Internal Communications

There is a stage every painting I create goes through at the very beginning that I fall in love with almost every time. It’s not the polished end-game, it’s the initial quick sketch with the first few thin washes of color applied. There is something about that first reaction to the scene before me that happens almost by itself. It is purely joyful to me. After that stage I usually begin the arduous stage of building, building, building layer upon layer of heavier and heavier paint, just pushing, pushing until the painting finally looks like “my work” whatever the hell that is supposed to be… all I know is that it nearly sucks the life out of everything. Oh, I like the finished results in the end, but the whole thing is a just chore to get to that place. The painting becomes only about the end result and the process become mechanical, and contains very little mystery to me after that initial sketch stage.

For the last several years I’ve been grinding against this process, pushing painting after painting through the corridors of strained conformity to an expected standard of completion.

Until this one.

At Wine by the Sea this year I arrived fresh off a bender of live painting all weekend at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, sneaking in a quick break from painting there to come out to this wonderful event and… paint some more. With more live music! I am seriously the most spoiled artist in the world sometimes. After my initial sketch was laid out (with all the joy I previously mentioned) I went on a beer run (about 12 steps from my easel) and when I returned I saw the sketch just sitting there in its joyful glory, not asking for anything of me. This is awkward. I tried to tell it that I was at an event, this was a fundraiser, and I was expected to deliver something more, but this fun little sketch was a stubborn bugger, just sitting there all beautiful and in need of nothing. Reminded me of my wife. I realize this is not an argument I can win. In fact it’s probably not one I should even be having.

So I step away and discuss the matter with some lovely guests of the event, who showed themselves loyal friends and took my side in the matter, and yet… there she was, smiling in the misty breeze, entirely sure of herself. Dang. How can she do this to me? As I continued mulling over my problems to friends and strangers alike, something unusual happened. I heard myself. And upon hearing myself deliberating whether to push this painting that I love into becoming something it isn’t (for many great reasons, mind you), I couldn’t help but to see the obvious. There isn’t an artist in the world that I would advise continuing to push their work past it’s joyful place for the sake of living up to some external standard- real or imagined. No way.

You must listen to your work.
(and your wife)
And honor them both.

So that is what I chose.

Kansas City Star

This was a lot of fun to paint, and waaaay out of my comfort zone. If you know my work, you know what I mean. I’m a lot more comfortable painting rocks and trees inaccurately than I am doing the same injustices to the human form, but there they were, pouring themselves into their music for us only a few feet away. What could I do? I did my best. And this is where it landed.

It’s especially meaningful to me as I’ve painted at live events while dozens, possibly hundreds of musicians have played nearby, but never a group of musicians I’ve known as long as these guys. Usually I just paint whatever I feel like, flowing water, waves, etc, but today I felt like painting these guys while they did their thing. Our friendships go back over 25 years, long before, they played music together, before they formed Huckleberry Flint and proceeded to sell out shows. Long before two of them got the wild idea to figure out how to make chocolate from scratch and winning awards and selling chocolate all over the world as Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates. They even hired my oldest daughter and now she always smells like chocolate, and if we shake her hard enough, little bits of chocolate fall out of the hems in her shirt, and we laugh and make cookies. So yeah, this wasn’t just a painting of a band, this painting is a snapshot in time of friendships that have been forged over a lifetime.

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 young couple
Watching another southern California sunset
From the edge of crumbling cliff
Over the mirror of the sea
Clearly expecting
A green flash

I’d just finished painting the scene
And drinking 3 beers
That’s not exactly 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”
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
A number enough to 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
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 maybe 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 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
Beside 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 or not
But I knew that my three kids at home
And these three beers on the edge of this cliff
It was enough for me