Monday, February 26, 2018

Generous universe

Around 1992 or 1993, I started mentoring high school students. I did art with some of them, web design or digital art with others, and music with others.

We had a mixer and cabinet speakers that had belonged to a cabaret singer from the Twin Cities, and I ran the sound out of that into a cd recorder.

I worked with a lot of local bands, producing their music. I also used that mixer to put my early Flash Meridian cds together. That system was set up in my 1948 Great Northern Railway caboose here in Grand Marais.

It still had signage on the doors warning passengers to “WATCH FOR SLACK ACTION”, and that is where I got the name for my production company.

All that equipment eventually got sold off, and today I was able to purchase “new” pieces to revive S.A.D.

The early compact discs included Episodes 1-30 of the Adventures Of Flash Meridian, and now the series goes through Episode 102.

I’m grateful to Pete K. for allowing this to happen, and to the generous universe.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Being a writer

Prior to starting The Adventures Of Flash Meridian, I had been taking pictures of myself as a character I called “Rocket Boy”, then the first couple episodes of Flash Meridian were simply captions to pictures I took of my friends wearing vintage flight suits that I had bought on eBay. It wasn’t too long before I realized that the theme of the story was actually my life.

In The Adventures Of Mr.Pumpkinhead, I deal with such underrepresented groups as those with dyslexia and dementia. These are issues that touch my daily life, so it is only natural that they would seep into my writing.

I’ve been given the gift of dyslexia, and it has forced me to compensate for difficulties in creative ways. I’ve actually taken negative things and turned them into strengths. I still have difficulty with directions, but language is something I have come to love.

I am a full time night nurse in a senior care facility.

The sci fi genre seemed cool to me, I guess. As a kid I loved watching Lost In Space. I particularly liked the space episodes of The Twilight Zone and other old space movies.

I think one misconception about my writing is characterized by the statement “I don’t like science fiction.” Stories are stories about people. The setting isn’t what it is about. In my case, The Adventures Of Flash Meridian is my sci-fi autobiography. It’s about neither science nor fiction, though there are elements of both embedded within it.

I chose the genre because it was fun.

I write another, more whimsical story about a jack-o-lantern. It’s pretty easy to balance the two, because both of them were unintentionally autobiographical.

Different parts of me come out in the different stories.

People seem to think that the story of Flash Meridian is just silly and random. Maybe they’ve seen me around town in my silver space suit. If you haven’t actually read it, which most people have not, then you’d probably assume it’s lacking intelligent thought or content.

I got my love of storytelling from my Mom. She used to read to us, and she did the voices. Later, I read to my kids every night.

I spent my Junior year of high school in Jos, Nigeria, where I took a typing class. I was very homesick that year, and that was when I first discovered that writing could be an outlet for my feelings. I wrote about myself in the third person back then. So I’ve been writing for about 42 years.

Storytelling is an ancient way of communicating who we are. It’s an informative art form. Some storytelling is verbal or acted, some is written and some is pictorial. Our history gets passed down to us through myths and legends. We can be part of this tradition by offering our stories to the collective expression of humanity.

I believe that being creative is a spiritual act. Through writing, I search for meaning and beauty.

I want to inspire people. I want to encourage people, and give them permission to have fun and tap into their own story. Flash Meridian is less about space exploration than it is about self exploration. Through writing, I am able to organize my thoughts and present them not only to the public, but to myself in a way that is manageable. It’s a focused look at life events and the ramifications and feelings that are associated with them. Life zips by us so fast. The events happen in real time, but leave a lasting impression on us that actually makes us who we are. We’re not stagnant, but we have routines and habits. Writing helps me see below the veneer of daily tasks.

I got to be where I am in my life today by making it through all the days that preceded today. In every life, we experience great joys and great challenges. The joys are what we strive for, but the challenges are where we learn and grow.

My goals for writing my stories were to have fun, so from that standpoint I’ve been pretty successful.

I live in a remote town on Lake Superior, surrounded by the natural beauty of the boreal forest. That’s what artists and writers usually depict. And I do that, too. But I’m not aware of anyone else going the sci-fi route from here before. That kind of makes my story stand out.

