Sunday, December 15, 2013

as the art industry winds down from the gloating
and whining of miami,
my interests turn to more modest proposals:
the practice of drawing.
more specifically, drawing with paint.

this is not the fine work of graphite
And ink- this is paint-- dense of body 
and of a decidedly independent character.

there is the physical nature of the practice--
i enjoy the buckling of the paper, 
curling as it does beneath the wash of gesso
or the dirty, dried brush line 
of ivory black...

there is hard beauty to be found 
in the motions of hand and paper--
the "line" versus "surface",
the language of tool and wrist...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


my daughter was pissed that mommy went off to work.
an hour and a half later (desperate) we were making art.
at 2 years of age, her paint handling is robust--
heavy with the authority that comes from not giving a shit.
my contributions-- soundly dismissed beneath the gravity
of her fevered, joyful expression…

our collaboration made me mourn those awful hours
of self-consciousness and professionalism--
the meager theater of "trying…"


it has occurred to me that every practice
attaches itself, at its highest level, to "art".
dentistry, law, carpentry, tending bar, gambling,
selling crack, stringing tennis racquets,
running guns, or any number of poor souls and ill gotten gains…

everything wants to be "art", but only art is "art".

art is lonely. or at least, maybe it should be…
it isn't the massed concrete of Chelsea avenues,
or Culver City sidewalks
and it wasn't the cobblestones of SoHo.
art is the studio-- the dirty window,
the old coffee can housing the fossil of a 4-inch brush.
the drawing never finished; cheap white oil-- long since yellowed…


"I will tell you this:
no eternal reward 
will forgive us 
for wasting the dawn."

       Jim Morrison

there is craft: our learned practicality-
the processes and skill sets
that allowed our conquests of protein and fields.

the only thing worse than a man that can't put up a wall
is a woman who can't cook…

but we are losing "craft", we are losing ability…
and still, the journeyman aspires to "art".

in an era of manual incompetence,
my daughter will know how to cook
in the kitchen, or over the embers of a fire she built
and indeed, lit, if need be, bereft of matches,
a lighter or any number of convenient surplus.
she will know how to build a wall, change a tire,
clean a fish, tie a hook, stretch a canvas,
break an arm, choke a man out
and the beauty of the head clinch and knee…

she will know the grace of an old book
and the mysteries of graphite and sunsets.

unless, of course,
she tells me to fuck off...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a little after 5pm on a friday, 7 university art students 
walked through the old gate and the old wooden door 
and up the old wooden stairs to my studio…

i wanted to talk about living in NYC
i told them to remember that their time will come
and they needed to be ready for it.
the right eyes and the right handshakes will happen
maybe not in a year or 2, but maybe in a decade or 3
someone will recognize what you've always known.
you just have to keep it going until it all comes together...

as a young poet i had no idea
i'd one day be a 46 year old painter.

i don't know how i got here but i made it to this place
and this point on the compass of all that i've lived through
and for the most part i'm smiling…

i told them to make sure they had a job
that paid for the paint and the walls of a studio.
luck is beautiful though never to be trusted.
i wanted to tell them that there is a responsibility to spend money.
if 500 sq. feet is almost 2 grand you can't sweat 10 bucks.
even when you're broke it's important to know
you can't be afraid to spend money if you have it.

one artist's thrift is another artist's lost chance.
the city is still hard and those taxis are there for a reason...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

the other morning a thought came to me-- 
a 72 LB kettlebell doesn't lie…

this thought could have been a meaningless patch
of metaphor at the end of a grueling
self-inflicted tribulation.
or it could have been an insert into the catalog of authenticity
parenthood has goaded me into investigating.

i don't know. 
i'm just trying to find my way.

in the day to day struggle to wake up get out get to work come home
there can be a sense of loss
and of delusion.
or illusion, or perhaps more creatively,
a lack thereof…
add the romantic struggles of a working artist
and it's easy to see why so few have the endurance,
the faith in the pursuit to carry on,
to push forward, to survive.

we can lie to ourselves and we can grow up
and we can turn on the television
and the computer
and play at limping through this 2nd decade
of the 21st fucking century.

we can play the game,
follow the rules
and waste whatever it is
we need to say and to see
and to share with the world
outside the studio walls…

for every artist soldiering on,
with or without success,
there are untold numbers cashing paychecks
for having given up on the dream.

the alternative of course,
is facing what is confronting us-
be it a chokehold, leg kick
or the sales of your work
not quite being where you want them to be.

