Thursday, December 29, 2005

Approaching the cliff.........

It is now 2 pm on thursday. I had an episode today just like I do every time I start a new painting. The whole wave of doubt, fear and questioning that comes without fail. I was able to manage it somehow enough to move on. I am ready to get going and still waiting for my reference photos from the printer. I did play around with some line drawing, scratching out and reworking a few places, and I did prepare a canvas, but I feel dissatisfied with it all today. I really want to approach this with respect and gentleness, yet with power. It takes me awhile to prepare before I actually start. Thinking through what I want to convey, the best way to present it, chewing on it, getting the references together (and there aren’t photos of Jeff Buckley in the short span of his seven year career) just takes a lot of energy and time. It has always been this way for me. I am preparing to experience the same pain and tension I did on the Vincent piece, I know it, but every time, for some reason, I still do it.

Craig and I watched this documentary called "Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art". It is about the transformations that took place in 20th-century America, told through the words and work of artists like O’Keeffe, Pollock, de Kooning…..folks from that era.
These documentaries are almost always replete with over philosophized interpretation by a number of art historians, who I can tell you are some of the weirdest people ever to live. To them every artwork has a deep, psycological meaning, or more often a deep Freudian context. When I was at ACA, my art history professor had a penile allusion for EVERY piece of art we looked at.

In these films there is always the old footage of the big ten sitting around smoking and drinking in their ‘boys club’ contemplating how great they all are and how they have ‘it’ and everyone else is crap. None of what they say makes any sense….unless you are CRAZY. Pollock wasn’t a verbal guy, so they didn’t have much audio of him, but some of the other guys……made no sense at all. It just sounds like nonsense. Bunch of pot smokers, or something…..

I remember getting a very rude awakening as a art student when I went to the High Museum in Atlanta, which was next to ACA. We got in for free as students. There was an grouping on pieces by some forgotten artist in contemporary section. These were ten or so pieces of plywood with the knotholes painted various colors. Depressing enough, right? Well, along with the ‘art’ was a huge artist’s statement ‘explaining’ the work and the philosophy of the work. Maybe most artists are so stupid that they have to make up some junk noone can understand to sound brilliant. It was my first eye openner to how low, low, low the world of fine art has sunk.
I like most of the artists in the documentary. It took me some time to appreciate their work, though. It would have been a much better film without the wacky art historians.

once again.....

I have more ammo today for that James Dobson guy. They are airing a three day series from Shaunti Feldhahn who wrote a book about what men really think. She wrote a book on the pending doom of Y2K in 1999, by the way. The show portrays men as weak, insecure and unable to control themselves as well as having the sexual and emotional maturity of fourteen year old boys. (This one is often true, but it is because of the failure of the older men in a boy’s life, not a genetic condition.) I loathe the stereotyping of anyone. And I think it is a disservice to men to air a program like this one.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

So the slow, process of beginning again…..begins again ("Allow myself to introduce….myself.) While looking for reference photos I came across an amazingly brave painting of Jeff Buckley amongst the sea of standard pencil drawings by various teenage girls.

Ken Meyer does mostly comic work but has done a lot of great portrait work of numerous music icons. This particular painting of Jeff I really found powerful and heartbreaking. I love it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Fugazi has a great documentary called ‘Instrument’ released in 1999 that I haven’t seen before last night. I have always loved the band and had the opportunity to see them several times in Atlanta in the early 90’s. They are an amazing live band and they really stick out as one of the most original bands EVER. I haven’t thought about them or listened to them in awhile, but today I have pulled out all my cds. Wow. Rent it if you want a lesson on making an impact with your art.

photo Pat Graham
I am walking around this new painting…around and around. At least I have the canvas prepared and up on the easel. The approach is what’s hanging me up.
(By the way, if you happen to listen christian radio on Focus on the Family today you can hear a program about what a REAL SWELL guy James Dobson is. It’s the ‘let’s kiss his rear’ day on the show. Very unbecomming. I am sure the show was his idea. I think I am going to be ill……..) Sorry, I just feel he is the big cause for a lot of the anti-christian sentiment in the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the thorn in my flesh

I have been paid a visit by my old friend ‘back pain’ these last few days. Yeh-haw. This particular friend causes everything to come to a halt. Demanding attention, it keeps me from being able to paint and makes me extremely cautious about the way and manner that I move. It’s strange when it comes around, because I can never quite figure out what brings it about on occasion between long stretches of no visitation at all. So here I am propped up with a pillow behind my back on a gray and really cold December day waiting for my chiropractic appointment to roll around.

My car has returned to the shop from whence it came. We picked it up on Saturday and the crappy replacement transmission failed that night. Ah, yes, you can bet I was pissed, having been almost rear ended on a busy road. It will have a brand new transmission put on later in the week. No additional charge. I had a gut feeling…….

The Jeff Buckley painting is still floating around in my mind…..waiting for the right time to be birthed. My hands are tied today….I can’t work. Just envision and chew.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Craig and I have Netflix and watch a fair amount of movies and documentaries. The other night we watched ‘Another State of Mind: Social Distortion, Youth Brigade and Minor Threat.’ It is a documentary made in 1984 about the aforementioned bands traveling across the country in a junky schoolbus in an attempt to play in 30 cities in 35 days. Very punk. Needless to say it begins to fall apart when they aren’t making enough money to eat and any money they do make has to go on bus repairs. Then they want to go home. Not very punk.

