A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to have friends who were able to let me display paintings at their places of employment. Whether it was part of a show, or I would just put up my work and get a free meal and beer, I always enjoyed the experience. At a certain point though, I felt that the stuff I was showing wasn’t really “professional quality”, so I took a year off to just work on getting to a level where I could feel genuine pride in what I was doing. Early in that year, I fell into a massive slump, which also played a part in my absence from the public eye. It was really shitty because the longer I went without painting, the worse I felt, and the worse I felt, the harder it became to paint. I kept trying, but I kept failing. Every time this happened, I hated myself a little bit more. Eventually, I started toying around with the surfaces I was painting on, to see if that would flip some sort of switch. I cut down a couple skateboards, built frames for the weird-shaped canvas-replacements, and was finally able to finish some stuff I liked. After those were done, I got my hands on a some tiles with a really coloring, and used that coloring to loosely direct my painting. That (along with the support and advice from a handful of people I currently and will forever love with all my heart) was what brought me back. I started working my way through all the negative bullshit one weird “monster” painting at a time.
Early this year, I booked a sort of comeback show. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that well. I don’t want to get into details, but I felt like the work I had done was not being appreciated at all by the people who put the show together. Still feeling emotionally drained, I perceived this as an outright attack, and lashed out at everyone who was even remotely involved. I still felt like my work needed to improve, and now I had spite fueling that desire. In the back of my mind, I knew it was wrong, but I let a lot of really dark feelings in, and while I was continuing to grow as an artist, I felt awful as a person. I booked a couple more shows, and even though both were a lot of fun, I was really anxious throughout each night and the process leading up to them. Admittedly, I’m pretty antisocial, but even while preparing for the shows and in my down time, I tried to separate myself from society. When I did receive the occasional text or e-mail, I almost systematically tried to burn the bridge to whoever had sent it. Then to top that all off, it started looking like taking the next step career-wise was going to mean letting some big “art company” fuck me over until I reached the point dreamers call “making it”. I was absolutely miserable, and because I’ve put all my eggs in the art basket, I don’t have the skills to do anything else. I started feeling trapped and losing hope.
This is where I think a lot of people turn to religion, therapy, or drugs and alcohol. I’ve traveled each of those roads (especially the last one), and had issues with all of them. I can make sense of there being a God and a lot of that stuff (though I have no interest in being yelled at by someone who claims they’re debating me), but if there is, I think humans are using him as an excuse, as a weapon, or a means to make money. Therapy would make me feel good for about an hour after each session, but I could never really open up to someone who was being paid to listen to me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to take any pills. Drugs and alcohol were slightly less-temporary than the therapy, but cause a lot of sickness and shame. My answers came from a place I never would have expected.
I started listening to comedy podcasts while painting, to lighten the mood that had become so pointlessly grim. “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old” was the first one. It made me laugh my ass off and told a story of struggle that I somewhat identified with. By the time I caught up with the 100+ episodes, I had developed a tremendous amount of respect for Jason Mewes as well as Kevin Smith. Where I really found that feeling people chase into churches, therapists’ offices, and bars though, was in the podcast-network of Joe Rogan, Joey Diaz, Ari Shaffir, Bert Kreischer, Brian Redban, and probably a few people I’m forgetting at the moment. First of all, it’s like having some of the funniest guys alive be in your room, eliminating any moments of stress as soon as they come up. Secondly, they all talk a lot about self-improvement, or just being a good person in general. Since comedy is just as much an art-form as painting, I’ve started applying a lot of their shared experiences in that world to how I behave in this one. From here, I plan to just work with people who I’m comfortable around, do what I can to repair a few damaged relationships, and keep pushing myself as hard as I can to make every painting I finish better than the one before it. I’m still struggling with some of my destructive habits, but I feel less like a piece of shit now than I did a couple weeks ago, so at least there’s some small victory to celebrate.