People in the Clouds

 

Abstrabicus

Abstrabicus

Painting, oil, acrylic, water, color to attract our eye
We may travel to exotic places, with no need to fly
Meet people from far away, in geography or in time
Marvel at their talent, yet you might not pay a dime

Pictorial storytellers from Lascaux to sprayed graffiti
People or rulers of old, even Al Capone or Frank Nitti
Cultural continuity, our history shown throughout time
Long before the written word, in either prose or rhyme

Think you don’t understand; I don’t think you’re right
Though shortened, commercialized, it is still in sight
Not its exclusive venue, we’re told it’s all that matters
Till Tut or Dresden’s Treasures our worldview shatters

So why then is art relegated to the fringes of our lives
Co-opted for the merchant’s bidding, in our burb-hives
If we are good worker bees, we may not notice much
Trudge in step, drink our beer, watch sports and such

Art, should triumph know, shadow-hid, must inveigle
Those who create it know to them and all it is integral
It is rooted deeply within the bones, within the blood
Conveying Earth’s life from mammoth hunt to flood

Moving pictures share this role, screen capture an era
Pertinent or sadly dated, changes forms like a chimera
Records our daily struggles, portrayed in bits and bytes
Instant people in the clouds, just add sound and lights

So why must artists struggle, starving artists a cliché
Laboring to find their truth, they should get better pay
Respect, at least, no more snide remarks or snickers
Laugh, you fools, you’re unfit to hold their knickers

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Days of Future Past

Art
A recurring theme
Seen throughout our history
Innate, essential

The Big C Pixel Painting

The Big C
Pixel Painting

Reading
Recording each, all
Demonstrating intellect
Notational games

So Little Time

So Little Time

Evince
Each value is
Naturally Compressed
Equationally

Gravid

Gravid

Ideas
Incredibly done
Excellent advantages
Statistically

Reflection

Reflection

Culture
Clear understanding
Safely lets us relinquish
Everything now

Old World New

Old World New

The Invisible Avatar

Invisible Avatar

Invisible Avatar

Hello? Can you hear me? Can you see me?

I hope you can because I fear I’ve become invisible. It’s not everywhere or all the time. It’s not at home or when I’m out in the world. In fact, it’s really only when I’m online. Strangely, I’ve been noticed more recently by strangers. I’ve been lauded and have followers. Why then do I feel like I’m missing in action?

Have you ever felt this way, invisible, I mean. I’m guessing we all have at some point. I believe this is not limited to creative types, but I believe it may happen to them more often and more intensely. Perhaps this happens when life feels challenging and full of obstacles, even when we are loved and cared for by others. Maybe this happens exactly when this is true. Or, it may happen for ten dozen other reasons.

In a society saturated with social media, instant communications and myriad ways to connect with people near and far, it seems we should never feel out of sight if we choose not to be. Many people, certainly many who did not grow up in the internet age, hope they are never noticed by the greater world. Their immediate community of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances is enough and more than enough. And so it is.

Once you decide you want to be noticed, your tale changes. You’ve reached plot point one as screenwriters would say. Yet, there’s a difference between thinking you want to be noticed and that becoming a reality. For many years I only dreamed. This is a safe pastime, if frustrating and unfulfilling. I was smart and wanted to be creative when I was young, but it never seemed to play out the way I thought it should. A classmate would write a better story or have a nicer voice, or you might suffer the ignominy I did in junior high school. I took an art class where I was strongly urged not to pursue art as a career.

I continued to dream of being a writer, dashing off the occasional trite short story or weak verse. Eventually I actually got serious and began pursuing my writing in earnest. As to the form, I chose it rather than it choosing me. I think that was an unrealized problem from the beginning. I made a diligent attempt to become a screenwriter. I got a film degree, wrote a dozen or more scripts, got them out into the world and got them sent back. I eventually decided this was not going to happen and turned my back on this choice.

Along the way my creativity spilled out into quilting, crafting, Fimo clay figures and probably others I no longer remember. I learned how to create a website and have crafted several. The first were simple, naïve and hope-filled. As I’ve grown, so has my presentation. At least I think it has. I think my ideas were always good, but I had little success in attracting an audience. Therefore, I have only my own opinion by which to judge.

I’m sure I didn’t do enough, or the right things to get noticed. In the first few years of the internet I had no reason or desire to be noticed. Now as an artist and writer if I’m not noticed I’m just a voice crying in the wilderness. Plus, that makes it virtually impossible to sell any artwork. I’m finally old enough and wise enough to know I’m not likely to become famous or make my fortune through my artwork or the written word. Still, a sale now and then would certainly help my bottom line.

As I’ve grown older I’ve become more confident. Finding oil painting helped me in this regard. In my earlier creative endeavors, screenwriting, etc., I always qualified my creative output. I was studying, trying, working at, wanted to be whatever my current passion. I used this as a way to buffer failure and the judgment it implied. If you are in a tentative state you can avoid harsh criticism, at least in your own mind. Unlike my earlier creative “attempts” I own my art and finally my writing. I’m not thinking about or hoping to or any other of the words we use to buffer our insecure and fragile egos.

I am an artist. I am a writer. This means rejection of my work is not a rejection of me. No more creativity languishing in the back of drawers after a single foray into the world. After all, those former offerings were works-in-progress, still growing, still evolving, and more potential than product. Let’s face, no matter how creative or eloquent, or striking, in the modern world, it’s a product.

I’m sure many succumb to the weight of rejection, drowning in their own heart’s blood poured onto the page or canvas. No matter their medium, in the end they have no more to give. It’s not as if the back of my drawer in my case didn’t grow fuller for a long time, but this allowed me to continue to struggle, bloody but unbowed. I’m one of the lucky ones. I tricked myself into truly finishing one of my works in progress. It did not make me an instant success, overnight or otherwise; it allowed me to complete works, good, bad or indifferent.

Now that I have found my métier I don’t worry so much about rejection. This is not the same as feeling invisible. This is offering work to be judged by a gallery, a contest or some other venue. If my work doesn’t get chosen, well that’s just one person’s opinion. I’m sure it helps that I have been accepted into judged shows, in galleries and on-line, as well as two solo café shows. Not big news, but not nothing. I continue to create and offer my vision to the world, hoping I will find success and believing I will.

I do what I can to get noticed and to share myself, my unique perspective with any and all comers. I self-promote, shamelessly. I’ve revised my websites and created new ones as I’ve produced more and different kinds of art. For various reasons I’ve begun creating digital art and showing some of my photography. And I can finally share my voice, my writing, since I have found an appropriate form.

So, you say, what’s all this talk about feeling invisible? And maybe I’m finding out it’s not about anything. I’ve been a finalist, had honorable mentions, took a third place, an award of special recognition, and most recently won Art Quench Gallery “Summer” competition, which means I’ll have online representation for the coming year. All good, right?

Yes. That’s all good news. I think my feeling of invisibility comes from posts which appear on social media. After spending time, energy and passion creating art or writing an essay or poem, I put it on a site that posts to social media. Or I post it directly. Then it drops into a bottomless pit. At least that’s how it feels. If I’m lucky one person comments or likes what I’ve offered. Though often this is from a close friend, and my old insecurity makes me wonder if they are just being kind. Or it feels like some meta-social convention as in the ubiquitous “like” button. This seems like saying fine when someone asks how you are. It’s not meaningless, but it’s not much.

Since I’ve started following some of the bloggers who have followed me, I can barely keep up. Hell, let’s face it, I can’t keep up. So why should I expect others to keep up? I do. Fair? Not a chance, but it still feels awful to get no response. I think it would be like entering your child into a contest and not only does your child not win, it’s as if they do not even exist.

So, while I was feeling invisible, a blogger I follow, Taylor Eaton of LittleWriteLies (excellent work), presented me with the ShineOn award. Although this may not seem important, just a way for like-minded bloggers to connect, it made my day. In a world where social networks become our community, a group of mostly compatible people, no matter how thin the original connection, it feels as if your friends are ignoring you. Worse, it feels as if they are not even noticing you. So, where does that leave me? Right back where I started.

In my earlier creative life, I wanted people to not only notice my work and acknowledge me, I wanted them to pay me for it. Truly, I wanted them to pay me for it much more than I wanted to be recognized for my insight or excellence. That left me constantly unprepared for rejection. I never consciously admitted this, even to myself. Before, my family and friends were the only people to provide feedback and acceptance. Apathy and rejection came from people I didn’t know. Crazy as it sounds to me now, since the people I didn’t know had the money their opinion mattered more to me than that of my nearest and dearest. Now, as overwhelmed as everyone else you know, recognition comes from people you don’t really know and apathy from your online friends.

There’s no malice in this. I’m not even sure anymore that there is a “this”, just people trying to keep up with their lives. Fortunately, even though it took writing this essay to figure it out, I know whose opinions matter more. Just send me a buck once in a while; nobody should have to do this for free.

Previously seen on The Pen’s Might

Learning Curve

This digital re-creation of a beautiful stream and trees in the heart of New Hamshire was fun to create, but makes we think about what constitutes art. I began this project when a friend told me he’d heard you couldn’t paint (create realistic visual images) in photo shop. This is the kind of challenge that always makes me want to find out for myself. Although their are parts of the image, I would probably tweak more, I decided I’d gone far enough with this, my learning curve. I would be interested in thoughts or comments.

Digital painting of a lazy river in New Hampshire

Digital painting of a lazy river in New Hampshire

LIVING ARTFULLY

Leopards' Last Stand

Leopards’ Last Stand

Living Artfully requires that we live consciously and aware of our actions. This includes not only our personal choices and actions, but those of humanity, of which we are a part. As long as there is even one person who denies reality in the cause of greed, the response to fear, or a callous disregard of anyone other than themselves, we, humanity, planet Earth and everything that lives upon it will be at risk. Should we perish sooner than our allotted time and through our own actions, what will be lost will have far less meaning to the cosmos than what might be gained through our growth into harmony. As humanity and Earth have a tipping point so too, I believe, does the universe. For those who may read this and say that God works in mysterious ways, start preparing for the end days. This is not what I think has to happen, but their God has shown little regard for the trials, tribulations and tragedies which we have and continue to inflict upon this ball of mud we call home.

I recently watched the movie Don Juan DeMarco, which I hadn’t seen for many years. Don Juan DeMarco tells his therapist, “There are only four questions of value in life. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.” These questions strike me as the questions and the only true answer we should use to guide our lives. So I will continue to create art and write to present the world  the way I see it in hope that someone, anyone will step back from the willful brutality that we inflict daily upon ourselves and upon our house, the planet where we live.

One such endeavor, previously posted on The Pen’s Might, involved an adaptaion of William Blake’s poem The Tyger, which begins Tyger, Tyger burning bright…. When this poem was written I do not believe Blake could have conceived of a time when the tiger or other animal so fierce could be at risk of extinction. We’re not there yet, but we grow ever closer. So I give you…

THE LEOPARD

Leopard! Leopard! spurning flight
Will you vanish in the night?
What mortal weapon hand or spree
Would end thy fearful symmetry?

Not so distant wait the flies
To watch the fire leave your eyes.
On what fell wings do they descend
Your flesh and sinew then to rend?

And you molder and depart
As humanity lays waste your heart.
And when thy heart shall cease to beat
What tear shed mourns thee complete?

What the hammer? What the chain?
Felled trees so cover’s sought in vain?
What the building, what the rasp
Dare spell your glory’s end at last?

When the stars fall from their spheres
They’ll fill the darkness with their tears.
Who will frown your plight to see?
No lamb e’er existed to remake thee.

Leopard! Leopard! Spurning flight
Will you vanish in the night?
What mortal weapon hand or spree
Would end thy fearful symmetry?

LIVING ARTFULLY

LIVING ARTFULLY

Welcome to Philip Brent Digital Art’s maiden blog, Living Artfully. Some history will help clarify who I am and how I reached this point in my life. The last decade or so has been fraught with challenges and changes. I am not alone in this regard. Many others suffered the anxiety of rising prices, lost jobs, long unemployment and watching their savings dwindle. Others had far worse. Although I did not suffer from unpunished-criminals selling me bogus mortgages and the eventual foreclosures this produced, or bombings, super storms and massacres with automatic weapons personally, I suffered from the stress we all did when learning about these incomprehensible tragedies and disasters. Personally, I got hammered by and persevered through my own setbacks.  These included closure of companies, seemingly endless job searches, injuries, surgeries and three horrible years in a job I once described as death by inches, but which I felt I could not afford to leave. This was followed by two and half years of unemployment, which eventually led to a $10.00/hour job where I stood on my feet all day. More recently, my wife and I, along with friends, were carjacked at gunpoint in Kenya, rabies shots and yet another surgery.

A good friend once taught me to look for the positive in any situation. During my two plus years of unemployment, while taking classes to retain my unemployment benefits as long as possible, I discovered oil painting. As clichéd as it may sound, it felt like the heavens opened up and the sun shone down upon my head. I have pursued this passionately since, when health and circumstances did not interfere. Yet even when such obstacles appeared, I felt driven to create. I have always felt driven to create. Recovering from my recent shoulder surgery severely hampered my ability to paint, I turned to digital art and photography. That is the genesis of this site.

