10th Anniversary of jimpublic.com

collage of James Hough artwork with classic European paintings

I started this website ten years ago and posted my first blog on January 19, 2011, titled Come on in, the party’s just started! The post consisted solely of the above picture.

I was clearly full of pep and vigor about the accessible and affordable artwork I intended to sell to people who don’t have art budgets. Using airbrush and handmade stencils, I made fan art portraits of some of my favorite authors and gestural abstract paintings with stylized versions of oil paintbrush strokes. I also painted pieces I called Fuzz Dots, which were blurry, colorful dots airbrushed onto a white background in kind of a tweaked grid pattern.

2011 feels like it was a very long time ago. I continue to paint, but most of my energy has gone into becoming a better cartoonist, and I have self-published three books since 2013.

But looking back at that first batch of Jim Public artwork in 2011, I am so happy to discover that I still like the art. These works on paper have an optimistic lightness to them. Hoping that if I still like these pieces then maybe you will, too, I just built an online store where the remaining pieces from 2011 are available for you to browse and purchase.

My three books are available there, too, and I have more paintings and fan art coming soon, including illustration-style portraits of Lorde, M.I.A., Taylor Swift dunking on Katy Perry, Sleigh Bells, Dallas singer-songwriter Maya Piata, and more.

Check out my store and help me celebrate ten years of jimpublic.com! The online store is brand new, so if you run into any problems with it contact me so I can take care of it.

Visit the Shop

3-D Cash Sculptures Passing Each Other in the Mail

My brother turned 30 just before Christmas. He is an artist, jeweler, and gemstone enthusiast, so with a little inspiration I arrived at a novel way to send him his birthday cash: those decade birthdays call for extra recognition, right?

30 Dollar Polyhedron James Hough

So here is the 30-sided polyhedron—constructed from 1-dollar bills—that I sent him as a late birthday gift. Late as in post-Christmas. Which means that my brother’s late Christmas gifts to my family must have passed my gift to him in the mail, because we each received our packages within a day of the other.

Cash Origami by James Hough's Brother

He sent us a cash butterfly and a cash elf boot! We were both shocked and thrilled that our minds had gone to the same obscure place when we decided what gifts to send each other. Neither of us had sent or—as far as I know—even made anything like these cash constructions before!

p.s. I should note that though my gift to him was larger in volume, his was larger monetarily:)

Our first quilt

Portrait quilt, 2014, by the Houghs

My wife’s ancestors were pioneer farmers, and we are carrying on one of their traditions.


We began this one—our first—about 5 years ago then put it on hold for a while until we got some big quilting frames last Christmas. And now we have completed it.

The design comes from a photo of our daughter cuddling our son when they were about ages 6 and 1. If you back away from the quilt about 50 feet you can see the image, which is hardly practical, so we content ourselves with wrapping ourselves in our new blanket knowing that the design is a picture of our kids, even if we can’t tell up close.

Here’s a tiny picture of it, which shows the image a little better.

Portrait quilt (small image), 2014, by the Houghs

Personal Statement

The world does not necessarily need more artists, but it always needs more people who are confident in their creative abilities, which are in fact inherent in each of us and able to be developed through practice. Particularly with a child, whose brain is still highly plastic and therefore able to learn new skills efficiently, practicing the visual arts is a fun and effective way to nurture her inventiveness and confidence in her own ideas.

In all areas of life, whether personal or professional, people benefit both from developing and trusting their own creative skills and from having creative people in their lives. In the fields of science, medicine, education, and business, people who can generate new ideas, develop new approaches to established ideas, and who can trust their abilities to do so are poised to succeed personally and to benefit others. And certainly in our roles as parents and peers, creative confidence can improve the lives of our kids, our friends, and ourselves.

Some of us will make art for a living, but all of us can make art for a life.

Business Card

Jim Public's Business Card 120831

Fedex Office wants $70 to print 250 of these, whereas I can disseminate them online infinitely for free, or at least for the sunk cost of my internet access. So I post this here and will presently distribute it on some social media sites. Paper business cards are destined for the wastebasket anyways. So you are welcome to drag a copy of this card to your computer or phone or whatever; and, when you’re finished with it, it’s better to trash pixels than papers.

That way we all win. Except Fedex Office, who loses.

Digital Baby Daughter

Illustrated Baby Daughter, Jim Public, 2003

My daughter was born during the time of my graduate studies at UNLV, where I was learning about digital art from the illustrious Helga Watkins. In an effort to improve my skills and create a portfolio piece, I used Adobe Illustrator to make this vector portrait of my baby girl. I like the idea that, because it’s a vector image, she could be scaled up infinitely without losing her smooth, baby features.

My Next-Door Neighbor and Me

On the day before the BUMP event I was making preparations in the driveway, and my next-door neighbor came by with his smartphone, ready for some photography. My hope was that we were doing the photo opp for a neighborly ink drawing, but instead he laughed and said something to the effect of, “Why would I want to look at a drawing of me?”

We took turns snapping photos of each other in front of Bump. It was so nice to hear from someone in the neighborhood that he loves abstract art. I’ve had other neighbors tell me that they don’t have any experience with it and they don’t know what to do with it, as if abstract painting were a language that they didn’t study in college but they might eventually take in a continuing education course. I really need to figure out the right way to get these paintings outside where people can happen upon them and get a little more experience looking at abstract stuff.

And here are the photos of me and my neighbor, who’s name is difficult and he tells me just to call him “1,” which I really enjoy, especially when I imagine the numeral as I’m saying it.

"1" in front of Bump, by Jim Public, October 2011 Jim Public with his painting Bump, October 2011

Cottonwood Art Festival

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It’s important not to rant on one’s blog. Still, sometimes it’s the stuff that’s wrong with the world that whips you up into a right state. I’ve mentioned before that some gallery nights in Dallas are disappointing, that most of what hangs on walls and perches on pedestals is not good art. But it’s helpful for one to keep things in perspective by seeing what’s going on in other sectors of the art world, or really, other art worlds.

Saturday the kids and I met some friends at the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson, TX, for an afternoon of looking at what these artists are up to, not to mention eating kettle corn and drinking $5 beers in small plastic cups. Mmmm, it tastes so good in that plastic cup. We all had a good time; it helps to have low expectations. I can’t expect to be amazed by the art at this kind of art-under-a-tent public event. But, as it turns out, I was amazed… amazed at the crushing terribleness of the wares on display.

The photo above of a Thomas Moran-esque romantic, bluebonnet-strewn landscape, framed and leaning against a tree, was the one photo that seemed to need taking. (It’s priced at five figures, and it’s leaning on a tree!) Not that I didn’t try to take other photos during our stroll; I figured there was no harm in snapping pics of artwork that’s already in direct outdoor sunlight, especially if I said that I wanted to put it on my blog. Hell, you can take photos at the Fort Worth Modern, so surely you can photograph the mannequin figures shellacked with magazine pages, right? Wrong. I was framing my photo of said display, really digging for anything redeeming about what I was seeing at the festival–in this tent, along with the actual papered mannequin sculptures, there were photos of the figures in various settings, and I like it when people make something then take pictures of it on location–when the artist emerged from behind me to interrupt the shot. I told him I did an art blog, and he said no photos please. “We have prints available, and that’s kinda what they’re for,” he says.

Yes, this guy was patronizing me. I was nonplussed. I thought artists craved attention and press, even if it’s in a piddly blog like this one. But, as he seemed to see it, I was taking a photo in lieu of purchasing a piece, as if a snapshot taken of artwork in a tent at an outdoor community festival were like an mp3 on an illegal file sharing site, and I was about to shaft him out of a legitimate, purchased download. If it was just a concern of flash exposure damaging the artwork, I’d be more sympathetic, though the persistent sunlight all weekend would seem to be the bigger threat. But, it was a proprietary move by the artist: if you like it, buy it, because photos hurt his livelihood.

Maybe he’s right; I don’t know how things work in his art world. But, as our browsing the tents made very clear, engaging with the contemporary world, pushing the limits of our expressive capacities, and trying to say something new about “what it’s like to be a fucking human being,” as David F. Wallace puts it, is not how things work there.

These encounters with sub-par art always get me trying to articulate what distinguishes good art from bad art. The whole issue is complex, though this festival art isn’t. There is no complexity to be found there. There is technique, there are nice frames, and I’m grasping for a third attribute to add, but I have nothing to say that not mean-spirited, so I’ll hush up.

Since I was a kid, utterly ignorant of modern art past Picasso, I remember attending these events, like Mayfest in Tulsa, strolling through the tents, looking closely at everything for clues about what art was and how I could do it better, and I was always underwhelmed. It was like someone who has vague dreams of becoming a U.S. senator but, for all he knows, there is only his rural city council to aspire to. “Well heck,” he says, “I want to be part of governing, so I guess I’ll go for Catoosa City Council when I’m old enough.” Seeing all this uninspired, uninspiring visual product as a kid didn’t change my mind about wanting to be an artist, but it did make me wonder if this was all I had to look forward to.

Luckily, when I moved to Denton, TX, to go to college with the future Mrs. Public I ran face-first into actual contemporary art, and as much as I sometimes question the value of going to college to be an artist, I sure learned that there is this whole other incredible realm where strange and brilliant people strive to make strange and brilliant objects, basically for their own sake.

So, I attend these fairs to have a good time with friends and family, to be out in the early autumn air, to drink beer, to ponder whether or not Jim Public could do an event like this; and, even as my expectations for the art are immeasurably low, I’m always struck be the terrifying mediocrity of it all. For example, I was intrigued by the black scratchboard technique of rendering animals and then glazing over it with color to make them more lifelike; technically there was something to look at there. But, as we went on, I began to wonder how long it would be till we arrived at the next booth that featured the exact same stuff by a different artist: it happened within 30 minutes.

jim public kids at cottonwood art festival 111002

I leave you with a photo of the kids in the creative zone glazing their ceramic tiles which will soon hang in our kitchens or protect our tables from boiling saucepans. And I leave you with a final analogy. I usually avoid conversations about why so much art isn’t real or good, because I don’t like looking pretentious. But, imagine you’ve been immersed in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, enjoying all the latest advancements in graphics, player interface, sophistication of game play, and just having a great time: you’re a hard-core gamer, and the game developers have come through for you. Later you attend a local gaming convention and when you arrive you’re confronted with checkerboards created in different colors and sizes, and variations of those wooden games with golf tees like they have at the Cracker Barrel, and marbles. You finally see a plugged-in screen and a crowd of people gathered around two players actually holding joysticks; approaching, you realize that they’re playing a poorly re-made version of Pong, and, what’s more, no one seems to think that this is lame on every level of lameness. You try to strike up a conversation about Call of Duty and not only does no one know what you’re talking about, but they’re eying your camera suspiciously.

This is what it’s like, my friends.

Run Big Monkey, at Home

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I think I said this before, but Run Big Monkey hangs on the one large wall we have in the house. There is in fact a newer painting that is 1″ longer than Monkey in each dimension, making it the current largest Jim Public piece; but, as I finished the larger painting after Monkey had already claimed the one spot where it would fit, it currently resides against a wall out in the studio. I have four more large paintings like these coming up in my studio queue: where am I going to put them? I’ll worry about making them first.

Monkey has good company in Skull Platter, 2004, by Sean Slattery. JPS–shown above reclining with a noisy toy army tank–referred for a while to Sean’s painting as Ba Ba Boo Boo during the early part of this 3rd year. We don’t know how he came up with that nickname, but we haven’t heard it in several months. During that time he had mixed feelings about Ba Ba Boo Boo, some days laughing at his silliness, other days recoiling from him with a furrowed toddler brow. Now that JPS has a noisy toy army tank, perhaps no longer feels threatened.

A Proclamation

kids pretending to run away

I love being a dad. It’s the most rewarding job I’ll ever have. I love my kids. (That’s a photo of them, on the morning after a gorgeous cold front came in, having decided that when the weather gets cool, the cool pretend to be homeless.)

That’s the proclamation (minus the parentheses). And it may be obvious, but because this kind of thing is rarely said by me or by the parents in my social group I proclaim it now. My experience of fatherhood has been incredible, though I’m not in the habit of thinking about how good it really is. But something happened over the weekend that got me thinking about why some parents, like myself, would undersell the experience of parenthood.

I saw a story called “Parenthood Got You Down?”, answered, “Yes, sometimes,” and read the article. The author states, “It’s really hard, being a parent. At times, it’s crushing. But you’re never allowed to say this.” I read on and, recognizing such sentiments as exhaustion and frustration, figured I’d post a link on Facebook, adding my own comment, “At some level we all know that parenthood is not all roses, but it’s always good to hear it from someone else.”

Soon thereafter a friend did something that flies in the face of Facebook protocol: she offered a different point of view. And it was a welcome one. She said that she didn’t like the tone of the article, that it should be evident that parenthood is driving her crazy, and that she chooses to focus on the love and magic that her kids have added to her life. Her words didn’t make an immediate impact, but I thought about them all day and have ever since.

In the broad culture of parenthood there is one contingency that exerts a pressure on parents not to speak of their hardships, but there is another group that exerts an inverse pressure not to speak of their joys. The NPR reporter seems to be coming from the first world, the realm governed by what Betty Friedan might have called the Parental Mystique, that nagging feeling of empty isolation that parents feel as they strive to show others that all they want is to be great parents and that making baby food and attending play-dates are sufficiently fulfilling activities for an adult. This world would be the one in which a parent may feel that he’s not allowed to speak of the dark side of parenting.

But I inhabit the other realm, in which an ironic, wry detachment characterizes the way we show the world that we’re a different kind of parent. I consort mostly with folks who come from a fine or liberal arts background. We are a classically liberal-minded lot, eager to live in way that demonstrates our immersion in forms of culture that the American middle class in general doesn’t encounter. We attend art openings; we’ve seen A Doll’s House; we’ve heard of Proust. We are therefore loathe to be seen as conventional, and nothing is more conventional than becoming a parent. We mammals are expected to do just two things between birth and death: we have sex and have babies. We artist-types can get away with the former, but then to go and procreate just as we are expected to? How bourgeois! What’s next? St. John’s Bay, Dockers, and your cell phone on a belt clip?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOKuSQIJlog&w=450&h=277]

(Btw, that video is the best thing ever made by an evangelical Oklahoma mega-church.) So, to speak for myself, I have erred on the side of appearing not to care one way or another that I’m a parent, as if it’s just one of my several responsibilities in life that I take in stride. I hang around with a lot of artists, most of whom have no kids, and I’ve made every effort to blend in by downplaying the enormous amount of love that fatherhood has added to my life. But, as an artist, my domains are Truth and Beauty. T & B don’t distinguish between what is good or bad, but simply what is and isn’t, so if I don’t acknowledge the broad reality of parenthood as both difficult and magical then I am falling short of my duty as an artist. Parenthood is the world’s biggest half-full, half-empty glass: the potential for despair or elation is as great as life has to offer, and a glass this huge, even if only half-full, offers more than a lifetime’s worth of rejuvenating waters.

I call on parents to speak openly about the best and the worst, and everything between, of their experiences. It’s okay to feel wretched or euphoric about being a mom or a dad. The pressures we feel to appear to be a certain kind of parent are the product of internal forces, not external ones. Under- or over-selling parenthood does the noble vocation a disservice. Maybe, if more artist-parents were honest with childless artists about how magical parenthood is, more artists would have kids and it would be easier for me to find such people to hang out with! Not that the world needs more kids; but it could always use more love.

Categorized as At Home


11090711 jps backpack

Here I lounge, 45 minutes from our house in Garland, just down the road from the preschool where JPS is at this moment attending his first day as a student in a classroom. He has been absolutely stoked about the coming of this day. Since this time last year, when he had to endure sending his sister off to 2nd grade while he remained buckled in his seat, and when he walked the halls of her elementary school holding my hand and watching kids who were just a little bigger than he is walking in lines, carrying backpacks and lunchboxes, he’s been ready for his first day of school.

When we officially enrolled him at this school, which specializes in preparing hearing-impaired kids for the specific challenges they’ll face when they start kindergarten in a mainstream classroom, his mom took him on his first school-supply shopping trip, where he picked out the race car backpack above. He has packed and unpacked it, worn it in and out of the house, and requested numerous photo ops since he came into possession of it two weeks ago. This morning, the backpack hangs on a hook in a cubby with his name taped to it.

He has done his best to prepare himself for this day. His favorite game over the last year has been School, which is played on his bedroom floor, with his stuffed animals as classmates. Most days, in addition to pretending that his parent is a teacher and he’s the student, he also pretends to be a Jedi, a Marvel Comics hero, or a friend from Sesame Street, while the parent/teacher follows suit. We’re hoping he’s not too dismayed today when his teacher addresses him by his name.

JPW and I are having a strange moment of togetherness. Our kids are productively occupied elsewhere. This doesn’t happen to us. So, we just ate a morning snack at a diner, and now we’re nestled in a corner of the library around the corner from JPS’s school. Foggy impressions are stirring in my memory of a life I once lived that may have produced in me the calm ease that I am now feeling. Naturally, the need to be productive has brought me to this keyboard; but, the fact that I have not been needed by a small person in the last two hours is such a foreign sensation that I guess I’m at a loss. Soon, I hope to enjoy this serene state of mind without a feeling guilt or unease that I’m neglecting someone. Of course, I’m not; at their ages, the kids are better off in a classroom with peers than they are, sadly, with us all day long. Sadly? What am I saying? Don’t I crave the freedom to move and think without constant interruptions assailing me like the attention-destroying sirens and riveting guns that bombard George Bergeron’s ears in the Vonnegut short story?

Or have I become even more of a love-junkie than I was before parenthood?

Categorized as At Home

Run Big Monkey, 2010

Run Big Monkey, 2010, acrylic on canvas, by Jim Public

As I was painting and sanding in turn, trying to build up a good-looking surface on this painting, I eventually started to see the image of a baboon running across the top of the canvas. Normally I don’t go seeking imagery in abstract artwork, especially my own; usually it’s impressions, visual and emotional, that I’m seeking. But, these paintings emerge through a process a lot like excavation, so when I see in them things that look like symbols or archetypes, it’s fitting to go with it and see if the image and the paint work together in the end. The image and the paint both feel primal, so I think it works.

Run Big Monkey is a big painting that took a lot of elbow grease. A friend of mine has this interesting idea that maybe I should set my prices by adding up the labor hours and multiplying that number by an hourly wage, which is an elegant theory; I like how it demystifies the way we assign value to artwork, at least monetary value. Paintings like these, however, for all their size and complexity, would probably have too high a price tag with that method. It is a cool idea, though, charging by the hour. What do you think?

I made this painting on top of an old canvas from a series of nine paintings I did in 2005 for a big LA show at Patricia Faure Gallery, which has since passed away with its long-beloved owner Patty. Those paintings were labor-intensive themselves, though less so than Big Monkey. I had the same idea then about pricing my artwork as I do now: the lower the price, the more likely it is to sell. I talked to the gallery people about the price for the pieces. I wanted them to be $4000 each. They talked me up to $6500, using the argument, which sounded great at the time, that a gallery of Faure’s prestige has to maintain a certain baseline price level; in other words, the fact that my paintings had been chosen by that gallery made them more valuable right off the bat. By the time I arrived for the reception the price sheet showed that they were $8000 each. None of them sold. Now, I take my share of the responsibility for this: had I made them better, they would have had a better chance with collectors. But, had they been priced lower, they also would have had a better chance.

