Saturday, February 28, 2009

Music has color, art has rhythm

Anyone that knows me knows that I love music...probably too much. Just ask my checking account (or my wife...but they're the same thing anyway).

I can remember being about 14, back when I lived here in Savannah as a kid, moving from house to house, project to project (as in housing project). One mother with five kids will do that to you, I guess. I can remember one house out in the sticks because at that time I had one of those old radio/record players that opened like a suitcase. I would listen to the local rock station (although, back then, the variety was so great I also heard tons of great old was Georgia, after all) late at night, when I was supposed to be asleep. WSGA was the station, and I actually still have two old small xerox playlists from back then...around 1971 (see below, and click on it to be able to read a section of the varied list). One song I particularly remember was Emerson, Lake and Palmer's From the Beginning. Apropos, I guess.

Since then, I have always immersed myself in music, even though I never learned to play an instrument. I sing pretty well...when no one is around to listen. I have been a DJ at a few small radio stations over the years, and doing it for a living would be dream come true. But, it would have to be at a station with great variety, such as XM, for example. Anyway, I digress.

Many of my paintings have either been portraits of musicians (you can see many of those in the music section of my site at, which have many times enabled me to meet those same musicians...or sometimes I will name a painting after a song. Much of the time, the painting will really have very little to do with the song it's named just seemed to fit. For example, the very old one below is named after a line in a song by Guadalcanal Diary called Where Angels Fear to Tread. The line is "Rattlesnake coiled in a young girl's arms."

Next, another older piece (probably around 1982 or so) is called Anima Rising, after a line in a song by the great Joni Mitchell.

Next, you can view a painting that combines the coast of San Diego, where I lived for about 10 great years, and a "Ghost Girl," named after a song by the wacky and sometimes moody Split Enz.

There are many more that I have done in this manner over the years, inspired by the music I listened to constantly. Related to that, a class I am a teacher's assistant in this quarter had a music related recent assignment. They had to adapt a poem (or song lyrics) into a four page sequential story. If I were in the class, I would have many choices, being so darn old...but the one that came to mind in this class was the great Genesis album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. There are so many great images and story sequences on that album. The main character, a young puerto rican graffitti artist called Rael, is hurled into another dimension, where he interacts with snake women, diseased characters covered with boils and sores, carpet crawlers, a giant raven that snatches a jar from around Rael's neck (which contains his severed penis that he is hoping to get reattached), and much more. The album is rife with great story ideas. I myself did an illustration or two loooong ago based on it. But, I couldn't get any of the students interested...guess it is just way too long before their time.

But then again, good music is timeless and spans generations. My 8 year old likes the Beatles, my 14 year old has recently gotten into Jeff Buckley, and I like my share of the current stuff.

To paraphrase Nick Drake, music is magic. Sometimes, I am a lucky man in that I am able to apply some of that magic to my art. Lucky man. So, we are back to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kids...they'll kill ya!

Actually, I am pretty lucky in the kid department. My oldest, Riley (14), has a pretty good head on her shoulders. She does really well in school, while playing on her school soccer team, an indoor soccer team and being on facebook or texting 23 hours a day. Avery is the younger sister at 8, and is...well, let's just say she has no shortage of personality. She is also very smart, reading at a 5th grade level (and reading a lot), doing well in school in all subjects...and yet, she still finds time to argue with me about the tiniest things! Maybe she'll end up being a lawyer.

We've now been in the Savannah area going on 6 years now I think. This is the first time in my life I have been anywhere long enough (while having kids at the same time) to see changes occur over the long haul. I've seen Riley and her friends at the school she just left go from about age 10 to's been really interesting. I've never really felt so grounded and tied to a place, while at the same time wishing we were still living in San Diego. The school both girls were in (Avery is still there) is small enough that I know many of the kids there. You can see a group of quickie watercolor portraits of many of them done about 2 years ago here (including Riley and Avery). Great school, great bunch of kids and teachers.

To seque into my own art, I will show various portraits of the two girls below (as well as my other daughters, Rowan and Rahne who are now close to 18). You can have portraits done of your kids if you like...or anything else. Check my portrait site at for more samples.

Above are Rowan and Rahne at about 10 years old. Watercolor.

Here is Riley on Halloween when she was about 7 years old. Watercolor and acrylic and Riley actually helped on this one.

Here is Avery at about 6 in a fantasy setting, watercolor.

