In 1969, Ted Blaylock put his journeyman's card away forever.
Wages from his previous year's work of 12-hour shifts as a construction steam pipe fitter meant he could pay down his mortgage, or ...
Pursue his dream of being a professional artist.
He, his wife and their twin boys lived in a one-bedroom apartment.
Acrylic paints had not yet been invented.
"The apartment smelled like linseed oil. There were little handprints on the floor and walls," Blaylock said.
With his wife's blessing, Blaylock opened his art studio and took on students.
"I thought, if I can just get through five years, I can get up to about $15,000," Blaylock said.
The mostly self-taught artist concentrated on getting his work in front of the public, any way he could.
Traveling to art shows over the years gave Blaylock the chance to sell his work and be around his peers.
"It's nice to say I'll sit in my cave and do my art, but hearing, ‘I like your work ... we all like to be stroked,'" he said.
When a person hands him money for a painting, Blaylock said that is also a barometer of what the buyer really thinks.
Now his work is in galleries in New York, Nevada and Scottsdale.
"Ninety percent of the work force looks forward to Friday, but I never woke up in the morning and said, ‘I've got to go to work,'" Blaylock said.
In 1972, the Blaylocks and their four sons moved from St. Louis, Mo. to Mesa, Ariz.
He found he was satisfied with three in 10 paintings in those early years.
He made the switch from oils and watercolors to acrylics. He experimented with abstract through ultra-realistic styles.
"I was painting a big demonstration piece once and a woman came in and said, I want to buy it right now," Blaylock said.
"I had to decide, do I compromise.
"I told her, I'll sell it to you when I am done."
The woman did not buy the piece, but Blaylock smiled as he said, "The artist holds the dial."
Just shy of four decades since that first studio, Blaylock's eagles soar in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum Birds in Art.
The National Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited have purchased his paintings.
Countless people have taken his art home or mailed it on in the form of Leanin' Tree greeting cards.
The Roaring Baltic (train) has steamed on its mountain tracks through homes, as people linked the puzzle pieces.
"I Am the Living Water" one of a series of six "I am" series, based on the Biblical sayings of Christ, has also been turned into a puzzle.
The cards and puzzles gave Blaylock national exposure beginning in the 1970s. Calendars gave him international exposure.
Blaylock was a savvy businessman.
From the beginning, he saved 5 percent of every painting he sold and when he accumulated enough money, he bought an advertisement.
As he gained a reputation for his paintings of eagles, trains, landscapes and Western scenes, he increased the percentage.
Ads in a southwest art magazine that showcased his eagles, garnered him a new client who commissioned seven paintings, he said.
A few years ago he added up what he had spent in advertising and said he considers the $400,000 well spent.
"The people who buy your work have to know your name and style," he said.
Blaylock was Arizona Artist of the Year in 1999. In 2000, he was initiated into the Arizona Hall of Fame through the Heritage Fund.
Blaylock's fish is on the lifetime trout stamp, Arizona anglers carry in their tackle boxes.
"I painted until midnight during my production years. Now I am not retired, just slowing down. I like to walk my dog and the crappie are biting on Roosevelt Lake," Blaylock said.
Blaylock is one of the artist participating in the 2007 'Neath the Rim Show, Nov. 2 through 4.