Artist | Professional | Digital Art
A LITTLE ABOUT ME
I am a 57 year old Gay man, way-old, and I have been married to my husband Greg for almost 23 years and counting, and now married under Washington State law. My degree is in Engineering, from a Merchant Marine Academy (not military), and I went to sea to sail as an Engineer on Supertankers, and worked up to Chief Engineer. I retired on my own investments when I was 34 years old, and went into Full-time volunteer work in a Soup Kitchen and doing in-home care helping those dying of AIDS. I had also started doing volunteer Peer-to-Peer Counseling to the Gay Community (trained at the University of Washington). I also started doing secondary and primary care of those dying of AIDS. After 8 years, I was no longer able to do physical labor in the Soup Kitchen, so I decided to focus much more on counseling. When I became disabled, I could no longer help those with AIDS, so I started doing all of my counseling using the internet.
I did metal art for about 17 years, since I was also a machinist, welder and metal fabricator, as well as certified electrician and plumber, etc. A year after retiring at age 34, I purchased my first Apple computer and Photoshop 1.0. Digital Photography barely existed in 1990. I had some experience working with film in the darkroom, which helped me learn Digital Photo Editing, and then Digital Art. When I felt more confident in my skills, I started a Digital Graphic Design Company, using Adobe Photoshop, PageMaker (later InDesign), Acrobat, and Illustrator.
It is believed that I started developing arthritis at around age 12. It was not much a life-limiter until my early 30's, and became crippling in my late 40's. The disease is progressive and will do me in, since the progressive nerve damage is now effecting my internal organs. I am now unable to do much of anything, including my art. Pain medications have had severely affected my cognitive and memory functions. The disease has progressed to the point where I am effectively homebound and rather non-functional, other than my online volunteer counseling. I am no longer able to dance or do much of anything physical, including much walking.
I was also born with Autism Spectrum Disorders, with High Function Autism and Sensory Integration Disfunction being dominant. I failed 1st grade and was going to be put in a school for the Mentally Retarded (what they called it back in 1960), when thankfully my parents borrowed money to have me tested, which was when the Sensory Integration Disfunction was found. After a lot of physical therapy and one year of private school, I was able to skip 3rd grade. I was in speech therapy up through the 6th grade.
I also faced physical abuse at home until I was about 15 years old, and bulling and isolation at school. Fear, loneliness and self-hatred defined much of my childhood. Autism itself acts to socially isolate you. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, never fitting in anywhere or with anyone. When I was 11 years old, I was discretely following cute boys around, and at 12 years old, I fell in love with a boy and came to realize that I felt about boys the way I was supposed to feel about girls. When I was 13, I tried to come-out to my aunt, but she just brushed it off as a phase. Soon after that my Priest told us Altar Boys that when a boy is attracted to another boy, he is an Abomination in the eyes of God and doomed to burn for an eternity in the everlasting fires of Gahanna. I had wanted to be a Missionary Priest. Soon after that my Faith shattered and I tried to jump off a Freeway overpass, just to have some man grab my feet.
Despite knowing that I felt about boys the way I was supposed to feel about girls, I had no clue what sex was or even what those swear words meant, or what Faggot meant or Queer, until I was 19 years old, so you can see how isolated I was. I was actually stalked by girls through both Jr. High and High School, which made my life more miserable. However, because of that no one thought I was Gay. I was bullied and isolated because of my Autism.
When I entered the Academy, everything changed. They guys full accepted me, included me and even liked me. The Academy basically became my new family and I rapidly grew as a person and thrived. Back then in the Merchant Marine, Gay men would literally be killed if discovered, tossed over the side of the ship. I had to watch myself carefully. One time on a ship I got caught sitting down and crossing one knee over the other, then got razzed for a week for, “Sitting like a Queer.” Even mail was not private, so my partner then, Paul, became Paula, and I had to constantly change ‘him’ to ‘her’ and ‘he’ to ‘she’ when talking about home.
On my last ship, retiring from sailing, I sent out over 50 letters to my best mates at sea, coming-out to them that I was Gay. I then came home to find an empty house, empty bank accounts, and no partner. It shattered me. Then letters started coming back from my best mates at sea, and about three-quarters of them totally rejected me with outright hatred, including two death-threats, and comments like, “I hope you die a horrible lingering death from AIDS,” “Burn in hell Faggot,” “You don’t deserve to live,” “Fu**ing Queer,” etc. The end result was that I almost succeeded in killing myself. I only survived due to severe allergic reaction to a sedative I took to relax myself into death. This is when I finally got some counseling.
I needed to learn how to overcome the worse of my Autism challenges, to meet people, make friends, and socialize. I found a Gay & Lesbian Dance place where everyone seemed to be having a blast, so I started learning how to dance, eventually learning to both lead and follow Two-step, West Coast Swing, Tango, Fox-trot, Rhumba, Waltz, Samba, Mambo, Bolero, etc, as well as going crazy on a club dance floor. With my kind of Autism, dancing should have been ‘impossible’ to learn, but I just kept going 5 to 6 nights a week, taking lessons, and forcing myself to introduce myself to one stranger each night and socialize (harder than you could ever imagine). I pushed myself so hard to learn how to dance and to socialize with people that my brain literally remapped itself, forming new neural pathways around problem areas. This process is called Neuroplasticity. It brought real joy and happiness into my life, as well as a lot of love.
I loved dancing, rock climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, landscaping and building things. But one-by-one, I could no longer do the things I loved. I hung onto dancing until I was coming home and vomiting from the pain. As I keep losing the ability to do things I love, I have to keep reinventing myself and learning new ways to fulfill my life. My hard life has given me a true appreciation for the many small or simple things everyone else takes for granted. This allows me to find happiness in each day, despite the constant pain, as well as physical and mental limitations and knowing I will not exactly have a long life. My partner Greg helps care for me, and I feel certain that he will stay with me until the end. What more can a guy ask for?
Alas, little of my work is posted. There was no internet to speak of when I did most of my digital art, and then no way to post art. Almost all of the sold and commissioned work was done under older contracts that did not allow posting a likeness of the work on the internet, which means it requires written permission to post, and that is too big of a project for me. I posted mostly things that marked important personal moments or have emotional meaning for me.
I am astounded by the breadth and depth of the creative and artistic work form the artists here on deviantART. I am amazed at how creative and imaginative young artists are. DeviantArt is like a candy store with a huge variety of candy. I am very thankful for all of the artists here who have shared their work with us. While I do get attacked by Christian Fundamentalists on DA, I have never before found a community like this where almost everyone is so cordial with each other, respectful of each other, encouraging, and willing to help each other. A big ‘Thank You’ to all of the artists here.
Live life to the fullest every day of your life. Take nothing for granted.