HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Nearly 17 years ago Joseph Heeg moved to Germany three days after graduating from the Maryland InstituteAca,!a,,cs College of Art to pursue two things Aca,!" love and art.

He remains for love Aca,!" of his wife and three children Aca,!" he struggles with his art.

Aca,!A"I want to make that ever-elusive modern masterpiece,Aca,!A? Heeg said via e-mail. Aca,!A"Even when I fail Aca,!" I still have the luxurious pleasure of trying. I am grateful for this opportunity. Besides, IAca,!a,,cve been doing this for so long itAca,!a,,cs really become a habit.Aca,!A?

The product of his art habit will be displayed when the Heidelberg Arts and Cultural Center celebrates its grand opening at the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion March 7.

When Jen Bieser, Arts and Cultural Center director, was trying to decide who to bring in for the premier exhibition in the new facility, she said she Aca,!A"thought of what would work for the opening and (HeegAca,!a,,cs) art seemed perfect.Aca,!A?

"I am showing mostly military motifs and some very small drive-by images," said Heeg, whose paintings will be on display when the Cultural Room and Gallery officially opens at 7 p.m.

The military paintings are of military equipment, aircraft carriers, planes, helicopters and the like.

Other paintings heAca,!a,,cll exhibit are from his TV: Vietnam series which look back at images from the confusing time in American society; Garmisch War Memorial/Alps paintings, which are based on photos take of the portraits of the locals who died as Soldiers during World War II ; and the drive-by series, which are paintings based of photos he has taken while driving.

Aca,!A"These seem appropriate, and I hope to gain valuable feedback from them,Aca,!A? he said.
Heeg says he first realized he could express himself through art at an early age, Aca,!A"when I got my first show on the familyAca,!a,,cs refrigerator.Aca,!A?

He continues the tradition with his children. Aca,!A"Snapshots and kidsAca,!a,,c drawings fill the wall closest to the table we are sitting at.Aca,!A?

Heeg talks fondly about his family, and much of his schedule revolves around his children.

Aca,!A"I consider myself lucky enough to have married an incredible woman (Sandra) I care deeply for. We have a 21-month-old son named Ian. I have two fantastic kids from my first marriage; my son Jannis is 12, and my daughter Paulina is 8. We all try to spend as much time together as possible.Aca,!A?

HeegAca,!a,,cs original plan was to remain in Germany for two years. Plans changed, one thing led to another, and now he says heAca,!a,,cs Aca,!A"in Germany for the long haul, as I want to remain close to my kids.Aca,!A?

His children have also helped him with his art, and he considers them an major influence.

Aca,!A"The questions theyAca,!a,,cve posed to me over the years and their acute observations have been very surprising and even helpful.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"I struggle as a painter and as a drummer,Aca,!A? Heeg said, alluding to another form of expression.

Aca,!A"I really wish these things were easier for me. When everyone else is in the bars and cafes I am in my studio painting. Working, trying, failing. Maybe by best quality is my dogged persistence.Aca,!A?

He characterizes his work as a Aca,!A"collection of images that are primarily disposable. They are mostly familiar images, recreated in a Aca,!Eoeslow mediumAca,!a,,c and placed in another context,Aca,!A? which forces a new examination of the seeming familiarity.

Aca,!A"Paint has always been the medium of choice,Aca,!A? Heeg said.

Aca,!A"Music has always been extremely important to me. I not only enjoy listening to as much music as I can, but I have been lucky enough to have played with a lot of good musicians and artists.Aca,!A?

He mostly plays drums but has written some lyrics and even performed as front man on the microphone.

Aca,!A"This is an activity that has always helped me maintain some social contact as painting doesnAca,!a,,ct lend itself to a group effort.

Aca,!A"When you study art, you are allowed to become self-absorbed and committed to your own interests and whimsy,Aca,!A? Heeg wrote. Aca,!A"People think this is absolutely OK Aca,!" they support it and envy it.

Aca,!A"Everyone should feel that kind of liberation and empowerment.Aca,!A?

One thing that has allowed him freedom in his art is that he maintains a full-time job, so he doesnAca,!a,,ct depend on selling art to put bread on the table.

He currently works for a B2B publisher, but previously held jobs that kept him in contact with the American military population Aca,!" a TKS telephone and cable installer, and a contributor to Aca,!A"Getting Around USAREUR,Aca,!A? and Aca,!A"How-To GermanyAca,!A? magazines.

As a TKS employee, Heeg said, Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve been in nearly every building in Germany that houses U.S. service members and/or family members.Aca,!A?

During those 13 years, Heeg said the American hospitality and generosity was moving. Aca,!A"People would see me and invite me over for some barbecue, a beer, a cup of coffee. I even got invites to Thanksgiving dinners from strangers.Aca,!A?

He hasnAca,!a,,ct had much interaction with the military community lately, but he suggests people in the military community keep two things in mind, speaking from 17 years of experience in Germany. Get off post and visit the world beyond, and be mindful that you are not in the U.S., but a guest in another country.

Aca,!A"Express your gratitude, respect and reach out to locals by at least trying to speak the local language,Aca,!A? he said.

He expressed his gratitude and excitement about coming to Heidelberg to exhibit his work.

Aca,!A"I am very grateful for the opportunity to be the first to exhibit (at the Arts and Cultural Center) and I am excited to hear what the community thinks about my work.Aca,!A?

(Editor's Note: Jason Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)