Artist Intermission: Anxiety and Depression

I’m in a bit of an “artist intermission” full of anxiety, and the familiar depression that I’ve battled for many years. Nope, not a glamorous star here bringing awareness to those of us who live with depression and anxiety. And, I don’t have the resources to completely “take time off” to check in to a place of wellness to work on myself. Although I’m happy for those creatives who can work on their own wellness with time off and a dedicated (even inspirational) place to do it.

For me, I’m still here – in my home studio which has sat empty and alone for the past several weeks, just waiting for me to come back. I’ll admit that I’m acutely struggling right now.

Not much going on here lately…

Meanwhile, some of you have asked what I do with myself?

Well, I sleep a lot. I’ve worked on office chores such as household budgeting and financial actuals. I sit in my green leather studio chair and pet studio cat Stan. I managed to finally update my website with snapshots from my Arctic Circle Expedition. I take pills and go to talk therapy. I attempt to help myself with hard-to-crack wellness workbooks. And, I generally try to get back into things I’ve enjoyed in days gone by like gardening… one weed pulled at a time.

I’ve had this self-help workbook for months… I’m on page 18. ¬†ūüė¶

I miss painting my abstracts… I really do. Hopefully a new and inspirational project will come along for me soon. In the meantime, I’ll just try to tread water.

And a big thank-you to my husband, Steve, who through it all, helps and loves me lots.

The Arctic Circle Expedition – Icy Inspirations

I’ve always been inspired by anything water – rain, puddles, the Pacific. And the frozen water of the arctic circle didn’t disappoint me in how it all inspired my paintings made onboard the ship and once I returned to my Portland studio.

Arctic sunset behind the tall ship Antiqua.
Flat icebergs in front of the glacier at Blomstrandbreen.
Icy blues and greens near Ny-Alesund.
Setting up a safe perimeter among the ice.



The Arctic Circle Expedition – Part 3

Daunted by the experience itself and the 900 snapshots I took on the Expedition, I’ve clearly taken several months off from blogging more about my trip. Today I finally finished going through all of my snapshots, pulling out the better ones for publishing here on my blog and posting on my website.

The good news is that in the meantime, I completed the last larger commissions for my Kickstarter backers in late February, so everyone now has their arctic abstracts – over 80 that I painted – all inspired by my time in the ice and cold of the arctic circle.

Preparing for the Expedition, I had thought I’d be able to possibly paint on a table set up on the outside deck of the ship. But after two failed attempts to paint in the cold, snow and wind, I set up a makeshift studio on my bunkbed in my shared cabin. ¬†Tight quarters for sure, but I made it work and at least was out of the extreme elements!

Tight painting quarters on the bunkbed in my shared cabin.
Yes, for this hot-blooded guy, I did actually feel cold for most of the trip!
Our first glacier hike.
The glacier at Esmarkbreen.

The Arctic Circle Expedition – Part 1

Well, since my last post, I’ve been fully outfitted, made all of my preparations… and have actually GONE ON MY ARCTIC EXPEDITION!

Most folks are more interested in the actual trip and what I experienced while in the arctic circle than all of my preparations anyway. So in a multi-part series of posts, I’ll be sharing my most favorite images and observations of my travels in and around Svalbard (Norway) and the Arctic Circle.

I did have some fun trying to pack up all of my cold-weather gear and art supplies, but finally got everything down to a manageable size and packed up!

After a day and a half of travel, I arrived in Longyearbyen, Svalbard which is about 78 degrees (north) and 800 miles from the North Pole. I would spend the next 2 weeks aboard the tall ship Antigua, sailing the arctic circle around Svalbard, soaking in the frozen landscape and painting my abstracts.

Here’s a snapshot of the first glacier we visited… and, after a nice hike, that I actually got to touch!

And here’s me looking (and feeling) pretty darn cold (it was in the teens and 20’s most of the time throughout the Expedition).

