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6527212 March 11, 2015

Showtime at The Norsworthy

The opening of my solo show at The Norsworthy Gallery in Shreveport, LA was held on March 7th.  The show will run through March 28th.  Thanks to everyone who attended the opening and helped make it a great success!  The feedback was fantastic; I couldn't have imagined a more positive response to my work. It was great to hear so many people excited about bringing their friends in to see the show. The gallery is located at 214 Texas Street in Downtown Shreveport. I'm excited to announce that The Norsworthy Gallery will be representing my work on an ongoing basis. [gallery type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="1446,1444,1443,1442,1441,1440,1439,1438,1437,1436,1435,1434,1452"]  

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6527212 March 02, 2015

Kristen Stewart Art Merge & Nietzche

Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.

Friedrich Nietzsche


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6527212 February 28, 2015

What is Figurative Expressionism?

I don't need a movement; I just need to be myself.

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6527212 November 20, 2013

Finding Natural Audience: Marc Zegans

Talent and giftedness are traps. Worrying about whether we have talent or a gift when we’re young diverts us from doing the work. Seeing ourselves as talented or gifted when we’re more seasoned sets us up to be victims, “Why isn’t the world coming to me if I’m so talented?”

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6527212 August 28, 2013

Colorful Approaches to Recovering Addiction

“But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius.” ― Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons

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6527212 July 13, 2013

Facebook and the Meaning of Art

... all it took was scrolling through Facebook to solve one of the mysteries of the universe. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.

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6527212 February 24, 2013

Some Thoughts on Figurative Work

Who Am I in This Crowd?
detail of larger work
I've been thinking a lot about the value of figurative work in terms of its ability to be progressive rather than retrograde in nature (as Currin said in a 2009 interview).  I also heard recently from an art dealer that figurative work is harder to sell because people don't necessarily want to hang a painting of someone they don't know in their home. I get that. The selling part of the comment didn't bother me as much as the idea that when someone looks at figurative work they might naturally feel removed from it.

In his 2009 interview, Currin also said that a true artist has less to say in the type of art he ends up creating than one might think.  I get that, too, and realize that, like Currin, figurative art seems to be my path. And I want people to feel uniquely drawn into my work rather than removed from it. I don't want to create a categorical wall between my art and the viewer simply by virtue of the work being figurative.

Seeing older figurative work and being hit with the realization that this specific person once lived can be a powerful reminder of the passage of time and the never ending surge of humanity. But what if the viewer could feel something less retrograde? What if I could capture something more alive than merely a specific person you've never met? What if you looked at the figure and saw every person, a common soul, emotion, and that recognition made you think and feel and somehow evolve?  

Detail of larger work in progress
Sometimes lately I think about the concept of God creating each of us. When I'm painting, I think about Him sitting there pulling each of us straight out of His own enormous soul. Putting us on canvases together in all types of colorful scenarios.

If that's true, I believe He does it for the sake of progress. He isn't looking back; He's looking forward. That's what I want to do.

False Dichotomy
23" x 15" Acrylic, Casein and Ink

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6527212 January 28, 2013

Can You Hear my Voice?

“This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.” 
― Toni Morrison

Can You Hear My Voice?
25" x  40" Acrylic, Ink & Pastel on Canvas
I spend a lot of time thinking about what art should mean, what my art means. Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that, as an artist, I should be out fighting the good fight, championing a cause, slaying a villain through visual expression. These thoughts often become overwhelming. I'd love to do those things yet I still find myself painting particular images in a particular way. My way.

I wonder if I'm a horribly selfish artist. 

I think about all the great artists and their topics. I consider who was great and why. I tease apart the emotions we know artists such as Kahlo, Pollack, and Van Gogh had, for example. These people were not great champions standing on mountaintops showing the world what the next steps should be toward ultimate peace and tranquility. They were highly emotional individuals who often struggled, and they expressed those struggles through their art. They showed the world who they were and in turn, held up a mirror to others.  

While I was painting my latest piece, Can You Hear My Voice?, I thought about all this, getting bogged down and trying to remind myself that I don't have to solve the world's issue with a painting.  As usual, I began by creating a background for the work. Then I painted a face (as I'm into faces lately). Then I decided I didn't like it so I took the unstretched canvas off the wall and turned the whole thing sideways. I decided to ignore what I'd already painted and began painting another face. It made no sense really. That's the way I often paint. I plan very little. I just start and do what I feel like doing. I paint fast, listening to my emotions and instincts, to stop my hyperactive brain from over thinking.

As I continued working on the piece, I began to head in a downward spiral, thinking that it made no sense in any way and that, once again, it certainly didn't relay anything that would qualify as world-saving or villain slaying. That's when I started to get mad. Mad that I'd wasted my time and canvas. Mad that maybe I'm wasting my life. And then mad at myself for believing I need to satisfy "someone's" definition of art for it to be deemed valuable. Mad that I'd be judged and that I am judged. The angrier I got, the more I did whatever I felt like doing to the work based on my instincts.  

As I began to feel that the piece was nearly finished, I got happier. I liked the sort of sarcastic do-you-think-I'm-an-idiot? expression on the purple-ly faced girl and the red jagged line down the other's face. I liked the way it looked as if the entire left 2/3rd of the piece might be exploding out of the misunderstood girl's head with a small chunk of her brain exposed. I loved all the little creatures around them and the colors and the busy feel of it. I loved the realization that no one could replicate my work.  

Then I came across Toni Morrison's quote. I read it and knew that she's right.  And Kahlo and Pollack and Van Gogh were right. They painted who they were as individuals. They gave to the world proof that we are a vast composite of unique individuals, and that in its self holds never ending hope for our future.

I remembered a wonderful book I read by Kazuo Ishiguro. His novel, Never Let Me Go, is about a society who raises children for the purpose of donating organs once they mature into adults. The kids grow up in special "schools" and are taught their purpose early in life. One of the administrators involved keeps a program going for the kids that focuses on art. Their days are filled with creating art. They sense that it's important yet they don't really know why. It turns out that the woman believes art is the one tangible thing that can prove these kids are human. That they are individuals and worthy of life. The art displays their souls.

My art displays my soul. Perhaps very few in this world give a real f-ck about the soul of Penelope Przekop but I believe I'm capable of putting my soul on canvas and so I will do it, not only for myself, but for all those who cannot or do not care to try. Perhaps someday, my efforts will be valued individually, as part of a generation, or as a small part of the human race. I don't know, but I sense that it's important. 

So as I finished the piece and wanted to give it a title, I realized that, yes, it loudly portrays who I am as a complex human being in a way that is consistent with the work I've been doing over the last year or so. I took a deep breath and decided, Okay Toni Morrison, I will do this loudly and consistently.  I'm ready. 

Can you hear my voice?  Can you see it?  I hope so. 

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6527212 January 17, 2013

Who Am I in This Crowd?

I don't want the burden of feeling that it's my job to smooth things over with everyone in every situation. I don't want to feel that they are right, and I am most certainly wrong, that they are all surely better, smarter, wiser, more talented, kinder, gentler. That they know what is best for me.

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6527212 March 09, 2012

I Done Tousled with a Whale: Mojo Perry

"It’s easy to feel that you're getting lost in a fruitless effort when you're pursuing your art."

My guest today, musician and singer/songwriter Mojo Perry, is an amazing guitarist.  He's spent the majority of his life with a guitar in his hand, and as he puts it, "a pocketful of dreams."  He's a dynamic guy who equates music with art in what seems to be a refreshing and unique way. Rather than talking about music, he speaks of art. Listen to some Mojo tunes while you read:


In a recent discussion, Mojo talked about some of the difficulties he's had over the years dealing with people who haven't understood his drive and passion. I know the drill all too well. There are many perfectly wonderful folks in this world, with varying levels of creativity, who just don't get it. They don't share our wiring. At times, they ask, beg, demand, and plead with us to:
  • be reasonable
  • be logical 
  • do things that make sense
  • think about the implications
  • live in the "real" world
  • stop working against them
  • settle down
  • stop 'disturbing' others
  • listen
  • be grateful for what we already have
  • essentially join the crowd because, after all, if most people do it, it must be the appropriate action
  • lighten up
  • even ... give up
Even when they ask these things nicely, they don't realize just what they're asking. They don't know the power they hold individually and as a collective group.  They don't understand that folks like me and Mojo are not only struggling to create art, we're also longing to find our place in a world they've created. They think the leopard can change his spots and the zebra erase his stripes, all because it's a reasonable thing to do. They believe there is a comfort zone we all must share. 
I Never Meant to Upset You
12" x 12"

In corporate America there are those who ask us to "think outside the box," and be an "authentic leader."  But they want us to do so within the boundaries they understand.

My husband came home last night with a frown. Apparently, some of his business contacts had seen my painting, "I Never Meant to Upset You," and found it "scary and disturbing." They wondered what might be wrong with me that I would paint such things. I suggested that he let them know that it's a powerful little piece of art that will be shown in an Italian exhibit on Human Rights next month. 
I'm currently working with a highly creative artist on an Aberration Nation interview. It's taking months, primarily because he doesn't care for my blog format. It's not what he's used to, and doesn't follow standard 
journalistic format. I'm working with him to structure his interview in a different way. That's fine. What's not fine is that he believes something is inherently flawed about my blog. Okay, so sure, I'd like to learn from this guy (who is also a friend of mine), and I don't mind, but it has made me consider that even highly creative folks can become trapped in molds, either thrust upon them, or of their own creation.

I grew up idolizing my mother's creativity yet she evolved into a highly set-in-her-ways individual, primarily based on the culture in which she was raised. She holds sacred, never-gonna-change views about people and situations. She calls them convictions. We're all allowed to have those, but the idea always brings me back to one simple question:  

How the hell can you be so sure you're right?  

Having an indestructible belief that you're correct is extraordinarily powerful.  It creates a surge in the environment, a spark, that can either be positive or negative, uplifting or destructive. Although I learned to hide the fact for many years, I've always been one to question the status quo, rules, boundaries, etc. As a kid, I often wondered who decided this or that, and why. Sometimes I could understand the why, whether or not I agreed with it, but sometimes, there didn't seem to be a good reason. 

As creative individuals, we often have to barrel through day after day of finger shaking in some form or another, depending on who surrounds us, where we live, and other life circumstances. And the stories range from a couple of sentences to gut wrenching tales of woe. But we continue on for our art, for what we believe in, and why we believe we were created. Many of us have wrestled with alligators and tousled with whales.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSYtQy9EqTA]

Mojo is a great example of the the creative spirit, and how it must go on. It's stripes and spots, wiring, and thought process were meant to fly. After all, that magnificent flight through thundering skies and over tempest sea has carried civilization forward. 

What's your story?  Have you always loved music?

I consider myself to be a conceptual artist.  I create art from the heart and express myself as creatively as possible.  All of it comes naturally to me.  I'm the youngest of eight; the only one in my family who plays an instrument.  My art/music emerged from a strong passion and grasp of sounds that go back as far as I can remember. I choose the concepts behind my work as they make themselves apparent in my life. I've been playing guitar for five years less than I have been alive; 38 years, which affords me the ability to reach and achieve creatively.

As an artist, I try to surround myself with people and art who are better than my own.  I'm blessed that in my career I have been able to record or perform with many great people and some guitar legends I have admired since I was a kid.  I’m quite respected for my playing but even more so for my creativity.  This stems from a true passion and love for music that was so evident as a child that my mother immediately put an instrument in my hand.  I'm very happy she chose the guitar. 

My first “official” release came when I was only 15 years old, which stemmed an active recording career that has branched to an International level.   I have always loved music and seek it out.  My electronic music collection is up to four terabytes.  I listen, consume, and experience music as much as possible.  I absolutely love music and take the challenges life throws at me with a guitar in my hand and a smile on my face.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Yes, I have had several, but one of the most recent ones is without a doubt when I sold out in Spain.  I showed up that day to what I thought was a pub gig only to find out it was a theater.  The place was decked out with art and filled with people there to share in it.  I first looked out into a large room from side stage only to see row after row of empty seats. Then the next thing I know someone walks in and says, “You are sold out tonight."  

I had never been to Spain before.  It was the first time that I saw how my art was touching the lives of others through the Internet on a large scale.  For once in my life, I was able to put faces to the numbers I read when I look at my download statistics and CD sales.  It’s easy to feel that you're getting lost in a fruitless effort when pursuing your art; Pow!… that really touched me.  I definitely knew I'm onto something.   I mean, really … I have had a lot of ah-ha moments in my career.  Like little love taps they creep into my life and kiss me, whispering in my ear to keep going.  As far as a focus ... my focus is the same as it has always been; to create art/music and follow my creative heart.  

Mojo Perry's upcoming CD cover art.
For you, is music more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to make music?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer.  Music is my whole life and has been for as long as I can remember.  I've never thought about this either way until just now.  I have such a strong desire to create that the expression just shines without me ever really thinking about it.

I really believe that being creative is allowing yourself to make mistakes, art is knowing which ones to keep. I also believe that one cannot serve without the other. Creativity and expression are lovers that will never part. However, I do try to be selective as to which songs I release and which ones I don’t. I want to contribute honest, positive art. The rest I archive and add to a collection of songs that I hope will be a wonderful box set someday after I'm long gone.  So … you might say my life is a collection of art in process. 

How would you describe your musical style, and why does this appeal most to you creatively?

First and foremost I'm a Songwriter. I approach every song I write as an individual piece of work. I have strong Blues roots at times, which often throws me into the Blues Genres.  All in all I would have to say that I am a Psychedelic Artist. I love manipulating sounds and pushing limits with my guitar. The beauty of the Psychedelic Genre is that the audience for it expects different, wild, and creative ideas, rhythms, and sounds; I absolutely adore that freedom. My career is based on it. In the marketplace I find myself in Psychedelic, Rock, Blues, Jam Band, Acoustic, and Singer Songwriter genres.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? 

I think this is an individual question because the farther out you go, the more different you become. I look at people whom I've been drawn to since I was a child: Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Jimi Hendrix; they all suffered, they all were laughed and scoffed at but stuck it out. I'm doing the same thing; weathering the storms and creating art/music and living it up when I can and toughing it out when things are down. It’s not complicated for any true artist; it’s in our blood.  The best blessing for me in being highly creative is that I always have a way to express what I'm feeling, going through, or am dealing with. As for the struggles I go through in pursuing my art, I'm continually shown how much I care about my art, what happens to it, and the fact that it is out there. I believe that when there is a connection to your creative side you explore a lot of things off the beaten track, which means there are certain hazards that come with it. With all of it I have grown in a way that I never would have if I had not gone through those tribulations and I'm grateful for all of it.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Yes I have. Discretion is the better part of valor. I've had many circumstances over the years on both personal and professional levels that proved to be a struggle for all involved.  I have it going on with various family members now and many others who just don’t see why I push so hard when I get so little back. They don’t experience what I see, hear, feel, or believe, and they certainly don’t have something so convictive in their life to push for. How could they understand ? I don’t even get it myself; I’m a slave to my art and the passion that burns in my blood. It’s simple but very complicated. I don’t think it will ever change and their will always be difficult situations. I will deal with it the way I always have.  With my art/music and the gifts of being able to create something out of nothing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ7BUNBVlkE]

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about for various reasons.  Have your biggest dreams come to pass yet?  What do you dream of achieving now? 

You are never alone when you have a dream. I have learned over the years to understand success in various ways. My biggest dreams have not come to pass; they are just beginning to happen for me. Sure, there are things that haven’t happened the way I wanted them to but that’s normal. But the other side of that coin is that there have been many great things that did happen. Sometimes it sucks to be broke at times but then again I have a lot to be grateful for.  

As far as dreams go… man… I will always dream and work to achieve because that’s just what I do and when all is said and done people will be able to learn about me through my art/music, read about me, watch videos, listen to my work, and more. That’s what I'm dreaming to achieve. Just leaving my mark and being as happy as I can possibly be with a guitar in my hand and a pocketful of dreams.  Well… all of that as well as continuing to grow as a guitarist and pushing limits. (Smiling)

Do you ever wonder if what you're creating or expressing is as meaningful to others as it is to you?  How important is that to you with regard to your overall goals? If you've created something that purely expresses who you are, is that enough, or is the circle only completed when someone else says, "Yes, she understands me," or "Yes, that's how I feel?"

Yes, I do wonder. As near as I figure, I don’t think anything an artist can create can be as meaningful to others as it is to them.  How can it?  When someone is moved enough and creative enough to create something from nothing and have a fully realized piece of work at the end, your talking about a journey from start to end. Only the person who creates it gets it that way; it’s really personal for me.  To me, the circle is complete when I feel good about my art/music, expressed what I need to express, and written, played, and created the way I want to. My overall goals will never be affected but as a person I may be affected here and there. And in the times where I'm writing in regard to a person or situation and don’t get the response I want, well… I did the best I could.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQoF0gemYIw]

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

I think there is a big difference. However, it takes talent that is sharpened and challenged repeatedly to explore creativity and created a distinguished fingerprint. Combined with method, vibe, and a multitude of other ingredients to get to a point where an artist label is achieved. 

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6527212 February 28, 2012

The Artist

Vulnerable like that stark canvas, I am an odd sort of survivor Navigating a failed system, A world that may not hear my song, One where rules are king, And logic prevails, Oh, where is my kingdom, Where do I go to breathe, To feel it all, To swallow.

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6527212 November 09, 2011

CALVET and Art: Isn't This What They Told Me About Jesus?

Okay, I realize this may be controversial for some folks; I may be struck down by the hand of God at any time today, but lately it's occurred to me that art provides many of the things that Jesus is supposed to give me ... redemption, purpose, love, meaning, joy, healing, etc.  Of course, I don't know that art can give eternal salvation, but I do know that it can save a soul.  It did just that for my friend, artist Jean Marc Calvet. 

I met Jean Marc a year or two ago through Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC).  We struck up a friendship after I interviewed him on Aberration Nation.  I later also interviewed Dominic Allan, the film director/producer, who was so taken by Jean Marc's story that he spent four or so years making a documentary about the artist's incredible life. 

This weekend, I finally saw the film, CALVET, in its entirety.  I knew a lot about it before hand.  What I didn't know was how deeply I would identify with certain aspects of Jean Marc's tale. 

We all have some sort of story; we have our own personal demons, although for some of us those demons are more terrifying than others.  The question I most often ask myself is how many of those demons were tossed at me, and how many did I conjure up myself.  And for those that I did create, how in God's name could I have avoided it? 

When I watched Jean Marc's story, and took in just how simultaneously tough and gentle he is, I could so clearly see how the circumstances of our lives turn us into monsters.  I wondered what makes a man look into the mirror and decide that he no longer wants to be monstrous, and if a true monster even has such thoughts.  Perhaps the true devils just keep on being monstrous until they finally drop dead and go to monster hell. Perhaps it's actually the fallen angels of our world who can recognize the demons inside and find the courage to battle them.  Like the incessant drive to create, maybe it's a simultaneous catch and release.  Good news and bad.

Some days I look in the mirror and see a monster.  Maybe you do as well.  I don't want to see it but I know it's there. I hide it.  I chase it. I squelch it and cover it up.  And in that never ending game--that dysfunctional relationship I have with myself--I sometimes love it, too. If I didn't, the whole stinking business wouldn't be so difficult.

For Jean Marc, it was ultimately the language of art and a profound love for his son that propelled him back to life.  This theme was brilliantly seared into my heart during a few pivotal scenes in the movie.

In one episode, Jean Marc recounts how he listened to his parents fight each night when the lights went out.  How he tried not to listen, but also wanted to hear what was being said.  How he buried his head in his pillow and then tried to forget the terrible things he'd heard when he woke each morning.  Jean Marc's expressive explanation of how this emotionally influenced him as a child slammed me straight back to my own small home where my parents fought 24/7.  Yelling, screaming, hitting, crying .... deposit after deposit of heightened emotional turmoil into the heart of a child.  How can we possibly avoid those early monsters ushered in by the adults we love?

In another scene, Jean Marc describes how as a teen / very young adult he was violently raped by a large, brutish stranger.  The audience sat holding our breath as we listened to Jean Marc's moving confessional.  How he sat outside on a park bench for two days after the incident, numb and dying inside, angered by those who had hurt him.  After the rape, the monsters in Jean Marc came into full force, determined to not only hurt others but to also hurt himself.  It's a punishment we need to inflict on ourselves.  Somehow we blame ourselves as a way to hide, to push the pain we can't bare away.  Let me feel this and that and whatever other horrible thing I can so as to wipe all this other stuff away.  In the end, it's an emotional trap.

At Monkdogz' exhibition of Jean Marc's work (which runs through tomorrow), artist Esther Barend and I talked about the scene and I said to her, "I've never been raped like that ....but I feel like I have." 

Isn't that a ballsy thing to say?  Should I be ashamed? 

No, because perhaps you and I haven't experienced exactly what happened to Jean Marc that terrible day, but we may have felt some of the same emotions.  Being used, physically hurt, and/or severely mistreated by someone bigger, stronger, and domineering causes a universal pain.  Jean Marc had the guts to tell us how it feels and as we listened, we knew we were hearing something profoundly honest.

The third scene that indelibly sticks with me is one in which Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon art, and how doing so saved his life.  This is the part that reminds me of Jesus. 

I grew up being told that Jesus is the answer to everything.  I know there are millions of people out there who believe and will testify to the healing power of that message.  I've heard all the testimony.  I was spoon fed the information for year upon year, the same years that my own monsters were developing. 

Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon some buckets of paint during the lowest point in his life, a time when he was literally taking his own life.  In a drug induced rage, he "fought" with the paint and the surfaces nearest to him as if it were all an extension of his misery, anger, and hopelessness. 

In my own way, I've experience a similar struggle.  I channeled life into something inanimate and then struggled with it.  I fought with it as if to save my life somehow.  In a fit of rage, I once sat in my car on the side of the road and violently ripped an entire bulky textbook apart into tiny pieces as if it was all that I hated, all that I wanted to conquer in myself that I couldn't pull forth and destroy.  Instead the book became something alive that I could hurt and once I started, I couldn't stop; I ripped every single page to shreds as if it were the flesh and blood of a person being ripped from its spine, and then I ripped the front and back covers from the stringy, tight center. It was in that same week that I also attempted to take my own life.

Such was Jean Marc's nightmarish battle times 1,000, and in the end, he stepped back and saw his emotions.  I too, saw my emotions in the mutilation of something I loved most in the world (books).  Maybe in some way, you've seen yours.  For Jean Marc, it was magnified and redemptive because in that moment he found salvation. 

He found art.

Jean Marc's remarkable discovery was the scene that brought back to me the idea of art being like Jesus ... the reason for the season.  The end of the road, the pot of gold we search for in all our suffering and flight from whatever monsters and demons life has shown us, and from those we've created for ourselves.

We're all apples and oranges of some sort, but in our heart of hearts, we're all human.  The depth of our capacity to experience love, shame, hatred, joy, degradation, etc. likely varies but our ability to feel it, to recognize it, lies deep in the kernel of who we are. 

Dominic Allan's CALVET takes one man's struggle and shows us our own.

I'll continue to think about art being like Jesus, and wonder if it could ever give us eternal salvation. It's a perplexing question because for Jean Marc, it just may do that.  His may be the testimony heard through the ages. The call others continue to hear when they seem to have nothing left.

If you get a chance, go see the movie.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwoy3oocw9c]

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6527212 August 18, 2011

Simply Wonderful: Luiz Cavalli

"There are always people who do not understand a simple painter."

The other night during dinner, my husband looked me in the eye and asked, "Why do you like to paint?"  It was a simple question, one I've thought about quite a bit.  It was one of those moments in life when someone who has closely watched your evolution calls you to the carpet.  They ask for an answer or statement that somehow magically boils it all down to a simple truth.

As he looked at me, waiting for my answer, my mind went blank.  The first thing I could think of was, "I just love it."  He looked at me, eyes squinted and filled with more questions.  He and I are wired differently. All the things I wanted to say about painting raced through my head, but I sat there knowing they would likely sound silly to him. 

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was simply me who thought the answers lacked the complexity to fully explain my addiction.

I took a stab at explaining and enjoyed the conversation.  I was happy that he wanted to understand, and my sudden inability to explain was frustrating. I got mad at myself.  Truth is, I was already mad at myself over the painting.  Eariler that day, my mentor and friend, Bob Hogge, told me (kindly) that my last painting "wasn't the best of my more recent work."  He accurately described it as looking a bit like a page out of the JC Penney catalogue.  I wasn't happy with it to begin with so this didn't surprise me.  What upset me the most was that I'd let it happen.  I'd gone a bit backwards.

I wish I could be more like my guest today, Brazilian artist Luiz Cavalli.  Luiz and his work exude simple happiness and forward movement, the concepts that seem to define his life.  Even the chairs he loves to paint look as if they could move us through life, always toward an exciting place in the middle of exactly where we belong.  Nothing is stagnant. Nothing goes backwards. Luiz enjoyes creating art that portray his inner disposition, and in turn, his art makes us feel better. 

So what the heck's wrong with me?  I question too much, running through circle after circle in my head.  It's as if there's a convention going on with multiple speakers and tracks all zooming along at once. The neverending schedule is complex; during the breaks, decisions about where to go next trump taking the time the decompress.

It seems that I'm never satisfied with simple, even when simple is beautiful.  Maybe some of the simple things in life are actually so complex that we can never fully describe or explain them ... maybe like God, truth and beauty as well as all the deep, guttural emotions that drive us into action.  That powerful I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it sort of urge that is a reality for which, at times, no explanation can suffice.

So maybe in the end, Luiz' work is more complex than it may appear.  Perhaps why it appeals to so many is its ability to capture that unexplainable, complex space where true happiness and forward movement exist in each of us ... if only we can find it.  Afterall, if pure, unadulterated joy and happiness were so gosh darn simple, there'd be a heck of a lot more of it.

Note: Luiz' interview questions and answers below are provided in both English and Spanish.  We both apologize for any misinterpretations between the two versions.  We think they're close!

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte ,
Georges Seurat, 1884-1886. (Pointillism)

Have you always know you would be an artist? How has your artistic life evolved? (Você sempre soube que sería um artista? Como sua vida artística evoluiu?)

I realized I had a bit of talent by age 17 when drawing in high school.  I started with pointillism in pen and ink. Soon I began selling my drawings to pay for school.  I studied at the Technical College of Design Communications. Then I eventually started working in advertising in the media ... working with professionals in radio and film and with television production agencies.  During that time I never drew or painted until 2003.  Then at 47 years, I began painting again with acrylic on canvas.  After three years of living as an artist, I began doing solo exhibitions and participating in conferences in Brazil and other countries.

Percebi que tinha um pouco de talento com 17 anos quando na Escola IADÊ de desenho que equivale ao Colegial....comecei a desenhar com canetas Nanquin Técnica Pontilismo em bico de pena...Ai comecei a vender meus desenhos para pagar a escola. Desenhei até a idade 20anos...Mas com 18 anos comecei a trabalhar em Publicidade na area de Midia Eletônica...Produção de comerciais para TV...com a profissão de Radio TV e Cinema produtor de agências....Ai então nunca mais desenhei e pintei....Só voltei a Pintar com 47 anos em acrílico sobre tela...isso em 2003. E a 3 anos que vivo só dos meus trabalhos....Fazendo exposições individuais e participando de coletivas no Brasil e em outros Países.

How would you best describe your personality, and how your art relays that to the world? (Como você descreveria sua personalidade, e como relés desua arte que, para o mundo?)

I am a tranquil and happy person.  I think that my art conveys happiness.

Sou uma pessoa tranquilha e feliz. E acho que minha arte transmite felicidade.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about? (Com relação ao seu foco atual criativo, estava lá um "ah-ha"momento em que você pode nos dizer sobre?)

I just love to paint bicycles, chairs, beach scenes, and people.

Gosto muito de pintar Bicicletas ,Cadeiras,Cenas de Praia e Pessoas.

You paint quite a few chairs and bicycles. Can you tell us a little bit about what draws you to these objects and why you feel compelled to paint them? (Você pinta muito algumas cadeiras e bicicletas. Você pode nos contar um pouco sobre o que atrai a esses objetos e por que você se sentir compelido a pintá-los?)

Well, since I was a boy I loved the bicycle design.  Then I began to paint the bike in my pictures ..... and today I think I'm one of the artists who has painted the most bikes.  I feel that the bike has a sense of being free and happy with life, with a lot of movement.  It also helps humanity because it does not pollute. The chairs also are always with me.  It is an object that is always in our liives, and I the seat gives life a certain movement.

Bem desde de menino desenho bicicletas....e quando comecei a pintar surgiu a bicicleta em minhas telas.....e hoje acho que sou um dos artistas que mais pinta telas de bicicletas...Sinto que a bicicleta tem um sentido livre de ser e feliz com vida....Com muito movimento e ajuda a Humanidade não polui. As cadeiras tambem sempre estão comigo...é um objeto que sempre está na nossa vida....estática e eu tendo dar vida as cadeiras com um certo movimento.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations (issues) in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? (Você acredita que alguns dos vários atributos relacionados a ser altamente criativo ter causado aberrações (questões), em vida, ajudou a lidar com as aberrações da vida, ou ambos?)
I think art and painting showed me that life is simpler than you think, and art helped me gain a lot of true friends. Life became easier and happy.

Acho que a arte e pintar me mostrou que a vida é mais simples do que a gente pensa...e com a arte ganhei muitos amigos de verdade. A vida ficou mais facil e feliz.

In what ways does art sooth or inspire you during difficult or challenging times? (De que forma a arte sooth ou inspirá-lo nos momentos difíceis ou desafiadoras?)

Really, it was very difficult to quit advertising.  I had a good salary and the living conditions of art, but today I'm able to live art.

Realmente...foi muito dificil ...largar a publicidade com um bom salario e viver só da arte...mas hoje estou conseguindo viver da arte.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?  (Você já teve que lidar com pessoas em sua vida não compreender a sua personalidade criativa, interesses ou dirigir? Se assim for, você pode nos dizer sobre ele e como você lidou com isso?)

There are always people who do not understand a simple painter, but I have had no major problems with people. It seems that art is more for the interaction and shows.  But I really just like the paint on canvas. Never give up! 

Sempre tem pessoas que não entendem um simples pintor. Parece que Arte está mais para o Interatividade e Instalações...Mas gosto mesmo é da tinta na tela. Não desisto nunca. E não tive grandes problemas com pessoas.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?  (Você já desenvolveu um processo criativo específico que lhe permite alcançar os seus objectivos artísticos? Se assim for,você pode nos dizer sobre isso. Onde é que a maioria de suas idéias vêm?)

Well, I started painting my own pictures.  I looked at a picture I took of paint.  I have had several screens that were made of pictures of me.  I photographed a lot when young, so I looked at those pictures and painted them. And so it began.

Bem comecei pintando as minhas proprias fotografias...Olhava para uma foto que tirei de pintava. Tenho varias telas que foram feitas de fotos minhas....Fotografei muito quando jovem...Então olhava minhas fotos e depois pintava. E assim começou tudo.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?  (O que você acha lugares um artista para além de seus pares? Assim, muitos são extremamente talentosos, mas o que faz uma destacam-se como verdadeiramente talentoso?)

I'm not sure if the translation of this question is correct.  But as far as talent ... I think a person is born with it, and it's a matter of spreading the work and showing it to others.

Esta pergunta a tradução não ficou boa...Não entendi direito...Mas com relação a talento...acho que nasce com a pessoa...e é uma questão de divulgar e mostrar o trabalho.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?  (Qual é o seu lema principal ou mantra na vida? Por isso é importante para você?)

My motto is to focus on happiness and the joy of living.

Meu lema é a felicidade e a alegria de viver.

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6527212 August 13, 2011

The Critic who Thought a Duck was a Cow

Story of the Day: Animal announces that she's a duck. She walks, quacks, and swims around like a duck. Critic watches her closely and writes, "She said she was a cow but she's actually a duck. Stupid thing ... she doesn't even know she's a duck. She's a terrible cow. I suppose she put up a good fight trying to be a cow but she failed." Perplexed, the Duck says, "What the duck? I'm a ducking duck, you duck! I ducking said I was a duck. What the duck is your problem?" Then the duck waddles off and writes a blog post ....

- Facebook Status, 12 Aug 2011

I had my first run in with a critic yesterday ... and I freaked.  After a couple of hours and many tears, I calmed down and evaluated what the critic actually said.  I then realized that much of it makes little sense. While I respect the time taken to read my novel, CENTERPIECES, and write the review as well as her honesty, I feel compelled to respond to a few of her comments and questions. 

A little background:

Despite not being published by a major house, or having a trust fund, other famous creditials, or MFA, I've have been able to obtain quite a few reviews for my novels, ABERRATIONS and CENTERPIECES.  I've also received many comments about Aberration Nation from highly creative folks including award winning and bestelling authors Joshilyn Jackson, Lisa See, Darin Strauss, Anneli Rufus, Antwone Fisher, Margaret Weis, Marya Hornbacher, Terri Cheney, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Melissa Walker, and Susan Cheever.  Of all these reviews and comments, only one or two have included anything that could be construed as negative. 

Being that I'm a sensitive, borderline drama queen, those couple of negative comments were devastating, but I got over it.  Those minor ego setbacks luckily occurred after years of constant rejection from agents and publishers.  Those are the folks I cut my teeth on.  They thickened my skin and taught me how to barrel through at times when it seemed the world was laughing at my creative efforts.   

So why did I freak yesterday?  Well, the review was not only written in a negative tone, it stemmed from an inaccurate assumption about my novel, CENTERPIECES.  I won't bore you with a boohoo story about how horrific it was to read.  Instead, I'd like to explain a few things to the critic. 

Despite the pain involved, I'm always willing to hear constructive feedback, assess it, and then apply what I feel is useful to my work moving forward.  I have operated that way for years, and have seen my work grow as a result.  I respect that approach, and believe it's critical for the creative who wants to continuously improve and evolve. 

With that said, in this case I feel compelled to respond:


"The author Penelope Przekop's second novel, CENTERPIECES, is a novel that bravely tries to be a historical fiction about Van Gogh, art and the creative drive, but instead turns out to the a twisted narrative that describes a stifling world of corporate ladder climbing."


According to the CENTERPIECES press release, "Penelope Przekop takes readers on a thought-provoking journey as corporate executives follow their creative urges in 'Centerpieces.'"

CENTERPIECES is not marketed as historical fiction.  The novel is categorized on Amazon as Fiction / Alternative History.  This is defined as:

Alternate history or alternative history is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world.

My intent was not to write a historical novel.  The intent was to write fiction based on the interesting facts of Van Gogh's death, and what transpired afterwards.  My idea was to weave those facts with his creative temperament and my own observations about corporate life and creativity. 


"Przekop herself, a 'global quality director,' for the pharmaceutical industry--a title as vague and important-sounding as many of the details in her book - is a business woman who 'stepped back' from her career to become a writer and painter." 


My title was Director, Global Quality Management, with the global Johnson & Johnson pharmacovigilance organization.  This is a common type of title within not only the pharmaceutical industry but also in many other service and manufacturing industries.  Further, I don't believe the details of my novel are generally vague or important sounding (whatever that means).  Those details that are vague were made to be so purposefully.

Of note, my current title is Senior Director, Global Quality Assurance & Training.  Maybe she will like that one better. 


"Chapters set in the latter part of the 19th century, however, in Van Gogh's actual time period (of which there are thankfully very few) are, however, written in an awkward style and are filled with odd thematic sentiments."


I spent months reading all available literature about Vincent and Theo van Gogh, including the lengthy letters they wrote to one another over many years.  The writing style and thematic sentiments in the chapters set in the late 19th century were closely based on the style of written communication that Vincent and Theo used in their own personal writings to one another.  This was fully my intention so while the comment is quite negative, I am happy to know that I succeeded in mimicking their awkward, overtly sentimental communication style.


"CENTERPIECES as speculation historical fiction feels misleading, as readers will not learn about the artist, his life or work, from reading it."


Again, the primary intention of the novel, clearly communication in the Press Release and jacket description, was not to teach readers about the life or work of Van Gogh.  I'm not sure how the critic has misunderstood the entire intent of the novel.  She states that the novel's few informative facts are listed chronologically in an afterward.  The entire novel takes place after Van Gogh's actual death so the facts listed in the back of the book are those that occurred after his death.  The novel is fiction woven around those facts.  Again, alternative history ....


"Ironically, both men seem as miserable in their extended lives as they were in their real ones." (meant negatively)


This is like saying, "Ironically, she seemed as miserable in her later years as she was in her younger years."  I don't see any irony in this.  Long term happiness is never guaranteed.  We all make choices based on the facts and situations that are presented to us.  Of course, we should look to future outcomes as part of our decision making.  Often we believe we are making the best choice at the time, only to learn later that we didn't realize all of the implications.


"Following the revelation that Ellis and Tom are Vincent and Theo, come a series of implausible and confusing events that lead us to believe that the brothers are vampires, or are at the very least vampire-like.  This assumption is based on vague but foreboding dialogue about 'living in the light,' not wanting to 'return to the darkness,' a drug called 'teperaquin' that they supposedly need to stay alive and too much biting and killing to go unnoticed - though it does go unexplained."


The vagueness around their being vampires was intentional as my goal was not to write a "vampire" novel.  Of course being a vampire is implausible.  It's fiction.  Teperaquin is a drug that enables them to be in the light, not to stay alive.  There is very little biting and killing in the novel, and the details around how those were covered up was relevant to the novel.


"Przekop doesn't seem to realize she has on her hands an interesting novel about the mentalities, professions, and industries that unnecessarily stifle creativity, and created as a distraction too many artificial moments of interest."


I do realize what I created.  Apparently, the critic didn't realize what she was reading.  As for "artificial moments of interest" that is the critic's opinion.  From my perspective, every detail and scene in the novel served a specific purpose, althought every reader may not "catch" every detailed, complex connection upon first reading.


"Is Mimi a stripper simply so Przekop could write a juicy chapter describing Mimi's sexuality?"


No.  The novel includes one scene about Mimi's stripping.  Mimi's being a stripper is important for her characterization and the plot.  It is how she knows Ellis and Tom, and why she does not tell Holly that she knows them.  This night job is part of her characterization, which ties into her telling everyone that she's a vampire.  All of this is necessary to the plot with regard to what happens at the end of the novel.


"Why does Holly, who longs for emotion, color and life, turn away from Van Gogh when he reaches out to her with the truth about his unnatural life?"


Her disbelief and assumption that he is mentally ill is realistic.  I deeply long for emotion, color and life, but if someone told me they were Vincent van Gogh, I wouldn't jump for joy and accept it with no questions or hesitation.  If I were already involved in a romantic relationship with that person, their belief that they are Vincent van Gogh would be both disturbing and conflicting.


"Why would Vincent, who ended his own life, wish to be immortally unhappy?"


See my response above regarding the choices we make in life.  Why would a woman marry a man who then made her unhappy for the rest of her life?  On the wedding day, I'm sure she though all her dreams would finally come true.  Despite our best intentions with choice making, there are often negative outcomes that we didn't foresee.


"Why would he become immortal only to allow himself, for 200 years, to be ordered never to paint again by his brother?"


The initial decision that he would not paint was part of the plan that he, Theo and Johanna created together.  The evolution of that decision is based on many factors that are clearly explained in the novel.  Theo's power over Vincent in the novel is based on the dynamic that evolves due to Vincent being responsible for making Theo a vampire (without his consent) and thus making him lose the woman he loves.  I believe that the dynamic is based on realistic physcological and emotional relationship factors that are true to life, and follow the actual personalities and dispositions of Vincent and Theo van Gogh (based on my extensive research).


"Why would Vincent keep alive the brother who stifled him with his faith, devotion and lack of understanding?"


If the critic is referring to Vincent making Theo a vampire, her assessment about their relationship is inaccurate.  Theo was Vincent's primary support throughout his life, and his closest friend and relative, despite any relationship difficulties they may have had. 

On another level, no matter how much a sibling might drive you nuts, would you let them die if you had the chance to save them?  Further, if you were both healthy, would you just kill them off because they were causing you trouble? I think not. Should we all just kill our relatives and spouses during tough times? 

In conclusion, it appears that this critic has misunderstood CENTERPIECES on multiple levels.  Perhaps that is my fault as a writer, and perhaps it's unprofessional to respond to the review.  However, based on the reaction of my other reader, I'm confident that the book, press release, and actual novel are not as misleading as she found them to be. 

And I am not as dumb as she has assumed. 

I admit that I'm highly emotional, sensitive, impulsive, and sometimes immature. However, I have diligently worked for years on my craft, and am proud of my accomplishments. I stand by my novel, CENTERPIECES, and believe I've succeeded in accomplishing my goals with the project.

If you're interested in reading the novel to decide for yourself, I'm posting the entire book here on Aberration Nation over the next few weeks.  Links to the available chapters can be found on the sidebar.  I'm not promoting the book as much as I could due to my current focus on art, but I do hope that a few folks will read and enjoy it. 

One critic wasn't crazy about my novel.  So what?


You can read her review here.

To read the CENTERPIECES press release and back cover copy, go here.

To start reading CENTERPIECES on line, go here.

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6527212 May 31, 2011

CALVET: Dominic Allan

Never Believe You've Played Your Last Hand ....

In March 2010, I interviewed French artist Jean Marc Calvet.  In that Aberration Nation post, Jean Marc wrote,

"I spent a large part of my life wondering why I was born, why I was here! When I turned 36 everything started. I was painting on the walls, the ground, the ceiling with all sorts of things such as paint, tomato sauce, chocolate, mud, etc. I didn't think I was making art. For me it was a way to keep my sanity, and it still is today. The main difference between yesterday and today is that today I know why I was born--and that changed many things!" 

Now Jean Marc's phenomenal story is brilliantly captured in a new feature film directed and produced by today's guest, Dominic Allan. 

CALVET premiers this month at two major European film festivals, the Sheffield Documentary Festival (8 - 12 June), and the Edinburgh International Film Festival (15 - 26 June).

During his mid-thirties, Jean Marc's overwhelming aberrations miraculously collided with an outpouring of creativity.  Jean Marc Calvet could very well reign as King of the Aberration Nation.  In a world where millions dream of becoming recognized artists, and the art world isn't adequately celebrated, Jean Marc shining creative spirit emerged despite all the suck life threw his way, and all the suck he created for himself.  CALVET is about the redemptive power of art.

Perhaps art can't possibly redeem and/or save everyone, but there seems to be a more basic point at play.  Maybe the message found in CALVET is that when you believe there's absolutely nothing left to lose, there's still something to find.  In the end, (despite circumstance) destruction, hopelessness, fear, and misery don't choose us; we choose them.  And sometimes the answers that offer redemption make themselves known ... but we must have the courage to embrace them.

The powerful, tortured paintings of French artist Jean Marc Calvet sell from $20,000 a piece, he has major solo exhibitions in New York, yet until 7 years ago he had never touched a paintbrush. In fact, art was the last thing on his mind when, aged 38, he was on the run in Central America with a large sum of stolen money. There, haunted by his past, Calvet decided that death was his only way out.

This is one man’s extraordinary story of redemption as he embarks on a journey to make peace with his past. A man who lived a dark and violent life, who via a terrifying trip to hell and back was given a second chance.

Calvet spent his life on a course of self-destruction, more often than not trashing anything and anyone in his path – including his own 6 year old son whom in 1996 in France, he abandoned without a word. He neither saw nor spoke to him again.

“See you next Saturday” were the last words Calvet said to his son before he disappeared. “See you next Saturday” – words that have haunted him every day for over a decade. Clues as to how he could do such a cruel and cowardly thing to the person he loved most in the world lie in his deeply troubled past.

Abused street kid, Foreign Legionnaire, vice cop, professional bodyguard, underground thug – Calvet is a cat with many lives, all harrowing and disturbing. Then in 2002 in Costa Rica, he arrived at the end of the road. Lost and damned, besieged by shame and self-hatred, he bought the last house at the end of a cul-de-sac, shut himself in and refused all contact with the outside world. Fuelled by obscene quantities of crack and alcohol, he believed the end would arrive quickly.

It didn't.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwoy3oocw9c]

After meeting Jean Marc and hearing about the upcoming film based on his life through our shared connection with Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC), I also became curious about Dominic Allan, a man so touched by Jean Marc's story that he's now sharing it with the world through film. Dominic is an award winning filmmaker who happened to stumble into Jean Marc's world while traveling in Nicaragua in 2004. Dominic shares the fascinating story of how the two men met, and the subsequent evolution of CALVET on the Director's Note page of the film's website.

Dominic is a fascinating man as well.  I'm quite certain that his own creativity has enabled Jean Marc's story to result in the outstanding film, CALVET. As Dominic points out in his interview below, the story is one fantastic thing, and the storytelling is another. The charismatic, relevant, and fateful marriage of these two components make CALVET shine.

Congratulations to both Jean Marc and Dominic for making us believe there's always another hand to play.

How did you get into filmmaking and why does it appeal to you?

I come from the rural southwest of England. Lived and worked out of London from the age of 18, then traveled a great deal. Lived in France, US, South America and many other pit-stops along the way. I now live in Spain, north of Barcelona. I'd always imagined I'd end up in the English countryside with loads of kids and it ended up being quite different so far!

Film ... well, soon after leaving school, I thought of all the things I loved and if I might be able to make a living with any of them. There two things on the short list - filmmaking and horse breeding. Filmmaking won quite easily! I have always been a film fanatic--addicted to that spell an extraordinary film can cast on you when you walk out of a cinema, especially when it lingers for days afterwards. I wanted to make films that achieve that. How I got into it and how I arrived here is perhaps not that interesting--though for all the adventures, the places I've seen, the people I've met and the things I've learned--I am incredibly grateful.

You recently completed a powerful documentary feature film focusing on artist Jean Marc Calvet. What about Calvet inspired you to make the film, and why should viewers be interested in this particular story?

I'd never heard a story like it. Quite early I latched onto what I saw as the film's message. It's never too late--never believe you've played your last hand. No matter who or where you are, no matter what your perception of your life situation, no matter how lost you think you are ... things can change is ways you don't yet comprehend. And a moment of real crisis may turn out to be the catalyst for total metamorphosis. From there, a new life is ahead of you. It was the notion that you can start again fresh with renewed integrity, and set out to right some wrongs.

Jean Marc is cat with many lives, many of them harrowing, wild, dark and violent. My own story doesn't remotely resemble his, yet I identified with something in him and his story--and it took much of the time making the film to work out what that was. Possibly this, that perhaps most of us carry a sense that we've done something that we need to atone for. We may not know what that is and for many it may be totally irrational, yet still this sense endures that we need to forgive ourselves for something. For most of us, release from that is the stuff of fiction, of well-designed movies through which we live vicariously. Here you have it for real--and it's a movie. too. I wanted to make this film in a way that would grip and carry you like a (fiction) feature film, yet at every turn you know it's real, it's documentary. I think this notion of personal emancipation and making good is a very strong universal theme with which many of us can identify. Despite the extreme nature of Jean Marc's story--it speaks to us loud and clear. It is very exciting, very powerful to believe that we have the capacity deep within us to transform and bloom, to manifest the beauty within and shine as we were born to.

With regard to the film, CALVET, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

In 2006, when I started to interview him for my research, he said something to me that I never forgot. It was a key (one of many) to unraveling the Calvet psyche. He said (and it's irrelevant which era of his life he was talking about at the time), "All I wanted was a family. The person I turned myself into didn't need one, didn't want one."

Each novel I write seems to change my life or create a shift in my thinking or perception in some way. Did making the Calvet film change your life in any way?

Well, the film was a big step away from making commissioned films for TV as a director for hire and starting to make films of my own that make a difference in some way. So a big surface change. Films should inspire people--at least for me. And sincerely, I think this job is a privilege in that I get to explore other people's lives and study the human condition--in my protagonists, and inevitably in myself too. After all, what hooks and fires me to spend (a long) time making a film about someone or something--is a gravitational pull to find an answer--and hopefully the film will suggest one! I always learn and grow through my films--that's the stuff of it. As I said, I'm working while exploring who we are. It's a fascinating journey and fathomless--often with sudden realizations that occur along the way.

Did I dodge the question? Yes, I am absolutely sure it has changed my life in some way--though we might have to do this again in a few years for me to tell you how!

How does creativity factor into making a successful documentary? As with nonfiction writing, some folks may struggle with understanding why and how creativity factors into the delicate mix of relaying real life information in a powerful way.

Ohhff, that's a hard one to talk about. Rather there are many answers The short answer is that it's all creative--from idea to research though production to completion, it's a creative process, period. The obvious stuff--looking for answers, how you visualize the film - content, style and so on. Then of course all the details - what shot, what sound, what kind of music to use or not, what tone, what pace etc ... all of it. What are you trying to say in any scene and how can you best achieve that. Documentary is very like making any other film in many ways, the dramatic story structure has to work or you've lost your audience. But you have to be flexible as an unpredictable real life situation unfolds in front of you and be true to what's happening and what's being said. Your mind dances as you work--piecing it together, what you're getting, what you're not getting, what you need. Then in the edit suite the dance changes as you craft the story with the material you have. Some of the original ideas are still there, many have gone to be replaced by new ones, hopefully better ones!

In any case, creativity is everything. Any real life situation retold by someone will be filtered through their perception and creative interpretation--unconsciously. It's not intentional, but even the person who's telling me the story is giving me their memory and perception of events. We all do this every day in every aspect of our lives. Once a moment has gone.. only memory and perception remain. So what's real and what's true? I'm not going down that rabbit hole! But for what we take as real and true--Calvet's story is as real and true as it gets. Shockingly so.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? How so? Did those experiences help you to identify with Calvet in any way?

Oh god yes--the first definitely! Has it helped me deal with life's aberrations? I really don't know--maybe, maybe not, probably not. I've probably also helped create a few! My connection with Jean Marc of course has much to do with how we identify with each other and where are sensibilities collide.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

All the time! Though more so before, less now. I think we live in a world where any creative pursuit is tough, being a creative personality is challenging--challenging to fit in and legitimize particularly in a material world where the values we are taught revolve a great deal around financial success, which as we know doesn't always mean creative success. It's a delicate business to evict compromise for an integrity that sells or combine the two well. As far as human relationships are concerned--it's perhaps both the biggest challenge and the biggest reward. Looking back, I've certainly learned and of course continue to learn how to express myself more effectively, more calmly and more compassionately. It's about how to turn a battle into a wonderful adventure--for everyone.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your filmmaking goals? If so, can you tell us about it, and also share any thoughts you may have on the role of discipline and organization?

That's too big! I have endless systems I guess, some from experience, others spontaneous depending on what's in front of me. Planning, asking myself questions, finding answers, and being honest. Problem solving, persistence and faith--even when the road is loooooonnngg. I was always a bit of a perfectionist which can be both painful and rewarding--though these days I know perfection doesn't exist, only the pursuit of excellence, or rather an instinct that you've arrived where you wanted with something that you're working on--there's deep satisfaction there. But most important--one step at a time, and you'll arrive. Thinking about too much and trying to focus on it all can be overwhelming. It dilutes the step you're in and reduces the quality of anything you do. One step at a time ...

What's next for Dominic Allan?

Not sure yet ... I have a feature film in incubation and there are plenty of fires inside waiting to be lit!

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have."  -Eckhart Tolle

The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. But if there's one thing of which I'm sure, it's that. Moving into the present moment is always the answer--for real peace that is often illusive or at best temporary as we move in and out of the mental noise. As the man says, pretend there's no past nor future--there isn't, everything that happened or will happen, was or will be in the present moment. Easier said than done, don't we know ...

CALVET on Facebook.

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6527212 March 11, 2011

Astronomical Odds: Douglas Preston

"I know some writers who like to talk about it more than they do it, who've been writing a book for ten years."

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been writing novels for over twenty years.  I've also been working full time, among other things that tend to suck up time.  One thing I can say for myself is that I've been consistent and dedicated.  Over the years, I've fought diligently to find time to write. 

And I have won that battle.

When I began painting three years ago, I viewed it as a crazy experiment.  With that said, I had a powerful urge for it.  All I wanted to do at that time was experience the feeling of sliding a brush dabbed in gooey paint across white canvas.  I wanted to know what that would feel like because I had so vividly experienced it in my mind.  It was similar to the desire for food, water, sex ... deep,  urgent, and animalistic.  I never believed I had the ability to create visual art despite my sometimes alarmingly active imagination.  I grew up assuming that every mind contained the same dynamic world that exists in mine.  That everyone could envision the detail, color, and complexity that I create and see in my head. 

I came to realize that's not the case. 

Just when I was beginning to think that I had pieced together the puzzle of who I am, I picked up that paint brush and bam! I realized I had only been focusing on one area of a puzzle that is much larger and more complex.  I'm still trying to understand and define my creative place in the world, but after twenty years of writing and only three years of painting, I realize that it's not exactly what I thought it was.

I don't know how many years my guest, bestselling author Douglas Preston, has been writing.  What I do know is that he's written over twenty successful books. 

In his interview, Douglas shares how he got his big start.  He was working at the American Museum of Natural History when he got a call from Lincoln Child, an editor at St. Martin's Press, asking if he'd be interested in writing a book. 

Twenty-five books later ... the rest is history.

What are the odds of that happening, you ask?  They're likely astronomical.  However, something similar happened to me.  When I was working at Johnson & Johnson, an editor from McGraw-Hill called to ask if I'd ever thought of writing a book.  The result was my first book, Six Sigma for Business Excellence.

So the immature, emotional child in me asks with a pout on my face, "How does Douglas now have twenty-five books published and I have only two?" 

The adult visionary in me replies, "Who cares?  Things happen for a reason."  I'm content with my journey, no matter how hard fought it may be.  My philosophy is that if I keep moving down my own personal road, I'll eventually reach my destination.  I don't care how many years it takes.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.  I don't need to be Douglas Preston, or any other fantastic author out there.  I'd only fail where they succeeded. 

I have failed where they succeeded.

After just three years of painting, this month my work is being shown in an international art show in New York City curated by Monkdogz Urban Art, one of the top contemporary art galleries in the world.  I've been told that the odds of that happening are beyond astronomical. 

My third book, Centerpieces, will be launched this summer. 

What's your writing story?

I had been writing a column in the magazine Natural History, published by the Museum, where I worked. An editor from St. Martin's Press named Lincoln Child, who had been reading my pieces, called me up and asked if I wanted to write a history of the Museum. I said yes -- and that became my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. After the book was published, I gave Linc a tour of the Museum -- at midnight. I showed him all the best places in the Museum to which I had access--the dinosaur bone storage room, the collection of 30,000 rats in jars of alcohol, the whale eyeball collection, the preserved mastodon stomach with its last meal inside, and a lot of other unusual things. We ended up in the Hall of Late Dinosaurs around 2:00 a.m., with only the emergency lights on, the great black skeletons looming in the darkness around us--and Linc turned to me and said: "Doug, this is the scariest damn building in the world. Let's write a thriller set in here." And that was the birth of Relic, and of our partnership.

Was there someone in particular who inspired you to love books and/or take an interest in writing?

There are certain teachers and librarians who encouraged me -- most particularly the late Darcy O'Brien, who was a professor at Pomona College where I went to school. He was writing his novel, A Way of Life, Like Any Other, when I took a creative writing class from him, and he shared with us the drafts of his novel. It was an extraordinary experience. His novel was rejected by 26 publishers and finally published--and then it won the prestigious Hemingway Award! So he was both a great teacher and a lesson in the perversity of the publishing business.

Where do most of your creative ideas come from?

They come from every direction -- from personal experience to articles in magazines, news stories, factoids on the web, and most of all from my extensive world travels. The key is always being open to a new idea, because we are surrounded by a sea of brilliant ideas, if only we can open our eyes and see them.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

I was doing research on potter's fields when I came across a strange factoid: that in New York City, sometimes limbs amputated in hospitals are not treated as medical waste, but are placed in a small coffin and buried on Hart Island, New York City's enormous potters field. I called up Linc and in twenty minutes we had worked out the basic plot to Gideon's Sword.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? How so?

Both. It may have made me difficult to deal with at times, but I find the writer's life to be ideal, for me, if a bit lonely, and I have no regrets.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Sometimes people don't respect a writer's working time. I've been interrupted by people in the middle of the day for various trivial things -- people who, for example, would never call me in the middle of the day if I were a corporate lawyer or an auto mechanic. But that's rare. My family has always been very supportive. They get it.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your writing goals? If so, can you tell us about it, and also share any thoughts you may have on the role discipline and organization play in reaching creative goals?

Writing is like exercise or playing the violin: you have to do it every day. You have to carve out uninterrupted time. And then you have to have the discipline to stay at your desk and write, write, write. I know some writers who like to talk about it more than they do it, who've been writing a book for ten years. Sorry, unless you're writing Ulysses I don't buy it. Discipline is huge. Even after twenty five books, I find myself looking for every excuse not to write.

You're written both as a solo author, and as part of a team. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of both scenarios?

Writing with a partner has a lot of advantages. You have someone to brainstorm with, bounce ideas off, not to mention a partner who shares your triumphs and tragedy. Writing is a lonely business. The downside is that you share credit for a piece of work. But for me, that's not at all a problem. Linc is the best writing partner anyone could ask for.

You've also written both fiction and nonfiction. How do you see creativity playing a role in nonfiction?

Creativity plays a huge role in nonfiction. Real life is messy, formless, sprawling, and mostly boring. The key with nonfiction is to extract the story from this formless mass, to boil it down to its key elements, to order it so the reader can follow it--and on top of that, to be absolutely accurate both in fact and in spirit. This to me is more difficult than fiction and it takes a great creativity.

What's next for Douglas Preston?

I'm working with Linc on a new Gideon novel, Gideon's Corpse. We're having a wonderful time writing this book.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Compassion. The word says it all.

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6527212 February 08, 2011

Art of the Nude: Ilene Skeen

"It's a dangerous thing to believe that one part of you is at war with another.  It's not a good message to teach children; it leads to all kinds of trouble."

Growing up in the Deep South during the decade of free love and the one that followed, I was taught that my body was the worst thing about me.  What did it do? I wondered. Oh, it wasn't what it did, it was what it was going to do. Flesh was synonymous with sin, and we were all infected.  Apparently, only with God's help could I ever dream of overcoming my lustful nature.  I was taught to search for a way out of my own skin before I even had the chance to get comfortable.

I don't blame my parents; we were all part of a larger societal picture.  I stood at its center, gigantic plaid bows on either side of my tiny head, wondering how I could ever be a good person inside such a nasty shell.  The packaging I couldn't possibly escape was a large part of why I was so unfairly doomed from day one. Although that painful fight never quite made sense to me, I tried to fit in; to do the right thing.  I struggled to be as gosh darn good as everyone else appeared.

This led to all kinds of trouble. Self fulfilling prophecies ran rampant.  Needless to say, I failed.  The guilt and shame was unbearable. Remembering it now makes me sad, and a bit angry.  When I should have been celebrating my youth, I was waging a full scale, unnecessary war against myself.

Years rush by ...

Now I've gone and done it.   

When Bob Hogge (Monkdogz Urban Art) suggested that I step outside my comfort zone and paint a few nudes, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off.  It wasn't so much the actual painting that bothered me. The dark shadow of those old battles caused me to shake a bit in my boots although the war had long been over.  But because I've grown stronger than my past, I forged ahead.  Doing so enabled me to move to a new level in my painting. 

My guest today, Ilene Skeen, knows a thing or two about the great nude. She's become a champion of the art form. Unlike myself, Ilene was taught from an early age that questioning the world around her and formulating her own opinions is a great thing.  As an artist, the complexity of nude art has always fascinated Ilene. In 2003, after retiring from a technology-focused career in the publishing industry, she decided to create a web site devoted to the art of the nude.  After studying anthropology to gain a greater understanding of the cultural issues around art, she launched Barebrush.com in 2006.

On Thursday, February 10th, the first "brick and mortar" Barebrush art show will open at The Rogue Space Gallery in New York City.   

So this week in the Big Apple, the kid from the Deep South who was taught to wage war against her own body will cross paths with the kid from the Northeast who learned that thinking for yourself is a wonderful thing.  We'll find ourselves surrounded by flesh.  As Ilene puts it, we won't see "a shell of meat that has no spirit or a spirit that has no shape."  Instead, we'll immerse ourselves in an exquisite sea of full-bodied art to be appreciated and celebrated.  I plan to stand there, head held high, finally at peace with myself.

I can't wait.

Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am," spurring the cultural idea that the soul resides within the mind. Let's not forget the profound significance of that tender, vulnerable shell cradling it all.  For it's the two together who make us who we all are.

How has creativity shaped your life?

I’ve always been two-sided, being strong in both analytical thinking and creativity. I’ve never been purely one-sided. This is a key part of who I am. When I went to art school years ago, I didn’t receive any skills training. They just told me to be creative. Well, that didn’t work for me. At the end of my education, I wasn't confident that I could be an artist so I went into the business world. My creativity and analytical skills served me well there.  When I found myself unexpectedly retired in 2003, Barebrush emerged as my project.

How did Barebrush.com come about? Was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Around 2000, I was selling art through Yahoo auctions. Then Yahoo changed its rules and it became uneconomical.  However, I continued to paint.  When I retired, I decided that I was most interested in why people need to create art.  I tried to find the answer to this through an art history course, but they told me that’s not what art history is about. I ended up getting an MS in anthropology.  They invited me to study this question. After I earned my MS, I revamped my website, which had been on hold. In doing that, I realized that a group of artist on the same site would be much more interesting than just one artist. My watercolor series was called the Barebrush, hence the name. In 2006, I grabbed the domain name and drew my logo. Armed with a web site name and a logo, I bought a full year worth of advertising from Gallery Guide.  I knew I was going to do it.

I think the Gallery Guide guy thought I was crazy, but it worked out.

When I began painting nudes, my youngest daughter (age 10 at the time) asked me why I was painting naked people. She thought it was weird. I told her that many artists enjoy painting things from nature such as landscapes, animals, trees, water, etc., and that the human body is an important part of that. We represent a major aspect of nature and we shouldn't ignore that. She thought it made sense. Perhaps the answer is obvious, but from your perspective, why do some people have difficulty embracing nude art?

It’s a very good question! I’ve come to the conclusion that religion and the public school system teaches us that our minds are superior to our bodies. Many of us are taught that our bodies are either inferior, sinful, or something to be ashamed of. Artists who do nudes are concentrating on something that the rest of us are told we shouldn’t pay attention to.

Only athletes and dancers are encouraged to focus on their bodies. It’s an insidious and wrong approach. The mind doesn’t work without the body, and vice versa. You are one person with both aspects.  It's a dangerous thing to believe that one part of you is at war with another.  It's not a good message to teach children; it leads to all kinds of trouble. I’m really against it.

Have you always had an interest in art of the nude, and if so, why? Will that continue to be your focus moving forward? 

The first time I drew from the nude was first day of college. In my first art class on the first day, there was a male nude. Three or four people got up and walked out.  The teacher said, “Okay, that’s the way to eliminate people who are really not serious about art." (And in those days, male nudes models wore jock straps.) It so impressed me and it’s such a challenge.  I'm endlessly fascinated, so yes, I will continue. I’ve done other things – people, clothes, portraits, landscapes. But nothing fascinates me like the challenge of trying to represent both the physical and the spirit at the same time. That’s what I try to do, representing the body fairly, but more importantly, I try to bring out the essence of the person. I try to present the body as one the way I believe it is, not a shell of meat that has no spirit or a spirit that has no shape. I am dedicated and focused on that.

Nudes will continue to be the main focus for Barebrush, recognizing that there is a lot of other art. I was also interested in the controversy of nude art.  It is held apart, yet after a while I realized that nude art is just as much a part of life as our landscapes and pots. If I showed them all, then folks who shudder to think of looking at a nude may actually do so. My idea with Barebrush is to raise or increase the number of people who are aware of and can appreciate the art of the nude. I’ve had to walk a fine line with the other genres to make sure we don’t lose our main focus – nudes.

Kelly Borsheim
Have you had any major set backs regarding your creative endeavors that you can share with us? If so, how did you manage to keep moving forward?

Art school was a major set back because it confused me. I earned an art teaching degree, but decided that I couldn’t inflict my confusion on little kids.  I couldn’t bear the thought of not understanding what I was teaching, so I decided to keep my art to myself. For a long time I didn’t paint; I did other things. I found a lot of outlets in my regular work to use my creativity in positive ways, and I was well paid. I got into computers early on. Writing programs--making something out of nothing--fascinated me. You’re given a vague idea and then create what others envision. I would analyze, spec it out,  ask questions, research and put a design forward that would solve the business problem. There's a lot of creativity in solving business problems.

Eventually I got back to art. I began studying it. In the 90s, I took a course at the New York Botanical Gardens. For the first time, I was taught skills--perspective, shading, etc. So I have a certification in botanical illustration. The skills I learned brought me back to the nude. I decided to apply them to what I was most interested in. 

Aberration Nation focuses on creativity and life's aberrations. Some folks out there may believe that being so focused on nude art is an aberration in itself. Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

I have to say that I was encouraged to think for myself when I was a kid, to look at facts and make my own decisions. I was not brought up to be one of the herd. I don’t think my parents did that purposefully to make me into a nonconformist. They just taught me to look at situations and assess facts.

I’m a pretty poor politician because I blurt out things that I probably shouldn’t say. I’ve learned over the years to keep my mouth shut and stop the tongue before it gets off the deep end.  In general, I’ve learned to stand up for the truth, for what’s right. I’ve had examples from my family that inspired me that way. If standing up for the truth and standing up for yourself is an aberration then at least whether you win or lose, you know you did the right thing. There’s no point in sitting something out, or having something you regret bothering you for the rest of your life.

Penelope Przekop
Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I think I’ve had trouble being understood since day one so I’m used to it by now. You just have to keep going.

Do you think there is a difference between creativity and talent? What are your thoughts on this?

For me, neither of these words have any real meaning. I believe in focus and hard work. If you know your basics and you work hard at it, you can get there.  I suppose creativity is the ability to put things together that are not obvious, and talent is the ease at which you do it.  You have to put in the time and effort to become skilled. Yes, it’s easier for some people, but none of us are going to be Michelangelo in a week. He didn’t become Michelangelo in a week. I believe that if you focus, work hard, and then assess what you’ve done ... you make progress. As you make progress, things fall into place and people say, "You're so talented!  You're so creative!"

Michael Seif
You've stated that the upcoming "brick and mortar" Barebrush show will be the first of many. What is your vision for Barebrush?

I would love for the shows to continue! What I’m hoping for is the ability to connect art dealers with our artists. It’s happening in a small way in that some of the art in this show has representation. If there is interest, there will be a dealer involved who will make the sale for the artist. Rather than get the Internet to take the place of the dealer, I’m trying to attract artists who know how to get folks excited about their work.I would like Barebrush to provide a way to promote and manage art.  Then also provide artists with an  invitational show in New York City.

Sandro La Ferla
My plan is to start focusing on other genres as well.  I also envision 'click and buy' technology being part of the Barebrush site (with only a small, reasonable commission for Barebrush).  The other genres will be bigger. Nudes represent only 5% of the art market. The other genres could have their own shows ... so I think I’ll be pretty busy.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

It’s hard for me to say off the bat. I really have a hard time following an authority just because someone says to do so. I learned that from the type of family I had. I was taught that you could get things right without having to tear the house down to do it.

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6527212 November 22, 2010

The Mind of an Artist: Karin Perez

" ... almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works."

Lately a few folks have asked me to describe how my mind works.  To address the question, I focused on things such as how I can zoom from detail to big picture and back to detail, or how I can manage to do a variety of different things at once while heads spin around me.

I didn't go into detail about how I sometimes notice things other people don't, but then miss the obvious element the crowd is busy focusing on.  That aspect is often tough to explain; I summed it up by saying that I'm creative.  Over the years, I've struggled to understand myself so that I can make the most use of my skills in a world that seems to best support the top of the bell curve. 

My guest today, artist Karin Perez, says that most "normal" folks don't understand how her mind works.  This comment brings up my suspicion that artists have a unique mental capacity or brand of focus.  I suspect that most folks would likely agree.  Somewhat like the LGBT crowd, artists come in all varieties.  We long to live unhampered by so called "regular" folks out there. We hope to be understood. We support each other. Many succeed, but some of us struggle at times, in closets, behind closed doors, ... or everywhere.  We are yet another variety of the square peg in a world of round holes.

I've gone through several phases in my life when I wished I was just like everybody else. Of course, everyone is unique, but let's face it, there are subsets or types of people out there, some more common than others. Even with the best intentions, stereotyping runs rampant.

When I was 24-years-old, I relocated to New Jersey from Louisiana in the Spring of 1991.  I was immediately amazed and mesmerized by how brilliantly green everything was. One morning, I made the comment at work, "The grass is so green!"  A not-so-nice woman looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Yes, well, grass is green."  Everyone laughed and in their eyes, I became someone much less intelligent than I am. 

That was before I understood the artist in me, and why the green of Spring in New Jersey so captured my attention.  Why I would notice that particular aspect of my new environment.  Why I became so focused on it, and why I wanted to talk about it. 

Now I realize that not everyone makes such observations, or puts such emphasis on them. Was it important?  Maybe not to that sarcastic woman I worked with, but it was to me, a young person desperately trying to adjust to a new culture.  A home sick misfit who'd never lived anywhere other than the Deep South.  In that green grass, something unique called to me.  I'd found a jewel that made me believe I could come to love my new home, that I could be part of it, and that perhaps I'd come to the right place.  It signified new life, something I desperately wanted no matter how much I missed my old one. 

So a comment that made me the work-place laughing stock held a tremendous amount of passion, observation, and significance for me.  I was expressing exactly who I was, but they were blind to it.  Now I know that the blind can't help but miss these things just as much as I can't avoid seeing them.  That's the world we live in.

Now, like Karin, I no longer feel an intense need to explain how my mind works.  After years of generating laughs based on seemingly off-the-wall comments and strange observations, I now understand where it comes from. I'm proud to be me, even when a blind world laughs.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist? Was the journey on a straight or twisted path? Are you surprised by your success?

It's so hard to tell one's story, though each and everyone of us has one thing at least, that defines him/her from the other. I started my artistic life as something completely different. Ever since I was a young girl I was dancing, and this passion and dedication made me a professional dancer. That motivation is certainly something that defines me, that gets me where I want to go. After studying visual communication (while dancing), I started working as a graphic designer, and continued as an artistic director in one of Israel most creative multimedia companies.

After giving birth and moving with my family to Paris, I felt like my creative desire needed to find a new path.  With with my husband's support, I started painting with an immediate appreciation and interest from people and professionals. That was seven years ago.  Right from the beginning I was fascinated by this new way of expression and interaction with myself and others. My voice found a new path.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

There were many "ah ha" moments, but one that is definitely significant was starting to work in figurative art. When I discovered the process of photographing nudes and self portraits, and started using them, that was very new to me and something I would never have thought I'll do ... a very exciting new zone...  Another "ah ha" was starting to work with the NY gallery, Monkdogz Urban Art, owned by two wonderful people, Bob Hogge and Marina Hadley. Bob is working with his artists on a different level of commitment, and by doing so I'm able to really let go and not think about other peoples thoughts about my work, being really a part of it and free.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

I think that weighing those two for me is impossible. Both definitely motivate me.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I think that for an artist it's very important to develop his own language, to create his own different world. It's like every human being has his own voice and nobody else sounds like him ... I believe that looking at an artist's work and recognizing it easily is a turning point. Once you have that,  you are unique.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

But off course it did! :-) Aren't we all (artists) a little bit scratched?

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Oh yes, almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works.  It's always about explaining (which I hate and usually won't do) my works, my decisions, my choices. I think that interesting art shouldn't be comprehensive from first glance, and should raise some questions in the viewers mind.  The viewers are participant of the work, which makes the work more interactive.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from my restless mind ... from imagination and images that are voyagers in my mind, for a second or for a long time, they will find their way to the canvas.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

I think that what makes an artist really stand out is his determination, passion, and motivation. As you stated in the question, there are so many talented people, so in order to stand out is really about how dedicated you are to your art, how much do you invest in it in terms of commitment.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My primary motto in life is to live in the present because you don't really know what will happen tomorrow (how banal) ... I believe that in most of my doing I am truthful to this motto, yet off course
you have other obligations to other people, so you can't really live like that 100% of the time, but you can try.

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6527212 October 29, 2010

Art and Science: Santiago Betancur

"Two different points of view (art and science) are converging."

Despite already envisioning myself as more of a "liberal arts" student, when we studied vision in the 6th grade, I was fascinated. It was one of the few times I came home wanting to explain something I learned to my mother. I remember her patiently listening to my 11-year-old scientific explanation.

When I hit junior high, I was faced with some not-so-great science teachers. My 7th grade teacher made us stare into microscopes during class and draw what we saw.  I liked the drawing part but didn't learn much about what I was drawing. My 8th grade teacher had such distracting facial tics that I couldn't pay attention to what she was saying (not her fault, of course).  I don't even remember 9th grade science teacher.  Then finally, for 10th grade, there was a teacher all the kids loved; I was looking forward to her class.

Come that September, her husband had a heart attack; she took a sabbatical.  In her place, we had a substitute who knew nothing about science.  By the time I was eligible to take chemistry and physics, I had ruled out science as an interest.  Instead, I took courses in creative writing, library science, and got a credit serving as student aid for one of the English teachers.  By my senior year, I was so bored that I graduated early.  I couldn't take it anymore!

Through a twist of fate, I stumbled upon my 6th grade fascination with science again in college.  Four years later, I graduated with a degree in Biology.  Sometimes, I'm still surprised that I have a science degree.  But then I remind myself why.

A lot of folks view science and creativity as mutually exclusive.  I saw them as one and the same.  Sitting in my college biology classes, I found a new kind of creativity--that which can be found in nature.  My degree program was focused on human biology so I took courses such as genetics, molecular biology and genetics, physiology, cell biology, histology, and medical microbiology.  The intricate, fascinating machinations of human biology stimulated me both intellectually and creatively.  The creativity in nature never ceased to amaze me. 

My guest today, artist Santiago Betancur, focuses his work on the fascinating interweave between science and creativity.  He deeply appreciates art in nature, and seeks to express it on multiple levels within his work. His fascinating art seeks to lesson the divide between the worlds of science and art, and has been praised on both planes. Given that I share his belief that it is within nature that we find the highest levels of creativity, his work both captivates and inspires me.

"Using a mixture of acrylic paint and pure water, Betancur worked on life-size figure paintings that can only be described as a synthesis between Da Vinci's anatomical sketches, Goya's Black Paintings, and of course, the undefined substance of Betancur himself." 
Anna Visnitskaya, Krasa Fine Art

Santiago is one of the gifted owners of Area 23 Gallery in Miami.   Watch this video to see Santiago at work.

Can you describe what makes you feel successful as an artist?

My life has shown me an unavoidable way to express what I feel through art, especially in the hardest moments and during crisis. I have felt the most amazing success when I see the reaction of the public interacting with my paintings. This is because I perceive that the people can't avoid feeling a deep psychological impact, which shows effective communication that is sometimes almost vertiginous.

I see that I’m going deeper and deeper in to the human experience, never stopping.

What are your current goals?
My goal is to generate new concepts for how humanity views itself in many fields. It may sound pretentious, but my process has shown me how complex, mysterious and fascinating we are, and I aim to explore that. Doing so provides me with a special and beautiful feeling of humility each time I capture in my art the miracle of life and all that it implies.

During the last two years I've been showing my paintings in Miami. The last eight months this has been in my own gallery in the Wynwood Arts District. The gallery is a collaboration with a few other artists. Our goal is to partner on focusing on new and better levels of technique and expression, and obviously, additional exposure for our work.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about? 

 My painting ah-ha is happening now. It’s based on my close relationship with the science world.

In the last few weeks, my paintings have been praised by doctors and scientist who recognize, feel, and see (in my anatomy work) concepts and knowledge concerning their fields of study. Two different points of view (art and science) are converging. This means a lot to me because bringing these aspects together is one of my primary goals.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

Maybe we are created to express. Perhaps our ability to create is to echo or provide a resonance of our connection with the different aspects of nature; a tribute to life, to its beauty, or to God. Sometimes these tributes of expression are made possible with a sense of sacrifice common to the "tormented artists." The paradox is that this blessing comes from suffering, which enables us to understand a certain level of beauty.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style.  How important is this for career development?  Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of  things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

Actually, I try to focus on the same things; my obsessions are permanent. But I'm always trying to use different techniques because art asks for experimentation. If you follow that call, the results are usually enriched. You won't be let down.
Life is filled with aberrations. Do you attempt to capture those in your work as you focus on the beauty of humanity?
Rather than the aberrations, the feeling I try to capture in my art is the greatness of the human being and the miracle of life. I do this even when the darker face of my work is present. It enhances the sense of mystery and the disturbing power of art. This may enable the spectator to reflect on his aberrations while also recognizing the beauty in life.

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does writing sooth or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

I set a dialogue between doctor and patient within me. I'm both simultaneously, as a painter and a subject. That is like going to the space in my mind where I can find both my diseases and then my cures.
Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive?

Each moment of your life can give you the creative satisfaction of finding the subtlest things that show you that you are headed the right way.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it.

Identifying methods is fundamentally what we need to do. As I paint, I know that I need to keep a special image related to specific feelings that want to get out in my imagination, prefigured, then I exploit. Vibrate till burst, like the cicadas.
What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

It is not relevant considering that a true artist competes only with himself.

With regard to gifts, increasing them is the responsibility for each talented person. In my case, you could say that I'm doing that through my connection with the world of science and the knowledge that explains to us the functions of the universal shapes. I find here my natural field, because I'm always appreciating the beauty plus the intelligence with the same emotion.
What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Now I'm trying to be aware that we are only neurons achieving the best information that we can get from the Universe. We are his feedback; this concept led to the title of my series of self portraits, which is "Worshiper."

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6527212 October 01, 2010

Hell's Best Illustrator: Allen Koszowski

"In general, horror artists are not promoting evil; in their world, good triumphs."

Creative folks often use art to express what we cannot otherwise fully articulate. As everyone knows, among other things, art is an outlet. 

Although this outlet concept isn't rocket science--it is.  Entire books and college courses have been created around the study of why specific writers, musicians, visual artists, etc. gravitated toward a particular form of expression.  On the other hand, we could just say something like, "Shakespeare was a romantic guy who was interested in family dynamics."  

Despite the level of complexity, this outlet stuff sometimes causes trouble for creatives. Some folks incorrectly identify the driving force behind an artist's need for a particular outlet. My guest today, artist Allen Koszowski, has run into this issue as an acclaimed horror/science fiction/fantasy illustrator. 

Allen focuses on the type of art that gave him immense pleasure as a kid.  He just simply loves it!  Having an outlet that keeps his intense boyhood love alive is something he needs; it gives him a sense of meaning. Okay, maybe we could dive in and create a college course on why, but that's not the point.

When I was growing up, my brother and I weren't allowed to watch Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie.  Those were evil shows because they dealt with magic.  My mother believed that watching them would open us up to all kinds of demonic influences. Although her reasoning didn't make sense or seem fair to me, I was terrified. 

To my mother's dismay, my brother developed an intense love of horror/science fiction/fantasy novels, which evolved from an earlier interest in comic books. Needless to say, I spent my entire junior high and high school career listening to her claim that my brother's hobbies were causing evil spirits to infiltrate our bodies and our home.

Interestingly, my brilliant brother had a learning disability; he struggled with reading.  Comic books rescued him from those difficulties. As he got a little older, horror/science fiction/fantasy novels were the only books that seemed to trigger his interest. He dove in like a mad man, devouring book after book after book while my mother screamed in his ear.

After I grew up, filled with numerous, unreasonable doubts and fears, I realized that books, shows, games, or music didn't usher evil and fear into our home, my mother's behaviors did.

My latest novel is, among other things, about how an intense focus on religion can rip apart relationships. I know more than a few folks who will likely claim that its theme of tolerance and balance somehow promotes evil. 
Helen Keller said, "It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.”

Don't hate Allen or me because what we create is, in any way, terrifying, uncomfortable, chilling, or filled with aberrations.  In the end, we all want good to triumph.  The more horrific or uncomfortable the plot or picture, the more good we must generate to overcome it, and the more love we seem to find. Maybe that's why we do it.  For some of us, perhaps it's about the generation of greater and greater hope.
How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist?

As a child, I was constantly sketching and drawing on every surface I could find, my schoolbooks were a mess with sketches of hands, tanks, fantasy oriented sketches of every kind, comic characters, monsters, etc. So, it was probably fairly obvious that I had an artistic bent. However, outside of art as a major in high school, I have had no formal artistic training whatsoever. It never occurred to me that I could ever have an art career at all. 

It was only later after I got married and settled into a routine that I discovered the world of the small press. When I started reading and enjoying these little magazines, it occurred to me that the sketches I used to do, just as a diversion, were better than much of the art I saw in these small-press publications. So, I started sending out little drawings and spot illustrations to many of these publications. When to my surprise I started getting back checks (for very small amounts), I was thrilled! But it was even more thrilling when the contributor's copies would arrive in the mail and I would see my efforts in print.

I was hooked! I became very well known in the fantasy/horror/science fiction small press world as I had hundreds and hundreds of illustrations published in these magazines. At the same time, I made many contacts with names that have also since become well-known in the genre. So things sort of mushroomed from those small press beginnings to a world fantasy award as best artist a few years ago. I never expected this to happen. I didn't map out a career.  Things just fell into place over the decades.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Since I'm partially color-blind, I have devoted myself mainly over the years to black and white, pen and ink illustrations. I never took any painting courses or things of that nature because I thought that color was an area that would be unproductive for me. I got that impression in high school when my art teacher, who was very "high" on my art, would often come to me and complain about my color tones in some of the assignments. This was quite embarrassing because he would point this out in front of the class; however to me, the colors seemed fine and I couldn't understand the complaints. I didn't know I was color-blind.

It was only later when I took some tests that this was revealed. So, I have neglected color. However, recently (within the past few years) I have learned how to get around some of these difficulties.  I've taken to coloring many of my old black and white, highly detailed pen and ink illustrations with Prismacolor markers. I have become better and better at doing this.

Best of all for me, this method allows my intricate details (which I am very well known for in the field) to show through. This was an ah-ha moment for me which continues to grow, as I find that I enjoy working with colors very much. My fans seem to enjoy the color work as well, and this has opened up new areas for me!

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

The way things have evolved artistically with me, I think of myself more as an illustrator than as a fine artist. I've been illustrating for years in the small press and professional markets (illustrating such people as Stephen King and other well-known names in the field) so I have for the most part been illustrating other people's vision as I have had to depict scenes from their stories and articles. But, just as often, I do freelance work with illustrations that have been taken directly from my own imagination. For me, it is equally about creation and expression.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

Career development has never been a concern of mine. It has always been about the escape and the enjoyment that fantasy/sci fi/horror has provided for me ever since I was a young child, sneaking away to read genre magazines and comics in the 50s and 60s. So, to create illustrations that deviate from what has brought me so much joy in my life and what has basically become a glorified hobby would not be productive. Art for me has always been enjoyable, not a way to earn a living (although making money with my art has certainly been an unexpected and happy benefit)!

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Art has helped me tremendously in my life as it has given me a focus, basically some meaning to my existence. It has given me unexpected prestige, friends, awards, extra income and has taken me around the world. It has been a welcome escape.

Conversely, it has also, at times, become an obsession which had the tendency of keeping me away from growing in other areas. I used to spend many hours (and when I say many, I mean MANY) agonizing over minute details and nuances of my illustrations.

When life has thrown me a curve ball, art has been my friend and shield. Perhaps that shield may not have always been a good thing. I have sometimes used art as a way to avoid tough situations. It can bring joy, but it can also bring melancholy and depression at times.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I have definitely run into those problems over the years, particularly in the horror field (and to a lesser extent, the fantasy and science fiction field). Horror is not very well accepted by the general public. Many people consider the horror writer or artist to be one step from evil. Some feel almost that a person who enjoys to create obviously disturbing or violent images must somehow feel close to the images that he or she creates. Often, people do not hesitate to express their discomfort with these types of creations. In general, horror artists are not promoting evil; in their world, good triumphs. What these critics do not understand about me in particular, is that my art is often just for child-like fun. It is a way of keeping my childhood alive, like telling scary stories in the dark, around a campfire.

Do you think there is a difference between creativity and talent? What are your thoughts on this?

I do think there is a difference. But those who can manage to combine both are more likely to be successful & satisfied.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My primary mantra is easy! "Do unto others..." I think everybody should be this way.

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6527212 August 04, 2010

The Real Deal: Ed McCormack

"A real artist has no choice and should be prepared to go down with the ship!"

Yesterday, the August 9th issue of Newsweek showed up in my mailbox with Mark Twain's picture on the cover. In the issue, Malcolm Jones writes about Twain's last essay in his article, "Our Mysterious Stranger."  The essay was written four months before the beloved writer died.  Jones says, "Twain meant to impress no one with that essay. Still, it is worth noting that, faced with an event that would have paralyzed most people, his first reaction was to reach for his pen and attempt what he had always done so successfully in the past--to write his way out of trouble."

Also yesterday, someone asked me why I write. For a moment I was speechless. I felt like an idiot. I couldn't think of why because it didn't seem like a real question. I was suspended in the thought of there not being a "why" because there was only me. It's quite different than asking a physician why she practices medicine or a teacher why he teaches. It's more like asking someone why they have to visit the restroom several times a day, why they have skin, or why their heart must beat all day and night.  

I finally pulled myself together and said that I write because it helps me understand myself.  While that is true, I'm not sure it's the full answer. Could I possibly decide that perhaps I don't need to understand myself? I guess that could happen ... although it won't. I also said that I've always had an overactive imagination--ringing as clear and visible as a bell. Could I possibly keep that all to myself?  Maybe I could try but I'd fail. I've tried before and if not on the page, it comes out in various self-destructive ways.

My guest today, Ed McCormack, suggests that the core need to be any type of true, down and dirty, nitty gritty artist has nothing to do with choosing a profession. It's a calling that can't be ignored.

By Jove, I think this wild-haired loner who hangs out endlessly with his wife and writes about art gets me. I know I get him. Professor Higgins would be thrilled. I've always wanted to be Eliza Doolittle. To be recognized and honed and polished into something beautiful that was all me to begin with.  As a little girl, I danced and sang, "All I want is a room somewhere, Far away from the cold night air," while my mother screamed her back-up vocals.

After reading Ed's answers, I sat back in my chair and took a deep breath. I realized (once again) that I will never stop what it is I do. Of course, my desire is to ultimately be recognized in some way for my efforts, to share my work with the world, to sail across that sea of ordinary and emerge on the side of spectacular. But if my ship goes down during the trip, I'll stay until the end. I may never be a Twain but like him, I will keep on keeping on with it.

Tonight I feel good about that, martini in hand.  My confidence is blooming and despite the growth I still need, I know I've got something.  Where did it come from and why is it taking so long to mature?  I don't give a shit anymore. All I care about it that hot core in my heart that will never stop burning. It burns for all the love I couldn't find in childhood, for all the breaks in my teenage heart, for all the wounds and joy and suffering and adventure I once had and still crave. It burns words and colors through my aging body and spits out its beauty through my hands. I don't know who else will see it or find it appealing but it's lovely for me. It's all mine like nothing else in my life and I plan to cultivate it endlessly. 

Ed McCormack is a man who seems to live on his own terms.  One who understands the ship and the burning, and could care less for the manufactured themes of the day created by masses of average people with big ideas. He's hung with Andy Warhol and his factory crazies, and has written for Rolling Stone. He's a writer and an artist, art critic, editor, hoodlum.  He's currently writing his memoir, Hoodlum Heart: Confessions of a Test Dummy for the Crash and Burn Generation. So, yes, he's burned, too. He's crashed only to come back swinging.

Ed's wife, Jeannie, told me that Ed grew up in the Lower East Side of New York and goes there often.  Since that's where my art is at the moment, she said they'll drop by and take a look. Great!  But what if this guy who gets me takes one look and looks away, ushering me into that overwhelming sea of average? 

So be it.

I can take it because I know that I'm not finished yet. I'm a little filly--an Eliza Doolittle--prancing around my pen, enjoying my legs. I'm looking beyond the fence knowing that one day I'll run and run and run. I'll prance until my ship goes down or until I reach the spectacular shore where all fences disappear and the running begins. I'm 44 years old and I plan to live until 100. That gives me 490,560 hours. I'll not waste a single one.  

I often wonder how much the stuff of everyday life and relationships influences our ability to create meaningful writing, art, music, etc. However, many creative people spend a significant time alone. You've spent time with and have written about many other creative individuals. In your opinion, how critical is it for creative folks to interact/engage with the world and with each other?

In the normal course of events one will be around people whether one wants to be or not. I enjoy eavesdropping on them rather than meeting or knowing them. That goes double for so-called creative people. I may like their works, because if they’re any good at all, that’s the best part of them. But I try to avoid hanging out with them because that only leads to a lot of empty talk about matters artsy fartsy.

Then again, I prefer not to hang out with anybody besides my wife Jeannie because we sort of grew up together and can communicate almost telepathically, I should also add, if I haven’t already given that impression, that one of the reasons I ended up doing what I do is that I’m kind of misanthropic anyway.

For you, is writing and art more about creation or expression? It can be both but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be a writer or an artist?

“Creation” sounds pretentious and “expression” sounds therapeutic, so neither term really appeals to me. But if I were to accept those terms as having anything to do with what I do, I suppose I’d have to consider them interchangeable.

What most inspires you to write?

For the most part I write to find out what I think. Also I suppose, to give form to all the surrounding chaos and to maybe construct a more perfect self, because I meant what I said earlier about whatever art we make being the best part of ourselves. The rest, to borrow a felicitous phrase from that nasty old bastard Ezra Pound, is dross.

I also prefer writing to being a social beast because frankly my social personality bores me. The very things that other people seem to be impressed, or at least entertained, by now bore the piss out of me. But when I’m alone I find my own company quite charming, Odd, isn’t it? But there you go.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

When I realized that there are no rules in art; anything goes. Another revelation was when I gave up alcohol and drugs about 20 or so years ago and discovered that they had been hindering, rather than helping, all along. And I suppose finally giving up my old Luddite’s loyalty to the manual typewriter and seeing how much easier it was to write on a computer.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)? Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?
You can do more than one thing, but not equally well. I can both write and draw but not with the same concentration. You have to cultivate your primary obsession.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Yeah, there is a very big difference. Setting a table can be creative. But to make art, real art, you need talent.

Gallery and Studio reviews the work of many top artists. What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

That’s easy. What makes an artist stand out today is to draw energy from life rather than from other art. There’s too much of the latter today and it enervates rather than energizing, resulting in art that’s incestuous, inbred and not very interesting.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Do you have any advice for those struggling to make their creative mark? Is there ever an appropriate time to face reality and find a new focus?

Whose “reality”? What does “success” mean in relation to art? I never thought of art as a practical pursuit to begin with. It should be a way of life—a calling, if you will––rather than a career choice. I’m afraid I don’t have much patience with art yuppism. If it gets to the point where someone has to find a “new focus” he or she shouldn’t have gotten involved with art in the first place. A real artist has no choice and should be prepared to go down with the ship!

Harlan Ellison said, "No writer ever hits a slump. As Algis Budrys (who is a helluva writer, and who taught me about half of what I know) once said to me: You don't slump, you just reach a plateau. Then you have to get your wind, and readjust your thinking and your synapses, and get set to write better, with more maturity, with greater passion and purpose. He was right." Do you agree? What are your thoughts on the issue of blocked creativity?

Jimmy Breslin once answered someone who asked why he thinks the Irish literary tradition had declined and he answered, “Like most writers today they’re blocked because they have a loaf of bread stuck in their brain.” I think he had a good point there.

W hat is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I’ve never gone in for mottos or mantras, but my wife, Jeannie, says that art has always been the motivating factor of my life and my mother used to claim that I was born with a pencil in my hand. My own thought about it is that I am otherwise unemployable.

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6527212 July 08, 2010

A Jewel: The Pearl New York Lounge

" ...everyone who walks through our door is treated like a VIP."

If I can make it there,
I'll make it anywhere,
It's up to you,
New York, New York. 

When you grow up in a place some people refer to as the "The Armpit of America," you truly long for New York. Okay ... my deep South hometown ain't so bad.  The hot, muggy place has come up quite a bit in the world since I hung my hat there.  But nothing can compare to pull of New York City, especially for a smart, creative youngster like me whose sophisticated interior designer mom talked it up quite a bit while we were munching on grits and collard greens. She had once been on track to attend the prestigious New York Parsons School of Design but instead chose a different path ... or it chose her.

I grew up believing that creative dreams came true in the Big Apple. Novels are published, plays are produced, and movies are made. I imagined famous, talented folks walking the streets, rubbing shoulders with the sort of people who can make you famous ... or at least recognize talent and individuality. Like the trappings of the Christmas season, it could all be a bunch of hype but it was fun to believe.    

So every time I go to New York I can't help but feel that I'm having a grand adventure.  I realize that, to some extent, this seals my label of one who just fell off the turnip truck.  But who cares?  Who doesn't enjoy feeling like a kid on Christmas morning?  As adults, I believe we should cherish anything that evokes the feeling of candy canes and magical new toys.

Imagine my excitement at being invited to the opening of a brand new night spot in New York City!  In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that such an invitation would land in my lap.  I couldn't miss it. Since I had other business in New York, I planned a day in the city that would culminate with my visit to The Pearl New York Lounge.

And what at pearl it wasAs I walked into the long, narrow lounge, I immediately noticed that it was like walking into a jewel. Like the shimmering shallow grooves that hug a pearl, the pristine white seating twisted in eye catching loops that somehow provided perfectly engineered space to sit and have a drink, chat with friends, or check out the muscle-bound bartender in the corner.

Don't conjure up images of The Little Mermaid.  It wasn't like that. It was more like walking into the home of your most sophisticated yet down to earth neighbor who also happens to be your best friend.  People are smiling like family and you wonder how the hell she keeps the place so spotless as she hands you your favorite drink. You don't know all the others she's invited but they look quite approachable.  No matter what they're wearing or what "type" they are, they magically fit it because they're her friends. She's the-real-deal cool who knows it doesn't matter how a person appears on the outside, they're all human and that's fabulous. And because of her conviction, they're all suddenly okay, too.   

Do you see that one, lone person sitting in the corner?  She's okay, too, but it won't be long before someone starts chatting with her, just dying to find out who she and is and what's in her head.  Oh, that was me chatting away with her after my second martini ... Well, anyway, The New York Pearl Lounge met my expectations of adventure, open-mindedness, and a fantastic time in New York.  I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Jeff and BK, who were quite interested to hear about and be part of Aberration Nation.

They're here today to share with us a little bit more about the latest addition to the exciting Chelsea district in New York City, a place where dreams come true ... at least for dreamers like me who tumble off turnip trucks on the way to growing up. 

What inspired you to create and open the The New York Pearl Lounge?

Our inspiration was the opportunity itself, providing us with a chance to open new exciting business … and what better place than the most exciting city in the world?

How does the Pearl differ from similar New York establishments?

We just do things in our own specific way and are happy watching our business grow. Each business has its own identity. We wanted to create an environment that would cater to the energy and soul of New York City, a place where culture could come together and kick back or explode, depending on the individual’s mood and desire.

I'm sure that you will welcome anyone but is there a specific type of individual who may be drawn to the Pearl based on your vision and business plan?

We originally wanted to open a new spot where any type of individual can discover something that he/she finds worth experiencing--both in those around them and within themselves.

Aberration Nation has a strong underlying theme of overcoming and learning from the tough knocks life throws our way. Did you have any challenges as you worked towards opening the Pearl, and if so, how did you deal with these and what did you learn?

We did face some considerable challenges while opening our business, but we also knew starting out that it would take a lot to overcome all the difficulties. Being prepared help us deal with some of the major obstacles.

If you think about it, creating an establishment that would engage the most interesting clientele in the world is no small feat to overcome. Through hard work and imagination we have accomplished our goal. We also have the advantage of working with an incredible staff.

The decor is unique and creative. Can you share with us the concept behind the design? How does it reflect your vision for the Pearl?

The design reflects our way of saying that something new and different in Chelsea can be a great thing. The key was finding a balance between style and comfort, the future, and in some ways drawing from the eloquence of the past. We had a sense of what we wanted to accomplish. After that it was just a matter of making sure that vision was turned into a reality.

When I was at the Pearl, it gave me a feel of being at a friend's home, hanging out with interesting people and having a drink. While highly sophisticated, it seemed quite cozy and comfortable. Was this your intention?

Yes, we had this idea of making our lounge cozy but also an exotic type of place.

How are you reaching out to the creative community to attract patrons who will appreciate your vision for the Pearl?

We welcome anyone who has some good practical ideas and wants to collaborate with us in making Pearl Lounge an even better place to hang out.

I've noticed that there are not too many restaurants or clubs in Chelsea. Why do think that is, and do you envision the Pearl filling a gap in that regard?

There is not any specific gap. We are simply adding one more interesting place to go to besides the already existing ones.

On a lighter note, do you always intend to have muscular bartenders? I suspect that may attract a few folks.

We did not specifically intend on having muscular bartenders and that is why we several bartenders. We chose our staff based on their professional skills. And personality was a priority! Our business is all about the customer having a great time to the point where they come back and of course bring their friends and business associates.

I've noticed that there seem to be many private events at the Pearl since opening. What types of events have been held, and is the Pearl also open to the general public?

The Pearl Lounge was always intended for service to the general public and we will continue that vision. Actually the general public is our greatest priority! Don't get me wrong, we love doing private events. And the people involved in these events have been very, very happy. But you grow a business one customer at a time. And everyone who walks through our door is treated like a VIP. But my suggestion would be this: if you’re in the neighborhood shopping or hitting the galleries drop in. I promise you will have a wonderful time.

I loved my night at the Pearl! When can I come back?

Come back tomorrow! We'll have your martini ready ...

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6527212 June 04, 2010

Dedication, Creation, and Expression: Karina Sala

"Creativity is a capacity all humans have but talent is a power that not everyone shares."

I'm beginning to wonder if being a writer is akin to suffering from a bizarre diagnosis.  The primary symptom is an unfaltering need to write and the underlying disease presents as:
  • lack of self-esteem
  • an strange emptiness that needs filling
  • a constant or deep need to be validated; to be worth something
I'm sure quite a few of the writers I've interviewed would throw up their hands and say, "Wait just a minute!  I honestly don't have those issue.  I write to create.  I have a vast imagination that never stops, and I simply enjoy writing more than anything else. I'm good at it; always have been."

I'm happy for them.

I love writing, too, but it's somehow not quite so simple. Although I prefer to resist labels, I'm been wondering if  there are two categories of writers: those who are driven to create and those who are driven to express.  I wish I could ask some of my favorite writers about this.  I wonder what Nathanial Hawthorne, Philip Roth, Pat Conroy, John Irving, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Micheal Chabon, Ayn Rand, Anne Tyler, Micheal Cunningham, and Richard Yates would say about creation versus expression.  I wonder what the 100 greatest authors of all time would say. 

Two things that have been somewhat consistent in my interviews on creativity are:
  • It's difficult or impossible to put 100% into two creative endeavors at once.
  • Writing is more about creation than expression.  
I've backed off from painting lately. Now that I'm deep into my latest novel, it's beginning to consume me--as it should. It's pouring out much faster than the other three. But in the end, I refuse to be guilty of whipping something out. Perhaps great novels have been written that way but somehow it feels a bit shallow for me. I need to dig deeper into my characters, their world, their motivations and emotions. And I need every book I write to be my best yet.

For me, a novel must have a point, something expressed that goes beyond creating a great story. The novel's world is constructed around a central theme, which is its core. I don't set out to preach or tell anyone how to live or what to think. Instead I explore my own emotions, opinions, and conclusions about the theme by weaving a story around it. 

When I begin, I'm not always sure how I feel about the topic(s) I've chosen to focus on.  I grew up in an emotionally confusing environment.  Everything was out of focus.  I constantly struggled to decipher what was going on, what was true, and how I felt about it despite certain powerful individuals telling me how to feel about it.  Perhaps that's why I need to sort out and express myself by creating my own unique environment inside a book.  My novels represent the thought process I go through, and I invite others to go along for the ride.  We may not all come to the same conclusions and that's okay.

This is tough to if I also need to think about putting my soul on canvas, which often requires focusing on another theme altogether.  I miss painting and want to get back to it, but I can't stop writing; it's my disease.  My schedule/plan may need to evolve from write in the morning and paint in the afternoon to write for a year, paint for six months while planning the next novel, write for a year. That sort of thing.

My guest today, artist Karina Sala, also believes it's not a good idea to do two things at once, but says that painting is a creation/expression combo for her. At one point, Karina had to step back from painting for an entire decade--but she never stopped being an artist.

Dedication is a word commonly tossed around in creative circles.  I would like to suggest that each person's brand of dedication is unique. It shouldn't always be measured by time.  It should be measured by depth and bravery, by what an artist is willing to put on the table and offer to the world, and by their determination to find out how they can best do that, even if it takes a lifetime.

I want my novels to be part of my art not separate from it. I want to put everything I've got into each work of art, whether it's a book or a painting. 

Having the determination and focus to paint or write ten hours a day certainly says a lot about a person, but it doesn't guarantee there is anything valuable to offer, that talent exists, and that something powerful is occurring. For those who share my strange illness called writing, our greatest fear is that, in the end, despite all our dedication, the emptiness will be exposed and our worth will turn out to be nothing.    

What's your story (short version)? Are you surprised by what you are doing and creating these days, or did you always see it coming?

My story is that I began drawing Walt Disney characters as a child because I liked to draw.  When I was nine years old, I began sculpting, classical dancing, and playing guitar.  As I grew up, I continued with theater, dancing, and music but over all painting is where I specialized.  I began teaching the History of Art in an art school.  There I saw my future and all that was to come.  At the age of 23, I began to paint seriously.  I was waiting for it, and it was time to begin.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah yes" moment you can tell us about?

Yes. After being "socially" ill for ten years and unable to paint, I returned to painting.  My illness hampered my ability to interact with society.  After recovering, I realized I needed to paint about the issues I'd worked through during my illness and the things I'd envisioned.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

For me, it is a little of both.  There are various things in me.  There is a desire to create and express.  That is the truth.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul? Can a person succeed at more than one, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I do not think you can do more than one thing at the same time because you won't do it correctly.  In my case, I'm dedication to only painting because I don't have time to do anything else right.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Both.  Like I said, I was sick because of my personality but after I recovered, my personality helped me to be who I am today.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I always had problems with society because I always like discovery.  I never accepted everything taught to me.  I faced that by learning to be more sociable with others.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I think I have accomplished all my dreams.  But I want more.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Creativity is a capacity all humans have but talent is a power that not everyone shares.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I do not have a specific motto or mantra that drives me, but a cup of coffee or a Coke gets me going!

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6527212 March 31, 2010

Guts and Art: Sebastien Aurillon

"... at the end of the day you just have to listen to your guts ..."

Literary critic and writer, Cyril Connolly said, "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." Although I agree with his statement 100%, I often struggle with the concept. I don't want to write or paint strictly for the public but I want the public to care about what I write and paint.

Okay, I admit that I want it all to be awesome. I want my work to be some of the best around! I want to wake up in that city that doesn't sleep to find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap ... lalalala

The issue is that while everyone's so different and interesting, there exists an average. It's statistics; I'm not knocking anyone. There is an average Joe, an average reader, an average art lover, etc. It often seems like to get to the top of the heap, creative folks must emerge as the best at pleasing the mighty average.


Does that mean the creative gal who places in the average zone of the bell curve, just short of the spectacular tail, has the best possible chance of rising above the crowd, and therefore bouncing over to the highly successful group? Are you following?

And is that the way it should be?

Creative folks can determine what's hot and attempt to do that, or we can do something that gives hot a whole new meaning. I create what I want and need to because that's all I know how to do. I can only be myself; I'm not good enough to be all the other people too. Honestly, it gets lonely sometimes feeling that the things I'm pouring my time and heart into could ultimately be meaningless crap, or that it just may be too different for the average to embrace ... not commercial enough for some reason. On those days I tell myself "it's definitely not crap" because after all, I created it for myself and that's all that counts, right?

But wait!

If I truly did it all for myself wouldn't I simply file my finished manuscripts in a drawer instead of sending them to my agent? Maybe I'd display them in nice glass boxes that sit on pedestals in my formal living room.

(Hey, there's an idea for a kooky, thought-provoking piece of art--a lonely manuscript representing years of work encased in glass. Out of reach, is it still art?)

Wouldn't I lovingly hang my paintings around the house and forget about New York? Wouldn't I stop feeling like I want to hurl when I read the bestseller list each week, especially when a novel I just struggled to read (due to its ordinary, meaningless content) is at the top of the list?

My guest today, artist and art consultant Sebastien Aurillon, brings up the the important notion of how we each define success. It's not always as simple at 'ole Cyril makes it sound. I've adjusted my definition of success over the last twenty years but a few visions have remained ... bordering on fantasy, of course.
  • My novels are at the front of Borders and Barnes & Noble.
  • There are sparkling New York Times book reviews, and my novels are absolutely on that bestseller list.
  • My art hangs in galleries in New York, Paris, Basel, etc. People find it extremely interesting, filled with story and emotion. The write up in Gallery & Studio is spectacular.
  • One lonely teenage girl reads my novel, Boundaries, and realizes that her life is worth much more than she previously thought.
  • A movie wins the Oscar for best adaptation from an original source (my novel). The producer holds his gold in the air and says, "And last but not least, I want to thank Penelope Przekop for writing such a honest and moving story." Tears, forged through years of dedication, roll down my face.
  • There exists a Wiki page, a legacy, a body of creative work that ultimately relays something meaningful to the world.
All this simply because those who know believe it's just that good. Have I ever once imagined millions of dollars in my bank account (fortune), or people begging for my autograph (fame)? No.

My overarching dream has been to create something brutally honest, something people recognize themselves in and, in doing so, they see me. I become real. Perhaps this need to yank out what's inside me and make it tangible stems from my childhood. I grew up being overlooked in an odd way, groping through the shadows of a larger than life mother. There were no mirrors in that darkness. And besides that, I absolutely LOVE books, stories, pictures, paintings, color, interesting lines, etc.

Using those tools, I want to create a reflection for others so that they can become mine. My favorite books are The Scarlett Letter and The Dying Animal, and I love art that probably wouldn't look right over the sofa. I'm not here to entertain the largest chunk of the bell curve. I never was. Besides, we've got James Patterson for that.

Based on his nagging definition of success, Sebastien stepped away from the corporate gravy train to pursue his creative interests. He knew it was a gamble in terms of potential achievement. But ultimately, we're each alone with those definitions swimming in our heads, knowing we only have so much time. Perhaps in the end, feeling fulfilled in a more authentic way, and knowing you had the nerve to follow your guts makes the gamble worthwhile. That seems to be the case for Sebastien these days.

Interesting that Cyril Connolly's most well-known book, Enemies of Promise, combined literary criticism with an autobiographical exploration of why he failed to become the successful author of fiction that he had aspired to be in his youth.

Needless to say, he still got a Wiki page.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How did you end up where you are today? Are you surprised by where you are, or did you always see it coming?

I suddenly left the corporate world in 2002 after working for years as an export manager for high-end Parisian companies--to just paint. Three years later, I was having my first solo show in Paris. Two weeks after that, I was meeting Bob Hogge and Marina Hadley at the Monkdogz Urban Art Gallery in Chelsea. They gave me my first show in New York and hired me as an art consultant a few months later.

This being said, I really don't feel I've gotten anywhere yet. There's still a long way to go, but I've always had a deep feeling that my adventure was going to be unusual.

With regard to your current focus in life, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Probably right before I left the corporate life. One night during dinner my best friend asked me, "Are you going to wait to be 50 before you make that jump?”

I quit my job the week after.

What are your thoughts on the stereotypes that creative people sometimes fall into?

Some of the most common fantasies are chasing up anything that's not directly linked to the creative process like fame or immediate gratification ... or when artists think it's enough to keep your work in your studio, whereas you really have to put it out there in the world.

Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

It definitely helped me to deal with some of life's craziness because being creative forces you to put things into different perspectives--a bit like a distorted vision of reality's insanity. On the other hand, I can't see how being creative would cause aberrations in life. On the contrary, it just makes you look at it through different glasses.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I found very little support when I transitioned from the corporate life to a creative one; most people thought I was going nuts. My father told me I was going to become a bum ... how much confidence did he have in me?

We act like mirrors to others, and I soon realized that my choice of a completely different lifestyle was awaking people's worse fears and insecurities.

How are you going to live?
What about your retirement plan?

But at the end of the day you just have to listen to your guts and surround yourself with positive people. I stopped listening a long time ago to nonconstructive critics, whether coming from those close by or from art dealers.

So far, the majority of those I've interviewed about creativity say that the internal question of, "Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?" has never crossed their mind. Is this true for you? Am I the only one who has, at times, wondered if I'm just kidding myself?

Well, I don’t know if you're the only one, but that question has definitely never ever crossed my mind. For me it would be like asking myself, “Am I alive or do I just think I am?”

I can question the quality, the pertinence, the technique of a creative work I have completed but not if it is, in its essence, a creative work.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

First of all success has a different meaning to us all. It is fame? Is it financial? Being recognized by your peers? Because I have a rich spiritual life, my own beliefs are that success will come if it’s meant to be, and also most likely if you let go of the idea itself.

Be tenacious but be aware of the intentions you put behind it. I don’t believe you can be successful if you’re not doing it for reasons that are right for you.

I am personally ready to see all my dreams come true.

I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of thought processes. Is there one method or way that you get most of your ideas, and if so, can you describe that? If not, can you tell us a little bit about how your mind works?

I guess all artists get asked that question.

My first impulse has always been to say that I have no idea, that it is such a subconscious process that I have no control over it. However, I've revised that answer since trying to put more conscious meaning into my art, give it more depth, and communicate with subjects that are more intimate to me.

What are the top three characteristics highly creative people need to be successful, in your opinion?

Talent, a fair amount of neurosis, and tenacity.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life?

Create art that will make people feel good and believe that anything is possible.

Learn more about Sebastien and his unique work on his site.

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