Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TEOTWAWKI, Art and the Zombie Apocalypse

     Hang on to your hats for this post!  My imagination went wild on this one!
     Did you know that last week the Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually gave us, the brain-dead public, a written primer on how to prepare for an invasion of brain-eating undead, commonly known as Zombies?  I find it rather ironic that they talk to us like we’re Zombies, hanging on to their every word, about the threat of real Zombies.  Can you believe it?
     Look, you may not have as good a seat on “the crazy train” as I do, and have no idea what TEOTWAWKI really is.  Well, fire up that Google search because this post is way beyond Survival 101!
     So, after the CDC article, I’m thinking to myself, “How does this affect my art career?”  Don’t worry; I’ve done the heavy lifting here.  Preparation is my middle name.  I actually quit Cub Scouts in the Third Grade because my lefty-leaning, patchouli-stenched instructor, Ms. Pillsbury informed me we wouldn’t be learning to start fires with a bow drill, or any other form of bushcraft.  So, adios Ms. P and good luck with your bake sale.  (And I want to know, where were the male role models for this impressionable group of 8-year olds?  But that’s another lament for another time.)
     So, flash forward to the present, and the alarming warning from the CDC regarding the aforementioned Zombies.  If I want to paint a plein air landscape, I must not only consider my palette choice, brushes and easel, but must now contemplate what type of firepower I might need during my painting experience.
     No artist wants to fend off a poorly dressed member of the Undead, who is wearing a Frankie Goes To Hollywood RELAX T-shirt (slightly blood-tinged) using only a tube of Van Dyke Brown and the sharp end of a Kolinsky Sable Winsor Newton Series 7 brush.
     Keeping with the Zombie theme, let’s break this down into small, edible chunks of logic (Sorry about that!).  Here’s the heart of the matter:  The problem with defending yourself against Zombies is that they are only firing on one neuron and it’s in their head, so you have an impossibly small target.  Logical thinking leads us to this conclusion:  Big bullets release more kinetic energy on pea brains.
     So, here’s my advice to you:  If possible, consider the 9 mm as a minimum weapon of defense, with the .45 ACP as an even better choice, or my personal favorite….the Remington Model 870 pump shotgun.
     I proudly consider myself a member of what Michael Bane calls Gun Culture 1.0, and as such, would never consider a day of painting without a large caliber weapon within reach for defending myself against Zombies or other undesirable elements.  I’m capable of sending copious amounts of hot lead down-range faster than you can say “Arches 140 cold press and Ultramarine Blue”. 
     In a couple of weeks I am teaching a workshop here in my studio to a good friend whom I will call Calamity Deb.  As host of this event, I feel a sense of responsibility to provide a safe workshop environment for my wide-eyed students.  However, I happen to know that Calamity Deb has a rather good seat on the crazy train, herself, and is known to be quite capable of sending her own hot lead down range.
     So with Pam providing eyes and ears, and back up with her new 9 mm Gen 4 Glock, Calamity Deb and I will be able to venture down the art path safely and unimpeded.  And I am providing fair warning to any of the Undead who dare to limp, glassy-eyed into our Day of Art.  OK, girls, let ‘em have it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Don't Drop The Roast!

         I was 18 when it started.  It came like a thief in the night, and then proceeded like a runaway freight train.  I knew I’d been dealt a bad card.  The same arrow nicked both grandfathers and my Dad.  I didn’t stand a chance! 
     Resignation makes the bitterness of the pill a bit easier to swallow, but for young men it’s the bane of existence.  How could I be born in August and branded a Leo?  A Leo is identified with Pride, Power and a Full Mane!  And yet by the time Pam and I married, I was in full folic freefall at the young age of 23. 
     I knew then, that there was only one way to play it.  No mullets, no comb-overs.  The guys who desperately hang on, look ridiculously pitiful.  It’s better to stand deliver, take your lumps and attach the No. 1 guard to the Wahl trimmer.  At least with the buzz cut, you stand on common ground with soldiers, athletes and the like.
     Now, all these many years later, I have no complaints but one.  For it seems that my uncovered bean catches more than its share of punishment.  I’m not sure if hair is a great impact deterrent, but I don’t remember having this many cuts, abrasions, lumps, hematomas or gouges.
     Four years ago in Sabinal, I walked headlong into a brace for the garage door.  It knocked me out, but I came to upon impacting the ground.  My art trailer has an aluminum trim with a sharp corner that catches me at least twice a year.  My framing saw is living in a shed that predates our move to this property.  It was built for midgets at the turn of the century, and it has taken its toll on me over the last three years we’ve lived here.
     This week has been especially noteworthy.  First, while caulking an outside seam on my studio (in preparation for painting the exterior), I was indiscriminately attacked by yellow jackets while standing on a ladder.  Somehow they know to proceed in full assault when you’ve reached the highest point on any given ladder.
     I bailed off in an arm-swinging frenzy, only to fall between the metal braces for the deck I am also building.  Ouch!  And last night, I ambitiously cooked a chuck roast in my #10 Dutch oven.  While walking to the house with my head down (to avoid stepping into any hidden holes in the yard), I slammed full speed and head on into 11 inches of a Live Oak limb.  Tree wins again!  All I could think was, “I know I’m bleeding, but don’t drop the roast!”   

