Into the Sunset

Will this be your first?
That was my stupid question for them
I’m not very good at this
They were really quite beautiful together
A perfect couple
Watching the sunset
Clearly expecting
A green flash

I’d just finished this painting
And drinking 3 beers
That’s not the usual
During the course of a painting
But friends had joined me today
And it sometimes goes that way

Words of wisdom
Spoken by an old friend:
“Nothing is better than a two beer buzz”
Truth
It doesn’t get better
Only more difficult
To ask the right questions

This child would not be their first
Or their second
Or third
I don’t remember now
But it was maybe their ninth
Or thirteenth
Something that would make you wonder
If they were much, much older than they looked

So I asked if it was true
That it got easier after the third child
(You can’t ask that of too many folks these days)
They said absolutely
3 is the hardest
After that it gets easier and easier
As they start to raise each other

That’s how they could leave the other 8 or 12 behind
And relax into the sunset here tonight
The team was on top of it at home
Building themselves some dang quesadillas

I’d only had three kids
The most challenging number
Now verified
My folks had three
And I was the last of them
Same for my wife
And I can confirm
That we are two of the most difficult people
You’ll ever meet
Aside from my mom
Who was the first of two
And was also the pinnacle
Of difficulty
She recently walked off into the sunset
I said my goodbyes
Through salty tears
She told me to get off her cloud

So with my feet planted back on the ground
On the edge of this cliff
With the mother and father
Of a small nation beside me
And a setting sun before me
I don’t remember
If there was a green flash
But I knew
I had three kids at home
And three beers on the cliff
And that was enough for me

Mine… Or Maybe Yours

We met when we were older, when we had more swagger, and we stood a little closer to the throne.

But we had a falling out between us, we’re artists, and we’re awkward, this is widely known.

The fault was all mine, that’s what I’ve been told, but it could have been yours and yours alone.

Years went past, we lost too much, loved ones, and our youth, a wife, and a home.

There’s no point blaming each other now, we’re brothers, and anyway, our conflict was overblown.

So today we stand here side by side and harvest the morning colors from the intertidal zone.

This was the shore that shaped your soul, the same but different to the one that shaped my own.

So at noon oh two and not a minute later we’ll drink down our beers and let our differences sink like a stone.

I could go on about it but the next beer’s getting warm and we’re near the end of this poem.

By night we’re half-drunk on the edge of a cliff, what the hell and how far can our troubles be thrown.

So I’ll leave it at this, you clear-eyed disaster and paint flinging bastard, my respect for you it has grown.

It’s not a secret at all, it’s friendship, it’s clear, like gin in a jar, so drink deep and don’t go it alone.

 

*Dedicated to my buddy Spencer Reynolds, who showed me this spot and brought the beers.

Chain of Command

Chains of oppression
Forged of human weakness
Masquerade as strength
Behind machines
With a thousand different ways
To spill blood

A chain of command
Sends a child
To destroy a town
That could have been his own
And it may just break that child
Or may by him be broken

He stands beside the caravan
Shaking beneath the weight
Of what he’s about to do
To the city that rises
Like flames
Beyond the rolling hills

He’s been told they have strayed
Lost their way
And need this show of power
To be brought back to the fold
United again
He believes
In better days ahead

But his body is weak
From hunger
And he remembers his home
His grandmother
Strength masquerading as weakness
Her kitchen full of the aroma
Of fresh baked bread
And her frail arms
That could hold the whole world
Or just him
And him alone

Above her table hung an embroidery
“Give us this day our daily bread”
That would bounce crooked on its nail
Every time he ran out the backdoor
And down the wood steps
Into the rolling hills
Beyond

Standing on this hill now
He’s suddenly struck
Not by bullets
But by the memory
Of his grandmother’s voice
Speaking softly over him
Of the Shepherd that leaves
The flock to save one lost sheep

And in one final act
Of holy defiance
He drains the fuel reserves
And watches the river
Spill its bloody rainbow
Into the roadside ditch
Before he looks to the sky
Lays down his rifle
And walks slowly
Into the rolling hills
Beyond
Where he waits
For their bullets
To carry him home

The chain of command
Has broken this child
But for him
And him alone
The chains that once bound him
Have been broken forever
In that roadside ditch
Where they lie

“A Poor Shot” (1880)
Konstantin Kosovo

 

Sure, this was inspired by reports of young Russian soldiers abandoning their posts in Ukraine, but it could also be about any soldier finding themselves caught between obeying orders and taking innocent lives. Or any of us caught in that awful space between what is expected and what is right.

When I came across this painting by Konstantin Korovin, a Russian Impressionist from the late 1800’s, it struck me as a beautiful reminder that even though war is inevitable, we all look up at the same sky and ultimately only war against ourselves.

Let mercy be the rule.

Talk of the Endings

We talk a lot these days
About the Endings
Put your boots on
When you enter the kitchen
And step carefully
Through broken china
Sometimes the Ending
Is only a burnt tortilla
With the face
Of Jesus

But mostly
We talk of the Endings
In low tones
Fearing the unknown
We speak of lives lost
And suffering to come
As if these things
Aren’t just variations
In the rhythm
And the beat
Goes on

Maybe we can only know
Some tragedies
Of the Endings
After they’re over
Through songs left unsung
And artwork left unfinished
And books left unwritten
The collective works
Of broken souls
In burned out mobile homes
That would have let the rest of us know
That we aren’t alone
And that we’ll always have a home
To go back to

Damn it
The world cannot end today
We’ve still got work to do
And as much as we talk
About the Endings
We never really know
Where or when
We will see
God’s face
Again

Plate Tectonics

A plein air painting of the steep cliffs of the Pelican Bluffs trail on the Mendocino coast of northern California

 

When two bodies collide
There will always be
A fault line to find
In you or in me
But not now
For today we are lovers
Folded one around the other
Cliffs and chasms
Metamorphic
And sedimentary flesh
Thrust like beating hearts
Love is a precipice
We stand on the edge
And as we spill over
We fall into the wind
And rise like mountains
On the updraft
And from these higher heavens
We wonder at all the gems
Glowing like children
Pouring out from the earth
Below

 

Artwork Title: Prime Pelican Real Estate
PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

Water Wheel

Time is a water-wheel
And we’ve gone around the bend
Water spills out
And down the creek
To the oceans to the clouds
And back for another spin
Looks like we’ve got a whole new chance
To do it all over
Again

Our last turn was dripping
Into an empty room
Full of whole new ways
To put each other down
Busted neon
And a broken tune
Perfection left the practice
All in a ruin

Yet water takes the form
Of the vessels that hold it
The river is the shape of the valley
And the poem is the shape
Of the thoughts in the mind
Of the one who thunk it and told it
So we’ve got another year ahead
To take this water
And mold it

Let’s think some higher thoughts
Of garden plots
And fresh laid eggs
Or just getting along and getting by
With our feet in the dirt
And the only division
Is the line between earth and sky
Let’s hold this year’s water
In better jugs
And nicer buckets
Or even that fancy pitcher
That your grandma left to you
Yep, that one
The one that’s hard to reach
The one up in the back of the highest cabinet
The one that’s shaped like a chicken
And makes you laugh every time
It may not work at all
But it might be
Worth a try

Ghosts Can’t Swim

You never really know
Who they bring along
What ghosts are riding shotgun
Talking
And drowning out the song

But everybody here
Knows that ghosts can’t swim
Cold water to them is searing heat
And anyway
They can’t even stand
A bit of sand on their feet

The ghosts just stay in the cars
Angry at the stars
And their children here below
Made of countless planets
That stick between their toes

So in the cars they wait
Grumpy
Listening to AM radio
While the real people
Laugh and play
Real smiles on real faces
Beneath a bluer sky
Better times
And better places

So linger a bit if you will
Lend that wax to the stranger
Crack those jokes
And hide those beers from the ranger
Take it easy
And take it slow
And don’t be in such a hurry to go
Because it’s never really known
Just who’s waiting for your friends
On their lonely ride home

The Light In Our Eyes

One fine morning we arose
And somehow cooked
Our morning brews
Seventeen machines
From which we could choose
And some of them
Are pretty good

We stare into ceramic darkness
That floods our morning with life
Egad, what’s this?
The sun that shines
In our eyes while we’re trying to write

Piercing light whom I address
One little request if I may
Just please step aside
And shine from behind
My eyes weren’t yet ready to play
My coffee’s not drank
My mind like a bank
Robbed at the break of day
But take it slow if you will
And I’ll dip this quill
And jot down whatever you say

And though I heard every last word
It now seems rather absurd
Like a worm that swallows the bird
And the details may be a bit blurred
But it went something like this
Rest assured…

The moon is in tears
Out under the pier
For her lover’s been stabbed by the light
She’s dressed to the nines
And dark eye shadow lines
Streak her cheeks as the night slowly dies

