Trails.

My wife and I moved to Santa Fe, NM at the end of September. Austin became too much for us; too crowded and too expensive and we decided it was time to go somewhere else. You can only bang your head against the wall for so long before you realize it’s not doing any good.

Since we got here, we have explored a number of trails in the mountains above the city. Some steep ones, some easy ones,some more frequented, some more isolated. There seems to be an endless amount to choose from and it is a pure joy seeing our dogs run around checking out every turn, every new exciting smell and the occasional random dog and human crossing our path. These 1-2 hour long hikes are so rejuvenating and a great medicine for the soul. For a few moments it allows you to forget the stress of the everyday life; bills, illness and whatever else is looming over you.

I have never before tried to do any landscape drawing, I never had the interest before. Now, it’s all I have done for the past two months. Much to my surprise I discovered that it was a lot of fun to try to capture the intricate patterns; the relations between the trees and the shadows, the spaces between, the dark and the light and the incredible variety of shadows and colors. An endless amount of variations that I take pleasure in trying to capture and make my own.

I made a print of one of these drawings, you can purchase it from me, just send me a message if you’re interested. I am only making 50 copies, so hopefully it will be a limited offer (I mean, I hope I will sell out fast).

winsor-trail

 

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From Austin To New York.

From Austin To New YorkMorning.

Let the journey begin. Let this plane take us out of here and in to the next phase, whatever that may be. You’re still sleepy, it’s early, but there’s no way you can get any rest here in these uncomfortable seats. You go get some coffee, you go get some tea, some water; some overpriced airport water, and you drink it without tasting it. Commerce all around. Coffee, tea, tacos, bagels, cinnamon rolls, hot dogs, watches, books, fruit, drinks, snacks, travel accessories, whatever the hell that is…No, this is not a vacation. It may feel like it; after all you’re away from the daily routine and on your way to something you have never seen before, but it’s not a vacation and it’s not a getaway. It’s a chance for life. In a country with an enormous wealth, where some people pay millions for a house or an apartment without even blinking,others are homeless, sleeping in the streets. Where some people can buy anything they desire, others are dying because they can’t afford healthcare. “Can’t afford healthcare”. Taste it. It feels wrong, doesn’t it? You can’t afford saving your life. The affordable will not take you very far anymore.

This is not a vacation, it’s a chance for life. It’s paid for by friends and strangers who donated to a fundraiser you started for a chance for a normal life. You want to be  a part of something. You want to contribute, to be a productive member of society, however lame and stiff that may sound. Don’t want to live in the shadows, like a ghost. Don’t want to be isolated. Don’t want to not have the energy.  We have one life. Yours feels like half a life, the way things have turned out. Morning. From Austin to New York. From home; that low income housing unit in the midst of what used to be “weird” but now has turned into condo, “luxury living”-“amazing views”-heaven, to see the doctor at a clinic where you don’t have to explain or defend yourself.

Morning. Sunrise. You’re tired, but there’s a tickle in your chest. It’s an unfamiliar feeling. Is it hope?

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Remnants of Weird

I admit it. I am one of the thousands of people who have moved to Austin in the past 10 years. I moved here in 2009 with my wife and our then 13 year old cat. We had been here twice before; first time, for me, was in 2007 when we did some shows at SXSW. The second time in 2008, when we had just gotten married and chose Austin as our honeymoon destination.

I fell in love with Austin. It was easy. It was way different from Sweden, where I had spent all my life. The mentality here was just so liberating – easygoing, laid back, open minded and respectful. People where genuinely nice and, it seemed, happy with life. Much more so than I had ever experienced anywhere else. I loved the heat and the humidity – I still do – and I felt like this was home, although I had never been here before.

I guess we came here just moments before the floodgates broke and the dam gave way, because in the past three or so years, it seems Austin has changed. For the worse, if you ask me. I see it every day; the increased traffic, the rudeness  and stress in people’s faces, the decreasing number of people that say “Hi” when you pass them in the street. The increase of hipsters and the disappearance of baggy shorts, big t-shirts and flip flops in the streets and on the restaurants patio’s. Something has gone missing. The laid back spirit that I came to experience and fall in love with has been replaced, it seems, by a growing level of stressed out people who seem to be in some sort of race. A race to get there first, to pay more, to build bigger (and in most cases, uglier) to move “forward” whatever that means and to generally compete. It’s like a gold rush all over again and these people, this mentality, this greed, is killing the true spirit of what so many of us fell in love with in the first place. The city is growing and, sure, it’s improving, but if you can’t afford to be in the race there’s really nothing improving for you. Rents have sky rocketed, housing prices are through the roof, the roads are congested (some mornings it takes me an astounding 20 minutes to go from South Lamar, by the new Alamo – and don’t get me started on that whole development – to Cesar Chavez. It’s crazy. There’s a railway track running all the way parallel with South Lamar – why not put a commuter train or tram on that stretch? There could be stops all the way from Ben White, Town Lake, Enfield, 38th, 45th, Anderson Ln and so on.

All these new apartment complexes…I have to say that it seems like the architects all lost their sense of innovation, creativity and design. All over town, these boxy, ugly places are popping up. 300 new units here and 300 new units there and everyone’s got their own car and everyone’s gonna join everyone else on the streets in the morning and afternoon rush hours. And as much as I dislike it, I find myself living in one of these places. My wife and I were fortunate to get a one bedroom – an affordable housing unit – on South Lamar and I love the location. I love the fact that there is a courtesy officer on site that you can call if someone is loud late in the evening, I love the closeness to the greenbelt and all the restaurants around here. We can’t afford to go out to eat right now, but some day we will and I look forward to it. “Affordable” btw means half my paycheck and maybe that says more about my salary than the prices on rent, but if we hadn’t gotten the affordable housing deal, our apartment would cost $1600 / m. That’s crazy, if you ask me, but I guess people make that kind of money these days and can afford to pay that much for living?

All these things going on. And still. I love Austin. I absolutely love living here and I really want to stay here, I have no wish to go back to Sweden and nowhere else I’d rather live but here. I’m not saying that everything was better before, but we need to stop for a moment and think about what kind f city we want to build for ourselves? Is it going to be an including, diverse, exciting, creative city where the old Austin can live together with the new, or is it just going to be a luxurious playground for those who can afford to pay up?  I just wish that this expansion madness would slow down. It needs to. It has to, because Austin – the Austin I fell in love with 8 years ago is disappearing. And that is just too sad. Maybe I don’t have the right, the authority to talk about Austin like this, being a newbie myself, but I love Austin and I don’t want Austin to become what it is becoming.

I call this picture “Remnants of Weird” because it embodies everything that’s going on in Austin right now. You’ve got the old institutions; Saxon Pub with it’s guarding knight by the street, South Austin Music with that spinning guitar, a sense of the old, weird, unique being pushed out before our eyes and replaced by yet another large boxy apartment complex.  Streamlined. Soulless. Soon all that’s left will be apartments and hip expensive places to spend all that IT / web designer money and the old Austin will move further out, or maybe somewhere else all together and then you’re going to have to come up with a new, more accurate city slogan, ‘cos you’re not keeping it weird anymore.

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Concrete Sunset

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I found myself beneath the sky as the sun sank to the west,

the bearded men with their cardboard signs had all packed their gear and left

and the vessels on the concrete rivers way up there in the dark,

were fewer now, they’d almost stopped and everything gone quiet.

I stood there on the walkway and listened to my heart,

beating in my chest, indeed, beating really hard

I felt it and I thought “That’s good, at least I’m still alive…”

(when life crumbles and collapse around you, it’s hard to tell sometimes…)

I knew I had to keep on going, directions were unclear,

but I KNEW I wasn’t lost, I KNEW that I belonged right here.

And if it was a dream or if it was reality

I’ll never know and it doesn’t really matter much to me,

Because I saw, in a fleeting moment, the beauty of it all;

the stars, the fading sunlight and the rivers up above

and I thought that if a motorway, this man-made concrete beast

can look this beautiful, there must be hope even for me.

And I could feel my heart slow down and my breathing become light

and I don’t know how, but it came to me; things will be alright

‘cos if the option is to just lay down and let yourself get overgrown

with fear and sadness all together, then none of this ever really mattered

– so go on, go out there in the world, let your light shine and your voice be heard

and if you open up your eyes, beauty sometimes comes disguised…

– I saw it in an overpass, the most unlikely place,

if only for a moment…

it soon faded away

 

 

Untitled, Color pencil on paper

25,5″ X 25,5″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stuff Dreams are Made of.

On 10th and North Lamar Boulevard, in Austin TX, there used to be a car lot. Used cars, new cars, old dreams, new dreams were sold and there were balloons and little colorful flags strung up to lure and entice and they would flap and wave in the wind, the warm breeze blowing from the south. Imagine fathers bringing their sons in for that first car, their very own first car, which will forever be connected to a string of memories, waving in the wind just like those colorful flags. This is the car he will pick up his girlfriend with, take her out to the movies, get his first kiss…and maybe more if things go well. This car will take him to the swimming holes in the summers and to school and his part time job and everywhere in between.

“Here you go, son”, the man says and drops the keys in the boy’s stretched out hand. “Now don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and if I ever hear about you drunk driving or some stupid shit like that, I will take the car back, ok? If you should get pulled over cause you’re drunk or high or something, I will not bail you out. Got that? I’m serious; having your own car is a big responsibility. It’s not a toy. Your mom and I are getting this for you so you can be more independent. You’re a smart kid and we want the best for you, so don’t let us down.” The kid clutches his hand around the keys and he tries to sound all grown up and manly when he says “Yes dad”, but his voice cracks just a little bit because he’s happy and excited and nervous and he sounds so much more like a kid than a man and for a second he blushes and he turns his head away so his dad won’t see. Finally – his own car! Even if it’s just a 1990 Toyota minitruck and the paint has already started to come off, it’s HIS very own car! He clears his throat and stretches out his hand to his dad. “Thank you!”. This time his voice is steady and he feels like a man, but then his dad gets a strange look in his eyes and pulls him in and gives him a big hug and he runs his hand across his head, messing up his hair and there he goes; back to feeling like a boy again. This time it’s his father’s voice that cracks up when he says: “I can’t believe you’re so big already…where the hell did time go?” He sighs and shakes his head. With his hands on the boy’s shoulders he says “Please be careful, son, your mom and I love you very much, OK?”

“OK dad”. Then the dad turns and walks away. “See you for dinner, don’t be late!”

And the memories begin. The flags are strung up, wrapped around the lampposts and the fence surrounding the lot and everything fades in the sun and in time. The flags wither and rip, eventually, the once so bright colors faint and faded . Like friends and things you do and places you’ve been and things you’ve said and seen that you thought at the moment would be with you forever. Emotions once so strong – now you struggle to remember. It’s a damn short movie, that’s for sure.

Old Car Lot On North Lamar

Color pencil on paper

24″ X 20″

 

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Another One Bites the Dust

On the corner of 38th and Lamar in Austin, TX, there once was a little outdoor mall called Lamar Village. It was torn down this summer to make way for a new four-story, 163,000 square-foot mixed-use office redevelopment called Lamar Central. Judging from the pictures I have seen, it looks like any other building for that purpose – totally lacking any identity and uniqueness and in my opinion it is just one more step in the process of taking away from the soul of Austin.

Where is the imagination and the playfulness in the architecture these days? Does everything have to look the same? Really, does it? Austin could do so much better than to build these short term, profit driven, time pressed condos and office buildings that are popping up left and right, like weed after the rain…

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“Another One Bites the Dust”

Color pencil on paper

14″ X 14″

 

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Thoughts on Success.

Lately I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my life; what I have done, what I have not done and where my choices have taken me. I have been thinking a lot in terms of success. What is success? How do we measure it and what exactly would I describe as “successful”? Everywhere around me, it seems success is measured in money and possessions, connections and some sort of collecting of competitive facts for our life resume.
I keep seeing charts and lists about the average income, rent and education in the different parts of Austin, this city that I love and I feel a disconnect from reality. Who are these people making all this money, or maybe rather – how come I make so little, and by the way, why should I have to spend so much time thinking about money? Is having money success?

I believe that being a good, honest, compassionate human being equals success. I try to practice this all the time. Whenever I have been through tough times in my life, no matter what it might be, I always find time and energy to be there for others, if they need me. Often, it seems that people don’t do the same. Many times, my wife and I have been there for others going through crisis, but when we have a rough time, suddenly those same people seem to disappear. It hurts, but I could never do it any other way. I know how much it means to have someone listen when you need to talk and get your worries off your chest. If I can be that someone, I will. My wife is the same, if not more so than me. A long time ago, there was a guy who played music with me. He had decided that he did not like y wife and he made sure it showed. Yet, when his sister passed away, my wife was the one who called around to collect money to get flowers for her funeral. At the time, I didn’t understand why she wanted to do that, but I understand now. Sometimes doing the right thing might be hard at the time, but I have found more and more that it gives me energy and it enriches my life. It has forced me to make difficult decisions, but at the end of the day it has made me a richer man.

Once upon a time I was somebody others thought was successful. I had a band, my music was played a lot on national radio, I did interviews with countless newspapers and magazines, I was on TV and I was on the “who’s hot and who’s not” type of lists, I was on the cover of the biggest newspaper in Sweden, I was even nominated for a Grammy. I toured extensively throughout Europe and was celebrated in many reviews of the albums I wrote. I am extremely proud of all that, obviously, but at the same time I look back at it and I wonder what it all meant? The people I had around me then are all gone. In terms of building lasting friendships, it was all pretty unsuccessful, I must say.

Every now and then I will get an email from someone who used to listen to my music, telling me how much it meant to him or her at some point in life and those emails mean the world to me, they really do. It means that what I did all those years really did make a difference. I was never involved in my community, I never had any feelings of love towards the city I lived in. I liked it there, sure, but I never felt like I really wanted to be a part of making it better. I didn’t care. Since moving to Austin, since giving up on everything I had in my previous life in Sweden, and literally giving away most of my material possessions, including most of my instruments (something I really never imagined I would EVER do), my perspective on what is important in life has really changed. I think I have a greater understanding of the real meaning of home. I see the guys standing by the viaducts and overpasses on Mopac and I35, holding up signs saying “Anything helps” etc and I can somehow relate to them. I relate more to those guys than I did with the people at the Grammy Awards in Stockholm back in 2004. Having a place to live, a safe haven, is so important. Sometimes we forget, we’re busy shopping for a new Iphone or getting a good deal on that new flat screen TV that Walmart are almost “giving away”.

Now, once more I have to look for a home, for reasons I won’t get into here. There was a situation, several situations, and I tried to do the right thing and it has jumped up and bit me in the ass, real good.  But you know what? If the same situation occurred in the future, I would do the same thing. The right thing. If all of us did the right thing all of the time, the world would be a better place. All I can do is try. Try to do the right thing. Try to be a good human being.

That, to me, is success

 

Firestation on Blanco.

Firestation on Blanco.

Firestation on Blanco.

Colorpencil on paper

14″x14″

 

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