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The Foot Eating Man

June 24th, 2015

The Foot Eating Man

In my last blog entry, I told the story of an encounter with a coworker regarding my artwork. That encounter was strange enough in its own right, but it pales by comparison to the one that I had with 'The Foot Eating Man'.

While occupying some downtime at work, I happened to be browsing my online gallery at Fine Art America. As I looked at one image after another, a relatively new coworker who had been watching over my shoulder suddenly says:

"You don't think that is ART do you? I mean... really..."
I turned to him with a bemused look on my face and asked "Why wouldn't I?"
"Well, when I look at art, I want to see something beautiful. Not headless people running around, or people with animal heads. It is ugly. I would not buy that."

After a moment of laughing at the situation, I told him that most people who actually buy art are only looking for something that matches their furniture to their drapes and have little or no interest in artwork designed to provoke thought. I was still clicking from one image to the next as I spoke. As I clicked on one image in particular, he stops me and says "You see... like THAT one... what is THAT supposed to be? I would not buy that." He was speaking of my image 'Dreaming of a Nameless Fear'.

I looked at him and dropped the bomb:

"You do realize that this is MY artwork... don't you?" I moved the pointer over ‘by John Alexander’ to emphasize my point.

The look of incredulity on his face was utterly priceless. I could almost see him eating his own foot. Before he could speak, I let him off the hook. I told him that I did not take his view personally. I explained that we are all unique individuals equipped with our very own interpretations of what we find appealing. I then scrolled down the page, showing him comment after comment after comment and said that luckily for me, there are plenty of people out there who enjoy what I do.

I pointed out that my images have purpose. While looking at ‘Dreaming of a Nameless Fear’ I said:

"You see a monstrous, headless figure chasing a terrified man across a gray and gloomy dreamscape... and you think it looks ugly." I looked at him meaningfully. "It IS meant to be ugly in a way. Look at the title… look at the description. It is an image that illustrates the terrors of subconscious fear and anxiety. In your dreams, your fears do not always have a face... which makes them even more monstrous. All of my images have such meanings. You simply have to look at them differently than the way you look at paintings of flowers or landscapes."

I am quite certain his opinion was not swayed in the least. His perception of what he finds appealing was not changed for the sake of my explanation. This does not bother me in any way. As I mentioned already, we are all unique individuals. We have our very own opinions. Not everybody looks for profound meaning in artwork. Not everybody thinks art needs to have a point.

Look at all of the artists and photographers who make a living off of flowers… plants… butterflies… boats… birds…fruit baskets… puppies and kittens. There is nothing thought provoking, nothing profound, and nothing meaningful in such things. They are easy to identify with. People buy them because they are familiar. You can go anyplace that sells art and find these images in abundance. They sell because they are easy to look at. Hell, even I can enjoy looking at familiar things.

Not everybody likes the surreal or the abstract. Not everybody wants a message. Not everybody wants to look at something profound. And of course, not everybody is going to be drawn to what I do. I am fine with that. The world of art has room for everything. I hope that in the end, people will look at what I do and find it to be important. I feel as if it is.

Despite my encounter with ‘The Foot Eating Man’ I feel quite alright with the direction I have taken creatively. I personally find quite a bit of beauty in what I do, and do not find it to be ‘ugly’ as he so pointedly stated. The Foot Eating Man can go buy a picture of a kitten sniffing a flower as far as I am concerned!

As always, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by… thank you for reading.

-John Alexander

Digital Defense

May 20th, 2015

Digital Defense

Recently, while at work, I was stopped in the hallway by a fellow coworker. He had heard that I was an artist and was wondering if I did portraits... or to be more specific... caricatures. I replied that sadly, no... I did neither. I told him that what I do is much different. As I was en route to something important, I was unable to explain in any detail what I do creatively. Instead, I told him that I have a website which displays my artwork. He expressed interest, so I wrote my address on a napkin and handed it to him. I honestly didn't put any thought into it after walking away. Over the years, I have had many people express interest in my art on the rare occasions that I have brought it up, and rarely did they have any real intention of following up with an actual visit to my site. You can well imagine my surprise when a few days later, this very same coworker stopped me in the hallway once again...

"I went to your website" he said.
"Did you really?" I replied, with a very genuine look of surprise on my face.
"Yeah, I did. You have alot of HANDS in your artwork... did your realize that?"
"Yes. I have noticed that. What a great observation by the way. Thank you for looking."
It was at this point that he kind of cocked an eyebrow, tipped his head back, and hesitantly pointed out another observation that he had made. He noticed that my work was done on the COMPUTER. I told him that he was correct. He then gave me a look and began to say "Myeah... then you didn't really MAKE them..."
Now, before I tell you how I responded, it should be known that I have long, long ago let go of being defensive over my chosen medium. Some people may take such things personally, but I honestly do not. It is only a matter of people not understanding my medium. Back to the story:
I looked at him and started to chuckle knowingly...
"Ah, I see that you are one of the misinformed. You mistakenly believe that what I do is a matter of a few points and clicks and VOILA! ART!"
"Well... that pretty much IS the way of it... right?" he asked with a look of skeptical disbelief.
"Let's just say that many of my images... many of the works that you just looked at on my website... took me over 30 hours to make. That would be an awful lot of pointing and clicking wouldn't you say?"

