Tag Archives: watercolor

Because Nihilism

"Because Nihilism." 4/22/13. Watercolor and acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink. 12x16".
“Because Nihilism.” 4/22/13. Watercolor and acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink. 12×16″.


I painted this in April. I like ants. It’s expressive art and the story behind it is enough like a million others that it’s not worth telling. Instead, here’s the story of my life in April 2011.


When Taylor finally called me back, she sounded weird. “What’s going on?” She wouldn’t say. She was being evasive. I just came out and asked – “are you done with me?” She didn’t answer right away but – when she did – yeah, that was pretty much the gist of it.

Six years… I was in total shock. I had just gotten into my first “treatment” program eight days prior. (Methadone maintenance). I was cured! How could she break up with me now?!? Life was about to become a dream! This is preposterous!

Not to mention, I was in the middle of my final exams. My final final exams. She couldn’t wait two fucking weeks to do this? I was gonna be so busy for the next few weeks that, at most she might have seen me once. By breaking up with me now, it was guaranteeing that I’d fail my exams, not graduate from law school, lose at life, and DIE. What a selfish, miserable human being. (Her, I mean). (I’m really cool and great).

Granted, her timing was a little poor but I’m obviously still alive, and my interpretation of things has changed with time. Taylor didn’t leave me that day – because I had already left her – when I let heroin overtake her on my list of priorities. For the last eight months, I had barely existed in her life. I spent all my time hiding from her, out all day, out all night, shooting up at school or the basement of our building, ignoring her phone calls. Now that I had a couple pleasant days I thought everything was gonna be okay again?

But I couldn’t see that; I couldn’t see anything. I just hurt. More than hurt. I was fucking leveled. I didn’t want to use but… I had to. If I didn’t relapse, that’d mean I wasn’t really hurt. And I was really hurt so… I had to shoot some heroin to prove it. To myself. To Taylor. To the world. (I’m not really sure). And I had to buy a lot (two hundred bucks’ worth) ‘cause that was the best deal. (Money management’s an important skill!) My little bundle lasted me through the day with a few caps left over for the next. And then I put it out of my head and got back to the task at hand.

I hadn’t been to any of my courses all semester (I never even bothered to get textbooks). I logged in to the school’s website, found out which classes I was enrolled in, and settled into a couch in a (usually) empty room at school, where I’d spend the next few weeks, trying to learn as much as I could and just maybe graduate. When I couldn’t stay up any longer, I’d put my computer in my backpack and sleep on that same couch where I was studying. I didn’t get up for anything. Almost. Every six or seven days, I’d walk to the closest store to stock up on bagel bites and apples, which I kept in the fridge of a student organization to which I (of course) didn’t belong. There were three other reasons I’d occasionally leave the couch: to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, and (most importantly) – once a day, between the hours of 6AM and noon – go get my daily dose of methadone.

At one point, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror and was pretty impressed with how strung out I looked. (I guess the methadone / Adderall / sleep deprivation combo will do that you).  I took a picture for posterity.

April 2011


“Barkmarket Fuckacy” by House Boat is my favorite song on the last record [The Thorns of Life CD/LP] to bear the Traffic Street Records logo.

In the liner notes for the record, there’s a special “thanks to Sam North for basically ruining his life to help get this record made.”

(On our way to the studio for the recording of the album, I caught two felony possession of heroin charges and more misdemeanor charges for needles and other paraphernalia than I can count/remember). And if that wasn’t bad enough, the cops didn’t even give me back my drugs when they let me go! So on top of everything else, I had to spend the next day scrambling around Indiana looking for heroin.


The first time I ever decided to make art for its own sake, the results were… mixed. It was more than a year ago and at no point has it grown on me…

"Efhurt." 10/26/12. Watercolor. 8½x11".
“Efhurt.” 10/26/12. Watercolor. 8½x11″.

Maybe that’s for the best though – that I dislike it so much. Maybe it’s good for me to have to accept that the one piece of art that I can’t ignore – that I can’t leave out of my story – is one of which I’m totally embarrassed.