Writing is fun for me, so it’s not hard to motivate myself to write. I don’t labor over outlines and plans. I just write. There’s something that takes over, or maybe it’s a shift in my thinking that happens, and the story flows out. Like opening the bank of a river to irrigate a field.

All I really have to do is find a quiet spot where I’m not distracted, and have the writing tools at hand.

I live alone, so it’s easy to find a spot that is conducive to writing.

Lately, I’ve been writing every day. Maybe it’s because I feel I have a lot to say. Maybe it’s because we’ve been having snowstorms so it’s nice to stay in. Whatever the reason, this has been a time for writing. When the pen starts moving, I hold on tight, because it doesn’t always do that. Other times, the paintbrush gets antsy, and I need to hold it for a while. Sometimes, the objects in the house are still, but my brain is not.

My writing style is definitely more intuitive than logical, though I hope it is a combination of the two. I have a message, or a point to my writing, but I’m an artist. I like to paint a picture with words.

Friday, February 23, 2018


I wanted to play the saxophone.

Toward the end of 4th grade, we brought slips home to choose an instrument if we wanted to join band.

I was told that in order to play the saxophone, I would have to start on the clarinet in 5th grade and then switch to sax in 7th.

My parents told me that if I wanted to be in band, I had to play the trombone. After all, dad already had an extra one.

I’ve told this story many times in my life, but just now it dawns on me that I didn’t use dad’s old trombone. The one in the rectangular brown case that always sat against the wall under the piano. They got me a new one in a green case that was rounded on one end.

I didn’t want to play the trombone. I wanted to play the clarinet. I wasn’t any good on the trombone. I hated practicing. But I was in band through 5th and 6th grade.

Mom hired a teacher and I had to take trombone lessons. Even during the summer.

So, the summer between 6th and 7th grade, my brother’s friend from the high school band came out to the house to give me trombone lessons. One day, I put the instrument together, but refused to put it to my lips. Eventually, hearing no music coming from the room, my mom stuck her head in the doorway and asked whether everything was ok.

The poor kid said “He won’t play anything.”

My mom said “ I guess that will be the end of the trombone lessons.”

On the first day of 7th grade, I took a note to school informing the band director that I would not be in band as originally planned.

There are many important things about this story, but the most important to me is that it was the first time I ever stood up for myself.

There was nothing that was going to make me play a single note on that horn that day. AND to this day I hate despise hate the trombone.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thoughts on writing

I think my greatest writing influence has to be C.S. Lewis. He was the writer that made me want to read.

I went to college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is the home of Eerdman’s Publishing Company. They had a bookstore where you could buy imperfect printings for 90% off. I bought every C.S. Lewis book I could find, and I read almost all of them.

From him, I learned not to just write that something was beautiful. He said I need to describe what made something beautiful. Otherwise, I would be asking the reader to do the work for me.

I think about that a lot when I am writing.

I believe that mind altering chemicals detract from creativity. Drunk or stoned people may feel very creative, but the bar is so low, most of those thoughts wouldn’t hold up in the sober light of day.

I write in the bathtub. It’s a private, warm place without distractions. I’ve written in the tub for about as long as I can remember. Just being in the tub has become a trigger for writing.

Writing wasn’t my first artistic pursuit. I’m an artist. A painter. I also create digital art, and I’m a photographer.

I usually write in the late afternoon or evening. I work the night shift, so I’m too tired to write in the early morning. I sleep during the day, and when I wake up, I’m thinking about getting coffee and running errands.

I usually write for an hour or two before getting ready for work.

Once in a while, I grab my phone and make a voice memo of an idea. I don’t ever remember referring back to a voice memo to write, but I think the act of recording it solidifies the idea in my brain.

One of my favorite words is unintentional.

UNINTENTIONAL. I love this word, because the thing it’s attached to had no sense of pressure. I love the unintentional meanings of things that come, attached to the more intentional idea I may have started out with. You unfold the paper and find a treasure. It was there all along hiding in the shadows, doing its best not to giggle at you before you find it.

If I lost the ability to read and write for a day, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d sleep or watch tv... or paint, or hang out with a friend. I love writing, but it’s not the only thing I do. I’m not lost without it. You need to live so you’ll have something to write about.

