Excerpt From “Montreal – A Novel”

Hey! After weeks of holidays crap and terrible writing, I felt like posting something that was actually good for a change. Started editing “Montreal” again. Here’s a short chapter about the impulse of art.

Chapter 14

 

It was in the way the veins diverged at the wrist and converged back at the thumb. There were small details like that that didn’t matter to the rest of the world but often became the absolute centre of attention for Eli. He looked at the black ink of his tattoos, not the colours, just the blacks, the outlines, the shading, the way it faded at certain places and didn’t at others. How the sun had faded the forearms over time and he still had 50 years to live.

He was just sitting on his mattress, the playlist was on and it was hip hop and electronic, instrumentals, doom…noise. New day, same shit: perfect music to create to.

He had been staring at things for almost an hour now, waiting for the inspiration to hit. Sometimes it took him that long to bubble out of his life. He listened to the words of great artist, prophets really, witnesses to human emotions after all. And he was trying to find that moment when creating almost because spiritual, or even beyond spiritual.

It was a bit much to say a street artist could be a witness to human existence, but wasn’t that the truth as well? He kept wondering, pondering, but most of all, he sat and he stared.

He looked at the tiny scars on his hands, the scratches of the past from handling to much of everyone else’g garbage and the flakes of paint he couldn’t get from underneath his nails anymore. He tried to catch the pulses under his skin. He looked for body hairs that were out of place or try to catch that tiny, barely noticeable twitch in his pinky.

Then he looked at the wall for inconsistencies in the paint job and the texture, looking for something that shouldn’t be there and even the cleanest of jobs will always have that one flaw that granted him hope for the universe.

It had yet to skin into his heart, the fact that he could actually make it as an artist. He knew it to be true, sure. He was aware of the rationale behind the thought process that lead the the recognition of the necessity of art and enjoyed it when his own brain entered these strings of words that sounded like everything an anything all at once. The mind could easily play with those and it allowed him to skid away from the common truth if he ever needed to, but the heart had to get on board now. He knew the technique, the function and the art and the aesthetics but the heart was always hesitant to fully embrace things.

His rational side made the cost-benefit calculations years earlier: he was fucked and broke anyways so why not go all in? It was always easier if he could thread a line that allowed him to bail on his true emotions.

His heart was scared no matter how he looked at it. It was so fucking weird to him how he had this inner fire, this insane self-confidence about what he was doing but had yet to dare to cash in and take in a bit of emotional pain on the way there.

So far it had all been external. He looked at society and spit back what he was seeing the best way he was seeing it. Bashing society was easy. It was necessary, but it was easy. His own skin wasn’t on the line. It was the same with art as it had been with women. What the fuck did you do when it was time to get serious?

He felt it just under there somewhere inside his chest. He was going to pry this shit open, dig into the the wounds and see if his own guts were worthy of attention for once.

He smiled at himself and almost moved. Almost! There was a song playing that was from Sage Francis’ Human the Death Dance. Going back to Rehab.

Eli sank himself back in the mattress, put the song on repeat. He allowed the melodic line to build up and take over his mind and the words flowed freely in a way only a masterful MC like Francis could ever manage. Eli must’ve listened to the whole song three or four times on a loop.

Soon, he was ready for his body and his mind to accept everything.  He had found it. He had found that singular instant in every artist’s life when they stared into nothing, absolutely nothing, and found a way into equanimity.

“Overstanding,” he had read once, “a specific form of understanding of the emotional knowledge of the universe connected to a rationale best represented in the art form known as Hip-Hop.”

He had just found Overstanding and finally allowed himself up from his mattress.

It came down to this in the end. His truth of the moment was the truth of someone else at any given time in the past. It will be the truth of dozens more at any given time in the future and that made art valid because truth was only a moment in time.

And he was ready to speak that way to the world now.

He tore open three canvases and he was going to paint something he knew was downright cheezy but he had to do it. He had three characters in his mind now and he had to commit them to canvas. That was just the way it was. He popped open cans and sharpies, opened his window for the fumes to get out and the cold air sifted in but he liked how it snapped his senses into focus. He put on his mask and started to paint.