For me, the movie brought back so many memories. I was 16 at the time and really immersed in the punk underground, and believe me, it was underground then. Looking at the kids in the movie I was struck by the clothes. Then, everyone just went to the thrift store and made the clothes their own by writing on them or shredding them, whatever you like. There wasn’t any Hot Topic or the myriad of clothing stores where you can get pre-made alternative covering. Someone figured out that they could make a lot of money in a business like this. The entire movement was about doing it yourself. By the time the record companies and clothing stores caught on punk was already on its way out. The idea was to be an individual. To be creative.
Even the bands all had their own sound. But when everyone began to look the same and sound the same and even act the same the movement was over. Johnny Rotten would say that the end happend in the late 70’s. I think it was more like in the mid 80’s.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

out of the flames.....into more flames

Out of the flames…..into more flames.
Filed under:
Everything— Tracey @ 10:56 pm on
Well, ‘Vincent’ is finished…… I will post it on the website in the next day or so so you all can see what the source of my season of agony is….what the big fuss is all about.

I have been looking at reference materials all evening and sketching for the next work which will be a painting about Jeff Buckley. I had a dream and it will be based on that dream. A daunting task, no lie.

"The only goal is the process. The process is the thing, with little flashes of light here and there….It’s the life in between, that’s all I’ve got." - Jeff Buckley

Monday, December 05, 2005

double A.....M,C, O

This was our day today in northern Virginia. The first snow storm of the season and it is still coming down. Things don’t really stop around here when it snows. The county is expert at being prepared and getting the roads sanded and salted. Other than maybe schools closing for one day, most people go to work. I remember being in awe of that our first winter here having come from Atlanta where thirty minutes of flurries shuts the city down and people act like they have a natural disaster happening.

Cars are great, love my car, feel blessed to be a two car family and really a car is a luxury. Having two is like really a luxury. Mine died yesterday on Cardinal Drive. The transmission. I knew it. So, the bother of the inevitable event and the unavoidable expenditure of a lot of cash has put a little damper on the day. Weather hasn’t really helped the general sentiment around the house either.

Still have not finished ‘Vincent’……what a shocker.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

vincent and me

In tying up ‘Vincent’ I had some new feelings about the essence of the work. I have been so focused on technique for so long, which is a real danger and makes art dead, I lost sight of the reason for the painting altogether. Now that it is almost done, taking a step back I see I need to now hone in on the purpose…the message.

As I have written before, the gut connection I feel with Vincent Van Gogh goes beyond a love for his own work. I have read his collected letters many times and each time a deep empathy is built upon. It is difficult to explain because really it is on an emotional level that I feel these things. The painting is about that empathy, that compassion, in myself that I feel for the man and for his work. It has nothing to do with lifting myself to his artistic level, though I am sure many will take the work as just that. My hope and goal is that those who see it will get a feeling of the tenderness and affection I have for the person he is revealed to be through those letters and the difficult life he lived. To me, he is like a brother.

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." Vincent

happy holidays, uh....Christmas

Now comes the yearly litany of programs and forwarded emails about the ‘Happy Holidays’ phrase that replaces ‘Merry Christmas’ on storefronts, bags, and whatever else available in the commercial realm this time of year. These programs and emails encourage us to boycott places of business that use the replacement phrase as an indication of their supposed political correction. Well, what do you expect? And how much of it is brought on by christians themselves? A silly phrase does not validate or negate a reality. Truth is truth. Chistmas is about the birth of Christ. Always has been, always will be. Some words on a paper napkin cannot change this.

If these so-called followers of Christ would spend more time loving and getting to know people and less time asserting their rights and their religious domination in commercial and political domains (I am not talking about voting, we should vote) then we might have a lot less hostility towards our beliefs. We might make more progress.

Tell me, how does demanding a retail store have ‘Merry Christmas’ on their bags and banners further the cause of Christ? It only falsely furthers our own need to be right and affirms how weak so many are in the faith….how estranged they are from who Jesus is. It freaks me out. He calls us to be in the world, not to make the world conform to our demands. If you want to live in a christian fantasy world where everything is as you think it should be, that everyone else should think that too and follow your self aggrandizing posturing you must boycott the entire world. Are you willing to give up you credit cards, your big gas guzzling vehicles? How about grocery stores? Or some of the name brand clothes you wear? I can guarantee you that the practices of most of the places your money goes would not live up to your belief system.
So, you might as well go ahead and die or go live in one of those cults where you and your children can hide, be ignorant and unempowered, fearful and crippled.
Sorry…just makes my blood boil…..

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

crafty hell

OK….so, yesterday was NOT the day. (see yesterday’s post…), but today might be. Ran out of black paint. This morning I made the dreaded trip to Michael’s to get some to do the last touch up stuff. Every time, without fail, I make a trip to Michael’s and there is always, always the same little old lady working the register. The place is huge….one person on register. And most of the people in line, always women, have bags of Michael’s junk that they are returning. I suppose they bought too many doo-dads they didn’t need after all….too many plastic flowers or dried weeds or rocks or something crafty like that. I had to get to a breakfast date with my friend Tracy, so of course the woman in front of me had a cartload of garland and I am standing there with my tiny tube of paint. Happens every time, I swear it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

pie and van gogh

After a very short, Thanksgiving visit to Norfolk I am back. Lots of cooking and eating and general family strangeness. I love to cook and made two pies from scratch….they came out perfect and as of last night, they are officially gone. I also enjoy cleaning up after the big meal. I think of it all as an act of service. My mother, on the other hand, hates both cooking and cleaning up. I guess most people do. It is all a matter of how you frame it, I think.

