Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello Larry

It’s been quite some time since we have had a toddler around our house. Now regarding ours, he comes with four legs. Larry is our new Irish terrier pup and he most definitely has a bit of the Emerald Isle fighting spirit in him. And like all toddlers every room, every corner needs to be converted to a safe environment because every thing is getting chewed. I tried to convince my wife that it was too soon to get a new pup since our last dog past away. But my position of a two-year grieving process fell on deaf ears. Maybe she’ll hear this.

The Raving

With no dogs here for a while, done with picking up of piles
Although with months of arguing most of which I am losing.
Soon I found myself was driving to the airport for a pup that’s flying.
In the car I sit there crying, while he’s in the back there spewing
Spewing on my upholster floor.

Now we have an Irish Terrier. Who ever said more the merrier?
With a coat as red as rust, and a face with saliva oozing,
Ten pounds now but soon at thirty, and a beard that’s rather scruffy,
He looks more old man than puppy. Dire days have started looming.
Looming like they not before.

Once at home the car I park, he jumps out and starts to mark,
All the carpets and the flooring, wrecking havoc by his choosing
Running here and running there, my daughter doesn’t seem to care,
But all I see are home repairs, as I start my boo-hoo-hooing.
Boo-hoo-hooing and nothing more.

Leashes, collars, toys, and bones, balls and treats just litter our home.
He keeps scratching, a flea bath is ensuing.
Get advice from our friends. “Get a cage, Get a pen.”
We’re all alone in the end. Bitter apple slows the chewing.
Chewing on the wooden doors.

If all that doesn’t seem enough I’ll tell you more about our pup.
Late at night he begins to whine just when I start my snoozing
And if I may one last word, I want no dog or cat or bird.
Nothing that barks, or tweets or purrs. I want a pet of my own choosing.
Choosing none and nothing more.

My first drawings of Larry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Moving Feast

I stopped in for lunch at Efrain’s on the corner of 63rd and Arapahoe and you know it is a fine restaurant, and the food is good, and the atmosphere cheap. It is everything a Mexican restaurant should be with its chili pepper Christmas lights hung all year round, the dark and stained plywood paneling, and the tiles are cracked and the English is broken. The locals come in in groups of two and four, the liberal fascists wearing political buttons and unwashed hair yelling about GMOs and the homeless and the world going to hell. The pistol carrying conservatives in button down shirts that are too tight, and jeans from Sears quietly complaining how the world is going to hell and you better have gold stored in your basement along with plenty of guns because the liberal fascists are trying to take them all away.

I took a booth in the back, and slid across the emerald vinyl seat, my jeans catching on the corner and I thought I hope they never fix this charming feature. The waiter was short and heavy-set, and seems to be a constant here serving food, nodding politely. He placed a bowl of chips and salsa on the table and filled with hunger I grabbed at a chip, dipping it in the salsa, which was red, and hot and fought its way down my throat. I spilled it on the menu that was laminated and quickly wiped it off before my short heavy-set waiter came back.

He returned with a plastic tumbler of water, and it was cold, and icy and it felt good against the salsa that burned my mouth and tongue. I ordered a chicken chimichanga covered in cheese with green chili on the side so the corn tortilla would stay crunchy and crisp. He said ok.

I tried sketching in my small black moleskine I carry with me, but my plate of food arrived and I was hungry and bored and wanted to eat while it was still hot. It reminded me of the time I went fishing in Mexico for swordfish, and of running with the bulls in Pamplona, and making love to a young senorita with coal black hair under a olive tree while she played the castanets, but I quickly realized I hadn’t done any of those things. I ordered another tap water.

Now the chicken chimichanga covered in cheese with green chili on the side so the corn tortilla would stay crunchy and crisp was already moving down and threatening to leave before I did. I was an old man with a sea roiling inside me and I sat wondering if my heavy-set waiter was any good at lavarse las manos, or for that matter if anyone in kitchen was good at lavarse las manos.

I threw my cash on the wooden table and slid out of the booth with the emerald vinyl seat and again my jeans got caught on the corner and I thought why don’t they fix that damn corner? I walked briskly towards the door with my ass cheeks held tighter than an armrest at a dentist office when the drilling begins and the nerve exposed as beads of sweat cascaded down my forehead. I reached my Volkswagen and sat down and drove the shortest way home because that’s what I needed to do. Moments later it happened.

My deepest apologies to Mr. Hemingway.

A request from a client.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Illustration is Junk Food

In my travels I come upon a number of ‘art lovers’ that stick their noses up at illustrations. They often dismiss it as a lower art form, especially here in Colorado. You would think it was the other way around coming from New York City. Prestige is found at booths during local art fairs and not on the pages of magazines. Painting and sculpture, it seems, are fine wines and caviar while illustrations are mere chips, gluten free at that. No substance apparently. Wine also comes in cartons you know.

