Friday, December 26, 2008

Swift Footed 24x30

Egg nog and rum make for cheery caroling in Catalina. I'm no pirate but I sure can understand why they always had the bottle handy as they chortled like Santa Claus over the seven seas...just not so sure about the egg nog part, they never really seemed to sing much about that. I'm wondering, if I become a connoisseur of whiskey would it improve my ability to appreciate finer things? I've given up on beer as a hobby and try as I might to enjoy the good fruit of the vine I've not been too successful at making myself like wine either. I'm thinking that maybe I'm just to rough to be civilised by the subtle and delicate prodding of these milder drinks and really need some pure straight acid wash to cut to the quick as they say and get down to the nitty gritty. Well, this is hardly the season for taking up a new bad habit and since I weigh about as much as a skinned rabbit I think a little discernment is in order. I will, though, continue to imbibe as much as possible the refreshing draughts of paint fumes and turpentine that permeate everything here. I'll find the kids, from time to time, smelling my clothes or something else that reeks of oil paint with a faraway smile muttering something about how this smells like dad. I won't guarantee that this painting doesn't smell like dad but it should look like a place you want to be. Offered on auction here this week.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Canon in D major

Christmas eve morning jog, dog leash in hand, Bob Dylan singing Working Man Blues on the iPod, and an empty bottle of Seagram's 7 in the ditch to my left. Here's how I fantasize. -Out of the corner of my eye I catch the blur of dark fur and fury leaping from the center stripe on Wilds road in Catalina, Arizona. The air is crisp and the mountain snow shimmers in the morning light as the arching creature, fangs bared, hurdles toward the throat of my favorite man's-best-friend. Moments before, my ears caught a glimpse, or you could say I saw out of the corner of my ears through the headphones the growling bark of what I'm sure was a rottweiler/bulldog-mix, bred specifically to maul people like me and dogs like Davey. Normally, my morning-run fantasies are about Davey and I being attacked by wolves (inspired by neighborhood dogs on the loose) I pull out one of my ever-present knives and dispatch the offending cur by deftly placing a well aimed thrust between the third and forth ribs leaving the miserable demon dog to slowly drain on his way, limping back to his home where he should've been kept fenced or tied or...I join Bob on stage to play along with some sweet groove that moves at just the right step with the run. This day, however, no knife was found in my running suit so the Seagram's bottle became the tool of my daring rescue and revenge. I lived and re-lived the various possible scenarios of how the dogs would grapple- I would break the bottle either over the attacking dog's head or on the ground to gouge out his eyes with the broken, jagged edge. There really are a number of ways this fantasy could be played out and it takes almost a whole song (Bob's can be quite long) to get to the end of my fanciful meditation. In all my daydreams I do end up rescuing Davey and coming away with only a few stitches and no lawsuits against me...almost every time.

Well, maybe not what you expected for a beautiful Christmas story to go along with Canon in D major played above in the you tube video. We didn't practise this...I just told the band (Marissa and Ellie) to strike up a tune. It's long and repetitive so I won't feel bad if you don't make it through the whole thing. I wish you well and that you can find / have some good company in these special days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Catalina Christmas. Everyone is pictured ...the dog's head is cut off (under my hands) and yes, those are the Santa Catalina mountains in the background. The temperature was a frigid 62 degrees when we took this picture a couple of days ago. So, as you see, we can completely identify with and commiserate with any and all who are in the throes of grappling with the long and lonely winter night that is upon us. And yes, there is a smattering of snow on the mountain tops... just to reinforce my point. (It's only supposed to reach 67 degrees today!)
I've not caved (yet) to my wife's pleading lamentatious eyes and her unspoken desires to go to Mexico for the holidays and as long as I can stave off her piercing stares and unrelenting silence on the matter we should be able to pull off a happy and home bound Christmas. Our friends and family south of the border are completely oblivious to our American style concerns about safety in travel, worry about border crossings and recent warnings from the state department about the multitudinous dangers in Mexico. Not that we're chicken mind you. Danger is my middle name after all and I've never been too opposed to staring it in the eye with an unflinching steely glare. It's just that the kids (the boys) don't really like the travel and having to speak Spanish all the time (teenagers)...and we usually do have some sort of harrowing adventure that includes the "D" word above. To the folks south o' da border those concerns are petty compared with the joy of gathering the family for fried fish, tamales, unsalted peanuts in the shell and sea turtle know, your normal Christmas fare. Oh, I forgot to mention that they're butchering a pig just for us...expecting us to arrive on the 26th! Too bad I'm a vegan.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

untitled commission 30x40

I just finished this large 30x40 canvas. I splurged for this commissioned piece and bought a real nice canvas. In a perfect world I would paint on lead primed linen canvases...smooth as babies bottoms and about the most enjoyable surface to move paint around on I've found. I would be tempted to go back to Masonite as my preferred substrate but the springiness and the little bit of "tooth" on a well primed canvas are like a day filled with sunshine, sleeping dogs and quiet children. I do re-work the less expensive canvases I usually paint on. I sand them and give 'em another coat of gesso, maybe sand again and tone the ground with a neutral mix of ultra marine and burnt sienna. Sounds like a lot of work I know but it's worth it in the long run and, don't forget, I have several teenage slaves, uh, I mean kids that help out a lot.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Silver River 12x36

I've a bunch of new paintings hanging around here, the kids are full of menudo, cookies and Christmas cheer, and there's snow on the mountains. One would think that this would provide ample blog-fodder to throw out there with the myriad Spanish/English, English/ Spanish, mexed-up anecdotes I'm known for. Alas, computer woes coupled with apathy, flying time and a few quail hunts make for an absent blogger. Now, don't let my bird hunting references ruffle your feathers. In my world, "hunting" is a convenient term used to describe a lot of things and a quick perusal of our freezer and it's absence of frozen game will undoubtedly enlighten you as to the fantastical ability us multi-linguals poses to moldify, modify and just generally butcher language. So, I've torn myself away from the eternal pot of pozole bubbling away on the stove to put up this cool rendition of the Tucson mountains just west of the studio here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Full On Vacation 24x30

The ornaments are on the tree, the lights are strung from the gable to the mesquite out in the front scrub, uh, yard and my belly has already partaken of it's quota of Christmas cookies for the season. What better way to continue the holiday atmosphere of festivation, cheer-making and joy-giving than to paint a pretty picture of the... Caribbean? ...My thoughts exactly. For all my travels throughout the hinterlands of central and south America I've only had the chance to hang out on remote beaches and islands a couple of dozen times. Many a Christmas I've relinquished my senses to the swarmy breezes as I recline under a palm sipping coconut coolers, plater of shrimp piled hi at my right hand and beautiful naked natives at my beck, fanning giant leafs and catering to my every and sundry whim. Oh how I've suffered...the thought of missing snow and shoveling the drive when an arctic cold front moves in after a storm that left twelve inches of snow and the temperature dips to -27 below. If you've ever had Jack Frost nipping at your nose, if you've ever reached for your car keys (unsuccessfully) with frozen phalanges, if you've ever used a propane torch to thaw your sorrel boots enough to get at the laces, than this reverie is for you.
I'm surprised at how little Ive painted palm trees and beaches...maybe 'cause they're too romantic or too overdone, I've just seen too many renditions of over-romanticized scenes. Regardless, I think I could learn a bit about light and it's play on water so I think I'll try more of these in the future...let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jupiter Moon 12x36

Well, the leftovers are gone and after a week of family visits and much festivating I hope to have the play-doh fun factory, uh, art studio back up and running at full steam. It's hard to paint with relatives looking over your shoulder. After a while and especially after painting outdoors in public you do become a bit annealed to any effect Looky Lous might have on you but lately I've been more intent on sequestering myself in the hidden underground bunker that is my shop. So, I just had to shake off the piercing stares, keep my eyes on the road and play the man.
Turkey is a favorite food...the birds are interesting too, some of the most stupid critters in all creation. If you've ever raised 'em you know what I mean. As dumb as they are they provide some of the best table fare and for that I offer the following ode.

Thanksgiving Turkey

When you hear them coming stomping
And you feel the heartbeat thumping
Then a quiet whisper whispers
A red bird starts to sing

When the fish are just not biting
And the June bugs cease to crawl
On the screen at evening
The porch light says it all

Early dusk late sunrise
Crisp the windy blow
A warming light at evening
Warm the hearth and glow

How they come so happy
Shake the white off boots and brow
Yonder turkey gobbled
Now he lays the table low

He heard the footsteps coming
He heard the cardinal song
He laid his crown on yonder block
He roasted all day long

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Call My Bluff...Home On The Range 24x30

Thanksgiving and another happy day is upon us. You know, it's a healing thing to be thankful...regardless of circumstances. A grateful heart is incapable of criticizing others and a thankful tongue is not able to complain. A good practise is to effuse, out loud, God whether He feels near or far. Your own ears will hear yourself giving thanks and your brain will tell your heart to chime in. Soon you will be persuaded that there is much to be thankful for and your countenance will be changed to a glowing bright orb that radiates goodness and cheer to all mankind. Or something like that. Whew...I think I should try to follow my own advice once in a while. The picture above and psalm below are for your viewing and reading pleasure on this, my favorite holiday.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits-
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Psalm 103:1-5

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long Mount 12x36

I had just enough wine the other night to remind me that it's pretty easy to have too much. Not that I overindulged, it's just that the delightful soothing draught of liquid warmth can be subtly...well, intoxicating....especially to an empty stomach of a not large person who hardly ever imbibes. The following is a word to the wise...another little poem that has nothing to do with the new painting pictured above and even less to do with my circumstances the other night. Offered for sale here.

Red sparkle lets you know
The warmth and joyness fill your head
I hope that we don’t stumble
On our way to lay our head
Down to sleep the sleep of fools
Inviting as it is
You take in hand the crystal globe
Where swirls the one that says
Drink, drink your fill and drown your will
Give no thought for the morrow
I’ll take good care of you and yours
...And haul you in a barrow!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Above The Vines 20x20

Dont Put Your Trust In Stars

Star bright and starlight…I hope and pray and hope I might
Catch a star to wish upon and catch a wish when hope is gone
Gone from my head the happy thought that weaves and spins tomorrows joys
And just as true as wishing might bring to you the hopeful sight
Of dreams come true Dreams old and new
to have and hold and to hold anew
But truth be told that falling star will burn a hole right through your heart
And if by chance your pocket fills with falling stars for tomorrows ills
That flaming spark much hotter than a million suns will come again
And bake a hole right through your leg and heart and heel coming limping beg…
It wasn’t even a rainy day and all my hopes are gone away.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rose Coast 20x20

The other day I was invited to a Mexican birthday party at a local park. Some of the folks were close friends and it was quite a pachanga. A while back I had presided over the wedding ceremony of the couple who was celebrating their third child's first birthday (One of my disguises is that of a Mexican pastor). Over the blaring ranchero music we ate shredded beef stew (barbacoa style) and drank coke and Bud Light...the favorite beer of Mexicans in the US. I played around with some of the kids for a bit to get away from the loud music. The cutest one of the bunch had been our foster daughter a few years ago. She is now seven and calls me papi. She lives with her mom and a younger sister and brother...all from different dads. I saw her again last night and was reminded of the divergent backgrounds of people in America. I am a half Polish Swede from the northland ....often putting on like I'm some beaner from La Tierra Caliente and raising a bunch of mexed-up kids in the process. In spite of that (the mexed-up part) we can all hold our own when it comes to slinging slang in at least a couple of languages, and next to kielbasa my favorite sausage is chorizo. Looking into little Leticia's face I was reminded of the strange and very kind love of God that keeps spreading out His common grace on His little ones far and wide. Two years ago on Christmas the little girl's mom was kidnapped by the Sinaloa drug cartel here in Tucson. She (the mom) had become like a daughter to us through circumstances that had happened a couple years previous...Leticia (the little girl) was placed with us by child protective services. Anyway, several of us got together and were able to pay the ransom the narcos were asking. Get this, the police recommended that we pay them to get her back telling us how lucky we were that it wasn't the Jamaican drug gangs 'cause they would just kill her when they got the money. After 7 days she was returned safe...a bit bruised and frightened but that Christmas had a happy, albeit tearful ending. This girl is someone many of us would have written off a long time ago. Of course they still have a steep hill to climb but to see the little chamacos happily cavorting around the dilapidated, drug-free trailers and dog carcasses on Tucson's far south side really warmed my heart and made me think there was yet hope for America...I just don't want her voting till she's read all my blogs and my forthcoming book!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cloudset On The Flats 24x30

I've been working on a book. The working title, which I'm sure will be changed, is All Mexed Up...memoirs & musings of a poly-lingual multi-culturist and his noble, albeit sometimes misguided attempts at changing the world. Of course with such a pretentious introduction I'll have to write it under a pseudonym...can't have people finding me on eBay you know. That would totally deflate any hype that our marketing team will try to create. Anyway, this has taken the place of the coffee table book which I'm setting on the back burner for the time being. That will probably be my second published book after the first hits best seller status and propels me, reluctantly, into the limelight. In all reality, I should have written it a few years ago for timing is almost everything in this business. (as if I knew this business) I have a good-sized leather pouch hanging from my belt that contains numerous jewels and precious stones. Some are still rough and dirty but others are rare and highly polished...quite reflective in fact and these would serve to bring to light a lot of questions and conundrums our modern age is confronted with concerning the border and immigration to the US. Of course it will be filled with all kinds of little anecdotal stories of exaggerated heroism and third-world exploits, so it should be entertaining if nothing else. I will post more about it here and maybe even open a blog with excerpts and a forum for others to comment etc. The glorious skyscape pictured above is being sent to our Florida gallery.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Earth Below 36x24

Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.
Oscar Wilde

He also said that melancholy is the joy of sadness.

Well, if king Solomon states that with much knowledge comes much grief and that insight and understanding bring much sorrow, I think that drawing the line someplace just sets us up for a whole bunch of melancholy. Do you wallow in self loathing and decadent crapulence more often than not? Well, if you do, you might have the makings of a great artist...or you might just need to draw clearer lines. Thanks to God (and a lack of personal crapulence), I have refrained from overt and extended bouts of melancholy. Unfortunately though, according to the above, my artistical endeavors are sure to suffer. I am, however, quite adept at covering up my shortcomings (or lack of line drawing) as you can see in the painting pictured. A fine example of American art (and subterfuge) that any vodka-bottle-strewn studio would be proud of. It's being offered for sale here. PS. From now on we will wonder if our joy is true and happy or just the embracing of sorrows...thanks Oscar

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stream O' Plenty 24x36

My son was given an asignment today. He had to write a short story or poem that had something to do with autumn. So, in the true spirit of father-son solidarity I write the following.

Autumn is now in full swing even here in the desert. And with it comes a veritable cornucopia of memories and images, not the least of which is that of the venerable pumpkin. It dances through the back roads of my mind conjuring hallowed, albeit foggy pictures and scenes of yesteryear ...that serve to almost bring a tear to my bright and hazel eyes. Multi-use vegetable as it is, there are countless varieties and just as many things that can be done with almost each and every size and color variant of this, mostly orange and tasty squash. There is one thing, however, that the smaller grapefruit-sized gourds have been used for and for which I am quite ashamed and cannot recommend.
The word "trolling" is as part of the vocabulary of Midwest fisherman as "tortilla" is to the southwest bean eater. In regards to fishing, well, there is just one typical connotation. Concerning vandalism and aberrant behavior though, there might be several uses of the word. Here I am referring to the dastardly act of throwing snowballs, light and fluffy, at cars and passersby from behind the hill at Riverdale park. We called it trolling. At first it was just a bunch of blood pumping, adrenaline flowing fun. No harm was intended. And save for the odd car screeching (or sliding as it were) to an abrupt and blustery halt on the historic West River Road, no one was ever hurt. (although the one police chase incurred was quite invigorating) Well, unfortunately for the unwitting passersby, adolescents grow...into bigger and stronger adolescents and...snow melts away. This leaves a horrible vacuum and necessitates that something replace the little round fluffy projectiles that we so eagerly and happily heaved at unsuspecting travelers during rush hour as the sun was setting over the Mississippi. Of course the most logical option was to go down to Peterson's field and do a little pre-season harvesting. You can imagine how this quickly turned into one of the most perilous activities that the Riverdale Right Footers ever partook of. To our credit I will say that as trolling turned into a more popular sport in our neighborhood and was taken over by older kids who soon grew bored with gourds and pumpkins and turned to rocks and real damage, we quit the practice. Every once in a while I pine for the northern climes and my hands begin to grope, involuntarily for something to chuck at unseen cars careening out of control over the next hill. This is my curse. This is my burden. This is my favorite fall memory. The painting pictured above remotely and in only a very esoteric and obscure way relates to pumpkins and fishing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Marsh 20x24

