Getting Smarter

When I first started blogging, I lived in a smartphone-less world.  I had the same little hunk of junk phone that I'd had all through my twenties, the crappy one you get for free when your mom and you buy the family plan with no bells or whistles, our numbers always just one digit apart.  I've stuck with those ten digits as long as I've had a cell phone; it's the next closest thing to a Social Security Number. "Yours is the only number I remember," my brother once said in a collect call from the pokey.  A number that's reliably, identifiably mine.

Back then, blogging was an inconvenient pursuit.  Posting daily meant not only painting the darn painting every day but scanning it, sizing it, and then spending dedicated time on that lunk of a desktop computer to bring the post to life.  Some days, it amounted to a full day of work. Other days, I would be out of town and have to use a chinsey digital camera, borrow a computer, and upload the stuff.  It was terribly inconvenient, but it brought my painting to a broader audience when I lived in a town that was smaller than a city block and thirty minutes drive from anything (also terribly inconvenient at times.)  Truth be told, there was something satisfying about that distance though.  You had no choice but to work for it.

I have a smartphone now.  The first time I went to New York city, I didn't.  I thought maybe if I bought an Ipod touch, I'd be able to use the limitless WiFi enveloping the city to navigate.  Boy was I wrong.  Turns out, internet ain't free.  The first time I tried to cross town to meet a friend for lunch, I ended up on the wrong street of the same name.  He lamented my mistake with an urgency to get out of that part of town as fast as possible as a gold-toothed man hanging around a dollar store heckled "why don't you take my picture, mama."  I was dragging around an analog camera too.  I am so obvious, I thought to myself.   I was an hour late to the lunch date, disoriented and completely freaked out.

These days, it takes little more than a few movements of a thumb to post an image, make a short film, explain damn near anything, or have the voice of a nice calm lady guide you anywhere.  Yet somehow, it doesn't make it easier for me to post a blog entry every day; maybe I've gotten lazy, or maybe I'm so over-inundated with technology that I've developed an aversion.  I wonder sometimes: have we lost our innocence, the naive curiosity that drives us, gives us the will to figure things out the hard way?  Have things gotten so much easier that they've inadvertently become more difficult because we don't have to use and exercise the tool we're equipped with, our brain.  When it all comes crashing down, will we still remember that number that makes us think of home?

Any way you slice it, I'm still working every day.  Here's a weeks worth of it.






new heights

When I was young, I wasn't one of those horse girls.  That was just too typical.  My fantasy pet was a giraffe that I could feed by hand out the second story window of my childhood home.  I could picture it perfectly, and I still can today.  Because what is a giraffe but a horse with a fancy paint job and an extra long neck? This over-dramatic, prepubescent, angsty and artsy young girl's dream.

In my household, we always had at least one dog and one cat, with the occasional lizard, goldfish, or bird.  We are a tribe of devout animal lovers, every pet with it's barrage of nicknames and special voices used only for that animal, every pet a family member.  The nightly prayer of "Now I lay me down to sleep..." always contained a wholehearted "bless Sassy and Ping Pong and Fishy Sal."  in the list of persons we kept in our hearts at all time.  This may not be unique, but it has definitely shaped me into the kind of gal who prefers animal company over people most days.  And after a year or so of living mostly out of a suitcase, mostly dogless and catless, responsible for noone but my sad self,  I bit the bullet and adopted a tiny dog.  Formerly a death row inmate in the City of Angels, she is now glued to my feet, following me from one room to another, learning how to piss and shit outside, enjoying her gourmet hand prepared meals, helping me remember the simplest moments of joy in that divine companionship only an animal can provide. 


worth it

I feel excited to be an artist in Seattle right now. It's a blossoming scene full of highly motivated and forward thinking individuals.  Being surrounded by that kind of energy keeps me motivated to make good work, feeds the machine that chews up the inspiration, digests it, and comes up with new, better ideas. When I lived in the country, I was hungry for that variety of raw fuel, to be surrounded by art that makes you humble, makes you think, "damn, I wish I thought of that."  It was never enough for me to see it on a screen, or in the pages of a magazine.  That would just get me depressed.   Only when you witness a piece in person can you feel what the artist really meant.  Only then can it change you.   You stretch you mind around every possibility.  You learn different ways of seeing.  Your imagination ignites.  You grow.  You leave a better person, a better artist, determined to make something great of it.

This weekends excitement was contagious, with all the hullabaloo about the first Seattle Art Fair and all the events that occurred alongside.  I mean, if you ever wondered if people here cared about art, all you had to do was walk upon the event center opening night to see the people lined up as far as the eye could see. Not for a new Star Wars, or a Seahawks game, but for art.  I mean, I'd wait in that line, any day.  I mean, I kind of got emotional about it.  Working for two galleries this weekend and seeing the sheer human force that goes into this kind of production, I'm thankful that people give that much of a shit.

Because let me be honest: I waver.  For the last ten years I've committed my home to art and artists.  I live in a gallery, or rather, I've converted my home into an artspace.  It gets old.  And for ten years, I have foregone the comforts of a conventional living room or dining room in order to have a place to paint.   That gets old too. I have given up financial security and the luxury of a nice wardrobe for buying art supplies.  I feel like Raggedy Ann.  Yes, that was my choice, and yes I must live with my decision, and no, I don't regret my decision. I work for my passion and currently support myself on art alone.  But this month, and many months, I'm still on the "oh shit, how am I going to pay rent and feed myself?" tip.  Aren't I too old for that?

At a certain point, it gets old to be hand-to-mouth; all this hoping, working, waiting, working, and hoping some more.  Trying not to have raw nerves, trying to stay up, stay strong, stay motivated and optimistic. Life is expensive, and the societal treadmill can move faster than I wanna run. That being said, it is getting easier.  You run long enough, you get in shape. You get in good enough shape, you can keep up with the pack.

This time around, I got my runnin shoes on.



I paint a lot of common objects.  I think back to when I first started with watercolor:  I had grown sensitive to the solvents in oil paint, they made me nauseous every time I sat down to work.  I had to try something new, my livelihood depended on it!  I didn't know what I was doing, and that was incredibly scary.  Picking a subject simple and repetitive was the easiest way out of a seemingly insurmountable challenge: come up with a new skill, a new way to make a living, a new aesthetic.   Grab an object.  Examine that object. Paint it.  Repeat. Don't think about concept and content, just learn how to paint.  What began as an escape from the responsibility of having to think up a new idea every day ended up becoming a concept in and of itself.  The quantity of the work grew and grew as the days passed, the paintings told an elegant story of the most mundane aspects of life.  And in the midst of the most terrible grief and emptiness of losing my mom, I learned how to start from scratch, I learned: its never too late to start over.

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. 
- Lee Iacocca”



There are things about being a self-employed artist that only other self-employed artists understand.  For instance, as glamorous as it may sound, it is quite the lonely proposition.  Any typical "eight hour day" might consist of all sorts of ways to fill the empty space that surrounds you.  A professor once said you'll spend an hour painting and seven hours looking at/thinking about that painting.  He wasn't exaggerating.  When things get too quiet, which they almost always do, you'll find yourself turning on some music, only to get annoyed by said music.  You'll stop for a snack, and stare at the fridge resentfully knowing there's nothing fun inside.  You'll avoid the room wherein your work lies, you'll do every awful thing BUT work, washing the dishes and folding the laundry and exercising.  You take a moment to pet the cat, play with it, and then get real bothered when it lays on your paper or steps on your computer keys.  You might turn on a self-help podcast, or some comedy on YouTube, wishing it was somebody to talk to.  You'll check Instagram, Facebook, Craigslist, Instagram again, you'll shop for something you don't need, you'll check your horoscope on two or three different websites, you'll consult the I-Ching Online to see if you're making the right decisions.   The whole time, you're thinking, hard.  Somewhere in there, you'll put your pencil to paper, and work.  Its a desk job with the typical shoulder pains that come with looking down and favoring one hand too much.  There are failures upon failures, fears of failure, tedious moments of tenuous ascent, building up an image, carving something, anything, from the looming whiteness of the blank page.  Eventually, from the nothingness, an idea comes to fruition.  Success!  And boy did you earn it.



It's my birthday, this special day for reflecting on who I am, who I've been, and what I'd like to become.  Most often, I get really sad about losing the lady who gave birth to me that fateful day. I might be found crying in a puddle, about everything, about nothing, in the trenches of a grief that sneaks up from beneath the heavy rock where I left it.  I don't want to be angsty about what's not quite right in my life.  In general, I'm an upbeat, motivated person.  But on my birthday, every year, I hit a wall, HARD.   As a result, I usually make a list for the coming year, how I've just got to do better, how I'm going to take life by the horns in this way or that.  So, my friends, as a result, I've decided to wipe the dust off this old jalopy of a blog and give it another whirl.

You see, there's something about a daily writing & painting practice that keeps a gal in check.   Right about now, I could stand to check myself.  I live in a new city, I'm in a new relationship, I have a new dog, a new house, a new gallery, a new band, a new car.  Yet the old me is still in there: that self-employed, broke-as-fuck, structureless, stressed out, disorganized artist who has trouble focusing and thrift shops therapeutically then freaks the fuck out when she gets down to her last penny every month, that YES-girl who care-takes everyone but herself and then crashes with a KABOOM, the woman who can't seem to have real self-esteem or body-confidence in spite of it all, the gal who might drink too much coffee or alcohol and then forget to eat, the lady who doesn't clean up her messes and then gets mad at the house for being a pig sty.  STUPID ME! I find myself saying.  Grow up and figure your shit out!  Every year, about this time, I say I'm going to make some real changes.  This time I'm making them, slowly but surely.  And part of making those steps of self-improvement is realizing what works. What have I abandoned and why?  What is important to me?  Let's get real, Jess.  I'm my own boss, which means only I can hold myself accountable.  Year 35, here I am.  I'm stepping up to the plate.  And all I can say is, it's about damn time.



i'm back.  and i finished an entire show's worth of work.  it was good.  i'm different now.  these days, i enjoy giving time to projects that aren't mine.  i want to hold the hands of the children of my friends.  i want to paint the things i haven't pictured, and don't know of yet.  it is a time of unknowns, of crossing uncomfortable distances.  it is a time of bravery, and friendship, comradery.  it is a time of healing.  and community.  
it's time to embrace the chaos, and become its friend.