Once again, I did not have the time to discuss the matter further. When I left him, I do not think that his opinion had really been swayed, and that did not bother me in the least. Nor does it now. However, it did make me think of the matter once again. I used to think about it fairly often in fact. Many have looked down upon my chosen medium for quite some time. In the eyes of many, digital artwork is not acknowledged in any way that could be considered positive. It is easy to see why when you think about it. On a computer, I do not have to prepare a canvas. Nor must I mix my color palette. I have an entirely different set of tools... and no clean up. I use multiple programs for multiple purposes... each one as important as the last... and each one requiring years of dedication to master. It has taken many years for me to get to the point where I am now. Much like painting... it takes time to become good at it.

I think much of the misconceptions are derived from the way we have been brought up to view computers. Many of us older folks grew up with sci-fi movies and shows that depict computers as all powerful entities that can accomplish virtually anything they are commanded to. "Computer: paint me a landscape." Beep, boop, beep bop... (( robotic voice )) "Here is your painting... is there anything else master?"

In the real world, computers do not work in such a way. They only do what we make them to do. I know that my own particular computer has no voice command allowing me to order virtually anything I want from it. If I tell it to create a bizarre, vaguely disquieting, surreal image with a touch of social commentary as it's primary focus... I will be no closer to finishing the image than if I were to simply shout that command out of my window. Sci-fi channel be damned... I have to do it all manually.

Computer novices and those who may not be overly interested in art are not the only ones that I have known to possess such misconceptions regarding my chosen medium. Traditional artists have been thumbing their noses at digital art for as long as it has existed. Personally, I think it is rather silly. It is sort of like athletes of different sports beating their chests and saying "I am more of an athlete than those of OTHER sports". A basketball player thumbs his nose at a soccer player. A soccer player thumbs his nose at a football player. A football player thumbs his nose at a mixed martial artist etc. etc.

It really IS silly when you think about it.

At the end of the day, what really matters is what is created. As artists, we all have our own unique things that we bring to the table. Some of us have been doing it for quite some time, while others are at the beginnings of their own artistic journeys. Some of us create things that are compelling. Some of us do not. It really is in the eye of the beholder. The tools that we use to create the art within us are simply a means to an end. What difference if it is a paint brush, or a digital pen and mouse? If the finished product causes people to pause for even a moment in their own daily struggles just to stop and look... well... it must be art.

As always, thank you for taking the time to visit. Thank you for the kind words of support. Mostly, thank you for being there... wherever 'there' may be.

-John Alexander



The Tree Graveyard

February 16th, 2015

The Tree Graveyard

Many years ago, when I was roughly thirteen years old, my family went on a camping trip in the Northern woods of Wisconsin. It was a long drive from our house to the twin cabins that we had rented in the middle of the deep woods. It almost felt like torture being forced to sit still in the backseat of a beat up car for the better part of five hours... especially since I was sharing space with my younger brother and an absolute ton of luggage and supplies. It was not very comfortable, but the trip was more than worth the painfully boring ride.

The cabins were very small. When you walked into the cabin, there was a tiny kitchen/dining room that had a very small, rickety table which was only suitable for two people to barely squeeze around. Next to that was the tiny living room, two teensy bedrooms, and a bathroom the size of a closet. Outside, a small area of trees had been cleared away to form a yard. A small path lead to the boat docks which were on a small lake that was so utterly beautiful poems could have been written about it. Identical fishing boats were moored to each of the rickety boat docks.

Despite the fact that I had a water phobia (deep water literally terrified me), the fishing boat was where most of my time was spent. My father and I would take our boat out for hours on end. The boats were really glorified canoes. They had tiny, outboard motors and a set of oars in case the motor would not work (which happened fairly often). My father would sit in the back. I would sit in the front, and if my brother (who was a little over seven at the time) came along, he sat in the middle. We would take our fishing gear, our bait, and our cooler filled with beverages, and trek around the lake looking for fishing spots.

Now, when I said the lake was utterly beautiful, I was not exaggerating one tiny bit. It truly was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to in my life. However, on the far side of the lake, around a bend and in a cul de sac, there was something that we discovered to be eerie and frightening. At some point in time, this amazing lake had engulfed and drowned a section of woods. For what looked to be several acres, dead tree tops protruded from the water. None of these tree tops had any bark, so they resembled the bones of long dead trees. Many of them were still standing, while others were fallen beneath the surface and only showing the occasional branch above the water. It had a very eerie feel to it... as if it were a fell place... tainted in some way.

Naturally, we figured it would be the best place to catch fish.

We would slowly guide our little boat deep into the tree graveyard in an attempt to find the best spot to drop anchor. I would be at the front of the boat giving instructions to 'turn a little left' or 'hard right! hard right!'. Despite the dangerous nature of unseen things beneath the surface, it was something we felt compelled to do. Even my fear of the deep water could not keep me from wanting to venture into that place. After doing it several days in a row, we actually felt quite comfortable wending our way into the graveyard for the best fishing spots. I remember catching humongous Perch, Bass, Bluegills, and several other wonderful pan fish while we were anchored within the grasp of those long dead branches that resembled finger bones. Each night, we would clean those fish and eat them. It was amazing.

On the third or fourth day of our week long trip, my father and I took the boat by ourselves and headed to the tree graveyard. It was a gorgeous day for fishing. The sky above the thick wall of trees was a brilliant blue... filled with towering, bright white cumulous clouds that seemed to reach to the heavens. As we slowly made our way along the lake, nothing but the sounds of the wilderness could be heard. Once the boat was safely anchored in the heart of the tree graveyard, the water smoothed out until it looked like a sheet of glass. The occasional fish would jump. Every now and then a bird of prey would fly overhead, no doubt on its way to find some critter to eat on the other side of the lake. A more peaceful and serene setting I have never found.

We had been fishing for an hour or two when my dad saw the storm approaching. He had been dozing off a bit, and my back was to the direction the storm was coming from... I had no way of noticing its approach. When he saw it, he nearly jumped up out of his seat. I quickly looked behind me to see what had spooked him so badly, and what I saw made my blood run cold. Looming above the canopy of trees on the shore behind me was a colossal, black wall of thunderheads. As if waiting for me to notice, the thunder began to boom. The sound of wind whipping through the trees told of a rather nasty storm quickly drawing near. Soon it would be upon us in full force.

I began to haul at the anchor while my father yanked at the pull cord to start the motor. The motor would not start. Over and over again, he frantically yanked the cord to fire up the motor... all to no avail. Meanwhile the waters began to get choppy. We were in the middle of the tree graveyard and the storm was almost upon us. The hissing sound of the trees being bent by the winds caused my heart to speed up alarmingly as panic began to well up in me. Giving up on the motor, my father grabbed the oars and began to pull with all he had. It was up to me to try and guide him from the wrong end of the boat.

We had literally just cleared the outside edges of the tree graveyard when the storm hit us. The waves buffeted us alarmingly and my father put me in charge of the oars while he tried desperately to start the motor. We had a long ways to go in order to make it back to the cabins. Despite my best efforts, the storm was somehow forcing us slowly back towards part of the tree graveyard. While my father pulled and pulled and pulled at the cord for the motor, I did the same with the oars. My small arms were no match for the force of the storm.

As the finger bones of those long dead trees began to reach out for us, the sound of the motor coming to life made me so happy that I nearly burst into tears. That little outboard motor had enough gusto to push us through the large, choppy waves, and slowly but surely, we made our way safely back to the little cabins in the woods. The sky was nearly black, and the tree tops were bent towards us at quite an angle, but we made it back to our rickety little boat dock intact. Despite looking a bit like drowned rats, we were none the worse for wear.

That night, when nobody was looking. I swiped a few cans of beer. They went down well. I slept better that night than any of the other nights we spent there.

We didn't go back to the tree graveyard for the rest of that trip.

The Gift Of Music In Life.

January 20th, 2015

The Gift Of Music In Life.

As important as art is to me... music is all of that and much, much more. I am sitting here listening to the incomparable Rodrigo y Gabriella and thinking once again about just how much of an impact music has had on my life... and on me as a human being. No matter what happens in life, I can turn to music. Whether in times of joy or sorrow, music is a constant solace to my spirit. It has saved me in more ways than I can say. I can remember the time in my life when music became the most important thing in my world....

In 1983 I was a troubled fifteen year old kid in a dysfunctional home. My family was poor. We lived in a very poor housing project, which meant that all of my friends were poor as well. We were dead end kids with very little hope of a future. Every phase of my life was filled with extreme adversity. I can remember one of my very first escapes from the tribulations of my difficult childhood... baseball. At the age of eleven, I discovered baseball cards. I was immediately hooked on collecting them. I was an amazing wheeler dealer when it came to cards. I had a knack for finding kids who had old cards sitting forgotten in shoe boxes in their bedrooms. Sometimes they had belonged to older siblings who didn't want them anymore. Other times they were just things collecting dust. At any rate, I would trade whatever toys I could to acquire those forsaken treasures.

By the time I reached the age of fourteen I had nearly 10,000 cards. I had cards that were worth ALOT of money at the time that I owned them... and I was absolutely fanatical about their care and upkeep. Every single valuable card was treated with utter reverence and kept in protective plastic. It was the one non destructive escape that I had.

They were an obsession that lasted until I turned fifteen. It was at that time that things seemed the most difficult for me as a child. My home life was... bad. The adversity of my life at home caused severe repercussions in every other phase of my life. I was constantly getting into trouble. I struggled everywhere I turned. My friends were not much better off than I was. Then, one day I heard about an upcoming baseball card show at the local mall. Normally, I would have been excited to go. Card shows were rare... and when they did happen, it was better than going to Disney as far as I was concerned. I was excited this time for another reason. A plan had formed in my mind.

I packed up my entire collection (which was no small feat) and loaded it into my best friends car. We drove to the card show so that I could sell my beloved collection. I had too many problems with too much complexity to enjoy the simple pleasures of collecting anymore. The escape they had provided simply lost its luster.

When I arrived at the card show, I found a dealer and showed him what I had to sell. Now, I have to tell you... not only was I meticulous... I was EXTREMELY knowledgeable when it came to baseball card collecting. I KNEW what I had. I KNEW the value of every single card in my collection. I also knew how badly the dealer was trying to rob me with his incredibly lowball offer. But... I had a plan. Despite the fact that I probably was paid one tenth of what the collection was worth... I took the deal with a smile. You see, the only thing that I cared about was THE PLAN.

As soon as the cash was in my hand, my friends followed me to the Radio Shack at the other end of the mall, where I bought the biggest Boom Box radio in the store... along with the batteries needed to run that behemoth. Next, we went to the record store. I bought an entire stack of heavy metal cassettes. As long as I live I will never forget the excitement on the faces of my friends. They were my true family. They were just like me... kids with nothing. Kids with no hope of ever HAVING anything. When we left the mall with my brand new radio (which was the meanest radio you ever laid your eyes on), along with all of our favorite heavy metal tunes, each and every one of us felt a hope that we never had before.

It was the ultimate sacrifice for that fifteen year old version of me.

Recently, I decided to check up on the value of that old collection. Me and a buddy looked online at card after card from that amazing collection of my past. The dollar value would have been a staggering thing to tally up. I have never once regretted my decision to sell those cards. Not even after seeing how valuable they are now. You see, the music that I bought on that day... it saved me. Time and time again, it saved me. It saved my friends too. We were dead end kids. We had nothing before I made that sacrifice. After, we had the music and all of the joy that it could provide. Everywhere we went, that music went with us. We took turns carrying that monstrously heavy radio... volume cranked up the entire time... and it made all of our lives that much better.

In the decades since, music has never lost its importance. No matter where I am. No matter what I am doing. Music is with me. It is a gift beyond value.

As always, thank you for reading. -John Alexander

Helpless

December 29th, 2014

Helpless

I just woke from a dream. It was such a vivid dream that I decided to capture it and share what I saw...

My family... we needed a getaway. Through some fortunate twist, my brother in law invited us to spend the weekend with his family in an amazing home in the northern woods of Wisconsin. The home belonged to friends of his... who apparently, were traveling abroad. It was a large, white, early 1900's style house. It looked to have been built for a rather large, fairly affluent family. It actually had three floors, which is something that I rarely encounter. I cannot even begin to tell you how many rooms were contained in this marvelous dwelling, but each room was furnished very comfortably and never actually felt excessive. Our kiddo, along with her two cousins, immediately loved the place and took to the yard the moment we arrived. Despite being surrounded by the deep woods, there was plenty of yard space for the kids to run around and play. In the back yard was the shoreline of a private lake. It was absolutely beautiful, very placid and serene. No other properties shared the lake, which only added to the sense of peaceful solitude. It was fairly large... no mere private puddle was this. A motorboat would have plenty of space to be comfortable as the far shore could be seen a few miles in the distance.

As the kids ran around in the yard, we grown ups took the time to unpack and get settled in. After spending the day relaxing together, plans were made to head into a nearby small town for dinner. Unfortunately, I had come down with a rather severe migraine headache. I reluctantly had to bow out of the dinner plans. So... I found myself in that amazing house by myself as the sun was beginning to set. I decided to go outside to pick up all of the toys that lay strewn about, while I was at it I would sit on the shore and quietly watch the sunset.

As I picked up baseball gloves, bats, soccer balls, and the various other things that had been left in the yard, I noticed an air mattress that was beginning to drift away from the shore. "Shit... I'm gonna have to go get that...". I was not dressed for the occasion, so I literally had to run inside to jump into my swimsuit. When I made it back outside, the sun was a burning disk that looked as if it were about to plunge out of sight directly across the beautiful like. The water was as smooth as glass, broken here and there by the random jumping fish. Meanwhile, the air mattress was slowly making its escape.

It should be known that I am not a strong swimmer.

Ignoring the urge to cringe away from the cold water, I waded in to recover the wayward air matress, which was only twenty yards or so away from me. Unfortunately, the water deepened alarmingly fast. I found myself neck deep well before reaching the mattress. I was able to swim the rest of the way to the mattress without incident. Once I reached it, I noticed that I was farther away from the shore than I had expected. Normally, I would have gotten a bit panicky in that situation, I was alone, and not terribly confident in deep water. On top of that, my head was hurting very badly. I was nauseous and a bit weak. In spite of my condition, I was struck by the vision of the sunset. The sun was just touching the horizon and sinking fast as I struggled onto the air mattress. Once onboard I was able to see the scene before me a bit more comfortably. The sunset looked so utterly amazing it nearly took my breath away. The sunset, the sounds of the woods, and the gentle sound of fish jumping in the distance helped to create a sense of absolute peace. It was sublime.

Unfortunately, the moment passed quickly. My sense of peace would be irreversably shattered as moments after climbing onto the mattress, I saw something that made my heart stop cold in my chest. Near the far end of the lake, above the trees to the right of the shore, a burning arrow arced its way towards the water. As I looked closer, I could see that it was no arrow... it was a small private airplane. Nearly the entire plane was engulfed in flames as it plunged like a javelin into the far end of the lake. I knew that I was the only human being to see it.

Without thinking, I began to urgently paddle my way across the lake. My terror of the deep water was by no means forgotten as I lay on my stomach and tried to keep some semblance of a rhythm. I knew that if I lost my place on the mattress, I would most assuredly drown. This simple fact was not lost on me as I paddled as quickly as I could towards the place where I thought the plane hit the water. I knew it would be full dark before long, so I arm paddled at a nearly frantic pace... all the while asking myself just what the hell I thought I was going to accomplish in the first place.

As the shore drifted slowly away, my arms began to burn with strain, and my breathing came in harsh gasps. My head thumped and throbbed so hard that my vision began to get spotty. I could no longer tell exactly where I thought the plane had hit the water. There was no debris. There were no sounds of struggle. It was almost as if the plane had never existed. The lake had resumed its nearly unbroken glassy surface. I could hear the sounds of the woods in the distance... the creatures of the night were beginning to stir. The occasional fish jumping was the only sound on the lake to accompany my frantic paddling. It was nearly dark when I realized the air mattress was slowly deflating beneath me.

I could no longer see the shore in any direction.

Panic began to set in. Before long, the mattress had deflated badly enough for me to actually roll off of it. When I regained the mattress, I lay across it in a way that let me paddle my arms and kick my legs. My breathing was the harsh panting of pure panic. My muscles burned with fatigue... yet I continued on. With no idea where I was in relation to anything, the stars looked down on my struggle. As I began to thrash madly on an air mattress that in mere moments would no longer support my weight, I felt something grab my left ankle in an iron grip. Some ghastly hand had reached up from the depths to lock on to me with such furious strength that my leg was immediately pulled beneath the surface of the water. As I began to be dragged violently under... I awoke.

I sat up in bed... rubbed my face with both hands... and got up. No more sleep. That ship had sailed.

Thank you for reading. -John Alexander

PS: I apologize for not having any closure on the airplane. I suppose I could have 'made something up', but that would not have been what I dreamed.

The Survival Sense

December 12th, 2014

The Survival Sense

It is funny how the memory can selectively remove things and pack them away for a time much, much later in life. These things get packed into a box and tucked away nicely in whatever place your mind has room. A closet... a deep dark well... a vault... whatever seems the most fitting. Once they are out of sight, they become nonexistent until that moment in time when the mind demands a recall. I suppose it varies from person to person just how many things get packed away, and how often the mind decides to unpack them again. For me, every now and then I find myself in the midst of some menial task, thoughts wandering willy nilly while focusing on whatever it is I am in the middle of, when all of a sudden... BAM! ... a long lost chapter in my life suddenly drives to the forefront of my mind.

Today, for no apparent reason, my mind decided it was time to recall something from a very long time ago...

Nearly thirty years ago, I found myself walking alone on the shoulder of a two lane road that was almost, but not quite a highway. It was an absolutely beautiful summer day. Blue skies, towering white cumulous clouds, and just enough heat to wish for a poolside seat where one could enjoy the scenery. I was in the area of eighteen years old when this story takes place. While I have physically filled out quite a bit since then, at the time I was a lanky kid... pretty much all muscle and bone. I stood five foot nine and weighed around a hundred fifty pounds. Despite not being a very sizeable young man, I was in good shape and knew how to take care of myself.

The road I found myself traveling wound a flat and curvy path of roughly a mile and a half, maybe two miles long. It was bookended on one end by a very bad neighborhood, and a busy street which led to another bad neighborhood at the other end. At almost exactly the halfway point of this road was the end of a runway to the airport in our city. A very tall, chain link fence kept people from tresspassing on airport property. It also kept people from getting run over by airplanes. On both sides of the road tall, marshy reeds crowded the gravel shoulder in both directions. With the bad neighborhood a fair distance behind me, I was nearing the point in the road where the airport could be seen off to my right.

As I walked, almost no cars passed me by. Maybe a car here, and a car there. Otherwise, nothing but me could be seen traveling the road. There were no buildings. There were no sidewalks. There were no trees or people. Just me, the road, and the reeds. I was enjoying my solitary walk when suddenly I could hear a car approaching from behind me... I could hear it slowing down... then it was right next to me... slowly keeping pace with me. I turned my head left to see what the hell this person wanted, and what I saw made my blood go all icy. It took a great deal of willpower to hide the fear I felt.

It was a beat up, blue four door car that kept pace with me. The make and model I cannot even be sure of... I didn't take time to notice that. What riveted my attention was the driver. Judging by the amount of space he took up in the drivers seat, it was obvious that he was a very large, and very solid human being. He did not have the appearance of having any body fat... very broad shoulders and thickly muscled arms gave the impression that this was an extremely powerful man. His face could be perfectly captured in a single word... vicious. He looked to be in his late twenties and had all of the appearance of a man freshly released from a penitentiary. For whatever reason, this person saw me walking by the roadside with nobody around to see, and he decided to pull up alongside me. There was such malice in his glare that it sent shivers down my spine. The car windows were down. No sound came from inside... no words were spoken in the moment that I looked in. I played it very cool... a gift that I was thankfully born with... and turned my head back to the road and continued walking as if nothing were amiss.

After twenty or thirty steps, the car began to pull away. Keeping my cool, I continued walking. As the car got farther away, my sense of unease suddenly worsened. Roughly a quarter of a mile up the road the brake lights went on. Up ahead, on the left, was a deserted service road that dead ended at the site of an empty utility building that was waiting to be demolished. Trees surrounded the service road, making it hard to even notice. The viscious looking man in the blue car was turning onto the service road!

Without hesitation, the very moment that his line of sight was broken, I turned and dove into the reeds. Having the presence of mind to not leave any discernable trace of entry, I quickly made sure that the reeds still stood up straight, before ducking down and running deeper into them. Luckily, the reeds were very tall... several inches taller than me. I ran carefully into the reeds until I found a spot that I was able to safely duck out of sight. I found a spot maybe thirty yards from the road... one with a vantage that allowed me to see through to the road, yet remain unseen. Peering through gaps in the reeds, I was able to see where the car had turned. Standing stock still, I watched and waited.

After about ten... maybe fifteen minutes... my legs began to shake. I was standing in brackish, mucky water that reached halfway to my knees. My shoes were completely submerged. In order to see the road in a way that gauranteed I could not be seen, I was forced to stand in an awkward way with my knees bent. Just when I thought 'fuckit... I'm just gonna sit down' I saw the front end of the car poke out of the trees. He was waiting. I could almost see him looking my direction to see just where the hell I had gotten off to. I am pretty sure that he had been waiting there out of sight... waiting for me to walk past. After a minute or two, he slowly pulled out and turned his car my direction.

Slowly, he began driving towards me.

I started to feel panicky. I knew that there would be no way that he could know where I was, but worse case scenerios will inevitably play out in your mind during such moments of duress. As the car slowly drew nearer to my hiding spot, I began to wonder if I had concealed my entrance well enough. Did the reeds look natural? Did they look slightly different? Would he stop to investigate and notice my trail just inside the reeds? Was this going to be like the countless slasher films I had grown up watching? As the car got close enough for me to actually see the driver, I could see him looking intently at the reeds on both sides of the road. He was driving at a virtual crawl. For gods sake, why was there absolutely no traffic I wondered. Usually there were at least SOME cars... sometimes ALOT of cars. That day there were nearly none.

When the car drew even with my hiding spot I felt the world slip into slow motion. I saw his face clearly as he looked into the reeds that concealed me. I swear to you now that it felt as if the reeds had suddenly become invisible... insubstantial... and I was fully exposed. This of course was not true. Despite looking directly into the reeds where I was hiding, he kept driving by at that terrifyingly slow pace... all the while looking first this way, then the other way. I watched him drive slowly away until his car eventually was lost to my sight.

Despite the shaking in my legs... and the nearly agonizing cramping from standing in that bent and awkward position... I never moved a muscle. There I stood, nearly knee deep in marshy water, hidden in the reeds during the middle of the day. I was at least a fifteen to twenty minute walk in either direction away from any sort of reprieve. There was nobody to help me if this psychopath happened upon me on the road again. Did he have a gun in that car? A knife? A tire iron? Looking at the size of the guy... would that have even mattered one way or another? I mentioned that I was in great shape and that I could take care of myself. I was also very real about my chances of survival against a MUCH larger man who looked as if he had a savage streak that had already been punished long term in the penal system. It would be safe to say I was pretty much shitting myself as I hid there in the reeds that day.

I remained exactly where I was... motionless as a statue... for at least another ten minutes. Just when I thought that I could not stand there any longer, I saw his car slowly approaching once again. Not moving an inch, I crouched there watching. When he passed me by, his head was still scanning the reeds on both sides of the road. He continued to creep along until finally passing the service road that he had previously hidden upon. Not much further down the road I saw his car pick up speed and finally drive away. Still, I could not muster the courage to simply walk back to the road and continue my solitary journey. Rather, I began to pick my through the reeds in the direction that I had come from in the first place. I had been on my way to visit friends in an old neighborhood where I once lived. It no longer seemed like something I wanted to do... I just wanted to be safe at home for some reason.

After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to make it back home. It was really a commando style trip back to my house, filled with paranoid visions of each and every car containing a psychotic former inmate looking for a fresh victim. But in time... I found my way safe and sound.

It really is funny to me... the fact that I had not even thought about this little event in several decades. I truly had forgotten about it. This event was a perfect example of how survival instincts can kick in at the drop of a hat. No matter where you are, if the situation demands it... your survival senses WILL take over.

Thank you for reading! -John Alexander

The Bitter Taste of Defeat

October 31st, 2014

The Bitter Taste of Defeat

Over the years, I have participated in many contests, been nominated for this and that, and have been in the running for various awards concerning my artwork/website. While I have been fortunate enough to have won some of those contests, gotten nominations for the occasional odd thing, and recieved various awards, I have far more often seen the works of others chosen before my own. Given the fact that I am a full grown adult, I have been pretty good at taking these things in stride. I am just happy to have people enjoy my work. Sadly, this was not always the case...

When I was nine years old, my art teacher told our class about a special contest that was being held. The school was having a painting contest for the fourth and fifth graders! Each student would do a painting of their own choosing and put it on display in the gymnasium. The gallery would be left standing for two days so that each class from every grade could view the paintings and vote for their favorites. At the end of the second day, the whole school would gather in the gymnasium and the winner would be announced! It was going to be a very fun thing for everybody.

At the time, I happened to be a rather creative (but extremely misbehaved) fourth grader. I was very good at drawing things like tanks, airplanes, and cars... old roadsters happened to be a specialty of mine. For my painting, I thought very hard on what I wanted to do. I finally settled on what I thought would make a really cool thing to hang on a wall... I painted an old car ( it looked like a roadster from the 30's ) driving down a road. The sun could be seen hanging in a cloudy blue sky with snow clad mountains in the background. An airplane could be seen flying in the distance. I worked very, very hard on this painting and was quite proud of it.

When the gallery was set up, I simply could not wait to get into the gym to see how my painting looked hanging up next to everybody else's works. When I found it, I was very excited. I had taken the time to look at each and every other painting in the gym and honestly liked mine more than any other. Finally, it was time to hear who the winner was. I waited with nervous anticipation as the principal stood up and prepared to read the winners name off of the little card he held...

Well, before I can tell you what you may be already guessing at, I have to tell you about a little something that happened a few months prior to this contest. Some of you may have heard of a little movie called Star Wars. No? Well... it was a snazzy little space movie that literally every single child in the known universe worshipped in a positively biblical way ( myself included of course ). It had just hit the movie theatres. You may be wondering, why would this have any relevance in a story about a painting contest held a long time ago in an elementary school far far away? It's simple... nearly every painting in the building had to do with, you guessed it... Star Wars.

So. There I sat with bated breath as the principal read the name that was written on his little card. I closed my eyes, so nervous about inevitably being thrust into the spotlight. When he read my name out loud, I had no idea what I was going to do! As you no doubt have surmised, the name on that little card did not sound anything like MINE. I opened my eyes first in bewilderment, then with utter shock at the realization that everybody was clapping loudly for another kid instead of me!

I sat in stunned silence as the principal was joined by our art teacher in front of the winning painting. The boy who won was a fellow fourth grader from the same class as me. While the student body continued clapping, he was asked to join the principal and art teacher before his painting. When the clapping began to die down, the principal asked him to describe the painting for everybody. I will be happy to describe it in my own words...

The painting depicted a heated space battle between the evil empire and the heroic rebel forces... one of the many space battles depicted in the gymnasium that day. Imperial star destroyers ( lopsided triangles ) shot at x-wing fighters ( lopsided flying x's ). Lopsided stars could be seen in the convoluted background, along with the 'death star' ( a lopsided circle with another lopsided circle inside of it ). Triangles, X's, and 'shooting lines' covered the entire painting. It was a big hit... a REALLY big hit.

I was not impressed.

Not only was I not impressed... I was angry. I felt my cheeks color red with rage. I felt my hands tighten into fists. 'How can you people not see that those are just triangles and X's??' I wanted to shout. C'mon man... a SECOND GRADER could have painted that! Look at my CAR! It has doors... it has spoked wheels that look like they are spinning! Look at the AIRPLANE! It has wings. It has a propeller and a cockpit! The mountains even have SNOW on them for crying out loud! My god! There are at least fourteen other paintings just like the one he did! I demand a recount! YOU PEOPLE ARE BLIND! YOU... YOU... ER... oops... sorry... this is just a story about something that happened a long time ago in an elementary school far far away.

Back to the story:

I did not demand a recount. Nor did I accost anybody regarding their choice to vote for the epic star wars battle scene. I did feel deeply upset though. In my young mind I had won that contest. I have to wonder though, if I were able to see those paintings side by side today... would I feel the same way? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I cannot say for sure what I may think now. What I CAN say is that as a nine year old boy, I did not like The Bitter Taste of Defeat. I did not feel like congratulating my fellow classmate on his victory. Nor did I feel the need to compliment his painting. I sulked. I pouted. I acted like a big, fat, baby. When I realized how I was acting, I felt deeply ashamed of myself. I wanted to be better than that... more than I wanted to win the contest in fact. Losing felt miserable. Acting like a loser felt even more awful.

