From November 2019

Magic Breaking Through

Fuzzy snow in the dark on my building’s rooftop

No matter how cynical I feel, there’s always something magical about the first snow of the season. Probably because I spent so much time in the Southwest, it’s always been special. Now that I’m here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s normal for most, if not very frequent.

But I want to always be aware of the magic moments. The feeling of them is kin to the wonder of artistic creation and connection.

Anna King’s Quietly Spooky Beautiful Landscapes

Anna King, “Altitude (I)” (detail), oil and pencil on paper and board, 2013

I have an early shift following a close tonight so my time has run out, but everyone should go check out Anna King’s fabulous landscape and building studies. They’re haunting and beautiful, deftly rendered but also gloriously abstracted. Confident strokes and color, all the way.

Giving Due Thanks on a Designated Holiday

Gratitude is a common religious and/or spiritual practice around the world. Stepping back from your life and assessing the good things is sometimes even a helpful bit of balance. We’re often so close to the things we do every day, it can be hard to see anything but that struggle. But there’s always more.

I’m able to indulge in this work in part because of where I live and the family I was born into. It’s never been wealth, but neither extreme poverty, either. I have two healthy hands and a decent mind in a functioning brain. I’m luckier than everyone who was never born, and many who were.

I’m thankful that I can do this. I hope I can better my effort and time to improve the things I make.

Following Vizzini’s Lead

The Princess Bride is a favorite film, and lends its quotations to many instances of my life. But there’s one bit I think of when I imagine I should give up on something or get lazy.

The trio of Buttercup’s captors are sailing with their kidnapped victim. Behind them is the Man in Black, and Iñigo and Fezzik keep pointing out his inconceivable ability to gain distance on them. Vizzini, however, merely agitates “he’s no concern of ours! Sail on!” And, despite the villains needing to be defeated for story purposes, they do reach their immediate goal.

It’s not a bad strategy. Adversity can follow any endeavor. We can lose our wind, fall behind, worry we can’t make it. But never mind all that. Sail on.

The Haunting of the Season

Halloween never lasts long enough. I’m not much of a horror movie fan, but I like the idea of them, and am always up for a good one. More than that, I love the shift of light and life, when everything, well, falls.

Amidst the magic and spookiness that is the general tenor of autumn, I get restless, as if creating has kept pushing me forward, and I don’t quite know where I am.

The cusp of Thanksgiving (in the US) is a good time to look back a bit, to see where you’ve been and if you’re still on the path you should be. Art is tricky business. It’s holding onto water, trying to capture hints of smells on the street, stopping shadows and colors that change by the second. I always hope to keep moving, but nonetheless take time to look at the big picture. Focus can be isolating.

Being Generous to Yourself, Being Kind to Your Neighbors

The ability we have as denizens of urban centers to wander a little bit and find sustenance is amazing and humbling. I feel lucky many days, and I’d hate to lose that sense of understanding.

While we’re doing our work and facilitating the circumstances that lead us to generate more, I think it’s good to continually explore our surroundings and the people who inhabit them. This is our physical center, the close connection to humanity, and to feeds our creativity, too. Not to mention, for those of us in service jobs, it’s good to spread kind and appreciative patronage to others.

Our neighbors, our helpmates.

Gahan Wilson, Cartoonist and Illustrator Extraordinaire, Is No More, Which He’d Probably Be Gleeful About

Frontspiece of Jerome Beatty, Jr.’s novel, illustrated by Gahan Wilson: Bob ponders the implications of a newly frictionless bicycle wheel

If the macabre, the weird, and the bizarre had a champion, his name was Gahan [GAY-un] Wilson, who loved all things dark and dreary. He’s been one of my visual delights since childhood, for as long as I can remember, and he gave us so much to enjoy and be disturbed by.

I wasn’t old enough to discover his Playboy cartoons, but one early Christmas I was given one of my favorite and inspiring books: Bob Fulton’s Amazing Soda-Pop Stretcher, one of numerous boy genius volumes I devoured with excitement and ambition when I was a pre-teen. The illustrations were goofy, but had a dark edge, something that thrilled me.

I kept an eye out for his unusual name, and soon found his darker cartooning, which was both disturbing and funny, like Charles Addams was, but Wilson’s work filled the page with ballooning strangeness, in contrast to Addams’s more modest form and line.

There’s a wonderful interview with him below, discussing his origins and work.

Things We Try to Give Up

Sidebar—is it really a sidebar when it comes before the main text?—The recent “art” art has all been on my Insta, hence the preponderance of photos on the blog. I hope that’s okay. This is supposed to be mainly an art blog, for drawing and painting and such, at least in my non-dogmatic opinion. (I’m not a photographer of any training or much experience, but I know what I like, so you get photos, art recs, music, musings, and so forth.)

I decided to stop playing Minecraft for therapy/comfort gaming. I’ve been playing early-to-mid game elements for many years, now. It’s still the most effortless and rewarding return on $27 I’ve ever spent. It’s not that I don’t love the game, but I rarely have goals beyond getting the next string of crafting components to get the subsequent items for a particular mod in the pack. These things are singularly occupying and somewhat addicting, so they fill my anxiety-ridden downtime with satisfying play. But I’d rather try some new things and returning to the familiar is stopping me.

We frequently say we’d like to give up a thing that pacifies some troubling emotion, urge, or desire, but it’s rare we follow through. Do we need replacements? If we have a plan, does it include beneficial goals or skill improvement? For artists, I think it’s healthy and important to both refrain from harsh judgment and be unfaltering in questioning if the things we do help our work.

Tough decision, deciding to give up easy comfort. But if we wanted to be comfortable, there are simple paths to get there. We have to work at our thing, struggle sometimes to put form to feelings, and push metaphorical stones up steep symbolic hills. You just have to decide if that’s worth it to get what’s inside, you know, out.