I understand that technically illustration is an applied art and its purpose is to explain or decorate an idea, while fine art exist for aesthetic only. The problem is viewers confuse ‘fine’ with quality. The fact of the matter is there are great and poor examples of both. A good illustrator will find a way to solve the visual problem and make it a thing of beauty. In fact, the only difference I have found between the two, since subject, medium, technique, time period and style occur in both, is that an illustrator negotiates the price first while a fine artist leaves it to chance.

Please don’t believe the falsehood that seeing work in a museum gives it some sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s first curator was Hilla Rebay and, in my opinion, has one of the poorest collections of modern art. If not for Frank Lloyd Wright’s interpretation of a seven-story flower pot the place would be vacant (The rooftop is ideal for placing the holiday Christmas tree!). And while the Museum of Modern Art has a superior collection, it was started by a group of New York socialites that wanted to increase the value of their purchases. Not exactly ordained by Aphrodite.

Art from the Middle Ages fares little better with museums displaying hallway after hallway of repeated subjects, mainly The Madonna and Child and The Crucifixion. Yes, they are beautiful, but they also represent a millennium of monotony. After the first hundred or so pieces you witness museumgoers picking up the pace, seeking something fresh around the corner their cultural obligation satisfied. Is there really that much difference between bishops asking for a decoration to hang on the walls of his church and a publisher decorating the pages of his magazine?

You could say that the history of art in some ways is really the history of illustration. The preponderance of art produced during the Middle Ages and Byzantine periods as well as the Early Renaissance was done for the edification of the church, in other words illustrations from the Bible. Whether it’s Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, the Ghent Altarpiece, or the domed ceiling of the Duomo in Florence (although that one reads more like a graphic novel) they all illustrate text. Murals, grand and splendid works of art, are there to decorate and explain, to illustrate. They taught an illiterate Europe everything they needed to know as prescribed by the church and state. And of course not just the Bible, but scenes from mythology, as well as historical events, were also popular subjects to illustrate, I mean in which to create fine art. It wasn’t until the growth of the middle class, which developed after the guild system, that many artists were able to create for themselves…art for art’s sake.

As printing developed so did book and newspaper illustrations. Whether it was Thomas Eakins’ drawings from the Civil War battlefront, or Gustave Doré’s work in Dante’s Divine Comedy, no one questions their talent. Now that we know Eakins worked directly from photographs, like an illustrator, has his work lost value? If we compare Grant Wood’s American Gothic with Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Fear from his Four Freedoms series does one deserve higher status than the other? They are similar in subject, and technique. Both have become icons of American life. Both appear plain almost simple upon first viewing, but the composition, structure, expressions, handling of paint are both very complex and beautiful. Equals, in my eyes, of  20th Century Art in America.

I admit that illustrations can become overly sweet and sentimental, corny and pedestrian, even cheap. But they can also be works of great art that grab hold and keep us coming back for more. There is the sublime gentleness of Jessie Wilcox Smith and Andrew Loomis, the bold and expressive brushstrokes of Harvey Dunn and Dean Cornwall, the inventiveness of Heinrich Kley and Al Parker, and the storytelling of N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle. Hundreds of artists that created thousands of works of art that are no less beautiful, no less skilled, than what many museums have to offer. Thankfully, galleries are starting to take notice as well as collectors. Illustration may be junk food, but life is too short not to enjoy a piece of cake now and then.

Okay, I'm not saying this is fine art, but I do like the way this large nude came out. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Saying goodbye to an old friend

We put Daisy, our border terrier, down this week. She was sixteen and a half years old, blind, deaf, with fused vertebrae, and no appetite. It was sad watching her grow weaker by the day. Without sounding maudlin, she was a great dog. Friendly, smart, gentle, funny, and always a spark in her eyes that faded these last months. Even my mother liked her, and she was no dog lover by any means. We spent the day reminiscing about all the fun we had together. Last night we fed her filet mignon and angel cake, which she seemed to like. We got her six months before Katrina was born. Weighing in at 2.5 pounds and looking like a rolled up black sock I didn’t think she would survive the trip home. Daisy was Katrina’s companion and would often sleep on her bed during thunderstorms.

The inspiration for many pictures including Sidney Needs a Shrink, Daisy was always a kind, gentle companion. The butt of many of my jokes and jabs, I will miss her.

Monday, June 15, 2015

This and That

It has been a pretty uneventful spring, which I guess can be good news. Although, we do have a possible sniper on Interstate 25, more rain in the forecast (11 inches so far this year. Three times the normal), and I got rejected from yet another art show (see the losing entry below). But the college students are gone and the town empties on the weekends. Plus, we're heading for Vacation soon! In the meantime…

JK Rowling has decided to write a Hogwarts series that takes place in the United States, because that’s what she good at. Possible titles include:

Harry Potter and the Alternate Side of the Street Parking
Harry Potter at the Golden Corral Buffet
Harry Potter and the Reality Show
Harry Potter and his Prostate Exam
Harry Potter and the Retainer of Teeth
Harry Potter Gets a Soccer Trophy
Harry Potter meets the Kardashian Sisters
Harry Potter: Filibuster for Wizards
Harry Potter and the Log Cabin Republicans
Harry Potter and the Orders of Takeout
Harry Potter and the Black Friday of Sales
Harry Potter and the Clogged Arteries of Cholesterol
Harry Potter and the Wages of Minimum
Harry Potter and the Search for Affordable Healthcare

Gee, I hope she writes about Harry Potter.

Here are some movie reviews:

Jurassic World. Poor direction for this much anticipated sequel gave us disappointing performances from good actors. Fun, mindless, plot.

Far From the Madding Crowd. I wish I was far from the theater, but a mother’s day promise is not one to skip. Seems every May they come out with an 18th Century novel. How many did they write?

Avengers: Age of Ultron. See my review for Jurassic World.

Spy. My favorite so far. Very funny.

Fifty Shades of Grey. How do you make a sick bastard seem like a nice guy? You can’t. That’s why it flopped. It certainly wasn’t 50 Shades of Emotions. They should have cast the guy from those Dos Equis' ads. 

Taken 3. Nobody was taken! What should have been taken was Liam’s Humira pills. The guy could hardly trot let alone escape from a burning car.

Enjoy your summer.

My entry for the Boulder Competition that didn’t make the cut. The subject was eating in any capacity: farm, food, what it means or symbolizes, anything at all, and be creative. I’m happy with it anyway. 

Take Two at Breakfast.

Also posted is another plein air piece.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

To Thine Own Self Be Perfect

Last week my wife told me she needed some space. Everyone does from time to time and I was okay with that. That is until I asked how much. “6 feet 2 inches to be exact,” she answered. That hurt. She told me I am hypercritical and demanding and driving her ‘nuts’.
Of course you can imagine my surprise and disbelief. I refused to accept such nonsense and demanded an example. Several hours later, with my five o’clock shadow in full beard mode and with the sun coming up I asked if we could take a break. She made her point.
It made sense, now that I think about it. I was getting fewer and fewer gifts over the years. Birthdays, Christmas, Father’s Day, I blamed it all on the economy. Thanks a lot Obamacare. How can any one single person afford cufflinks and major medical insurance? Something has got to give!
Okay, I get it now.
As of today I am a new man. A man that will no longer give unsolicited advice. A man that will see the good in all things. A man who will accept people for who they are, no matter how poorly that is. Some would call this mellowing with age. But in my opinion mellowing is just a sign of fear when you can no longer physically defend yourself. A fear of being bludgeon to death with a two-gallon jug of Cheer laundry detergent when you tell a love one that shirt should really be washed in cold water.
Can people change after so many years? Can I? Better yet, should I? Ignore that last question.
I tried going cold turkey but the stress was too great. I had to find a way to have my cake and still tell the baker what he did wrong. Can I help it if my tombstones will be carved with words of wisdom, and say “continues on back…”? This blog has come in handy over the years as an escape valve. However, it left me unsatisfied. I cannot see the joy on the faces of those I helped so much through my font of knowledge.
One solution I had was telling unsuspecting wait staff. Unfortunately, it left me with too many foreign objects floating in my soup. As a college professor I assumed an ideal position in mentoring the young. For some strange reason, however, I had fewer and fewer students show up to class as the semester rolled on. I started chasing down strangers as a last resort. For all the good I tried to create I wound up with two sore knees and three restraining orders. Ingrates.
As a result of this new lifestyle I found myself with quite a bit of free time. I replaced the transmission in my Oldsmobile. I fixed the leaking roof over the garage. I also put in a sprinkler system in the backyard. On the second day I got even more done.
Although, now that I am a better person I feel a great sadness descend upon me. Just knowing how many people’s lives I could fix if only they let me is a great burden to shoulder. One I am only too eager to fill. My one hope, and their future spouses’ great fear, is that one day my children will carry on the family tradition. One day they may write a letter to the Middle East on how to achieve peace. Or perhaps an email to a TV network with programming tips. At the very least admonishing a friend how to be a better parent. Is that too much to hope for? Is that reaching beyond the stars? Of course you would think that. Oops. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “there I go again”.

Here are a couple of democrats I hope you recognize. I did these without any scaling or tracing. Just free drawn. No comment or critiques if you don’t mind.