and the green three-toed sloth whistles far and wee

giant 3-toed sloth with hot air balloons

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

—[in Just-] from Chansons Innocentes by e.e. cummings

Fooling around in my journal pages recently. I couldn’t think of what to paint after I’d done the striped clouds on this journal page, and slowly, out of my not-caring and my not-thinking of very much at all, came this cahracter. My queer little balloonman is neither lame nor ominously, sexually goat-footed; he’s a harmless giant three-toed sloth, sporting the greenish fur that many sloths develop during the rainy season, as a result of algae growing in special grooves in their fur.  Sloths, like sly satyr balloonMen, communicate (far and wee) with whistle-like sounds.

Below, painting of a bunch of slightly sinister allium blooms that was really an experiment in laying down blocks of background color using a large square piece of foam, and the sort of rippled texture created when you pull the foam away from the wet, semi-translucent paint.

I find the subject of flowers—unless they are stylized into ornamental ones—very awkward to do…am not used to drawing or painting realistic ones at all. I’ve been asked to do a painting of flowers for an acquaintance’s mother, in exchange for the 6-meter roll of absolutely gorgeous Belgian linen painter’s canvas that he didn’t know what to do with and just gave to me. So I have been trying to get used to the idea of painting flowers, though I realize that these alien-looking spore-balls are not what he means. The guy is a local drunk and a grease-monkey off the oil rigs…i.e. very working class, and I’ll bet my money that his idea of a good painting of flowers is “like  a photograph”. I can hear the echoes of countless old biddies at the art stalls in airports the world over: “Oh, my, now isn’t that clever?! They look so real, just like a photograph! So clever“. (Oh, hey, now there’s an idea. I could get a flower photograph blown up and printed on canvas, then shlop on some transparent textural acrylic medium to look like dimensional brush strokes. Dear old mum probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Just kidding. I may be a cynical person, but I have a little integrity. So I am thinking of Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, because I would be happier doing a large close-up of a flower than the usual “flowers-in-a-vase on a tablecloth” arrangement. But really, I don’t have an idea, yet…it could turn out completely different from anything he, or I, anticipate!


12 thoughts on “and the green three-toed sloth whistles far and wee

      1. But Malate and Ermita used to be a district of galleries and shops of great artworks, antiques etc. The stretch of Mabini and Del Pilar in particular.


        1. I know, Elmer, Mom used to have a hippie boutique in the area, and yes it used to be the hang out of all the bohemians, but you know that the term “Ermita art” is derogatory now, referring to those hundreds upon hundreds of fluoresecent sunsets, carabaos in rice paddies, and mahinhin na dalagang bukids for sale on the sidewalks. I do not mean the major galleries, which are still great..Hiraya and Firma being two faves of mine.


  1. If I were the mother I would like to receive a border of flowers but arranged with blooms in and stems out. I would fancy stylised flowers mixed with printed and semi-realistic collaged ones. Then I would like foliage in the middle area. I would like a sketch of my son superimposed over the leaves somehow. Maybe the sketch could be stitched in some way like those postcards you did.
    He wants flowers, but I bet she wants art.
    We are all working class. It is the combination of talent and inspiration that separates the artist from the ordinary. You can just guess where I sit!!!


    1. LOL no, God, she would not want a sketch of her son, who is a weasel-ey, skeletal smack-junkie in his middle-age, and whose face is permanently twisted into a drunken leer, whose body is curled up on itself like a hunchback’s, amongst flowers. LMAO. Thanks for making my day! 😀


  2. Not all working class think that way. I may not be working class now, but that’s how I was raised. I like your flowers above. I would compare them to allium, but only as a reference. They are whimsical. And I like the colors. Ask your acquaintance what style he (or his mum) would like.


    1. There are degrees of working class, and I suppose that you and I mean different things by the term. I mean the proverbial working class, in mind and spirit; we live on the waterfront, and I hang out at a pub near an industrial marina. From this vantage point, working class refers to the hardcore alcoholics and junkies who work the fishing trawlers and the oil rigs. Every second word in their sentences is “fucken'”, individuals are referred to, approvingly, as “cunts” (as in “He’s a crazy fucken’ cunt but a fucken’ hard worker…”) Extra income is made by dealing, holidays are a weekend in the sex playgrounds of Bangkok (The Land of Vertical Smiles, they call it). A lot of money is earned, actually, but they can spend it in one night, and usually do. They’re good blokes, actually, with good hearts, simple minds, and simple wants. I have asked, it took him 5 minutes of waving his hand around while he dribbled into his glass to spit out “Jes’…some…fucken’ flowers. I’m gonna give it to me mum…” So it’s my decision, really.


  3. Well done ! Beautiful piece. Your problem is that a vast number of people are concrete literal thinkers. They struggle with metaphors & similes, and in-spite of efforts by we English teachers, Media Literacy & Art instructors, they must be taken by the hand through the meaning of symbols & parables. They want the allegorical to be literal and the abstract to be a recognizable pattern.


    1. Thank you. That’s fine, that many people want paintings to look like photographs…most non-artists don’t realize that painting was freed from the function, chore, and drudgery of faithfully recording every little detail of visible reality when the camera was invented, and that painting’s obligations, these days, are to explore forms of expression that a camera cannot. Mick is entitled to want whatever it is he believes is a good painting. My “problem”, not that I feel it to be problematic, is that I don’t have the skill or technique to do a realistic flower painting, even if I wanted to. I’ll do something, it will be naive and ‘whimsical’, as Faith put it in her comment. Whatever, he won’t mind, I’m pretty sure.


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