Where Does Art Live, The Hand or Mind?

Where does "Art" come from? Is art something that only comes from years of practicing hand-eye coordination to make perfectly crafted marks, or does it come from our own ideas and the images that hatch in our "inner eye"? In other word:

Does Art come from your Hand or from your Mind?

The short answer is that every artists struggles to bring out what's in their minds, using their hand and the rest of their body to make the most well-crafted marks they can. The images, sculptures, pastries (sure) we make are a result of the relationship between our ideas and our hand. It's a mix between co-operation and a fight taking place between the concepts in our heads and our body's ability to make those ideas a reality.

But what happens when we are injured or our own bodies fail us? If you are snowboarding, fall and shatter your wrist, will you give up making art forever? If you suffer a stroke and can't use your "good" hand anymore, does this stop the ideas and images that form in your mind? They still have to come out somehow, right?

Creativity and its origins is something very hard for us humans to pin down. But I can't believe that the ability to create art just lives in one of our hands like some kind of troll under a bridge. If that hand-troll dies we have to give up on the idea of creating art? It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. I think what makes a person an artist is the fact that they can't stop wanting to bring new things into the world. We will always manage to make our visions happen as best as we are able. When Marquis de Sade was imprisoned and had all his pens and paper taken away, didn't he continue to write with his own blood and poopies?  If you can relate, Congratulations, you are an artist.

Jamie Baker, hard at work at Pixar studios

Jamie Baker, hard at work at Pixar studios

One of my best friends in the world is a hilarious and good natured cartoonist named Jamie Baker. I looked up to him long before he even knew who I was. Over the years we would check in with each other at Comic-con and all those conventions. Eventually the fates brought us together as neighbors, living just a block away from one another here in San Francisco. Last Christmas Jamie suffered a major stroke and lost use of the right side of his body. He is still working through the slow process of recovering use of his "good" hand. In the mean time, Jamie still has funny and charming tales to tell. He is not letting his current physical state close the door on his art and storytelling. So Jamie has been writing and drawing with his left hand, his "Bizarro hand" as he puts it.

This inspires the living shit out of me. None of us really know how long we have to accomplish the things we want to accomplish while we are here. Aside from not knowing when will die, we never know when some huge obstacle could suddenly stand in the way of us creating and contributing to the best of our abilities.

Somebody smarter than me once said, "limitations inspire creativity". What can you do in 5 minutes? What can you draw with this charcoal briquette on the side of a Winnebago? Frankly I find the challenge of getting my ideas out there, drawing something with my "Bizarro hand" (In my case, it's the right) fascinating. And the fact that I can try this out and then go back to drawing with my good hand really points out what a blessing today is for me. 

Alright, Jamie has to draw with his left hand right now. It's OK. He's in good spirits and he's coming up with stuff he never would have touched on if not for his present circumstances. After nearly a year of not seeing Jamie, I recently I had the chance to have dinner with him and his lovely lady, Julia. Like always we told off-color stories and compared notes on all of our current creative projects. Hearing about Jamie's writing projects and seeing his "Bizarro" drawings, I couldn't help but think, "What would my righty drawings look like? Could I still get my ideas on to paper? It's kind of a bad-ass challenge! I wanted to go home and try it.

And then I wanted to see all of my artist friends try it.

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Just for one night, can't we all just let go of our egos, accept the blessing that is our current health, and  see what we can create with our "Bizarro" hands?

Yes, we can.

January 9th, 2014 at 111 Minna Gallery, artists are invited to spend a few hours creating with their "bad" hand. Jamie will be there. I will be there. We will all have to set aside our egos and make some imperfect art. It will be fun.

The artwork we create will be pinned up and auctioned off that night. Did I mention that due to a snafu with Jamie Baker's health benefits, he is now left with over $120,000 in medical bills? All proceeds from Bizarro Sketch Night will go towards making even the tiniest dent in those bills.

I can't think of anyone more deserving of this help than Jamie. I hope you can join us.

If you would like to join us as a Bizarro artist, email me- Ben(at)BenWalkerArt.com

If you would like to have a drink with us and maybe bid on some Bizarro art from some of your favorite artists, please mark your calendars and join us Jan. 9th, 2014 at 111 Minna Gallery (21+), San Francisco.

Thanks for reading! 

Bizarro Sketch Night, A Benefit for Jamie Baker

Help Me Help Jamie

My good friend Jamie Baker is in a pickle. Help me help him out.

Jamie Baker is one of my best friends. He's the most upbeat, approachable dude you'll ever meet. He's also an amazing cartoonist and animator. If you watched saturday morning cartoons in the 80s you probably saw his work. More recently, he's been storyboarding your favorite movies at Pixar. He was even the voice of a crab in Finding Nemo!

I had already been buddies with Jamie for about 5 years through Comic-con etc. and when I moved to San Francisco a couple years ago, guess who I found living a block up my street? Yep, John Waters. No, it was Jamie! Awesome! Finally I have a neighbor-friend! With both of us working from home, we're itching for a break and some sunlight (or the San Francisco equivalent) so we'd meet up to drink coffee, compare notes on our projects and make dumb jokes.

OK here's the pickle. The day after Christmas 2012, Jamie had a major stroke. Jamie's life partner, Julia has the details on his condition and financial situation -

Jamie Baker had a large hemorrhagic stroke on the left side of his brain in the thalamus region on December 26th, 2012. The damage of the bleed has caused paralysis and loss of sensation on the right side of his body, including his leg, arm and hand, face and mouth. Jamie's prognosis is very good, although the recovery is expected to be slow over the course of the next few years.

Jamie was in intensive care for six days at UCSF, from December 26 to January 1st before being transferred to an acute rehabilitation center. As events unfolded, I learned that he was not covered on our insurance policy until January 1st. The bill for six uninsured days came to $189,000. Fortunately, we were able to get the bill reduced to $137,000 and are working on reducing it further with the help of an advocacy group and a lawyer.

In addition to the massive hospital bill, Jamie was denied state disability due to a form that was filed incorrectly. We have filed for an appeal and are waiting for a hearing date. He has filed for Social Security benefits as well. We have learned that getting approval for Social Security takes about a year, leaving Jamie with virtually no income and only savings to live on, money that he needs for recovery efforts. Jamie has this massive bill and will not be able to work during his recovery, making it necessary to ask for help.  

You can also donate directly and read more about Jamie's story here: YouCaring.com

Alamo Fair & Rodeo, acrylic on wood panel

Alamo Fair & Rodeo, acrylic on wood panel

I want to help! So I am putting up for auction a very special piece, Alamo Fair & Rodeo. This is something I originally painted as a tribute to my all time favorite film, Pee Wee's Big Adventure. It was part of of Gallery 1988's Crazy 4 Cult show, 2008. It's been hanging in my home since. Jamie and I love talking movies. I love Pee Wee! He loves Pee Wee! Whether you are close to Jamie or you're a fan of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, I encourage you to bid on this piece. 100% of the sale will go toward Jamie's recovery fundraiser.

See the Ebay auction here- Alamo Fair & Rodeo