The Artwork of Michael Divine




Category: Art

The Bicycle Day Parade

April 19th, 2017

Bicycle Day Parade San Francisco

I made another poster for the Bicycle Day Parade in San Francisco, April 19th.


Each Painting is a Song

November 2nd, 2016
Photo of the Moment

Detail: “Somewhere Along the Way”

A friend asked me this:

How do you stay focused on one painting for so long? Obviously they take a while but if the initial inspiration was just a sketch made in a matter of moments – how do you keep at it 4 months later? Where do you find the will to keep going?

I said:

To me, each painting is a song. It encompasses a mood, a momentum, a tone, a melody. It relishes in a particular note or chord progression. It screams or hums or parades through with a specific cadence or rhythm. During the time I work on it, I’m singing that song to myself over and over and over again. So I try to find songs that inspire me – songs I want to sing for that long or that need to be sung. It has to be something I want to sing for 4 months or 6 or longer. I am going to wake up and sing it every day and I’m going to go to bed singing it as well. To me, ultimately, there’s only one thing that is worth that. I don’t have a word for it. it is neither a shape nor a sound. But it leads me onwards. And I know it when I see it. And each painting sings another little part of it.

The initial melody – it comes to me in that first sketch. I might be sitting somewhere and there is that creative breeze (or tsunami) and I jot down a few lines, some curves, shapes, a sensation. It’s a good start. It’s like writing down the first 5 notes of a song that’s floating through your head. But there’s so much space left for exploration.

Later on, as my eyes travel over the painting, they pick up different moments and find new themes and melodies to explore. Musical sentences weave in and out of each other forming unexpected harmonies and rhythms. There are relationships to explore and discover and these open the painting up in ways I hadn’t planned on. I try to find ideas that speak to this process. I love the unexpected.

After a while, much of the basic image is created. It is then that the real song begins to find its real voice. It’s there that the song expands. It is like going from a sextet to a full orchestra. With larger paintings, I aim to make each violin become twenty with each casting its own shade and voice to the choir. Each oboe, clarinet, kettle drum – all resounding as if they are an entire section unto themselves. I become a composer at that point with this living breathing thing I’ve created, expanding each moment to its fullest potential.

Each time I sit down to paint again, my eyes travel over the painting, looking for the moment – the hook – that draws me back in… and then I’m back inside it. The painting is finished when there are no hooks drawing me back in and each little moment blossoms on its own and as a whole

I think often of what Jerry Garcia said of the Grateful Dead song “Dark Star”. If you know that song, you know it’s a particularly lengthy composition that was filled with new explorations every time it was played. You never know what you are getting into with it. What he said of it is this (though I can’t seem to track the exact quote down anywhere): that what he loves about playing that song is that it can be opened up anywhere. Between every note is an entire world of musical possibilities and that there’s no other song in their catalog that has that kind of space within it.

I think about paintings like that and my favorites to work on are the ones where that divide between each moment, each shape, can be opened up into infinity. As an artist, part of my job is to pick and choose the moments that are worthwhile to follow, the ones that really speak to and with the piece as a whole and help it become what it wants to be.

There’s a lot of songs to sing and, likewise, to play. If I am to consider myself a composer of painted songs, I look for and wait for that which inspires me. It has to push the envelope, hit a point, be able to be brought, led, followed to a peak that….

Well, consider this: we never tire of the sunrise or the sunset or golden light that ripples a tree’s leaves or the slope of a mountain against the blue sky or the crash of the ocean wave or the clouds that tumble by overhead. It never becomes trite. There seems to ever be magic, exuberance, nuance, relief even, in all of those forms and sounds and spaces. Whatever that experience is – that is where I follow each piece.

And so, I am an orchestrator of colors. A composer who is lifting his brush like a baton to conduct now the purples, the oranges, perhaps the blues or whites…. slicing through yellows and then the roiling clouds in pale golds, cascades of shapes, sounds, these pieces that create some emotive context and lead me, you, us…. into the place it wants to go.

I’ve learned over the years to trust that place and trust myself in that journey. We’ll get there, no doubt. I’ve learned to be ever more patient with each canyon and trough, each peak and each facet of that jewel. So that when we come to the glorious conclusion, we’re left saying: THAT. That is exactly what it is supposed to be.

On the Clouds (In My Artwork)

May 7th, 2016

Image: Big Sky Mind • 40″ x 60″ • Acyrlic/Canvas

If people talk about my art in the future, they will probably, at some point, mention the clouds. So before possible future critics extrapolate on my intentions, I’d like to share some thoughts on the subject myself – that is: the abundance of clouds in my paintings.

Because there is definitely an abundance of clouds.

If you are a modern-world living human it’s relatively easy to get ‘far’ from nature: to get somewhat removed from the sensation of the cacophonic stillness of the woods, the burbling silence of the brook, the majestic silence of… everything. With little effort, we instead get pulled along by the white noise tunnel vision world we live in – just trucking along to our human minds and their human contraptions, living in our paved over, concretized cities where ‘nature’ takes the general form of trees trimmed, coiffed, and hacked into submission, the squared off lines of neatly manicured lawns, bushes and hedges in perfect ordered rows, and so on.

But soaring overhead – clouds. Clouds are wild. Clouds exist even where other wildernesses have been subsumed. Clouds are the wind and the water and the earth and the sun all getting together and making love. Those massive formless vaporous shapes. Cumulus clouds alone can extend 40,000 feet into the air (that’s over 8 miles!) (true fact!). Reflecting the landscape, clouds echo the roll of the hills and the proximity of a body of water. Their swirls and eddies are the wind whipping through. They are ever changing from long lazy sweeping spirals to towering ominously beautiful thunderheads.

Clouds: they are no shape but every shape. These massive bodies of crystalline water vapor are every color all at once, reflecting, refracting, dancing about. From a distance they can seem to have a fine edge but get up close and the edge vanishes. Yet, for all that mysterious formlessness, the average cumulus cloud is equal in weight to 183 full sized Asian elephants. (That’s about 1.1 million pounds for those who don’t know the average weight of an Asian elephant which is about 6,000 lbs.)

Imagine that column I might paint – disappearing behind an eight mile tall – million pound cloud… That’s a reasonable scale from which to begin. It’s not so big that you can’t comprehend its scope but not so small that it disappears behind the cloud.

And yet, we too are clouds. Clouds of thoughts and ideas coming together and trailing away again. Clouds of molecules dancing about. We are clouds of forces woven together to form this identity we call ME. And then – that ray of light passing through the hole in the clouds – we stop – or at least glance up – in wonder: is this is the heavens shining down? Is that what enlightenment might feel like? Look like? That is the image we’ve painted since, well, who knows… since forever.

But clouds: I am a daydreamer to the core and when I look to the sky, there are the clouds arcing overhead. Or rumbling. Or weaving. And so on. I’ve been daydreaming for as long as I can remember and, in all that time, while all sorts of things around me have changed – even the trees around me these days are different than those I grew up with – the clouds… the clouds have remained.

Clouds, lacking edges or clear definition, even when they seem so solid, are like dreams happening with in the no-thought void of interdependencies. They twist and twirl, forming all of the shapes all at once. When I look at the clouds in the sky, I’ve never given much thought to what they might be. Instead, I see them as they are: bursting, broiling, sweeping and swirling – just passing through the sky – tumbling onwards, forming and reforming, a perfect example of what it is to be.

I will leave you with this – some of the final lines of the Diamond Stura have echoed in my head since I first read them many many years ago:

Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

What Is There Left To Paint?

March 7th, 2016
Beautiful Sunsets Never Hurt Anyone

Beautiful Sunsets Never Hurt Anyone

A frequent question that is asked of me: where does it come from? What inspires me?

Violet reminded me that the etymology of the word ‘inspire’ is rooted in the word ‘breath’ and that ‘inspire’ is a way of saying ‘breathing life into’. So the question really is ‘what breathes life into my work?’ Where do I find the momentum – the life – to keep putting brush to canvas? Everyday I wake I think about those paints, those colors, that question.

What keeps me going?

To answer that question, I have to begin with another question… one of many.

As, perhaps, every painter has asked: what is there left to paint? And why? Why do I want to paint that or this or this other thing? What makes it interesting? What makes it necessary? Why is it worth pining for, wracking my body over, eating, sleeping, and dreaming about?

It begins with questions and drills down from there.

What does it feel like? What does it taste like… smell like… sound like? What is the sensation of the thing – here – in this tactile world we exist in? How does it cut or how does it nurture? Does it need to cut? If so, where? And why? Does it dance? Can we dance with it? If so, where and why?

Will I love it? I mean, truly and deeply the way I love myself or my wife? Will I love having created it? Will I love that it is created? Will I be proud of it? Will it dig deeply into the soul of the world and be one more facet of that source of reflection?

And, if it is to be as it is sometimes where it is to be something that is there simply to be beautiful – like a flower or a dewdrop or a cloudburst – then what? And why? How does it fit in my work and what else am I feeling? Is it a salve for hurt – because in this world sometimes, salves are  necessary for wounds – or is it merely a distraction from something that, while taking more work will, ultimately, be more rewarding? That is an important question, too. There’s a lot of ideas that come and go. There’s a lot of easy ways out. I think we, as humans, need to be vigilant of ourselves in that way. When do we take the easy way out? When do we start repeating our own patterns because that is what gets the reward, gets the adulations, gets the proper response.

I could just paint lots of lovely sunsets and that’d be that. And maybe I do. But there’s people already who do that and they do it well so I don’t feel this world is missing any sunset paintings I might make.

If it’s going to be a big piece, it needs to have a reason. It MUST have a reason. And the reason doesn’t start with a statement. It starts with a question, an inquiry, a digging deeper into the soul of the matter – into the heart of the thing. That’s where we find something of value – a note that sings rather than simply murmuring along with the rest of the maddening crowd.

Summertime Paintings 2015

November 17th, 2015

Summer Paintings – 2015

Years ago I got into a kind of creative flow that went like this: winter was when I worked on large, detailed paintings while summer was for getting out and doing things and events and traveling and the like. I found myself painting and sort of hibernating during many winters because life feels quieter and more internal. It’s helpful for allowing my mind and body to settle, focusing on the finer details of my work. Come summer – when life bursts with exuberant busy-ness, I’d pick up and go out and share and be more social. During those summer months, I often plan out a course of paintings to work through the winter – a general game plan, if you will – a setlist of paintings – and return to the studio.

It’s like a moebius strip where I would go far enough inwards in one direction that I’d eventually circle back in the opposite direction… and then far enough out in the other direction, and so on. Back and forth, round and round.

Things flowed differently this summer. Violet was deep in the final throes of grad school and her dissertation which meant fewer events (if any) for us because it was better having me around so I could help out, make tea, etc. I also somehow ended up with several large canvases and a good chunk of time by myself while Violet was away for a few weeks mid-July.

One of the tacts I took was maintainining that exuberant summer flow. SoCal is hot and sunny and wide open in the summer. I wanted to work with that and translate some of it onto the canvas.

I’d also just finished The Crucible of Love sometime in May. It was a monstrously beautiful painting to work on. The level of detail, the quality of light, the movement – I was very happy with it but it was deeply challenging as well, as love can be. Upon completion, sitting back from it I felt like ‘Phew! Love! What a ride!’


“Big Sky Mind: Where Do We Go From Here?”
36″ x 60″ | Acylic/Canvas
Prints }

After the fine precision of The Crucible of Love, the painting I’d worked on all last winter, I wanted big brush strokes and broad expanses. I also liked the crystalline structures at the top of that painting, feeling like they extended on into the heavens. I wanted to paint that part: the light cascading and refracting through the crystalline and clear Big Sky Mind. It felt like an appropriate next step and at 60″ x 36″ was big enough to let my hand fly free for a while.


30″ x 40″ | Acrylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

Dropping down into fierce emotional movement, ‘Molting’ stemmed from a flash of an idea I’d had the previous fall in the midst of personal transitions. It’s a visceral piece that careens out of the big blue skies with a momentum that eventually finds ground and precision within its own unfolding.


“Lightning on a Summer Cloud”
48″ x 36″ | Acylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

This is a breath of fresh air – like the crystalline core after the just shed skin. I was invited to paint during the Dalai Lama’s 80th Birthday event at The Honda Center in Anaheim. I wanted to paint something that breathed beauty and openness. The name, “Lightning on a Summer Cloud,” is drawn from a line in the final stanza of “The Diamond Sutra”.


60″ x 36″ | Acrylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

I returned to my sketchbook and said, “Whatever I draw right now I’ll paint.” I made a very rudimentary sketch, painted a 60″ x 36″ canvas black, and, with a very focused edge, started laying down the beginnings of this piece.

I worked on it throughout July and August while Violet worked on her dissertation. If you’ve ever been with someone getting a PhD you know it can be a slog. It just goes on and on with little sleep, a lot of questioning of purpose, and seemingly endless amounts of writing. I spent a lot of time making beverages, taking care of things, being a listening ear, and painting. And the more I worked on this painting, the more I meditated on the wheel of life and death and time and space, the more I realized what it was – and what it is – Samsara.


24″ x 18″
Prints }

A gift for my brother and my new sister-in-law on the event of their marriage last summer.



“Self & Other”
18″ x 22″ | Acrylic/Canvas

A thought form given life from a small sketch, an exercise in stylistic choices and deceptively simple motifs. Self, Other – we are all the same stuff and we try to wrap the Other into a neat box but it refuses it and even our boxes are transient.


“Ascent of You”
18″ x 18″ | Acrylic/Canvas

On a flight home from Hawaii last summer, I sketched a few quick lines that turned into this painting. I began work on it last fall and has sat in my studio since then, getting taken down now and again to be worked on, and I finished it this summer in the midst of the others – and the abundant blossoming that is summer.




November 1st, 2015


I was going through all sorts of files, updating web stuff, doing businessy things, cataloging and organizing, as one has to do. Sometimes I’m struck by the fact that there is just so much art I’ve created over many years. And much of it, I think, returns to this painting, Surrender (28″ x 48″), painted in 1996 when I was 19.Painting it was a turning point in my life. I’d had this experience earlier that summer which had left me filled with questions and doubts. Basically, I was struggling with letting go of the yoke of social and parental expectations.

In my sketchbook, during one of my classes, I made a drawing the vision I’d had – after getting twisted around through some dark and frustrated rivers of mental constructs – of this land I arrived into of just… endless exuberant love with the sky folding into the earth and vice versa and these beings just dancing over the hills grabbing pieces of clouds and LOVE was written all over everything. I decided to paint it – maybe just the third or fourth painting I’d ever made.

While painting it, enthralled by the color and the worlds flowing out of me, I had this moment – this flash – it felt like this book cracked open in my head and the pages were all flipping too fast to see and this voice – my voice? – was telling me that I could do this for the rest of my life . I could just paint. This book, flipping it’s pages too quick for me to get a glimpse… And, it said, all you need to do is give up everything and go, go follow that muse.

It took some time. But not long. Eventually, I got rid of everything I had and, eventually, that summer, I formally withdrew from school and, as luck would have it, a good buddy of mine had as well (he later returned for his PhD in mathematics). Did I want to join him and some others in Vermont and work at a ski mountain that coming winter?

The rest… the rest is stories for other days.

But I look at all these paintings: so many moods and feelings and emotions, ego dances with the divine, blissful prostrations, the whole spectrum… The journey of this painter scribe… There’s a lot of time, a lot of movement, a lot of paintings, between that painting and now.
And I wonder: what comes next?

Why You Haven’t Seen Me Live Painting This Summer

July 20th, 2015
Rootwire 2013 - a festival that did its best to take care of its artists.

Violet and I painting on a large collaborative painting with a number of other artists at Rootwire 2013 – a festival that did a great job of taking care of its artists.

Over the years I’ve live painted at various festivals and events around the country – either by myself or with my wife, Violet. I’ve met a lot of great people, seen a lot of great music, and had a lot of fun. In a bigger context, it’s been twenty years of honing my craft to, over the course of a few days, be able to take a painting from the messy beginnings to the nearly complete finishing details that make up one of my pieces. It might look like jamming, and it is, but it is the result of many hours in the studio, practicing. This is true for a number of artists I know – we create something in the raucousness, the lights and madness that is a festival setting, while also interacting with attendees and inspiring others, while completing something larger than ourselves that is the culmination of all of our practice and dedication.

Live painting at a festival provides a unique kind of artistic interaction with the festival goers. Added to the ‘gallery’ that seems to be de riguer these days, the festivals today have something that the events I went to years ago lacked – a distinct visual component that inspires, illuminates, and, most importantly, provides a safe space of contemplation for the attendees. We have recognized that life and parties are more than simply dancing to whatever DJ or band happens to be on next. As our festivals have transformed from ‘stage vs crowd’ to ‘community experience with multi-sensory interaction’ then we have to reconsider how we treat and value the other elements.

Eventually people wander off from the music, looking for other inspiration. There is only so much to be found in the vending areas where everyone is trying to see something (or multiple somethings). The ‘chill’ spaces are often a bit too sleepy for many people who still want to mingle and interact. The gallery spaces end up being a huge draw. Visual art and the act of painting is as necessary a component of our daily lives as the auditory arts. Creating a space to engage with it at events seems to be an vital part of the structure these days and helps to create something vibrant and inspiring. Crowds gather, entranced by watching painters immersed in their acts of creativity. It’s raw. It’s emotional. It’s very quiet and profound. It’s just arising from that person onto the canvas. It’s kind of wild and it’s kind of inspiring.

Which brings me to why I have not been live painting. When I started, it was a pleasure to just go paint. And, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE TO PAINT. It is a pleasure to make and share art with the world. But the more I was asked to do it for free, or for a ticket, or maybe a hundred bucks tossed my way, the more it felt like I was being used. This isn’t to say all festivals have been like that – some have been incredibly supportive and I’m grateful for them (they know who they are!) but many, more often than not, simply shuttle the ‘visual artists’ into the sideline while at the same time asking them to give their all. I was asked to perform for hours at a stretch for little to no pay for festivals that are not cheap and who pay their musicians very well.

My time is valuable to me. As I’ve gotten older it has become even more valuable (and probably, at least subconsciously, I am aware that I have less of it). Over the years, I’ve continued to sell my work for higher prices, earned a dedicated fan base, and, most importantly, found the health and wholeness of my studio space to be incredibly supportive and nurturing to my artistic endeavors. To take all of that to a festival – to unpack the entire creative process and share it – while certainly a joyous thing – doesn’t feel so good when the festival offers a ticket and, at best, some gas money while using my face, my talent, and my work to sell itself. To be perfectly honest, and I know I’m not alone in saying this, I am too old for that shit.

‘Live painting’ is ‘working throughout the course of the entire festival’. At the very least, over the course of a three day event, it is 12 hours of painting/performing. I’m not playing. I’m working. Think of the musician on the stage: they look like they’re having a good time, and they are, I imagine. But they are working. It takes work to make great art. It’s a full time job. On top of that, there is also planning the piece, and so on. With most events, you are asked to be there from the very start, so there is a day or two of packing and travel to get there, set up, and then another day to leave. So it’s about 5 days to a week of one’s time in exchange for a ticket to an event that you now have to work at throughout. From an economic perspective, you can see that this is actually not a very good business model.

There’s all sorts of ways that promoters and the like try to validate the lack of pay. They will tell an artist that they are building recognition and getting great exposure. Your name is, after all, promoted on the website and you can bring and hang your art in the gallery. You are an attraction! I’ve had people tell me that it was my name and others that inspired them to attend. Art, as much as music these days, has its draw.

Historically, DJs and music producers followed on the heels of bands getting paid X amount so paying X minus the cost of a full band for a DJ or producer didn’t seem like much of a stretch. DJs – not even a headlining DJ – might get $2k – 20k + travel + meals. And they just play for an hour, maybe two. I understand that they put in (perhaps) a considerable amount of preparation for the hour they play. I understand all of this and am not dissing their work or their value. But, as I’ve explained, so does making a painting. What you SEE is the result of hours, days, weeks – an entire lifetime – of constant practice and dedication.  This is true for every artist everywhere.

Some promoters and festival organizers validate their reasons for paying visual artists so little by telling the artist that the artist can sell the painting they create without the festival taking a commission. That’s cool – I have a collection of live paintings I’ve made and many sit in my closet. Want one? This is true for many many artists that I know. Again, as well, we can say: how many hours made up that painting? How much work? How long will you hold onto it until you sell it for an amount that feels worthwhile?

Another argument that is often thrown around is that the DJ doesn’t create an asset that he/she can sell later. However, that’s not exactly true. If they do their work well, they create a dancefloor, a photo-op. They created a vibe around themselves. The next festival sees that and it is used to sell the musical act and support the asking price. So those experiences and scenes – they are the assets the musical act walks away with. This is great and every band will admit to the value of these things in selling themselves elsewhere.

But you, too, are a photo op of the festival. You came and created beauty. EVERY festival will show you pictures of live painters, artists, galleries, etc. You, the artist, you validated their event. You helped make it beautiful. You make people want to attend to see that beauty (because it’s more than just light shows). But YOU deserve more than the free ticket. You deserve to be supported in your work.

This is a broken business model. This isn’t working and it isn’t actually supporting the artists you know and love. If you’re an artist, this is allowing the festivals to use you to promote themselves and pat you on the back.

My advice: stop going. Don’t go to events where you don’t get paid. Simple as that. Be very clear. Be very straight forward. Set your boundaries. Tell life where you would like it to meet you. Otherwise, you just allow yourself to be taken advantage of and, in so doing, perpetuate this broken system.


Life is busy. And time is valuable. I love what I do and I love sharing it with the world and inspiring others to joy, happiness, and growth. I have found my studio time to be more and more valuable to me as well as to my patrons over the years. While I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you and painting at various events, for now, until that is treated by the festival producers as a tangible asset and not simply something to take advantage of, you won’t be seeing me performing at any events in the near future.

I strongly encourage other artists to do the same.
Thanks for reading.

It’s Dorky Day!

July 16th, 2015

The Dorky Painting

Back in 2003, inspired by a chapter of The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle, I painted “The Dorky Painting.” The book is one of my absolute favorite books ever. It’s a hard to describe little book. But it’s a perfect book if you’re into that sort of thing. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the introduction “It’s like an egg: everything that is supposed to be in there is in there.” There’s really nothing else like it. So this painting is based on one of the chapters in the book – “Dorky Day”. I can’t explain it – you just need to read it. Broadly, however, it is a chapter about clearing the cobwebs from the mind. This painting was made to help clear the cobwebs of my mind.

In any case, on a whim the other night, I looked up the Mr. Kotzwinkle website and sent him a link to the painting above along with a short note of thanks. Below, is his response.

It’s sweet to be able to share inspiration. :)

Dear Michael Divine,

Thanks so much for your email. I apologize for taking so long to answer. I was having an extended Dorky Day. Which brings me to your painting, your very beautiful painting. I’m happy the voice of the Fan Man can be found in its remarkable depths. It’s a very suitable place for a voice such as his, which echoes from the interplanetary phone booth as it soars into orbit.

I looked at all the paintings on your website. It’s clear you are no stranger to the labyrinth of strange happenings. All your paintings are beautiful and masterfully polished to perfection, so that the purposefully unhinged mind can move smoothly through the luminous doorways leading to the land of bounding mushrooms. Only in the best kind of dreams, which balance on the edge of terror and wonder can one find your visions in their original form. For I’m sure the worlds you created don’t remain only on the canvas, but have for some time been seen floating behind the closed eyes of travelers from other dimensions.

In a time of immense triviality and unbelievably boring conversation, you provide the required shock. In the shadows of Manhattan, where the impossibly weird loves to hang out, I’ve seen figures that suggest we’ve barely begun to get real. Work such as yours, pointing to things no conversation can capture, are a great help toward a more useful orientation as regards dreaming.

Back when I took electric shop in manual trade school, we were taught by a small electrician we called Short-Circuit Jones. We were constructing two giant electric candles to be placed on the face of the school at Christmastime, signifying Peace to All. The minute Short-Circuit Jones left the room we armed ourselves with wire missiles and shot them at each other at high velocity, propelled from heavy rubber slings we’d hidden for such an opportunity. The wounds received were indelible, proud marks of the electrically constructed warrior.

You have such electricity shining through your work. Were you bitten by an electric eel?

Whatever the origin of your genius, you’ve provided me with inspiration for which I’m grateful. Good luck to you in your struggle to create the improbable and the impossible.


One of the Secrets

July 10th, 2015

Photo of the Moment

Here is one of the secrets of my work:

I paint what I feel like.

No need to mask your disappointment. You thought there’d be more. But that’s the truth of it. There’s a lot of people in the world doing things that they are not. They do things they don’t like, that they don’t condone, that they aren’t proud of, all for reasons they aren’t entirely clear on. There’s also a lot of people trying to be something other than what they are – some idealized version of themselves, with some plan, some big vision, posturing to be of this or that.

There is also a great big world around me insisting that I need to be all kinds of things to complete myself and that it has all the answers as to why I feel so terribly incomplete. Yet what that world will rarely admit to is that the belief of your own incompleteness is part of the equation. Every religion, every corner store, every government works very hard on wedging itself firmly between YOU and everything else and telling you how they complete you.

And it’s true. They do all complete me. Because they are all me. And there is no escaping that and I move on.

So I ask myself “self? how do you feel?” Because there are many voices telling me what to be and how to feel and what to believe, but only I actually know deep down what is going on inside of myself.

Maybe it’s summer and I feel like summer and the sun is out and the windows are wide open and on days like this I feel invincible or, at least, impressively optimistic. So I ask: what does that look like?

Maybe it’s winter and the tides are receding and the rivers are slowing and my blood, exercise and take care of myself tho I do, feels thick. Maybe I feel more patient and I want to explore what it looks like when the windows are closed and the sun disappears.

Maybe now I feel like great broad brushstrokes that have all wrapped up within them all of my passion, my doubts, my fears, my dreams.

Maybe now I feel like fine delicate lines that are the painted diadems on the eyelid of the divine.

Maybe now I feel the slow somber beauty of decay.

Maybe I feel both at exactly the same time and that’s just fine too. Because underneath every feeling is another feeling. Beneath every desire is another desire and another one and another and so on. Follow every one to it’s absolute end. Use your work as your meditation. You were blessed with a tool all your own for your own personal salvation. Use your work to complete yourself.

If your art is what you feel like, you will never run out of fodder. The heart of your work will be flawless. It will be rock solid to it’s core.

People will discuss your technique, your brushwork. They will find things to marvel at and they will find places to critique. That’s ok: we all have room to grow. I do. We all do. That’s life! So we continue on, with patience and care, following those threads to their most complete ends.

If you are ever without doubt as to what to paint, start with what you feel like.


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