Falling Apart to Grow Stronger

The last month has been challenging. I commited to making art instead of writing for a full month and a half, in order to bridge reality with the imagination, for all I know. I found new styles, engaged in both impressionist realism and poetic reevaluation, the promise of the greatest heights, and the difficult times, equally without looking away at the details. It wasn’t easy. I reached the absolute breaking point just two days ago, but I realized something when we finally left the house and went out for a walk. We walked through a garden, quietly, and I realized something. I was truly calm, calm to the depths of my being. We’re in a very challenging time, but the Olympics taught me about resilience, and the ability to keep going, even in the midst of what it feels like when you are really tested. We don’t always win, but we can always find inner strength from each difficulty to become stronger. I wanted to make work to inspire, to share my truth and all I feel. It’s better than any biography I could have written. I made peace with what I can materially say about the past, and offered insight into some of the experience that transcend the every day. Our world is so beautiful, and our voices so important.

The choice to make work in this crisis was important. It made feel completely alive, even within our quiet retreat here in the forest. I chose climate as the most important thing for me to focus on, and while the art making will continue someday, I am pausing for a bit. This was so much hard work. I was tested with the greatest possible difficulties. But I kept going, because I know just how important that is. All of us can help each other by sharing the best of ourselves, and when that work is treated with the utmost resilience and effort, it’s worth it. I often think that we have to be strong for each other, but yes, there is always a time we have to refocus, be honest with ourselves, and give ourselves some space. I only felt lost, in reality, for just a few hours, listening to music to help me through the experience. But today I finished my painting work, posted it, and moved on. I’m proud of the work, and without the Olympics, I wouldn’t have been able to face my fear, yet be honest when I need to take a mental health break, refocus, gather the strength I have and get back where I left off. I painted around 60 paintings in the last month, more than I have made in my life. It was worth it. I sold two paintings, finished a film, took a look at everything, and it was worth it. But that wouldn’t have been able to happen if I wasn’t honest when I needed time to heal. Did I fall apart? No. But turning to music for just a night was exactly what I needed. We can acheive so much, even when we need a bit of space. That’s what the Olympics taught me. If this becomes the wellness Olympics, that is perhaps it’s greatest legacy.

Drifting Forest

This is the second of four painting films I’m planning on making. This consists of 23 paintings, in a story of ecology and urban forestry. The story follows a wind spirit as it passes through the forests in order to carry it forward into a new environment. The wind spirit in this imaginative journey, could be thought of, in my view, of the promise of the imagination, as it brings new environments to life, in painted form. A small group of explorers from a nearby city find a small seed in the forest, and carry it back to their city to plant the seed as a single tree grows out of it. The last scene is of the enchantment of nature, into the heart of one of the explorers.

While I feel each of my works is an open field of meaning, free of conception, I tried to show the unity of all things, each painting as a new abstract color composition, that may appear non linear. And that is by design. Each of these compostions are their own world. Film can be so linear, but I felt that combining the colors this way, could lead to the nonlinear form that is so difficult to express, especially in the way we sequence groups of objects. This is extemely experimental, and I hope you guys enjoy it. As a biographical form, this is a homage to both of my bands and the form of the trio in music, and the inspiration we have learned that carries us through each project. I hope it inspires the imagination in anyone who sees it, both for the imagination we have inside of us, and the commitment to preserving the planet in any way we can. This is my environmentalist painting experiment. There’s a lot of meaning in here, so if you can, spend some time with it. Soon I’ll begin the next film, but for now, some rest from this extremely challenging week making this work.

Team USA

Team USA is doing such an amazing job. I’m so inspired by all of these stories. I’ve been watching off and on all day, and the experience is so incredible, that I actually need to take them in doses. One in the morning, one in the evening, and one into the late night. All of their heroism, in the beautiful combination of sport and friendship, they’ve won their medals, and they’ve all won my heart. I’m speechless at the accomplisments tonight of Swim Team, and Women’s soccer, keep going. I’m here for it all. Sometimes it’s a little stressful how exciting these games get, but so grateful to the NYTimes for the coverage.

I’m amazed. Win for all of us, Team USA. You’re changing the world with your towering achievements. I”ll be watching twitter, all night. You’re amazing. I’m here for it every step of the way. 🙂

Art and Meaning

Art. Nothing occupies my mind more. It’s always lifted me to the highest possible dreams, so much to understand. The limitless possibility of all that it can contains, in both form and perception. The kind of work I make at the moment is just that kind of opportunity. We all have expression and emotion, in all of it’s flowing reality. I’ve been limiting myself to one form of expression and format for the last month. It’s a digital canvas structure that is specific and unchanging. It gives me the ability to not focus on the infinite choices of form and media. The specificity of staying within these constraints, one size, one canvas, and two brushes, have led me to innovations within the form of my art , at least in my own work, that would have never been possible with all of the considerations of external form. I’m growing with each painting I’m making, and because it’s all digital I can go back at any time to make changes and push the work even further. I’ve made 32 paintings in the last month and a half. It’s become what I’ve always been trying to do on my break, build a body of work. In a way, each of these works has been practice. And perhaps all art is. Changing and developing as we grow.

I’ve always felt there could be a misunderstanding of the art I create, and why I engage in it. My work is made rapidly, reaching through any fixed idea or reality. It happens very fast, and I have a lot of experience, so I make things essentially with no intent in mind. If it has meaning, it is only through intepretation, which can be endless, of the elements and how each combines. Is my work of the subconcisous? I find that a difficult term, since there is no real evidence that a subconscious exists.

My work is extremely personal, yet it remains a mystery, even to me. If it means anything specifically, I assume the same level of interpretation as anyone else. There is so much mystery in art when we create this way. In this way, I think art is timeless. It’s meaning is open to consideration, and for me, highly spiritual. I do not directly intend the work to mean anything specifically. I make work so fast, dream so concretely, that there is no direct symbolism other that what we percieve. As an artist, I’m not didactic. The same way I understand my work is not necessarily what someone else might believe. That is the power of visual art, it speaks so much, and it it’s making, in the current work, the weight of each line and form are perhaps the strongest elements. Yet I spend hours on color, probably the most out of anything in the components that make up the visual form.

That’s especially true of my recent work. In the new series, as noted in a previous post, it all takes place within my imagination. I have no real objectives other than to make the imagination soar and inspire. It’s meaning is art itself. It’s for everyone, not a specific audience. And that may be the most important thing about the new series. As a shift from impressionism and direct representation of the previous series, this work is open to all. It’s from the depths of my being, which I do not particularly understand. Creation is mysterious.

Art can be controversial, and I have felt that I have encountered a specific form of harassment for what I have no understanding of what the possible reasons are. I feel like my work is highly public, and that makes it difficult for me to continue, yet I’ve received so much support for this work that I know I have to. It’s the most productive period of art making that I’ve ever had, as my work grows and begins to flourish. If there are any negative views of what I’m making, it’s not my intent. I’m trying to create work that will allow for a feeling of hope of the freedom of individual expression, which comes through in my process, as I find no fixed meaning of any of the work I create. The new series is of waking dreams, in hope and all it’s reality, peace as an ideal to work toward, and a point of view to inspire, not rely on one specific thing. And in that, I hope anyone who views my work enjoys it and in some small way, sees the beauty in desiring to inspire, in any way I can, for the ability to feel, hope, and dream. I’m just at the beginning of this, and I’m taking a break from writing for the next few weeks, to only focus on this individual form. When I finally reach a level of completion of this period of my work, I’ll post again, and until then, I think this is vital to my progress.

I finally had some time to read for the first time today, and I began by reading the book from which my signature is taken. And this quote about practice, in Zen, really reached me in a place I truly needed. As Dogen completes a short essay, he ends with this sentiment: “We should pray that our whole life will be peaceful, and that our pursuit of the truth will abide in the state without intent.”