Running an art career on my own, as I am right now, I feel a nice sense of empowerment. I can set my prices as I deem appropriate. On the other hand, lacking the connections that a good gallery provides, I am much less likely to sell any of these larger paintings, even at the fraction of gallery market value that I have priced them at.

It’s an odd dilemma that I’m in. $4000 is a lot for most of us to spend on a painting, even at the large scale of Big Monkey. Yet $4000 is a suspiciously small amount for seasoned art collectors to spend on a painting like this. In either case, something seems fishy. In fact, sometimes I think the best move would be to double my prices across the board so that they seem more legit. This quest of mine to make serious contemporary art at a decent price may be doomed from the outset. Perhaps if I can eventually persuade an art dealer to lend them some legitimacy and partner with me, then things will go more smoothly. In the meantime, I’ll just keep working toward my goal and try to make interesting things happen.

Run Big Monkey is acrylic on canvas, 87″ x 67.″ It resides in our living room, on the only wall that can hold it. Because it’s so big the bottom foot and a half is obscured by the loveseat in front of it, so it feels like it’s part of the household, vying for its own space like everything else in here.

It’s Henna

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A few weeks ago as summer vacation was coming to an end I produced my most recent voluntary public art commission. My niece had returned from a trip to Hawaii with a small tube of smelly green goo–a lot like a fine pesto, really–for making henna tattoos. She had run out of time in Hawaii to have the tattoo done by an experienced henna artist, so, knowing that her artist-uncle was coming to visit her in August, she brought home the means for me to give her the tattoo myself.

Henna tattoos last 2-3 weeks, so their impermanence was reassuring to me, having never pigmented someone’s skin with more than a Sharpee, which would have been back in high school. I did an image search for “henna” to get a grasp on the kinds of decorative motifs common to the practice and made a small test tat on my left ankle to get a feel for it. I accidentally smudged it with my other foot after ten minutes, but the darned thing is still visible down there, three weeks later.

I present the photos above in the order that I made the tattoos. My wife, being the dutiful guinea pig, got the first and most restrained design, and then they got more involved as I gained confidence. It was a relaxing way to spend a beautiful Utah afternoon with my really very wonderful in-laws.

I’m told you can get like $50 a piece for doing these! Maybe a sketch-portrait/henna stand is in order. I always feel like a schmuck when I go long stretches between selling my artwork while other folks are squeezing stinky goo on paying customers all day long. Ah, the artist’s life.

Categorized as At Home

Jormungand at Home

110903 jormungand at home

Here is Jormungand Releases His Tail in its current natural habitat, which is directly in my line of vision if I look across the room from my side of the bed. I give it a good look for a few moments maybe every other day; I miss it much of the time because I take off my glasses and switch off the light when I retire for the evening, my eyes settled into the bliss of blurry darkness that is so welcome after a day of constant seeing. When one’s job is to make stuff look good one is always seeking more good-looking stuff to learn from and, through the act of sustained looking, trying to figure out how the good-looking stuff looks so good, in case one can use it in the studio. So, nighttime for the bespectacled artist is a welcome respite, and as much as I admire Jormungand, it’s daily absence from my visual field for hours at a time renews my fondness for it.

Jormungand Releases His Tail, 2010, by James Hough

Jormungand Releases His Tail, 2010, acrylic on canvas, by Jim Public
Jormungand Releases His Tail, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 45.25″h x 41.25″w

Last fall, while I was working on God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, I was also at work on a painting similar in size and technique. I was looking a lot at the mid-to-late-20th century American painters Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston while I painted, seeking to be inspired and educated by these makers of beautiful messes. The particular Mitchell I studied over and over was a tiny reproduction of La Grande Vallée (1983) from an AbEx series of commemorative stamps (as seen below, bottom row, second from the left, between Motherwell and Gottlieb). The blues and yellows in that painting were all the more arresting and mysterious because of the small scale of the stamp; it was like looking at a glorious painting across a football field.

110903 ab ex stamps

The Guston I had in mind while I worked on the painting that ended up being Jormungand is called The Light (1964) from the collection of the Modern in Fort Worth. Like the Mitchell above, this painting is so much about vigorous, broad, wriggling brushwork, this time in grey and pink.

What happens when you look at a lot of art over a lot of years is you start to see how some people just know how to make things look good; this description, “one who makes things look good,” is for me the best definition of what an artist does. Of course, determining what looks good is a subjective process, and this is kind of the point. If we all liked the same stuff, or if we could apply objective criteria to a visual object to determine its “good-looking” grade, then making and looking at and talking about art wouldn’t be much fun. Because the experience of beauty is elusive and specific to the individual, the pursuit of beauty can make life an adventure. And, when two people stand before a giant, scribbled canvas by Guston or Mitchell, for example, they can draw on their memories and intuition, exercise their senses of taste and judgment, and come to know better their own and each other’s notions of truth and beauty, which I think is as worthy an experience as any.

And, the art doesn’t mind our scrutiny and judgment, because it’s inanimate, perched on the wall, exposed fully, intended for as much gazing as we have to give it. The arts in general provide the perfect outlet for our innately human compulsion to judge others in order to understand ourselves better. And it is an excellent antidote for the more pervasive and, I think, malignant forms of judgment we indulge in when we watch reality tv or skim the pages of glossy magazines, calling on our ideas of beauty and righteousness as we repudiate or extoll, depending on how much they confirm or subvert our individual visions for the way things and people ought to be, the images of real human beings before us. In this way, art, which is both amoral and inhuman, can make us more moral humans.

Mitchell and Guston just make things look good. Their individual senses of scale and color, the way they each handle paint, and everything else they bring to their canvases, despite their abstract messiness, makes them distinct and lovely. These two painters continue to give me a lot of material to work with in my own studio. Looking at Jormungand now, you would hardly think that it started as an homage to The Light, but a painting has to start somewhere. As I built up layers of acrylic and sanded them down, transforming the surface slowly into what it ended up looking like, with the tans and blacks swirling up a wicked froth, it felt more and more Norse in character. And, having been watching the live simulcasts of the Met’s Ring cycle, I went in the direction of the epic (rather than the cosmic, as with Covenant) when I was titling the painting. In Norse myth, Jormungand is the world serpent who encircles the Earth and holds the conflicting universal forces in check by holding his tail in his mouth, making of himself a protective ring for our planet. It is said that when he one day lets go of his tail, the Norse version of Armageddon will begin. Which sounds wicked and fits the vibe I get from this painting.

