Carnegie Hall

Violin by Charlie O'Shields


Hopefully it’s clear that this doodlewash is of a violin, but just in case, that was the intent. I was recently attending a Kansas City Symphony performance and I noticed somebody I went to high school with there and it got me thinking about the only instrument I learned to play well. I started playing the violin in 4th grade and continued all the way through high school. Just before giving it up for good, I had the unique opportunity to play on stage at one of the world’s most famous concert halls – Carnegie Hall in New York City.

There’s a famous story that has become part of the folklore of the hall: A New Yorker is approached in the street near Carnegie Hall, and asked, “Pardon me sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” To which the New Yorker glibly replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” It’s less of a real story than a retold joke, but it’s something I always heard while growing up. And I was lucky enough to find my way there by being in a top high school orchestra at precisely the right moment.

Another thing that reminded me of violins was my trip to Missouri Town. While standing on the steps of an old house there, I remembered that I used to play old time fiddle for local festivals as part of The Fantastic Fiddlers Four group. Angela, the only female fiddler in the group and I were brown-haired, big-eyed and looked like brother and sister. The director was often worried the matching outfits would make it look too much like the Donny & Marie show.

Angela was also our concert mistress at Carnegie Hall, which means she was first chair, first violin and played the “A” we would tune to, not the second definition which would imply she was a having an extramarital sexual relationship. She wasn’t. But she was an amazing violinist, and I was always so impressed by just how much better she was than me.

I would spend my life feeling that same feeling of inadequacy about various talented people I would encounter through my many adventures. Why are they so good? Why I am not so good? But I was somehow disappointed to discover that they just had a unique passion for that craft and did it every single day. No secrets, no shortcuts to be found. They just started focusing on something and worked really hard to get really good at it.

Now, whenever I find myself wondering whether or not I’m good enough, instead I just ask myself if I’m actually doing enough. For the first time in my life, I’m doodlewashing (and even writing!) daily and I’m loving it. I feel like I’ve discovered something that I can actually commit to and with daily practice I’m getting better and better (mostly… sometimes it’s a couple steps back before moving forward again). But whenever I’m discouraged, I just remember that mastering any art form is done in precisely the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice!

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Catherine Johnson 7 years ago


  2. kirkistan 7 years ago

    Charlie, you are out there getting it done with your drawing and writing. Hello 10,000 hours & Hello Carnegie Hall (or equivalent).

    • Author

      Thank you sooooo much, Kirk!! 😃 The 10,000 hours thing is cool! At this rate I probably have 13-15 years before mastery though! 😳

  3. Jacob 7 years ago

    You’ve played Carnegie Hall? Great Scotland Yard, Charlie, another string to your bow (pun very much intended.) How amazing. That must have been daunting!

    Yes, we often overlook the simple fact that those we enviously view as better than us have mostly just devoted more time to their craft than we have. And they’ve met failure. Many times. I especially seem to forget that.

    Good for you on your doodlewash diligence. I don’t know how you manage to get it all wrapped up every day, but I’m jolly glad that you do!

    • Author

      Awww thanks so much Jacob!! ❤️😃Your continued support means a lot! I need it! Hehe…it’s super hard to keep this going. I switched to objects thinking it would be easier, but it’s just as challenging. Lol oh well…I just need more practice!! 😊 who knows…in a year this will get easier, right? Lol

  4. Amen, brother Ben! Or Brother Charlie, in this case lol! Who’s got the most miles on his/her pencils and paintbrushes?! That IS the question. And the answer! Bravo, Charlie O! 😘🎨👍👏

  5. Oh and I LOVE your violin. I played 3-5th grade, and your rendering is beautiful, Charlie!

    • Author

      Hehe…thanks!! Or…thanks to Quin Gold for the glowing underwash! 😊😃

      • Oooh!!! Yes! Wonderful! Thanks for that tip! I love the glow on your violin! Love the quin tones. :)))

        • Author

          I stopped putting in all the technical stuff since most of my guests have that covered. Hehe 😊 and I’m not super technical, but this time I did layer up. And used Burnt Sienna, Maroon and Alizarin Crimson on top of the gold with some more mixed in. (Tried to do it while avoiding Raw Umber entirely and still get a “brown” across) 😉

  6. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    Wow…this: “whenever I find myself wondering whether or not I’m good enough, instead I just ask myself if I’m actually doing enough”…just some of the most awesome advice I’ve read! I will give you the biggest hug if and when we ever meet up, my friend!

    Playing at Carnegie Hall is almost as good as being King of Iceland! 😀 <3

    • Author

      Oh we’ll meet one day!! I’ll make sure of it! 😉 I want that hug!! Hehe ❤️😃thanks Teresa! I’m so happy you like this post! And yeah, playing Carnegie Hall was almost as good as being King…but not quite! Still on the bucket list! 👍🏻

  7. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Lovely violin painting, you captured the warm reflective surface nicely. Your story of introspection and reflection is wonderful with timely advice, inspiration and motivation to keep “doing” and of course “practice, practice, practice.” The exact reminder I needed. OH, and the image of you playing a violin…perfect fit. Thank you Charlie…Peace.

    • Author

      Awesome! So happy you liked this post Haunani! ❤️😃 It was fun to paint a violin, but I haven’t tried to play one in over 20 years! Hehe 😊

  8. Jill Holmes 7 years ago

    Great post! And 100% accurate. 😊

  9. Kari 7 years ago

    I’m loving the Charlie-ism. That really strikes a chord (A-major chord, my favorite). I love Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell and I swoon over David Garret. Violin is a lovely instrument. And your doodlewash is fabulous! Must have been thrilling to play at Carnegie Hall!!

