Tuesday, January 17, 2017


When I was a kid my mother would write down notes on a pad she kept in the hallway by the kitchen. On the right side were things she needed to buy when grocery shopping. The left held appointments. There was one name, and one name only, that struck terror in my fat little heart: Paula. Paula was our dentist and to this day still causes me dental PTSD. Paula did not believe in novocaine or anything stronger than oil of cloves, which still makes me sweat whenever I smell a pumpkin pie baking. Her office was in an old Victorian house, the kind you see in a Charles Addams cartoon complete with a round brass doorbell and plaster walls. It was the wait for that office visit that filled me with dread knowing it was unavoidable and the excruciating pain that followed that terrorized my childhood.

Like an acid rain waterfall those same feelings are cascading back down as I wait for January 20th to arrive. We can plead, protest, and curse until we are blue (or red) in the face, but he’s still coming. Trump reminds me, too much so, of a Roman emperor the way he carries himself, his sense of narcissism and his decorum or lack of. But which emperor is the big question? Will he be an Augustus and find Washington built with brick and rebuild it in gold-plated Chinese steel? Or like Hadrian building a wall to keep out whomever he fears the most? Of course his sons remind me of Caligula, but that doesn’t count does it? Could he be another Tiberius refusing to live in the capitol? Perhaps Nero who did not trust his own Praetorian Guard and intelligence community? Whichever one he turns out to be very few had happy endings. The Roman Empire did last over 1,000 years and the Pax Romana over one hundred. Will our republic fair better? As the saying goes, those that don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, while those that do are really, really depressed.

With the New Year come new hopes and dreams. At least we want to believe that. Unfortunately, I have some more bad news. Barnum and Bailey’s Circus is closing for good. They say it is for humanitarian reasons. This just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean sure I feel the same way, but why don’t they just buy a bigger car for all those clowns? Although we no longer have the circus, America still has a lot of great things to offer. But the greatest thing about America is the garage. Without the garage there would be no garage band, no startup computer companies, no teenager trying to change the world. There would be no place to start all those projects you planned on getting to. Who doesn’t enjoy telling your spouse “if you need me I’ll be out in the garage fixing something” while you check your mini-fridge for beer? What about a ‘man-cave’ you ask? Sorry, that’s a casual Friday version, a hold your purse while you shop answer. No, it’s a space heater and crappy TV and a barcalounger held together with duct tape for me. I also hear it’s pretty good for keeping a car in shape when you are ready to sell it for more than just a ‘great station car’ too. So let us salute the humble garage. Without it, life in America would be just like the rest of the world.  And here’s to hoping we don’t look back at 2016 as the good old days. Now, you will have to excuse me while I go ‘fix the toaster’.

Below is a self-portrait, because it’s too cold to paint outdoors and real models expect to be paid. I'm working on my inking in case it wasn't obvious.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Christmas Blog

I can see by the way Trump’s transition team is progressing that Santa is not granting me my Christmas wish, in that they are still transitioning. Doesn’t Pence have a cure for that? To think I sang a duet of “All I Want For Christmas Is Democracy” with Joe Biden for nothing.

Anyway, this is my last blog for 2016. I think most of us can agree it was one shitty year. I knew we were in trouble when the Cubs won. Bowie, Prince, Leon Russell, Garry Shandling, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Gene Wilder, the list goes on and on. Such great talents.

However, I won’t let that dampen my Holiday spirit. As a non-practicing atheist I can decorate our tannenbaum to my heart’s content without the guilt of not attending Midnight Mass. The cookies, the movies, presents, even the Christmas cards and wishes work on a simple humanistic level, like a Target gift card.

Speaking of cards. I have been creating my own holiday cards for over twenty years now. And every year I get a number of compliments from friends and family members. This year was an exception, in that there were none. It could mean the card was awful. Or it could mean the lady that picks up our mail is a part time art critic. But I think the real reason is it looks more like a store bought card and therefore no one realized it is one of mine. That could be a good thing. My work as a professional artist might look more…professional. I do enjoy hearing from people about my card though. Not as an ego boost, but for them to see the personal touch I put into wishing them the best for the holidays. It is a small way to reconnect with people I might have lost touch with over the year.

As I also send it to clients, current and perspective, it is a mini-promotional piece and forces me to do a bit of marketing, something I detest. How would look if, as an illustrator, I sent out someone else’s work? Next thing you know I’m tracing Rockwell’s paintings or stealing jokes. The piece is below for anyone that cares to see it.

With that, I completed my News Year’s resolution of creating one project a month for twelve months. I realize that’s not a huge sacrifice, but it did get me to work more, which is always a good thing. Looking back on my youth and all the years I enjoyed myself instead of working hard on my career my tombstone may actually read: 

I should have spent more time at the office and then I could have afforded a really good marble tombstone instead of this crappy Formica one. 

Hey, in my defense it was the 80s. Happy Holidays, and a better year ahead!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Anderson Cooper, give me back my wife!

No one has suffered more than me during this election cycle, no one. And a lot of people have said that. Totally true. With campaign mentions of Weiner and Bush how can you expect anything else? I’ve had it up to hear (my hand is under my chin).

My wife, on the other hand, cannot get enough. She’ll sit and watch CNN for hours while the laptop remains open to a New York Times article. I have become a political widower. “He’s a modern day Ephialtes!*” she yells out over the blue glow of her Airbook. “You bet he is,” I yell from the basement. “I forget, how do you spell his name?” as I Google over to my computer and figure out whom she is referring to before she realizes what I’m doing. It causes a temporary pause in my search for dual citizenship.