Finally, here’s a snapshot of the tall ship Antigua that I spent 2 weeks on, along with 27 other artists, 4 guides and 7 crew!

My Arctic Circle Journey – Getting Outfitted

My Arctic Circle Expedition is still months away (I leave on September 28th, 2018), but I’m trying to take advantage of end-of-season sales to get myself better outfitted for the Arctic.

Some of you know me as the guy who wears shorts year-round (Denver, Columbus, Portland… doesn’t matter!). I’m usually warm, so I just don’t have much colder-weather gear in my closet. But, on a recent winter trip to Boise, I was reminded that I CAN actually get cold, so I need to be prepared for the Arctic by planning on more than shorts and tees for my wardrobe.

Trying on big, puffy jackets isn’t a whole lot of fun for me and I began to overheat in the snapshot below, but here I am hitting an end-of-season sale for warm outerwear that I just don’t have…

While technically an “mid layer”, I’m calling this a “puffy layer”…

My dreams of icebergs coming true…

Nearly a year ago, I posted that I was accepted for a truly epic artist’s residency: The Arctic Circle 2018 Autumn Arts & Sciences Expedition in October, 2018.

Me in my cozy, warm studio thinking about making art in the Arctic Circle. [photo: Mercy McNab]
Wow. I’m super excited as the super-long anticipation and lead time gets shorter… 18 months from when I was accepted has now shrunk to just 6 months. And, I’m thrilled to announce that after a month-long campaign on Kickstarter to raise the funds necessary to participate, I am fully funded!

A huge thank-you to those Backers on Kickstarter who pledged funds now to receive paintings of various sizes at the end of this year to help me get to the Arctic Circle. Now that I’m through the funding phase, I have lots of work to do to get organized, outfitted for the Arctic environment and experiment with how I’ll paint my abstracts on a ship in the middle of the Arctic Circle!

Arctic Circle Environs. [photo: Risa Horowitz]
As a guy who generally likes to be well-prepared, I’m thinking this summer will go quickly and in no time I’ll be in the Arctic, soaking up the frozen inspirations and making art… somehow and of some sort!

What in the World Has David Been Doing All Summer?

Summer is officially over and I know some of my art fans have been wondering what I’ve been up to since I haven’t been posting much new art around here.

Well, I’d like to introduce you to my latest, creative endeavor… Chop Shop Wear! Yes – I’ve taken my creative eye and applied it to a fashion idea that I’ve been percolating on for awhile. In a nutshell, Chop Shop Wear is a fashion ‚Äúchop shop‚ÄĚ where we acquire previously-owned men‚Äôs luxury-brand shirts and chop shop them (cut them up), re-purposing the material to make pockets for one-of-a-kind pocket shirts.

Some of you know that I’m most comfortable in shorts and tee shirts all year long. But, I also love me some luxurious, designer shirts, especially when I can buy previously-owned ones for a few dollars rather than spend hundreds for a new shirt. Case in point – I’ve had a long-sleeve Versace shirt in my closet for years that I purchased at a thrift store for $5. With a bit of research, I discovered that this shirt originally retailed for over $400! But, I rarely wore it until I started thinking about how to re-use the cool fabric on something I’d wear all the time – like a tee or polo shirt. How about cutting up my $400 Versace shirt and re-using the fabric to make pockets for some fun pocket tee shirts. Or pocket polo shirts. Or hoodies!

Chop Shop Wear - One-of-a-Kind Pocket Shirts!
Chop Shop Wear – One-of-a-Kind Pocket Shirts!

Fast forward through the summer… learning to sew, buying my first sewing machine, figuring out how to creatively “chop shop” luxury shirts and making pockets from the material, developing and testing prototype shirts, creating an initial Chop Shop Wear brand and logo… and officially launching Chop Shop Wear!

Whew! I invite you to check it all out – I’ve created an online store — — and stocked it with lots of great pockets to choose from. And just for being a blog reader of mine, please feel free to use a special savings code, “ChopFriend” at checkout to save 25% off your entire first order!

