Talk of the Endings

January 8, 2022

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

January 6, 2022

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

January 4, 2022

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

December 28, 2021

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

December 21, 2021

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 …

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Again



December 2, 2021

1981  
She sat in her chair   
Laughing  
(with concern)  
When I put 27 grapes in my mouth at once  
And got one stuck up my nose  
Again  
  
1982  
She sat in her chair   
Sleeping  
(blissfully unaware)  
While I dug a hole  
All the way to China  
Again  
  
1983  
She sat in her chair  
Pondering  
(with me)  
When I sat beside her and asked  
Why the sand was full of plastic  
Again  
  
1984  
She sat in her chair   
Reading  
(romance novels)  
When I was hit in the head  
By a stray surfboard  
Again  
  
1985  
She jumped out of her chair  
Yelling  
(things I can’t repeat)  
At the seagull thiefs   
Who came for our lunches  
Again  
  
1986  
She sat on her boogie board  
Grinning  
(behind dark sunglasses)  
Like the coolest kid on the beach  
After riding the wave of her life  
Again  
  
2021  
She sat in her chair alone
Leaving  
(this world behind)  
And I wish we could be  
Back on this beach
Again  


Parts and Pieces

December 2, 2021

I forged you in an open field
On a bright and cloudless day
Rare elements and minerals
Mixed within the clay
You took the form my eyes beheld
And there was no other way
I gave to you part of myself
And let the chips fall where they may
I gave you more and more and more
I gave and then I gave

And now parts of me are missing
I’m losing pieces everyday
I’m not the same as I ever was
And I don’t know what to say

You stuck your boot into the mud
Your hand into the brine
You painted me as though I mattered
As though parts of you were mine
And now I’ll go into the world
Forgotten by design
Set aside where few will see
Although to them I just may shine
But it’s not me that draws them in
It’s the parts of you they find

And now parts of you are with me
I’m finding more everyday
I’m not the same as I ever was
And I don’t know what to say


Proof of Concept


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

05/03/2021

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 o…

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My Father’s Song



November 8, 2021

There’s a song my father used to sing
Not really a song at all
Just a rhythm of syllables
Rising and falling
With every step
And a pause with
Every breath

There were never any words
Neither for the song itself
Nor for the way
It brings me home

It would often be sung
Out in the wilderness
Surrounded by wonders
Sometimes emerging
From an ice cold pool
Formed by a beaver dam
In the high mountains

Or sometimes just in the kitchen
After a phone call
Grandpa has gone home
And our hearts fell
Like fresh-washed plates
And broke

Today I heard the song again
It came from my own heart
Sung quietly over my kids
On a forest path
As they took my hand
And said
Papa we’ll show you
The waterfall
And the ice cold pool

And along that path
The song walked along
Never really beginning
And never really ending
Just filling the air
Like the call of birds
Like the rush of the creek
Like my Father’s song


Say Nothing



09/25/2021

The land behind me as I painted this view belongs to Neil Young, and I couldn't help but recall him singing the old Woodie Guthrie tune This Land is Your Land:

As I was walkin', I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "no trespassing"
But on the other side, it didn't say nothin'
That side was made for you and me

Had me tempted to go walking right through his land. But I'm pretty sure it was just a song he was covering and not his life manifesto or anything and if I'd made it very far at all nobody would have …

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Pale Blue Eyes



07/30/2021

It’s true, that fog just lingered on, and on. Those pale blue eyes…

I saw a burst of blue sky while rounding a bend and thought for sure the fog was lifting. That was my mistake- thinking anything was sure about fog. I should know better. And I generally do, but the scene was truly beautiful so I thought I’d risk it for the biscuit and I barely got a sketch in before the fog went all gray and dark. I could still make out the foreground ok, but mostly just had to finish the piece on that first impression of a memory. All good. It can be somewhat liberating to chase a memory because it’s more of a feeling than a literal thing to look at and compare to. When it works it’s a lot of fun.


The Whole Wide World



05/05/2021

This was a commissioned piece for a couple who was married on the bluff beneath those trees in the distance. It had me thinking of marriage and a song I’d been enjoying by Bill Callahan called Pigeons where he sings:

when you are dating, you only see each other
And the rest of us can go to hell
But when you are married, you’re married to the whole wide world

I thought that was pretty much genius and truth. So I named this painting after the song.

Also unrelated to the title and song and all that, the wind was howling so much so that I had the easel blow over twice even with my weighted pack on it. That’s unusual. I ended up finding some loose bricks from an old industrial foundation and used some tape I keep rolled around my water jug to strap bricks to the windward leg of my easel, which did the trick, but still was a challenge to paint through and I called it a day while the painting was still in a pretty rough state. Had quite a bit of studio finish work to do on this one when I got home later.


Ether



05/05/2021

Ever since I’d heard about the remains of this old pier at the bottom of a steep cliff, all covered in graffiti, I knew I’d need to paint the place. The morning fog kept me from being able to paint another cliff top vista nearby so I took advantage of the weather to paint these remains from a close distance where the fog wouldn’t obscure my subject completely. I didn’t know the graffiti would read “ether”. Seemed appropriate to me on this day where even one’s own thoughts seemed to vanish in the ether of fog every few steps.  Halfway through painting the sun burned the fog away and a beautiful morning light hit the remains and I went after it.


