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July 7, 2012
As I write this from my Lincoln, Nebraska studio, after spending 3 full months in Honolulu and now another three-plus months in Nebraska, I’m thinking: Hey! This is supposed to be the “On the Road” Blog!

My full-time travel lifestyle seems to have gotten bogged down!

Well…once again we find out, THINGS OFTEN DON’T GO AS PLANNED.

Then again–the magic usually doesn’t happen inside the plan.



SHORT RE-CAP: My goal was to (a) sell my Waikiki apartment and get out from under an onerous mortgage, and (b) pack up my entire studio and office and ship it to Nebraska, where a more affordable cost of living and a more central location would facilitate my new full-time travel lifestyle.

On April 4, I sank into my seat on the plane in Honolulu with a huge sigh of relief. My entire life and career had been packed into boxes and was on its way to Lincoln, Nebraska. And now, finally, so was I! Best of all, my apartment had been sold and was already in escrow. Everything was falling into place.

Or so I thought.

Within 24 hours the apartment sale had fallen through and that began a long chain of similar disappointments. Now, over 2 months later, the apartment is still unsold.

And here I am in Nebraska working my butt off to keep the mortgage paid on my Hawaii apartment.

You can imagine the frustration I’ve been feeling.


Something unexpected has begun to happen.



I’m now living in a 1-bedroom brick duplex on Dakota Street, in a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from my sister Kelly’s house. The duplex has a full basement, and that’s where I’ve set up my studio. Now that everything is in place and I’ve begun actually painting, I’ve found this may be the best studio I’ve ever created for myself. It’s set up exactly as I like it and there’s plenty of space.

So I’ve got a great studio.

Unfortunately, I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I have NO LIFE.

Wait, did I say “unfortunately”?

It turns out NO LIFE is exactly what the doctor ordered. Here in Lincoln, I don’t have the distractions I had in Honolulu. No social life to speak of, no ocean singing its siren song, no Hula’s just around the corner.

So here I am with a great studio, no social life, and bills to pay…I guess there’s only one thing to do.





It’s taken me a while to get it, but now I know: This is why I’m in Nebraska.

Let me give you a little history. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years. I’ve created a lot of art in that time, but not nearly as much as I could have. I keep records of these things, and recently I looked at my art-production numbers over my career. Turns out my most productive year ever happened back in 1990. I did over 120 original works that year (not counting rough sketches). That’s about 10 a month! The early 1990s as a whole were an incredibly productive period for me.

Not a coincidence that I produced some of my most memorable works during that time.

DS 1986 studio small

Fast-forward to 2011, last year. I produced 24 originals. For the whole year. Quite a difference. Yes, I’d been traveling, but that’s not the heart of it. Mostly I just hadn’t made painting a priority.

If you’ve never painted, you won’t know about the love-hate relationship. When a painting is working it’s a magic time. It makes everything worthwhile. But when a painting is not working, it’s a nightmare! And when you don’t have a painting going, and it’s time to start one, it’s terrifying. You’ll do almost anything to avoid going into the studio. This is how it is for me and many other painters I know. What it really comes down to is fear. It’s just too easy to give in to the fear of failure or screwing up.

So for years and years, it was incredibly easy to avoid painting and do just about anything else. And that worked, for a while. But one basic fact turns out to be unavoidable…


Whether I like it or not!

Turns out I needed the combination of factors that are now in place–a great studio space, no distractions, and financial pressures–to rediscover myself as a painter.



Once I got the studio set up and started painting, things really started to bubble and then boil over. I’m talking about a creative fever. I didn’t know until now how hungry I was to paint and try out all those visual ideas that had been popping into my brain all these years but which I had managed to avoid because of fear.

So it turns out I didn’t move to Nebraska just to create a more practical jumping-off point for my new traveling lifestyle–I moved here so I could become a BETTER PAINTER.

It took the combination of factors I just mentioned to get me out of my comfort zone and back into Painter Mode.

SERIOUS Painter Mode.

In the month of June I completed FOURTEEN PAINTINGS.

And I had an amazing time doing it.

Recent art comp

I’m learning, growing, changing, breaking through my fears over and over again. I thought I wasn’t on the road, but guess what: like Jamiroquai said, I’m TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING.

You can’t go from years of painting in a haphazard, lackadaisical way to painting full-time with great enthusiasm and energy, without experiencing some major shifts.

