Raygun Youth

"Raygun Youth." 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24x6".
“Raygun Youth.” 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24×6″.

I painted this for the cover of Billy Raygun’s posthumous discographic cassette. Each of the three bits of text is a lyric from a song of theirs that means something to me.

I thought I heard you calling; it was just the emptiness ringing in my head. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot.

In April 2011, my six-year relationship with Taylor came to a close. She broke up with me. I didn’t take it well. I had been pretty strung out on heroin, in a pretty bad way, for a little while but had just gotten into my first “treatment program” a few days prior (it was just methadone maintenance – not exactly the best path to wellness but what did I know?) On top of that, final exams for my final semester at Georgetown Law were about to begin and I hadn’t been to any of my classes all year. I didn’t even own the textbooks. I had a lot of studying to do if I was gonna graduate on time and I knew god damn well that if I didn’t graduate now that it was never gonna happen. I needed to keep it together (get it together) real, real fast if I was gonna keep everything in my life from crumbling into absolute shit, misery, and failure. Between the methadone, the heroin, the Adderall, and the sleep deprivation that goes along with studying in 24-hour shifts, I was … not entirely well. For a while there, I started to experience regular auditory hallucinations. Mostly, it was people (strangers) screaming at each other. It was like channel surfing on a TV where every single show featured nothing but loud, angry people. Occasionally though, I’d get a break in that and hear something softer and sweeter: “Sam…” It was a voice I knew; it was Taylor’s voice. Every single time, I’d turn around without fail, hoping (and actually believing) that this time she’d actually be standing there. She never was (of course) but it still broke my heart a little bit every time. It was a miserable cycle of studying, drugs, and crying.

All of this care / not caring is killing me.

This lyric isn’t tied into any one specific memory as much as it serves as an all-encompassing description of my relationships (romantic and otherwise) throughout my life. Oscillating frantically back and forth between giving a shit and shutting down. Between feeling loved and feeling abandoned and rejected. Sometimes it seems like my emotions are wired to a light switch. It doesn’t take a lot to flip from “perfect” love to total apathy (or even hatred). And since “we’re attracted to those at our same level of sickness/health,” I’ve gotten mixed up with plenty of girls who are equally skilled at unintentional (often drug-fueled) emotional back-and-forth. There was one night in early 2012 when my then-girlfriend professed her deep, unending, profound love for me in one moment, and was swearing that I was a disgusting, ugly, unlovable piece of shit in the next. And before the hour was up, she was right back to telling me how wonderful I was. Experiences like that can fuck with a person…

I’ll just admit that it’s a different girl, the same old story.

When I half-heartedly tried to kill myself in December 2012, I didn’t write a suicide note, but I did scribble something down on the back of one of many scraps of paper that were laying around my room. All that it said: “different girl / same old story.


Ideally, I’d have held on to sharing this until this release was announced but – shit – it’s been more than six months since I painted it so… sorry, kids!

Here’s a stream of their self-titled full-length. The first song is the first song I quoted lyrics from.

Maybe It’s Okay to Be Happy

"Maybe It's Okay to Be Happy." 2/27/14. Acrylic paint and ink. 16x20".
“Maybe It’s Okay to Be Happy.” 2/27/14. Acrylic paint and ink. 16×20″.

I’m too fulfilled. Too many things are going my way. IT’S KILLING MY ART.
Or… maybe it’s okay to be happy?

I painted this yesterday. I was tempted to kick around my head until I could find/invent a problem but – ultimately – decided to just let it be. Things are okay and I guess that’s okay.


The exhibit at Burrito Gallery is all set up. I’ve got twenty-four pieces up on the wall and prints (of a little more than half) out for sale on the counter.

"Amazon Wishlist." 12/19/13. Acryic paint and food coloring. 18x24".

I still have some stuff at Chamblin’s Uptown as well. Five originals up on the walls and just under a dozen prints of different pieces out around the cafe area. Although – apparently – one of my paintings is too offensive for anyone to exhibit… You won’t find Amazon Wishlist hanging up anywhere around Jacksonville anymore.

Today, I’m headed out to Gainesville to participate in an artwalk at the Civic Media Center. I’ll be back in Jacksonville at some point this weekend, at which time I’ll start putting up new fliers all over Riverside and downtown Jacksonville. And this Wednesday, I’ll be at Burrito Gallery for Jacksonville’s Downtown Artwalk.

I Look Cool Doing It

"I Look Cool Doing It." 2/20/14. Acrylic paint. 18x24".
“I Look Cool Doing It.” 2/20/14. Acrylic paint. 18×24″.

I used to care about stuff. These days, whenever I hear someone railing on about how this or that is bullshit or a scam or [whatever], I just kinda roll my eyes. “Get some real problems,” I’ll think. “Isn’t there anything going on in your own life worth being concerned about?” I’ve only got so much emotional capital and I’m definitely not investing it in some shit that has zero bearing on my day-to-day. And (of course) I’ve got my own principles, but I’m not about to start preaching to other people about what they ought to support, not support, believe, or not believe. Again – I GOT ENOUGH GOING ON RIGHT HERE. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on trying to change or influence somebody else. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the most positive effect I’ve ever had on the world has been through my art and my writing, which I do for my own benefit but which seems to positively impact other people as an added bonus.

On another note: I’VE BEEN FUCKING A LOT LATELY. I’m getting a lot of attention from girls. It’s probably going to my head a little bit. There are still plenty of times when I’ll catch a glimpse of my reflection and get pretty bummed out about the way that I look but for the most part I’m pretty pleased with myself these days.

I painted this while I was selling prints at the opening of a new art space in St. Augustine. It’s been a really long time since I spent less than ten hours on a painting, but I’m pretty sure I wrapped this one up within an hour or so. If I’m being honest, it was half expressive art and half “hey, girls! look at me! come talk to me!” Even still, I’m pretty happy with it.

I chose to use only the second half of my caption as the title because (by itself) it’s sexually suggestive but silly. That line underneath the body was originally meant just to distinguish one leg from the other but I left it as is ‘cause it kinda looks like it’s meant to be a dick. That works too.


This painting is already up as part up my exhibit at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville, FL. By tomorrow afternoon, it’ll also be available as a 12×16″ print.

Speaking of prints, I set up at Rain Dogs to sell last night (thanks to my buddy, Mike, who does art under the banner of Hood Rat Shit). I just found out that Chris Wollard and Jon Snodgrass are playing there tonight, so I might try to go back and do the same. Here are some photos from last night though.

“Art by Sammy thrashLife. Buy something or don’t. I live in a minivan – NOTHING MATTERS.”
Gauging by the Facebook/Instagram reaction, it seems that I find this sign to be FAR MORE HILARIOUS than most people do.

Snarkiness, pride, self-deprecation, vanity, whatever… all that shit aside – I really do have fun. And I really am grateful. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I’ve got. And when I think about all the people that have been so supportive of me recently – personally or in just buying my work – it really is humbling. I feel like I’m in a pretty good state of being, even if it is a delicate balancing act sometimes.

Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is

"Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is." 1/12/14. Acrylic, spray, and watercolor paints, ink, oil pastels, food coloring, and charcoal. 60x40".
“Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is.” 1/12/14. Acrylic, spray, and watercolor paints, ink, oil pastels, food coloring, and charcoal. 60×40″.

Artist’s statement (revised 4/2/14):

This piece was started in the last week of December and finished in mid-January, during the final days of my relationship with Heather. There’s a lot of emotional back-and-forth in it. On New Year’s Eve, I wrote:

If you’ve never walked the train tracks alone on New Year’s Eve, singing along (badly) to a song only you can hear and maybe – just once, in the course of that walk – thrown a fist in the air… Well – I don’t envy you.
Hit the pavement, light another cigarette. Life is beautiful.
I just jumped in the air and laughed. I’ve never even heard this song before.

The joy I felt in that moment soon gave way to dejection. I was walking to meet Heather to go out for the night. Our outing only lasted fifteen minutes or so, before she got mad at me, and I walked home alone in a very different state of mind. Hembrough called me around 2 AM. He was walking home along the tracks back in Sarasota. I laughed. “What am I doing?” he asked me, “Why is this happening? Because punk rock told me so, I guess.”

The next morning, I was feeling drained of any and all spirit. I wrote out two lists:

(1) A Facebook post about the rain
(2) A pop punk song about resilience

(1) Me

A few days later, I added more text: “It gets better, it gets worse, it gets better, it gets worse. As soon as it’s good enough, it isn’t. Why am I so sad?”

Another day or two passed and Rational Anthem sent me the demos of their new eight-song EP that they were gearing up to record. One song in particular fucking wrecked me. The chorus begins: “I can’t convince myself that I’m happy.

Fuck. They nailed it.

The last lyric in the song repeats through the end. “Does it matter anyway?” I heard it differently though: “It doesn’t matter anyway.” If I had heard that song on New Year’s Day, I wouldn’t have just been crying, I’d probably have been bawling.

The song had a goofy working-title.  ”No,” I told Chris. “There’s nothing fucking silly about this song. It needs a real, honest title.” I told him to call it, “I Wish I Could Be Happy.” He, Noelle, and Pete took me up on it so that’ll be the title when the record comes out. Since then, it’s also been decided that my watercolor painting/cartoon, “Autobiography,” will be used as the front cover for the record (recaptioned with the album’s title, “Emotionally Unavailable”). (Before I move past punk rock, I wanna note that the album I was listening to as I walked on NYE was “The Constant One” by Iron Chic, and the song referenced in my list is “The Shades of Grey” by The Murderburgers.

The text about it getting better and getting worse was originally the largest caption on the canvas, but I decided to relegate it to semi-obscurity by rewriting it in pen in the shadows. I blocked out that original caption with a series of primary-colored rectangles. I liked them but they reminded me of what I guess I’d call the proverbial “modern art.” I don’t like to be so negative or critical as to suggest that any art is stupid (after all, I have no idea what goes into it or why the artist is making it) but – if I’m being honest – when I look at most artwork, I have the same response that I think most people have to art:“Um… okay.” Basically, I don’t get it. I’m not sure why I should care. I mean, if the artist is getting something out of it, then I think that’s spectacular (genuinely!) but I don’t think that that necessarily makes it worth my time or attention. “Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is” is reflective of that attitude as well as the bad / hurt feelings swirling around my relationship and my general state of being as I painted this. It’s also part self-deprecation. After all (IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL), this piece is itself a work of modern art. (And – depending on who you ask – thoroughly stupid!)

All of this sort of adds up to one big jumbled mess of emotion and incident. That’s what happens when my work on some piece spans two or even three weeks. Struggling with whether or not I should break up with my girlfriend, trying to figure out if I’m happy, walking along train tracks, pop punk, modern art, being an artist. I don’t know what’s what. I summed it up with one last caption along the bottom of the canvas: “This is one of them MAGIC EYE paintings. Look close, at just the right angle, and you can see… how full of shit I am.”


Status update (2/22/14):
Here are two photos of the painting, hanging in Ettra (the gallery in which it was sold).

IMG_5399 IMG_5396

I also got set up at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville this week. I have twenty-one pieces on their wall right now, though I may add more. The exhibit will run through the first week of April.

IMG_5393 IMG_5392 IMG_5391

I’m posting this from Chamblin’s Uptown. A few of my pieces are still up on the walls here, though I’ll be rearranging and adding more later in the week.

And I still have plenty of new pieces that I’ve yet to share online. I’ve been incredibly busy though so I’m going to hold off until I have time to write up proper statements to accompany them.

Anyway, things are going really well so far as all my art nonsense is concerned. Breaking my lease and moving into a van might not have seemed like the most sound game plan, but I couldn’t be happier with how things have been developing. Life’s been going a mile a minute and I’m just doing my best to keep up. I’ll be in Jacksonville until the show at Burrito Gallery ends and then I’ll head north to try and line up a show in a new city. The uncertainty and instability of my life can get scary at times but it’s also really exciting and – more than anything – I feel grateful. And I feel free. I don’t have to convince myself that I’m happy today; I just am.

My first beard got long enough that I was starting to feel like the grimy "homeless" kid that I sort of am. This is me after cutting it off, while working on some graphic stuff at the laundromat last night.
My first beard got long enough that I was starting to feel like the grimy “homeless” kid that I sort of am. Here I am after trimming it last night, working on some graphic stuff at the laundromat.

Poetry By Girls I’ve Brutally Fucked

"Poetry By Girls I've Brutally Fucked." 2/7/14. Acrylic paint and ink. 12x24".
“Poetry By Girls I’ve Brutally Fucked.” 2/7/14. Acrylic paint and ink. 12×24″.

I painted this as the front and back covers for a split 7-inch by Apocalypse Meow and Todd Congelliere, coming soon from Rad Girlfriend Records. It’s the first time I’ve done a commissioned piece in my regular/preferred expressive style instead of taking the more labored cartoon/comic approach.

The caption says: “I was talking to this girl I fucked pretty brutally. She said she wrote a poem about it. A poem about my fucking. That made me smile.”

I figured that might be a little much for a pop punk record so I replaced it with the band names for the actual record layout.

I hadn’t actually seen the poem yet when I made this, but I’ve read it since.  Turns out it’s only partially about “my fucking.” It’s actually about way more than that and way more beautiful and affectionate and insightful than I feel like I deserve. It’s really great and – in that way – makes me feel kind of shitty, even though I didn’t do anything wrong. We had sex, it was fun; we hung out, it was fun; and then we repeated that cycle a few times. I guess friendship and fucking don’t really go together without feelings developing.

I’ve been sleeping around lately, getting involved with different girls to different degrees; I’m probably asking for trouble. I’m probably about to fuck myself – one way or another. There’s a lot more I could write about all that but I don’t wanna push myself to be too honest / transparent right now. That feels okay.

There’s this one girl – I wrote (what I guess I’d call) a long prose poem about her and about my experience with her in the week after we met. I’d developed feelings of my own for her [how novel!] But I was conscious of the fact that – this sort of thing – it does happen fairly often with me. I wrote a little bit about that as well:

I’ve got these fucking warm, fuzzy feelings for a lot of people. My male friends – I love them, I hug them, all that. But when I have these feelings for girls (it doesn’t matter how many) I love them and I also want to kiss them, sleep with them. I don’t think that’s wrong or weird but you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to have feelings for one person that are strong enough that you don’t even want to connect with another person in that way. That seems like bullshit.

I don’t know… maybe I’m just selfish. Love and sex are all twisted up and make for difficultly-navigable terrain. I just wanna love and fuck without being confused.

A week in the life of Sammy thrashLife

Thursday: I packed up the rest of my stuff and left Bradenton. My first stop was Umatilla, to visit an ex-girlfriend in rehab. I had dropped her off there myself after visiting friends in Boca Raton and discovering that she wasn’t quite as clean and stable as she had been telling me. After that, I went to Gainesville to teach Valerie how to format, package, and sell prints of her artwork. I had met Valerie while filming my scenes in her brother’s movie (“No Real Than You Are”) over the summer. The previous Saturday, I had gone to the cast/crew screening of the film, where I’d seen her parents for the first time since July. The next morning, they took me out to brunch and – after seeing my prints – told her what I was up to and she reached out to me for a tutorial. Friday, I woke up in Gainesville and spent the day meeting with galleries. Valerie’s mom, Nancy, called and said there was a big arts festival that weekend in Sarasota so I stayed the night and we rode down the next day.

Saturday, we arrived too late to really do the art fair but we went to her parents’ house in Osprey for dinner. They wanted to screen the film for some friends so – as the SUPER IMPORTANT ACTOR that I am – I stuck around for that. Afterward, we got to talking, they asked to see my art, and I wound up selling a bunch of prints.

Sunday, I did the art fair in Sarasota with Morgan and sold another
good handful of prints.

On Monday, Valerie and I hit the print shop to re-up on my supply. We drove back to Gainesville, I showed her the final stages of the packaging process, and then carried on to Jacksonville.

Tuesday, I went to Chamblin’s where I have a bunch of originals hanging, as well as some prints for sale. Collected a few bucks for prints sold while I’ve been away and then spent the afternoon writing up statements for some older pieces that I’ve been neglecting. Saw Heather for the first time in a while and then got a call from Erin Murphy, who informed me that her band, Teach Me Equals, were playing Jacksonville that very night and would I like to come out and set up to try and sell some art? Went over the Burro Bar around ten, watched them play, and sold way more stuff than I should have considering the Tuesday night attendance. Also got to meet Greg, the other half of the band and a really nice guy. Teach Me Equals definitely aren’t in line with my regular listening habits but I was really pleasantly surprised by their set. Loud, discordant, and fucked up but melodic, energetic, and dynamic in the way that kind of shit’s
supposed to be. Afterward, they invited me to come set up again at
their show in St Augustine.

Today, I woke up and went to see my Jacksonville counselor before setting up on the sidewalk in Five Points to finish packaging / assembling all the new prints I’d either just gotten or just printed statements for. Sold a couple and then went into Sun Ray to see Tim and collect the stuff is left behind before I left Jacksonville in January. Went by Burrito Gallery on the off chance I could catch the owner, did, and he informed me that they’d been saving a wall for me. This is the place I’ve wanted to show for a while so I was pretty excited. I got about 90% set up (with close to twenty pieces on the wall) and then hit the road for St Augustine. I’m about to go set up inside to sell

Tomorrow, I’ll check out and try to meet with galleries here in St Augustine and (depending on how it goes) get back to Jacksonville tomorrow night or the next day and finish setting up at Burrito Gallery. That’s gonna run through ’til sometime in April (I forget) and then I’m gonna leave Jacksonville behind and head north to the next city on my list. Had the Burrito Gallery thing not panned out, it’d have been New Orleans but since it’ll already be April, I think I’ll head somewhere a little cooler. I don’t mind sleeping in a minivan, but I’d rather not bake in a minivan.