May 5


I started drawing at a very young age. Drawing was probably the only thing I was good at when I was young. I wasn’t particularly smart or athletic. I remember my father speculating that drawing is probably the reason why my handwriting was so poor. That was something I would keep on hearing many more years later. Growing up with three sister and not many boys my age around my neighborhood, I tended to entertain myself by playing G.I. Joes, video games, or drawing. I loved drawing. I would draw anything. I even remember copying illustrations from encyclopedias as practice. Later on, in elementary through high school, I got heavily interested in comic books. If you look at the back of my notebooks, they would all be filled with super hero illustrations. I thought I could be a comic book illustrator someday. Whenever the opportunity came, I participated in art contests. They were good experiences even when I didn’t win. They taught me at a young age how to work on specific themes and that art, at least art that pays, is often creating what others want you to make, and not what you want to do.

I didn’t attend art classes until I was grade nine. By that time, not to brag, I was already more skilled than the kids in my class. I was not sure if I learned any skills in high school art classes except for how to mat and frame works. The thing that I value most is learning about art history. My teacher tried to wean us from drawing cartoons and teach us about composition and learn about the masters in art history. It worked. I stopped trying to become a comic book illustrator and no longer drew heroes for my friends to hang on their walls. I was more interested in high art. I remember learning about Chiaroscuro and selling my first piece on canvas to one of my English teachers. It was a poor imitation to Chiaroscuro’s style depicting the piercing of Christ’s side. I think I sold it for $80 Canadian.

It was during high school when I first started developing my small drawing style. Oddly enough, my first piece done this way was made for an English project. I remember it was made mostly of lines and scenes from Hamlet, culminating in the death of Ophelia, the prince’s most innocent victim. I continued drawing with the same drawing style throughout university. There were times when I tried to move away from small drawings, venturing into sculpture and even making gigantic drawings, some measuring around 15 or 20 meters wide. But I kept coming back to the small drawings. I was encouraged mostly by my thesis professor, who despite me saying I was growing desperately bored of being hunched over drawing and writing small words, he told me that it was quite unique to hear of an artist being bored and yet unable to stop drawing. I have to continue making small drawings until my eyes fail me.

That was many years ago. I still haven’t stopped. Vision is still 20/20.

These days, I draw for the sake of drawing. I draw because I have to. I draw to whisper secrets onto the paper and in doing so momentarily free my mind from their burdens. I regret that I didn’t follow through on being a comic book illustrator. I regret that I didn’t explore how to become an illustrator for encyclopedias. Now and then, I regret missing out on learning how to tattoo and developing my own style of body art. I regret not working on being a commercial artist. But then again, maybe that would further discourage me from making art. Work sometimes takes the joy out of something you would do for free.

I don’t draw to make money. If some of my works sell, then it’s a blessing, but I don’t draw to sell my works. My images are not putting food on my table. I draw to show my works if the opportunity arises, but creating shows or making works to sell at shows are not my motivation. If it were, then maybe I’d be selling more works. I draw because I have to; it is a need. I do appreciate the little audience I have and am grateful to those who enjoy and have purchased my works. Even if people don’t buy them. Even if people just stop and stare for a second at a piece hanging on a wall. I am truly grateful for their time. I have no illusion that I will be a famous artist someday. That is why I appreciate the people who stop and enjoy my art when I know there are far better artists that they could (and should) be looking at.

So what is the point of all of this? The point is, drawing and making art doesn’t have to have a distinct purpose. You don’t need to make art to sell or to show people or to do whatever. You could just be making art just because you want to or need to. That is not particularly insightful and I know I’m not the first person to say that, but I think it is particularly true in my case. There are times when I am totally sick and bored of making art. I am left uninspired. But this need, this itch, this monkey on my back keeps me making more images. It pushes me to make something even when it is ugly as sin.

Sometimes people make art for no reason. They just enjoy it.

Sometimes people make art for no reason, even when they don’t enjoy it. They just have to.

 

May 22


A friend of mine died recently. A few years ago, he came out with his HIV diagnosis… then a few days later, he confessed his love for me. I’m a cis gender male. He knew this. But it was something he just needed to simply get off his chest. He wasn’t asking for anything, nor was I expected to do anything about it but listen. In the spirit of confessing his health crisis at the time, I suppose it was time for him to come out with his feelings as well.