Of course I’d like to be published and make money off my writing . Money is helpful. It’s nice to get money, and it’s nice to be validated for your passion.

Publishing increases your audience. That’s a wonderful thing.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Being in this house is like a dream. A second chance. Something that seemed hopelessly lost, given back to me. I live in a sense of wonder. I’m rebuilding my life here, and it’s only getting better. I have been given the gift of knowing.

Imagine having a beautiful dream. Your alarm clock wakes you up to a life you hate... your reality... but then that dream is given back to you to live the rest of your life in. That’s how I feel.

I feel like I can be a far better me because now I know.

Space car


This, for me, is a case of life imitating art, and I love it!

My 1962 Plymouth Savoy wagon

My 1964 Plymouth Savoy

One of my 1966 Plymouth Furys

Eighteen years ago, I had this very idea, and I apologize for my rudimentary photoshop skills. I was just learning to use the software, back in 2000.

Last night a friend asked me what it would look like if Flash Meridian designed a car to go into space.

Well, I can tell you, it would look A LOT like the 1961 Chrysler turboflite concept. It would have retractable wheels (landing gear). This model (it was not a working vehicle) is probably my favorite car design I have ever seen. I wish design had followed more closely our late fifties/early sixties vision of retro futurism.

I attended an art school in Detroit that was known for its Automotive Design department.

Things got pretty boring in the world of automobile design, but I get it. Economy wins out over glitz.

Back in those days, cars quickly became obsolete. You knew at a glance that Mr. Jones was driving a three year old Rambler. Tsk tsk!

That very obsolescence is what makes those classic cars so special.

On the subject of car design, how wonderful was it when Ford brought retro styling into the 1999 t-birds, or in 1998 when Volkswagen reintroduced the bug?!

I kept waiting for someone to make a new car with tail fins. I AM STILL WAITING!!! Come on, people, THEY WILL SELL!

My second choice for favorite car design is the 1961 Dodge flitewing.

Friday, February 16, 2018


My inspiration for painting comes from everything I see. Sometimes that is a landscape or an object, but in the case of my abstract paintings, what I see is the paint I have already applied.

I like to play with paint. I play with contrast, shape and color, not striving to create a specific likeness.

I think of it the way I imagine it would be to arrange music. Music can paint pictures in your brain even though it is a non visual medium.

Paint, while visual, can create a mood or impression without showing you anything from the natural, tangible world. In other words it doesn’t always spell it out for you.

I might be listening to music in my studio, and that might influence the painting in progress.

A color invites or beckons another color to come lay beside it on the canvas.

After a while, I put the brush down and hang the painting on a wall. I look at it without a brush in my hand. This is key. I’m looking in order to see, not to add to or alter.

I often then see unintentional figures or objects. These can later be enhanced, left alone or obliterated. It might become obvious what I need to do to improve it.

My paternal grandfather was an artist and art teacher. My mother’s sister was an artist, and so is her daughter, my cousin.

I didn’t grow up near any of my relatives, so they were not much of an influence on me artistically. I don’t remember ever discussing art with any of them.

My father has painted from time to time. He creates small painted wooden blocks.

I asked him why he made them and he said, “to have blocks.”


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Art history

My parents encouraged my art. They were supportive, but I’m not sure they knew how to teach me about art. In school, and I’m talking about early elementary school, they devoted time to art. I remember standing in front of an easel in a smock, painting in Mrs. Barnes’ kindergarten class.

I think school not only made me more interested in art, it made art possible. I don’t remember anyone instructing me early on, but they made the materials and time available.

As time went by, art class became more structured. It was one of the more enjoyable subjects I studied, if not the only one.

By the time I was in Art School in the early 1980’s, I was fascinated by art history. We’d sit in a darkened classroom early in the morning looking at slides and listening to the teacher talk about ancient civilizations. I had my notebook and a thermos of coffee, and I absorbed the information with a sense of wonder while other students put their heads on their desks and slept. Sometimes snoring.

Like those ancient Egyptians, Minoans and Etruscans, I like to think that future generations will be looking at art by people like me.