    • Author

      Thanks Kari! ❤️😃 It was super awesome…the acoustics were amazing and it really was an unforgettable experience!! Glad you like a little violin action…I don’t play anymore, but still love to hear a good violin solo! 😃

  10. Jodi 7 years ago

    Oh Charlie – could you endear yourself any more to us?! Lovely violin, but even lovelier soul who drew it…. <3

    • Author

      Could you possibly make me blush any more, Jodi?! Hehe!! 😊😊😊You’re just so incredibly sweet! Thank you my friend! I really appreciate it! ❤️😃

  11. kungfunaomi 7 years ago

    Love that story! My friend plays violin, she’s 12, and she played at Carnegie Hall!!! Oh, and love the violin, it looks excellent.

    • Author

      Hehe…I wasn’t that level of prodigy. I had to wait until I was 17! Lol That’s soooo cool!! Thanks Naomi! Glad you like this doodlewash!! 😃😃

  12. Carol King 7 years ago

    Well written and well said. Practice, practice, practice is the best advice for anyone wanting to do anything well.
    Congratulations on making it to Carnegie Hall. That is one awesome concert venue.

    And that is a great doodlewash of a violin.

    • Author

      Thanks so much Carol!! ❤️😃So happy you liked the writing and the doodlewash!! I often wonder if I’d ever be able to play if I tried it again. Not sure it’s like riding a bike though! 😳😊hehe

  13. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    A beautiful Doodlewash concerto! Thanks for writing your Carnegie Hall experience.

  14. jmnowak 7 years ago

    Aahh, dreams…for me, it would be singing at Carnegie Hall, or the Sydney Opera House, whichever came first! You’re a multi-talented person, Charlie…when the urge takes you at some point in the future, I’m sure you’ll just grab the nearest violin and just start playin’.
    Your doodlewash is excellent!

    • Author

      Wow, Janina…I didn’t know you were a singer! That’s awesome!! 👍🏻😃 yeah…I just haven’t been anywhere that had a violin laying about… so who knows?! Hehe. Glad you liked this doodlewash friend! ❤️😃

      • jmnowak 7 years ago

        Singing only in school days, but most enjoyable and reasonably good enough for school musicals and revues, alto soprano, all types of music except rock. Today I occasionally sing along to a Celine Dion or Barbra Streisand song…dreaming…wishing….you know how it goes…l.o.l. !

        • Author

          Never stop dreaming and wishing!! Or singing for that matter! I still sing in the car, but that’s about it for me anymore. And no rock for me either! 😉

          • jmnowak 7 years ago

            No rock, then…now would be a different matter; school rules and all that. I have no delusions about today’s singing, believe me, but thanks for the encouragement, Charlie! <3

  15. Rebecca 7 years ago

    Charlie, I think your writing is just as beautifully crafted as your doodlewashes, and a joy to read. 🙂

    • Author

      Oh Rebecca, I want to hug you! ❤️😃What a wonderful thing to say!! I’ve always loved writing, but never thought I was any good at it. 😊 Hopefully this bonus daily writing practice is working then!

  16. Sabiscuit 7 years ago

    I love violin concertos and sonatas so much. This doodlewash lifted my day. I’m off to listen to some music now. Thank you for the reminder. x

  17. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Every day, new surprises. Looking forward to the next one…(K)

  18. amaryllislog 7 years ago

    So that explains my “fail” at playing the flute, I was a fraud and avoided practice, I just thought I looked cool walking around with a flute…after all, my older sister played the flute, she could cover for me. I’m so impressed that you played at Carnegie Hall! I love your violin, its beautiful and rich and fills the page with joy. I’m a fan of the 10,000 hours concept. I have a very long way to go, but this time I practice everyday.

    • Author

      Hehe…practice is u fortunately the only way, though I always wished there was some little cheat! 😊 I think it’s also a matter of finding what you truly love to do. Passion is a prerequisite! Thanks! I’m so happy you like this doodlewash, Cathe! It was fun to paint and remember.❤️😃

  19. Sand Salt Moon 7 years ago

    Good enough or doing enough – wow, that’s a wonderful distinction and a fabulous question to ask oneself. Oh, yes – I knew it was a violin, and certainly not a guit-fiddle.

  20. Rachel Murphree 7 years ago

    Charlie, this is really motivational and so true! thanks for your continuing engaging posts and art!

  21. Elestra 7 years ago

    Beautiful picture and wonderful instrument. It is not easy to learn to play on it! I know something about this :)! Can you make one day picture of hardanger fiddle?

    • Author

      Thank you! Glad you liked this doodlewash! I had to look up a hardanger fiddle as I’d never heard of it! Sounds cool! One day I might try to doodlewash one! Did you play this kind of fiddle?

      • Elestra 7 years ago

        Unfortunately no… This kind of violin is very hard to get. In addition, the cost of buying the fiddle in Norway is very high. Hardanger you can not buy in a music store, you need to find a good manufacturer or craftsman. I have only classical and electric violin as well. Hardanger have a beautiful ornament and you should try to doodlewash one 🙂

        • Author

          Ahhhh…gotcha! But cool you play electric violin…I never tried that. 😃And lol…you’re making me quite a doodlewash list! 😊

  22. […] like painting something shiny in a limited palette. Though I never played this instrument I did play violin in the school orchestra and piano for a few years before getting frustrated that I wasn’t […]

  23. […] I challenged my way to one of the front chairs in my final year, just before our group got to play at Carnegie Hall in New York. It was a triumphant experience to play on that historic stage and I still remember the […]

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