Category Archives: Influences

October 2018, The Lost Month

I’ve debated what or if I should write about this, but decided it is something that will further define who I am and if I’m going to be someone that creates art and music informed by my experiences, I can’t pretend it didn’t happen.

On the morning of October 13, 2018 my mother, Pamela Sue Morton, passed away at the age of 55. She was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2015.

Mom and me, circa 1983. Photo by Kim Bagwill.

Mom and me, circa 1983. Photo by Kim Bagwill.

A little about my mom:

She loved animals. I’ve lost track of the number of wounded or abandoned wild animals that she rehabilitated, but the list includes a crow, a baby possum, baby raccoons, baby skunks, a wounded sparrow, and so on. Over the years she kept cats, dogs, horses, a peacock, ducks, goats, chickens, a turkey, and a couple of cockatiels.

For twenty years she worked with adults with developmental disabilities. She earned a degree in psychology over the course of ten years while raising a family and working full time. Along the way she learned American Sign Language and found time to teach herself to juggle. Later she would work with people living with dementia.

At one time or another she served on just about every committee in her church: Sunday school teacher, superintendent, treasurer, ham dinner committee, youth group leader, choir, deacon… those are just the ones I know about.

She cooked and baked. Sometimes for fun, sometimes for us, and sometimes for some extra cash on the side. She made cookies and cakes. Huge cakes! Elaborate wedding cakes with staircases and real running fountains. She never once charged enough for all the work she put into them.

Originally I had written more on this, about how I’m feeling, about how the situation has changed my perspective and informed my decisions for the last three years. I think I’ll let more of that come out organically as I put out more art and music and discuss the process.

When I first made an announcement to friends not yet in the loop I wrote, “She put the needs of others before herself more than any person I have ever known.” My cousin Jordan went on to say, “I have no doubt that many who knew you will be inspired for the rest of their lives by your kindness and quiet perseverance. I just hope that the good we do in your memory will be enough to make up for the loss this world has experienced with you no longer in it.” That is something I will be thinking about in all things I do moving forward.

The Danger of Influence

From time to time I’ve included some of my influences here. Whatever your creative outlet, if you get any good at it someone is bound to ask who your influences are. Sometimes the answer is insightful, but it can also be frustrating and embarrassing. And of course the danger of influence is obsession. Continue reading

Influences: The Happiness of Pursuit

Book Cover

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit. I’ve previously touched on The $100 Start-Up and I’ve also enjoyed his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris’ books have the unenviable distinction of being classified as self-help books, but do not come off as such. The message is not that if you follow this method you will find happiness. Rather it presents a collection of alternatives that are worth considering. Continue reading

Good Stuff: Deconstructing Spencer McCall’s The Institute

The Institute Poster

The Institute Movie Poster

Some time back i was browsing through Netflix for something new to watch and in the Documentaries section (of which I am fond) I found The Institute which was accompanied by this vague description: Meet some of the 10,000 San Franciscans who took part in the Jejune Institute, a combination citywide art project and living game, from 2008 to 2011.

I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but it sounded interesting. Not very long into watching it I began to ask myself, “What is this that I’m watching? What is going on!?” Whatever it was it was very creative and ambitious in scope. I don’t plan to get into the regular habit of just reviewing any old film I like, but as a work of art this was inspirational and influential.

The Jejune Institute is one faction of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) created in San Francisco in 2008. It was the creation of Jeff Hull and was part game, part public artwork. A look at some of the key players and places may be in order at this point. Continue reading

Influences: Ray Johnson and “How To Draw A Bunny”

Influences can be a funny thing sometimes. I can tell you exactly what song I was listening to when I made the decision to take up playing guitar. I don’t have a clue how I first came across the documentary film, How To Draw A Bunny, but I do know it’s how I came to learn about artist Ray Johnson. While doing some research on him, I found quite a few other people who said the same thing.

James Dean, Lucky Strike Collage

James Dean, Lucky Strike. Collage on cardboard, 1957. By Ray Johnson

Continue reading

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Motorcycle Repair In ProgressAbove is a current work of art in progress. It is my 1996 Triumph Thunderbird. Against my better judgement I purchased it at the end of last summer and it’s been one of the best mistakes I could make. It’s difficult to explain the way it makes me feel when it’s running well. I almost feel guilty that a material possession could bring me so much joy. Just before the end of October last year one of the carburetors gummed up and left me stranded. When I discovered the problem I knew that I couldn’t just take it to a mechanic to fix. It was something I had to at least try to do myself so that I could understand what makes it tick. This is part of the lesson that I learned from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Before we get too carried away here, it’s important to note that this book is not about motorcycle maintenance and not about Zen Buddhism either. It is a philosophical inquiry into Quality, a problem the narrator first encountered as a professor and continues to examine during a 17-day motorcycle trip with his son, Chris. Continue reading

Influences

Vitruvian Man

A funny thing occurred to me as I started to ponder my next blog post. As I mentioned in my introductory post one of the things I planned to discuss were my influences. However, when I start to think about my visual art influences, I’m at a bit of a loss.

There are some artists whose work I gravitate towards and they are often of a pop art persuasion such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. This might be due to the fact that my original interest in making art was in drawing comic books. Comic books tend to be visually striking with bold lines and bright colors. In the high brow art community they are often thought of as a lower a form of art, but I digress (and disagree). Continue reading

Make More Art With Less Fear: What I Learned From The Arctic Monkeys And The Boss

A couple years back I was at my friend’s practice space in the city and we recorded a little acoustic demo of mine called “Love Is A Social Construct, Baby.” You can hear said demo at Soundcloud, but what I want to talk about right now are the words (which you can read in their entirety at Soundcloud as well). In the last verse I have a bit that goes like this:

Wait a minute now here’s the truth, not to put to fine a point on it
But, I’ll buy you flowers, I’ll write you love songs
Here’s a sonnet get that bee out of your bonnet

I like it. It’s not rocket science or mind blowing. As we were listening to the playback, my friend Jared asked me to clarify the words for him. It turns out they are remarkably similar to some words from the chorus of “Birdhouse In Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants:

Not to put too fine a point on it Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet Continue reading