Lights and Art

"Light is more than watts and footcandles; Light is metaphor."

One of my favorite scenes in TV history. 

(For context, this scene took place during the time in Alaska when it's dark 24/7 and the lack of daylight was starting to wear people down.)

Chris-in-the-morning's art projects were always bizarrely inspiring and in retrospect I know that they influenced my own work. In fact, a few of my early installation pieces (back when I did those) were inspired by him.

Northern Exposure was a great show, it's a shame so few people my age watched it. 

This scene never fails to make me happy. :)


Good news, I think we're going to live.

Colin is doing much better thanks to antibiotics, and I have finally crested as well, after days of eating raw garlic and doing lavender apple cider vinegar gargles. Yeah, it was awesome.

I get really angry when I'm sick. I feel caged in.

Now that I'm not writhing around uncomfortably in bed, I'm going to focus on some positive thoughts. It was a little scary there for a bit with Colin, and I should be grateful that we're both alive and coming through this, and hey, apparently I never got sick enough to require Western medicine. Nice!

Being sick is not the time to philosophize about life. I realized this yesterday when every outlook I had was bleak and depressing.

I always feel like I'm missing out. There are social engagements either missed or jeopardized, and I'm convinced somehow that we're going to fall so far behind in Krav Maga class that we might as well give up.

It's not the healthiest emotion I could have while trying to recover. I start listing all the things I'm not doing and then I convince myself that I won't catch up, and suddenly all my plans for the next few years become impossible because I was out sick for a week.

But enough of that. We're alive. And getting better.

1. Christmas isn't lost.
2. Our muscles had a week of renewal after three major Krav Maga sessions last week.
3. We have now seen every single episode of Fringe.
4. We got to be sick-buddies!
5. We did a lot in the last year. No wonder we needed more rest.

I'm actually really looking forward to 2012. Wow, it's almost 2012. Snap.


Colin has had a fever for two days and I've had writer's block.

I'm envious of bloggers who can just write out their lives freely, daily, and it doesn't seem to give them hiccups to talk about anything and everything from their emotional issues to breakfast recipes. I open a page and stare blankly at nothingness and panic myself further into total block. Common, I know.

And hey, I write more than most.

But I still long to be one of those people that has an ongoing and sincere dialogue about myself with others, with whomever is reading, without fretting endlessly over what I'm saying.

I started writing for Art & Musings, in part because it was (is) a great opportunity, but most importantly I knew that if I had a commitment to someone else, a whole new audience of readers, I would find it easier to rise to the task of regular communication.

Which I have.

And to be honest, it's much easier for me to write a column that isn't for myself. It's definitely something I'm enjoying thoroughly, and causes me to think harder about who I am and what I want to say at all.

Ideally, my own blog would serve as a more casual venue for my ongoing thoughts, as well as my own personal artsy stuff, and a place to show you my new work.

But I just can't seem to get there. Well, past the artsy stuff anyway.

I don't know why I would feel awkward and obsessively anxious to discuss what I eat for breakfast, but I do. Other bloggers don't seem to have this problem, and I both judge them for talking about "boring" topics and feel jealous that they have the confidence to do so.

Because the truth is, I don't find it boring, and I am interested in what they have for breakfast, because we're all people and I'm interested in who other people are, and how their minds operate, and what their daily lives are like. Obviously I'm more interested to read about people's various personal struggles, emotional issues, and life victories, but I eat breakfast too, and I'm interested in all of it.

I have this awkward habit of vacillating between being too blunt and forward with people and then pulling back entirely so that I don't risk anyone knowing too much about anything in my life. The extremes are a sign of discord, and somewhere balanced in the middle would be ideal. I'm pretty sure half the people in the world think I'm confident and together and the other half think I'm crazy.

I'd like to say that I plan on getting better at succeeding at all of this, but I'm not going to. I'm not actually sure that I will finish what I'm writing now, or feel it's worthy of sharing once I'm done. Really, I just opened the page and started blathering.

On the other hand, I guess that was the whole point.

Echo . 20x20 inches . 2011

oh hey! new art!

