“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

– James Baldwin

My second portrait of James Baldwin is built from the lyrics of the David Byrne song “They are in love.” Each piece up to this point from my Facing the Music series of drawings is connected to Talking Heads or David Byrne lyrics, in part because they have always spoken to me. Moreso, because I find a timelessness in Byrne’s writing, an adaptability to the current moment on a continual basis.

Marker on paper, 22×30 inches 2020


portrait ig

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

– James Baldwin

A new piece from the Facing the Music body of work, this marker portrait of one of my heroes happened quickly. Baldwin was one of the greats, a complex human who knew and spoke his truth with articulate passion and certainty. Because of the racial and sexual prejudices of his homeland, the United States, he moved to France in 1948, shortly after his literary career began, and spent most of his life there. His work is perpetually inspiring and relevant, his word like a secular gospel.

shelan wip 2

A good friend came by to engage in some necessary #socialproximity recently. They’d wondered if #socialdistancing had made much impact on me, as I work from home. Aside from seeing a few select humans and playing pool in neighborhood dives, I do tend to spend much of my time here, working through the night, listening to loud music, dancing around like a spastic disco drunk while singing, watching movies (not ALL porno), maybe to the chagrin of my apartment building neighbors.

It is a fascinating time to witness, this time capsule of uncertainty we’re living inside: fear and confusion, panic, misinformation, poor leadership, and of course very real tragedy and death, some of which was and is likely avoidable. The pessimist/realist in me wonders if fear will be wielded to manipulate and control? I can’t help but see calamity as an opportunity for people with power to pounce on those without, or to at least acquire more power. The artist/lover in me, however, hopes that communities take advantage of the opportunity to deepen their connections, to build an infrastructure of kindness. I’ve seen examples of this here in Chicago. Many restaurants are giving groceries to the employees they’ve had to lay off, which is heartening.

Will those who make decisions about eviction do right by their incomeless tenants? Will the many who need help receive it? No fucking clue. If people in the epicenters aren’t getting what they need, how will those on the edges? But I’m holding on to hope, an always relevant and vital thing to hold. I’m holding on to my Sharpies, too, working here in my studio, making things, talking to myself, feeling the blood in my muscles and the energy in my hands. The image above is a crop of a piece I just finished, the third in an unexpected but very welcome (and entirely illuminating, for me) triptych about my daughters.

I was a young (and ignorant) parent, but the thing about beauty is that it’s undeniable. Regardless of the fear and uncertainty that I felt nearly two decades ago, the incredible beauty – soulful, intelligent, sweet, sincere, witty, from the surface to the depths – of these humans has been a constant inspiration, a source of joy and pain and overwhelming goodness. Love is the ultimate ass kicker. Keep those you love close, regardless of the space between you.

22×30 inches, Sharpie and brush tip marker on watercolor paper.

See more in the WIP gallery.


A crop of my current work in progress, I began this drawing in early November and will be finished with it any moment now. 22×30 inches, ultra-fine point Sharpie on watercolor paper, from the Notes to Self body of work.

This drawing arose from (among other things) long-standing feelings of loss, and the kind of mindfuck that can follow the formation of a sudden hole in your heart. When that loss is broken after years by constantly-hoped-for but unexpected presence, the mindfuck doesn’t necessarily dissipate, it just shifts or gets knocked about. My experience tells me that patience is essential, which is why for the last few months I’ve been grinding down the nibs of several dozen aqua markers on this drawing of a single word, focusing the lions share of my love at it and all that it means to me.

You can see a few more crops of this piece in the WIP gallery.

You Are Beautiful

Back in 2006, I contributed to the block-long You-Are-Beautiful mural on State Street in downtown Chicago, and felt closer to my city than ever before. Today, my design was chosen for YAB‘s sticker of the month for November, and another 13-year circle closes for me. I am again pleased to contribute to and be shared by these good people.

Any stickers you order from YAB in the month of November will also come with one of mine. Kinda wish it was scratch and sniff… Spread love and beauty. Check out their site. Monthly subscription packs of stickers start as low as $6.

PechaKucha Volume 51 on YouTube


My presentation for volume 51 of PechaKucha is now on my YouTube channel! Have a look, share your thoughts, and don’t be a damn stranger. New subscribers will receive – totally free of charge and with zero attached strings – my genuine and wholehearted esteem. Or something just shy of that. You are also welcome to gawk at some still photos from the evening, conveniently located right here.

We have only moments to be together, fellow humans.