A Painter’s Life

Winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Award

Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist

Oregon Book Award Finalist

“Beguiling…a slyly funny and perceptive take on creativity and the artist’s life, and a gentle skewering of the art establishment and critics.” John Foyston, The Oregonian

“Reads as if it’s a journal…but unlike a journal, this sack of asides, hopes, press clippings, musings on friendships, work, other artists, critics, dealers, paint and the point of paint adds up to a life.” Regina Hackett, Another Bouncing Ball

“Thoughtful and drily humorous, Dixon’s portrait of a portraitist…is written in a subtle and mature idiom with a curious, half-revealed philosophical subtext.” Lydia Millet, Love in Infant Monkeys, finalist for Pulitzer Prize

 “Often books about painters don’t ring true, but this one …does.” Sharon Butler, Two Coats of Paint

“Absorbing. Full of keen human insight…so dead on you can’t help but laugh. A treatise on creativity, the fleeting nature of inspiration, and the difficulty of producing art…” Megan Sweeney, Leafing Through Life


Excerpt from A Painter’s Life:


Christopher Freeze was born rather undramatically in Phoenix, Arizona—at the time a city in transition: a sprawling, major-league-sports-franchiseless nowhere in the middle of the Sonora desert that was fifty years and who knows how many millions of gallons of illegally diverted river water away from becoming the wealthy golf and retirement Mecca it is today.

A relatively healthy baby, Christopher endured the usual cavalcade of childhood maladies: chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough—usual with one significant exception: hospitalizations at the ages of nine and eleven for stomach ulcers, the product, it was professionally surmised, of pathological worry.

(Excerpts from the unpublished journals of Christopher Freeze)

Back in the studio this morning. I wanted to pick up where I had left off on Untitled, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t make myself care about it—not in the right way. All I could do was sit there and stare stupidly at those first 100 strokes and wonder what it was that had gotten me started, what it was that made me think I knew where this was going. It’s probably another terrible idea and I just don’t know it yet. I’ll try to get a little distance, to rejoin it, to fix it, but I won’t be able to. I’ll slap at it and slap at it and slap at it again—who knows how many times—before I give up and scrape it down, before I say to myself at the end what I am saying to myself now: that it’s another mistake, another waste of precious time.


          It is a difficult thing in these early hours not to feel trivial—or, feeling trivial, to carry on.


David Andres was saying if he could just get the right people to object to something of his, to insist that it be removed from wherever it had been placed, it would be the making of him. It would mean a reputation, which is money in the bank. It would mean a better bottle of wine with dinner, a car with more horsepower, a house with more square feet, a girlfriend with fewer cats.


Ran into Aaron Powers at Downtown Drugs. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months—not since we showed paintings together at a charity auction for the Library. He is growing a beard. It’s probably a good idea because he has been cursed with a completely uninteresting face. I told him it looked good. He said thanks, but from the way he said it I could tell he wasn’t really comfortable with the thing, that he felt like a bit of a fraud—like a bald man wearing a hat. Anyway, I was looking for toothpaste, and Aaron was after some sort of new herbal concoction he had read about somewhere because he was afraid he was coming down with something. I hate it when you run into someone and they tell you they think they are coming down with something because when they tell you that you have to stand there, make concerned faces, and talk to them as if nothing was wrong when what you really want to do is jump back a couple of feet and say sorry about that, but whatever it is, don’t give it to me. I especially want to do that because I am one of those people who lives in terror of getting something—no matter how small—because no matter what it is, if I get it, I get a bigger, more unpleasant version of it than other people. I don’t get sick easily, but when I do get sick, I get very very sick—and it is not just my physical reaction that is extreme, but my emotional one, too. It’s a sort of double whammy—extra sick and extra depressed.


Safadi’s is not a gallery—it’s a menagerie. I fit right in.


I received a letter today from someone named Alan Barnes. I have never heard of him before, but from his handwriting—which is a little overly scrupulous for my taste—I imagine him to be another shifty, middle-aged art history professor with tenure issues and a weakness for underaged blondes.  He is about to begin work on some sort of profile or monograph, and he was wondering if he could pay me a visit. I can tell from the pro-forma nature of the request that he isn’t really wondering at all—he already knows the answer. He just wants to get my rejection on the record. He probably thinks it will help him make a point.


Sarah and her tan—it’s a complex relationship that a paleface like me couldn’t possibly understand.

(Excerpts from various reviews)

” A sort of on-again/off-again complex-style surrealist, Freeze works in that sparsely populated corner of the genre reserved for slumming skeptics. Temperamentally his pictures are reminiscent of Soutine’s. But the simply drawn figures, elaborately stuccoed surfaces, convoluted, idiosyncratic resolutions—these are uniquely Freeze’s.”

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