Monday, November 23, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

New painting: Shame

Shame
I wanted this picture to come out a bit more vivid with the red color of the two people, but I had only a red pen. Biblical images and stories are still very powerful to me. I also think it's fun to play with colors that mean things. Red, the color of blushing and embarrassment, works well here for the story.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New painting: Lamentation of Christ

Lamentation of Christ
This picture was inspired by the Lamentation of Christ that I saw at a nearby church here in the Karlin District of Prague. There's Jesus to the bottom right laying on the ground, his arm is laying across the bottom of the picture left to right. The blue faced woman is Mary. The head to the right above Jesus is John the Apostle trying to console Mary. To the left is a family of people, a man, a woman, a baby, and a young child. The kids are looking at the hand of Jesus that's lying in the green grass at the bottom left of the picture. There's some stuff that you can't even see since it's a photo. The hand of Jesus is actually gold glitter paper and the green bits of grass above Jesus's fingers is reflective paper. There are also about 50 or so rolled papers of all sorts of colors on top of the picture that give it physical texture and like a 3D sort of feel.

New painting: Sun, water and grass

Sun, water and grass

Monday, September 21, 2015

New painting: Troops, do you.

Troops, do you.
This is a picture of a soldier walking through a jungle. His head and helmet are in the middle of the picture. There's an huge toucan very close to the viewer on the right side. There's an enemy soldier (in blue) mimicking the shape of the toucan. To the left is a monkey looking at the blue man and putting up his arm as well. Below the monkey is a horse with a handmade blanket over him. Inside the arch of the horses neck is a baby elephant. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New blog post: Trying to figure out the way forward

As more time passes and I don't work, things get sort of weird. I know it's not good for me to stay out of the work loop. I know I have to work and have a job, just that every time I look at what's on offer out there I get bummed out because it all sounds so boring. I end up just Xing out of the window and going on to do something else, like write or work on a painting I am enjoying. The areas I have the most experience in are boring to me, but I could do those jobs wells. It's endless. The pull of knowing there's something you could do for a job, and the pull in the opposite direction that it would bore the living hell out of you and feel like a waste of time.

It's very hard here to get galleries to look at my paintings. When they do, they don't see anything special, but I just love them and think they're great. There is a special energy to them and the choices are interesting. Paintings are made up of hundreds of little choices.

I've always used paper since I started years ago. I've never had much space to work, and living over here in Prague, I figured if I ever wanted to transport pictures back to the US, it would be easier if I could fold them up and stuff them away. Now I see that doing things that way frees you up to make pictures as large as you like. You can build them, spread them left or right up or down as the picture sort of tells you where it wants to go. I try to listen to what the picture wants to be, how big it wants to be, what shape it wants to be. I would like to play with different shapes and sizes and materials, but there's no space for it right now. Paper is the way for now. As far as paints, I used to paint with oils but they take too long to dry, folding paper with oil paint on it bleeds the paint onto all sides and generally ruins a picture. Acrylic is the way to go for now. It dries fast and doesn't crack or come off. Basically everything about the pictures comes down to efficiency. I don't want to spend an hour perfecting a hand. I'd rather trace my own hand, cut it out and paste it on the picture. There. A hand. A perfectly good hand done quickly. I don't really understand working to draw a perfect human figure when a rough outline tells the story just as well. But everyone's different.

I just thought I would write as much as possible. Maybe I'll stick with the plan this time to actually write daily. I don't know. I'm not even sure I get any actual readers to this blog after all these years. It's still mostly for me, to make something, to write something. At least to have something for myself.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Part of the journey

It would be nice just to show something I've made that I'm proud of in a gallery or anywhere really.

There are days when all that matters to me is to do what you enjoy, to make something, to be in the moment and ignoring stress and worry. On those days, I'm making something special and beautiful regardless if it's seen. I am perfectly ready to receive it, and it arrives perfectly. I'm not focused on myself. Something full of color, proportion, and sentiment, gets made, and I'm there to be part of it.

When I do get through to some place by phone or email, they tell me to send some work. That usually sends me on a tear to make a bunch of new paintings to have something new and fresh to show. Once I send the pictures I rarely get a response.

This is all part of the journey, part of the story, so I believe. You have to talk about it. The ups and downs. The difficulty. The fear and confusion. All that matters is to figure out what's important to you and to do that. That's the only way.

New painting: Dar à luz

Dar à luz
This is a picture of a person giving birth. On the right is a person reaching up to the sun. On the left is the bottom half upside down of a person giving birth and there's a baby on the top left. Here's a clearer diagram of it:


In Spanish "Dar à luz" means to give birth. Literally though it means "to give to light

Picture dimensions and materials:
5 ft (3m) tall, 4ft (3m) wide
Acrylic and chalk on paper


Thursday, August 27, 2015

New painting: Sunrise on the Sower

Sun rise on the Sower
Acrylic on paper
3ft by 3ft
Aug 2015
The top portion of this picture could be bolder and there could be more of a contrast, but it's hard when you're trying to take a photo of a painting. It never comes out quite as bold as it should I think because the camera tries to balance sharply contrasting colors. Anyway I use my ipad to take the photos and I imagine they would be better pics if I used a camera. At some point I guess it's important to realize it doesn't really matter if a picture is perfectly finished or not. The color is what I'm after, that the picture is balanced. For a while I've fallen away from what I originally wanted the pictures to be about: something spiritual and colorful. I suppose I've had this image stuck in my head for a long long while.

New painting: Medvidek (Little bear)

Medvidek (Little bear)
Acrylic on paper
4ft by 3ft
Aug 2015
I'm not sure how clear this is to see. It's a bear with a white head laying on it's side. Above it is a vulture with an alligator head. To the upper right is the shape of a woman. On the right is a horse head and across the body of the bear is one of the horse's legs.

But it's not really all that important what the picture is of. I suppose the bear is the main thing. It's really just important that it's full of color and texture and patterns and that it works aesthetically to the eye. That's really the most important thing. Enjoy!

New painting: Bat boy

Bat boy
Acrylic on paper
3ft by 3ft
Aug 2015

This painting has a bunch of writing on it and around it which you can't really read all that clearly just looking at it. The picture is large and the writing is small. I figured I will just try and put the writing on the picture in any way I can, just whatever comes to mind, whatever I wanna say, whatever I feel at the moment when I'm making the picture.

Nobody sees with me, why this is beautiful, why everything in some way is a miracle and gorgeous. Now I realize that it sounds like an exaggeration but I truly mean that. It's a miracle. It's insane. It's crazy, and none of it has any real place though it does exist or should exist..I know this doesn't look like much. But it's my attempt to contribute something that touches people with words, with color, with shapes. I'm not a great talker but I can make something for you. Everything that I love about life is my castle. But outside, on horses, are men. A man, today, is not my friend. A man is everything in this world. Violence, dominance, intimidation. Be a man. Manliness. I don't know what any of that means.I want to feel fully alive. I want to express myself fully. Why? Because that's what I love.

New painting: Falling sun

Falling Sun
Acrylic on paper
4ft by 3ft
Aug 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

New painting: WWII

WWII
Acrylic and chalk on paper
4ft by 3ft
This is a picture where there's different things going on on each side of the picture, almost like they're two different scenes. On the left is a group of individuals gathered. On the right is a (likely difficult to see) woman playing a violin and a man above her leaning over a road. There's a house in the middle and above that in the chimney smoke the face of a child. I don't know if there's much of a story to the picture. I try and make something and if a story or figures come through, that would be nice. If not, that's okay. In this case some figures do come through.

woman playing violin
House

child's face in the smoke

man leaning over the road
I'm really just having fun with color and patterns and textures though and if something comes through it's sort of like making up a story for it when it does.

It's hard. I understand that some people might think that a picture or a drawing should stand on it's own, that it shouldn't require an explanation. I know, for me, for someone who's interested in the things people make, I get the most out of those things when I know where they come from, when I hear the artist's perspective. I remember for a long time not really understanding why Andy Warhol was so interesting. When you read his book or see the documentary about his life, and hear his voice come through, hear his perspective on things, why he made what he made, it makes all the difference. All the sudden I could see why it was beautiful, why it was valued. I feel like these days you have to somehow incorporate your voice into the things you make. There's no time to wait around and see if people will ask questions. That time will likely never come. Whenever I see an interesting picture or an interesting piece of art, it makes me want to hear someone's perspective on the thing, maybe even the artist's if possible. I don't like hearing highly conceptual explanations for things. I would rather know something human about the artist, about why they made it rather than what it means. I feel like that's missing, the human connections to objects. There is so much stuff to see these days, but very little explanation from a human side about why it's here, what purpose it serves, who it's for. I feel like that's the heart of everything though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New painting: Connection to nature

Connection to Nature
Acrylic and chalk on paper
4ft by 2ft
Aug 2015
The picture is divided into four parts. To the left is the sun setting. To the right of that (in white and blue is a man). To the right of him is a red horse with a broken leg. To the right of the horse is a figure with a yellow body and a red with a speech bubble above his head saying looking on saying "I'm so desperate to connect."

Some help to see the images:
Face
Sunrise

Friday, July 31, 2015

New painting: Black bird in hand. Wow...people watching

Black bird in hand. Wow...people watching
3ft by 2ft
Acrylic on paper
There are two heads to the top of the painting. At the bottom right corner there's a red heart. In the middle is a body and arms holding a black bird. I don't know what the black head at the bottom is. A person maybe. The colors when you put something up like this on the internet don't come through properly. If you could see it in person you'd see there's a lot of texture and the colors are much more vibrant. The reds, blues and greens are all primary colors because those are the only paints I have. What I mean is there are no shades and there is no mixing of paints to get different colors. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Writing

I think that the more you write, the more you learn about everything. It seems like as you get older you have more to lose. Certain things become private and not inappropriate to talk about anymore. I thought it would be the opposite way. The older you get, the less you have to lose. I would like to know people as they really are. I wish I could see into people the way you can see into the windows of buildings at night. As people get older they get more shut off, they close the doors, they pull down the shades, they lock the doors. I want to be more open as I get older and stay young. I wanna be able to say, at all times, Hey, look at what I made. Isn't it cool?

I wish the people in my family who are gone now wrote something while they were still alive. I would love to know about their life and their perspective, what it was like for them. Even if they would have written they probably wouldn't have said everything, knowing people would see it. But now all that information and their perspective is lost.

I feel like that at every turn nature is trying to teach me things. Time is short. Everything is valid. Go ahead, write, boy. Write about everything. Write about fear. Everything is something or might be something. Even if it's wrong. So what. Write however you wanna write. It doesn't matter. Or it does matter. Matters the most maybe. Everyone's scared and confused. It's okay. Remember what I said though, your time here is short. Write what you wanna write. Say what you wanna say. If you wanna paint, paint. All that will be left down the road is the way in which you lived. 

I feel like if people would talk about their experiences or write or make something, it would bring people together. We're limited by time, but we're here, together, aren't we? I feel like expressing our experiences would relieve some of the paranoia and fear of each other. We live in the safest time in history. I wanna grow and stretch, reach into the dark, not be paralyzed by fear.

I wanna make a life from the things I make. I want to show my art work and my writing without fear. Nobody sees there's incredible depth to the paintings. That's okay. I'm not reporting on some bullshit, I'm trying to get to the heart of something. Everything is mine. It's me. It's mine.

Do what you truly love. Be full and be here. Write about everything and love everything and express yourself. Make beautiful pictures and give things meanings as deep as you want them to be, sometimes not deep at all, just on the surface. That's fine. Use colors and textures. Use different materials. Use wood. Crumple paper, make shapes, tactile pictures. Make something people can touch. Art can transform people. It can open up their heads and transform their brains. You've had it happen to you. And it can look cool too. Bonus. 

Just imagine if you could touch a painting in a museum. Imagine if you could run your hands over the hands and faces someone painted a thousand years ago, a person like you, a man like you, or a woman, like your mother, a woman your mother's age, and the security guards would sit there and have nothing to say. It could be an intimate experience.

I wanna write from my heart about what I see and feel and what I think is beautiful, and show people things I made that prove I have an eye for beauty. I don't wanna make art and sell it through a gallery. I wanna make art and sell it myself to people who see the value in what I do. I don't wanna quit. There are times when I don't know what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. It makes no sense to paint a painting anymore, to even pay for paint. The way things are going everything's digital. Digital means instant distribution. I don't know what it is. The whole time I'm like, no one's gonna see this, what are you doing? Nobody goes to galleries anymore. They're dead. There is something to seeing something in person though, a physical object that is handmade, one of a kind, that's special to me but to very few others it seems. I believe there is something to it that someone's hands were on something, someone with an idea. All logic and reason says Not anymore. But there's something worth pursuing. I don't know what it is or if I'm on the right track.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Painting: Le Dame Bleu

Le Dame Bleu
Acrylic on paper
4ft by 3ft
Aug 2015
The title for this painting I got from this excellent documentary about fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Le Dame Bleu was the name of a show he did in honor of his friend and supporter Isabella Blow. In my picture Le Dame Bleu is a river of water caused by too much rain around the house. If you turn the picture upside down you can see the figure of a woman more clearly. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New blog post: Faith and church and something the pastor said

I know I can write about whatever and should. There are no limits really to what this can be. Not unless I   make them and put them myself. I feel like I need to be completely straight and honest. For myself mostly. Maybe it can mess me up for future jobs. I don't care anymore. There's something higher than a job, like where you can get for yourself. I don't know. It seems that way, that you have to just talk. Talk and write. I don't wanna waste time. That job was a waste, but I got a lot done. I spent a lot of time just sitting there though, passing time wondering what was wrong with me because I felt completely out of place than those people, like I was trapped in someone else's body. There are people that understand. Most people I met are different though, don't think the same, can't sympathize, won't encourage you to go do something different. They say things like, "You're lucky to have a job. It's hard out there." And they're right for them but not for me.

I try to make something every day. Sometimes I make music and I put the songs up on youtube.  I was thinking about when I'm playing those synths and those bass strings on Garageband and playing a nice melody on top of them how they cue something inside. I remember back when I used to go to a pentacostal church, how they had a band. I was over the pastor's house once and he said something that I never forgot. He said that certain songs were better than others for bringing people down to the front to accept Jesus into their hearts. When I went to those youth group nights they would play songs underneath the pastor talking about God. The kids would cry and would get so hyped up. The band would go into a song with a big emo chorus and people would go down to the front in tears. I remember noticing the parents and older people standing back or consoling the kids down front. It didn't feel right. It felt like a trick. They were using magic (music) to open kids up, to get them to open up to whatever the message was. But music is something different for kids than for adults. Using it like that felt wrong.

I've always felt like musicians were the ones who were who were really telling you what was going on. Everyone else, teachers, parents, everybody else, had to censor themselves. Music had gangster rap. Where was that in life? What did TV have? What did movies have? Nothing close. You never heard the things people would say in music anywhere else. Listening to music while you were walking around it felt like everybody around you was clothed and the people you were listening to were naked.

I suppose even the best music artists manipulate their audience and even milk it a bit. What's the difference between christians doing it to get you to be a christian and non-christians doing it to get you for some other reason? I don't know. It's messy. I always held music up as some kind of holy messaging device not to be messed with. But that's not right. The right thing is to get exposure to music in all its forms and to be able to recognize, hopefully at some point that it's a tool like anything else.

I feel like I need to put my whole heart into something if it'll mean anything. In order to be different you have to literally be different. People around me are fulfilled. They have different priorities. Without writing and without putting my art up in cool places I won't get anywhere for myself. Writing is a big part of it. I can feel it. I have to write more. Something will happenif I keep writing and making things and working hard. I still have some kind of faith in that. I can't explain it. I guess it's just faith again like I used to feel when I went to church.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beyond the Material: the Art of Jean Delville

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains?"
 Walt Whitman 

THE QUESTION

Jean Delville was born in Louvain, Belgium in 1867. He believed art was a great mystery and that seeing art could help people endure the hardships of life. When he started painting, he depicted the downtrodden and the destitute. As his grew as an artist, he shifted to the inner life and depicted (as he saw it) the soul, love, and spiritual transcendence. Some of his works are in public museums today, but the whereabouts of many of his paintings are still unknown. He died in 1953 on his birthday.

Prague is the right place for such an exhibition. There are many artists here, like Delville, who are not up-and-coming, not emerging, not contemporary, though their art is still circulating and is still occasionally made public.

So what did this 19th century Belgian painter have to say? Is his art still relevant today?

THE EXPLANATION

Delville’s earliest drawings are stark black and white scenes of peasant life reminiscent of early Van Gogh. Van Gogh, dismissed as a missionary for living with the poor instead of only preaching to them, is something of a spiritual brother to Delville. Delville believed his paintings could contribute to spiritual revival in his lifetime and only the higher planes of existence were important. Among his early works (on show in this exhibition) are Delville’s paintings of the recent dead.

Delville saw the human body as a prison for the soul. He believed that only death could set the spirit free. In one of the pictures present here, an old woman lies in a bed. Light from a candle illuminates her face. The portrait is soft and tender, respectful and delicate. The sentiment is sad but peaceful. This is a moment of great value to Delville, not to be wasted or treated carelessly. At this time in his career he's starting to become more and more interested in what life beyond the body might look like.

After 1900, Delville pursues the interests he’s known for: depicting the human spirit. The symbols from this point forward in his paintings are simplified. The opposite bank of a pond, which could have been the setting for a peasant fishing is now just to be a picture of an opposite bank. Delville let's the picture transmit its own meaning. Given the spiritual context of his work at this time, it seems to represent the Other Side, the unknown and unknowable.

Other paintings from this time depict an alternate world. In one picture, mounds of translucent male and female forms writhe and slip in and out of each other’s arms. In another, embracing couples fly across the sky. These aren't people, they're spirits, they're souls enjoying freedom that comes with death. 

To Delville, death is how the spirit frees itself. The more he allowed himself to imagine what might be beyond the material world, the more he freed himself artistically. His figures and forms in this later period of his life are painted in creamy blues and greens. The light around a picture of Jesus, traditionally gold, is a peculiar yellow in his work. I wouldn't call the colors vibrant either. They're the colors of a face starved of oxygen. It's as if Delville is telling you there is more to life than you can see, that there are colors you'll only see when your soul reaches a certain altitude.

Delville's themes here are the mysteries of life, love, and spirituality. He’s attempting to depict a world we can't know using physical forms and symbols we're familiar with. After viewing all the artwork, it felt to me that Delville was trying to describe something that was impossible to describe. Though he dedicated so much of his life to spiritual revival, he never lost sight of the physical world or his place in it. On the wall of the very last room of the exhibition is the following quote by the artist:
“I regret now that I have preserved what related to my artistic career in a rather nonchalant way – yes, that’s the right word. My study of theosophy made me not attach any special significance to the external manifestations of my personality. It has brought – and still brings – light into my inner life, but it has caused me to extricate myself from immediate personal issues, and in terms of the artistic life, it has made me lonely." 
He painted with the hope of lifting others up, but regretted dedicating so much to the cause. At the end of his life, he was, at the very least, questioning the choices he made.

THE EVIDENCE 

I grew up in a church-going family. On Sunday mornings my brother and I delivered papers then went to church with our parents. We went because going meant breakfast afterwards.

I didn't pay much attention to the church services. I thought they were slow and boring. But habits and traditions affect you in strange ways. I must have liked something about it because as a teenager I joined a church of my own.

I only went the first time because a high school friend invited me one night after soccer practice. The boys I met shook my hand and the girls hugged me. I memorized bible passages and prayed. I brought a bible to school and work. I evangelized once or twice. I don't know what I believed. I liked the friendships. I liked the girls. I stayed involved for a few years but stopped going when I traveled abroad to study in Europe.

I studied in Spain and lived with a Spanish family in an apartment block there. The Spanish students I went to school with invited me over for holidays when I had nowhere to go. They took me to night clubs and bullfights, cooked me dinner and played me music. They weren't religious people. They were just friendly when I was alone and needed friends. I was touched by their kindness.

At the university I read poetry and watched foreign movies for the first time. I studied the art history of Spain with a great teacher. His passion for art rubbed off on many of us. The artists I enjoyed the most had unique styles (El Greco, Miro, Goya). They had been given an impulse, a tendency, a spark, it seemed, and they made things that were beautiful and told a story. Their paintings were windows into humanity by way of their own imaginations. These artists were people -- the biggest lesson of all -- and I connected to their desire to make something fresh that put their creative impulses to good use.

THE ANSWER
 "Men have two very distinct trends in them. One of these two trends is physical, which must, of course, provide for his preservation by physical means, having the task of sustaining tangible life, sustaining the body. The other trend, which is not only immaterial but indefinable, is that which arises as a perpetual aspiration beyond the material, for which this world is not enough."
Jean Delville 
Artists have always been interested in what William Faulkner called “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself”. I think when you look at art you're looking at a record of a time in a person's life. Can it be more than that? Delville believed that his art wouldn't only be a historical record, but that it could help people endure hardships and prevail. Whether or not you think he succeeds in doing that depends on what you take away from the exhibition (and what you bring). But is he relevant today?

I think there will always be people for whom the glass feels half empty, who feel like life as we know it is lacking something spiritually. For some, religion helps. For others, art and culture fills a void. Delville saw a place where the two overlapped. I do too.

Art has the power to connect artist and viewer, to join spirits over shared values and ideas across space and time. In the end, isn't that what spirituality and religion try to do?

The Jean Delville retrospective is currently being shown at the Stone Bell House in Prague from May 5th, 2105 to August 30, 2015.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New blog post: Pařížská Street

I've worked average jobs for average pay my whole life. I was never that into any of the jobs. I didn't have any particular goal in mind when I took them. I didn't think they'd help me climb the ladder to someplace better down the line. I didn't have a career in mind. The point of a job, to me, was money. I didn't go far beyond that mentally. I've always had a taste for the finer things though. Still do. I feel like I was born for a higher station in life.

For the most part people don't understand what makes something extraordinary. I appreciate quality. I understand fine wine, nice clothes, expensive jewelry, fast cars. I understand all of it. I understand how it makes people feel. I know what's interesting visually. I have an eye for it. I get why those things are so expensive. It sucks knowing what's good and not being able to afford it, but almost no one can.

What the average working person can afford is by definition average. I get it. I don't think the best of anything should be affordable. It wouldn't be valuable otherwise. For now I'm content with being able to admire luxury from afar, which, living in a big city I'm able to regularly do.

I go down to Pařížská Street probably two, three times a month. For any readers outside of Prague, Pařížská is where you find high end stores like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Fendi, Gucci, and Burberry. I window shop and look at the clothes. I wanna see the shapes, the colors, the patterns, the textures, and the fit. High end clothing stores are selling taste and style, which I find very interesting. The ideas don't have to be original, but they do have to be fresh. I go down there to see something I've never seen before. It seems like everything I see around me in everyday life has been the way it's been for a long, long time. All the buildings look like buildings. Every car's been the same car for a while now. I'm looking for the future. Where's the future?

Most people have no imagination at all. We don't put a lot of value on it unless it's used to create value (aka make bank). I don't see fresh ideas in many other places. It feels like fashion brands are in the business of pushing things forward visually. I used to think that was the territory of artists.

On the way from where I live down to Pařížská, you pass a number of private art galleries. Every one of them is empty. There might be a person inside behind an iMac, but there are no patrons. Maybe it's different in other major cities.

Just a stone's throw from Pařížská is the National Gallery at Kinsky Palace. It's only slightly less empty than the art galleries in the area, but there are some amazing things to see there. The collection at this particular location contains thousands of pieces of art from Asia. I was thinking about what makes these objects so beautiful. I know there's something called Classical Beauty, but I don't know how to define it. I was looking for things the most beautiful pieces had in common. There were some things. They were all made of an expensive material (like gold, marble, jade, or silver), they all carried a message of some kind (sometimes literally a message, such as I was King and I was rich), and they were all made with a high level of craftsmanship.

It's interesting to make the connection here over thousands of years and thousands of miles between the very old and the very new. Seeing what people value, seeing what they buy, what they want, is interesting to me. The ingredients, it seems, don't change.