It’s (very seriously) insane just how much something like acknowledging that this painting exists can fuck with my emotional well-being. Sitting here typing this, I don’t … – I don’t want to type it. I hate it. But I’m doing it anyway. As imperfect as all of this is – it’s a good exercise in humility. I’m not perfect, my website isn’t perfect, my stories and artwork are not all uniformly fascinating. Sometimes I’m just okay.

Okay’s not so bad, I guess.


If you’d like to buy this painting, I would love to get it out of my home. Hit me up. (And remember: it’s got historical value).

Note: historical value < all other kinds of value

Sharps Attack

"Sharps Attack." 2/13/13. Watercolor. 9x12½".
“Sharps Attack.” 2/13/13. Watercolor. 9×12½”.

The plans were made and my flight was booked just a few hours before I made my way to the airport; I left Florida this morning to visit a friend for the week. She picked me up at the airport and we went back to her place, where I found this watercolor painting that I had given her after painting it back in February. It was my first time using non-Crayola watercolor paints, which were a gift from a friend. The special (watercolor specific) paper I used was also a gift from a(nother) friend. I’m very lucky in that sense. The words are still a little uncomfortable but… I’m very blessed.

I’ll be fairly preoccupied until I get back to Jacksonville on Friday night, so don’t take it personally if I don’t respond right away to comments, texts, emails, etc.

And if you ordered the Like Bats cassette and/or any art/prints last night or today, my apologies for the delay. I had no idea (or even any reason to suspect) that I’d be taking this trip until earlier this morning. I’ll ship everything out just as soon as I get home.

Face Thing

"Face Thing." 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12x34".
“Face Thing.” 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12×34″.

For a long time, I thought this was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever made. I was hesitant to even call it “art.”


Immediately after figuring out how I felt about myself, I decided to see if I could use the same approach to figure out how I felt about the girl. With my non-dominant hand, I wrote until I had completely filled the two sheets in front of me (taped together earlier for some other purpose). My only pauses were to change colors and even that was done without real consideration – a quick swap when I felt the urge.  I tried my best to be totally blunt, perfectly honest, and entirely concentrated on my feelings. I didn’t want to rationalize, bullshit, or otherwise fuck myself up. I wanted what came out of me to be real. I’m not sure whether or not it was…

Some parts were written in such a way that they wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – and there was no punctuation in any of it – so I’ve made a few minor edits.


Your first group, the buddhist monk we had coming was running late. I was manic but I caught myself and asked the group to keep me in check. I didn’t want to be a spazz on your first day even though I preemptively disliked you. (You seemed too level-headed and assembled to like me).

I didn’t like the way the other guys talked about (and sometimes to) you. We didn’t talk much but you were nicer than I’d assumed and smarter too. When I ran into you after getting kicked out, you were so sweet to me. I thought, “I’d like to have sex with her.”

I didn’t really understand friendship but ,when I came back, we became friends. It was outstanding. We were exceptional. I liked it when we’d touch but knew that was the limit. We had both made that mistake in treatment before. Our counselors said they were worried about us getting too close. We talked about it and you said, “If this were last year, we’d be in trouble.”

We respected the physical boundaries we were given (for the most part) but got carried away otherwise – we loved each other too much. I didn’t know what was real. A pretty girl, an interesting boy, codependency issues, rehab and limited options… Was it love or something like it, or just compulsion and fear?

You didn’t seem too interested when I presented my life story. (Punishment for how I acted at your first step?) It hurt. That and more. It got worse. I needed to talk. I still don’t understand that night. I  got mean enough to get rid of you when all I really wanted was for your door to open.

I couldn’t handle it. I told the truth and you denied everything but, in between, I realized that I really did care about you, contrary to what I thought and said when I first spilled our guts to everyone, while you were away. It gets worse: I think i love you. I admit, I’m still not 100% but I’m going with it – even if you hate me. And not ’cause I wanna be tragic.

I still want to have sex with you but, mostly, I want to be friends.

For real.


Two months later, when I had my coin out, the staff decided that we should have an “art show” – everything I had made since arriving (more than one hundred pieces) was hung up on display in the group room. Each had a title card with a short statement. The one next to this piece said, “If this thing actually ends up on the wall at my coin-out then I am way fucking braver than I have ever suspected. And way more honest. Well, honest about disclosing my art and my thoughts from the past (as evidenced in my art). There’s very little that’s honest about this thing in and of itself.” I’m not totally sure how I feel about that. The things I said with this piece were definitely honest when I wrote them… By February though, I had convinced myself that I had been seriously deluding myself – to such an extent that “the truth” was something completely beyond my reach. Today, I think that was probably an example of my “putting walls back up” to protect myself. My feelings were real and I shouldn’t have tried to discount them just because things played out a certain way and I now (then) felt silly about them.


tipjarThis piece was later cut up and merged with its title card and a related piece I’ve also thought of as “embarrassing.” It’s listed for sale in my webstore but – if anyone wants it – you can name your price. Seven dollars should cover postage and (beyond that) I don’t care about the money.

Update (a couple hours later): Wow – kinda funny. I just looked at the Storenvy listing for this piece and it has a different statement that I wrote back when I first listed it for sale (sometime in August, I think). It’s interesting how much my attitudes and perceptions shift over time.

Why I Fail

"Why I Fail." 12/8/12. Tempera, watercolor, oil pastel. 9x12".
“Why I Fail.” 12/8/12. Tempera, watercolor, oil pastel. 9×12″.

Initially, this was to be a painting of me and this girl, having a picnic under the shade of a tree. You know – cute, innocent. Except not really.

Toward the end of 2012, there were a couple times in the van when I took out my headphones and noticed that the female patients were a little more giggly than usual – and talking about trees. On both occasions, I was the only male in the van and had been listening to music but it was still pretty dumb insofar as it was painfully obvious. Trees was a code word (and not a particularly clever one). I didn’t say anything though (who was I to ruin their fun?) I just rolled my eyes and put my headphones back in.

But that’s how I got the idea and I thought was really clever. On the surface, it’d be really sweet and innocuous but – underlying that – something a little bolder. I wanted it to say, “Hey, I like you, you like me, we’re really cute together,” as well as, “I know what your little code word means and – oh –  here’s a picture of my dickhow ’bout that?

So I set to work. First thing’s first: I needed to trace my penis (you know – the “tree” under which we’d be having our picnic). I chose not to start tracing from the bottom edge because I wanted to leave a little ambiguity. (Like, “Is this the whole thing? Maybe! Maybe not!”). After all, you don’t wanna give it all away, right? I still needed to camouflage it to some extent with branches and leaves, but I decided to draw the two of us sitting in the grass first.

I couldn’t fucking do it. I couldn’t get the characters to look the way that I wanted. I erased and began again over and over until I got frustrated. And then it occurred to me: this wonderful new thing (art) that had recently come into my life — I didn’t enjoy it because it was a way for me to showcase my dazzling fucking wit (or my penis), I enjoyed it because it was a way for me to legitimately work through my feelings and express myself authentically. This – what I was currently engaged in – was bullshit. And what do you know? Like so many of my mistakes and fuck-ups, both big and small, what was at the root of this misstep? My dick.

I changed course, painted without intent, and looked at the page. Yeah – there it was, right in front of me: WHY I FAIL.


Aside from a commission, my first sale was for two pieces: this painting and a drawing.

My first sale as an artist was a painting of my dick.

The buyer had to have seen it, right? Jacob certainly spotted it when I posted it on Facebook back in December. I opted to respond vaguely with comments like, “Eye of the beholder, my friend!” (even when he posted his own derivative work on Imgur to support his interpretation).

I think I was scared because if I acknowledged  it, anyone that saw it could play mathematician based on the dimensions of the painting. Unless I also added that it wasn’t my entire penis. And then I’m suddenly the kid on the internet writing about how “my dick is at least this big (and who knows how much bigger?)!

Which – now – I totally am anyway.

[By the way,  the answer: not that much].


Everything Sucks When I’m Out of Adderall

"Everything Sucks When I'm Out of Adderall." 3/23/13. Watercolor, pen, marker, and acrylic on 140 lb cold pressed paper. 9x12".
“Everything Sucks When I’m Out of Adderall.” 3/23/13. Watercolor, pen, marker, and acrylic on 140 lb cold pressed paper. 9×12″.

I don’t believe that drugs are always bad. Even drugs like heroin. I think drug use is a problem when it starts to cause problems. If you’re able to use heroin recreationally, sporadically: congratulations! Have at it! If it’s not draining your bank account, if you don’t ever develop a physical dependence, if your use isn’t destroying your personal relationships – well, I say, shoot up to your little heart’s content.

I did that for a while… Five and a half years. I can’t seem to pull that trick anymore though so – for me – the party’s over. I don’t take any drugs these days. Except for Adderall. Every day. Do I have attention deficit disorder? Um… yeah – sure, probably. [Whatever that means]. What’s important though is that it helps me; I do well with it.

Until I run out. In March, there was a hiccup in getting my prescription. [Adderall is controlled to the extent that a doctor needs to write a new prescription every single month]. I had been getting it from the doctor at Tranquil Shores, but I wasn’t in Tranquil Shores anymore. And once I actually run out, it gets even harder to get my prescription. I’m pretty debilitated by its absence in my system. (I’ve been on it for almost ten years). So I had been out for at least a few days and I was struggling to get out of bed or even move. If I’m being honest, part of this is probably psychological but – if that is the case – it’s a tough fucking psychological hurdle to overcome. I feel thoroughly drained.

I dragged myself to the edge of the mattress so I could reach at my backpack on the floor. And I stayed in that position (hanging off the side of the bed) painting or – more accurately -just swiping at the paper. Raising my arm and letting it fall. I wanted to be productive, I wanted to create, but I just didn’t have it in me. Eventually I found the strength to lift myself back onto the mattress and finish the piece with my pen.

You know – having written this all out – I come across as way more pathetic than I’d intended.

The caption says, “I remember when I had ideas. I remember when I had Adderall.”


Spoiler Alert

"Spoiler Alert." 11/3/12. Watercolor and colored pencil. 12x18".
“Spoiler Alert.” 11/3/12. Watercolor and colored pencil. 12×18″.

Alexis was planning on moving back into her parents’ house when she got out of treatment. She had the option of moving in with her grandmother, but didn’t want to for reasons she’d never really explained to me. When I’d try to talk to her seriously about why it was so dangerous for her to move back “home,” she’d use her little-girl voice, make puppy eyes at me, and say things like “But I wannnnnnna.” It was frustrating. I cared about her. If she moved back into that house, she’d be living with her sister, who I had also been in rehab with. And unlike this girl, her sister had never shown any interest (that I’d been able to pick up on anyway) in getting clean and getting her life together. Alexis was different. She had the potential to do really great things with her life really soon. Her insistence on moving “home” was the only indication that was wasn’t 100% set on really living. On being better.

“If you move back home, you know how that story ends.” She looked at me with a mock I-haven’t-the-faintest-idea expression. “No? Can I ruin the ending for you? You fall back into it, violate your probation, and go to jail.” She shrugged me off and kept trying to be cute. It was still more than a month down the road and – shit – she was pretty good at being cute. I gave in, laughed, told her we’d “revisit the subject.”

As time passed, I’d continue to let her know that I cared and try to lead her in a better direction but – ultimately – I knew I had to accept that it wasn’t something I could control and do my best to not stress out about it.

In the end, she moved back home and fell off, just as anyone could have predicted…

And now, she lives behind bars and gets to be a cautionary tale on my fucking website.

Which is so stupid and tragic and… insignificant.

I don’t know. It is and it isn’t – and it’s [whatever] to [whoever]. You try and make sense of the world… I’m just gonna stick with the comfortable little philosophy I’ve developed. Or maybe I’m just gonna elect not to think about it.


She and I used to sit in the courtyard at Tranquil Shores and listen to records on my little portable turntable. Here’s the first song from one of the albums we spun the most. I love it a whole lot, but it makes me kinda sad sometimes.

“710” by Sundials


That same month, she asked me if I’d make her a bracelet like the ones that I wore. The only reason it has my name on it is that she specifically requested it. I applied the color (which is hair dye) with a q-tip and a sewing needle.