Despair was such a hard feeling to bring into the “Human Condition” series. I thought about it for weeks, trying to figure out how I could essentially communicate this emotion without changing the smile on Mickey’s face. Sure I could use a different expression, but that would derail the entire point of the TENxTENxTEN collection. I decided to return to where I met the most obstacles in my life, and purchased tickets to Seattle, Washington.
When I had announced that I was returning to Washington to research despair, I was met with many comments over my choice by Seattle locals who found it slightly offensive that I chose THEIR town to research this feeling. I should mention that Seattle was not a city of despair, but a city where I personally found despair. These feelings emanated from the consequences of bad decisions I had made in that town, and mixed deep with the relentless rain and lack of sunshine that the Pacific Northwest was most famous for. I was unprepared for the present at that time, and slothed back and forth for 18 months (2006 – 2008) through the muddy torrential downpours, miserable from regret of leaving San Francisco and that lovely apartment I had off of 8th street in the SOMA district. I had left back to San Francisco burnt from the inability to adapt to Seattle, and carried with me a list of addiction issues, and personality problems. I was … in essence, a very sad and troubled fellow, and what I carried with me weighed me further down in my downward spiral, until my ultimate crash and burn event in Los Angeles a year later.
Upon returning to Seattle in a far more sober state that when I lived there, and I was able to revisit the feeling of despair from a rear view mirror. I did not experience despair, but remembered the experience of despair, and in doing so, was able to forge a painting based based off this emotion. This painting is built off of elements of Seattle, Washington. First I worn down the canvas by dragging it across the sidewalk down Broadway Avenue in Capitol Hill. I then infused black gouache with coffee grinds from the coffee houses of Vivace, Stumptown Roasters, and Roy Street to create the base of Mickey’s face. The background was later used with coffee, ink from pressed flowers, gouache, and rainwater I had captured in a pickle jar from the weekends downpour. I lined Mickey’s face with elements of soft sharp lines to emphasize a feeling of cracking, and drew lines of rain dripping in straight linear lines in the background.
With these elements I forged a portraiture of despair. Despair to me was never at best, dramatic. Despair did not move to destroy, it was not made of anger. Despair while insidious, moved like molasses. It was quiet and slow and sat uncomfortably like a distant ache. It was not sharp. It did not destroy me, It taught me to be better, to get better, and to desire greener pastures. It taught me to acknowledge my rock bottom, so I could move upwards to the top. Despair was an opaque and multidimensional teacher, and Seattle was my classroom.
Some would consider my visit to Seattle a bit ironic, considering I experienced nothing but joy and requited love from the visit.. but considering the state of my consistent sobriety, and my acknowledgement that Seattle is and WAS a beautiful city that I had miserable experiences is .. well … its not very ironic at all, but a testament to my growth as a human being.
This piece is called “Rain City Blues”, and is filed under the “Human Condition” series. This is the 47th piece of the TENxTENxTEN collection