Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Robby Robinson - An inspiring Artist.

Yesterday I received the following message from bodybuilding legend Mr Robby Robinson:

"Your success makes me proud. You found the passion in art to make a name for yourself. The key is the fight inside of you. You are someone that I would want in my foxhole. I checked out your blog. Your work is extraordinary! You obviously found your passion. Kids need to hear more positive accomplishments not just in the art of bodybuilding. Much continued success.
Best wishes, peace, ROBBY"

I was so inspired by his comments that I feel compelled to write something about it. Robbys words are very profound indeed. 'The key is the fight inside of you' How true this is. Artists need to nurture their talent to keep it developing throughout their lives. This is not easily achieved and it's something professional Artists need to take on board.

Robby Robinson at 61 years of age still has the Olympian physique of an incredible athlete. He knows perhaps more than anyone, how to win those inner battles, how to stay focussed, motivated, determined and inspired over the course of a lifetime. But what has all this to do with art?

Robby Robinson is an artist of the highest caliber, who over decades of intense work, has created a living masterpiece of human sculpture - himself. Not only has he created it, but he has continuously worked on it and improved it over more than 40 years. The drive to create something beautiful exists within the hearts of artists and bodybuilders alike. It is no suprise to me when I discover with amazing frequency, artists who started out as bodybuilders. The two are more closely linked than is at first apparent, and much can be learned from someone like Robby Robinson.

He got me thinking about inspiration itself and how very important it is. What inspires me and keeps me going? well obviously trekking for tigers or setting out across the frozen wastes in search of polar bears is incredibly inspiring.....

But Robby has reminded me of something else, something quite different that is easily overlooked:

We are collectively inspired by the deeds of others, and when we learn of great achievements we are uplifted and inspired to greatness ourselves. How many masterpieces have been inspired by Rembrant or Beethoven? How many Champions were inspired by Ali? How much courage has been instilled in men by Churchill?

It's good to have heroes, as we all benefit from their reflected greatness. Great deeds, and great achievements are infectious and this makes them even more precious than if they were merely to exist in isolation. Kids need heroes, they need to hear of positive achiements, they are the lifeblood of the human story.

I have always had heroes to inspire me and drive me to greater and greater efforts. I was born with a burning desire to achieve greatness at 'something' I just didnt know what that 'something' would be. I wanted to leave my mark on this world and looked around me for heroes.

I tried many things from writing and art, to martial arts Boxing and Bodybuilding. Art seemed too obvious at first, I was always the best in the class, and to a young man it didnt quite equal the appeal of being a sporting superstar, there didnt seem to be the challenge I craved. ( How wrong I was in that! )

( emulating the late great Bruce Lee in 1975, and in 2001, a humorous stand off with supermiddleweight champion of the world, the dark destroyer Mr Nigel Benn. )

Robby Robinson caught my eye as an incredible character and I trained fanatically with a grim determination to build a physique that would equal his, eagerly reading everything I could on his training routines and dietry discipline. It was a very happy time of my life and one that has done me perhaps more good than any other. Genetics were not in my favour however, and when it became clear that others were considerably more genetically predisposed to the sport than I was, the passion deserted me and weight training simply became a hobby and a means of fitness rather than a lifes passion. The end came when one day I showed my training partner a portrait I had done of Arnold Schwarzenegger. His jaw dropped, he turned to me and said "If I could draw like that I wouldn't waste my time in the gym" At that very moment I realized that the obvious had been staring me in the face all along - Art was where my true talents lay.

My bodybuilding period was a very valuable lesson in life and a very positive experience however. It gave me great personal discipline and set me on a course for health and youthfulness which I am now enjoying as I head towards 50 years of age. This is a particularly good thing for artists, who spend far too much time sitting down. They can benefit greatly from a bit of physical discipline. I am so glad I absorbed the positive healthy way of life that Robby Robinson taught me all those years ago.

He never knew it, but simply by doing what he does so well, he had impacted upon my life in a very positive way. I cant tell you how proud I was to receive his message and even moreso, to learn that he is still going strong at 61, inspiring a whole new generation of people to improve themselves and follow a positive path in life.

He still inspires me today, and instills in me the will to be the best that I possibly can be, and to dare to think, that my efforts will in turn inspire others.

Thank you Robby, and if ever we were together in a foxhole, I would not let you down. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The spirit tiger...

What do you see when you think of a siberian tiger? Have you ever imagined one? have you ever seen him in your minds eye as he surveys his frozen land? I have. I have a recurrent dream of an absolute behemoth, an 800 pound male prowling the frozen forests of the Russian Far East.

I am standing in the silence that only a snowfall can deliver, all sound absorbed by the mist that hangs heavily around me. Slowly, inexorably a shape begins to form out of the frozen air with the dreamlike quality of a photograph developing. Only now do I hear the dulled sound of snow being squeezed under soft and heavy paws. It is he, the behemoth, the legendary Amur tiger, largest of all the big cats striding effortlessly towards me with a fluidity of movement that belies his immense weight and power. His wild eyes pierce the mists and his jaw hangs loose revealing his tongue and glistening teeth. Despite the intense cold, he is panting to keep himself from overheating. He stops before me turning his head as if to see where I am hiding and exhales powerfully with a sound so deep I feel it in my chest. His hot breath freezing instantly in the air. I hold my own breath for fear he will hear it but my heart beats so loudly I am sure It will betray my position. For what seems an eternity he stands frozen, the image of untamed wildness, and then miraculously he turns his mighty head again sniffing the snow as it tickles his nose and dissapears silently into the fog. I am left traumatized and yet wondering as silence returns "Was all this just my imagination? or did that really happen?"

I have taken many, many walks in tiger forests carrying nothing more than a bamboo stick and believe me, the fear of meeting a tiger when you are on foot is a very deep primordial feeling that probably lodged itself into my subconscious. You dont think so much of it at the time, but later in those quiet moments, you imagine the nightmare 'what if?' scenarios.

The irony of course, is that the tiger has far more to fear from man than we have ever had to fear from him.

I decided it would be good to paint my dream. It was quite a challenge. I attempted it once before with the painting 'Greeting the first snows of winter' and this time I wanted to make it more up close and personal.

I hope you like it.