What went wrong?
I grab my luggage from baggage claim in the Florence Airport, and I enjoy this familiar feeling. I’m ecstatic. Thrilled! Taxi cab is waiting for me outside pronto. The driver is a beautiful thin italian woman, who is very nice, and very strong. She throws my 25 kilo bag in the trunk like its nothing. I was impressed, and continued to be impressed my her swift driving skills. She was fast and efficient. I never felt scared during this ride. I felt I was in the hands of an angel. I have her drop me off near the Duomo, and leave her with a nice tip. I had to compliment the nice driving. She also charged me 10 euros less than most cab drivers in Florence. It felt as if I never left, only for some reason I had a 25 kilos of my home rolling behind me.
I take the scenic route to my old apartment in the palace on 10 Saint Egidio. Basilio, my spanish friend who lives there isn’t home, but our new friend Per Elof Ricklund is there. There are no buzzers to the apartment so I have to press all the buzzers to the other apartments to get in. Luckily he’s there, and I end up staying for over a month. I love that place and I hate it at the same time. Its not a place one should live in for very long. Its got one window, the layout is like one long hall way. All the rooms are in a row. No light but these terrible looking energy efficient bulbs, that I just recently found out give off a very ugly sine wave. You see, normal bulbs put off a clean smooth sine wave, which has no effects on humans really. These energy efficient bulbs are full of mercury, and give off a very bad sine wave. It has the form of a regular sine wave except there are these jagged edges that cause all sorts of problems in humans. I should have stayed in a better place. But what the hell… The whole month and a half was free, and since Basilio was in school from 8:00 on I had the place to myself until around 5:00pm. I shared Basilio’s room while Per Was in my old room on my old narrow uncomfortable bed. I got the Futon under Basilio’s loft, which was wider and more comfortable than my old bed. And it turned into a couch. Hell yes. I slept great there. For some reason (Bekkah) I could not sleep well at all in Fresno.
We broke up 10 days before I got back to California from Florence. What a un-compassionate terrible thing to do. Needless to say my heart was shat on, into a billion pieces, after that. I ran around Fresno and Clovis searching for her. Badly wanting to try and mend things. I wasted so much money on gas looking for her. It was crushing. I would get excited if I saw a Silver Volkswagen New Beetle, immediately checking the wheels to see if they were chrome. She avoided me for over a week and a half. Never responding to my text messages, facebook messages. Just a straight up cold tony fuck you. I hate this. It turns me into someone that I don’t want to be. My Dad was happy we broke up because he never liked her, and he thought she was ugly on the inside and out. Perhaps he was right. Because now as I sit in her living room in cairo smelling the burning trash, and I look at her. The sight of her is sickening.
Final White Chalk Cast Drawing (Sold) 2011
I have only been here in cairo for three days and two nights, and when I look at her, I wonder what I found so attractive about her. Her butt looks like its permanantly clenched, not bulbous or heart shaped, but strangly upsidedown triangular. She has the strangest arms. Her biceps triceps are kinda large with a layer of fat underneath, and her forearms are skinny, which lead to her even skinnier hands. Strange indeed, especially in comparison to all the beautiful Italian women I have drawn in Florence while studying at FAA. I saw all these characteristics as perfections, because thats what happens when you are in love with someone. and Her personality wasn’t great when I met her, but I found her behavior quite sexy. And her interests as well. She’s a book worm with obsessive compulsive disdorder. Even with the OCD she is still quite an efficient person. We connected on many levels. She was the best kisser I have ever kissed, hands down. No one competes with the way she kissed. She was incredible… Just the right kind of crazy. I was whipped. I’ll admit it. It happens to the best of us. What can I say… I prefer quality. For the next three years we had a great relationship. We got along well for the most part. I liked her parents alot. They were really cool. Especially her dad John. He is really great. Her Mom was pretty cool as well. We got along. A total character. She Reminds me of one of Robert Amador’s drawings of strange touristy looking eureka ladies that you see in Vegas. She has these crazy bulging eyes. She seemed to like me more than her own daughter. I like her alot needless to say. Bekkah is an only-child like my self. It could explain her was. I have no bias against only children because I am one. I acquired my brothers and sisters. Bekkah and I spent three really nice years together. The fourth I will get into later. It was some of the best times of my life with her. I was at peace with her, but I always felt something dark was brewing. I never thought it would lead me to cairo.
How does all this relationship stuff fit into florence? I had all this on my mind during the entire month and a half during my stay this Florence. Wondering what happened. Where did it all go wrong. What did I do. What was wrong with me. The answer is quite simple. The answer needs it’s own preface. In 2009 I applied and was accepted into the Florence Academy of Art. One of the most prestigious drawing and painting schools in the world. There is no way I was going to stay in Fresno even for Bekkah, who I thought I might want to marry. I decided I did want to at one point. Dad would have had a shit fit. Good for him it’s not going to happen. I told her that I was breaking up with her before I applied, because I knew I was getting into the school. She begged and pleaded “No!” “please!” “We can make this work!” “Don’t leave me!” “We will make this work!” And look how it turned out. Somehow I am now sitting in Cairo, Egypt, smelling burning trash. No longer together with her. She has become interested in two other guys since we split. One is in Fresno, one is in egypt. I can only imagine what he is like. Probably a sweet guy, that has no taste for the finer things in life. Like german beer for example. I can only speculate at this point. Especially about the beer. Beer is extremely expensive in cairo. One beer cost’s 24 egyptian pounds, which converts to about four to five egyptian dollars. Allora.
Now what was it that lead me here to this religiously enslaved third world hell hole? The combination of the painting program at the Florence Academy of Art, along with almost two decades of handling paint brushes. It begins with my return from my winter vacation in the Nederlands. I visited my Aunt Tanya, and Uncle Andy in Holland for christmas. It was a fantastic trip. They showed me the ropes for getting around Holland like a local. Like a pro, which made my return visit so much more awesome. I arrive in Florence just before New Years Eve, which was an absolute blast. January second I was back in the studio working away at my final white chalk on toned paper cast. I finished it the first week of school. Daniel Graves, the director of the Florence Academy of Art said himself that the drawing was “hairline accurate.” He could not find a single error, unlike my other instructors. I felt the other instructors were trying to keep me back in order to keep their favorite students ahead. Favoritism can be quite an obsticle in this school. Eventually in this case Justice prevailed. I didn’t get best cast drawing of the year for this one, but I should have, according to Bernhard Schmidt, who recieved two best drawing of the year awards for his long pose figure drawings. I am over it. Im more pissed off about being in cairo. This place is terrifying.
With my final Cast Drawing of the FAA Intensive Drawing Program completed I begin the painting program. Feeling confident with my painting skills I dive right in. Within a couple days of starting my first cast painting of Michaelangelo’s “David Eye” is coming along nicely. Except for some reason, I could not get the big shapes of this cast exactly perfect like I did with the previous white chalk cast. “hairline accurate” according to Dan. My instructors would step into the studio and get confused as to which was the actual cast, or the painting. I thought it was hillarious. I think it insulted them when I tricked their eye into believing that my painting was the real thing. So they would say awful things about my painting. Jordan Sokol for example said my painting was a “polished turd” even though he wasn’t able to nail down the exact problem. The same with Hege Elisabeth Haugen. It was close enough that she didn’t know what to do with it as well. I ended up screwing up the drawing on this painting more and more every day with each critigue I recieved, until one day I completely snapped, ended up sanding the whole painting down. to an unrepairable state. I still have the painting as a reminder of the loss of this battle. It was traumatic. It began a downward spiral of depression, suffering and failure. All I wanted to do was to do excellent in school, to meet the expectations of the teachers. To succeed. Michaelangelo said once “The danger for most of us is not to set our expecations too high and not reach them, it is setting our expectations too low and succeed. I read this quote after this all happened, and it made me feel much better.
My instructors during this time realized that I had so much painting experience, that they were extra hard on me. Their expectations rose even higher and higher. Hege and Jordan said that I should take it as a complement, but for me the pressure got in the way of my own progress. Making me more depressed. I was living in my cave at Basilio’s place at the time. The second year studio of FAA is also a cave. The two caves combined, plus the pressures of my instructor’s drove me mad. The weather had been getting warmer, and all I wanted to do is be outside. So I went outside whenever I got the chance. Florence is quite a rainy place for november through march even. Sometimes the sunlight gets scarce. All this time I wanted it all to end.
The kiss in Paris
I wanted to be back with my beloved Bekkah. To be held and my imperfections to be accepted, and to hear “I love you.” I could never get a hold of her during these last few months of the painting program. And I couldn’t write to her because every time I did write something to her I thought it was stupid and would delete it, and start over. She is a now graduated english major from Fresno State University. She was finishing her bachelors at the time. She is very intimidating to write to, because she is such a brilliant writer. When three hours pass by and you are staring at a blank page it was just time for me to just call her. No answer. Almost ever. Something strange was happening. It was the end of our relationship. I could feel it. And it pushed me further into depression.
Feeling the need to get some fresh air I assembeled my Plein Air Painting kit. My escape route. I began to ride out on my bike, supplies on my back, to find a spot and paint it. Soon I got my friend max into plein air painting along with a few others at school. I gave him my wooden field easel and would let him borrow brushes and paints whatever he needed. Max has a Scooter, and we could ride out to any spot in Tuscany to paint it. I managed to get him to go out almost every weekend, twice a weekend sometimes even four sessions. I was happy when I was outside painting. Nothing mattered. It was the medititation that I needed. I got such a great rush out of painting outside that when it was time to go home I remained only temporarily happy, and soon would drift into sadness again. I didn’t want to do anything but paint outside. Which was the beginning of my Plein Air obsession.
My newly built porchade box
Porchade box in action
Plein Air is wonderful for me because I spend hours outside observing nature, watching the sun move across the sky. Clouds shifting, colors changing, comparing shapes and edges, working toward the goal. My mind was at peace during this time. Riding the scooter around Tuscany was also a lot of fun; actually a big part of the fun. It was a rush. In the evenings after painting I turned to another hobby of mine which took alot of time up: playing music, and composing music. I have been into fiddling around with electronic music since I was a kid when my dad bought one of the first versions of REBIRTH, and Sonic Foundry Acid. Eventually we moved on to reason, and then to Ableton Live. I still enjoy producing music. Someday I’ll post some songs to sound cloud or something. But I have yet to do it.
Every day was just another few ticks on the clock of the time-bomb. I felt the relationship ending. I didn’t want it to, because I loved Bekkah with all my heart and soul. I saw her has perfect. My best friends thought I was crazy. Dad thought she was ugly. He even said that we would have ugly babies once. He didn’t know I was listening. Most of my friends didn’t like her at all after a while. And they thought I was stupid for being in a long distance relationship with this woman. People in Florence would ask me about my situation with her and they would scratch their heads, thinking I was completely crazy. First it was the David’s eye catastrophe, then the next cast painting was a catastrophe, and then the next cast my Saint Gerome cast painting (sold) was also a huge fight to over come. It took over a month to get finished. All my teachers seemed to steer me in the wrong direction for each project. This however taught me so much about painting and the art of observation. I took it to the mountains. And still do.
Roughly Twenty days before leaving back home to Florence I broke the news to the Florence Academy that I would not be returning to the school. I told Bekkah my decision. Ten days before leaving back to california from Florence she broke up with me. I was crushed. I was morbidly sick of all the shortcomings. It has been frustrating.
The sight of you at this second made me sick to my stomach.
I have been sitting in Bekkah’s living room writing this since about lunch time, she was in her room grading papers for a while, and then she and her roomate went out to get lightbulbs and gelato. They just returned. I have been thinking all day that she looks like Pebbles from the flinstones. She has bright red hair now, and she wears her bun on the top of her head. I don’t find it the least bit attractive. Nor do I understand how OCD bekkah can live in a lawless third world country that burns its trash, feral dogs and cats run rampant eating rats and trash. The skies are so hazy that it looks like a foggy day in February in the central valley. Shit visibility. It can’t be good for anyone’s lungs. The vehicles around here constantly have plumes of smoke pouring from them. Its quite a spectacle. Don’t get me started on how they drive here. Its unreal. Ill continue this story later.