And that, my friends, is what I was up to this summer!

Chopping some previously-owned, designer shirt fabric into one-of-a-kind pockets.
Chopping some previously-owned, designer shirt fabric into one-of-a-kind pockets.

Denver, CO –> Columbus, OH…. Did I Get Lost?

Dear Art Fans –

Where do I begin?¬† Well, perhaps I’ll¬†start with where I ended up…. Columbus, Ohio.¬† Nine months ago, the cats and I¬†made the two-day drive from Denver to Columbus to join my partner, Steve, in our new home.¬† Steve had received an opportunity to transfer within his company to the regional office in Columbus and, since we had been talking about “going on an adventure” for awhile, we jumped on it.¬† And landed smack in the middle of Ohio.

While Steve’s new job got off to a great start, I quickly became deeply involved in helping care for my 85-year-old Uncle Jack.¬† The court here in Ohio appointed me his legal guardian and I spent much of the Spring and Summer travelling up to Cleveland to help care for Uncle Jack’s health and finances.¬† Sadly, my Uncle Jack passed away at the end of the Summer… may he rest in peace!

So, now I’m making art in my basement studio that I’ve set up.¬† A lot of pent-up paintings are now flowing.¬† They’ll be showing up here soon, so stay tuned for more posts from Columbus!

Out of the Studio: Red Door, Coal Room Demolition, Camping…

I notice that I’m not the only blogger that has taken some time off this summer from regular blogging.¬† At the beginning of the summer I knew that I would have some out of the studio time in July and August to work on home renovation projects and travel a bit, including a solo camping trip to one of my favorite spots in Colorado, just outside of Leadville.

So, in my effort to get back into the swing of things, I thought I’d post a few snapshots from the last 2 months of a few of my outside-of-the-studio activities!¬† I’ll share more about my favorite camping spot in another post.

After 11 years in our home, I tore out the original coal room from 1899 in our basement.
After 11 years in our home, I finally tore out the original 1899 coal room from our basement.
Red doors might be cliche, but we've always wanted one.  The "right" red is tough and I got this one on the first try: Behr "Heirloom Red".
Red doors might be cliche, but we've always wanted one. The "right" red is tough and I got this one on the first try: Behr "Heirloom Red".
My camping perch above Turquoise Lake and Leadville, Colorado.
My camping perch above Turquoise Lake and Leadville, Colorado.

What, Exactly, Makes a Knockoff?

I came across a few of my older paintings in my studio today as I unwrapped works from storage to hang in the upper reaches of my studio space.

Several, in particular made me remember the two times in my 5-year art career that I’ve heard someone utter a disparaging remark about my art being “Rothko knockoffs”.¬† So, I’m wondering (and asking you, dear reader): “What, exactly, is a knockoff”?

I should mention that Mark Rothko is one of my most favorite artists.¬† And yes, my art has been influenced by him.¬† I should also mention that the paintings in question are not of my “elementals” or “fossils” series that surely couldn’t be accused of being a “Rothko knockoff”.

So, I dug up some examples to see what you think – are these “knockoffs”?¬† Or are the just “inspired by”?¬† Are they something else?¬† What would make these a knockoff (style, composition, color)?¬† Why do I care?¬† Would anyone else care?¬† So¬†many questions!¬† I might have to do some research into this… in the meantime, I sure welcome comments and thoughts!

Alexander Julian, watercolor on paper, collection of the artist.
Alexander Julian, watercolor on paper, collection of the artist.
Firmament Study No. 2, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Firmament Study No. 2, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Summit, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Summit, watercolor on paper, private collection.

Artist Residency Application 1 of 10: Denali National Park, Alaska

One down, at least nine to go in my quest to apply to 10 artist residency programs for 2009!