The clouds collapsed
When lighting made cracks
In the urn in which the wind churned
Out the rain poured
Through cracks in the floor
And the fire no longer burned

Winter’s love has gone cold
There’s nothing left here to hold
You walk in and she just looks away
But the note on the pillow
And her suitcase of snow
Make it clear that she’s leaving today

This season of strife
This fight for your life
This darkness that conquered the world
It’s converted to digits
There’s no way to bridge it
In a blaze of light the plug will be pulled

The night and the storm
This season forlorn
You know them well and you hold them so tight
You let them define you
But let me remind you
The warmth of the sun still brings you delight
And when all things end
I’ll still call you my friend
I am here and I am the light

War and Peace

Plein air painting of the Humboldt county coast near Trinidad, California

Conflict is inevitable  
The Sea sends its navy   
To war against the Land  
The Fog lays an ambush   
Against the Bluer Skies   
The Mud launches a ground assault   
Against Your Soggy Boots  
Warring factions lie in wait   
Around every bend   
At the end of this trail   
Named for a creek   
Whose Latin tributaries can be traced   
Through blood red thickets  
Back to the god of war   
Whose thirst for conflict   
Is only surpassed   
By the mutiny of his forces   
Aligning with Dappled Light   
and Babbling Creek   
And Chirping Birds  
and Buzzing Bees   
And the Unhurried Lover  
In Your Arms  
Conspiring   
To bring  
Peace

Proof of Concept

Plein air painting by Matt Beard of the California coast just north of Point Conception

Painted this one en route to a lighthouse at California’s greatest turning point. I was originally going to paint the beach park about 5 miles north of this point, just around that first bend in the distance of this painting. After walking about 30 feet north to seek a nearby view, not even getting out of the parking lot, I turned on a whim and walked south. For 5 miles. I did some things wrong. I didn’t check the tide. I didn’t consult a map. I didn’t bring any food. All I remember is reading that you could walk to the lighthouse now, so off I went.

When I reached the 5 mile mark I couldn’t go any further on the beach, blocked by the massive cliffs jutting right into the water. No lighthouse in sight, I figured I would just follow the road that came down the ravine here. Lots of no trespassing signs, I mean, they really wanted to let people know, but I recognized the name on the sign as the previous landowners and so I thought that surely these must be out of date. When I got up on the bluff I could make out the lighthouse in the distance a little less than a mile away.

I could also make out a white truck. It’s always a white truck. I don’t know why. It just is.

Well, I figured the worst that might happen is that I’d be asked to leave. I figured I could talk my way out of any situation that arose, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to talk my way into permission to pass if that’s what it came to. So after getting this far without thinking things through, I did the first smart thing I’d done all day. I retreated about 30 feet below the crest of the hill, out of sight from whoever was rolling around in that white truck, and painted this scene looking back over the coast I’d just traversed. This way even if I got kicked out of here on my way to ascend the knoll where the lighthouse was, I’d at least go home with this painting done. Proof of Concept, if you will.

“GROUNDWATER” @Morris Graves Museum of Art | March 31-April 29

 

“GROUNDWATER”

In addition to creating a new series of work live during the Redwood Coast Music Festival at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, I will also be showing one of my favorite bodies of work in the Floyd Bettiga Gallery (downstairs from the main floor).

My Insinuation Series explores the idea of using light and subtle contours of stylized water to suggest, or “insinuate” the presence of a looming wave without actually showing the wave form itself. A poetic treatment of one of my favorite subjects of all time.

I’ll be sure to sneak a few other things in there too, just for fun…

SDSFF 2017 Skip Frye Tribute: The Glider

This year the San Diego Surf Film Festival hosted a heartfelt tribute night to San Diego’s Skip Frye, who has been building beautiful boards and outsurfing everyone for over 50 years. The hall was packed with legends of the surfing world there to honor Skip with the SDSFF Lifetime Achievement Award. As each speaker stood to speak about Skip they would mention what an honor it was to honor such an inspiring individual. If they could have read the mind of the painter standing in the back of the hall busy crafting this visual tribute to Skip based on an old Ron Stoner photograph, they would have seen that there was nobody in the room that felt more unworthy of the honor of being there than him. Of all the amazing artists in San Diego, this fuzzy kid from Humboldt rolls down and is asked to perform his trade for the audience to admire, heckle, mock, or cheer (all of which happened in spades). Beyond stoked. This one was for Skip.