Though still creating, I felt something missing or blocked. After the tragedy of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings and the travesty of our law maker’s failure to act, I felt I must somehow lend my voice to the cause of sanity. In form, this became a reworking of Jonathon Swift’s scathing, satiric essay, a Modest Proposal. I wrote my Immodest Proposal, polished it and eventually published it on the internet. Though I don’t believe many people have seen it, another pathway opened for me. I’d always dreamed of being a writer. However, screenwriting, my first choice, didn’t pan out. Yet, like painting, which followed crafting, quilting, polymer clay and other creative pursuits, I discovered I simply needed to find the right form for my writing. Now, I have found something that works and I haven’t stopped writing since. This leads to what you are reading now. As with my art, history will ultimately decide whether I had anything important, original or valid to express. Regardless, I have a need to express it.

WYGIWYSNISM?
What you get is what you see. Need I say more?
&
WAA
Warts and all

So now, six decades since I made my entrance, stage left, I am a fine artist, a digital artist/photographer, and a satirist/essayist, each under a different name. There are reasons for this, but they’re not germane to my story here. Being an artist, digital artist/ photographer, and a writer, each under a different nom de artiste/nom de plume would seem as if it could lead to confusion yet I find each shares an intuition which helps me coordinate my efforts, while presenting different facets of myself to different communities in a distinct voice. Their commonality is embodied in my title and my feeling about my art and writing. What you get is what you see. Need I say more? I strive to create art which resonates as well as appeals, which adds color, beauty and joy to life, and perhaps brings a smile to someone’s day. I hope my writing, like my art, makes you think, smile, laugh, or cry, that it touches you viscerally, reaching your mind, body, and spirit. I strive to produce the best of which I am capable. However, like life, I believe our best work cannot be sterile, crisp, clean, devoid of vitality, but necessarily will be difficult, uncomfortable at times, and viewed most honestly warts and all. As Mark Twain put it, or I remember it, “of course truth is stranger than fiction, fiction has to make sense.”

While I always believed I wanted to be a writer, I wrote what I was not truly suited to write. I came to painting, to art, and a writing form that suits me late in life by some standards, but like Athena leaping full grown from Zeus’s forehead; I have come armed for the fray and apply myself with a will. As a Wikipedia entry has it, “Athena is goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and is the goddess of heroic endeavors.” This as a description of a creative life in our modern world is well suited to our reality. Honest creation, creation from the heart, spirit and mind, no matter what our age or the age of man, requires courage, inspiration, strength, strategy, art, craft and skill. Whatever our creative endeavor, acting, drawing, painting, writing, performance, filmmaking, others I have not named or remembered, or just living our lives artfully in this time where callous greed, corrupt self-interest, and unmitigated contempt for humanity and our planet, Earth, appear rampant, pursuing art is a hero’s journey. It is a just battle and we who have undertaken this quest need to cultivate bravery, humility, strength, and whatever help, support, or inspiration the universe presents or provides.

Violence proliferates, the climate degenerates, and our hopes appear to evaporate. Artists, the creative among us in all fields, not just what is by tradition referred to as art, challenge us to examine our follies and admit our imperfections through their continual striving to express the best of themselves. But they also challenge us by direct confrontation, holding mirrors to our perfidy, sometimes simply by presenting something so honest, so striking, beautiful and true that we must acknowledge our weaknesses and seek our higher selves. We may smile or nod, laugh or cry, or show no indication we have been changed, but we remember love, hope and laughter and we understand that every living being shares these same emotions. We see something so incredible in itself, so obviously art, that we are struck to our core with its blinding beauty and transformative power, even if the surface appears hideous or causes pain, fear and sadness. After we have seen it, heard it, read it, experienced it in whatever form it takes, we will be forever changed, unable to live as we did previously.

VOX CLAMANTIS IN DESERTO

Yet as artists know we must scream, even in the most dulcet of tones, to be heard amidst the clamor and clangor of daily life. We are vox clamantis in deserto, voices crying in the wilderness. We must continue to cry out from our deepest selves, where we find our true connection to the entire universe and to each other. When we do this, sometimes we are heard and sometimes we are joined by other voices. We must hold forth, with all our strength and courage until the joining voices drown out the cynicism of our inhumanity and the hubris of our actions, as our planet fights for its survival in a struggle our madness tells us we can win.

Yet I, too, am mad, for I believe that we can change. Please join your voice to mine, with each joining each, until we form a great chorus which silences the haters, the doubters and the cynics among us. Until we understand the only struggle we must undertake is within ourselves.

Please visit again. You will always be welcome.

Philip Brent (Harris)

You may see my other artwork, photography and writing through the following links:

http://brentharrisfineart.com

http://philip-brent.fineartamerica.com

http://brent-harris.fineartamerica.com

http://thepensmight.com

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/16/1187707/-AN-IMMODEST-PROPOSAL