The Shirtless Painter: How To Paint A Fun Party with Daniel Stern
This episode The Shirtless Painter is joined by singer, songwriter, and bassist Aimee Mann and the two paint their interpretation of mental illness. Anyone can paint and anyone can paint anything!
- July 26, 2017
- 270k Views
July 26, 2017
- Hello and welcome to another episode of,
you guessed it, The Shirtless Painter.
Anyone can paint and anyone can paint anything,
including my guest today, my good friend,
singer, songwriter, and artist, Aimee Mann.
Aimee, thanks so much for joining us.
- Thanks for having me.
- I understand that you have a new record
that you're excited about
that you wanted to uh--
- Oh, yeah!
- To share with us.
- I actually have three of them.
Uh, I just got this.
This is uh,
a classic Cat Stevens.
And Chic, which is a big influence on my bass playing.
And Fugazi, which Ted Leo told me to get.
- I was sort of more wondering about
the new record that you made,
which I happen to have 'cause I'm a fan,
which is called Mental Illness.
- Yeah, well.
- Sort of a little guy hiding in there.
Well, you know what?
Call me crazy, or don't 'cause it's offensive,
but what if we painted mental illness?
- I would love to do that.
- I invite you to take off your shirt
and paint along with us
as we paint mental illness.
Let's jump right in.
- I um...
I wore a sweater today, sort of in contrast,
but maybe to complement your shirtless nature.
- Oh, yeah.
I'm glad we didn't end up wearing the same thing.
That would be embarrassing.
- Yeah, I wanted to start with orange,
because orange is the color of anxiety.
- And so that just underpins everything.
But you know, I've just got to make some decisions
about what goes on top of anxiety.
- So anxiety is sort of the crust of the pizza
in this case and then it's just a matter of
choosing your toppings.
- Yeah, yeah, your toppings.
- The sauce and cheese and--
- Like, is it...
Does depression cover anxiety?
Is there something that causes it?
I think I'll maybe try to paint
what causes anxiety,
like what's the...
What does anxiety look like?
- Maybe I'll just get...
'Cause mental illness, there's nothing simple about it.
You know, it's sort of something that
needs to be unraveled, it's sort of a maze.
So I think I'm going to just sort of...
Make sort of a little maze here,
sort of just using brain colors.
I've got sort of a gray matter background going here
and I'm just getting some of my brain pink here
and I'm just gonna start doing some kind of brain lines.
Brain wrinkles, if you will.
- Now, I might...
I might be using you as a bit of a model for my--
- Please, feel free, I would be honored.
- For my anxiety personified.
- A doctor, a real doctor did once tell me
that I was crazy about painting.
So I did not seek treatment.
Do you think there's any correlation
between mental illness and creative genius?
- I mean, I never found, you know,
depression or anxiety to be particularly helpful.
Depression, especially, you know.
If you depress all your feelings, you know,
you're going to depress your creative instincts,
too, I think.
- It's tough too, if you're feeling depressed.
I usually, my morning routine is
I sort of, I jump out of bed,
or in my little area that I have as a bed,
and I immediately start painting.
But if I'm feeling depressed,
it's tough to even wanna get out of bed
and start the painting.
- [Shirtless] So, in my experience, I agree,
it doesn't help you any to be feeling depressed.
- Yeah, that's exactly.
- [Shirtless] It's sort of a myth.
- That's exactly my experience.
Right, so I've made my representation of anxiety.
I was gonna give it a little beard,
a sort of devilish beard.
I think I'm gonna lean away from that.
- Anxiety is a tricky little devil, that's for sure.
Maybe I'll add the devil in here, in my maze.
So I'm gonna go out...
So, I've got my maze started here.
I'm gonna go ahead and add some sort of
players in the race here.
I'm gonna go ahead and get some more devil red
and I'm gonna go ahead and just have the devil
sort of at the starting line here.
- Yeah, so we're both, we both have a little devilish
maybe kind of intersection of, you know,
the darker, you know, where mental illness
almost feels like something outside of you,
- Something sort of chasing you is what I'm thinking.
