November 18, 2010


Today, a busy day (but then isn't every day a "busy" day), I'm posting a quote that I need tattooed on my forearm so I can read as I'm speeding through life and sometimes even art.

What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task, but what we experience fully, carefully and quietly in the process. - Makoto Fujimura

I know this isn't a new idea, I've written of the importance of slowing down and taking your time before.  But a couple of weekends ago I was reminded once again of this.   I was a teaching a small group of beginning artists how to paint in watercolors.  I kept it simple and had my students paint an apple.  The most important thing I believe for beginners is to help them see - see the light, shadow and how color reflects.  And while seeing transfer the best you can - with a little instruction from me on to your paper.  I find it fascinating how people really enjoy and learn from this fairly simple, slow but thoughtful exercise.  But, I had one student who rushed through, painted the apple, the napkin the wood of the table ...and whatever else he saw and he was finished.  I thought for sure he wanted to shout, "I win".  I pointed out a few elements he missed in his hurry, sat beside him and made him ONLY paint the apple and look at it.  Sure he was a good draftsman but in his hurry he didn't create the best picture he was capable of.  His girlfriend beside him confirmed that he rushes through everything he does.  "He does everything in a hurry, " she said.  That little lesson taught all of us something!  And now I'm wondering can art change life, the every day life? 

With so much around me pulling at me for my time and attention, I have to choose how I will spend my days.  I could kick myself for all the time I spend on the web reading about other artists, or Facebook envying "friends" or even three stations on my "no cable" TV.  Because I want to grow as an artist I need to take the time and do the work and not speed through it saying look how much I got done today.  

Here's a letter from John Mayer that I really like and think he hits the nail on the head like only John can do. 

Greetings from the land of complete thoughts and a strong sense of self worth!

A lot of you are wondering why I decided to quit Twitter. And I’m ready to explain it to you now that I’m off Twitter and can explain anything in a salient manner. It occurred to me that since the invocation of Twitter, nobody who has participated in it has created any lasting art. And yes! Yours truly is included in that roundup as well. Let me make sure that statement is as absolute and irrevocable as possible by buzzing your tower one more time: no artwork created by someone with a healthy grasp of social media thus far has proven to be anything other than disposable.

By now you’ve called up the fail whale and his birdie friends and told them to get their brass knuckles ready cause a fight is fixin’ to go down. But hear me out.

Has any artist, since they’ve begun to give you daily insights into their life created their best work yet? Are the best writers of our time on Twitter? You rip Tina Fey for shitting on the construct but she’s busy penning the best show on television. Aaron Sorkin says he’s never used Facebook, a statement that the guardians of the internet are up at arms over, yet he makes an artistic contribution that the media sites are talking about so much that they’ve developed that gross white stuff at the corners of their mouths. (What is that stuff?)

Those who decide to remain offline will make better work than those online. Why? Because great ideas have to gather. They have to pass the test of withstanding thirteen different moods, four different months and sixty different edits. Anything less is day trading. You can either get a bunch of mentions now or change someone’s life next year.

Hey, I didn’t make the rules. I’m just telling you what I’m pretty sure they are.

I’m not knocking Twitter for those who are trying to make a name for themselves. Some people need all the RTs they can get today. But for those who have already established themselves it’s a slow erosion of the artistic notion.

Great art has survived the changes in technology, from wax cylinder to tape to Pro Tools and beyond, but this is different. This affects the writing, the conception. You want to know the best way a musician can start making shit music? If they start referring to themselves as a “brand.” I’d rather hear an artist refer to themselves in the third person than as a “brand.” Jif peanut butter is a brand. A singer is a soul. People who think of themselves as a “brand” subsequently refer to themselves as “marketing” their “brand”. And when you convert your art into the art of real-time brand management, I suddenly have no more interest in it. I don’t respect marketing alone. Anybody can market something now. And that’s cool. When it’s time to market something.

I’m not a brand, and I don’t refer to myself in the third person. I’m a dude who plays guitar and writes songs. When I’m done writing and recording them I will market them. Luckily for those who are cracking their knuckles ready to knock my point of view, that won’t be for a long while. Because good shit takes a long time.

And this is going to take a very long time.

Currently listening to: everything -JM

November 4, 2010

Hang on Little Tomato

Brrr... chilly nights and I have just a few tomatoes hanging on the vine.  I'm sad to see them go and I've been thinking of this lovely little song written and performed by Pink Martini called "Hang on Little Tomato".  It makes me happy.  Go listen to it here.  Someday I'm going to illustrate this song.  I think it would make a great children's book.

The sun has left and forgotten me
It's dark, I cannot see
Why does this rain pour down
I'm gonna drown
In a sea
Of deep confusion

Somebody told me, I don't know who

Whenever you are sad and blue
And you're feelin' all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you'll find

You gotta hold on, hold on through the night

Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it's dark
And not a bit of spark
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love

Just hang on, hang on to the vine

Stay on, soon you'll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something's coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead

And so I hold on to his advice

When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you.

November 3, 2010

Makoto Fujimura

This summer my brother loaned me a book entitled Refractions - A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture written by a Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) artist, Makoto Fujimura .  I have been chewing on it all summer and finally have decided this is a book I need to always have at my finger tips.  Regardless of your spiritual bent I think this book can speak to the soul of every individual who is an artist and wonders what place he or she has in this world.  For years and I have mourned the fact that didn't have a draw or talent for medicine, accounting, lawyering (I know it's not a word) - practical gifts.  Gifts that are deemed worthy because of their ability to bring in money.  I've always wondered allowed to God, "Why did you make me love painting and writing so much."  All my life I've heard that these things I love to do are "only" or "just" hobbies.  In fact just a couple of weeks ago a woman said to me while referring to my art, " I don't have any hobbies like you Amy."  I was screaming inside.  HOBBY!?!?!  But that is our culture.  Art seems to hold a lesser place than let's say accounting.  Art is just a nice hobby.  Is it?

For you new artists exploring your creative side, it might at first feel like a hobby, but then at some point you will realize this is as important as your heart or lungs or feet to your existence.  Mr. Fujimura delves into the spiritual importance of art and points out how art changes our world, reflects a better world and is as important to humanity as any other profession.  I'm flustered in my words trying to tell you how good this book is, just go read it.  You'll see.


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