I sent in my application for the Denali Artist-In-Residence program several¬†weeks ago.¬† This is quite a unique program made possible through a partnership between the National Park Service and Alaska Geographic.¬† The program¬†provides artists with a rustic cabin in Denali National Park¬†as a place to stay and create art.¬† There’s electricity but no running water, which is fine since I can paint with jugs of water that the nearby National Park Ranger station provides!¬† Notification of acceptance is in early December, so stay tuned!

Here’s one of the images I submitted with this application (which is also one of my Limited Edition giclee’s):

Five Autumn Trees, watercolor, 28 x 20".
Five Autumn Trees, watercolor, 28 x 20

Recent Travels: The Train Station in Sandpoint, Idaho

Our recent travels to Montana and British Columbia also took us through beautiful North Idaho.¬† I lived in Sandpoint (north of Coeur D’Alene) for my last two years of high school.¬† The beauty of the Sandpoint area, Lake Pend O’reille and the surrounding mountains, especially in autumn is a great source of inspiration for me.¬† I took tons of photos and will be taking some in to my studio soon to work from.

In the meantime, it was the Sandpoint Train Station that has been feeding my inspiration a bit lately.¬† We stayed at the Edgewater Resort which is right on the lake next to the City Beach.¬† It is also right next to the train station.¬† I’ve posted about my love of trains before, but I was also drawn to the old train station because it was the scene for a pivotal moment in my life so many years ago.

The last time I visited the Sandpoint Train Station was in the summer of 1986 when¬†I boarded the midnight (literally!) Amtrak bound for college in Phoenix via Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles.¬† Now days, this is an “unmanned” station – the doors are unlocked, but waiting room empty and the ticket windows closed and covered with notices for passengers to help themselves to getting tickets and boarding the train (it was a bit unclear as to whether you had to flag down the train yourself or not!).

The¬†feelings I had revisiting this place of nostalgia, emptiness and loneliness¬†in a spot that sees so much traffic have stuck with¬†me as I’ve painted in my studio these past few weeks.

Thanks, Steve for taking the photos below (and for letting me share the train station with you)!

At the Sandpoint, ID Amtrak train station.
At the Sandpoint, ID Amtrak train station.


49pm... bound for college in Phoenix.
Last time I was at this door was in summer, 1986 to board the Number 7 train at 11:49pm... bound for college in Phoenix.


Lots of train traffic, but otherwise empty...
Lots of train traffic, but otherwise empty...
View of the Sandpoint City Beach and Lake Pend O'reille
View of the Sandpoint City Beach and Lake Pend O'reille

Recent Travels: Paws Up Resort Near Missoula, MT

As part of our Northern trek vacation earlier this month, we stayed at Paws Up Resort just outside of Missoula, Montana for several days.  We had a great time relaxing and hiking and eating great food (delicious Bison steak!).

I also loved this simple composition photo that Steve took from one afternoon of relaxing in Adirondacks in the sun.¬† The contrast of the iced tea and the weathered wood is something I’ll be working with in my studio next week!

Iced Tea and Adirondack Chair by Steve Zeiden
Iced Tea and Adirondack Chair by Steve Zeiden


Atop Lookout Rock at Paws Up Resort
Atop Lookout Rock at Paws Up Resort

What a Rush: Cheering in the Middle of 100,000+ Coloradans for Obama

This past Sunday, Steve and I walked down to the Obama rally in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver.  Wow!  I have literally never in my life been in the middle of a crowd of more than 100,000 cheering people.

I was still “humming” from the energy of the people as I painted in my studio today.¬† The hope and yearning for positive change for our country was so evident in the crowd and the people we talked with around us.

Looking east towards the state capitol... from the middle of 100,000 fans
Looking east towards the state capitol... from the middle of 100,000 fans

I especially liked that Obama wasn’t all “frosting and sprinkles”.¬† I think the changes we have coming won’t be easy and I, for one, am ready to stand up and make more changes myself to help us get there.¬† Here’s how Obama put it:

Now, make no mistake: the change we need won’t come easy or without cost. We will all need to tighten our belts, we will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together.

At a defining moment like this, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games and the same political tactics that are used every election to divide us from one another and make us afraid of one another. With the challenges and crises we face right now, we cannot afford to divide this country by class or region; by who we are or what policies we support.

There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Colorado and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America they have served the United States of America.

We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.

This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed the same divisions and fear tactics and our own petty differences to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?

Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

Recent Travels: British Columbia Points Folks to the Artists

It has been many years since I was in southern British Columbia – early October was a beautiful time to visit.¬† Our destination was Ainsworth Hot Springs and I’ll be sure to post pictures from our time there, but I first had to share a snapshot of a sign that I saw frequently along the way.

Artisan Road Sign in Southern BC
Artisan Road Sign in Southern BC
How great is this!?  More importantly, how do I get one?!  We saw quite a few of these and visited a great glass art studio (more on that later).  I wish we would have taken the time to follow a few more of these signs to see where they led.
Maybe some of my Canadian readers know something about this program and how well it works to get people off the beaten track to see your art??

Recent Travels – Bodega Bay, CA = Iridescent Topaz

I’ve been traveling alot in¬†September and October, but am¬†back at home and have been sorting through the volume of pictures I took.¬† Since I am greatly inspired by different places, my upcoming posts will be about the different places I’ve been and how they are inspiring me in my studio.

As an abstract painter, I sometimes¬†work from photos of the real world – often picking up on colors I find.¬† Here’s one of my snapshots from the Sonoma Coast north of Bodega Bay.¬† Yes, I loved the cool colors of the Pacific, but am also inspired by the hillsides of the Golden State.¬† Made me think of one of my favorite Daniel Smith colors, Iridescent Topaz, which I’ve been painting with over the last few weeks.

Sonoma County hillsides, just north of Bodega Bay
Sonoma County hillsides, just north of Bodega Bay

The DNC and Free From my Republican Past

The Democratic National Convention is in Denver this week and there’s lots of action and energy here (check out this snapshot of my partner, Steve, with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from yesterday!).

I thought this’d be a great time to post about a small piece of memorabilia that I came across this summer.¬† I’ll start by saying that I’d classify myself, my views and my values as “moderate liberal”.¬† But, that’s most certainly not where I came from!

My memorabilia - I was registered as a Republican in college...

I grew up in a pretty conservative family – my immediate family members have continued to drift away and to the rigid right as I’ve grown up and discovered who I am.¬† This, along with the fact that I just happen to be¬†gay, has left me with little or no relationship with them at this point.¬† Well, they DO also all live in Idaho, so maybe there really IS something in the water up there?

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but I don’t believe in the Iraq war.¬† I don’t believe in spending billions of dollars that we don’t have.¬† I don’t believe in lowering taxes while our deficit continues to skyrocket.¬† I don’t believe in raping the environment to satisfy our every, selfish want.¬† I don’t believe that oil is the answer, now or in the future.¬† I don’t believe that bake sales should have to help fund our schools.¬† I don’t believe greed should rule our leaders, corporations or Douglas County, Colorado.

I DO believe in God, in health for all, in being good stewards of the Earth, in taxing ourselves to pay for what we buy, in equal rights for all people, in really great education for our children, in peace, in humanity and taking care of¬†the poor, sick and old…¬† I also believe in the information age and I believe in the internet (and a Presidental candidate that has actually used it).

I can’t remember that day in June, 1988 when I clearly registered as a Republican.¬† I do remember learning from my parents that “well-off” people are Republicans.¬† Maybe I wanted to make sure I remained “well-off”?¬† You may remember from a past post that I also learned from my parents that I’d be kicked out of the family if I became a train engineer when I grew up (because I’d have to be in a “union”, which is something I knew nothing¬†about at age 6).

So yes, I’m excited the DNC is here.¬† And yes, I’ll be supporting Barack Obama.¬† And yes, I love my tie-dye “DenverCrat” tee shirt!

My DenverCrat Tee Shirt