Jormungand is acrylic on canvas, 45.25″ x 41.25.″ Like Covenant, it also lives in our bedroom, and I’m happy to report that I have yet to get tired of looking at it, which for me is a good sign that I’m on the right track in the studio. I’ve destroyed a lot of old artwork over the years as they age before my eyes and start to look stupid; I don’t foresee that happening with these paintings.

Life, with Art

It is said that when selling artwork online one should take nice photos showing the art in a pleasing environment, such as you would find in the pages of home design magazines like Dwell or Architectural Digest. Looking at photos and ads in these mags, I get the feeling that the usually fluffy decorative paintings, which occupy about 1/10th of the photograph’s space, are worth a similar fraction of the tastefully designed room’s value. Want to make a $15,000 painting look like it’s worth its price? Take a picture of it in a mouth-watering, $150,000 interior.

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(One quick note: the painting there on the left is a Will Cotton, who is a living master of fluffy decorative painting. I saw one of his oils at the Dallas Art Fair last spring and the gorgeousness of the paintwork made me cry; artists like him keep artists like me away from representational oil painting. I have nothing to add to what he’s able to do with the brush.)

Another type of luxury interior shot–usually more about furniture than art–features young adults lounging on a couch or the floor, sporting comfy footwear, engaged pleasantly in a book or laptop, or smiling contentedly at each other. The woman should be holding a ceramic coffee mug. And if a child is playing quietly nearby, you have a masterpiece.

luxury interior 1 110831 luxury interior 2 110831 luxury interior 3 110831 luxury interior 4 110831

Ahhhh, isn’t that the life? Cleanliness and order, tranquility and contentment, good lines, feng shui.

I am a skeptic, which means I ask for evidence to support a claim, and which I guess makes me a realist, too. I like for my ideas and values to correspond as closely as possible to the actual state of things outside of my body, in the objective world we all presumably inhabit. And I find little evidence in my experience that supports the existence of the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the characters in these photos. They remind me of sitcoms in which one of the characters has had her baby, but the story must continue, so when new mommy needs to act like the grown-up that her audience is accustomed to, she just lays baby down for a nap or puts baby in a playpen where baby coos softly, or not at all, and lets mommy do her thing. Photography like this, and really all photography in most every magazine, drives me nuts.

So, in my ongoing effort to brush aside delusion and fantasy and replace them with a more familiar reality, I want to share my installation shot of God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, in the condition in which it actually exists.

110831 gods covenant at home

Our furniture is used and well-worn; our bed is unmade; our laundry is underfoot; our carpet is characteristic of a rental home. Our kids do not play quietly or alone. JPS had the fun idea of bringing all his Batman toys onto mom and dad’s bed, and he only played with them solo because he saw that a camera was pointed at him. He has the reputation around here for lying on his back, absentmindedly spinning our recliner with his feet, if no one will play with him. His mom and I encourage independence in our kids, but the fact is that unless a friend or cousin is in the house, they are either playing with us or engaged with some kind of electronic screen.

If JPW were to sit on the floor with a ceramic coffee mug, it would probably end up shattered on the tile and certainly end up overturned on her clothes, few of which are white, because she is the mother of young children and knows better. We read mostly on the toilet, which is the only place where we can occasionally find peace. If we were to snuggle up on the couch with the laptop, we would be assailed by the children, who cannot bear to be excluded from gazing at a monitor.

I find life an insane, unwieldy, improvised mess. We humans are animals, and serenity, while longed for (as millions of magazine photos show us again and again), is rarely achieved, and short-lived. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is an adventure that is not to be tamed by the right couch or composite flooring material. And certainly not by art. I think the best art and photography embrace and celebrate the insanity around us, which is what my photo of a painting in a home with a child is going for.

God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, 2010, by James Hough

God's Covenant at the Event Horizon, 2010
God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 48.5″h x 41.5″w

I want to catch you up on some of the larger artworks I’ve made in the last year since we moved to Garland. A lot of the paintings I’ve done over the years are in the medium-to-large size range–between about 3′ and 8′ in one dimension–which doesn’t lend itself either to ease of shipping or modesty of price; they are a bit heavy, and they take a lot of time to make. As you know, I have a broad commitment to finding ways of making reasonably-priced artwork and connecting to an audience that includes, but is not restricted to, the traditional contemporary art world. But, I am also committed to making the best artwork I can, and this pursuit sometimes takes me beyond parameters such as pricing, weight, scale, and so on.

Now that I’ve begun the Camelot quest and I’m making the effort to meet the members of my community here in the Dallas area, as well as on the web, I want to make these larger, more intensive pieces of art available for your viewing and, because there’s always a chance, purchase. If a neighbor did one day decide to buy one of my larger paintings, the collector, being local, is all-too-easy to reach for delivery, so shipping would be a non-issue. For now, and for simplicity, there will be no Paypal buttons for these pieces, as I don’t expect those of you who live far away to want a painting shipped to you at a cost somewhere in the low $100s, considering crate-building, weight, and insurance. And for you local potential collectors, cash or check is an easier form of payment, and I don’t have to cough up a percentage to Paypal for handling it. If one of you would like to subvert my expectations and pay for the crating and shipping of this or another large piece to you, please show me the error of my ways, and I’ll accommodate you posthaste.

That long preface behind us, let’s turn our attention to the painting above. It was one of the two paintings I first made once we got settled here. Some of you may have seen it on my former blog, Look On My Works. It’s comprised of many layers of paint which I alternately built up and sanded down until I liked what I was looking at, which is a kind of supernatural cosmic landscape, and I titled it with the kind of language Wayne Coyne uses to name Flaming Lips songs.

Covenant is acrylic on canvas, 48.5 ” x 41.5.” It lives in our bedroom, as it has since last autumn, and, unlike most of the stuff I’ve made as an artist, I haven’t gotten tired of looking at it. In fact, like the best work an artist does, it makes me say to myself, “Wow. I can’t believe I made that.”

Jim Public Is Growing Up

I’m happy to announce two extensions of the Jimiverse!

First, I’ve made this blog available for Kindle at Amazon.com. The cost, set by Amazon, is $1.99/month, and you get a 14-day free trial. If you click the Amazon link in the sidebar, just there to the left, not only will you be taken to the Amazon page where you can subscribe to Jim Public: Your Local Artist, but I think I get a couple of cents if you end up subscribing to it after having clicked that specific link! I can already feel the weight of those pennies jingling in my pockets…

Next, I created a Twitter account. I’m @jimpublic. As I make blog posts, I will tweet the link over there in addition to providing a link on Facebook. If any of you can suggest some good folks to follow on Twitter, shout them out. So far I’ve already stopped following a lot of comedians who keep spouting out mean-spirited one-liners that just don’t work for me.

It’s thundering outside! Our crunchy corpse of a lawn may just have a second chance at life.

Painting at the Elementary School (Year 1 of 9)

Elementary Hall Art 1

With JPG in 3rd grade and JPS not starting kindergarten for another two years, the Public family is looking at eight more years of involvement with our lovely neighborhood elementary school. Last year was our first year in this community, and my wife and I volunteered throughout the school year and over the summer, assisting with field trips and parties, teaching a few art lessons, making props for the talent show, and, finally, painting five inspirational-type words in the hallways, as you can see above and below.

Kindness, Respect, Attitude, Honesty, Responsibility.

If, during each of the nine total years that we’ll be a part of the school, I spend a day or two adding some painted flourishes to it, I’m hoping it will be an all-out public school spectacle by the time we’ve moved on to middle school.

So, I am finding ways to merge my missions of being an artist and doing something worthwhile in the community. Volunteerism is an excellent way to achieve this goal. And, when one volunteers for her community the effort is never fully given away because, as a member of the community, she receives the benefit of the work along with everyone else. The same goes for making drawings of my neighbors and giving them the original artwork: we both win in that exchange because, as it has been through centuries of human society, the gesture of gift-giving enriches the relationship that is being established.

Elementary Hall Art 2
Categorized as At Home

Reading, Crying

082211 JPG reading to Jim and JPS

Yesterday was the last day of summer vacation. In one hour I will be dragging what I hope will be two very chipper children from their beds, 2 1/2 hours before the time they awoke just yesterday. JPW, my wife, would have preferred that I had started channeling them into the straight and narrow in anticipation of today’s abrupt return to school-year reality, but I opted for the opposite approach, which means that my kids and I languished in bed until after 9am these past few days, and no Saxon math or piano practice occurred.

While this description of summer’s final weekend may reek of sloth, I counter it by sharing with you just how much reading went down over those same two days. JPS, being a few months shy of 4-years-old, doesn’t “read” much yet, though he can sound out many one-syllable, single-vowel words, a fact that makes his parents both proud and eager for the day a few years hence when all four of us can enjoy an afternoon of quiet reading, each with his or her own book. JPG, on the other hand, is reading well ahead of her age level, which is to be expected of any child whose parents’ dirty-hippy tendencies have steered her from the screen to the page. I maintain that if you take 100 3-year-olds, curb their consumption of television and computers, and replace that time with one-on-one reading instruction, while modeling the behavior as an adult who reads for leisure, two years later you will end up with just shy of 100 5-year-olds who read well and often, leaving an allowance for the few kids who will have learning disabilities and will need continued practice and guidance to catch up with their peers.

As the summer heat pounded outside, we didn’t leave the house much this weekend. JPG was content to read her mom’s Archie comics by the dozen, but I needed a way to pass the time that could engage all three of us. She and I had three chapters of Wilson Rawls’s Summer of the Monkeys to finish, so I gathered us in the living room and read aloud, which doubly pleased my daughter, because she not only loves being read to but has also been promised that when I finish reading Summer to her I will begin the long postponed reading of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The reading was going as well as I could have hoped. JPS brought in his monkey and woobie and lay around with his finger in his mouth, as he has always done when he’s resting or mentally checking out for a bit. He even chimed in with a few pertinent questions, such as, “Is Jay Berry a boy or a girl?” and “Who’s the girl?” before returning his finger to his mouth and rolling his eyes back into snuggle-coma position.

But, good things can’t last forever, and I had anticipated that I would be the weak link in our quiet afternoon of story time. For those of you who haven’t read Summer of the Monkeys, first, I recommend it as a great book for upper elementary age people, and second, I’ll say that it’s a crier. I knew what was coming, having read it when I was about JPG’s age, but as the book built to its climax and even as it coasted through the denouement, I was finally overcome.

I get emotional while I read books aloud to my daughter. Usually we are reading stories that are legitimately tearful at times, but I think there’s something in the act itself of dad-reading-to-daughter that pre-loads my tear ducts and sets my lower lip aquiver. I like to think that this routine display of an adult male’s emotions lends depth and intensity to the reading, but it’s more likely that it’s just irritating for my listener to have to endure so many pauses during key scenes as the reader stabilizes his breathing and tries to force the croaks out of his voice. I suspect that these often lengthy pauses in fact destroy the pace of the story and lead to attention drift in the listener. But yesterday we found a solution.

When the weeping was too distracting and I had to tell my audience, “Sorry: this book makes my cry,” JPG offered to take over and do the reading herself. The poor kid was ready to get this show back on the road. I was grateful, and as I calmed myself with sips of afternoon coffee, I listened to her read several pages. She’s a good little reader, but very fast and not terribly articulate in her delivery, as all little kids are, so I’m looking forward to a new routine of passing future books to her when I reach troublesome waters and need a few minutes to steady myself. I could use the break, and she could use the practice.

Later, before bedtime, I read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to her, which is my favorite of the series for its sensitive and accurate portrayal of early adolescence. It was the Potter novel that, for me, after J.K. had already upped the stakes with Prisoner of Askaban, made it clear that these books were the real thing, not mere escapism, but a microcosm of human life. And, I’m glad that I can pass over the book to JPG when I need a moment, because just reading Goblet to myself makes me heave and splutter.

Categorized as At Home

The Hyper-Local Artist

I’ve stated that I am a hyper-local artist, and I see two aspects of what this means.

First, I am a geographically local artist, a person who does creative work in my suburban neighborhood and attempts to connect the work to the life of the neighborhood. True, I am still in the planning stages of the Facelife door-knocking campaign, which I’ll be starting as soon as it’s under 100 degrees by 5pm, probably next week if we’re lucky. My daughter JPG starts school next Tuesday, which seems as good a time as any for me to start my own autumn adventure.

Because Art refers to a broad, shape-shifting array of activities, artists have perfect freedom to give whatever form they want to their practices. My own values of community living, grassroots engagement, and making affordable artwork all feed into this hyper-local shape I’m giving to my practice. At this point I know what I think is important to leading a worthwhile life and I have a good idea of the kinds of artwork I want to do, but as I proceed with my values guiding me, my oeuvre could look and sound and feel like pretty much anything, and I love the sense of adventure in that.

Next, I’m a local artist on the web. Because of its virtual nature, the web is simultaneously vast and local because all web content is a mere URL (and maybe a password) away. As I do what I do here, my goal is to reach out to my geographical neighbors here in Garland and to my virtual neighbors here on the web. Reaching out to fellow internet-users is a big challenge obviously, because my web content comprises a near-undetectable trace of all the information on the web. But, as anyone who has started a business from scratch will tell you, of course it’s all hard work, and it may all come to nothing, forcing me to seek a living elsewhere. At this early stage of my conquest I am still full of optimism that persistence will win the day for Jim Public, that as I pound the cement pavement outside my front door and the digital pavement beyond my computer monitor, I will nurture this thing and make something that is meaningful to enough people that I will earn the privilege to keep doing it.

There was an article this summer on Glasstire, the Texas-based art site, that discusses the lack of urban density in DFW and the impact of this lack on the art scene. The author suggests that it takes geographical and social density to create the kind of energy that gives spark to a vital art scene, and that Dallas’s art scene isn’t so vital because the city and its inhabitants are too thinly and broadly spread. Reading that article was a signal moment for me. I think it was the tipping point that helped me to gather my ideas about what I want to do as an artist and put those ideas into action, rather than tuck them away in the corner of my mind labeled “crazy” and continue pushing for a more conventional art career of making expensive artwork and wiggling through the social channels to get it seen by the right people so that the wealthy can fee secure in bestowing a purchase on this youngish, strange artist among many young, strange artists.

I believe that by going hyper-local, both in the neighborhood and on the web, I can make artwork that means something to people and that makes me the kind of modest living that will let me keep doing this. And don’t mistake my talk of making a living for a call to support you local artists or whatever. An artist is owed nothing by his community, and you should feel no obligation to support him just because he’s locally-based and engaged in some socially special activity. Art is like anything else: if you like what I do and you want some of it, you can choose to buy some. It is my job, the artist’s job, to make something that people care about, not the public’s job to care about what the artist is up to.

That said, talk to y’all next time!

Ready for the Small Time

August has truly been a summer travel extravaganza for the Public family. During the weeks prior to our camping in the New Mexico mountains we spent 5 days each in Austin and Tulsa. Then after one day of recovery from New Mexico (and Carlsbad Caverns, which was beautiful both underground in the caves and on top of the mesa looking out over a hundred miles of desert disrupted by the sudden majesty of the Guadalupe Mountains) the four of us headed to DFW airport for our final summer trip to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake in the summer is so absurdly beautiful that it exists outside of my personal conception of time and space. Living as I have in Oklahoma, Texas, and southern Nevada, I cannot conceive of summer as being anything but mostly miserable outside. So, while our yard in Garland now has a fault-line of dry earth stretching across it, baked by intense heat and drought, the yards here in Utah are lush and dewy, water flowing copiously through the city’s network of streams and channels. It’s way refreshing.

On the plane heading out here, I opted out of sliding my credit card for $6 worth of Direct TV programming, but I did get to watch a handful of ads promoting the upcoming fall season of mostly reality programming. The X Factor and one of those Top Chef type shows both caught my attention. The bevy of talent-seeking programming is a sign of the times, obviously. The internet and our growing capacity for narcissism are part of this trend in which many of us can seek, if we choose to, our fame and fortune and vindicate our latent certainty that each of us has something special to offer the world. I am totally part of this trend.

However, I don’t want to be the next Kelly Clarkson or celebrity chef. My ego craves recognition, but my quality of life requires that I spend much of my time with loved ones, or reading, or making stuff. To be a superstar you have to make sacrifices; to make millions demands more than I’m willing to give. But, I do want to use the contemporary media landscape to transform myself into a ministar. To hell with megastardom: I’m aiming for a middle-class living here.

For me, choosing to be a visual artist is about working hard to make up new content all the time, to find an audience for it, and to make enough money that I don’t have to get a day job. It’s a lifestyle about maximizing work time, because the work is its own reward. So, if I can create interesting content and make it available in different formats for the enjoyment, edification, and purchase of a relatively small number of people in my local and internet communities, and I can pay my bills, then I have a the life I want.

The internet has the potential to redistribute stardom into a scenario in which the are many more of us making a far more reasonable amount of money. I love Gaga, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and a lot of other arena acts that have monopolized stardom in recent decades; I want those crazy fame-seekers to continue to blow our minds and make piles of cash. There is no Gaga without a heavy revenue stream to support the operation. On the other hand, and on the other end of the income spectrum, I’m eager to take my place among the broad, diverse scene of cultural acts who pull in an annual haul somewhere in the mid-five-figures. This would constitute a huge success for me and my endeavor.

The X Factor talent series, and those like it, represents one phase of the transition toward everyone having the opportunity to be famous entertainers. What people like me are shooting for is the next extension of that trend, toward a cultural landscape in which thousands of small acts work hard to make their art and to build their audience so we can make are modest living doing what we love.

A Respectable Haircut

jim public got a haircut 072411

I’m happy to share with you that I’ve made some progress since my first Jimmy, Meet World post, in which I took a look at my look to see what I could do to make myself less freaky-looking as I introduce myself to people in my community. I got a haircut.

I’ve spent most of my life with hair that draws on the “bell” motif. At first, the bell was the result of my mom cutting my hair to fit the times–think Luke Skywalker. Later, I was just reluctant to maintain a coherent and/or respectable appearance. My mind was usually on other things, things like art and what song lyrics mean and, later, how best to parent a short-tempered daughter, and so on. Even mirrors conveniently have shown me only what I want to see, which is just enough of my features to recognize myself as I wash my face or check for pepper in my teeth; my scruffiness is edited out by a brain that hasn’t cared about scruffiness until now. Only in photos did I see myself as I looked to others, like a sad sap from the ’70s.

What I have now is versatile: it can be styled back or up or forward. I can probably get it to stand up in an inspired-looking mess, like you see in portraits of old classical composers. But what’s key in this cut is the clean edge around the ears. It acts like one of those slim, solid frames that contain a de Kooning or Joan Mitchell painting: it gives permission for whatever is within–or above in my case–to be as crazy as it wants to be. Most of the time, however, my hair will probably look a lot like it does above, as I spend the day pushing my fingers back through it. But I reserve the option to tousle and texturize as needed.

So, I got a haircut. I tell you this not because I’m in a sharing mood–I like to share, but I have some sense of self-censure, too–but because what’s happening on this site and in this blog is the journey of a virtually unknown artist from his current state of near obscurity to one of public note. I’m drawing up plans right now for the first direct phase of meeting my local public here in Garland, TX, and those will go up soon.

This blog is handy for me. If I say I’m going to do something here, I’ll feel like a jerk if I don’t do it. I’ll be announcing my first venture into the actual, physical public in the next few days.

What to Expect from This Blog

Jim Public in his studio, July 2011

I spend a lot of time in the studio, which some of you may recognize as a standard suburban 2-car garage with paintings and free-standing walls in place of automobiles, a fact that, to her great credit, my wife has endured since we moved into our first house. Do cars really need their own room anyway?

This is where I do a good deal of manual labor (i.e., making art), looking, and thinking. In the photo, I’ve just finished the former and I’m engaged in the two latter. The looking is how I determine if a piece of artwork is good or finished or needs more work, and the thinking includes all of that plus anything else that’s rattling around in my skull.

What I’m thinking about in the photo, besides how close to done the painting on the left is, is how I’m going to establish a sturdy career. One would think that having been an artist all my life, and a professional one for seven years, I would be past that point. People who would think this include me from the ages of around 18 to the early 30’s or so. To be an artist, and I use the term broadly, you have to face the economic reality that there is an absurd lack of demand for contemporary art in the broad market and an even more absurd glut of artists out there to fill it. We have to be persistent, foolhardy, and a little delusional, and we have to distinguish ourselves. This is what I’m thinking about.

In the last post I was examining my appearance because the career I’m building is a public one, and I need to do what I can to be presentable. My goal isn’t to make public artwork–though it doesn’t exclude it–but to find ways of being an artist in the public, a presence in the community, a local artist. Becoming familiar with the people who live and work where I live and work is a big part of this vision: I want a grassroots art career. I’m not interested in ingratiating myself to the elites of DFW and beyond in order to have a shot at a blue chip art career, a career that most of my neighbors will never know about, because contemporary art is an exclusive world. It’s an exclusive world I love, but one I want to expand to include everyone whose interest I can spark with a little pavement pounding and neighborly goodwill on my part.

And this process, which has the potential to go in all kinds of directions, and which I’m really excited about right now, is what you can expect to be documented in this blog as I go along. And, your reading is an important part of the whole thing. Now I need to nail down my game plan for getting out there with the good folks of north Garland…

Jimmy, Meet World

I want my artwork to reach a lot of people and a lot of different kinds of people. Working toward building a large, diverse audience helps me achieve two goals: 1) I’m more likely to make a living doing this, and 2) I satisfy the drive that artists–all people, really–have, to cross the barriers that separate each of us, to make that human connection. Self-expression is just one half of why I make art. It’s not enough just to pull up for a jump shot, release the ball from your fingers, then turn and walk away: you want to see if you make the basket, and you want to see the crowd’s reaction.

Thinking about this stuff is always going on in my head. But, in my years of being an artist, I’ve given very little thought to what’s going on on my head. So let’s take a minute here to reflect on where I’m at on the outside, the side you see. If I’m going to be an artist with any kind of public presence, appearance deserves some scrutiny. If I can get the way I look a little more under control, maybe this grassroots art career will be a little less tricky.

I give you, Jim Public…

Jim Public headshot 1 July 2011
  1. The overall shape here is thin, so far. This is good for public relations, especially since I’m still relatively young. As I gain years and weight, I can pull off a rounder figure if the career’s doing well: we assume that heavy poor people overeat because of their failures but that heavy affluent people overeat because of their successes. Also, if we use U.S. presidents as a barometer, our last overweight commander-in-chief was Taft, whose term started just over a century ago, while President Obama today is right up there with the lankiest. So, for me, slight makes right. And even though Santa and Buddha are both popular and portly, they have much to give and ask nothing in return, so they’re on a rather different, jolly plane from the rest of us mortals who have to make a living.
  2. The hair is mouse brown and limp, and there’s a definite bell shape happening. It needs attention, be it lots of product to lift it up while keeping the length for some Depp-effect, or a good trim to expose the ears and give the head more of a strong, recognizably geometric shape. The hair must be dealt with realistically, however, because time spent doing hair is time spent not doing art.
  3. The heavy-framed, dark glasses lend an educated, yet disabled look. You see people like this every day, who leave the inner animal in us thinking, “Good for him, carrying on bravely in spite of his impairment, and he hasn’t been killed and eaten yet!” As an accessory, the glasses work okay, imparting a thoughtful, physically nonthreatening presence that will help me when I greet people.
  4. Face shaved = good. And some thin chops to strengthen the line of an otherwise vague, rounded jaw. I’m not thrilled about the gap separating the burns from the hair, which make them look like dangling, hairy earrings, but the sideburns will do for now. This face does not exude masculinity on its own, so the framing facial hair helps a little. But only a little: better for the mind to be virile and the body to be just manly enough to pass. Plus, in this photo, the burns define the cheekbones, which I didn’t realize I had.
  5. The facial expression is neutral in this photo, and I’m happy to see that it’s not too weird or sullen or cranky. Adding a touch of smile will get me closer to the safe-zone for the grassroots art-career-building. The smile needs to be sincere rather than ingratiating: nothing’s worse than a stranger approaching you with a grin that says, “Hi. I want something from you.” My goal as a friendly neighborhood artist isn’t to convince anyone of anything but my existence. The world is full enough of folks whose greetings reek of opportunism. I’m serious about this: if you know that I exist and make art, then I’ve done my job. So, yeah, this facial expression is close to what I need to introduce myself to you, I think.
  6. One last thing before the scrutiny ends and I’m all done looking at my own photo is the shirt and collar. It’s blazing hot in north Texas this summer, as always, and I had thought the light-weave, collared shirt was only about survival, but once again I’m pleasantly surprised that it looks okay, too. Especially note the collar, open one extra button for ventilation: while the shirt itself is a sturdy classic style, the open collar suggests a hint of unbridled creative passion. Striking that balance between refinement and savagery may just be the key to making it as the artist I want to be.

To conclude this self-critique, let me say that I’ve tried to be fair and practical about what the photo shows, and, unless I’m more delusional than I realize, I’m not as bad off as I had expected. I will keep eating vegetables, getting haircuts, using product for texture and body or whatever it is that my hair needs, sporting spectacles, remembering to shave, practicing good posture and smiling just enough not to look crabby. And I’ll get more of those shirts. Maybe half-roll the sleeves for that getting-down-to-business look.

As for the business I need to get down to, there will be more on that. Things are going well in the studio; it’s outside of the studio that needs the work.

One last thing. I’d like to thank Jim Public’s Girl and Jim Public’s Son–JPG and JPS henceforth–for their technical assistance with the photo shoot today. I couldn’t have done this without their eagerness both to pose as stand-ins and snap the pictures.

Jim Public's daughter sample headshot July 2011 Jim Public's son sample headshot July 2011