My second painting in my new phase as a thoroughly mobile/transient/itinerant artist, this 3×4’ painting was completed over the course of eight days and in five different cities. The highlight of those days was definitely getting to paint at (and sell prints) alongside three of my favorite bands (Iron Chic, The Slow Death, and Off With Their Heads) as they came through Florida on tour.
I captioned and titled this piece relatively early in the process but days later, when I felt compelled to journal on the canvas, I looked at what I had written and realized that my chosen title couldn’t have been more perfect. The text on the canvas reads:
I’ve resisted picking up the pen because my feelings keep changing and it’s too early to find any meaning in my circumstances. Shit – it’s not even over yet. Just one person with the right reaction could turn it all around. But – right now – I feel totally defeated. It doesn’t take much. For all my success this last week, even the last month or the last year, it only takes one bad night to leave me feeling like a complete and utter failure.
It’s art walk night, it’s rainy, but I’m not in the plaza; I’m at Burrito Gallery, in the room with all my art on the wall. I’m set up with a table of prints and nobody gives a shit. The walls are covered with my art! I – the artist(!) – am identifiably sitting right here! (My exclamations are half-jokes. I know it’s not a big deal but this sort of thing always generated at least a modicum of attention. People are filtering around me without so much as a glance. And yet I sold thirty-something prints over the weekend, with last minute table set-ups at punk shows, to kids that don’t have money and don’t buy art.
The artist in the other room told me he’s been painting for twelve years but only got brave enough to show in the last five or six. “Brave?” What’s there to be brave for? The constant stream of attention and praise?! Others have told me that they admire my courage in putting myself out there as I do. It doesn’t usually feel like courage to me though. Most days, it’s easy as fuck. But that’s only ‘cause I’ve been so successful, or lucky, or good at framing–my-bad-experiences-in-such-a-way-that-I-don’t-put-too-much-stock-in-them. I need to think back to April to remember that total sense of dejection. I’ve felt it since then but not to that degree. Bad nights usually turn to good ones before I pack it in. If this one doesn’t, I just need to remember how spoiled I am. This level of rejection is not so extreme that it ought to leave me contemplating crybaby suicide. I’m already more successful than most artists will ever be and it’s not because I’m better, or smarter, or anything like that. It is because I’m braver. I square off against the threat of rejection and failure every day. I’M BUILDING MY FUCKING LIFE ON IT. And – sure – I’ve been blessed (or what-the-fuck-ever) to have gotten the overwhelmingly positive reception that I have thus far, but I know the hurt of being ignored, the sting of being turned down. AND I FUCKING HATE IT. It KILLS me. But day after day, I get up and I fucking face it. And I feel better now.
That – right there – is me, in action, using art/journaling to balance myself out – to save me from myself. It’s exactly what I tell people I’m all about and there it is in perfect practice. It’s also why I deserve to be my own favorite artist. I fucking love it. I love this wonderful outlet I’ve found. I love so much. Life is beautiful (and sometimes tragic, fucked up) and funny. Colors, shapes, mental illness – I wouldn’t have it any other way.