One Year in the Forest

It’s been an incredible year on an art retreat here in the forests of Fairfax. I really didn’t know what to expect moving into this community, but it’s been incredible. I’ve made a lot of friends and I’m engaged in Climate Action with a local committee, and one national climate outreach group, and there has been so much to learn. The basics of being part of an advisory committee, learnings on the intricacies of state and local resources for mitigating climate change, guiding an All We Can Save Circle, and a genuine friendship with the town itself. But the best thing has been the art.

I’ve had three art shows nationally, one in SF, and made over 200 paintings, with two sold locally. I made two comics and an illustrated book. I learned through a small community on Twitter about the intricacies of the NFT community, opened my first accounts and have a small following on Foundation. I found a way to push through new ideas and concepts, with three completely different art styles that I really feel are groundbreaking and new. And I even own two NFTs.

The forest itself is so incredible. I really learned to respect and be with nature, far from the industrial environment when we lived in the East Bay. It’s been so impactful that I barely remember what it was like when we lived in Emeryville, just a couple of blocks away from Pixar, and nestled between Oakland and Berkeley that combined so many perspectives, diverse and beautiful.

Yet as we did all of this the growing crisis in our world began. Covid was raging in the East Bay, and all over the world, and it was isolating and difficult period happening right after seven years of being in art school. Literally right after. The pandemic started our last semester of school. I went straight from classrooms directly into lockdown, and it took so much to get through that time, much like everyone went through.

When we moved to Fairfax everything changed. Suddenly there were wide spaces to walk in that were so freeing, and I didn’t take a second of it for granted. I started studying nature and post-impressionism, culminating in design and illustrations for the Climate Action Committee, which I rebranded with a logo and style guide, and my private art practice. These were some of the best-received among my friends and colleagues and was both a beginning and completion of spending years studying art. I’ve already moved on to a new period, possibly my fourth since we’ve been in the forest.

I work 12 hour days with just a few reserved for basic life. A lot of that is driven by espresso, which I spent two months studying during a brief period working at Peets. I took online courses from Peets in my spare time, completing the barista training until I was ready to start a shop of my own. But I realized in all this that I couldn’t stop making art. (Besides Peets is the best anyway) It was literally what I lived for, and after all that training in art school, I realized that I could never escape who I am, an artist and illustrator, through and through. The next series I have in my head I promise will be amazing. I’m taking two weeks off to give myself some space to think and plan for the next steps.

Public service is something I’ll always do, and I was a little shocked when I was elected Vice-Chair, which I’m learning about while I take time off of art while I build my practice and look for grants and opportunities. But I’ll never stop making art. Art means so much to me that I can make things for hours, and have to remind myself to sleep. When I’m not making art I’m studying it, going through hundreds of paintings and often returning to a selection of Van Gough’s work I have as an open book in my office, returning to single entries day after day until I let the colourwork seep into my consciousness. In our little apartment in the forest, sometimes it’s quiet and I’ve been given a space to grow, which is exactly what I needed after the formalities of contemporary art education.

When I wasn’t studying art I was enraptured with the UN. I attended every session of the General Assembly and researched economics and culture for each country each leader spoke of. I learned about SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), the importance of biodiversity and multilateralism, and started earnestly learning new languages with the dream that one day I might work at the UN, but for now, I’m happy to be one of its biggest fans. I really got into global culture, assembling a range of historical analyses and cultures across the continents, all packed away on my kindle so I won’t be bored for years. But it hasn’t been time for that. It’s been time to focus and study art in all of its forms, in both two dimensional and three-dimensional visualizations. I’m starting to learn Unity and learned Marvelous Designer for a book and NFT series called Light Fields. It has been an incredible, relentless year of growth, and I haven’t slowed down.

But I’m now turning my gaze away from the blank page and back into research, while I”m not working on my current assignments. I have so much to read, and while I’ve grown by leaps and bounds I still feel like I’m at the beginning of something. There is so much I want to do. I’ve written so much on this blog, among two books, one science fiction novel and a book on design. I haven’t taken a vacation in two years, so having a working holiday to look for new assignments seems like a dream right now.

And of course, I won’t stop making art, as if I could ever try, as this blog has been such a record of my day to day thoughts, I thought I would write this entry to let it stay for awhile, until I think things through and really plan and prepare for the next phase of our lives. Where will it be? Berlin? New York? Paris? Montreal? Here? I have no idea right now but I wouldn’t take this year back for a second. I learned so much here, and still am. The world is still in crisis, but in moments, in my art, and in poetry, across two languages, I found a true solace that will never leave. I was always looking for a new home, and what I found is it was always within me, in my body, heart and mind. I hope we travel the world again someday, but for now, with the world still in crisis, I hope there is a world we can return to, which I have tried my best to try and create with all my abilities, curiosity, and relentless love of life that is always greater than despair, even though it sometimes gets the best of us, peace is always there. As clear as day, bright as the moonlight across our consciouness. The ever-growing possibility, that the future could be a truly beautiful place, of peace, equality, true happiness, and inescapable reality, that even in our most desperate moments, our hearts are the true refuge, that we have a little time on this earth to help and bring to life.

The Lamp is Yellow, And Creates a Smile like the Moon on the Windowshade

There are a lot of ways to deal with despair, and many of them come more naturally than others. Fear is one, you let all of the amalgamated thoughts of possibilities of the unknown enter your mind until they grow in such number that they can make a new city, only of unknowns, the worst of which is death, the lesser is annoyance. Sometimes in this world we don’t know which is which, even the slightest thing can become amplified into something it’s not, the play of shadow from an object nearby, like the moonshape on the windowshade I’m looking at up to my upper right right now as the evening approaches. This is perhaps the easiest and most obvious ways that despair grows, the possibilities seem to shout down any hope of salvation, as if you’ll always be trapped in the unholy world of a city of fear, the contours of which we may never know

A second one is hate, the pain of division as we separate one thing from another, the forced comparison of likes and opposites, as if each moment you had to choose your favorite color. This is the worst of them. Hate cuts both ways, it’s like a pain inside that just grows deeper and deeper the longer the aversion lasts. Also easy to feel, and so destructive, creating countless wars, strife in families, friendships severed, always a cutting, something that only takes careful mending, somewhere between a needle and thread, or the detailed inner workings of the United Nations Security Council. And which is the more delicate work, it might be between the two, or perhaps exactly the same.

The third, and one I’d like to posit, is love. When we break down, we can see the distances less clearly. The earth can seem to shift beneath our feet, either to fall down, or be suspended in mid air. Do you remember the first time you fell in love? How the room felt lighter, how you might have glided with every step, almost as if you could fly, high above the everyday experiences into a view of the world around you, locked into two people, yet surrounded by so much more. This is also one of those kinds of senses of divisions, and so close, as I have read, and find in my notes here, so close to love. But a choice is made, the division is made into a desire for a union, stronger than the bonds of the physical world, limitless in the threads of time that love creates with every moment of being. Between ourselves and other, the greatest mending that could ever be found. It’s Easter, a day that asks us as Christians which we choose. Do we choose death, or choose life, maybe it’s not a question at all. We choose not to believe in hatred, we choose to believe in love, a love that removes all barriers, that leads us up into the sky, and endless world of discovery, the moment that could change the shape of time.

What we choose in these moments defines our reality, and is the gift we leave to the world, is what we can perceive. In the small room I’m sitting in, there are two lamps both emitting a calm glow, the shapes making shapes from the shadows, something that may or may not be there. In this small room, listening to music, I read about lands far away, places gripped by war. Sometimes it’s like we’re in one too, but not one where there has been actual death. But we die a little when we lose hope, and that’s not something I think we should ever do. It’s easy to say in the calm perfection of this evening, but I hope everyone tonight, can think a bit about it. What do we choose in our moments of greatest adversity, If we choose to love, the city of fear in our mind is made invisible, and in it’s place a limitless forest of wonder, or even a quiet place to collect our thoughts, but all this is held in our minds like a whisper, something gentle and kind, and what is this feeling? Is it like our first memories, or even as simple and impossible as being? Let’s see through all the mirage of hate. Lets choose to believe what we know to be true, that there is no division between self and other, but a chasm of space with which we have to pour the limitless love of our thoughts. All over the world, the answers are simple, it is so much easier to love than hate, for the shape of reality could be seen to be infinite, or as indefinable as a space large enough to carry our thoughts, and our hearts, both as small as a raindrop, and as vast as the limitless sky.

