Desperate Ghosts

I usually doze off with a book i’ve read a thousand times before; easy and familiar, in my hand. Slipping from my hand as I lose consciousness, startling me from my near brush with sleep. I stretch for the light switch and plunge myself into the darkness; resting easily on my right side. Then the oppressiveness comes. The invisible weight of life, responsibility and loneliness slowly settles in. The house is empty save for myself, it isn’t big but feels cavernous in the night, like an abyss that would create an echo if I had the courage to call out. I begin to wonder how much longer I can hold out and whether I even should at times. It is an opportune time for fear to make its presence known, just as you try to escape reality until the light of day allows you some reprieve. Winter nights are especially inescapable. Everything is closed, the world at rest and the cold keeps you trapped inside this thing you most despise. The whispers begin: “you don’t deserve this”, “it doesn’t belong to you” “it is all a lie”. I’m jarred awake by these thoughts, they come between me and the covers like a thin cold ghost; a second skin called doubt. Staring wide eyed into the dark searching for answers, wondering where it went wrong. The ghost doesn’t stay long, its presence floats off as my eyes grow heavy. It is a brief but powerful encounter. Image

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Cedar & Broadway

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keeffe

A moment in time I burned into my memory I tried to exorcise with paint.              9-11-2001 9:03:02 Image

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Technical Difficulties

In my ongoing attempt to conquer the world of social media things have gone terribly awry. Well not terribly awry but terribly in general. It really is too much and things keep changing and criss-crossing and then uncrossing and re-crossing to the point I don’t even know who is seeing what or why.

I reached out to another artist who has something like 10,000 followers on instagram. She does abstract paintings and uses it promote her work. Some in progress pieces, some finished pieces and some of them hanging in actual cafes and galleries. She can post a picture with no hashtags and have over a thousand likes in just a few hours. I reached out to her and she gave me some good advice. Keep the art separate and like and interact with other artists.

I tried this method but my split Instagram personality quickly took back over and instead of posting strictly pictures of my art I was taking pictures of random things in no time. Flowers, shadows on the walls, toys, pretty much whatever struck me funny or interesting at the moment. This was actually the second failed attempt as I at one time deleted a bunch of goofy pictures from the account to try and use it more to promote the comic strip. That didn’t work either. What I really need to do is create a second strictly art related account. Another account means another username and password to either write down or remember. If I have to create another username or password or change my password because I can’t remember what it is I am going to totally freak.

I like Instagram because it easily lets you decide where you want to share your photos. Strictly on Instagram or you can add them to Facebook, Twitter and other places (Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare, none of which I have…yet)

A friend recommended Tweetdeck which I used for awhile as a twitter tool which you could also link to Facebook if the tweet was something you wanted to share . Apparently Twitter bought Tweetdeck and eliminated the Facebook sharing feature. So I use Tweetdeck less and less. I did hear of something called Hootsuite, which will let you do something similar. So I downloaded the app to my phone and linked my Facebook and Twitter and did a test Tweet. Total fail. I was first told the action couldn’t be completed.  The post did show up in my Twitter feed but not on Facebook. I haven’t tried again.

Interaction is the key. Tweeting and Retweeting are definitely the biggest mystery to me. But I will keep trying. I just wonder how people who are so active on the various means of social media have time to do anything else.

grimbysmash

 

 

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Hopkins Vineyard Art Show

Hopkins Vineyard Art Show

One of the pieces currently hanging at the Hopkins Vineyard in Warren, Connecticut.

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Be Nice!

Be nice! It really isn’t that hard. Okay, sometimes it is, sometimes it feels impossible. I was always the nice guy. I had no choice because I didn’t know how to be any other way. When I heard the saying” Nice guys finish last” I bought in: hook, line and sinker. I was destined to finish last because that is where nice guys finished. Once you have that mindset you might as well not even run the race. Why bother? You are going to finish last anyway. Take your sneakers, your sweat wicking running gear and Hulkamania bandana and go home. Do not pass start. Do not collect any self esteem, spend the night in your own self imposed jail. Good morning, good afternoon and good night.

Until I realized I wasn’t finishing last. There were lots of people behind me in “the race”. People trying harder, working harder and appreciating every opportunity they were given or had earned.  Knowing that, it took me a long time to appreciate what I had and that being a “nice guy” wasn’t so bad.

As a FedEx driver, a job that will turn most people into cranky, angry, unhappy MFers I was still very nice. Especially compared to the UPS guy whose name was also Jim. There was FedEx Jim and UPS Jim or as I later found out Smiley Jim and Grumpy Jim.

I felt it was my job to be nice, the customer was always right and these were my customers. “You want these boxes THERE? No problem” “You want your Bowflex WHERE? No problem” You want these 20 cases of wine down the wet, grassy, steep hill to your wine cellar on this fine August afternoon? No problem”

Those things all happened and at the end of the day after I made it home and sat down with a cold beer and some bad TV I didn’t really care anymore. The day was over and I had done my job.

Those were the rare occasions. It was my regular customers who became my friends, the people whose routines I learned. When they wanted things, where they wanted them. I got to know them not just as my customers but as my friends. In a “FedEx” way. I was “FedEx (Smiley) Jim”. I had no other motive but to do a good job and try and do it well.

When I finally made the decision to leave (quit) I told some of my regular customers about my artistic past and how I hoped to pursue it in the future. Many were stunned but were equally happy that I was pursuing something other than FedEx. You see, my job was to be the FedEx guy, so that is what I did. I never ever mentioned art because it had no bearing on my job as a delivery guy. I was not proud of the job I did but I did it proudly. They were sad to see me leaving the job because I was good at what I did but were happy to see me doing something else.

My first art opportunity came through encouragement from a regular customer who pushed me to show my work to a local cafe owner. Not because she knew anything about my art but because she knew me and the kind job I had done for her. That one person opened my eyes to the kind of opportunities that existed by being ” the nice guy”.

That resulted in my first booking for an art show. Before I even had art to show. I realized that by not being a dick even on days when I really, really felt like it may have paid off. Because I can walk into places I have not visited for a year and the people know my name and ask how I’m doing. When I tell them about my goals and how I hope to have a show here or there they are almost always willing to help and give advice. “Go talk to this guy. Leave us some postcards. Keep in touch”. If I wasn’t a “nice guy” for all those years chances are I would not be getting that kind of treatment in return.

Does being a nice guy always pay off? Hell No! I know my good nature has been abused on many occasions. I have been stepped on, taken advantage of and used up and probably lost out on more than one opportunity because I’m a nice guy. But like I said I don’t know how to be any other way. (Do you really think I wanted to haul 20 boxes of wine down to some assholes wine cellar on a hot August afternoon? F That!)

So in about a week from today I will have my first “real” showing of my art. My “nice guy” reputation got my foot in the door and my art did the rest of the talking. Where will it lead? Who knows? Not Me. I can only take the chance I’ve been given and run with it. Image

So to make a long story short. (much to late for that) Be Nice! Because you never know when or where it is going to come back to you. Even if it doesn’t being known as the nice guy isn’t such a bad thing.

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Don’t Stop

If things went as planned I would have a variety of paintings hanging in a quaint cafe in the scenic and touristy hills of Litchfield, Connecticut at this very moment.  But how often do things go as planned? From the smallest task at home to the family vacation, things change constantly. When they do you need to be able to roll with the changes. Don’t take them to much to heart or too personally. Often they have nothing to do with you but with the world at large.

I went to this cafe a few weeks ago.  I went with a camera, a notebook and tape measure to take a closer look at the space and see what paintings I might be able to hang where. I talked to some of the women I knew who worked at the cafe and asked some general questions about hanging the work and how other artists had promoted themselves.

I sat down later that day and began the planning of the show. I would need to do a few new things but I had time. An idea that had been rolling around in my head became more clear. I envisioned a pair of dual paintings sharing the space on opposite sides of a window that overlooked the small stream and waterfall below. It was all new and was starting to feel real. I sent the owner an email ( she was not at the cafe when I stopped in) explaining how many pieces I thought I could show and asking what time of day I should hang the show. I sent off my email and got to work.

I want to say almost a week passed before I heard back from her. It didn’t concern me because my questions were simple and there was more than a week until the first of May. I was working among three different paintings and had all the prep work done for the dual paintings I wanted to do next. I got up that Thursday morning and found this in my inbox:

James
I’m sorry, plans have changed.  My daughter is taking over (the cafe) and she does not want to continue with what I have done with the art work.  I will keep your name and number should she change her mind.  Again, I’m sorry and wish you  well with your work.
Liz

 

That was April 25th. Six days before I was supposed to hang the show. I was stunned. Stunned to the point where I literally sat in front of my computer for a good ten minutes unable to fully process what had happened. The fog lifted and I wrote her back thanking her for the opportunity and that I would be in the area coming up anyway and drop off some business cards in case her daughter changed her mind. I had another connection I planned to see after this show had been set so I contacted them trying to keep some kind of momentum going. As it turned out that connection wasn’t going to work out either. It was  business and not personal, it was changes in venues and businesses practices not a reflection on my work.

The one thing I did let happen was I let it stop me from continuing on the work I had been so excited about. The painting sat on the easel untouched, the dual painting idea became an afterthought and I let disappointment disrupt my momentum.

I’ve learned since that point letting something  like that happen is a terrible habit to fall into. Less than a week later I had other people contact me about future opportunities of the “sooner rather than later” variety.  The very first venue that agreed to show my work had a wait of over a year and even this cancelled show was a wait of several months meanwhile new opportunities could be weeks away.

So I have tried to learn to look at the bigger picture. If something falls through don’t let it  stop you from continuing to pursue your passions and ideas. This is the ultimate definition of  “Luck is the combination of preparation and opportunity”. The opportunities were presenting themselves I just need to be better prepared for them.

Lesson Learned. Don’t Stop. and when you wake up in the morning get dressed, even if you don’t plan on leaving the house. Sitting around in your pajamas doesn’t bode well for conquering the day.

siding

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Complacent

I was complacent for many years. I had a pretty good job, I saved money, I bought a house I  restored a a vehicle I liked. I landscaped my yard, I painted the rooms of my house the way I wanted, I had a nice tv, I paid my bills on time and I could do whatever I wanted.

In that opening I used the letter I, as in referring to myself, 13 times. Therein lies the problem. Everything was about me and what was happening in my life. There was no sharing or generosity. No one really mattered except for myself. At least not enough to let someone into my life. People wanted to get in but it just never happened.

My regular friends who are beautiful to me were always there. Some even told me to expand my horizons, get out of my comfort zone. Go out, do things, meet people. “you are a catch” I’ve been told. You own a house and have a great job. I was always afraid, not so much of meeting people but of change. Giving up my valuable time and freedoms that been had earned. 

So the course remained steady. Work and more work save and save some more. Be responsible, pay the bills , mow the lawn. Complacency at its very best. Stay the course and nothing bad can happen. Put the money in the bank, show up to work on time, do your job each day, come home have some dinner watch some tv play some video games and start all over the next day.

It was a cocoon lifestyle which was embraced. A long distance friend whom had been around for years would ask me from time to time “Are you happy?” My answer would usually be ” I’m not unhappy”. Maybe because happiness was a mystery to me. It wasn’t allowed, it was too dangerous. It was easier to go through life numb and unfeeling than to take the chance of being happy.

She was an amazing and wonderful woman whom I had never even met in person yet we could talk endlessly on the phone. She offered me the world but never accepted her invitations. She offered to bring me all over the country if not the world, South Carolina, Florida ,California, Las Vegas, Mexico and even Vietnam.

Opportunities that will never be offered to me again. My mindset was all about normalcy and complacency, go to work, pay the bills, mow the lawn.

Eventually she stopped trying. We stopped talking and things went on and on as usual. Work, bills, lawn.

The rug was pulled out from under me at work. The rules changed. The system changed and it was decision time. When they announced the changes at work I knew within the first minute it was over. The opportunity was given to adapt and even prosper under the right circumstances, yet the offer was not right for me.

Sadly, that was what made me change my life, not the offer of love but the lack of stability. It was the biggest change and risk that had ever been taken. The results of that abrupt and almost violent change in lifestyle are yet to be determined. The fact that I am sitting here writing this blog is a move in the right direction. The fact that I have created paintings, cartoons, photos, reconnected with old friends, opened my heart to the good and bad allows me to know the possibility to live exists.

more than ten years of a cold heart can be thawed and brought back to life if you open your life to that opportunity.

mum

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two forward one back

So in my new found journey to be more Fully Present I had a slight misstep recently. I blame it some on a long day, getting tattooed with the addition of alcohol afterwords. I will be the first to admit getting tattooed is never really fun, my body hates me during and afterwords and I should just go home and rest instead of trying to make a night of it.

The problem is I live in Connecticut and my tattoo artist is in NYC. So when I go to the city I try and make the most of it sometimes to my own detriment.

I am sort of in this situation. Not really with the question being asked but the answer and advice being given by Captain Awkward. What she tells this person applies to me pretty directly and I haven’t really accepted that reality just yet. From a distance it is much easier to deal with and in time I think it will be even easier. It only takes a second or two to rear its ugly head and make you feel like the progress you’ve made was all for nothing.

I can say however it was short lived. the next morning I awoke in my friends apartment and made my way to Grand Central Terminal to take the Metro North back to Connecticut. The Uptown F train service wasn’t as good as usual and I had a decision to make when arriving on 42nd street. Do I rush to GCT to catch the train or maybe take a few minutes to enjoy Bryant Park on a Sunday morning?  I could have made the 10:07 train but it would have already been crowded. So I decided on the park.

I realized this was one of the first times since reconnecting with my NYC friends that I had actually taken a time out. I did so on my first visit back when I went to the MOMA and sat in the sculpture garden and drank a beer and watched the people. Since that first time it has always been something: Somewhere to be, someone to see, an appointment or a party. I sat in the sun (it has been a chilly spring so far in the Northeast) and looked at the clear blue sky, lush grass, the new flowers blooming along the sidewalk and ever present Bistro-Style green chairs. I was fully present even if just for a moment. I had no agenda, no real plan for the next moment or rest of the day. (Aside from catching my train, which didn’t take much thought) I was happy to be moving on from the night before and starting the process of starting over on my journey of awakening and becoming.

In full disclosure I did snap a picture of the city skyline looking south and posted it to Facebook. I added to the caption that I was taking a moment to enjoy the city on a quiet Sunday morning instead of rushing to catch my train home. A lot of people liked it and one friend even commented:  Taking your example & standing on the street corner in the sun.

That made it even more worthwhile.

Image

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Be Fully Present

A change came over me recently after a difficult experience. My eyes were opened and I made the active decision to be more disciplined, to love myself more and do what needed to be done to take care of myself.

Much to my surprise It wasn’t terribly difficult; maybe because I knew it was coming and I had just been avoiding it and putting it off.

Recently I purchased two books that have given me a place to start from. I had already started the process and was doing okay but to have some structure and guidance even if it were just words on a page helped me along.

The books are Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron and The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. Both books stress the importance of being present in ones own life.

Be fully present.

Feel your heart.

And engage the next moment without an agenda.

That is from the first book I mentioned but both books encourage this principle. I have begun to do this by separating myself from my phone when possible. Not an easy task in the world today. Especially when you are trying to figure out how to promote yourself as an artist using social networking. I was doing more than that. I was obsessing and checking my phone constantly for messages and contact on Facebook and Instagram. I had turned into one of those people. The people I never understood before I owned a “smart” phone. I always thought “what could they possibly be doing that is so interesting on their phones” ? I found out, there is quite a bit you can do with your phone, especially if you are constantly messaging with people. Every moment of down time I had I was checking the phone for “updates”. I knew it had to stop.

When going to lunch with my father recently I left the phone in the car or dinner with my parents at home I will shut it off and leave it in my jacket. Just last night I decided to let it charge overnight in the kitchen instead of the night stand. So I wouldn’t be tempted to wake up in the middle of the night to see what was happening online.

It is a small step in a much longer journey. I realize now how much harm I was causing myself by focusing more on  my phone than I was on myself and the people immediately around me.

There are many ways to “Be  Fully Present”. I am trying to figure out which ones work for  me. Appreciating the living, breathing world around me is one way. The feel of the sun, the sound of a friends voice , the smell of a flower, even a moment of pain or heartache. Take it in feel it and set it free. Accept it as part of living but don’t let it defeat you.

like one of my favorite Artists Bjork sings in Alarm Call ” I’m no fucking buddhist but this is enlightenment”

That is sort of how I feel. I like the Buddhist philosophy, maybe I will embrace it more one day but for now I’ll start by being less attached to my phone and live one breath at a time.

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Intuition: Gift or Curse?

I posted this blog title as a Facebook update recently. I received one answer: Usually both.

Intuition: 1. quick and ready insight 2. the power or faculty of knowing things without conscious reasoning

I was hoping for some more insight or opinion but apparently it didn’t pique enough interest  to be commented on. I ask because I feel I have an uncanny sense of intuition.

In the world of art is most certainly a gift. It has guided me when I was at a standstill. It has taken over when the color choices don’t seem obvious or clear when looking at the palette. The subconscious guides the brush, how much pressure to be using, when to take a step back and observe before moving ahead, when to take a break whether it be ten minutes or an hour. I don’t consider myself an especially talented artist in a technical sense. What I lack in fundamentals I have made up for using color and shape. My intuition and emotions have served me well.

In my everyday personal life I see my intuition as more of a curse. It is like my own “Spider Sense”  an easy reference for any of you comic book fans out there. No, I cannot predict Hurricanes or Bank Robberies but I sometimes see events unfolding before my eyes that I am helpless to stop.

This happened a few weeks ago. I saw something playing out before me, something I had sensed for weeks and was helpless to stop and absolutely unable to avoid. I was however as prepared as I could be, even though things ended up worse than I had imagined they would.

It was a fool me twice situation. I am certain there won’t be a third time. I won’t let there be. I may come off poorly in trying to avoid that outcome but I am also thinking I have moved on to the point where if it were to arise again I might not care all that much.

After this particular night was over I didn’t really know how to feel. I wasn’t sure I had the right to feel anything. I looked at it almost as if I had just been done a big favor. Things were clear. Like a line drawn in the sand. I wasn’t all that sad or angry (only at myself somewhat). It was a freeing experience in a sense. It has allowed me to move on almost to where I need to be. If this same thing were to have happened even a few months prior I can’t say the end results would have been the same.

I have taken this learning experience and used it to my advantage. It has set me on a course that I think will take me to where I need to be. I will blog about that journey soon.

I will also continue to accept my intuitive gift/curse and hope it leads me down more positive paths than negative.

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