this is scary shit…

and it cannot be handled blithely.
the artist, particularly, the painter,
holds much in common with the fighter-
in the gym alone, tuning into a very private song of war.

there are those who will give words of wisdom
yet none will feel the actuality
of the individual pain in process of the practice…

and then there is success.

it happens.

suddenly the gods are smiling on you--
and maybe you smile back.

or maybe not...

success can boost an ego
burdened by self-loathing or ennui,
but, perhaps, for some
it can be one of several nails in the coffin--
one question being:
how much is enough?

in a like sense,
for the evolved ego,
hard times may furnish the whetstone
for a blade dulled by insouciance,
while caving in the hopes
of the weak--
the fire of art
becoming, in the end,
a rote hobby--
a youthful and forgotten ember.

this then, is the culling of the herd.
the natural selection of art…

maybe. maybe not...

this is not hard and fast truth--
in fact none of this is anything at all-
simply my thoughts in my head,
thinking and learning out loud.

if we come to the understanding
that failure is not an option
we must also assert that success,
at times, harbors a shadow
of crisis all it's own…

now i ask of myself:
what does this have to do with authenticity?


don't lie to yourself.
make the best work you can
and get on with life…

if things are bad figure it out.
right the ship and get on with it…

if things are good and while kicking ass
and taking names
you note a grim melancholia--
step back and make some tough choices.
and then get on with it.

an honest artist should be ready to handle
the tough choices.

they should be made daily.
or if not daily--

we labor within our individual needs--
personally, i toil within an unpopulated landscape
of rugged mathematics--
addition and subtraction--
paint put down and paint taken off.
these are tough choices all,
but choices made
and consequences dealt with accordingly.

in my studio practice there often comes a time
when a canvas worked and worked
becomes (perhaps) something dishonest-
something not what it should be.
and eventually the dishonesty disappears
behind a wall of black or white gesso
and the hunt begins anew…

years ago the poetic Robert Kingston
admonished me to never save
a singular part of a painting…

as hard as it is at times,
i have strived to toe that line...

the brutal decisions are the most honest.
they reflect back to us
the beauty of what our art aspires to.

never doubt yourself in times of loss.

never question your art in the womb of success.
simply tune into your mechanisms--
feel yourself meld within the circumstances
of a market and scene

and match the best of those vibes
to the best in the studio.

ask yourself how it feels…

and make the tough choices.

to be fair,
i rather enjoy the dilemma of packing crates
and shipping paintings.
the logistics of customs
and adding bottles of wine to the modest collection.

the point is to carry on.

its important to take on the hardships
of our chosen path with resolve.

look the favors and sorrows in the eye--
staring back as hard
and as natural as a wolf.
or if not a wolf,
at least a bad motherfucker...

Sunday, July 21, 2013


5 or 6 years ago i made a commitment
to make "drawing" a prominent activity,
not only in my studio practice,
but also my day to day pursuits.
there have been minutes
hunched over a notebook
with a stick of charcoal
where i learned more about myself
and my art than any number of 19 hour shifts
in my Long Island City warehouse space of years ago,
fueled as i was by booze
and any number of unmentionable habits-
long since abandoned…

in that time, i've cast off the distinctions between
"finished" drawings and "working" drawings.
my works on paper swing wildly
between the geometries that move me
and the aggressive (or perhaps, meditative)
calligraphy that has since found it's way into my paintings.

there are the drawings that have been labored over
and across 3 or 4 years
and there are the drawings
that are simply what they are-
the movement of a brush,
or other tool across an expanse of paper…


i'm home and the family is asleep.
it's too late to start cooking,
so the meal will be of a simple tequila.
the labors have been in the nature of "setting up"--
under painting and the sorting out
of misconceptions
and false starts…
this can be maddening
or, at times pure,
indelicate release.

but, like changing a diaper
or cutting back the bamboo,
it is the work that is needed for now…

it's important to remember
that we are on this journey
to find out where it takes us,
not to reach a destination…

this is the paradox of the studio:
we're going nowhere and universal all at once.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

painting is hard. sometimes physically,
but its really not the physical thats a problem
with the making of art.
lets be honest, painting a picture
is not a 30 minute kettlebell session.
and its certainly not training with a badass stud
whose main goal is to choke you unconscious...

nonetheless, it can be a hard grind--
this practice of paint handling.

i'm not complaining.
we ask for so much of our suffering
that further comment is beyond redundant
and in the end, who cares?

a productive day of experimenting
and honing the craft.
fair enough.
and then, somehow,
the doubt creeps in.
the sulphorous odor
of ambition not met and $$$ not there.

and? well, i painted my way out of it...

for better or worse.
and lived to tell the tale.

life is good--
i'm a blessed man living and working
in a great city with a great family
pursuing my dreams.

but there are times of hardship--
not the hardship of a lack of coin in pocket,
or sleeping on cardboard
in the German countryside to be sure--
but there is hardship.
life-- the gods,
have a need to keep a man honest
or perhaps humble.

or if not humble,
at least on his game...

there are moments of loss--
bereft of a compass for such latitudes.
the brush, burdened as it is with paint
cannot make a mark.
the canvas slack--
impotent against the labors of sanding...

the idea that brought solidity to a composition
is now a lumpen impediment to progress
or, indeed, finality...

upon returning home,
my amazing wife surprised me
with a pair of grass-fed sirloins...

the evening was set:
a fine dinner from the grill
a finer Cabernet (Keenan '09)
and a bottle and bed
for baby Deegan...

it was not to be...
as i laid my daughter down for the night
she twisted into a baroque posture
that i could not accept.
in adjusting her,
i brought fourth a wrath
far greater
than any god
or woman
i've come across...

hours later, mother and daughter sleep
and i type these words.

things can go wrong-
for any number of reasons
at any time--
many of which are inconvenient...
our duty is to stagger
through the drama--
willful and somewhat intact...

it was a great day in the studio
but there were thorns
along the path...

and with the thorns
came wounds.

but the wounds healed
as quickly as the paint dried...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


somewhat ironic that the senate struts into the news
in the drag of whores
painted for the pleasures of artillery mavens
and rednecks
a day after the bombs of boston.

for a sad nation, a nation in mourning,
this is a sad wake up call for how fucked we are.

there is little shame in the reality
of how ugly an ignorant coalition of foolishness can be.

guns? what of them?
by the time i was 9 i'd fired more heavy firepower
than many of the losers screaming for more.
an army brat-- much time was spent on the range
with my father and his troops
and his friends and their beer
and the sounds of those fabulous engines of destruction.

my first gun was a gift for my 9th birthday...

where am i going with this?

good question...

sanity is something that can easily be questioned by the mad.
reality is but a dream to the lost...

more importantly,

those bringing up the 2nd amendment
don't understand the language
or, indeed, the intent...

i enjoy knives. sharpening them, honing the blade;
flipping them open childishly at inappropriate times...
i don't need a broadsword to bring home
the point of my enthusiasm or my skill.

a man needs a rifle to hunt. or, if not a rifle, a good bow;
an ability to trap, or amazing speed and strong teeth...
no person on earth
(outside of professional grade killers and soldiers)
needs the ability to fire more
than a few rounds in as many seconds.

but they argue FREEDOM...

what horrible nonsense...

what a disgrace to language and sacrifice--
the sacrifice of thousands before us.

there are "men" who don't know how to love
or how to cry
or how to cook a meal with passion...
there are "men" whose lives
revolve with the channels
on the television of their dreams.
these are the men
who cry for the steel
of firepower
to swell their sagging manhood
and bolster their shelter
against a world
too strong
and growing
far too intelligent...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

so, as my mother reads books with
(not to) my unsleeping 21 month old
she-warrior, i ponder on authenticity.
the notion of experience,
reality-- cooking the food you eat--
perhaps growing it. or, indeed, killing it...

there is little within the muscular practice
of parenthood that lacks the authentic.
clearly, the tales of nannies and day care
do not quite play into this equation--
though (to be fair) there are exceptions.
however, when my child wakes-
my wife or i (or in this instance, my mother)
are there to care for her needs.
when the diapers are to be changed,
that rigorous endeavor is carried out
as a very personal experience
for all involved-- including, of course,
the violent prototype that is my child.

so, yes, authenticity... you make a painting.
say, spend 6 or 7 years
putting the paint on and taking it off;
figuring it out and fucking it up.
the compositions may come and go,
but the painting remains--
reflecting it's authenticity--

this object, large or small,
there before you under the work lights...

back to the present:

my daughter teases me with a smile,
lurching towards me only to turn
with a squeal back to her grandmother.
she holds cards she may never know she controls
(i can only hope she understands her power in later years.)...
sharing her monosyllabic poetry
she hustles between us,
as my mother numbers the diaper
changes of the day.

and we all smile...