One Small Artist to Russia

Russian culture has always been a source of inspiration for me. My first films were Eisenstein and Tarkovsky, as an animator, Soyuzmutlfim. My earliest novels were Dostoyevsky, and later as a Graphic Designer Mayakovsky and El Lissitsky. These artists have been a source of much of my work as I’ve been growing up (and yes, I’m still growing up, as we all are.)These artists are so great, please remember the richness of the culture you have, and put an end to this horrible conflict. Please find peace. It’s gone on far too long and it’s growing more traumatic day by day, hour by hour. I know what it’s like to live in conflict.

It’s paralyzing, life almost becomes unlivable, but that spark that keeps us going as artists is the same spark within your artists that we all stay in dialogue with throughout our lives. Art is a conversation, it asks us to create, not destroy, when I think of their art, I hope not to associate it with these horrors. I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with them, and hear what they’d have to say. I think it’s very simple, creation is more vital than destruction, and at our best we can shape new worlds, for a time yet to become.

But this loss of life, what will it become? How many future dreamers were killed by this horrific tragedy? We will never know, and those who loved your culture as much as I do, where will their love go once they are gone? As powerful as all the speeches I’ve heard have been, take a moment to listen to your artists, I am not one of them but I can speak as one from a distant land. Your culture had so much potential. Please don’t let it fall another day. And that light is in all people, by listening, you’ll hear it, a promise of another day.

And here’s a secret of art: the light artists bring to the world exists in us all, artists just know how to see it, because we’ve been training to look for years. Here’s my suggestion for today: Walk outside, or even look around the room you’re in. Notice the colors, really try to feel the shapes and forms as they flow in your mind, go outside and see the world around you. Then pick an area and just look at it, and hold your gaze, for longer than usual, maybe even a full minute, and feel the absolute joy of the colors and all that it contains, this unbelievable world that makes the impossible real. Then ask yourself, would you deny this to another person, would you burn it away? Would you blind it so we could no longer see? I don’t believe that if we all sat down and felt this way, we would ever want to take it from another person, because for every single death, there are thousands, if not millions, who go blind, from despair, from rage, toward things so easy to feel, so impossible to leave, but we can. Let’s back from the edges, lets walk through this world. We’re all here for just a little while, lets give all of us the chance to be.

Returning Home

It’s been awhile since I really treated this site as more as a journal and less about criticism, and the urgency under that reason is easily considered. I sometimes need to speak in poetry more than prose to explain some of the things in my mind, and at times I feel the need to be as direct as possible, and through poetry, that comes from the soul. But prose is not that different. It just exists in a different purpose and reality. We don’t typically go around speaking in poetry all the time, and I lost track of it when I’ve been in silence except in poetry most of the day. It’s almost conversational, and that’s where I really feel like this day is one of the most important days of my life.

My partner and I needed to go to San Francisco so I could pick up a painting from a show I was in last month at the Drawing Room. It was the first time I’ve been in the space since I first dropped the piece off. It’s a really amazing gallery, and from what I’ve been told the show went well. I’m on their mailing list and they’re having cool events all the time. If you’re ever around there definitely visit and check out the work. But I digress, that’s not what I wanted to write this post about. What was amazing about the afternoon was how much I had a chance to really think of language in a different way. I was distracted, so every word mattered and was spoken against so much fear, and that’s when it stopped.

I told my partner what was happening and we talked for almost two hours in total, maybe more, between having lunch and taking the long drive between Fairfax and SF. I won’t go into details here, but I told her how down I was about what some people have said about me. That outrage was what was captured in the poetry, but it’s resolution was in the effortless simple act of love, not necessarily romantic, but just the little things, the call and response of our cadences, the questions and replies, and she reminded me what I already know. That I have done nothing wrong and I’m a good person. It’s that simple statement that guarded me against so much depression, and we both decided that I should ignore it. Ignore what? What people try to believe about me that is untrue, the threats that people make when we make challenging work.

