Another Hanging Sculpture for Vernon Brejcha


Went up to Vernon Brejcha’s studio last weekend to help him figure out how the heck we’re going to hang 250 pieces of glass in mid-air, and make it look like something.  Actually it’s going to look fantastic, you just can’t tell from this photo. 

The mockup was to determine method, not aesthetics.  Yeah, I know it looks like a couple of hillbillies threw it together with twine and baling wire, but by the time we’re done–with stainless steel cable and glass–it’ll be stunning.  Sucker’s going to weigh 1000 lbs.  Is the engineering sound?  As surely as I’m writing this. 

Lisa Grossman painting–large


Was in Lisa Grossman’s studio yesterday, in Lawrence, where we’d gone to have dinner with friends.  This mammoth freaking painting, which I did a terrible job shooting, is for a private collection.  It’ll be installed come October, after the frame’s finished.  Size?  10′ x 12′.  Obviously it’s an abstracted landscape, Kaw River Valley, the sort of thing she is known for, and which she does so well.

The only problem?  It won’t fit through the door.  Ah, but there’s always a solution.

Friday Tips for Artists: Your Copyright, and Who Owns It


As some artists know, but as many unfortunately do not, by law, you own copyright on every work of art you produce, regardless of whether you register the copyright, regardless even of whether you sign the piece.

Because copyright belongs to you, I advise that you never allow a client, especially a corporate one, to reproduce one of your works without a written agreement signed by you. Especially, do not allow a corporation to produce greeting cards, brochures, posters, or any other form of merchandise, without a signed agreement addressing all the necessary issues: quanitity, royalty,quality, proper recognition of the artist on the product, etc. It doesn’t matter if the party in question is giving these items away, or selling them, the image belongs to you. For that reason, only you should determine how the image will be used–including on websites–unless you’ve signed away the copyright.

If you haven’t signed it away, and if a client reproduces a work of art without your permission, they are in violation of copyright law. That law was passed long ago by Congress to protect all you artists; please utilize it. We do in my gallery, hence copyright law is addressed in every contract I write, and in every certificate of authenticity that we print out when selling a work of art. This educates my clients on various aspects of that law, and how to stay within it.

Do I always charge a fee for copyright useage? No. If I have an emerging artist who a corporate client�has collected, and whose work that client wants to utilize on their website or some printed material, I’ll often waive the fee in exchange for significant promotion through that corporation. This pleases them, and usually helps us to pick up a few more collectors. However, once that same artist matures in his/her career, I normally charge the fee.

I mean, could you ever picture a corporation giving away something they created for nothing? Of course not. Why then should they expect this of artists? I can’t give you an answer, but I can tell you that they often do. Don’t let them get away with it. To do so is to perpetuate an already flagrant abuse of our rights, our dignity, and our worth to society. It is the responsibility of each of you, apart from creating your work, to also inspire appropriate respect for it. In some fashion, I do this with my clients every day. I trust that you, and your dealers, will do the same.

Equine Installation



Went out this morning to check on the installation of these equine pieces in Corten steel.  I first discussed the in January, when we submitted designs for the client.  Erik Beier sculpted them, based on drawings by Allan Chow.  We did the job for the Winbury Group, our second such for them.  Not terribly exciting, but the pieces are well-executed for what they are, the client is ecstatic, and jobs like this give me liberty to promote more contemporary artists–who of course are harder to sell. 

I chose Corten because the rusting process is self-arresting, meaning we get the rust color but not the deteriortion.  Maintenance-free.  That’s what I always try to give my clients.  Nice morning to go out.  Touch of fall in the morning air.

Now I’m off to the VA Hospital to do some research for my screenplay.  Is it nearly finished?  You bet.  Goes to New York end of the month.

Absolute Arts Column: Inspiration

Wrote another column today for Absolute Arts, this one addressing the subject of inspiration.  Nebulous territory to discuss, but I had fun with it anyway.  We’ll see if the readers think I nailed it, or if I’m just flat-out nuts.  Actually the latter does apply, but then who doesn’t it apply to?

Friday Tips for Artists: Where to Live


As I discussed in the book,�nothing beats living for awhile�in�Europe, since in the end there is no substitute for a month in Florence, a summer in Provence, or Prague in spring.

Europe, for the most part, is a place where art is woven into the fabric of the culture.� America, with our particular love for the commercial, is a place where art remains largely outside our culture.� This is less true on the coasts than in the Midwest and South, but it remains true overall.� It is also a flaw that, at last, is slowly changing.� More every year, in small towns and large, in suburbs and urban centers, I see art becoming an accepted aspect of education, a valued part of life?even if only in a minor way.� This doesn’t mean we’re on a par with Italy or France yet, but it does mean we’re making progress.�

Still we have a long way to go, and many barriers of ignorance to overcome.� This is less evident in the big cities than elsewhere, but it remains one of our great stumbling blocks.� It is a flaw we must address if we’re ever to live up to the vision that the founding fathers laid out for us (Although Mark Twain felt we’d blown any chance of that long ago).

As for living in this country, if you live in a small town distant from any major city, it will be much harder for you to break out in the arts than otherwise.� Sure the internet and Fed Ex have made the world smaller, but there’s nothing like living in reasonable proximity to a city where the galleries are active, the museums varied, and the art community alive.�

In most cities where the population exceeds one million, this is often the case.� Living in one of these cities–especially New York, Chicago or Los Angeles–can be fascinating.� In fact I consider it an unparalleled experience.� I’m not recommending that you become overly transient though, since in the long run you’ll likely do your best work in a studio you’re comfortable with, in a place that feels like home.� Wherever that place might be, do your best to become acquainted with the bigger cities, and the art communities in them.� You’ll find that that’s an education in itself.�

As for suburbs, God help you if you live in one.� These are essentially designed as safe places in which to raise children, in a lifestyle that is primarily conformist, reflecting a frame of mind that is often complacent.� It is not for obscure reasons that Western suburbs–and by this I mean many European suburbs as well–have often been referred to as sterile.� How would I know?� I live in one.

I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to subject my kids to the whims of my artist wanderings.� For that reason, I moved us into a rambling bungalow that the developers forgot to destroy when they built our Kansas City suburb.� My wife and I could barely afford the joint, but it set my children up in a friendly neighborhood with excellent schools.� The suburbs wouldn’t teach my kids independence of mind, or the need to question authority, or even the need to on occasion raise hell, but I would.

The drawback was, I could never seem to write in that place; suburbs have always deadened my work to me.� So I wrote in the gallery.� My first gallery was downtown, amid the bums and office workers and traffic and trash.� This was a great place to write.� The people were fascinating, the neighborhood was good for inline skating, and I was surrounded by old architecture that whispered of older stories.� My current gallery, near the Plaza, is a good place to write also.� It doesn’t have the drama or grit of the first, being in a more prosperous district, but it still beats the suburbs.��

In prior years I always lived either in the heart of a city, or deep in the country.� Chelsea in New York; rural Connecticut.� Ballard in Seattle; a farm on the Olympic Peninsula.� Santa Monica in L.A.; a horse ranch near Santa Barbara.� If I had my druthers, I’d still live in places like that.� But when the time came to raise a family, we decided on a Kansas City suburb, feeling comfortable here, and at home.� I’m not unhappy with that decision, although I sometimes think my more fundamentalist neighbors are.� They don’t enjoy questioning their values, or beliefs, or faith, but with a rebel like me bopping around the neighborhood, they’re sometimes compelled to.��

All I’m trying to say is you should either live where you’re inspired, or work where you’re inspired.� If that’s in the suburbs, fine.� The town doesn’t matter, the state doesn’t matter, the part of the country doesn’t matter, so long as you’re in tune with the rest of the country.� Besides, once you start to succeed, you can gain representation in galleries in various parts of the country, who may wind up selling your work all over the freaking country.� Then you really will be able to live wherever you want.

How will you gain that representation, and the success that ought to accompany it?� We’ll cover those subjects another time.� With a lot of hard work on your part, and an equal measure of dedication, I can help you get there.

Almost Famous and The 70s

My guitar-playing son and I watched Almost Famous last night, one of our favorite flicks.  Talk about a virtually flawless screenplay, and movie.  From storyline, to the kid going on the adventure, to character arc, this is one beautiful tale.  Also the music; so many songs and bands that the radio stations have completely forgotten.  Never mind that the early 70s were hardly so idylic. 

Truth is, it was a dark and confusing time: the hopes of Woodstock had not been realized, and all that was left was Rock and Roll, dope, and hippie fashions marketed by Madison Ave.  Still, some of the idealism was left; it would take the rest of the decade to burn that out, and replace it with a bleak cynicism.  But god the overdoses, the legions of lost kids, the battle-worn parents…  It was new and frightening territory.

Even so, I had one hell of a good time in 1973.  In fact throughout the decade.  But that didn’t keep me from recognizing the troubles of the time.

Great movie anyway.  I can only hope that my script is half as good. 

Jim Leedy’s Studio


Jim Leedy is one of the last of that first generation of Abstract Expressionists–meaning Pollock’s generation.  In fact Jim used to hang out at The Cedar tavern on Long Island.  I won’t divulge his age, but suffice to say that the 40s and 50s were the decades that formed him.  I visited his Studio last week at the request of a client, who is considering his work.  As always, seeing Jim and his retinue of dogs was a hoot.

Excerpt from Cool Nation

This is the final section from the fourth chapter of the novel.  All other excerpts are on the sidebar.

Lives Forming

Jackie ran away from the Wornall Home later that spring.  They caught him hitchhiking in Colorado, trying to get to the promised land of California, and brought him back to Kansas City.  Dad couldn’t get him to go back to the home so they settled on St. John’s Military Academy in Salina.  

It didn’t matter.  In the fall he ran away from there too.

Vietnam, however, was one place he would not be able to flee.

Service for Dustin


We had the service today for Dustin, the boy who passed earlier this week, and who I described on Tues.  That is he on the right, after one of our camping trips.  As I said before, he seemed an old soul, full of kindness and love.  I think he was simply done with his time here, and was ready to move on.  He went peacefully and quietly.

Absolutely beautiful service, with emphasis on how the soul never dies, and especially on the astounding wisdom, humor and compassion this boy embodied.  His mom asked me to speak, and read a poem by John Neihardt  (author of Black Elk Speaks), but I passed that responsibility on to my 18-year-old son, who handled it flawlessly.  Then several people got up and told stories about Dustin–his quirkiness, his humor, all the stunts he pulled.  This was greatly healing for his family, girlfriend, and friends in general.  A nice way to send him off.  Now I feel I can concentrate again, though the missing him will go on for a very long time.

Service was held at Unity Temple on the Plaza, where my wife and I were married, and where I gave my first signing.  Dustin, being an artist, would have dug that.