May 27, 2014


Holiday  weekend insights. 

#1. I'm at a place in my life where I keep thinking I need something else, maybe another mentor. Someone who's older, wiser, and more experienced. That's not the insight. That was the problem. The insight was realizing that I was thinking someone else would know the right answers, the next thing to do. Not so. Problem solved. Intuition rules. I miss my mom. Sometimes it seemed like every conversation ended with her laughing about how intuitive she was. It used to irk me, but it was true. Her perceptions were spot-on and I've got a high batting average myself.  It was 4 years this weekend. I placed a small potted flowering plant on her grave.  Cut flowers seemed wasteful and I thought maybe one of the groundskeepers might recycle it. 

#2. I was at the Frist looking at the Goyas. I've seen several of them before. I can't remember where- The Hammer, LACMA? Meanwhile I've read a couple of articles extolling the virtues of Nashville as an affordable city for artists, and how artists living here don't need to work so many jobs to make art. Obviously I live in Nashville's evil doppelgänger, and it's true, maybe if I lived off the grid or didn't need to buy Washington cherries every time this year, I could live more comfortably, but  insight: I realized what a privilege it's been to have seen a slew of Goyas in person, on more than one occasion, and it hit me that maybe scraping by in a city in order to simply make art might not be an appropriate fit for everyone. Long-term cultural immersion has been vital for me. I also recalled reading an article about city living being more stimulating than country living. All this while standing in front of a Goya. 

#3. I've been obsessing for almost a month now about something that is critical to my ability to keep going this summer, yet out of my hands. My part is done, but it's tough to wait it out and it's not so great for morale. Insight: On the bright side, it's just one little part of a bigger picture. Not the whole picture. Perspective is sometimes hard to achieve in a closed loop environment. 

I saddled up to my easel and made a small painting yesterday. Today I built a stretcher from leftover cuts of lumber and questioned how cost effective it really is to do my own labor. But for the most part, I still like building my own and the slightly odd sizes, which is usually the tipping point for why I continue to do so. I had wanted to complete two more large paintings, but bank hasn't come in yet, so I'l be scaling down and breaking into my paper stash until things even up. I saw Steve Mumford's War Journals— ink and watercolors, executed for the most part on sketch paper, some with the spiral edges in tact— at the Frist today. It may sound strange to call documents of war uplifting, but I mean this in the sense that they were able to convey something a photograph couldn't do. If you've ever spent any time observing and drawing something, it's there. The show ends June 6. Powerful stuff on a few levels. 

May 17, 2014

On drawing.

As some of you may know, I am a fan of John Ruskin and reinterpreted his work how I saw fit back in the day when I was working more abstractly. I titled a show after one of his footnotes and have a box of maybe 70 paintings, out of which at least half, are titled from passages I lifted from Modern Painters. If you don't know what I'm referencing, see paragraph two below. [rimshot]

Plus, anyone who says, ‘A man is born an artist as a hippopotamus is born a hippopotamus; and you can no more make yourself one than you can make yourself a giraffe’ deserves some more attention in today's everyone's an artist world. 

Link to full story here.

And another excerpt: 
‘Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.’

To read John Ruskin’s book on drawing free online, see:

Every semester, I swear I'm going to go old school and teach the entire semester by his book. But it's summer now, and I am not teaching. I am currently hustling my wares as painter until the fall and trying not to screw up a large painting that was otherwise fine until a few minutes ago. 

Magnificent Failure

And on the sixth day of burnout, she wandered about and contemplated how whack a painting she could make, and low and behold, she heard a voice and it said, "Christopher Wool meets Mark Grotjahn meets Richard Prince meets Lois Dodd meets Harmony Korine." And she lied, for it did not say Harmony Korine, but since everyone in Nashville is name-dropping him left and right these days, she threw that in.


May 14, 2014

No maps.

No sense trying to retrace my steps to figure out exactly where the wrong turn was made. Time to sally forth. I was about to write "No Maps for These Territories," but remembered that was the title of a documentary about William Gibson cut by my good friend, Rochelle, back in 2000. Which somehow made this post all the more poignant. 

Damp Green Overgrowth is the unkindest hue of them all. 

May 13, 2014

Saved by the 404

I'm not really into juried exhibitions, but I thought a couple of self-portraits might actually do well and since someone suggested I enter... "enter." Really? Enter? I know there's a history of artists entering competitions. There's also a history of men wearing top hats and paintings hanging forty feet high near the ceiling. And then I notice that according to the rules, my self-portraits had expired. They were no longer relevant in today's fast-past crazy cutting edge art world. Yes, rules— (Competitions are so not me, can you tell?) I sent a email to the director asking about the grey area- the last couple of months of 2011. I half-expected a feel-free-to-interpret "Since 2011" as-being-inclusive-of-at-least-some-of-2011 reply, but no, they were not eligible. And at this rate, my paintings are almost obsolete by the time I finish them. I thought about lying, fudging the truth. Why not? Everyone does it and I'm guessing half the entries will look like 1987, anyway.  Late 2011, is like, what- two months from 2012? But there, inked on the back of the frame, was the date, November  2011- all nice and official-like from the framers. So screw it, and then I thought, okay, fine, I'll play nice and enter a 2013 portrait, but luckily someone hacked the site or just forgot to update it and so my brush with competitions came swiftly to an end.

Self-portrait with California, 2011 (November, for God's sake)

Self-portrait with Volunteers, 2011 (again, November, for God's sake)
I would have smoked the competition but these are from 2011, so according to the rules they are unable to represent the pulse of Southern art today.

 By way of titles, you may have guessed they are about place. 

May 12, 2014

Google Alerts: A Primer, and Notes from the Summer Studio.

The good thing about Google Alerts is that occasionally you are alerted to useful information about yourself. Which goes hand-in-hand with doing screen grabs should you need said info at a later date. Information just falls in my lap occasionally. Business as usual. Hopefully, it will all be good.

Yesterday was a decent, if not arduous studio day. After three or four days of sweeping silt from the last flash flood, I managed to carve out a spot in the garage also known as the, for now- summer studio, without kicking up dust with every step. For the most part, the garage is a good studio, especially after working inside for like a thousand months of winter. Through the pollen fallout, I still curse the roofers who installed ridge vents and yes, the flash floods and temperature extremes make it inoperable most of the year. Basically, I'm giving myself two weeks out there. At dusk, I broke down the painting session and moved everything to higher ground inside the house, lest a freak rain storm occur over night. Today, I was on my way to set everything back up but first needed to order some frames, at which point I received the Google Alert and became distracted enough to eat breakfast and get a blog post published. Carpe diem.

work from the summer studio, still in progress

May 07, 2014


is overused. 

But today is the last day of school for a long, long while and thus it warrants an OMG.  Yesterday in-between whatever it is I do and call work (painting, writing, observing) I thought about how to quit. I thought about quitting while on my run the other day. And for whatever reason, I thought about the time my dad told me, "Quitters never win and winners never quit." I may have been 10. Or 20. I don't remember the context. I think I was getting ready to run a race. But yesterday I looked for outs. I found them. Success stories of quitters: people who no longer work with a safety net below. I'm being intentionally vague. There are several things I could quit, some I should, and one or two I won't, but still think about in moments of down.

Fortunately, I know myself very well. The chain of events goes something like this: 

work hard. 
second guess.
work harder.
work harder.
get tripped up by shit out of my control.
second guess.
wonder if there's more and why.
keep going. 
push to max.
near burn out.
contemplate options.
shift focus at critical time.
*This stage is almost always accompanied by a strong desire to go undercover and detach.
deja vu.
and so forth and so on. 
I'm currently in 'shift focus at critical time' but can't remember how that played out in the past. 

At the end of a generous portfolio review I asked a student who managed to miss not only his scheduled meeting time, but the make-up meeting time, what he got out of  my class. He professed to not liking the class, had no idea what "observational" drawing was when he signed up, and ergo, was not particularly satisfied when he discovered the entire semester would be spent learning how to draw what one sees. Still, he said he "looks at things differently now and that was kind of cool."

I'm calling that a win. FK everything else. 

May 06, 2014

in review:

I began training for a half marathon, after not running for 2 years. Today, within 1/10 of a mile, my legs felt like glass shards, or wooden splinters. Pick whichever sounds more painful. I may have overtrained last week. Today was a bust.

Tomorrow marks my last day of wages on a W-2. I have decided NOT to renew my vow of poverty and I am stepping down from the pyre, foregoing the latter stages of martyrdom.  I am leaving academia. For the summer. 

Common features of stereotypical martyrdoms[6]
A hero
A person of some renown who is devoted to a cause believed to be admirable.
People who oppose that cause.
Foreseeable risk
The hero foresees action by opponents to harm him or her, because of his or her commitment to the cause.
Courage and Commitment
The hero continues, despite knowing the risk, out of commitment to the cause.
The opponents kill the hero because of his or her commitment to the cause.
Audience response
The hero's death is commemorated. People may label the hero explicitly as a martyr. Other people may in turn be inspired to pursue the same cause.
I'm also getting out of job #3, the antique trade. I'm unable to overwork myself for three jobs anymore. I'm quitting. Cutting out the fat. blah blah blah. 

I've almost finished the April large painting and I completed a short essay. Hopefully I will be able to resume running again tomorrow and begin the next painting.

I need a camera.