The News from the Workbench: December 10, 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

Today began as so many mornings do, with the blaring noise of the alarm breaking the cool serenity of slumber. Once the hopes of further excursions in the dream-world subsided, I was able to rise from my bed and look out on the world in all its glory, lit by the soft morning rays of sun cutting through the icy winter chill. After my morning run, somewhat longer today at around five miles, I was sufficiently awake, present, and chipper to begin working once more. But this morning was different, because when I walked out the door this morning, I was eager to get going and start working on my writing and my musical work for the day. I haven’t felt this ambitious or motivated in six to eight months.

Today, I thought I would touch on some of what has made me return to the basics, the fundamentals of my art and also what has allowed me to keep going after all the struggle and pain of this year. Only recently have I been able to return to the process of my art, my writing, and my music after months of strife, lack of motivation, and insecurity with where my career path has been leading me. Though it is hard for me to admit, I think that my personal life and the circumstances of my life have affected my work and artistic life over the course of this year, something I will always be ashamed of.

The last months have been filled with a sort of longing for the piece of me that makes me unique, what makes me essentially me. Every hour of every day has been spent in search of something that can’t be found, unsure of the road forward or of how to create the life I want to live and the art I want to make. It has taken me months to realize that this is a journey that for all of us is uncertain and never-ending. Upon reflection, I have been able to find new comfort both in the doubt and unease and in the small daily routines that center my mind and push the days onward.

It has been through reading the works of great authors, listening to the music of great musicians, and admiring the artwork of the masters that I have been able to find my voice again. What I have realized is that this voice I have found within myself can only truly be found in the tireless awareness of myself and of my actions. True, my path is deeply intertwined with the stories and paths of many others, but only in self-knowledge and personal discovery may I find the stories which must be told, the ideas that have yet to hatch, and the memories that are so crucial in my psyche.

In the last week I have had a much needed reprieve from the day-to-day busy work and lists of tasks and appointments. Time spent alone—thinking, observing, and remembering—has reawakened my soul. I no longer search for the unique energy of my actions and thoughts or for where my path should lead; I now search within my own mind and body for that true self that we must all find inside. My true self drives me towards my passions and I have now found the motivation to work once more. Motivation comes not from how I think I am perceived, but in what really matters to me.

So I read, I write, I play music, and I think. My voice has returned for now and I must remember how I got here. I must recognize that when one gets past the petty, menial, daily slog, inner truth may emerge and the drive for love, storytelling, and immersive beauty will return.

That’s the news from the workbench this week…

-Ethan Brown Jones

Reflections on the Journey

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Outside, snow deadened city and people equally as forcefully. The sky seemed to have collapsed in on itself, the damp, heavy blanket of snow enveloping the forsaken world within its suffocating embrace. I gathered myself as much as I could, slinging my purse over my arm and wrapping my scarf tighter around my neck. Looking around the theatre, I could just see the balcony and the lights rigging high above, silent and familiar in the blackness of the deserted theatre.

The chill cut instantly to my core as I hesitantly pushed through the stage door, greeting the outside world for the first time since morning. I was the last to leave, the only car left in the lot, a lonesome soul among shadows in the wintery land. Shivering, I snuggled further into my thick grey overcoat, quickening my pace towards the chilled metal enclosure of the car. In the dim glow of the stark streetlamps, it appeared as though not a single creature stirred in the matted environment. My car seemed frozen and foreign to my touch. I turned the key and it finally turned over, sluggishly choking to life. I could see my breath, even in the car, and outside the snow continued to fall, covering the ground in deep layer of white. Slipping through snow, squishing and crunching, I began to make my way home at last.

Few cars accompanied me on the road. Lonesome was the night, the snow had made hermits of us all. As I drove home, the heat blasting warm air about the car, NPR on in the background, I couldn’t help but think that an era was ending. The theatre, that theatre specifically, had been an integral piece of my life for almost four years. A shell of building, swathed in the powdery white, had a significance for me which was so great that I couldn’t help but feel sorrow as I drove away for one of the last times.

The landscape I was driving through was alien in the oblique white. Desperation became my foremost emotion as I drove on into the night. The lanes of the road became more and more difficult to discern. Everything was simply a wall of white as the blizzard crept in over the landscape. My shoulders hiked up towards my ears in an attempt to warm my body in the cold night air. Hunched over the steering wheel I slowly traveled onward, moving further and further away from the last era of my life with every mile I drove.

Driving onward, I moved without prospect, without direction, on into the night. Thoughts of the theatre flashed before my eyes. Lights on costumed actors, heavy makeup bedazzled across characters’ faces, fog floating saccharine through the hall, and voices hushed in whispers of anticipation lay dreamlike before my eyes. I drove onward towards an unknown destiny. The journey on that night felt as though it would never end. I slogged through the slushy, wet, thick snow.

I seemed to think about the death in my life on these nights driving home from work. I could just end it all here, I could just drive off the road and roll my car down the side of a mountain. So much else in my life had died. My grandparents had died; how easily they slipped from my grasp. Frail and ephemeral are we all in this life. I had died inside too; my heart had been ripped out a long time ago.

Where was I going? Where had my life gone, eighteen years gone without a trace of relevance?

I would never get home. Sure, I would arrive at a building that I had called home for so many years, cold, bewildered, and disheveled. But would I really be home— secure, complete?

As I drove on I got closer and closer to home, feeling the fragility of my life as the car skated across the icepack which was slick beneath the thick layer of white. Tomorrow would be another day back in the theatre. The people would be the same. That high-powered theatrical energy would fill the theatre to the brim. The snow would melt. And again, tomorrow, I would wonder where my life had turned so far from the course. I would wonder where I crashed, my car rolling down that mountain towards base, towards the center of my character.

Thinking back on this night, driving home from the theatre for one of the last times in my life, I am reminded of other snowy nights, similarly as comfortingly bleak. People shivered and muttered, holding on to the few small vestiges of beauty that would pull them through the winter on those nights. But I think I was happier then. I felt at least at that point like I knew what I was doing with my life. I knew where I was going.

I eventually reached home, or the place I currently called home. I feel like I am perpetually on a journey towards a home that is nowhere to be found. Towards a home that has no place and no time. The snow deadens the pain enough to go on. Innocence cannot be restored though; the snow is simply the illusion of security in a world that is more broken than complete.

-Ethan Brown Jones

 

The Skyline Destiny

Flying in, I could feel the electricity in the air, the constant state of unrest, and the love of productivity balanced with longing for the life of the party. Outside the small plane window, buildings so tall that they could scrape the underbelly of the plane were lit up, bright and perpetually awake. Everyone was out on the town from the paupers, to the wealthy, to the college kids, to the happy families from Brooklyn and Queens. New York City looked alive, as it did almost every night. From the moment we disembarked, the air was muggy and warm, even at that late hour.

The city of love welcomed us with open arms. That night, I too fell in love, not with a person, but rather, with New York City itself. It was that night when I finally felt everything that I had worked for truly come to fruition. All my work and long hours had led up to this trip, to this city.

You know how people say that they saw this one person, they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight? That’s exactly what I experienced that night. The moment I laid eyes on New York City, I fell instantly, completely, and hopelessly in love. I felt like I belonged there- like it was meant to be- like I was already at home in that beautifully-foreign oasis.

One of the best things about New York City is the incredible diversity of people, lives, landscapes, and personalities. Each street is a new neighborhood, each area full of a very different set of people. Every street is more glamourous and lovely than the last. But it is also as historic as any museum and as modern as the empire it represents. Everyone is so unique in New York, but many of them remind me of myself- dreaming always, working constantly, staying up late every single night, bitchy as ever on a regular basis, and opinionated about everything.

Maybe one day I’ll call New York home. And maybe one day I’ll get tired of all the hustle and bustle. But for today, that’s all still in the future. Today, all I can do is dream, work, and wait to see what my future holds. For now, I hope it’s a skyline destiny, and I think it will be. The city is as diverse as I am, and love is love. I made a promise to myself and the city that night that one day I would make it there and I will find it hard to renege on that. I belong in New York and I always have. One day at a time, one little step at a time, one day closer to my skyline destiny.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Feelings of Music

Sitting up there, you feel as though everything just falls away, as though there’s nothing left, as if it’s only you, you and the light, the music, and the emotions. Nothing really matters when you’re up there; you can just express yourself and your feelings, free from fear of persecution. Each moment is different from each of the others. And each one in turn slips away into the past, never to be expressed, felt, cherished, or loved again.

Copper-colored strings stretch out under a heavy, black sky of dark wood which dissolves into the repetitive two-tone rows of keys. The bench stands firm and attentive beneath me, waiting for something monumental to occur. The connection from my fingertips to the keyboard is electrically tangible. Only the piano and I have ever spoken like this before; it’s a conversation so intimate and deep that it will never be heard or spoken the same way again. Only we have danced like this before, felt like this before, expressed this deep, intricate, passionate, mysterious love for each other before. We are singly committed to each other and to the creation of music, an art form as emotional as it is deeply meaningful.

I have never laughed with, loved, enjoyed, and harmonized with another person in the same way as when playing music with them. The instruments, the people, and the sounds all come together in an unbreakable, intense bond. Love is produced in many ways, but only through music is it as intimate and deep.

It’s that connection that gives me hope that one day the world will be a better place and that we will all realize the similarities between all of us through the power of music. We are all deeply intertwined whether it’s immediately visible or not. Music removes the veils of ignorant hate, unearthing the complex connections beneath.

Never have I listened, talked, and conversed better than when sitting before a piano. The ecstasy can never be felt any other way. Only through the piano can I fully live and express the way I must to live on another day. The piano and I will never be apart. We are connected physically, emotionally, and most importantly, intimately.

I feel more emotions and feelings through music than I have ever felt any other way. Music changes us and it makes us feel things differently. We will never be the same people again, but the music will always be with us.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

A Perceived Reality

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Sitting, watching, rolling along in the world, people go by, places disappear, and we never wake up.

Lounging, observing, living life to its fullest, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

A tree can be many things. A tree can be a botanical oasis, a deciduous wonder, or a sculpture of nature. A tree can be a companion, a goldenrod firework, or simply just that which it is, eternally a tree.

Driving along a highway, one’s eyes dart from the roadway sporadically, leering at a passerby, observing a provocation of mild interest. But do we really reminisce or even simply ponder what we are actually observing?

Being an artist, a musician, a designer, or a writer, one learns early on that perception is paramount to one’s own art in addition to one’s reception and comprehension of others’ art. For an artist, it eclipses purely the art world and so perception and observation become the rawest essence of daily life.

Perception is fundamentally applicable for all though, not simply the artist. From the way we perceive sounds and lights and noises and colors, to the way we observe the more subtle and inconspicuous world of emotions, personalities, ideals, and aspirations, the observations we collect and the assessed perceptions we feed off of fuel our minds and our lives more than we can begin to cognize.

And so for some the tree may be just a tree, a biological organism complete with cells, molecules, and a carbon-based composite we call wood. But to the lucky few among us, that tree is something more, something existentially greater than originally assumed. That tree is a manifestation of beauty, courage, joy, transcendentality, and most of all, vivacious, unabashed life. That tree may be gold or green or even red, but that tree is a pictorialization of life and death, pain and resilience, and most importantly, love and loss.

So perceive life how you will, but comprehend and discourse with it each day. For each day is uniquely divergent from the last; lessons are learned, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Life of the Designer

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I wake up, looking towards the deep blackness above me, my alarm blasting away in the night. It’s 5:35 AM which I state not as a malign reality, but simply as an assertion of fact. The arresting cold of the air outside the warm cocoon of my blankets is abrasive on my skin. But it is morning, and if nothing else, we can be sure of this. The day has begun, if not gracefully, at least assuredly. I turn on the desk light with a clack and boot up my computer, ready for whatever work the day has in store.

After a quick glance at my calendar and my inbox, I slip into the frosty dark of the hallway and scurry quickly into the bathroom where an encompassing, massaging, warm shower awaits. I dress in the clothes that have been so cautiously, delicately laid out the night before, style my hair, and apply the makeup that has been so neatly displayed beneath the big the big wood-frame mirror above my dresser.

Breakfast comes with toasty, cheddary, steaming eggs, a crispy piece of toast, and dark, rich, creamy coffee with sweet orange juice on the side.

It’s still dark outside as I sit down expectantly at my desk. I check the news briskly and then start the processes of work I know all too well. I sketch a little and then play a little and work on each minute task that is yet to be completed. Designing and sketching gives way to playing piano and arranging music and before I know it, it’s lunch time.

Lunch is spent on the couch of my studio answering emails and updating my calendar with a warm burrito and a chilling smoothie for comfort. I check Facebook and twitter while I’m at it, seeing if anything is new with the vast and diverse world outside of the luxuries of my office and studio.

