1000 Faces (Part 64)

Art

“I have this vision y’know, I thought what if we could turn these rock concerts into that moment when you’re a kid and you think that there’s nothing that could ever go wrong in the world. Everything could be fucking perfect, just for a little bit, a little moment in time.

I thought, what is that moment to me? And that was like the gym class in elementary school, right. Where you have these parachutes, and they throw these parachutes out over your head, right?

It’s fucking brilliant and… everything is right in the world.”

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“This one’s called Synesthesia.”

1000 Faces (Part 58)

Art, Blog Post

Rather uncharacteristically, this post is devoid of sarcasm and self-deprecation. Love is all around.

Three and a half years ago I started this blog as a record of a journey. It was meant to chronicle my progress as I practiced my art. I was 19 years old, bored out of my mind, and struggling to find purpose in life. Not much has changed really, but through those three and a half years, this blog has been my lighthouse. It has been there through the seasons, on bright days and stormy nights, and all other manner of weather metaphors.

Recently I’ve started going back and indexing some of my older posts. In doing so, it made me realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve improved. Sometimes I criticize myself and my work so much that I need to take a step back and reflect on how it feels to create something. To take one thing and turn it into some other thing. I’m not yet where I want to be, but where I am right now isn’t so bad either.

After all the time and work I’ve put into this blog, I’m actually quite proud of it. All other things may pass, but this is mine. And that’s pretty cool.

To quote the great Rocky Balboa, I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!

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Also, new layout.

Surprise!

Never Hungover Again

Art, Blog Post

I’ve gotten, on average, five hours of sleep every day for the past two months. That’s probably bad. Some days I wake up profoundly unhappy. Other days it’s just alright.

I wake up early in the morning and dress up in clothes I hate to work a job I don’t love. I sit in an office for nine hours, occasionally sending an important email but mostly browsing Facebook and Reddit. I message friends who are similarly bored, or who never message back. I imagine the latter are living more fulfilling lives in that moment.

There are, at minimum, ten solid minutes every day where I struggle to not pass out at my desk from a combination of exhaustion and boredom. Periodically I go to a bathroom stall and just rest my head against the wall, so no one in the office can see how tired I am.

I go home and play video games to numb my mind. Sometimes I draw and post on this blog so I can feel I’m getting something done. On alternate days, I do a workout routine that leaves me sore and feeling inadequate about my body. Sometimes, perhaps too frequently, I skip a day because I’m too tired.

I go to sleep late to avoid the crushing reality of having to repeat everything the next day. Eventually I go to bed and wake up and do it all over again. And again. And again.

I’ve had to reconsider a lot of my life plans in the past weeks. I question what I’m doing, what I will be doing, and why and how. I’ve had to abandon some things I was looking forward to, because things don’t always work out the way you’d like or hope. I’m heading into an uncertain future that approaches faster every day.

Is this growing up?

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This all sounds dreadful, I know. Some days it’s hard not to feel the weight of it.

But I’m not in the business of useless complaining. There’s a flip side to everything.

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The other day I got seven hours of sleep. Six and a half the day before. It’s not consistent, but it’s a start.

I wake up sore and aching, but then I take a look in the mirror and can see my body changing. It might take six months, or a year, or a lifetime but I’m getting bigger and stronger. My back muscles have gotten firm enough to compensate for that scoliosis I was diagnosed with in 7th grade. So that’s something.

I’ve had more time to draw recently than any point while I was in school and it’s still as soothing for my soul as always. Someday I’ll get around to all those posts I said I was going to do and it’ll be great.

I’ve had to reconsider my life plans and abandon some dreams but ultimately I’ll have more options. This is a transition period until something greater. Maybe after I’ll do some traveling. To see the world and things dangerous to come to. It’s freeing in some ways for my life plan to be not having a plan.

And all the empty space at work gives me time to do some independent learning. Like, did you know sex burns over 300 calories an hour? Useful information.

Things are changing and change takes time. Everything will be alright.

Life is full of questions. It’s frenetic, high energy, and leaves you breathless. Just like this fantastic live performance of the Catalina Fight Song. Remember what’s important.

You. Always.

Chasing Windmills

Art, Blog Post

These are formative moments— moments that contributed to the everything that I am. This is a history of me, and a history of him. It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

Let’s start at the beginning.

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When I think of my father I think of Terminator 2. Dad had no idea what the movie was about and didn’t even speak English at the time. His friend said I’d probably enjoy it, lent him the VHS, and that was good enough for my dad. I was eight years old and my father looked entirely uncomfortable as the movie started off with a sweaty and naked Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the end we were both in tears over the T-800 giving the thumbs up and sacrificing himself.

Terminator 2, for those unaware, is one of the most perfect movies ever. It is just the right mix of action, humor, and earnest feeling. Forgiving time paradoxes and predestination, it’s just a story about a kid growing up. John Connor connects with the T-800 because he’s never had a father and he teaches it what it means to feel and to be human. It’s absolutely heartbreaking when they have to part.

Every year since, I’ve thought my dad resembled the T-800 more and more. Because that was my dad in a lot of ways— a stoic man who finds it hard to express himself but always well-meaning in the end.

I can’t bring myself to watch that movie these days.

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When I was young my father would take me to the park every weekend to play basketball. I always hated that. I was lousy at basketball and all I wanted to do on the weekend was wake up late and play video games. But he pulled me out of bed every Saturday morning anyway and drove me to the basketball court. I didn’t get it at the time. Kids rarely get anything and always think their parents are wrong about everything. Then kids grow up and realize how stupid they used to be.

My dad never said he loved me. But I never questioned that he did. That was just his way. If I’ve inherited anything from him it’s a weakness for words. I find it hard, at times, to convey the entirety of what I feel. Of course it’s difficult for the mouth to speak for the heart. Actions always speak louder and his actions seem so obvious in retrospect. He wanted to spend time with his son while he could, in the limited fashion that he knew. When he started having to work weekends, I suddenly missed being terrible at sports.

When it was still a regular occurrence, the basketball was always followed by a lot of reading. That was the silver lining in it all— the library was right next to the park and while I wasn’t very athletic, I was an avid reader. In the early years, it was books about science, with diagrams and pictures for kids to understand. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the earth. I grew up a bit and the earth wasn’t as interesting any more so I read about other worlds. I lost myself in the fantasy of Hogwarts, and Narnia, and Middle Earth.

My parents liked it. By all indicators I was a gifted young student. I was doing well in all my classes. I was engaged in productive outside activities. I was reading nonstop and always bugged them for new books.

And then I fell in love.

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It was lunch time on the yard. I was eleven years old. I saw my friend doodling away in his notebook and in my arrogance I thought to myself that I could do better. I tried. I couldn’t. Nothing has ever motivated me more than having my ego shattered.

When I was twelve I took an art class during an afterschool program. The teacher, Daniel, was a talented young cartoonist, fresh out of college, and eager to work with youth. It occurs to me now that I have become Daniel, minus the beard, French caps, and a large degree of his talent. I was Daniel’s favorite student because I actually spent the hour drawing instead of milling around with friends. I wasn’t much of a talker then. That old weakness for words.

Daniel took it upon himself to get me to open up. I told him what movies I liked, what kind of books I read, and that I wanted to draw like him. Sometime later he placed a big book in front of me and asked me to tell him what I thought of it next week. It had a striking cover— a big smiley face, specked with a dash of blood and the title in big bold letters: Watchmen. I read it all that night. It was the first comic book I’d ever read and it was like I had stepped through the wardrobe into another world. I liked to write. I liked to draw. Comic books seemed so obvious.

It was the little things that got me. The way a scene can be set with no words, just a picture and some colors. The minute visual details that aren’t apparent until a second reading. The difference in pacing and the importance of composition. The juxtaposition of a speech bubble and a thought bubble, one betraying the other. Big panels, small panels, no panels. It was an open canvas, free for experimentation. Even now I don’t think the medium has reached its potential.

That weekend I went back to the library, on my own this time. I read all the comic books they had to offer. I was introduced to Shakespeare via Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. I learned about folklore from Hellboy. A lesser known work called The Coffin blew my mind with its musings on the nature of the soul. And in between I read the superhero pulps, the real whimsical stuff that reminded me that behind it all it’s about having fun. Stuff like the X-Men shooting the living island Krakoa into space by reversing the magnetic poles, because yeah that’s how science works. I would know. I read books with diagrams when I was a kid.

The drawing led me to comic books. The comic books influenced my drawing. I was drawing nonstop then. My family had bought a stack of notebooks for my sister and I to use in class. I burned through half the pile with just doodles and drawings. By whatever windfall, this time coincided with a sharp decline in my academics. Across the board my grades were dropping. I almost failed math twice. My parents weren’t happy. They blamed it on the video games, the comic books, the constant doodling. They were probably right, as usual. Dad asked me what was going on, he said I loved math. He was wrong. Comic books were my first love. They’ve broken my heart many times over and I’ll always crawl back to them.

By the time I was in high school my grades were better. But I never wanted to be academic again. I wanted to write the next great American novel. I wanted to direct a blockbuster film. I wanted to be a renowned artist. I used to want a lot. Some dreams are just that.

There was this one day. I was locked up in my room, feverishly drawing away on another notebook. It was a drawing of some monster or whatever. Utter dredge. Dad had stepped in and was watching quietly over my shoulder and said that it was actually pretty good. He said maybe I should go to art school, if that’s what I wanted. I never did end up going to art school, but it still meant a lot that he was okay with me pursuing it further and that he understood how important it all was to me.

I remember visiting home from college a few years ago. I had recently changed majors and felt completely lost. I was out shopping with my dad and we bumped into a family friend who asked what I was studying and what I was going to do after graduating. As I struggled to answer what I wanted to do with my life, my dad stepped in and said whatever it was, he was sure it would be alright.

Everything would be alright.

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Two years ago I read this amazing comic book called I Kill Giants. It was the most intense feeling I’d had reading a comic book in a long time. The short of it is that it’s about a girl who fantasizes about— you guessed it— killing giants. Eventually it becomes apparent that her adventures were her way of coping with the reality that her mother was on her deathbed. Reading those final pages of young Barbara Thorson confronting her giant and accepting the inevitability of loss devastated me.

It was only a few months prior that my dad had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. You can probably see where this is going by now. I felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness at the end of the book. It was a cathartic reaction to a pain yet unfelt. I read and watched a lot of things along those lines at the time. I thought that would make it easier when the end came.

It didn’t.

Rest in peace dad.