Friday Tips for Artists: Breaking Routine

Because I’m an artist, like most of you, and because I rely so much on inspiration, like most of you, breaking routine has always been a�big part of my life.� Sure, I paint with words instead of with a brush, but it comes from the same place, and is alternately driven or thwarted by similar circumstances.� The fact that I happen to own a gallery, and work with so many artists, never changes my own particular drive as a writer, and my need to maintain a certain edge.�

While I’ve always found middle-class life good for raising kids, it bores the heck out of me as an artist.� Sure I value the safety of that life, and�its relative�sanity compared to�lifestyles less privileged, but�man the routine of it can drive me crazy.� So what do I do?� I break the routine, constantly.

I love certain haunts Downtown, on the East Side, West Side, or in the depths of Kansas City, Kansas.� I�sometimes like the rough areas better than the hip ones, especially old neighborhoods that speak to me, although I don’t always know why they do.� While I’m in those places, I dig meeting people there whose lives are so different from my own.� Better�yet, if they’re teenage artists, I dig giving them opportunity that they may not get otherwise: an internship, a field trip to someplace�exciting, an opportunity for their first real show.��

When I’m in other cities, I dig the out-of-the-way even more:�East LA,�Brooklyn,� South Chicago, or Oakland.� The�trendy places�are nice, but when I’m looking to�get jolted as I rewrite a book, or�start on a new one, few places do this for me like the old part of a city, or a�deserted place in the country.� One thing’s for sure: I never get that from staying home, watching TV, and getting sucked into a�lifestyle that is certain to�kill inspiration,�passion,�and originality.

And when I grow bored of Missouri, I’m always up for a road trip: Arkansas, New Mexico, Mississippi.� These don’t have to be expensive trips, they�just have to be fantastic journeys of discovery, especially with someone you love.� When I lived in Hartford, I constantly did the same by blasting off to NY, DC, or just the White Mountains.� Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always made a point of discovering�all I could in each region, even if�I could only do it on a dime.

Equally, though I’m nearly 50, I still get juiced by physical challenge: white-water rafting, grueling bike trips through the desert, long hikes at high altitude, or�inline skating for miles�(hopefully without mishap).�

For the past week, while I’ve been on vacation in Colorado and Utah, I jumped into many of these things with my family.� Not only did I love sharing this with them, but I loved just as much how it sparked my writing.� Because I’m putting finishing touches on what�seems a promising a screenplay, that has meant a great deal.�

My point?� No matter what your calling, I find it’s always wise to avoid a lifestyle that bores you.��Each of us finds excitement in different things–a good book, a new love, an old haunt.� You’ll know those things for yourself.� Just please bear in mind that�if you’re feeling uninspired, or that your work has ceased to sing, you may well be suffering from the malaise of perpetual routine.� If so, you might try breaking it in some bold and unexpected way.� When done with�relative sanity (or insanity, if you prefer), the results can be fantastic.� At least they always have been for me.�����

Moab II / Mountain Bikes / Ancient Art


Absolutely the craziest mountain-biking I have ever done.  We did a 14-mile loop today in this country.  Temperature was 85 when we started, 105 when we finished.  Everyone thoroughly thrashed, and man how I love it.  Recovered poolside.

There’s quite an art to serious mountain-biking.  I’d like to think my sons and I made a dent in it today.  Caught air several times.  Nothing like the pros, but it was ok for a bunch of novices.

There’s all kinds of art I dig in this town, especially the ceramic.  But I think I dig the petroglyphs in Arches most.  So cool to think of when they were first painted, and what the artists were like who painted them.  No, those folks didn’t need a gallery.

Screenplay goes well.  Up to page 90.  Hit a rough spot this morning that slowed me down–a patch of dialogue that has to express several things at once, and yet still flow strong and quick.  Spent an hour just getting two pages right.  Well, even rerwrites have their surprises.


