It’s Day 338 and I am super duper excited about today’s artist. First off, because he happens to be a good friend of mine that not only inspired my very project, but I also have the honor to play with him in my improv group The Incidentalists. He is such an inspiring and amazing friend in so many ways and I am so glad to know him. Please join me in honoring Josiah Polhemus today! Another neat thing is that he wrote his own story below!
I grew up in Palo Alto CA. Born in 1967 to parents who were both teachers. Robert Polhemus a Stanford Professor and Elizabeth Hamilton a schoolteacher. I have three siblings two older Camilla and Mackinlay. My younger sister, Andromeda, was born 5 years after and was the child of Rebecca Reynolds. The split in the marriage was likely the reason I turned to art. I found it early in life to be an escape from my reality. I had friends who also enjoyed drawing and were creative. Many of them were more talented than me. I think, at first, I just tried to mimic the styles of my friends.
We were all heavily influenced by comics and, for me, MAD magazine. To me, MAD was the very very best. I wanted to be Sergio Aragones and I wanted to be Don Martin. My brother and I would spend hours drawing. At the same
time, I began acting very early, first at my school, then, in community productions. I never lost my interest in acting or drawing. In high school I would draw comics for my high school paper. I never took my talent too seriously because my very first art teacher in high school gave me a “C.” It was my lowest grade in high school.
In college I turned to theater but would always give cards to my fellow actors as opening night gifts. Many commented on my good wit and ability to capture likenesses. It wasn’t until after graduating with an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater and
reaching a level of professional acting I didn’t expect so quickly that I decided to move to Los Angeles. As Matt Groening found fame first with his comic Life In Hell about his time in LA then later becoming the creator of The Simpsons, I found drawing to be a way of facing the difficulty of trying to make it as an actor in LA. While I had some success acting, most actors I knew had jobs doing things like catering, office temp jobs, working for famous people as their assistants. I landed a job at 1-800 Dentist as an operator.
Several up and coming actors and directors had part time jobs there, too. I got my brother a job there and during a crafty art fair we decided to make a series of post cards about Santa Claus called Santa Facts. Each post card depicted some made up fact about Santa. The cards were a hit and launched our greeting card business Avant-Kardz. My brother Mack and I began collaborating on making money with our art.
Avant-Kardz started in Venice Beach and we were able to get our cards into Borders Books, Fred Segal and several other coffee shops and greeting card stores. We got tired of peddling our wares and decided to approach magazines to see if they might be interested in a comic strip about the entertainment industry. Several magazines took us seriously and we were able to meet with Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Film Threat.
Finally, we landed a deal with then national magazine BUZZ. We were given a year contract to do our comic strip The Wize Brothers. Meanwhile, I was teaching Art at Hollywood High School and still pursuing acting and my brother was working at 1-800 Dentist and pursuing a filmmaking career.
We eventually made two films together The Scottish Tale and My Bad Dad. Both were accepted into many film festivals and got distribution through Hollywood Video. The brothers blew a book deal when both ignored a successful pitch to a publishing company. We were too busy trying to make it in the other fields of acting and
screenwriting. I was in talks and met a few times with Sandra Tsing Loh to develop a comic based on here NPR series The Loh Life. It fell through when her husband starting drawing the pictures himself and sort of, didn’t want the strip to be about the real Loh family.
I gave up on the comic business and began to just concentrated on writing, directing and acting. I was getting a lot of work at the time doing all three. I successfully made two short films that got distribution through Vanguard Cinema.
While I had begun to paint and was highly influenced by my Mother Elizabeth Vezzani who taught me so much about the appreciation of art, how to mix colors, depth and perspective and balance. I never took it seriously. I developed a bad habit of smoking pot that kept me from picking up the paintbrush. When I did and saw the results of being high and creating, they were always disappointing.
After moving back to the Bay Area in 2006 and landing more film, teaching and full time work running a theater company in Oakland, I found myself feeling trapped in by my addiction and a marriage that was suffering. The separation caused a 6-month period of total depression and a constant use of pot.
After meeting Amy Prosser the fog lifted and I came out of my depression and found an ability to stay sober for
at least the majority of my time. I have since had occasional slips with pot but after realizing the importance and joy of living sober I made a decision to do a 365 paintings in a year project.
The paintings would reflect every day of my sobriety. The project almost fell apart when, 8 months in, I slipped. For a few weeks I was smoking pot and the paintings suddenly stopped. The effect was profound. It showed me that my life had no creativity when I was using and that, the minute I stopped using, color and creativity came flowing out of me.
I caught up on the project and completed 365 paintings. The completion of the project is now a book and an art show. They are featured at the YWCA in Berkeley through January 8th and will then be shown at the Little Farm in Bolinas California through February 1s 2015. A documentary is being made about the project.
You can like my project on facebook here.
I hope you enjoy my tribute today! The one challenging thing was trying to choose from the millions of ideas I had. All of his paintings are so clever, emotional and inspiring that I really wanted mine to be meaningful. I think it turned out good. 🙂 Hope you love it Josiah!
I will see you tomorrow on Day 339!