Category Archives: Status Update

Blow Bubbles! For Fun! (Not Strangers For Drug Money)

"Blow Bubbles!" 3//13/13. Crayon and digital. 8x10".
“Blow Bubbles!” 3//13/13. Crayon and digital. 8×10″.

In the last year, I learned to use art as a tool for emotional health. Since I’ve been out of treatment, I’ve been doing very well in that area. One area in which my counselor insists I need improvement is my social health.

One day, I accidentally went out to lunch with a group of people. I crept around until I found the restaurant’s stock of crayons and paper. I didn’t have anything in mind when I started (other than removing myself from the world around me so I wouldn’t have to interact awkwardly with other human beings) so I just chose a color that appealed to me and drew some shapes that I liked. At some point, I decided what the shapes were, added to them to form the image of a kid blowing a bubble, and then captioned it with the first thing that came to mind.

This little cartoon has no unique significance to me, but – like a lot of what I do – it’s evidence of how far I’ve come. Granted, one could suggest that – ideally – I wouldn’t feel the need to escape reality at all, but I think that drawing is a big step up from shooting heroin. And – while I can see some validity to the opposing point of view – I don’t think that social interaction is all that much more important than doing something that helps me feel productive and (in a very real sense) valuable.

For years, I’d wake up with a sigh, as I contemplated another day of being alive and – even worse – being me. Sometimes I create things that have deep meaning to me. Other times, I just draw little cartoons that I think are cute or clever and are little more than they appear. Both of these kinds of art are important because both are pieces of what makes me happy to be living and breathing as Sam North. A lot of people could do what I do, but a lot of people don’t. For whatever reason, I do – and that’s something I’ve been rewarded for in innumerable ways every day. What I once considered a terrible fate, I’m now incredibly grateful for. I’m pretty excited about being me. [written 5/29/13]

 8×10″ prints of this cartoon are available in my webstore.

 

Today, I went to Art Walk, a monthly event in downtown Jacksonville. People set up tables and sell art and other stuff they’ve made. Within minutes of arriving, a kid asked if he could give me a flier for a record store. I told him I’d trade him and handed him one of mine. And then we realized who we were. It was Josh from Dead Tank, one of the two kids in the area that I (met ten million years ago and) decided to email last month to find out about DIY shows/spaces in the area. Pretty excellent chance encounter.

From there, I just kind of poked around, scoping things out. (I sent in an application to be a participant, but it wasn’t in time for this month’s Art Walk). I met and talked to a few people though, awkwardly handed some strangers cartoons/fliers, and… then I rode home.

Turning in unusually early…

20130831-003030.jpg
What my current (30×40″) work-in-progress looked like yesterday…

I did some searches today with terms like “jacksonville art.” A lot of groups that want artists to apply, pay application fees, and then (if accepted) pay membership dues in exchange for better percentages on pieces sold in juried exhibitions (if selected). Also a lot of stuff about “acceptable” frames and wall mounts. A lot of other rules too.

I guess that’s how this sort of thing works?

Do I know anyone that’s ever attempted (and succeeded to any degree) to participate in any kind of “professional” arts world/scene?

Before that, I took some duct tape and fliers down to an area with foot traffic and put ’em on walls and streetlight posts. That’s a little more my speed. It feels a little more “right” but I’m trying not to be discouraged or turned off by that other stuff. And I’m not really. I mean – a little bit I guess. Really, I’m just not sure what to make of it. I’m still pretty new at this.

I’m usually up ’til 4 am and up by 9. It must be catching up with me today ’cause it’s only midnight and I’m exhausted.

They Mean Well, Baby Bird

I painted this for a friend’s nursery (and wrote this) after the birth of his first child.

"They Mean Well, Baby Bird." 5/15/13. Tempera, acrylic, colored pencil. 12x16".
“They Mean Well, Baby Bird.” 5/15/13. Tempera, acrylic, colored pencil. 12×16″.

Sometime in April, I found two baby birds that had fallen out of a nest and were clearly dying. I’m embarrassed to say so (which strikes me as a pretty strong indication that I should) but that little incident sparked serious thought – about my priorities, my responsibilities, and how I spend my time. I felt stupid since (apparently) I need to be confronted face-to-face with a dying animal in order to consider it. And I felt weak for being affected by the encounter at all.

About an hour before I had planned to start painting this, I was reminded of another incident where I had felt similarly weak. In twelve-step programs, the sixth step is to become ready to have God remove all of one’s character defects (and the seventh is to actually ask God to remove them). For me, step six meant spending a considerable amount of time actually considering and listing my character defects and then really thinking about whether I truly wanted to stop indulging them. Regarding the seventh step… I talk about faith in relation to other pieces and it’s not the crux of this painting so I’ll just say that one of the best things I’ve ever heard in Alcoholics Anonymous (one of very few things that actually stuck with me) was: “If you’re gonna pray for your character defects to go away, you better fucking act like it worked.”

I did those two steps and realized, “Shit – if I just committed to being honest, I can’t really sneak out of rehab tomorrow to meet up with a girl.” (A scheme I had hatched earlier in the week). So I called the girl. “Um… this is going to sound really dopey, but I have to cancel… I just did my seventh step so I can’t be dishonest and sneak out to see you.”

The buildings in this painting are arranged like the ones at Tranquil Shores. The one with the bird at the window was my room. I often contemplated sneaking out by stepping out of that window and onto the roof of the adjacent building. (I never followed through, but only because I had easier means of sneaking out).

I’ll never forget when Kyle’s mom left (or, more specifically, the day she came back), her attitude, and Kyle’s response…  We were sitting in his room when she showed up at the house. She was really happy to see him and he was just… blank. Emotionless. He looked bored by it. I’m sure he wasn’t bored, but he was hurt and I guess that’s how he protected himself. Or maybe he was angry and that was his way of getting back at her: acting like he didn’t care. I don’t know why Kyle’s mom left and maybe she didn’t have a choice, but I saw how the way that she left hurt my friend. She loved him, but she fucked up. My parents loved me and they fucked up. Kyle has his own kid now and I have faith in him as a dad, but he’s going to fuck up in some respect somewhere along the way. We all do. It won’t mean he doesn’t love his daughter, it just means that he’s as shitty, selfish, and imperfect as everyone else. I might do tremendously terrible things in some moment, but I never have that intention; I’m just misguided, short-sighted, frustrated, or [whatever].

The mean looking bird is in my window because it’s me. It’s me and it’s my dad – and my mom. It’s Kyle’s parents, it’s Kyle, it’s his girlfriend, and one day it’ll be their daughter.

“Take what you need and leave the rest” is a slogan that gets used a lot in the contexts of substance abuse recovery and mental health treatment. “Take what you need and leave the nest” is a silly, little bird/growing up pun that I came up with for this piece to show everyone how clever I am.

I struck out on my own at a pretty early age. Some people seem to never leave home. It doesn’t matter. When it comes to parents, family, and home (or anything really), get what you can out of it – all the good lessons or experiences available – and then move forward to what’s next. Don’t dwell on the bad. Resentments only hurt one person – the person holding them. Forgiveness can still be tough, but it’s easier to forgive someone when you remember: they mean well, baby bird.

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On an unrelated note, I just fixed a lamp with a soldering iron. If anyone needs the wiring in their house redone, I’m now taking appointments.

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Who says a full-length can’t be 19 minutes long? The first three tracks on this thing are so good, they could have cut it off right there and called it a full-length and I still wouldn’t have argued.

Stay Punk

When I interviewed Ryan Young (Off With Their Heads) back in 2007, he told me he was starting a record label and that his second release was going to be from some band called Turkish Techno. That didn’t come to be for whatever reason but I had looked them up and, when I started Traffic Street a year later, they were one of the first bands that I reached out to. I wound up releasing two split 7-inches for them: one with my band (Troublemake) and the other with The Brokedowns.

In 2011, they released their first LP. It wasn’t on Traffic Street but they did use the title (and sequence!) that I suggested. It’s a great album and they’re almost done with the follow-up. Since those songs haven’t gone online yet though, here are four from 2011’s “Past Due.”

 

Back in April, I designed a shirt for them; it’s an adaptation of the dry erase board in my room back in Bradenton.

"Stay Punk." 4/3/13 (image) + 4/30/13 (text). T-shirt.
“Stay Punk.” 4/3/13 (image) + 4/30/13 (text). T-shirt.

 

And here’s some art that I’m not responsible for:

 

 

Out All Day

I sold a lot of my stuff online today. Some leftover distro stock, but a lot of personal stuff too. Tonight, I borrowed Heather’s car to scrounge up cardboard boxes to ship these things in. At the gas station where I found most of my cardboard, I also found a couple. Homeless, fucked up. Not totally unlike me a year or so ago. They wanted money and I told them I had none. I gave them a couple cigarettes and used my food stamps to get them something to drink. They wanted a ride and I told them that it wasn’t my car. They had a pretty great sob story about why they couldn’t walk. I told them I’ve fucked up too many things in my life. That I was sorry, but I can’t give strangers a ride in a car that I’ve been trusted to borrow.  I can’t take any risks.

It was sad and it sucks but it’s also [whatever]. It just is. And it’s not a big deal. But I’m proud of myself for saying “no” and for being honest about the reason why.

“Out All Day.” 6/18/13. Marker and pen on canvas board. 8x10".
“Out All Day.” 6/18/13. Marker and pen on canvas board. 8×10″.

Says, “I was out all day. No one told me I had paint in my hair ’til 11 pm. I had a shirt with me in case I went to the library. I couldn’t be happier.”

This was only my second piece done entirely with markers. My first was “Powerless Over Flexeril,” but since then I’ve done more. While on tour, I made “Lost in St. Louis” and “Fear is Killing Me” and more recently I made “Still Sick,” one of my largest pieces to date.

A couple hours before I made this, someone told me they liked my outfit and I thought they were making fun of me ’cause I barely wear any clothes. She was serious though. It made me think about how I really like the fact that I have the sort of life that rarely requires a shirt (and even more rarely requires a shirt with sleeves or a collar). I like the fact that I have the sort of life where I can have paint on my hands, on my arms, my face, and my hair, and – not only is it not an issue or a problem but – it’s not even something that anybody comments on.

As anyone that saw my painting from last night (“Blueprint For a Successful Evening“) can probably guess, things were a little off when I got up this morning. But I went about my day, did my own thing, didn’t stress about it, and everything worked out perfectly.
I’ve said it before, but it’s still true – so long as I’m cool, so is everything else.

By the way, it’s not easy leaving white space on the canvas. So – you know – be REALLY impressed by that AMAZING feat.

(This next part – don’t get me wrong: I’m not majorly bumming out or anything like that but) I am feeling just a little bit sorry for myself tonight. Or I was earlier today anyway. With all the traffic to my webstore today (people buying records and books) I’d have thought that I’d have sold at least a little bit of my artwork. But I didn’t. I can think of a lot of reasons for that (some are a little more disconcerting than others) but like the couple I met tonight at the gas station, the reasons don’t really matter. It just is how it is. And my life is still pretty excellent. And I need to remember to be grateful for that. I need to focus on all of the good things. Lucky for me, there are a lot of them so it’s not all that difficult.

And if there’s something in my life that I’d like to be different, then I need to be bold. And brave. I need to take healthy risks and I need to take responsibility for actually making change happen. I don’t just get to have the life I want. I have to be the person I want to be and do the things that… that I need to do. I have to work at it. Whatever [it] might be.

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Signed and numbered 9×11¼” prints of “Out All Day” are available in my webstore. The original sold in November 2013.