Tag: excerpt

Lost

Munich, 1998

We found an auditorium where a heavy metal band was playing. Thick smoke floated above our heads. Red laser beams flashed in the air. People danced with their eyes closed, waving their arms in slow motion, grasping at imaginary objects with their fingers. I watched them with nervous curiosity.

After the show was over, I stumbled into the street with Greg and Jesse. It was time to return to the youth hostel. We walked down a staircase in the sidewalk, into the concrete labyrinth where the subway trains lived. We boarded a train and rode through the tunnel a few minutes. Then we stepped off and climbed another set of stairs.

When we reached the top of the stairs and looked around, we didn’t recognize the signs and buildings around us. We had gotten off at the wrong stop. We didn’t know where we were. It was almost eleven o’clock. And we couldn’t call our teacher on our cell phones because we didn’t have cell phones. It was 1998.

So we rambled through the streets, asking strangers for directions to the youth hostel where we were staying. Most of them were friendly and polite, but they had never heard of the Jump In Youth Hostel. We even found a black taxi cab parked indiscreetly on the sidewalk, a common practice in Germany. The driver sat behind the wheel, sipping coffee and listening to the radio. We eagerly asked him to take us to the Jump In Youth Hostel, but he shook his head and started pointing, giving us directions in German. None of us understood German well enough to know what he was saying. We mumbled “danke” and walked away, disappointed and discouraged.

We walked through the subway and found a group of policemen playing cards in a small, dirty room with pictures of naked women plastered on the walls. We explained our predicament to them.

They also gave us helpful directions. In German.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. It’s a book about my journey as an artist and the ways I’ve learned to deal with my frustrations. I share a lot of personal stories in it. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99.

You can click here to order a copy.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Overthinking

I possess an uncanny ability to take simple, easy situations and make them much harder than they should be. I do a lot of my work in colored pencil, a tedious process that gobbles up hours and hours of my life, especially when I’m filling in a large background. I can easily spend a whole week coloring a blue sky or a brown desert landscape. Because colored pencil drawings demand so much time, I don’t want to get halfway into a picture, make a mistake, and ruin the whole thing. So I like to draw countless sketches and write notes to myself before I begin the final product. Sometimes, I spend a whole month working on one colored pencil drawing.

Many times, when I’m finished, people glance at those colored pencil drawings and show no interest whatsoever.

But if I sit down with a graphite pencil and knock out a little doodle in five minutes, people go bananas over it.

The less effort I put into a project, the better it seems to be.

Since I was a teenager, art teachers and other artists have told me I need to “loosen up” and stop drawing in such a “tight” style. They insist that my manner is too rigid, too forced. And they’re right. I know my work looks better when I relax and stop trying so hard, when I enjoy what I’m doing and have fun with it. I drew the Jack White picture in less than a week, much faster than my usual colored pencil drawings. And people seemed to like it more than the others.

You have to listen to your brain and your heart. If you never think ahead, your life will be brutally short. You will be struck and killed by a bus while you’re walking across the street. But if you think too much, you’ll never cross the street at all. You’ll spend your entire life standing on the sidewalk, biting your fingernails.

For years, I’ve wondered why I make my life so complicated. It’s still a mystery to me, but I’ve discovered two possible reasons.

First, I like to feel like I’ve accomplished something. In the same way an Olympic athlete trains vigorously for years and years in the gym, working tirelessly to claim a gold medal in a particular sport, I like to work vigorously to finish a piece of art. Sometimes, when my priorities get muddled and my common sense slips away, I become more focused on the sense of accomplishment rather than the piece of art itself. In the back of my mind, I want it to be hard. I want it to be challenging. This way, I can revel in the feelings of victory and accomplishment when a project is finally complete.

Secondly, a work of art is a living organism. It grows and develops on its own, often in ways I don’t expect. I tend to plan out every detail in advance to give myself the comforting illusion of control. I use the word “illusion” because I’m not really in control at all. The harder I pull on the reins, the more I strangle it to death.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Plastic Trees in the Underground City

Here’s an excerpt from Under the Electric Sun

When he stepped through the doorway, his feet landed on soft green grass. The large room was filled with towering oaks, tall pines, azaleas in full bloom, and clusters of bluebells along the ground. Bird songs echoed in the air, even though no birds were visible. In the center of the park, there was a clearing with a playground in it. A group of children squabbled over which one of them would go down the slide next. The dome-shaped ceiling of Bailey Park was painted a pale shade of blue with an electric sun burning brightly in the center. Holographic clouds glided across it, moving so slowly that they barely appeared to move at all.

The grass was artificial, while the trees and bushes were made of plastic and other synthetic materials. The birdsong came from tiny speakers hidden in the leaves.

Jake sat down in the grass and leaned against a tree trunk. He let out a long sigh, which seemed odd to Tristan. It was the type of sound an older person would make.

Tristan sat in the grass beside him. For a moment, they were both silent.

“Just get some rest,” Tristan said, trying to conceal his worry. “And then we’ll go to the pet store. Esmeralda might be working today, you never know.”

A cloud of sadness seemed to hang in the air around Jake. Tristan was hoping it would evaporate at the mention of Esmeralda’s name, but it didn’t. Jake had been enamored with the girl ever since he had first spotted her in the pet store two years ago, sitting cross-legged on the floor and changing the batteries in a light brown Chihuahua. Looking up at Jake and Tristan with her coffee-colored eyes, Esmeralda had remarked that Jake didn’t need an electronic pet. He already had a talking raccoon on his shoulder, which was far better than all the non-speaking animals in the pet store. Flattered, Tristan had thanked her. As Esmeralda had zipped up the Chihuahua’s abdomen, she had talked about her own tutroid, a hoot owl named Matilda. Unfortunately, Matilda’s brain was defective and she preferred to remain perched on the headboard of Esmeralda’s bed, babbling about the French Revolution.

As Esmeralda had talked about her faulty tutroid, Jake had stared at her with a dazed look in his eyes. She didn’t seem to mind his delirious gaze. She had kept right on talking about her love for Matilda and her fascination with electronic animals in general.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jake said now, leaning against the tree in Bailey Park. “Esmeralda’s too old for me. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. She just wants to be friends with me, that’s all.”

Tristan shrugged. “Hey, that might change one day. She’s only three years older than you. When you guys get older, that age difference won’t matter anymore. You’ll both be adults. Who knows what will happen then?”

Jake didn’t reply. Tristan desperately wanted to cheer him up, but he had already played the Esmeralda card. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“So what do those big blobs look like?” Jake asked finally.

“In the meeting, they said the color changes depending on how you look at them,” Tristan said, relieved that the conversation was taking a new direction. “From one angle, they’re blue. From another angle, they’re red. I’ve been trying to picture that in my mind.”

“I still say they’re giant mushrooms,” Jake insisted. “And they’re mutant mushrooms, because of the war.”

They had argued about it all morning on their way to the vehicle museum.

“No,” Tristan said, staring up at the rounded ceiling of Bailey Park, as if he could see the surface of the earth if he strained his eyes hard enough. “I think they came here from another planet. They just popped up out of nowhere two months ago. And they’re as big as mountains. How do you explain that?”

Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. It’s a book about a boy and his electronic tutor. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.