Flying in, yesterday, from Los Angeles I went from a city where the air is usually so dry and hot that I forget how close I am to the ocean, to a city where the salty sea air is so ever present you can actually see it, for a few hours, until the fog burns away. Approaching the bay area, I saw many waterways, manmade and otherwise, and the dark, leafy green of vegetation in abundance. Leaving LA I mostly saw the pale, muted colors of parched earth and concrete dotted by the occasional bright blue swimming pool.
I've been thinking a lot, lately, about different cities. At least the one's I've been fortunate enough to have lived in or visited. And playing one of my favorite mental games (less a game than a necessity these days)---which city will I live in next?
First, San Francisco and the bay area. I love it here. Most of the best and the worst things in my life have happened here. I love how pretty this place is and all the distinctly different neighborhoods it has, like North Beach with it's bad coffee and overprice food balanced out by the colorful characters and bars full of free entertainment. The Mission where you never have to speak or hear a word of english if you don't want to. Alameda (where I live) with its quiet, small town cuteness, where I can walk around late at night and still feel perfectly safe, where every street I know by heart. Then again, I hate it here too. How, despite how close things are here, because of traffic and parking, it still takes forever to get to most places. How everything here is too familiar, too close. How too many relationships have soured in recent years. How ready I am for change.
Next Los Angeles. For most bay area natives LA seems like another state altogether. We have a lot of bad things to say about it. We bristle whenever we hear them say, Frisco. But on my most recent visit there I had time to reconsider some of my opinions. For one thing Los Angeles has amazing museums, places worth spending an entire day or more exploring. Since most people have to drive long distances to get there I suppose it has to be. And driving in LA, over the freeways and through different areas, after seeing mile after mile of unimaginative sameness which would lull me into some kind of eyeball stupor, I would then be struck, more times than I once thought possible, by the beauty of the place.
That unimaginative sameness, that cheap, quick to build architecture is, I think, justifiably poked fun of and disliked. Human beings need beauty and all those plain box buildings and nothing facades cheats viewers out of the pleasure they might have experienced had the builders spent a little more care and thought towards their neighbors. Then again you can choose to see all those plain buildings as blank canvases. How many creators have been drawn there to let their imaginations loose? (Hmm, didn't Steve Martin mention as much in some movie?) No wonder LA is known for its street art. I just wish everyone would get in on it, leaving no wall untouched by an artist, trained or not.
Next, New York. The Met, the Society of Illustrators, the history, the theatre, the shopping, the food. I would live there if I could afford it. Nuff said.
Ditto for London. At least, thank God, the museums are free in both cities.
Next, Vancouver B. C. and Seattle. They're both prettier and cheaper to live in than the bay area. Then again they're far too similar as well for me to consider moving there. Unless, of course, I got a job in either city.
Next, Toronto (and Quebec City, Montreal and Ottowa). All very nice cities, all very livable, cheap, pretty and interesting places to live or visit. But, again I'd have to get a job there to consider relocating to anywhere in that part of that world.
Next, Tokyo. My first impression of it, from my sister's high rise apartment in the American Embassy compound, was that it was indeed Blade Runner massive, gloomy and grey. After some exploring I saw it was also the cuteness and orderliness capitol of the world. Brightly lit signs, anonymous voices politely giving you directions, awe inspiring toy and electronic shops, quiet temples, perfectly manicured parks, weirdly dressed teenagers giving you the peace sign, the ubiquitous Beatles (in shops and in bars like Abbey Road and the Cavern Club. The tribute bands there sounded exactly like them, btw.) Course I didn't have to worry about rent in Tokyo and I made up to fifty dollars an hour teaching English, but I found I could get around, eat well and shop whenever I wanted to without spending a lot of money if I went to the right places. They have, for example, what has to be the best dollar store in the whole world. Four floors of diverse and surprisingly well made stuff. If you shopped no where else you could still get everything you needed there. And I could go to a sushi boat or noodle place and have a large, filling meal for less than ten dollars. If I had only less than five to spend, I'd go to the 7 eleven (which was everywhere in Tokyo, and full of much better, far more edible items than here in the states) and get a couple of seaweed wrapped (hopefully) tuna filled rice balls, a drink, and sometimes a dessert.
Not sure I'd ever want to relocate to Tokyo, though. Hard to say why. Same goes for Beijing which, though a wonderful place to shop, explore and eat in, as well, had tap water unsafe to drink and a constant, at times oppressive smell of burning tires going on, even indoors, all day and night. Not surprisingly, my oldest nephew developed asthma there and my two older nieces, little at the time, often got sick from the milk.
Next, Paris. I know, it's a common American dream, especially among artists, to run off to Paris. And I've only spent, in total, about two weeks there so I may well be mistaken. But this city is so ridiculously beautiful, with every street and alley worth exploring, worth taking out one's sketchbook to try to capture it's charm. Then with its museums, galleries, cafes and history Paris seems to have collected so much creative energy over the years that it is now a vortex of creativity. What magic must flow out of your imagination in such a place. I would like to find out.
Next, Buenos Aires. Those who know me and/or have been following this blog know how I feel about this city. This place, more so than any other city (except maybe Paris), made me want to tear up my plane ticket and never leave. And yes it is called the Paris of the south but it only vaguely looked to me like Paris, or it looks like what Paris might have looked like after the war. The streets were dirty, the air smelled mostly of car exhaust and cigarette smoke, the sidewalks were cracked and uneven, parents with small children rifled through garbage, and many of its most beautiful buildings were empty, boarded up and crumbling, giving parts of the city this haunted, haunting forlorn quality. The Ghost Hunters team could probably spend an entire season there investigating.
Somehow, though, this was part of its charm (well, except for the parents with small children rifling through garbage). Most of the cities on this list, except for maybe Beijing, felt well ordered, more or less. Even a young city like LA feels well ordered. Buenos Aires, on the other hand (which is just as young, I believe) feels like someone took a big eraser to the surface of it and wiped a lot of it away. Or tried to anyway. And what's left is a rough kind of beauty and a feeling of possibility and openness. Like Paris in the twenties or New York in the fifties. What artist wouldn't want to be part of that? The cafes, affordable restaurants (even if the menus all look pretty much the same), old world streets and all the charming people doesn't hurt its case either.
One thing I haven't mentioned is the friendliness of the people (or lack of) in any particular place. Only because I find people to be as friendly in one city as the next. Everyone has bad days, everyone wants to be treated well. I've heard many people say Paris was the capitol of rudeness, but I only found that to be true in one particular instance out of all the many people I met there. And in LA I was tempted to write everyone off as not that open, until I met a particularly nice cashier who I ended up talking to for quite a while. Maybe it was me who wasn't that open. And true, people did seem, on the whole, way friendlier in Buenos Aires than anywhere else. But maybe that's because I was particularly happy the whole time I was there. And I did run into the rare a-hole there as well.
So I guess what I'm saying is everywhere has a certain, overriding feeling to it, certain smells, certain sounds, a certain look and light found only there. And it all depends on what characteristics I want to incorporate into my life. The rest, friends, family, roots...is up to me.
also on sale on my Etsy shop More goth project sketches. Don't really like this one. I think it was more like therapy, or a dream where my mind needed to unload a few things. This, though I doubt I'll turn this into a painting, I like more...
I went to the New Living Expo on Saturday to get a psychic reading even though I wasn't sure I believed in them anymore considering how past readings that predicted I'd be married, with three kids and working for Lucas by now have obviously not come true. But I've been feeling an urgent need for guidance lately and thought a cheap reading couldn't hurt and might even be helpful.
I walked past booths selling special healing water, special healing clay, special healing jewelry -
"Hold it in your hand. You should feel some tingling."
I did as directed. I wanted to feel something---how neat would it be to heal emotional wounds and protect myself from negativity just by wearing something pretty!---but, I didn't feel a darned thing. And told her so. She didn't say, okay, disbeleiver, I am escaping the field of your negative energy now. But I imagined her thinking that as she walked away.
I also walked by people getting healed in various ways, a lot of them simply sitting in chairs while someone held their hands to their shoulders or chests. One blissful looking woman sat in a broom closet sized chamber which reminded me of a sauna, except it didn't heat up. The door was open and the woman wore a heavy jacket. The air or light inside, supposedly, was charged in some particular healing way. How the hell does that work? I wondered. Or does it work simply because the woman thinks it works?
Further down, a man sat with a string of copper wire thingies shaped into diamonds held against his chest as a woman stood before him dangling a singular diamond shaped thingy in small circular motions. Oh, come one! I thought. What bull.
After a while I wondered if anything there was real, the little devices promising to protect you from cell phone radiation, the crystals, the homeopathic, healing lotions, scents, and teas, the psychic claiming to channel a saint.
Speaking of psychics, anyone in a turban or the smallest whiff of barely scraping by as a psychic (aka: I will say anything you want because I really need your money) I walked right past. Otherwise, my only criteria was that the price be as low as possible. So when I happened across a pleasant looking young woman charging $20 per twenty minute reading, I thought, Well, she looks nice. She'll do.
But as I was signing up, she went on break, and I found myself paired with another, older woman. Is she a fake psychic brought to me by my negativity and doubt? Or, I wondered, is she the real deal I hoped for?
I wanted to tell her as little as possible, so when she asked for information, all I told her was that I was trying to decide between two options, with one feeling more like a move forward than the other. From this she went on to describe, perfectly, how I felt about x, how I was ready to do y and z, the circumstances surrounding my situation and how moving towards y and z will feel, in the meantime, like "walking on glass." But considering the alternative, here she described my energy leaks, the little pains here and there that I had begun to worry about but which were nothing more than my fear of speaking my truth and walking my own unique path. She even pointed to a particular pain I had been worrying about that very day, and as she cleared it energetically, I felt the discomfort completely disappear. Was what she did real? I don't know. But the discomfort is gone and the few times I've felt it start to return I tell it, oh no you don't. I ended up spending nearly an hour with her, fifty five well worth it bucks. Afterwards, I went for a long walk round the city, thinking about x, y and z...
I wish I could tell you more. But things are rather tricky at the moment. The psychic also mentioned how I was going through a grieving process. But one, I think, for more than just the loss of my father.
I know, I should have shared a few travel adventures by now, but I came back to two projects that needed my full attention and creativity. And getting back on California time, if you know what I mean, was even more difficult than adjusting to BsAs time (long, sad sigh...). Last week, for example, I was watching the Argentinian film El Secreto de Sus Ojos on my computer while finishing up a sketch I'd started in Buenos Aires, when a car outside backfired several times (a common sound down there where most vehicles seemed to be 10 ys old or older) and for a moment I was back in Buenos Aires...
Also, I am contemplating some changes. Big changes.
And, unfortunately (or fortunately---I'm not complaining!) I have to get back to work. But will post again soon.
Some bar in San Telmo -
Recoleta - El Gato Negro - A cozy little restaurant in Parlermo - A tango music concert at 36 Billiards on Avenida de Mayo - The Jardin Botanico Carlos Thuys - Here's what I wrote in FB about it - While in the middle of this sketch, these two guys who'd been up all night partying came over to see what I was up to. One of them spoke English so we ended up discussing what the figures were expressing for almost an hour (joy, gratitude, drunkeness, etc...) even though, I have to admit, I was thinking I don't really care what the statues are expressing I just want to finish my drawing. Then again, after days of only the most rudimentary of exchanges with people, it was great to be discussing art for a change. Not to mention the one who spoke English was just about the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. He asked for my email, then gave me his, told me the bar where he worked at and asked me to come by. But he was, as he put it, 'so f---ed up' from partying that I wondered if he'd even remember me if I did come by. So I didn't...I know, horrible story!
Bar Britanico, San Telmo - A monument in front of the Belles Artes Museo - Check out that tiny door!! What is it for? Would have so loved to walk through that - Todo Mundo on Plaza Dorrego - Somewhere in BsAs, forget where. I was lost at the time - La Poesa - El Ateneo Grand Splendid on Avenida Sante Fe - Yes, this is a book store and the cafe sits right on the stage!!!
Took tons of photos. Too many to post here, so here's the FB link to my BsAs albums
I'm off to Buenos Aires today for the next three weeks. (Not looking forward to the flight, I have to say. I leave here at one pm and don't get to BA til the next day.) The last time I traveled outside of the country was back in 05, to Beijing, and I've been yearning for another international adventure ever since. But of course with the economy and my iffy work situation I've learned to play it safe.
Then my mother tells me my sister is coming back for a two week visit. And I start to panic. I won't go into details so let's just say I'm not eager for even a two week replay of my sister's visit this past fall.
So I start looking for travel deals. Where to go? I've always wanted to spend a month in Rome. Or the Italian countryside. Or Paris! And the French countryside. Where could I spend as much time painting and playing the tourist that my budget would allow? After looking at nearly every possibility, then thinking how much more comfortable I'd be just staying home...if only countdown to sister wasn't happening, then looking again, and realizing, with deep and utter frustration just how indecisive I can be. Anyway, long story short, I end up choosing Buenos Aires, the Paris of the south.
And, funny thing, as soon as I did, I stopped being mad at my sister. We will probably never be close again, but, so what? Moving on...
The thing with my family is that everyone thinks they know what's best for me, and they will get me to do whatever it is if it's the last thing they ever do. Because they care so much about me. And it's this!---this emotional manipulation I get from them that exhausts and enrages me so much. I hate them. I love them. I want to run away from them.
Unfortunately, since I'll be gone for three weeks there was no way to not tell my mother that I'll be gone. And she did not take it well. Oh. My. God. Why did I choose Buenos Aires? Don't I know how dangerous it is? And you're so small. Now I'll have to pray for you all the time. And I won't sleep a single second until you get back. Blah, blah, blah, so on and so forth.
But anywhere can be dangerous if you don't practice precautions. In London, where I was staying with family, I fell prey to one of those stupid ATM scams. Luckily that particular card was tapped out. Moreover, the worst thing that ever happened to me, getting attacked and nearly raped on my way home very late one night, happened right here in San Francisco. I still walk around there. Though, never in that neighborhood.
Still, her fear got to me. I felt guilty for causing her so much worry. I second guessed my choices. And I went overboard on the research.
But, the more I found out about Buenos Aires, the more excited I became about actually going there. It is scary to go to a new place all by yourself. I don't speak the language. I don't know the customs. And I especially don't know about eating dinner at bedtime and dancing when I'm usually asleep. But I'm going anyway. I feel good about that. And, at least through the wonders of the internet, I know three or four people there, so to cyberspeak. And the apartment I've rented (super cheap!) will have wi-fi so I can assure my mother I am still alive at least once a day. (And post here and on FB too! Though maybe not every day.)
My mother didn't give up though. She came by my place tonight to warn me of thieves who break into rooms. Then she texted me some other warning when she got home. Then she called, just to make sure I'd gotten that last warning and to tell me yet another one. By then I was pretty ticked off and cut the conversation short with only the slightest twinge of guilt afterwards.
Sigh...I don't know what'll happen down there but I trust that I can handle it and I trust that I've made the right decision to go.
Okay, gotta finish packing. Hello Buenos Aires!!!!!!
Anyway, being a stubbornly optimistic kind of person, I have entered yet another contest. This time a movie poster competition for a film about a fur crazy fashion designer who gets kidnapped by animal rights activists. I want to win real bad. But, after seeing which image won in the last contest I entered (it sucked. It really did. And I know I'm putting that into internet space for all to see, but it really did suck) I won't take it personally if I don't. This illustration, which I put a tremendous amount of effort into, will look good in my portfolio, at least. That said, please look here, and vote for me!!! It'll make me feel better (and appreciate you all the more!!) even if I don't win. Though I really hope I do.
I've been entering every contest I can lately and one of them is a Talenthouse contest whose theme is love. Winner gets to photograph the rock group Maroon 5 during their US tour. S0 please!---please!!---please!!!---click here and vote for me :)
Some new work -
Above, my newest Etsy sketch. Below, a sketch I did in Golden Gate Park.
One of the character sketches I did recently for Dragon Pencil. This character isn't going to go anywhere but hopefully one of my other designs will.
After a week or so of doing nothing but characters, I felt the need for a landscape painting -
One thing I was saving for last year was a much needed, super fast computer. Then I got one, a 3G iMac, almost brand new as well as free of charge, from my dad (Thanks dad, wherever you are.) So here was a nice chunk of change that I could have used towards rent, towards my house fund or towards a holiday trip. But instead I decided to help the American economy by going shopping. But first I have to say I don’t usually enjoy shopping. Loud, overcrowded malls and hours spent trying on things that don’t fit just exhaust me. And, like a guy, I have no problem wearing the same thing day after day (with a good wash and a change of underwear of course). I can go entire seasons without buying anything but food and art supplies. But this season, as they say, was different...
Anyway, I didn’t want to spend all my former computer money, and definitely not all at once. So I started the day after Christmas, braving the Union Square crowds, and came home with just one item, a jacket at sixty percent off that cost me a mere two twenties. On another day, I went to the boutiques on Haight Street where I found the shoes of my chic, bohemian artist’s dreams (Fluevog) but resisisted the immediate temptation to buy. Instead I spent days internet comparing, only to go back to Fluevogs where I bought two pairs, both on sale (but still costing more than I have ever paid for two pairs of shoes at once). Other day’s hauls were a three dollar cupcake, a twelve dollar scarf, a fifteen dollar pair of jeans, thirty dollars worth of hole free socks, and so on.
Like lots of sleep and homemade soup helped me recover from one heck of a cold, this prolonged shopping spree has helped me, in a way, through a rather blue period. With no crappy non art work to do (for now and forever more, please God), no kids to babysit and feeling disheartened about my art career (which I know is by no means unique to me, some unbelievably talented friends of mine, people who have worked for Lucas and so on, are in the same boat), on top of some unanswerable questions about life, death, family, forgiveness and the meaning of it all, it’s a simple pleasure, like a hot bath or a my favorite song on the radio, to have some vague object in mind that day, maybe a cute top in this particular shade of blue, or a dress in that style, for as little denaro as possible, and then to go out and actually find it.
It’s not just a distraction, something to do. I think, at certain times, it’s a way of making oneself feel safe. This other thing is still a puzzle and a problem but look! I have successfully hunted down this very practical item which will prevent hookworm or keep me warm. Something I and others will (hopefully) take pleasure in looking at. So I have not only ensured my physical survival, but perhaps my social survival as well. And it’s too bad a quick trip to the grocery store doesn’t do the trick but I think the change of routine, the sense of discovery, the hope that if I don’t find the exact item I want here I’ll find it somewhere else eventually—and having that hope validated time and again—are key here. It forces my brain to wake up, to feel excited for several hours, and then the triumphant moment of purchase followed by the primal sense that all is well (temporarily) in the world. It’s shopping sex. The closet of survival has been restocked.
(She shall Seychelle by the seachore.)
A few days ago, I was feeling unsettled about a possible upcoming job. I wanted it for the money but dreaded having to do this kind of promo work yet again. I found myself in an unfriendly mood and wishing things I am ashamed to admit to, like why couldn’t my father have left me a huge honking fortune so I could buy a true home of my own in some charming but reasonably priced place (unlike the bay area) instead of this unexpected little nest egg (which I really am grateful for). So, with my former computer money still not entirely spent, I went to this shoe boutique I’d stumbled upon the other day. And somewhere between first getting in my car and coming back home, cute new shoes in hand, it occured to me that I have to stop feeling bad about my work situation. What’s upsetting me is not the fact that I can’t afford a three bedroom, mortgage free house with a gorgeous view (for now, at least)—something I wasn’t even thinking about a year ago—but the fact that I’m a highly trained, highly capable artist who, at the moment, isn’t making a living doing what I love best. This hurts deeply. It’s like I’m being insulted by every art studio in the world (except Dragon Pencil but have they given me any assignments yet?!!!) But there it is. Reality. Suck it up.
But maybe, or at least I can pretend, the universe has conspired to give me this time to create whatever I want. Not only that but it’s like, in a weird way, my father has hired me, and paid me in advance, to finish that collection of illustrated short stories I began last year and put on hold during my sister’s visit. And he even gave me a nearly computer to work on. Now, I have no choice but to finish it.
I hope so because 2010 just sucked. So much so that after trying to recap all its suckiness the other day in the first draft of this blog post I needed chocolate bad which I tore into before leaving the store. Going back for seconds, I just had to look at the ingredients list. Of course there was soy in it, my favorite chocolate bar, as well as every chocolate bar there. (I have sworn off soy in all its nefarious and increasingly ubiquitous forms because it’s one of the reasons why 2010 sucked so much.) So I settled for a comforting cup of soy free (so far) hot chocolate back home...only to forget the milk. My apartment stunk of microwave burned chocolate for days.
Oh well. I put it down to last year’s lingering suckiness. Health issues (bronchitus, soy, a heart murmer I have to stay on top of, a monster of a cold I just got over), lots of personal drama, heartbreak, way too much family time, near constant financial worries, boring, occasionally 12 hour back to back exhausting, occasionally demoralizing crappy non art work (product promotions), death, et cetera and so on. Basically every area of my life has shifted or changed. 2010 was an intense year emotionally and physically and right now I feel dazed, depleted and a little lost.
Which is why I’ve taken a rest from blogging lately. Either I was too exhausted to write or I just didn’t know what to say. After my last post, my family was adamant I not speak at all. I made the mistake of telling them how I wanted to respond to some of the people who’d known my father, people whose comments were, here and there, on the judgemental side. I’m sorry, I wanted to say, he may have been your friend and all that but he was my father and blah bi-di-blah, not nice things, misplaced anger and resentment.
2011, I think, will be about making choices. Thanks to some parting gifts from my dad, I have the breathing space to figure things out and more freedom to do what I want. I haven’t taken another crappy non art job since mid December. Instead I’ve been sleeping a lot, trying new recipes, window shopping, getting back in touch with friends and, of course, practicing, learning about and looking at lots of art, which feels more like therapy right now. I mean, standing in front of Sargent’s La Carmencita, I forget any fears of ending up like Lily Bart. (Why didn’t she just take the money and run, for god’s sake? Idiot.) An astrologer friend of mine (her link here), who recently gave me a reading, told me this year I would ‘come into my own.’ And that last year was about clearing away so I could start over on a blank canvas. That’s for damn sure. Time to break out the paints...