Rectangle steel base collection Low h steel base collection Additional steel base styles 4 angles & closeups Coltrane dining table Steinbeck dining table Gallery & atelier Patrick McCarthy art Artist homes Videos Bronze and steel Danté's art Our bohemian world

Cloud Noir Daily


It's hard to know whether something is an ending, or a beginning.  Not everything.  Just some particular circumstances.  When I jumped in my truck and headed out of Florida in the fall of 1989 was it the ending of a phase, or the beginning of a new period?  I never came back.  But did I know it at the time?  How did I actually see that journey?  I think I saw it as the end of a story.  The final sentences of a lengthy chapter in my autobiography.  That's how it appears in the fall of 2023.  It didn't seem that way in those strangely confusing days.  I never saw it as the start of something marvelously new and exciting.  Not at all.  Both beginnings and endings have a frail, weakened quality.  Like something either dying, or just having been born.   As an artist I constantly experience situations that can't easily be defined.  Is this painting or sculpture the start of a new series, or is it the final attempt of an old series?  It takes a little time before the riddle is solved.  A circle doesn't have an end point, or a beginning point, on its circumference.  Starts and stops are meaningless for a circle.  The same is true in the life of an artist.  It's all merely a permanent jumble of relative endings and beginnings.

I seldom take pictures outside the studio.  Nor did I take this one.  Dante snapped it from her balcony yesterday, facing north east.  It has several features going for it.  Of course, the huge, graceful, and rare, rainbow.  LA doesn't see many of those.  It's conventionally a sign of good luck.  But it should be pointed out that there is no rainbow without some rain.  No good luck, either, without a bit of bad.  If you think of rain as bad, which I'm inclined to.  Rain makes it hard for the paint to dry.  In addition to the rainbow, and even more meaningful, are the pair of cypresses, with their tops gilded by the afternoon sun.  I love these impressive trees.  They have a complex symbolism in many cultures.  They're a sign of mourning, and often found in cemeteries.  But you have to see them as a promise of life after death.  They resemble candles, or praying hands, pointing straight up to heaven.  And they always stay green, like immortal life itself.  I'm glad for their presence on my daughter's property.  The photo is a nice way to end this multi-layered year.  

I don't like the way older people are obsessed with one thing: their stupid health.  Or lack of it.  As if they can think of nothing else in the vast universe except their out of control aging body.  I refuse to join this boring caravan.  I'll mention it today, but not again.  I went to the doctor with a typical male complaint.  My prostate.  Luckily my daughter came with me.  Actually herded me to the clinic.  That is certainly a great advantage of being a father.  "You did it for me when I was young," she said.  She didn't grumble about driving me down to Lakewood, an hour south of the studio.  Anyway, the urologist turned out to be a very smart man, and he soothed my latent fears.  A simple procedure will clear up the problem.  Dragging myself to the doctor is like descending to the final circle of hell.  But leaving afterward with good news puts me on cloud nine.  Life is nothing but a rocking motion of back and forth, up and down, left and right.  We're children bouncing along on waves.  

If I have anything of the rebel in my blood it can be found here.  My attitude toward money.  I don't hate money.  Nor do I love it.  I haven't taken a vow of poverty.  I have more money than I've ever had, actually.  At this advanced age.  I think it's mainly due to my growing dislike in spending it.  And how this new attitude ends up with more in my pocket.  A dollar here, a dollar there.  And it magically grows.  Slowly, but not much of a pile.  And I still believe in the artist's role.  A genuine artist isn't money hungry.  Or money mad.  Artists, when they become rich, well, that means the end of their most creative period.  They might as well be dead.  I can name dozens of artists who have ruined themselves over a tub of long green.  It's disgusting.  Tragic.  A sign of corrupted values.  A sign of artistic mediocrity.  I made the original version of this painting over thirty years ago.  And my views have only become stronger with time.

Here is the latest painting by my gifted daughter, Dante.  She prefers images of her family, I've noticed.  The smiling woman is her mother, Judith.  To have a beautiful mother is an interesting destiny.  But I recall Dante saying this:  "Everyone thinks their mother is beautiful."  I don't know how she came up with such an insight.  It's probably true.  But there's a wide difference between the physical appearance of a billion mothers.  And everyone is beautiful to someone?  It sounds like a miracle, yet it seems to be so.  However it's easy enough to see that Judith is beautiful.  And this is certainly the case for her three daughters.  Who themselves are beautiful to various sons.  I thought about my own mother.  Did I once believe that she was beautiful?  All available evidence points to the idea that I did.  But I never bothered to get a tattoo on my arm with a heart that said "mother."  I wonder if that image is still popular.  And I can't imagine myself dying in a foxhole on a battlefield and calling out for my mother.  Like you see in the movies.  But I'd say, judging from some very early photos, that she was beautiful, and I no doubt felt that she was.  If a woman is insecure about her looks, and also wishes to be adored, she might consider having a child.  

There are times when you run out of ideas for making art.  Out of gas completely.  The tank bone dry.  And you think, well, I guess this means the end of the road.  But it feels all right.  Not bad.  Not worth crying over.  Really? And you stretch out on the couch, and don't even bother to read a book.  Or check your phone.  You say to yourself, I guess I haven't done what I planned on doing.  Hard to say if you've failed or succeeded.  Probably failed, but then again it can't be pure failure since it feels pretty good.  It must mean a little bit of success.  Enough to make you smile. Sardonically.  Even laugh about it.  And laughter always is a sign you're winning.  

But then an idea comes to you.  Just like that.  Out of nowhere.  And you can see your next painting.  It's not like the old ones.  Not identical, at least.  It's an improvement on those.  On everything you've ever done.  And so by tomorrow it's once again off to the races.  You'll drive down to Home Depot and pick up a four foot by eight foot sheet of plywood.  And then go to the scrap yard for some steel.  You can't wait.  You're on fire, blazing away.  What a life!   Not done.  Yet.  You still have some creative juice left in this sack of decaying flesh.   I'm not that surprised, since it's happened before.  As long as you're alive you're never without some new insights.  Never stopped cold.  Not for more than a few days.

We used to hang out in our poolroom in the basement of our home in Iowa.  We played pool and listened to records.  For some reason our house was always the most popular house in town.  It was big and always filled with activity.  I don't remember it ever being empty.  Seven kids, two parents, my mom's helper, and a gardener/handyman.  Usually a friend or two, also.  Somehow my grandson has duplicated this setup here in Los Angeles.  His pals like his bedroom, where they're left to their devices.  It's a little unusual having his own posse since he doesn't really live in town these days.  He's either at boarding school, with his dad in Texas, or with his mom in Boyle Heights.  But he insists that this is his scene.  These are his gang.  And they do look comfortably at home upstairs inside of Amedeo's private room.  He keeps in touch with them through their phones and computers.  Some things change, but, I guess, others stay the same over the decades.  

It always feels strange when I make something that doesn't look very much like anything else.  How could it be any good?  But at the same time it doesn't seem that bad.  I have a hard time judging it properly.  Not knowing how to see it.  Where it belongs.  And what is its real worth?  I like to tell myself it's because it's original.  If something is uniquely itself, it defies assessment.  This piece is like an odd bird that doesn't fit into any category.  Like a visitor from a distant land.  Another galaxy.  What would the art be like if it was made by aliens?  What would an exhibit of paintings be if they were brought here on a spaceship?  I doubt if people would instantly fall in love with them.  But maybe they would.  Maybe it'd make the art of earthlings seem dull and fifth rate.  It's impossible to know before you actually know.  

Last night I received a phone call from my former assistant Jackie, and I showed her one of Dante's paintings.  She went wild over it, and begged to buy it for herself.  Even phoned Dante four times.  I could never have predicted that response.  Art is pretty weird.  It's nothing until it becomes something.  Until you can't live without it.  

My friend Serge sent me this photo of a small bronze that I made around forty years ago.  At first I didn't recognize it.  In fact I still don't remember making or selling it to Serge, who now lives in Estonia.  He owns around three (?) pieces from my time in Florida.  He comes from a family of art collectors that flourished in Vienna before the war, and the Holocaust.  I liked listening to some of the stories he and his brother told me about those days.  About his grandparents who were murdered in Theresienstadt.  The bronze doesn't look as bad as I feared it would after all the years.  It reminds me of Giacometti.  Not so much his famous sculpture, but rather the artist himself, who had a distinctively handsome face.  

Anyway.  Yesterday, talking to Dante, we came up with an interesting concept.  I expressed it this way: "be perfect toward imperfection."  I hear people putting down this quest for perfection.  Forget about it.  You'll never attain perfection.  Besides, perfection is boring.  And so on.  All these criticisms of the idea of perfection.  But here is one that you can't deride.  And it's worth striving for.  Try to have a perfect attitude toward all the vast imperfection you encounter every second of every day.  What is wrong with this idea?  I can't find any flaw.  It feels very responsible.  And quite intelligent.  Not to mention, doable.  Tell me it's just another idle dream.  

It's the first morning in a long time where I was confident that no one would wake me.  No one would knock on the back door.  Ring the door bell out in front.  Call on the phone.  Or on the computer.  The world has finally decided to leave me in peace and let me wake naturally, according to my personal needs.  My living and sleeping biology.  This is something new.  There have been so many different circumstances where I've opened my eyes from a night's sleep.  Very early times, when it's pitch black outside, to bright sunny hours close to noon.  But always it felt like the boundaries of my sleep were in the hands of someone else.  Some other agent, whether it was a job, or a class, an army sergeant, a wife and kids, a painting to finish, a red sun rising, some coffee to make, a newspaper to read.  A kind of pressure to get going.  Feeling embarrassed over my prone position, and a soft, warm mattress.  Picasso worked all night, and despised alarm clocks.  The French housekeeper couldn't understand why he wasn't up at dawn.  "Monsieur Picasso is a lazy man," she hissed at his lover.  Zen monks rose at 3:30.  At Auschwitz and the other evil camps it was 4:00.  And next door in Los Angeles today at Maria's Salsa factory it's also four, when the industrial air compressor jolts to life.  I no longer hear it turn on.  I finally awaken as God intended. 

Ame, my grandson, is home for Thanksgiving.  And he's glad that he is.  Was I that happy to be back in Iowa after returning from the university a few hundred miles away?  Not as much, I don't think.  I never saw my hometown as the center of the world.  It was a big shock when I arrived in Manhattan to attend graduate school at Columbia.  I stood on a busy steet corner, and had a minor epiphany.  I realized I was no one.  I had to experience New York City to understand how small and insignificant I am.  But along with that insight was one more, and nearly as important.  I was better off knowing this, than other people who were still under the illusion that they mattered.  That they were Someone.  Big fish in a little pond.  They were unaware just how little the pond really was.  And how small the biggest of them actually were.  My grandson doesn't have those thoughts running through his head.  Life is very different for him.  A matter of scale.  But quality, too.  "LA is my scene," he says. "I love it."

I never stop working on a painting,  sculpture, or even something I write, until I've discovered at least one new way of going about it.  So even in the most traditional, everyday, pieces, I've tried to do what I haven't done before.  The same holds for this painting.  I finished it last night.  But not until I tried something new, that worked.  Some technique that I can use to advance.  As I've already stated, painting, and all creative action, is self-education.  If you haven't learned something on a piece you aren't doing your job.  It can't be a work of art.  Even though others may see it that way.  But I know the difference.  What did this painting teach me?  Something minor, very small, but crucial.  Toward the end I quickly dragged a nearly empty dry brush across some bare white surfaces.  It left a trace of paint, but it was enough, especially after a swipe with a damp sponge from the kitchen sink.  (Actually the sponge was too wet)  Paintings don't always have to be thickly painted.  Any more than music needs loud sounds all throughout the composition.  Light touches alternate with stronger ones.  A lesson with nuances that need to be learned and relearned.

Sometimes one experience is so right that there's no chance of it happening twice.  It doesn't leave a desire for more.  It kills any wish to do it again.  Any attempt to feel the same.  Writing and painting can fall into this category.  I liked making the pictured piece.  Welding the word "still" on top of a steel frame.  But I never tried to make a similar wall sculpture.  I'm not sure why.  It wasn't too much work to complete.  I only used the necessary amount of material.  I liked it, even if others weren't so impressed.  After looking at it for a few years I still enjoy seeing it hanging in the studio.  The blue color on the textured black is a nice contrast.  It's as original as anything I've done.  I could knock out twenty more that would all have a family resemblance.  But I haven't.   It reminds me of that one great night with a beautiful woman who I never saw again.  Some things are meant to stay rare.  They exist to remind a person that a singularity isn't just a fantasy, or a violation of some law of physics.   It can have a real place in a human life.  

I wrote 35 novels and self-published them on Amazon.  They can still be found there.  Hardly sold any.  But that's not why I quit writing them.  In fact I have some manuscripts on my computer, ready to go.  It's mainly the style.  I change my prose as often as my paintings.  At least in my own eyes.  Others may not notice.  Expressing myself is as natural and easy as breathing.  But even one's breathing can undergo change.  In all these books I left out so much.  Today my grandson is coming home from his first semester at boarding school.  Everyone is excited about it.  His mom, his aunt Hannah, and his best friend Liam, are going to the airport.  It made me recall my first trip home from the university.  My dad and younger brothers were at the train station waiting.  I got off the Rock Island Rocket, wobbly, having stopped in Chicago for some beers.  I must have smelled like a brewery, and spoke too loudly and wildly.  My dad was silently disapproving.  Staring straight ahead as he drove the car, a cigarette hanging from his mouth.  The kids in the back seat were happy and had fun.  I look back, so many years go, and am ashamed.  Such is life.  

I spent most of my time in LA painting famous faces, but what about the faces that are beautiful and worthy of being famous?  Why not those?  My daughter prefers to paint her family members.  Here is one she made of Hannah, her older sister.  Popular images can lead to feelings of disgust.  We've seen them too often.  Even the most glamorous face can become ignorable.  But I don't know how I could ever tire of looking at Hannah, Dante, Alexis, and their mother Judith.  Nor will their faces ever suffer the fate of being plastered on a billboard in Hollywood.  They will always seem fresh and appealing.  A small world of desirable persons.  From now on I'll just paint faces I know very well.  Let other artists paint celebrities.  Or not paint them, which might be best of all.  Movie stars didn't exist when VanGogh was creating his work.  The world is better off as a result.  I've never once gone to a film because of someone featured in it.  I must hate the star system of the studios here.  It tends to ruin my experience.  I like movies where I don't recognize any face.  

I'm starting on a new painting, but it's not ready to be photographed.  And I  have no faith in a daily posting made only from words.  I tried that years ago, and although there were some readers, they eventually tired of checking in each morning.  But I still go to specific websites everyday without fail.  Not many: news, sports, art.  Pretty much like a daily newspaper of a small city.  Like the one where I was born.  It had local columnists.  Some people loved them, and devoured their words.  I didn't.  They struck me as dull and uncreative.  I never wanted to be a journalist.  A reporter.  God, so depressing.  Either be a genuine writer or do something else.  The same is true for painting.  I never wanted to illustrate anything.  That is, make a painting for some other reason than its innate attractiveness.  I guess you could call it art for art's sake.  I was under the spell of that slogan before I even heard of it.  I paint to make a beautiful painting.  Beautiful to me, and that's enough.  If no one except the painter finds it beautiful, that's all right.  That means success.  But if everyone - except for me - finds it beautiful, that's no good.  That's total failure as a painter. 

One morning a guy came onto my property and asked this question: "How ya feelin'?"  It caught me off guard.  I quickly rummaged around for an answer, but came up empty.  I muttered something meaningless like "oh, fine."  What if I paused, reflected, and gave him a sincere reply?  I could have.   A black  middle-aged man, who I'd gotten to know over time.  One of the trash collectors.  How was I feeling at that moment?  And how often does anyone ask me about my present emotions?  Maybe only a nurse, once every decade or so.  And who actually cares to hear about my feelings?  Who wants to hear about anyone's feelings?  But aren't they always more interesting than a person's opinions?  Your opinions, ideas, beliefs, are not even your own.  But you can't say that about your feelings.  

If you're fully engaged in life you're often surprised by things that occur.  The other day an old Hispanic man was talking to me.  I've known Eduardo for a number of years.  "I'm 84, and you're 82," he said, and then, smiling, pointed at the sky.  "We're getting closer to heaven."  At least he pointed upwards.  

One of my friends couldn't paint unless his girl friend was sitting nearby.  Cheering him on with excited murmurings.  Like a bird chirping.  He needed an audience.   Applause.   But otherwise he was such an accomplished, independent man.  Only when he was making art did he betray himself, and reveal how unsure he is.  It was that one weak spot.   But there are artists with the opposite problem.  That is, they're only satisfied with their work as long as it causes people disgust and horror.  They love to shock and offend.   Either extremes are simply roadblocks.   Whether people love or hate your work isn't the point.  No man is an island - yes, it's true - except when he's creating art.  You may as well paint, sing, or write poetry, as if you're marooned on a distant planet.  It won't turn out any worse.  Pleasing or outraging others has nothing to do with creative expression.   If and when a painter finally gets the painting right no one is more surprised than the artist.   

I've sometimes tried to bring my world to a halt.  Just to catch my breath.  Like some religious types suggest.  Entering into a state of deep stillness.  But I can't seem to do it.  I'm not built that way.  On the other hand I also am unable to race around endlessly.  If things get too frantic I tend to lay down on the couch with a good book.  I can sit and stare out the window, or at the ceiling, for hours.  So, what does all this mean?  For Patrick there is no such thing as pure rest, or pure movement.  Laying down I feel the urge to get up, and when up, I dream about laying down.  Absolute rest is death.  And absolute motion, well, I don't know what to call it.  A spinning top, or a rocket travelling through outer space?  Another kind of death, I guess.  It's a sign of progress when a person gets rid of the fantasy of absolutes.  Dogmatically rigid thinking isn't real thinking.  It's only childish fearfulness by another name.  

I recall the first time I chose to paint with oils on a canvas.  It was a thundering revelation.  I suddenly saw my life stretched out before me.  A difficult, painfully unclear life.  Like someone heading into a darkening sky filled with storm clouds.  And this vision has come true.  But in a way, my life is much better than I imagined it'd be.  I couldn't have foreseen its minor triumphs, its odd successes, and its general air of satisfaction.  I got what I wanted, some of the time.  Actually much more than I dared to want.  I believe it was mostly due to an early sense of mild confusion.  I didn't see myself arriving at any place where a person would hope to be.  I didn't feel that I deserved anything particularly grand.  I was happy with whatever scraps fell from the table of life.   It was enough.  It could have been much worse.  I never starved, and always had a roof over my head.  And I made paintings and sold paintings.  I learned how  to do those two things.  And am still learning.  Painting is one long self-education.

I like collecting things.  I picked up the habit fifty years ago.  I'm not sure where it comes from.  No one in my biologic family has been a collector of any kind.  Not art, antiques, books, etc.  Not even a small, idiosyncratic collection of trifles.  At one point I met a collector and he explained the idea to me.  "I only buy something that I know I can sell for twice as"  That was one of his rules.  Examining his large holdings, including valuable art that he bought at auctions, I began to see the world through his eyes.  He had a gift for placing nearly any object in the century when it was made, and the country of origin as well.  This was the result of years of study, and handling a vast amount of articles.   He spent long hours pouring over, say, a little Egyptian statuette, even translating the writing carved into it.  Collecting served several purposes for him: he rescued many interesting things from obscurity and gave them a secure home.  Also, he learned about life through these artifacts, and also became wealthy as a result of his passion.  A highly successful undertaking.  I am not a collector like my friend.  I would prefer to spend my hard-earned money on art supplies which I use for making my own art.  But now and then I still discover something I can afford.   

I finish a work, and then photograph it.  But instead of a single piece it now seems to be broken in two.  The actual making, followed by the framing.  In a sense, the frame is like a coffin, or a tomb.  It's a kind of death, in order for something to live longer.  A survival technique.  What is left of ancient cultures?  A few bits, shards, scraps, fragments, of their art.  All the stuff they all took so seriously, so intensely, has completely vanished.  What remains?   A few inches of a buried, throwaway, animal bone that an artist whittled before falling asleep by the campfire.  I feel a kinship with that prehistoric sculptor.   Art is like a joke that takes the longest time to appreciate.  The punchline can be delayed for hundreds of years.  Thousands.  But eventually someone will get it, and rock with laughter.  This painting is pretty good because it's a seed.  That's how I view it.  Watch how it gradually develops into something bigger.  It'll blossom, and bear fruit.   It has a genuine future.  In my eyes.  In my plans.  

Here's a painting that I made around 10 years ago.  It's hanging in a small front room.   Today the painting reminds me of a carnival.  All the colors and shapes.  I no longer work in that style.  And never will in the future.  Carnivals.  I recall the times in Iowa when the yearly Royal American Shows would come to town.  It's taken me fifty years to solve this mystery: at the carnival you'd see these young men, apparently high school boys, carrying huge stuffed teddy bears in their arms, walking alongside pretty girls.  They won them at the gaming booths.  I'd be with my girl friend and she'd point it out.  "Ohh...look at the teddy bear!  I want one!"  Then I'd try to win her one, too.  And I'd fail and lose my money.  But who were these guys, anyway?  I didn't recognize any of them.  And I pretty much knew every high school kid in town.  Then it finally hit me.  They were hired by the carnival.  They were actual carnies.  And they were used to fish us in, and empty our pockets.  We were dumb hicks who didn't know better.  My friends and I never won a huge stuffed teddy bear for our dates.  The games were fixed.  Why did it take me so long to see through the con?  So oblivious.  After all this time.

People complain about everything in LA except the weather.   It's so consistently fine that you don't even notice it.  Or you might ask yourself why you feel so bad when the weather's so good? It gives you a reason to wonder about the contrasts in life.  I took this photo of the studio a few months ago.  Just for the hell of it.  I rarely take pictures of the world outside this building.  It's like my monastery, my prison, my sanctuary.  Sometimes a torture chamber.  Infirmary.  Palace.  It's everything, everywhere.  It looks older than it is.  This half was built in 1970.  I added the wood-fired stove about twenty years ago.  I'll use it a few times this winter.  I wish I could enjoy the sun more directly but my Irish skin can't take it.  If I were to ever move to a different city it would have to be very warm and very cloudy most of the time.  Not easy to find such a location.  I'm making a new sculpture this week, but I had a dream about a different piece.  I think I'll have to destroy the nearly finished one, and change directions.  The dream was so clear and forceful.  Lately ideas have come to me from somewhere unfamiliar.  I hope this is a good way of working.  We'll find out.  

I look at this photo and wonder how it might be perceived by others.  Anyone who hasn't been in my studio couldn't make much sense of it.  Late last night I snapped a picture of the corner of my so-to-speak bathroom.  I like my eccentric world.  It's not that crazy to me.  Nor everyone.  A couple of months ago, at our gallery opening, a woman examined the place, and said, "You've organized everything.  Each object is in its place."  She then told me she knew an older artist back in Germany.  He lived on a boat, and although he was a very good artist, everything was in complete disorder.  She was German, and had an eye for order.  I understood that.  Sometimes you run across a hidden order in the middle of apparent chaos.  You learn how to survey the world with your practised eyes.  I've had some good teachers.  I've learned from them how to separate, and how to gather together.  I've learned the essentials of how to live.  You have to live intensely, and boldly enough, to be thankful for the experience.  

"Have you read all those books, Patrick?" a friend asked, looking at my library.  "I haven't read all these particular books," I said.  "But I've read more than you can see here."  This is my fourth collection of books.  Today I might buy something I have no intention of reading.  Just because it's so inexpensive, or maybe it's a first edition, and in good shape.  I don't waste time on best-sellers.  But maybe I might thumb through one if I have nothing else to do.  When I'm dead my daughters can sell them for a few bucks.  I've left piles of books in cities that I've abandoned long ago.  And, yeah, reading is important to me.  But I know the huge difference between reading something original, and writing something original.  You don't become enlightened by repeating another person's words.  Their truths aren't your truths.  Their insights took them somewhere special, but you won't get there by taking the same road.  What opened up smoothly beautiful for them is a dead end for you.  Walk your own path.  

Long ago I meditated on this question: how do I become more original?  What is original, and who are the original artists?  Is there some secret involved in the answers to these questions?  I started examining my favorite artists: Van Gogh, Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Botticelli, Picasso, and so forth.  There were a lot of them, but what did they all have in common?  I wasn't sure, but there were hints.  They somehow dealt with their own world.  Their own lives.  Mostly, it seemed their deepest selves had a way of contacting everyone's deepest self.  What was fully, even painfully, personal always was unique.  That is, original.  Everyone was original, but humans weren't able to understand and reveal this about themselves.  Over time I began to be more personal in my efforts at making art.  I started to involve the people in my world.  For example, here is a photo of Judith, mother of Dante, Hannah, and Alexis.  Judith, a very significant woman in my personal existence.  I think it'd be intelligent if I subjected my world to more creative treatment.  For the rest of my worldly days.

"Art is a jealous mistress."  This according to the divine Michelangelo.  I think he wasn't giving art enough credit.  It's actually more demanding than any part-time girl friend, however fiery and possessive she may be.  Art is like a cruel tyrant who controls everything for the length of a lifetime.  Plato says love is a brief tyranny.  His definition is also a little shy of the truth.   Love and art have much more staying power at their disposal.   The whole personality is held in their tight grip from birth to earth.  Whenever I had to explain my behavior to people close to me - lovers, that is - it sounded lame to their ears.  They didn't find it very convincing.  Until I was out the door, and down the road, for good.  Until I moved thousands of miles away.  Permanently.   Doing what I told them I'd always do.  It's not wise to bet against a person passionately in love with art.   Even the art of love has difficulty competing with the genuine lovers of art.  

Sometime, at least a hundred years ago, Hemingway bet a group of fellow authors that he could write a six-word story.  And it would make them all cry.  He showed them these words, perhaps taken from a classified ad in a contemporary newspaper.  He won the bet.  $10.  I was discussing literature with Dante when I recalled this anecdote.  And for some reason, maybe because I had an unfinished painting on my hands, maybe due to the war in Israel, or images  across the globe of hungry, naked children, I completed the piece by fusing several ideas.  It stands out from my typical work.  Could it lead to other provocative paintings?  I don't know.  That wasn't the motive.  But I have a special feeling for the nightmare that is childhood.  You'd think everyone does.  It turns out they don't.  Too many people in this world have hearts of stone.  Hearts of icy mud.  Or no heart at all.  

The McCarthys.  You'll notice that "ART" is squarely in the middle of our family name.  Here is a pic of my grandson, Amedeo.  He was actually named after a great artist, Amedeo Modigliani.  I hope that Ame doesn't have as tragic a life as Modigliani.  Or Modi, as he apparently was sometimes called by his friends.  I once met an old painter who said he knew the famous man in Paris, long ago.  Who knows if it was true or not? My grandson is young and growing into the man he'll become.  The McCarthys, a few of them, seem to fight their blood, their future.  I wasn't all that pleased with my nature, my talents, and the hard, stony, uphill road I'd be forced to take.  Being an artist isn't a pleasant prospect for certain types.  More like a curse.  But an unavoidable calling.  You can't shut your ears to the seductive music.  I've tried everything to stop myself from taking the dangerous journey.  It still seems a little unjust.  As if it's something I never wanted, never asked for.  But the giver must deliver the gift.  Be the artist you can't prevent yourself from becoming!

A shot of the studio.  Paintings finished.  Paintings half done.  Paintings about to be destroyed.  Paintings everywhere.   Hold on.....back in a bit.

Anyway.  An hour later.

Dante arrived, and we had our daily talk, conversation, dialogue, discourse.  "Just write about the art, not about me," she said.  People love to read what I write about others, but not about themselves.  They hate my descriptions of them, even if it's very flattering.  They loathe being turned into my written words.  I'm not sure why.  I think I have a bias toward the truth.  Even when I spin something.  I can't hide my love of the truth.  It leaks out.  And people are outraged.  It goes back a long way.  I was like that as a kid.  Authorities wanted me silenced, locked up, or tossed off a cliff.  But I'm not even that radical, or rebellious.  I don't get it.  They don't mind as much when I paint a portrait of them.  But they prefer that I paint it from a photograph of their choosing.  Whenever I painted them in real time, in a real space, seated across from me, they were upset with the results.  Again, I don't get it.  

When you fully understand something you can feel relaxed about it.  Whatever it is, or how it seemed before you finally figured it out.  Understanding and love are just two words for the same reality.  I got out of bed this morning and felt limber and energetic.  I noticed myself whistling and humming as I made a pot of espresso.  I felt good.  But why?  Yesterday it was the opposite.  I was stiff and glum.  What has changed?  Many things.  Small things that I can't even lay my finger on.  But added together they must have affected me positively.  If positivity exists then so does negativity.  You can't have one without the other.  Night and day.  Winter and summer.  Accept it.  Ride with it.  I spend most of my time giving myself these silent inner pep talks.  Do they help?  I don't know.  Yet.  I thought of my tombstone.  Even though I don't want a tombstone.  An upright chunk of limestone with words carved:  "it was long enough."

It's much easier to understand things after they happen.  But very hard to predict the future, even when all the signs are right there in front of your nose.  The small paintings shown here pointed to the large pieces that I've made recently.  But only a wizard could have seen this coming.  I once read palms for a living.  I told people what the lines and shapes of their hands could mean for them as they moved forward.  But I tended to overlook my own hands.  Now I can see precisely how my life unfolded.  It was all written there, all along.  Why wasn't I able to forecast my own destiny?  This bothers me.  The biggest blind spots in our world are in our own eyes as they try to look within.  Or neglect to look within.  I'm most ignorant when I describe myself.  I know everything better than I know myself.   

How can artists expect to be any good if they don't live in the world?  There no  such animal as an artist who isn't intensely curious about life.  My brain buzzes with questions every minute.  And has been fueled with leaping flames since the day I was born.   The art that comes out is only a few drops compared to what remains inside.  If it takes a hundred pounds of rose petals to make an ounce of perfume that is roughly what it's like to turn brute sense impressions into a poem or painting.  Maximum pressure, on maximum, carefully chosen, material.  24/7.  Year after year.  This piece is somehow the result of my feelings over the past few weeks.  The agony swirling over the face of the earth.  How can it be ignored?  Title: a translated famous line from Verlaine: "The long sobs of the violins of autumn."  Welded bronze and steel fixed to plastered and painted wood.

I try to imagine what it must be like to own one of my works, and live with it every day, often for years.  People might see things in the paintings or sculpture that I missed.  Things I never have observed, or in the past saw but today would see totally differently.  Here is an idea that I just had.  When is an abstract painting finished?  What keeps the artist working, adding, and subtracting bits here and there?   One answer to that question.  When I contemplate a painting and discover an interpretation that rubs me the wrong way, I immediately, or after a time, obliterate that form.  For example if a certain abstract shape reminds me too much of an ugly animal or person, I change it.  If something looks too obviously one way, pointing too clearly at one object, that is generally a mistake.  Shapes shouldn't be too easily defined.  They should suggest several possibilities.  I am writing about deliberately abstract shapes.  An utterly abstract shape does not exist.  It's a relative world that we live in.

The best work stands alone.  Like a few other events in life, once is sufficient.  If something is really good there isn't even a desire to do it again.  We try to repeat things that are relatively good, but not something that exists head and shoulders above anything similar.  Certain rare experieces are so satisfying that they kill any taste for anything remotely like it.  This is the case with paintings.  I love how this piece turned out, but I have no urge to copy myself.  It's what it is, and this is how it must be.   I sensed that I needed to move on, painting things with very little connection to the piece in the photo.   It's a strange feeling when that happens.  Like meeting a beautiful person with no past, or no future.  You can't exactly remember them clearly, or forget them.  

Haven't finished the small painting on the bottom left.  I like the textured white so much that I don't want to ruin it by adding more.  Especially if more means less.  But we've all seen a blank white painting before.  It wouldn't be that interesting, if it ever was.  A contemporary painter hates it when his work is described as "like" another artist.  Comparisons are detestable.  To rise above all comparisons is perhaps an unattainable ideal.  Maybe it's not even worth pursuing.  But the only way to achieve such a goal would be to take the route that leads deeply into your self.  The fullest, purest, self-expression is as original as it can ever be.  On the right is another of Dante's pieces.  That's a silk-screened blue image of her face on the upper right corner.  As well as a glued down photocopy of an image of Judith, her mother.  I love my daughter's paintings.  

Israel.  My Jewish brothers and sisters.  My daughters.  I was born and raised Catholic but as I grew up I became more involved with all things Jewish.  I can't explain why.  Apparently in our family DNA we found out that we're 2% Jewish.  It probably came from my German grandmother on my mother's side.  But I am, or strive to be, a universal human being.  A man who considers everyone as a member of his family.  These are two paintings that I made about thirty years ago, and they still hang in my studio.  The woman, the girl, is Sophie Scholl.  A famous German anti-Hitlerite and founding member of the White Rose group.  She was executed, guillotined, for her protests against the depraved government.  I love her.  The other is a small painting.  A silkscreened evil word.  I planned on making a very large piece covered with the same word, but haven't gotten around to it.  The repeated word Auschwitz reminds me off the finely detailed pages of Nazi crimes filed away with Teutonic thoroughness.  They still survive in spite of the efforts to incinerate them all, along with their victims.  Murders are messy, and the Holocaust is the messiest one in history.   When the war in Israel is plastered across the daily news I keep thinking of how we got there in the first place.  These paintings are a big part of today's story.  

Taken too long to post today.  But even when I don't feel up to it, I end up doing it.  Here is an older piece we dragged out because this one guy wanted to see it  "Could you put a frame on it?  A thinner one."  Anything, pretty much anything, can be done.  But whether it gets done is another issue.  He wasn't serious.  Just stalling.  Probably has a crush on my daughter, who is forced to politely deal with him for a few minutes.  The internet is responsible for many of these far-fetched possible (actually impossible) couplings.  "How can people fall for some pulse of light?  Or a mere photograph?  I can't see that happening to me," I said.  I only am bewitched by what happens in the flesh, in front of my widened eyes.  Dante is younger, and occasionally  goes out for coffee with someone she only knows through social media.  It never means that much.  But everyone knows of those few success stories.   Of long term relationships being created.  Men and women keep plugging away.  This small painting has been a big seller.  That is, I must have made it five or six times.  I don't care for most of the interpretations, but there's nothing to be done about that.  

I like how my daughter's visual art is so different than mine.  Her mother is a very distinctive painter, who probably let me take over any studio space we shared.  We had to live off of the sales that I needed to make.  She stepped back and hoped for the best.  Shrugging it off.  Sacrificing herself.  If she wasn't involved with a man who painted she could have gone much farther as an artist.  Women have had a hard time being mothers and wives, and also making their mark.  I was often influenced by Judith, a native New Yorker who grew up with the fullest exposure to contemporary art.  As a Midwestern yokel from Iowa, I learned from her.  And then I ran with the ball, and am still running.  Our daughter is similar to, but very different from, her mother and me.  Dante never speaks of her paintings.  I've never heard her utter a boastful remark.  Not one.  Quietly going about her business.  Not like me.  Or her mom.  And she uses the family for her subject matter.  This display is really like a family biography, framed, and mounted in our gallery.  We're all there.  Especially the women.

"There's more to life than books, Patrick," she said.  At 22, Kitty was a year or two older than me.  She was not happy at that moment.  I was still in school, and she was starting a new job in a new city.  Our summer romance was over, it seemed.  And she was setting me straight.  I loved books more than Kitty, I guess.  And even more than life.  According to her.  And so a while later I took her advice and plunged feet first into the world, into what people are pleased to call life.  Looking back sixty years I now wonder.  Maybe Kitty was wrong.  There isn't more to life than books.  Or it's a very close call.  I've been collecting books for the last twenty-five years.  And built up a nice library.  All have come from thrift stores, garage sales, and a few online.  This photo is my latest batch.  A dollar apiece for paperbacks, and two bucks for hardbacks.  From a favorite junk store, close to the studio.  A few are a real bargains.  The "Jeeves" is a first edition from 1923, worth about $100.  Even without a dustjacket.  I'm always willing to spend a dollar on such fascinating cultural artefacts.  

The paintings shown here are more how they actually look, placed around the studio.  When I write about our life in LA it could be from anywhere, since I spend almost 24 hours every day inside this converted warehouse on the main drag in Boyle Heights, a little east of downtown.  Tinkering away on paintings, sculpture, writing, and rambling through the internet.  If someone came to visit me from out of town they'd be disappointed.  They'd have a really hard time uprooting me from my little space.  I've already seen as much of the city as I care to.  And there are broad areas that I've never entered, and never will.  You have to choose how you carve up your time.  What gets chosen, or rejected.  On my deathbed I'll never complain that I didn't do what I wanted to do.  I did it ten times over.  This painting could be called "La Vive".  Or not called anything.  I like giving them titles, but they acquire their own names as they travel their own path.  Paintings can have such long lives compared to their painters.  I can see through my back window that it's another fine day in Southern California.  I'll enjoy it in my own way.  Watching some football.  

It might be too much to post a completely new work of art each day.  If anything I've slowed the process down, and spent longer on each piece.  I've discussed this change with my daughter, and she tends to agree with the idea even though she's of course that much younger.  Old people and slowness go together naturally.  I can always post a few details of pieces found in the studio.  Here is one of mine, along with one of Dante's.  The restricted color scheme is something we both have been using for some time.  My brother Matt, another painter, claimed that only four colors are needed for a good painting: black, white, a primary, and a secondary.  This makes sense.  I've developed an allergy to paintings that remind me of carnival stands.  A riot of every color under the sun, and cancelling each other out.  Leaves me unmoved.  The woman shown here is a Scandinavian actress that never was very famous, although I like how she was photographed.  

A guy came to the gallery yesterday.  Only one, for the entire time we were open to the public.  "He seemed more at home here than the last visitor," I said.  "He told me that his parents were artistic.  It's how he was raised.  He's more like us," Dante said.  It was undeniable.  A young artist, starting out.  He asked me how I began.  A familiar question, and I answered that I began as the grade school class artist.  The kid who could draw.  He laughed and said that was his story, too.  I then thought back to my early days in Iowa, and how I always stuck out, and not in a good way.  But this rather eccentric quality has followed me wherever I am.  So it isn't the environment.  It's something in me.  I showed the visitor what I was currently making.  A small text painting: "DEFY".  "It used to be the word LOVE, but today it's DEFY."  What exactly changed, and why?  Well, it's important to move on, no matter what.  You break with the past.  You defy what was.  I defy, above all, what I once was.  Good, bad, true, false, beautiful, ugly: if it's back there, then move forward, and DEFY it.  Change, and then change some more.  

Details of a wall in my studio.  These paintings are some of the earliest ones I made after moving to LA.  Circa 1993.  A copy of the famous Laocoon ancient marble sculpture, and an image from a classic film noir.  They're both on the dark side.  I've learned not to ignore this dimension, nor pretend that it doesn't exist.  Murder is as real as dancing and singing in the sunlight.  We saw that in Israel over the last few days.  Alexis's son, Tyler, is being called to return to his unit.  They live in the Golan Heights, but the rest of the family is in Buffalo, where her father just died.  Such unusual timing.  "Dad died so we wouldn't have to," Alexis told Dante yesterday.  Her family of four boys and husband escaped the horrific slaughter that took place south of their home.  People comment on the negative quality of much of my art.  Not all of it, but a significant portion deals with sorrow, disappointment, and pain.  But there are times when portraying any other emotion would be highly inapproprate, and offensive.  I paint to celebrate joyful moments, but also to remember tragic ones. 

Painters sometimes love their studio more than the art that's inside.  They can admire the walls of the room as much as the paintings that hang on them.  Or the floor.  Or a group of half-finished canvases stacked against each other in the corner.  Take this photo, for example.  For me a painting of the entire scene would look great.  Or if a person was able to simply hack out the entire setting and place it in a museum.  This would be a pleasure to contemplate.  Individual works organized into a unique wholeness.  Viewed one by one, they don't seem like much.  But fused together they have a real impact.  Someone might say "well, do it!"  Yeah.  Sounds like a good plan.  Until you take the first step or two.  No.  Not today.  

Several sculptures and paintings stacked up against my old cast-iron stove that I use for heating the studio during winter.  I have a good supply of wood scraps set aside for the few cold days in LA.  We'll have to see what the gallery is like when the weather finally turns.  Customers never stay long enough to get chilly.  Or sweltering hot.  Yesterday a guy rang the doorbell and entered.  Dante and I could immediately tell that he was "one of hers."  That is, an admirer who saw online photos of her .  He tried to look interested in the art, and pretended to want to buy something, and we played along.  You have to expect this when you're in business.  After he finally left we analyzed the situation.  "He was probably happy to be able to see and talk to you," I said.  "And for all that, he was exposed to some art.  It didn't kill us to spend a few minutes showing a stranger our world."  She agreed, and said he already texted about one of her collages that featured her image.  Saying how much he liked it, and what was the price?  

I knew Howie for over a half century.  He died this weekend.  He's the tall, distinguished man on the left.  The father of Alexis, the woman in the middle, and onetime husband of Juith, on the right.  Looked at from one angle, we're a small contemporary family.  In Los Angeles there is Hannah, Dante, Amedeo, and me.  I'll put up our photos on this new daily page.  But for now let me say something about Howie, a lifelong professor of literature, and author of novels.  Alexis wrote that he was surrounded by her and her four sons and husband when he breathed his last.  She flew to his side from Istrael, which is once again at war with its fierce neighbors.  What a world we live in!  Philosophers might have nailed it when they say that the greatest gift of all to humanity is death itself.  I've always thought of death as a way to escape the turmoil and confusion of life in time and space, on this troubled, insignificant planet.  I see no reason to change my beliefs.  etime  husband of Judith,

Howie.  Howard Wolf.  I've known Howie for a half century.  He's the father of Alexis, Dante and Hannah's step-sister, pictured in the middle, and former husband of Judith, on the right.  Part of our small family.  Howie died over the weekend.  Alexis wrote to me from Buffalo, where Howie spent his adult life as a professor of literature at the university there.  She flew in from Israel with her sons and husband, to be at her father's side.  Howie was also an author of novels and articles.  He considered himself primarily as a writer.  He was my friend, and we exchanged many letters over the years.  The last I saw him was here in LA.  I remember sitting on a bench at the beach in Venice, discussing the big questions.  He was a year or two older than me, and I learned some things from him.  This is how it usually goes: you get the important stuff from those who have been around longer.  There's something about the length of time a person experiences that really counts.  I find myself listening more and talking less when I'm with an older person.  It's been that way since I was a boy.  

                               NUDE PET MILK CARNATION

Here is a Dante piece in one of my frames.  She makes them on 24" x 24" plywood that I cut from larger panels.   It's her favorite size.   We're getting the new gallery launched. This particular venture is in an odd category.  We don't have to pay any monthly rent (I own the building outright), nor are we concerned with sales.   This makes us relaxed.   And confident.  If you're pressured to sell something, it changes the atmosphere.  People can sense it.  I feel it as well.  I suppose the gallery is like a micro-museum.  No prices on the wall.  No arm-twisting.  Quiet.  Subdued.   I like the concept.  Being in Boyle Heights there's very little street traffic.  No one knocks on the door.  Dante has quite a few collages hanging.  I can see that they're all in her style.   Even when she repurposes some of my old images.  Transparencies or photocopies that I might have used.  

May as well start a new series of informative, artistic pages.  Will try to get people to hit on this every day, with their morning coffee, or something similar.  I guess it's like a blog, or journal, or magazine article, but not.  A photo and text.....fresh daily, including Sunday.  Not difficult for us, since we rarely go anywhere without our phones, or actually leave the studio/home in LA.  Here is a shot of the new gallery.