Am I dead, I asked her?
In a box, I did molder,
rotting, shapeless, my nightly sleep.
Dead, but dreaming, of what waited
beyond my comfortable dirt, beyond
my opulent world of worms and disquiet.
But when they asked, wake me none I said
until the day my box is broken.
And then the first of dreams
drained through the holes where nails once lay.
I listened. I woke. And pushed away the cold dirt.
My insides, new, pumped with raw life,
and I recalled the days I’d never lived.
The moon, she burned my face. My eyes, she scalded
with such light my box never allowed.
Still hushed, she bade me walk beside her,
and her smile drank away my grave-dust.
For hours, we tread lightly
On the shadowed fields, unseen.
Of the world below, of worms, of coffins, she asked,
and for the moon, we floated high,
in the wind, the light, and nothing.
But to the silver jewel, we never did come,
for at last, she saw the dusk within,
and feared, with me, the sun
would not rise.
Quickly, we climbed back down.
The dirt waited, starved of me.
Where now will you go? the dream asked me in lament.
To sleep, I said. My home, it is,
in my tomb, dead but dreaming always.
Down, she lay me, shining no more, but gloaming
as I slid into bed, shivering.
Again, I’ll see you? she asked.
Long from now.
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In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.
Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does she?
One dead. Every night. Forever…
Let the Bodies also appears in the short novel – The Hecatomb.
The cover art (The Shroud) is available as an art print right here.
For about half of the paintings I create, I begin by drawing a detailed pencil sketch.
My favorite subject to draw is beautiful women. And demons…let’s not forget demons.
During the painting process, often many of the subtle pencil textures are lost. Paint flows atop soft pencil strokes, hiding much of what once existed.
For this reason, I like to photograph my sketches before I begin painting atop them. The original sketches are almost separate pieces, and I cherish them as much as I do the finished product.
So here we go…
Every pencil sketch I’ve photographed in the last 12 months…
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It’s 11:30 PM on a Monday night. The wind howls against my glass-paneled door. The branches of an old oak scrape against the roof. A little black cat named Bacon makes figure-eights around my ankles.
My concentration never breaks.
I’m in a zone, and nothing in the world can touch me.
It’s on nights like these, with a glass of scotch in hand and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack thrumming, I’m happiest. My rickety wooden easel stands before me, and my paintbrush flies. I can’t quite remember the exact moment I decided to start making art again. As a kid and a teenager, I’d done the same, but many years have passed since then. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to shut the world out and make pictures.
What am I doing here?
Recapturing my youth?
Striving to be the next Van Gogh or modern-day Michelangelo?
Gunning for likes on Facebook?
Nope. None of these.
The music drops off into a somber violin piece. It’s something by Olafur Arnalds. I’ve just messed up while drawing the curve of a woman’s lower lip, and my eraser is on the move. Lower lips are hard sometimes, especially when drawing them from a side-view perspective. But I’ll get it right. Another sip of Balvenie, and I’ve fixed it. Instead of pouty, she looks deadly serious. Just wait til I add her horns:
I don’t have to do art. I want to. I do it because I love it, I think. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like an imposter. I’m not classically trained. I don’t have a specific job in the field. No one will ever ask me to illustrate their comic book, draw their company logo, or paint a portrait of their dog. It’s a good thing, too. Commissions can mean big money for some artists, but I just can’t do it. I can’t. I paint what I want to paint. If that’s not good enough, so be it.
And I definitely don’t want to paint someone’s dog.
It’s late now. Late, late. My kid, the G Man, has curled up on the couch and fallen asleep with his favorite book in hand. It’s a Calvin & Hobbes anthology. Everyone’s kid should read it. The art is neat, Calvin is hilarious, and there’s a bit of philosophy paired with every little panel. Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes’ creator) is pretty much a genius. With a few pen strokes and splash of philosophy, he’s made his art come alive. He fills a need we didn’t even know we had.
And maybe that’s why I’m painting. To satisfy some philosophical need. To ponder my existence while I paint. To separate myself from the world so completely that nothing else exists besides my tiny atmosphere of music, liquor, and art.
My phone is silent. I don’t want to hear it ring…or even vibrate. The world can go ahead and end. I’ll be happy if I’m the last to know.
I don’t have cable TV, satellite, or Netflix. I don’t want to consume everyone else’s creativity. I need to embrace my own.
I’m tired. I’m tipsy. The bones in my hands sing with pain from pounding on a punching bag earlier in the day.
But my paintbrush is steady.
Truth is, when I decided to start creating again, art wasn’t my first choice. Some thousand years ago – or maybe it was only fifteen – I decided the best way to escape was to write books. Long books. Sloppy existential fantasy books no one would actually want to read. If I’m honest, I did it to escape my marriage. My life. My responsibilities. Everything.
But writing didn’t bring me peace. Turns out, while making words is great for the mind, it tends to injure the soul. Long stretches of solitude tucked away in a black room can unsettle even the most steadfast heart. And the time commitment, often several months for even the most pedestrian-length book, is all-consuming. It hurts. Sometimes a lot.
Art, on the other hand…
In a few hours, one can draw something beautiful. And one can be at utter peace while doing so.
Given a full night, an artist can conceive a surreal world and splash it onto a canvas. While sipping wine, listening to music, and carrying on a rich conversation with anyone in the room.
And in a week…well…
Art can be whatever its maker desires. It’s a quick commitment, short and satisfying. It’s a month-long project, with each session bringing a creator visibly closer to the ecstasy of completion. It’s a study of pencil strokes, the movement of watercolor across paper, or the feel of broad lashes of a brush thick with scarlet paint.
I’m no fan of poetry. At least not the kind that uses words. But perhaps art is poetry of another kind. The poetry of motion. The passion of turning shapeless blobs of paint into visible, touchable emotion.
Ages ago, I paired with a fellow artist to create things I’d have never thought of on my own. It’s just another reason making art is sometimes a more powerful elixir for one’s self than writing literature. Writing or painting by oneself can be self-restricting. It can lead one to fall into a creative vacuum.
But art made in the company of other artists…it’s like a conversation in a crowded room. It’s fluid. It allows ideas to flow uninhibited. If you’ve never tried it, invite your friends over to paint with you. Pour something delicious into a glass, silence your phones, set Spotify to random, and fall into your art together. Doesn’t matter how seriously you take it. Chances are, you’ll feel all your stresses melt away.
Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe…
Melting the world, escaping into a 16″ x 20″ piece of stretched canvas, forgetting about your pain, your job, your mortgage. Maybe it’s not about the actual art, but the catharsis. The quick creation of worlds more appealing than our own. Or the exorcism of our fears by painting something terrifying…and realizing our imaginations are more powerful than reality.
It’s morning now. I’m crawling out of bed, and I’m slow to greet the world. My head hurts, my knuckles are sore, and it’s cold in here.
I don’t really want to wake up.
But I know if I do, there’s a canvas downstairs awaiting me. It’s blank and ready to be filled with shadows.
Once I pick up my favorite brush, I’ll be hooked. The sun will rise, the music will play, and I’ll fall away from this world.
…and into my own.