Art, Figure Painting, Life, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait

still alive


self-4-09-36″ x 6″ oil on canvas


I’m still alive and another year older. Every year near my birthday I do a self portrait to document my slide into dementia. Here is this year’s.

I’ve allowed myself to become consumed with stress over losing my job, of late. I work for a huge tech company that has, despite remarkably good results in these dire economic times, continued to lay off employees. Actually in this case, they are offshoring the jobs. As they layoff employees in North America, they are hiring in Asia. I seem to be safe for now, I’m sure, in part, because my job involves training the new Asian employees. But, as anyone knows who works in the corporate, short term profit driven world, you’re never really safe and you don’t know you’re in danger until it’s too late, not that you can really do anything about it anyway. I think it may be that last part that’s most stressful. Working harder and producing better results makes no difference.

Whenever I get into this kind of mindset, I start planning how I’m going to re-invent myself this time. I’ve done it many times before, having spent many years climbing trees, digging holes, slinging hash, tending bridges, pushing paint, knocking on doors, etc. for a living. I’m sure that something will appear when I need it. It always has.

It occurs to me that stressing over something that hasn’t happened is an affliction of living in an affluent society. By comparison with most people on this planet today, my problems are non-existent. Why can’t I remember that?

Despite all my whining and gnashing of teeth, my life is very good and will likely continue to be. I’m still pissed about the “corporate, short term profit driven world” thing, though.

I’m wishing health, happiness and relative prosperity and, most of all, peace of mind to anyone who happens to read this.

24 thoughts on “still alive”

  1. Bill, I love the idea of doing a self portrait every year, and I have the sensation you are looking at me thinking, “Why are you online when you could be painting?”

    Oh my, I am sorry to hear you have lost your job. Here’s hoping you find the best way possible to reinvent yourself, and that you can see this as an opportunity (sometimes easier said than done).


  2. Just before I read your post today, I was in the middle of reading Robinson Crusoe and had marked a passage that said, “All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness of what we have.” This 350+ years ago – and such a profound thought for all of us. I love your self-portrait and hope that you can get past the fear of losing your job and enjoy your art skills/gifts.


  3. Happy birthday, Bill, and many happy returns of the day!

    I believe the affluent society has little (or nothing) to do with allowing oneself to be stressed over the uncertainty of the future — I grew up in a society which was not nearly as affluent (as a matter of fact, not affluent at all), and yet my grandmother used to get stressed over every tiny little thing which might be going wrong in the future, both near and far. Actually, at some point I had to teach myself not to follow in her footsteps when I noticed that this habit makes life harder not only for myself, but also for everyone around me. After all, “if it be now, ā€™t is not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”


  4. Very wise words Bill, and very recognisable. I find worries for future eventualaties far more stressful than coping with problems when they arrive.
    I hope you had a nice birthday, you centainly made a lovely painting to top it.


  5. Happy birthday, Bill. Stay positive and happy and be thankful you paint which gives you insight into the beauty of the world that few share. Ultimately there is absolutely no security for anyone.


  6. Happy birthday Bill. I think it’s a very good idea to paint a self portrait every year, and I like your painting. I wish you peace of mind too!


  7. I understand the stress. For a world (the corporate) that tries so hard to guarantee its own future, for the individual involved it’s pretty much “one day at a time.” And birthdays? I hope you had a happy one, but they come so frequently(it seems) for me, I think I could let the whole thing go without noticing, but for other people.

    I’ve seen several, not all undoubtedly, of your self portraits, and this one is perhaps the most impressive so far. You got a lot of color and it all looks right, but most of all, Bill is ‘in there,’ peering out at us. A real sense of the presence of the person.

    Very good.
    I hope you continue this tradition, many more birthdays to come.


  8. Hey Bill,
    Good to see your still alive.This is a great one. The focus is intense and the variety of palette on such a small painting(It feels much larger)is incredible.
    A guy with your talent and approach to life deserves good things. Be damned the corporate world and prepare for the next page.
    Best wishes, Brian


  9. Great post Bill as it’s a self portrait in words and brush strokes.
    Both of which reveal insight and thoughtfulness.
    It is of course much easier to try convincing ourselves not to worry, which is like saying try not to have blue eyes.
    Maybe some of us are just prone to carrying this around ( I know from whence I speak ) and others are more able to shrug it off.
    From Mark Twain, a favorite quote: ” I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes’ in my life, most of which never even happened “!

    When I married three years ago, to a man who never anguishes over things as I do, I printed out some large signs for the party that said ” The Worrier Marries the Warrior “. I so understand.

    Fear of losing a job is a completely legitimate worry. The trick is trying to function well, while not thinking about what hasn’t happened yet.
    I really like this portrait a lot. There shows in it a tenderness of observation.

    And gratitude is always within our ability to be recalled at any moment.


  10. Maybe I’ll find the courage to do a self portrait by the time I’m 60. (Not that far off!) Hope you have some good relaxation, anti-stress methods. Beethoven while lying down in a darkened room works for me.


  11. Sherry, thank you for visiting. I’m actually looking at myself wondering why I’m online rather than painting :). I did not lose my job, btw, I’m just obsessively worrying about it, a job in and of itself.

    Shirley, that’s a great quote from Robinson Crusoe, I guess I haven’t evolved much. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Lena, I’m sure you’re correct. Worry is universal and some of us deal with it better than others. I appreciate your sharing your story and thank you for your good wishes.

    Rene, It’s nice to hear from you. I sometimes find myself wishing I would lose my job just to end the anticipation. I have to be very careful what I wish for. Thanks for visiting.

    Bill, Right you are. You’re an engineer aren’t you? I hope you’re securely employed. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Lucie, Thank you very much for the complement. I admire your portrait work very much.

    A. Decker, It’s a good observation that the birthdays seem to be coming more frequently. It seems like I just completed one of these birthday self portraits not that long ago. Thanks.

    Brian, I like your attitude, damn the corporate world, as long as they still pay for my health insurance šŸ™‚

    Bonnie, Thanks for the commiseration. I didn’t realize people on and island paradise could worry. I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from it as well but having a partner who is immune must be a great help. Frankly, in my case, it’s a form of self absorption, so the self portrait is a good image to accompany this post. I often find that forcing myself to focus onto others is the best remedy.

    PainterWoman, don’t put off until your 60 what you could paint today šŸ™‚ I like the darkened room idea but I’m not sure about Beethoven. Maybe Debussey.


  12. Very strange times for everyone right now, so I understand your worries. Wishing you the best, Bill. (I’ve been trying to remember that Mark Twain quote for years, so was pleased to see it in the comment section!)


  13. Hi Bill
    Stress is both a blessing and a curse. Something we get to live with. I’ve found that I am less stress out when painting and totally stressed when I can’t. Like your portrait and wonderful idea to paint one each year. There is a portrait that Picasso did of himself I first saw it at the NY MOMA and it is an incredible little painting of a less assured artist. I believe it is the last one he did of himself.


  14. So…. how old ARE you?????
    I love your birthday painting and think it’s a great idea to document …. although your words are too damn true… I prefer to think we’re documenting our increasing worldliness and wisdom…. Okay… that’s a stretch.

    Sorry you’re stressing…. I wish you well. Most people these days consider themselves lucky to have ANY job. But… look… perhaps you could paint more and brighten the world with your lovely work!!!


  15. Hello Bill Sharp…I love your new portrait. Congratulations on seeing it through another year. I certainly enjoyed reading your words with your portrait..though of course I feel badly that you are faced with that uncertainty. I believe you to be similar to me in age and I think you and I both remember when loyalty to our employer meant the return of loyalty to us. What a long time ago that was..but we do remember it. It was something a person could “hang their hat on”. I agree about how we (as a society) could be thought of as spoiled but there is no real harm in wanting security in exchange for an honest day’s work. It shouldn’t be unrealistic. I am sending up positive thoughts for you. Let us know what happens…congratulations on getting into the
    Froelich …!


  16. Hi Sharon, Thanks for the kind words.

    Hi Bob, I’m sure you’re right about stress being a blessing but I only feel the curse part, while I’m under it. I’ll look for that Picasso self portrait.

    Marian, I turned 56 this year. You’re right, I am lucky to have a job and, as much as I love to paint, I’m also very thankful that I don’t have to depend on selling paintings to survive.

    Hi Celeste. I have no personal experience of working for a company that showed any loyalty to employees but my Dad worked for the same company for his entire career and retired with a generous pension and health insurance for life. I’m afraid those days are gone forever. Thanks for your kind words.


  17. Bill
    Number 1 happy (belated) birthday! I also love the idea of the self portrait.

    Sorry to hear things are so stressful, I hope everything works out and it sounds like you’re hard at work on plan B. I will keep you in my thoughts (and prayers).



  18. Cindy, I appreciate your good thoughts and prayers. I guess you don’t get out to Portland anymore, eh?


  19. Hi Bill. Well Happy very belated birthday.
    Stress about stuff like that really stinks. It seems like it is always the stuff we cant change and has not even happened yet,and probably wont even happen, that we fret most over.
    You could always move to Aisa and get one of those outsourced jobs you know.
    The portrait looks great and I cant see the stress in your face at all. Maybe just stressing trying to get the painting to look good.
    Congratulations on getting the landscapes into that show.


  20. Hi Frank, it’s nice to hear from you. As a matter of fact, the company I work for has offered to move laid off employees to countries they’re hiring in. You’d have to work at the wage offered in that country and the plane ticket is one way.

    Thanks for checking in.


  21. That sounds like a mighty generous offer on their part. One way ticket huh? That way you’ll never be able to make enough money to ever fly back at those wages.


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