Nowhere Else to Go



05/04/2021

Sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go.

You might be the raindrop drifting freely from a cloud, your flight abruptly ending in earth.

You might be the stream gathered from many mountains rushing down the valley locking into every twist and turn, hypnotized like a teenage race car driver, your mad dash halted by the edge of a cliff and suddenly you are a raindrop once again.

Or you might be the thermal energy stored up and released in the wind and transferred to the ocean as you march a thousand miles, flinging water molecules in a great circle behind you as you run at the pace that your slow decay calls for until one day it all comes crashing down and you meet a steep beach beneath a waterfall and in your final breath your exhalation sends water droplets into the warm air to become part of the atmosphere and eventually yes, a rain drop.

Or you might be me grumbling along a tourist coral herded like cattle until you reach a fence across the trail cutting your trip short and forcing you to stop in your tracks and paint the scene from where you stand, damn the stinkeye you get from the occasional tourist who is certain that your sprawling art setup is hogging the only photogenic spot on this wickedly shortened trail.  I tend to be a water person, I flow around things rather than push through, always seeking the path of least resistance, letting gravity pull me along, but just like the rain drops, sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go.


Sorry Not Sorry



05/03/2021

So this was different. There's a really great beach park 6 miles north of here that I hadn't painted for awhile. I was on my way through the area and thought it would be fun to return and see what I could do with it after a few years of pushing my art process a little further along. I had the idea to hike to a small bluff just north of the park and explore for a different view from over there. I made it about ten feet from my van and then had an idea.

I recalled reading recently that you could hike to the lighthouse 6 miles south of the park at low tides. I didn't say I had a good idea. But I…

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The Sea is for “California”



05/02/2021

The Sea is for “California”
The Ay is for “Ay, it looks kinda fun out there”
The El is for “Where the El did all these people come from? It didn’t look this crowded a minute ago”
The I is for “I didn’t see you back there”
The Ef is for things I’ve heard out there that I can’t repeat
The Oh, is for “Oh look at this set coming in”
The Arr is for “Arr, that guy seems like he’s getting every wave with that massive log”
The In is for “Hey those guys just went in”
The I is for “I might get a wave or two now”
The Ay is for “ay, it is was super fun out there today”


Cottage Industry



04/30/2021

Hot exhaust fumes hardening into tar deposits hanging in the air over the snow cone machines where the tourist buses come to die and pour out their guts just short of the hospital where elderly cottages are kept on life support by the steady IV drip of short-term rental vacation deposits.

This place is bought and sold to the masses as a glimpse back in time to an older California.

Except the older California didn’t have a gift shop.

I just came to paint and move on. It really is an adorable little cove though.


Jacob’s Ladder



04/29/2021

The pier is condemned. And the scene at the foot of the pier is… interesting. Police patrols. Dealers. All manner of modern American riff raff.

Let’s call the man by the stairs Jacob.

In the biblical narrative, Jacob “took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.”

Our Jacob sleeps with his head on the concrete.

“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth…”

Ours is a cement stairway with metal handrails.

“and the top of it reached to heaven and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”

And ours is the top of the pier where couples in love stand and take in the cool salt air, because when your bed is the stone of concrete wherever you lay, and you have made some bad decisions and maybe even burned some bridges with your own family so now you have nobody to help you in your loneliness, well… the gulf that stands between your sad state and that of a couple in love on a pier in the sun may as well be the chasm that separates heaven and earth themselves.

And it is the Jacob’s of the world that God chooses for the greatest things.


No Van is an Island



04/28/2021

Another view from the roof of my van. To be honest I pretty much just painted this because the prime parking spot had just opened up. It was a busy morning on a bright summer day and I was worried if I didn’t stay here I might not find another parking place all day. I opted for the rooftop view not as much because of the compositional possibilities it offered (I actually liked the view from below a little better), but because it would give me a buffer from all the busy activity below. Throw some headphones on and I could be in my own private outdoor studio for the next few hours and that sounded just fine to me.

Even still that didn’t stop friends from passing by, climbing up on the roof to check things out, grabbing beers from my cooler below and having a generally fine time.

But what could I do? After all, it’s just like they say…

No Van is an Island.


Just Before Sunset



04/28/2021

One of those summer evenings that make you just feel like life could always be this way. It can’t. But in the moment, maybe it sorta can.

I painted this while watching one particular section of reef where wave after wave peeled across in perfection.  I couldn’t finish this quick enough.

I caught one gem of a wave just before the sun set, a roller that passed under the outside reef and was setting up nicely just where I was hunting. The rest of the pack was further in and as I faded and stalled to line up the wave for a speed run when it stood up on the reef I heard someone screaming behind me. Had to turn and see what the fuss was and it was some guy on a longboard that I’d already passed by as I wove through the crowd, he must have turned and paddled in behind me and now was trying to call me off this little beauty. Nope. The effect of his yelling was counterproductive for him as all it did was cause me to stall a bit longer than intended and then promptly stuff him in the whitewater as I turned up and into the bending wall before me. It was a racetrack to the end, and when I finally came through as the wave slowed up again, he was nowhere to be seen. Sorry buddy. But not sorry at all. That was a fun one.

The only thing I really am sorry for is talking explicitly about surfing right now. I generally try to avoid this sort of thing. I don’t know, it always sounds pretty silly. I guess that’s because it is. You can’t take things too seriously on summer evenings like this.


The Boulevard



04/27/2021

I came with a plan.

The plan was to paint these sculpted arches and coves and the sea at work around them while ignoring everything else. Forget the palms, forget the houses, forget the sun and the sky, forget the boulevard, and forget it’s name along with my own and just get lost in the weathered sandstone and rhythms of water and paint.

But I also came with a van. With a roof platform. And four other artist pals. And a cooler full of ice cold beer.

Next thing I knew I was up on the van painting, well, everything.


None Shall Pass



04/26/2021

An arch that’s been painted once or twice or a thousand times before this, and will be again by countless others walking these shores.

All I know is that at least on this day they better approach from the south, because there was no getting past the rocks on the north side. A steady stream of snap-shotters and well dressed selfie-seekers poured into this arch as I stood and painted, and everyone one of them stopped and turned around to go back to from whence they came.

None shall pass.

For effect feel free to picture a pirate sitting on the arch spitting and cursing all of us softies down below, the dirty soles of his feet swinging in the wind overhead, while the barrel beside him leaks almost as much as the streams of rum running down his beard*.

NONE SHALL PASS.

*I am not the pirate. Any resemblance is purely coincidental and imagined.

 


Capital Punishment



04/26/2021

To kill a killer. Justice served. Except in this case I don’t think the killer ever actually killed anyone, and even if so, it was certainly not intentional. “Killer” was only a nickname. In fact the “killer” was much loved and revered by California surfers until 1966, when capital punishment was dished out and the “killer” would be no more.

You know what I’m talking about. But if you don’t it should be too hard to look up. The clues are plenty.

I will say this though, my wife’s family was from this little town. There’s even a massive photo of her grandpa Mel on the wall hanging in one of the hotels down in the harbor. There he stands to this day, grinning, shirtless, holding behind him a redwood surfboard that must have weighed more than any of his 4 children at the time.

I recall asking him about the harbor that was built here that ended the days of the “killer”, and he seemed confused that I asked him if he was sad to see it built and ruin such a great surf spot. He said flatly that the harbor was the best thing that ever happened to this place. I wasn’t about to push this any further with him. A matter of perspective I suppose.

It’s a beautiful headland, and a beautiful harbor at that. I just couldn’t help but hint in this painting at what once used to happen when large swells marched into this cove before the breakwater effectively stopped them in their tracks.


The Royal Treatment



04/25/2021

Already a long day of painting, this was a late afternoon session down the street from a restaurant where I’d just ate and drank to my fill with an old friend. I was supposed to be delivering a fresh batch of canvas prints to the restaurant as well. After a relaxed meal I told them I’d be right back with the art that was in my van around the back, then promptly got to talking with my old pal about where I might go paint next and he wanted to show me this spot and we got so excited that I jumped in the van and followed him down the hill to paint this scene.

About half way through painting it, I realized that all the art I was supposed to deliver was still in the van and they must have thought I was the biggest hack of an artist they’d ever seen. “Yeah I’ve got the prints, how about some food and beers first?” and “yeah, I’ll be right back with the art” and poof, I was gone. Never trust an artist.

All was well and good when I returned though, I think they were so relieved to see me back and deliver the goods that they went right ahead and fed me again. The royal treatment indeed.


It wouldn’t be wrong to mention the restaurant here would it? I highly recommend The Shore Grille.

Hiding in Plain Sight



04/25/2021

Between two worlds. The haves and the have-not-as-muches. The elite and the illicit. The sacred and the profane. The billionaires and the bankrupt. And everything in between. This place is hiding in plain sight. And so was I while painting it. Over the roped off area, sneaking a view of this peak, the prime spot in plain sight from the well traveled path on the grounds of an infamous con-man-in-chief, whose hired staff may or may not care that I was painting where I was.  Only one way to find out.

They didn’t care.

But even if they had, I went after this one fast, laying a sketch at breakneck speed, so that even if I got the jackboot before I could finish, I’d at least have enough information on the canvas to get ‘er done later. It was worth the effort. This would mean a lot to it’s eventual owner, a surfer who pioneered this wave that had been considered unrideable by those who came before him.  And not only that, he resisted the naked territorialism that was familiar to the north and south of this place, inspiring the next generation to guard this special place with aloha and skill instead of zip codes and fists.

An old friend who was part of this generation rallied the crew to have me paint this for the man they hold in the highest regard and who is now suffering a slow and painful illness. It’s an honor I can hardly describe, and I hope it brings back a million good memories every time he looks at it.