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.

andiwaslike

My kids say, “I was like…” all the time. And it fucking pisses me off. [Full disclosure: I say it all the time.]

“I was like…”

Whatever happened to “I said…”? or “I turned to her and replied…”? or “I looked at him and basically screamed that…”?

It’s all, “I was like…” now.

It’s a verbal simplification that will destroy the minds of man. Over time.  All of us.

The simpler we make things, the stupider we make things. Consider the tweet or Ikea. We find so that the mind doesn’t matter more and more. Design for the dumbest among us. The quickest fixes. The quality falters.

And what? Hope for the best?

loser

I’m a loser. I really am. And not in a really bad way, but I’m not cool, or daring, or particularly outgoing. Not that I ever was, but I think age solidifies our personal qualities. So my loser-ness is increasing.

I don’t go out much. I don’t really care to. I don’t particularly care to see music performed or movies in a cinema. Brian Eno could come through town but if it looked like rain, I might skip it. Okay, not Brian Eno, but anyone else. It might be too loud or too crowded. Parking might suck. I’m cool just listening to the radio.

Travel really doesn’t interest me. I know I should be hang-gliding en la montanas de Brazil right now, but I really don’t want to. I don’t like heights, Brazil is a long way away. Air travel sucks, who knows what kind of shitty hotel I’d end up in?

I like well-prepared, high end, locavore cuisine, but not if it inconveniences me to get it. The amazing new restaurant? It’s miles away. The joy of cooking? Not any more. Too much work. I crack a can of this or that and eat standing up in the kitchen.

I don’t watch much television and I rarely see any movies so I’m absolutely unable to keep up with any pop culture conversation whatsoever. And that’s not some, I just sit around and read great novels, I don’t. A bit of this and a bit of that.

Maybe this just makes me a homebody, and not a loser, but sometimes if feels really loserly.

My friend thinks I’m boring. My family mocks me.

I pity my wife.

I’m a loser.

I wrote it on the wall – that might help

Big History

This is really important – funny to say considering he’s talking essentially about everything – everything we can (or think we) know through all of history – Big Bang to now. Big History.

Mr. Christian both illuminates our tiny, tiny, tiny place in Big History; but also shows us how vitally important our place is in it – at least in regards to our own survival – that being the survival of the most complex, learned, and learning organisms we know to have existed. It’s not simply hubris to say we’re crazy amazing!

It reminds us that our obliteration would be both the saddest thing we could know, and ultimately, just an infinitesimally small blip in Big History. Humbling, to say the least.

Every kid should watch this every year, at least, as a reminder to just how simultaneously small, yet hugely important, a person they are in Big History.

balls

My four year old came down the stairs while I was making dinner. “Dad? What do you call the thing below my jingler.” “Jingler”, in our parlance, is penis.

“Well…” I said

“It looks like a bag!” he said.

“Well…” I said. “It’s sometimes called that, yes.”

“A bag?”

“Or a sack.” I offered.

“But what do you really call it – really?” he pleaded

“A scrotum,” I said.

“A scrotum?” He was not at all happy with that crappy word.

“Or your balls,” I said.

“What!?”

“Your balls,” I reiterated. “Like ball sack.”

“Mom!” he yelled, turning back up the stairs. “Dad said I can call it my balls!”

I know now that he asked his mom that same question and she said, as every mother does (who can), “Go ask your dad.”

Well… He’s got a word for it. And it’s a pretty common word. I think this was a win as a dad. I’m not sure though. Unless he brings it up in polite society as I would never do.

Where Comes Inspiration?

I was born in November 1963 which puts me in the last years of the Baby Boomers or the very first years of Generation X – depending upon who you ask. My older relatives then, those of my same generation, were boomers essentially and those to whom I looked for all things cool – music especially. So my sensibilities were formed around bands from the sixties and seventies – Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Hendrix, Doors, Floyd, Zeppelin, Byrds, and the like. My coming of age however really happened throughout the seventies (I was 7 – 17) and while that is a decade often derided for it’s music it actually introduced us to heavy metal, the ska revival, punk rock, glam rock, electronic, ambient, hip hop and new wave – a staggering line up of musical styles and movements to emerge in a single decade.

We knew at the time that the music was amazing but didn’t really realize that it was a sort of perfect storm winding up all around us. However it was extremely short lived and while buckets of great music have been made since, much of that is derived quite directly from one or more of those styles. Certainly all music is derived to some degree from that which preceded it, but a brand new musical style that leaps ahead and brings with it a new sound, corresponding fashion, attitude and so on, seems to be eluding us. Something is missing and I have no clear idea what that is. …

Certainly, the sixties and seventies saw generations of young people who had an almost grim determination to not be like their parents. There was a distrust of the System (Vietnam and Nixon both taught us that despite the fact that we elect these folks and that they are OUR leaders, they can be wrong, criminal and criminally wrong). There was a sense from civil rights and the women’s movement that ALL people need to be respected and have some sort of equal chance at the good life, jobs, education and so on. It was also not lost on us at the time that growing up white and middle to upper class in America gave us every advantage in the world and that nothing could essentially change that. We all took off with a fifty yard start in the 100-yard dash of life and success.

I don’t know this to be fact but it feels like much of that has been forgotten or never learned recently, The somewhat anemic Occupy protests were a welcome attempt but never galvanized around any issue and felt more like some sort of flash mob than anything else. The only other rage in this country right now comes from my contemporaries – those who also grew up with same advantages that most of the rest of the world (now and throughout all of history) would simply roll over and die for – and is inspired not by their sense of injustice for the poor, women, the downtrodden or any others, but because they feel they pay too much taxes. We, of course, pay the lowest of all western nations. What happened to their sense of gratitude and thankfulness for their lot in life eludes many of the rest of us.

However, maybe the next generation – those who are in diapers now – will grow up so appalled by the niggardly among us that they will burst out with something totally new. Maybe our self-righteous avarice will be exactly what they rebel against and bring back that desire and demand for real truth, fairness, justice for all and a return to a maybe mythic American way when people came together, compromised, helped the poor and wretched, and thought more about how much they have and how much they can share than how much they get to keep all to themselves. A time when your country and conscience came before your party. Maybe even a resurgence of the real Christianity that teaches us to give away our riches, rather than hoard them and complain when we are asked to give.

And maybe not.

I’ve always felt that greed is the basis if all evil. It will never go away. But maybe, just maybe, the next generation will see it for what it really is and at the very least use it to artistically blow our musical minds like The Specials, Kraftwerk, Eno, Sex Pistols, Bowie, and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five did. Have at it, kiddies! We need you desperately.

I don’t like tube socks.

Allow me to come out at this point against tube socks. I know it’s not a huge issue on anyone’s mind right now what with the slow economic recovery and that lady with flesh-eating disease, but tube socks just really piss me off. They don’t fit…anything, but some piece of wood shaped exactly like a tube sock. And that seam at the toes does whatever the fuck it wants! Might’s well just toss a piece of wire into your shoe and allow it to land where it may. And there being no heel means there’s never a heel. You can wear it a thousand times and work in a thousand heels, basically inflating the sock in every direction nine inches from the toe so you’ve got some tricked out cotton Japanese lantern, drunk on sake, making very little sense. Ever. Tube socks are bad.

On a related note, no human has walked this earth looking better with a Mohawk than they would bald. Truism, that.