Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shooter Jennings at the Old Rock House

A few months ago Shooter Jennings stopped in St. Louis for a show at the Old Rock House. I was there to snap some photos for a future painting. Not familiar with Shooter’s music, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised with his tunes and the crack band he had playing with him. Everyone there had a great time and he's genuinely a nice guy with a good following of fans.

When I started the painting I was listening to some of his songs but then slowly started to move on to some other country tunes by the likes of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and yes, Shooter’s famous father Waylon Jennings. It’s been a long time since I’ve really sat down and listened to some country music. It’s not that I don’t like it, I really love it but usually my preference is for Rock and Roll. After going through a few Johnny Cash albums, I started in on Waylon and I was surprised at how many tunes I knew. That got me thinking about other country musicians like George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Jerry Reed, etc. In our modern age we can simply type in a musician or band on the computer and queue up some tunes, so I did. I was astonished, I knew so many songs by these musicians but I haven’t listened to them in years. I started thinking about it and realized that when I was young, 6, 7 and 8 years old, this was about the only music I ever heard. Growing up in Southeast Missouri in the late 70s/early 80s gives you little options as to what type of music everyone is going to be listening to. And thankfully for me it was these artists and their tunes.

Especially when I was hanging out with my grandmother. She always had the radio on or the TV tuned to country music videos and she loved all these musicians. She also came of age in the 50s and loved the Rock and Roll of that time, Elvis, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, etc. When you think about it, there’s not much difference between the rockers of the 50s and the country stars a few decades later. Hell, Waylon Jennings was in Buddy Holly’s last band. So, for me, they all go together very well and their music was always played in my grandmother’s house. This is how I know all these tunes, it wasn’t by choice but I’m sure glad it happened that way. It’s some of the greatest music ever created.

In the early 00s Willie Nelson played two shows at Mississippi Nights. The two shows sold out quickly but not before I was able to snag 3 tickets for my grandmother, her friend and myself. The day of the show we stood in the long line waiting to get in. I had been use to standing in the Mississippi Nights’ line before but this time I was with my grandmother and I could tell her and her friend were a little uncomfortable but they never complained once and you could tell how excited they were. I was a bit nervous cause I knew how hard it could be to get a good seat in MN and I wanted them to be able to enjoy the show while sitting down and still see everything. The doors finally opened and as soon as we got in the doors, I told them to hang on to my shirt and follow close by. I made a beeline for the seating area just left of the stage. I was able to grab 3 seats in the second row of chairs they had set up. The view was perfect. We could see everything and when Willie came out and started up with “Whiskey River” the entire place erupted with cheers. It was my most favorite concert at Mississippi Nights and it means even more to me since my grandmother was there also.

So, here I am, the child of real country music fans painting the child of a real country music star.

now playing - "Goin' Down Rockin'"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tower Groove Records Singles Subscription

The beat goes on, as they say.  Above is the cover for the Skekses 45 split with CaveofswordS which will be released in April of 2013.  You may recall me talking about the Tower Groove Records Singles Subscriptions a few weeks ago.  The subscription takes 12 bands and matches them up with 12 more bands to release a 45 single every month for the year of 2013.  This promises to be an exciting snapshot of active St. Louis bands and you have many chances to sign up to receive the whole series for a mere $60.00 (that’s 5 bucks a record).

Your next chance is Dec 9 at Euclid Records.  Tower Groove bands will be performing live in store and they’ll have a representative there to take your orders.  If you can’t make it to the in store, then all you have to do is click this link for a super easy and secure online ordering process, really super easy if you have a PayPal account.

In addition to the local music that’s available, each record will feature original artwork from either myself, Jeff Robtoy and Adam Watkins, both of Tone Rodent and the great Mark Stephens from the band Accelerando.  The series is sure to sell out so shop early and shop often.

Now playing – The Skekses

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poetry Scores 8th Art Invitational

Friday, Nov. 9 from 7-10 p.m. at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 So. 12th St. in Soulard.  Poetry Scores presents 50 artists visually interpreting Andreas Embirikos’ poem “Phantom of the Dreams’ Origin”.

 For the last few months the idea of doing some linoleum prints was appealing to me for some reason. Not sure why, but that’s what my mind was on. I came up with a plan to do a small series of four film directors, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch. After a quick powwow with my old high school pal Eric Woods of the world famous Firecracker Press, I was off and running with my first print. In the midst of all that I got the reminder that the next Poetry Scores event was coming up and I had committed myself to a portrait of the event’s feature poet, Andreas Embirikos. So instead of painting an individual painting of the poet, I decided to exploit my new self-driven obsession of doing linoleum prints and print his portrait. The result is fine. I did two different cuts, on the second cut I used a few different colors. There are a total of 38 prints and they’ll all be available at the event along with art from other artists listed below.
Hannah Bailey
Kevin Belford
James Blackwood
Jeff Brawn
Hunter Brumfield III
Dail Chambers
Bill Christman
Jen Collins
Jon Cournoyer
Heather Corley
Mikey Davidson
Deb Douglas
Dr. Andrew Dykeman
Jennifer Saenz Dykeman
Julie Evanoff
Thom Fletcher
Flowers to the People
Marth Rose Green
Paul Hartman
Sue Hartman
JoAnn Houle
Alexa Hoyer
Rick Jordan
Chris King
Leyla Fern King
Julie Malone
Tim McAvin
MSTR Gringo
Carmelita Nunez
Mike Pagano
Hap Phillips
Thomas Plunk
John Pruitt
Jeremy Rabus
Tony Renner
Kim Keek Richardson
Cindy Royal
Stefene Russell
Lorna Scobie
C. Scott
Janiece Senn
Derek Simmons
Dana Smith
Robin Street-Morris
Brian Styles
Mark Swain
Andrew Torch
Ipek Tuna
Wayne St. Wayne
Jess Witte
now playing - Rolling Stones

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tower Groove Records Singles Subscription

Tone Rodent/Kisser

During the summer of 2011, in the grueling heat, weekly meetings began happening in the backyard of Jason Hutto’s house. The meetings were eventually moved to various bars around town but the subject always remained the same, Tower Groove Records. The first order of business was how to get a double LP released and that eventually led to the Tower Groove Carnival which did indeed raise enough money to release the double album.

 Now the agenda is a 7 inch singles club subscription series which promises to be every bit as ambitious as the double album. They’re taking 12 bands and then adding 12 more bands and releasing a vinyl 7 inch record each month for the year of 2013. If you purchase a subscription to the whole series you can get a break on the price of each record. Your first chance to sign up for a subscription is coming on Saturday Oct 20. From 2pm-7pm right outside of Apop Records on Cherokee Street they’ll have bands playing, food cooking and beer drinking all for your enjoyment. While you’re there you can let your intentions be known that you plan on subscribing to the record series thus saving yourself some money at the Tower Groove Records booth.

 In addition to the 24 bands, there are 4 artists who have been slated to create artwork for 3 of the releases each. Jeff Robtoy gets first crack with Jan-Mar releases, next up will be me for Apr-Jun, then it’s handed off to Adam Watkins (artist for the double LP cover) for Jul-Sep and clean up will be Mark Stephens for Oct-Dec. All this makes the subscription series special and a one-time thing with a limited number of each record being printed. The painting above will grace the cover of the Tone Rodent/Kisser single.
Here’s what you get for the subscription
July: Maximum Effort/Shaved Women
August: Magic City/Jungle Fire
September: Peck of Dirt/Little Big Bangs
October: Bug Chaser/Troubador Dali
November: Accelerando/Humdrum
The event on Sat Oct 20 promises to be a memorable one with a great live line up. Stop by, have a beer, some food and get a subscription before they’re all sold out.

Tower Groove Records Fall Informal
Saturday October 20, 2 PM to 7 PM
Bands include: Accelerando, Bug Chaser, Jungle Fire, Kisser, Shaved Women, Skekses and Trauma Harness
Local Harvest will provide food.Tower Groove Records Fall Informal
Saturday October 20, 2 PM to 7 PM
Bands include: Accelerando, Bug Chaser, Jungle Fire, Kisser, Shaved Women, Skekses and Trauma Harness
Local Harvest will provide
Tower Groove Records Fall Informal
Sat Oct 20, 2012
Apop Records (outside)
Live performances from: Accelerando, Bug Chaser, Jungle Fire, Kisser, Shaved Women, Skekses and Trauma Harness

