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.
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.
I’m too fulfilled. Too many things are going my way. IT’S KILLING MY ART. Or… maybe it’s okay to be happy?
I painted this yesterday. I was tempted to kick around my head until I could find/invent a problem but – ultimately – decided to just let it be. Things are okay and I guess that’s okay.
The exhibit at Burrito Gallery is all set up. I’ve got twenty-four pieces up on the wall and prints (of a little more than half) out for sale on the counter.
I still have some stuff at Chamblin’s Uptown as well. Five originals up on the walls and just under a dozen prints of different pieces out around the cafe area. Although – apparently – one of my paintings is too offensive for anyone to exhibit… You won’t find Amazon Wishlist hanging up anywhere around Jacksonville anymore.
Today, I’m headed out to Gainesville to participate in an artwalk at the Civic Media Center. I’ll be back in Jacksonville at some point this weekend, at which time I’ll start putting up new fliers all over Riverside and downtown Jacksonville. And this Wednesday, I’ll be at Burrito Gallery for Jacksonville’s Downtown Artwalk.
I used to care about stuff. These days, whenever I hear someone railing on about how this or that is bullshit or a scam or [whatever], I just kinda roll my eyes. “Get some real problems,” I’ll think. “Isn’t there anything going on in yourown life worth being concerned about?” I’ve only got so much emotional capital and I’m definitely not investing it in some shit that has zero bearing on my day-to-day. And (of course) I’ve got my own principles, but I’m not about to start preaching to other people about what they ought to support, not support, believe, or not believe. Again – I GOT ENOUGH GOING ON RIGHT HERE. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on trying to change or influence somebody else. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the most positive effect I’ve ever had on the world has been through my art and my writing, which I do for my own benefit but which seems to positively impact other people as an added bonus.
On another note: I’VE BEEN FUCKING A LOT LATELY. I’m getting a lot of attention from girls. It’s probably going to my head a little bit. There are still plenty of times when I’ll catch a glimpse of my reflection and get pretty bummed out about the way that I look but for the most part I’m pretty pleased with myself these days.
I painted this while I was selling prints at the opening of a new art space in St. Augustine. It’s been a really long time since I spent less than ten hours on a painting, but I’m pretty sure I wrapped this one up within an hour or so. If I’m being honest, it was half expressive art and half “hey, girls! look at me! come talk to me!” Even still, I’m pretty happy with it.
I chose to use only the second half of my caption as the title because (by itself) it’s sexually suggestive but silly. That line underneath the body was originally meant just to distinguish one leg from the other but I left it as is ‘cause it kinda looks like it’s meant to be a dick. That works too.
This painting is already up as part up my exhibit at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville, FL. By tomorrow afternoon, it’ll also be available as a 12×16″ print.
Speaking of prints, I set up at Rain Dogs to sell last night (thanks to my buddy, Mike, who does art under the banner of Hood Rat Shit). I just found out that Chris Wollard and Jon Snodgrass are playing there tonight, so I might try to go back and do the same. Here are some photos from last night though.
Snarkiness, pride, self-deprecation, vanity, whatever… all that shit aside – I really do have fun. And I really am grateful. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I’ve got. And when I think about all the people that have been so supportive of me recently – personally or in just buying my work – it really is humbling. I feel like I’m in a pretty good state of being, even if it is a delicate balancing act sometimes.
This piece was started in the last week of December and finished in mid-January, during the final days of my relationship with Heather. There’s a lot of emotional back-and-forth in it. On New Year’s Eve, I wrote:
If you’ve never walked the train tracks alone on New Year’s Eve, singing along (badly) to a song only you can hear and maybe – just once, in the course of that walk – thrown a fist in the air… Well – I don’t envy you.
I DON’T EVEN LOOK OVER MY SHOULDER ANYMORE.
Hit the pavement, light another cigarette. Life is beautiful.
I just jumped in the air and laughed. I’ve never even heard this song before.
The joy I felt in that moment soon gave way to dejection. I was walking to meet Heather to go out for the night. Our outing only lasted fifteen minutes or so, before she got mad at me, and I walked home alone in a very different state of mind. Hembrough called me around 2 AM. He was walking home along the tracks back in Sarasota. I laughed. “What am I doing?” he asked me, “Why is this happening? Because punk rock told me so, I guess.”