we're just back from 2 weeks in LA.
the weather was what you would expect and need
(beautiful) and life was strong and heart-felt.
several large paintings that have been worked
and re-worked these last 6 years or so
are nearing a strange finality.
late nights of tequila and revery
under the orange tree
led to decisions based less on need than fancy--

color, why not??

and what of color?
is it the trial of material itself,
or the romance of metaphor--
the color perhaps felt,
but never seen?
the color seen but never named?

i wrote in an LA notebook last year
(as an admonishment to myself,
perhaps a command,
perhaps a request to revisit a notion
of what i felt could be lacking
in my art, in my way with color), 
that yellow could be as declarative
a statement as black--
the actuality of the yellow itself
becoming the subject matter of a work--
as the black of a work
could be said to do the same.

going out on a limb,
i'd say you can't say that of blue.
blue, by it's mythic nature
becomes the ocean,
the sky, the lost poem you never wrote
but kept saying you would,
once you had a chance...

and authenticity?

who knows?

at times (perhaps now)
i've been sidelined
by the adorable toddler
storming my home.
i type as one burdened
by a most beautiful truth.

what could be more authentic?

Monday, January 7, 2013

I hope,' he said, 'that 
when I grow old and the chisel drops,
I may crawl out on a ledge of the rock and die like a wolf.'

an excerpt from,  "An Artist"
Robinson Jeffers 

the Los Angelenos are bitching about the "cold" under blue skies and waving palm trees.

i'm killing time until my baby wakes,
sipping wine and satisfied with the painting of the last week--
out there under the orange tree,
the big-ass racoons walking along the top
of the wooden fence along the bamboo.

it would seem that a years end would be pause for reflection.


last september i ended my last few weeks of a month in LA with 3 days in a burn unit--
3rd degree burns over 20% of my body.
so be it-- i was lucky. you learn a lot about yourself in a burn unit.
you learn quite a bit about what you can take
and what it is that others may or may not be able to take.

and i was one of the lucky ones...


and being one of the lucky ones
heavily sedated in bed for 3 days
gave me a shot at dealing with
and thinking about the realities of paint handling
and getting along in this world.
steel sharpens steel and extreme pain is the most discerning of alloys.

as artists its important to question yourself from time to time.
what the fuck is it that we are doing?

more importantly, why are we doing it?

there should be the dance of the song of the lyric in our art.
maybe not at face value (we can have our hard logic and geometries),
but it should be there.
somewhere in the vapor of our output,
our creation, our love,
there is a place for the cold formalities and obfuscations-
but the lust and flesh must (somehow) hold...
the old, old passion, fire and brimstone--
the likes of which drove any number of French poets
and Russian novelists to a bottle,
a bad woman,
or God...

sadly, i'll admit that i've caught myself
making art as if clocking in for a shift-
deliberate and taped off; stoic
with an eye to the product i'd already received 50% of--
or the gallery voice, "...can you do another this size?"
and i've made art in drunken reverie
singing as poorly as loudly with a madly loaded brush.

i much prefer the latter.


reflection and gratitude...

with reflection on my work comes a sense of gratitude
for the good fortune i've had and the beauty i've known.
the grace of family works it's way in there, as it should.
the softening of calloused edges and the opening of eyes
that have seen far far too much.
i can thank my wife for her love
and she will see me as the sentimental lout i am.
i can never thank my daughter
for what she has given me,
as i can't understand much of her native tongue
and at some point she may, as a young adult, find me mad...
or, perhaps an ally.

you can fill a thousand notebooks
and never realize that a page means nothing.

you can paint over a canvas for decades before there is art.

i strive to work simply for the work.
my labors in the studio are simply that-- labors in the studio.
as a Zen dilettante, i'm far too familiar with the notion that the goal is the path.
but i have wavered-- there have, through the errors of good fortune,
been those moments of commercial demand.
the fun diminishes as does the payment.
for every painting sold there is another bill paid
and another wine--
another cut of meat you can't afford, but pay for.

and that painting is gone forever.

it means more to paint for no reason at all
than to paint for any number of projects or dollars.
i have made paintings with money in my pocket
and i was not as happy as i was
with the best paintings realized while poor...

...that notion of projects
and dollars.

there is, we will be reminded,
in the harshest of tones,
an industry,
greasing it's way under our romantic pursuits.

exploit it when you can.
enjoy it.
never trust it.

if you are lied to twice
by a man in the art world
you know he is not a man.

if you are lied to twice
by a woman in the art world
you know she doesn't deserve to be a woman.

more importantly, there is life.

you can be a good painter,
but only a good parent can be a great artist...