The past. The present. The future.

It was simple enough, basic plot but complex emotions: the nameless girl from Braking it Down was going to go on the first canvas. She was cute but nothing fancy. He did his best to give her that hopeful drive around the eyes but there wasn’t much more going on there and maybe they were just from different worlds and that’s what he tried to capture her.

Then there was Alex in a short skirt with that Blue Jays jersey on in winter. Her natural kindness still unaffected by all the nihilists of the world and her natural curves that should make the envy of the entire world.

Then there was Mari.

Marianna who was perfect. Perfectly flawed, perfectly rich yet perfectly poor and perfectly torn between French and English and a place up the hill but also with both shoes down in the gutter and didn’t she feel exactly like Montreal in a way?

It was that uncommon vibe of hers that said, “fuck you I don’t need your approval” that was really so very rare in reality and he liked that.

He liked that a lot.

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From Train Wreck to Train Rides – My 2017 Retrospective.

Time to write my retrospective

2017 was…something

Winter was an absolute wreck

The year started off as absolute shit. My marriage fell apart and I dropped out of that MBA I had just started to try to salvage whatever was left of my life.

(I feel I owe a SINCERE apology to Prof. Steven AppelBaum for swearing so much…I don’t know! He probably doesn’t care! But SORRY!)

Then a few months of just grunting…couldn’t even cry, I just grunted, yip. For months at night. And while, yes, my ego was crushed and I wanted revenge, I can honestly say the hardest part was not having the kids around every other week. I had been a full time, dedicated father for eight year. How do you go from that to part-time dad? I’m still having a hard time with that.

I did NOT drink a SINGLE drop during that time and I think that demonstrates my ongoing belief in a sober lifestyle. NOT A SINGLE DROP. I don’t know how I did it, well, actually, I know. I Lifted a ridiculous amounts of weights to get out of that phase and wrote a lot of poetry that Is actually probably good poetry, but mostly weights. Lots and LOTS of weights…it wasn’t cool now that I think of it.

Spring really is a time for change.

And then things started to get better. I managed to sleep, stopped feeling the need to stack twelve to fourteen plates on a leg-press machine anymore just to get the pain out. (Though I do have to say that phase left me with an AMAZING body, especially for a 35 year old dad…That’s right, I said it!)

I salvaged my writing career and shelled out what is probably my best work so far. And that fucker, I wrote out of absolute will power alone, trust me. Every fucking page was a testament to my resilience and refusal to quit.

I have had insanely bad sex and then insanely good sex (and I mean it, I mean, absolutely stellar sex…)

And then not much sex at all.

I don’t know. I didn’t get that “need” people get to fuck everything that moves just to get past a failed relationship. I’m not judging, I just don’t get it.

 

Summer to stabilize things

I’ve managed (so far) to save my home (the market exploding the way it, I fucking NEED to) with no small amount of help from my family who I absolutely love and I can only hope to be as present for my children in the future.

I made new friends and reconnected with older ones I couldn’t manage to see as my marriage was falling apart. Having a social life is difficult but feels good.

I have visited New-York city with about 50 bucks to spend for a weekend and somehow made it.

I have visited Toronto and loved it. I have actually slept in a very plush boutique hotel, and for a guy who can (and has) sleep straight on hardwood floors, that says a LOT!

 

Fall to figure things out.

I have had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to do with myself now that I’m no longer “just” a father and a husband.

My raging need for insane workouts made way for a different kind of physical challenge. I have reconnected with something I had loved in the past: climbing, and found renewed passion for the sport. It just fits with the challenging-yet-balanced person that I was before all this clusterfuck happened and that I feel I am once again.

Climbing is a lot like writing. You have to work at it, go all in, you have to get hellbent out of shape to make it work and you’ll get a few strains and bruises and fall and stay there, catching your breath for a while. But then you’ll get on your hands and knees, take a deep, long breath and wait. You’ll stretch your limbs and stop yourself from rushing back in and look at what’s going on. You find a way or an angle and a line, sometimes the ONLY line, that can make it work. It’s the only way to climb and it’s also the only way to write.

