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Cloud Noir Daily

Here's a photo from one of our super-8 films.  Hannah and Dante dressed in traditional wedding gear.  They bought them from a thrift store, if I remember correctly.  But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it was for some other occasion.  It's true, neither had ever worn these costumes in actuality. 

Women have a passion for marriage.  You can't blame them.  Although this bug has never bitten me, as a man.  I can't imagine buying an outfit to look like the guy on top of a fancy wedding cake.  No, not my dream at all.

Have I "followed my dream" and lived the life of an artist?  Uh......no.  I've only followed the noise of the crowd, and dragged myself along to places where I hoped I could survive.  Always keeping a few steps ahead of disaster.  Nothing more. 

If I seem contented to exist on the fringes of society it's only because I carry a kind of personal center within myself.  

I

II  

I posted a pic of this newest one earlier, but I adjusted the colors yesterday.  I like it better now.  Artists reach a point where their tinkering looks invisible to anyone except those with highly trained eyes and ears.  Most people just shake their head in wonder.  This is a reason why artists are viewed as eccentric or insane by the public.  Their unending fussiness comes across as very peculiar.  Life may be crashing down everywhere but a painter is only concerned with a small patch of color out of place.  

I'm in the midst of welding the next work.  I woke up unhappy about it, but after some coffee and online browsing, I feel more positive.  It really isn't that bad.  I won't be punched in the mouth, or kicked out on the street.  Or shoved into a gas chamber.  

I'm left alone.  Stewing in my juices.  Such is the fate of an old, solitary, harmless, dabbler.  The world isn't as terrible as it once seemed.  Not to me.  After so much time.  It doesn't care.  Which is the best thing of all.  Like it's forgotten about me.  Left me off the list.  Beautiful!

Dante took this picture of the back door to the studio.  Two feral cats are crouching there, as they always do during the day.  Especially toward dinner time.  It's about as close as they let people approach.   No human can touch them.  A distaste for being coddled or stroked.  They were born in the alleys, and they live outdoors, throughout the city.  They aren't house cats out for a stroll.  They will not enter inhabited dwellings. They appreciate their freedom to come and go as they please.  And fear being owned by anyone.  

Feral.  It sounds bad.  Tough, vicious, snarling.  But these two, and even a third one, are anything but.  You'd think they went to finishing school.  Learning how to be attractive to another species.  Such tact, and delicacy toward others.

A snapshot doesn't show their striking beauty.  The black cat has steady eyes the color of imperial jade.  The Siamese has a mellow, even, temperament, not as aloof as domesticated ones that I've noticed.  

These two are strangely patient and silent. Also appear to be following some subtle hierarchy when the food is put out.  No yowling and scrambling, or pushing each other aside.  I consider them well bred, even on the sophisticated side.  

There's no such thing as an obese wild animal.  I tend to feed them mostly scraps, but they remain sleek and alert.  Impressive!  

If I were to die today I think this would be my score:

    10,000 mediocre paintings made and sold.

      1,000 good paintings made and sold.

         100 very good paintings made and sold.

           10 great paintings made and sold.

This is the tally.  There's not much I can do about it.  Except throw up my hands with a shrug, and feel a bit relaxed. 

Everyone will have some kind of summary.  You can't escape that.  Of course the game isn't over yet.  And there are other ways of looking at a life on earth.  

I imagine a kindly recording angel patting me on the shoulder.  Smiling a little sadly.  And handing me the written down results.  

Have I passed or failed?  Up to this point.  Probably skimmed by.  

Thinking of a title for this entry I came up with the following: contraries generate each other.  It's okay, but too abstract.  I don't think people would instantly understand what it means.  Let me put it simply, with an illustration or two.

Night is followed by day.  Summer by winter.  Youth by age.  Freedom by prison .  Rich by poor.  Good by bad.  Up by down.  And so on, in a thousand different situations.   

Such is the nature of life.  A thing grows by separating from its past.  From what it was, toward what it will be.  This is the movement of truth.  

"It's so hard to make something as good as the last thing I made that was good," Dante said.  She and Hannah paid me a visit.  We were all discussing the difficulty of topping ourselves.  Of always improving from one work of art to the next effort.  

"That's not the way it happens.  It isn't one smooth rocket blast to perfection.  Without any setbacks, or time spent in between steps.  Or backward floundering.  Nothing great exists that way.  You see it everywhere, even if you aren't looking very closely.  It's impossible to succeed without the help of failure." 

Reality comes in waves.  Big waves, small waves.  Tidal waves.  Gently rocking waves, like a cradle.  Waves within waves.  Why not accept this universal fact? 

Just completed.  Sometimes it feels good, sometimes less so.  I think this painting leaves me a little dissatisfied.  I was expecting a more pleasurable result.  But here is a paradox of sorts: when I'm happy with the immediately finished work, I'm more dismayed later on.  And vice versa.  A hated piece is dragged out years later and seems transformed into something attractive.  Like a good bottle of wine that must mature in the cool darkness, out of sight. 

Maybe I'll like this better when I turn 90.  If I turn 90.

There are times when one thing ends, but nothing begins.  A kind of vaguely empty quality.  That three o'clock in the afternoon sensation.  Or the space between two objects that should be touching.  Where some neutral gap seems oddly mocking.  

But it doesn't have to be that way.  It's really just a choice.  A way of looking at life.  Self-defeating, or maybe self-informing.  I mean a zero is something after all.  A circle made with a curved line.  

I must be biased in favor of my family's creativity.  Yesterday I posted a video of Amedeo's, my sixteen year old grandson.  Today a new collage of Dante's.  Featuring Hannah, who published a striking story on HuffPost.  

Who are we, anyway?  A small knot of artistic types.  We seem to stand for something.  I think of a famous Picasso rose period painting: Famille de Saltimbanques.  The family of circus performers, spanning three generations.  An old man, a younger couple, some kids, etc.  Maybe we're a Hollywood version of this strangely affecting bunch.  Such a magnificent painting.

"Amedeo got over 2000 views of his video!" Dante told me a few minutes ago.

"Really?  How  does he feel about it?"

"He can't believe it.  But it's so important that his generation gets it."

"Absolutely!"

"I mean what good is praise from his mother, or grandfather?"

"Doesn't mean shit.  In comparison to his peers."

I've always liked John Lee Hooker.  As soon as I heard one of his songs.  It's funny how certain people who you'll never meet feel close to you.  How you feel they'd understand you, and you'd understand them.  When you have such ideas it's probably best that you'd never run into them in real life.   You're able to maintain your illusion to the end.  That's a little how I think about some creative artists.  As if everyone belongs to a special club.  Where you're surprised that they'd even let you in the door.  And smile at you as you walk inside.  Making you feel welcomed.  

John Lee was once a janitor during his long life.  Just imagine that.  

And apparently he said this about his music.  "I have my own sound.  Others try to copy it, but they can't do it."  That sums up the concept genius to me.  You can't put it more simply and clearly than that.  

A photo of Dante's newest collaged painting.  On the right is Greta Garbo's face, and on the left is Dante in a bikini.  

Recently her sixteen-year old son complained about his schoolmates being entranced by spotting a online photo of his mother.  After a back-and-forth discussion he consented to its display "as long as it was used for art."  

I recall being mildly perturbed when some strange men whistled at my mother, and she laughed happily at their wolf calls.  I have a hard time picturing her in a bikini.  That might have sent shudders through me.  

Plus I remember when Dante would cover up my small bronze nudes on our mantlepiece.  When her friends visited.  She was about the same age as her son was.  

I also recall when Alexis became incensed when her middle school chums giggled at her step-father's nude creations.  "Do you laugh at your image when you stand naked in front of a mirror?" she shot back. 

An interesting question.  Why the tittering, blushing, and embarrassment, at nudity?  And always at the nakedness of others, and not oneself.  What is it about the human body that causes so much confusion and even horror?  

Here is a photo of Hannah, my step daughter.  I've known her longer than I've known Dante, my natural daughter.  She likes to mention this fact.  We get a kick out of it.

Hannah Sward just published an article in the HuffPost, an online newspaper I read several times everyday.  It's a bold, strong account of her druggie days.  As well as other detours.  Some of which I wasn't aware of.  Which is only right, even though we are still very close and all live in LA.  

Her story was hard to write, she says, and I certainly believe her.  Any sincere autobiographical account is exceptionally difficult to authentically put down in black and white.  

I realize this after self-publishing 35 novels.  I was quite revealing, but only scratched the surface.  No matter how much appears more remains hidden.  When someone, even your closest friend, asks "what are you thinking?" you never really come clean.  You never say what is precisely streaming through your mind.  

Anyway.  Try to read Hannah's story.  It's only a few clicks away.  

I once was asked to give a lecture on my art.  Right in the middle of talking I suddenly realized that I didn't know what art truly is.  Didn't even know what I was talking about.  Very embarrassing.  

I became speechless for a few moments.  The classroom was deadly silent.  As I walked between the desks.  Shortly afterward, it started me on a decades long search for an answer to this difficult question.

I'm still looking.  

But that hasn't prevented me from working on things that might pass as art.  People know less than I do about art.  And they still can occasionally enjoy it.  Maybe enjoy it more than me.  For them art has never been a major problem.  It's just something to look at, or listen to.  Not obsessively study.  They don't feel driven to rip into the guts of art.  As if their whole world depended on it.  

I can't remember when this photo of Judith and two of her girls was taken.  Not that long ago.  Maybe in California.  Or Florida.  Alexis is missing.  I don't know who snapped it.  But it looks good to me.  

Families.  Such a malleable concept.  They come together, grow, dissolve, re-form, change, and so on.  I've always claimed that the human race is one huge family, but hardly anyone believes it, or feels it.  Definitely doesn't act like it's true.  Just look at all the abuse, and coldness.  

When I write that happiness is hard it's because I take into account the entire vastly diversified family.  How can you be happy when so many million of your brothers and sisters are suffering?  How can you simply ignore them and laugh merrily?  It's not possible.  Not for me.  It's like being happy when someone is twisting your arm until it cracks in two.  

Happiness is a goal, but it can depend on what game you're playing, and how well you play it. 

Just completed this.  I can't imagine too many people disagreeing with the expressed viewpoint.  But I can hear a few objections.  And how the arguments might proceed.  

I wonder if it'd be permissible to separate these two terms: happy and happiness.  I can see how it could be done.  Happy is a momentary feeling.  It's like a spark from the turning wheel of everlasting happiness.  Sort of like the difference between beauty and The Beautiful.  Or good and Goodness Itself.  

The temporary part and the enduring whole from which it's taken.  

A beautiful person gives us the faint sense of an ideal beauty.  Never exactly perfect, but close enough.  

Does a happy person show us an example of pure, timeless happiness?  An example, but with some aspect missing.  When we see a happy child playing, we also feel a slight pain when we consider how they might grow up and descend into unhappiness.  "I was that way once, too."  This thought goes through us like a spear.  

We all experience traces of happiness.  Fleeting instances that sweep over us like a flash flood.  And then they're gone.  Leaving a less than sweet sensation.  Nearly like a swindle.  A clever deception.  Or something not able to be sharply defined.  And very difficult to be duplicated.  Impossible, in fact.  

But certainly food for thought . . .

This is my Holocaust painting.  Made over 30 years ago, and now leaning against other pieces in my studio.  I never imagined that I'd be able to sell it.  Kind of large: 7' x 8'.  Thought of donating it to somewhere dedicated to historical events.  But then again, maybe no organization would be willing to take it.  It's on the fragile side, and doesn't look that great today. 

I am pleased that I made it in the first place.  I've always wanted to do a series of works based around this catastrophe.  It seems more meaningful now than it was back then.  More front and center.  In the news.  

The number in red is the identifying tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor I've known in Los Angeles.  I asked her if I could use her number in my art.  She said yes, go ahead.  Frida is her name.  I don't know if she's still alive.  Haven't seen her in years, although she used to stop by the gallery.  I re-touched and printed out vintage photos for her.  Snapshots from the 1940's in Europe, after liberation.  

So very much to write about that time period.  Too much.  

An early silkscreen portrait of my daughter.  I recall snapping the photograph in her first apartment on Detroit Street in LA.  She had just turned 18.  And she hated how the pictures turned out.  I admit that I'm not very good at capturing beauty in a still photo.  I don't even try to.  And it looks it.  To others, at any rate.  I just glance through the lens and click the button.  Not exactly professional.  

But a little later I decided to make a silkscreen of one of the photos and try printing it on a small sheet of steel.  It hangs above an interior door in the studio today.  For some reason it didn't sell out of our gallery, and, after a few weeks, I took it home.  I'm glad I have it in my possession.

Dante now says she's pleased that we had that quick photo session.  It was over thirty years ago.  Time passes and it only flows in a single direction.  If we didn't pause and make a record of those days back then, we surely can't do it now.  

"I was in my bathroom," I said, "and looking at the painting there, I then thought 'happiness is hard.'"

"It is.  I like it.  Now I know what should go on my next painting," my daughter said.

"I think of that one piece.  Beautiful is hard.  A large one I sold to that gay guy.  I dropped it off at his apartment.  He planned on hanging it over his couch.  I found that a little unusual.  But you have to hang it somewhere, and his place was small."

"Probably happiness is as hard as beauty."

"I think everyone would agree about that.  Rich, poor, young, old, white, black, gay, straight, beautiful or ugly."

"They'd all agree."

"Oh, someone might say what are you talking about? It's easy! And flash a big smile.  Right.  Today it's easy.  But what about tomorrow?  Or twenty years from now?  What happens when he gets a fatal illness.  Or his beloved suddenly dies?  No.  Happiness is the hardest of hard things." 

For a while I tried to combine various periods in art history.  I saw a connection between Renaissance Italy and the City of Angels.  Between Botticelli's Venus and Marilyn Monroe.  A golden thread that stretched between the two important art centers.  

I still believe there is some truth to this interpretation, but I'm no longer making paintings reflecting it.  

Another American artist died recently.  Frank Stella.  He doggedly only painted abstract art throughout his whole life.  It seems a little dogmatic, and maybe fearful.  Why not mix it up a bit?  I see no harm in that.  No one is going to rap your knuckles, and make you stand in the corner.  If you confuse categories.  Art enjoys breaking rules.  No one gets hurt.  It can be liberating.  

I'm ready to start on a new phase.  Just somewhat new, and somewhat old.  New enough, so I don't bore myself, or others.  It's one way to keep the wheels moving forward.  Maybe the only way.  

How many times a day do I look at this scene, directly across from desk?  Mainly a painting on the floor, resting against a stainless steel trolley supporting my unused television set.  Plus a bright welded iron sculpture.  

Rwanda.  I think formerly part of the Belgian Congo.  I never have visited Belgium and have no particular thoughts about the country.  Except how I love one of its famous authors, George Simenon.  But Rwanda, stenciled on the vintage coffee sack, is more important due to the atrocities that took place there not long ago.  

Today is a worldwide commemoration of the Holocaust, the Genocide of Genocides.  I've studied this evil event, and know much less about other ones.  I've also come to understand that as depraved as the Holocaust was, it wasn't unfortunately unique.  

We live in a relative universe, and that means there's no such thing as an absolute singularity.  Everything comes connected to something else.  All is filled with pairs.  If the Holocaust was about as fiendishly wicked as it gets, then something must exist that is supremely good, holy, and divine, at the opposite end.  A paradox?

The strictly unique is a logical impossibility.  Something will always imply something other than itself.  But I could be wrong, and misunderstand the essence of the relative.  I'll have to keep studying, and improving my knowledge.  


I sometimes cruise the net looking for things that pop up under "Patrick McCarthy artist".  I often find paintings for sale, or having been sold.  And most often they have been made by me.  But then some of them look very unfamiliar.  I simply have no memory of creating these.  

Not so strange when I realize that I've produced roughly over 11,000 works.  Very hard to keep them all in my brain, especially since I never bothered (or could afford to) photograph and catalogue them.  

I found another one last night.  This abstract piece.  It was signed by me on the back and how I signed them during that time: 1986.  Even using a small gold "M" on the front side. 

Florida canvases.  Sold almost before they were dry.  I barely had time to look them over.  No wonder I can't recall them.

Face it, they aren't very good.  I was learning how to do it.  I'm still learning.  But this one is from "Early Learning Period: 1960-1989".  Followed by "Middle Learning Perod: 1990-2014".  The present phase is "Later Learning Period: 2015 - ?".  

There will be no "Final Period."  No.  I will never, ever, stop learning . . .  
 


Man, I've already written and lost this entry once.  I think mainly it was due to the difficulty I have with typing today.  I injured my hand yesterday as I finished working on this piece.  Nearly cutting off my right forefinger with a power saw.  

Blood everywhere.  Me swearing.  Shocked.  Enraged.  Furious with myself.  Jesus, now what!

Enduring a sleepless night.  Hand throbbing in pain the whole time.  I lay there searching for a higher meaning lodged in this newest accident.  

The darkness insidiously making it all worse.  A kind of spreading, inky, quality that ends only with the light of dawn.  I raise my bandaged hand in the dim grayness, satisfied that it didn't bleed on my blanket and sheets.  Thankful for that much.  

I guess I love my art to the point where I'm willing to die for it.  If that's what it takes.  But I'd much rather live for it.  At least for a few more years.  

Already feeling better.  And, of course, I'm pleased with the new painting.  


When I leave the supermarket carrying a bag of food back to the studio I'm surprised at its weight.  The haul is so heavy.  How can I eat and drink so many pounds but not even gain an ounce?  

Something similar happens when I glance around my library.  How can I read so many pages of hundreds of books, but barely remember anything written in them?  

I take in so much, but it vanishes as if it were nothing.  But this is just an illusion.  

I have a severe rule: at least try to remember one sentence from each book.  One idea.  One insight.   But even that's hard to do.  

I'm still reading the biography of Karl Marx.  Thankfully I discovered that single sentence that I'll incorporate into my essential being: "living for our work, rather than working for a living."  A Marxian notion.  And something that gives clarity to a vague feeling that I've had for a long time.  

For many years I simply made art that sold, which meant I was merely working for a living.  But over the last decade I'm finally, wholeheartedly, living for the necessary importance of my individual work.  A big difference!  Huge.

I live to create fully personal work.  And never again to slave away for a few bucks, pretending I'm experiencing a genuine life. 

Everything produced goes through a junk phase.  It takes place between 10 and 25 years after it flourished.  Following that, if it was once loved and appreciated, it begins to regain in value.  My paintings from the end of the last century are in the process of turning the corner.  They went through a normal decline during their out of fashion times and slowly are recovering.  No doubt you can find them in all kinds of places, at cheap prices.  Not that they ever set the world on fire.  No, they aren't that great.  But neither do they deserve being taken to the landfill.  They'll survive.  Many of them.  

I like this blues painting.  This is taken from the only know photo of the singer.  And such a cool name!  He's known as the Father of Texas Blues.  There were more than a few blind musicians in those days.  The cause of their disability is debated.  

More and more I'm learning about the many creative men and women who suffered decades long poverty and misery.  It almost seems to be an entrance fee paid by anyone who wants to make a genuine contribution to the world while they inhabit it.  Don't expect to be praised and rewarded during this life.  And probably not in the next.  

IMMMy brother Mark stopped by in LA and took this photo of Dante and her dad on Monday.  I have five brothers, and one sister.  I'm the oldest, and it's always made me relaxed around younger people, but somewhat uptight around anyone older.  

I suppose I'm becoming more obsessed with aging.  With time itself, and all that it means.  I read more articles on longevity, health, maturity, gender, etc. 

Mark, an opthalmologist, recently retired.  That means all my siblings are officially seniors.  And drawing on their Social Security.  (Mine is next to nothing, seeing how I never have had a job for sixty years.) Mark is fifteen years younger than me.  I remember the day he was born, and how my mother nearly died in the process.  Seven kids was finally enough.  Almost too much.  

There are advantages to having a large family, but also many drawbacks.  A struggling artist would do well to respect his limits.  For me being a dad to one daughter was a wise move.  Especially when she came with two half-sisters.  

Back to work.


This is a portrait I painted of my friend Lucho.  He died a few weeks ago.  Lucho was originally Peruvian, but had moved to Florida with his wife.  They were the first people in Sarasota we met.  

It's a fact in my adult life that most of my male friends have been non-Americans.  Danish, Peruvian, French, Canadian . . .  Maybe I wanted to prove to myself that this world is one big family.  There's no such thing as foreign. Not on this planet.  Probably nowhere.  Just brothers and sisters all over the place. 

Not one big "happy" family.  Maybe one small happy family.  A big family is very rarely a happy family.  One big brawling family: this is the reality.  How the world actually is.  Rather than how it should be.

For many years I've been influenced by a Russian art theorist who came up with an interesting explanation for the "artfulness" of art.  The essence of all art.  He coined the word "de-familiarization".  That is, making the familiar strange.  Making an apple, a house, a face, something commonplace and ordinary, into something weird, striking, and new.  This is how art is made.  An artist strips off the everyday veneer of a thing, and shows its naked oddity.

Yes, but, after years of reflecting on this idea, I now understand that it's only half the picture.  Not only is art de-familiarization, but it's also dis-alienation.  That is, it also is able to make the extremely different very intimate and friendly.  

It makes the other into the same.  As well as the same into the other.  Art is a clever rearrangement of normal life.  It shakes up the status quo, and alters the moments of time.  Like moving chess pieces on a board.  


 


Picked up this book up the other day at a thrift store.  First edition, never read, perfect condition: $2.  I started on it the other night.  A really entertaining biography, so far.  A bit surprising.  

Maybe it's the right time to do a little dumpster diving, and salvage parts of this man's philosophy from the garbage bin of history.  It turns out that Karl Marx had some of Groucho in him.  He loved cigars, jokes, and was a pretty earthy guy.  I was pleased to find this out, and puzzled that it has taken me so long to really come to grips with this important brand of political thinking.

Communism.  It goes back a long way in my own life.  My father spotted a strange tendency in me at an early age.   "You've always been against Big Business," he muttered.  He was the president of a large construction company.  I have been? I wondered.  It was news to me.  

Before I went off to New York to enroll at Columbia graduate school of business my dad warned me:  "I hope you don't fall for any communist ideas back there."  (The East Coast was back there from our home in Iowa.)  I was baffled.  I told him that I had no political opinions whatsoever.  I was only interested in art.  "Yes, and that's just the kind of person they like to get their hands on!" he said.  I thought he was crazy. 

Yet in a few short years I had turned into a committed anti-war radical, and left the country for good.  Building my hut on a commune in Canada, and living in it for one winter. 

Sometimes it's literally true that one torch lights another.  I often wondered if I could ever show someone how I make things using the oxyacetylene torch.  If a person ever tried they only tried once, and quickly decided it was not for them.  The torch is a rather frightening tool.  One false move, and you won't be making it ever again.  

But eventually someone shows up and takes to it like a duck to water.  This woman seems to love it, and here is a bronze cuff that she's been working on for several days.  It has a baroque quality, I said, but the term didn't register.  

"You know, like those altars in Spain, in the old churches, with their elaborate gilded carvings," I explained.  And apparently the image made sense to her.  Maybe being from Puerto Rico helps. 

Part of mastering certain techniques comes with a duty to pass them along to others who could carry on with the discovery, and possibly improve on it.  

Actually it doesn't require much to keep the flame going.  In my case just being introduced to older, genuine, artists was enough.  Just to see them in the flesh.  To realize they weren't that different from me.  Simple, but very necessary.   

I often wonder about the world we try to live in.  How it's more like a bare-knuckle fight than a friendly dance.  How our quiet neighbors can someday pull out a gun and point-blank shoot us.  

Underneath the plastic smiles we find bloody fangs ready to bite off chunks of our flesh.  

The above picture is a still from a short news film I was able to pause and capture.  It's taken from a roundup of French Jews in 1942.  They're being forced into cattle cars and shipped to one of the Nazi death camps in Poland.  

What crime did this beautiful young woman commit, and what was her fate?  I have no idea.  I see something in her anxious face.  It's called the reality of horror.  A dawning sense of organized murder.

I've always loved the French for their culture, their art, and their literature.  But why is it so skin-deep, so easily torn aside?  Revealing the savage cannibal underneath.  

Evil hates goodness.  Ugliness bitterly envies beauty.  Liars rage against those who tell the truth.  There's all out war between what we as individuals, groups, and nations, cherish.  A grim duel to the tragic end between opposing values.  And changing morals.  It's called life on a small, isolated, evolving, planet.  

Newest one.  Completed yesterday, and already I can see that it can be improved.  How does that happen?  You think everything is covered, everything is perfect.  And no sooner than you photograph it, post it, hang it up, or lean it against the wall where it can be viewed by the world.  

And then, wham!  You instantly realize what's missing.  What was an error in judgement.  A poor decision.  

But this sharp insight was impossible before the art was actually made.  When it's only kicking around in your head, or even out in the external light of the studio.  One's brief satisfaction vanishes in a snap of the fingers.  

And either a person quits, throws in the towel, or plans on making the next piece.  A better version.  Smarter, more original, more expressive.  A solid step forward.  You can hardly take a breath before the urge to get working begins all over again.  

This creative process can be noted in other, famous, artists of the past.  One look at VanGogh's journey is enough.  If not him, then Mondrian, Kandinsky, or Picasso will do.  You can perceive where they are heading.  How they toss outworn ideas overboard, and even begin to burn the decks.  They become relentless, obsessed, ruthless.  Nothing stands in their way.  

I took another short video of Dante painting.  Then she edited the clip, chose a single still, and forwarded it. 

"I can't stand your photos of me," she said, "but the videos are much better."

For a non-photographer I think cutting a single frame from a video is a good idea.  One out of hundreds, maybe thousands, of frames is able to pass the test. 

Also, a frame is able to detect nuances that are barely perceived.  Facial expressions are incredibly subtle and change with blazing speed.  It must be something that has evolved over a million years.  But a paused camera can reveal hidden traits.  The socialized mask falls off and the naked person appears.

I almost finished a new painting, and will post it tomorrow.  I'm pleased with it for now.  I understand that satisfaction is only a lightning flash, but nevertheless it counts.  And then the journey continues.  The thirst for perfection can not be slaked.  Such is the destiny of a creative human.

   

Today's the birthday of Jackie, my former painting partner.  We sure knocked them out.  Shipping them overseas to Switzerland, where Andreas, an art dealer,  sold them everywhere in Europe.  It went on for about five years, that part.  But my assistant painted alongside me for 17 years.  She walked into one of our galleries, straight from New York, and a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design.  We worked hard, and had a lot of fun.  She's married now and living in the Northwest.  Times keep changing, and the wheels keep turning.  Like a motorcycle, with no reverse gear.  Why look back?

What is happiness?  I think it's a certain timeless experience that casts its golden sweetness over every other instant throughout the past and future.  Happiness takes place once but it reverberates millions of times, in varying proportions.  Any feeling different from happiness is not much different after all.  

The newest painting by Dante.  Strippers.  They keep appearing in my daughter's art.  I told her that the term "stripping", or removing clothing a piece at a time, was coined years ago when a woman fastened strips of paper on her naked body and men bid on each piece, so she'd take them off, one by one.  I don't know if she danced or not, but I think the event took place on some kind of stage.  I'll have to look it up again.  

Re: "beautiful Russian stripper."  Bought a splendid edition of "Crime and Punishment" the other day.  I read the important novel last year, for the third time, and am still thinking about it.  If I was locked in a cell with the complete works by Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky it'd be all I need to make me feel as if I entered heaven. 

I never realized how beautiful Russian women could be until I met a few in LA.  Now I better understand the writing of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.  They weren't exaggerating.  Come to think of it Dante's mother had a Russian grandfather.  The picture gains in clarity.  I begin to see . . . yes.  

I try to improve my understanding by rejecting absolute, and accepting relative, ideas.  I watch my words more carefully, making sure that they aren't extreme.  By avoiding superlatives.  And also expressing myself in short, everyday language.  

This doesn't have much to do with painting, but maybe it does.  After all, painting is done with the mind, not the hands, as Michelangelo claims.  

I discovered a counter-argument to those who say that humans are nothing but material bodies.  They live and die, and that's the end of the story.  Maybe, but can it be otherwise?  

Look at it this way.  I exist now.  Can I, or anyone else, see their actual living being, their essential selves, as not existing?  No.  This is impossible.  I can only "imagine" myself not existing.  I can only dream about myself as pure nothingnesss.  I can not "perceive" it with my own eyes.  

On the other hand, can I perceive myself as existing forever?  No.  This is equally impossible.  I can see myself as existing now.  Not as existing for an infinite number of years.    

But eternity has nothing to do with numbers, which belong to time and space.  Eternity exists in a wholly different category.

Therefore, the opinion that humans cease to exist, or exist for an infinite length of time, are both mistaken.  

I experience myself as existing now.  I can never directly and clearly experience myself as ending, or as existing for an everlasting time.   

That's as far as I can go in my understanding.   

"Have you seen the numbers today?" Dante asked, concerning this website.

"I have."

"What do you make of it?"

I had no explanation why the spike: 190,00 hits and 52,000 visits.  Very head-scratching.  We generally average around 600 visits per day.  Online figures are hard to accurately assess.  At least from our website, which generally does a good job with statistics.  

Just carry on.  Do what we have been doing.  

Are we lucky?  Over the years, as an Irish-American, I've heard a lot about the nature of luck.  Especially about people like myself.  And most of it seemed bad.  But after I've lived long enough I started to see the phenomenon from a different angle, another side, or facet.  Good luck can seem bad, and vice versa.  It's often not what you superficially think. 

When you come right down to it: if you exist, you are lucky.  Forget about everyday circumstances.  Even if you aren't alive, you are also lucky.  All is nothing but a heap of the best luck.


Just finished this yesterday afternoon.  Then a photo was taken.  I wasn't ready to have a new portrait of my shabby, paint bespattered self.  But she persisted.  Since she had an upgraded phone designed for hi-res photos I agreed.  Even though it was the famous "magic hour" I didn't feel very magical.  I groused about the pose, but was assured that I was simply being too harsh about my appearance.  The art bum of Boyle Heights.

"I have to admit that I'm pretty vain," I said. "In fact, extremely vain."

"We all are, Patrick," she answered.  "And you've been working.  What do you expect?"

I really wanted to focus on the art, and not the artist.  But I took another photo afterward and cropped it to show the painting, and nothing but the painting.  I can always post that photo tomorrow and write more about the meaning behind the two words: root luck.


Some artists are like artists in every cell of their being.  Right down to their toenails.  It's clear to anyone who notices them.  Miles Davis was just such a guy.  Even if you don't care for jazz, you could still enjoy his music, and the sacred aura that surrounded it.  

There are many reasons why I admire him.  He was born and lived not far from my hometown.  Around St. Louis, along the Mississippi.  A strangely odd part of the world, but able to produce geniuses now and then.  Quite a few of them, actually.  As they say, a good place to be FROM.  Once you know what's what, you're out the door, and never coming back.  You pull yourself up by the root, but this dark root comes with you.  Without it, you'd be nothing but a dead leaf scuttling along with the wind.  

Expansion can't happen without having a solid, grounding, anchor at one end.  Like a rubber band being fastened to a strong stake driven deeply into the earth.  Having this firmly embedded core can free a person to go a long, long, way into the borderless unknown.   

When I was a boy growing up in the Midwest during the 1950's I was far more conservative than I realized.  For example, if I heard of a man dying and his widow remarrying another man I had a hard time accepting it.  "You mean she starts having sex with some new guy after her husband is in the grave?  How bizarre!"  This is how I thought in those days.  I had so much to learn.  And still do.  

At that time, in our world, we didn't even use the word conservative.  That would have meant there was a choice.  Either conservative or liberal.  Also, the word liberal never was heard around our house.  

Face it, there was no choice between those two unfamiliar terms.  On the contrary, it was between the right or wrong way of doing things.  That was the only choice available.  And the right way was the way that aligned itself with American law, and the Catholic church.  The wrong way was anything different than these two dominating forces.  

This straight and narrow vision began to fall apart by the 1960's.  And like Humpty Dumpty the pieces were never put back together again.  Not in my life.  Not in the earth's life.  

I guess I've learned that life enjoys movement more than inertia.  Probably a good idea to celebrate, rather than fear, change.  But it still feel a little strange to me.  

The other day I wrote about the mysteries of longevity.  Or the enigma of life spans.  Why one person reaches a ripe old age, and another is cut down in youth.  Or earlier.  It's so common that people take it for granted, never bothering to reflect on its deeper causes.  And hidden meanings.  It seems there might be unknown forces at work.  Did, say, Janis Joplin, pictured here, complete her life's purpose at 28?  Her journey was like a rocket blast compared to a concert pianist living in his late nineties.  

There were always very smart students who finished their tests way before anyone else, and then got up, handed the paper in, and left the classroom.  Does this explain early deaths for some people?  

But not everyone.  What about innocent children murdered in gas chambers?  How do you make sense of that?  Perhaps they were needed somewhere else?  To be raised by childless couples in another dimension, on another world?  

So many questions that can't be plausibly resolved . . . 

I salvaged this collage silkscreen painting from my trove of older photos.  I have so many obsolete prints of work from around 30 years ago.  It was before the smart phone, with its better camera.  The photos now look blurry and unfaithful to the original piece.  But it's all I have from that period. 

This painting is like an approximate representation of my consciousness.  A cluster of words and images, somehow adding up to an ambiguous sensation: an overall feeling about bits of feeling.  

Philosophy can be defined as "thinking about thinking."  A pretty good description.  Consciousness of consciousness.  Something that separates humans from animals.  And even humans from each other.  

Art, on the other hand, could be considered as "feeling about feelings."  Art deals specifically with emotions.  It doesn't need to bother with anything more.  Ideas, logic, theories, concepts, intellectuality, are all beside the point.   Art does fine without anything but feeling.  

This one was stacked behind some others.  I hadn't seen it in a while.  Yesterday, with nothing much to do, I took stock of the art stored in our studio.  I counted roughly 540 pieces: sculpture, paintings, some small bronzes, Dante's work, and my own.  A fairly large pile in one place.  And not just little canvases or drawings on notebook paper.  Mostly good sized stuff.  I hope some maniac doesn't drop a nuclear bomb on downtown LA.  And not just because all this art would be incinerated.  

I woke up with plenty of new ideas for paintings.  I can see some significant personal creations on a grand scale.  It depends on a few circumstances coming to pass.  But having a clear vision is enough to make me feel enthusiastic and energized.  Lucky me.  

I'm no longer in the category of a wild artist.  If I ever was.  You can't be a Wild One if you've reached the age of 80.  It proves you stopped short of the brink.  For all that, you observed your limits.  And took control of yourself.  

The genuine Wild Ones were dead before reaching 50.  Or 40.  Or, the wildest of wildest, before 30.  Everyone knows their names.  Several immediately come to mind: painters, musicians, film actors and actresses, poets, novelists . . .    Wild and dead, often very young.  And, it seems, much too soon.  

My grandson Amedeo turned 16 yesterday.  Everyone remarks on his sudden appearance of height.  Tallness in males is almost equal to prettiness in females.  As a desirable trait.  Short men and plain women have a harder time in this world.  

Who needs more difficulties living in human society?  No one.  So I'm thankful that Ame is already tall enough, and will probably grow a few more inches.  I know it sounds superficial but that's how it is.  Not how things should be, but how they are.  

Is it important for a person to leave his bloodline on earth, and have his genetic pattern carry on?  I don't know, but it can't be a bad thing.  Will Ame become rich and famous?  Again, I don't know.  Does it matter?  No, not in the least.  But it's essential that he becomes who he fundamentally is.    

Would my grandfather and grandmother be happy with the man I've turned out to be?  Who knows?  They might be okay with it.  That's how I see it.  

Made this over the last few days.  It went quickly.  Sometimes that can happen.  I plan on doing a few more like it.  I noticed some scrap steel, rusty white enamelled sheets, at the ironworks.  I'll buy them as needed.  Not expensive.  

Even if I knew what I wanted to make, and had all the materials, it still came as a surprise.  I was able to learn something as I proceeded.  And this is the important part of a creative process.  To only have a vague, very confused, idea about where you're going.  And what you're doing.  It does sound a little ridiculous.  But there you have it.  The artist's way.  Not for everyone.  

"Dead people feel nothing."  The title.  Just a reminder.  Open yourself to life.  While you can.  


Dante's latest painting.  I'm still working on my newest one, which I'll finish later today.  So I decided to photograph my daughter's work.  I'm surprised at what an intellectual she's become.  It's the last thing she'd say about herself, but it's the truth.  She and her older sister, Hannah, easily navigate between classically serious, and low-brow, culture, so widespread in Los Angeles.  

Warhol claimed that mass culture is high culture.  Meaning that there's no real difference between the two.  Maybe he was right.  Maybe he wasn't.  

Stripping and Flaubert.  What do they have in common, besides this painting?  Well, a few things.  Emma Bovary was quite good looking, like many strippers in Hollywood.  And she defied the morality of the period.  Paying a heavy price, too.  Nineteenth century Paris isn't that far removed from 21st. Century LA.  When you think about the two influential cities.  

"Here's a word that you need to understand," my daughter said to me.  "Thic.  Without the k.  It's what men go for today.  The kind of body a woman has."

"Thic?  Okay.  I get it."

"You like slinky, but that's out of style."

The times change, and we change with them.  A little.  Everyone does.  But not too much.  I like a voluptuous, hourglass shape on a woman.  It's never been unfashionable.  And today, according to Dante, it's front and center.  I can see what she means.  And why she gets so much attention on these dating sites. 

Hey, join the parade.  Contrary to what she says I've never been fixated on a single body type when it comes to women.  No, I've never even had a type.  Never.  Variety is the spice of life. 

This morning.  Hazy back windows of the studio, and the newest painting about to be assembled.  

Why this direction with my art?  I mean why in this particular direction when a multitude of other ones seem equally possible?  

I sense a change in my beliefs.  For at least fifty years I thought paintings were supposed to be beautiful.  Beauty was the supreme value in visual art.  And the greatest painters were those who created the most exquisitely ravishing canvases.  

But today I question this attitude.  What about truth?  Isn't truth just as important as beauty?  Even when it comes to painting and sculpture.  

I tend to prefer paintings that use only a few colors.  In fact, black and white are enough.  The more a painting looks like a page torn out of a book the more appealing it is to me.  

I'm surprised that I even wrote that.  

Is it true that truth itself is beautiful?  

Must think about this.   Think hard and long about it . . . 


Time is so furtive.  It's like a shy, wild animal.   You catch a glimpse, and then it's gone forever.  If you happen to have a camera ready, you might be lucky to snap a rare photo.  And turn the fleeting moment into a durable image.  

I woke up thinking how life always has these two sides.  The formal, and the underground.  The first is the publicly stated, lawful, and cleaned up.  Society is in loud agreement with this part.  And then, murmuring underneath everything, there's the hidden river of the unexpressed.  Both exist at once.  Causing a strange situation.  The two halves can't quite fit together.  This is frustrating, but also fascinating.  And are they really halves?  What's their actual proportion?  It changes.

Desire runs the entire show.  But not simply fulfilled desire, which is a conventional view.  But longing itself has a separate value.  Desire is the essence of living things.  

Rather than rushing to extinguish desire we also have a more poetic need to cherish hunger and thirst exactly as they're felt.  To love the burning wish itself.  To let it take hold of our daily wanderings as we stream through the world.  Treasure the waves of desire.  This is the most thrilling way of existing. 

A blurry photo of several paintings I made in Chicago.  I lived there from the fall of 1989 to August, 1991.  It was after a decade in Florida, and I made a change in my painting style.  I must have felt I would return to Los Angeles, and I started painting stills from old films.  Also using texts on the canvas.  I left some of these in Chicago and trucked others across the country.  I later sold them in California.  I have no idea where they ended up.  I never keep track of anything I create as soon as it's sold.  

Dante said she heard from a former lover.  But she didn't reply. 

"Why not?"  

"It's over, and I want to concentrate only on the present.  And just the facts, from now on.  Like I'm in court.  No imagining what anyone is thinking or feeling or doing.  Just what happens exactly as it happens, right here in front of me."

"I see.  That isn't a bad idea.  Not letting yourself get carried away by fantasies."

"Because they always distort the truth."

"Right.  Stick to only what you can perceive.  And quit adding to it.  Dreams are never real.  That's why they're called dreams." 

.

This painting hangs in my bathroom.  It's a small and dark room, and actually has no bath.  Just a toilet.  And a few paintings.  When I reflect on the amount of work I've done over my life I ask myself, well, what do they want, anyway?  I haven't spent my days and nights just sitting on my ass.  No.  I'm a fruitful tree.  I've produced.  I'm still producing.  

But then I look at other artists.  Some important ones.  And I'm ashamed.  I seem to have missed the boat.  And not really used the power at the root of my nature.  Compared to certain creative men and women.  

I'm reaching the end of my days, and only beginning on my artistic path.  Such a drawn out apprenticeship.  To what purpose?   A painfully tardy life.  

The universe expands, and I expand with it.  But as it expands it also in some curious way also contracts, and I contract with it.  I experience my condensed individual self, becoming like a hard, bright gemstone. 

My personal spirit withdraws into its eternal home, a place as marvelous as the expanding universe.  

Finished this yesterday.  When I say that I'm through working on something it's true now, but not in the future.  I've always believed that the future creates the past.  And it's definitely so when it comes to my paintings.  If I can improve them years from now, I can't resist doing it.  Take them out of my hands, and I won't touch them.  Otherwise I may even destroy them.  

The past was one thing, but over time it becomes something else.  It's becomes more beautiful or uglier.  It seems happier or sadder.  Brighter or darker.  It's seen through a distorting lens.  Memory can't be separated from imagination, and we all know that dreams are not the same as reality.  

What is not there can become stronger that what is there.  Until something new and fresh overpowers all that went before.  Everything that has already been experienced.  The past fades with the arrival of the overwhelming and radiantly alive present.  

I made this little guy yesterday.  Mainly to check out a new bench polisher I bought last week.  So many things to say about turtles, as well as a multitude of animals I've experienced in my life.  This was made by directly fusing bronze with the oxyacetylene torch.  More satisfying than lost wax casting.  

Masters of slowness.  Probably some very famous names would fit in this category.  When I imagine Socrates speaking to his students I can't picture him coming across as a glib salesman.  Nor do I see Einstein rattling off his words in a violent rush.  Thoughtfully searching, simplified, speech sounds best.  Prepared answers fall deaf on my ears.  Ready made phrases are for yokels.  It's how I feel.  I make no apologies for this.  

Fast talkers are eager to impress.  I have no interest in becoming a pitchman for some worthless junk .  Think before you speak.  Better yet, think and don't speak.  Think of everything, but say nothing.  Observe the turtle, a very quiet, long living, animal.  A triumphant underdog.   


I must have made this around fifteen years ago.  I wanted to put something together that might defy being torn apart by time.  This has been one of my strongest obsessions.  Taking on the destructive power of time.  

The essence of time is separation, or division.  Breaking things into pieces.  Dissolving them into elemental nothingness.  The opposite tendency is bringing things together.  I call this the creative life.  

These two forces incessantly battle it out.  They're in every corner of the universe, and also within each human being.  The creative way versus the divisive way.  You are already choosing which path you are travelling right now.  But you can always change directions.  Or continue on today's road.  

But you can't choose to not choose.   This necessary condition is what makes you able to be you.  It can ultimately reveal why you are at all.  That is, the whole meaningful point of your existence.    

 

Detail of a painting I made over thirty years ago.  Today it remains half hidden on the studio wall.  It reminded me of my ex-wife.  She's now dead.  I approve of the strong simple word "dead."  Soon everyone we know will be dead.  Good and bad people, young and old, those we love and those we don't, all eventually, and not in the very distant future, will be dead.  Yes, dead.  

I don't like the current euphemism "passed."  Sweet little grandma passed the other day.  The beloved movie star passed.  But you never see this: "The robber ran out of the bank, was met will a hail of police bullets, and he passed at the scene."  

The implication is clear.  Only nice people pass, that is, receive a ticket to heaven, and board the rocket ship to the exclusive club in the sky.  But murderers and bank robbers come to a complete halt.  Utterly extinguished, as if they never were.  Really?  Come on, who's to judge?  


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