“Is there anything that makes you not think about these things?” she asked. I thought for a minute, actually I didn’t have to, and I just realized that when I make art, I think about absolutely nothing else. I could use a colloquialism and just say I get lost in it, but that isn’t as realistic as what happens. It becomes my world, and you’ll never know quite what this is like if you haven’t worked your whole life to do it, everything that happens when I’m making comics feels as real as if it’s happening to me when I make it. It’s like nothing else, and I love doing it. I’m making art right now at the best of my abilities, with nothing but the best intentions in mind. Against so much, this is the only way I know how to be, without it, it’s almost as if I didn’t exist at all. And that’s an easy choice to make, I want to exist, and I want to make art, doesn’t that sound like a simple fact of reality. We all deserve to live and create, that’s without question the right that simply being alive is, without it, it’s like nothing. And nothing is impossible.

And to continue with the approach that poetry and prose can have, and conversation reveals a call and response dialog between our memories, our loved ones, whatever can be meant by spirit, and each other. Perhaps if we elevate the everyday language into that rarified reality, the world will always be new. It already is every day. Every moment is born into another. Is that something we can remember, can our thoughts become like this, like one moment into another? With so much about diplomacy, and peacemaking that our moment needs, perhaps that may guide our way, and as an offering of life against negation, peace against war, and the reality that we all belong to each other. Could we imagine that? Could that make a better world? I’d like to close out this entry with a simple poem that came to mind as I was writing this as I found earlier in this piece. It is simply this:

We can always dream

Nothing is impossible.

Une braise chaude au coeur de la nuit.

Une horreur indescriptible est entrée dans une pièce comme une prison

Jour après jour


Jour après jour

Chaque mouvement

réinterprété dans un mensonge, les simples vérités d’être vivant

Les caméras étaient toujours allumées, chaque mouvement perçu

pourtant dans l’esprit de la haine, tout s’est transformé en désespoir

le travail a continué et dans les limites de l’existence, il a continué à continuer

Enlevant les enseignants, enlevant le bien, refaçonné de leur propre brutalité

mensonge sur mensonge, haine sur haine, mais ce qu’ils ont vu ne remplacerait jamais la maladie de leur propre esprit.

Pourtant, à l’intérieur, un feu brûlait, pas un feu de haine ou de destruction, mais une lueur chaude, qui était toujours là,

Même dans une tragédie insensée.

Le cœur est intact, l’amour toujours dans les silences

et dans ces moments, il y avait une paix absolue.

On Critique and Theft

S’il vous plaît, permettez-moi de dire quelque chose très clairement dans un langage simple de pragmatisme. Je me fiche de ce que quiconque pense de mon travail et je refuse de croire qu’il représente autre chose que mes propres opinions. C’est du plus profond de mon âme, mon histoire et une inspiration. Si jamais vous voulez savoir qui je suis, mon travail est là. Ce que les artistes créent leur appartient, et je fais du travail pour inspirer tous ceux qui traversent des difficultés, car j’ai tellement souffert.

Mais c’est le mien et j’ai besoin d’être indemnisé pour cela. Je me bats en tant qu’artiste, et le monde numérique est dangereux, absolument nécessaire, mais il y a tellement de menaces. Beaucoup d’entre nous passent leur vie entière à expérimenter et à faire de nouvelles découvertes, et à leur tour, cela nous est parfois volé. L’inspiration est valable, et si mon travail inspire, je suis reconnaissant, et je le reconnais. Mais j’ai vu des comptes NFT voler des œuvres d’art et les revendre par eux-mêmes. Ceux d’entre nous qui sont dans des positions vulnérables se font voler leur travail. Ça s’est passé toute ma vie, depuis le premier album de mon groupe jusqu’à aujourd’hui.

Ça arrive. Je l’ai vu. C’est tellement décourageant et parfois j’ai juste envie d’arrêter. Mais je ne le fais pas, car ma passion sans bornes pour l’art, qui alimente en partie ce poste, me permet de continuer. Je fais de l’art pour le monde, pas pour le vol ou l’identité. Donner aux artistes le mérite de ce qu’ils font, sinon économiquement, d’une autre manière, mais le vol scandaleux de l’art pour quoi ? Rappelez-vous que je fais de l’art pour tout le monde.

Please allow me to say something very clearly in a simple language of pragmatism. I don’t care what anyone thinks of my work, and I refuse to believe that it represents anything other than my own views. It’s from the depths of my soul, my story, and an inspiration. If you ever want to know who I am, my work is there. What artists create belongs to them, and I make work to inspire anyone going through hardship, because I have suffered so much. But it is mine and I need to be compensated for it. I’m struggling as an artist, and the digital world is dangerous, absolutely necessary, but there are so many threats. A lot of us spend our entire lives experimenting and making new discoveries, and in turn it is sometimes stolen from us. Inspiration is valid. and if my work inspires I’m grateful, and I acknowledge it has but I’ve seen NFT accounts stealing art work and selling it on their own. Those of us who are in vulnerable positions have our work stolen. It’s been happening my whole life, everything from my bands first album even until today. It happens. I’ve seen it. It’s so discouraging and sometimes I just want to quit. But I don’t, because my boundless passion for art, which is partly fueling this post, keeps me going. I make art for the world, not for theft or identity. Give artists credit for what they do, if not economically then some other way, but the outrageous theft of art for what? Remember that I make art for everyone.

Je ne connais pas

Je ne connais pas le cri de la faim, au plus profond de la nuit, je n’ai jamais été perdu sans maison, pas comme métaphore, mais aussi réel que le jour, pourtant à travers toi je ressens tout, mon cœur se brise profondément dans la nuit, et Je trouve un espace pour guérir, et peut-être que le fil qui répare ces blessures renvoie à ce qui est en nous tous, une lumière brillante dans l’obscurité, un lien ininterrompu qui peut être nié, mais qui ne cesse jamais d’être.

Un Jardin de l’esprit

Je connais non une guerre en pensée, en liberté, garde contre le crain, reve en tout la nuit, avec quelque fois, quelque chose, dans tour le chanson le mond, le mystère dans lumière. Je mort, je mort un peu, mais dans mon esprit, une jardin de l’esprit, dans mon couer la mer, les nuages, en ciel.

Le vent, plus rapide que la lumière, léger comme le jour, invisible comme la nuit, se déplace à travers les arbres, ne laissant qu’un souvenir, d’un cœur tremblant, rempli d’amour.

Distances

I’ve been watching the UN and the Human rights council, and honestly, it makes my heart full of turmoil. The violence, injustice, and life-threatening conditions that so many people are both part and victims of. What is the source of this reality? All over the world, we see signs of distances, we’re in a deep crisis that affects us all. It’s hard to separate the reality of those facing deep conflict, in addition to our own at home, that can make us form into deep paralysis and complacency, and for me, shattered into an emotional cry deep within me that has no way to visually represent itself. I find myself more drawn to nature, the forest here, as I’ve written about, does not see through our violent reality, as if they see it at all. What can be done? Is there something of ourselves in all of these crises? Is there anything that we can truly separate from?

I work late into the night and early morning when all is quiet and I have some space to think, write, make art, study, and simply get a chance to breathe outside of the day. When morning comes I turn off the lights in the house and watch the sunrise, seeing the dark forms of the shadows of the trees blend slowly into a glow of deep colours and shimmering greens, a bright landscape slowly emerges, until you feel the forms of the trees, dark shafts giving way to impossible branches, lifting toward the sky, as the forest life comes to greet them. Here in Fairfax, there almost is no winter, the trees outside our apartment have been green for the entire duration of the season. Will they be the same in spring?

Everything asks for renewal. Our forests bend and grow among each other, and deep in the forest away from our small street, they bend and twist in the deep colours of black and green, covered slowly across the sunlight, lifting toward the sky, seeming lost, but finding their strange and beautiful patterns up into the canopy. It’s beautiful and desperate, giving a soft sadness to the beauty and impossible reality of forest life. In California we have wildfires, ever-present the reality that one day a striking, quiet fire that destroys all will form across the land. Are we any different?

Our minds can be like fire, our thoughts as deep as a forest, our hearts reaching ever toward the light of our canopies, to catch a glimpse of sunlight, a spark that will create a fire within, pure as clear water, the photosynthesis, the magic of our emotional reality and dreams. What are these distances when we become one in spirit of our surroundings, and what are we when we realize that in the same way, there are no concrete distances between self and other, and what we share is greater than our differences. If our cultures are a forest, vast in their differences of biodiversity, yet so close within their own realities and their structural flow, how are we different from a forest, and how different are our thoughts from those we find in conflict with, in everything from envy and hate, misunderstanding, and at violence’s apex, a death and destruction, and loss of life, that not only threaten those with whom we may have differences, but and the survival of the love of our own hearts, our spirits, our souls.

