Monthly Archives: August 2013

First Day At SAW

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At last, the first day at SAW. A sense of purpose. For me, as it turns out, the summer was a bit of a let down, even a drag. I tried to just relax, but I just ended up feeling like a slacker. Not so now, not so.

I had my first class at SAW Wednesday, and now I remember why I was so content all last year. I was teaching. I’m also looking forward to the other odd and more unexpected elements, like… are any of these students who I think they are now? I’m a bit shy off-stage or out of the classroom, so it takes me a while to get to know people. Then there’s the ever-present thrill of watching them “get it.” That’s the big one, the one that really fills my life with meaning… that moment when they really “get it.” But mostly it’s the act of passing along the things I know, the things my mentors taught me, all the things I learned the hard way, not to mention the act of giving over the best things that are in me. As a prior post I wrote revealed, I’m not drawing like I used to, so it feels good to hand it over… gang… you can take it all! Go do beautiful things with it!

Last year was so amazing for every single person involved, that for me it is exciting to know that all the magic we enjoyed last year is within our grasp. By Saraswati’s grace, what a great way to make a living.

(Please note, I’m really not making much of a living.)

I Pictured

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Om-symbol-purple

I Pictured (By Barefoot Justine)

Today while meditating,
I pictured my mother,
disapproving, worried and bothered,
At my many undoings.

Today while meditating,
I pictured myself,
disapproving, worried and bothered,
At my undoings.

Today, while meditating,
I pictured black bile,
A stream of it tar and oil,
So many years polluting.

Today while meditating,
I pictured black bile,
A stream of it tar and oil,
Decades streaming.

Today while meditating,
I pictured black bile,
Rolling towards Shiva’s feet,
Decades Streaming.

Today while meditating,
I pictured clear water,
Flowing from the black bile,
Purified by Lord Shiva.

Today while meditating,
I pictured my mother a child,
The poor thing, so sad,
And I love her more.

Today while meditating,
I let go,
Attached no more,
I can love us both more freely.

(I just wrote this in one dash, no revisions or anything, will tweak it later, Justine)
Om-symbol-purple

Why Justine Doesn’t Draw Anymore

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I have this piece of paper on my door, it’s got a few circles on it, and the words on it are drawn rather than written, big and purple, and they say “YOU ARE THE BEST.” I see it every day. I see it every single time I look in the mirror (OK, I know, far far more often than I should), every time I go out or come in… all the time. That simple purple offering roots me in the now.

I have these books on my shelf, books I dedicated myself to for 15 years, published work, stuff I slaved over and sacrificed for, my life, my marriage, myself, my family, money all gone for my personal projects… these books. I never look at them.

I never could look at them, not even when they had just been released. All I could see in those pages and pages of obsessively drawn art was that the elbow was too low here, the eyes didn’t line up there, those feet and toes were ugly, God, I never got that expression right. And now I can’t look at them for all those reasons and several dozen more.

I used to draw, I mean, that was what I was… I WAS drawing. I was drawing. I don’t mean that as an action, I mean who I was was drawing! Drawing was my name. Now, no. Sure, I’ll draw with delicious delight if I’m getting paid, I might draw frequent sketches, but to sit down and work on a project, an engaging project that has profound meaning to me, something that has an uncertain future, something that I will have to finish in a vacuum through which all life and hope has been sucked, sucked into a black hole. No, I won’t do that. Then I’d have to send that project out to publishers publishing tons of books far less accomplished and honest than mine. I’d have to read all these enraging rejection letters. Then someone would finally publish it, and I’d have to see my work ignored while other work is praised and celebrated. I’d have to read snotty comments and criticisms of my work. No, I’m not doing that anymore. See, but this is not hopelessness that should infect my students. OK, yes, I had accomplished a lot as an artist, make no mistake, but I had failed to embrace changing trends and remained instead fixed on a sort of art and storytelling that had become painfully out of fashion. In addition to that I had devoted myself to a highly illogical project that was so personally coded that looking back it reads like the work of a crazy person. My career as a freelancer didn’t fail so much as I set out and made a bee-line for failure… not due to my skills or talents, but because of my choices. All of my students are far too smart and open to make the same mistakes. My failures will not infect them. All of them will have the wisdom to add what I teach to their toolboxes, but they will know to temper it with modernity. Tom will see to that. Fortunately, at SAW, Tom is right up to the moment, so in this case my tastes and tendencies are actually a benefit and not a hindrance… for the first time ever. Every school needs one old lady to pass the flame and remind the “kids” that sometimes it’s good to look back. Just don’t spend as much time doing it as I have. Listen to Tom, too.

