Portrait of a climbing buddy

I met a great climbing partner 9 years ago in Joshua Tree. He wants to remain anonymous so I’ll call him John. We put together a van full of 4 guys and spent 3 weeks living the life. We are still friends today as we have a lot in common including: web design, inventing, playing guitar, and teaching.

We also both know our good friend Paul, who used to be a stellar climber but is now blind after a brain injury following a climbing accident. ‘John’ knows I’m trying to learn to paint so I asked him if he would consider sitting for a portrait. I said I couldn’t pay him…artist models earn $18 an hour. In exchange for posing, I’d give him the painting. He was onboard immediately. We are both underemployed and were easily able to schedule a couple morning painting sessions.

I’m still enjoying my break from Facebook. It’s so refreshing living the life I had before social media. My son used to always see my paintings first on facebook. He’d come over to the house and say, ‘oh yeah, I saw that on facebook…nice’. Now that I’m not online as much, it was awesome watching his expression when he first saw it…in real life. ‘Dam dad, you are getting really good at that!’

I know it’s got a few problems. Eyes have always been hard for me, and the background is unfinished. But it’s breathing and has staying power. I chose to walk away before I overworked it. I’m studying a book on painting called Alla Prima 2. He is famous for leaving large areas of his canvas completely unfinished. If the painting speaks, it is wise to leave it alone. Knowing when to stop is often the hardest part.


Life without Facebook

My last post was written shortly after I got off Facebook. It’s been a month now. I get on about once a day, but only toward the end of the week when I’m communicating with climbing partners. When I’m on it’s just to check messenger, I never look at pictures anymore, or scroll down to look at the feeds of my virtual friends.

I have another friend who did the exact same thing. His work got busy, and he dumped Facebook. I stopped off after work to see him today. It was so refreshing to communicate with a real friend face to face. We used to talk on facebook, or via messenger, or phone. But face to face feels so right.

His girlfriend was there for part of the time and we talked about how humans evolved to need face to face communication. We are still wired that way. It’s not like we’ve evolved past it. Communicating on facebook over pictures, and status updates seems sort of like real life, but it pales in comparison to the real thing.

We spend all those hours peering at these little glass screens, typing cute remarks about photos or politics. And it feels like human communication…but really all you are doing is typing while starting at glass. You don’t get to hear their voices, smell their scent, see the real colors of their eyes, and there expressions as you talk. At the end of the day, it doesn’t work for me. I prefer to have a few real friends, who actually like me enough to see me in person, than 100 facebook ghosts seen on a glass screen.

Despite my avoidance of facebook, I do like to write, mostly to clear my head, but also as a way to have a record of what I was doing, long after I forget about the little day to day details.

I went to Vantage and met Dave D, Roy, JoJo, Ingrid, Vlad and Des. Dave, Roy and I climbed all the moderate cracks, including Pony Keg, Air Guitar, Crossing the threshold, Whipsaw and Tangled up in Blue. I led everything but crossing. Dave was warming up after some time off, and Roy is still learning crack climbing. Sunday I led Steel Grill after following Ride ’em cowboy. Steel Grill wore me out. I had to pull on a cam at the crux. After that I was weak as a puppy. But it was a super fun weekend. At one point I was sitting on the ledge looking out over the lovely afternoon light on the valley down below.

“There’s no place I’d rather be.”

“I hear that,” Dave replied.

Facebook time out

When I was on vacation last month I enjoyed being off the grid. It was super nice to live in the moment and forget about the world outside our little climbing and painting bubble down in Utah.

After I returned, I tried to improve the paintings I did down there. But it turns out I couldn’t do much for them in the studio. I seem to be an on location painter, period. I tried to breath more life into them…but the oxygen they need is down in Moab, not in my studio. I did at least try not to make them worse. And I only worked on one of them, but eventually gave it up as a lost cause. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the painting, I tend to do that. I’ve had paintings  sell that I thought were broken.

But finally I posted them up to Facebook to see what my friends thought of my work. But after posting them, I got to thinking about why it even mattered to me what my friends thought. And that made me realize I needed a break from Facebook. I haven’t been on for a week, and intend to stay off for a while.

I like to thing that my art is an activity that transcends time. One of the reasons I love making art is that I am creating something that lives all on it’s own. A good piece of art, whether it is a book, a song, or a painting, has a life of it’s own. We are creating beauty where beauty did not exist before.

There is a reason why drawings still survive from the 1500’s and earlier. Everyone who sees them recognizes the beauty, and treasures them. Now this is not to say my art is that good. But perhaps someday it will be, if I keep learning and improving.

I have one of my great aunts paintings on my mantel. She painted it around 1910, and it has been handed down through the family. I love the way art lives on it’s own merits. If it’s pretty, people will hang onto it because it adds beauty to their lives. If the art is bad, it gets thrown away, and that is as it should be.

I also have tons of old photos that have come down through the family, including some of my great aunt, the painter. But the funny thing is, I have no use for them. They don’t add any beauty to my life. Her painting however is lovely. Art is cool, and I feel very lucky to be a painter.

I have all my recent paintings up on my landscapes page on my main website: my landscape painting page

I have a lot of administrative work to do this quarter. We are planning more changes in our program. They will be good changes, and will help our students get jobs, but it’s a lot of extra work above and beyond my normal full time teaching job. Still, I shouldn’t complain, I’m happy to be working. It’s fun learning new things.