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I am an artist. That pretty much means I’m one rung up the ladder from a beggar. Or, more appropriately, I’m a clever beggar, intent on marketing my own neuroses. On a good day, artists are great observers, presenting novel ideas to the world. On a bad day, we’re self-destructive narcissists that only think our ideas are novel.
I avoid self-portraiture. Throughout my career, I’ve met a lot of talented and creative people, but I’ve also met a lot of hacks. College proved to be a breeding ground for self-indulgent creativity, and the “self portrait obsessed” always struck me as inauthentic and cruel.
That being said, here’s a self-portrait. My kind of self-portrait.
An associate of mine and I used to frequent several bars in Tucson. Several. We always brought our sketch books, and we were always armed with markers, pencils, and charcoal. We’d pluck our pocket watches from our vests and come up with drawing challenges. Thirty-five seconds to draw a portrait of the cute girl in the corner. Two minutes to draw one another – we’d sit across from one another and furiously claw at our sketch books. The idea was to override our own insecurities by making it flat-out impossible to make anything of value. You don’t have time to second-guess your decisions when you only have thirty seconds. Nothing terribly good usually comes from a sixty second sketch.
An aesthetic grew out of these hapless challenges, which quickly filled our portfolios. We eventually began to refer to these images as “chaos portraits.” This is a chaos portrait I did of myself. It was a one-minute drawing, made in the dim light of Danny’s Lounge, a bar out on Fort Lowell & Country Club, after a pitcher of cheep beer and a game of pool. I like to think it expresses the constant hateful insecurity of the irrelevant middle-class artist.
It also reminds me that I need to wear ties more often.