1. natural light
2. interior light
3. interior light and blacklight combined
4. blacklight only
5. no light (glow in the dark)

This is one of those paintings that glows in a fascinating, bizarre way that I just adore. When you first turn off the lights, it's almost like your eyes have to adjust, and then the glow just gets brighter and brighter and brighter right in front of you. I came downstairs in the dark a few nights ago and it was like a beacon of light, I was impressed myself with how bright it looked. (I generally don't have time to sit in front of my artwork in the dark for hours at a time just staring at it to see what will happen, so I often am surprised with things like this by accident. It's actually awesome that way, and makes me feel like a kid at Christmas!)

It's a wonderful thing to be excited at your own art. :)

This piece is the first in what I'm casually (and affectionately) referring to as my "teal collection" because... well, a lot of it is based around the color Teal. (Or turquoise, or aqua, or however you might refer to the myriad of shades between blue and green.) My favorite color. :)

Echo is $1000, available either in my Etsy shop, or email me if you'd like to purchase it another way. :)

Personal Empowerment (and Kicking Ass)

"It’s a lesson I could do with applying to other aspects of my life. I often shy away from taking action because I don’t feel confident enough to do so. That’s backwards. If I string enough confident actions together in a row, wouldn’t that automatically make me a confident person?"

At Art & Musings: You Can't Handle The Truth

"But clearly, for awhile now, I’ve been unhappy. I’ve felt unsettled and awkward, almost like I was intentionally avoiding something. And for the first few days in Kauai, I wasn’t settled either. I was thrilled to be there, of course, but I felt a little like I was phoning it in. The truth was, I was starting to panic. What if I didn’t find answers here? WHAT IF THERE WERE NO ANSWERS?! Gack."

Back To Kauai


We've always felt we had unfinished business there.

We spent a little over 5 days on the island in 2005. It wasn't enough time. We've been meaning to go back ever since. We keep choosing other islands. Until now.

Timing is everything.

It was an interesting experience for us. We had just started traveling. I think we might call it an awakening of sorts. A Thin Space. It felt like such a powerful place and we had numerous moments that led us to believe our time there was somehow purposeful. Situations that caused us to glance at each other in the midst of Fit, as if to say, "Is this seriously happening?"

I don't know. Maybe I've had a lot of those experiences in my life.

We have always regarded a return visit as an answer to many of the questions we left with. Perhaps that's why we've put it off for so long. There's something there for us to learn, something we weren't quite ready to receive last time.

Maybe we'll be met with the same inspiring situations, the same conversations with strangers that seemed profoundly directed at us, but the wisdom gained since that time will help us respond with more than shock and wonder.

Maybe we're the ones who've changed.

Either way, we have intentions for this time to be a spiritual journey, of sorts. We want to listen to the island, hear what it wants to tell us. Be still with it. Quiet. Listen to the waves. Walk through the jungle. Look out at the sea. Meditate. Feel the rain on our skin.

Kauai is a place of renewal, to be sure. No matter what, we'll come back better for the experience.

See you in December.

New @ Art & Musings: Don't Make It Good

Newest column is up at Art & Musings! Head over there to check it out.

"Sometimes I think we like to overcomplicate things in order to justify procrastination. As children, art was easy. No one expected us to meet any sort of arbitrary, high-minded standard of excellence. We just made things because we felt like it. We wanted to see what the colors looked like, how the materials felt on our fingers. It was purely experiential."

Moon Balls - New Winter Ornament for 2011

***SOLD OUT! Thank you!

I really enjoy making these. Sometimes I feel as though I don't get to decorate properly for the holidays, because of our endlessly busy schedule, small home, and ever-growing studio needs. I have dreams one day of elaborate decorations. One day. :)

In the meantime, I've made it a tradition to make and share ornaments with you. Last year I made yellow and orange "Solar Balls" so it seemed fitting to work with more "moon" colors this year. I would probably say they're more "mother of pearl" colored than anything else. New materials means fancier ornaments! Like pearls or opals, these really do shift in color right before your eyes.

Apparently many of my collectors simply hang theirs in a window all year. Fun! They can sparkle all day long and glow like the moon all night. For this reason, I now think of these more like small, spherical paintings that I simply release during the holiday season, rather than specifically holiday ornaments. It's up to you. :)

I have very few to go around, and have sold a bunch already before I was even able to post this. If you'd like one, head over to the Moon Ball section in my Etsy shop. 

I will be out of town from Thanksgiving until December 5th, so no shipping will happen between those dates. If you'd like one before then, best to order it now. :)

New Art & Musings column: Why I Hate 'Work of Art'

(over at Art & Musings!)

