Muskogee artist Ron Pitts says he lives by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
"No system, real or imagined, can continuously convert heat into work," he said, plainly summing up the science jargon. "No system in the universe is 100 percent efficient."
Pitts learned the science of thermodynamics while earning a engineering degree from Boston's Northeastern University.
He learned to apply the law to life while serving in the U.S. Navy, engineering a tugboat, working as a roadie for rock groups, cartooning for a Hawaii newspaper and overcoming cancer. He said he laughs when people tell him time is money.
"Time is time, that’s all we have," Pitts said. "When I take my last breath, that's the end of my time. So I want to have a good time and I want to make people laugh and have a smile in their heart."
The Boston-area native served six years in the U.S. Navy, spending a lot of that time on a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Whale.
"In the military, where the battle is joined, all policies and plans go out the window," he said. "Everybody does their job."
After serving in the Navy, Pitts got a job with a company that made public address systems. During the 1980s, he worked with such acts as Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars and Joe Cocker.
Severe health issues and connections with a former roadie brought Pitts to Maui, Hawaii. His art skill and sense of humor helped him land a job as an artist for Maui Time Weekly's "Eh Brah" cartoon.
When Hawaii got too expensive, Pitts found his way to Muskogee, where he lives with four cats. He sells his digital paintings at art crawls and online.
under the sea
Ron Pitts spent two years on the USS Whale.
"The finest, fastest Sturgeon-class submarine ever built," he said.
The USS Whale did antisubmarine warfare, guarding carriers with another submarine.
Pitts recalled working 16-hour days.
"You don't eat much in the way of food because you can't make noise," he said. "If you fart underwater, a good SONAR technician 10 miles away can tell what you had for lunch. So we were very quiet."
He said the longest time he spent underwater on the USS Whale was 57 days during the Cypriot evacuation in 1974. He said he was with 95 other men.
"Everybody's claustrophobic," he said. "Anybody who says they're not claustrophobic are lying. You have bags, and they're all over the place. You see them looking up and when you see them looking up, you hand them a bag."
Breathing into the bags helped resolve hyperventilation, he said.
"People that are doing submarine work are trained enormously," he said. "There is a lot of training."
After serving on the submarine, Pitts ran the engine room on the USS Seattle, a combat support ship.
"That was a good boat, too," he said. "It was a pretty new ship. It was a good job to have."
Pitts found a kinship with rock band roadies.
"Everybody I toured with was ex-military," he said. "In those days, we had to wire stuff up. When you're putting $500 or $600 down for a ticket on the front row seat, the show has to come on. And the only people you could think to prevail upon to make that show happen is ex-military."
Pitts said the ex-military lived by the uniform code, "which basically says you will protect and defend those who cannot protect themselves."
"When you get backstage, all these long-haired guys are talking military," he said.
Pitts recalled working with Aerosmith when lead singer Steven Tyler was at a low point.
"He was doing a lot of drugs," he said. "That was then. He doesn't do drugs anymore. He's straight as an arrow."
Pitts recalled touring with Joe Cocker in 1981.
"Joe was the nicest guy in the world," he said. "And he was an engineer, that's why I liked him. He was a gas fitter in England before he became a rock star."
Touring was only a part-time job however. Pitts also worked as a chief engineer on tugboats. He said he eventually got bored with touring.
"And tugboats were paying me way to much money not to go," he said.
Painting in a
Pitts said his art is inspired "by anything that causes me to say 'what the hell is that.'"
"Every day you get a coin," he said philosophically. "And the coin has a bad side and a good side. And I try to find the good side. I want to make people smile."
He recalled talking about Somalia with some veterans in a bar when Liberty Mutual's emu commercial came on.
"One of the Marines said they do that in Somalia, and I said 'yeah, they have ostrich races,'" Pitts said.
That inspired Pitts' painting of a woman riding a horse and a man riding an ostrich.
"I thought, 'people will think about that. They'll talk about that,'" he said.
Pitts does not paint using paint because his body lacks a lymphatic system.
He paints digitally instead, moving a stylus across a digital tablet. His computer program offers him a choice of brush width and colors. He has tools that allow him to smudge, blur or erase parts of his painting.
"Once I get a concept in my head, I draw it on paper," he said. It used to take two weeks to do a painting because I painted with oils. Oils take time to dry, it takes a lot of processing. This is a pretty cool thing to do."
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
"I left the island and I checked my email when I was in Dallas, and (a friend sent me) one saying 'hey brah, you gotta check out this chick,' and it was a girl playing note for note Eddie Van Halen's 'Eruption.' Her name was Millisa Henderson and she was from Muskogee. I painted a picture of her. (A friend) got it in Boston and put it on his Facebook page. Millisa liked it, so she friended me and put it on her site. (Her mother worked for the VA). I didn't know I was going to come here, but the best VA hospital is up on the hill."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
"I like the food for the most part. And I like the pricing. It's like the lottery coming here, this place is so cheap. And the heart and soul of America exists here."
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
"If they listened to the people. I'll tell you about sidewalks. If you put 10 feet of steel rebar, cement sidewalks in front of a municipality. For every 10 feet of that sidewalks, creates three jobs."
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
"Victor Lezama, the Barracks, and what he has done. He did 10 years in the Army and 10 years in the Marine Corps flying helicopters, pulling people from bad stuff, saving people and saving lives."
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
"Helping give birth to these cats. The cat had them in my closet and I helped pull them out. The greatest thing, I think is this family I have."
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
"I don't really do anything in my spare time. I'm trying to paint because when I leave here, I'm trying to leave an impression with someone that I did something."
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
"I'm back to the birthplace of what I consider the heart and soul of the United States of America."
NAME Ron Pitts.
HOMETOWN: Weymouth, Massachusetts.
EDUCATION: Weymouth Vocational Technical High School; Master's degree in engineering, Northeastern University, Boston.
MILITARY SERVICE: Six years in the Navy.
FAMILY: Sister, Cathy; four cats, Spanky, Darla, Alfalfa, Stymie.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Thermodynamics.
HOBBIES: "I paint and take care of my cats. And I make people laugh."