ARTISTS SERIES: No. 5 – Wacky, Weird, Wild, or Just Plain Savvy? – Mystery Artist

Episode #5 – Artists Do Not Think Like Sane People

[Dr. DJ continues this 10-part series. In Episode #11. Dr. DJ will explain

who he believes should be the receiver of the WWW Artist Award (and Why, of course!)]

work destroyed by mystery artist


20th Century Mystery Artist

Who is crazy enough to burn up their paintings?

Long before Banksy came up with the frame eater concept, an American artist 15 years before that, in 2003, piled all his works in a parking lot behind his studio, poured charcoal lighter fluid on them, and WHOOSH!

Thousands of dollars worth of paintings up in oily smoke.


When asked (and he was asked by the building owner and the fire department!) he had a ready 3-word answer. “I had to.”

“What does that mean?” asked the fuming fire chief.

It was right at that point the artist was reminded that artists do not think like sane people.

Does that mean artists are insane? No, that is not what I am saying. See the blog on Artist Brains ARE Different

Well, wait, of course there have been insane artists! But we would have to go into all kinds of psycho-technical language to define what we mean by “insane” – Was Pollock, an alcoholic, insane? When Van Gogh cut off his ear, was he insane? Does Dali, showing up for a book signing wearing a scuba outfit, or arriving in a Rolls Royce with 1,000 heads of cauliflower, illustrate insanity?

Does burning up all your paintings classify as insanity, and by saying, “I had to” explain it away?

Let’s not get into that. The point here is that artists – as a breedthink differently. They usually see differently. Some say they feel differently in that their feelings are so intense that they just might chop off their ear to prove their love. [Actually it is believed Gaugin lopped off Vincent’s ear with a sword. No kidding.]

The artist who burned up his paintings was certainly experiencing an insane amount of disgust. That is a nasty emotion. The mystery artist said, “I was so fed up with where my work was going, I wanted to rid the world of this because the whole road of my art had led to this point. The fastest way to plow over the road was to fire ‘em up! So, that is what I did. It was more like a fresh start which is difficult to put into words, but it liberated me from my previous methods and techniques that I felt were strangling me.”

The Damnable Edge

As soon as the fire was out, and the fire chief gone (leaving a bill for his supervisory services) the artist went to his studio and sat, thinking, for almost 4 hours. Doing nothing. Not daydreaming, not stargazing, not looking with a vacant stare…but looking with an intensity at the floor.

Suddenly he jumped up, grabbed a roll of canvas, 60” in height, and quickly rolled out an approximate 20 ft. length on the floor. He poured white paint into an empty bucket. Then, with a paint roller, he quickly covered the whole canvas with black paint, then a half its length red and the other half blue. Before it was dry, and with a stick, he began to sling white paint onto the black canvas.

Later he related how he was very conscious of the internal battle he had with himself to keep the paint ON the canvas. He had to force himself to let the paint fly over the edges, basically including the floor in the painting.

“I never realized,” he said, “how heavily influenced I was to ‘keep within the lines’ mentality had haunted me all my life. I had to make a determined effort to avoid what I later came to call, the damnable edge.”

Upon finishing with the white, yellow, red, black and gold paint, over 25% of the paint was, in effect, off the canvas.

“Yet, it you look closely, you will see places where my hand, as if it had a mind of its own, veered back away from the edge. The damnable edge.”

This was that very first painting…

And it is not really the edge of the canvas that bothers some artists…it is the edge in their mind they must overcome. “If you value ‘freedom’ as many artists do,” says out Mystery Artist, “you will fight this battle all of your life…or be locked up somewhere because you went too far. The balance of it all is a mysterious force, like gravity or the subconscious mind.

My advice to artists who are just beginning to see themselves as serious artists: Find this limiting subconscious territory in yourself, and become familiar with it, but never give in to it unless you want to show the world how stale and stagnant you have become.”

work of mystery artist


Years later…still fighting…


Insanity. What is it? It is defined by psychiatrists as “being out of touch with reality.”

Artists continue to ask and answer the question, “What exactly IS reality? Watch me paint it for you!”


Because what you feel is what is real.


Who is our mystery artist?

mystery artist


Who will be in WWW #6??? Wait and see!!!


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