Monthly Archives: August 2013

First Day At SAW


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



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)

Why Justine Doesn’t Draw Anymore


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)


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


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.

As Is Clarity, Timing Is Divine


1338389798-lord-shiva-wallpaper4Though I was living in Ocala at the time, I had one of the most profound experiences of my life. Of course, one might argue that there is nothing divine about Ocala, but I was not in Ocala when this happened. I was at a small Temple in a small town outside of Ocala. There was this unpretentious family-run Temple way out there, way out there, but it was beautiful, and the Murti were lovely and adored. Though I think I was found to be an amusing curiosity, the Indian women took me in and accepted me into their circle. I have found Hindu’s, particularly the women, to be quite warm and open. And I will tell you with no hesitation that the homemade Indian food cooked at this Temple was easily the best Indian food I have ever eaten.

I do not remember the particulars of the event, but they were having a series of ceremonies and celebrations in devotion to Lord Shiva. A year or so before it was Lord Shiva who had called me, quite unexpectedly, into my spiritual life, so I was eager to attend. In nothing more or less than classic Indian fashion, we were all seated tight to one another on the floor without so much as a footstep between us to spare. This night the Temple was full of devotees who were not terribly devoted… lots and lots of special occasion devotees. As is almost always the case, I was the only white girl in attendance.

The Pundit entered to no shortage of fanfare, and he spoke passionately about Lord Shiva and told lengthy stories about him. Keep in mind that a day or so earlier I had come in and volunteered to help set up for this event, and I will say that I worked as hard or harder than anyone. beautiful as it was, I felt uncomfortable, cramped, the atmosphere was stuffy and heavy, so about all I had on my mind was leaving. To make matters worse the room was filled with Indians who evidently had little respect or involvement in their beautiful religion. Though a few actually did so, it seemed that at any moment everyone in the room was a hair’s breadth away from slipping their cellphones out of their pockets. Some, of course, were inspired and involved, but many, it seemed, were missing an “important” football game for this. A religious experience was the last thing on my mind. In fact as I looked about the crowd I began to worry that they may run out of the fabulous food and it may be wise for me to make my way towards the back so I could get in line early.

The Pundit played a powerful version of one of the most significant chants in the tradition, “Om Namah Shivaya.” I closed my eyes and chanted along. The Pundit scolded the devotees for being so undevoted and uninspired in their singing, chanting, lives, and in the Temple. I was surprised how strongly he chastised them. But the lacklustre singing went on while the chant played loudly overhead. Eyes closed, I chanted, and soon forgot about the stuffiness, the cellphones, the food, the uninspired devotees.

All at once I had no weight, and felt my consciousness like a feather, a thing separate from my worldly concerns and physical limitations. And then a thing that has never happened to me before, a thing I had no idea of or experience of happened. Tears streamed down my cheeks. What was this?

I could not explain it, had no frame of reference for it, but I had become most unexpectedly ecstatic in my blissful chanting. The Pundit, not at all aware of me, at that very moment… AT THAT VERY MOMENT, said to the devotees, “When a devotee cries tears for Lord Shiva, Shiva is rendered helpless and must come to their aid.”

I needed aid. I needed Lord Shiva, and I had NO idea that crying tears for him had such meaning. The timing was simply profound, as divine as clarity.

And here again is why I am practicing Hindusim… because I am so obviously meant to be doing so. Such timing and ecstatic experiences give me an experience of God that I found so lacking when I was a Christian. I am sorry, but I cannot simply believe in a cold God that demands blind faith. I and others who adore the Hindu ways know that it is better to experience God than to believe in God.

(There is an addendum to this. I have found it very difficult to maintain my spirituality here in Gainesville where there is NO access to a Hindu Temple. Without Temple life I get lazy in my practices, but lately I have been doing a lot of spiritual work to eliminate a painful attachment in my life, and it has been so gratifying and revelatory that not only have I returned to regular worship and meditation, but I am going to start working on a list of attachments. This recent work is what reminded me of this moment in my life.)

Why Bardot?


IMAG0340I’ve always loved Brigitte Bardot. I’ve watched as many of her movies as I could find, and have read several books on her, and I knew I loved her ’cause I could relate to her and understand her (similarly de Sade and Hans Christian Andersen). I mean isn’t it obvious how much we are alike, Bardot and I? Apart of course from her being rich, powerful, influential, successful, social, and sexy… I mean apart from all that we’re a lot alike. Yeah… uhm… we both wear heavy black eyeliner… that’s something, isn’t it?

I know she was neurotic, temperamental, highly emotional, had a propensity for going barefoot in public… oh and was bat-shit crazy, too. So I guess we do have more in common than black eyeliner. All joking aside about our obvious (and unfairly in her favor) differences, I do relate to her, and I think primarily in that the things she says that many people find annoying, silly or incomprehensible, are the very things I relate to most and understand all too well.

But before I get specific, let’s take a moment to put her into perspective. Keep this in mind when considering Bardot, prior to Bardot sex symbols were in large part artifice, almost character actors, see Mansfield and Monroe. Bardot was different, she was raw, real, uncompromisingly herself. If she was the fantasy of every man and the envy of every woman, it was not an act people were relating to, but something far more powerful, it was BARDOT people were fascinated by, the real deal. It was even said, and somewhat often, that she didn’t act, she existed (though I believe Vadim coined that phrase). Keep in mind also that she was the sexual predator, NOT the prey, and THIS was revolutionary, so much so that even Simone De Beauvoir wrote about her. So with her revolutionary status in perspective, let’s get personal.