Thursday, May 12, 2011

If You Don't Have Books, You Can't Stop The Hemorrhage

     I've spent the past week working on one single painting for the upcoming Buffalo Bill Museum Show in Cody, Wyoming.  When I stop and reflect on the process I pursued in completing this painting, I realize that the single most important aspect to its success were my art book references.  I know I've spoken of this before, but I can't stress enough how my library contributes to the success of ANY painting I present to the public.
     For the most part, I use these valuable references for two different reasons:  1)  Seeing how another artist handled a specific problem I am encountering, and  2)  Seeing how to simplify an element in my painting that is difficult or over-detailed.
     These are the books that I used to resolve a series of challenges that I encountered in the painting.  And you will find that every painting presents a unique and specific set of problems.  The process to resolve this is usually found in good drawing and referencing Master works.
     For early ateliers, copying Master works was part of the learning process.  I think the strength in this method was they were able to follow in the footsteps of a Master and see exactly how he mapped out the complex steps and translated it into brush strokes.
     I've found that things like foliage or repetitious patterns present chances to shine as competent painters.  Riding the fine line between too detailed and too impressionistic are where I run into trouble.  Once my point of interest is established, then the foreground and background must be appropriately incorporated into the painting, and compliment the subject.
     Painting, according to Richard Schmid, is nothing more than solving a series of problems to completion.    When there is nothing left to solve, you have neared the end of the painting process.
     For me, and most professional artists, my book collection isn't just for looks.  I would even venture to say that if you are a serious artist who refuses to purchase, study, and reference every art book you can find, then you may want to rethink your commitment to your craft.  If you don't know where to start, then drop me a line and I will give you a good starting point.  I'd love to share my inspiration with you!

P.S.  I will reveal this painting in September, prior to the opening of the show.  It will be worth waiting for, I promise!   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rant 2.0: What the !#?*! Is an Aglet?

    AGLET:  a metal or plastic tube fixed tightly around each end of a shoelace.

     My niece, Kaylee, used this word in a conversation last Saturday evening.  I instantly called B.S. on it and now I’ll need copious amounts of salt and ketchup to get down the rather large piece of crow I must now swallow. 
     By my very nature, I immerse myself in studying those things that interest me, and I tend to study them with total commitment.  That would include Drawing, Painting, Shooting, and Dogs.  But never in my studies or travels have I stumbled across the word aglet. 
    (I think if I chase that chunk of crow with Strawberry Kool-aid, it might be a bit more palatable.)  The bitter truth is that my niece has inadvertently taught me a valuable lesson.  It’s something akin to that old adage, “Keep your mouth shut and let them wonder if you’re a moron, rather than opening it and confirming all doubts.”
     Now I know if I played Cranium or Balderdash or Twenty Questions, then I would have placed this pointless appellation into my hard drive for use on some witless idiot, much like myself.  But as it stands, I still can’t find a reason to clog my vocabulary with such drivel.  When would one use such a term unless you owned a freakin’ shoelace factory?  “I’d like to go to dinner with you, but I busted my aglet, so I’ll be sitting this one out.” ….. “Doc, I think my dog ate my homework, as well as my aglet!” …. “Does this aglet make my butt look big?”

     So where is this entire diatribe leading us?  While rummaging through my flat files last week, I found 3 Salinas Rodeo Posters that I designed in 2000.  (By the way, they happen to be sold out and are now collectable).  I will give away one of these posters to the reader who provides me with the best usage of the word aglet in a sentence.
     Also rest well knowing that all family members of the artist (including Kaylee) cannot win.  Uncle Mark gets in the final cheap shot!
     Good luck!