Lunch passes on quickly and my afternoon is spent researching, reading, and writing away furiously. Hours upon hours of time wander by while my pen glides swiftly across the paper and my fingers race agilely around the keyboard. Words become sentences which in turn become pages upon pages of drafts in my notebook.

The sun has gone down by the time I emerge from my office to start cooking dinner.  Cooking a creamy pesto pasta with fresh herbs, tomato, mushrooms, and garlic chicken sounds like just the thing to take my mind off of work for a while; and the glass of merlot help too. I spend dinner watching TV and going through more emails and contacting clients before heading back to my studio to journal and read until it’s late in the night.

When one day turns to another, I move to my office where I finish up going through paperwork and typing and editing publication drafts. And when the clock lazily flips to 1 AM, finally my work is done and my restful night sleep can commence. My dreams are of designs and stories and music, that which is my greatest comfort and contentment in life. For tomorrow, the rollercoaster will begin anew, another day in the life of a designer.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Manage Your Life

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So much of managing life is about being able not only to focus well, but also to know how long everything takes. As a business owner, musician, writer, and designer, I constantly have to manage my time, not only in what I’m doing, but also in the breaks I take, my personal life, and in what is not getting done. Scheduling becomes a nightmare when personal life, professional life, and entrepreneurship are all put together. But when one adds in more layers of logistics such as travel time and other people’s schedules, dealing with one’s calendar turns into hell on earth. It is so key in life to be able to organize logistics and scheduling well.

When my business officially opened in October of 2013, it was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. But it was also the start of a major time-suck for me, even if I love what I am doing the majority of the time. I am now constantly updating my calendar and am somewhat of a scheduling junky. I don’t attach myself my calendar because I like being attached to a life plan, although I do, but because I realized that if I want my dreams to come true and my life to stay on track, I have  to be incredibly organized with everything I do.  Both time management and organization have become second nature to me because it was and is necessary for them to be.

So many people in this world lack the basic skills of time management and organization, and it is clear to me that we would all be in a much better place in our lives if planning were much more prevalent. One begins to wonder why it is that the most important and relevant people in our society are sometimes the least together ones.

But experience shows us that the most organized people are the ones who get ahead in life. The CEOs and millionaires of this world are the people who schedule in their every waking minute and communicate the best with their peers and coworkers.

So what should one take away from this- when life gives you work, have fun with it; when life gives you more work, get organized; and when life falls apart, schedule in time to fix it!

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

A Utopian Abstract

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The sun shone warm and bright as I walked down the mall in the middle of September. How charming it was with the golden leaves of fall strewn across its brick walkway, how handsome the men were, how elegant the women. Each shop I passed seemed to both beckon and repel me with equivalent force. Was it just me, or did the people seem happier here, the cars shinier, the landscape somehow more content? Maybe it was all just a façade, perhaps not.

I drove on to the house of my dreams, a villa among houses, a mansion to many. The road bent right and I turned slowly onto my drive, a gravel road that grew somehow more gorgeous with each consequent bend. The road ended seductively in front of a wall of windows, shining in the afternoon sun’s warm rays. Shutting off the engine of my hot pink 1959 Cadillac DeVille, there was only one thing I wanted to do: fall into the arms of the boy behind that dark front door. I wanted to sit willfully at my deep black grand piano and play as I gazed out over the orangy-yellow hills. I wanted to walk up that flight of stairs, into my office, and just sit and sketch, a million inspirations pressing me onward. I wanted to sit back on my deck chair, a glass of red wine in hand, and write, my ideas spilling onto the page like a rushing mountain stream.

Now, I can imagine that crisp air, that perfect house, that perfect lover, that perfect life. But now, I crumple over my notebook, not in that dream house, not with that dream boy. I haven’t just driven up in that impeccable car; I am not brimming with ideas in my perfectly designed office. I sit now, in my cozy room. No lover awaits me. No view seems to inspire my artist’s passion.

But I sit and write, not because my life is absolute Utopia, but because all I want is to express that perfection. My desire is to live in that splendid dream-world, but nothing changes quickly. And as I write these words now, the ink flying effortlessly across the page, all I can think is that I am living, now. I am loving and hoping and working, now.

