Tag Archives: mixed media

I Fall in Love Every Week But This Week I Fell in Love With You

"I Fall in Love Every Week But This Week I Fell in Love With You." 3/9/14 - 6/4/14. Mixed media. 11x14".
“I Fall in Love Every Week But This Week I Fell in Love With You.” 3/9/14 – 6/4/14. Mixed media. 11×14″.

I started this piece the night after I met a girl in Jacksonville. She was just visiting, from Tampa, but we went out once before she went back home. Over the next few weeks, we texted a whole lot and made plans to spend a night together the next time I was around Tampa. She may or may not have sort of had a boyfriend that she lived with. About a month after we had met, I was on my way to Sarasota for the premiere screening of No Real Than You Are. I invited her to go with me. She didn’t respond. I tried to call but she didn’t answer. I don’t know if I did something wrong or if the reality of my actually coming around didn’t quite mesh with her boyfriend situation, but I never heard from her again. That hurt my feelings, especially since it coincided with similar developments in my “relationships” with three other girls (all in the span of a couple days)! This particular rejection was the only one I didn’t acknowledge at the time ’cause it felt the worst and struck me as being the most petty / trivial. On the one hand, it was really casual and I obviously wasn’t taking it too seriously. On the other hand, I really liked her! I did my best to not let it get to me but it made the next rejection hurt that much more.

Luckily, I fell in love with another girl a few days later and everything was okay again.


Some less interesting details: I worked at this piece on and off for three months because I just couldn’t seem to get it to look like anything I could be happy with. Somewhere in there, I glued some cardboard and a piece of a reflective sun visor to it, even though I sort of hate collage / mixed media stuff; I just felt like I needed something  to sort of shake it up a little bit. It’s also on a small canvas board (11×14″) – way smaller than anything I’ve got any interest in painting these days, but the board was given to me on a night when I didn’t have a fresh canvas with me and I figured I’d roll with it. I’m pretty sure I spent at least forty hours on10409694_866552430041482_8420832531891564025_n this tiny little thing – every bit as much time as I spend on my
huge canvas paintings. I got the idea for the pattern in the lower-left (“mummy”) figure after painting the white slip-on shoes I bought at Walmart for ten dollars.

Snowflakes Anonymous

“Snowflakes Anonymous.” 11/22/13. Acrylic, watercolor, and spray paints, food coloring, markers, pen, resin sand, cardboard and EBT card – on 24×30″ stretched canvas.

This piece took me over a week to finish. That left a lot of time for different issues to pop up, play off each other, and rearrange my ideas. I started it one nigh while I was thinking about missing Tranquil Shores. Then I thought about how I might like to work at a place like that except… For starters, I don’t have enough clean time. I’d have to pretend like
I didn’t fuck up at any point. That made me sad. You know what I eventually realized though? Fuck that. Someone recently complimented my honesty / willingness to be vulnerable through my artwork – “especially for someone with so little clean time.” That threw me for a loop! There was nothing mean-spirited about the comment (it came from someone that’s been really positive and supportive) but still – the implication is that I’ve only recently started getting well. In reality, most of the pieces she had seen and read about were created before that – sometime after my previous clean date (the day I got to Tranquil Shores: August 17th, 2012). And I didn’t really start getting better ’til December 12th. The vast majority of honest text in my pieces was always scribbled out up until that point.

So – yeah – I may have fucked up over the summer, but that didn’t hit the reset button on my recovery; I didn’t fall down into a gutter with a needle in my arm, desperate and miserable as ever. I made a mistake, called myself on it, told the people I needed to tell, and carried the fuck on and moved forward with the things I know to be good for me and good for my mental health and emotional well-being. And you know what else? The dangerous position I allowed myself to be in (that led to my relapse): it was worth it. That month I spent working on that project – it had incredible highs, some (very obvious) lows, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the world around me, and – overall – was a better stronger person when all was said and done.

And it still affects me today (both positively and negatively). I wouldn’t say I regret any of it. Life is for living and anyone that’s really living is gonna fuck up every now and then. That’s not a preemptive copout for future relapse, it’s just reality. You can count on my not repeating that mistake but I’m sure as shit gonna fuck up at one thing or another!

Back on point: on Tuesday, I was reading the NA literature and I realized that so much of it really has nothing to do with me. It’s totally undescriptive of my thinking and my behavior. Not all of it, but enough of it. Does that mean I’m gonna quit going to meetings? No. But it explains why I stopped going more than once a week back in February – and why my
counselors at Tranquil Shores didn’t throw a monumental fit about it the way they’d always done with everyone else. I may not be some beautiful fucking snowflake, thoroughly unlike all to come before me, but – you know what? I am different than a lotta people and meetings, meetings, meetings isn’t the fucking cure-all for everyone.

And if you wanna get technical – it’s got nothing to do with the twelve steps as they were originally written (and are still written in the AA text). Same with sponsorship – there’s nothing in the original text about going to meetings or finding a sponsor. It’s just about working with / helping other alcoholics [or addicts]. And I do that shit constantly. I hate a lot of the attitudes that dominate the rooms of AA and NA: “Do this or die” (especially when “this” isn’t even part of the program). You know why they think that the only people who succeed in recovery are the ones that continue going to meetings for the rest of their lives? Because the people that come back are the one that fucked up and needed to come back; they never hear the stories of the people that leave their group and succeed because they don’t have any reason to come back around and tell their tale. It’s right for some people – not everyone. And fuck the notion that “clean time” is the only measure of success. I do pretty okay. I like myself. I like my life. And it’s been that way for a while now. It didn’t start ’til I got clean (and then some) but it didn’t go away just ’cause I had a lapse in judgment. I still have that time. There are documents of it – all over my walls and all over this website.

SECOND (reason I can’t get a job at a treatment facility), I don’t think I’m cut out to work anywhere. I’m not some wild, outta control basket case but that’s ’cause I know what I need to do to keep my grip. When things get rough, I’ve got tools I can use to get ’em back on the right track. But mental health is a chore and I can’t schedule my emotions. Being on the clock, being on someone else’s time… it doesn’t work for me. I have too much to do – sick or well, fucked or not. So while I might like to do some volunteer kinda stuff now and then, I don’t think that “getting a job” is anything that’s ever gonna work out for me.

From there I was thinking about something that’s occurred to me before: that I could almost certainly qualify to receive disability payments. Up ’til my “recovery” began, I’d have taken those without a second thought; I had (and still have) no moral objections to something like that (even if I were/am fully capable of working). But getting disability doesn’t really seem in line with what I’m about these days. My brain might be a little off but I’ve been creatively building a life out of that, through my artwork. I’m not sure I want a label like “disabled” on me.

But – also on Tuesday – I realized that I use food stamps and… is that really any different? It’s basically partial-disability with no questions asked. “Oh? You don’t make enough money? Okay, here you go. No – we don’t care why, just take it.” Strangely enough, the very next day, I met a girl who does receive disability payments (and for borderline personality disorder!) That had me actually considering it for the first time but it wasn’t ’til later that night I realized that – immediately after meeting her – I volunteered to pick up a shift at Sun-Ray over the weekend if they needed any extra help. AND THEN(!) I had to modify my offer to exclude Saturday because I’m going to some kind of seven hour “personal growth” / mental health thing tomorrow.

Just like that – I went from ruling out work because of my obligations to myself and my mental health but rejecting the prospect of disability payments on principle, meeting a girl on disability with the same issues I have and starting to reconsider,  to unthinkingly offering to work, and then realizing I couldn’t because of a (very concrete, specific) mental health obligation.

For now, I’m gonna keep on as I have been. I already have everything I need. Well, maybe not a sense of security but what fun would that be?


Hey – speaking of “clean time,” “clean dates,” and what a beautiful fucking snowflake I am… When someone completes their treatment plan at Tranquil Shores, they have their coin-out ceremony and they get a little keychain with their clean date on it. Here’s the one they gave me back in February.

Clean date key tag

Yes, that is an “X” in place of a clean date. No, I had no idea that mine was going to be different and – no – of all the people that have been through the program, no one else has ever gotten anything other than their actual clean date.


Something I wrote in this entry reminded me of a lyric from a song I haven’t heard in a few years. “She asked me if I want to die / I said of course I do sometimes / Anyone who never wants to die / must not really be alive.” And now that I’m listening to it, I’m realizing that it’s right for this entry in more ways than one.


I got the Like Bats cassettes in the mail today. They’ll be the first new Traffic Street release in more than two years and will go on sale tomorrow! (This is a one-off sorta thing though; I’m not picking back up with Traffic Street for real – not anytime soon anyway).

I've had that box of inserts and covers for three years now!
I’ve had that box of inserts and covers for three years now!


Fun fact: Did you notice my (expired) EBT/foodstamp card glued to the top-right corner of the canvas? Did you notice that it says “ASK FOR VD” on the signature line? Just below that, it says “ARTS SUBSIDY” which I added after the card was on the canvas). I wrote “ASK FOR VD” on it back when it was still valid though – back when I first got it in March. I am a ridiculous human being.

This piece is available for purchase as a 12×15″ print. The original sold in December 2013.

Court Dating

"Court Dating." 4/15/13. Colored pencil, watercolor, marker, and pen. 9x12".

“Court Dating.” 4/15/13. Colored pencil, watercolor, marker, and pen. 9×12″.

Do you ever feel like every word out of your mouth is annoying? Like even your love is annoying? I feel like that almost always. And I don’t know that I’m wrong.

“We’re gonna have to wake up early and it’s all the way in Venice; are you sure you wanna take me to my court date?” Heather assured me that she didn’t mind. I told her I’d take her out to breakfast afterward, thus turning the court date into a regular date (you know – the kind that couples go on)!

When we woke up, she was grumpy. She seemed really pissed off about having to take me but she insisted that she wasn’t so I took her word for it and behaved as if I believed her. Like everything was cool. Nothing I said could make her smile though; she was mean. It was a bit of a drive so I had to give up on conversation and find a way to get okay with me regardless of her attitude.

I started drawing. It was labored. I had no idea what to draw and didn’t really think this would ever turn into a finished piece. But I had to do something to keep my mind off what was happening (lest I become irrationally upset and begin contemplating suicide or some other poorly planned major life decision). This was really expressive art therapy at its purest. I just kept adding to the page until we got to the courthouse.

Though I captioned it that day, I didn’t finish it until I pulled out my sketchbook a month later (under frighteningly similar circumstances).


Every Friday at Tranquil Shores, Robin and Nancy would take us grocery shopping. On my second Friday (8/25/12), Nancy accused me of shoplifting. (I wasn’t but she had good reason to suspect otherwise). When I went to Robin to complain, she asked me if I had been. “Go fuck yourself,” I told her.

(I’m a real charmer).

But anyway – it kinda killed me to part with this piece, but I gave it to Robin as a birthday gift. She’s probably the nicest person I know. My biggest problem with living in Jacksonville is being away from my Tranquil Shores buddies. (Have I mentioned that before?)


This morning (and last night) were really tough for me emotionally. Today was probably my least productive day all year. I’m gonna strive to make up for it tomorrow.


This piece is available in my webstore as a 10×13″ print.

Weird Kids With Bad Teeth

"Weird Kids With Bad Teeth." 2/27/13. Acrylic paint, pen, duct tape. 4x4".
“Weird Kids With Bad Teeth.” 2/27/13. Acrylic paint, pen, duct tape. 4×4″.

I alluded to this piece in “Titrating,” when I described myself as feeling scared, stuck, and trapped, but smiling. (See the red text in the background).

Like the pieces in “The Weak End” series of paintings, this (along with several others) started out as one large painting that I eventually cut up into a lot of smaller ones. Unlike that series though, all of the paintings in this series (“Your Higher Power is Literally Garbage”) were painted and repainted so much that they don’t really share much in common.

In the center of this piece is a strip of pink duct tape that I drew on, while riding in the car, because I had no paper. Yet another weird/poor drawing of a kid with fucked up teeth. It’s pretty representative of my belief that I’ve got a lot more willingness than I do talent (or even creativity).

As often as I feel “inspired,” I’ve got nothing. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have the need to create something. So I do. Because it’s good for me. It helps me, emotionally.

And if you read my last post, you know that right now is one of those occasions where I desperately need to create something. And I knew that I’d come to that conclusion if I wrote up the entry for this piece, which is why I chose to write an entry around “Pulp” first. I wasn’t ready to do what I needed to do to get better. But I am now.

UPDATE (9/23/13): Now listed for sale.
UPDATE (12/1/13): SOLD! Now listed for sale as a 4×4″ print. 

Perfect Love / Exit Bag

"Perfect Love / Exit Bag." 10/31/12. Tempera, colored pencil, oil pastel. 12x18".
“Perfect Love / Exit Bag.” 10/31/12. Tempera, colored pencil, oil pastel. 12×18″.

“Perfect love” (to me) isn’t just unconditional love; it’s bigger than that and it’s greater (or wider) than any kind of romantic love. It’s a total respect for the entirety of another human being. It doesn’t have any room for jealousy or anything like that.

I really like the word “cupidity.” Technically, it’s an excessive desire to possess something (like money or materials things). Given the connotations of “cupid” though, I like to think of it as more of an excessive desire to possess someone. It’s sort of the opposite of perfect love. When I meet a girl, I have a tendency to go from one extreme to the other. One minute, I might be totally enamored or infatuated with her and then – the second I fear that she might not reciprocate (if she’s paying more attention to someone else, for example) – I’ll totally shut off absolutely all feeling and cease to care about her in any way at all. And then – the moment my fear is somehow allayed – a switch flips and I’m one-hundred percent invested in her again.

I’ve never been what you’d call a jealous or possessive boyfriend. I’m not bothered by my girlfriend going out without me, having male friends, or anything like that, but I think that’s because – once she’s “officially” my girlfriend – my cupidity is sated. That’s all the “possession” I need to feel okay, but that’s still a problem. It’s still not okay with me that I (feel like I) need that at all.

Last October, I was in treatment and I liked a girl but I knew it was a bad idea for me to get involved. So I was trying to have a genuine friendship with her. I was trying to practice this concept of “perfect love” that I had in my head. I was trying to be real and authentic and honest, and to value and respect her as an independent human being. It was a totally different dynamic (and experience) than my usual approach of (still trying to be honest but primarily) trying to get her to like me (or want to be my girlfriend or want to sleep with me). I wanted my behavior to reflect perfect love, which meant acting without any expectation, desire, or even hope of receiving anything in return.

On Halloween, she was having a problem and – after coming to me for help – she went to someone else. “What – I’m not enough? My help wasn’t good enough? What’s happening!?”–I thought. I didn’t show any of this outwardly, but the switch flipped and I immediately ceased to have any interest in this girl. My feelings were hurt so I was going to stop caring. …Because I wasn’t the only person that she shared her problem with…

And it’s worse than that even. In these situations, I don’t usually stop caring about the girl alone – more often than not, I also stop caring about myself. Suddenly, I’m a worthless unlovable piece of shit and there’s no reason for me to be alive. (My attempt at perfect love was an abysmal failure).

This all happened just before expressive art therapy group. An “exit bag” is a homemade suicide device. To make one, you need a helium tank, an oven bag, a piece of string, some tape, and a tube. I felt like I wanted to die, but I knew that I didn’t really and I wasn’t ready to talk about my feelings because I probably wasn’t ready to feel better. I needed to punish myself by stewing in misery for a little bit longer. Writing “helium, bag, string, tape, and tube” here was my way of saying “I WANT TO DIE” without having to deal with anyone’s response to a statement like that.

Because so much of what I was experiencing as I made this piece so perfectly exemplifies (/is symptomatic of) borderline personality disorder, I came to see the ghost that I drew here as sort of a stand-in for BPD. He’s in at least five of my pieces (including a tattoo). Once I have more of those online, I’ll probably do a special post just to feature him in all his different forms. (That sounds like fun to me). : )

Little Vomit-Colored Hearts

"Little Vomit-Colored Hearts." 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12" (diameter) round.
“Little Vomit-Colored Hearts.” 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12″ (diameter) round.

The text in the center says: “It’s my hope that someday I’ll be able to draw a cartoon Heather that’s maybe 5% as adorable as the real thing.” The large (vomit-colored) text says, “Lovesick.” The rest:

If I had to guess, I’d say you might not be the biggest Valentine’s day celebrant to walk the earth. Which is cool. But any excuse I can grab hold of to tell you I think you’re great with some extra-effort-little gesture… I’m into. Can I be unabashedly romantic/sappy for a minute? You make me wanna puke up little vomit-colored hearts. (What’d I tell you? Romantic). I’m a heroin addict – you see past it. I’m weird as shit – you’re into it. You think you’re (relatively) boring – you’re not. You’re just (relatively) sane (maybe).  Which is awesome. You make me wanna be as good as I can be. You make me wanna live the best life possible. (I already wanted those things, but you make me want ‘em even more). And still have plenty of ridiculous adventures. But with you by my side. I wanna get in all kindsa trouble (and fuck up all kindsa shit) with you. (I mean that in the best way possible). I wanna get in good kindsa trouble. I don’t know about all these words. When I think about you and when I’m with you, sometimes I feel insecure. Until you speak. And then I feel the opposite. I feel safe and okay. (Still pretty new for me). You’re the warmest, most supportive, encouraging, loving, inspiring, high-school-mean-girl-Christian-bully that I’ve ever met. You’re so fucking sharp and beautiful and honest and [fuck!] You’re stylish and funny and perfectly imperfect and strong and independent. and everything good on this wacky fucking planet. You’re a dream I don’t want to wake up from. Happy (two day’s early) Valentine’s day, Heather.

So reads the text at the top of this piece. Following that are some “nervous afterthoughts,
which I wrote over the course of the next hour or so, and then bracketed and labeled as such.