Moab I


Canyonlands National Park, near Moab

Hit Moab this afternoon after a long drive through a winding canyon, where the highway followed the Colorado beneath 2000-foot cliffs.  Burning hot, dry, and exquisite.  Hiked for awhile in Canyonlands National Park–100 degree heat, red rocks, blue sky.  Everyone loved it.  A very good thing for inspiration.

Not much of an art scene in Moab, but a damn good mountain-bike scene, which is why we came.  Curious admixture of Granolas, Hispanics, and Cowboys.  Also a great Chinese guitarist in the restaurant where we ate tonight.  Man, you gotta love it.  Pure Americana.

Staying in some motel where John Wayne and John Ford used to stay when filming here in the 50s.  My sons very curious about that, and the attending details.  I let the motel staff fill them in.  Me?  I’ve got a screenplay to finish. 

Mountain biking in the canyon country tomorrow.

The Art Scene in Colorado II / Cassady / Divide


The reason why I helped certain of my artists gain entry into the Colorado scene, years ago, is because I was aware of the high level of tourism here, and of how active the art market is.  So I helped them gain acceptance into galleries in Aspen and Vail. 

These are conservative markets, where figurative bronzes and landscapes do very well, and contemprary work does not.  Because these artists are contemporary in nature, their work did not move as well here as they have in other markets.  On the other hand, my more traditional artists have fairly well cleaned up in Colorado.  So, do we value the Colorado scene?  Greatly, it’s just a matter of being realistic about its current tendencies, and using those to advantage.

The scene in Denver?  Well that was Neal Cassady’s town, and in a sense Kerouac’s.  Denver is a different story, especially LoDo.

We hiked up to the Divide today.  How high?  Just above 12,000 I think.  Plenty high enough.  On our way to the top, came across an incredible alpine meadow in a box canyon, sprayed with wildflowers, snowdrifts melting on the slopes, and an ice cold stream running down the center.  Damn good place for a nap before topping out.  Everyone exhausted by the time we got back down, but it was that good kind of burning exhaustion that always makes dinner, and wine, taste so good after.

Worked on the screenplay both morning and night.  Up to page 55 now.  Seems to go just fine.  Juiced every time I get into it.  In fact I can’t wait to work on it again in the morning.  But first, a hot tub and mischief.

The Art Scene in Colorado / Whitewater


As you may know, the gallery scene in the tourism areas of CO is hot; has been for years.  How much contemporary work is being moved through these regions?  Very little.  How much traditional?  Truckloads.  How much of it would rank as work of true caliber?  Ah, tricky question.  I’ll get into all that in greater depth tomorrow.

Fine day here.  Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, Levels III and IV.  Everyone got soaked, but no one got thrown overboard.  Damn good ride.  Hot springs in Glenwood after, just to get the body temperature back up.

Evening now, and I’m headed to my favorite coffee shop to work on the screenplay.  3rd draft.  Averaging about 18 pages per day–which isn’t so hard when you’re not constantly being interrupted by clients and artists.  Not their fault.  It’s up to me to find enough peace in which to write–and by god I have.  Will finish Act I tonight.  The mountain air is good for hard work.

In the Rockies


In Breckenridge on vacation currently, along with family.  Dinner in the foothills above Denver last night with friends; hot tub under pines, wine, and laughter.  Wife lovely and relaxed, boys having a great time.

Twisted my freaking knee today in a rollerblade wreck, tore some cartilege.  Great.  Just in time for our hike up to the Continental Divide.  Leave it to a man to do something stupid like that.  Oh well, wrap the damn thing tight.  Pain is sometimes good; keeps your edge sharp.  Whitewater rafting tomorrow; Divide on Tuesday.

Work on the screenplay every moring, and evening.  No phones, no nothing.  God how I love it. Good progress. Readable draft by Saturday.  Then my critics can beat me up.  The odd thing?  Don’t think there will be much beating up.  This one’s writing itself.  Always a good sign.