And you get to it again, always working to make it better, one lane after the other, one book after the other, always more challenging but isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

And now 2018

This year was a train wreck that I’ve somehow managed to get back on tracks (or at least A track). I’ve had help from friends and family, I’ve ASKED for help from friends and family and I’ve worked hard and I can’t imagine 2018 going bad.

I am confident in my writing, now probably more than ever.

I am confident in my art, now probably more than ever as well.

I really do love punk, now probably more than ever, and hip hop from around 98 to 2004 maybe…

I’ve learned I love trains. I really, thoroughly LOVED my first (real) train ride. I was invited to Philly next November, will totally ride the Adirondak and then see from there. I love trains.

I’ve re-validated my life choices of a vegetarian diet and sober lifestyle. I am in the best shape of my life, by any standard, the absolute best shape of my life and I love it.

I am aware of my worth (workwise) and have (finally) dared to ask for more or move elsewhere. If you know me, you’ll know how much of a breakthrough that really is.

And most of all, I am not so angry anymore. I was the most pissed individual you had ever seen and I think I’ve depleted all of my anger in 2017, all of it in the spring. It’s hard to explain, I don’t feel it anymore. It’s like an emotion I used to know that I don’t feel anymore, like a certain pitch your ear doesn’t register anymore.

And I mean, I’m still moody, I’m still snappy, sure, but that DEEP SEARING ANGER that defined me for years…that beast is not there anymore. It’s just…gone.

I’m still not sure how I’ll work that out in the writing.

But we’ll find out in 2018.

Some Unstructured Thoughts on the Act of Writing Frantically

The feeling of failure, the will to quit, that shit doesn’t come from the act of writing.

The will to quit comes from the lack of basic need, food, shelter, rest…comes from the social need of “success” that is measured by the number of sales.

But none of that takes into account the notion of a successful writing session. My writing process comes in very intense outbursts of frantic writing. They come as single hours of insane typing where the entirety of the world doesn’t exist anymore. My favorite moments happen when I can’t even keep up with the words in my head. My hands can’t type fast enough, sometimes I even beat Word to it’s speed. The letters appear half a second after I typed them and a full second after they came up in my mind.

The best moments happen when I go blind on the screen and the words just come out. It’s an absolute mess to clean up but I did learn to maximize those creative outbursts in time. Making sense of the emotion, you can do that later when you mind is no longer on fire.

It’s very hard to fall into that one moment of absolute genius or madness. I think music and art is a better place for that mind frame than writing but it’s not impossible. If happens, every now and then, I manage to fall into that insane grove that only people like Trent Reznor seem to find all the time and the words come out. Weird shit comes out, very good shit comes out.

The problem with it is that more often than not, it can’t stand on its own. It’s just a piece of something that could be and nothing more. It’s a few pages at a time. I can go insane, frantic even, and shell out 1200 words in twenty minutes, that has happened. But those words won’t make any sense to anyone, maybe not even myself.

Because the mind frame I was in when I was writing so frantically only existed in that very singular moment. They can only be a collection of momentary lapses of reason.

I mean. You play a riff or you play an entire song… it may last 3 minutes. If you’re Neurosis, it will last 8 or 10 or maybe more, sometimes. That song has a few parts, 3, sometimes 4, rarely 5 or more. They repeat themselves and add on to each other and I love music. Music is absolutely necessary to the “emotion” of writing. But the writing itself doesn’t really work as répétitions of 3 or 4 or maybe 5 parts…

An album is twelve songs, an art expo is a handful of artworks and each and every one of them is perfectly valid, but a novel is a marathon, not sprint.

A novel means locking down all the feelings, the need to rest and the will to stop. A novel means writing when your body is ready to quit. It means to keep going, one line at a time, the way you count your meters at the end of a long race you’re just fucking done with.

It’s not about losing your mind onstage and feeling the single riff through your fingers like the world depended on it. Writing is a slow game and it’s strange to think of it that way, but it’s true.