I’ve had this unread biography of hers (“Bardot – Eternal Sex Goddess” by Peter Evans) sitting about in my collection for years. The other day I realized that I would finally like to read it. It’s been great, surprisingly understanding and full of insights rather than judgments. More importantly there are tons of great quotes. And it was in these quotes that I’ve started to really see why I relate to her on so many levels, and I’d like to share a few of them.

For example, Brigitte Bardot had this to say when discussing fear of being dead and forgotten:

“Being forgotten I don’t worry about, everybody is forgotten eventually, the grandest moments are dust in the end. But dying is horrible. There should be another way to end something as beautiful as life. I don’t know what is going to happen to me next week, tomorrow, not even tonight. But I do know for certain that I must die some day and the future is death. That frightens me a lot.”

It was a comfort to read of Bardot’s very real and very honest fear of death, as I too, for a long time now, have had an unnatural, consuming, and haunting fear of death. Though it seems to have lessened for me now as I am finally living my life. All the same, her articulation of the fear chilled me, especially “That frightens me a lot.” Me too. See, I didn’t always fear death, no, I was a fundamentalist Christian and just knew I was gonna go to heaven. Well, when I was realizing that Christianity was causing me far more pain than comfort, I was also entirely losing faith, and this left me with a hollow fear of death that could sometimes paralyze me. Trouble is, I just couldn’t fake that I believed in the Bible no matter how much easier it would have been. Fortunately, after years of soullessness I found Lord Shiva.

But wait, there’s more! Though I spend so much time alone, her thoughts on being alone moved me, and while I think I prefer being alone, the substance of her thoughts around it hit home.

“I hate to be alone. I get very anxious when I’m alone. Solitude scares me. It makes me think very strangely. I get anxious about life and death and war… I don’t want to think so much. That’s why I am always with good friends. I need distraction from the anxious thoughts, the black thoughts.”

Black thoughts indeed.

The quote below is not from Bardot, but from the author. Listen to this lovely description of her life:

“Brigitte had managed to close down her social life to almost hermetical proportions by film star standards. When not working she lived mostly within the walls of La Madrague, or on her remote and rambling farm near Bazoches forty-five miles outside Paris, going barefoot, in jeans, listening to records (including interminable Bach), reading, playing the guitar, swimming, fussing over her pets for hours. Even the most intimate houseguests–and she was never without someone close by she could completely rely on–couldn’t be sure of their welcome from day to day, even from hour to hour.”

Much of this I find very familiar, other parts of it not so much, but a solid chunk of it hits home very directly: Barefoot, jeans, playing guitar, and for me, having one person I rely on in my life and very close by. And though I do not live in La Madrague, I do live a solitary life down a dirt road in a lovely room on a lake with a beautiful view of the forest and animals that I truly love to have as neighbors. Though I don’t swim in the nude, as Bardot did on her lake, I do spend a lot of time floating around topless on a kayak napping and listening to the birds.

Moreso, Roger Vadim (her first husband and director of “And God Created Woman”) had this to say about Brigitte:

“Brigitte’s real trouble is that she doesn’t really like people. She is like a selfish child living in a nursery world of her own creation. She cannot accept she is part of a larger society.”

Dear God.

Does that ever sound familiar.

I suppose if I have learned anything from Bardot and her remarkable candor (and I have learned many things), it’s that this is my nursery world, and I may want what I want, and and I may feel what I feel.

When I grow up, I want to be Brigitte Bardot, though it would seem neither of us are in a hurry to grow up. And in that way, I can most definitely relate to her.

Brigitte Bardot On Death


eyelash_bardot_2Brigitte Bardot had this to say when discussing fear of being dead and forgotten:

“Being forgotten I don’t worry about, everybody is forgotten eventually, the grandest moments are dust in the end. But dying is horrible. There should be another way to end something as beautiful as life. I don’t know what is going to happen to me next week, tomorrow, not even tonight. But I do know for certain that I must die some day and the future is death. That frightens me a lot.”

It was a comfort to read of Bardot’s very real and very honest fear of death, as I too, for a long time now, have had an unnatural, consuming, and haunting fear of death. Though it seems to have lessened for me now as I am finally living.

The Demon “I Want”


I’m not so good at meditating, and not so sure I’m all that great as a Western version of a Hindu. See, I have no desire to renounce. No, this is, quite annoyingly, the first time I have ever been comfortable in the Material World, sensually content. I am not ready to let go of my ego.

See, this is why I don’t meditate much and why I wonder about my so-called Hinduism. But tonight I decided to meditate and not try and be good at it. Meditation is not as quiet as it should be for me, my ego chatters away, endlessly wanting things or being frustrated by things I wanted before but didn’t get… which makes me bitter. Want. Want. Want.

As I meditated, with no expectation that I be good at it, I realized that if I could stop wanting things I could be at peace. Now, of course, this concept is no revelation, and is in fact quite tired, right? Sure is, at least as words, but it’s not so tired when the light fills you and you actually get it, when you actually suddenly know and feel what it means. What is trite then become profound in a moment of clarity.

Clarity is divine, I always say. See, that’s what I get out of meditation. I don’t get silence, I get a single truth ringing clear, uncluttered by the noise of my ego, my wants, my Western thinking. Yes, clarity is divine, and THAT seems to be the gift I get from meditation, not silence, but silence around a single truth, as for me, truths are usually lost in a jumble of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Not so when the truth is shown through divine clarity.

I began to think about all the things I want, wanted, and will yet want, and I started to let them go, Poof… piff… like that they evaporated in my consciousness and I was free.

That was when I saw Shiva’s smile.

How I wish I could carry this clarity on to tomorrow…