I think back to one dress I saw in the window at Gucci. The dress, black with a hollow red octagon pattern, is sleeveless and runs to about the knee. On the upper part of the dress there are silver metal octagons embroidered on top of the red octagons. The bottom is left alone. It's simple, clean, and elegant. The choice to leave the embellishments off the bottom of the dress is an interesting one. This is what I'm talking about. It's a small thing, but you don't see ideas like this anywhere else. You don't see anybody pull back like that when it's enough.

That dress in the window at Gucci, when we talk about it sitting across from each other at the pub, about what makes it special, my passion for these sorts of things reflects back on me from her eyes. I can see that these are the things you talk about. Whether it's art or clothes or books or movies, these are they.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fakery and the fire of life

I strove with none; for none was worth my strife,
    Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
I warmed both hands before the fire of life,
    It sinks, and I am ready to depart.
-Walter Savage Landor
I don't know, man. Sometimes when I'm writing these posts I feel like a total fake. They take too long to write. They're overwrought and overthought. I feel like I can craft something until it's writerly, but that is not the reason I sat down to write in the first place. After all the rewriting and rereading and massaging here and there, it feels like I'm looking at a corpse on a table. I've got all the parts of something genuine in front of me, but the fire's gone out of it.

It's more important to me that something clear and truthful and human in some way than if the writing is writerly. I just think things are best when they balance themselves out, body and brain, natural impulses, reflections on those impulses. It would be just perfect if you could write and write and arrive somewhere that is as much a revelation to you as it is to the reader. That's sort of how I feel about expression in general. I don't think you have to be able to draw to draw a beautiful picture or have a nice voice in order to sing. It's not the voice it's the song. To me anyway.

I talk about this all the time, how to find the right way to express yourself that's thoughtful and readable yet isn't overwrought and doesn't make you feel fake when it's over. I wanna write the way I want about the things I wanna write about. But I'm not even sure what that means or how to do it. There's no reason you can't try new things and write in different ways, given that this is a blog, given that this is the internet. There's so much noise you can let wail and be assured, for better or for worse, few will see or hear what you have to say. It might even be a gift, for a while.

Still, I struggle between thinking I have something to say and thinking everything I make is awful. Some days I write something or paint something and it feels right. Other days I'm 35 and...what is it you're still trying to do again? But I know that you're entitled to the process and that is about it. The thought, the idea, and the joy of seeing it through. That's all you get. You're not guaranteed anything beyond that. So to make the very best of it. I try to keep that in mind, but I can't always.

Sometimes I feel like I'm only writing to myself, only making pictures for myself, and that is less than fulfilling. Sometimes I feel no better than someone who's never tried to do or say anything at all. I'm trying to figure out how to write and make a life from it somehow. I wanna play a part creatively. Actually, I need to. I can't sit in an office writing about something I'm not interested in though. I'm trying to write on this blog as much as possible. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses. I guess it's just one giant work in progress. But I have to find a way to write that works for me and doesn't leave me feeling fake after. I've been writing for a while, but I haven't really been blogging seriously for very long. Maybe fluidity comes with practice.

I have to try.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New painting: A monkey looking at an elephant and a goose and thinking about a shark

A monkey imagining a shark, looking at a sleeping goose and elephant
Acrylic and oil on paper
3ft by 2ft (1.5m by .5m)
This is a picture of a monkey with a giant ear looking down at a goose and an elephant, both of which have their eyes closed. The monkey has a thought bubble coming out of his head and inside the thought bubble is the partial body of a shark with fin swimming in the ocean. There are also two birds in the top left of the picture as well as a fish and a boat to the left.

I feel like people are disconnected from the animal sides of life. I think that animals probably think. I think they've probably seen things and remember things that we have no idea about. I think they understand comfort and love and peace. I think they can go places in their minds that we don't know about. In general, I think we treat animals like they're inferior. But I think there is so much we don't understand. I think there are ways of communicating that we don't pay attention to because we can speak and listen. But animals understand sound in a different way. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This weekend in the Czech mountains. I always feel like I learn something when I'm up there.

We spent the weekend up at Pavla's parents in Nova Ves v Horach, a village about 2 hours north of Prague, near the German border. There was a heat wave in the capital. It was all anybody talked about in the city. The heat the heat. I thought I might stay in the city though. I thought I might work on some paintings, write some blog posts. But it doesn't really make sense to stay in the city like you normally would when you have the chance to go out to the country. So we decided to get away for the weekend. Up there at least you can sit under a tree or cool your feet in their Koi pond.

It's easy to forget what the majority of the world looks like when you live in a city. Glass buildings that stand immense and glistening in the city lay on their sides in the country, become shimmering lakes and ponds. Asphalt roads that criss-crossed the heart of your every day slough off their black skin and slither between trees as barely trodden paths. There are very few bright colors out there. Everything seems to blend together. The sky is blue but not very. The fields are yellow but it's a soft yellow. Very little stands out, unless by contrast. A black butterfly hanging upside down on a white clove of garlic. The stars at night.

There are many chores to do up there. We try to help when we can be of help. For the most part, her parents know what needs to be done and how to do it. But as they get older they're more open to help.

It doesn't rain quite enough up there, so just getting their garden watered sufficiently is a production. They set out plastic buckets and barrels to gather as much rain water as possible and there's a rusty old bathtub beneath a rain gutter that catches whatever water comes off the roof, but it's not enough. Her father also takes a 20 gallon plastic jug by wheelbarrow once or twice a day to fill with rainwater that comes out of a runoff spout from the hills around. I've done this before. The grass around the spout is as high as your chin. To get at the water you have kneel down and fill a small bucket and hand it off to the next person to pour it through an old metal strainer into the big jug. Crouched down there out of the sun, waiting for the bucket to fill, it's another world, an entire ecosystem in front of your face. Snails with white shells the size of your pinky nail climb weightlessly up single stems of grass in front of you. Out of nowhere little black squirming grains of rice are swimming in your bucket. Flies of a different sort are picking at your legs. Horse-flies I believe they're called. Mosquitoes with tails an inch long buzz around your face and eyes. You imagine just what else is living in the dense thicket around you. If I had to survive here, you think for a second, I couldn't. I'd drink the water, I'd get sick, the temperature would drop, I'd freeze. End of story. But these creatures, with brains the size of grains of sand, would be fine. They'd out nature me.

The main thing I come away with being up there helping with the garden is how hard it is to actually grow your own food. It's lovely to be able to reach up and pluck off a piece of fruit from a tree and eat it. But a lot comes with that. Every step of the way, something's threatening your food source out here. There are worms in the apple trees, caterpillars laying eggs in the cabbage patch, and birds with a nose for when your cherries are ripe. I never really thought about what it takes to protect something to the point where you can eat it. But basically, if you want an apple, you have to insert yourself between the worms and birds and the bugs and the deer that come out of the woods at night in order to preserve it until the time comes when you can eat it. I watch the way her father does it. To preserve their cherry tree, he rings the trunk with adhesive so ants don't eat away at the leaves. He sprays the tree with pesticides when the fruit is near sweetening to keep the bees from biting. Using a homemade ladder, he hangs tin cans from the branches to scare off the birds (and keeps a bb gun handy if that doesn't do the trick). Once the fruit ripens, he'll pick what he can. What's left will rot. But for the tree to bloom as fruitfully the next season, even the rotten fruit must be picked off. On a tree that's two stories high, by homemade ladder, just imagine.

For me sometimes I question why they still grow their own fruits and vegetables, given their age, given how much time and energy it takes, given the chance that if it's a particularly dry year a tree might not produce at all. Both her parents have decent pensions from working their whole lives in the coal mining industry. They don't live exclusively off the land. Some things they buy at a normal supermarket. From what Pavla's told me, the garden used to be a lot bigger. It used to wrap around the house. Now it takes up half of one side.

I think some of it is they need to work. They need to feel like they're accomplishing something. It's ingrained in them. I understand that. They've worked the land in some capacity their whole lives. I'm not sure of their reasons for doing it, but I'm glad they do. There's something special to the harvest time. I've seen it. When a fruit tree blooms, neighbors and relatives are invited over. Everybody is welcome to the fruit. There is more than enough for everybody, and if it's not enjoyed it'll just go bad. It's a reason for people to come together. I think there's probably a lot of satisfaction in that. I know there is.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The hard part

I was working at a pretty good pace this morning but at some point hit a wall and decided better take a break. I can sort of identify when the clouds are rolling in, when I'll be stopping work for a day or two. Some days it's easier to accept than others. The hard part is keeping those days from becoming weeks. I really do believe that so much of doing anything consistently is mental. You can do something every day, but at some point you're gonna be made to sit for a spell.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Painting: I don't wanna be white

I don't wanna be white. I listen to a lot of white people speak and I think they're up in their head too much. I wanna push myself. I'm tired of hiding from things I've been hiding from, feelings, fears, being shut off because how things are done has already been established. People say that way is educated, thoughtful, but it feels inhuman, missing impulses and those mean something. I think the brain can fuck you. What about being alive though? What about poetry and life and painting and color and traveling and physical touch and feeling and God or whatever it is? I believe there's so much out there and that we don't even understand, we're just trying to be careful and figure things out logically and we think that's civilized. But there's more than thinking. There's something beyond thinking. There's something inside us that's animal, that we're fighting, that's not logical. We want to push past it, but it's part of us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New painting: Walking around and watching people

I'm walking around town looking at people. Everyone's got their things going on. They're on their paths. I'm off to the side, looking, waiting, wanting some of that, but I don't wanna be in those lanes. I wanna cross the road. I always look toward nature. I want to somehow live above what's typical and normal. I want a better life. I have to make it for myself. I know the pain and struggle is there to serve. I know it is.
I wonder if painting and writing is just redirecting a need for religious devotion to something. Does that make it mean less? What you're looking for is a universal thing, my man. You might not know it but it's balance you're after. Stopping, taking a moment, stepping back...is the right step now. Not walking headstrong in the same direction forever. The road doesn't end. It's about you. Figure out what you want and how to get it from where you're at. You're there already. It's not just about making what you want but about making a life from the things you have. There's people out there that understand that. You're outside looking in but that's okay, for now. Only you can't stay out there. You're on your own road already, but where you're at on it is far enough.

I know I gotta write. I just wanna make something with writing and painting that I've never seen before. I feel like art is full of possibility. Shape, color, lines, are simple things but can speak volumes. On the bus, riding through the city. A bus full of people in total silence. Everybody's somewhere else, distracted, but the hunger's still there. I wanna see more different things, not the same things over and over. I have to make that my reality if I wanna see it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Painting: This is your land

This is your land
4ft by 2ft (1.5m by .75m)
Acrylic paint and water color on paper
I just wanna express myself. That's all. I wanna make something colorful, express myself, feel like I did something today with my time, something light and colorful and hopefully with some sort of meaning for people. This started as a picture of two cows eating grass (that yellow and blackspotted grouping in the center is them) but the picture sort of morphed out of control into a mass of color, patterns, shapes and blobs, faint outlines of things that might be people, might be animals, might just be color patterns. Above is a bunch of thought bubbles or speech bubbles that are empty. People's thoughts, opinions, people talking. What's there to say? I don't know. I wanna say something. I have to try and say something.

The shape in the middle is supposed to be a boy standing in water with his arms outstretched. What's around him, below him, above, to the left and right, are people talking, colors, shapes, animals, living things, and it's all a mass, a mix, an experience. But he's missing something. He's not part of either world. He doesn't feel connected to either world. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My thoughts on the confederate flag issue going on in the states right now

I, for the most part, don't pay much attention to the news unless something in particular grabs me, like the earthquake recently in Nepal or the ruling on gay marriage. Otherwise, I just sort of skim. I feel like most of the news is skewed toward grabbing eyeballs and you can't count on getting the full story about anything. At the same time, searching for the whole story on your own is too much work. That's not the healthiest attitude to have. I agree. I would probably feel differently if I were a minority and my rights and the rights of my children were on the line. I'm trying to have a complex thought right now :) Bear with me.

