Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Insufferables

In 2009, friends and I started a rock and roll band called The Insufferables, and the band endures. We practice regularly at a music studio at Hunters Point Shipyard and we have played all over the bay area. We recorded 2 EP's, available everywhere (such as Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, etc.) and are trying to figure out how to record a full length album. We have at least 12 songs that are ready to be recorded and we think they are pretty good songs.
I play rhythm guitar in a primitive way, sing back up and write songs for our singer Keith to sing. Sometimes Gene, the guitarist and also a prolific songwriter, will let me write lyrics for his songs (that Keith sings).
Like cartooning, design, or painting, songwriting is just another art form. It requires a concept to be refined. The music and everything is subservient to the concept.
I read a self-help book recently called "The thing that's holding you back" and the thing was emotions locked inside that have not been fully felt. Seemed like a good idea for a song. Since Keith had to sing it, I wrote it as an Outlaw-country-Waylon-Jennings-type of song. (The rhymes are not very sophisticated but I am proud that I was able to say what I wanted to say and have it make sense for Keith's stage persona.) The band, also including bassist Ram and drummer Kevin, worked up a great version of it. Sounds awesome. Here are the lyrics:

No matter what I did, I was never good enough.
No matter when it was, life was always sort of rough.
I traveled way out West to get away.
I traveled way out West.
No matter where the trail,
The thing’s on my tail.        
It’s going to finish me soon, 
I attract the teeth to match my wound.

No matter where I went, trouble was always there to greet me.
No matter who I met, it was always the same story.
I traveled way out West to get away.
I traveled way out West.
No matter where I go,
The thing seems to know.        
It’s going to finish me soon, 
I attract the teeth to match my wound.

You can never run.
You can never hide.
If you were bitten
The thing lurks inside.

No matter what the pain, the past’s never gonna hurt me.
No matter what it is, the thing’s never gonna kill me.
I traveled way out West to get away.
I traveled way out West.
No matter where I ride,
The thing’s by my side.        
It’s going to finish me soon, 
I attract the teeth to match my wound.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Geeking out on estate planning

The artists at Hunters Point Shipyard started an estate planning group. Motivated by the fact that some of the artists are getting older (and you never know...), and the fact that we still have a lot of art. We worry about what’s going to happen to it. No one wants to leave a mess for their heirs.
But it’s our life’s work. To us, it’s priceless. It’s the story of our life, like a journal, but better. Naked feelings right there on the canvas (even if most people can’t see them). Everyone hopes that his/her art will live famously on in some a museum, or at least a loving home somewhere—we hope it will avoid the rubbish bin and the Goodwill/Salvation Army store situation. (Even if it’s rescued, the work could be damaged.*)
Early on in my career some gallery guys told me to save everything. That was not good advice for someone like me, who even kept her grade school reports and high school diaries.
One of the first recommended tasks it to start an inventory.
Screenshot of Inventory list in InDesign (without images)
blue: destroyed  |  pink: question  |  red: sale, gift, auction
I had a list in Adobe InDesign of all my paintings—a very long list—but I added numbers…each starting with a year. I used my college transcript to try to recreate that period. (My list also has notes for major life events such as who I was dating, where I was living, whether it is an important work, etc. I plan to add more ‘story’ for each piece.) Here’s part of a page of the list.
Then I added the numbers to the digital file names. This felt amazing because the work lined up in the order in which it was made. Which is how I think of it…which piece led to which…so that was exciting to see. Here’s a pix of part of the still life folder:
Digital files lined up by date
Digital files lined up by date

(The inventory number needs to be added to the back of each painting.)

The next step was to add a photo of the work to the list at relative sizes. Now the list becomes very, very long. Too long to print out.

The process brought up a lot of emotions. Proud about some old work. Horrified and ashamed that I had destroyed some really good work. Ashamed that for some long-gone pieces only have a bad photo exists. Have no idea what to do about my slides.  Felt guilty that my series are not similar to each other. It’s been strange to look over everything but I feel somewhat energized by the process.

What shocks me is that there is all this artwork memory. For example, I can remember the making of each painting, with love, that I may even have destroyed, when at the same time not a soul knows about or has seen it. Yet I am so involved with it emotionally. It has a title, a photograph usually, and a place on my list. It’s like a secret friend.

I had a secret life all these years.

I make this art alone. Often there is a struggle to work something out—I almost never give up. Sometimes the process is easy. Usually I feel like “What am I doing? I can’t pull this off.” Some pieces make it and some don’t. Some get destroyed later. But it’s all very important. And no one knows about it, for the most part.

Painting days are lost days. Much of my life is these secret, lost days. Painting feels like work. But it has to be done for some reason.

Some pieces leave to go to a new home, which is a wondrous thing for which I am always grateful. Can collectors know the feelings that are in the piece? I guess making these pieces helped me deal with events in my life. I know that when there were very strong feelings, the work came out better. I guess these are my little helpers.

My next steps are to re-photograph art, organize the studio, and start collecting work that I can give to auctions. Since I’ve destroyed bad work, I’ll give good, older work. I will put an explanatory note on the back. I will find out which pieces friends want, when I pass, and make a “tangible assets” list for a Living Trust.

I also lowered prices.

*I worry about my work out of the studio. I rarely exhibit in cafes and restaurants because I worry about the work getting damaged. I am often horrified when I see where the piece will be installed. (Sun, danger of getting splashed or kicked, smoke damage, whatever.) One of my pieces lived on a dusty sun porch with the dogs. A major piece is right next to the refrigerator a few inches off the floor. A beloved piece was crammed into a strange space while the living room was filled with schlock decorator art (which they probably paid more for). It still looked good. It takes a good piece to look good in a bad spot!

But often my art ends up in a great spot in a loving home or office. Then it’s safer than it would be in the studio where I am liable to paint over it.

**Another task to be solved is that a lot of work exists only in slides, which have not yet been scanned, and even when scanned, don’t look very good.

***Another task is the mound of drawings which are somewhat sorted but way too numerous.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Picking up and carrying on...

As an artist, I was sort of thrown by the Presidential Election.
I always wanted to have a woman as president. I liked Hillary. I am disappointed.
I am concerned about the Russian influence and Trump's campaign promises and corruption. I care about racism, the environment, wildlife, health care, education, etc., etc., etc.

It took me some time to figure out how to proceed. I wanted to make larger work but still work from life. I wanted to work with animals. I did not want to make nihilistic sci-fi or political scenes. I want to paint reality.

I finally stumbled on an idea that excites me. I can still work with animals and realism yet subtly get my political feelings in there, yet make powerful, positive paintings (for those who don't get to vote).

At the same time, I threw myself into drawing political cartoons as a way to deal with the day-to-day annoyances that was the news. Humor is a great way to deal with things that upset you. I am a firm believer that the more of any art you make, the better. I made a Facebook page and started throwing them up there. I thought my friends could make captions for them. I am not a writer and they are very hard to write!
In some Facebook secret group, I noticed a woman who seemed to have lots of ideas. I asked her if she wanted to help me make cartoons. She did. Her name, not her real name, is Kat Hatz and she lives in Chicago. We collaborate on Facebook messenger. She comes up with most of the ideas and I draw them. We futz over the tag lines (trying to learn how to be funny).
At some point I'll figure out where to put these cartoons, but you can also visit our Facebook site called "Laughaboutit". Feel free to add your own tag line, and "like" the page if you want to see more. Here's one inspired by the Healthcare debate.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Video promo for Open Studio

Here's a very short video shot by Krista Kahl on her phone using available light.
It shows a new painting I was working on.
Click here to go to youtube video.

Thanks to everyone who came to the Open Studio event. It was fun to see everyone and meet new art lovers. I just started this series and did not want to stop work I kept working!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Memory of working downtown as an office temp

I had a two-day teaching gig downtown San Francisco last week. As I walked around, I noticed the beautiful art in the lobbies Financial District buildings. Some of the art is crappy commercial, but much of the art is absolutely gorgeous.
In my early working career in San Francisco, I worked in many, many of those buildings. As a freelance temp, I was all over the place: three days here, five days there. I worked on about five floors in the Bank of America building alone. I remember seeing a series of priceless Henry Moore etchings in a conference room on an upper floor. It seemed like the higher you got in those buildings, the better the art got. (And the higher the floor, the easier the job, the better the coffee—but that’s another story.) This large conference room was always empty. I wonder if anyone appreciated the etchings.
Anyway, last week I was overcome with a strong memory—a feeling—how I used to feel trapped at work rather than be an artist. Passing the art in those buildings, with a bleeding heartache that I worked at some dumb job. It was like a physical pain, every day. I felt that I should be painting while I was young. I felt my art should be in those buildings, in every one of them.
I always painted on the weekends. Sometimes I made art or went to a drawing group in the evening. I fulfilled a quota of paintings per month. I'd mail my slides and SASE to art competitions at lunchtime.
Being an office temp allowed me days off between jobs. Sometimes the agency would call me, say, on a Wednesday, and I’d book a job for Monday. Then, I’d dive into painting, knowing that some money was coming in. Other times, I’d get stuck at a job for too long. 
I was never able to create art when I didn't feel financial secure. And I never expected someone to support me. So I worked. Eventually the jobs got better and more creative.

But I still painted on the weekends.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

I was thinking about how the painting I am working on completely reveals my recent feelings (see previous blog), even though it’s just a still life of a bunch of old junk and no one will know.

Click here for the video. 

I am feeling a bit paranoid lately, (the constant stream of job applications and art rejection letters can get to one). It seems that Adobe software company is watching my every computer move. I heard that Congress gave the FBI expanded powers. I was thinking about what Bernie Sanders has been saying in the campaign.
At one point, my computer was acting like it was hacked and when I changed all my passwords, it acted normal again.
Was some hunky agent watching my every move? I wrote him a love song. You guys all know that I still play in bands, right? My main band is The Insufferables. Singer Keith came up with the last line:

FBI song 

When I’m in the cafe
Are you sitting across from me?
Am I under suspicion?
Are you sworn to secrecy?

Yesterday I bought some pot
And there’s nothing wrong with me
I did not report all my tips
But you know that al-rea-dy

hey secret agent, watching everything I do
It’s nice to know someone’s reading all those tweets.
hey secret agent, watching everything I do.
hey secret agent, can you tell me what to do?

Should I leave my current job
And look for something new?
Does my boyfriend really like me,
Or is there someone new?

When I move the cursor,
I feel you by my side.
When I leave my home
Do you slip inside?

hey secret agent, watching everything I do
It’s nice to know someone’s reading all those tweets.
hey secret agent, watching everything I do.
hey secret agent, can you tell me what to do?

Can I really trust you?
Do I have a choice?
Do you control it all now?
Do the people still have a voice?

Do you know my passwords?
Are they strong enough?
Have you seen my photos?
Am I sharing way too much?

Have you seen my band play?
Are you hear tonight?
Did you get a recording?
Does it sound alright?­

hey secret agent, watching everything I do
It’s nice to know someone’s reading all those tweets.
hey secret agent, watching everything I do.
hey secret agent, who is watching you?

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Compared with Hillary...

After watching the Democratic National Convention, when Bill gave a long speech about Hillary Clinton’s bio, I feel like comparing myself to Hillary.
Hillary Clinton is a few years older than my sister, older than I am, and while she's been spending all years apparently doing public service, improving the ‘lives of millions of people’, I've been painting and drawing.

I've been getting a lot of rejections from juried shows lately but I finally got to show put on by ArtSpan in a swanky Mission Bowling Club where I can showcase the big new work. I was less excited when I delivered and realized there were four other artists in the show, but heck, it’s still cool. (Terrified that two of my paintings are hung really low on the staircase to the eating area, in reach of greasy fingers, and will be damaged.)
Standing in front of 2 large paintings at the opening
Mission Bowling opening

I also got in a group show in a real gallery, a cool gallery, in Berkeley, called Ube, opening next week.
So why have I dedicated myself my life to art? When I was in grammar school, I was the kid in the class or maybe even the kid in the school that was good at art. (Okay, there was another girl who was better than I was, but she was getting private drawing or art classes outside of school. She was really good.) I was good at school, but best at art.
In fourth grade, I drew horses for the other girls for cash. I founded The Little Artists Club (LAC), which had two members, my best friend, Mary, and I. We had an art opening in her parent’s laundry basement and both families attended. I would loiter around friends’ mothers who were artists, asking them about their work. As a child I wrote stories, plays, and comics. I also knitted, crocheted, embroidered, sewed, did macramé, did leather work, took photos, made films, built a tree house, etc. My sister was really good at art but she never pursued it.
I went to an early feminist art show in my first college and a photographer overheard me saying, “I wish I could be an artist.”
     And she said, “Well, why don’t you?”
     I said “My mother wouldn’t approve.”
     She said “It’s your life, isn’t it? She had her life.”
And of course, this changed my life forever.
Later when I had my interview to get into the respected art school there, SUNY at New Paltz, the Dean said their policy was not to admit many women, because women would get married and quit art. I assured him I would not get married. They admitted me, but I decided to go elsewhere for my art degree. (I did marry later but art was always my mission.)
On National Public Radio, a female stockbroker said that women who pursued creative careers have hurt ourselves twice, partly because we don't have a lot of income, and we also don't have a lot of money to invest in things to get the society that we want.
So a lifetime spent painting and drawing and studying a lot. Attended drawing sessions all my life. Went back to school to study graphic design so that I could find work.
I probably worked as hard as Hillary. I always had to have two careers. I guess you could say she had two careers also, she was a mom and a public servant. But when compared to her, someone who has helped ‘millions of people’… I've basically learned how to paint and draw, somewhat, somewhat. (Mastery as an artist is never reached.)
So she's helped ‘millions of people’ get a better life and I've gotten pretty good at something that seems like an anachronism, something that doesn't seem wanted anymore, something that is way out of fashion. If the future was a river, I am stranded on an island off to the side, not even in the river. A peculiar place to find oneself after so much hard work.
However, art what I was best at, at so that's what I pursued.
Do I have regrets? Possibly, I will, if the future doesn’t want what I did, if my work ends up in the rubbish bin. I don't have regrets spending my life doing what I love. I’ve been a gambler with my life and it's not over yet.
When I was in college, Sue Penwarden and I got to interview Joey Ramone for my punk fanzine. In response to a question about gaining success, he told us “You can just never give up.” I guess I've been kind of following his advice all these years. 
Joey Ramone did okay.

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