Ready (so ready) to finally finish ‘Vincent’. Today is the day…(I think I have said that before about this painting). I was horrified to look back in my journals and see that I started the blasted thing in August. AUGUST!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

tracey clarke, a.k.a weird cat lady

I think I am getting weirder as I get older. I find my self attracted to stranger clothes (stranger than usual, for those who know me), odder music……more eclectic art. I will probably be one of those old ladies with 76 cats and dreadlocks. All the neighborhood kids will know me as ‘that weird old lady with the cats’. Maybe they will leave a smoldering bag of dog poo on my stoop a couple of times a year and yell at me when they ride by on their bikes. And no one will come for halloween….

Just finished a portrait job that turned out lovely. We are off to Norfolk for a few days for thanksgiving next week. Until then STILL tying up ‘Vincent and Me’….

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 17, 1966 - May 29, 1997

Friday, November 11, 2005

mice and birds

I have had these recurring dreams about small rodents and birds….like pet animals. They are either starving and sick because I forgot to feed them or they are dying. Really creepy to me being a big believer that dreams tell you something about yourself. Mine are like novels; movies. There is usually not a literal meaning in dreams but a symbolic one. So, yes, all those disturbing sexual dreams you have (don’t act like you don’t) have nothing to do with sex. What a relief, right?

Wrapping up Vincent and Me. All the blood shed over this work has paid off big time and all the anger and frustration I felt about and for this work have been worth it. I will have it up on the site shortly, so a lot of positive reenforcement from readers would make it even more worth it. I think I even have some ideas for the next one. AHHH, the NEXT one………In the meantime I have a portrait job to get on.

On a monumental note, the brochure will be ready next week…..monumental, my friends, make no mistake.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

sowing and reaping

So, out of control thoughts, actions…..decisions based on feelings rather than wisdom, on ‘the moment’ rather than principles, have caught up with me. We reap what we sow. No mistake. The saying goes, “sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” That thought has been weighing on me. In the end we can blame no one but ourselves for the way our lives have turned out. Our lives turn out the way they do because of a series of choices made at critical, and not so critical, moments. Pure and simple. It’s time for me to get down to business. I have reaped a diseased mind by sowing its soil with diseased thoughts. Here I am again. I have been here before. When will I start getting serious about it all? Is it really possible to change, permenantly, for good?

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Here’s something I came across. I cruise this site called D.C. Art News. Great site, very extensive. I am for art…for people expressing themselves, but you know, I just don’t GET IT…performance art. I must be too dim. So, here is a description of this woman’s performance piece. I think she just wants attention like everyone else and I think she needs to watch ‘Fletch’….or a few episodes of ‘Beavis and Butthead’.
Performance:I slowly eat 1 kilo of honey with a silver spoon. I slowly drink 1 liter of red wine out of a crystal glass. I break the glass with my right hand. I cut a five-pointed star on my stomach with a razor blade. I violently whip myself until I no longer feel any pain. I lay down on a cross made of ice blocks. The heat of a suspended heater pointed at my stomach causes the cut star to bleed. The rest of my body begins to freeze. I remain on the ice cross for 30 minutes until the public interrupts the piece by removing the ice blocks from underneath me.
Duration: 2 hours………. uuuhhhhh,

"……you’re really weird."


Ahhhh. Self discipline. My choices in the last few weeks since the Norfolk incident have really boiled down to this: I have not disciplined myself to paint. Isn’t it in our nature to choose the thing that produces the least resistance, the least discomfort? And it’s only delaying the inevitable, that this painting must get done. Giving in moment by moment to something else, some other impulse down the level road to avoid the steep hill or pothhole riddled path, involves a choice. Any thing that one feeds becomes stronger and more powerful and any thing that is starved weakens. It’s all very simple, yet at times so very hard to do. The myriad of ways we find to detour our life’s calling can be rather dangerous. We all know folks who have chosen and chosen again to avoid, to indulge in some other thing other than what they are supposed to. They are often sad and bitter people with a huge bag of regret on their shoulders that they cannot put down because it is their own fault by their own choosing. I can learn from that…from those who were at that crossroad. But sometimes I fear I will end up there, too. That it is somehow in my genes, if you will. I know in my right mind it isn’t my genes, it is my choices, but at times I still wonder. Especially when I struggle for such an extended period of time.

So the allure of books, art sites, working out harder, or just spacing is a strong allure for me in these recent weeks. At least today I primed some canvases in between Jeff Buckley, Lord of the Rings….blog….weight training, having a glass of wine and eating too much Halloween candy (yes, I cannot be trusted at all with it in the house BEFORE the event). Craig is with Phil in D.C. at the Spy Museum (can you say BORING?) so I can do whatever I want, right? These are the things I CHOSE today. I used to just choose to go to sleep…hide, so I guess it is an improvment.

Friday, October 28, 2005

dream brother

I don’t want to jump on the Jeff Buckley-mythological-idol-worship- bandwagon and there is a lot of it out there, but I have been revisiting and almost exclusively listening to his music. What little we have of him is exquisite and it moved me to dig a bit. I picked up a book and read it last week and surfed around on the web looking at interviews and articles really trying to learn a bit about his art, the why, what and how of hs motivation to create music. Only natural when you connect with a song, a painting, whatever.

I was struck by the similarities of his philosophy about music, about his art and his comments on his upbringing, especially about his absent father, that we have. At times my eyes would fly open like the words came right out of my mouth. I have said those same things. It was like discovering a brother or something. Weird.
Being raised by a single parent with an absentee parent often creates an ongoing dichotomy of love and hate, of justice and mercy toward that parent that many understand. Jeff seemd to express these feelings. I am with it…right in there. And it can be maddening, too.
Fear of being sucked into the machine as if your work is something to be bought and sold is also a big echo I heard. He never seemed comfortable with the record contract he landed and why should he have been? To be told what and how to do your thing is frightening prospect for anyone who lives in the balance of art and making a living. The tearing between the two aspects is something anyone who moves forward has to face. To be seen as a way to profit is a nightmare to most artist.

I realize that a person is a complex being and is more than a few recorded statements in a lifetime, or in a too short lifetime as is in Jeff’s case, but I certainly feel it….I can feel it in the guts. Those few expressions I have read are poignant and they encourage me. A wonderful and rare ’not alone’ moment.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

out in space

Stuck floating in some alternate universe….unable to focus….living inside. I see a little girl out my window. She in is in that still wobbly learning to walk stage. I want to go back there and start over. What is in my mind is safer, more interesting and it brings me the floods of feeling that I sometimes thrive on and survived on as a child. Does anyone else go there? I realize it is a hiding and an avoiding and a reliving of how I lived my life throughout my childhood. A magic to it that is wonderful, yet not very conducive to adult life….to difficult paintings. The finish line of the week bears down on me with little to show. Why am I so weird?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

family cog

I was in Norfolk at my mom’s the week before last because of a rare visit from my sister and her kids. Every time I have all these hopeful expectations that things will be different and we all will somehow really connect. It is usually a disappointment. Most everyone knows the strange, unconscious shift of falling back into one’s lifelong postion in the family. All those old, ingrained ways of relating, of postioning yourself, in your family just happen. Too many strong feelings about too many things keep you from breaking the cycle; still choosing your words carefully, choosing topics carefully. I have made some cracks in the foundation of those walls, but still find them strong and high. I often come away feeling like a stranger. We are not the same people we were twenty years ago yet we seem to continue to relate to other as if we are. No one seems to be very interested in really getting to know one another. We did have some fun, don’t get my confession wrong, but I realized for real this time that my family doesn’t know me very well and I don’t really know them well either. Nobody talks about their feelings, and desires and troubles….no relating on a deep level and certainly no one asks. On occasion over the years I have asked only to be quickly redirected.

As well, I come away broken hearted at my lack of ability to love people. If you can’t love the people in your own family you probaby can’t love anyone else since they usually are the most challenging. I have said it many times, family are the people you probably would not have anything to do with if they weren’t family. I find my desire for folks to behave in the manner I want and whether or not they do determines that love. It’s a real uncovering of how mature I really am and I am never as far a long as I thought or hoped. Admit it. We want people agree with us, approve of us, be into the same things we are….not make waves. This is the superficial, fleshly reality of relationships that do not move on and up, that do not blossom, and do not go down deep.

In the days following a trip like that I feel really disjointed, closed in some alternate reality and unable to get back to my life. I feel what seems like remorse. I think thats what it is. And I go through the motions of kicking myself and wishing I could start over and it was noon on wednesday october 5th when I pulled into the driveway of my mom’s house. I was nursing a subluxated rib (don’t ask) last week, staring at that blasted painting and feeling stuck in gear looking back at the the days in Norfolk. Couldn’t settle. The promise of the coming week is a relief.

Friday, September 30, 2005

half full or half empty?

Now it comes down to it. This is where the innate and almost primitive drive to create comes full on. This painting is going to be the end of me (Pam tells me that I say that about every painting). I am at a sticking point and have been trying to hammer it out all week to no avail. All the elements of newness, the new painting easel, applying oil pastel to huge canvas, a new sitting and arm position, have all arrived at once and it has been a challenge, not to mention that the painting itself IS NOT WORKING. I have scraped off twice and may have to do it again, though the thought of it makes me wince. But I will keep moving forward because I have to. I may walk away for a day or two, but I have to come back to it…sit down face to face in front of that monster of a problem. This is that drive I was mentioning up top and sometimes I don’t like it. At all, my friends.

Technique is important depending on what an artist is trying to achieve. And it is important in this particular painting, which I do not enjoy. It is curious to me now why I chose this idea. I do not prize technique over creativity and find technique to be quite a drain. I once thought it to be the end all be all, but now that I am more mature I place creativity on the top rung. Technique is nothing but a tool and anyone can learn it, yet this painting requires traditional realist techniques, something I don’t use a lot in my work and do not prefer to. I feel like I am back in college when I deal with traditional techniques. I left college because it permeated every class. I suppose this is why the modernist went in the direction they did, God bless ‘em.Maybe it isn’t as bad as I think (I am not normally a glass is half empty person, but a glass IS empty person, so this is a positive statement for me). Vincent looks marvelous. The work has been half sucessful at least…..or maybe I should look at the job section.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Frida Kahlo and the blessing of public tv

We decided to rid ourselves of the cable television last month. It’s purely a menas of avoiding what is important and a robber of time. So, that leaves us with a few channels of which only public television is of any interest. There are plenty of documentaries in between ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and the handful of cooking shows. Last week I came across an AE biography of Frida Kahlo.

I knew a few bits about her and always have been intrigued by her work. I do remember the first time I saw one of her paintings and recall that I had to turn the page. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me without knowing about her. This was before I knew of her lifetime of physical sufferings which was the basis for her work. Her paintings are about her and that makes them quite powerful. A lot of the art snobs like to point out her supposed lack of technique (like there is only ONE technique)…I think they are secretly jealous of someone who was self taught whose work has the depth of content they only hope for.

Monday, September 12, 2005

D.C. at twilight

I am totally wiped out. Apparently, poor sleeping ability runs in my family and in the last ten years I have found myself less and less able to get a good nights sleep. Sure, I have really bad bed mate (tosses/turns/snores) and I have had a handful of health issues that have certainly stolen my winks, but I think it’s just us. The Lantrip family….or at least the women. So, at certain points it catches up with me, like after a week or so, and by 2 pm I am dragging. If I keep moving, I am ok, but sitting down to read or paint or whatever and it’s all over, man.
We have been to D.C. many times in the (almost) one year we have been here and have walked many miles and seen all the stuff to see, but Craig convinced me that "No, we need to see it all at TWILIGHT. It’s more interesting and beautiful!" And off we went to D.C. at 5pm saturday evening stopping to have a quick pizza in Springfield. By the time we got there and all the pizza and wine and stuff I felt like I could curl up in the backseat of the car and let the D.C. fanatic go on his own. But off we went.
Craig has this lovely child-like excitement about him especially when it comes to historical or sports related things. Lots of fast talking, lots of fast walking, lots of eyeballs going crazy looking all around. That’s my husband. It’s great. I sure as heck don’t get excited about anything. I make sure I am well composed in any and all situations. One of the problems is that he wants me to get in all the pictures. Now, we have lots, and lots of pictures of the monuments, many with me in them looking stiff and sort of mad. I don’t think we need any more. He took 36 pictures of monuments and landmarks. It was a great time except for my exhaustion. And he was right that everything looked different and more interesting in the evening. And there were a lot of folks there just hanging out sitting and talking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or walking around the tidal basin. We weren’t the only ones. Someone elses husband or whatever said, "Hey! Let’s go to D.C. at TWILIGHT!" and there they all were, someone tagging along looking wiped out…..I have the most amazing husband……

Sunday, September 11, 2005


At another anniversary of September 11th I watched again the Frontline documentary "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero", a very fascinating film made a year after the event interviewing people either at the scene and/or who lost friends or family members in the tragedy. As someone who believes in God it strikes me how this film captures the ebb and flow of ‘faith’ and how that ‘faith’ either grows, reforms or perishes in the face of 9/11. Western christianity has the market on a self focused belief in and idea of God. Almost every person interviewed approaches the camera with a "how could God do this to me", in a sort of standing in the place of God as God and judging God. The phrases "America is a blessed country…how can God do this to America? ‘God bless America’ were spoken throughout. Certainly these are hurting folks and disillusioned folks. For them there isn’t only the tragic loss of life, but the complete loss of entire belief systems and ideologies, whole structures that lives were built upon. That happened to me when I went from athiest to true believer and it is tremendously stressful. But this attitude, and quite frankly the attitude dispised by much of the rest of the world, is very telling about our tendancy to form God in our own image. I do it myself. It is a product of a society raised from birth on entitlement. We feel entitled to have everything go swell, we live to avoid pain, discomfort, difficulty…and are offended when we encounter it. These are the things that most of the rest of the planet faces on a daily basis and because we have the means or drive to mostly avoid them our faith, our character, our growth has been gravely injured. And I talk to myself. I get pissy when I have a runny nose. Every time.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Livin' life, man

An aspect of my personality type according to the Myers Briggs test is a drive to be authentic and to figure out who I really am. Apparently, I also need to find meaning in everything, which could really mean that I need to RELAX. After weeks of soul searching and struggle (see last post) Craig and I were on our one hundreth deep discussion about the whole art thing. He has readily participated and bantered with me about it all, but I think he was over it by week three. I once again presented my arguments and concerns, my deep feelings and fears about myself and my work. There was a pause as I waited for his much needed response. He then says, "You are just livin’ life, man. That’s all it is…just livin’ life." Part of me feels I needed to hear that all along.

Friday, August 26, 2005

one more time

The last three weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life. Craig and I have always lived our lives conscious of the paths of our forebears and determined not to follow in those steps. Running away when its hard, choosing the easy way out or ignoring things….settling for less. Fighting these paths is a grand ideology but it can be quite difficult and painful when that ideology meets the asphalt. When God gives you a gift it not only means it will be a working out of that gift but that He will use that gift to uncover, expose and do major surgery on other things as well. Yeah, right, following Christ is a cop out….that one always cracks me up.
The journey of seeking to become a full time professional artist that began several months ago really came to a halt about three weeks ago. I hit the wall. All of my beliefs and convictions that have made me as an artist were suddenly called to the table as I researched galleries and seriously began working on the brochure with the printers. Somewhere on gallery number two hundred and somewhere on the fourth time we returned there with a new file and found it once again not up to par I began to crumble. All of the negative voices and words I have heard about being an artist flooded in and I began to listen to them. You know the ones, "No one will buy your work, you will be a failure, they will find out you are a fake, this is all a silly dream, be practical, be realistic!" and on and on I could go. Listening to those words put me in bed for several days and seriously made me consider returning to vet medicine. I began to walk in the steps of thousands…..I decided to give up. The fear and doubt were so overwhelming and the path before me was so unsavory to me that I wanted to go the easy way. And then the apathy set in and apathy in the worst. Apathy says "You aren’t afraid, you just don’t want to be part of the whole gallery thing….you never wanted to do it for anything but the art. You don’t want to violate your principles and prostitute yourself and your work! Why do you need the input of other artists? You know exactly what you want to do! Look at all the oney and time you are wasting when you could be painting! That’s what you really love." (Part of me still believes this, by the way.) Apathy is very convincing. After listening to all my repeatative arguments about not pursuing this stuff my dear friend and supporter Pam said, "Everything you say makes perfect sense and sounds real and I believe you…….but its a cop out."