- Yeah, this is sort of my idea
is that this guy, he's the guy who's always yelling at you
that you're not good enough,
things that happened in the past that you can't
seem to forget.
He's always there.
- Always just a couple steps behind you,
breathing down your neck with his old, sour breath.
His or hers, the devil can be a man or a woman.
- [Aimee] We're not sexist with our demonic images.
- No, we're scared to death of the devil,
but we ain't sexist.
So Aimee, you've been doing music for a long time.
What got you started as a performer?
- Um, I went to music school.
I had this vague idea that I might be talented
even though there wasn't any evidence for it.
And I was always a big believer in learning.
And I wanted to see if maybe by learning about music
I would know if I had any aptitude for it.
Then I sort of told myself that I'll keep going
until it's obvious that I'm just getting nowhere.
But I kept getting somewhere.
- And the good news is,
I don't think anyone is utterly unable to make art.
I like to say that anyone can paint
and anyone can paint anything
and I think that extends to music and dance
and all of the arts.
It's like you're not necessarily gonna be Baryshnikov,
who I believe is some sort of--
- Some sort of art person.
- Some sort of art person, I don't know who,
you know, what his deal is or hers,
but you don't have to be Baryshnikov or Picasso
or David Byrne.
Or even, you know,
- Some other Davids.
- Some other Davids.
You don't have to be the statue of David or anything
with your little pee-pee hanging out.
- You don't have to be the actual statue.
- You just gotta try.
- You do it, you practice, you get better.
But that was the thing that was a real discovery to me
You know, I sort of though you just either were
talented or not and the idea that you could practice
certain things was really interesting to me.
- So, I've got my creepy face of the past,
the face of the internal critic,
the face of anxiety.
Maybe now I'll...
I'll put some depression in.
- Mm, seems like as good a time as any
to add the uh...
- I think depression needs probably a big brush.
- It certainly operates in broad strokes
on people's lives.
So I'm actually just, I've got my little devil character
here and I...
I'm really sort of, mine's turning into almost
sort of a Pac-Man or a Ms. Pac-Man board,
where the devil is going to be in hot pursuit
of our protagonist, which is just...
Which I'm gonna have be represented by a little mouse,
'cause sometimes that's what you feel like.
You feel like you're up against, you know,
you're up against a lot and you don't have a lot
to defend yourself with.
So let me go ahead and just add our little mouse.
And we're gonna...
We're gonna give the little mouse a head start,
'cause personally I'm rooting for the mouse, not the devil.
Just have our little mouse friend there.
- This is turning into kind of a watery...
A watery scene because
it sort of makes me think of,
I read somewhere where if you dream of water
that's supposed to be your subconscious.
If you dream about flooding,
it's like a fear of being flooded by emotion,
a fear of being overtaken by your feelings.
That kind of stands.
- Yeah, I think it checks out.
- I think maybe it gets darker at the very bottom
where all the scary things are.
This face I painted is really creeping me out.
- I just have to sneak a peek.
Boy, you're already painting a really good painting.
- It's very disturbing.
- It's not, of course it's not a race,
but I think Aimee might be in the lead.
All right, so I'm gonna go ahead,
I've been focusing a lot on um...
You know, the mental illness itself,
but a big part of mental illness is sort of
finding your way out of the woods.
So I'm gonna sort of create,
just sort of a center of hope here,
just to kind of um...
- Mine's getting less hopeful.
- And that's okay, you know?
- I've decided to give him a weirdly creepy,
creepily long neck.
I don't know why.
It's making me feel uneasy.
- I mean, giraffes are, I love 'em,
no offense, but they're some of the weirdest animals
- Yeah, don't kid yourself.
Giraffes are strange.
- Yeah, let's not mince words here, okay?
We love 'em, we don't want to speak ill of them,
but they're strange.
They're strange birds.
- All right, I'm gonna try to draw...
I'm gonna try to put an octopus in here.
I can't really remember what they look like.
I know they're sort of a blob with lots of...
- I know they have upwards of somewhere--
- [Aimee] 7,000 legs?
- Yeah, five to 7,000.
