the escape & the island

(1986-1993)

early 1986 - met Gael Cameron who also became my daughter's mom.

Having been a single parent for almost 3 years, I moved to Anacortes in the San Juan Islands of Washington to raise my daughter and get away from the city.

Anacortes at the time had many empty buildings and it was easy to find space for relatively little money. Found a one bedroom apartment for $100 a month and a block away a large 4 room studio for $175. To put this in perspective, in Seattle I was paying $350 a month for a small 3 room basement apartment in an old house.

Rich Ballow, the owner of the buildings, was willing to trade paintings for rent and being a person that buys time instead of things this was a great find.

From playing "the love game" with God, I started to think of humans as the children of the universe that haven't been born yetand that we are essentially still in the womb.

That the physical 3rd dimension exists to nurture and protect us from our thoughts.

That in the next dimension what we think is what happens.

That thoughts could do a lot of damage if not coming from a place of compassion and understanding.

That every possible reality is available for us to learn and grow from no matter how long it takes.

That only *we* know what we need to learn and haven't learned yet.

That *we* make the decision on what would be best to learn next and how to learn it.

That this era, the next era, past eras are all available to choose from.

That having *unlimited options* is *unconditional love* and whatever works best to help us learn is available for our growth.

I've also thought it might be much simpler. That possibly this is the only life needed. Then we are born into the universe. What comes next is beyond our comprehension. As it is for a baby in the womb trying to understand what's outside of the womb. That to come back to this reality is like a child returning to the womb. It can't happen and there's no reason for it to happen.

"the love game" with God... and *unconditional love*.

Thank you Naomi! :)

1986 - 2001 the band WhoopDeDoo.

Jef Morlan - bass/midi-synth-instruments
Gael Cameron - vocals/keyboard/clarinet/saxophone

1987 - 1992 was the caretaker for the Schuchart family and then the Roach family on Sinclair Island.

sinclair island (google maps)
sinclair island (from google earth)

Sinclair is a 1 mile X 2 mile island in the San Juan Islands that had a yearly population of 6 (us being 3 of the 6). There were no phones, no stores and no ferries. We had a wood stove for heat and the water for the house was gravity fed from a 3,000 gallon water tank on top of a hill.

The Schuchart family had a Log House built in 1976 on a cliff overlooking the water. The house we lived in was a turn of the century 2 bedroom farm house, just up a hill from the beach and was situated in the middle of the 200 acres their family owned. Of the 200 acres I was responsible for 80.

The Schuchart family supplied everything except for food and clothing including the boats and gas to get to and from the island. I received a salary of $1,200 a month plus medical and dental insurance. We had around 30 chickens and a couple of male Muscovy Ducks (who each thought the other was female) and a 13 year old dog I had raised in the city (Seattle) that thought she had died and gone to heaven (actually she did die and go to heaven 2 years later).

When George hired me he said, "We'll be out once a year guaranteed. If we make it twice? Were doing good! You just keep this place safe and maintained. I hope you can make it through the winters. The past caretakers have had problems with that. Oh... and... can you and your family swim?"

Living on Sinclair deepened my love and understanding of nature and enabled me to immerse myself in painting during the winter months.

It was a painters dream! :)


Apple Pressing on Sinclair Island

I've been asked many times, "How did you get this gig!?" My answer? Experience.

What experiences? Everything from driving a combine on my uncle's farm as a teen, sailing with my father in his 30 foot sailboat on lake Coeur d'Alene in Northern Idaho to playing in a rock band in Seattle and being a painter.

A rock band? Yes. I first heard about the job from Hugo Piottin who owned the "Metropolis Club" in Seattle. We played there many times and after he sold it, he heard from a friend of a friend about the job. He would visit me in Anacortes bringing fresh eggs. One day he said, "I'm a single male and I'm going crazy out there. It's such a good gig, it would be a shame to let it go to just anyone. I think it would suit you and your family very well. I'll get you in contact with the owner if you'd like?"

1988 - the Schuchart family gave me a large book on David Hockney - "David Hockney a Retrospective".

Realized that a big part of life is learning to let go. Started painting over paintings changing them into something completely different.

Realized it would be easier for me to understand who my daughter *is*, than it would for her to try and understand who I might want her to be.

Naomi sat for 3 hours during this portrait.

Started listening to "Brave New Waves" on CBC Radio2 Canada. Set up a tape deck to record it all night and listen to it the next day.

Went to Seattle for the weekend. Found a cheap motel on Aurora Avenue just north of Green Lake and the Zoo. Part of this motel had a Black Angus restaurant so after checking in we walked over to the restaurant for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks.

After having eaten, I walked up to the bar to order a couple more drinks and started talking with the barmaid. I commented that I liked the music she was playing and said, "What you're playing is unusual for a place like this." She said, "Really? Thanks!" After talking a bit more she says, "My brother is a music producer, you might know of him..." My first thought was, "Yeah... right... This is like someone saying, 'You've been to Vancouver? I have a friend in Vancouver! Maybe you know him!?"

Smiling I said, "Really... a producer? Who is he?" To this she replied, "His name is Brian Eno. Have you heard of him?" My jaw dropped to the counter... "Brian Eno!!? You've got to be kidding! Of course I know who Brian Eno is! I love Brian Eno! What's your name?" To this she replied, "Rheta Eno, I'm Brian's sister." I honestly was somewhat stunned. Could this really be? About an hour later Rheta came up to the table and said, "Will you be around tomorrow? I have something I'd like to show you."

We met back at the restaurant the next day in the afternoon. While walking up to the bar with a smile on my face, Rheta pointed to a table saying, "Have a seat. I'll be right with you." From behind the counter she pulled out three large photo-albums and joined us at the table. Sliding out a chair Rheta comments, "I thought you might like to see these!"

She opened the first album and Wow...

There's Brian sitting in the living room with his brother Roger!
There's Brian with his Mom and Dad!
There's Brian with his sister Rheta!
There's Brian sitting with his family next to a Christmas Tree!

Seeing Brian Eno in such intimate surroundings was a real treat. It's not often one gets to see someone as well known as Brian Eno in such *normal* settings. At home... with family and friends. Yes... this was a treat indeed!

When finishing the last album Rheta commented, "We never thought of Brian as having any real talent. I mean... he doesn't play the instruments, he just puts it together. We always thought Roger was the *real* talent in the family! He actually plays an instrument!!"

It's funny what *the universe* gives you at times! :)

Had many musician friends out to the island where we would play music all night. Invited several painter friends out to paint in the islands.

Heard *the voice* say, "What right do you have using art supplies that have come from halfway around the world?"

1989 - starting having ethical / environmental issues with the materials I used to create art.

Started to use as few resources possible to create my paintings. Taking good care of the brushes, using all of the paint taken from the tubes, using paint thinly and being careful not to waste it.

Because of very little contact with TV, I started to find TV incredibly aggressive and negative. Found my tolerance of the city had gone to zero.

Found an ad for a *book club* in a magazine offering three art books. If you paid for one of the books and signed up, they would send the other two books as a bonus.

The books were:
"Paintings in the Louvre" by Lawrence Gowing
"Paintings in the Musee d'orsay" by Robert Rosenblum
"Paintings in the Hermitage" by Colin T Eisler

The books were $75 each and you didn't have to send any money, they would bill you later. I thought this too good to be true, but sent away for them anyway. About 3 months later they arrived on the island to the dismay of the postman (we received mail on Wednesdays) because all he had was a little blow-up raft with a tiny little motor and the books were huge!

As it turned out the book club never sent a bill, so the books were free!

Started to realize that life on the Island wouldn't last forever. Wondering what I would do after leaving, I started painting obsessively to build a body of work.

Started thinking that modern painting was lacking in sensuality and had an interesting absence in the use of half tones.

Became interested in the techniques of the "Old Masters" and started to highly admire the works of Peter Paul Rubens.

Noticed a lineage in art history in relation to how the mind sees paintings.

Titian (1490 - 1576)
Caravaggio (1571 - 1610)
Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 - 1669)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696 - 1770)
Eugene Delacroix (1798 - 1863)
Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)

Up until Titian paintings were very clear and descriptive, like everything was in bright sunlight with no detail being left out. With Titian, faces and bodies were half covered in shadow or hidden behind an object. The limbs of trees and architectural elements would fade into darkness. These aspects were used by all of the above painters before Monet. With Monet, Impressionism itself left out the details.

This allows the mind to fill in what's left out. The mind and imagination become active parts in the viewing of a painting. Viewing the painting becomes more like reading a book or listening to a story compared to watching TV or a movie. It becomes an *active* rather than *passive* activity and this is what makes it more of a *real* experience!

After Monet we enter the modern era in which most artists are using the mind and imagination as active parts in their works.

1990 - rented studio 1990 to have a space on the mainland to paint and stay in when not on the island.

Planted the third garden. Realized that if I live the average life span for a male (70 years), I have only 35 more gardens left.

Realized that representational paintings have a limited life span until they are no longer active in the mind. Started my pursuit of works based on change to keep a painting alive and active in the mind.

Began painting what I refer to as "Psychomorphs" empathizing ambiguity and existing in a place between abstraction and representation. The round Psychomorphs were made from high-density particleboard with canvas mounted to the front. The particleboard was then mounted to the wall using a lazy-susan. This enabled the piece to be turned thus changing the relationship of the forms to each other and their meaning.


NOTE: at this time there are no painted examples of Psychomorphs here or in the visual timeline, it will be updated soon.

A friend who worked for a bank would collect used *canvas bank bags* that normally would've been thrown away. He'd fill up a few of the bags with other bags and give me a call. One time when I was throwing three full bank bags into the boat (with "The Property of ****** Bank" printed on the side) I thought, "Funny I can do this and no one asks me a single question!?"

With these bags I would cut open the seams then rip, tear and cut these bags into shapes. The shapes would then be mounted to plywood I'd get from the "Free Wood" bins of construction sites. I'd gesso the surface and paint them in oils. I liked the warmth and *painting like qualities* of the canvas juxtaposed against the rugged torn up surface of the plywood. One work was a huge female figure done on a 4'X8' piece of plywood with her body painted on the canvas. The cost for the 4'X8' support was almost nothing.

figure 1993

bowl with bread 1993

Started listening to Dead Can Dance, C Cat Trance, Bjork.

The caretaker position on the north side of the island became vacant.

I told John Moilanen about it and he moved onto the island with Molly and stayed a year.

Found that nature doesn't kill people, schedules do.

early 1991 - the storm

In the middle of the night "the storm" hit. The temperature dropped to 6F freezing the plumbing solid. Salt spray blew up from the surface of the water, instantly freezing anything it came into contact with. The winds were 100 MPH+, leveling huge swaths of trees. 60 year old, 60 foot high trees snapped like twigs, crushing the main house. Our house shook on its foundation and windows blew out of their frames.

We moved into the main room that had the wood stove, leaving the rest of the house to the elements. With the heat of the stove and the warm light of oil lamps we were safe and cozy. The simplicity was delightfully inspiring.

mid 1991 - heaven

late 1991 - sold a 4' diameter Psychomorph for $6,000.

Never thought I'd have the money to go to Paris (being an artist). Now I did! :D

early 1992 - went to Paris and Amsterdam.

Saw for the first time many of the paintings by artists that have inspired me. This *demystified* the masters (a very important thing)!

When I was about 22 years old I read a quote by Georges Braque saying, "I believe the intellect starts at around 21 years of age and the poetic at around 35." At this time I was 37 years old and started to become aware of my own mortality. Nothing will give you more of an awareness of what life is than death.

My grandfather (the one who gave me the brushes) had passed away a few years ago. I remember looking at him at the funeral and thinking, "His body has *nothing* to do with who he was. What animated that body *is* my grandfather."

Living on the island I started to become more poetic, more of a romantic. I started to realize the importance of having elements of death in a painting, the elements of growth *and* decay. Before this romance and poetry didn't have a lot to do with why I painted.

