Are you guys sick of this image yet? I sold my first custom cartoon shirt (which I made last night). I redrew “Greetings From Delray Beach” onto a pink t-shirt using (black, brown, yellow, red, green, and blue) fabric markers. It took me about three hours.
I posted a little thumbnail of this shirt at some point a week or so back (at the bottom of an unrelated post) but this was the first shirt that I made (sometime last month for a friend’s birthday). It’s a modified version of my “I’m a Fucking Artist, Guys” cartoon.
If you’d like either of these shirts (or one featuring any of my other artwork) they can be purchased through my webstore.
Status update: I’m leaving town tonight to go to a wedding with Heather. A wedding at which I not only have to wear a shirt but a shirt with long sleeves and a collar. I thought I was going to have to buy one but I found this one that I had forgotten that I owned. I think the last time I wore it was eight years ago. I feel ridiculous.
It’s gonna be a really weird weekend but I’m going to do my best to post new stuff on the website each day that’s a little more legitimate / interesting than today’s post. Bear with me! ; )
I forget how it came up, but I found myself in rehab, defending some view as not being illegitimate or immoral. Something to do with property and how this world has enough for everyone to have everything that they need. But how people get scared, their fear morphs into greed, and they feel like they need to hoard wealth or resources to the detriment of others. One way or another, we got to that thing from the Beatitudes where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. And from there, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son to burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich” popped into my head – which I, of course, thought was hilarious. And I immediately started jokingly trying to recruit my fellow inpatients for a crusade to burn down the banks and – you know – drink the blood of the rich.
The next day, in expressive art therapy group, we were told that the theme was Christmas (it was December 22nd). “Not really Christmas though – just in terms of birth or re-birth – just as a metaphor.” Everyone else in the group kind of ignored that. We produced a lot of paintings of Christmas trees and Santa Claus that day. I – predictably – went really literal with it though. I started painting myself being born (fully grown and clothed). And not so much being born, as much as pulling myself out of a woman’s birth canal. (The distinction is that birth wasn’t “happening” to me, I was taking the action). I thought that was pretty great given my circumstances. Recovery or rehabilitation weren’t happening to me – I was making them happen. I was bringing them about. Doing the work to get better.
And then it occurred to me that the “For God so loved the world…” thing that I had come up with the day before would be PERFECT for this painting. It was supposed to be about Christmas, right? The celebration of the birth of Christ. And while I had intended for the character in the painting to be me (and – no – I don’t think I’m the messiah) adding the caption would make this a depiction of what must be the second coming of Christ. When he comes back as a lion instead of a lamb. Lion Christ just might be the kind of guy that WOULD burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich, the greedy, and the selfish. After all, Jesus never spoke ill of homosexuals or [whoever evangelists are bummed out about these days] but he sure as fuck had a distaste for the rich.
So this may sound absurd, but this painting, the little things leading up to it, and the process itself.. this was a spiritual experience for me. No offense to any of my peers, but they all painted Christmas trees and (by their own admission in group that day) didn’t get much out of it, so this assignment/prompt MUST have been for my benefit. And the way that it all panned out – what I chose to paint without even thinking of the previous day – and then remembering it at just the right time – this was all predestined. Similarly, back when I was told that I needed to have some kind of faith – that I’d need to believe in some kind of higher power if I ever wanted to get better and stop shooting heroin – the first belief I adopted (albeit sarcastically) was that “my higher power thinks I’m fucking hilarious“; if this whole episode isn’t proof of that, then I don’t know what is. The universe really brought it all together for me this time around.
HISTORICAL note!: Our art therapy counselor brought us acrylic paint and canvas boards as a Christmas present, so this was my first time using “real” art supplies. (Normally we used cheap paper and tempera/poster-paint). And I kinda can’t mention that counselor without saying something else…
Even when everyone else thought that “something might need to be done” about the kind of stuff I was turning out in art group, Julie stuck up for me and insisted that I be allowed (and encouraged) to create whatever I was feeling. It’s so much more than entirely possible that – were it not for Julie – what little enjoyment I got out of those early art groups might have been snuffed out. Had that been the case, there’s no way in hell that you’d be reading this right now because this website (and all of these pieces) wouldn’t even exist. And It’s not quite as certain, but it’s extremely likely that I’d either still be shooting heroin or dead. A lot of people and factors played into my recovery but the one piece that I’m almost positive is totally crucial is art. And Julie gets total credit for that. (With an assist from my friend (and fellow inpatient) Mary Beth, who was also a huge source of encouragement in the early stages of the game.
And so long as I’m going on tangents: After I finished this painting, as I was carrying it from group to my room, one of the property techs stopped and asked me if he could see what I had made. Staff aren’t really supposed to be “friends” with patients/clients, but I definitely considered Kenny a friend and (as a Christian) I was afraid this would bum him out. But I showed it to him and he surprised me. He knew exactly what I was going for, got the joke, told me it was actually a really Christian sentiment, and even gave me the [call number or whatever it’s called] for a verse of scripture. That sort of reaffirmed my faith in humanity that day. It was really awesome.
By the way, that movie I was cast in over the summer… the production designer saw this painting and asked if I could redraw it so that it could be screened onto a t-shirt for my character to wear. So I did!
A lot of what you’ve just read was written a few months back. Some of it is even older than that. The word “predestined” jumps off the page at me. Do I really believe in such a concept? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say “not really.” I’ll say this though… on December 22nd, back when all of this was happening… when I say, “this was a spiritual experience for me”, Imean it. Did I believe anything was predetermined earlier that day? No. Did I believe it in that moment? Again – I don’t really know. But I know that I was having fun acting as if I did… This really struck me as too perfect to be random (it just felt too excellent) but … eh… Well, like I sort of said: this was the best evidence I had ever seen that [to borrow from Andrew Jackson Jihad] “my god thinks my jokes are funny.” And it was all great fodder as I explained the cartoon/painting/sentiment to the patients and staff that were giving me funny looks. So I was having a lot of fun with it. So far as my real (confident) beliefs go… – only what I laid out in my entry for “Everything Works Out Exactly As It Should.”
Anyway, here’s a song that I was listening to a lot around the time this was painted.
Here’s a song that strikes me as otherwise relevant.
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]
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.
I was sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and I was pretty bummed out over (surprise!) a girl. (I’ve astutely noticed that this seems to be a pattern). You see… When we saw each other just before we went into the meeting, she hadn’t paid me quite as much attention as I felt that I needed (ALL OF THE ATTENTION).
So, as I had become prone to doing, I tried to work through my anxiety and hurt feelings with a pen and a piece of paper. I drew a little cartoon, but I wasn’t happy with it. Which made me even more upset. So I tried again. Annnnnnnd… same result. I put my pen and paper on the floor and decided to just sit in my misery and sulk. Because I so enjoy feeling that way. (Who doesn’t?!)
But that was what the old Sam would do. So I begrudgingly picked my pen and paper back up and started again, not even knowing what I was drawing. And this is what came out.
And then I wasn’t upset anymore.
So while I really like this cartoon, what makes it my favorite isn’t necessarily the cartoon itself as much as it’s evidence that I can use art to heal all my stupid, petty wounds. It helps me step back and realize that every little thing that happens around me is not (and is not meant to be interpreted as) proof that I’m a worthless, unlovable piece of shit.