The Kingdom 3: Work

Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So today we begin at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.

Sasquatch came to my house one Friday to talk about his art. We had met, the story is in this book. You have to wait for it. But let’s just say that he was an artist that specialized in paper and ink. He drew monsters and what he calls weirdos. He filled sketch books. He walked, talked, and breathed art. Was an art teacher at a middle school and hated the job. He seemed frustrated when he came into my office and seemed to have something to prove.

We had chatted on Facebook Messenger about his work and he had sent me pictures of his art. He was good. His creatures and monsters were very creative and his craftsmanship was out of the park. The guy could draw, he was gifted, and I instantly knew he was one of the best I had ever seen.

He came to my house that first night with an arm full of sketchbooks and dropped them in front of me. I started to page through them and they were nothing short of brilliant. I knew this guy was a master, he just needed a little help to get over the crippling doubt he was wrapped in.

He told me this story of the year he had gone to Comic Con. Had driven out to San Diego or where ever they have it, though he had to cross the country to do it. He spent the money, took the time, and made it all the way to California. And he went with an agenda. He wanted confirmation that he was in fact everything he wanted to be.

He went through the lines to talk to and get signatures from all his favorite artists. When he got to them, he did not buy their work and have them sign it but instead pulled his favorite sketchbooks to his most brilliant pages, handed them to the artist, and asked them to sign his sketchbook.

He got everything he wanted. A few signed the pages he wanted them to and sent him away, but most freaked out about his work. They talked about how amazing it was and how if he was out there, he would be killing them. He would be crushing everything and would be a signed artist in no time. They talked shop with him and he left that Comic Con having been validated.

But with a lot of artists that sort of validation has a shelf life. Soon the doubt will shout that good feeling down, and it had been long enough now for him to have lost what confidence they had given him. He needed more praise, and I was happy to give it.

I saw him as a person I could help, and when he hung his head and said he wanted to do art full time and teaching school was killing him, I vowed to help him get there.

“We need to get you out of the sketchbook,” I said.

“What?” He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Well you can’t sell a sketchbook and if you want to be a true artist, an artist that lives off his work, you need to make images that people can hang on the wall. You need to make things people can pay for. This sketchbook is supposed to be practice and you have made it your life. Create outside of the sketchbook and you can make some money off of what you do.”

We sat down and started talking about work. See, I had written eight novels at this point. I had goals, but no vision. I did not see three acts. All I knew was that I had started two epic series and had a few standalones that were half-way linked by characters in all of them. I told him about the books and he asked how I got it all done.

“Well, I can’t hold a job because I am mentally disabled. I can’t hold a nine-to-five with my chaotic mind, but I can come down here and devote an hour and a half to a project. That is all it takes to write 3,000 words. Just an hour and a half, and I don’t have to do it every day, but I do. And I have all night long to get there. I can sit down here while my family sleeps, and if it takes me six hours to get it done, then I can. No regular job can offer me that. So 3,000 words at a time I chop away at whatever book I am working on and I get the world done.

“My wife is as obsessed with my work as I am,” I said. “She is my biggest fan and we talk about the work all day long. We go over everything I wrote and I make a vague plan about what I will write the next day. Usually I don’t follow it, and I just, well we have made a life around it.”

“Little bit at a time,” he said.

“Well if you sit down and work for twenty hours straight then you get burnt out. Suddenly you are tired of the project and you set it aside. You don’t come back to it for a month. You got sixty pages done in one sitting, and you feel great about it, but then you didn’t write anything for a month.

“That is thirty days. Every night I write almost ten pages. So in a month writing ten pages a day, let’s say I just write on the weekdays and take the weekends off, then I have written 200 pages and I am ready for more. They did sixty in the same amount of time and they will get caught in that cycle again.

“Do that for three years, every day, taking two weeks off after each book, and you have a body of work.”

He looked at me like he had been slapped.

Sasquatch left my house that day and I promised him I would help him become a full-time artist who sells his work to pay his bills. If he got out of the sketchbook, I would help him get out of the classroom.

So he went home with his mind on fire and he pulled out a large sheet of paper. I don’t remember the dimensions, but I won’t judge it. If it is big to him that should be enough. My judgment of this size does not matter. He started on a masterpiece. It had a character he had done before, sitting on the land feature called The Devil’s Tower, singing and playing a banjo, and at his feet on the ground ran all sorts of odd monsters and other things. I do not remember that piece very well even though he showed it to me off and on for six years, but I do remember that when he was done, he had a vision.

He had decided on twenty pieces he was calling The Big Pieces. They would depict so many different scenes and together they would take up X amount of wall space. He was obsessed with how much wall space they would take up, and he envisioned a one man show displaying the project. He had images of wine and cheese, and I told him I would be with him all the way through it.

The next piece was a marvel. It showed a weird-looking dude in the center of the piece in front of a chest he was opening. Bright light was emitting from the chest, melting the man’s face, and peeling back his eyelids. The surrounding area was filled with all kinds of details from this guy’s world. He managed to show bright light in black and white. I’d never seen anything like it.