I had been painting in restaurants, cafes and lounges for a few years. I'd get some paper and a bag for my pens, pencils and watercolors then spend the evening painting at a table. I liked doing this in public as a kind of *romantic artist* thing to do. Not only did I like the direct contact with an environment while working but it was also a *performance piece* for the public. When people saw I was painting them and their surroundings they'd become acutely aware of themselves and their surroundings.

I felt this to be a good thing.

"The Unicorn" on University Ave. Seattle.
"The Dog House" downtown Seattle.
"Lowell's Restaurant & Bar" in Pike Place Market, Seattle.
"Jon Ericson's Apartment" in Kirkland.

I wanted to feel welcome when painting in these places and didn't want to get paint or ink on the tables. So... it was time to build a box of some sort that would protect the table and keep the paper and supplies together.

The first box worked well but was a bit on the large side and being made of wood would knock against the tables and chairs. The next box had to be lighter and have some protection because this box was going to Paris.

I went into the forest behind the house and cut some wood out of a limb that had fallen from a maple tree for the body. I had found with the first box that the weak points were the glued and joined parts. This time I was going to carve the body from a single piece of wood. For the cover and the work surface I cut a thin slice of burl from the surface of the same maple tree.

To protect "the box" I used an old leather jacket, cut it up and hand stitched it into a shoulder bag using a heavy nylon thread. The body was hand carved with an X-Acto knife, stained then coated with varithane. It all took a few weeks to complete. This is the kind of thing you can do when you don't watch TV and... well... it was going to Paris!

In Paris "the box" worked great and an added benefit was it attracted peoples' attention. One time a waitress came up and asked if she could look at the painting. She took it, placed it on the table opposite from us and said, "C' est Bon... C' est Bon...". This would never have happened in the States. I remember thinking, "It's nice to be home."

Another time at the "comptoir" of a restaurant, I was painting the two jazz musicians playing that night. After their set the sax player came over to take a look at what I was painting. We became friends and for a few days he took us all over Paris, seeing places we never would have seen if not for him. Arno was a very funny guy and I couldn't have asked for a better time in Paris. When we parted ways off the subway, we both had tears in our eyes.

Yes... the Romantic Parisian Painter! ;)

Took a high speed train to Amsterdam. Trains are the best!

In Amsterdam I was talking to an acquaintance in a pub and said, "I've really met a lot of nice people here." he replied, "Well Jef, you find what you look for!" I've thought about that many times in my life. Could it be that easy?

For about 5 years I had this music in my head and couldn't quite pin-it down. The sound of WhoopDeDoo was very close, but it was difficult for me to let it be as simple as I was hearing it in my head. While in Amsterdam I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was exactly what I had been hearing in my head.

It was Techno!

Started listening to every genre of Techno there is, which lasted for 10 years. I find it interesting that with Techno (usually being released as compilations) I never remember who created the individual works.

I had never flown before and on the way back from Europe, found the shapes and forms of the Earth from 30,000 feet fascinating and quite inspirational.

Back on the Island.

Because of *the storm* it had been arranged to have the island "cleaned up" or "parked out" as it was sometimes referred to. To pay for this some of the trees were to be cut down and sold. The logging contractor arrived on the island. With the logging contractor we were to mark with orange day-glow spray paint a large X on the trees that were to be left uncut.

After the contractor left the island, we used the orange day-glow spray paint and ran around the island, marking a large X on every tree we thought we could get away with.

mid 1992 - left Sinclair Island.

Leaving the island was extremely difficult. This was a place where my understanding of time had changed. Hourly schedules (like one has in the city), had become seasonal. The seasons flashed by one after the other turning years into what felt like months. I became conscious of how love can be expanded to encompass whole areas. Experienced extraordinary 15 minute events in nature that can only be experienced when living in constant contact with nature. Became conscious of that element in life, I now call "the universe". Came to realize that heaven can be on earth. Experienced true peace and joy.

I mean... this is where I learned to just *ask* insects to leave and the importance of organizing my tools! :)

The reasons for leaving were many. From the island being heavily logged after *the storm* to my daughter now being 11 years old and needing more social contact. The list is long. The universe was giving us a drop-kick off the island and there was nothing that could be done about it.