Next Series

Part of a trilogy of short films, The All In film which I shared earlier is a look at the beginning of a drift from the everyday world into a hint of something universal underneath. After viewing, meditating, and thinking about the work, I’m beginning to see clearly in my mind the series of films and how it will work. I don’t want to share too much. It’s going to take some time. But I’m pretty sure I can see it. The films will explore, through a blend of fine arts and technology, the inbetween points of figuration and abstraction, in which the liminal state of consciousness offer a point of equality, where forms blend and combine, yet with their own unique expression. The first series of paintings had direct relationships with the physical world. In part two I am exploring a further drift between the polarities of figuration and abstraction, in the same way that poetry abstracts reality to something that can’t quite be said. I see the entire film right now.

The first painting of this series comes from a combination that starts this off. Both a landscape and abstraction, made from a waking dream, It is of a figure playing a harp, both abstracted until only the essential form remains, and drawing from it an expression that can only be expressed in color, shape and form, not as separate entities but as one abstract landscape that is equal parts Turner, Hokusai, Basquiat, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. To me this has no meaning, it’s a combination of forms that allowed me to perceive in the early evening, well I guess it’s late night (I work from 3am -2pm) the early morning and combination of morning, contemplative and in full synthesis between the moon and an evening sky. This is just the very first scene of a longer film, which may take some time.

It’s the birth of a new style for me, combining all of my influences and making something new from it, and I can’t wait to start on this journey. I’ll be working on this everyday. I won’t rush, but it may be the most important work I’ve made since Harold the Bird, almost a decade ago. I’ve found my voice, now I just have to make the art. No spoilers, at least one painting a day, maybe three or four, until it comes together. This wasn’t easy. It took seven years of training, and longer including high school. I’m an artist. I have my own voice. And I really feel a responsibility to see this through. Until then, I’m watching the Olympics. The painting is below:

Some thoughts about Nature

We’re in the earliest stages of our experiment of living in the hills, a forest environment near a larger town, and I’m just getting used to it. In many ways it’s what I’ve always wanted. I feel like it was finally time to make paintings and music on my own terms, but there was something I started to feel here. There’s so much going on in the world, and I am no stranger to it, and some days I just feel like giving up, but I don’t , I’m lifted up by all of the voices online, and though there is so much hate and indifference in the world, I finally feel like I’m part of a family, a large one, larger than I’ll ever know. It’s an inspiring time to be alive, a real moment for change. But I’m concerned that we aren’t quite making it. I think if we all emerge from this with a greater perspective, we have the ability to reimagine the future. For me, almost everything that is happening is still not quite there. We have a real opportunity to really enact change. The bay area could be the greatest experiment in history if we all come together, this incredible place of so much diversity, yet somehow in many ways still with social issues that really demand change. I’m worried that we’re missing out on something. We have beautiful forests, oceans, inspiring cities. Soaring downtown districts in so many parts of the bay area. But I didn’t grow up here, so it’s always something new. In my greatest hopes and dreams, this beautiful place could become something that combines it all: science, ecology, environmentalism, social justice, the birth of the internet. Why is this not what we see? Why do we get so involved in one issue or another without looking at a greater whole?

When we decided to move to the bay I was inspired by the beat poets, but not in a nostalgic way. They were groundbreaking voices, crossing ethnographic lines, so socially diverse. My greatest honor was finally having a zine accepted by City Lights, which became my greatest guide and hope for a future. But what future was that? I don’t even feel like we’re in the present. Can we look at what’s here? And what can become of it, not through some kind of destructive change, but because of a sharing of all of these efforts? If we combine technological exploration, design, ecology and social justice, couldn’t we make this place not something to dream about, but something to be?

I often, because of the meta prayer in Buddhism, focus on what could be expressed through The Eames film, Powers of Ten, which in medtation looks like this: you start by loving yourself, and then move your compassion slowly into a larger circle with honesty, starting with people you are closest to, your neighborhood, then moving through each consideration until you reach into feeling compassion for all that there is. There’s a scientific basis to this, most elegantly displayed by the Eames film, which is one I saw long ago. I don’t know California that well, it’s still in a dream in my mind.

So for now I’m looking at just the beginning of the meta prayer, and I’m looking through the lens of painting. If you’ve read this blog you may be able to tell that I moved from writing into painting for the last three weeks. I’m selling work and things are going well. I love the connection with the world. But I’m just at the beginning of the prayer, moving slightly into the level of the neighborhood. I’m connecting with people and getting to know the environment. The first thing I had to do was just have compassion for myself, because if you can’t do that you have no ground to stand on to expand that to all there is. It’s simple but difficult. I rework through paintings and nothing is ever static. That has always been part of my strategy with digital painting in honor of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I’m getting there. I looked through so many old photos, but that was just the beginning, for the next series I’m going to try and show what it means in the real world, which is neither physical nor a dream, it’s consciousness, and I can see that only when I read certain kinds of poetry.

And I’m going to work hard to understand the climate around us. Right now in our part of California, the wildfires aren’t that far away, and we all know here what it’s like when that happens. The world is undergoing so much from climate change, metaphorical and in direct reality. But I hope we don’t miss this, I hope it’s not too late. We have to address the climate, because it may not be time for deep contemplation, which is why I wanted to move here. I thought this would be a place of complete retreat. A place to heal, which is happening but in a different scale. But I’m worried that the world may miss this chance, the ability to make the most incredible dreams, some imagined both in technology, literature and fiction, which seems almost myopic in it’s limited scope. What was the pandemic worth if we didn’t bridge all of these forces together? That was my dream with Amaryllis, but even that feels like it’s almost on the verge of being ignored. I’m still painting every day, but it may not last forever. In many ways I’ve done already what I want to do, I just have to make the paintings, and that will take time, but for my part I’m going to head back into research, and see if there are other ways I can help, for my partner, my family, our communites, and all there is. But first, I have to express my own views on my experiences, in my own voice, and on my own terms. I know so many people are here for us, and I hope through this I can still find a voice through it. But that’s not enough. I need to think about the world, but it can’t start if I can’t find a way to dream and hope with my neighborhood, my direct community, and then expand outward, to truly make something new, together, with everyone I know.

Some Updates

Well, it’s almost the end of the week, and it’s been pretty busy. Art is part inspiration, and part pragmatically difficult and concentrated work. This post is one of those, so apologies for pulling my head down from the clouds for one brief moment:

I have three prospective collectors interested in my new work, two confirmed sales, and getting pretty maxed out on setting up my site as a working artist. I looked at a lot of other services for art sales online, and finally decided, with the help of a few individual apps to do this on my own. I updated my site with the best work, and had even had a couple of bids on the NFTs on rarible. I finished my first course on a new digital art school I’ve founded on Teachable. For physical exhibitions I have my first install on Monday organized by the Marin MOCA, and negotiated the sales of the artworks on my own. No one yet seems to want to represent my work, but It looks like I’ll be OK on my own. At least this week, it looks possible. I only sell work by appointment. I’m not going with any of the print on demand services for canvas prints. They’re just not customizable enough.

I work with a private giclee, museum quality printer in an independent shop in the east bay, which I’ve been going to for years now: Berkeley Giclee They printed my entire last show in January last year, and it’s good to work with them again. As a guide for how I’m doing this, I have a sign up form focused on getting in contact with me about my work here, a new catalog here. An ability to schedule art consultations with me here. I only focus on reading NYT and WSJ now because of the constant flow of information in my email. If you’re an artist looking for this same kind of approach this may be all you need. I’m always open to new questions and areas of collaboration. I just can’t check all the email I’m getting anymore. If there’s anything anyone wants to know about my art there are more than enough resources now on ways to reach out. I’ll be studying art and painting every day until I can really fully explore the style I’m working on, which means more 15 hour days until I finish my new work. I’m moving into our new art studio this weekend. It’s official. I’m a working artist. And there’s a small stack of the history and criticism of art across centuries of art on my desk.