What are these distances? Are they deep as a raincloud, as momentary as a passing firefly, a minute become a full day, a day that stretches out through passing moments of invisible time? Our actions and emotions are like this reality, obscuring our vision deep within the dry branches of the forest ground, settling into a blank complacency, casting a shadow below its surfaces, where the only thing alive is the shadows themselves, moving slowly as the light crosses across them, an image of night in the bright of day, cloaked in its mystery.

Do we also find ourselves in these moments, tracing the path of our own sunlight by means of the fallen trees of memory, a moment become a twisting bramble, held as stone sculpture, a museum of our past remembrances? Yet high above we reach ever into the sky, as is our own open mind of hope, made manifest in the effortless motion of our dreamed realities? What is the dream of the forests, our deserts, our grasslands, our breath of life? What are the distances between our lives and the natural world? Does it have to be this way? I hope, dream, and pray that it does not.

Our minds are as deep as a forest, our thoughts as deep as an ocean, and between all is what binds us, our world, our realities, our deep love of life, unasked for, reaching without doubt or question, into an embrace of deep love, with no distances remaining, yet as individual as a reflected moment of light as we see the brokenness and beauty of moments of our world, which we tend to, and gently heal, winter become spring, summer, and fall, and back again into what binds these moments, things may come and go like passing moments, or the promise of forever that is a dream, yet we bring ourselves to tend to every day. A careful mending through time, resting gently on the forests of our hearts onto the ground, which asks us to look up, see the dance of time as the forest cries silently without form, without sound, but our own footsteps, deep within the mind of nature, and we may not hear. But it is speaking, life, in all its tragedy, and beauty, its horror and sublimity, and it asks us, what is the difference between each other? The forest can’t hear us, but they say gently in their own language, here is life in all its reality, and its question, inexpressible, yet when we are truly here, wherever we are, truly here. 

It invites us to look at our differences, and realize their illusion. The forest within our hearts, the oceans filled with life that rests gently within as we reach toward each other, the sunlight, with our thoughts, and dreams, and asks us, do not take this moment, and this one, and now this one for granted, and lift not just into the sun, but to each other, the storms of our hearts, settling into a gentle rain, bringing with it in its own reality the life that sustains us, and asks us, do you remember our cries like a quiet rainfall when we were all one, Sheltering life and all its forms as we protected the land in perfect concert, together with our forest life, that renews all, and transforms our hearts, from season to season, in the mystery and beauty of life itself, and perhaps this is love. And perhaps we are there, in the forest of our thoughts, in the depths of our love for each other, deep within the forests of time. 

Christmas Lights

One summer night in Texas, I walked towards a dimly lit house slightly tilted with the foundations almost breaking, everything was slightly, though almost imperceptibly shifted in space. As I approached the steps, there was not a sound in the environment, just the warm glow of Christmas lights. Texas summers are almost relentlessly hot, making almost a surreal sensation as it courses through your body. The band was late. I was trying out for a bass position. I knocked on the door and waited. This was before cell phones so there was no way to call anyone. I just stood at the door and. waited.

Then I heard something, footsteps, moving in the darkness, and I saw her. Almost elven, her bright, untrusting eyes greeted me with a forced detachment. “Hey, I’m Mitch, no one is here, do you have a key?” “Hi, I’m Rachel,” she said. “I think Chris and Foley are still working, we’ll have to go find them.” We walked to her car, the pavement cracks still visible in the evening sun, or more likely still, an almost invisible moon. There was no rain. We were in love. It took a couple of weeks until we really admitted it to each other. But there, in the awkward silences, we knew.

We built our lives around each other, made music, travelled the world, moving across the country, we grew together over the course of the earliest part of the 21st century. Until the lines almost became blurred. Where do we start and where do we end, it doesn’t matter. Everything is like that first night, we just know, that there was something indefinable that binds us. I remember and look to the right past the window in our apartment in the forest. There, a string of Christmas lights rests gently over four paintings. I remember. One is of her.