Disclaimer: Sorry mom. Under no circumstances should anyone try this at home, unless you are right on the edge. This is a long entry, with lots of fotos, hard to omit details from this particular experience.
It was nearly one year ago today that I would experience my first encounter with the keystone specie, and curator of a healthy, functioning ecosystem of western North America, the Grizzly bear. I wish could say I was adventuring, hiking miles and miles of pristine wilderness, eating trail mix and all that, I was not. No, this encounter was of the rarest breed. It was one that forever changed my life, and was so moving, I made a painting called Buddhabear. Now the thing is that when I paint a painting it takes time. When I have an experience that I feel moved by, I will often document the event, sometimes during and sometimes afterwards, or even a combo. Within the painting or drawing or digital painting, I utilize symbols, energy/colour, and any elements that provide visual clues to the experience. In the case of Buddhabear the story certainly does go beyond the painting and often times when I tell the story it comes across as a fantasy or myth, rather than a true telling. I can assure you that this story is true. It begins with a friend, Bruce, the bear, picking me up in a 90’s turquoise VW bus, and the two of us heading out to a festival near Boston Bar British Columbia, Canada. It was to be a rather long journey and we would need to be on high alert as driving through the mountains can be a harrowing experience, especially during the summer when wildlife decides to test fate and dash across highways only to find strange 4 wheeled, rather large objects, traveling by at break neck speeds, usually at awkward moments, leaving large red stains on the road and a reminder in the cars fender that nature and man do not always mix well. It was early evening when we found ourselves sucked into the Kelowna vortex, Wallmart to be exact, those huge unbelievably terrible yet strangely desirable chains that have been reeking havoc on small business and locally made markets, while relying on cheap overseas labor that comes with its own gamut of ridiculousness, big box shit. After an hour of doing laps and finding myself lost, only to discover duct tape, which I purchased for this particular trip, and which I never did use. It was time to get along, daylight was falling and the vortex was getting stronger by the moment, with the beast bearing down on Bruce and I, we managed to escape the vortex of Kelowna, avoiding certain doom. Next stop, Entheos, an electronica festival in the woods of BC, in a beautiful valley, where myself and about a thousand others would reconnect to the spirit of celebration and pound the Earth relentlessly until legs turned to jello. I had been warned that cults might be present and strange witch craft sorcery, enticing young unsuspecting lost souls into their den. With this in mind I prepared myself for the unexpected. With a stocked art kit, a fresh primed panel, and enough cobalt teal to paint the ocean, I knew I’d make my way. My
plan, paint a painting that would document the experience, a paintamentary. There is nothing quite like live action painting, I never know how things will turn out, I trust that I will tap into the flow, and that it will work out, it always does. It is imperative to let flow carry you, go like the Tao, and watch in amazement as art comes out of you. Soon Bruce and I arrived to the festival grounds, mostly unscathed despite a couple close calls, one being Walmart and the other when Bruce went into a sharp turn a little hot, which in fact was a natural chicane, that nearly saw us leave the road. We arrived to our destination, and as soon as I set foot on the Earth I felt immediately compelled to set up my paints and panel and have a go at a quick paint session. There is nothing quite like controlled frenzy, what appears controlled at the surface is the technique, the frenzy being the vision coming to life. Following the session I drank a gin tonic, courtesy of Bruce, there’s nothing like Gin, except a Juniper bush, I like both. I went to sleep. It would be the last sleep for the next 3 days, not that I knew this at the time though, it just happened to go that way. The next day I rendezvoused with old friends that came form the Sunshine coast, wonderful people, from a wonderful place. They would be setting up a booth of psychedelic gypsy clothing, handmade, couture, and she asked me if I’d set up shop next to her, I agreed. My first order of business, set up a lattice work of twigs on their tent, it looked great, I also managed to find some trees that I was able to attach paintings to. I was asked to add a painting to the temple room, so I did. Tangent. There was plenty of eye candy to take people as far as they wanted to go, visually that is, visionary art, dream painting, that has the ability to put one into a trance like state, not for everyone, and in my opinion visionary art is often nothing more than tricked out fantasy, not that I have a problem with it, I just don’t like the label necessarily, it’s a bit of a trend, for most of it can be chalked up as fantasy, and perhaps that is dream, though to this author dream state and fantasy are not necessarily one and the same. That same day I helped get the geodesic dome up. Meaning, I fucked it up as I sent a wrench flying through the fabric in an attempt to throw a rope to the far side so we could pull the tent to the other side, I immediately stepped back and took on a new role. I had also eaten some chocolates, I thought it was hazelnut. It wasn’t long before I was talking to the trees, and believe you me they were all over the place, this is B.C. after all, thankfully the greedy government hasn’t cut down the entire forest, the screw heads they are. Once set up the air was thick with anticipation, what would become of us, as the outside world fell away and the new world, the festival world would take us all for one hell of a ride, impending doom always in the back of the mind if one lets oneself go too far, that being different from one person to the next, and we all have a story of the ones who go three steps further, spiraling out of control, unyielding, complete and utter loss of self. The darkness is always close, it is during the chaos that one sees oneself for who they are, and without fail fear will rear its ugly head, the beast, omnipresent, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting. Maybe this is overly dramatic, it is a hippy festival in some ways, but you never really know what is going to happen, especially when rational thought, or logic, are thrown to the wayside. During the daytime the energy was mild, people chilling, vendors doing good business, the calm before the storm, a cosmic storm, when one truly let’s go and pounds the Earth driven by the likes of Blue Lunar Monkey, and if you don’t know than I suggest you educate yourself. For the next 2days I painted. You couldn’t pull me away, it was relentless, non stop paint action, and you ask why? Well painting is what I know. It is what my heart warms to, and in all the years of painting, business aside, the love has carried me through and through. There are no boundaries, even if the canvas is a certain dimension, that has no boundaries on what you can do, when you let yourself fall into the painting frenzy and let conventional thought drift far far away. I play the role of the artist, and this is not limited to painting, I love all kinds of creative expression. For instance, periodically I would place a bucket over my head and walk down a lane way, trusting my Jedi senses, and occasionally the help of a person who would tell me to move left or right, subtle, and muchly appreciated, a great test to do anywhere to see if people are with it and together. I also would read from a book to the good folks standing in line for lunch, when tyne line is long entertainment is a wonderful thing. I became fearless, all the hang ups I had were removed, I opened right up, and went with the flow, and if there is one thing about a festival of this nature, there is flow. Moving on…so I painted and painted and painted, taking it all in. The imagery slowly morphing from one thing to the next, all day and all night. I worked in a rain shower one morning at 6am in the temple, the painting melted in front of me, psychedelic comes to mind. I worked with Soulfeather, a fantastic live painter in his own right. I also worked with the little people, the kids, whose fearless nature makes them naturally keen to create, no lessons required, in fact some of my greatest teachers are the little people. It is always wonderful to provide a creative outlet, it is exactly the kind of thing that opens people’s hearts, and breaks down disillusionment, like when someone says to me, I can’t do that! YES you can! Inspiration. Moving forward in time, and plenty of paint laid down, It was really coming together, working alongside my friends and witnessing the festival from an angle I had never seen before, with the exception of another festival prior, though not like Entheos, this was a special time for me and everyone there. The days amalgamated, my friend would offer food once and a while as I painted on and on, until that night. A lady next to the three of us who made tutus decided she would set an outfit for me. I also met a face painter named Spirit, amazing work, and beautiful soul (see fotos). She worked her magic on my face after my little person friend painted hers. She went with a shamanic theme, a Green cosmic frog, maybe Green man, I had no idea because there was no mirror, and even if there was I trusted that it was going to work out, and it did, it got better, the tutu lady had quite the outfit selected, and like a champ I accepted her offer and dawned the tutu, along with fluorescent black light friendly tights, with a one shoulder strap top and a Chinese silk coat. To say I was stoked is an understatement. To say I felt strange, well when things get weird the strange turn pro, HST said that, I concur. After a mild tea, made from some kind