I must look up. I must realize the almost implausible perfection and beauty of my meager office, my all too familiar, lonesome boudoir. I must learn to accept and live, looking forward, gazing through memories. I must maintain what undeniable animation seems to exist at this very palpably existent moment.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Thoughts on Life

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Recently I realized something while listening to someone attempt to improvise while playing a jazz piece. I realized the reason that so many people don’t like playing music, and for that matter, can’t play music well. The reason, I realized, is that people don’t think enough about being creative, don’t think enough about their real feelings and emotions. Doing anything creative like music or art or designing involves thinking and thought so much. But what do we really think about? Do we think about our lives, our friends, our journeys, the people we love, or simply about creating the piece of art? What I have found is that so much of making art, designing clothes, and playing music is about thinking beyond the the piece.

It’s about thinking about expressing your emotions and ideas through that piece. When I play music, I try to create a story with it. I try to tell about my life and soul and try to say something meaningful. When I design, I try to put a piece of me into each design. My emotions, my thoughts, my personality, they’re all there. When I write, I try to dig so deep within myself that I am completely connected to my work. And when I make art,  I make it mine, about my life, and the way that I see the world.

The way I look at life and love is the reason I am me. I think about life every day. I think about my dreams, my passions, the people I love, and the things that I love to do. I am artist because I love to express, I love to let everything go and just see what happens. Art isn’t about creating something for other people, it’s about letting your life and emotions out through the art.

I love to think about my dreams. I love to think about my life. I love to think about every person and thing that I have loved and miss so much now. The way I live is all about thoughts, it’s all about making life the way you want it, while still just letting go and seeing the incredible things that can happen. Life is about closing your eyes and just listening, feeling, and experiencing the world around you. Life is about putting in your ear-buds, and taking a walk, just to have time to think on everything that needs to be thought about.

I love to just sit without trying to think about anything. Just sitting there looking out over the world, your mind wanders to where it wants to go, where it needs to go. Your mind knows more than you do. You know deep down how you feel about people, how you feel about love, how you feel about life. But your mind already knew all of these things.

As I write today, I sit on the deck, looking out over the aspen grove in front of my house, the pea green meadow beside it, and the dark green mountain and blue sky above it. I see what I want to see, I love who I want to love, I think about whatever I want to. And what I see is beauty and light and warmth all around me. Whom I love is Ian and Max and Clay and Evan, and all my friends. What I  think about is the love I’ve lost, the places I dream about, and the world I want to lose myself completely in. That’s what I think about. I think about life: my life, my future, and my past.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Wide Open Spaces

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I have felt many things in my life: heartbreak, love, passion, desire, sadness, depression, inspiration. But never have I felt stronger about anything in my life than the incredible love,  inspiration, and heartbreak of the last couple of weeks. I have felt such strong feelings, and isn’t that what living is really about, embracing every single feeling equally, not just the good or the bad. I embrace all that comes my way, but because of it, I feel so lost sometimes that I don’t know what to do. But what I have found, is that the more lost I feel, the more I want to get lost. I just want to walk off to someplace very far away, with nothing but the wind and the golden sun to keep me company. I want to leave everything behind, everything but my mind and my soul. I want to cry just to let out all that I have held in, and laugh and sing and yell. I want to leave behind all the pain and the sorrow, and feel nothing but clarity and love and heartbreak. I almost want to never be found. I want to just let everything go and walk away from it all.

In my moments of desperation, I realize that love will always prevail, that life will always go on, that I am me and always will be, and others will always be themselves too.  I will always be the person I am  today. I will always remember my past and dream about the future. I will always live in  another time than my own. But maybe, just maybe I can learn to live in the now by losing everything but my mind and the world around me.

I live for the wide open spaces in this world, the never-ending meadows of green and blue and gold, the wispy orange-peel sky spreading out beyond the horizon for as far as the eye can see. I live for the beautiful rolling ocean stretching out into my endless dreams. I live life for the endless views from my windows, admiring the minute details of every inch of earth, the glistening waters, the shining lights and all-encasing darkness. I love the quiet seclusion of someplace lost and far away, but also the bustling city and the stone pillars of buildings soaring ever upward. Life is too short to not admire the beauty in everything around you.

Living for the wide open spaces for me is about loving the quiet simplicity of a far away place. It’s about loving just thinking about life and being alone with your thoughts. Wide open spaces are the places you can dream, the places you can love and lose, the places you can make the big mistake, and the places that you can cry for the sake of letting go. I design to let go, I write to remember, I play to express, I make art to live my life. I like to be the person who lives for every minute of their life, the ups and the downs. I live everyday the way I want to, not the way any one else wants me too. That’s my life, my way, wide open spaces galore.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones