The art of knowing you’re no artist

A good buddy of mine suggested painting lessons recently because essentially I suck at painting. I really do. I definitely suck from most people’s point of view – t’were it you saw my so-called paintings. That’s because I’ve no training at all. Nor do I with music or sculpture. All things I do a lot.

So there sort-of begins the conversation, right? I do these things without any formal training but only, and maybe selfishly, because I really, really dig doing them. I shape heads out of clay. I paint faces on whatever surface I want to – actual canvasses, basement floors, walls, beams, sheets of already printed-on paper. I grab my guitar, play chords poorly, and sing whatever the hell I’m thinking at that moment. And I have the gall to record it, douche bag that I am.

And now don’t be surprised, but none of it is winning any awards.

I know it might be pure laziness that I don’t take the time to learn how to paint an apple in the manner that the masters have. “You must paint an apple, before you can paint a tree,” I can imagine my zen-like artist teacher telling me. But I really don’t want to paint apples. I like painting silly, ever-evolving, cartoonish faces, all the time.

I bought my first 50 lb box of clay without anyone telling me even what the hell was in the box. Clay-like stuff, I figured, rightly. And since then I’ve shaped heads – lots of them. Should I have copied the great works to learn how to sculpt? Certainly, to learn how to sculpt like the masters, but I kind of just wanted to make heads and whatever heads came out of some hours of grabbing, slapping, rolling and shaping the clay, were exactly the heads I really, really wanted to make. That’s why I bought the clay.

It’s like that horrible cliché – it’s the journey and not the destination. But in this case it’s really true. The joy is in the process, the work, and the serendipitous outcome of non-talent meeting rigor. A passionate idea evoked through the foggy lens of a cipher – just some guy messing around with notes, or colors, or clay. It ain’t great, I promise you that. It may not even be art. But it’s me, really quite unfiltered by actual teaching or maybe even talent.

But it’s all good because I don’t want to be good. I just want to do it. I’ve no designs on being an artist, but I do like to make shit up.

the difference between one and not the other – four random recent things written down

The difference between one and not the other will never make sense.

The straight makes the not-straight great.

The static nature of anything is nothing,

It’s really hard to do anything authentic in a stadium.

 

not to be all critic guy but the wait for daft punk’s finally fucking here album Random Access Memory was well worth it.

“A smartphone in heliosynchronous orbit was issuing human screams.”

This from Harper’s “Findings,” May 2013

I love the word heliosynchronous!
It makes me high.
I would swear that it even pitches my voice higher.
I also think it goes very well with smartphone.
Orbit.

You can’t leave out Orbit!
Another outta-space word right there!
Contains Orb and
telegraphs Orbital.
Orb is religious, sacred. Space bends back in on itself.

Earth the size of a pool ball would be smoother.

Why, it begs, is there a smartphone orbiting Earth? Makes sense that it’s on time and in tune, however, being that it’s a smartphone. But why is it screaming?

I prefer to remain in the dark as to the undoubtedly reasonable explanation and instead stay heliosynchronous to my ignorance.

And in a nod to the power of reasonable explanations, also from “Findings”…

“Scientists proposed that male lions’ skill at ambushing prey in dense vegetation was previously unknown because of scientists’ fear of being ambushed by male lions in dense vegetation.”

Right on, that.

The Blue Light Flickers

Each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
and speak to the lights
at the tops of the poles
radiant and still
measured and steadfast
the voices that passed
reach to my present

How real is that nexus
trustworthy the voices?
Am I just a mad man
who’s made the wrong choices?
Who walks in the night
A ventriloquist of wishes
conjuring dead folk?
Highly suspicious!

Terrorized.
Superstitious.
I walk on.
I watch out.

And in every house
the blue light flickers
casting erratic shadows
broadcasting
transmissions
and jittery realities
belying the stillness
the stilted stiffness
of interest coupled with indifference.

To the history of the dead folk
Hubbard’s among them
first to connect us to
the sound and the vision
Like splitting the atom
breaking the silence
smashing the walls
Severing space.

A fine hocus pocus –
And all the world turned
and focused.