My last memories were of a surreal logging machine (with an arm that moved like a snake), moving it's way up from the beach with the sounds of chain saws and back-up beepers in the woods. Because the infrastructure was now in place for the logging process, a feeding frenzy ensued, taking all but a third of the coniferous trees on the island.

However, that's nothing compared to the damage a thousand feet of ice (15,000 years ago) can do.

1992 - 1994     the New Bohemian Coffee House.

late 1992 - opened the New Bohemian Coffee House in Anacortes.

The NewBoCoHo (as it had become known) was inspired by the cafes in Paris and rapidly became a center for the arts. At the NewBoCoHo we had poetry readings, book signings, live music of all kinds, painting exhibitions, computer generated works, raves, lots of board games, dress up days, a graffiti wall and my favorite... show and tell. :)

Twice it made the "Top 100 Places in Washington" list published yearly.

early 1993 - purchased an 80286 computer and started my first computer works.

Some were made by using a black and white draw program. Images were created by clicking black pixels on and off. These were printed using a 9-pin dot matrix printer and xeroxed. The xerox was then transfered to watercolor paper using mouth atomized spray fixative. This was then gone back into with watercolors and water-soluble colored pencils.

Others were programmed (coded) GUI pieces using Visual Basic and Quick Basic, given away on 3-inch, high-density diskettes affixed with a blank adhesive label and a hand written title using a "sharpy" and... as always... write-protection tab activated - floppy disks.

mid 1993 - moved from studio 1990 to studio 1993.

During this move was the "Anacortes Arts and Crafts Festival" held yearly in the first week of August. I decided to do a performance piece during the festival.

In studio 1990 was an 8' hight free standing tripod easel I'd made from 6"X6" lumber and stained a dark walnut. It was very heavy. I dressed up in a long white robe with a hood and drug the easel on my back slowly down the street, through the middle of the crowded art booths, with sweat pouring from my face. It took about 20 minutes to get 3 blocks down the street to studio 1993.

late 1993 - traded coffee for an 80386 computer from Hans Lienesch who turned me onto "the demo scene".

Discovered, studied and started producing fractals.

Iris print on Rives BFK of digitally collaged fractals.

Guy Anderson visited my studio. It was difficult for him to walk by this time, so I was honored he made the effort to get up the stairs and down the hall. In the studio he looked around through the 4 rooms with a big smile on his face. He came upon the bulletin board tacked with clippings, photos and gallery opening postcards. Stepping back a few steps he proclaimed, "I've always loved collage!"

You've got to love that. :)

"The Virginia Inn" downtown Seattle.

Was told the energy / vibration level in my paintings were much higher while I lived on Sinclair Island.

One day Naomi was being unusually obnoxious (sugar had to have been involved somewhere). After putting up with it for awhile I leaned over to her and said, "Just because I love you, doesn't mean I have to like you." Her eyes went big as she timidly said, "You mean you don't like me?" I replied, "Not now I don't." She stopped being obnoxious.

Found that because I painted what I love that it's extremely difficult for me to sell my pieces. My works are like the pages of a diary and to sell a piece is like ripping out a page and selling it.

To help pay for the the studio, I had traded some paintings for rent. One piece was a painting of Gael. When she found out what I'd done she immediately teared up. With tears in her eyes she said, "no... not that painting... not that one... how could you have done that?" I felt horrible.

Started a collection for a *Free Thanksgiving Dinner* for anyone who wanted to attend. Collected over $300! Unfortunately, three days before the dinner the collection was stolen. Two months earlier I had hired a chef (and an "artist") and to this day I think it was him. He turned out to be a somewhat scary individual with multiple personalities. Live and learn...

We decided to have the dinner anyway using what little money we had. However... the word had gotten out. A local TV station came to the coffee house and did an interview. The next day people were coming in with turkeys and a multitude of prepared dishes!

The *Free Thanksgiving Dinner* went off fantastically! (that's a fun word :)) There was plenty of food for everyone and we all had a great time!

Live and learn!

bread and flowers - 1993


friends and colleagues (1986-1993)
Anne Martin McCool
Alfred Currier
Bill Mitchell
Hans Lienesch
Brian Cypher
Beau Hoptowit

karmaright 2021