Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bad Religion, Poetry, Layers, & Demos

This week has been a long week of recovery.  I unfortunately botched that up last night as I went to a Bad Religion show rather than letting myself rest up for that final night of healing.  Now I have a raspy voice and my health has not improved, but my soul is full as I finally got to see one of my favorite childhood bands up close and personal.  I had seen them in 2000, but that was at a festival at Darien Lake in New York.  I was probably a quarter mile from the actual show.  This time I wasn't any more than ten feet from the stage.  It was an experience that took me back to my teenage years.  I'm glad for that.

Afterwords I sat with my friend, Ben.  We were talking about 2013 and how good it has been.  As I was talking and realizing how good it had been, I shocked myself a little.  I have been a ball of stress for two months now, but that's it.  I've been a ball of stress because of my own expectations.  I have been working a ton of hours by choice and really, it isn't that bad.  I needed a break this week, not from work, but from my own mental instability. 

I realized while watching Bad Religion how much that group of guys in their fifties is still rocking.  They were having fun, and it occurred to me that they must still have something they are looking for.  You don't enjoy your work when you have figured out everything about it or you have done everything with it that you can.  It becomes rote.  It is too plain at that point.  So this group of guys in their fifties must still be looking for something.  They haven't figured it out entirely yet.  I haven't figured out everything yet either, but I'm not even in my mid thirties.  I am still a young 'un.  As I watched the group play, I began to feel a bit more confident in how I am getting work done.  I have made a lot of work.  It is certainly of a better quality and more knowledgeable than it was when I was younger.   I sometimes get a little too rough on myself and discredit some of my work.  I need to stop doing this so that I can progress.

With this in mind, I decided to work on a piece for a demo which I had decided was basically trash, but not trash in a good way and not trash in a manner that I could fix, or so I had thought.  The corner on this panel had been busted when I dropped it.  The material is some kind compressed board, which is not very durable.  I really wanted the corner intact, because it was prefabricated and I felt like showing it next to the other pieces that will be in this eventual show it needed to fit snugly against the piece to its right.  While working in my class today, however, I realized that I could just bring the square over top.  Instant gratification.  Here is the result.

I have also been dragging my feet on a book project with a really amazing poet.  I hadn't felt like my work was standing up to his.  Yesterday I woke up after a night hanging out with my friend, Ed, who is like my big brother, I started to go through old sketchbooks, revisit drawings, twist the subject around in my head and really consider what options there were for me within the words.  I started to concentrate more on the feel and less on the iconography and everything started to fit.  Here are a couple of those drawings.

Things are starting to click again.  I'm going to start applying for shows and residencies again soon.  The work is finally feeling like it deserves those venues.  For a while I didn't think that I could justify putting the work up elsewhere, but now I realize that it is just different work than what I was doing a while back.  It carries just as much and maybe more weight as that old work did.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I have been sick since Sunday night.  My eardrum burst early on Monday morning and as a result I've pretty much taken it easy all week long.  I had to cancel class on Tuesday and the majority of my waking time has been spent at two 6 hour deli shifts.  This morning I woke up feeling very much recharged and so I made my first pot of coffee of the week and then started working on a little art before work, nothing too crazy but a couple low key ideas that I have been wanting to work with.  It turns out that I am really pleased with what I ended up with.

I really hadn't had much desire to work on anything Monday or Tuesday.  Sleep was king.  It was nice to even want to make something.  I had had the first page of a tiny zine which I had set up during my illustration class a couple weeks ago.  It was sitting on my laundry shelf, clearly something that I found when I was searching through pockets before doing my laundry, but this morning I felt that I should work on it.  It is nearly April and I have been thinking about fishing quite a bit, so I decided to use the drops as book ends to three fishing related images in the book.  I drew three images this morning, hated one of them, gessoed over it and redid it tonight.  I then scanned it in to make some more copies and ran the original over to my fishing buddy at the cafe where he works.

I am really excited to be pushing some of the ideas of "book" now.  I think this is a good precursor to my Twitter book that I will be starting as soon as I get some mail responses from my Twitter kin.  Book arts was nothing that I ever thought of doing until recently, but it all seems to tie in with the sketchbook practice and the second project which I worked on this morning.

There are many people named Michael Lewis in the United States.  One of them is the Jesus Painter, who you will always find before me in Google searches, and another is Michael Lewis the economist, who has many prize winning books.  He is apparently a Best Seller and a big deal.  I've collected a couple of his books, not because I care what they are about, but because my name is on them.  One of these books is Panic.  It is apparently about the state of our current economy.  I decided that I didn't really care about Lewis's high minded economy.  What I care about is working at a deli, as a teacher, as an illustrator, and as a painter to pay all of my bills.  I wear a lot of hats.  I kind of make ends meet.  Who actually defines this economy; hard working, poverty level to middle class individuals, or people in the upper class?  Unfortunately, I think policy is determined by the upper class, but the majority of the people affected by this policy are in the lower class.  I've decided the easiest way to talk about this is to tell the truth instead of searching for metaphors.

I'm going to fill up this book, Panic, with journal entries about work.  I like the contrast between the ideas of economic policy and strategies to make millions and the working man just trying to get by.  It's sort of a shout out to the Art as Lifers, but really, I think about this art thing, and it is a thing.  It's like a drug.  You "waste" all of your time attempting to make things that you think will make the world better, but those things don't usually, unless you make the big time, actually make any huge difference.  So it is as if you are pumping your funds into a drug, a drug that you have to have to survive, that costs you time, effort, funds, friends and your sanity.  And it is oh so good. 

My name is Michael and I'm a Lifer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Much For Your Thoughts?

You must have heard the phrase, "a penny for your thoughts?"  I had never really given the phrase too much thought until yesterday when a friend of mine were discussing sketchbooks.  I had submitted a few sketchbook pages for review to see if I could get featured on a blog earlier yesterday and was telling my friend about it.  The idea that that could be a viable showing opportunity had never really occurred to me, despite the fact that I fill multiple sketchbooks and artist journals a year.  It seems like a good way to go.  It could lead to more exposure for my painting work, give people a better idea of how my art is developed, and be an interesting document for the viewer to peruse in and of itself.  All of these things are good, but the next thought that came up was wildly disparate to my psyche, would the book be fore sale?

I have no issue selling paintings or drawings.  I have little trouble giving paintings and drawings away.  I've spent the last two years making time consuming work specifically to give away in an elaborate fashion.  I have torn many a sketchbook page out and given it to people in restaurants and coffee shops, and yet, the idea of selling a sketchbook seems so foreign.  How much does it cost?  They aren't terribly personal in that I write down my feelings or incredible secrets.  They don't have any information in them that will implicate me in any crime.  I don't understand why it seems so necessary to keep all of them.  I don't know why it bothers me to sell one.  Perhaps that is why I had such a problem with the Sketchbook Project from Art House Co-op.  That is a terrific project and an incredible concept. ( a traveling library of sketchbooks for any of you who haven't heard about it ) 

However, even with my tendency to finish so many sketchbooks, I did not finish that one.  I had assumed before that it was the time period in my life.  My ex and I were just getting back together after I had taken "a break" in Minneapolis.  It was a pretty emotional and unemployed time period, but that said, I also had a ton of free time and plenty of thoughts bumping around in my dome.  To make the moment even more peculiar, I finished two other books in the time that I did not finish the sketchbook for the sketchbook project.

What is the power of the sketchbook?  People that see my books are always excited about them.  Usually it would be accurate to say that they are more excited to see the sketchbooks than my other work.  Is this the case for everyone?  I don't know, but I do know that I have no idea how much one costs.

I am curious about your thoughts on this subject.  Do any of you keep a sketchbook?  What is the process like to you?  Does it feel personal even when its contents are not particularly personal?  Please feel free to comment here or send me a tweet @Mighty_Lark or email me mike at


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


If I were to think of myself as the illustrative equivalent to BB King over the past six months, I'd end up singing, "The Cute is gone, the Cute is gone away."  I haven't felt like working with over the top cute in a bit.  Several of my friends have suggested that some of my drop and pipe pieces are still on the cute side, but I wonder how they are determining cute then.  I really don't think of my machines as cute, but they are cartoony in a way, and that might begin the argument for cute machinery.  I am not sure.

Today I spent putting together a new Mansruin Zine.  Volume II is all printed out and I've trimmed and folded about 1/5 of them.  Since I have been sending out the zines in sewn envelopes, I have really moved through the zines.  I'm not sure which is the important part though.

I'm very pleased with the past two zines.  They seem to have a maturity that the Pig N Pancake zines couldn't live up to.  Believe it or not, I would like to make a little mature work, so that is good in my book.  I absolutely love the Lamp Post in this zine.  It is across from a quote out of a Highwayman song.  "I ain't cut out to be no Jesse James."  Whiskey Tears and Country music.  Everything is beginning to makes sense.

Hope you dig it.  Let me know if you would like one too.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Self Expectations & Forging Through Disappointment

Today I woke up cranky about everything.  I didn't understand why I make art, if it is any good, why I live in Portland, why there is no art going on here.  Of course these feelings are a bit asinine, but at the same time, they come from some place.  I determined upon the spot that I needed to spend some serious studio time today.  I have long figured out that it is necessary for me to do this when I start to feel alienated or pressured to be overly social.

I have stopped thinking about these two pieces as a whole to be finished all at once and more as a piece made up of four images.  Each image stands alone.  Here again is a photo of the piece.  (Once again the camera isn't nearly as good as the art opening. 

I have more to say about this piece, but you will have to forgive me, I've started nodding off 3 different times during the course of typing up this small post.  So until I am more widely awake, adieu.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I've Been Preoccupied with these Six Senses

Of late I have been having issues either finding shows and galleries to submit to or with being rejected from the few that I have found.  This is sort of the nature of the beast, but a lot of my friends around me have been quite successful lately.  I am very pleased for them, but it also makes me want my own stuff all the more.  This probably sounds like pure jealousy, but I think of it more like confirmation that that is also what I should be doing.  I have, however, realized that some of the work that htey are doing and the shows that they are submitting to are NOT the shows that I should be submitting to, which is a major step for me.  Historically I have accepted everything that anyone wants to let me do.  This, I am realizing, is not a very good idea.  And so I have been working on my commission.  It is 7 months in.  I need to finish it.  I will share a better image tomorrow.  My friend let me borrow a camera to replace the one I lost via 5 finger discount.

The goal is to finish this panel by the end of the week.  This is definitely a realistic goal.  Hopefully I can finish one panel a week.  It would be great to get this bad boy out of my house and into my buddy Orlando's place.  Til then.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Studio is Clean & the March Poster is Done

Admittedly I don't feel like I got a bunch done today, but then I look around and I definitely did.  Being in the studio has felt bothersome to me recently.  Everything is so messy and so disorganized.  I can't help but think that this is one of the major reasons that I have had trouble keeping up with studio work I have lined up for myself.  It is one thing to work on impulsive projects, but the projects that I have to do require a work atmosphere.  The studio has not been that.  It hasn't even really been a place that I have felt comfortable enough to live in, which, due to the fact that it is where my living room should be, has made for some difficulties.  Today I was in the mood to fix it though, and it feels very good right now.

I received great news from a couple friends this weekend on getting into shows.  It was good to hear because it made me want a little bit more out of my own art.  I haven't applied to very many shows in a while, just the one with my friend Julia and a couple small gallery spots.  I need to get back at it.  I would like to have a couple shows in the next 2 years.  However, today I think I will bask in the glory that is finishing the monthly Throw Down poster on time for once.

Here tis.

Working on some other stuff later tonight as well.  Maybe I'll post twice in a single day.  We'll see.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Patterns, More Mail Art, & Teaching a Very Small Class

It's odd.  Today is the 1 day a week that I teach all day long.  I teach a group of older woman from 9 am to noon and a group of teenagers from 1 pm to 4 pm.  They are good classes and a good mix of folks.  However, today, only the boys showed up to the teen painting class.  They are copying Rembrandt and Francis Bacon portraits respectively.  The one fellow is an exceptional drafter while the other is very heavy handed and "fantastic" in his creations.  I picked their portrait artists to try to play up their strong points.  Hopefully it works.  The reason it feels odd to only have two guys in class though, is that I have a ton of down time.  I can't look over their shoulder the whole afternoon.  There would be no point.  They would get nothing done and probably learn very little.  How much time spent with two people is too much time?  I'm not sure, and so I started working on another drawing to send out in my mail art series.

I started with a background pattern which I made this morning while doing the demo featuring slow dry mediums for acrylics.  The borders in the pattern ended up really smooth and transitioned very nicely I thought.  Over the top it seemed appropriate to use a drop drawing and pipe work as the flow of the paint and the flow of the subject matter seemed similar.  Here are the results and the image of the sewn envelope.

I was very pleased with this drawing.  I think that the pattern behind the image really seemed to add something to the overall take away of the piece.  I think I will start doing some more very simple patterns. This is the first piece that I've done with red thread.  I'm not sure that I like it as well as the black thread.  I am also feeling incredibly aware of the mistakes in stitching on this piece where the black seemed a little more subtle.

More to come.  I still have a 2 1/2 hours of class left today.