That was a healthy thing to do.

If you love someone, regardless of what the circumstances are, tell them. It doesn’t have to be reciprocated. We’re all grown-ups, and love doesn’t work that way. In any case, just tell them. Best case scenario, such feelings might eventually be reciprocated. At the very least, it tells that person that whatever they’re doing, they must be doing something right since someone loves or admires them.

This was a good lesson that he demonstrated. He also showed that a good life is possible despite a dire reality. The looming shadow of a grim health diagnosis can be very difficult to get over, but as he later moved on to a simpler life, he appeared happy… I’d say even much happier at times compared to when I used to hang out with him. Maybe it’s because he was more honest with things. Maybe it’s because he was closer to his family at the time. Who knows? But I noticed that after his diagnosis, he seemed more upbeat, or at least more fulfilled with what I would’ve foolishly judged as a simpler, slower existence at the time.

Rest well, buddy. It was good knowing you. I wish I was a much better friend, however. I guess now you’ll know the ultimate truth about your online “prison skanks.” 

Joseph Reyes

June 11


I’m old enough to remember when work doesn’t have to involve the Internet. The Internet connection in my office is currently inconsistent, and work grinds to a halt.

I remember a few months ago when a fire damaged the phone tower near my place; and the Internet and phone lines were down for 24 hours. Initially, I was wandering the street, trying to find answers to why I can’t contact the outside world. I was asking strangers what was happening. Many of them didn’t have answers. It was a weird feeling, not being able to contact anyone by phone, not even the police. The CCTV cameras were all useless as well. It was like a great time for a purge-type of scenario.

Many of the stores I went to would only take cash. The restaurants wouldn’t feed me as well because their card readers couldn’t connect to the Internet. Hard cash was vital again. We were thrown back to the 80s.

Eventually, my wife and I sorted out what happened through word of mouth (you know, like they used to do back when people were curing diseases with leeches), and she spent the night knitting and listening to the radio. It was like we were at a bomb shelter.

I could list all of the things as to why the Internet has become so vital to our everyday existence, but that list would encompass almost everything. Heck, it swung the election in many countries, most significantly the US! But yeah, right now, our dependence on it is making me waste my day as I type this entry on my Website to be posted at a later time when I finally get a consistent connection.

The goddamned country is leading the world in 5G connectivity, and yet the genius IT people in my building can’t get their act together. 

 

April 23


The problem with being depressed is that even in times of happiness and contentment you know that it’s all fleeting, that it’s just a temporary refuge from the next wave of overwhelming depression. Smiles and laughs all seem a bit disingenuous and a part of me feels that everything is just performance. Everything is all just a façade that’s built on a very delicate house of cards which is bound to collapse the minute one thing goes wrong.

This is why it is extremely difficult being happy. How can one be truly happy when everything could go wrong in a minute? You are grateful, content, and happy for the way things are, then suddenly you have egg in your face. You had it wrong all this time. You have tons of memories that not only make you insecure and paranoid they also hamper your libido.

These past few years, to my detriment, I’ve become too cynical. See, you can’t be too cynical in life; otherwise, you’ll turn people off. A couple of times, my classmates have noted that I tend to come up with weird answers during class, and that I’m often on the negative side of things. I had to tone that down a bit, lest I alienate myself in class. Now my biggest outlet for my cynicism is my artwork and Twitter. Yes, Twitter… the one social networking service where most people are not trying to pretend that they are living great lives. Most people are miserable on that site.



I’ve been too busy with work and moving apartments lately. It’s been really hectic at work, and at home. I’m often packing stuff or throwing away stuff lately. Throwing away old things has its cathartic effect, but I’m still busy. Then there’s also class. It’s been very difficult finding time to make art. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit depressed lately. I feel like I have a messed up life and I can’t make anyone happy (I am seriously incapable of making anyone happy. It’s my handicap.)… and I don’t even have art to pour all of that misery on to. 