Local Harvest will provide food and drink
now playing - Tone Rodent

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gringo Star Trio

In the back of their van painted 2005

at Radio Cherokee painted 2007

at CBGB painted 2012
I was dutifully working on large paintings of Eric Johnson and Shooter Jennings when I noticed Jaime Lees letting people know NPR was streaming the new Dinosaur Jr album so I clicked and gave a listen.  Prompted by that record, I completed a painting I had started a while back of Peter DeLorenzo playing guitar while in the band Gringo Star.  The photograph I was working from is back when the band had a gig at CBGB (STL) probably in 2005 or 06 or 07, who knows now.  After finishing it I thought back to the other paintings I had done of them and decided to post them up. 
now playing - Dinosaur Jr.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eric Johnson at the Old Rock House




Here's a nice little progression that gives an idea of the painting process.  Started back in July with spray paint.  Just need a rough idea of where certain things are to get a strong foundation.
Then worked through the week to get a good form going with acrylic paint.  Although for the lights, gouache was used to give them a brighter look and feel.  Even in this early, undeveloped state you can still get a notion of who is being depicted.  Clear definition begins to creep in during the next two weeks and things begin to get set in stone.  Took a week off to work on something for Tower Groove Records but back at it now and making good time.

now playing - Band of Gypsys

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Here's a trio of paintings from my daughter. I know, everyone thinks their kid is some kind of artist and maybe they are. Perhaps all kids are artists in the way they think. They're curious, they unknowingly take risks, they're innocent and genuinely interested in learning something. Give them art supplies and they're bound to express themselves honestly in one way or another. Another thing I like about these pieces is they were produced naturally, unprompted. She sat down, picked out the colors, got her brushes and went at it on her own.

Recently on a drive home from dinner it was requested by my daughter that this song be played over and over.
now playing - run run run

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Art of PAWS

For the second year I've been invited to participate in the "Art of PAWS" event that helps raise money for Saint Louis Effort for AIDSPAWS provides education and services to people living with HIV/AIDS so they can keep pet companions as long as possible. 

They have a number of artists donate artwork to be auctioned off.  The painting above is my contribution.  This year's event will be on Aug 11 at The Rialto Ballroom (within the Centene Center for the Arts at 3547 Olive).  It's a great event and organization and if you can't attend and bid on a piece of work, I still strongly encourage you to donate to this cause.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Art on Beer

Back in March I mentioned I was working on a painting of Mike Doughty from an Old Rock House gig back in October. It seems I’ve hit a brick wall with this painting as I’ve started over on it three times now. Not sure what is causing the block but I sense it’s the fact that I don’t care much for his music. I read his book and quite enjoyed it but can’t listen to the his tunes. So while speculating on a new plan of attack on how to complete the piece over a beer at the Tap Room, I run into Chris King. He tells me he’s worked out a deal with El Lenador to have first Thursday art openings that will include drink specials and asks if I want to help him put some shows together. I say, “sure thing” and then he says, “OK, great, first show is Thursday, get some bands and we’ll put up some paintings”. Rolling with the punches (and the beer consumed) I agree and go my merry way.

The next day I had a vague recollection of having to book two bands for a show in 4 days. I email Chris to confirm and sure enough I had agreed to such a thing. After some discussion, we agree it’s probably best to push this project off for a month so we can properly prepare. Chris tells me I can hang whatever I want but I don’t really have anything to hang. I look over at my canvas rack and it’s filled with completed canvases that were just shown in a January show.

I noticed a number of long blank canvases sitting on the rack. These canvases measure 12 inches by 36 or 18 by 36 or 12 by 18, nice long canvases I’ve never used. I figured I could fill them up with beer El Lenador sells so when someone asks what kind of beer they have, they can just point at the walls. I could do a painting of a Corona, a PBR, a Stag, a Negra Modelo, a Modelo Especial, a Becks, a Dos Equis and finally a Schlafly Pale Ale (pictured above).

Then I decided to do all the paintings in oil. My usual medium preference is acrylic but I was still grappling with the whole Mike Doughty thing and trying to figure out a way to loosen things up a bit. I thought if I worked in an unfamiliar medium then that might keep me on my toes. I also wanted to keep these fresh and not over think them, so I started and completed each piece in one session.  Yeah there might be some mistakes here and there but too bad. Kind of like a live performance from a musician. Go with the flow and see what happens.

Over all I’m very happy with the results. I didn’t spend too much time or overwhelm myself and I got eight new canvases completed in less than a month. I started with spray paint and then filled in the blanks with oil. Oil is much different than acrylic, it’s less forgiving and requires more attention. Again, it’s like music, like playing music on an acoustic guitar vs. electric. Acoustic is very easy to control, like acrylic paint, but once you step into oil, like an electric guitar, everything gets amplified and you better be ready to make every stroke and movement count.

It was decided that the first show will be on Thu July 5 and Chris added Jay Babcock to the line-up of artists. I talked with Tim Rakel (Union Electric, May Day Orchestra) and Sherman S. Sherman (Peck of Dirt) about playing some solo tunes and now we’re set.

Art on Beer

El Lenador
3124 Cherokee St.
St. Louis, MO 63118

New work by
Dana Smith
Chris King
Jay Babcock

Solo sets by
Tim Rakel
Sherman S. Sherman

Thu July 5
9 pm - midnight
Art up until Aug. 2
This also kicks off Negro Modelo Night at El Lenador
$1 off Negro Model drafts at all Thursday night art openings.
Next openings: Tim McAvin (Aug. 2), Kim Keek Richardson (Sept. 6)

now playing - Fred Friction and Bob Camp

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Magic City

Where to start?  I guess with Anne Tkach who I’ve known the longest.  First met her as a fan of the late great Nadine.  She played bass in this well respected group and they got some good national and international attention during their time together.  But like all things the band eventually ended.  My first clue to this was back in 2004 when I was representing at SXSW and Nadine were slated to perform.  I showed up hoping to talk with Anne but was met by the guitar player, Steve and told the band would be doing an acoustic set.  He didn’t say the group had disbanded but you could tell something was up.  Disappointed, I left to catch Grand Ulena who were also playing the festival.

The next group I knew of her playing in was The Good Griefs and what a powerhouse trio that was.  This band also featured Larry Bulawsky on guitar and vocals.  But that band ended also.  I believe the next thing was Bad Folk and that was another great band Anne played drums in.  I was rather close with this band (due to Anne and Tim Rakel) and produced artwork for two of their releases.  The first was a drawing of historical people like Eisenhower, MacArthur and Harry S. Truman for a 45.  The cover turned out nice and was printed by Firecracker Press.  The second was a painting for their full-length CD.  Unfortunately the album, which is excellent, was never released.

I’m sure there are some other groups or collectives she participated in but the next things I know of is the wonderful Rough Shop, the charming Skekses and Magic City.  Magic City features Anne on bass, Larry (mentioned above) on guitar/vocals, Adam Hesed on farfisa organ , JJ Hamon as utility man and Sam Meyer on drums. 

Sam I have known of since his days with In Media Res.  I say “know of” because I didn’t actually know him.  Didn’t really meet him until later but everyone knew he was/is one of the best drummers in town.  Sam and I share a common unbreakable bond.  We were both in a band, although not at the same time, with Jason Rook.  I got to know Sam well when he started playing drums with the Wormwood Scrubs, Jason and Larissa Rook’s (she was known as Larissa Dalle at the time) band.  I had been their drummer for awhile but ended up leaving after marrying Angel.  Sam continued on with them and did some tours, including a stint in England with Gringo Star.  Eventually Jason and Larissa got married and now have a child of their own, so the Wormwood Scrubs kind of went on hiatus.  Sam started up with Magic City (whose great debut album was recorded by Jason Rook) and he also plays with the excellent Demonlover.  It’s strange, Sam and I never really hung out that much before but nowadays when we see each other out, we have a pretty good time.  He’s moving to Kentucky soon and I will surely miss him. 

I first became aware of Adam Hesed one night when I wandered into Mangia and saw an incredible 6 piece band playing some great music.  The band was called The Deserters and Adam played farfisa organ.  The band blew me away that night but like so many awesome local bands they didn’t last.  While Adam was in Bad Folk I got to know him pretty well and that’s continued on to this day.  I’ll get together with him and Anne every so often and just talk about whatever is going on. 

When I first met JJ he arrived with a  group of musicians (which included Anne and Adam) who were scheduled to perform at an art show I was putting on at Fort Gondo.  Little did I know at that time the level of musicianship JJ possessed.  He walked into the gallery and I handed him a stack of cut out imitation 20 dollar bills and asked him to spread them on the floor.  He looked at me kind of funny but went ahead and did as requested.  Of course JJ is well known for playing in the now defunct band Theodore.  Since then he’s played with just about everyone in town and continues to be an in-demand instrumentalist.  His current regular bands include Magic City and Demonlover. 

And then there’s Larry, the front man of the band.  Again I knew of Larry before I actually knew him.  I’d admire his guitar playing from afar during his Good Grief days.  I’d watch him and think why isn’t he world famous?  Larry’s genius didn’t really hit me though until a few years ago when I ran into him at a Black Diamond Heavies gig.  The show was at Tom Huck’s print studio located on Vandeventer.  Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost was opening the show and at the end of their set I went to the bar to get a beer.  The bar was located in the next room and I saw Larry sitting at a table.  He was with Virginia Hunter so I went over to say hello.  Virginia is a film maker and I’m still in awe of a film she was involved with called “Carny”.  I started talking with Virginia and noticed Larry was just doodling away on a scrap piece of paper.  I didn’t pay much attention but then I could tell that he was so focused on what he was doing he didn’t even realize I was there.  Finally he looked up and showed me what he was drawing.  I couldn’t believe it.  He had drawn a picture of Bob singing and playing in the next room.  I knew exactly what it was as soon as I saw it.  I had just come from where Bob was playing and recognized it immediately.  It was amazing.  Larry had sat there and drawn all of this from memory while it was going on.

Collectively these individuals make up Magic City and it’s a pretty great band.  I’m thankful for knowing them all.

now playing - The Faces

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

2012 Poetry Scores Art Invitational

"by Wole Soyinka" on canvas
"by Wole Soyinka" on wood

"Cash may be set on paper" on canvas

The annual Poetry Scores Invitational will be going on this year at Mad Art Gallery on Friday May 18 from 7pm - 10pm. Poetry Scores invites a number of artists to interpret lines from a poem for a visual medium and then the artwork is auctioned off to help pay for the projects Poetry Scores is producing. This year’s poem is titled "Ever-Ready Bank Accounts" and was written by Wole Soyinka. The three pieces above is my contribution for this show. The words I chose to interpret were “by Wole Soyinka" on canvas, "by Wole Soyinka" on wood and "Cash may be set on paper".

Poetry Scores is an organization with many active members but the one I know best is Chris King. I honestly don’t know Chris too well but both of us have been making a conscious effort to hang out more with lunches that happen every so often when time allows. Chris has a fascinating history and insight to Saint Louis musical events from when he was directly involved with them and I never grow tired of hearing his perspective. But the thing that endures me to him the most is something that happened a few years ago that I’m sure he doesn’t even remember. I believe it was about 4 years ago when I was attending an event at the Koken Art Factory sponsored by KDHX. The event was a silly thing where artists submit paintings to be shown to a drunken, rowdy crowd and the painting to receive the loudest cheers wins 1,000 dollars. The paintings that receive no cheers are promptly destroyed much to the crowds delight. I had entered a painting of Jesse Irwin destroying a painting by Steve Smith which was painting from a photograph I took at the previous year’s event. I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be and looking back now, I’m glad for how it turned out, but at the time it was quite a shock to see a painting you created get destroyed. Yes, the painting was brought out, the crowd went silent and it was promptly destroyed. It kind of felt like someone punched you in the gut. A little dazed, I stumbled out of the Koken and got some fresh air. I realized I was just a block from the Way Out Club and decided to go see what was going on there.

To my delight the Day of the Dead Beats was going on. Day of the Dead Beats is a cool event organized by the great Brett Underwood where he gets a bunch of local writers, poets and musicians together to read from Beat writers like Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and of course Jack Kerouac. So I grabbed a beer, found a seat in the back by myself and tried to forget about my bruised ego. The place was packed and Chris King was up on stage reading. He was talking about Kenneth Rexroth and how he translates poems from whatever language they were originally written in to English. Specifically he was talking about a Japanese poem that had been translated by Rexroth and illustrated with paintings by an artist who Chris described as the “Dana Smith of Tokyo”. When he said this there were some applauds in the audience. Suddenly all my petty humiliation evaporated and I felt great. I’ll always be indebted to Chris for unwittingly making me feel great at a moment when I needed it most.

now playing - Chris King

Saturday, April 14, 2012


11x14 inches
acrylic on canvas board
collaboration Amelia Smith and Dana Smith
March 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012


When I was very young, 1st or 2nd grade I took a bunch of small pieces of junk (old toy parts, weird trash laying around) and made a strange vehicle, kind of like something you might see in the film Mad Max. I put everything in place, glued it all down and used rubber bands to keep everything together. Then I got some red finger nail polish and painted the whole thing all one color. It was odd looking but also cool. I don’t remember who, but I showed it to an adult, some guy in my neighborhood and he was very impressed and advised me to save it for when I was older cause I would be very happy to see something I created when I was so young. For some reason this really offended me and I immediately destroyed it. I believe this is the first thing I consciously created on my own.

In 6th grade I acquired a Cracked Magazine and it happened to have a goofy piece on skateboarding in it. Funny drawings of Cracked characters riding around on skateboards in a skatepark with amusing captions. I accurately hand copied every panel of that piece for some reason. I specifically remember drawing these in my room and getting completely lost in time.

Then I started skateboarding and didn’t do much of anything else for the next 7 or 8 years.

In 1993 I found myself in Los Angeles, jobless and pretty much penniless. I was staying with a friend and had plenty of time on my hands. I began drawing again. I had the idea to make a deck of cards for my friend Tony. Each suit would represent a past presidential cabinet. Nixon, Kennedy, FDR and Reagan. Instead of the King of Hearts, there was John F Kennedy. The queens were the wives, the jacks were the vice-presidents and so on. I hand drew 52 cards, mostly of various people in each administration. People like Casper Weinberger, George H.W. Bush, Albert Einstein, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Lee Harvey Oswald with little captions as to how they related to the administration. Not sure how long it took me, maybe a week. During this time I was also skateboarding a lot and traveling around the state of California meeting and hanging out with a lot of other skaters. Many of them were also artists and they sparked my interest in art again, specifically painting. I decided once I had the chance I’d start painting.

When I got back to Missouri I completed my first painting. It’s of my friend Don Cento. It’s crude and rough and I really hated it back then but looking at it now I really like it. I would have destroyed it if another friend, Marty, hadn’t requested it and kept it all these years. This was the start of my painting life.

From 1994 on I had a deep interest in painting, but it wasn’t anything organized or disciplined. Just something I enjoyed doing when I had the opportunity. Some weeks I’d do nothing but paint but then I might go a month without doing anything, no rhyme or reason. I really had no idea what I was doing and just kind of did things on the fly or as they hit me. Sometimes the result would be cool but more times than not they were bad, very bad.

My first real breakthrough came in the summer of 1997. I was living in Walnut Creek, CA with my friend Marty. We lived in a cool house with a large backyard and I had taken to painting various rooms and locations around the house. The garage was my main studio and I was very active with acrylic and oil paints. Plenty of room to experiment and try new things out. Then Marty left for a couple of weeks and I pretty much had the house to myself. I set up a studio in the living room and started painting a corner of the room where we had our four track as if it was a still life. Looking at the painting now, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal but at the time I was extremely pleased with it. I just remember the ease at which it came out, there were no “mistakes”, nothing was painting over or re-painted. I don’t remember how much time I spent on it but there was a week or so that I didn’t work on it. Marty had gone to Florida to work on the film “Trans” and he invited me out for awhile to hang out and see how a film is made. I wasn’t done with the painting and didn’t want to stop but I couldn’t pass up a chance like this to see an independent film being made, so I went. The whole film crew was staying at the film director’s father’s house. It was pretty amazing how they all were living, complete with a music jam room that had instruments and we’d have nightly jams after the day or night’s shooting. Then the next day would bring a new adventure, driving around the swamps and back roads of Florida, filming the locals and avoiding the law. Seeing how it all came together was a real education in creativity that has always stayed with me. Then my week was over and I headed back to California. Marty had to stay in Florida for more work on the film. When I got back to the house my painting was still in the same spot in the living room but I felt I had evolved so much since I had left it there. I was a little nervous about trying to finish the piece cause it had come so easy before and I was sure I had lost it. But I started right up where I left off and competed the painting in a few days.

At the end of 1997 I moved to Saint Louis and continued to paint. My first public showing was in March of 98’ at some DIY gallery located in the Central West End. Nothing much came of it and the gallery eventually closed. I was painting as much as possible but one problem I was running into was content, subject matter. I wanted to paint people, places and things that really existed, I didn’t want to make things up, but what exactly, I wasn’t sure. My attention was fleeting and it was tough to stay organized and disciplined. When I did find a subject I was interested in then painting was a joy. An example of this is this painting of a circuit board I completed while still living on Lindell Blvd. I was given a real circuit board from my friend Brian and I just painted what I saw. Again, there were no “mistakes” or re-doing, it all just came out with ease. I ended up giving the painting to Marty.

Then I did something that really threw my painting production for a loop, I started a band. I still painted but it took a back seat to the band. I would go back and forth between playing, recording music and painting. My interest had to really be into the subject I was painting for it to hold my attention long enough to finish it. Then, in 2004 I turned 30 years old and I made a decision.

I decided I wanted to focus on painting and I would do so with the subject of either the people and places of Saint Louis, MO. People and places that really exist. I wanted to see how long it would take to consistently paint for 10,000 hours and what the end result of doing such a thing would be. I figured (roughly) that If I painted at least 2.8 hours daily then I could reach that goal in 10 years. Painting everyday for at least 2.8 hours, for 10 years. I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. First thing I did was quit all the bands I was in and set up a small studio in my then girlfriend’s house, later the studio moved to a basement on the corner of Cherokee and Compton and now it’s in the basement of my house. This month I turn 38 and I’m in the home stretch of the grand experiment. 2 more years to go. Have I painted everyday for the past 8 years at least 2.8 hours a day? No, I haven’t. There have been days when I’ve been out of town, work trips to California, honeymoon in Montreal, excursions to NYC, family vacations in Chicago, weekend trips to Memphis and Kansas City, runs down to New Orleans. However, for just about every day I missed 2.8 hours there are other days when I painted for 4, 6 sometimes 8 hours a day, so I am roughly on track to accomplish the 10,000 hours in two more years. Throughout all of that I’ve maintained a full-time job, got married, had 2 kids, as well as opened and closed a business. And what has it gotten me? Painting, much like everything else in life, requires trust.

I feel the need to mention the death of Harry Crews which happened this past week. I own a few of his books but his influence on me creatively is much more indirect. My friend Marty, mentioned above, is responsible for turning me on to Crews and his well known quote, "If you’re gonna write, for God in heaven’s sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you’ve been told." always stuck with me. You can apply it to painting (or any art form for that matter) and it still rings true. Again, this idea of expressing a truth or something real is always present. His influence also seeped into my subconscious while hanging out in Florida during the making of "Trans". His attitude was very much in the air with the film crew who were applying his ideas not only aesthetically but also with the very subject matter of the film. Interestingly, the director would go on later to direct the film adaptation of Crews' book "The Hawk is Dying". A book, for me anyway, about not allowing life to get in the way of your passions.

now playing - Harry Crews

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mike Doughty at the Old Rock House

A couple weeks ago I was walking around the Loop area on Delmar and I happen to pass Subterranean Books. I looked in the window and saw my old friend Rob Levy. I first met Rob 14 years ago at the Fox Theatre. Little did I know I had just met someone who will always have a keen pulse on what's going on in popular culture, past, present and future. Rob's biggest claim to fame is his awesome radio show, Juxaposition on KDHX Wed nights from 7pm-9pm. Always ahead of the curve when it comes to new music or even old music.

I walked into the book store to say hello. He was on his way out so he could do his radio show. We talked for a bit and walked around the store. Out of the blue he said "Mike Doughty has a new book out" and pointed right to it. And sure enough there was a book sitting there with the words "The Book of Drugs, A Memoir, Mike Doughty". I was taken back because I had been thinking about Mike Doughty lately, but I didn't tell anyone this. I blurted out to Rob, "I'm actually painting his picture right now but don't know much about him". When weird little things like that happen, I take notice and bought the book. Rob and I said our goodbyes and he headed out to do his radio show and I went back out onto the Delmar sidewalk and wondered what weird little thing will happen next.

now playing - Oasis

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mickey Hart at the Old Rock House

I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a Grateful Dead fan. I was never introduced to them properly, I believe my first exposure to them was in 8th grade when “Touch of Grey” came out. That’s a fine pop song for radio or whatever, but it did not peak my interest in digging deeper which is kind of surprising because around the same time I was getting heavily into bands like The Beatles, Stones, Doors, etc and you’d think the Dead would be right up my alley but they never took hold. Around my senior year in high school I did acquire a book written by Mickey Hart called “Drumming at the Edge of Magic” and read it with great interest. The book kind of served a dual purpose, on the one hand it gave a brief history of Mickey’s involvement with the Grateful Dead but it also delved into the many ways to create beats and rhythm using methods that date back to ancient times. A very enjoyable book (and accompanying CD, "Planet Drum") but getting me excited about listening to the Grateful Dead, it did not.

In the mid-90s PBS put out a great series on the History of Rock and Roll, in the series there are interviews with Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia. Their stories were incredible and interesting to hear but again, did not spark interest in getting to know the Dead’s music. By the end of the century I had pretty much given up on ever liking the Dead but I did have a respect and appreciation for what they accomplished and how they accomplished it.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I’m starting on a new painting for the Old Rock House of Mickey Hart. I had gone to the show and got some nice shots of Mickey playing. The music was more aligned with what was on the “Planet Drum” CD and it was really cool to see him play live. So, I tried again with the Dead and with internet sites like Grooveshark and Spotify it was so easy to cue up. I started at the beginning with the first album. The first few songs did not hold my attention so I moved on to the second album, “Anthem of the Sun”, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Here’s a quick list of other great albums released in 1968 and I’d say “Anthem” is every bit as great as any of these.

“White Light/White Heat” The Velvet Underground
“The United States of America” The United States of America
“Dance to the Music” Sly & the Family Stone
“A Saucerful of Secrets” Pink Floyd
“Creedence Clearwater Revival” Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Waiting for the Sun” The Doors
“Music from Big Pink” The Band
“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” The Byrds
“Electric Ladyland” The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“the Beatles” The Beatles
“The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” The Kinks
“Astral Weeks” Van Morrison
“Beggars Banquet” The Rolling Stones

OK, I could go on but you get the idea. So I’m late coming to the Dead table but based on just “Anthem of the Sun” I can finally see how they attained legendary status.

Last month I was very fortunate to get some kind press from the Riverfront Times and the St. Louis Magazine Blog for the show I had at Fort Gondo.

now playing - "Alligator"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, Old Art

It’s a new year but the first two shows I’m involved with this month are using old pieces that were completed years ago.

The first one, entitled “The Shape of Man”, is the brainchild of Amy VanDonsel and Chris King. This group show will bring together many artists I admire, including Kevin Belford, Jon Cournoyer, Robert Goetz, David Langley, B.J. Vogt and Eric Woods, to name a few. The show will explore the shape men are in. A companion show, “The Shape of Wo/Man”, is scheduled for sometime in 2013. I was surprised to be invited to this show but very honored as well, although I have nothing new to contribute. That doesn’t matter though, Chris has a drawing of Barack Obama I gave him back in 2008 and with my blessing he has submitted that as my contribution. The drawing was left over from a solo show I had at Fort Gondo in Aug of 2008. The show was about presidential politics and how money was at the root of all the problems in our political system. Drawings of both presidential candidates was on display. I ended up giving the drawing to Chris because he’s the only person I know who has ever talked to Barack Obama one on one.

“The Shape of a Man”
Art exhibit and chapbook release
Mad Art Gallery
2727 So. 12th Street, St. Louis

7-11 p.m. January 6, 2012

New work by Amy VanDonsel.
Poetry chapbook by Chris King.

Poetry performance with musical guests.
Additional manly art by:

Oscar Alvarez, Kevin Belford, Ron Buechele, Jon Cournoyer, George D. Davidson III Charles and Chalot Douglas-Book, Dr. Andrew Dykeman, Fred Friction, Matt Fuller, Robert Goetz, Kim Humphries, Chris King, Noah Kirby, David Langley, Sandra Marchewa, Hap Phillips, Stefene Russell, Dana Smith, B.J. Vogt, Eric Woods and the late Hunter Brumfield III.

Also, one exemplary man – Hap Phillips – will be exhibited.
Potluck provided by men who cook.

The second show, scheduled a week later will be a solo show at Fort Gondo.

Southtown Famous
Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts
3151 Cherokee St
Sat. Jan 14, 2012

Dana Smith’s second solo exhibition at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts entitled "Southtown Famous" continues his longstanding interest in the underground music scene in Saint Louis. Starting off what will be Fort Gondo's 10th anniversary since opening, "Southtown Famous" will bring together a collection of acrylic paintings from the last seven years chronicling the often forgotten, exciting aspect of local bands painted in a simple and direct aesthetic that reflects an urgency the musicians inspire.

Live music by special guest .e

Dana Smith, a self-taught painter, was initially inspired by getting to know other artists while traveling the West Coast as a sponsored skateboarder in the early '90s. He has been a resident of Saint Louis since 1997, where he played in a variety of underground bands including Cloister, The Baysayboos and The Wormwood Scrubs. He has also contributed work to locally-based Internet radio station,, and

now playing - The Gourds