Revisiting work from yester-year


This week I took the opportunity to revisit some photography I did with model Ophelia Overdose. I haven’t had a chance to do many beauty shoots lately and I had an urge to retouch a couple of faces.

Hope you enjoy these two images:

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Step back in historical Paris with the Lumiere brothers early work


In film history classes, you learn about the first motion pictures. The Lumiere Brothers were two of the first filmmakers in history. This is some of their work, remastered with sound added.

It’s awesome. And it’s Paris.

Yes.

A collection of high quality remastered prints from the dawn of film taken in Belle Époque-era Paris, France from 1896-1900. Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance. These films were taken by the Lumière company

0:08 – Notre-Dame Cathedral (1896)

0:58 – Alma Bridge (1900)

1:37 – Avenue des Champs-Élysées (1899)

2:33 – Place de la Concorde (1897)

3:24 – Passing of a fire brigade (1897)

3:58 – Tuileries Garden (1896)

4:48 – Moving walkway at the Paris Exposition (1900)

5:24 – The Eiffel Tower from the Rives de la Seine à Paris (1897)

 

How not to be an artist


On Sunday, I stumbled on this article at Vulture titled: “How to be an Artist; 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively).” written by Jerry Saltz.

The article focuses on fine art, but the advice is virtually universal.

This topic of being an artist drives me bonkers. Reading this article is that scene in the movie when the sober guy dumps the drunk guy in the tub of iced water to get the drunk guy to stop acting the fool, slurring his words and stumbling around without purpose or faculty. The sober guy does this to get the drunk guy back on track so they can perform their art better.

The article is the sober guy.

There seem to be universal truths about being an artist: insecurity, jealousy demons, comparison to others, deliberate hiding of work, constant grandiose idea that every piece of work must be a masterpiece.

Do lawyers fight these thoughts about other lawyers? Doctors? Pilots? Accountants? Is there a jealousy game in any other field? I guess there might be.

Creating one’s passion, publishing it to the world, and the internal dilemma that precedes, happens, then follows that moment can be paralyzing.

Scratch that.

It is paralyzing.

I remember a conversation with my dad growing up. He was a furniture designer for a while, and he said that he never liked his own designs. He could always find the flaws in them.

There’s not a photo I love that I don’t simultaneously dislike for one reason or another.

This is my cognitive dissonance. It’s simultaneously holding onto two contrasting ideas at the same time and somehow finding both true.

Other people hold other cognitive oppositional truths.

Although, in this era of fast-times-at-Trump-Tower High Social Media Hurricanical Storm, it seems like EVERYONE else is at ease posting every single goddamn image from their phone onto their preferred platform. While I sit in the corner hugging my knees over a photo of an interior, Jane Doe Johanson posts yet another magical shot of her royal cuteness in a new skirt from Designerstan-keeny Mobeelee.

That’s a real designer, bee tee dubs.

All I’m saying is: it seems some people are so effortless in their sharing of their “art”. Perhaps that’s conspiratorial.

But this article on “How to be an Artist,” what a treasure. What a reminder. What an influence and cheerleader.

In bed on Sunday morning, I read the entire thing to Tina. Her head in my lap, our dog Talulah spooned in her nook.

For instance, lesson one in the article sums up the artist conundrum quickly:

I get it. Making art can be humiliating, terrifying, leave you feeling foul, exposed, like getting naked in front of someone else for the first time. You often reveal things about yourself that others may find appalling, weird, boring, or stupid. People may think you’re abnormal or a hack. Fine. When I work, I feel sick to my stomach with thoughts like None of this is any good. It makes no sense. But art doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t even need to be good. So don’t worry about being smart and let go of being “good.”

Lesson number 2 is tell your own story, which is what I’ve been trying to do since I can remember. I kept a journal as a kid. They were pathetic. Me, pretending to be a great Christian while deliberating over the ideas I had about girls in my class or what I really wanted to do with my time.

Within that lesson it says, “You’re not entitled to an audience.” I’ve found this to be a truism. I remind myself that I do my art for me, and maybe for Tina. But for the audience outside of that environment, it’s a crap shoot. I’ve seen larger audiences. And I’ve seen crap audiences. My goal is to create for me. Anyone else who enjoys it is a bonus. And I would thank them, or you, or them, or that one person.

Lesson Number 5: Work Work Work. And then work some more.

This has been my motto since I can remember. It’s almost the most destructive part of artistic nature. Over the years, I’ve turned to alcohol to distract me from my ambition. I’ve used alcohol to help me be “normal.” No one else seems to want to work on a Friday night. No one else seems to want to create for the sake of creating. No one else shared my insatiable desire to create, then create more, no matter how good or bad.

If I don’t use something to slow down, I won’t. And that’s just sad, because I realize how much time I wasted.

I’m in a process of balancing that out. And in stressful times, I stress drink. And I can already envision this holiday season as a hiccuping stress drunk. My plan is to have a dry January, followed by a balanced February and then ride that train as far as it’ll take me.

Life a is process. And vices are part of the distraction from creation. Some people call that the devil. I call it weakness.

Lesson 11: Listen to the Crazy Voices in Your Head

I have my own sort of School of Athens in my head. A team of rivals, friends, famous people, influences dead and alive. They’re all looking over my shoulder as I work; none of them are mean. All make observations, recommendations, etc. I use music a lot. I think, Okay, let’s begin this piece with a real pow! Like Beethoven. Or the Barbara Kruger in my head says, Make this sentence short, punchy, declarative, aggressive. Led Zeppelin chimes in with, Try a hairy experiment here; let it all show. All the Sienese paintings I’ve ever seen beg me, Make it beautiful. D. H. Lawrence is pounding on the table, Alexander Pope is making me get a grip, Wallace Stevens listens to my language and recommends words, Whitman pushes me on, my inner Melville gets grandiose, and Proust drives me to make longer and longer sentences till they almost break, and my editor cuts these into eighths or edits them down to one. (Writers need editors. No exceptions.) These voices will always be there for when things get tough.

Seriously, you must, simply and truly, must must must read this article. If not for you, then for the idea of grappling how your artistic friends are wired.

I read this article to Tina, like I said with her in my lap, and she said at one point, “Why did you stop?”

I was wiping tears from my eyes. These words struck me with such power, such truth. This is what religion must do for others. It tugs their heart and makes them do what they want to do in their lives. For me, this article is like having a conversation with another artist, another mentor, and — instead of a alter call — it’s a renewal of my aspirations.

I could post this entire piece for you. I want to share it with the world. It is the good news! Please read it and spread it!

Number 25: Learn to deal with rejection!

Number 26: Make an enemy of envy!

Number 32: Prize vulnerability. <—– THIS! Vulnerability IS everything. Open it up and drop it on the table with a camera trained on it, and shine it around the world.

And finally number 33: Be delusional. This is tough as fuck for me. I see delusion as a weakness. I see delusion as what prompts others to believe in the unseen. Well, maybe I need more belief in the unseen/unheard voices in my head!

The article begins with explaining that maybe there are 34 or 35 rules. Number 34 is one I’ve learned from my best friend Bill: be nice, generous and open with others. Just this week he shared photography tutorials with me that he bought. He has always shared whatever knowledge with me that he has, knowing that it can only help us both if we both succeed. Or I don’t really know what his motivation is. But he has altered my brain just about as much as any other artist I’ve ever known.

I’m 43 years old, and I’ve dabbled in “being an artist” since I was a kid. Ever drawing, photographing, video-ing and creating. I have a degree in English Communication and a lifelong education in experience, failures, successes, observations, hopes, dreams, nightmares, and love.

The end of this year has started filling my head with motivations that usually don’t come until the beginning of the year. Who knows how long it’ll last this time. A week. A month. A few minutes. A few seconds?

I have to be in love with what I do. And in that love, focused. And in that focus, balanced. And in that balance, thoughtful. And in the end, where ever that point is on the timeline of history and future, I certainly hope to finally catch up with that dangling carrot of success, whatever the fuck that means.

 

 

Travel feeds and nourishes the soul, Part 888


I’ve told this story before. In New York City circa 2009, Tina and I stopped at a little store on 9th ave near Hell’s Kitchen.

The store, the size of some people’s walk-in closets, was owned by a little Nepalese man, and the things that caught our attention were these knit hats with dangling ties made to look like animals, birds, dogs, cats, sheep, elephants, etc.

Inside the store we found things, like those Buddhist chimes that you rub a wooden tool over to create a meditative sound. We struck up a conversation with the owner, who told us after a variety of topics, that he sends his daughter on travels, because it’s as important or more important than education.

It’s as if he dedicated his little store and its revenue to the influence and education of his daughter.

In Italian culture, you have women who cook as a gesture of love. Or latin cultures give affection as gestures of love. I’m sure some cultures emphasize giving education as a gesture of love. I think my family’s gift was discipline. I’m sure they might have considered religion as a gift, and while it may have been, I grew away from that. I’ll likely never not feel guilty about that. But that’s on me.

Tina and I will never forget the conversation with the Nepalese man. At one point, he said, “Travel feeds the soul.” It’s those moments when the gray cloud splits in two, and beams of sun rays blast through in a variety of directions. The quote was what we already knew in word form. Then it became our live’s motto.

I don’t believe in the “soul” per se. But I believe there is a je ne sais quoi about our beings. But I don’t believe there’s an immortality to it. It’s a now totality that, should you be lucky, continues after you die in story, art, writing, etc. The idea that it lived for all time in God’s box of souls, was given life on your birthday and lives for eternity is romantic at best, and poorly thought out at most.

Before the Nepalese man, Tina and I both had been infected by travel bugs. We had both done Europe and elsewhere separately and together. And since then, it has only influenced our love for travel.

Yesterday, Tina and I returned from our sixth trip to France together. We’re celebrating our tenth year of marriage, and decided it was our gift to each other, Christmas and maybe even a birthday or two.

We landed a decent deal partly via Scott’s Cheap Flights. If you haven’t heard of it, use it to discover dips in airfare. It’s even listed in this badass book: Recomendo, which you should consider giving to your favorite people for Christmas.

This trip was one of our favorites. We both love French culture, food, art, and life. The architecture pulls at our souls. The food, the quality of it, the emphasis on it, the way it is art makes our hearts sing. It’s no mystery that this place is Café Witteveen. I love to cook. I love the art of it. I love that it’s creation and delivery. Not all meals are great, but all meals are art. And, for me, should be treated as such.

“French life is like an onion,” said Tina said yesterday on our way back from O’Hare Airport. Little nuances about the French and their quotidian life reveal themselves each time we visit. Like how cashiers will give you hell if you pay for a 0.90 Euro baguette with a fucking 10 or 20 bill. How if you don’t say “bonjour” or “bonsoir” before every conversation, you’re likely a rude fucking tourist.

We learned this trip that reservations, even at the smallest restaurants, are incredibly important. I’m not talking tourist joints. But restaurants. They want to know how much food to anticipate making. It’s an environmental thing. A climate change thing. A love for the planet thing.

It warms my heart that people pay attention to the environment. We Americans are way to extravagant with out use of utilities and waste. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Climate Change, being mindful of the environment, in my humble opinion, is just fucking sexy.

If you go to a restaurant and they’re out of specials, too bad. But if you’re lucky enough to get one, consider yourself a lottery winner. They say, “A bad meal in Paris is a crime.” It’s so fucking true. And if you have a bad meal, it’s likely a crappy restaurant that you shouldn’t have eaten at anyway.

Life there is not perfect. The French love to protest, and if it’s not violent, it’s not a protest. Any excuse to take a day off, voila! Sunday, most stores are closed, especially outside of touristy areas and very much outside of Paris.

I’ve wondered for years what the French do on Sundays. I could tell this trip that lots of families were on their way or way home from visiting family or friends. Most homes — if not all — have big metal or wooden shutters that cover their windows at night or during the day. It’s not uncommon to see entire apartment buildings with their shutters pulled all day on Sunday.

On this trip, we went to the Modern Art Museum and returned to an artist squat that we visited back in 2008 (we bought three pieces from the squat’s original founder Gaspard Delanoe). We fell in love with his work, made an appointment with him to buy some work, and found out only then that he is one of the original members of this artist commune that’s 18 years old, and for the first 8 years, the artists literally squatted the building, were kicked out as many times in those years and finally secured the building through a negotiation with the city. Now they pay for electricity, but the soul of the building and its original purpose has been maintained by Gaspard and his friend the Swiss Moroccan.

Tina loves to shop at the rough equivalent of our Target called Monoprix. They’re sometimes a grocery store and sometimes a department store. And if you’re lucky, both.

We met other American’s one night for drinks. We ate at our favorite bistro boulangerie Bechu. We ate at a couple different restaurants, including “La Petite Tour” and “Le Passy” which were located a few minutes walk from our 16th Arrondissement AirBnB, with views of the Eiffel Tower that were amazing.

We also ate dinner in the Latin quarter called “Le Relais d’Entrecote“. There are three in Paris and one in Geneva. We ate there on the recommendation of one of my favorite photographers, Jamie Beck at Ann Street Studio. In summery, it’s a badass experience. They ONLY serve steak and it’s one of the exceptions to the “you need reservations” rule.

You queue up outside of the restaurant around 7 and again around 9. You’re seated by a woman wearing a “French maid” outfit. And another French maid waitress comes and asks, “How would you like your steak?” You tell them. For me “saignant,” which is rare, more rare than we American’s would order. “A point” is more medium, but really medium rare. “Bleu” is still mooing and I think if you order it “bien cuit” or well done … you should kill yourself, idiot.

You also order a bottle of wine or drinks. You’re then served a simple walnut salad. Followed by a plate of the steak and frites served in sauce whose recipe is guarded in the brain of the restaurants’ founders. And when you’re finished with your first plate of food, they automatically layer on another serving of frites and meat. I think you can do all you can eat, but two servings are plenty. Then you choose a dessert, pay and make room for the next seating rush.

It was one of the best, most fun meals we’ve ever had in France. I wouldn’t say the sauce was amazing, but I wanna go back and experience again before I make that judgement. I was a little overwhelmed by the newness of the experience to really taste it for its honest-to-goodness greatness.

Staying in AirBnBs anywhere in the world has become our favorite way to travel. You literally live like a local. You have run ins with your neighbors, your super, the store owners in your hood. We frequent the same boulangeries, or wine shops or boucheries. Or if we’re in Italy or Turkey, the same thing. You become familiar with the locals and them with you.

Tina’s learning more and more French, and it’s getting to the point that more and more people don’t switch over to English when they talk to us both. Poor Tina doesn’t understand most of it, but she knows it’s important to me (and them) to keep the language native. We had a driver one day that wondered how I knew French so well. “People who live here 9 or 10 years don’t know French as well as you.”

Compliment received.

I’ll work on a video and post it here when it’s ready.

Below are some street photos from our experience. Enjoy.

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25 reasons to keep on creating stuff


Twenty eighteen has been a remarkable year for me. My network of friends has blossomed into a treasure trove of inspiration and strength. I’ve created more content than ever. Our commissions are more and more of exactly the jobs we want rather than a bunch of jobs we don’t. We hired a part-time employee. I’ve read more books than I have in years. I’m running, and feel my health his good. I’ve curbed certain addictions, like too much social media use and drinking alcohol to only a couple days a week, a huge step for me.

I, like too many, have experienced the familial fall out phenomenon associated with politics driving huge gaps between loved ones. Among other things, it’s a weekly if not daily challenge. The political climate, since long before Trump, long before Obama, has reached a screaming explosive point.

People blame Trump for familial differences taking its toll. My mind zooms back to the 2000s and a very divisive Bush. I imagine this bullshit isn’t necessarily new. But it seems that, perhaps, the social media world helps create a sense of challenging ubiquity.

An article over at the Atlantic discusses the political divide this way:

The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside. Not just some cities and some rural areas, either — virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.

The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.

Feel free to read the entire piece.

Over at Kottke, I was turned on by a post based on a tweet encouraging us creatives to keep on creating. The way I see it, if you’re only consuming (and only complaining or sharing bullshit memes or shit someone else created for you, you’re part of the problem. If you’ve abandoned creation, in any of its forms, you should hang your head in shame. As should I.

Create. Create. Create.

Do your damndest to not let this disjointed drama suck your life dry of a goddamn pulse.

The below tweet is how it starts. Click on it to read all of them although I left very few out. I love them all.

Here’s a lot standout reasons:

1. Because you need to escape the fuckery, and what you make is a door. A book, a piece of art, even an excellent meal – it’s a doorway out. It’s the tunnel dug out behind the Rita Hayworth poster in your prison cell.

3. Because creation is . Making things is additive. And in a subtractive time such as this, you must balance the void with its opposite. That is an act of defiance. And we need more defiance.

4. Because stories and art change the world. Individually, collectively, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Art is a glorious mutator. It evolves you. It evolves us. And eventually, the world.

5. Because you Making Cool Shit also makes the Worst People mad. Good. Fuck ‘em. Make stuff that makes those monsters mad.

8. Because what you make will outlast this ungovernable fuckshittery. What you make are mountains. We will cling to their peaks. And when the Tides of Stupid recede, the mountains of what you made will remain.

9. Because it’s therapy. It’s therapy first for you, and if you share it, eventually for us, too.

12. Because you need to up your game. No matter the era, no matter the epoch, no matter how fucking goofy things get – YOU STILL GOTTA UP THAT GAME. And making things ups your game.

16. Because seriously, what else are you going to do, just sit here and stare at Twitter? It’s like staring into a blender full of chipmunks. Jesus, go make something, if only to find something better to do for the next hour.

23. Because you’re going to fail sometimes, and that’s a necessary thing. Failure is an inoculation. It bolsters your creative immune system. And in this ENDLESS CYCLE OF STUPID, you really, really need a strong intellectual and creative immune response.

24. Because art is beauty. Stories, poetry, craftwork, food, it’s all beautiful and this ugly world needs a dollop of beauty. There is beauty in both the act and the result of making stuff. So kick the shitstorm out of the sky with an aggressive rainbow counterattack.