Working with Interior Designers and Architects

I�ve had scores of interior designers filter through my gallery over the years.� Out of all these, there are only a handful that I work with.� For the most part, the others are always trying to match paintings with the colors of carpets and fabrics.� They don�t seem to understand that a painting is a window into another world, and that you don�t try to match a window with anything.�

����������� I�ve made dozens of presentations to interior designers, I�ve addressed them in groups, I�ve addressed them individually, and still little has come of it.� For whatever reason, many of those I�ve encountered don�t seem to speak the language of art so much as the language of decoration.� Nor do they seem to understand how difficult the artist�s life is.� As a reflection of this, I�ve often had interior designers borrow paintings to show their clients, then fail to return the works when the sale fell through.� Worse yet, a decorator once asked one of my sculptors to design a piece for a foyer, then changed his mind about the whole thing without bothering to tell us, resulting in much wasted time on our part.� You should have seen the letter I wrote him.

���������� Due to these experiences, I’m highly selective about which interior designers I’ll work with.� As for those golden individuals, do they understand art?� Very well.� Do I give them a discount?� Every time.� Do I enjoy working with them?� Enormously.� These designers are competent, hardworking people who love what my artists do, and love introducing them to their clients.� How could I find fault with that?�

��������� Similarly, no matter where you live, there is bound to be a group of designers who do have a passion for art, a firm understanding of it, and great respect for the hardships that artists endure.� These designers are very much worth working with.� I urge you to find them, get to know them, and, if possible, make fans of them.� You�ll benefit from the association, and so will they.

���������� My experience with architects has been quite different from that of designers.� After all, it was architects who hired me as art consultant for the National D-Day Memorial, as well for a convention center in Kansas City, as well as for a project at the Mayo Clinic.� These projects were significant, but when you consider all the hundreds of mailings I�ve sent to architectural firms, and the hundreds of conversations I�ve had with them, the return seems rather small when compared to the effort.�

���������� There�s a reason for this.� Architects, for the most part, are artists; their projects are their art.� As a consequence, they tend to leave the installation of art up to the client, or the client�s interior designer (God help us).� Even so, most major architectural firms do have a designer whose job it is to select art for projects where there is a call for it.� These people can be very helpful in assisting you with the�placing of your work.� As with designers, make sure you get to know them, and that your galleries do the same.� One good architectural contact can, over time, bring you more work than you can easily handle�an enviable dilemma by most standards.

Vernon Brejcha Installation 2


Blown Glass Piece, by Vernon Brejcha

Chandelier for a private collector (photo by Michael Robinson).  185 pieces of glass, mounted to a steel armature, 200 lbs., all internally lit.  Man, assembling this was insane, but it was well worth the effort.  Expect to do several more.

Absolute Arts Column / Paternal 2

Wrote a column today for Absolute Arts.  Believe the subject–Dealing With Charity Art Auctions–will inspire plenty of impassioned response.

The kid I wrote about in Paternal is living with us this summer.  Means a great deal to me to extend this kind of structure, and warmth, to someone whose dad split on him.  He’s very close to my youngest son, to all of us for that matter.  Think we’ll take him to Colorado with us: climb a 12,000 foot peak; do a little white-water rafting; watch the boys chase girls around Breckenridge; later go mountain-biking in Utah, and watch them chase girls around Moab.  Yeah, he’ll love it.  My wife and I will be amused.

Consultation for Hospital / Vernon Brejcha


Consulted today on a massive sculpture in blown glass for this hospital, the name of which I must omit, but it’s a pretty big joint.  The sculpture will go in a lobby with a 35′ ceiling.  It will hang from the ceiling, and will be about 60′ long, weighing 1000 lbs.  It’ll be by Vernon Brejcha and Drew Hine.  Today we finalized design and glass count; later we’ll refine the engineering.  Very pleased to have the commission.