But they’re lonely, the dead folk
The ones that you know
They wish you would listen
Pay a little attention
They know that you’re busy, but, really?
You speak to your gods, you stare at your screens
but find not a moment to say what you mean
to the ones who know you
the ones who know now

if you listen, they will speak
if you speak, they will listen
take time. be quiet. talk. wait.
repeat.

And the other dead folk – the pioneers!
they broadcast the future
to eyes and to ears
like sneaky disease
slips in through the breathing
bypassing the mind
dissecting the meaning.
Red, Green and Blue
is plenty for you
native man
lotus eater.

And in every house the blue light flickers.

The sky is eclipsed
by a star machine
manufacturing gods, heroes and
heroines, heroin, mescaline,
vicodin, maryjane,
alcohol, cocaine,
fame,
ecstasy, baby,
you’ll be king!
A queen.
A pawn.

An old man stifles a yawn.

Beneath my feet the sidewalk retreats
the oncoming traffic of life in the seats
and the chairs and the sofas
the idle, bystanders,
loungers and loafers
(bumps on a log
lumps in a bog)
extinguishing stories
personal glories
and staring.

A fine hocus pocus –
And the world turned
and focused.

But the others, the headmost,
ahead of the curve
who colonized the minds
of the hoi polloi,
they were as surprised as you and I.
This technochimera
spearheading and primitive
could (high)jack right into
primordial you and I
inventing the gaping maw
and glassy eye.

And each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
surrounded by dead friends
and family just waiting
for us to discern
them from the gods,
the gods from them,
one is unknowable
one is at hand.

Meanwhile…

A man suddenly stands,
stretches and leaves the room

a woman leans back
and lifts her arm

a guy rubs his eye
and contorts his face

and I see in these moments
what they’ll never see
scenes in the movie
starring the man who stands,
the leaning lady and rubbing guy.

Watching and walking
I’m on to the next.

Please don’t shut your curtains
Please don’t look my way.

Only the children and the animals can make us better people.

That just occurred to me, suddenly, but what does it mean? I think that what it means is to be good is simple and all of our evolution and intellect and religion and forward progress really has nothing to do with being good. Good is there in its most basic form. You can see it in children and you can see it in the animal kingdom. That’s enough. The rest is all of us just trying too hard to claim it.

a stump a storm a stone

A Stump

There’s nothing more sad than a stump.
A hole in the sky where once was majesty.
A disk. A flat, ruined, pointless disk.

A Storm

April is the cruelest month
when days in the fifties
are marched back to February
by eagerly unwanted snow.

A Stone

They combed the beach for agates
gathered whatever they found
they named them all agates
then left them on the ground.

the republicans have been robbed!

Part of me wants to say “Hip Hip Hooray for Rob Portman!” The republican senator from Ohio came out yesterday in support of same-sex marriage – which is gutsy in a party that generally thinks homosexuals are deviants, the earth is seven thousand years old, and all you need are bootstraps to be as fat and happy as Wall Street CEOs.

It seems Rob’s son came out to him and that is what changed his mind. This is all still laudable, but when you are unable to have empathy for any sort of person until there is one of those sorts of people in your own family you might be lacking a sufficient amount of empathy. I’m not even sure empathy is what we feel for our own children considering the absolute closeness we feel with them. The sadness and joy we feel when our own children feel sadness and joy seems closer to some sort of Vulcan mind meld than something called empathy.

Either way, I’ll go with “Hip Hip Hooray!” And add, “Welcome to the enlightenment, the 21st century, and common human decency!”

Hagiography

I can’t say how much I love how Edward St. Aubyn skewers the holy, high and mighty, landed, nam-ed, people of his Patrick Melrose novels. But I also feel a similar anger toward his own prodigious talent. Like, well, fuck you, Eddie, with all you got through whatever genetic re-redistribution that led to your own genius! You are the heir to whatever it is you do. You skewer them with the same unabashed cruelty and poetry that they do others. Yes, you are infinitely better and more able, while they skewer, you fillet. And I Iove you for it. But I hate you, too. That cruelty doesn’t come from nowhere.

And that’s the point, I guess. I love you again.