Wanna be my girlfriend? Like – for realsies?
Actually, scratch that.
You already are.
Like it or not!
{You make me feel like a kid again. Not much of a stretch, but – you know…).
Thanks for taking a chance on a kid in rehab.
I adore you.

New relationships in early recovery are not recommended. And if you’re inpatient in rehab (I think it goes without saying that) they’re not allowed at all. For me especially – they’re a bad idea. Keeping the proper distance between girls and me had been a task my various rehab counselors and I had been dealing with for more than a year. This last January, I was still living at Tranquil Shores, but I was no longer technically an inpatient. I operated according to a different set of rules. I could leave property for up to two hours at a time, provided I got approval from my counselor first and got all the paperwork signed and into the hands of the residential property staff.

There was this girl (Heather!) that I had added on Facebook at some point, thinking that she was someone else. Sometime later, after her name popped up a few times, I actually checked her page and realized she wasn’t who I thought. She was pretty and we had mutual friends in Sarasota; I thought it was strange that I didn’t know her (or at least have some idea of who she was), but [whatever]. Now – in January – I saw a post of hers: “When I do good at work, I like to reward myself by breaking out with ‘THIS GIRL IS ONE FIREEE.’ Customers love me.” I had no idea what that lyric was from, but I thought that was pretty fucking cute. I responded with “In theory, if I had an internet crush on you – how would you feel about that?” The next day, she commented on something I posted, I responded, and we started emailing back and forth. Within a couple days, we were spending hours exchanging messages. I liked her a lot and I realized really quickly that there was something different this time. The last few girls that I had dated, I was constantly asking myself whether or  not I really liked them… I was always having to convince myself that it was genuine for [this reason] or [that reason]. I didn’t have to convince myself of anything this time. I was unqualifiedly into this girl. I somehow coaxed her into agreeing to come up to visit me (in rehab). And I got her phone number and started calling her instead of writing her because that seemed like the healthy, brave thing to do.

Funny aside: The three Rational Anthem kids were amongst our mutual friends. After Heather and I had been writing each other for all of a day or so, I called each of them and said something like: “I’m going to ask you about someone but – before I give you the name – I need to warn you to speak carefully because this is the girl I’m going to marry. What can you tell me about Heather Pierce?” Admittedly, those calls were partially motivated by something authentic and partially by my own enjoyment of how perpetually lovesick I seemed to make myself. As miserable as it made me at times, I thought there was something cute or funny about it.

So she was interested in coming to see me but that didn’t mean that my counselor was actually going to approve it. And I was fairly certain that even if she allowed this girl to come see me, there was no way she’d actually let me leave the courtyard/property with her. But she did. She and the rest of the treatment staff decided that in light of everything, the best approach was to allow it and monitor it through my sessions. Talk to me about it, counsel me, and just make sure that I didn’t somehow lose my shit as a consequence. It was one thing to keep me off heroin, but to keep me off girls was pretty much impossible. Better to let me get involved now, while they could help me along the way, then wait until I was out on my own and not under their care and guidance twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day.

There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ve got another piece that I can use to tell more of this story. Her first visit was January 29th. I made and gave this to her on February 12th, the night of our fourth “date.”

Weird War

"Weird War." 8/20/13. Mixed media. 9x12".
“Weird War.” 8/20/13. Watercolor paint, watercolor pencil, marker, pen, and oil pastel. 9×12″.

I started (and finished) this piece in the van, but also worked on it at the Ski Haus in Carbondale, (where Rational Anthem played with The Heat Tape, Future Virgins, and Hate Waves).

My primary purpose in creating art is emotional balance / regulation. Sometimes though, when I don’t like what comes out of me, the process can actually throw me off base a little bit.

I’m pretty fragile. Little things fuck with my head. I sometimes forget that I can write private journals that don’t have to go online immediately. When that happens, I lose one of my tools.

Noelle said this one looks like a warzone. From the beginning, I was pitting the top right and bottom left against each other, alternately considering cropping one or the other out. It took a long time to bring them together in the center in a way that felt right to me. I think the combination of textures (through the layering of the different materials) helped a lot with that. So did journaling (privately) in order to really examine the forces behind my feelings. Taking a suggestion made by a friend a few weeks back, I wrote on the back of the piece. As I wrote on the front of “Iowa,” I don’t need to put my every thought up in lights for public scrutiny.

Noelle works early on Wednesday morning, so we decided that tonight (in Valdosta) is the last show before we head home. We’re running more than a little late, but I’m not stressing it anymore. I don’t know how tonight will shape up, but I’m excited for whatever’s coming next.

This piece is currently listed for sale in my webstore.