The Fighter: Lessons from my Father for Life and Art

My father taught me how to be a fighter, someone with the tenacity to see things through when the going gets tough.

The Fighter…when giving up isn’t an option!

He taught me to stay in the ring by staying in the ring with me through every round of life.

Giving up just wasn’t an option with Dad.

I created the acrylic portrait, “The Fighter,” as a visual of this character trait imparted by my earthly father and sustained by my Heavenly Father’s grace. Being a fighter has helped me to overcome the challenges I’ve faced as an artist, writer, former single parent, educator, and lover of life. I dedicated this painting to those determined souls that have had to battle their way through life and art.

The painting’s steely-blue eyes pierce your heart, calling you forth to never give up, to fight your way through, to be all you can be!

My earliest memories of learning to appreciate nature and embrace tenacity came from fishing with my father in the deep, dark pools of the Truckee River in Yosemite National Park and Dinkey Creek in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Dad has always loved the outdoors; in fact, he felt most alive when surrounded by towering pines, rushing waters, and swirling pools. We kids would get up early and follow him to the massive rocks above the river. He’d jump from rock to rock and we’d jump because if Dad could do it, then anything was possible.

He modeled perseverance through these fishing adventures. We’d cast our hooks and wait until we’d get a bite, and then slowly reel in the catch. The lesson would continue when we’d arrive back at camp, and he’d show us how to gut the fish.

I’d wince as his knife plunged into the trout’s soft underbelly, but Dad would explain:

“Cleaning the fish is part of fishing.”

Later that day, mom would grill the fish and we’d partake of our bountiful catch. 

My father also taught me to be a fighter through swimming lessons in the cool waters of the Colorado River.

After getting me to the point where I could swim with my face in the water, he’d float on a raft next to me so he could give me further instructions. I felt safe with my dad by my side. The most important skill he insisted I learn had to do with survival:

“When you get tired, roll over onto your back and float.”

I can’t count the times in life when things got so tough that the only way I could catch my breath was to roll over and float, surrendering to the buoyancy of grace as I remembered my father’s words.

The same can be said of art. 

Artwork by Gina Marie Wilson

Throughout the process of every painting, those “something’s just not right wrestlings” exhaust, and I need to lay on my back, look at the painting upside down, and float. Sometimes floating means walking away from the painting so I can return with fresh eyes and fight with the painting some more. Can you relate? 

Art requires you to stay in the ring. Whether learning a new skill or finishing an arduous project, you’ll want to quit a thousand times. Don’t! Learn to fight and float when you’re frustrated. 

Be Ye Fruitful: The Fruit of the Spirit only possible by the grace of God!

Another way my father stayed in the ring with me over the years was by taking long walks together. We’d walk and talk about life, faith, and the future. I remember running my life plans by him and he’d listen, ask questions, and give advice tempered with experience.

Dad taught me to sort through my ambitions and plan out my purposes. He didn’t try to give me all of the answers but gave me the gift of a listening ear. 

Artistic ambitions need long walks and listening ears. Often your creative journey takes you beyond what you start out pursuing. I’ve wandered through folk and classical guitar, dough sculpture, floral design, writing, mixed media, mask making, oil stick portraits, acrylic portraits, mixed media portraits, oil portraits, and returned to all of these art forms again.

I’m fortunate to have family and friends to encourage me, give me constructive feedback, and remind me that I can create. I encourage you to find some cheerleaders for your artistic pursuits. People that will listen to your frustrations and tell you not to quit. An artistic friend who will love you through your artistic slumps.

Dad also showed me how to work with my hands on outside projects. While mom and sis were cooking and sewing, I’d slip out to see what he was working on. He taught me how to put together a sprinkler system, which became very handy when I was a single mother for eight years. I would often come home from college classes late at night to find water pouring down the driveway and into the street. I’d have to repair the pipes, remembering what Dad had taught me.

From crafting birdhouses to making toy wagons, my father oozed with creativity and his works of art inspired me to create art with texture. 

After retiring, I decided to start Luna Arts & Ed LLC with the hope of picking up some part-time work. Recently, an educational consulting company requested for my fee schedule. I sent a copy to my dad and his reply brought tears to my eyes:

Wow Jo. What a resume. And you’re worth all of it. I’m your father and always have known your giftedness and it still overwhelmed me. It is totally the Lord’s giftedness because you have always given him the glory and his due. And you get to inherit heaven to boot. 

Love you much.


Once again, Dad’s in the ring with me, giving me encouragement as I sit in the corner waiting for the next round of life to begin. 

The lessons I’ve learned from my father will continue to encourage me to create and to fight my way through the tough times.

So when the way seems dreary and your life and art seem difficult, remember…there’s a fighter in you too!


2 Replies to “The Fighter: Lessons from my Father for Life and Art”

  1. A wonderfully written piece about your Dad. I had the distinct pleasure of working with your Dad on the L.A.County Fire Department. And, he was everything you described so beautifully…kind, caring, patient, and a good influence to all in the fire house. Happy Birthday to John…and thank you for sharing him with us. Give him a big squeeze for Jack and Sandy.

    1. Jack and Sandy, what a wonderful compliment about my father. I know it will warm his heart to read this, knowing what a positive influence he was to so many in the fire house. Thank you so much! I will pass this on to him!

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