Chicago Chic

I’ve written about Jackalope Coffee here before. It’s just down the street from where I live these days and I spend quite a bit of time there. I’ve done a bunch of painting and drawing there and here’s the latest. This past Saturday they celebrated their third anniversary with a daylong party outside their doors. There was art, food, music, booze, and a screening of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure right out there on the street. I feel lucky to have a place like this so close by and look forward to being a regular for years to come.

A couple years ago I was in an art show in Pilsen. I put up some ink paintings which were part of the work I was doing with Clinard Dance (which, incidentally, still could use your help in mounting the piece I worked on in China next year…) A woman came up and said she wanted to write something about my painting for her website. She emailed me some questions which I promptly answered, then I didn’t hear from her for awhile. This isn’t unusual. People get sidetracked, lose interest, forget, any number of things. You learn very quickly that no one will ever be nearly as interested in what you’re doing as you are yourself. So you have to sometimes be a pain in the ass and bother people who promise things. You tug at their sleeves and make a pest of yourself because for most of us there’s no one else to do the dirty work of self-promotion. In any case, from time to time I’d write this woman an email to ask how her big feature on me was coming along. Occasionally she’d answer, explaining all the reasons why the piece had been delayed, assuring me it was just about to be published…well, it took two years of nagging but it’s finally here!

Panic in a Suitcase

Naming paintings is a bitch. You don’t want to give too much away because it has to work on its own. You don’t want to be too clever or too obtuse or to overthink it. Every once in a while it names itself but usually the painter’s stuck coming up with the title even though we’re painters in part to get around words. When I’m doing a picture of my bookshelf I have an easy cheat since I’m staring for hours at the spines of books. This one’s called Panic in a Suitcase after a novel I liked from last year.

Thursday, at a house filled with art and books in Ukrainian Village, Jessa Crispin held a book-release party for her Dead Ladies Project. I played a tiny role in its publication in that Jessa got in touch with me to find out what it was like working with University of Chicago Press while considering who to go with. I guess whatever I told her was positive enough for her to move forward and sign the contract. She read a chapter about Margaret Anderson, the legendary editor of Little Review. A couple years ago Jessa bought a portrait of Anderson which I’d done for a series called “Writers No One Reads”. I hope lots of people read Jessa’s book

On Friday I looked in on my paintings at Green Dog (which you can still go see for another week or two), then went to the Hideout for my friends’ record-release. Here are sketches of the bands that played. Each is worth knowing.

Exit Verse

Soviet Stamps

Last Wednesday I finished the first draft of my book. What’s a book without a cover, so I did a first draft of one of those as well. I’ve sent it to a couple of literary agents and to friend Bill who edited both my other books. There will likely be a lot more work to do but it felt good to let the thing go and have someone else look at it. I have no idea if anyone will like it, much less want to publish it, but I’m glad I wrote it. The other books were written in pieces and read that way on the internet whereas this was almost all written without being shared with anyone. In other words, the traditional way books are written. It feels strange not to be working on it anymore actually.

I haven’t done very much since sending those manuscripts out. There’s a new oil painting underway but it’s not far enough along to share yet. I’m hoping to get into something new this week. We’ll see…

A few weeks ago I was working door at the Skylark when a guy named Keefe came in. I’d met him at my friend Bill’s birthday party and he recognized me. After drinking awhile he came up and asked if I wanted to be part of an evening of improvisational performances with him. The rules of the night are that you don’t plan or rehearse and you don’t work with anyone you’ve worked with before. Keefe had worked with just about everybody in town. He didn’t know much about me except that I wrote books so he figured I’d do something with words on stage. I told him I’d do it but only if I could paint instead. Having few other options he agreed.

So tonight I’m bringing a big pad of paper, a bottle of Sumi ink, and some brushes and we’ll see what happens. Come by if you’re curious.