One of the great developments has been that my painting has gotten looser. I recently wrote to an artist I greatly admired and told her how much I loved how loose her paintings were and that’s what I’m always going for. She pointed out that looseness wasn’t really an end in itself, and I said yes, thank you, you’re absolutely right. I realized what I’m really saying is, I keep going for PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR.

That’s what I’ve been doing here in Lincoln.

I’ve been painting with more courage than ever before, spending a lot of time out on the tightrope where it’s dangerous and exciting and where the magic lives.

I thought I was stuck in Lincoln. No, I’m FLYING in Lincoln. When the time comes and I’m out on the road again, I will bring more of ME along. I’ll be bigger, stronger, more present, BRAVER. I would say “I can hardly wait,” except that there is no WAITING involved.

I’m too busy PAINTING!

If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!



  • Pam Chambers

    Hi Dougbo, I always love reading your blogs. They are so YOU, and I always “get it.” Thanks for showing us your latest paintings. My favorite is the landscape in the lower right corner. Love, Pambo

  • Lee Witten

    I can see the Advocate Experience still infuses your life. It has mine as well. Love that you are discovering that solitude has its rewards. I relish mine but also love what social life I have and feel I have control over both.

  • Daniel

    It is interesting to hear your journey. Sometimes I wonder what it would be to move back to Nebraska. I’m in NYC and there are always distractions. I enjoy the slower pace when I visit family in Lincoln and surrounding area. I do wonder if it wold quickly become boring. Just doing some thinking out loud.

  • John Borgatti

    I wish I were in a position to be able to help, but right now things are tough for me too. I think another phase of your calling could be children portraits. Parents will pay a small fortune for the quality of the painting in the upper left that you’re showing on your blog. Precious and priceless. It may be time to leave Hawaii behind you and exlpore your new found potiential in the heartland of America.

    Think outside the box. Your work doesn’t need to be only good looking young men in a tropical paradise. Americana awaits your talents.

    Best wishes to you.

  • Ted Wofford

    Doug, Great to hear that you are finding satisfaction in your new circumstances. Humans are amazingly resilient beasts, and artists live in a world of their own mind most of the time. anyway.
    Many, many years ago Frank Lloyd Wright took a confused 16 year old kid he didn’t know under his wing for a day and showed him the glories of Taliesin in Wisconsin. At the end of that wonderful, life-changing day he said, “You will never get the world to do what you want it to, but if you learn each day and prepare, the opportunities to do what you dream of will come and you will recognize them. be able to grab them and be capable of handling them. Just continue to dare and to grow.” I have lived a long life as an architect and as an artist based on that advice and at 80 have no regrets. The opportunity to do things beyond my wildest dreams and to collaborate with people I worshiped from a distance has made for a rich and fulfilling life. I am not rich in money, but remain young in spirit and find a challenge in each new day. You even have Marco in your memory, and have shared a bit of him with the rest of us, for which you have my undying gratitude.

    I sense that you are now finding the surprise blessings in the unexpected. Continue to grow, continue to seek, and for heaven’s sake, continue to PAINT.!

    With admiration and best wishes,

  • John W

    14 paintings in June. Wow. Plus a book; managing the business end with aplomb; answering pestering fan mail (ahem) and still taking time to post insightful blog postings? My esteem for your work only continues to grow.
    I will ‘second’ the motion for children portraits. That toddler in the upper left is adorable and I know you’ve captured that beautiful sense of wonder and animated curiosity in children’s faces before…
    Indeed, “Americana awaits”

  • LJ

    I was talking to a friend about ‘Pidgin to da Max’ and ended up looking you up. I grew up with the book and now do character illustration. I found myself relating to the struggles you touch upon and I am inspired by your words. For whatever it’s worth, ‘Thank you, so much!’

  • Manousos Vassillandonakis

    But, Doug, isn’t Lincoln the biggest city in Nebraska? There must be some kind of social life there that you can have a part of that’s a simulation of the kind of social life you have when you’re in Waikiki? I’ve even heard that there’s some of that kind of social life to be had in Boise, Idaho. I know it takes time to meet new people and scenes and stuff, but you’re so extroverted and available and know who you are and so sensitive to who people are (just look at the magnificent representations of people you capture so exquisitely on the texture of paper and canvas) that it shouldn’t take you any time at all to find that wedge of “scene” that could temper mere productivity and next thing you know it, your place in Waikiki will be sold — once the miserly bankers loosen up a little (it’s bound to happen sooner or later, it has to happen, even to them). You’re like a social and cultural magnet and don’t forget, nature abhors a vacuum. Just let it all come to you and I know it will because you’re a phenomenon unlike any other I’ve known or met.


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