Art from all eras is important, because we are informed by what came before us. We don’t have to invent things like perspective, foreshortening or color theory. Our predecessors have figured that out for us. Art history gives us a huge head start. Also, art is subjective. Can we really say that da Vinci is better than an ancient cave painter, or that Van Gogh is better than Rothko? It’s not a contest. Not a competition. Certain artists are remembered, and represent their time period for us today. Then I see mosaics by unknown artists from places like Pompeii. Beautiful images from another time. From a lost world. A few are remembered by name. Were they the best? Maybe. Maybe not.

They were people. People like you and me, creating art. They passionately expressed their creativity from their own perspective in their own time and culture.

It’s worthwhile to teach young people about traditional ways of creating artworks. I hate to use the word rules, but you have to know the rules before you can break them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


The dictionary defines painting as “The process, art, or occupation of coating surfaces with paint for a utilitarian or artistic effect.”

I must say, I hate to paint walls. I really do. I’ve had to do far too much of that lately. I find it frustrating and boring. Yet, I love being in a freshly painted room in my house.

When we talk about painting in an artistic way, the actual, physical application of the paint to the surface is a means to an end. It is communication. Visual language.

I do the obvious, necessary things that must be done before starting a painting. I put a canvas on my easel, open my paint, choose a brush.

Other than that, I guess I live my life, think thoughts, feel all of the emotions that life brings. Yeah, they make their way right into the creative expression.

There is no switch in my studio, or my brain that turns on my artistic mode. I’m an artist every day, in every other activity I participate in.

So that simple act of dipping a brush into a color is really all that is needed to start a painting.

There are other preparation type things I might benefit from... like changing out of clothes that I don’t want to get paint on!

The brush has a habit of flying out of my hand from time to time.

There is always a future for painters. Always has been, always will be. The earliest known paintings by humans date back about 30,000 years. We’re still painting.

For many of us, there is a need... an intense craving to interpret our experiences through art. That includes, but is certainly not limited to painting.

If I were to be reborn on earth, I would definitely want to come back as an artist. It’s the only way I can imagine me being me. It’s what I know. If I came back as a gifted musician, but without the ability or desire to paint, I’m sure I’d be happy expressing myself through music. But this is the current artistic version of me talking.

There are people who don’t appreciate paintings. The average time a person spends looking at any given painting in a museum or gallery is only a few seconds.

There are also a lot of people who love and appreciate art. Not that every piece of art speaks to them.

It’s ok. Sincere and genuine expression is valid. It’s important. If you feel something deeply enough to share it visually, I can guarantee that someone else has felt that, too. It will find an audience. A receiver. A connection. We’re made of the same stuff.

Regardless of your culture, spoken language, gender, age, beliefs, or any other distinguishing factor, we’re humans who perceive and interpret the world around us.

That is why, after 30,000 years, I recognize and appreciate the beautiful paintings in the Chauvet cave.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Muddle and Magnificence

When the cracks of prejudice, greed and fear seem inescapable, how do you as a writer, sculptor, Potter, woodworker, glassworker, painter encounter the chaos? How does your creative process invite the light in? Where do you see muddle and magnificence in the natural world? On the North Shore? How does the natural world create new models for you? Do you seek to soothe or expose, clarify or challenge?

Spirit of the wilderness ( call to artists)

Prejudice shows itself when I least expect it, and sometimes from what I thought was an unlikely source. Racist comments from a friend recently took me by surprise. When confronted, the friend said “maybe I shouldn’t be so racist.”

MAYBE I shouldn’t be so racist???

Prejudice, greed and fear seem inescapable, because they are inescapable. Our instinct to provide for and protect ourselves triggers reactions that, if not recognized, can turn very ugly in our treatment of and attitude toward others.

What is our autonomic nervous system telling us? How can we recognize the perceived threats and respond in an appropriate and kind way?

Painting gives my mind an opportunity to process these questions, encountering the chaos in the safety of my studio. Sometimes the paintings speak directly to what I’m pondering, sometimes not. The very act of painting helps to straighten out some of the jumble in my head.

The light is there. Sometimes you just have to turn it on.

Muddle and magnificence coexist everywhere. Sometimes I’m hiking, and have to keep my eyes on the path. There are tree roots, rocks and mud that I need to be aware of for my safety. So I trudge on, head down, seeing the muddle. Then I stop and look around me at grand tree trunks soaring up from the forest floor, and the brilliant blue sky above. I just had to look.

The north shore is a perfect place to experience the natural world. It hasn’t been paved over, flooded with artificial light and sound. All you have to do is step off the highway, and you will see it.

You will see it, and you will be it. We are part of this creation. The natural models always have more to tell us. Nature is a dynamic place. Just watch. It doesn’t stay the same. The light shifts. Shadows creep along surfaces. Leaves and rain fall, the river stampedes by.

Mountain ranges rise, tectonic plates shift. How much time do you have?

Art is a language we can use to soothe or expose, to clarify or to challenge. The message is up to us. Art is the conduit.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Friday, February 09, 2018

Time Travel

There is a big difference between being childish and being childlike. We were all children at one time, but many of us have grown into adults. This process has taken place one day... one moment at a time. It wasn’t a sudden transition.

Life’s events change us. Sometimes when we are hurt, we begin to close ourselves off from things in order to avoid being hurt again. From one day to the next, we may not see a change. Especially after our bodies have grown to their full height. Difficult things come our way, and we react.

There is nothing wrong with children. And there is nothing wrong with keeping that childlike sense of wonder and fun alive throughout your life. Sometimes good things also get lost along the way. We don’t always nurture the child that we were... the child that we still are inside.

Age doesn’t make you a different person! You are still the child that you were, even though those minutes and days have ticked by and you’ve grown as tall as you will ever be.

I tell people that I am at time traveler. Sometimes they don’t believe me. But I have traveled almost 30 million minutes so far. That is a lot of minutes! I’m trying to see how far I can get.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Stream of consciousness

I usually start with a plan in my head. I don’t sketch, except in that those first brushstrokes are a sketch.

I have an idea... a reasonable vision of the finished product. But I play along the way. My hand gives me surprises that I like to follow.

At other times, I just paint with no finished product in my mind. That is also how I write most of the time. I trust my brain and my hand to cooperate in expressing something authentic to my neurons and striated muscle cells... my stream of consciousness, manifested by my physical body.

I’ve said this many times before, but the main thing I need to do is pick up a paintbrush, and dip it in some paint. I don’t believe in some magical state of mind that takes an ordinary human and turns them into an artist. Clark Kent just has to take off that business suit. He’s already Superman.

When I’m writing, too, I just keep a grip on the moving pen.

Different pieces have different messages, but I definitely feel that art is a language.

Some of the messages in my paintings are that you are special. There is nothing wrong with you, and you are only limited by self imposed restrictions.

People love their rules! I don’t.

Have I ever been unable to express my creativity to the fullest? Always! I think the well of creativity is so deep we could never express it to the fullest. We express what we know, or what we think right now, but you know that critical eye we use when we look at the work? That eye tells us there is always more to say. Or it tells us what to fix.

Sometimes, my eye tells me I did alright! That is a good feeling. But doing alright is far from expressing to the fullest.

I think you can have passion and reasonable expectations.

Speaking of which, one thing that inhibits me is expectation. Maybe someone else’s expectation, for example when I’m doing a commission. Or my own expectation. The moment I think I’m going to create something great, you can bet it’s going to be junk.

I didn’t choose my passion any more than I chose my foot size or my eye color. I guess you could say I chose to work at it. You’re good at what you practice. That’s true of skills like painting, writing, photography as well as your attitude or outlook. If you practice complaining, you’re going to get really good at it and have a negative outlook. If you practice being awesome, you can be good at that, too.

I feel most creative in the bathtub. That is no joke. I think some of the reasons are that the bathtub is a private, quiet place. This was especially true when I had kids in the house. I was rarely interrupted or disturbed in the tub. Now I live alone, and bathe with the door open. My cat likes to visit me when I’m bathing. Also, in the bathtub, I am warm and comfortable. I’ve always enjoyed soaking. I do most of my writing in the tub. Now, after all these years, the tub is kind of a trigger for the creative thoughts to swim out from under the rocks in my head, like a gong can be a trigger for meditation.

Thursday, February 01, 2018