Dancing on Thin Ice

To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. —R.W. Emerson

Tag: drawing

abracadabra

Reinventing myself meant, foremost, reactivating parts of my mind that had lain dormant for six years and recovering my hand/eye coordination. To accomplish this, I used drawing as one of my primary tools. Below is the first of my pen-and-ink drawings, dated July 2001, my third month at the Sixth Street hotel.

abracadabra

“abracadabra”

While still in the hospital, I had rediscovered my love of language and symbolism when I read Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum; afterward, once I’d secured a roof over my head, much of my time was spent poring over alchemical treatises and ars combinatoria of the Middle Ages, wherein I found the inspiration for many of my drawings including “abracadabra.” The alchemical symbols inside the little gold triangles represent mercury (mind) at the apex, sulfur (spirit) on the left, and salt (body) on the right.

setting forth from the jaws of darkness

Almost as soon as I moved into the hotel on Sixth Street, still in the early stages of recovery from a six year nightmare of heroin addiction and homelessness, I started a sketchbook as an exercise in reinventing myself. Among other things, I used the sketchbook to reconnect with my love of calligraphy and the illuminated manuscripts and decorated letters of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The exercises culminated in a small series of watercolor decorated letters, two of which paid homage to poets whose writings had influenced my life in years gone by. I offer here some pages from the sketchbook and the three watercolors for whatever they are worth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

another lifetime

“Curt McDowell and Mark Ellinger, circa 1979”

Not long after my friend Curt McDowell died, I drew this picture from a photograph of the two of us shooting a scene for his film Initiation on King Street. The drawing was a gift for Curt’s older sister Marce, who lives in Indiana where Curt grew up. It’s a shame that Curt never finished King Street. It was, or would have been, one of his best films: dreamlike, dark and moody, unsettling and prophetic,* densely layered with metaphor; it was an allegory of Curt’s self-discovery as an artist. Initiation on King Street was not Curt’s final film, but it was the last film on which I worked with him. It was another lifetime—we were so damn young.

In ’78 and ’79 Curt and I shared a flat near the foot of Utah Street at the bottom of Potrero Hill, when it was still an active industrial district. There were no condos, galleries, or jewelry marts. Our neighbors were companies like Forderer Hollow Metal Products, Best Foods, Kilpatrick’s and Hostess Bakeries, Crown Zellerbach Paper, Lone Star Concrete, Hamilton Hardware, and diners; lots of little diners that fed the factory workers, truckers, and trainmen. Most streets in our part of town were embedded with train tracks, spur lines to the area’s industries, and at night we were often serenaded by the soulful chimes of Western Pacific air horns as switching engines shuttled raw materials and finished products to and from the factories. Much of Initiation on King Street was filmed near the Southern Pacific train depot, within a cobble-stoned labyrinth of low, wooden warehouses between King and Berry Streets, stretching from Fourth Street almost to Seventh.

It was the end of an era and I deplored its passing, so to live amidst the industrial remnants of that era was a little slice of heaven. It breaks my heart to think that nearly all of Curt’s and my documentation—motion pictures, photographs, and sound recordings—has been lost, for it captured the zeitgeist of that too-brief moment in history, of which only my memories now remain.

*The film foretold Curt’s untimely death, and included an eerily prescient scene of my own mourning.

“The City” at 1:AM

"The City"

Roman Cesario has been doing some fine work in the central city and past shows at his gallery (corner of Sixth and Howard) have been worthy of note. I have seven pieces in this show, including some new cityscapes, all of them previously unexhibited and all most definitely for sale. I hope to see you at the opening—it should be a lot of fun!

the bogeyman

A couple of years ago I stumbled onto a place to which I sometimes return for an infusion of mirth and wonderment. Behold! monsters drawn by children, then redrawn by talented and sympathetic young adults on the Kid Creatures page at the delightful DrawerGeeks.com.

behm

by Mark Behm and Chase

molinaro

by ? and Deanna Molinaro (for nursemyra  –tobymarx)

bucci

by Caleb Conrad and Marco Bucci

%d bloggers like this: