Doors. 5″x7″, mixed media on paper. 2021
Over the past 21 years, Flash Meridian has been described as a hero, a superhero and an action figure. For a long time, I believed it. Those are natural descriptions for a futuristic astronaut, hurtling through uncharted space and encountering alien beings.
That is, until a 14 year old pointed out that Flash Meridian doesn’t DO anything!
He fixes broken equipment, and hikes distant planets at times, but he mostly sits in his spaceship sipping lattes and thinking deep thoughts about his life, the universe, and his place in it. Kind of like me.
He doesn’t really fight villains. He doesn’t possess any unusual strength or have any notable abilities.
I’m in the process of producing the complete audiobook. Friends who have listened to parts of it have not described it as thrilling, but rather darling, and have said that it helped them fall asleep. But in a good way.
I’m not offended.
I’ve described this as introspective.
When I used to do late night radio shows, listeners called in saying that my voice was relaxing. The music I played was melancholy. One listener even said my music was morbid. Ok. I just think it’s beautiful.
I’ve written guided imagery meditations specifically with relaxation and sleep as the goal. I fall asleep to the sound of my own voice every night.
This is what I do. I subvert a genre. It’s similar to the way I present the world in my paintings. You might think you’re looking at majestic old growth pines, only to later notice the fish swimming in the treetops.
I accept that my story is not the action adventure you might expect. It just happens to be set in outer space.
It comes out of me, with the themes and flavor that flow through me. That’s not unexpected. If it helps you fall asleep, it’s served a purpose. If it makes you think differently about life and death, it’s served a purpose. If it entertains you, it’s served a purpose. If it inspires you to express something that you find flowing through you, it’s served a purpose.
I used to do this thing where I avoided telling people my story behind my abstract art. I didn’t want to limit their ideas of what to see in the piece, and I didn’t want them to think that there was just one right answer. Then a gallery manager told me that people like to buy a story, so I should tell it. I’m glad she did.
I had a musician friend who didn’t think people should bring their interpretation to a song. He felt that only the songwriter’s original intent was important. Well, of course we are going to bring our experience and interpretation to the piece, be it a painting or a song. That’s what makes it relevant and relatable.
I can’t care about something I can’t relate to.
Then another friend told me that these come from my subconscious. When I paint without attempting to represent something from the physical world, but just lay down the color in a way I feel like arranging it. I don’t always ask a line to look like a branch or a brushstroke to look like a fish. When I’m done with my composition, I stop. My subconscious comes into play again when I’ve put the art supplies away, and the paint is dry. I look at it with purpose. Not with urgency, but with an open mind, and time to spend exploring the marks I’ve made. At first, they may seem random, but like those Magic Eye pictures, something will suddenly appear. Something that flowed from my hand. Something I didn’t know how to draw. Something I didn’t know how not to. I don’t understand how it works. The feeling I get when I look at them is like I am looking at art by someone else. It came from my hand, but it is not contrived.
I wouldn’t have chosen to paint a knight on horseback. The other day, I did a mixed media piece that looks like just that. And I do remember watching a show this past winter about the Knights Templar. At the same time, I was researching my genealogy, and I learned that some of my ancestors were knights. My 17th great grandfather was Thomas Kerr, the first Baron of Ferniehirst. He died in 1484.
When I was a kid, we had a bookcase with lots of books. We had all of the Dr. Seuss books, as well as A Fish Out Of Water, Go Dog Go, and many more. One was a joke book. It had a riddle that asked
What’s big and red and eats rocks?
A big, red, rock eater.
I’ve thought of that joke often throughout my life, and I recently did this small mixed media painting:
I didn’t mean to paint a big, red rock eater, but here it is. And then I realized that I have a character in The Adventures Of Flash Meridian which is a big red alien that likes to eat rocks.
I wonder if they are connected.
It was tall, like I said, and its skin was red. Magenta. It had a long, thin neck with a raised spiral encircling it several times from top to bottom.
Two appendages rose from its elongated cranium, looking like antennae or horns. Or pigtails.
That eye. It was so round. So white. So intense. It looked startled, of course. Was it unfriendly? Aggressive? Flash couldn’t be sure, so he remained still and reminded himself that this was a dream. Or was it? Now he couldn’t be sure.
It sniffed the air in Flash’s direction, and then, apparently satisfied with its investigation, turned back and resumed licking the rock face.
Flash walked closer and sat on a rock near the alien.
What are you doing?, he asked between the loud slurping sounds.
Have you tasted these rocks? They are delicious.
from The Adventures of Flash Meridian
Episode 99: Magenta
This series reminded me of a bike ride I took with my boys the other day. It was fun like the colors. I see the waterfront and an aerial view of lots downtown. I see a bike helmet and maybe even a bike. That’s my impression, anyway.
I love this time of year, even though it’s still chilly out a lot of the time. I know it’s getting warmer, and we have the whole season to look forward to!.
I don’t want to waste a day. I don’t want to waste a single minute.
My friend pointed out that these little abstracts come from my subconscious, and that’s why the images appear when I take time later to really look at them. I guess that’s what I’ve meant all the times I’ve said that these were created by my hand, but the pictures that surface are not contrived.
These mixed media paintings include acrylic and tempera paint, colored pencils, oil pastels, graphite, compressed charcoal, paint markers and anything else that’s been within my reach.
I don’t collect or read comic books. I don’t watch anime or read manga. I’ve never been to ComiCon.
I write a science fiction story without being part of that culture. I’m sure there are expected formulas that I do not follow because I am unaware of them. I don’t know the rules.
I have a friend who is an avid reader of graphic novels, and he is a walking encyclopedia of superhero trivia. He has also written two books and publishes a web comic.
He described my story as a subversion of the genre. He was quick to point out that he saw this as a good thing.
With all of the books he has read, he said he has never read anything like mine before.
My story inspired him to start writing an episodic story himself, and his comic inspired me to start working on a comic of my own.
This is what art does. It inspires.
By creating and sharing, we can allow others to do the same.
It will never be the same. It might even be subversive.
I often hear my friends say they can’t draw or paint. If you can hold a pencil or a paintbrush, you can apply pigment or relief to a surface.
Sometimes I do just that. I make marks. Then I make more marks. I apply paint, water, graphite and anything else I might have in my art box or within reach.
I just apply it. I don’t ask it to look like anything other than what it is. Sometimes the shape or line is in response to what is already there, sometimes not.
I just play.
With no expectation of it looking like a landscape or a portrait, there is no disappointment. No frustration, just play.
Afterwards, I look at it. I turn it this way and that, and quiet my mind long enough to begin to see what I’ve done.
I’m no longer playing. No longer manipulating the image.
The pictures begin to appear. Pictures I could not have contrived, and yet they flowed from my hand. Just like that.
If nothing else, I have enjoyed the act of creating. If nothing else, I am left with this token, this reminder of when I let myself play.