how does the darkness feel.

Originally published 02/02/2012.

It is so hard to tell you.

It comes as a wave.  It builds. It is slow, and heavy, and at first it feels as if I can continue to stand in it, and resist the current.

When one’s body is broken, it is visible. Others can see the broken parts sticking out, smell the rot, assess the damage and quantify the exact amount of sympathy, decide upon a course of action. The dark inside is different. The body shows it, yes, but not in ways that can be understood by anyone who has not been sucked under.

The darkness rises, and the current underneath will lift and grab. One’s whole being, the air around, the muscles give way.

Just get up. Just shower and shave and do the dishes and feed the dog and wash the clothes and cook food and pay a bill and go to work and

None of these things are possible. When you’re standing on the shore these are easy things, simple, small things. In the grip of the current the only fight is not to get sucked under completely, to keep the head above the surface enough to steal a breath.

And another, and another. Because you can’t just stop breathing.

I know I should just talk directly about my own experience, here. I know I should be specific. But how can I? How can I?

I have smelled my own stench when a week of the darkness has left me washed up on the shore. I’ve been catatonic- seen shapes in the shadows. I’ve felt pain in places where my body is not. And when the body is hurt, broken, or ill, the darkness knows, and rushes forward to seize its chance.

Being alone, in pain, and having the dark wash up on you is something you must, and most will, experience in life. You cannot understand it until it comes, and when you have been through it you will have changed. The darkness leaves a mark on you that can’t be washed away by all the sunlight and blowing curtains and fresh water you can muster.

It passes, and it’s gone. Once it’s come and gone you know it can come again, though. And that haunted feeling will stay.

Good times are good times. And they are best because the darkness has been and gone. The shadows make all the light around them richer.


all sweetness and light.

just another negative asshole on the internet

just another negative asshole on the internet

I was reading someone’s site earlier, an artist someone pointed me to for ‘ideas about selling more art’.  The artist makes good stuff, illustrative art made from collage, very design-y, very positive and girly. It’s good art. Their art is on all kinds of stuff.

So I started reading their posts, and reading through their archives, and looking at the stuff they’re doing. And holy hell, talk about happy positivity and sugar smiles. Not a single negative thought, or statement. Not a droplet of anger, or unhappiness. I mean this girl is sweet as pie. Her life is made of rainbows and cupcakes. She’s never posted about being poor, or being sick, or being lonely. Not once. She’s pretty, she’s only a bit younger than me, she’s always encouraging, she has not a single personality flaw. And she’s nice about it too. She has her stuff licensed for home decor things, and has other companies wholesaling it or retailing it, and sells only originals here and there if the whim comes.

Listen, you guys. I see people like this, and I start to feel so shitty on myself. Like- I watch horror movies, and I curse, and I get negative. I’m often poor and sometimes sick and always a little off-kilter. I have done things wrong in my life and will likely continue to be fucked up in new and surprising ways on a regular basis. Sometimes I get in arguments, or drunk, or say things that are crass or offensive. I’m extremely imperfect and not always a good person.

And so, if I am not sweetness and light, how the fuck can I ever succeed? Success seems to require this…this peachy keen persona, this happy-up vibe and I just cannot do it, can’t fake it. Even if I could there’s decades of evidence for all my failures and bad behaviors! I mean…I don’t even know how one lives without troubles and fuckups and bad times. I couldn’t even write this post without cursing. I don’t even know if that can be real. But apparently it is real, and there are people like that, and they make GOBS of money on their works, without even doing much actual work. 
28308_1344575736648_1298901221_30981550_4061441_nCupcakes-and-sunshine people discourage me. I don’t know what to do now. This should be an inspiring post, but the more I read there the more I realized I will NEVER have that kind of following, that kind of draw. I’ll NEVER be a nice happy positive person that nice old ladies want to chat about at some frilly gift shop, it will just NOT happen. There are no major contracts for wholesaling in my future, there will be no fluffy bunny pillows at your local department store with my name on them, you can exit through the gift shop but my work isn’t for sale there.

I can try as hard as I want, encourage others to try, but in the long run, I’m still a negative asshole, and I still get depressed, go broke, have toothaches, and offend people. I love what I do but I also love to read true crime, look at gross and gory pictures, watch shitty horror movies and make fun of stuff. Do we have to be perfect to succeed? Do we have to grovel?

This life, how do people live it?

So then I go look elsewhere for something else to read. I hit on an article talking about Van Gogh and how great it is that his work has so much recognition, how high the prices are at auction. Man, he’s dead. He died broke and miserable.  And wasn’t some of his work “cultural appropriation”? All those japanese masks and flowers… also, dude was negative, unhappy, self-destructive, and all the rest.

Since reading and thinking about art didn’t cheer me up any, I’m going to watch Body Bags- and maybe a couple other shitty horror movies- and snuggle the dog.

making art, making life.

The world is a very grey and dismal place at times. There are deaths, horrors. We are all alone in these little bodies, floating around, disconnected most of the time- from each other and from the ground we stand on. Most people DO live quietly, desperately, working and thinking and amassing a thousand new worries each day.

Most people walk around afraid, nervous. Or angry. Or just focused on the task at hand, which for more people all the time involves merely surviving the vicissitudes of economy and thrift, of bad jobs or no work. Of struggle. Life is mostly struggle and concern for most people on earth, and for the rest it can be even worse.

It’s our job, as artists, to show people that there is more. I am not a religious person, nor even a spiritual one. I do not believe that there is a sky-man or any kind of conscious entity watching over us carefully, or interested in our problems. I do not believe. BUT- I do believe that the world itself is a being of grace, and by truly seeing it, and being within it, we can lighten our weight. This entails details.

When one is in a chain gang, there will be a beautiful weed sprouting in the ditch. When one has lost hope and is starving, there will be the smell of dry morning air, and the sunrise. When the worries about the future become too much, there is still the present.

I know this doesn’t make up for any of it. I also know that there are times for all of us when we realize our solitude, when we are alone and in pain, in the dark. Cold and possibly hopeless. In those times it is art’s job to expose the alternatives, to bring the world into us and that way bring us out of ourselves.

Art doesn’t have to be “good” or skilled or perfect or even beautiful to do this. It will be a different view for each artist and a different piece that speaks to each viewer. Sometimes the crude and the ugly do this much more effectively than the pretty and the sweet- actually for me, when I am alone and in pain in the dark, it is the reminder that others have been there as well that helps. And art that speaks this way is often NOT beautiful to look at.

nude watercolor painting, naked smileI need to sell art to live- to pay rent. To eat. If I could give it away and not be homeless I would. But the necessities of the world insist that my work must be valued at a number. I know that for some the value of their work is low and their hours are long and hard; that they must do work which is difficult, upsetting, dangerous. I am lucky to be an artist, I am privileged in ways not many are. I love my work. That alone is a stroke of fortune.

People who hate their work but must do it deserve my best efforts, because I know that at times my work, seeing my work and interacting with it, is their release and their reminder. Artists have an obligation to try their damnedest to do that, and to do it as best they can every time.

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