I was reading about the debate over banning the confederate flag. I wonder if it's not a distraction. I wonder if the real question isn't How do you stop someone who's mentally ill from killing people? Is it even possible? If you read his history, it was a road he went down, it was a point he reached. There were some signs, but it took some time for them to develop. I don't know. I don't think there's much you can do. Maybe what happens is this guy spends the rest of his life in prison, and the mental illness stops there because he doesn't go on to infect anybody else. And how do you stop racism? Is it even possible? And how different is it from mental illness? Maybe each new generation that doesn't grow up around racist people won't be racist. I'm not sure you can do much more than that. I'm not sure that banning symbols and words changes anything. I think the people who want to do it probably have good intentions. I think they're trying to close a chapter from the past they see as evil and hurtful, and that makes sense. But I think it makes certain symbols taboo, which then gives them power. If anybody can help me understand the issue clearer, I open to learn.

With this and the gay marriage issue, I think it's interesting how generations of young people everywhere take steps to move further and further away from the past. I think it's somehow in our nature to look at previous generations and think How could they? I'm not sure how different we are from the generations that came before. I'm not a brain scientist, but I think we've just been born into a different time and have different issues. I think it's important to remember what normal average people are capable of though. I wonder if there are things that we do today that young people will look back on in the future and think, how could they? I suppose there will be. But it's in us to think those people are not us, whoever they are. Even when they are us, just at a different point in space and time. Weird.

New painting: Follow the white rabbit


Follow the white rabbit
Acrylic on paper
4ft by 3ft

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New painting: Fear

Fear
This painting is called Fear. There's a farmer man on the right taking the hand of a woman with two kids around her waist and a baby on her knee. 

TV is amazing. 

I'm halfway around the world but get most American cable channels. I was watching a show on TLC about a boy in India inflicted with a horrible physical disease. He had tumors all over his face and a giant one from his neck he had to carry in his arms. They said he wouldn't make it out of his teens. Makes you wonder what you have to worry or complain about or be afraid of. It's all extra, isn't it? Whatever I do with day to day. It's all just a big fat bonus, isn't it? I've already won the human lottery. And one day it'll be over. So what's there to be afraid of? But it never sticks, does it? The perspective never sticks. I fall back into habits and routines, and there goes fear creeping back in.

We got free HBO for a while, part of some kind of promo. I watched Behind the Candlelabra. Beautiful movie. Watching a movie like that that was done so well was actually painful. I was jealous it was so beautiful. I've never made anything like that. I feel like I'm not anywhere close. I would like to contribute something like that, something creatively, but I haven't. It's practically impossible it seems. But I still believe that it's the way for me to at least push and try, to write and paint and make things. It's what I enjoy and love to spend my time doing. So that's the important thing, isn't it? But there's always the fear that it's for nothing and that I'm wasting my time. But I enjoy it, so that's not a waste of time.

I know whatever you feel someone's felt it before. That's why I love art and books and music. I like to see the things I feel written or expressed in some way, by someone other than me. It makes me feel close to that person, to people in general. I know whatever I feel someone's felt before, but I have to be reminded, and art is the reminder. I see hundreds of faces and bodies every day and they see me. We don't interact. I only imagine what their lives are like, what these people are into, what their fears are, what they've learned, if they know something, if, like the boy in India, their perspective can help me. I think that if more people made things we'd feel more connected and be less inclined to think other people are not us. Most people are closed off it seems, won’t let themselves feel what they really feel, deny it, push it away, bury it. They think it's dark or weird or crazy. But it's not crazy. Everyone everywhere has it hard and everyone wants to be ok. Everything is just an egg for something else. Everything is just a step forward. Fear, love, anger, Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, Kim, Kanye, they're all just eggs. That's how I see it. Something on the way to something else. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Food (jídlo) and drink (nápoj) and other nonsense

I've made a commitment to writing every day for a week or so on the blog. I've realized from reading the great Hugh Macleod (more on his amazing book Ignore Everybody at a later date) that writing books is a fine idea, but writing and then putting your stuff up on a blog might just be a faster, more direct, easier, way to, etc. etc. blah blah blah. So for the next week or so I'll be putting up stuff every day. Perhaps a painting one day. Perhaps me rambling about what I think another day. Today's entry falls into the second category. Let's talk about food and beer and trying to be healthy.

I've been trying to get healthy for the last year or so. I was surprised to find out recently my cholesterol is high. Since I've lived here in Prague my diet's included healthy portions of butter and animal fat. One particular favorite is rendered pigs fat with bits of cracklings (aka burnt pig skin). Spread it on bread. A touch of salt. You're good. Another favorite is Tlacenka, which according to wikipedia is "head cheese...generally bonded with brawn - thick pigskin and hock/trotters broth - with various combinations of meat cutoffs (i.e. knuckle, head), offal (tongue, heart, liver) and fat with seasoning". Good to know! Add a beer or five and you're on your way. I'm just rambling here. I don't have a lot to talk about but I have to write something. I've stopped eating most of those delicious fatty foods I used to eat. I've started up running again in the morning. The public park near the apartment is great. The other morning at 7 there was a group of Jamaicans filming a reggae video. No joke. They had a shoulder mounted steady cam and everything. There's usually almost no one running with Marshall and me there in the morning. The few people that you see are inspiring and motivating because they're usually really intense. I don't run every morning because my knees start hurting then. On days off I'll go to the hotel nearby to swim. Today there was a man in the locker room who couldn't find his bathing suit. A few minutes later I saw him swimming in his boxer shorts. No problem. Who cares. It's the same thing, right? Last week there was an older woman swimming topless. Why not. So I get a good amount of physical activity daily. I also started meditating in the morning. Only ten minutes but I like it. I heard Tim Ferriss talk about it on a podcast. He asked a bunch of successful people what they would do differently if they could change something from their past. A lot of them said they would have started meditating earlier in their lives. I thought that was interesting so I've started it too. It helps me quiet my brain and narrow my focus. And it's also a place mentally you can go back to throughout the day just by going back into the same breathing technique. It's amazing. I've been trying on and off for a long while to completely quit drinking alcohol. It's a tall feat here because beer is basically $1 or less and it's where people meet and talk. And that's hard because it's become too much of a thing, a habit I don't see much of a benefit from. I want to meet people, just I would prefer a different way. It would be cool to meet people who are athletic and have ambition, but they don't spend their time in pubs now do they? I spent 7 long years sitting at a desk around good people who were stuck at their jobs and knew it. It zapped everything out of them, the energy they had and their hopes for the future. They loved going to pubs. So, yeah, it's tough. Anyway, wanted to write something. Wanted to try and keep it light. Most of the stuff I write on here is deadly deadly serious. Wanted to talk a little bit about life here and my experiences this week and as of late. Ahoj.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Writing Exercise 1

I mentioned before that I'm reading a book about writing called Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg. There are some exercises in it and I thought I'd do some of them here on this blog.
"Think of some event that happened in your life that made a real emotional impact on you. It can be any emotion - anger, fear, sadness, nostalgia - but let yourself remember the event fully, so that you can feel the emotion all over again. Set a timer for ten minutes. Write from that place of feeling. Draw on all your senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. Do not work up to how this event occurred; do not consider what it meant or how any aspect of it might appear to other people; just jump right in the middle, with it happening to you."
Here's my exercise. I did clean it up a little.
It was my first time spending a summer away from home. We were on an island, a private golf club, 25 of us first time caddies. We'd seen the shirts on the older campers around the camp. It was the same white shirt with a pimply green monster on the back with the words  "I met the legend". When we asked what it meant. They said not to worry, we'd find out soon enough. There were whispers here and there of what that meant. Bear, a broad shouldered and freckled redhead from Andover, said he heard our belongings and our beds would be torn up and thrown out on the 10th fairway. Skeelo from Revere said we'd be jumped by the older campers. The only thing all the stories had in common was that it would happen at night. The night did eventually come, towards the end of the summer. Gomes, our short, round Latino camp director, called all first-years out to the flag pole. He was wearing aw dark rain coat and was carrying a flash light. The air was cool but dry. No sign of rain. Why the raincoat? We had just finished dinner. No one spoke. Gomes pointed his flashlight into the darkness off the 10th fairway. We marched single file through into the dark toward the scrub brush. We followed him to the start of a narrow path. The path pitched down into the dark and continued straight for a ways with scrub brush along both sides waiting to grab you. We'd all been in the brush before to shag lost balls and left marked up. Gomes shined his light down down the path and told us to walk, one at a time. I walked slow and to let my eyes adjust. The branches There were dark figures along the path. I picked up the pace. I was running now. They reached for me. I shook past them somehow. I reached the end of the path. There was a hooded figure carrying a pink drink pitcher from the mess hall. He handed me a cup and said drink. It was thick. Bitter. Sour. Spicy. Hot. There were chunks of something you had to chew to get down. When I was done I moved on to where the other guys were standing. Gomes led us all to the back single file toward the camp. As we approached I noticed it was quiet back at camp. As we got closer I could see the rec room was empty. The tv was off. The constant tick-tocking of a ping pong game was missing. Where was everybody? I expected our beds to be strewn across the fairway, but everything seemed to be how we left it. Gomes led us to the back of the mess hall. The lights were on inside and we could hear a commotion. He opened the door and told us to go in. The entire rest of the camp was sitting there. All the older campers. All the counselors. They stood up and clapped. We smiled. That's it? It was over. No beating. No destruction of property. They handed us our own monster shirts and we wore them proudly. We'd met the legend, and that's just what it was. It was our turn now to relay the story the following year, to build on it where we could, to scare the bejesus out of all those little bastards who'd be coming after us, and see them through.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New painting: "Boy Woman Reflection"

Boy Woman Reflection
3 feet by 3 feet (1m x 1m)
Acrylic, tape, water color on paper 

At the bottom of this picture is a woman with a pie. The smell is wafting up towards a kid standing in front of a reflecting pond. Across the middle of the picture is a blue picket fence. There are footprints all around between the woman and the boy and around the reflecting pond.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Painting "Continuum"

"Continuum"
Acrylic, watercolor on paper, yellow packing tape
4 feet tall, 3 feet wide (1.5m x 1m)

What is success? Love is success, isn't it? To love something. To have felt it and known it to be true. I love this, a small thing, but love it all the same, even before it was anything. I can't explain it but it's a true picture. I know it ends in the top left corner. We're out in nature with this picture. Color is a distraction. There's something beyond sight. I'm deeply fearful of not succeeding. What is success? Loving what you do. Having people see what you make and being excited by it. Is pursuing love and excitement the right road? It seems to be. But that road must pass through cities and past houses. It must be a known road used by people. It can't just be my own road. That's not love. That's not success. That's just fear.

Painting "Something death cannot conquer"


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Porn actor on set on a farm retreating into his imagination, singing inhis mind, making music in his head, playing a fence post like a piano



The idea for this painting originated with a podcast I heard about bestiality. I had the idea for this picture a while ago and talked to my girl about it. She said that when I make something I should tell the whole story about it. I said this one is weird. 
It's not weird, she said. You used the energy of the idea to paint it. Use it also for the writing. You told me there's a naked man on a farm playing a piano. 
You gave me the base of the story, which is beautiful. If there is something behind it, you should write the whole story. Don't be afraid to write about anything.

In the picture, the man is escaping into an imaginary world to avoid the unpleasant memories of the incident. I think how in bad situations people escape into their own heads. I was at my last job for a long time trying not to get soul crushed, drawing, writing, painting, gluing shapes together, doing whatever was necessary to feel like I was pursuing something, an inner voice of some kind, using the time in a positive way. I was definitely escaping mentally for a good portion of the day, trying to use the frustration to focus me on making things. I could have left the job but I couldn't somehow. I was stuck. Hated it, knew it wasn't right for me, but couldn't leave. 

It's crazy because I've always been able to take big, bold steps to change situations knowing things would work out and that fear for the most part creates pitfalls where there are none. (Side note: there were moments at the job though when you saw something nice. People were plugged in for the most part all day, ear buds in, mice in hand clicking away, eyes devoted to their screens. However, when it rained, people gathered at the window.  There were human moments when u saw people naked, not as themselves, but as human beings drawn inherently to nature.) So yeah.

If that's what it's about, that's what it's about. I'm trying to break through limitations and fears. All the creatures and characters around on the farm are mostly like from cartoons or imaginary. It's not that they're there on set. They're there in his mind. For some reason Homer Simpson comes up a lot in many of my pictures. I don't know why, but I used to draw the Simpsons a lot in my notebook in school. Bart though mostly.