of hyper plant and few other provisions for the night, we danced. Carrying glow sticks, not normally my thing than again I am not normal, and it is during these times that a glow stick can keep one together, the beast is never far away, always ready, I like to think a glow stick will stave it off, keep things illuminated as the sun falls and night sets in. There was fire, there was trance, smoke filled feilds, people spinning, twirling, a cosmic circus, human expression through sound, through light, through movement, a sight that is very difficult to describe unless you have been there. The sun rose a misty morning, smoke thick and friends united in dance in a field flanked by mountains covered in spruce and the like, Earth in all her glory. It was about that time that I decided to head back to paint, I wasn’t about to stop, and perhaps that was a poor choice, sleep is good, so is flow, and when it is flowing like it was there, you flow. It wasn’t long before I met this lady, and from what I could tell, a witch. Maybe it was the wand that gave it away, and by no means do I mean an old scraggly woman riding a broom, no this one was something out of the ordinary, her name Kerri. Kerri proceeded to tell me she of a spot, off the festival grounds where she could wash my face, it must of looked hideous, melted face paint and a green beard, had it been on my face all night, I immediately agreed, and with no haste we set trail to the spot. After hiking and hiking and hiking, my legs, jello like in sensation, we arrived at the opening to a path that eventually turned into pristine forest. Along the way we saw horses, 2 of them, beautiful creatures, thats what they thought. Eventually I could hear a stream, and that’s when I saw the scat, it was in plain site, giant in size, steaming, genuine bear scat. We walked right pass it and made our way to the most serene theatre I have ever been. Forest in multiple levels, green and lush, with the most beautiful stream flowing by, an old tree fallen over the stream, a real beauty. It is in these moments that being grateful for life is without question. I found myself in awe, taking in the sounds of the forest, no music, no talking, just the sound of the forest, still and calm, birds singing, radiant. Kerri help wash my face, it was an amazing sensation and woke me almost immediately, it is Canada after all, and early summer at that. I realized tight fitting synthetic fiber and tutus hardly keep one warm. Kerri and I sat and talked, and I couldn’t help but sense that there was someone, something, to the left of us. I will never forget that moment on. I looked over at Kerri, I looked left, I looked at Kerri, I looked left, a Grizzly bear walks over a fallen tree and stops, we look directly into each others eyes, it felt like an eternity. I say ‘holy shit it’s a grizzly bear’ or did I, I looked at Kerri, we looked at the bear, the bear took on a startled ‘what the heck are you’ look and in a fleeting moment dashed in the opposite direction. The forest split in half. It was gone. We sat there, moments later a humming bird flew through in the most stunning fight pattern, not one word was said. We got up and we left, headed back to a tent and I fell asleep for a very long time. I woke up, and met Cecilia, my Swedish friend, she was the first person I made contact with following the encounter, there were no words to describe the feeling I had at that moment, wondering if it had all happened, did it, I have had mad visions in my life, nothing like this, I looked at Cecilia, she was very nice, kind, and not a bear, I was very happy to see her. Later that night I eventually made my way to the festival area, I was utterly useless, like an 90 year old man, there would be no more painting, no more dancing, well maybe a bit. I would eventually sit next to a giant fire and stared directly into the flames for what felt like an eternity, eventually leaving and getting one more sleep in before departure the next day. It would take me weeks to take it all in and once back in my hometown I decided to make a painting called Buddhbear. It could of gone two ways, bear runs away or bear eats me, I was pleased that it was the first option, Grizzly medicine, for I didn’t get eaten, it simply was not my time, the grizzly, a messenger, we met and what passed between us I would not be able to express into words, thankfully I am a painter, and thus Buddhabear came to life, a memory of that morning when I faced my biggest fear, mortality, and that’s how close it was. Mahaloness
Link to Saatchi if you would like to order a print or buy the original, and if you think it’s overpriced, well…put yourself in front of a grizzly, wearing a tutu, and survive the experience. and paint, good luck.
FotoMahaloness, almost in sequential order, including Spirit Love being painted by a genius 6 year old, the live painting (female with head dress), the outfit, and the forest trek, unfortunately I didn’t have my camera ready for the bear, fortunately I am a painter, Buddhabear.
18 x 24 in. Acrylic on panel 2011