Until today, I had not thought about this life event for many, many years. When the memory of it hit me, it brought a big smile to my face. It was my very first art contest after all. Despite all of my hard work, I fell short of victory. At the time it seemed like winning that contest was somehow an important thing. I do not even know why I felt that way. But The Bitter Taste of Defeat taught me something about myself. It taught me that losing sucks, but acting in a way that makes you ashamed of yourself is worse.

Luckily, the lesson has carried on in life.

Why SirJohn

August 4th, 2014

Why SirJohn

I began to teach myself how to use computers in the early fall of 1999. At that time, my place of employment had a 'resource center' for its employees to educate themselves in various manners... one of which was computers. I saw a sign up sheet for a basic computer course and jumped on the opportunity to get some free knowledge. Prior to that little 20 minute course, the only thing that I knew about computers was how to turn my old roommates Apple on so that I could play a few video games. Beyond that... zilch.

As I sat down to one of the many computers in the room, my fellow 'classmates' (six or seven in all) were asked to create a username for the training program we were to use. The program went a little like this: (image of a mouse onscreen) 'This is a MOUSE. Look at the little arrow on your screen... that is your POINTER. The MOUSE controlls your POINTER!' etc. etc. Anyway, sitting at the computer to the right of me was a tiny little old lady who had worked for over 30 years in the facility and had never used a computer in her life. I was unaware that she was watching what I was doing until I chose the username 'SirJohn' for my login. No idea why I chose that name, but the sweet little old lady looked at me with a mischievous look in her eye and said 'Why hello 'SirJohn', nice to meet you!'. From that time on, whenever I saw her walking in the hallways, she ALWAYS said 'Hello SirJohn'.

Since then, my username has always been SirJohn. Through all of the years sharing my work online at SirJohns World, that little old lady, Rose was her name, has been a fond memory for me. She passed away some years back. I still miss her smile.

A story from long ago.

August 4th, 2014

A story from long ago.

Many years ago, back when I was a teenager attending high school... drawing was something of a compulsion for me. Literally every notebook, assignment, quiz, test, or scrap of paper that came my way would end up with drawings and doodles scrawled upon them. From time to time those very doodles and drawings would draw the attention of others. Fellow students as well as teachers would comment on them on a fairly regular basis... sort of.

I say 'sort of' for a very good reason... I was habitually truant. Skipping school was more than just a little rebelious 'ism' that would rear its ugly head from time to time. It was a habit that became so firmly established I actually had teachers NOT recognize me when I eventually showed up for their class!

Anyway, not to wander off topic here... I was talking about drawings and doodles and the occasional attention they would be given. I want to share an observation of those doodles that has stuck with me all the years since it was shared with me in a classroom that I rarely visited.

One day I showed up for a class that I seldom frequented, I do not even know what class it was after all this time. In typical fashion, I had no books, notebooks, assignments, papers, or writing utensils. As was usually the case when I showed up to a class in this manner, I would borrow a pencil and some paper from one of the students sitting near me. Once pencil and paper were secured I would spend the rest of the class doodling. On this particular day, while doodling happily to myself... the girl who sat in front of me turned around in her desk to face me. With a look of absolute hostility and disgust she said:

"Why do you even bother to show up?? All you ever do is ignore everybody and draw those pictures that only YOU can understand!"
to which I replied:
"At least I showed up!"

I suppose the reason that I felt compelled to share this silly and possibly pointless story is because it still feels relevant to me several decades later. I feel like this girl must have been on to something that day. When I create the images that you see on this website... they have a very solid meaning to me. They are more often than not inspired by very real things that have either happened to me, or that have been observed by me. These images possess a clarity that all too often must only be seen by me. For the longest time now, my works have gone largely unnoticed. Despite whatever efforts I put into self promotion, the average Joe really doesn't seem to care for these oddly disquieting images that I am apt to create. Still, I love to create them... even if it often seems as if that girl was right on the money all those years ago. Perhaps it is true... perhaps only I can understand them!

Yet, that girl seemed to miss the point as far as I am concerned. I could understand her ire to be sure. Here was a girl who worked hard, got good grades, never broke the rules. It must have been terribly frustrating for her to see me pretty much come and go as I pleased. Each time that she did see me, what she saw was me creating something of my own as opposed to 'doing what I was supposed to be doing'. She didn't understand my drawings because she didn't want to understand them. If she had LOOKED at them a bit closer... if she would have allowed her mind to take in what she was looking at... maybe, just maybe she might have had a bit of understanding. Maybe she would have seen that whatever HER interpretations of those drawings may have been would have been just as correct as my own were when I created them.

Or maybe she was right after all! Who knows? Who cares? Now, if you will excuse me... I have some creating to do!

-John Alexander