And here they are both together, about two years ago, acrylic and oil.

I've painted several other pieces of both girls and will likely do many more. They are most often presents for my wife, but also serve as a great document of the growth of these amazing little beings.

Whatever you do, don't ask Riley about the flying babies painting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Caricatures and Professors

Wow, so much has changed since my last entry just one week ago. I went out to buy new Dove chocolates, started a new load of wash, repainted a door inside the playroom, changed the rabbit litter...and that's just the exciting stuff.

Don't you wish you were an artist like me?

Actually, one interesting thing I did was go to a teaching seminar (there is one a week for a period of time, each dealing with a different topic with different panel members, etc). It started me to thinking (again) about teaching style. If you were (or are) a college student, what do you prefer, an authoritative figure who you call 'Mr.' or 'Professor' and has definite guidelines for you to follow (and if you don't there are dire consequences)?

Or, do you think you would rather have a more informal professor who tries to have a more fun environment, lets you call him or her by their first name, etc? Which do you think works best for you? And, do you think that method works best for everyone?

I go back and forth between those two options, and question how good I will be as a teacher much of the time. Do I need to be an entertainer? A facilitator? An authoritarian? A buddy? What's your take on this?

On a lighter note (unless you look inside my wallet), below you will find a few items for sale, as well as a look behind the scenes at the sketches that went into the making of said pieces.

Also, always remember, I do commissions as desired. So, ramp up that desire!

Today, it will be caricature funtime! Whoohooo! Below, you will see sketches for each piece, the finished piece and price (and a paypal know you want to!), and a little explanation.

You'll notice two versions of Jason Lee as Earl. The one at right was done first, trying to figure out what to emphasize, the bane of caricature work. At left is a better version, also containing some of the other elements (though not all).

This was a fun image to do. I did it on illustration board, to have as much control with fine line work. As usual, it's watercolor, and about 15 inches square.

The second piece was done for a client who was trying to help Hillary Clinton get elected. I did an additional piece with McCain and one later for Obama alone. You can see in the sketches my trying to work out all the other candidates. What I was supposed to do was make more outlandish caricatures of the other candidates, and keep Hillary (though still a caricature) more attractive. I also obviously separated Hillary from the others by color. If you saw a previous piece I did of Hillary, you can understand why the client wondered if I would be able to do this (check it out at This piece is watercolor, about 16 x 20 and does not contain the text.

Lastly, you can see a music related piece done in a mixed media technique invented by the great illustrator C. F. Payne. Below you see the usual working out of what to emphasize or diminish. Neil Young was easy...Dylan not so much, and Cohen was the hardest. I don't know if I really captured him as much as I would have liked.

And below, the finished, piece. Mixed media, about 15 inches square.

Speaking of music, last week I neglected to mention how much I have been listening to the new My Morning Jacket. It took awhile for me to get it, especially with such wacky tracks as the title track, Evil Urges, or especially Highly Suspicious. But, man, do I love it now. It has the exhilarating guitar histrionics, but a real playfulness as well. A great follow up to my favorite, the previous release, Z. I mentioned Fleet Foxes last week, and they sort of sound like MMJ without the guitar wails as well as a little more homespun. Sorta like if MMJ just crawled out of the Appalachian woods.

Have a good weekend and please, comment!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Initial Idiotstuff

So, my first blog. Do I have earthshaking news?

No, I don't.

I do, however, hope to update this blog weekly with new art (even if it is a crappy sketch), new favorite music, new...uh, news, etc.

I also plan to put a new existing piece of art up for sale here each week that you can purchase through paypal as well. The first painting is the one you see a partial view of in the banner at top, which is called An Eye for an Eye. It was intended both as a fantasy piece and political commentary (as well as fulfilling a class assignment). It is watercolor, apprx 20 x 30 inches. The cost is 500. Email me with offers as well. Prints available, email for details.

Also, all you Magic the Gathering fans out there; I am still doing alterations, please contact me with your requests. The cost per card ranges from 30. to 50., with costs going down with larger volume.

Can you tell I need to make money?

I decided to add a set of Simpsons altered Magic the Gathering cards here, the set is 100., reduced about half from the regular price.

Latest bands I am obsessing over include Fleet Foxes, Low, Shearwater, Friends of Dean Martinez, Blackfield and No-Man. And, believe me, I can obsess over music very easily.