No, I don’t draw anymore. The very act is tainted. First it was tainted by my own perfectionism, by my neurotic and abusive eyes, eyes that saw only the ugly things, never the beauty. Then my work became tainted by money, business and marketing. Then the act of drawing became tainted by failure, my failures and the failures of the world at large to recognize the incomprehensible pearls I had cast before them. Then, at last, tainted by the worst of things… tainted by all that run cold, and all that run cold turned into bitterness.

“Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues
And I explained that I had overpaid them.”
Sixto Rodriguez

I don’t have the temperament to keep at this anymore. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, all my bones are set to disappointment. I can’t bear watching my work undersell projects that I KNOW (even for all the faults I saw in my work) were far (and I mean FAR) inferior to mine. And I don’t have the stomach for being rejected, I don’t have that fire in my belly that forces others on, to keep pushing. Others have those skills, those fires. And I definitely do not have the desire to do the work for myself. Artists should be paid for their work.

Artists should be paid for their work.

Again, ARTISTS SHOULD BE PAID FOR THEIR WORK. Bottom line. I’m not working for free.

But none of that is why I don’t draw like I used to… oh, I draw just as well, and when I do draw I truly LOVE it. But I am not “Drawing” anymore. Of course I felt and sometimes feel lost, because if I defined myself as “Drawing,” what am I when I’m not drawing? Nothing, seemingly.

A little over a year ago I walked in off the street into SAW for the first time, having no idea that my life was about to change. I had expected the pattern of rejection to simply continue. I had no frame of reference to expect otherwise, not lately I haven’t. I was obsolete, and here was another person to make certain I knew that, or at least that was what I carried with me when I met with Tom.

But it didn’t happen that way. Tom Hart was wiser than that. He saw in this “crazy barefoot woman walking in off the street,” to be more to the point, he saw in my portfolio that I was good, had mastered a few things, and had obviously paid my dues and lived a disciplined life as a dedicated artist. He saw also in my art the great value of my pedigree and lineage (which traces back to Wally Wood). Tom Hart saw what everyone else had missed. Tom saw that I could draw, I could really draw… ah… but could I teach? As it turns out, HELL YES I CAN FUCKING TEACH!!

Being who he is, he offered to let me launch an evening class just to help refill my coffers and keep me going for another month or so, and that was when I found salvation and hope. Tom attended my class and asked me (dare I say “begged” me… he may deny it now, but that email was enthusiastic and he did use the word “beg”) to sign on and be a teacher for the year-long.

Finally! Finally someone who saw what an asset I could be. At last someone was wise enough to see what no one else had EVER seen. Tom saw that I had a lot to offer. For so many years I had been turned away because my work was “too Victorian” or because it wasn’t digital. Not Tom, he was too wise by far to see my work in such ludicrous terms. And that was really when things turned around.

What has SAW meant to me? Hope. And let me tell you, there is nothing more powerful to a bitter, burned out, and hopeless person than hope. Nothing turns bitterness to sweetness more than hope. Nothing purifies a smile and spirit like hope. Nothing gives a person a reason to get out of bed and keep going like hope.

But wait… there’s more! There was Gainesville, the people of Gainesville, and our fabulous students. For the first time I was surrounded by people who respected me for all the things the comics industry had dismissed me for. These students wanted to better themselves, they did not want to take the easy way out. Not only was I teaching, I was having an amazing time. I felt like I did when I’d first started working in comics, I was full of energy and dedication. I wanted my classes to be as good as my art. I put all of myself into those classes. I put my efforts into OTHER people rather than into self-absorbed work. That is what I do now, I give rather than stare into my navel.

I don’t draw like I used to, but most people who have seen my work realize why, I was prolific, had created pounds and pounds of illustrations, they all can see why I burned out… I’d done it all. And here is what SAW really did for me, it gave me the chance to stop wasting all the things I’d learned from my years of obsessive drawing. SAW gave me the chance to take all the things I’d learned from my mentors, teachers, and acquaintances (P. Craig Russell, Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins, Jim Steranko, Frank Thorne, John Workman, Jeffery Catherine Jones) and pass them along. For a few years I had felt guilty that I had all this talent and had learned so much from so many legendary figures… and here I was doing nothing with it. SAW has given me the opportunity to keep those lessons alive! SAW has given me the opportunity to teach to my students the lessons Jeffrey Catherine Jones taught to me–and who she will never teach to another soul. SAW has given me the chance to take the very best things that are in me and keep them alive in others. Thanks to SAW my talents, work, lessons, and ideals are not being wasted. Through SAW I am able to say, “I know I don’t draw draw as often as I used to, I know I don’t care about being published, but here, you guys take all I’ve learned and all I am and do something with it. It’s yours now, keep us alive, keep us vibrant and moving forever into the future.” No, I’m not doing anything with it personally, but for me giving it to others who do have the desire and will to use all I know and all I’ve learned is in the end far more rewarding than getting published ever was.

Thanks to SAW the wisdom of not only myself, but of P. Craig Russell, Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins, Jim Steranko, Frank Thorne, John Workman, and Jeffery Catherine Jones is not being wasted, and what more could a small non-profit art school do than that? Not much, not much.

SAW taught me that sometimes we don’t get what we want or expect, but sometimes, just sometimes, if we cross paths with a wise person, things might just work out better than expected or wanted. This, for me, my friends, is far better than getting published… after all, I’m getting paid to share the best things that are in me. I am getting paid to enrich lives and make dreams come true!

Yeah, I’ve got some of my published books on the shelf. I never look at them. Also in my room I have a few pieces, thank you’s from my students from SAW, that I see everyday. I treasure them. And on my door I have a simple drawing I see dozens of times a day, a few circles and carefully drawn purple words that a child I was teaching art to this Summer at the Doris had given me. It says, “YOU ARE THE BEST.”

That is why I don’t draw anymore, not like I used to.

(UPDATE: At this moment, many months later, I am drawing like a demon… but, it is because I finally have good work on my table that will be published, paid for, and seen! It’s good to be back at it again.)

New Baby (& Macca Tune)

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tumblr_m03m4xQEuZ1qizhaoo1_500Got this tweet from Tom Hart today:

“@BarefootJustine should be interested to know the first song I heard after the birth was a McCartney song”

It’s quite auspicious, this sort of thing. And for those of you not in our circle, the birth of this baby is of great significance and is a huge sigh of relief for Tom, Leela, and all of Gainesville!

Attachments & My Altar

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Lord Shiva on Barefoot Justine's altar

Lord Shiva on Barefoot Justine’s altar

I began work on letting go of a difficult attachment last week. As of yet I have been cowardly about letting go of attachments in general. As I am not up to renouncing, I thought I would at the very least start off easy and start letting go of attachments that bring me pain, anxiety or anger. As I have been afraid to start letting go of ego attachments, this seemed like the most sensible way to begin walking past that obstacle.

I was surprised, once I laid the strong emotions I had been clinging to at Shiva’s feet, how hard it was to let go and leave them there. Now, a week later… I feel lighter! In fact I feel more like I did when I first discovered the Hindu Temple in Cleveland. Lighter, less… well… attached. Less attached to anxieties and hurt.

So well has this gone that I have taken to keeping an attachment journal, which I keep at my altar, and today I went so far as to do a spirit drawing, just letting my hand move with love and quiet and not bothering to worry about the anatomy or end result. It was the process that counted, and I will not share these drawings, that is not what they are for.

The next attachment I am working on is politics, the foolish world of politics. I want rid of anxiety over it, rid of the alienation I feel from both sides, rid of ALL emotional reaction to politics, release from the endless, relentless, self-righteous barrage of hypocritical knee-jerk party-line political crap surrounding all of us, engulfing all of us. There are no real solutions or significance in any of this. It is madness… complete madness on all sides. And I want no part of it. Our culture has become sick with it, obsessed with it, 24 hour a day news channels, perpetual information on the internet, statements, comments, arguments, delusions… madness. Madness and utter and complete bullshit. I wish people would just watch the 6:00 news and shut the hell up about it after 6:30… like they used to… and I would like to thank Joe Blue Sky for that observation.

I think you can see by the above paragraph that I have a long long way to go before I will be free of this jumble of venom and toxins. It seems I have been infected with this malady myself. And as much as I have perhaps been too strong in the above paragraph, I think the recoiling I am experiencing, the reactionary revulsion to politics, is merely that… a reaction to the relentlessness of it all. The topic has grown too big by far, and is ravaging us at every moment… but only ravaging those who let it. I have let it. I won’t let it.

And why do I think it’s OK and a perfectly responsible thing to walk away from politics? BECAUSE THEY DON’T NEED ME out there adding to the shouting, the noise, the clamor, and yes… the madness. There are too many people far too fixated on this insanity… they do not need me. I renounce. And I think that the problem now is not apathy, it’s the opposite… far too many people are far too angrily fixated on politics… it’s like a disease. And get this… I actually believe we’d all be better off and there’d be less gridlock if far fewer people were so fixated on all this, and instead took their hands out of it, and busied themselves with other things. Maybe it’s just me after all… which is another reason to renounce. And perhaps most importantly, the world needs more people who really don’t care what side you’re on. I renounce.

And by Lord Shiva, I will not be shamed, argued, or scolded by myself or others into participating in this illusion. If this makes me apathetic… it is either apathy or anger, rage, and anxiety. Given the choice…

By Lord Shiva’s grace, I for one will be free.

This Just In: Barefoot Justine Takes a Hike!

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Well, that headline was lame… not so much a hike as a casual stroll on a whopping hot and humid day through Paynes Prairie. Might as well start this little photo essay (or whatever it is) right, and since any hike (or casual stroll) starts out with my feet… here’s the first pic.

Barefoot Justine's "hiking boots."

Barefoot Justine’s “hiking boots.”


I love these Florida parks that have these walkways over the swampy bits. Thing is, I’ve always been enamored of Florida scenery, ever since my first vacations here I dreamt of one day being among all this! This thick wet greenery really moves me. Some people go for mountains, I go for Spanish moss and alligators… no joke!
barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie walk

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie walk


The views from the walkways are always thrilling for me. I’ve still not gotten over the novelty of living here. Not only do I live “here,” in Florida, but I live RIGHT HERE in the Paynes Prairie watershed. In fact if you look at the map of the park while on the trail you can practically see our house on the map… well, not really, but the lake I live on is HUGE on the map!
barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie from the walkway

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie from the walkway

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie, more from the walkway

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie, more from the walkway

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie, again from the walk...

barefootjustine.com Paynes Prairie, again from the walk…

barefootjustine.com detail of the Florida flora

barefootjustine.com detail of the Florida flora

barefootjustine.com birds at Paynes

barefootjustine.com birds at Paynes


A couple lovely shots, close-up of one of the birds. My timing was great… check out the second shot… the money shot I got when it puffed up!
barefootjustine.com bird

barefootjustine.com bird

barefootjustine.com Hell YEAH! The MONEY SHOT! Puff up little guy... puff up!

barefootjustine.com Hell YEAH! The MONEY SHOT! Puff up little guy… puff up!


Also got some lovely shots of flowers… very delicate and complicated… like me! Well, not sure how delicate I am, but I’m sure as hell complicated.
barefootjustine.com pretty flowers #1

barefootjustine.com pretty flowers #1

barefootjustine.com pretty flowers #2

barefootjustine.com pretty flowers #2


And so we were walking back, and I took a few more shots. Sorry gang, nothing spiritual happened, no revelations, nothing terribly clever, just a collection of scenic shots of the area in which I live… and live well and happily, I might add.
barefootjustine.com the walkway upon our return

barefootjustine.com the walkway upon our return


I have always loved these big swampy trees, too, so knotted, so ancient, so Rackhamesque!
barefootJusine.com big lovely Florida trees and stuff

barefootJusine.com big lovely Florida trees and stuff

barefootjustine.com last pic of the day, LOVE this tree!

barefootjustine.com last pic of the day, LOVE this tree!