A tree stump had a face. An axe had cut an apple in half on that tree stump, and there were so many details that his main goal was reached. He told me he wanted to create a piece that people could stare at for hours and never see all the details of. “Every time they come back, I want them to see something new. Every time they stand in front of it, I want them to know they are missing things.”

And he pulled it off. I knew this guy was on fire and our goal was being reached.

Every Friday we got together at either his house or mine. Eight o’clock every Friday and we would go until midnight. We talked a lot about art and I told him my philosophies.

These were all things I had learned from Bekah. All the things she had learned over her classical art training as she prepared herself for her career in Graphic Design, with a few things that I had found myself from doing the work, day in and out, for years.

We talked about my work for about twenty minutes, then it was him. We would muse on the great work he was doing and what he was going to do. He talked about the pictures he would do next and we dreamt about the impact that the Big Twenty would have on the art world. Because there was no doubt that when he was done with this big project, the art world would take notice.

He started the next big piece and, with diligent work and an intense schedule of self-sacrifice, he got that piece done in two weeks. He called me over to his house and I jumped in the car without delay. He showed it to me and started talking about how the last day of the project had been intense.

“I know now what you mean by End of Book Mode,” he said. “Man, the final push can be intense!”

A novel, even a short one, takes at my pace at least a month and a half. The last push takes days, not one session. To call what he was doing End of Book Mode was a bit insulting. He was doing great work. But his pieces did not have the hundreds of thousands of words that mine did. His big pieces took a fraction of the time that my novels did. But I did not want to sound discouraging, and I wanted Sasquatch to ride this wave of excitement into his next piece, so I let it go and waited for the next big piece to be finished.

Four, five, and six were completed, each one more brilliant than the next. He started to experiment with piece number six and when he was done, he stood back and cocked his head to the side and frowned.

“What does it mean, though?” he said.

Now, this was my fault.

See Sasquatch had gone to grad school for Graphic Design. He had studied with a few great artists, and he had been in a painting class. That class did real damage to him. The class was supposed to create a great work of art that spoke to everyone and said something. As his classmates were reading great philosophers and trying to decide what they wanted to say with their art, he was painting. He did a piece that was impossible to decode because, while his fellow students were discovering world views and the way to express them through visual art, he was not. When his piece was shown to the class, they ripped it apart. They tore him open and in the end, they said his painting said nothing at all.

He decided he was not a painter. He decided art did not need to say anything and he told himself that the so called “Low Art” was just as valuable as “High Art.”

Low Art was comic books and cartoons. They were to be valued as high as other works by the great masters. There was no difference. And I had to talk him out of that if he was going to be a professional artist. Unless he was going to create comic books and graphic novels, he needed to start to try to infuse his work with meaning. The Big Pieces needed to say something. So the weekend before this one, I had introduced him to the work of Zhi Lin.

Zhi is a master artist who has done amazing art all his life. He is a worker and is always busy, and while Bekah studied drawing and painting under him, he was creating a true masterpiece. He was working on The Five Capital Executions of China. This is magnificent and I will hold while you go look up images of this work.

It is five massive pieces that are paint and screenprinting that depict five of the ways that China used to kill its criminals. Each depiction shows the brutality of the execution and also one breathtaking image of the culture. I do not know how long he worked on them, but he was working on those pieces while Bekah learned under him.

When I introduced Sasquatch to his work, I added that this was Bekah’s master. Lin was the man she had trained under. I saw a look on his face, and then he started to add something to his rhetoric.

There was no value, he said, in commercial art. Art done for ads and billboards, art done for logos and brochures, was whore work and did not count as real art.

He had just called my wife a whore. He had just minimized everything that she did. The awesome house she had earned had been earned by art prostitution. The comfortable life she had given us was not valuable at all.

But I had vowed to make this man a professional artist.

That is strong.

I could not make him a professional artist at all. Only he could do that. But I could provide him with every bit of encouragement as I could muster. So I let him call Bekah a whore and I moved on.

He went on a rant about how art didn’t need to say anything. Said my novels were just entertainment and they said nothing at all.

I caught him. “All of my work says the same thing. It explores the same theme,” I said. “Everything I write talks about Despair vs Hope. All of my work is a battle between these two forces. If you are not saying something with your work, you should sit down and shut up.”

So now he is looking at his sixth big piece and saying it doesn’t mean anything. He is unsatisfied and he will jump ship now. Instead of infusing the rest of the fourteen with meaning, he scraps the project all together to move on to the next one.

The Stages of the Class are coming, and with it, new problems arise. I think you can see by now that this guy will become a problem. I have to show it all to you. Not so that I might bash him. I changed his name. No one can find him. I am not bashing this man. I am showing you, through his story, why my work became what is it today and how I cemented in my mind the true scope of what my world would be.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.

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