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


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 


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?


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.


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.

 "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.