Today is the day I finally bust across the state line to start meeting with galleries and setting up exhibits outside of Florida. I’m not allowed to drive in Georgia but – now that I’ve got Spillane with me – I’m able to make Atlanta the first stop. Cities are cities to me at this point though so priority #1 is to get out of the heat. To that end, we’re gonna try to get everything we wanna get done within the span of a couple days – maybe stick it out through the weekend just on account of gallery hours – and then get heading further north.
Right now, we’re en route to get the transmission on the van serviced but we should be on the road by 6. This stop in Jacksonville was only supposed to be a day or two and turned into ten. I’m happy to be moving on but that’s nothing against this city. I’ve been in and outta Jacksonville for the last few months now but, in that time, it’s started to feel more like home than any other city out there. There are a lot of people that made it that way: Tim, Shanna, and everyone else at Sun-Ray Cinema; Christina and Ian at Rain Dogs; Mandie, Rosaly, and Richard of Wunderground; the whole crew at Burrito Gallery (with a special nod to Julie for getting me in the door); Janet Harper and Folio Weekly; Regina and The Silver Cow; Pugsley and Ian at Dark Side Tattoo Gallery; (most recently) everyone at On Point Ink and Ryan Rummel at Club TSI; Heather Pierce; Alex Zalo; and all the friends I’ve made and supporters I’ve found here, who are so many in number that (as much as I wanna) I won’t call out by name ’cause I’d hate to leave somebody out. You’ve all been so excellent to me and I’m not gonna forget it anytime soon.
And that goes double for Mikey “twoHands” Kelly, who’s been the best fast friend I could have ever asked for. Half the shit I’ve done here would have never happened had it not been for you, buddy. I’ll miss Jacksonville and I’ll miss you.
I haven’t had the time or the internet access to update my blog much in the last four weeks. For the sake of posterity and the benefit of anyone not clever enough to follow me on Facebook, here’s what I’ve been up to in the last month.
On March 29th, Mike and I went to buy some art supplies and I couldn’t help myself when I saw some ninja turtles masks for sale by the register.
On March 31st, I wrote: “As I go to bed on the last night in March, it is with the satisfaction that comes with having met my income goal for the month. And my income goal for next month. And the NEXT month. Things are going well. Here’s to keeping it moving, carrying it forward in April (which I already have fully blocked out in three cities). I love making art. I love that I’m able to support myself doing it. I’m really, truly happy. I am fulfilled.”
On April 2nd, I participated in Jacksonville’s monthly Downtown Artwalk. It was – at that time – the single most profitable evening of my career as an artist. I made more money in one night than I had made in an average month in 2013. As I put it at the time: “Fuckin’ slaughtered at Artwalk tonight. We’re talkin’ Friday/Saturday night STRIPPER MONEY. I love you, Jacksonville.”
Later that week, I hit the road for the premiere of “No Real Than You Are” at the Sarasota Film Festival. On the same day as the premiere, I got to play director for Rational Anthem’s music video, “Darnit.” Or as I told my friends, “I’m playing HOLLYWOOD all day!” I posted a photo on Facebook with the caption: “Directing a music video today; got the sunglasses to prove it.”
Getting to see myself LOOKING COOL on a seventy foot screen, in front of a sold out auditorium was pretty alright and though I didn’t have time to stick around and finish the music video shoot the next day, it turned out pretty excellent even without my BRILLIANT hand at the wheel.
On my way out of town, I had a thought: “We give meaning to each other’s lives. We give meaning to all the little things of our everyday. It all means more ’cause we make it mean more.” I was thinking about a lot of spectacular people in my life, but mostly Chris Hembrough. And the new Banner Pilot record.
The reason I left town in such a rush is that I had been invited to sell prints of my artwork outside of Burrito Gallery during One Spark. I set a goal for myself: to make more money over that weekend than I had ever previously made in an entire month. And I succeeded. On the last night, I wrote: “To celebrate my earning four months income in FOUR DAYS. I am taking the night off to shower and then watch The Simpsons while I eat pizza and then sew up all the holes in my clothes.” A few hours later, I added that: “All truly great works of art can be divided into two categories: those that are pop punk songs and those that are Simpsons episodes. I’m exaggerating a little but not at all kidding.”
Before One Spark came to a close, I saw that the new split from Apocalypse Meow and Todd Congelliere (of Toys That Kill) had gone up for sale online. The artwork features my painting, “Poetry By Girls I’ve Brutally Fucked.” In the midst of everything else going on, being reminded that I had been lucky enough to contribute to such a cool project was really fulfilling. Icing on the cake. I posted a link on my Facebook with the caption: “We do cool shit every god damn day.” I’m lucky to have a lot of really talented, creative friends. And I fit right in with them these days. It puts a smile on my face.
On One Spark Saturday, I met Zack, in whom I immediately recognized serious talent and I promptly offered him a job as my thirteen year old business manager. Not only could he close a sale but he reeled in the cute girls like there was no tomorrow. Here he is posing with a print of “Modern Art is Stupid (Everything Is).” I paid him in plastic chrome sunglasses, Mello Yellow Root Beer cocktails, and COLD HARD CASH (that I can only hope he doesn’t blow on bullshit like plastic chrome sunglasses and Mello Yellow Root Beer cocktails).
About a month ago, I recorded an interview for an internet radio show. Last week, I finally noticed that it had gone online. You can listen to it here: V For Vitality with Sammy thrashLife.
Facebook post from April 15th: “Sittin’ outside the art store, waiting for it to open so I can spend $200 on markers. For COLORIN’. I am a professional child.” One of the first projects I’m going to use my markers on is re-coloring “Still Sick (The Illest).” Seein’ as I didn’t know any better at the time, I used cheap markers that fade with time and the piece has lost some of its color since I made it.
On April 15th, I dismantled my exhibit at Burrito Gallery so that I could move all my original pieces over to The Silver Cow for my last Jacksonville art show. I did, however, replace the original pieces with a display of prints. Since I’ve now left, Burrito Gallery is the only place you can go in Jacksonville to buy my prints.
April 16th marked the opening day of my last exhibit in Jacksonville, as well as the publication of an article about me in Folio Weekly. There were a few emotional hiccups that morning and I wrote:
“Today is not going exactly as perfectly well as I wanted it to and EVERYONE NEEDS TO FEEL REALLY BAD FOR ME. I am such a fucking crybaby. When I inventory my problems, I can’t even phrase them in such a way that the OVERWHELMING POSITIVES aren’t totally obvious. And yet I’m still feeling crippled by despair and just wanna give up on everything. BUT I’m not giving up; I’m still doing everything I need / am supposed to do. It’s just a little bit harder today.”
I’m really happy with the article though. You can read it on Folio’s website or in the image below. They also gave me the biggest photo in the table of contents.
My last show in Jacksonville went really well and I can’t think of a better way to have concluded my time there. Late last night, I got into Delray Beach, where I’ll be posting up for at least a week. I’ll know more about my time here within a day or so. Until then, here are some photos from the weekend.
On Saturday, March 22nd, I set up at Rain Dogs for a Wunderground art show. There were bands playing too. A poetry troupe. A stand-up comic. I knew all of this when it was booked in January. “Can I sign up to go on stage too?” “For poetry or comedy?” Mandie asked me. “I guess that all depends on the audience’s response!”
I had two poems I wanted to recite. They’re really bold. The kind of stuff that I’ve held off even from sharing on my website. A lot of my writing is painfully honest and extremely vulnerable but these are on another level. I didn’t know if I’d have the guts to share them for the first time from a stage. I also had some “material” that I thought would work as a stand-up routine. In the end, I didn’t prepare myself for poetry or comedy. About halfway through the night, I remembered that I had said I wanted to perform and – as tempting as it was to not bring it up and not take the stage – I didn’t want to be all talk. I had said I was going to get on stage, so I was going to get on stage; it didn’t matter how scared I was. I decided to just tell my story and then speak off the cuff about some of my pieces. I chose a couple dozen and put them in an order that’d flow well.
Rosaly said I’d go up in forty-five minutes. I was nervous. I scratched it out onto the canvas I had started that night.
“I am trying my best to kill time and anxiety. I know there is a certain weight and power to the things I do. I am not incredible but some of my actions might be. I hope this goes well but the response I get doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m doing it.”
The room had maybe thirty people scattered across it. Some of them continued to have conversations while I spoke. I just went on ahead and didn’t let it get to me. One guy in the back of the room started heckling me. He said I should’ve killed myself. He called me a “jerk-off.” I kept going. It helped that I couldn’t make out everything he was saying.
For the most part, I thought it went well. I got laughs at the parts I wanted to get laughs at. I got applause a couple times. People came up to me the rest of the night and told me how much they appreciated and liked what I had said. Still, I had somewhat higher hopes in terms of response. All I could think when I got off the stage was, “So… I did it, I guess…”
I don’t think my performance had an incredible impact on my income that night but it was still the single most profitable night I’ve had selling prints. It didn’t really phase me though because that’s the direction things have been moving. Consistently and quickly. I think that’s because I’m constantly facing my fears and acting in spite of them. My artwork and my writing, my stories, they’re intimate. I’m never excited to walk into a gallery, meet with some stranger (who’s probably itching to dismiss me the moment I walk through the door), and open myself up to him or her. But I fucking do it anyway. I don’t enjoy walking up to strangers on the street, smiling, and offering up a flier to my art show. But I do it anyway. Because that’s what it takes and that’s what accounts for my success thus far. And that’s what this painting is all about. As I wrote in the green box near the top left corner:
“I’m not terrified of the future the way I used to be but it’s scary enough to keep me moving. I’ve learned that “success” is possible but it’s something I have to be perpetually working toward and for. I’m not gonna sit back and wait to be discovered. I don’t WAIT for anything. I have to make things happen. It’s all on me. Success / failure – I’m responsible. I’m happy I found something where – whatever happens – I’m having fun along the way. I feel successful already. (Most days). I’m tearing forward and I don’t see my momentum dying anytime soon. But each milestone, every new achievement sets a new bar that must continually be surpassed. Four figures is no longer a huge deal. Sometimes I look into the future and I’m afraid. That IT’S NEVER GOING TO BE ENOUGH.”
There’s one more scrap of text on the canvas that I think’s important. I wrote it last night just before I finished the painting. “I won’t let me defeat me.”
STATUS UPDATE for 4/21/14:
I wrote the statement for this piece three weeks ago but held off on sharing it until I had a good photograph of the painting to share. I’m really happy to report though that the weeks following what I’d describe as a painting “about ambition” have been some of my most successful. The rate at which I’m moving forward this month has been a little unbelievable. And while I’m definitely not going to allow myself to sit back, become complacent, or breathe too easily, I’m really happy with where I’m at today. I’ve been slacking on updating my blog regularly but this week should be a relatively quiet one, so – in the next few days – I’m going to spend a little time detailing this last (incredibly eventful) month. (Though anyone that follows me on Facebook probably already has a pretty good idea).
So far as basic/practical stuff (today) is concerned…
1) My exhibit at The Silver Cow has opened and closed.
2) Issues of Folio Weekly featuring the article about me are still on newsstands for another couple of days, in and around Jacksonville.
3) My original pieces are no longer on display anywhere in the city of Jacksonville but I have about two dozen different prints hanging (and for sale) at Burrito Gallery (21 E. Adams St.), probably for another two weeks or so.
4) My run in Jacksonville is officially over and I’m currently focusing on Delray Beach (for an as yet undetermined length of time). While here, I’ll be operating primarily out of/in conjunction with Ettra (149 NE 2nd Ave) and will have more details concerning that later in the week.
5) “The Future Scares the Sit Out of Me” is available as a 7×14″ print (if you can find me!); the original painting is already sold.
It was early January. I was sitting on the couch at Sun-Ray Cinema, organizing the prints that I had left there for sale. I looked up and saw Tim walking toward me. He stopped, took a step back and looked at the placard for a piece of mine on the wall. “Yeah, I’m gonna take that one,” he told me.
Tim and Shanna (co-owners of Sun-Ray) had given me the opportunity to have my first art show, there in the lobby of their theater. And Shanna had already bought one of my pieces when my exhibit first opened. They’ve been unspeakably supportive of me. And now Tim wanted to buy another one. Things had been going very well the last few months and as I made my way home that night, I couldn’t help but reflect on how cool it all was. I was actually making my living with my artwork. I was paying my bills and supporting myself with the little therapeutic exercise/activity that I had discovered in the midst of my third (and seven month) inpatient stay of treatment for heroin addiction and borderline personality disorder. I was spinning my mental illness into a career. It seemed totally insane and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
A few days later, I was in southwest Florida so I went in to visit at Tranquil Shores – the facility where all of this started. And I was lucky enough to be there on a Wednesday, which is the night of their outpatient “Art of Recovery” group. These days, I rarely spend less than fifteen hours on a piece and they’re almost always acrylic paint on canvas. When I get back to “group” though, I like to play along, which means starting and finishing a piece within the session and using the materials provided. Besides, those bright yellow and pink oil pastels looked really appealing. (I love colors way more than makes any kind of logical sense).
I’ve been mobile/itinerant as fuck lately, so I’ve had this piece tucked away (in an envelope, in a steamer trunk, in the back of my minivan) for the last two months. I rediscovered it the other day and finally had prints made. It seems like just the right time. As I wrote last night:
As I go to bed on the last night in March, it is with the satisfaction that comes with having met my income goal for the month. And my income goal for next month. And the NEXT month. Things are going well. Here’s to keeping it moving, carrying it forward in April (which I already have fully blocked out in three cities).
I love making art. I love that I’m able to support myself doing it. I’m really, truly happy. I am fulfilled.
The problems that come along with having a personality disorder (my brain not being the way it should be) used to fuck me up all kinds of ways. These days, it’s a blessing.
I feel like a broken record saying so but I’m so grateful. And I can’t help but think about how remarkably and wildly different a sentiment that is from the way I used to feel about myself.
I drove past a bridge this morning that was so beautiful that I caught myself actually exclaim, “holy shit,” out loud. If I needed any evidence that I’m not the miserable, cynical little shithead of years past, I think that might be it.
Here’s a painting and a “story.”
My first large, expressive painting after I decided to leave my girlfriend, break my lease, buy a van, and devote myself entirely – not only to the creation of art – but to traveling the country, chasing after whatever opportunity may come along and getting serious about building a real life and career as a professional artist.
I’m happy with this painting as “art,” less so insomuch as it’s a personal artifact. The whole thing was fueled by a sense of inadequacy and complimented by anxiety and fear as I wrapped up the loose ends in my personal life and prepared to embark on the new course I had charted for myself. A lot of my art is chaotic and busy but – in this case – I was adding to it and making changes everyday (for more than two weeks!) because I just didn’t feel like it was enough.
There’s a good deal of small print spread around this piece, addressing a veritable shit ton of emotionally-bananas nonsense. Regarding the large caption (“Sometimes I’ll see a plume of my own cigarette smoke in my peripheral and mistake it for an approaching human; so – NO – I wouldn’t say that I’m all that lonely”):
“I don’t think I’ve felt lonely since I started this. I wrote that shit in my phone a month ago and pulled it out [just now] to show the world how god damn clever I am. It was real when I thought it though but that was before I even broke up with my girlfriend.”
Between starting and finishing this painting, I met a girl that I maybe kinda sorta like a little bit. The story of our first two nights together is thoroughly documented in my EPIC POEM, “The Long Con.” On that second night though, when I FOLLOWED HER SIGNAL and made my move (only to be shot down!) I was pretty confused. At the same time, it was a relief to know that I could just hang out with her and not worry about whether I was saying or doing the right things to eventuate our sleeping together that night. After all, did I really even like her? Maybe I just wanted to feel validated by getting her to like me…
“It’s sort of a relief, it’s nothing that matters, it’s just insecurity, it doesn’t add up to shit. The day I understand anything at all… whatever. BUT HOW COME I LOOK OVER AND SHE’S SMILING AT ME LIKE THAT? WHAT DOES SHE KNOW THAT I DON’T?”
For the most part, I was able to sort of laugh off what, in that moment, I perceived as rejection. (It helped that a friend had told me she was only interested in girls). Even still, I don’t get all that bold that often. I usually find a way to guarantee that there’s a green light before I put my fragile little ego on the line like I did. The aftershock of the incident had me feeling a little shaky. This was the eve of a much bolder risk; this was the night before I started the next phase of my life. My next scribble said, “I’m leaving tomorrow and scared and on edge and cry and shoot drugs.” While I didn’t actually cry and I definitely didn’t shoot any drugs, that’s the kind of self-pity/doubt that I was slipping in and out of. (Girls are DANGEROUS for me).
I was still struggling to find happiness in my painting. I was trying too hard. When I finally went back to basics and scratched out SOME FUNNY FACES, I had an epiphany: “I am reinvigorated by funny faces. Sometimes I try to expand and grow as an artist. FUCK THAT! Write what you know (my own mental instability); paint what you know (funny faces).” I started to feel better immediately. Not that that stopped me from finding new and exciting ways to fuck up or otherwise complicate my life! Within a day or so, I had cause to add…
“I’m in the middle of a 61-day crystal/herb spiritual healing. I was told that my [ultimate] spiritual goal should be “to be an excellent father” even though I said I didn’t think I wanna have kids [‘cause I’m too self-absorbed / preoccupied to ever be a decent father]. Long story short, cumming on her face tonight seemed too IMPERSONAL so – between the two things – I decided to make her the first girl I’ve ever intentionally cum inside of. She wasn’t mad but I’m OUT OF MY MIND. (Her too).”
So now I was mixed up and sleeping with four girls but only excited about one of them and – in moments – questioning even the authenticity of my feelings for her. BECAUSE I DON’T UNDERSTAND MY OWN BRAIN SOMETIMES. And I definitely have trouble trusting my feelings. AND I’M EMOTIONALLY FICKLE! As I concluded with my in-painting journal:
“I keep trying to get girls to fall in love with me AND IT KEEPS WORKING. And then I sort of lose interest and feel like an asshole. It’s not like I’m fully planning it that way but it keeps happening and I should probably know better by now. MAYBE I FINALLY DO??”
I stopped and seriously considered it. “Am I done? Do I finally get it? Am I ready to stop fucking around and validating myself by (as I love to put it) tricking girls into thinking I’m worthwhile?”
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.
This photo was taken on March 1st, a few hours after starting this piece (which I finished yesterday afternoon). If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen a photo that included the finished piece, up on the wall at last night’s Local Motives Pop-Up art show, but I’ll be posting a “real,” detailed image of the piece (as well as its story) in a regular update soon. I’m really excited to share it with everyone; the way it came together, it’s definitely one of my more recent favorites.
Thanks to Kait / KD Photography for the photo! It almost has me convinced that I might look sort of handsome sometimes! That’s no simple feat.
On another note, everything has really been moving in a forward direction lately – emotionally and artistically, as well as “career-wise.” I’ve absolutely still got my little ups and downs but this is the most love and fulfillment that I’ve ever experienced. And I think I’m doing a lot of good for others. I’m really grateful for everything, especially since I know that I’ve been working hard for it. I’m giving myself entirely to life and I’m getting back all I could have asked for. Thank you.