I had put in.
The second day, I felt like I was floundering, and so I started painting flounders in the tree branches.
The third day, I took black paint and covered everything, then ended up painting bluefin herring instead. No trees.
It's ok to flounder. Paintings happen pretty effortlessly when the time is right. When my mind and my hand work in unison. Sometimes I try too hard. Effort isn't always productive. Play is.
What if I could forget everything my teachers (school teachers, Sunday School teachers) taught me, and trust my inner child?