I need to explain the genesis of this painting. It began in my mind long before brush touched board—actually, at dusk the day before I got up from bed on a harried-to-be morning with my plein air materials set at the door ready to go. I would teach myself to paint in the light of day. A month or two, whatever it took of daily jaunts out into nature to record what I sat down to see—my eyes, arm and left hand making interpretive copy of what was already right there in front of me. I walked down to the lake like an intense van Gogh, but unlike him in so many ways as to render me the most simpleton fool tool to the greatest of painting’s idiots. I set up on the rocks and commenced painting the view. I wish I had a picture snapped behind me. What was coming out on the canvas looked very similar to this photo taken last year.
I was set up outside on a beautiful spring day intent on painting my wish to keep the rain at bay. There is an expression from days gone by that if you can throw a cat through the clouds, then it will not rain. Meaning that somebody’s great great aunt heard that if a cat can fit inside a patch of blue sky, then she would not have to carry her umbrella to the corn fair.
My attempt in the photo didn’t last much longer. Seconds after the picture was taken I brushed over the board in heavy grays and black. I didn’t feel good about painting what I saw. So I finished the day enjoying the outdoors with my family and friends, and went home thinking of weather folklore. The next day in the studio I set up the largest canvas available and for the next week, commenced painting with my thoughts and only what the canvas beheld in front of me. Here is the result:
I had no luck in the wild, but was thoroughly satisfied abiding by my own genius.
This post’s title painting was the forth and final attempt to paint a scene I saw on Monday morning. While there, painting the view, I had three unremarkable failures. I could have titled them: Straining, Impotence, and Self-doubt. For the rest of the day I felt awful, a great sham, a delusion unto myself, and a guilty criminal to loved ones who believe in me. What a heavy load. I scribbled the board in grays and blacks, and laid off painting for a day in order to follow through with promised summer chores, thinking often about my failure. And then at some point yesterday afternoon, Matisse popped into my head. Rather, words once uttered by him. I paraphrase: “I don’t paint what I see as much as what is in my mind.” Then a mantra silently repeated over and over again while making dinner, visiting with the family, and finally settling down on a hot night.
Up in the morning, down to the studio. I could not paint fast enough the scene of a couple days ago. Plein air just doesn’t work out for me. Maybe nature is what it is and only some form of torture can come to those who attempt imitation. I would rather paint the cat with a red halo being thrown out to the clouds, than struggle with strokes that make me feel like I’m having a stroke. So finally I can say after many years time, in matters of plein air painting, I know what I do not know, and that is a milestone joy worth toasting a glass to. Here’s to you Mr. Matisse!
“I’d Rather Rendezvous With This Sexy Italian Newt Than Wait Around Here For Tasteless Billionaires To Win Again” 2016. acrylic on discarded press cleaning sheet, 7 x 17″ (In private collection of a friend)
Repeatedly, I suffer bouts of intense self-doubt that usually presages a light epiphany of sorts. I get a new idea or a reaffirmation of a past philosophy, and all is set back right with the world. Always temporary though. Another self-doubt monster will invade my pshyche in due time. It never fails to torment again and again.
Last night was bad. I won’t go into it, because the good idea that transpired has charged me back onto a positive path.
For some unknown reason, the life of my great grandfather sprang into my mind this morning. Henry Throop lived in the central New York area all his life. He was born in 1880, raised in Lebanon, N.Y., attended Colgate when it was still a prep school, went to Cornell to study civil engineering, married, and settled in Syracuse, where he worked as a railroad engineer, and then on his own as independent engineer/contractor until his death in 1956.
I use his life often in writing and conversation to juxtapose today’s culture to the one of a hundred years ago. Was it a better time? Who knows? I can say with certainty that Henry was a very mature twenty-something year old. He kept a journal—observations and day to day life for the most part, and also an expense account book, showing where every penny went. This morning’s idea was to use this account book to revolutionize the way I intend to sell my work.
My Silver Dollar Campaign
I have had it with business and art. It doesn’t work. The moment the painting gets offered, haggled, denied, etc, on the market exchange, the entire culture of the thing created gets violated. I lose all semblance of its original innocence as soon as the money door opens. Only once have I made a painting thinking about money, or a sale. Here it is:
“My Heart’s Desire Is That One of You Is Drunk Enough To Buy This Painting” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16″
I was invited to a rock concert with some friends where there would be a section of the parking lot cordoned off for vendors. I painted this the night before, and had it sold before we finished putting up the tent.
It is stated in my great grandfather’s account book that on September 14, 1907, he purchased the following for one dollar:
2 loaves of bread
1 dozen cookies
pound of butter
and a haircut…
A dollar in 1907 had the spending power of about $25 today, without the haircut (some small luxury to prove how contemporary inflation experts always seem to get it wrong). So, about $40 today would buy these goods Henry bought in 1907. A dollar was a dollar and it purchased what forty more dollars could buy today.
I love the silver dollar because it has an ever changing value on the money market. For several years I have watched its value move between about $15 to $35. And it’s just a dollar! It also feels good in the hand, and I bet many of them in a small pouch attached to my belt (a lá Rimbaud), would feel even better.
Henry’s items I listed above are worth any one of my paintings. No one is buying the luxury items I have made available. So I have sweetened the pot in order to avoid the money exchange problem for the rest of my life.
I will amass silver coins!
From this day forward, any one of my paintings not hanging in a gallery can be bought for a silver dollar. Not what a silver dollar will buy, but exactly one, shiny silver dollar. I don’t want to barter anymore. I want to jingle coins in a pouch. I have set the value, and it is universal. Any size. Any painting not in a gallery. Of course, the buyer must pay for frame and also shipping on top of the silver dollar. I have some very big paintings. If they were purchased, I would have to charge a handling fee. (Quite a bit of work goes into hiring a tractor trailer to pick up at a residence). Frames, shipping and handling could be exchanged in paper currency, however, the painting itself—always just one silver dollar.
Now imagine the creative time we could have. No more of that embarrassing “real” money exchanging hands. You can stop at the local pawn shop on your way to my studio and deal with the proprietor. He or she will certainly have silver dollars to sell you in trade for the paper money. Get it. Heck, get two, and stop by to pick out any painting(s) you want. If framed, I will price it fair, and you can give me the paper money that I will spend on groceries, or a dress for Rose at the second hand shop. I will mark your name, painting, and date of purchase in a little cardboard envelope, and if I make it to seventy-five, cash in on retirement fried eggplant sandwiches once in a while, thinking of you and our shared human experience.
(Please note: I can only accept silver dollars, and not paper money of what a silver dollar is currently worth on the pretend money market. I made the effort of the painting. Now you can go the extra mile to pick up the actual silver dollar).
Please think about this, and spread the idea far and wide. There must be some painting that you like for such a fair price. Think of birthdays, upcoming holidays. I am just so exhausted from these encounters with the self doubt monster. It’s time to kill the money.
Several of my recent paintings can be found here. I look forward to jingling coins in a pouch.
Not much to say beyond the title. Men (mostly men, rarely women) my age are holding the earth hostage with 20th century mass death technology. Not one of them is made of more virtue than I—Better bureaucrat, yes. Better fearer. Better mistruster. Better God or mother-hater. Better White supremacist. Better Chinese or Korean Supremacist. Better Indo-European, maybe even Dravidian supremacist, of course. But never a better man than me. Any military that holds these in arsenal is more than coward—it is degenerate evil. Logic for this kind of destruction is insane. So humanoids in or out of government who tacitly set aside madness for status begin their climb from a much lower level than I, and I hope, you too. Maybe they are what hell would be if it existed.
It truly is a world divided into us against them. Especially if “us” ever raised and loved a child. I tamed the phthalo wolf. I am better than all manufacturers and the combined militaries of nations that would serve this evil.
Kinetic mass annihilation is premeditated mass annihilation. People who are connected to these weapons need their noses forcefully pushed into their own Armageddon pile. Even our dear mother, uncle or son who collects a paycheck to perpetuate this madness. As a lowly painter I have become a higher human being than anyone who would allow a world to collect this much death power. There is a time to become arrogant in love and nurturing. I have arrived. I have more love for mankind than all nuclear nations combined.
And all I had to do was paint an imaginary green wolf.
Yup. I can declare it because I am an artist. I have determined that the atom is not ours to manipulate, so there—it’s all settled. I am late middle-aged, a father, one day a grandfather, and an artist. Therefore I have more sway than the Grand Poobah of the military, the political hack, the parasitic corporate executive, the plumber with a dream… Why? Because I am a failure at collective thought, groupthink, mob rule, democracy and all isms leading towards extinction. I live between four industrial plants splitting the atom for trucks and cars, and many McMansions where the atom-splitters dine on almost fine cooking. Ah yes, as artist, I am also a better cook than the atom-splitters and their ladder-up or ladder-down ilk. As artist, which is failure, I answer to myself and my love alone. Myself and my love alone want nuclear technology to cease. All except for medical procedures that uncancer the children who suffer tumors for the “greatest generation’s” psychotic fear of their own timidity towards men in lab coats. Back in 1958, instead of “ducking and covering”, little Teddy’s grandparents should have been disjointing the joint chiefs of staff.
No worries. Myself as artist has matured, and declared the end of the nuclear age.
The New God Nuclear
Last year I scoffed at the venerable Krishnamurti who once declared that the world problem is not the individual problem. Meaning that one should not bother about outside trouble until he has cured his own ailing soul. I rejected such a selfish philosophy after I woke up one morning to the doom that the world is being held hostage by nuclear weapons. There would be time I thought to play happy swami in full lotus after the earth was rid of the threat of six-hour annihilation. From this day forward, however, I will thank the new God profusely. Thank God—thank you real, honest, and true, new God-Nuclear… that to be born again is exactly what humanity has longed for deep in its heart of hearts ever since the first creative superstition helped the confused hominid choose the correct leaf to eat.
That is this:
We have it now. A final proof of God. Proof of an evil force, like satan, proof of hellfire, damnation, tortured souls, happiness beyond comparison, proof of extremely efficient punishment to sinners and infidels…
This God-Nuclear is real. We have seen him spit a gob at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and just like that—200,000 people, six million birds, a trillion plants and animals liquidated! That is a marvel. Barefoot Jesus made a blind man see? Whippety-doo! Small time trick of a holy, hack magician. Then this new God-Nuclear got an overnight head cold for the latter part of the last century, and now a billion women are destined to have one or both of their breasts lopped off. That is efficient punishment. Forget those whining Christians with their girly talk about “the rapture”. God-Nuclear wipes his ass with Revelations.
It was last year when I laughed at the selfish simplicity of the new atomic wise man, Krishnamurti. Now, after humbling myself to the new light, after meeting the new God-Nuclear face to undeniably magnificent warhead, I see that the skinny, big-eyed prophet was absolutely right, no matter what his initial reasoning. The world problem is not my problem.
God-Nuclear has knocked that huge chip off my shoulder. God-Nuclear, thank God-Nuclear, will take care of the world. Seven of his grand thermonukes detonated on the same day will strangle our dear atmosphere to death. That is a real, powerful force! Not likely Mohammed ever imagined such a blow! He was content with fire bolts shot from the clouds. Maybe a dark rider on a donkey wielding a magic sword to slay the wicked. When superstition was all guesswork and faith, who knew what the punishments would be?
So much confusion, too many impressive demigods, little miracles, maidens and buffalo boys, entire planets and stars teeming with the unpredictability of life and weather, existing together as one big family on the shell of a floating turtle…
Once, not too long ago, every devout Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Iroquois could go into himself to perfect existence, to maintain an almost ecstatic peace and harmony. Poverty was praised, for the religious life revealed successive rewards. Karma was very real. Should life, with all its intricate detail, ever veer off course, then watch out for some nasty personal consequences!
Back in those golden days of doing good for fear of God it was bad to be rich, good to be simple, bad to flaunt style, good to sleep under the stars…
It shall be like that for the visionaries once again. We will have our new Buddhas and Jesus Christs. They will carry on with amazing humility and silence, so beautifully, leaving nothing to the world but their fading inner light.
God-Nuclear exists for the increase of our spiritual bounty. No more guesswork. There truly is Kingdom come! Armageddon ain’t no lie. Why on earth are those crazy nuns beating weapons into plowshares? It must be a blind, raging jealousy of the greater, truer god. Their ancient spear and sword god comes from the darkest of dark ages, before Thomas Edison, Gatling guns and incendiary bombs. It was the Manhattan Project, not the knowledge of Jesus or Vishnu which separated the savage from the civilized.
God-Nuclear waits underground with a wide, knowing smile. There is one God and it just doesn’t matter what anyone gets from this knowledge.
What that means for the spiritual boobs…
It means get back to work all of you! You are absolved of sin. The superstitions have vanished. Droughts are explained. Famine understood. The plague is all about not washing your hands after drinking shitty water. Lawlessness happens mostly from having no fear of an angry god.
Get the most out of life. Forget about progeny if you must. Love is okay. Hate is okay too if it brings you joy. The only consequences left are those wrought by breaking man-made laws and the inevitable doom of eternal silence brought to you by the new and improved good God-Nuclear.
But this should only bring the happy ones closer together.
Spirituality, devotion, gentleness, compassion—these things make life worth living. More so with the knowledge of certain death for everybody, including the unborn’s unborn.