And apparently, I’m not the only one worried. Judging how the stock market is keeping time with James Comey’s reports there are a few others out there. The TV news keeps reassuring us that it will soon be over. Yeah, okay. Don’t they know that’s when the fun begins? With calls for impeachment before anyone even takes the oath of office, to refusing to believe FBI reports, to a SCOTUS that is still missing a member that keeps it from becoming deadlock, to a Republican party that eats its own young, 2017 looks about as attractive as a House Hunters International episode in Syria.  You think I’m kidding about that dual citizenship thing? The question is where not if.

The late night comedian pundits who helped put Trump in there are shaking in their Nikes as well. They are busy scrabbling around this week trying to get you to vote for Hillary. They know the first thing any vindictive leader does is knock off the comedians and cartoonists. His list will make Nixon’s enemy list look like an evite for a kiddy party. Time to throw out my Funny Lives Matter t-shirt. The good news is I am way way WAY down on that list, somewhere after Carrot Top but before my next-door neighbor, Crazy Craig Belesco. At least that’s what my eleven followers tell me.

So if you think this is all over today, you are in for a rude awakening. This has made me a political groundhog where I see six more months of icy cold relations. Anderson Cooper, I hate you. Now back to my hunt for asylum.

Continuing with my mood during this time:

* Ephialtes, Greek who betrayed his homeland, in hope of receiving a reward from Xerses, by showing the Persian forces a path around the allied Greek position at the pass of Thermopylae, which helped them win the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC against the 300 Spartans.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blurred Lines

Wow, this has been an election cycle to remember.  I am both dreading and waiting for this one to be over.  As someone who is always looking for blame I am picking reality television for this one.

We are at a point where celebrity equals outrageousness instead of talent. When cameras follow around an aging rock star, or a family built around a sex video, or even the uneducated behaving badly we can laugh it off as they head to the bank. Except this time it has permeated our democracy.  Just the other day a NBC broadcaster touted that “this is the biggest reality show vote”. No lady, this is our government.

When commentators like Bill O’Reilly (full disclosure: a fellow Levittownian) and his Killing Historical Facts series replaces true researchers and historians such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, Max Hastings, or David McCullough we better take notice. Quick answers are not necessarily the correct ones and we should not confuse popularity with credibility.

When Trump keeps yelling about the election being rigged, or conspiracies and repeats his dogmatic catch phrases it reminds me of this quote:

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”  –AH

Now I’m not comparing Trump to Hitler. He’s more like Mussolini, but hey I’m an optimist. However, he does run his campaign like a brown shirt. And it is because of this lack of separating reality from reality TV shows that has gotten the U.S., and in particular the republican party in this quandary.  But I don’t think that is the only reason.

Many Americans are facing a new reality. In 1989, it was forecasted that white Americans of European descent will become the minority by 2050.  The east and west coasts has had diverse populations for over one hundred and fifty years and had their own issues of acclimating.  During the Irish potato famine (England’s genocide) when immigration was once again an issue, the slogan was NINA or No Irish Need Apply. Now it is reaching many conservative states with Hispanics and Middle Easterners. This benign racism can cause a real fear of job loss, land acquisitions and a change in lifestyle.  Someone help us! Take back America! But take it back from whom? Or for that matter for whom?

“I’m the only one that can fix our problems.” –DT

Obviously I am a Clinton supporter. More importantly, I am a supporter of democracy first, with a great respect for many in the Republican Party. Members who really care about service and dedication like John McCain, Cory Gardner, and Lindsey Graham.  No one loses an argument when it is with someone that also cares about the same thing. Clever, eh?

So I am asking my republican friends, who are more than a handful and hope that we stay friends, to preserve our republic by electing a dedicated public servant instead of one who has dedicated his life to private enrichment. Before you know it the four years will be up. This will give you time to regroup and get your house in order. At least you know there will still be a house.

Skull study. Pencil on toned paper.
This is about as optimistic as I can get these days.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I got nothing.

I'm spending my time trying to catch up on my monthly art projects and preparing a new syllabus. So, unfortunately, or fortunately, I once again have nothing clever written here. I was working on an essay about hate, but I didn't care too much for it.

So below are two pieces: the color version of what I was working on last month: Drawn to Art, and an alternative idea for the same project. Comments are always appreciated and quickly ignored.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Nothing to Read Here

I have been derelict in my posting this summer. But I had good reasons. One daughter got married, another is preparing for college, and life has given me a few bumps in the road. At least it did my car when driving back from a college visit trip in Santa Fe. $3,000 later it's as good as new and ready for the VW recall. Yippee.

Teaching three courses this summer and three this fall, has given me little time to golf much less draw or write. My wife is consumed with the election coming up so we have a direct feed from CNN and PBS Newshour. Please don't mention politics if you happen to meet. On top of that it was my 20th Wedding Anniversary last week and I dropped the ball on that too. (Again, another topic not to bring up.)

There are two competition deadlines looming as well. One is in a week. So here I am posting the b/w stage of the work, and I hope to have the color posted by 9/15, the due date. It is based on a Normal Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and inspired by a Stone Temple Pilots song.

Maybe after that I can think of something clever to write about.

Here is the finished piece in color with minor changes.