I was feeling quite exhausted by this battle around last thursday. We were off to Norfolk and the whole trip Craig and I replayed it all again and again. Over the next few days I began to see stripped of skin all the major control issues I have especially with my artwork. I also have a really hard time trusting the leading and judgment of others. For all of us there are things that we cannot see without the insight of others. I learned that I am completely untrustworthy with determining the purpose of my work because I lie to myself and believe it so that I can have it my way and stay in control. This is hard to admit, by the way and I still feel the last vestiges of apathy like after one has a really greasy meal……I could go back for another one of those meals if I am not dilligent.

So the choice is laid before me. All my creeds about life choices I have believed over my whole life are now put to trial. So, one more time to the printers today……..wish me luck.
Asalin keeping me company on my bed of decision…

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Craig and I celebrated our sixth anniversary sunday. Our wonderful friends Paul and Nic gave us full use of their home, pool and hot tub over the weekend while they were off to Boston. Really nice. They are probably the most generous folks I have ever met always having us over for dinner and letting us drink their alcohol. It was a nice break from being so focused on wanting to start a new painting and feeling the discomfort of that waiting.

But it’s time once again for the between paintings slump…… I can tell when I sleep more, but get less quality sleep. Lots of push and pull within the realm of the business and the potential new painting. I do feel like I am in the third trimester of a pregnancy. Huge. Miserable. Uncomfortable. ‘Phobetor’ is still forming in the dark…….but he will come forth. It’s inevitable.
I am working on the gallery database today in lieu of any birth pangs. I am not sure whether to smile or cry (see?!). Most of the work is so uncompelling yet is represented in a gallery…..uugghh. Makes me feel pretty good about my work, but not so good about my prospects. I have a real negative bent today, so maybe the gallery surfing is a bad idea.
After many false starts with the brochure (more than is natural, if you ask me) hopefully they will got o press this week. This is a really important project to get on the road. So, I continue to work on the database………(sigh).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

birth pangs

Now that ‘Morpheus’ is completed, I think I have some idea now of what my next painting will be……I think. I am very fascinated with mythology, so I am going to continue on with ‘Phobetor’ who is second of the gods who created images in dreams. He took the form of animals in dreams. This is a bottomless pit of possibilities…..

The research and brainstorming process is such a huge part of how I work. Over the last several weeks while in the city, visiting friends or away visiting my family I am always thinking about this idea. I will mull and chew on an idea for weeks never even putting anything on paper until I am sure I am ready to procede. Very anti-art school. At ACA I remember we had to have several pages of sketches to accompany any piece of work we turned in for a grade. I don’t need no stinking sketches!…..

I have thrown out my old faithful drafting table of fifteen years and bought an easel. After much advice and research this my first attempt at using oil pastels on large canvas…….I am moving closer and closer to that huge white canvas on the easel every day. The first mark is always the hardest to make….. This is when the barrage of doubts and fears come knocking.
Can I do it? Will it be what I hoped? Will I be able to put on canvas what is in my mind?..Or will I find that I am a fake?……

I remind myself each new beginning of the words of my favorite art book ‘Art and Fear’:

"What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears continue; those who don’t, quit. Uncertainty is the essential , inevitable and all-pervasive companion to making art. And the tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding."

Right on.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

(l- Claire, m- Laura, r- David)
I recently discovered that an old friend, Laura Carter, who was the singer in the Bar B Q Killers and in Jack O Nuts died not long ago. She was this amazing fire of energy and angst as a singer and I was really intimidated by her at first, but I discovered what a sweet person she really was once I began to hang around her a bit. We eventually lost touch. Sad to hear of her death. Sounds like she died of alcohol poisoning in a Bon Scott sort of way. She always drank too much…..
In light of that I have been sort of reliving my art school days and the many hours I spent in Athens Georgia back in the mid 80’s and early 90’s. I was out there almost every night of the week and on weekends. I rented a copy of "Athens Ga Inside Out" and was catapulted back to those days. I remember that time as a really exciting period musically and had a lot of fun and met a lot of amazing folks….. Have a look at the DVD if you have a chance. There is an amazing clip of the Bar B Q Killers on it.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sparrows and Brochures

I have finished the Morpheus painting (I think) and I feel it is a strong piece. I am a bit overwhelmed at the number of works I have that need framing. I have to consider other supports, I think, that do not require the huge (and ridiculous) expense of a framing job. On a student/artist budget the prospect of framing all this work in daunting. It can be rather depressing.

My friend Pam has graciously and enthusiastically offered her assistance and support in my efforts to address the business (yuck) aspect of being an artist. We have our Thursday morning bible study and then plan to work on the business. We went over to a few copy places to get quotes on brochures today. I have a beautiful brochure on a pdf file we put together, but when the printer printed a hardcopy, I wasn’t happy at all with the quality of some of the photos of my work. So, they have to be reshot and the whole thing has to be reworked. Needless to say I was irritated, but Pam has this wonderful way of speaking the truth to me not only in serious issues but in this one as well. I really need that. Her take was that, well, now we know what we need to do, we’ll get a better camera, shoot this day, print this day, get the mailing done this day…it’ll be great! I don’t need any more empathy or niceties from well meaning folks. I need someone to give me the proper perspective. I have grown lazy in disciplining my mind with the truth and naturally lean towards a negative bent on things. And now as I am moving toward 37 years old (that’s right folks) I don’t want to continue that behavior.

