Monday, October 26, 2009

My uncomfortable relationship with art

I... want to go running again. Not like, "I should probably go out and run." No, it's more, "I really want to go outside and run. Like, right now."

Damn you, Hansen!

Thank you,
josh bxxxx
It's a sickness.

Kathleen Rooney was featured on Talk of the Nation sometime in the past year, that is when I first heard of her book, Live Nude Girl. I want to go back and listen to that entire interview, I was in and out of the car, visiting actor-teachers around town.

Her book re-entered my memory recently when I was googling a painter who has been work with Leah as a model. He took the time to give it a write-up on amazon or somewhere, and I finally did what I must do in order to get my hands on anything, I put it on my queue at the library. As my car has been in the shop for around a week, I have been on the bus a lot. I really like the bus, because when I am on the bus, I read books. I read books on the bus, and sitting in the kids' room, waiting for them to fall asleep.

I was nervous about reading this book, a memoir of her experiences working as a model, clothed and unclothed, for life drawing classes, sketching collectives, and private gigs. Which character in her story was going to most resemble me? Because there has to be one.

I don't like having hobbies. But I am resigned to drawing being my hobby. Running is my exercise, theater is my work. Drawing is something I do that makes me happy, which otherwise serves no practical purpose. Something I spend time and money on and it doesn't go anywhere, because I don't have the wherewithal to actually be very good.

It was a thrill this summer, actually, to play a character in a play who really is a professional artist. I felt sheepish when people asked how they could get a copy of my graphic novel I HATE THIS and I had to tell them I'm not actually an artist - I just played one on stage.

I played Manet on stage once, too, you know, in a play Sarah wrote. It consumed a year of my life. My year as a French pre-Impressionist painter.

When my wife gave me a gift certificate to an arts supply store in 2001 - the year Calvin was born - I went out and bought some supplies. And was afraid to use them. Eventually I asked a friend or two to sit and they did and that was very nice and they looked like cartoons and then I put them away for a few years.

In early 2007, when the marathon was over and I had not been running in some time and my job had gotten routine and I was trying to figure out what exactly it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life (my thirties coming to a swift conclusion) I asked a friend to take her clothes off for me, and she said yes, and suddenly I was drawing again.

I had drawn nudes before, going back to when I was a teenager. I destroyed those, afraid someone would find them, which is really a shame when you think about it because I think they may have been good. In any case, tear up a photograph sure, but not something you drew with your own hands.

Back then, all of my nudes were of girlfriends so the idea of doing that was tinged with sexual or romantic ideas and for a long time it was difficult to draw someone I was friends with with their clothes on without my head getting all creepy.

So I just leapt over that neuroses by asking a string of good friends to posed nude and now I have a notebook of acceptable amateur drawings. So. Good for me. I can still draw. I draw better. I am happy with my work.

Now, how this all relates to Rooney's book. Before asking good friends to disrobe and sit still for me for two hours, I did some research on how to best take care of them. It was February when I embarked, I made sure there was heat. A private place to change, a robe, clean floors. "Playing professional," as Leah once put it. Thanks, thank you for that.

So I was searching in the book for a reflection of the talentless, 40-ish dilettante who asks young women to get naked for him. And while I found a few creepers in her work, they weren't me. As with everything else I am struggling to create there is a great deal of shyness, boldness, risk-taking and harboring in dull safety. The one person she zeroes in on as someone she just doesn't respect is a guy who has artistic pretensions, but no skill. Or no style. Or no class. Or too much money for her taste.

Well, I am pretentious about a lot of things, but my drawing is certainly not one of them.

Like most non-fiction I read - and that is what I largely choose to read - I was delighted to come away feeling like I had learned something the easy way. Something I was interested in, a shallow education in art history and stories about interesting people. I am still not sure I know anything at all about her ... and as the model, maybe that was the point.

Early in the book, she describes the difference between naked and nude. Nude is, however it looks, beautiful and artistic. It is apart from whatever it is about the human mind that makes the unclothed body something "bad." Dirty. Weak.

Naked is exposed. And maybe that's why I would never post or display my drawings. Because that's me naked. And I do not like to be naked.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's all one.

I was flying solo this weekend - as a parent, not entirely solo. The wife was taking in a preeclampsia event in Chicago (in addition to the Institute and some theater) while I took the kids to two soccer games, three birthday parties and a circus.

I'm not complaining, we had a great time. Oh, and I was there when Josh ran his first 5K.

However, I have SO MUCH GOING ON - turning in my first draft of this season's outreach tour, interviews for a brief piece I am writing for Cleveland Magazine, there are two grants due by the end of the week, two more in the middle of next month and three more after that. There are actors to supervise and a car with a major repair bill hanging over it. Sunday night, and with all this hanging over me I was jittery, irritable and in desperate need of a run.

Running is breath and blood and life. God, it felt good - bless you, Josh, I needed speed and yesterday did not cut it as my weekly (weekly?) three-miler.

I have been reading Kathleen Rooney's book about modeling (review to come, I am sure) and that in addition to some other developments have had me scribbling all weekend, after the kids go to sleep. Running, writing, drawing. All one. All life. All as necessary as caffeine and pain medication.

Podrunner: 142 BPM - A Positive Spin

Distance: 3.25 miles
Temperature: 54º
Weather: coolee-cool

Saturday, October 24, 2009

2009 CWRU Inaugural 5K Race

A Case Western Homecoming race in honor of Stephanie Tubbs Jones - and Josh's first 5K!

Distance: 3.1 miles
Temperature: 55º
Weather: overcast & cool - not miserable.

Start: 8:30 am
Time: 00:42.16

I came in dead last. And yet I came in second in the 40-49 age division. I have a medal to prove it.

The important thing is that Josh, who has never run 5 kilometers in his life, nor run any kind of race at all, can longer say that. I am extremely proud of him, and say that he managed the entire thing without worrying me about his physical safety. He wasn't even very flushed. Piece of cake. A walk in the park. A dash around campus.

Way to go, man.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Weekly it is, weekly it must be. I am fatigued, I yearn for sleep every day, my arms have begun to ache when called for exertion. Not kidding, this is how inactive I am when I do not run.

Having said that, it has been an awesome weekend. I have become wildly motivated, and did an awful lot of housecleaning, rearranging - and instead of wasting time on the Internet, I have placed my sketching materials at arm's reach. When my mind is wandering, I pick up the book and go at it, and then return to useful work.

One major event lately has been the writing of a new script, which you can check up on by visiting my new/old blog. I had one for my play THE VAMPYRES, which fell into disuse when that show closed. As the new play is on a similar topic, I just picked up where I left off.


The plan, if there were a plan, was the go through all the PODRUNNER mixes starting from the beginning. I think this was just because I was a fan from the beginning, and needed an excuse to listen to the first mixes. However, at the rate of one run per week, I have been daunted by the idea of ever catching up, and I wanted to hear what they sound like today. Today I used the latest mix, which you can download by clicking on the mix title above.

Distance: 3.25 miles
Temperature: 45º
Weather: brisk ... yet sweaty.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thank you.

Waking up one weekend morning with a headache is a tragedy, but two smacks of carelessness. It's not fair, excuse me for whining, but there was an awful lot of potential in this weekend and I have had little chance to scratch any of it.

I chalk it up to too little sleep and that damn comforter. I hate being cold, or even cool, but during these transitional months is is necessary for me to sleep as chilly as possible or I begin hibernating. Like a bear. Waking up is like swimming upstream through mucous, fog and dirt.

I struggled through the morning, taking an eventual nap ... and then a run. Finally. A run. And finally I was able to clear my head - the true definition of the word brisk, this run. Lawnmowers, campaign signs, foreclosed houses being restored ...

This year began with a great deal of uncertainty and fear, and I am just talking about here at home. Work, school, community, home and art were all in flux. The solid bond of my marriage and relationship with my children was about all I knew were not going to shift beneath my feet. Moving through my community, which nine months ago seemed on the verge of collapse, along with everything else, alive with activity, with repair and maintenance, having at long last a personal connection with so many of them I had never even seen let alone met before.

It's not Thanksgiving yet. But it feels like it. And right I am so thankful my head doesn't hurt.

Listening to: PODRUNNER Classic - Going Concerns (164 BPM)

Distance: 3.25 miles
Temperature: 47º
Weather: as I say, brisk
Weight: 158 lbs.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Friend Tim P. is running the Twin Cities Marathon as we speak. At the halfway point he was keeping a 12 min. mile - very respectable. I could stay in no longer, I needed to get out.

Slight cramp in my right knee partway through, walked for a bit, kept on. Twice a week? Can we shoot for three?

Had an epiphany right at the start, it made my day. That's for all you writers out there, I ran. I wrote, in my head. I will have half a first-draft in good stead in two hours.

How did we spend the morning? Winterizing the house, ending summer, playing. Later I will sketch. This wasn't supposed to be a remarkable day, suddenly it is.

Listening to: PODRUNNER Classic - Surge (144 BPM)

Distance: 3.25 miles
Temperature: 55º
Weather: cool, awesome.
Weight: 157 lbs.

UPDATE: Josh pointed out the last sentence of the first paragraph is misleading. He thinks I actually ran the Twin Cities Marathon with Tim - and that I dropped out halfway through. What I meant was, "Tim's effort has impressed me on this cold fall afternoon - I could no longer stay indoors, I needed to get out onto the streets of Cleveland Heights myself."