You mess with the bull, you get the horns. That's what my son told me the other day after I hit him in the belly. I have two teenage boys...and that's the wrong thing to say to a dad like me if you know what's good for you. Now, this did come from the same kid who pulled his own teeth (that weren't loose) to make room for braces. I told him that he'd be saving his dad about a hundred bucks per tooth and that if he pulled them himself I'd pony-up and give him something special. The next night he walked into the room with a bloody grin...and a large moller in his hand! However, this is also the kid who likes to hold his blankie and play with legos while a lot of youngsters his age are already planning their escape. No, I'm breeding them to stick around and keep up on the chores and to hunt and gather what the earth brings forth...and a couple of them show real promise artists and future presidents! I will vote today...but I'm curious as to the hunting / firearms use background of candidates. I had a thought the other day as I hiked the desert hills not far from here, shotgun in hand, that went like this. I am not interested in voting for someone who has never walked fields or forest of this land...who only knows the city. I guarantee there will be something amiss in that persons world view. I think I would have the same thought about someone who didn't play piano or the saxophone so you see my opinions might not be altogether scientific or even that logical. Anyway, I don't really know about the two who are running today...I suspect that according to my new criteria neither of them are worthy of my vote...Oh how I wish they were offering a chicken in every pot! But wait, they are. ...but who will pay for it?!?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Piled High 36x24

There were several scenarios running through my mind as I walked up to the bank to make a small deposit. The man getting off the bike near the front door was the reason for my suspicions and musings. He looked bedraggled and scraggly and as I watched him unfold a large, army issue duffel bag I knew something was amiss. Or did I? A hot breeze escorted me into the double lobby / foyer of the Norwest bank branch as cool breathe from the air-conditioned climate met us with a smile. Tucson, mid summer and everybody wants to be at the pool, inside where the air is nice or...robbing banks! Of course, it's the perfect time of year for all of the above. Well, I had business to take care of so I went about it as best I could, pushing away the distracting and fanciful image of myself thwarting the robbery attempt and the glory that would be bestowed on me afterward. Finished with leaving my small wad of hundred dollar bills in the safety of an American bank I fully indulged myself to meditate on the potential scenarios mentioned earlier. But first, I must mention the sheriff deputy seated by the door with his 70's era mirrored sunglasses. (The same ones I wore as I tooled down the road in 1977 with my long hair flowing and glowing in the sun astride my Suzuki 550 next to Lake Superior.) I smiled and waved to him...noticing how his presence was sure to put a twist on any thwarting I might be partaking in...and the fact that he didn't smile back. My first reaction was to think how rude he was. That bank should get rid of that @#% non-friendly, anti money-depositing-customer element. Bad for business. Regardless, I was too busy planning my thwarting to follow-up on how I was going to fix the bank's PR problems...I'd get to that later. The glass double doors offered a perfect spot for me to feign a heart attack. I could just lay down in front of them clutching my breast and that should give the vigilant, albeit preoccupied-with-not-smiling sheriff time to disarm the thief. Quickly my thoughts raced to a horrible conclusion...the perp opens fire right inside the crowded bank killing all the tellers and I'm to blame. No, I thought, as I walked past the doors, we need to get him outside. This is where we can take him down. It would've been so easy to slash his bike's tires. I have experience at that you know and I was carrying at least two knives at the time. Sure, that would be the easiest and least obtrusive. However, the fleeting moment of opportunity passed as a few errant brain signals mentioned the possibility of him catching me in the act. I've never been caught for all the tires I've slashed and I wouldn't want to press my luck. Anyway, in all reality, I should just tackle the SOB and take him down just like so many movies I've seen and gun fights I've lived through vicariously thanks to the elite training I received via Louis L'Amour westerns. As I crawled into my work van I paused a moment, staring at the entrance waiting for it to didn't.

Needless to say this all gave me a good chuckle as I drove away realising what a beautiful, creative and artistic mind I must have. To think that I even entertained the idea for more than a second, that I might prevent a bank robbery. Wow, what an imagination. Two hours later I drove by the same bank only to see it surrounded by squad cars, lights a flashin' and the whole area cordoned-off. That night I heard on the 6 o'clock news..."The bank robber got away on a bike with an undisclosed amount of cash" The painting pictured here is a place not far from yet worlds away from the true story above.

Friday, October 31, 2008

As Clouds Go By 24x30

Absence of blogging usually means that some kind of purification is going on in the life of the blogger. "Purification" is code for trials and tribulations, which seem to abound in this strange terrestial existence we're all tied to (for the time being). Yes, it's a life infused with all kinds of wonderful and glorious little moments, to be sure, but there is always something looming, foreboding, it seems, just ahead. Well, germane to this life of endless streams of sorrow are good comforts and a few peaceful night's sleep brought on by hard work and...ear plugs. Have you ever been kept awake all night by inebriated revellers and their distorted strains of "music" blaring at high volumes through inadequate (or much too "adequate") speakers punctuated by whoops and hollers? Well, I have and that's where the ear plugs would have come in handy. Speaking of excessive festivating, my friends and family south of the border have had their share of rain and deluge this season and not a lot of reason to celebrate. Lots of flooding and loss of stuff, mostly personal belongings...but one young man, Cornelio, swept away by a flooded wash cannot be replaced. He was the youngest brother of one of my bosom buddies and a sometime companion on our many and varied ventures into the wilderness of the Sonoran desert. I've seen him on more than one occasion pluck a Tootsie-Roll colored iguana off the bark of a gnarled mesquite limb (of the same color) with a sling-shot at thirty paces. A dead aim with both a rifle and a now gone. He will be sorely missed. This painting is an ode to "El Conejo" as we called him. Being offered on auction here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Skyliners 24x30

As I see my paintings prices fall with the markets and peoples fears of the future increase I can't help but wonder where all this will end up. I've considered listing my kids on eBay. After all, I am pretty savvy about selling stuff there and but for fear of having to deal with Child Protective Services I think I could make some serious bank off one or two of them. Truth be told, I feel pretty calm in the midst of this little storm of media hyped fearsomeness and I'm fully set to follow my own counsel. So, here's my latest stock market advice. Buy...truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction and understanding . This is from the proverbs of Solomon (23:23) I am reminded today of the huge contrast between news media information and the reading of scripture. Wow, what a refreshing bath in cool, comforting and clear water it is, especially when compared to reading the days headlines. The old saying is as true as the day is long - No news is good news! ...and even more so the older saying that refers to the washing of water by the Word of God- A cleanse of this sort should be highly recommended in these times. This painting is being offered on auction here. Just like Chicago voters I would like you to bid high and to bid often!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two Cows 18x24

In the previous entry I talked a bit about lawnmowers. Here we have pictured a couple of nature's best. Cows were invented to mow the lawn..or to make milk, uh, I mean for eating(?!?) Anyway, they are quite useful and as ubiquitous as they may be it seems we can never get enough of them. Truly one of my favorite animal shapes...they just come off my brush or pencil with hardly any effort. Kind of like how firing up the lawnmower is second nature to those of us who grew up taking care of giant yards of crab grass and dandelion-plagued blue fescue. I would've given just about anything to have one back in the day. I'd pull out of the closet my pair of handy Holsteins whenever mom yelled at me to go out and cut the grass. But wait, where would all the clippings end up? I hated cleaning up after the dog more than mowing...What have I gotten myself into? The picture above is of a Midwest field...not far from Chicago. A fellow artist gave me the photo a few years back and I've built a couple of cool paintings from it. This is the coolest so far. Being offered for sale here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Iris Dream 24x30

This is a studio rendition of my purple iris' growing out front around our mesquite tree centerpiece in 33 square feet of grass. We mow our grass year 'round with an electric mower. It's a lot like the one the Johnsons owned and preferred me to use when I mowed their grass. Our "lawn" takes about fifteen seconds to mow...the Johnsons yard - about three hours. They lived on Riverdale road about four doors down from the Hawkins' and were smack dab in the middle of the turf of the infamous vandal gang known as the Riverdale Rightfooters (read previous blogs). Theirs was about the only 1/2 acre lot in the whole neighborhood that didn't have huge oak and elm trees. Thus, we were able to mow with the longest extension chord known to man(I think I only mowed over it once). By the mid seventies they had not only already invented the riding lawnmower but a few fortunate ones in the hood even owned them. I don't think I ever even got a chance to ride one till I was eighteen or so. It was a mysterious and wonderful image that I often caught myself lusting after...gliding over seas of green sipping Koolaid with a transistor radio earplug dangling out of my ear leaving a trail of grass clippings in my wake...Alas, it was reserved for the handful of retirees that were interspersed throughout our sphere of lawn care domination. No, they were no threat, just a source of envy and unrequited love. None of us kids had dads that could afford stuff like that anyway...or so they wanted us to think. Here in Az. our grass grows all year long...there are really two types sown in the same ground. In the winter the summer grass dies and the new blades of the perennial winter grass sprout through. Just add water...and the desert blooms. I paint a lot of pictures...and get a lot of comments like "wow, that must be a new "style" for you.", when they see something that looks a bit different from the clouds on the horizon I'm known to make. Well, believe it or not, I have painted all kinds of stuff from costume-clad models to ships to tortoises. Dog portraits, album covers, firearms, dead lions, fish (both fresh and salt water) vases, fruit, partridge, chickens, cars, cabins, pheasants, peasants, queens, castles and, of course, ducks and geese and herons without number have all made it into the pantheon of subjects that I have painted and am familiar with. Yet, the laudable lush and lingering landscape in all it's simple beauty is what mostly makes it into my pictures. This large oil painting sans landscape is available here on auction

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ganga 15x30

On our way to find some "ganga" deals at the local yard sales we were arrested by this view of the Santa Catalina mountains just north of Tucson. I try to oblige my wife's desire / need to rummage through other peoples discarded junk every week or so. On most occasions I can only take about 2 or three stops before I get to complaining or...I just sit in the car and honk my horn, hoping that she doesn't spend too much of our money that could otherwise be used for important recession-proof purchases like...a new guitar (I only have 5). I've trained my kids with various archaic and twisted sayings and metaphors over the years. One of them regarding garage sales is this- "Just remember kids, one man's junk is...your father's junk too." That has stood me well and I'm sure it has saved a shekel or two in the up-bringing of these my dependants. Somehow, I think the metaphors are lost on my little Desert Flower though. Don't get me wrong, her English is great and she is much more "well read" than I. But, having not grown up on the banks of the venerable Mississippi, I can't expect her to know all the nuanced subtleties of American slang.

Speaking of metaphors, I have to mention Montana. Never have I been to a place where the general populace is so adept at mixing them. As in, "That's all for one and...two for a dollar". Or, "A bird in the hand is worth...a penny earned" I'm not even kidding. Maybe it's the ranch heritage or...heavy metals in the water. Or maybe those Montanans just need to step up to the plate and grab the bull by the horns and quit counting their chickens before putting all their eggs in one basket. So, now you know what inspires me to make paintings like this.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mr. Misty On The Mountain 20x20

If I had a picture of Mrs. Johnson pulling bee stingers and cactus thorns out of my but it would be least to a blackmailer. I'm referring to the most extreme cartoon-moment of my life. ( top ten anyway) I had been called to remove a hive of Africanized bees from the soffit of a ranch style adobe house in Tucson, Arizona. Up under the eves on an aluminum ladder, I was festooned with assorted squirt bottles filled with soapy water. They were my deadly and effective defense against the aggressive killer bees. I had them hanging from belt loops and hooked in my pockets and stationed all around the site just in case there were more of these little zero fighters than expected. They kept swarming as I alternately sprayed them and tried prying loose the fascia and soffit boards to disgorge the house of hundreds of pounds of honey. As the first few stings on my face began to really distract me I realised I might be in a bit of a predicament. Supposedly the pest control team had been by a day earlier and assured us that the hive was dead. A few errant, wandering workers that might fly by to have a look-see at all the commotion and honey smell in the air was not unusual. But here there were hundreds of them and the more I banged on the rafters the more they swarmed. My ladder was now soaked with a slippery, soapy film and I was set up over a large patch of prickly pear cactus. Yes, just like in the movies....Can you see where I'm going with this? Well, I was running out of solution, my face was swelling and sweat and soapy water stung my eyes. I could hardly hold the hammer and flat bar I was using to pry open the boards as honey dripped over the already greasy slick steps of the ladder. The last straw was the last sting on my face...right between the eyes! I turned to make my escape, now about 8 feet above one of the biggest clumps of cactus you ever saw. My head throbbed with the humming of the bees and the high heat of summer mid-day in Arizona. As I turned my foot slipped and I went down, back-first into the deadly foliage. I'm not exaggerating when I say my whole backside, from my neck to my calves were covered with small, medium and large cactus thorns...and bees buzzed around me like the Fear Factor episode when they wore them as beards. When old Mrs. Johnson got to me (after I ran around the house a few times) my wounds were bloody and many. She tried to help but what I really need was some morphine. The next day she called to say that her house was filled with bees...the exterminators came and found another colony, a dual hive, right next to the one they had poisoned. There were thousands more bees in that hive and... I might be the only person you know who has ever escaped a full-on attack of Africanized Killer Bees. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.(as my grandpa Jake used to say) The painting pictured is for sale here...near a place of numerous wild bee hive harvesting adventures and stings too numerous to count.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Green Cows 30x24

I got an interesting request to paint a picture similar to one I did a while back. Well, they were wishing to see a certain color sky "with cows" so I decided to oblige their desire with this neat, bucolic scene. I was feeling more artistic today than usual and this was really enjoyable to make. Maybe 'cause I watched my boys turn a game of "flag" football, played with a bunch of non-redneck homeschoolers, into a rough and tumble game of tackle football. "I think we should call it flackle football" I said as we grabbed our water bottles and walked over to the truck. I was pretty amused with the new term we invented and that set me in a good mood to make some pretty stuff. Funny how a little smash-mouth can translate so readily into poetic and artistic beauty.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where Clouds Come From 30x24

The prophet Isaiah has a lot of very good and quotable lines / passages. Some are full of warning (to Israel ...and to those inclined to take to heart what the scripture says) others are very far-reaching, teaching a kind of theology that is real compelling and quite attractive as well as describing future events. Don't let the words "fear" and "dread" in the following scare you. They're meant to put in perspective a view of God as a true and kind refuge, albeit serious, in time of tumult and trial. Kind of like the times we're in now. Anyway, enjoy the following..."Let not your heart be troubled" ( I had this in mind while I painted the picture above which is being offered on auction here.)

For the Lord spoke thus to me with His strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread. Is. 8:11-13

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Green Green Grass Of Home 20x24

A blog a day keeps the doctor away...keep that in mind as you read this. I have been throwing a lot of paint around lately and it shows. The floor is stained in multi-hued oil splotches and my hands are too. One thing that always amazes me though...I almost never get paint on my clothes. From time to time I'll wear an apron but for the most part I don't even worry about it anymore...(until I get some on that new designer silk shirt I was saving for my sons bar-mitzvah.) One would think oil paint is like tar. Have you ever tried to use tar to patch a roof? I would bet you half of my kingdom that you could not even drop the smallest dollop in the tiniest of cracks without getting the blasted stuff all over everything within shotgun range. The painting pictured is a real nice little ode to a Midwest field. The cows are content and just like all of God's little creatures, they couldn't care less about economic meltdowns and the like. Wish I was more like them in every way...except for the cud chewing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Graves & Grave Robbing
From the very beginning of my expeditionary ramblings I’ve had a desire, small at first, but always niggling, to discover and pilfer an ancient grave. Nothing morbid mind you. It’s just that I figure, once they’re gone well, they’re gone. No sense fussing over the sensibilities of someone who’s not there. Right? Nevertheless, with due respect for the living I’ve refrained from overt body snatching and even though I’ve developed a keen interest in digging up stuff that’s not mine, I’ve held back…for the most part. You see, I’m really not afraid of ghosts and the like and since I swore off curses and cursing (for the most part) a long time ago I always assumed that I would be a good candidate for entering the tomb and bringing to light the treasures long hid with the mummy. The exposed above-ground sepulchers common in the little mountain village that was my haunt for a few years were tempting. There I found myself torn between the potential for the proverbial hot tamales hitting the fan (If I got caught) and, the easy pickins’ these weathered adobe / brick ruins offered. I did broach the subject a time or two with some native confidants and was met with withering stares and disbelief . So, this desire was put on the back burner, until...
We arrived on a large island not far from the Honduran mainland. It was a diver’s paradise and a smuggler’s haven. Stories of pirates, old and new, abound and surrounding the big island there are dozens of small atolls that lie just north of the infamous Mosquito Coast region of central America. The natives are descendants of slaves and their speech is seasoned with old English expressions like "smoke" and "thunder" and a distinct Caribbean accent. The pigeon English spoken there can be understood when it’s directed at you but as soon as one islander addresses another it’s almost completely unintelligible, man.
Dan was an Anglo transplant that had helped develop a champion soccer team and a medical clinic on one of the populated islands near Roatan. He was a local legend of sorts and had garnered the respect of most people on the island…on both sides of the law. As a favor to him and his buddy “Paco”, two men invited us to explore some caves that had never been entered by expeditionaries like ourselves …not to mention lesser explorers like anthropologists and archeologists. These two non Spanish speaking citizens of Honduras owned plots of land on a remote hillside where they grew bananas and harvested wild-grown fruit and …yabba ding dings. The ancient peoples that populated these islands left lots of ruins- pottery, jade, shell and coral stuff. Figurines and pots and all kinds of neat artifacts lay exposed to the sun and free for the taking. Every passing hurricane unearths more. It really is a gold mine for the local government and their associated museums, archeologists etc. They call the findings yabba ding ding.
Hot jungle. Need I say more? If you haven’t been in one you can imagine the fourth of July in southern Missouri. We slashed through vines, large-leafed undergrowth and side-stepped tar pits and quicksand while slipping down steep hillsides and losing our footing for slapping at the ever-present flying, biting, stinging bugs. Finally we came to a small opening in the ground at the base of an old gnarled tree. It looked to be little more than a rodent hole but as we pushed away thick foliage the entrance grew and beckoned us to enter with the distinct smell of bat guano and the cool moist aroma of a deep cave. I could tell our native guides were frightened. They had been speaking rapidly and excitedly as we neared the burial cave but now as we were about to enter they were all but silent. A few grunts, a few nods that gestured toward the opening and a reticent acquiescence to us non-superstitious expeditionaries. To understand their reluctance at this point it would be good to remember just how big a role folklore and beliefs in spirits and superstitions play in most non western cultures. This place was no different. A typical islander would hardly dare to walk a path where a ghost had been spied five months earlier, let alone disturb his ancestor’s rest by violating a sacred tomb like we were about to. Well, I always figured Indiana Jones to be somewhat of a roll model and so, superstitions be danged, we went on in.
Crawling on our bellies at first, we were finally able to stand, albeit crouched over, and fight off a few stray bats angry that the midday ruckus had interrupted their upside-down sleep . Light from both our flashlights and a long vertical shaft that let in the sun at just the right hour illuminated ancient burial piers. The bones were bleached white and if they were indeed what they appeared to be, these were 3000 years old remains of Paya Indians. Surrounding the skeletons were lots of little clay figures and some more elaborate ones made of stone and what appeared to be jade. We dug a little and unearthed more bones and stuff apparently burried by wild dogs or foxes. No gold or silver to be found in this cave nor in another further up the hill where we found similarly undisturbed bones and figurines of an ancient people. With nothing to take as real loot that could get me some serious jail-time in a third-world prison, I decided I had only one choice. I grabbed the smallest skull and made for the entrance, my mind already replaying and recounting the day’s events to an imaginary future audience sitting at my hearth being regaled by my first-hand accounts of Caribbean adventure, the jewel encrusted (I would do that later for effect) cranium looking down approvingly from the mantle. My little reverie was broken by squeals of fear. “Paco man, what you be doin’ ,man? Put ‘im back! Please put ‘im back man. We don’t want to be wakin’ ‘im up, man. My companions trembling as they implored me to return the remains. Something about curses and headless corpses and ghosts and well,… I put ‘im back, man.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yes, this is a big fat bad boy of a painting. I know, I make it look easy. Well, if not for the ability to consume mass quantities of diet caffeine free Pepsi mixed with the real hard stuff...regular diet Pepsi, I'm not sure I'd be able to pull this kind of stunt. Oh, I think the speeded-up video feature on the movie making software helps too. The songs that play in the background are made in the same studio as the paintings. If you like 'em I have a bunch left over from our little music project of last year. Just drop me a line and I'll send you one. It's home-grown music and some of it might be a little mushy for your taste- 10 songs of new compositions. I play the instruments and my daughter and I sing. My friend Scott, who is an expert music critic panned this effort. I've said it before but I think he believes that I'm cooler than I really am. He was expecting something worthy of the local alternative rock station I'm sure. Well, what can I say? I love the Lord Jesus and feel so grateful to Him that it just seems to override any aire of coolness I might try to put on. Be that as it may, there are some good grooves on this disc and the next project will be either all Spanish worship style music or a more edgy country rock fusion with subtle jazz overtones and a slight Irish lilt. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tarantula Causes Heartburn

Just so's you don't think I'm blowing' all kinds of smoke....This Toad vs Tarantula video was made by my kids a few nights ago. We caught the fury, eight-legged friend crawling around that morning. Later in the day a giant 2 inch beetle was also captured and thrown in with the tarantula. We thought the toad(s) would love to eat both of them as they sat under the porch light munching on june bugs like popcorn at the movies. Little did we know that Mr. Spidey would take the beetle to be his last meal...fitting, I guess, for what transpired a few hours later. Had I been there (you can see the headlights of my car in the background-the car pulling up right after the deed was done) I would have tried to put some light on the evenings activities. Anyway, you can see it well enough and if it were any clearer we probably would have to offer counseling services due to it's graphic nature. I promise this will be my last entry (for a while) that has anything to do with creepy crawly creatures. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So. Cal Eucalyptus 20x16

Fresh back from the coast. No money in my pockets-just some sand and a few broken shells. Maybe I can use them tonight to make stone soup. Got anything to add? The California "style" is definitely it's own and the coast is a remarkable hodge-podge of seemingly indifferent people who are alternately too busy for their own good (or eye contact) and quite friendly when once engaged. We spent some time in Newport Beach, one of the highest priced places to live in the world... and didn't even try to act like we belonged there. I double park my dirty, kid-filled mini van as much as possible and, as close as possible to the Jaguars and Bentley's that look down their noses at the Mercedes and BMW's that populate the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). No, I didn't even get a chance to look at my favorite galleries in Laguna Beach but I did get some good pics and was able to drink a bit of salt water. So, the trip was a success. Next time we will surf and try to ding a couple of those fancy cars that cost more than the Fanny Mae bale-out is going to cost US tax payers. This painting is being offered for sale here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Here She Comes 9x12

I caught a few minutes worth of a movie the kids were watching the other night. It had something to do with eating worms. The girls (3 of them) thought it was all a bunch of grossness. They could hardly enjoy the story for the guttural gaging sounds the rest of us kept making at the very fun thought of chewing up a mouthful of nightcrawlers. The boys (3 of us) were not distracted in the least by the worms or the thought of eating them. So, it occurred to me that this quaint, familial scene exemplified, albeit in microcosm, the definitive difference between boys and girls. To push the point a bit let me say that I have eaten a nightcrawler or two in my day and probably more than one or two ( dare I say many?) small angle worms have made it into my mouth with nary a gag. To push the point further and to give some real insight into how a boy thinks the following occurred near where the culvert emptied into the river.

After catching a few small northern pike on flies (streamers) I had made using split-shot weights, red thread and hair from my dog's tail, I decided I had had enough rain for one afternoon and headed home. I was pretty jazzed by the success of my dog-hair flies and was trying to figure out just how much of her fur I could cut off before anyone knew. The tip of the tail was the best, I concluded, and it might get to looking a bit ratty before I was finished. The culvert was about five feet in diameter and you could walk up into it...about a mile or two. It is the same drain sewer that played host to our vandalism inspired version(s) of A Towering Inferno (see previous blog)... a few blocks away from where it emptied into the Mississippi. Where it discharged there was a deep hole that held fish...a smallmouth or two from time to time and some northerns. The hole was small and deep, surround mostly by shallow sandbars. As far as I know I was the only one of us fisherkids that ever caught anything in that spot.

In those days we nabbed nightcrawlers by the dozens. Many hundreds were sold to fisherman heading "up north" and many thousands more made it into our refrigerators (sorry mom) and if they were lucky, into our gear that accompanied us down to the river. Our lawns were cholk-full of 'em and they worked great for catching fish, as everyone knows. The thing is, we were experts on the use of worms for fishing like you think your doctor is an expert on health care. We were the NASA scientists of wormology and all things that had to do with them that could relate in any way to fishing. Long and hard thought was given over many an hour, pondering and experimenting with what size, shape and presentation the regal and beguiling and, to some, lowly, earthworm ought to be handled to most entice our underwater prey. So it was, that on this rainy Midwestern (why do they call Minnesota the Midwest?...wouldn't Northcentral be more appropriate?) afternoon I came across a very large garter snake fat as a roll of Ritz crackers. It could hardly run away it was so stuffed. Well, it doesn't take much to get a recently feted snake to disgorge it's meal. The seven slim covered, huge nightcrawlers that she coughed up would've been a You Tube sensation in modern times. I remember having two distinct thoughts. The first was that I wished my friends were there to see this. The second- I wondered if these would make good bait...all that slim from the snake's guts probably puts some good odor on them worms that'd make fish bite. That's the difference between boys and girls. Also exemplified in some mysterious and esoteric way in this new, somewhat masculine painting.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fallow Field In Fine Fettle 24x30

Another weather-induced muse has brought with it a subtle memory along with the wind blown leafs and the cool demeanor of this new, evocative and tonalist oil painting original. Wow, that's a real mouthful. The subtle memory might not seem so subtle once I get into it, nevertheless, be that as it may, the cloudy melancholy of this scene works it's magic on several levels, not the least of which is the following.

We called ourselves the Riverdale Rightfooters. There were four of us and we were a gang. We dragged our right foot as we ambled arm in arm down Riverdale road towards the streetlight. It was our adolescent attempt at satire. This was before we knew much of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live on television was yet to come. Even without these prompts (we probably had seen West Side Story) we were quite adept at lampooning the few icons that filtered through the skewed lens of mid-seventies cultural awareness and made it down to our level. We made each other laugh and that was enough...almost. As we feigned toughness and talked about what the gang ought to stand for the silliness of our antics soon gave way to the detrimental effects of idleness, which, as we all know, is the devil's own workshop. Our neighborhood was one of large, heavily treed lots. This meant heaps and heaps of leaves to be raked every fall. Heaps and heaps of leafs translated into many bags at the end of many driveways waiting for trash collection or...burning? Of course. Why not? They're light and fluffy and after all you can only play just so many games that have to do with jumping in leaf piles. Did you ever play Mummy mummy? I'll digress a bit here to tell you how it's done. One person is buried and the rest march around the leaf pile chanting..."mummy, mummy rise from the dead, if you don't we'll chop off your head." The "mummy" was the person who was "it". At their discretion they would leap out of the pile and catch the first person they could and so an autumn twist on "tag" was played. Ok, back to the Right Footers. Actually, back to the corner where the streetlight burned...directly over the sewer grate. It looked to be about twelve feet down. Hmm, how many leaf bags do you think it would take to fill the drain sewer shaft? I'll tell you; about twenty five. Now, what to do with all those leafs but to douse them in gasoline and really give the Riverdale Right-footers something to drag their feet about! I don't know that I'm proud to say this wasn't a one-time event but the plumes of smoke and fire that we sent into the atmosphere during our reign as the only true gang our neighborhood ever saw is a fitting homage to...the lack of chores, too many leaves and not enough parental oversight.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Texas Black Cows 20x24

I stand at the easel almost daily. Once in a while I'll sit but to tell you the truth, there's an energy and a certain adrenaline rush that you get from standing while painting. If you've ever had to "white knuckle" it through a snowstorm you'll have an idea what it's like to stand at the canvas building a painting. The concentrating of all your faculties on the constant analysis of shapes and color and coordinating that between your hand and eye can be pretty tiring. Thankfully I've only crashed into another car once while driving through a snowstorm and never have I smashed into another artist while at the easel...though I do believe they should make a law about drinking and painting. No, my wrecks are more of the metaphysical sort. I have put a few cars in ditches though but never to the detriment of any living creature. However, I am reminded of a blustery day of almost 30 years hence.
While traveling across the barren waste of wheat-field stubble and snowdrifts I lost control of a jelly bean-sized car on I-90. We were on our way home to Minnesota after a successful deer hunt in south central Montana. Dan and Jody were asleep and I was driving. They looked so cozy and comfy and the heater kept whispering love and comfort into my extremities as well. The three deer carcasses on the roof were tied with twine. After all, we weren't planning on doing any off-roading. The last day of the week-long hunt had started early and cold but we were each able to put our tag on a critter that same morning. Yes, we were bone-tired and being the amicable sort that I am, I proposed that I drive first and let my companions doze. The only problem was that after about an hour of listening to those guys snore and the fading country music station broadcasting from Miles City my eyes started to enjoy the momentary rest I'd give them. I called it an extended "blink". No harm in that I thought. My very next thought...Why is Dan's hand on the steering wheel? And why are we driving at highway speed through four inches of fresh snow in the median? A moment later and we were in a spin, the wheels catching the pavement peeled a tire off and the jolt sent the deer flying through the air into a gory pile about twenty yards from the highway. It looked as though we had hit and killed a herd of white tails. At least that's what the highway patrolman thought as he approached our tire changing operation. I told him what happened and he basically gutted me like the young fork-horned buck I was, ...asked me how I'd a felt if those were people laying in the snow that I hit? Well, I don't quite go through all that every time I paint ...but it does take out of me more than my construction workin' buddies will ever give me credit for. This nice little oil painting has all of my forty plus years of artistic endeavors embedded into it like so many journalists hangin' with the troops in Iraq.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Along The Way I Followed A Star That Led Me On That Led Me Far 24x30

A note from a fellow artist from Alaska has got me thinking... The end of August spells the on-set of autumn in my a-little-larger-than-walnut sized brain. All the instincts evolved and distilled over endless generations and eons of ancestral hunter-gatherer heritage come to the surface and seek expression precisely at this time of year. It's an all-consuming passion- a profound and unsettling desire that transforms even the most mild-mannered of us Vikings into stick wielding, glove throwing barbarians. As sure as the wild goose must fly I must begin my search for... play hockey! But wait, we have another month and a half of high heat to deal with before even a hint of cooler, fresh, Nordic air deigns to visit us this far south. Alas, for such is my dilemma. No water to fish in and especially no frozen water to skate on. What have I done to my children? Well, for one thing they'll never (at least in childhood) have to worry about frostbite...or falling through the ice during a spring thaw. Nor will they have to endure the countless and usually pointless warnings about snow and ice, and tongues and flagpoles etc. But their loss is far greater I fear than any slight gain of safety and comfort they might enjoy. Since when did playing it safe ever get anybody anywhere? Plus, the exhilaration of perfecting that wrist shot and raising the puck high enough to make a goal above the goalie's shoulder (or hit your friend Adam in the temple and knock him out cold) will never be experienced by this, my poor deprived progeny. So, once again, my longings are thwarted as I learn to "settle" for circumstances beyond my control and to see that old cup as half full. Oh how I would love to shatter that blasted cup with a slap shot from center ice! ..."and the gloves go off!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Underneath This Sky Of Blue 18x24

No, I have not licked one of the large Colorado River Toads that hang out under the porch light. There are several of them, the largest being about the size of a softball or a bit larger, like an over-sized grapefruit. Their skin exudes a hallucinogenic toxin that when ingested is said to produce an effect similar to that of the more common psychotropic drugs. Well, we do live in an area notorious for meth labs and the like so I wouldn't put it by one or more of my neighbors. In fact, truth be told, I just got done calling one of my own kids trailer trash. As in "You know we can't afford that...we're trailer trash and don't you forget it!" So, you might be tempted to say "If the shoe fits" ...and in all honesty, save for the outrageous appetites these critters have and the things I've seen them eat, I might be tempted myself. I'm always looking for ways to keep the creative juices flowing but have stopped short of licking frogs or ingesting (knowingly) dangerous mind-altering chemicals. It is trippy enough just to watch one of these big fat toads mow down a tarantula or palo verde beetle in one, lip lickin' chomp. I've seen it on more than one occasion and it creeps me out every time. This here is another ode to the summer monsoons which have been over active this year...makes for great skies and lots of green and lots and lots of bugs and... toads that leave stools as big as your thumb filled with all kinds of iridescent beetle parts.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Send Lawyers, Guns & Money

