Tennis or Art: A Self-Portrait, by Michael Newberry

I was 20 and holed up in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany contemplating my future. I was torn between two really good career options: to continue being a pro-tennis player (I was beating guys top 100 in the world) or give everything I had to my art. The week involved a tremendous amount of self-assessment, a ruthless look at my skill sets, my strengths, weaknesses in both fields. Tennis had to be decided upon quickly, I was the age to commit, a pro-career is generally from then to 32. With my art, on the other hand, I was still a student, and normally great artists mature around their late 20s to early 30s. But the rub there is that artists have to put in between 10-20,000 hours before their art starts to jell.

One suggestive indication that I already choose, was that instead of tennis training that week, I just read and drew in my hotel room. There was a tournament the next week, and I choose not to prepare for it. The mental gymnastics I went through was draining and a bit painful. You can see that in the eyes of this self-portrait. I felt tremendous urgency to clear my brain with a clear choice and get it done with. So I kept hashing through every pro and con I could think of: would I ever have a great backhand drive? Did I accomplish everything in art I tried? Did I want a traveling tennis life and see the world? Or was painting in a dumpy studio more exalting? Could I cheat it and do tennis now and art later?

Another important consideration is that an art life/career is forever, an artist can keep evolving til the day they die. Tennis has its specific physical limitations, it is downhill in one’s thirties.

I am thankful that the young me had the foresight, gumption, psychologically savvy introspection to make the choice to be artist. I have loved and love every second of living the art life, every obstacle was/is a delicious challenge to grow and flourish. In all that time I only recall having one moment of regret. I was painting Woman in Blue, I was 24, it was late at night and I was pushing myself at my limits. It was in Holland, winter time, and hail was ferociously beating at the window panes like aggressive and anxious bats. For a few seconds I thought I could be playing tennis in the south of France, or touring Australia, warm and dry playing on a magnificent center court. Then I saw something I could tweak in the painting, and I thought: hell no, I don’t want to be hitting a ball somewhere, I am bringing this woman to life, there is no other place in the universe I would rather be.

(The excerpts above are from a Michael Newberry’s “Early Work, Self-Portrait 1977” )

Artist Bio (Taken from Website): Michael Newberry, b. 1956, is an American romantic figurative painter living in Idyllwild, California and he is the author of Evolution Through Art and Newberry Color Theory. His art integrates passion, mind, and visual perception. Important influences are Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and contemporary sculptor Martine Vaugel. He started painting at 11 years and sold his first work at 17. Thousands of his drawings, charcoals, pastels, acrylics, oil sketches, and definitive works have been collected worldwide. Notable collectors are Chan Luu, Lori and Brian Teacher, and philosopher Stephen Hicks.

He says: “Since falling in love with Rembrandt’s magic as an adolescent, I have been on a life-long quest to express through art my perceptual, emotional, and mental discoveries.”