Anger Issues?

Studio footprints 2

“What are anger issues, Daddy?”

My ever-perceptive 6-yr-old asked me this on the ride to school a few days ago, having somehow heard the term mentioned in his classroom.

A week earlier, just 2 days after the conclusion of an absolutely mental Art Basel, this very boy stood barefoot and shirtless in my studio, hands gloved in hunter-green watercolor paint, splotches on his shorts, inner arms and legs, one patch in the middle of his back. Home sick from school, I had to bring him with me, and in twenty minutes a bus with eleven collectors, one of whom had been paying serious attention to my career for over a decade, was due to arrive for a studio visit.

I gazed at the mess as the boy stared up at me, fingers spread as the paint dried between them. Tiny green footprints scattered from a seeping puddle in the middle of the floor beside a large rectangle of cardboard covered entirely in swirls of this same muddy green. Beside the cardboard lay a dozen squeezed tubes of watercolor paint, each with its cap off, wounded soldiers in my son’s apparent victory with his verdant imagination.

Bodhi

I shut my eyes and started shaking like a broken toy. Turned from him and literally stomped my feet and made an aggressive growling sound. “No No Noooooo,” I yelled to the concrete floor. When I turned back, my boy stood crying. Crestfallen.

“You didn’t tell me any rules, Daddy. You didn’t tell me what to do!” 

I pride myself on being a self-taught painter who lets it flow and trusts the arc of the sun to choose the palette each day. More gut. Less mind. 

The label on the dunce cap reads ARTIST in this masterpiece by French genius MTO. Photo courtesy of Walter Michot, Miami Herald Staff
The label on the dunce cap reads ARTIST in this masterpiece by French genius MTO. Photo courtesy of Walter Michot, Miami Herald Staff

My son felt green today and let it flow with the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. And in response I chose to trample the flames of his passion, frightening him with a clenched body and sharp-edged raised voice. 

Yes, I was sleep deprived, hungover and emotionally thrashed from a week running around playing the art game. Yes, my ego wanted to sell more at the fairs. Yes, I wanted my studio to appear appropriately shop-worn and smart for the any-minute guests. But his only crime was doing exactly what I gave him permission to do. “I want to paint, Daddy.” I handed him the paper and the paints and showed him where to go about his creative machinations in the next room, as I hung works and swept up and dove deeper into my own fatigue.

Bodhi Paper boy

What does this one look like he wondered, opening one then another of the paint tubes. He brushed at first, then opted for his hands, because finger-painting is awesome. And footprints even awesomer. And eventually he tried every color in the box. Why not, Daddy said I could paint. And who says you can’t have it all? I guess I did when I started yelling at the air. 

So, my lovely, sentient youngest child … anger issues are the residual stink left when a dad squelches his boy’s beauty and never bothers to own it.

King-of-Nothing
The King of Nothing, Acrylic, corrugated cardboard, paper, tape, oil crayon on canvas, 48×36″ 2005

Lucky for us both, I saw the error of my ways in the sheen of your tears. And, later that day, I explained to you how wrong I was. How sorry I was. How sad I was that I gave you the idea that it was not ok to make a mess in the studio, when that’s one of the best reasons to have a studio in the first place. And I told you again that night and again the next day, because … what anger issues remain from my complicated youth shall end with me and not be passed on to your gleaming beautiful heart.

You, my exquisite mess-maker. My teacher. My canvas. 

Let’s go paint!

Winning

 

Read Your Parents’ Secrets

Books Tell Your Secrets

“What are your favorite books of all time,” I asked my 81-yr-old father.
“I’ll have to think about that,” he told me, raking his fingers through his thick gray hair.

My dad is a bright, gregarious man who closes his eyes and throws back his head when he laughs, which is often. He’s a seaman and a spinner of yarns, though I would not describe him as a reader. I did not know which books he cherished. And, when he got back to me after a week, his choices showed me so much … about who he is … and who I am.

My dad and my son - The goal posts of my life
The goal posts of my life

His favorite books: Huckleberry Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Catcher in the Rye, Centennial and My Glorious Brothers. The last two honor his love of country and Judaism – no real surprise there. But, the first three choices really touched me. The books that hit my dad hardest “in his kischkes,” as he would say, were those he read as a tender and impressionable teen. When his dreams were literally unadulterated. Before career stress and divorce and the ravages of time. What they screamed, loud and clear, is that, deep down, my dad is still the boy he was and will always be.

Catcher In The Rye, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10"x8", 2015
Catcher In The Rye, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10″x8″, 2015

In fact, no matter what we’ve accomplished, for better or worse, we are all still very much the children we once were.

The Road, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8"x10", 2015
The Road, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8″x10″, 2015

In the late 1940s, when my dad was transitioning from boy to man, his spirit guides were barefoot adventurers, sailors and seekers. His book choices tell me his icons have not changed to this day.

Cold Mountain, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10"x8", 2015
Cold Mountain, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10″x8″, 2015

Last Sunday, walking on Miami Beach, my two sons and I came to a pond, green with algae and teeming with tadpoles. The kids immediately lay on their knees at the water’s edge, eager to scoop up the little squiggly creatures. A mother a few steps away reminded her young girl not to touch the “dirty” water. In that moment, I remembered clearly how excited I was when I encountered tadpoles as a young boy. And so, I nodded gently when my sons looked back at me for approval. With huge smiles, they plunged their arms to the elbow into the cloudy water.

Where The Wild Things Are, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8"x10", 2015
Where The Wild Things Are, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8″x10″, 2015

As I’ve come to know fatherhood, I realize I’m just a boy doing his best to make my boys thrive and feel best in each situation.

The BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN

I invited my father to be at my side to experience the most important art exhibition of my life, which opens this Saturday & Sunday in the Bay Area.

One thing I do know about my dad is that, in his heart of hearts, he too is an artist. Life did not allow him to pursue it, so he has lived vicariously through my journey … from film school to magazines to fine art. He has been a welcome wingman, for his enthusiasm matches my own.

Best Books Ever Written - Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
Best Books Ever Written – Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

I made a huge piece in his honor for this show, titled The Best Books Ever Written – Thank You Dad.

It spans twelve feet … long and complicated … like my father’s life. It is chaotic yet resolved. Passionate and forthright. Included in the piece are the covers of Huck Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Catcher in the Rye and the rest. Along with books that remind me of my dad: The Old Man and the Sea, Unbroken, Don Quixote and The Giving Tree, to name a few. And books about boys who struggled and won: Oliver Twist, The Little Prince. In essence, this piece shows all the facets of the diamond of my father: the man, the boy and the twisting landscape in which he struggled, survived and succeeded. 

Best Books Ever Written - Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children's book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x60", 2015
Best Books Ever Written – Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children’s book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x60″, 2015

You and your friends are cordially invited to my exhibition this weekend! 

Opening is BOTH

Saturday, May 9 6pm-10pm 

AND 

Sunday, May 10 (Mother’s Day) 12-4pm.

Show runs through May 31

With music Saturday night by special guest:

DJ Shissla/Shizzy (SpaceCowboys).

Style A Gallery – 30C Princess Street | Sausalito CA 

My catcher in the rye
My catcher in the rye

Even if the work doesn’t speak to you, you’ll get to meet my dad. And that will definitely be worth the trip!

A Good Father Scares the Mother (and vice-versa)

“I arranged for Kai and me to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge in a seaplane. Can you believe how cool that’s gonna be!!” I told my wife recently. Kai is five.

That was her cue to say, “Wow … he’s gonna be BLOWN AWAY! I wish my dad did that. You’re one AMAZING FATHER.” Instead, I got a sour look of disapproving concern.

I understand that her job as mommy is to be wary of danger, yet this irked me, because the boy in me knew that this would make a father-son moment for the record books.

 

ACTION – ADVENTURE – ADRENALINE

 

These are the cowbells in the funky score of my past, the things I remember most dearly: a similar plane flight with my stepfather when I was 7, spearfishing the Keys and scuba diving the Caymans as a teen with my dad, my first big wave in hurricane David, whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon, backcountry skiing the Colorado Hut System.

 

MORE COWBELL!

 

 

I want my boys to be the guys everybody knows are up for it when its go-time. Intrepid travelers to the far reaches of the first, second and third world. Outdoorsmen unafraid of dirt, bugs and blisters. The ripping surfers I’m not. My wife is no shrinking violet, but I doubt she shares my burning enthusiasm for these renegade pursuits. And don’t think me sexist; I’m sure there are relationships where the mom owns the risk-taker title.

 

The Tower

 

This is much bigger than my kids’ jumping off the high dive.

 

It’s about BOLDNESS.

 

I’ve made plenty of epic bad choices in my life. But I’ve made 3 monumentally right choices – among the most important decisions of my life, by far … where I shattered the mirror of my existence and irrevocably altered the course of my fate.

 Each choice was VERY SCARY.

  1. I abruptly left U of Florida mid junior year for Cornell, leaving the familiarity of my upbringing for the bigger world of global ambition.
  2. I ditched an ascendant VP of Investments gig for the great unknown of film school, potentially sabotaging certain riches to put my artist marker down.
  3. I abandoned all I knew on the East Coast for the creative dream of California.

Those three “look-mom-no-hands” decisions made me the deeply satisfied person I am right now.

I’m perfectly aware of the pitfalls of projecting my idea of a “life well lived” onto my kids. I will not be the little league dad who takes the game way too seriously because he never could hit the damn ball. Whatever their passions, I’m all for it. I’ll not be at all disappointed if my kids are bookish and reserved. I don’t need X-Games champs to be satisfied. But a bit of hair-raising adventure and the occasional surf safari with da boys … well, it’d just be fun is all. And would keep me young till I’m dead.

Jodi, to her credit, saw in my eyes that nothing she could say was going to keep me and my son out of that seaplane. Though I was pushing the envelope of her comfort zone, she recognized this was not a battle to pick. Though annoyed in the moment, I realize that this was our parenting partnership working well. Daddy scared mommy. Mommy let daddy know she was scared. But both understood that recklessness was not part of the deal. The pilot was a seasoned vet and safety was paramount. I promised to call her the moment we landed … and I did just that.

 

How did the flight go? Watch this clip, and you tell me.

 

 

I love the last shot of Kai at the controls, sitting on a stack of cushions, headset and mic poised on his tousled head. Hands firmly gripping the control sticks as he gazes like an ancient discoverer over the Golden Gate and its rugged splendors. Kai’s comment while in the air, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

POW!

Chalk one up for Gonzo Daddy.

 

Gratitude NOT Attitude!

When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.
Chinese Proverb.

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.
G.B. Stern.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward.

If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.
Frank A. Clark.

Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.
Confucius.

Gratitude preserves old friendships, and procures new.
Anonymous.

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”
William A. Ward.

 

 

5yr-old Sula Knows the Truth

The purest thought you’ll hear all day from my friend’s 5 yr old daughter, Sula.

“Sweet Sula – during our nighttime snuggle, she asked if she could listen to my heart. She put her ear to my chest and then said joyfully, “I hear Harley.” She listened to my heart again and said, “I hear GrandMyron.” On the next listen, she said, “I hear GrandMary” whom she never met in this life. Then as I left her room, she said, “Mommy, when you talk to Harley in your heart tell him I love him very, very much and that he doesn’t have to be scared of thunder anymore.”