It was a year ago the world lost an amazing artist, much much too early. Rick Howell was a friend and my mentor in art. It is his words and spirit that drives me on in my quest.
Rick was more than a master artist, he was a world class human being. His passion to help others and mankind was like no other I have known, and it was not just people Rick was concerned about. I don’t believe there was a stray animal along the border of Colorado/New Mexico that didn’t know where to go if they needed a meal, and it did not stop there. Rick spent much time with causes to help our planet, the reefs, the rivers, the land. These he gave time and money quite freely to help clean up, and preserve for the rest of us. He put in time regularly helping out at the local high school. Not because he had a lot of free time on his hands, time was something he didn’t have, he did it because he cared, and he made time.
Do I sound like I’m pounding a drum? Heck yes I am! But why?
I hate to see things go to waste, it is something my parents instilled in me, and I hope in some way I passed it along to my children. (this I hope I passed on, my hairline, sorry boys) Whether it’s the land and it’s resources, or people and their abilities. All of us have skills, I have had the talent for art, you may have a talent for music, or numbers. Whatever it is we have, don’t let it sit and atrophy, hone those skills and pass them on to another.
Rick died at a young age, I had just turned 55 when I was up there and we joked about both being “double nickels” and that we had to get hustling because we had a long ways to go and a short time to get there. He had an interesting sense of humor, kind of a quirky guy with a grin. This was my 3rd trip back to work with him this year, I would get up early and paint, then meet him at 9am where the two of us would go out and work together. He worked tirelessly, as soon as lunch was over he would get back to working with some of his other artists, or his foundation, his book, this while I would head off in another direction. Casita Estella had the proverbial “revolving door” when it came to artists coming in and out and working with Rick. He took each one of us on personally, and worried when things did not go right, or when the ever failing internet would go down, and he could not communicate with his students.
Rick gave his all to so many doing so much, and when he passed there was a very large piece taken out of my life. Why I was to return in just another week or two, this really couldn’t be true. What do we do? All of us that benefited from Rick Howell being on this earth now had to take what he gave us, and continue on, because Rick was now gone.
Physically gone, yes. Yet his art will be around for centuries, and if those he helped continue in his teachings and beliefs Rick will never really go away.
I was told many a time by Rick that I need to give back to the people. To help others become better, and to pass on what has been given me. I work hard at doing just this, helping, teaching, sharing, it is all giving back in some way that I can. Each of us can in some way, helping a child, a student, a person in need. It doesn’t need to be big time consuming things, there are hundreds of ways we can all give back if we just care enough.
There is not a day goes by that I do not think in some way or another of Rick and his teachings. I no longer mourn his loss, there is no sense in this. I celebrate his life and listen to what he taught me.
Many times while out painting he would wander the land looking for arrowheads. Rick was very fast at painting and would be done with his block in before I even got set up. Anyway Rick brought me an old horseshoe he found out while searching for treasures. Him being the superstitious man that he was, thought I could use this for luck. I have found it to be an important part of my plein air equipment. I have since carved into it with some of his words.
There are times when we all doubt our abilities, and what exactly our purpose is. This man believed in me and encouraged me like no other. The best way I can pay tribute to Rick is by continuing to learn, and improve, and help others to do the same. I will always be saddened that we lost this person much too early. It’s a mysterious world we live in, a roller coaster ride of triumphs and heartaches. What helps me is an occasional remembrance of the serenity prayer: Grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, Courage to Change the things I can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference.