Today was a long meandering day that encapsulates the absurdity & randomness & contradiction of such an occupation. Maybe I got a whole 2 or 3 hours of sleep, after I
Yes, thats a Bose Cinemate series II
drunkenly went to Kinkos in the AM to make prints (I don't recommend doing this.) I wanted to try getting that prime real estate on the front of the fence & I wanted to bring out some bigger paintings.
A friend had given me this hook up with wheels for the back of my bike, so I found a big cardboard box & jimmy rigged it into a make-shift rikshaw. I believe this is referred to as 'Cajun engineering'. I was damn proud of my construction and it got me to the quarter with plenty of paintings around 7 AM.
On the ride I FOUND a canvas, resting by itself on a street lamp. Ground score! The world is workin with me!
Unfortunately I didn't get a front spot & pirates ally was already filling up, but I heard the front was already claimed around 4 am, so at least I got a little bit of needed sleep.
Mostly the day consists of sitting, and finding alternate methods of keeping oneself stimulated. Usually I bring books & drawing materials, fetch coffee & smoke a lot of cigarettes. Watching the world jostle around me. Often enough I get to witness some truly random shit, like this:
People seemed really over-stimulated by French Quarter Fest so by the time they came by me they couldn't focus well. I also got a lot of people that didn't seem to 'get' my work at all...one women stopped, asked if I took commisions & when I said, "Maybe, it depends what the image is." said, "Can you paint a picture of my dog?" Geez...I've got a whole fence convered in paintings of people, no, I do not want to paint your pet portrait. I also decided I'm going to start writing down the best little bits of eavesdropping. For April 12th they were...(dun dun dun)
"...Yeah, I got him a picture of Lafittes...after The Katrina..."
"And I watched, I mean, I saw the guy doing it! On You Tube! It was amazing! He has this spray paint...and the picture just formed everything..like the twin towers and..."
I got traumatized while walking to the Bourbon Orleans to use their bathroom. A silver guy screamed some compliment to me, followed by something about licking my thighs, ugh, I do not need such menatl imagery & hollered back that there's some thoughts better kept to oneself. Finally at the only bathroom the bourbon orleans has not effectly key-card locked I got trapped behind a bachlorette party. They giggled like a flock of hens while performing for themselves with a 2 ft inflatible penis (with a face nonetheless) in the bathroom mirrors, while I blinked trying to stay awake & eager to get back to my spot.
All day long, and this has been happening a lot lately, people side stepped all my other work to ask about this cluster of 4 paintings of the same girl:
Everyone wants a fascinating story about the mystery girl...why..oh why would I paint her 4 times if she didn't have some extrodinary signifigance? Well, actually I've painted her about 7 times...and I don't know who she is.
I was doing it for a technical study to see how one flesh palette would contrast against differently colored grounds. I learned that my answer was: Not very much. It took me a long time doing all these studies & was mostly pretty frustrating. If you're gonna paint from reference don't use a dual light source. That is was this image means to me.
Finally, a little while before I was about to pack it up, some really vibrant sweet folks stopped. They got a little cigarette box picture book and somehow made me more enlivened by their presence. Tim & Kathy, who pilgrim down here every french Quarter fest also came by, like an island of sanity, a relief from the parade of huge-ass-beer swillers and non-stop tourists who treat me like a convenient information office, asking,
"Is this the St. Louis Cathedral?" and "Where is Bourbon street?" They went home with this piece, that I think is really beautiful, and some others.
Somehow I managed to pack it up and get to R Bar to hit the last crawfish boil of the day. I rolled up particlarly self-satisfied with my carboard rik-shaw & parked it on the side. I met a remarkable young man (and so i remark on it) who told me that he paints too..and I don't know had some kind of natural politeness, some kind of grace in his character that I much admired. He asked to see my work but it was all packed up & the only one I had easy access to were...the dreaded 4 paintings of the girl that everyone gets stuck up on. I pulled them out and as he was looking at them, someone came over & said,
"Who is that girl?"
"I don't know," He shrugged, "I just like it."
I can't say how sleep deprived my joy was to hear that! I wanted him to have it. He asked how much they were...$400 for all 4, or 200 a piece...but hell, Whats really the point of all this!?!?
I asked him to do whatever he could, so he gave me $20 and a high life. And now he's got this piece:
But really, he gave me far more! He broke the pattern for me!!!! God, I can not speak my relief...because I was about to take these home & give them bizarre facial tattoos..just so that people might stop asking me for the back story. It's a painting. Look at it. Live with it.
For all the bullshit of so many days, being back out on the street in the daytime keeps me curious about life which seems a prerequisite to maintain something resembling sanity. I can't mention all the numerous little quirks of humanity I take in through out the day, but I did want to take a minute to try and list some of them.
-Humanity in swarm, out on Saturday, dressed nice and looking wholesomely ready for Easter sunday..
The artists in the ally, out since the morning, becoming unraveled. An impromptu dance party started where we all jerked our bodies around in all manner of interpretive movements to what sounded like game show music spouted from a boombox. If you were to come upon this scene so inconspiciously playing itself in the alley we made wild gestures to you, swinging arabesque hand sweeps to get folks to come look..though not many did.
The music relaxed, best of Aaron Neville, I danced by myself to "Tell it like it is." In good natured humour I danced up on a group passing by, wherein a middle aged woman took my hand and danced with me through the ally, singing along knowing all the words. Mid way through she leaned in and said,
"My son died a year ago today, he was 40." Then she looked into my eyes and said,
"Life is too short to have sorrow, you may be here today and gone tomorrow
You might as well get what you want, So go on and live, baby go on and live, tell it like it is."
It took me a minute to realize she was reciting the song to me, and then she was gone done the ally. Moments like these balance off the cruder displays of humanity, like a few days ago a middle aged man stopped some 3 feet from me and only looking at me through the screen started to take my picture.
"Hey!" I said, "What're you doin?" Without a word he jumped up and ran around the corner. Running after him he spun around and clutched the camera like a swaddled baby.
"Don't you touch me! Get away! Don't you dare attack me!" I had to talk him down like a skiddish dog, that I wasn't about to attack him, I just would appreciate some interaction if your gonna take my damned picture.
He let me look through the pictures, all taken candid and papparazzi style, he was going home with pictures of my neighbors, but they weren't pictures of people- they were pictures of:
'The pimp yelling at the ho'
'the fat man in a tutu'
'The street musicians who aren't getting dollar for having their picture taken'
If he actually pulls through sending my photo of me flustered in mid sentence, astonished that a grown man would act in such a way, I'll post it up here.
Some days I sell no art, I make no money and nobody rudely takes my picture. But some days someone decides to act as my personal angel, (I like the idea of an Angel named Bill.) And offers to fix my busted bike, and then I get a smooth ride when I haul all my pieces of wood and canvas down through the potholed streets to hang out and greet folks probably not so different from yourself.