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.
What you get is what you see. Need I say more?
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: