Weird since 1976

I’m a dreamer. Always have been. That quiet kid sitting in the corner at every family gathering drawing out their imagination on any available scrap of paper? That was me.

I got started painting around age 13 exactly how the classic Renaissance masters did: a portrait of Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie with paints and brushes I borrowed from a kid named Josh. Subsequent work was heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite artists and death metal album covers, also an exact facsimile of the Renaissance masters. I stopped painting around age 20 to pursue endeavors in music and filmmaking, both of which died wriggling, painful deaths after dedicated pursuit over thirty years. So why not pick up painting again at age 45? 

In this new chapter of painting I’m being more deliberate in choosing images that mean something to me on a deeper level than “this looks neat”, though neat looking things still appeal. People I’ve known, places I’ve been, photos I or my family have taken, scenes from a story flourished by early and devastating loss, protracted neglect, suburban blight and clawing through life one dashed hope at a time. There’s also an interest in that spark you get when doofing around a museum and one piece immediately makes you say “ooh” and you walk over to it. Doesn’t matter what it is, one thing in a room or floor elicits an “ooh” and if I can make even one painting like that then I’ll consider my work a success.

I approach painting the same way I approach pretty much everything: figure out what I want to accomplish, thrash around with my bare hands for a while and eventually figure out how to make it less bad. I build all my art boards by hand, which explains why the parts you don’t see in the frame are so janky. As they say in carpentry: “Hey, we ain’t building cabinets.” Learning how to do things is usually a solo affair with sporadic Youtube searches for specific tasks that confuse me and that’s no different for painting as it is for anything else. A classically trained painter would probably projectile vomit if they saw how I do things, but who cares! There are likely much easier ways to accomplish the things I like to accomplish, but I find a kind of meditative comfort in nitpicking a petal or eyeball for hours and hours. “It takes as long as it takes” is a common refrain.

My family has deep roots in Seattle, both lines having moved here in the late 19th century. My great-great grandfather was the Ballard postmaster in 1902. My mother’s family operated the most successful sausage company in the city in the pre-depression era (Jilg Sausage Co). My great uncle on my father’s side put the first paint job on the Space Needle and my grandfather on the other side worked for the ‘62 World’s Fair and took photos of the Needle from a plane on opening weekend. Uncle Jim was the very first customer at Dick’s Drive-In. I’ve lived in the area since birth and in the same house on the South side of town for 25 years with no plans of leaving. Seattle is home.

As we careen towards a future where high quality, high resolution art of any kind can be created out of thin air by a single mouse click there’s still a deep feeling in traditionally made pieces that can’t ever be replicated digitally. It’s that intangible knowledge that this took somebody hours, days, months or years of painstaking toil to produce. When looking at or listening you can unconsciously feel the paint under the fingernails, the granite dust in the hair, the fifteenth take on a guitar solo, the sentence that took a week to get just right, the frustration, joy, mystery and triumph that comes with any work of art made by a human. There’s a place in the world for AI and all the things it can do, but I hope that there will always be a place for things made by hand and I’d like a little bit of wall space there. I’d also like a little recognition for spending six days painting a god damn ear with a brush that’s just one bristle.   

Other than all that I mostly think about Huey Lewis and the News and hot dogs.