More Cowbell

It is early morning.  Your throat is dry.

Your bladder is full and all you can do is lie there and pray the sky falls

or an earthquake, anything to keep you from having to cross the room and risk the stuff on the other side of coffee.

It is on a morning like this you literally must take it one step at a time.  Literally.  One.  Step.  at.  a. time.

And you just can’t do it on your own without some kind of propeller. . .one you can put your finger on and spin it. ..

for this you need a mantra of some sort.

Mine has always been fairly simple. I put no thought into it whatsover.  It just happened as I was dragging my fanny perpendicular down the steps so do some laundry I’d been avoiding. ..

And it goes like this.

foot down

foot down

foot down

(that’s it.)

foot down

foot down.


OUCH goddmanit.  (sorry, mom.  sorry, god)



And after I get tired of that, the invisible sisyphus in my head just keeps droning until all I am saying is a lot of syllables that have about as much logic as that step on a crack stuff.

And likewise, mantra as phrase to drive away fear in its most basic manifestations.

Fear of not having anything to say in front of strangers.   (Thus the repetition of  those same basic syllables over and over ad nauseum. . .)

Fear of having too much in front of strangers. ( Thus the idea of keeping the overall message short and sweet.)

Fear of strangers in general. (Thus the intense focus on the sidwalk in order to avoid their x-ray  eye contact.. .Especially once you become self-aware enough to realize you’re talking to yourself without a cellphone.)

But then there are the very real fears left over from childhood, fears that just made you scream till three in the morning, taking a break from it just long enough to ask for a glass of water.

Fear of other kinds of falls besides the sidewalk stuff, falls from forgetting where the imaginary island ended. ..and the imaginary water began. ..

Fear of falling into the toilet

Fear of seeing the dust monster under the bed, the one who liked to send messages in morse code. . .

and of course stop typing the moment your parents came in the room,

even though he was probably just waiting on an answer from the zombie outside the window . . .

fear of flunking the physics quiz. . .fear of unidentifiable bugs. ..

And what kept  you going forward

in the face of all those things

is what amounted to more fear .

Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back. 

Step on a hole and the answer to that is just too awful for me to mention.

Which simply suggests to me

that there is comfort in knowing that if you faux pas over something small and insignificant

in the grand scheme of things, you must pay a very high toll to keep on going.

I imagine even Sisyphus in his bondage to that rolling stone must have had a mantra of sorts or he would have burst into flames or something.

“Foot down.  Foot down.  Foot down.”

Foot down.

Foot down.

Foot down.

Rock up

Rock up

Rock up

Foot down

Foot down.

Rock down.

Rock down.


Step on a crack, you break your mother’s back.

Foot down

Foot down

Foot down

Foot down

Foot down

Foot down

Rock up

Rock on

(i totally stole the teacups pic from this website:


What works for you. . .


So today I begin work on a new painting.  There is a clean canvas on the kitchen easel. ..the rubbermaid palette is freshly scrubbed and ready to receive the splats, blobs and sloppiness again. . .the scrapes and dabs and dry spots.

(Gotta love those plastic palettes with a lid and an undersponge. I am a slow study and need to conserve wet paint on an extremely limited part-time instructor budget).

So now what is needed is some water, paint rags and creamed sweet coffee, followed by a plethora of pre-painting google searches: Impressionist technique, abstract art. ..but also pastels and paintings. .. most likely including: Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Brancusi, Renoir, and Billy the sidewalk chalk boy.


I also need to fix myself up with some tunage. ..something that will help move the brush across the blank page. ..keep the blood going. . encourage some lame attempts at humming, jumping, and sing-a-long stuff.

Public domain photo of The Pogues by The Wiki Ghost

I like early Dylan for this. . .assorted blues music including John Lee Hooker and Billie Holliday. . .maybe some Corinne Bailey Rae, who always keeps it upbeat and playful. . . Judy Collins. . .Pogues. . .Fleet Foxes. . .Badly Drawn Boy. . .Iron and Wine. . .

Here’s a favorite Waterboys:

I wish I was a fisherman. . .

from “The Electric Significance of Singing the Blues”

Mary Cassatt (taped to my drafting table)

From Collage to Canvas

One of the ways I like to jumpstart the creative process is to sit in front of music with a lapful of  assorted magazines and a pair of lightweight padded scissors.  Images can come from most anywhere, not just magazines though, and as type this, I also feel a twinge of pity for the person who inherits my hacked-up coffee table art and photo books.

I also like to shop yard sales, thrift stores and book sales for fodder.

Most forms of media fall into the category of fair game when I am searching for just the right image or language to finish a collage narrative however.

As a result, I have amassed quite a collection of cut-outs methodically and obsessively stored  and organized in notebooks, file folders, and sealed plastic containers.

The activity keeps my hands busy, but it also keeps me in a constant state of daydreaming, imagining and exploring all the surfaces and textures suggested by the photos.

It’s a cheap thrill, I guess. . .but somebody’s gotta do it.

Sometimes stories come as I place images next to each other based on shapes and colors

and sometimes I begin with a story in my head or a loose idea.

Mostly I just like to play though, and proceed with no particular place to go.

Here is the story of a pastel painting, one that began with a tiny artist trading card I made at a friend’s house.

First the baseball-card sized collage, enlarged for the blog:

You may already recognize the woman in this collage as having been mistaken for a famous gunslinger’s girlfriend/wife.  If you guess her name, leave it in the comment box.  🙂

Tomorrow I will show you where I took it from here.  From collage to pastel painting.  🙂