Somewhere in that range.
But you know what, the beauty of octopusses or pi
when you're painting them
is that you can kinda give them however many legs you want.
- He's very worried.
You know why?
'Cause he's under the sea.
A sea that's made up entirely of your weird feelings
and subconscious meanderings.
- So I'm gonna go ahead and create
a light at the end of the tunnel.
- [Aimee] I feel like yours is very positive.
- Well, there is a devil in there,
so don't count me out just yet.
Things could still get...
- Don't count me out.
- Things could still get weird.
So, some people say that songs are like children.
- Oh my god.
- Oh, please help yourself.
- I wanna use this guy.
I need to cover a lotta ground.
- What's mine is yours.
- I don't feel like songs are like children
'cause that just seems
to really undervalue children.
- [Shirtless] Mm-hmm.
- Who I believe are human beings.
- But I mean, Purple Haze, come on.
That's better than some kids.
- That's definitely, there are definitely some children
that Purple Haze beats out.
- All right, so I was sort of inspired by taking a peek
at yours to kind of get my act together here
a little bit.
- You know, sometimes other people's
mental problems can be an inspiration.
- [Shirtless] It's true.
- You know?
Don't let this happen to you.
There but for the grace of God.
- I think that's very true.
Has there ever been any um,
tragic figure or artist or anything
that inspired you through their mental anguish?
- Well, you know, I was a big fan of Elliott Smith
and I do feel like he was very troubled
and I really had a lot of sympathy
for what he was going through
and I did find him very inspiring as an artist
because I felt like he really told it like it was,
like he really talked about things that were difficult,
that were very real to him.
And that alone was very inspiring
and also very positive.
- I think so, too.
And he left us behind with a lot of good music,
which is a very generous stamp to leave on the world,
Okay, so I'm just sort of creating a little face
in the center here and this is...
This is meant to be sort of just a welcoming,
sort of nice presence in the center of all this chaos.
- I do appreciate you trying to continually interject
a happier note.
Which so far I have not been able to do.
So far bemusement is as close as I can get
with this little guy.
- A friend of mine told me that
if humans died out, the octopus would be
sort of the next to evolve--
- The next guy?
- [Shirtless] To take over.
- The next guy in line?
- We've had our chance.
People say a lot of racist things about
other races of humanity,
sort of causing problems for us
and I think that's bogus.
But I think if you've gotta keep your eye on somebody,
maybe watch out for these octopus characters
that are sort of looming
because they might really be after our jobs.
You might, next week you might see an octopus painting.
With however many arms they have.
It's anyone's guess.
- I can't be responsible for everybody's amount of arms.
- That's not your job, no.
You've got a busy enough schedule.
- Okay, I don't know what to paint on top.
Is it the land?
I guess it's land.
- Sometimes land can be up there, yeah.
- What color is land?
- If you take a handful of it,
it's usually kind of brown.
- I'm gonna go in and just mush some stuff around.
See if I can get a brown shoreline.
All right, that's kind of...
Well, let's see what happens.
That is not good.
I don't know, it's harder to make brown that you think.
You know what I just did?
I just made flesh color.
I made the exact flesh color.
All right, so be it.
You know, sometimes the painting itself dictates
what it's gonna be.
Paintings have their own agendas sometimes.
- Sometimes your own accidents just say
this is where we're going.
- Yeah, and there's a little saying I have on the show,
which is that there are no goof-ups,
only pleasant whoopsies.
So that could qualify as one.
- I don't know if I'd call it a pleasant whoopsy, but...
What I'm making is very unpleasant in general.
- So this might be our first unpleasant whoopsy.
You know what, that's okay.
- [Aimee] Yeah.
- There are certainly no whoopsies
within the realm of whoopsies.
Who am I to say that there's a right way or a wrong way?
- I'm sort of enjoying it, though.
There's something about this fleshy...
It's kind of like now the wind's blowing.
I'm kind of digging it.
- So windstorm or flesh tone.
- That sounds like it could be an album title.
- Like a Rod McKuen album.
I know nobody in this room will know what that is.
- Sound off if you know about Rod McKuen.
Let us know.
And Rod, if you're out there, if you're still with us,
keep doing what you're doing,
you're doing something right.
- So below is depression,
and top, windstorms.
To your left in the past,
some guy who's giving you the hairy eyeball.
- Always some guy out there ready to
give you the hairy eyeball.
- [Aimee] Yeah.
- I think they can take a hike, personally.
Just a little bit of black bile
that the devil sort of um...
Shoots out after you when you're feeling depressed,
when you're feeling anxious,
it sort of just like the devil is um...
It's like the devil is following you
with a big super soaker and just sort of spraying you
with just awful stuff over and over
and he won't, he won't let up.
And you run and you run,
but you're just getting soaked and your clothes are wet
and it just makes you run slower.
So, that's what I'm sort of adding here.
I'm using my big brush to kind of do that.
- I'm adding shrubbery to mine.
- That's kinda nice.
Now who's painting?
- [Aimee] Yeah, now who's not?
- Nice stuff.
- Well, this is sort of trees that are
getting blown around by the wind.
- Okay, great, so we got our black sludge here,
sort of closing in on the little mouse
and as you could see, I have sort of my maze here
and there, I have the sort of goal of happiness here,
but as of right now there is no way out.
The mouse is trapped, there's no escape.
Which I imagine is how this mouse is feeling right now,
but we'll see if we can't help him out.
- I'm trying to shade my octopus a little bit.
- Someone once told me that if you want to paint,
if you want to be a painter,
you have to enjoy the smell of turpentine
because that's what you use to clean brushes
when you're an oil painter.
And you know what I would say to that person?
Joke's on you, we're using acrylics,
so we don't smell nothing.
This washes out with water.
- [Shirtless] Yeah, yeah.
- I don't even have to use soap.
Good clean American tap water.
- All right, I have made something that is
really kind of creepy
and I'm not really sure what to...
Where to take it next.
- I'm just kind of rolling with the punches.
You know, Aimee, speaking of rolling with the punches,
I read somewhere that you are interested in boxing.
Is that true?
- Yeah, I used to...
I used to train in a boxing gym.
- Sometimes I wonder how long I would last in the ring.
Either in, you know, boxing or ultimate fighting or...
I figure I have my shirt off already, so I could...
- You're pretty close, yeah.
- It wouldn't be that hard to kind of get,
at least technically, ready to go out there.
On a very surface level.
But I do kind of fear that I might die instantly.
Even just before being touched.
I think just kind of being out there might do me in.
- Well, I sparred a little bit
and honestly just putting...
Just putting the headgear on is so claustrophobic
that you already go into a panic.
And then as soon as people start punching you in the face--
- [Shirtless] Right, I imagine that doesn't help.
- It really, yeah, it's really like...
But that's the interesting thing about it
is that it teaches you how to continue with your plan
even though, you know,
very difficult things are still happening.
- [Shirtless] Mm-hmm.
- So I found it very useful.
A lot of, lot of life lessons.
And you know, one of those, I think,
this is kind of a general lesson that, you know,
even with mental illness is helpful, is to...
You know, something happens, you get hit,
it's not fun.
You know, you just have to let it go
and keep moving forward.
- Speaking of moving forward, I've just been
painting sort of a little car,
little Stuart Little car of another mouse
because sometimes if you're feeling unhappy
you can kinda look at...
Sometimes you look at other people and you think
they've got it all figured out.
They're zooming along through life...
- [Aimee] Yeah, but that mouse has a better car than me.
- Yeah, this mouse has a better car.
My mouse has no car, he's walking.
And so the mouse is kinda looking at this peer
who seems to have it all.
Fast car, but you know, they're both outrunning the devil.
That's really what it boils down to.
And if this mouse's car breaks down,
who's got the upper hand?
The one who's been used to walking and running all the time
or the one who's had the luxury of a car?
You have mice in your studio?
- Oh, yeah.
But, you know, I set up little sort of easels
and stuff for them in the hopes...
I haven't seen any of them painting,
but it would be my dream to, you know,
sort of have the lights out one night
and look over in a corner and see a mouse
just doing a little painting.
That's my hope.
I don't wanna exterminate them or kill 'em or anything.
- You're not ruling it out.
- [Shirtless] Not ruling it out.
I know it's not likely, but it sure would be cool to see.
- I've been admiring your posture.
- Oh, thank you.
- I feel like it's not that easy to maintain
good posture while painting.
You know, I have a tendency to hunch over.
- People have definitely chimed in about my posture
and you know, I try not to let people's criticisms
get to me,
but good posture is...
People have tried to--
- They've tried to undermine your posture?
- They've tried to insinuate by flat out saying it
that I have bad posture.
So I've tried to work on it.
- I just 100 percent disagree with that assessment.
- Thank you.
Aimee Mann likes it, you guys, so...
- Yeah, I mean, I'd hate to see my posture next to yours.
It's gonna be...
You know, what would they say?
- You know, I shudder to think.
But let 'em talk, you know?
I think my painting is um...
I don't want to say nearing an end, because you know,
these challenges never end so long as we're alive.
So I don't wanna say that.
- Personal issues never end.
- And you'll notice I never did quite add
an exit to the maze
because sometimes there just isn't a clear one.
Sometimes you just have to keep running,
keep driving, and just keep trusting that
if you go forward and do your best
and try to be, you know, happy and healthy
and treat others well, then life can be good.
But then life can be bad, too, so who's to say?
- Yeah, I think I may be ending, nearing the end also.
Everything I do makes it more and more unpleasant.
- We've got our main mouse, we've got the devil on his back
and we've got our sort of competitor mouse,
but I think another thing to keep in mind
if you're struggling from mental illness
is that there are people out there
who can be your friend.
So I'm going to add someone who I think is
very friendly and probably would be this mouse's friend
and that's my wife.
So I'm gonna go ahead and just...
- I'm wondering if I should add some teeth.
- I mean, I'm all for it.
- Oh, yeah.
This has really taken a turn.
- If it gets too scary, just let me know.
We can call it at any moment.
We don't wanna...
- This is...
This has taken a turn that's making me laugh.
- Just adding my wife here
and she's gonna be represented as, you know,
as a mouse, in keeping with the theme
'cause sometimes we all feel like little rodents,
sort of rustling around through life,
scrounging for anything to keep us going.
- And she'll just be...
I might have to embellish the length
of a mouse's hand, but she's gonna be just sort of
reaching out her hand just in case
the little mouse should wanna reach for it.
So we'll give her
her beautiful black eyes there.
And of course, her lips.
- This is a mouse, this is a lady mouse.
- This is a lady mouse, yeah.
And all of them could be lady mice, you know?
- You know, yeah, I'm going for the gender stereotypes.
- All right.
In fact, let me just go and add lipstick to all the mice,
- [Aimee] You know, a little pop of color.
- Yeah, why not?
- [Aimee] Brighten their day.
- This little mouse has a nice red car
that now matches its cherry red lips.
- He does have curly hair 'cause I did,
I did start with you as a model, but...
You know, I don't want you to think at this point
that there's any resemblance.
- Hey, look, a modeling gig is a modeling gig, you know?
I'll take what I can get.
I think the journey of my painting has come to,
not a close, but I've sort of closed the loop
to just sort of represent that it will continue on.
- [Aimee] Yeah, I think mine--
- [Shirtless] As long as these mice live.
- Is also...
You know, there's a little sun coming out in the corner.
Things got a little brighter, maybe.
Perhaps all is not lost.
- And you know, Aimee, I just wanna thank you
so much again for joining me today.
- Shirtless, thank you so much for having me.
This is really fun.
- You know, I'm a painter by trade.
I don't really dabble in this very often,
but I was inspired by you and I was wondering
if you would indulge me and just let me
sing a little song that I wrote myself.
- Oh, yeah I can't wait.
♪ I'm a shirtless painter ♪
♪ I live in a black void space ♪
♪ I'm frightened by the Devil ♪
♪ And I'm drawn to those who like to paint ♪
- Thanks for joining us.
We'll see you next time.