Four Hundred NYC Cab Drivers Nicknamed Me “MADMAN”

It’s true, I was. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, during the days when New York was metamorphosing from a broke and dangerous town to a rich and dangerous town, I drove the night shift for Metro Cab. We had four hundred drivers working there. I was making money in order to art supplies (well, actually to buy drugs and booze), while dreaming of an art career and failing to show up for some very big opportunities, most memorably Robert Miller personally inviting me to bring work to him at his now AAA-list gallery. I don’t even know if he’s alive, but the gallery sure is.

Night Driver selfportrait oil on linen 24 inch square 1985

Night Driver (SelfPortrait) 85o01 oil on linen 24 x 24 inches

As you can see, at least by the title, this painting is a self-portrait. It is a temporary insert, shot with my iPhone4, until I can shoot it properly with the high-end equipment and strobes that I usually use. I dug the piece out of my 93-year old Mom’s basement when I was visiting the other day. I drove my cab drunk, stoned and crazed. I also painted simultaneously while driving. Not oils, but rather pencil, ink or watercolor in special nearly square sketchbooks that I carried with me always. Now and again I will be posting more Views from a Yellow Cab which I have been scanning from those old notebooks.

This painting is a special form of realism; I am grateful that I have not had a drink or a self-prescribed drug in over 24 years. I’m in love with whom I have become; while my work may still be gut-wrenching at times, it is never such a clear view of the interior of Hell.


That’s right. Ten percent of my working life as an artist is spent painting. Is it because I’m a dilettante? No. It’s because the business of being an artist is voracious for my time.

It’s a business. I have to file taxes. I have to keep books. I have to store ridiculous amounts of paper to prove that what I spent is what I spent, and that paper must go in files.

Files! I have to file my artwork. First I have to make an inventory: on Excel; on the work itself. Title; inventory number; medium; date; copyright notice; size (live with it, I’m only doing the inches – you do the conversion). Oh yes, PRICE.

Price. That reminds me, I have to work at sales. In this age of wonderful opportunity I am beholden to no gallery owner, but that means I own my own gallery on the Internet. Someone else built my custom management system; I have to maintain it. So people can buy what’s current.

And then I can do order fulfillment.

So. I’ll paint tomorrow.

At least I can keep a sketchbook, so I can draw on the train, on the way to the shrink, to discuss my feelings about TEN PERCENT.

Have a sketch:

from my sketchbook, while riding the no. 2 line

A moment of peace amidst the clatter

Derwent 9B Pencil on 1/2 of an A4 Moleskine Notebook page / September 2010

I knew you were curious because I said “the second Phoenix…”

From my sketchbook. A Moleskine A4. It’s rare that I don’t use 100% rag paper, but I roll with the times. The conservators will have to figure it out.

pencil drawing from Jonathan Herbert sketchbook of Phoenix Rising from Embers

It just popped out of me on the 2 train...

I’m going to work on the current DEAD SUZANNE oil painting now

Really. Even though I am totally out of Old Holland Cadmium Yellow Light.

I’m going to try it without putting all those paintings in the hall again. My good friend, the painter Eric Clinton Anderson, was supposed to help get them back up into the storage loft today. But he got too busy. Tomorrow.


This is where I decided to stand

I won’t try it myself ever since I fell off the top step of the six foot ladder – you know, the one that says DON’T STAND HERE – and literally almost killed myself. I’m getting okay with Suzanne being dead; don’t want to follow in a real hurry, though.

Phoenix Reborn charcoal on Rives BFK

Today.  I’ve started being drawn to the Phoenix myth. Here’s the first iphone photo of the second drawing on this theme.I will replace it with a proper photo by the Archivist when it’s shot. Unless I work on it further.

Phoneix Rising from Embers charcoal on Rives BFK paper 30 x 22 inches

I find it interesting that as the KADDISH / Dead Suzanne series seems to be working itself out that I have had this rebirth myth drift up from my psyche.

Unburying the studio to work on Dead Suzanne

First I spent the morning putting all the paintings not back up in storage into the hall so I had enough room to work.

That took about an hour. Here’s what that got me.

But I was able to play in the mud and the dust, breathing solvents and smearing myself with lead paint.