Big News!!

I have a pretty significant announcement:

I am now a contributing writer over at artist Jessica Doyle's wonderful blog Art & Musings.

This has been in the works for a while now, but the timing finally came together and I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of this.

My weekly column will appear each Wednesday. At the moment, my intention is to write about my journey through the art world as it pertains to emotions and relationships, discussing all of what it means to me --  The good and the bad. (There is much of both.)

Or... who knows? My contributions are open and up to me, though my goal is freely share my internal process with you. It might be raw sometimes. Actually I want it to be. I plan to show you the truth of me, whatever that is, and however it changes each moment. I can't wait to find out what I'm thinking. ;)

This is an exploration of my life, on a more personal side.

I am absolutely thrilled to be doing this.

My first piece was posted today! Please head over to Art & Musings to check it out.

It's called Loneliness - The Burden of Artists. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, over there of course. ;)

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ever feel unsettled for no particular reason? It's been angsty here of late. There's no reason for it, which makes things even angstier. A twisted loop of nothing.

We're happy with each other, we're happy with the progress we've made in life, we're happy with where we seem to be headed, we're happy about all our plans, we're happy about our place in the world. Our health is the best it's ever been, as are our finances, and our prospects.

We have nothing really to be unhappy about.

I generally blame it on total lack of patience. I want results sooner. Now. I want to achieve everything quickly, and move on to achieving more things. I want it all. I don't want to wait.

Maybe I'm just not enjoying the process. This is all relative, of course, because many who know us would say that we're consistently moving forward, perhaps at lightning speed.

I think that our upbringings, filled with chaos and uncertainty, cause us to fear an otherwise steady path in life. We're not used to things going well. Long term progress is foreign. During a time when our worldviews were being shaped, we were constantly reminded that life is hard, that goals cannot be achieved, that things don't work out. We were taught to fear success, because it was an impossibility.

Fortunately we were too rebellious and stubborn to listen to such nonsense, but I often wonder if the script still plays like annoying background music in the depths of our minds.

Do we create the sense of chaos where there is none? Do we invent enemies out of success so that we have something specific to fight back against?

Bugger that.

For now, everything is going so well. In one sense, we don't want to mess that up. It's taken our entire lives to feel so happy and sure of who we are and what we're doing. In itself, that's something to be proud of, for we have achieved the very things already that we were taught were unlikely.

Yet... we want more. We keep walking forward. Our goals and ideals keep expanding. The path before us continues to grow greater, and longer. We feel as though there's some step before us that will be clear in retrospect but is too vague to act on now. We feel caught in a limbo zone of mystery and actualization.

Where do we go from here?

Ongoing Exploration

I've noticed a increase in my artistic passion lately. These last couple of weeks have taken on a distinct feeling of excitement about my own work. I didn't notice the difference until it happened. I hadn't realized that I wasn't feeling this in the few months prior. I finished a piece I'd started earlier, and began a staggering 10+ new pieces. But, apparently, in retrospect, it wasn't as personally fascinating as it is now. Was my heart not in it before? Was I on auto-pilot?

Every day this week as been filled with energy, and I've awoke with intentions of nothing more or less than making paintings. Other areas in my life, like writing and vlogging, have mysteriously dropped further down my radar of importance. Whereas I normally pile on personal guilt-trips and pressure about all the things I "should" be accomplishing, all at the same time, I felt a strange, serene peace.

I took these inclinations seriously, as the ultimate purpose in my life is to create art, and I've been trying to go where the internal momentum was.

Finally, I wanted to paint. I couldn't do anything else. I barely sat down at my computer after waking up before standing up again to begin work. I wanted to utilize every hour I had, every day that I could. Each moment was important. Each color I mixed felt like a poem, a song, something that lit me on fire and reminded me who I was as a human being.

I wondered, why isn't it always like this?

Do I really have such varied artistic mood swings that I can't focus on all my creative endeavors at once? Do I put too much pressure on myself to accomplish unrealistic goals? Do I spread myself too thin?

I think I learned something. As an artist, I do have a wide variety of creative interests. None of them are more or less important than the rest, because it is the sum of all my work that represents my life. Being an artist isn't about one painting. In the whole of my life, there are different pieces of a larger puzzle that all fit together in ways that I'm constantly learning about.

