King of The Jungle

The King Is In The Castle

“Dust everywhere… and out of that emerged this beautiful boy with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, holding his hand out to help me to my feet.” – Marie Lu, Legend.

We ate sushi and spaghetti for Thanksgiving last week with a giggly group of old and new friends in the remote Costa Rican surf/yoga mecca of Nosara, a place my wife and I hold deeply sacred. Sitting alone on my board the following morning, Black Friday, I stared into the vast blue and recalled the last time we visited – twelve years earlier – utterly broken and terrified we’d never have children. 

Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Our Sausalito, CA Houseboat 2006

Three miscarriages in one year had turned the lights out on our typically shiny, happy life. The third, at 19 weeks, shut our hearts down completely. All we wanted was kids. A few weeks before Christmas 2006, we opted to bury ourselves deep in Nosara’s jungle with hopes of healing. Sunlight dusted the sky our first morning, as Jodi slept, and I paddled into the warm, buttery ocean. I stared into that same Pacific void, taking deep circular breaths. And got magnificently lost in the ocean’s bounty for the next three hours, until my arms were spaghetti, and I came in to meet my wife for breakfast. Jodi sat immersed in Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold Kushner, and she handed me a passage that read, “When we open our hearts to pain and suffering, we begin to heal, not because suffering is redemptive but because opening our hearts is.”

Tell Me Again, 70"x48" Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2005
Tell Me Again, 70″x48″ Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2006

When we returned to Sausalito, Jodi told me she was ready to try again but that this was the last time. If our fourth pregnancy did not work, she simply could not handle another attempt physically or emotionally. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I swallowed it in silence. 

The fourth pregnancy with Jodi on bedrest with her dog and manservant in our houseboat.
The fourth pregnancy – Jodi on houseboat bedrest with her dog and manservant.

Opening our hearts

Watching my squealing boys jump into the bean-shaped pool last weekend … and paddle out by my side into the forgiving surf … and engage smartly with interested adults, I felt music in me … a soulful bass line that thumped in my open heart. A rhythm born of both agony and ecstasy beneath a melody sung in the voices of children. My children. 

Before we ever met, Jodi and I dreamt of living abroad with our future families. We had no idea that the family part would be such a struggle. But that struggle produced in us both a hyper awareness, not intellectual but cellular. Akin to a blind person who one day gets to see. Every color, every shape, even the most mundane, becomes sanctified. One simply wants to keep one’s eyes open and see see see. 

Really Good Food - acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48x32” 2016
Really Good Food – acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48×32” 2016. Available.

Yes, the world is a mess, but my gratitude burns hotter than ever … for the privilege of fatherhood and the love of a fine woman. And living parents. And friends who keep me laughing. And the opportunity to live simply in unspoiled nature. And the ability to transform whimsy into works of art. Mine is a full belly that has known the pain of hunger. 

Art Basel 2018

Find my work at Pinta Art Fair during Art Basel Miami 2018

For the first time in a while, I won’t be attending Art Basel Miami this year (I’ll be surfing). But I invite you and your friends to find my paintings at the Pinta Fair in Wynwood. 

Gratitude not Attitude!

Thank You, San Francisco!

BestBooksGallerySign

The biggest show of my life just ended and I can only say, WOW! 

RainbowSwirl

Thanks to all of you who swamped the opening and kept coming.

Mobbed

Thanks to the SF Chronicle for the writeup the day before kickoff. 

Chronicle legend, Leah Garchik, brought the love!
Chronicle legend, Leah Garchik, brought the love!

And to Marin Mag for the killer review after. 

Hells Yeah!
Hells Yeah!

I could not have imagined a more luscious gallery space. 

GalleryEntrance

Luscious Space

And having my dad with me was such a bonus!

Dad&StuatOpening

And my lady!

MeandJodiatOpeningwOrangePiece

And violins!

Violins!

And friends galore!

Michael&Shawn

Shisslaonthedecks

Studyingthework

TiffanyShlain2

Fullhouse

ScottandAmywVortices

Chrissy

Shissla

Daren

DaveMazur

Friends

GregWarewDaughter

JeanineSamuel

JodiandMaryatOpening

MoDelong

ScotandSheryl

TheoEmison

TimandHeather

TypeA
LusciousGallerySpace

JenaWithVortices

Fun Was Had

TheArtist

TiffanyShlain

Next Up – a Group Show in Wynwood (Miami) opening this month and a Solo Show opening Sep 12, Dallas, TX. 

NamasteOpening

 Let’s do this, people!

The BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN – Stuart Sheldon Bay Area Solo Show OPENS MAY 9 & 10

Best Books Ever Written - Vortices of Genius, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
Best Books Ever Written – Vortices of Genius, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

Why did the Miami Herald select The Best Books Ever Written as a PICK OF THE WEEK during Art Basel 2014?

Probably because this labor-intensive work finds the sweet spot where visual and literary sensibilities lie together … and make sweet, chaotic love. 

Best Books Ever Written - San Francisco Is A Writer's Grotto, acrylic, book covers of Bay Area Writers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x60"
Best Books Ever Written – San Francisco Is A Writer’s Grotto, acrylic, book covers of Bay Area Writers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x60.” A big shout out to Julia Scheeres and all the literary rockstars at the SF Writer’s Grotto!!!

It’s been five years since we left our enchanted Sausalito houseboat for the art volcano called Miami. I couldn’t be more excited to return with all NEW WORK.

Opening is BOTH

Saturday, May 9 6pm-9pm

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 

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

In these epic-sized (5×5’ and 12×5’) paintings, the covers of literature’s finest works, including Bay Area luminaries such as Peggy Orenstein, Po Bronson, Anne Lamott, Julia Scheeres and Michael Chabon, swirl and dance around the title page of my own just-finished memoir, A Lonely Fool’s Masterpiece, to infuse it with their magic and make it one of the Best Books Ever Written. Says Scheeres, whose bestselling memoir, Jesus Land, is prominently featured in one of the new works, “It’s surreal to see “Jesus Land” transformed into something so visually striking. I hope Stuart’s history of magical art holds true for this piece as well.”

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

This is the third series in a trilogy of works designed to manifest the things most important to me. Previously, post devastating divorce, I imagined and obsessively painted 35 silhouettes of the woman of my dreams, each titled NOW. I met my wife soon after the paint dried on the final piece. When we had trouble producing a child, I created the BOUNCE series, and our son arrived on the next attempt.

As I now begin my search for a publisher, these new paintings are my query letters to agents and editors. 

Best Books Ever Written, acrylic, book covers, linen on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
It’s so ON!!!

At this “jacket optional” event, authors are invited to BYOBJ—Bring Your Own Book Jacket. Book jackets (or color scans) will have the opportunity to be featured in upcoming paintings, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia project and Litquake.  

For more information, please visit the Facebook Event Page … or shoot me an email.

SPREAD THE LOVE!

Our roads twist and turn. Another new work for the May California show
Best Books Ever Written – Two Cups of Cacaphony, acrylic, book covers, antique maps, linen, oil crayon on panel on wood, 44″x36″, 2015

Is 13 Unlucky?

Bounce - one artist's active wish for a child

“Why is there no 13th floor on that building?” my 5-yr-old son asked, his head tilted back. Sure enough, spray-painted on the side of the tall, fancy, under-construction hotel were large, red numbers for each floor level. They skipped from 12 to 14.

“Some people believe 13 is an unlucky number, so some buildings don’t have 13th floors,” I said.
“But why?” my boy pressed. Another vexing inquiry from the objective observer.

I’m not superstitious. I’ll swagger under every ladder you put in front of me. Black cats? Love em. Broken mirror. Whatevs …

What I wanted to tell my son was that superstition is the bastard step-child of hope, a force whose power is so great that it compels 21st century, gazillion dollar hotel developers to play prehistoric numerology games. 

Our Magic Houseboat
Our Magic Houseboat

BUT …  there was a time when I too open-mouth kissed superstitious rituals.

In 2006, after three miscarriages in 12-months, my heart and mind were desperately scrambled by the thought that we might be childless forever. In light of our repeated losses, we’d received a handful of special gifts and talismans from intimates eager to sprinkle over us whatever magic dust they could. A makeshift fertility shrine emerged in the kitchen of our Sausalito houseboat: an African fertility statue, a pyrite egg, heart-shaped stones and even little baby sandals.

One morning, in the throes of our emotional recovery, as we both stepped off our gangplank and past the garden I tended, Jodi asked, “Hey, what’s that?” In the potted jade, before two bride/groom figurines, stood a small, grey elephant.

Trunk Up!

“I found it at the end of the dock. He’s protecting us.” I said. Most of you know that elephants are my thing, symbols of fierce loyalty, rough-hewn beauty and ongoing playfulness. The wedding figures I’d quietly placed in the garden months earlier, so I could keep a symbolic eye on the two of us.
“I like how you put the trunk up,” said Jodi.
“Shows that he means business,” I said, scratching her back with my fingernails.

Silly as playing with these toys may now seem, desperation takes us to funny places. I was ready to kneel before whatever spirit might intervene on the most critical journey of my life.

In fact, the painting above is one of a series designed solely and exclusively to bring a child. It features balls of joy falling from heaven into the pathways of our lives.

Kai … AT LAST

You know how this story ends … very happily … with a beautiful, healthy 5-yr-old asking me why there is no 13th floor.

Did our actions manifest our child? I try to avoid question that have no answers. At the end of the day, I believe life is one big string of random events. But there is comfort in believing we are doing SOMETHING to tip the scales in our favor. Perception is most certainly reality. There’s a valuable saying in New Orleans, “DON’T MESS WITH THE VOODOO.” I guess a little magic never hurt anyone.

Here’s to an epic, fruitful and supernatural year for us all. FINGERS CROSSED!

Are you superstitious? Please tell me about your own magical experience or rituals that enhance your well-being.

Too Much Stuff

I currently live in a 2600 square foot home that I consider a mansion after five years on a 928 sf Sausalito houseboat. Mind you, I’ll probably never live in a more enchanted place than that floating, 2-story, light-soaked masterpiece. We had to walk two full city blocks straight into the Bay to reach our front door. We made our first son there. And our second. And enjoyed many a glass of rosé standing atop the roof at sunset. There was nothing boaty about the handsome grey structure beyond the barnacles and the fact that it moved up and down with the tides each day.

When I opted to abandon my San Francisco bachelor pad to join my then-girlfriend on her houseboat, I brought virtually nothing with me except my artwork and a beautiful hand-carved wooden chair I picked up on a canoe trip in Zimbabwe. Some Zimbabwean friends who later visited us explained that the chair was actually designed for fellatio on African royalty. Perfect! We placed it next to the fireplace (yes, the houseboat had a fireplace!).

One of the final days in my city apartment, as I was packing my clothes, Jodi held up a blousy long sleeve black button-down shirt. “What about this?” she asked with a “who farted” face.

“That’s one of my favorite shirts,” I said, slightly offended.

“It doesn’t even fit you.”

“What are you talking about? It fits me perfectly. I’ve spent many a night looking damn good in that shirt.”

“Maybe THAT’s why you’ve been single all this time.” Ouch.

By the end of our closet-cleaning session, she donated most of my clothing to Goodwill, citing my wardrobe tired and out of style. Frankly, I was happy to be rid of most of it. Clean break. New start.

The average size of a new U.S. home in 1950 was 983 sf; by 2011, the average was 2480 sf. Plus, in 1950 an average 3.37 people lived in each U.S. home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6. This means we take up more than 3x the space per capita than we did 60 years ago. (NYT  – Living With Less. A lot Less, March 9, 2013). That explains the $22billion personal storage industry. When is the last time you looked in that cardboard box labeled “winter stuff?”

With wealth disparity in America greater right now than ever before, I’m trying to be more sensitive to the less is more paradigm. As well as the notion of a “gift economy,” where valuables are given with no expectation of reward. In other words, give because you got.

Do my boys really need 15 puzzles and 50 matchbox cars? Of course not. But the kid with one beat up GI-Joe would probably have his year made by a shoebox full of shiny Hotwheels.

Less is more. More than ever.