The next morning, I was feeling drained of any and all spirit. I wrote out two lists:
THINGS THAT MADE ME CRY TODAY:
(1) A Facebook post about the rain
(2) A pop punk song about resilience
THINGS THAT MADE YOU CRY TODAY:
A few days later, I added more text: “It gets better, it gets worse, it gets better, it gets worse. As soon as it’s good enough, it isn’t. Why am I so sad?”
Another day or two passed and Rational Anthem sent me the demos of their new eight-song EP that they were gearing up to record. One song in particular fucking wrecked me. The chorus begins: “I can’t convince myself that I’m happy.“
Fuck. They nailed it.
The last lyric in the song repeats through the end. “Does it matter anyway?” I heard it differently though: “It doesn’t matter anyway.” If I had heard that song on New Year’s Day, I wouldn’t have just been crying, I’d probably have been bawling.
The song had a goofy working-title. ”No,” I told Chris. “There’s nothing fucking silly about this song. It needs a real, honest title.” I told him to call it, “I Wish I Could Be Happy.” He, Noelle, and Pete took me up on it so that’ll be the title when the record comes out. Since then, it’s also been decided that my watercolor painting/cartoon, “Autobiography,” will be used as the front cover for the record (recaptioned with the album’s title, “Emotionally Unavailable”). (Before I move past punk rock, I wanna note that the album I was listening to as I walked on NYE was “The Constant One” by Iron Chic, and the song referenced in my list is “The Shades of Grey” by The Murderburgers.
The text about it getting better and getting worse was originally the largest caption on the canvas, but I decided to relegate it to semi-obscurity by rewriting it in pen in the shadows. I blocked out that original caption with a series of primary-colored rectangles. I liked them but they reminded me of what I guess I’d call the proverbial “modern art.” I don’t like to be so negative or critical as to suggest that any art is stupid (after all, I have no idea what goes into it or why the artist is making it) but – if I’m being honest – when I look at most artwork, I have the same response that I think most people have to art:“Um… okay.” Basically, I don’t get it. I’m not sure why I should care. I mean, if the artist is getting something out of it, then I think that’s spectacular (genuinely!) but I don’t think that that necessarily makes it worth my time or attention. “Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is” is reflective of that attitude as well as the bad / hurt feelings swirling around my relationship and my general state of being as I painted this. It’s also part self-deprecation. After all (IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL), this piece is itself a work of modern art. (And – depending on who you ask – thoroughly stupid!)
All of this sort of adds up to one big jumbled mess of emotion and incident. That’s what happens when my work on some piece spans two or even three weeks. Struggling with whether or not I should break up with my girlfriend, trying to figure out if I’m happy, walking along train tracks, pop punk, modern art, being an artist. I don’t know what’s what. I summed it up with one last caption along the bottom of the canvas: “This is one of them MAGIC EYE paintings. Look close, at just the right angle, and you can see… how full of shit I am.”
Status update (2/22/14): Here are two photos of the painting, hanging in Ettra (the gallery in which it was sold).
I also got set up at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville this week. I have twenty-one pieces on their wall right now, though I may add more. The exhibit will run through the first week of April.
I’m posting this from Chamblin’s Uptown. A few of my pieces are still up on the walls here, though I’ll be rearranging and adding more later in the week.
And I still have plenty of new pieces that I’ve yet to share online. I’ve been incredibly busy though so I’m going to hold off until I have time to write up proper statements to accompany them.
Anyway, things are going really well so far as all my art nonsense is concerned. Breaking my lease and moving into a van might not have seemed like the most sound game plan, but I couldn’t be happier with how things have been developing. Life’s been going a mile a minute and I’m just doing my best to keep up. I’ll be in Jacksonville until the show at Burrito Gallery ends and then I’ll head north to try and line up a show in a new city. The uncertainty and instability of my life can get scary at times but it’s also really exciting and – more than anything – I feel grateful. And I feel free. I don’t have to convince myself that I’m happy today; I just am.