I heard another artist this week mock those who use the word "exploration" in their artist statements. I don't, but I absolutely disagree with the sentiment. Maybe she isn't exploring anything. Maybe she is content to make stuff without exploring how it relates to the greater purpose in her life. Maybe she has no greater purpose.

I do. And it is an exploration for me. I'm constantly, always, learning as I go and I'm not ashamed to admit that I will contradict myself, change my methods, and define myself in new ways throughout my years depending on how I feel about what I'm doing at any given moment. The whole fucking purpose for me is the exploration itself.

In my opinion, that's what makes it art.

New Prints!

New prints available. :)

Each one is available in sizes 8x10 for $25 and 11x14 for $45 in my Etsy shop.

I'm also finishing up a few new paintings. Soon, very soon!

Lots in the works. Lots going on. Hope the start of your Autumn is going splendidly.

Full Circle: What's holding you back?

Why is our first inclination to believe that we can't do things?

Is it just an excuse?

"I don't know" is a copout. I read somewhere once that when you say "I don't know" what you're really saying is "I'm not willing to grow" in this situation. It's far easier to say you don't know than to have to come up with a solution.

But when does it start being too much? If you say "I don't know" more than you provide answers, isn't that indicative of a problem?

Maybe what we believe we're saying is that if we don't know the answer to something, then we aren't obligated to figure one out. Why wasn't this situation resolved? I don't know.

I think it has to do with fear and expectation. We fear being wrong, we fear what others will think or say if we provide the truth. More than that, we want to set others' expectations low enough that we couldn't possibly disappoint them. If we dare to give an answer and it ends up being wrong, or we fail to fulfill our obligation and commitment to the answer we put forth, we will be Judged.

The truth is, we're judged either way.

Personally I'd rather be judged on my effort instead of my excuses.

EXPERIMENT: Try to notice all the times in the next week that you say "I can't" or "I don't know" and ask yourself if those answers are necessary, or how you could change them to be proactive.

I'm going to do this too. (Yay group project!!) We might all find out that we know a lot more than we're admitting to ourselves.

Inspiration Through Inadequacy

Sometimes I wonder what my motivations are for doing art in the first place.

Sure, I'm creative. I always have been. I've always been inspired to make things. I've always gotten visions of things that I think would be interesting, or pretty, things I want to take from my imagination and make into a reality.

But why?

I've noticed a pattern in my dreams lately. The truth is, I've never really been fond of dreaming, or for that matter, sleeping. Since I was a child, it's not been the restful, happy experience it's supposed to be. I vacillate between insomnia and fitful, uncomfortable dreams almost all of the time. It has improved as I've gotten older, now that I've researched various ways to aid this situation, but it's still a problem.

The best part about my dreams lately has been the consistent guest starring role of Joey, but even his presence hasn't changed the overall theme I've come to expect. (And I suppose they can't all be like this one.)

Basically most of my dreams revolve around the feeling that I'm perpetually rejected, dismissed, forgotten, and abandoned. It starts with a feeling, and then I seem to create a dream-plot that substantiates those feelings.

Lots of fun.

My art, however, has always been an effort to create a mood of happiness for me. Peace, serenity, beauty, tranquility. Something that I could wrap myself up in and counteract all the negativity that permeated my thoughts.

I started to wonder if the artistic leanings I had from the time I was a very young child was in response to the internal struggles I feel have always been in the background of my life. Perhaps art is my way of countering those ongoing fears of inadequacies I've always had. Perhaps I am creating the very feelings I wish I had more of, pushing out the negative thoughts by simply overwhelming them with positive ones.

This week, as I looked around at the many paintings in process in my studio, I noticed a very clear theme. Everything, every single one, is painted in shades of the color I find most soothing, most tranquil, most beautiful in the world. In fact, I made a conscious decision that this new collection of artwork was going to intentionally reflect what is essentially my most "happy place" in art. The colors of serenity, at least in my world anyway.

I think I'm being purposefully meditative. I've had a weird year. There's been a lot of wonderful things in my life this year, but there's also been a fair amount of sadness and chaos. I want all my work for this new collection to reflect my ideals of peacefulness. I want to be surrounded in tranquility.

Is art a way for me to create a world I often don't feel exists internally? Is my brain seeking balance for my lifelong fears? This makes sense to me actually. I have a measure of control over my artwork, and can explore my own interests and curiosities however I may choose, without threat of rejection.

I guess on some level, I am seeking to engage people though. I want to express the things I see, the thoughts I have, to you, to the rest of the world. I want to manifest my view of life in a way that exists outside of language, culture, and bias.

I want my spirit to be seen.

Artists: Why do you create? What feelings do you have that are best expressed through your artistic medium? Do you feel your art is compensating for anything?

Full Circle: The Autumn of Art

Sometimes settings goals can be practical. I'm not a big fan of lists, and I need one basic "mood" or theme to keep me centered and focused. 

Having too much to do results in getting nothing done.

6 years ago when I came up with the "Autumn of Art," my intention was to change the view I had of myself from one who painted for enjoyment into a committed, professional Artist.

I didn't actually realize at the time how well that would work out. 

The changing of seasons is a profound, undeniable way to mark the passage of time. (Although in California, you sometimes have to look at the calendar to know which season you're in.) Business types might think of them as "quarters," but I prefer seasons. 

Autumn is a season of Harvest. Time to tally up what your year has produced thus far, and run the numbers on the remainder. Where'd the time go? There's still plenty of time to finish your list of Intentions for 2011, so long as you hunker down and make them important for these last few months. 

There's something very freeing about entering the new year (even just saying '2012' is gasket-blowing) with a clean slate, and a true sense of completion. Accomplishment.

I have at least a few things that I could make my Autumn about, but I want to take a bit of time to meditate over it. What am I most interested in and committed to? Choosing something that I already have energy for is the best way to synergize my aspirations. 

I also roll everything over into the subsequent seasons/years. After that first Autumn of Art, every day was about Art. It just became a theme of my life, rather than a few months. It becomes part of you. Autumn is just a good jumping off point. 

What are you working on right now? What have you intended to do, to become, to master this year? Are you there yet or do you need a renewed opportunity? Who are you going to be when the next year begins?

Will you be satisfied with your effort?

Current Thoughts on Strength

(Kauai, 2005)

I have an ongoing battle with fitness.

On the one hand, I've always been an obsessively healthy eater. I can remember refusing fatty foods while still in a high chair. I've never really been a huge fan of sweets. I was vegetarian for 11 years, then I wasn't, now I'm eating healthier than at any other time in my life prior, and maintain a "mostly vegan" diet.

Fitness? Not so much. I am lazy.

I've always felt like I didn't have as much energy as other people. In high school, I was perpetually envious of the energetic people around me. They too were in the homework-heavy classes, did a sport, and participated in drama club. But whereas I had difficulty even showing up to those things, and tried to do as little as possible when I did show up, they did even more. They did theater outside of school too. They did two sports. Or three sports. They ran for school office. They DID ALL THEIR HOMEWORK.

One of the things I regret most about high school is not being sportier. I had an opportunity to be a volleyball player. I think I could have been a great volleyball player. I passed it up.

Nowadays when I mention my interest in working out, or being fit, I'm inevitably met with snickering, albeit good-natured snickering, because I am naturally thin. Okay. That's fair.

I'm talking about being FIT though. There's a difference. I've never stuck with any particular activity long enough to become strong and fit. I dabble, but I don't commit.

At the moment, I'm in a wonderful space. I do yoga regularly. I do workouts that target certain muscle groups. I have run a bit in the last few months. I hike 4 miles a week, and we're about to double that, in hopes of making it farther up the Na Pali coast than we did 6 and a half years ago. I've been feeling the fittest I've ever felt in my life.

But it's not enough.

I want to be STRONG. I want to actually see muscles. I don't want to be a huge, vein-popping heavyweight champion, which many people oddly assume is my goal upon hearing that I want to "tone up." Because somehow there's no distance between wanting my abs to show and being a female Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Okay, just don't get too fit." Huh? What's with that? What does that even mean? I say I want to be fit and strong, and I'm met with looks of concern and insinuations that I might be taking it too far. Wanting to be strong is taking it too far? I promise you, I am in no danger whatsoever of taking fitness pursuits too far. There is no chance in hell that I will become too muscle-y.

Is it really wrong for me to want to SEE my own results? Is it wrong that I, in my naturally thin state, want to improve upon that? Shocker: I want a 6 pack. Or an 8 pack. I do. Sue me. Should I be ashamed of this?

Now I'm at the point where I can almost nearly start to see the beginnings of a 6 pack. Almost. If I lean back. When the sun is right.

I feel awesome.

And I started Krav Maga classes this week. And it was awesome. And I learned something.

It's not about the muscles. It's about knowing that I can accomplish something physical. Something hard. I want to train for something. I want to be good at something. I want to feel confident in my physical body, in my strength and abilities. And I think I kind of want to be an athlete. (Relatively speaking anyway.) I really love the idea that I could know how to fight. Truly fight. Should I need to.

My plan is to be even more fit, more active, the older I get. Aging isn't scary if I continue to improve myself. I can hike much farther at 31 than I could at 25. I hope my 40 year old self puts my 30 year old self to shame. And so forth.

What could feel stronger than that?

Outshine . 8x24 inches . 2011

(Left to Right: natural lighting, artificial lighting, artificial and blacklighting, blacklight alone, and glowing in darkness.)

Ingredients: acrylic, beach sand, phosphorescent pigments, crushed glass, varnish, water & light on canvas.

Hooray! A new painting. :)

We were part of the 1.4 million Southern California residents that experienced an extended blackout last week, which at first seemed mildly apocalyptic in the way people were frantically buying batteries and ice in the darkened store we walked around in. We bought a bottle of wine and had a romantic candle-lit dinner of mostly salad (which we figured would be the first thing to die if the power didn't come back on soon.)

Also, to escape the heat and continue the theme of romance, we took a nice moonlit walk. We thought this would involve stargazing, since all the lights for miles around were out, but that proved unlikely. The moon, not yet full, was blinding. Rarely have I experienced the moon in that way. I think the contrast between darkness and light was emphasized due to the blackout. The moon made the stars nearly impossible to see, and that was after I shielded it from my eyes with my hand. To look at the moon directly felt almost like we needed sunglasses.

It's comforting to know it gives off that much light. :)

This painting has already been claimed by one of my favorite moon-loving collectors. :)

Full Circle: The One Minute Martini

The One Minute Martini from Shayla Maddox on Vimeo.

(a video dedicated to Michael J. Sonntag)

[Shot with my iPhone, edited in iMovie.]

Let me explain a few things about martinis.

There is no "right" way to make one.

When I turned 21, I decided that I wanted to drink martinis occasionally; because they looked cool to hold; made me feel very retro-chic; and most importantly, gave me a go-to drink to order at a bar when I was (as yet) inexperienced with ordering things in bars.

It helped that I really, really liked green olives. I could eat a jar of them. Seriously.

But! At 21, drinking what is basically straight vodka or gin in a cool looking glass takes a bit of effort. I wasn't looking to get drunk (well, a little), I was looking to enjoy the freaking martini. Like people in black and white movies seemed to.

Martinis are an acquired taste. Just watch the face of someone who hasn't tried one before when they taste it. Abject horror.

So, like the dedicated soldier that I am, I powered through and spent the subsequent 10 years perfecting my martinis. Over the course of this time I naturally developed the complete adoration of this drink exactly as I'd hoped.

The opinions and information people put out about how to make the "right" martini vary greatly. The internet is filled with nonsense about the exact steps and ingredients one must use to make a proper martini, and anything even slightly different than this is blasphemous to the martini gods who will then banish you from ever drinking with martini drinkers ever again. Puh-lease.

It's a martini.

Fortunately, I have a friend who is a bit older than me and had already perfected his martini by the time I was 21. He happily took me under his martini wing to educate me over the course of these past 10 years. I credit all my usable martini knowledge to him. In fact, the martini glasses used in this video were a wedding gift from him.

Anyway. Back to martinis.

I use vodka. Ice cold, I keep it in the freezer when we have vodka at all. I personally think gin tastes like pine trees, but as my martini mentors have told me they are starting to prefer gin, I may have to be a little more open minded.

Use as much vermouth as you want. Some people don't like it, and use less. (which is called "dry.") Some people need more. ("wet") I use about a capful.

Shaken versus stirred actually makes no difference to me as far as flavor (now that I like the taste of them) but friction with the ice is good for softening it (and necessary when you haven't pre-chilled your vodka.)

I used to drink them "dirty" (with added olive brine) but I later decided that the brine made the drink waaayyy too salty, so now I just add olives. I've also been known to add cherry tomatoes and basil. Live it up, ya know?

The one thing I have learned over this last decade is that all the mysticism over how to make martinis is just that. Make it how you want. There is no right way. The point is to make one (or two) and get on with your life. Preferably while looking all retro-chic and holding a martini glass like the badass you are.

Wearing pearls is optional.

Fighting Disillusionment

Disillusionment with everything, really. Politics, the economy, the art market, humanity's appreciation of art and artists, the community in which I live, jobs, money, savings, travel, myself, my career, my interests, my options.

There was an article published this month in the New York Times called Maybe It's Time For Plan C about independent business owners and artisans experiencing the downsides of pursuing their dreams.

To say the least, it was disheartening.

I took a bit more time off from painting than I intended to. I spent time reading, thinking, exploring new/old hobbies, pursuing interesting avenues to augment my business. During this time I began to wonder... Am I even doing the right thing? In general? In life?

Will I one day be sitting in a pile of broken canvas after some inevitable apocalypse wishing I'd spent less time thinking about my art business and more time learning to fish, to garden, to (God-forbid) sew?

Okay, maybe not. I'm not banking on inevitable apocalypses. Yet.

Ultimately, I love what I do and I do it because I'm good at it, dammit. These are my skills, and that's what I'm offering to the world, and you know what? I keep discovering that I have more skills than I thought. My definition of "artist" continues to expand, and that excites me. It involves so much more than paint. Regardless of what one might think of my art, I'm good at being an artist.

And I don't just want to be good at it, I want to be unearthly badass at it. This might take me the rest of my life, of course. Which means, counting backwards, I had better be on my way this very second.

Here's where the kicker really happens: I know that I am on my way. I know this because I'm working towards something. I know this because I'm pursuing it wholeheartedly. I get up early, I do never-ending "business things," I paint, I write, I plan, I dream, I even freaking make videos now, I work, I work, I work. All. Day. Long. Even when I take time off, I work. I'm constantly pursuing more work. I'm always trying to add more in my life, not less.

Most importantly, I know I'm on my way because I can see a distinct and measurable difference in my life over the last 10 years. 

Hell, that's even true exponentially over the last 5 years.

.forward motion.

I just have to stay pointed in that direction. One foot in front of the other. Always.

I have no interest in "retirement." I am not looking for a scheme by which to get rich so that I can stop doing the very things I was born to do. I am not going to let my life pass by in a series of intentions and promises.

I've started painting again. I've almost finished a new piece. I'm about to start three more.

The fog is lifting.

Thus begins the age of video previews.

People online have told me so many times that they wish they could see my art in person.

Well, this isn't *quite* the same, but... pretty close, right?

I've wanted to utilize video for years. It's finally that time.

This is just a short preview of a painting I'm almost-but-not-quite-done with. I noticed how much it sparkled in the sunlight and knew immediately that I should show you.

I love living in the future. :)

Full Circle: Repainting Art

For the record, I don't repaint things very often. Sometimes I just feel like the emotions I had while painting it the first time have changed so drastically as to make the art seem "wrong" to me.

This is especially interesting given that it's important to me that each painting be reactive to all types of light, and change throughout the seasons. I guess it goes deeper than that too, as I occasionally want (need) to alter something to reflect who I am at a later time, and how I've changed.

When a painting is purchased by a collector, the piece feels done to me. I have no desire to change it at that point. Once someone else has found something in it so profound that they want to own it, to have it in their own space, it seems to me that the process by which the art came about is complete. I make my art to put out in the universe. When it has a purpose higher than myself, an importance in someone else's life, it no longer belongs to me.

This might be an example of my crazy artist brain. I'm not sure. Some artists outright destroy their own work. I do know that I value my right as an artist to do what I want with my own art. There is the possibility I will repaint something on a whim if I suddenly feel the urge to do so. In this sense, it's good to get the painting away from me, out into the world so that I no longer feel any power over it, or powerlessness to the emotional struggle it causes me.

Either way, it's all part of my internal process in life. I view it as a good thing.

Perfectionism and The Creative Gap

(originally said by Ira Glass, of This American Life, and subsequently spread around the internet on blogs and through Twitter by various creative types. I can't determine who made this particular graphic.)

I'm a perfectionist, allow me to just say that upfront. 

I set impossible standards for myself, ones that I couldn't be expected to achieve, and then experience the soul-crushing reality of having not achieved those things. In some ways, this ongoing ritual forwards my ability to accomplish goals and motivates me to work harder. Often, it just sets off a downward spiral of disillusionment and self-loathing.

You can imagine how this goes when I utterly fail at something. It's hard to tell what is failure and what isn't, of course, since anything short of perfection tends to be regarded as failure. There are tears. There is depression. There is the general belief that everything will come crashing down, that everything I do is a waste of time, that my goals are nothing more than a mirage in the distance, something I never quite arrive at.

Here's the thing about perfection: It's an illusion. 

I have a few friends who have claimed that at some point in the vague distant future they are going to "launch" themselves and their careers after they have perfected all the kinks and nuances of who they intend to be. See, I don't actually believe this method is possible. I don't think one can burst forth into the universe fully formed, with a fully functioning website, a beautiful portfolio, a backlog of internet history, and plenty of obvious experience and high-profile contacts like the midcareer rockstars they want people to believe they are.

You have to suck first. Publicly. You have to start with crappy materials, make dumbass comments, put out bad work. I know, it's shocking, and a punch in the stomach, but that's how it has to be. I sincerely believe this. What I hear when people talk about how one day they will arrive on the scene in perfect form ready to "start" their successful careers is delusion, and the probability of it never happening at all. ProTip: You're never going to feel ready.

Successful people fail first. It's not that they're not embarrassed about the stupid things they did early on, or continue to do. It's the feeling of being uncomfortable that inspires them to do better, to improve. How do you even know what you suck at if you don't put it out there? How will you make better work if you don't have a starting point?

You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I don't want to be someone who never improves because I never tried. I want to get as close to my high standards as I possibly can. I can't imagine how bad I'd feel about myself if I hadn't been willing to put less than stellar material into the world that has gotten better over the course of years, that still continues to improve as I go. I want to start new things and improve upon those as well. I want to constantly be evolving into the best that I can be.

I will never achieve anything remotely close to this without first taking risks that may or may not work, and sucking it up when they don't. If I don't have the skills to learn and adapt, how will I achieve anything? How will I survive?

It starts somewhere. If it doesn't, it has nowhere to go. 

I don't want to ever reach a point in which I feel I have accomplished everything I set out to do, that I am somehow complete. There's always something to do better. There's always a way to reach higher. The satisfaction, ultimately, comes from embracing the road to get there, and simply enjoying the process, through all the pain and triumph and embarrassment. 

I am the work in progress. 

Full Circle: Are you a dreamer?

 My Ode to Waking Life.

Made with my iPhone, the Cartoonatic app, and iMovie on my MacBookPro.

Full Circle: Think Tank

It's Video Blogging Monday!!

Putting my new computer to use. Also, you know, vlogging is the sport of the future.

'Think Tank' because that's where I've been and what I've been doing these last two weeks.

Be gentle, it's my first time.

Japan Adventures: First Day in Kyoto

[Previously on: Japan Adventures]

Technically we'd arrived in Kyoto a day earlier, but that day was lost entirely to travel. Our heads were soaked in sake and karaoke music and we had vague memories of paying a cab to drive us back to our hotel the wrong way down one-way streets after midnight because the trains had been mysteriously shut down early the previous night.

Between this and the car accident I'd been in exactly one week prior in Los Angeles, I was beat. My back had finally started to hurt from days of walking and standing, and the various forms of pain medication I'd been told to flood myself with weren't working. (Kristen kindly offered to carry my backpack for me, leaving Greg to lug around two suitcases on his own. If I was too delirious to do so at the time, MANY MANY THANKS for that.)

I remember little of that day. It was a blur of trains and napping.

So, basically, our first day in Kyoto happened the following day.

Looking through the pictures, it seemed more like that day must have been 3 weeks long. I can't believe we did so much in about 15 hours. It was warmer by now, we were further south, and Sakura season was coming along. The blossoms everywhere were heavenly. We walked and walked and walked. The temples were amazing, and there seemed to be millions of them.


Around sunset, we arrived at a Hanami (flower watching) festival at a temple in Gion. It was perfect timing. The sun was streaming through the blossoms and everyone was celebrating. We grabbed a beer, sat beneath the trees and checked out the different street food stands. Evening in Kyoto is quite magical.

It was a very long, very incredible day. And our time in Kyoto was just beginning.