It’s very, very hard to make something out of a hundred little moments of madness. Poetry works like that, songs work like that. You can put all the insanity of the universe in a few short pages, sometimes a few short words. I still think some of my best work comes in those short bursts, but the need to write novels is still there.

So you take those moments of absolute genius and you make a story out of it. I mean, A novel is 70 000 words, 80 000 words, 90 000 words. It’s ridiculous to write a novel, what an insane enterprise. Why do that at all?

I just need to do it. After all this time, the need is still there. I fucking hate it sometimes, but it’s still there.

And of course you could say “you just need to add up all those moments of pure genius/insanity. JUST those moment,” and that would make a standalone novel or story or anything else. That would be a beautiful thing and I think I’ll get there one day. I hope I make it there one day. It’s the kind of thing that can keep me up at night. CAN I WRITE A BOOK LIKE THAT?

So far I only think Burroughs has managed to do it with Naked Lunch and he probably lost his mind right there and then.

It’s getting harder for me not to go there though. I’ll admit to that. This kind of FRANTIC writing is kind of calling me. It’s a bit obsessive when I think about it. The simple act of writing is not enough anymore. I’ve filled pages and novels and it’s all fun and good, but the need to create something more than myself is still there.

I was good at hard realism and I’m still good at hard realism. But I still have this need to break all the rules again. I haven’t done that in so long, I think I’m ready for it.

I don’t know if it’ll be successful. I don’t really know at all.

Feels like this one’s out of my hands for once.

“We’ll see in a year,” I keep telling myself. “We’ll see in a year.”

Ian.

 

COMPS : My Next Art Event

Comps Art Expo

 

Hi,

My next art event will be COMPS, On March 26th, 2016 @ 19.00h – Espace Cercle Carré in Montreal’s old Port – 36 rue Queen, Mtl.

ENG :
COMPS is an Art Happening put together by Montreal Artists as a way to emerge from the dead of winter. From Modern art to graffiti and design and set in an amazing Old Port cooperative space, Expace Cercle Carré, COMPS will offer you, for one night only, a glimpse into the depth of talent these artists can deliver.

FRA:
COMPS est une soirée d’art mise sur pieds par un groupe d’artistes Montéalais pour sortir de la torpeur hivernale. Réunissant art moderne au grafitti et au design dans un espace coopératif absolument magnifique du vieux-port de Montréal, l’Espace Cercle Carré, COMPS vous offre, pour un soir seulement, un simple souffle du talent immense que ces artistes ont à offrir.

#COMPSART

Turning one of my paintings into a table

I turned a painting into a work table for the job using a bunch of old legs, tampered glass shelves we had laying around and some silicone. I bought the canvas that fit with the glasses we had and used the wooden frame as support for the legs. The glue smeared on the edges, so that’s a technique I’ll have to improve, but as a prototype, I’m pretty happy about it,

MAD paintingDSC_0030DSC_0039DSC_0041

Things I’d like to Add to My Collection in 2015

I rarely blog about things I’d like to get (I mean, material things) but it’s the new years,I took time to look at what I got this year and it’s pretty good (True Detective, Stray Dogs, Summer Wars, Helix, Dark Angel, Ergo Proxy)

so here’s what I hope to add to my collection in 2015 :

Movies/TV

Evangelion 2.22 and 3.33

Twelve Kingdoms

Aeon Flux (the original anime)

Complete my Battlestar Gallactica collection

Samurai Champloo

Spin City Season 4

Interstellar

Maybe I’ll afford myself 2 or 3 “random” criterion collection movies this year.

Also REALLY looking forward to NewsRoom season 3.

 

Books :

More of the following :  Murakami, Bukowski, Brian Wood… I discovered John McFetridge this year, probably will get more of his work too.

 

Rarer items :

Maybe a rare print from Becky Cloonan

A painting by Jacob Bannon

“White Trash” By Chris Makos

 

Music ;

Some old Bjork, Supermachiner, Bossk, Mogwai, lots of ambient, less heavy (or heavier in a more creative way) kind of music, if you know bands like that, send them my way…

 

that’s pretty much it.

 

Take care,

 

Ian