I write with a heavy heart today, a gentle talent went home. Bob Walton was a wonderful man and a generous mentor to many artists. I had known this man for most of my 50 years and he captured the mountains and light on canvas in ways that Thomas Kinkade could only dream of.

I was raised around artists, they were my uncles, aunts, surrogate grandparents and friends. Not everyone gets that chance, to be around all that talent and experience. I never considered it special when I was growing up. Didn’t everyone have friends with oil paint on their clothes? I crawled malls before teenagers because that was were the art shows were. Every weekend was spent wandering the linoleum. I could tell you where to find Orange Julius and Thom McAnn Shoes in every mall up and down the I405 corridor from Tacoma to Lynnwood. I sat and bothered oil painters, watercolorists, sculptors and crafters alike; and they put up with me. But I never took the chance to learn from them. All that talent being exercised around me and I never paid attention. I wasn’t interested.

Here I am, 40 years later, starting an art career. If I had an hour with any of those from the past, I would trade my left kidney. Can you imagine? The people I grew up with were personal friends of Bob Ross and Gary Larson! Don’t fret, I still have mentors. I have noticed that true talent is generous. They share what they know, gladly. I wrote previously about Judy who shared her brand-new set of Terry Ludwigs with me but she isn’t the only one. I bounce ideas and concepts off all the friends I know. Now, however, I listen. I ask them things like their perspective on design concepts, art shows, where the art market is going, how do you make it as an artist now, and where do they feel my ability stacks up with all of those around us. They support me and lean on me.

I have one of Bob Walton’s paintings hanging in my home right now. His colors are bright and cheerful, the image glows with an inner light that makes me feel warm and happy. Just like the memory of who he was as a person. I guess if I were to highlight a lesson for you, it would be this: chances will slip by when you aren’t paying attention, but there will be others. When we are young we are too busy having fun to concentrate on what is in front of us. It is ok if you aren’t too caught up in what you missed; you will see the next opportunity and get your chance to grab it. Bob had two great loves in his life: his first wife Robin and the wife who survives him now. If he taught me anything, it would be that opportunities come around more than once in a lifetime. Thank you Bob, you made my life better and my home feel warmer.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.