What is art? And what does it cost?

All art, arguably, is a partial self-portrait of its creator at that moment in time. No matter the medium, look or listen closely enough and one can learn something intimate about the artist.

Years ago while going through a particularly rough time, I endeavored to memorialize, by photographing, those people throughout my life who were meaningful and had a profound impact on me. They were with me (some in spirit, others in reality) to that point and helped me get through it.

In creating this body of work, I attempted to reveal something about the subject that also addressed their influence on me. By and large, it was successful. Each person’s portrait was unique from the others. Some were humorous, others quizzical, a few ambivalent, and a couple displayed discomforting elements. All I believe were honest portraits – both of the subject and myself. All but one of the subjects approved their portrait.

That one who didn’t cost me a friendship that had endured for twenty-odd years. What was once a close, sometimes raucous relationship had become casually indifferent. It was heart-breaking. None of the portraits were meant to be demeaning or injurious, yet one of the subjects felt offended by their portrayal. What was displayed in that image was accurate on how both of us were entering a similar phase in our lives. Was it too accurate? Was the mirror too honest? I still don’t know.

What I do know is that piece of well-intended art cost me a valuable friend. And that’s a cost then and now I did not want to pay. Like the cliche, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, the intent was good, the result, not so much.

The game is afoot, Watson.

So says Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. And indeed it is.

In many things in our lives. persistence is often the key to success. How many times have we given up on things too soon? Think about sports teams who when faced with lop-sided scores against them have thrown in the towel rather than continue to fight. Then think about those teams when confronted with similar situations, endured and ultimately prevailed. Which ones do you think get the movies made about them?

A definition of persistence is as follows: Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately.

A definition of stubborn: Refusing to change one’s mind or course of action despite pressure to do so; unyielding or resolute.

Those who know me well will attest to my persistence. If I had a family crest it would probably feature a dog with a bone, unwilling to give it up.

And those same people know when I believe in a project, I become resolute in its pursuit. Foolish? Perhaps. But why?

In publishing and marketing a book, one must be either or both. Getting the book out there is not enough. While writing the book is perhaps more time consuming, it is in comparison far more enjoyable. But the effort put into that is wasted if commensurate industry is not committed to its marketing. Most authors I know want people to read what they’ve written. How can that happen if no one knows about it?

Media must be contacted ( incessantly?) and sold on the book’s premise and why it’s significant enough for them to commit time and/or space to it. Outlets need to be influenced in order for them to see the value in the book’s placement. It can’t be a one and done enterprise. Reviews, good or bad, need to be solicited. From the outside, it may appear to be small steps and yes, that is exactly what they are. But with enough small steps, you’ve built a staircase whose height is unlimited.

The game is afoot. Just take one step at a time and see where it takes you.

It’s never done.

Ask any artist if they’re satisfied with the work they’ve created. Chances are they’ll say “no”. It’s also a good bet that while creating that piece, they’ll wonder if it’ll ever be finished. Most artists I know struggle to put the brush, camera, or pen down and accept that it’s finished. Truthfully, it’s never finished.

That painting on your wall may not be finished as far as the artist is concerned, but there it is, just the same. The book you’re reading is the work of countless hours of writing, editing, writing some more, and then editing once again. Hopefully, you’re enjoying it. And yet upon reading it in published form, the author may look at it and shudder, thinking she/he should have done it this way instead.

Still, at some point, we have to let it go, for better or worse and the critic’s opinions.

As my new book has been on the shelves for two months now, I look back and see things I missed during its creation. If only I had… Right?

Well, it’s out there. Nothing can be done about it. That’s as it should be.

So, without anything else to do, I’ve started on a new book. Let’s hope I can finish this one.

A face for radio…

When television reared its ugly head, many radio stars lost out on jobs for entirely cosmetic reasons. Hence the saying, he/she has a face for radio.

As an author, it’s the words that do the heavy lifting, so no pictures here, just the semi-dulcet tones of the writer.

In preparation for a book signing for my new book A Coward’s Guide to Living, I was interviewed by Darel Snodgrass on WKNO-FM’s Checking on the Arts program.

Here’s an audio clip of the show. Hope you enjoy.

Who knows where the time goes? – Part 2.

“Like sands through the hour glass…” – goes the opening quote from the TV soap opera, The Days of Our Lives. That quote is misleading though, time never runs out. It is us who run out of time.

“There’s never enough time” we may complain. “I don’t have time for that” we can protest. “If only I had more time” we cry. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Look, it’s what we make of it. I’m as guilty as the next person in managing time. Time spent frivolously on the internet, time spent worrying about things beyond my control. Time wasted in useless endeavors. The list goes on.

It would be easy to recommend time-saving devices, programs, and tools. The truth is they don’t really work unless we make ourselves slaves or acolytes to and of them, spending all our time on them. Nah, not for me.

Am I stating I’m about to initiate a profound change in my life? No, not really, just maybe be a little more aware of where my time goes.

So, perhaps that will start with breakfast. What better way to start saving precious time than with a one minute egg? I’m feeling better already.

Stoking the star-making machinery.

With apologies to Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris” song about shilling for one’s art. It’s similar to promoting a new book. And I’m stoking that machinery myself with launch parties, book signings, media appearances, and social media postings.

This is all part of publishing a book these days. If you’re not John Grisham, then you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, regardless if the book is published by an established publisher or by yourself. Please don’t view this as a complaint, it isn’t. There is nothing like going out and meeting your potential audience face-to-face. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You’re out there, exposed. Your work is out there for all to see. What is this all about?

Norman Mailer once wrote and I paraphrase: A writer must have an enormous ego to believe anyone would want to read what he has to say.”

So, yes, it is about ego.

He also said the following: “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” and When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.”

And about pain. And hopefully, acceptance. What do you think?

A Day-Glo, Chromium Yellow Panda Bear? Well, of course. And now you can find out why.

That Panda Bear is only one of the characters in my new book, A Coward’s Guide to Living. In this coming-of-middle-age story, Jacob Will is charged with getting his life together via a most unusual method. He must commit a number of little deaths, “killing” those things preventing him from living a genuine life. Be assured, no animals or people were harmed during his quest.

His adventures will take him across the United States in an an attempt to fulfill that charge. Why did he destroy an expensive bottle of Champagne? What’s the meaning of that tattoo? And will he sue the manufacturer of a metal detector? Will he discover what love is?

These and more questions are answered in A Coward’s Guide to Living. Available now through Amazon on Kindle and paperback.

What is a friend?

It’s a word bandied about rather loosely without the true meaning attached to it. We receive “Friend” requests on Facebook, yet a “friend” on that site connotes something more than it actually is. Used that way, the word is becoming meaningless

The Oxford Language definition of friend is this: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Do we really have that bond with our social media friends? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Nor can we. We are too far removed because of social media to have a genuine connection.

While it’s true many us have lots of “friends”, how many of those could we rely on should the need arise? Do we need that many friends? And how many of them really share our values, ideologies, positions, even our taste in ice cream? How important is that? You decide.

We are too quick to make new “friends” that we miss the value in the real ones who don’t need or maybe even want to know where we had dinner last night. Or why they weren’t there with us. A true friend respects our needs and asks nothing more than the same from us.

Finally, are we true friends to others? Hopefully, yes. Otherwise, we’re just acquaintances.