ADD/ADHD: Impulsive Artist

A short attention span is generally seen as a negative. In my case, I called it curiosity. I wanted to know everything, see everything, do everything. I couldn’t do this very well sitting on a hard seat in a classroom. I needed to move and jive and experiment and do things with my hands. Inattention wasn’t my problem. I paid attention to everything in my environment, but I could not focus on the teacher or the instruction at hand. Distraction could have been my middle name.

No surprise, academics was not my strong suit, but I found success in other areas. I had many competing interests and was always on the lookout for new…umm…distractions.

One time, midway in my military career, I went shopping at a hobby store and saw a

Seascape by Bob Ossler

Seascape by Bob Ossler

seascape painting.  I can paint that! I looked at art books and saw a tutorial on how to paint scenery. I bought the book and a beginner paint set with brushes, oil paints, and canvases then headed back to the dorm to try out my new hobby.

I tried to paint the seascape but got frustrated. The oil paints took too long to dry, and I was impatient to have my finished result. My tendency towards perfectionism kicked in and brought on frustration. My painting looked a bit messy from rushing with the slow-drying oil paints.

Obsessed with conquering this new desire to paint, I headed back to the art store and bought faster-drying acrylic paint. This worked better for me, but I hadn’t finished  my first painting when I started looking at other things to paint.  I hyper-focused on the idea of painting, but I wasn’t hyper focused on finishing the paintings.  Sounds like my life history: starts projects but doesn’t finish them.

bob painting masted ship

painting by Bob Ossler

I painted one seascape painting that looked pretty good. A few of my friends saw it and said, “Wow, you have talent.” One guy offered me five buck for the painting.

This floored me. I realized I could make a buck here and there by selling my paintings. I did a sunset harbor scene that a lot of people really liked. Most of my paintings took an hour or two to complete, sometimes a bit longer to allow time for drying. I calculated how much money I could make if I kept painting.

I got bored with seascapes and landscapes and wanted to paint other scenes. I painted the Eiffel tower, airplanes, flowers, and lighthouses. I even did a portrait of a girl that I liked. That painting surprised a lot of people, even her. I was precise on details. I got the crookedness in her teeth almost perfectly. This annoyed her.

After a while, reality dawned. Painting was fun, and people complimented me on my results. But I was no Picasso (even though I copied one of his paintings–“Peace and Joy”).

Painting would have to remain a hobby. I realized I had to put some of this same energy and enthusiasm into my work assignments (x-ray technology) in the military. After all, the training I received in the military would give me a means of earning income in civilian life.

Art would have to remain a hobby, one interesting distraction among many.


Read Triumph Over Terror, a multi-award-winning book about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s interactions with suffering people in New York City’s Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His stories will touch your heart and fill you with compassion for those emergency services workers, search and rescue workers, recovery workers, construction crews, and volunteers who served there in impossible conditions. #NeverForget this time in US History. Read the message of hope in this book.






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