I heard an eighty year old woman on the radio today being interviewed about her positive perspective on life and aging and she said "Romans 8:28-30….believe it now. Don’t wait. Either it’s true or not. Choose it and live like that." To her it was that simple. Anything that happens God works together for the good of those who believe. Not a sparrow falls to the ground….not a brochure glitch, as simple and seemingly unimportant as it is, goes unnoticed.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Happy Birthday, my friend. Thinking of you today. I always thought I’d see you again… are missed.

Monday, June 20, 2005

you made the joy poop out of me

I was asked to judge an art show at a local school a few months ago. They had about 30 artworks and it took me and a staff member a few hours to do the judging. Some of the work had that beautiful, childlike quality that comes from just ‘being’. It doesn’t last into adulthood because it comes from a sense of ‘not knowing’. By the time students get into art classes in high school every last drop of that lovely childlike quality is squeezed out. Things have to start looking like something….there has to be a product. I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good high school art teacher who, for the most part, understood this tragedy. But by the time I got to college the professors made it their personal business to wring it out of me.

Anyway, I got a card in the mail the other day from the students who had work in the show.It has a bunch of comments like "good job", and "thanks" and "you were great", then underneath that bold red comment some kid decided to add an extra ‘o’ above the word ‘pop’ making it ‘you made the joy poop out of me’……love that. See. It’s that wonderful quality of ‘being’….

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

There's Sandorfi...and then there's me.

I have been revisiting some websites of favorite artists for a little encouragement and inspiration. I had forgotten how powerful Istvan Sandorfi’s work is. Every time I retrun to it, I am again struck and struck hard. It is always just like the first time I saw his paintings all over again. Although I have heard him criticized for some of his techniques (big deal art snobs) I still swear his work to be the most powerful and compelling work of our lifetime. He is weird, too. I like a stereotypical weird artist. And his philosphy makes no sense at all. Amazing work. Looking at other artist’s work usually makes me feel pretty good about mine but Sandorfi’s is the kind of work you see and immediately feel deflated, like a sorry little balloon let go into the wind……

So, I am dug in deep working on "Morpheus" (or "Morpheus Appears as Ceyx to Halcyne"). There is a turning point with a painting when things start to come together as you envisioned them. With each work I learn something new. I aways take the long way, the hard way in a work as I rarely use any references and every element comes exclusively from my mind. I have noticed these elements in my mind to even be improving with each work. I thrive on working that way (though I might have an ulcer to show for it….).
Have a look at some others…..It will be worth your time….


Great, but I love his earlier work. He does mostly portraits now:

Narazyzn is a foremost artist from the Non-conformist movement of the late Soviet Union:

Monday, June 06, 2005

Van person

Craig and I went to the National Gallery of Art on Saturday. We have figured out that we can park for free over by the tidal basin close to the Jefferson Memorial and walk to wherever we want to go. I guess we put in about seven walking miles in the heat and amongst the tourists.
The initial plan was to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit over in the east building. The west building has a Gilbert Stewart exhibit. He is the guy that painted the numerous famous portraits of George Washington including the one on the dollar bill. Right up Craig’s historical alley. He just finished a whole class exclusively about George.

The National Gallery has an impressive permanent collection, though including one too many classical paintings of the Madonna and Child….one can only take so many. I was losing interest among the numerous paintings of naked, full figured ladies and the blank stares of the people passing from one painting to another. Suddenly there through the doorway across the hall I caught a glimpse of what I knew was a Van Gogh. Right up my artistic alley.
I made my way down the wall taking in the magic and noticed a crowd of folks in front of a painting taking photos (I think that’s wierd, by the way). It turned out to be a Van Gogh self portrait, my favorite of all his work. Vincent created more than 2,000 works of art in his short lifetime and the gallery has 19 of those works. I cannot believe they have one of his self portraits. So, I waited my turn slowy moving closer as the snapshooters line got shorter until I was there… a few inches from the painting. I could see the brushstrokes made by the hand of Vincent Van Gogh.

I have always felt that his work had a sense of lonliness and tragedy… a sort of lostness and longing. Even before I ever knew anything about how tragic his life was I could sense it. Those are elements that I don’t see in the works of other impressionists from that so important time in history. Though there were plenty of artists with tragic lives in that era, the evidence just doesn’t come through like it does in a Van Gogh work. Its like bleeding on the canvas. I haven’t experienced this sort of thing often in art.

I stood and sure enough the tears started to seep out of the corners of my eyes. Happened at the High in Atlanta last year, too, at an exhibit passing through that had a Van Gogh self portrait. It’s ridiculous, I know, but the affinity I feel with Vincent Van Gogh is poignant. I wonder if the quickly moving viewers and photographers know anything about this man’s life and the kind of person he was. I wonder if they see more than quaint paintings of sunflowers or hard working people in the fields. I do. The painter Ben Shahn once said, “It may be a point of great pride to have a Van Gogh on the livingroom wall, but the prospect of having Van Gogh himself IN the livingroom would put a great many devoted art lovers to rout.”
My legs felt like cement standing there making that connection. He was looking at me, I was looking at him. Amazing. It was hard to move on but I move on blessed…..time for Lautrec and dancing ladies……

Thursday, May 05, 2005

starting again

…still working on that ’starting over’ thing. Each new beginning is a painful place to be and every time I understand again that I was made to create something out of nothing. I am not happy unless I am in that process. Now that its been over a month with one pencil drawing in between that I lost interest in I feel I am moving into panic mode. I have an idea and a preliminary sketch, but once again I face the birth of only one idea and the abandonment and death of all the others. I hate that.

Monday, April 04, 2005


After intense focus on my last painting, ‘Mercutio‘…eating, sleeping, thinking about it, I am at that place again of starting over. I am very proud of ‘Mercutio‘ and feel I walked through the bone, muscle, blood and skin of that figure under the dense velvet of that robe. I can see it in my mind and almost ‘feel’ the figure. An artist may not live on the success of any work and its time to move on. Beginning again almost always brings depression and struggle, so I have been living in that place for a few weeks now underneath the busyness of life. The business is coming to an end and the faint voice in the distance of that next work is eye to eye with me now demanding to be contended with. Health issues have abounded lately and being one of those folks whose physical state is directly linked to her emotional state I am not winning the victory at the moment. I have learned that it WILL come to me but I have to be reminded not to take this gift for granted thus the fight. I have learned to look at my bodily struggles in the same manner. Health is a gift. The art is a gift. We do not appreciate things that come easily. The seasons of struggle teach us that lesson.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

9:30 clu

Rollins, Black Flag 1983 (left) and Ian, Minor Threat (right)(photo Glen Freidman)

Craig and I went to a show at the 9:30 club on Sunday night as sort of chaperones. Along with Atlanta’s Metroplex and CBGB’S the 9:30 is historic as far as being a birthing ground for important music in the last 20 plus years. Walking through the doors was amazing for me. Having been embedded into the scene in the early 80s I learned early on about the existence of the 9:30 club.
Once I tried to explain to the mother of one of our charges my own experience and how I felt seeing Black Flag live for the first time or hearing the Melvins for the first time. These were life changing events for me. As a teenager I always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere and in this community I found a place where people felt and thought as I did. I lived in that community of comrades for many years and still hold to some of the ideas and thoughts.
The punk and underground scenes began as a protest against the overproduced, overly long songs of the 70s. That was the time of the reclaiming of the simplicity of music and the idea it belonged to everyone in a protest against rock stardom. People started their own record companies and pressed their own records and printed their own magazines. Lyrics were about ideas and issues. The hairstyles and clothes were a direct attack on the establishment and being status quo; not being one of the herd. This was a time of do-it-yourself in music and thought. We certainly had our share of boneheads, but it was mostly a positive scene.
Though I did not hear or see anything I haven’t before on Sunday night, I was impressed by the fact that the next generation has embraced this music and that for them it is a totally new thing. The electricity is still in the air. You can feel it as soon as the first chord is struck. You can almost see the energy of the music. And to see a new group of people experience what I experienced (and still experience) is really amazing to see

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

abstract art

I have been looking at a lot of abstract art lately. This kind of work used to absolutely annoy me. It seemed an excuse not to work on anything that has form. Many artists see the modern art period as detrimental to art history feeling it has made artists and audience lazy. I like a lot of it now that my hyper critical stance about art has sort of settled down and now see that whether something is art or whether someone connects to it is purely subjective. I also realized I was creating some of it myself in my paintings without really realizing it. I did see some stupid comment on an abstract artist’s website stating that "Art that has to be explained has failed." That was the last line under his explanation of abstract art under the title ‘An explanation of abstract art’. There are times I feel that many artists do ‘folk’ art or ‘abstract art’ kind of as a way to avoid anything hard or anything that takes work. I have seen a lot of artist’s statements ..a lot… several galleries recently that basically say ‘I am not interested is technique but in the emotion or primitive effect, in my instinctual interpretation…….’. And I am sure some of them are being truthful and this is valid but this way of "working’ seems to be more and more common.
For me, the abstract or impressionistic paintings I do are a ‘break’ so to speak from my more representation work that I really put a lot of thought and sweat (sometimes blood) into. Its fun time. And I find that when I am creating these paintings that abstract images continually come into my mind when I am NOT working, most strongly at night when I am going to sleep. Colors in layers and in drips and strokes naturally flicker in my mind like photos. Weird. But it really shows the strong, strong effect that pure color has on the mind and soul. I think that accounts for the huge popularity of abstract art forms. I have read the myriad of definitions of what abstract art is. I still don’t get it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Atlanta excursion

We returned monday from a short trip to Atlanta to see family and friends. The appeal of traveling is wearing for me. Atlanta doesn’t hold a lot of reasons other than my sister and her kids for me to return, but Craig was born and raised there and obviously has much more invested. Starting with the failure of a family member to book us a hotel room and great difficulty finding one, we stayed one night at a dump where the rooms were freshly painted causing us both massive headaches. We moved the next day thankfully having found better quarters.

By the time sunday rolled around after too much socializing, most of which was enjoyable, mind you, a depressing bit of news from my sister and hard to handle in-laws, I was getting sick. Literally. I wanted to go home. I think even Craig did and he is the most social creature I know.
We did go to a friend’s gallery openning saturday night. It was a group show and although most of the work was pretty uncompelling to me, there was this painting by James McLaughlin Way called "25 Hands". Yeah, another horse painting, but the thing about this one way that it is HUGE. It has to be something like 60′ x 30′. That’s FEET. Beautiful and I always love to see things painted big.

Also as we were in the hotel room one night PBS had a piece on Sunny Taylor. Amazing. Have a look if you want to stop complaining and get a kick in the tail.
Home now. And after much wrestling, "Jeff" is finally birthed……..