I think the name Gary predisposes a person, especially a guy, to certain acts of either bravery of foolishness. Gary lived at the edge of the bike trails. There were miles and miles of fields with the most elaborate system, if you could call it that, of dirt tracks that led to every place a boy could imagine wanting to go in the days before video games, Atari pong and Pac-Man notwithstanding. It was a time of go-carts, mini-bikes, ten-speeds and collecting beer cans. Gary had a large collection of fire-arms, knifes, dead grenades, swords, beer cans and Nazi gear. As I said, they lived where the trails started at the edge of farm country. They also had big stack of Johnny Cash and Elvis records. This too was the area where Garison Keilor was raised and in fact he attended the haunted, boarded-up brick schoolhouse that was at the end of our street a few years before we discovered all the places and people he talks about in Lake Wobegone. We were all very interested in collecting beer cans in 1976. The country’s bicentennial was a good year for that and Gary had invited Marty and Mike to come over to “make some trades.” If the reference to the Elvis and Johnny Cash records mixed with the Nazi stuff isn’t enough I’ll digress a bit here to give you some insight into this guy’s psyche. Not long before this little tale transpired Gary and I had been messing around with some swords in his basement. After I nearly lost my hand to a vintage civil war saber I proposed we do something else. With a deviant look in his eye Gary invited me to see his dad’s new .357 magnum. Now this gun is a revolver with a long barrel. You can load a .357 with either magnum shells or smaller .38 caliber bullets. The 38’s are a lot cheaper and many people will shoot those for target practice and keep the magnums handy for fending off intruders etc. Gary removed the firing pin. I didn’t see it. What I did see was the large .357 magnum bullet he dropped into the cylinder. He spun the cylinder then he pointed the gun at my head. I remembered a story I had heard about someone who had “lost” playing a game of Russian roulette. That was fresh in my mind.
Both Gary and I considered ourselves hunters. We were pretty savvy about guns and shooting stuff. We had also attended firearm safety classes and seen the gory filmstrips and movies designed to scare a kid into good firearm etiquette. (Much like the ones they showed us during driver training.) Maniacal chuckling was coming out of him as he clicked off empty chambers at my head. I was waiting for the one with the bullet. Actually I wasn’t waiting, I was running through his house cursing and looking for the nearest door while Johnny cash was singing about a boy named Sue in the background. He just chased me clicking the gun at my head laughing like an idiot. He finally told me the gun had no firing pin. This was the fellow we were dealing with.
As Mike and Marty approached the drive they heard an explosion in the house. Before they had time to react the front door burst open and a fifteen-year-old named Kevin came out screaming, running for his life. A moment later Gary appeared with a shotgun aimed at him. It was a 12 gauge pump. As Mike and Marty looked on in amazement the shotgun barked, Kevin fell, the gun blasted again and Kevin went to has face not 20 feet from the other two. At that moment Gary leveled the gun at Mike and Marty. The smaller of the two fell to his knees to beg for mercy. Marty, being a very fast runner and, by some accounts, used to this sort of thing, ran for his life. As the one pleaded for his life in tears and blubbering, Kevin got up out of the tall un-mown grass and both he and Gary had a long and cruel laugh at Mike‘s expense…They had removed the lead shot from the shells leaving just the powder and the wad. When the gun was fired it looked and sounded real but only flame and a small piece of cardboard came out the end of the barrel. We didn’t play much with Gary after that.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Prussians Are Coming...To Trim The Junipers 15x30

I actually used black paint on this...can you guess where? Yes, you're right if you said the sky. As in "sky of royal blue". But in this case it would've been Prussian blue but I didn't have any of that so I made some with cobalt and black and a little ultramarine. In honor of the new vice presidential candidate I've decided not to give the Europeans any credit by referring to the blue paint as "French" ultramarine. Besides, along with anyone worth their weight, she has apparently "always" been proud of America. Something I wish I could say and am happy for and admire the people who can. Yes, I had my dalliances with flag burning and anti American stuff before I learned the hard way... Ain't no place like freedom...that's for sure. I was expelled from high school for not standing up for the pledge of allegiance in an all school assembly and even voted for Gus Hall (communist party) in my first election. So I can identify with the staunchest ascribers to the-grass-is-greener... / let's-conform-to-all-the-"non-conformists"-as-we-follow-eachother(& Hollywood)-off-the-cliff / It's-so-important-what-other-countries-think-about-America / Kill-the-babies-but-save-the-wales groups. But really folks, one simple and beautiful little antidote is all that's needed if you think like the wife of one of the candidates; attend the naturalization ceremony of new US citizens. It will melt your little old heart and help you see ...there's no place like home. I think it should be a requirement for every high school graduate along with learning how to tie flies and to read English!
PS. Before you're allowed to take any offence at my political references and respond, you must have attended at least one naturalization (citizenship) ceremony. Otherwise it would be like you saying honey tastes bitter and salty while I'm wallowing in it and you've never tried it. So, take no your heart and mind. Some of the meanest and most closed minded people (and sad) I've ever met are left-leaning politicos from all around the world. Chalk it up to small experience on my part but it has been mine nonetheless. I'll leave off with a truthful Spanish saying..."He who has truly loved but one woman, has loved them all. He who has "loved" many has truly loved none".

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mountain Retreat 20x24

Dear Blog, Hello! How are you today? The vagaries of life near the border are varied and manifest and find me often in places of strange and doubtful repute. Yesterday brought us face to face with a couple of them. The money exchange house is the place where hard-working immigrants send their hard-earned dollars back home to Mexico. The attendant doesn't speak English from behind the bullet-proof glass and the pantheon of posters plastered over almost every square inch of available flat surface in the improbable, small and decrepit building advertise herbal medicine, bras and candles for the saints - makes you realize there are places in America that are nothing like Kansas. Now, I must say that not only do we frequent places like this but we are actually connoisseurs of them. By long and hard-won experience we know where to go to get the best deal on sending stuff into the hinterlands of ol' Mexico. There are a handful of these money houses that charge a lower percentage than the Western Union and Money Gram sites scattered throughout Tucson. This particular one is sandwiched between thrift stores and pawn shops. I took advantage of the occasion to check out the 8 track cassettes for sale in the shop one door to the south and was freshly reminded of CCR, Art Garfunkel, Neil Diamond (he had the most) and the Kinks. Richie and I attended their (the Kinks) concert back when. He drove his dad's 1970 Olds 98. It was the "fully loaded" LS 4 door version and in immaculate condition. This is a car from the era when they made electric windows that could/would cut your fingers off if you weren't careful. Non of that "protect the children" stuff went into the engineering of this boat. It had at least 20 conveniently placed ashtrays throughout the interior along with an assortment of vanity mirrors, Kleenex dispensers and lights. I think it had to weigh about eight thousand pounds and the 455 Rocket V-8 with it's four barrel carb actually made audible sucking sounds as it went careening down the highway consuming 58 cent-a-gallon gas at an unbelievable rate. We could actually see the gauge move every time the pedal was pushed to the metal, as they say. There's nothing like floating across town to see one of your favorite bands in a blue 4 ton ocean liner. And there's nothing quite like fumbling around the pile of eight-tracks looking for Don McLean's American Pie as you head into Deadman's Curve on West River Road overlooking the mighty Mississippi. Well, back to the thrift store. I did end up buying a $2 video tape of the sort one of our younger kids would like...don't even know if we have a VCR anymore. Aren't they a thing of the past? It was a cramped, hot and humid jungle of empty holsters, used coloring books, stale cigarette smoke and an older looking Black man wearing a grey fedora was busy arranging the myriad articles (of junk) in a mystifying order of chaos... water dripped from the ceiling as I shouldered past head-high stacks of National Geographic magazines, old typewriters and small, used appliances. He was kind and said he wasn't the owner when I asked, said he's " jus watchin' the place ...trying to fix it up a bit". When we didn't have anything but a one dollar bill and a ten to pay the two bucks for the video he just gave it to me for $1. Great, I was able to recoup some of the interest fee charged at the Dolex money exchange next door....and see some 8 tracks that brought back good memories. When was the last time you listened to an 8 track cassette?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dream Of Me 24x18

I think I can safely begin to contemplate retirement. At least from writing. I've been informed that this blawg has been printed and presented for public (private) reading pleasure in someone's bathroom next to the Reader's Digest and Field & Stream magazines! What more could one ask for? Hang all of Michael Phelps medals around my neck along with those of Jean-Claude Killy (winner of 3 golds in 1968-Skiing) and it would not equal the honor! Let me be credited with eradicating all the poverty and sickness in the world and all wildcat dumping in my neighborhood and it would still not even come close. Bequeath all the lauding and obeisance due the one who tunes Bob Dylan's guitar and may all kinds of otherworldly glory be bestowed, be it ever so gracefully, upon your humble servants slightly balding pate, and even this euphoric pinnacle of achievement and sparkling glorification would not compare. So, lest I get too "puffed up" as it were, in my own eyes, I've decided to take the opportunity to relish in and expose a bit of (my) bad behavior and show a darker side of Paco the errant / outsider artist. I've already told you about my car-jacking escapades. Well, they are nothing compared to the arson, wild hemp harvesting, wild game poaching, muskrat skinning and vandalism perpetrating accounts I could easily regale you with... for hours! Not that I'm proud of any of this mind you. And in all honesty, I can only divulge so much. After all, I still have kids to feed and I can't very well do that from a jail cell. I will say though that guns have played a very large part in my development as an artist and raconteur and as such, figure prominently in some of my adventures. The story I'll tell in my next entry is just the tip of a horrendiferous iceberg of maniacal madness. Speaking of firearms...three times I have been an inch away from smuggling guns into Mexico, even had the dashboard taken apart for the purpose of stashing a few rifles once. Alas, better judgement prevailed and thus negated my ability to tell a sordid tale of life in a Mexican jail...though I have visited a few of them over the years and saw enough to realize that the cons outweighed the pros as far as future potential blog fodder versus pain and suffering is concerned. So, once again, stay tuned...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Hills Have Souls 20x24

Here's the little story I promised in my previous entry. The moon painting brings a certain melancholy...helps one remember all the water that's gone under the bridge. All at the same time our childhood seems like it was yesterday....and like it was several lifetimes ago. Isn't that funny? I do have a lot of good, positive energy / cosmic conundrums that I will spill on you from time to time...regarding snakes. Don't worry. None of them have anything to do with planes.

My first bike was a red convertible hand-me-down. I suppose it had been my sister’s but I don‘t remember ever seeing her ride it. She was 4 years older than I and had nothing to do with me, my friends or ...snakes for that matter, so the “convertible” part made sense. The top bar that distinguished a boys bike from a girls was removable. In the case of this vintage cruiser it was in the shape of a streamlined gas tank. At least that’s what I always thought it was supposed to look like. As soon as the training wheels were removed it became my constant summertime companion….Until the stingray with the banana seat and sissy bar took it’s place. I don’t remember too many places or activities that were prohibited of us kids then. Not that we (I ) really listened too well to those things listed as “off limits“. I think the old folks back in those days had the wisdom to keep quiet about things that would unnecessarily pique our interest and feed our already over-active imaginations and…lead to trouble. There were no computers, no videos and no sitting around the house molderating and getting bored. The odd black & white TV show didn’t hold much for us either. We had bikes, matches, pocket knives, the burn barrel and…Elm Creek.
The creek and a small marsh were about a mile from the house. They should have been off-limits to my friends and me. The new bikes and our ability to navigate them with preternatural skill and speed made the seemingly endless journey an adventure of grand proportions.
A number of small creatures dominated our interest in those days. Skinks and salamanders were especially high on the list. But the real monster of the 5 year old’s brain-field was the common garter snake. Capturing them was never a question of “if”, it was always “how” and then, what to put them in to bring them home as living trophies of our conquests. On the particular day I’m remembering we caught an exceptionally long one. After trying to carry the hapless, half-choked little serpent a ways it was evident that we weren’t going to make it like that on our bikes. There were no coffee cans laying around. Plus, he kept biting my little hands. What else do you put a critter in besides a Folgers can? The sinuous shape of the shiny chrome handlebar seemed long enough and since I had the habit of dropping my bike every time I got off it the plastic hand grips were all but gone. This left a nice snake-sized opening. Greg and Jerry thought it was a great idea so in he went. We hurried home and being preoccupied as we were with our long scaley prey we gave hardly a thought to stop and adjust the close pins & playing cards in the spokes. As soon as we could get him out there’d be a nice shiny new can to put him in…with grass and maybe some water or a frog or two. Upon arrival every possible tool, implement, condiment and pressure was used to get him to come out; the garden hose, pepper, pliers, sticks, catsup, rocks etc. We dragged the bike up and down the slide on the swing set hoping to jar him loose, to no avail. We pried, smashed, jolted, blew, sucked and, short of using fire, tried everything our little devious minds could come up with to dislodge the snake from his tubular den. We never did know if he crawled out later that night …and we never did see him again. However, there was an aroma that followed me on that little convertible bike all summer long. It was 1967. The summer of love. This is just an introduction of sorts to my many and various snake tales-just to give you an idea of when and how it all started. ...and a hint of how far it (might) goes. And no, I'm not responsible for the snake-barfing-up-a-hippo video that's floating around out there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gran Gloria 48x72

Here's a little picture I promised. I'm on my way to becoming known as the painter who makes 24x30 inch canvases look like miniatures. This is one big bad boy and before I go off into one of my rants that has nothing to do with the painting pictured let me say that this is being offered at a very fair price. I've looked at clouds from both sides now and I can assure you that anything that comes close to looking like this (or better) at this size would cost you more than my parents paid for their three bedroom rambler on Sierra Parkway in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota back in 1961... about the time I was just a twinkle in someone's eye. This was a joy to make- a bit strenuous on my legs and back but a joy nonetheless. It's being offered for sale here. It will be shipped rolled and you'll need to have a frame shop make a stretcher (canvas frame) It will look real snazzy without a finished frame. The edges will be painted on the stretcher bars and I made it to look good like that. It will cost around two hundred to have it stretched and the finished / viewable size will be about 5 inches less per dimension. Also, I made a video of the making of this and if I can recruit some teenage help I'll have that up on the blog before too long. Now, to that rant I promised. The mention of the old house got me to thinkin' about the way things were back in the days of yor. Back when we rode our stingray bikes everywhere our little imaginations would carry us, back when airplanes were allowed to fly over the city at the speed of sound setting off a series of "booms" that put the fear of God (and Vietnam) in little Billy Hawkins. The following is a bit long...and almost boring so I won't feel overly dejected if you don't make it through the entire story. It was a good memory and since we just got us a drum set today I think a tale from around the time I thought I should write a song like the Beatles is appropriate. Or...maybe I'll wait till next blog!?! PSYCH!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Verga On The Bluff 24x36

I have a great new series of paintings coming up. This is one that was a real pleasure to make... A view from the local skate park / multi field / use facility. One of the only places with grass in a thousand mile radius. We were there the other night, shot some hoops, played some tennis and listened to my friend Dave tell me how much he hates the president and America and Christians. All the while this great view was on display above our nodding heads. I was so distracted that I think I gave him the impression I agreed with his opinions. Oh well, there aren't too many things I hate but one of them is when my paint brushes start to separate. That pretty much spells the end of their usefulness. A hateful thing it is and they are generally more expensive than gasoline... I wish I could get more mileage out of them. I find myself reverting to my old palette lately. It's hard to remember to look for the new colors in amongst the pile of paint stuff scattered at my feet, and since each color has it's place and position on the palette, I have to run herd on them so's they don't get to fussin' and fight'n. There's some new press on your ol' paintin' buddy too. (that's me) Art Calendar magazine has a little feature with a picture of a handsome bearded man. Also, a webzine has asked me to write an article...something about my philosophy of art. Oh boy, they have no idea the can of worms they're about to open! Well, I guess I'd rather have a can of worms opened on me than a can of whoop #@!& which is what I think the Russian art school would like to do to me. The adoption just took too much time and $ for me to continue my role as international man of mystery. I was not able to make the school/ trip to Russia...would have been there this month teaching a week-long workshop and trying to figure out how to steal some artifacts from the Hermitage museum. I hope they invite me back next year. Sorry I'm not writing this update from St. Petersburg or... Helsinki, Finland. I have friends in Helsinki. (That's spy code-talk if you didn't know)