What else is going on? The pandemic can still be enough to wake up with a heavy heart in the mornings. Sometimes I literally feel it in my chest. But I get up early and get to work anyway. That’s just what my particular job as an artist demands. Sometimes I get exhausted, sometimes I want to just bury my head in my hands and cry. But I feel like we’ve all made progress and I’m noticing the effects. For that I’m grateful. And I deeply feel all of the trauma the world feels. I hope I can find a way to address all of these issues in my work. I’m not quite sure what that will be yet, but it most likely will be a combination of writing and visual art, something the media already does better than I do with photography, but hey, painting is an equal magic.

So for now, I’m still a little cautious about going into the outside world, but by next week I think I should be significantly better, and I don’t take any of what I’ve been able to collaborate on and find solutions for granted. We all find our paths through art and eventually we find what works. Life will never be the same for me again. There’s no getting back to normal, I’m completely changed. I listen very closely to journalists, in a way I feel at home with them as a writer, constantly being inquisitive, and navigating through all of the different currents in the world. If you ever want to join me, other than the places I regularly go to online, I highly recommend the White House Press Briefing, where I try to listen to all of the voices first hand from the incredible journalists, and always excellent responses from the White House team. For me, the conference is truly the best of freedom in our democracy. Direct voices seeking to understand, and not condemn. I’m actually going to go back and look at today’s one more time since I was so distracted setting up my art practice.

I have a lot of hope today, mostly through hard work, and a bit of ice cream. Things are starting to look good after years of struggle. I’ve found my voice, I’m present and ready to listen to the voices of everyone as well. There’s a lot of voices out there, and I hope it’s always the sound of conversation, not shouts or fear, a peaceful, steady, gentle rain of thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams, all that we have, all we seek to know and understand, and in all of that I find a bit of peace. I hope you do too. And if you’re ever looking for some crazy, poetic art, I’m available through this post. It’s not that hard, it’s never too hard to reach out. And lastly, my first Virtual art show is here.

Painting Series, the first 21 images.

It’s been an incredible few weeks of renewing my art practice. I didn’t know all that I would recover, by looking both at the past and my immediate surroundings. There was so much to remember, so much I’ve forgotten. But it really mattered that I truly found my voice as a painter. Things are going well. I have two potential collectors, and showing a painting soon: the forest spirit painting. It’s hard for me to find assistance with a lot of my current art world. I’ve been making NFTs and getting up to speed with cryptocurrency. I’ve listened to modern pop music for the first time in a long time, and hearing the voices of all the incredible new artists that are starting to make up the fabric of so many sound journeys. I’ve found the most essential modern applications. I understand how to use so many new technogies that I really left undiscovered in my semi monastic period of my life, and I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with visual art. I want to give myself some time now to just take a step back, and prepare for the work ahead. I’ve tried to find a voice for a long time, and painting was the place I finally found a reply, soft, and in color, of all of the potential realities of the emotional landscape.

I’m here, finally, after really realizing what I know so long ago: art is my life. I finally have the complete series of the Art in Theory series, yet I don’t have a volume for the last twenty years, and honestly, I think a volume of this needs to be written starting now, and looking forward. So much is new, and I can’t do that much, but I can paint, I can dream, and I’m just now seeing that that’s where I’m starting to find my freedom. I feel free, open, and at peace. And all that took was looking into the past, making peace with it, and looking forward to the future. It’s a new day here in the studio, and one I’m not taking lightly. I have so much hope, but for now, a bit of rest, a bit of study, until I’m ready to paint again.

Art is difficult. A lot of it is admin, maintenance, and standing up for your ideas. I’m promising myself that I’ll keep this momentum going, and for now, that means research and rejuvenation, to really take a step back, and know where I’m going next with my work. It’s been two weeks of constant work, something I never thought I would do again. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and there will be more paintings soon, I promise.