May 31


There is an old article in Scientific American about letting go of self-esteem. The whole thing boils down to people’s quest to build themselves up and their own expectations for the future inevitably leads to unhappiness and disappointment. Now, I don’t really know how one can scientifically measure happiness, but I get it.

Prior to the 60s, most children were raised with great expectations from their parents. But instead of being praised and being taught that they are special, things were rather Spartan. You earn your praise. You follow your parents’ or society’s expectations and make something of yourself. Maybe afterwards, people will say something nice about you.

Then ‘Mr. Rogers; Neighborhood’ came along and Fred Roger’s rather Christian message of every child being special change most of the way children are raised. Every child is now special just by virtue of existing. They have gifts and unique features which should be nurtured, and every child should not be ashamed of what they are, including their personal weaknesses. Detractors however saw this as children being raised to be weak or “everyone getting a participation trophy.”

In any case, both ways of raising children look at increasing one’s self-esteem, be it via earning it through hard work or just as a God-given virtue common to all human beings. In a capitalist society, this self-esteem is mostly reflected by what one owns and has accomplished: the size of your house, your education, the car you drive, the attractiveness of your wife, etc. The Scientific American article argues that by basing our self-esteem in such lofty external and materialistic goals, we often find ourselves frustrated in the pursuit, disappointed in our failures, and surprised at how short-lived the satisfaction we experience after achieving our goals. It’s almost like the article was written by a hippie or a communist, but there is truth to the whole thing. As poor as Nepal is, the country ranks as the highest in the happiness and self-fulfillment index among the world’s nations. Apparently, you don’t have to have all of the nice things to be happy. You don’t have to believe that you’ll amount to something either.

The hitch to this whole thing is that I believe already have low self-esteem and yet I’m not happy. That’s a really weird statement coming from someone who has his own Web site which nobody visits, but I really think it’s true. I don’t see myself very highly. And each morning, I wake up thinking that if I could find something to be truly happy about for an hour, then it’s a good day. Happiness is fleeting. And the problem with being truly happy is that you get so lost in it that you don’t watch yourself when things inevitably turn sideways. Afterwards, you get even more depressed. Happiness is a puppy. Things are good until you’re mourning outside a vet.

According to Scientific American, don’t even bother getting that puppy. You probably don’t deserve it. You are a degenerate, and nobody truly cares about you or loves you. You will amount to nothing and that puppy will end up starving. Learn to live with these truths and be happier with the little things in life. 

 

June 18


There is an interesting documentary on the works of the late Norval Morrisseau, ‘There Are No Fakes’. Morrisseau started the Woodland style of painting, using imagery from First Nations cultures showing the insides of creatures in a sort of x-ray effect.  His works are far more colorful and playful compared to the more traditional images in Inuit and West Coast art.

Unfortunately, many of his works have been forged, and a lot of what is passing off as original Morrisseaus could potentially be fakes made by an art forgery ring. I’m not sure if the documentary will show anything past what has already been detailed when I first learned about the Morrisseau forgery in Maclean’s last year, but what interested me was the very title of the film, ‘There Are No Fakes.’

Is it because somehow Morrisseau’s family was connected to the forgeries? Or is it because the forgeries themselves, just by the very fact that they are connected to the drama of Morrisseau and his legacy make them valuable on their own? Or does the documentary basically say that if you love an image and that you find it beautiful, you shouldn’t really care about its authenticity or its monetary valuable. That art is art. They are not objects to be traded or treated as real estate investments. They are far bigger than that. (I sincerely doubt that this is where the film will go.)

The leader of the forgery ring, Gary Lamont, was sentenced to jail back in 2016 for being a sexual predator. I’m not sure if many of the news media at the time mentioned his involvement with producing forged Morrisseaus, but according to one of the victims, the forged pieces represent a very abusive period. Gary Lamont would manipulate and abuse young men while the works were being produced, between 1993-2007, when there was increased demand for Morrisseaus and when the artist’s health was slowly declining.

I’m sure there are still more to this story, right now galleries and owners are still insisting on the authenticity of many works, but I do hope that the worst is over, and at the very least, no one is producing more forged works. Growing up in Manitoba, I remember seeing some of Morrisseau’s works and even more works inspired by him. After learning about the forgeries last year, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a real Morrisseau.  

Artist