No Go

January 18th, 2018

Before I opened it I recognized the letter and knew its content. Why? Because it’s the same form letter I’ve seen so many times before.

Dear Hyatt, I want to thank you for your time and consideration taken in submitting your artwork to the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach.  We received numerous applications but unfortunately your artwork was not chosen to exhibit in the 2018 Festival. I wish you continued success in your artistic endeavors, blah, blah, blah . . .

My three oil entries, next to some fine mosaic works.

“Numerous applications” is an understatement. As I was to learn, there were 198 applicants vying for just 28 slots. That means I was one of 170 to receive that letter! Bad news for so many.

I must say there was a lot of good art on display. Every applicant had three pieces, or more if entering multiple categories. So there had to be at least 600 works of art on the grounds: paintings, photography, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry and more. One could almost pity the judges!

My assistant, Anne, about to remove my mixed media pieces. (Next summer I’ll be her assistant again, and happy to be.)

I wanted to get a picture of the grounds to show the array, but it was spread out in various locations and by the time we returned most had already been removed.

This blog, then, is a reporting back after the last one, when I was heading in, full of hopes and optimism. That hope is gone, but the optimism remains. My work is the same, my guidance is clear: For this summer, “not there.”

“The race,” as I note in my It’s About Life book, “is not to the swift . . . time and chance happens to us all.”

Life goes on.

Next Events

I’ll be the featured artist next month at the Sandstone Gallery in Laguna Beach; opening reception February 1, 6:00 p.m.

Anne and I will be the featured as visual artists with the Dana Point Symphony. The concert is February 2, 7:30 at Saint Edwards church. Tickets available online. The art reception follows.

Next month at the Hilton Conquistador Resort outside of Tucson I’ll be doing another multi-day “public painting.”

Currently working on an ambitious commission, The Beatitudes, on eight canvases, for a friend’s church in Anchorage. I’ll doubtless feature that here one day. “Blessed are the meek . . . ”

New Venue

As of today I’m in a new venue in San Juan Capistrano. Wildfire is a beautiful western wear and accessories store. Just one of my works is there, but “western” is one of my genres, so we’ll see what happens.
The painting: “Cool in the Sun,” oil, 31″x45.”

 

29 Comments

A Jurying

January 12th, 2018

I thought I’d let you in on the process of the weekend, regarding my art. This Saturday is the big day when hundreds of artists from all over Orange County will converge in Laguna Beach to compete for about 30 open slots for this summer’s Festival of Arts. Anne, as you know, has been in it many times, and will be again next summer. That’s already decided. I’ve never been accepted.

Daughter of Mongolia, oil over acrylic, 27×24 framed.

We don’t compete, which is good. And I’ve always been proud that her work has been deemed at such quality for acceptance. As for me, I’ve probably entered work for the jurying about ten times and have never been accepted. So here I go again. This time I’m entering in two categories.

Silver Necklace, oil with silver leaf, 27×24 framed.

For each category, three pieces are entered. The category you’re looking at here, with the frames, is “mixed media.” That is, they’re made with a combination of materials, in my case both acrylic and oil and sometimes gold or silver leaf.

Japanese Classic, oil with gold leaf, 27×24 framed.
With all of these, click twice to enlarge.

To give the paintings a little more specialness, I mounted them on hand-painted abstract backgrounds, “floated” within deep cut mats, then placed in an elegant frame, behind glass. Hope you like them.  Hope they like them.

If they don’t, I have more.

Sharon in Studio 2, oil on canvas, 36×36.

The other category I’m entering is “oils.” This is my main medium in any case. I think I’ve displayed these before, if not here, on Facebook and Instagram. This and the following have an aspects of realism yet with abstract elements. “Sharon” began originally from a model session in the studio.

Morning Meditations, oil on canvas, 36×36.

Here’s a match, similar style with the abstract touches. The pose came from Anne as she spends the first hour of her day in her favorite chair. I liked the pose but didn’t want her specifically, so I changed the face. What I ended up with was a likeness of Anne at an earlier time. I think it’s a keeper.

Child Monk, oil on canvas, 44×29.

For the third in this category, I’m submitting a piece done recently on spec. I thought maybe the photographer of the photo would like the painting. He did, but not to buy it. So I have it. As for the judges, they don’t have to buy it; just to like it.

If nothing happens, it’s not the end. If it does, I’ll let you know, either soon or eventually.

Wish me luck.

27 Comments

A Legacy Portrait

January 4th, 2018

Early in December an e-mail arrived in my in-box from Chattanooga:

Hyatt,  My wife’s father is dying, and I’d like to ask to commission you to do a portrait (from photograph).  He was a poet, and I want to make a canvas from photos from several of his poems (in his handwriting) and have you “paint over them,” much like you did of another portrait I’ve seen. Is this something you have an interest in doing?

Of course I said yes. At first there was no rush. But then, Christmas was coming, and it would make a great family gift. So I got right on it.

A following email supplied the photo of Edward Gould whom they called “Poppy.” He was a devout man. And tall: 6’6.” He lived with the family to a ripe age, dying while I was at work on the portrait. His body, “to science.”

All by email, I was sent scans of Poppy’s poetry. The idea was to incorporate them, not necessarily legibly. I couldn’t help reading them and becoming endeared to the man myself. A true father. I arranged a montage and sent it off to be printed on artist’s canvas.

Here’s how it was looking a good ways into it. I took a few days out for a family trip to Seattle. Still, I was confident about the due date, then the something surprising happened, described in the following email to him.

“One challenge that added to it all schedule-wise (and there’s always a challenge): yesterday morning I found myself with only half use of my right eye. Visits to three doctors occupied much of the day (with me painting in between and through the evening). This morning I had urgent surgery for a detached retina! Now I’m working with one eye patched, and instructed to only look down for two days.  I’ve found a way to keep painting in the looking down position, so all is well.”

So I painted the rest of it with one eye. I only wore the bandage one day, but the affected eye will be healing for two months, with little use meantime. To add to it all, at the check up, my other eye was found to have a torn retina, something the surgeon attended to immediately with laser technology. Incredible! And how grateful I am for the science. Meantime, the art continued.

Double click for larger view.

In the end I found a provisional frame so it would look good on Christmas morning. It was a $300 charge to get it across the country on time the week before Christmas. Happily, it satisfied. Here is the final e-mail:

The painting was a big event. A really great legacy. Know that your God-given talent has now become a family heirloom that will be cherished for generations. Not many men can say that about their giftings. Thank you.

I’m grateful, of course, for all things. Meantime, my eyes are healing, and I’m painting away on new projects.

_______

PS  I wrote an account of discovering and addressing the first affect eye on my other blog, If Your Eye be Single.

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Egypt 2017

November 24th, 2017

We went to Egypt. On return I got the idea to make a book from our photos. It’s large, 12″x12.” Due to expense, there’s only one copy, made for our own memories. But here it is, shared with you, all 62 pages. Enjoy. To view larger, and to read the captions, click on each spread (maybe twice), then arrow back.

The title page (not shown), says: Highlights of Giza, Cairo, Memphis and Luxor plus the El-Khatatba Retreat Center near Cairo, where a team of us built a playground with Kids Around the World. Photographs by Hyatt and Anne Moore. (BTW, I left this cover painting there as a gift; see last page.)

No “PDA” allowed (public display of affection). But what about that statue?

Local “sales people” met us at every stop, eking out a living.

There are many sphinxes, then there is THE Sphinx, here front and back.

Grandeur everywhere. This statue was discovered upside down in a river.

I photographed the living too, among the dead, noting this fine, still posture.

The pigment and egg-white color has lasted on some of the hieroglyphics.

Now we can’t say we’ve never ridden a camel. Incredibly ungainly, I must say.

Daily dusk on the Giza Plateau . . . three pyramids, the Sphinx, and us.

The temple in Luxor, a place of many sights, an hour’s flight from Cairo.

These places built just for pharaohs. Now we commoners can go in.

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh (who wore a false beard). 

More superb wall art, created by the talented and necessary artisan class.

We couldn’t take enough pictures, the elegance in stone was everywhere.

Back to Cairo, wandering and wondering among museum artifacts.

We weren’t alone, though tourism is down, “since the revolution.”

Check the modern hieroglyphics on the restroom sign at right.

Intrigued to find sandals so close to the ones we wear (right).

Of course, boats, Egypt having the Nile, Mediterranean and the Red.

I surreptitiously worked to get this photo, her hiding in black, but standing out.

 

Loved their love of animals, their artistic depictions, two-dimensional or three.

That coffin lid at right is cover for another coffin inside at its left.

Though we saw more cats, did find this dog regal and phenix-like.

We were also exposed to the Coptic Christian culture, historic and present.

This, a monastery from the fourth century, still us use (also, below left).

At right, The Hanging Church, traditionally where the infant Jesus was.

Coptic priests and a monk (right), all with beards, always in black.

Street scenes and a daily haul headed back to Cairo’s Garbage City.

Two famous Coptic churches, the Cave (top) and the Cavern, both in use.

The first part of our trip was to build this playground at a Coptic retreat center. About 15 of us volunteered with Kids Around the World, a second such venture for Anne and me (after Jericho a couple of years ago).

The results of our efforts, groups of happy children, bussed in from all over Egypt for days of instruction and helps in many ways.

The caption on the last page reads: Working ahead, our group prepared gifts for the children. I made and brought this oil painting, “Child of Egypt,” here received by Father Dawood Lamey, chief visionary and leader. On acceptance he remarked, “I’ve seen this child many times.” I was grateful for that.


Next

Don’t miss the show at the house, coming up next weekend, December 2 and 3, both afternoons and evenings. Daughter Allison’s work will be featured too. Feel free to bring a friend. Here’s the announcement.

 

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The Work Goes On

October 31st, 2017

Anne and I were in Washington, DC this last weekend with several hundred others for an event entitled IllumiNations. Once again, as I’ve done before at these, I painted live.

Here I am set up at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the figures already painted.
(Apologies to those who already saw the development of this on Facebook.)

Mine was a small part of a grand affair. It was a gathering of ten agencies dedicated to translation of the Christian scriptures into the remaining languages still without them. Among the guests were people of both heart and means to help it along.

This time I did much of the painting in my studio in California and sent it across in a mailing tube, stretching the canvas on location. Then, over two days, between attending many of the sessions myself, I completed the painting.

The English People Reading Wycliffe’s Bible, 14.5 ft. x 10 ft. All levels of society sought out the teaching.

My inspiration came directly from another painting by Sir George Clausen. In 1925 he was commissioned by Parliament to depict a great moment in British history, the first translation of the Bible into English by John Wycliffe. Considered the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” Wycliffe lived 100 years before Martin Luther. Such activity was heavily frowned on by the authorities, thus the outdoor setting and the furtive looks by at least one.

The Work Goes On, 7 ft. x 4 ft. Oil (figures) and acrylic (background). For each, click to enlarge.

You’ll recognize compositional similarities between Sir Clausen’s and mine. I used images of tribal people in mine to illustrate the languages still in focus. In a great many cases, it’s these people themselves doing the translations, with assistance of various kinds. The groups I used are (from left): Guatemala, Tibet, Chile (with child), Kenya, China, Georgia (seated), India, North Africa, Kenya, Peru and Bhutan. My title: The Work Goes On.

Relaxed at the completion. I was grateful for the small alcove of a “studio.”

During breaks people milled around and watched, or I’d take a break and talk. Note the prints on canvas or other originals I brought along. Happily almost all of them found other homes in the process. The mural itself will adorn one of the headquarter offices of the IllumiNations group. All ten of the organizations received a framed print of one of the faces depicted in the painting.

_________________________

Next

This week we’ll both have new shows at the Sandstone Gallery during the Laguna Beach Art Walk. That’s 6:00 till 9:00, Thursday, November 2 (Anne’s birthday, yikes!).

After that we’ll travel to Egypt for ten days. More about that another time.

Then, mark your calendars for our Show at the House, the weekend of December 2 and 3. Hope to see you.

 

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Laguna Show Tomorrow

October 4th, 2017

Anne and I are both opening tomorrow evening at the Sandstone Gallery in north Laguna. You may know that we are regular members at that gallery, but only once in a while are we the featured artists . . . and this is the first time together. The show will be up all month, but the gala opening is tomorrow, Thursday, October 5, 6:00-9:00.

Those are my pieces in the window and behind. Just one landscape is featured, a large impression of the California hills. Sandstone features abstract and semi-abstract artists only, thus this is kind of work I show there (mostly).

Anne is showing some ten new pieces. Most of these were finished during our recent art making retreat in Idaho. If you missed the video showing that, see the most recent Blank Canvas blog, here.  (Also, click these photos to enlarge.)

These photos were taken as we were finishing up the hanging, with nobody around. The environment is much different on art walk night, with crowds milling through. All the galleries on the street are open, the weather is almost always perfect, and it’s just a great time to be out. All the pieces I’ll be showing this month are on my website page dedicated to the Sandstone Gallery, here.

As is my wont, I’ll be painting live Thursday evening, which is always fun for everyone, especially me. Besides Anne and me, many of the eight other artists of the gallery will be there with their great work.

So, come if you can. You’ll love it. And so will we.

Address: 384A  North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA, open daily, 12:00-5:00.

Art Walk: Thursday, October 5, 6:00-9:00.

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Swan Valley, 2017

September 14th, 2017

Hi friends. Here’s a quick look at where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing in Swan Valley, Idaho. I’ll just show a few pictures, but the real insight is in the video at the bottom.

This panorama doesn’t do the place justice, but you get the idea. (Click it.)

It’s a wonderful mess, Anne’s paraphernalia close up, my studio at the rear.

A selfie at dinner, Anne’s tortellini soup with Italian sausage and corn bread.

A corner of the trout pond just behind the house. We left the trout alone.

Evening from the back porch on the last day.

You’ll enjoy the video tour. Consider the vertical format a view through a moving doorway. Be sure to click the ikon for full screen view.

PS.  If you didn’t see it, you might also enjoy my other blog, written from Swan Valley this week, here.

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Paintings in Progression

August 4th, 2017

Thought you’d like to see a couple of recent paintings and the stages they went through before completion. Painters don’t necessarily begin their paintings alike, and I don’t always do it the same way myself. In the case below, it started with a fairly scribbly approach just to get the gesture and the position on the canvas (which I notice is a little off). It’s all done in oil, thin at first, on a scrap of canvas I had to practice on. The work is from life; I took her picture just for the record.

Renaissance Girl, 20×16, oil on canvas. Click twice on any of these for a larger view.

Here’s the final result when I finished. It was still very lose and without detail, but I rather liked it that way. It’s too easy to keep painting and lose the vitality. Besides, it had been about an hour and a half and I was ready to do something else.

Renaissance Girl, Face, 12×9, oil on paper.

So I moved in a little closer and concentrated on just the head. The lighting was nice, good for contrast and giving those little spots here and there. Flattering me, the model took photographs of both these paintings for herself.

________

Here’s another, this one from a photo which I viewed on my laptop screen. I did it during Art Walk at the Sandstone Gallery while visitors were milling about. It gave me something to do and for them, a little amusement. (I tell them I charge five cents to watch :-)

Masai Maiden, 12×9, oil on paper.

Once again, I could have gone further. The Masai are such colorful people. I’ve painted them before, having been to Kenya. The paper, by the way, has been treated with Shellac, which is mostly clear, and keeps the oil in the paint from leaching into and destroying it in 500 years. It’s a small precaution . . . there are other dangers looming before then.

The Festival of Arts continues in Laguna Beach with some 140 artists, live music, and happy vibes. Anne is at her booth (#130) most evenings; I go half that time, supporting her. It runs for the rest of this month. Don’t miss it.

Our Next Show at the House is now scheduled for the weekend of October 14 and 15.  Mark your calendars and don’t miss that either.

I’m doing a Lecture and Demo this coming Sunday at the Loma Linda Cultural Arts Association. That’ll be at 2:00-4:00, 25571 Barton Road, Loma Linda, California. All invited.

I’m still doing Coaching in the Studio for mid-level painters. It’s Saturday mornings for two hours, $60. If interested, contact me by email: moore@hyattmoore.com.

I’ve just begun showing and following on Instagram. If you are too, you might check me out. It’s a great way to see a lot in a very little time.

 

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Anne’s Work Featured at Festival, Pinterest Fame, and How Justine got her Head

July 6th, 2017

Once again, Anne was selected to be among the artists showing this summer at the famous Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. That event has been going on for 85 years, and it’s prestigious to be juried into it. (I never have been.)

Wandering-Public-1300

This year the whole venue has been renovated. There are 140 artists displaying and selling. Here’s the opening night before the sun went down and the lights came up, making it really magical. Anne’s booth is in the distant right with the ochre wall. What you don’t hear is the band, making it really festive.

We-two-1300

Somebody offered to take a shot of us both, though I get little credit (except marrying tastefully). Notice her book on display, available here.

Concealed-Consequences-1300

Concealed Consequences, just one of Anne’s new works, framed and featured. There’s nothing like the Festival to get her motivated to produce new work. The studio has been awash with such elegance of design and color.

With-Justine-1300

Here’s Anne with granddaughter Justine, already fashionable with the mandatory holes in pants. Sorry her expression isn’t better. She told me this morning that she’d bought her head.
“What, like in a head shop?” (I didn’t think she’d get that.)
“No, in a thrift store.”
“How did you find it, without eyes?”
“I just felt around. Then somebody picked one out they thought would look good on me.”
“Good choice,” I said, “you got a good deal.”
Such creativity. It’s non-stop.

Cohisive-Diversity-1300

Cohesive Diversity, another monotype on display at Anne’s booth. There are a number of printmakers showing at the festival, all excellent, all completely different, with lots of mutual admiration.

Do you know Pinterest? A lot of people have discovered Anne’s work on that site. In fact there are some 200 followers who have boards exclusively dedicated to the work of Anne Moore. Here’s a link to Anne’s own board.

The Festival of Arts runs all summer, mid-morning through the evening. Anne will be at her booth (Number 130) a lot of the time, but not all. If you’re coming and you’d like to see her, send an email in advance: anne@hyattmoore.com.

_________

PS

I’ve heard nothing more after the story of the ex-con artist featured last time. I’ve sometimes checked the BBC Channel 4 site. It’s legitimate, and they do some interesting programs. But we can’t get it here in the U.S. So that, I suppose, is that. I trust I helped him on his way.

 

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Resourceful to the Max

June 2nd, 2017

van-gogh-prisoners-exercising-115

It was a most unusual experience. Early last week two stylish and professional women came into the gallery where I was sitting that day. They said they represented the BBC and were looking for a place and a person to dialogue with an artist from England. They couldn’t tell me his name, only that he’d had some problems and was now “coming back.” I listened for awhile. It didn’t sound like a scam, so I agreed to help them out.

Over the next two days I received phone calls from other “producers,” seemingly more to check me out, that I was the right one to do this and that I’d dependably be there.

On Thursday I worked the gallery again. It’s the Sandstone Gallery in Laguna Beach where Anne and I both show our work. By late afternoon the two young women showed up, then three camera men, a sound man, and two more producers, men. Things were rearranged for best shooting angles. Then, finally, he appeared, the artist from England. Let’s call him Mark, as I’ve forgotten his real name. I still didn’t know anything about him besides what I’d first been told. Immediately camera were rolling.

Mark was a tall fellow, slightly bald, slightly crooked of tooth, large ears, large voice, and occasionally a large laugh—though somewhat forced and a little countrified. Of course he spoke with a British accent. (Or do I have an American accent?) He wore a medical neck brace, which I never quite got the story about. He was tall, and in fact that was my first comment in sitting down together, “How tall are you?”

“Six-foot, four.”

“Wow, I wonder what the perspective is like from there, looking over most people’s heads.”

“Yeah,” he said, “When I was inside . . .”

“What? Inside what?”

“You know, in the big house.”

“Prison?”

“Yeah.”

So this was the mystery . . . the part I hadn’t been told. He’d been in prison, was just out, he was an artist, and the BBC was tracking him to see if there would be a story. If he was a great artist, they’d be in on his development. Even if not, it could be an interesting story to see how an ex-prisoner attempts to rebuild his life using art as his vehicle. The producers had told me they didn’t know what would happen with the footage, whether it would eventuate into a documentary, a TV series, one program, a movie or what? Mark would be in the States for one week. He would meet various people, including at least one gallery. This was his first day; this was his first gallery.

I liked him. And he’d apparently been looking forward to meeting me. He even carried a clipboard with a sheet of questions. Early on he wanted my opinion about whether one should tell interested clients his background. I affirmed that he should. People want to know who it is that made the art, what’s their story, how they happened to become who they are. If it’s a unique story, all the better. And when they buy the painting and display it, they’ll tell the same story to their friends.

He listened carefully to all this and thanked me for it. But there was another question: “How much do you tell them about how you made it?”

“Same answer,” I said, “that is if they care. I tend to tell people about my process of a given painting whether they care or not, because I think it’s interesting. So, yes, tell them.”

He thanked me for that too. Then he asked me how to succeed as an artist.

“That’s a harder one,” I told him. “There’s no one answer. First,” I said, “Define success. If it’s all about money, how much? How consistent? Maybe there’s never enough? If you define success as happiness it’s easier, you may be there already.”

He thought that was interesting. “But you’re successful,” he said, making a broad sweep of all my paintings on the wall.

“I’m successful on the latter part,” I said, “but you have no idea how many of these paintings are actually selling . . . and the same with all the seemingly successful artist in the galleries up and down the street.”

“Okay,” he got that, but what he really wanted to know was whether he could hope to make some money, some real money, some consistent real money on this new venture. I told him there was no one way that I know of, that every artist finds his own way . . . or doesn’t.

One thing I did tell him that I’ve discovered and that I tell other artists, “Go through every door that opens, and . . .” he broke in with his big rowdy laugh and finished my statement: “Bash down the others.”

It was, “knock on all the others,” that I was going to say.

“Why were you in prison?” I was curious but didn’t know if he’d want to divulge.

“I was naughty,” he said.

“Okay.”

“I was naughty nine-teen times!” He laughed.

“But I never hurt no one.” He emphasized this. “I’m tall but I’m not strong; I’m weak.”

He wanted to know how I got into art. I told him a brief version of my story, which he found interesting, and I was interested in how he got started.

“It was inside,” he said.

How long had he been there?

“Just 20 years.”

“Twenty years!?!” He passed it off as if comparing to others with far more.

He told how one day he was just so angry with everything he took it out on a wall, marking it all up. When the guard saw it he said, “That’s good art! I’m still going to wash it off, but you’ve got ability.”

That got Mark’s attention.

After that he said he started doing it more, drawing on whatever he could find. But it really began when he got to acting out again and they threw him in solitary.

“Solitary confinement?

“Yeah. Have you ever been in solitary?”

“Not yet,” I said.

“It bad,” he said, “just those padded walls. I had some books and stuff, but then I got an attitude and they took all that away too, just to really punish me. I was in solitary for three months. Can I show you some of my art?”

“Of course.” This is what artists do, they show their work . . . especially to another artist, in a gallery. He’d brought with him a standard portfolio bag for flat art and a relic of a small suitcase, the kind you might find in a consignment shop for someone wanting a touch of nostalgia. He opened it and brought out a small piece of wire sculpture mounted on a block of wood. It was really quite fine. I wish now I had a photo of it, and of his paintings, and of him, and of us together. But I didn’t think of any of that. Wouldn’t there be plenty anyway? The cameras were rolling the whole time . . . though we’d become completely oblivious to them.

I got down on my knees for close inspection of the little sculpture. It was of a prison bed, complete with prisoner in it and even a piece of torn muslin for the “sheet.” I thought, “Wow, he really is an artist.” But still quite naive.

He called it his “two dimensional work.”

I said, “No, that’s three dimensional.”

“Two,” he argued.

“No, the work on the walls is two dimensional, with height and width. This has hight and width and depth, it’s three-dimensional.”

“Whatever,” he said.

Later he showed me a colored drawing of a two-decker British bus which he called a “self-portrait of a bus.” Again I had to correct. “It’s not a self portrait unless you’re in it. There’s nobody at all in your picture.”

“Yeah, but I did it. It’s a self-portrait.”

“Whatever.”

He showed me more of his paintings. One was a rear view of prisoners from slightly above, another of nature from behind bars complete with heavy lock, another was of one of his two daughters . . . “from two mothers,” he said, “one I don’t speak to. But I love my daughters.”

For the most part the colors were in brown tones, the substrate was manila file folders, some with labels in the corners that had been torn off. The perspective in the drawing was good, and I saw no evidence of any pre-drawing, further impressing me. I told him one reminded of a Van Gogh where he had painted prisoners in an exercise yard. Mark found this very interesting. Of course Master Vincent was never in prison, but often dignified the down-trodden.

van-gogh-prisoners-exercising

Detail of Van Gogh’s Prisoners Exercising.

“Can I tell you how I made them?

“Of course,” I said.

“Feces,” he said, and waited for it to sink in.

“Feces?” I repeated, as the next level of this whole odyssey began to take shape.

“I had nothing else, he said, “that and a little bit of blood,” (and some other fluids the body produces that I won’t mention here).

“What did you use to put it on?” I asked, the line work being too fine for finger application.

“I made a brush,” he said.

“Of what?”

“Hair. My own.”

I admit I’m as stunned now as I recount it as I was when I was first hearing it. It’s no wonder the producers wanted me to know nothing before we began. And no wonder they’d done quite a bit of vetting of me, that I’d be one to handle it all in stride.

The fact is, I did. Though there’s an element of disgust in it all, there’s something positively creative and eminently resourceful about it. It’s no wonder he’d had these questions about how much to tell, of background, of methods.

Of course that is the story. He did have ability. But really no more, as I reflected later, than a talented high schooler who should be encouraged to develop it. But his story of how he discovered it and what he used to overcome the extreme limitations of resources, not to mention personal freedom, that’s the story.

He asked me if he should keep on using that approach, now that he’s out, or if that would be, “too much of a gimmick?”

I agreed it would be. But who knows? A lot of “artists” have stooped to a lot of things and got rich snowing the public. Artists with a “con” in the front. Only here it’s an Ex-con artist. (My joke. Don’t know if he’d have laughed.)

Our interview was at a close. I gave him a few more pieces of counsel as to how to succeed, in his case, mainly to be patient and not be tempted to go back to his old ways (like bashing down doors). In it all he thanked me, shaking my hand numerous times, like I’d really been an encouragement.

In his gratitude he left me with a boisterous, “If you’re ever in South London, just tell them you know Mark Cline. You’ll be taken care of.” (That was the first I heard his last name, and in fact I’ve forgotten it now. I only think it was Cline.)

I must say I enjoyed the whole process, and the crew, as they gathered up their equipment, seemed satisfied with what they got.

It was on the way home I got to wishing I had got his full name and some indication as to when it might air on BBC’s Channel 4. Later I put in a call to one of the young women that had first approached me. With no response, I called the other. I did this for a number of days, leaving messages, sending texts, and growing a little annoyed that though I’d been cooperative and dependable, I wasn’t getting the courtesy of a call back. After a week I finally got a recording from one simply saying, “This phone number has been discontinued, good by.” What? I punched in the number of the other woman and, again, “This phone number has been discontinued, good by.”

What was that about? A scam? But to whose profit? Very strange.

The whole thing, really.

If I ever hear more, or learn if anything is to be aired, I’ll let you know.

Meantime, here are a few points that might benefit:

Be resourceful—you may have more than you know very close at hand.

Measure your success by your happiness over your income, you might be closer than you think.

Go through all the doors that open, and knock on all the others. (And don’t be tempted to bash them down.)

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