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Hearty Paintings By A Million-Year-Old Man

As of today, March 22, 2010, I’m 64! This is two-to-the-sixth-power or 1000000 in binary, or, as my old mathematician/computer-scientist friend David Slater puts it, “one million base two.”

Speaking of feeling like I’m a million years old, about six weeks ago I started having a pain in my chest when bicycling up a hill or even climbing steep stairs.

[“Heart Exam” Oil on canvas. 24″ by 18″. March, 2010. Click to see larger image.]

My doctors gave me a series of increasingly ominous exams which revealed that some of the arteries that bring blood to the muscle of my heart were clogged. My heart muscle was hurting when I exercised because it wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I did a painting, Heart Exam, to dramatize my anxiety.

(Re. the materials for this painting, it represents a switch back to oil instead of acrylic paints. Looking through my old tubes of oil paint, I found an oddball tube of metallic gold paint that I’d bought as a kind of joke. But I used that whole tube on this painting, covering the canvas with an underlayer of gold paint, and leaving the gold exposed for the empty part of the background. It gives the picture a nice icon-like quality.)

Back in the so-called real world, I discussed my options with several doctors, and in the end we settled on my getting some stents installed to open up the clogged arteries. This is a fairly routine procedure, not requiring any long hospitalization. But I had to wait a few uneasy weeks to have the procedure done.

[“Giant Octopus with A Silly Hat,” Oil on canvas. 24″ by 18″. March, 2010. Click to see larger image.]

While I was waiting and worrying and (inevitably) second-guessing our plan, I kept on painting. Painting’s a good way to turn off the voices in my head. My most recent painting, Giant Octopus Wearing a Silly Hat, helped put me in a better frame of mind.

Giant Octopus Wearing a Silly Hat emerged almost at random. I was simply fooling around with shapes and colors until I found something that I liked: a giant octopus in a silly hat that might be a washtub or a lampshade. It was only after I’d been working on this picture for a couple of days that I realized the red octopus was in fact a symbol of my heart with its troublesome arteries.

Once I’d painted myself shaking hands with the wacky octopus, I developed an inner feeling that I’d be okay.

So I had some stents put in last week, and I came home feeling lively. And now my heart doesn’t hurt when I climb a hill. So far so good—not to sound overconfident. At my age, I could still drop dead tomorrow. But that’s always true for any of us.

I’m happy today, I like my birthdays. I made it to 64, and it’s been a good run, better than I’d ever hoped.

“Thanks for everything.”

Some good news on the painting front. I’ll be having a six-week show of my recent paintings and prints in San Francisco from Friday, April 9, through Saturday, May 22. The show will be in the Variety Preview Room on the first floor of the Hobart Bldg. at 582 Market St., near 2nd St. and Montgomery St., San Francisco.

We’ll have an opening night party at the Variety Preview Room on Friday, April 9, from 6-9 PM—I’ll be posting more info as the event draws near. The room is generally open during weekdays as well, so you can view the paintings at other times. And we’ll have a closing event on Sat. May 22, from 6-10 PM, where I’ll read with author Michael Shea as part of the SF in SF author series.

Paintings and prints will be for sale at the show during the opening and closing events, or via my painting website . Thirty percent of all sales during the show will go to support Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California.

22 Responses to “Hearty Paintings By A Million-Year-Old Man”

  1. Cole Tucker Says:

    Happy Birthday Rudy, and thank you for all the love shared!

  2. geebert Says:

    Your ouevre hangs well together! Fun to see it all put up together like that.

    Happy birthday ol man! You still got a bunch of years in ya.

    Love geebert

  3. Brett Harder Says:

    Hey Rudy, glad you’re feeling better! I really enjoy the image you posted of all your artwork, I feel like I got a holistic glimpse into the intense internal visual world that acts as the wellspring for your writing and all other creative endeavors. It made me go back through your blog posts to look at them individually again. The use of color is really amazing, and I like how they have a childlike wonder about them. They offer a visual representation of “gnarl”, a perfect compliment to your writing. Wish I could make it to your art show, but I have a small geographic barrier in the way. I might just have to purchase your art book. Cheers!

  4. Brendan Says:

    Happy Birthday, glad to hear everything went well and you’re feeling better. Time to climb some moon craters!

  5. Rudy Says:

    Thanks for the good wishes, you guys. My favorite birthday present from my wife is kind of a nanotech simulation toy (though not everyone would think of it that way)—magnetic Buckyballs, see

  6. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Happy Birthday to one of my all-time favorite authors- I have a bunch of your books sitting here that I need to catch up with! And I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  7. Justin Patrick Says:

    For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow, that nobody can deny…

  8. Dana Garden Says:

    Happy, happy birthday, Mr. Rucker. Your work has both delighted and inspired so many; we’re lucky they fixed you up! Nobody makes me laugh like you do, some of your work is indescribably moving, and some of your books were texts in college–here’s to many more! Best wishes from your unabashed fangirl– Dana
    PS–John Shirley sent me–but only because I wanted to come.

  9. Rick Shannon Says:

    Glad you are doing well, love your art. John Shirley gave us a heads-up on this blog and your birthday via Facebook. Co` latha breith sona dhuibh!

  10. Daniel Mejía Says:

    Happy birthday master of the postsingular, get better soon

  11. Sig Digits Says:

    Happy Birthday <3

  12. Denise Caruso Says:

    I love the paintings! I can’t believe I’ve moved away from San Francisco and won’t be there for the show. Will definitely tune into the site and see if I can add to my collection. They are fabulous!

  13. Kehrtraud Says:

    Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, viel Glück und gute Gesundheit
    I’m glad, to hear your arteries are in order now, so there will be some more books and paintings in the next years to await!

  14. Ron Martinez Says:

    Best for your birthday, Mr. Rucker. Will make a point of getting to your show. And here’s a gift I humbly offer in return for the privilege of your remarkable work: Common sense, real effects. No baloney!

  15. Alex Says:

    Happy Birthday!
    I hope you make it to the smallest multiple of 6 with no adjacent prime number.

    More books and artwork please.

  16. Yamma Says:

    Isten eltessen, Rude Boy!

  17. Nathaniel Hellerstein Says:

    Happy Binary Millionth Birthday! And many more!
    You post 66 paintings, equals a million and ten, base two.

  18. Starryeyes Says:

    Happy B-day Rudy! I’m glad you got stents put in your heart and that they’re helping. 🙂 My dad has them too and he’s in his 80s and doing great. Our medical professionals are excellent at fixing heart problems nowadays. I hope you have many more productive years ahead of you.


  19. Deb Newton Says:

    Happy Birthday Rudy! And I am so happy you had the procedure. Time for more painting.

    Wish Paul and I could be at the show. All the best! Have fun!


  20. Steve H Says:

    Live Long and Prosper!

  21. Dianne Says:

    HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY TO YOU RUDY! I knew you were born sometimes during this time of year and glad that you had the surgery that made for better health!

    Hope you have many more to come!

  22. Steve McCormikc Says:

    Rudy _

    Happy birthday! I’m glad the surgery went well. Take care of yourself…remember… there’s a lot people who count on you. And keep rocking – you’re still younger than Mick Jagger who will turn 67 later this year and is still an inspiration to all us old guys.

    Steve McCormick

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