Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Since returning from Cuba last week everyone asks “How was it?” I reply “It's complicated.” This is a standard reply in Cuba. Nothing is what it seems nor seems what it means. Cuba isn't a tourist destination and some classify it as a third world country. Cuba should be a tourist destination for the sun, sand and beautiful variations of terrain. But…it's communist so that comes with its own advertising and propaganda. No need for me to elaborate on that one, there is enough information and enough preconceived notions to fill an Animal Farm.

Usually the complicated reply doesn't satisfy their Cuban curiosity so I must indulge myself and make comparisons. Cuba is like camping. If you like camping one might enjoy Cuba. If you are diligent at carrying and drinking your prepackaged water you will like camping and Cuba. In Cuba you must beware of the unfiltered water; they use it to make ice cubes, wash lettuce and other vegetables. This could turn your trip into a tour of “Los Banos.” If one enjoys a luke warm slowly trickling spray of water out of the shower spout one would like camping or Cuba. For the comfort of sleep, if one can find solace in a thin compilation of foam on a board, one would love Cuba. The overnight backpacker more than likely carries a nice comfortable sleeping bag. The prepared backpacker would also pack all that is needed for their multiple day journey and ration as needed if the trip was extended. The Cuban on the other hand is given everything they need and continue to ration.

I'm not a camper nor really a camera snapping black socks and sandals wearing tourist. The thought of being herded on a tour bus and stopping at all the main attractions to disembark and snap a photo doesn't constitute travel for me. For me traveling is wandering instead of taking a taxi. I’ll find the main street and walk parallel to it one block over. If the restaurant has a neon arrow pointing to it more than likely I'm not eating there. With my previously stated disclaimer of Cuba it is wonderful. It is exotic and morbidly nostalgic at the same time. Propaganda overlays the walls of a once prosperous epoch. It all comes alive and you feel like you're in another era when the cars zoom by. They pass by looking pristine and perfectly restored. Art Deco façades work as a backdrop and capture the romance. It doesn't seem that long ago…that I was watching the Godfather. I could see it all unfold at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana. I sit at the bar watching the condensation gather momentum and glide down the side of my mojito, the Cohiba cigar holds it's ash as I inhale. I think it's not that complicated, then I hear “Mi amigo porque usas medias con las sandalias?  I now realize I have no idea what is going on here. I should have listened a little more in world history; realizing that the “Bay of Pigs” isn’t a recipe for pigs in a blanket. I could of tried a little harder in my Spanish class “tambien.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This happens to be one of the most awkward responses we have in the English language. People use this word in such random circumstances. Since I’m an artist and randomly talk about art, I’ll start here.

Recently I did an art show. (See previous paragraph, because I’m an artist this is one of the venues I go to sell my wares.) I take my craft, talent, discipline, vocation, whatever you would like to call it, very seriously. I tend to think of it as a mixture of work and passion. It’s an odd alchemy of blessings and curses. I find that I am blessed to have the talent to create and cursed that I need to create. A condition, which, with the right amount of discipline, can become a profession.  So I do. I make and I create; then try to earn a living at it. In prior years and up to this date it has been pretty successful.

One of the reasons it is so successful is because I go to theses venues, “art shows” or “galleries”, and sell my “what I do” things. If all is done right, the mixture of patrons, art aficionados, friends, family and the curious converge into the space where I have my creations for sale… I’m not saying this is lightning in a bottle but a piece of artwork sells. CONGRATULATIONS! No, this isn’t a time for that word. It is a planned strategic business decision. I created artwork, placed it in a venue where I had the best opportunity to prosper and continue my love hate relationship with my passion. Don’t get me wrong; I love it when a plan comes together. But, this is the expected outcome.

Imagine a petrol station strategically placed on the exit ramp of a well-traveled expressway. The odds of someone needing to refuel their gas guzzling horseless carriage are pretty good. Would you congratulate the man that helps you in your choice of petroleum products? Just because he had the right product at the right venue at the right time, doesn't warrant a congratulations. You should be congratulated for being at the right place, at the right time and understanding the true value of "E" = empty. If you feel the need to impart your wisdom and enthusiasm for their service you might suggest some punctuation on their sign "Eat Here Get Gas." 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Exercise of Humility

They say exercise is good for you. I didn't realize there are so many varieties of exercise. For this particular one, I didn't even have to sweat...well not that much.

This is how the exercise was described in the email; "Participate in Our Auction…blah blah blah" Really, how hard is that? This is how I read it, "Do the best job with whatever your talent is and place it on a pedestal so all can admire. Then promote the heck out of the event to all your family and friends and to all your clients who have invested in your career and previously bought into it.” After realizing the interpretation, I discuss with my ego, how great the cause is. We battle it out and my ego assures me that any superiority and clout within my talent field can justify this. I argue the rationale for the success; where a few bid on things they don't need just to look good to the community and their peers or the rationale behind helping a charity to raise some money. In fact it does me no financial good because I can only deduct the cost of materials and not the retail value of my hard work. My head swirls and my heart follows my talent. I retreat to my ivory tower (aka studio) and do what I do by creating something special for the auction block.

Now comes the fun…the work out in humility. The workout area is nicely decorated; food and beverages are abundant. I had previously received a well thought out invite to the event that described the details and what we were to expect, though it mentioned nothing about the awkwardness I would feel throughout my intense workout. As a little warm up exercise in the beginning, I practice my humility as people faun over my one of a kind auction item. There is the causal smile and a humble, “Oh, it was fun…thank you.” All the while I secretly hope that is goes for tons of money so my ego doesn’t get upset with me.

Then it begins: the host steps up to the podium and gives a speech fit for the UN and discusses how the event, the artists and all that received the invite can change the world. While serving the audience booze, they call everyone that has had an impact on the world up to the podium and allow them to talk about themselves and the organization they would like to promote. This is where the workout starts to reach it’s critical heart rate moment, I think to myself “Please get on with this and get it over with I need to know how well loved I am.” Then they begin to auction all of the other artist’s creative spirit off to the remaining people in the audience. By this time, everyone is on the edge of their seats in anticipation of...intermission. They now begin to excuse themselves with some circumstance that involves the weather. Now it is my turn and surely everyone is aware of the significance of my talent and of the organization. The auctioneer’s story begins either by hitting the mark or using his superior wit and clairvoyance to add humor to my struggle. Either way I am there on the auction block. The host exclaims, "Do I hear..." 

I reach for my complimentary beverage and hope for the best.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Artist Interview with Rob Mars

Artist Rob Mars needed to escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC. He wanted a place to bring his wife and son where they could decompress, relax, and still be inspired. Being a nice guy, I invited them down to good old Downingtown with the stipulation they can’t stay past the weekend. They were more than welcome to shop for houses and studios while in the area if they wanted to extend their stay.

I first saw Rob’s work in NYC when we were showing at the same gallery. I was immediately drawn to its texture and graphic nature. Bright colors, patchworked behind high contrasted images of America’s landscapes then sprinkled with well-worn retro advertisements of the times. His art is crisp, sharp, and visually perfect. An aesthetic that he developed as an apparel designer. He has an eye for the times and has the pulse of the commercial culture monster that plagues the big cities. Which, I find very ironic for a soft-spoken, humbly hip guy that visited me for the weekend.

I had to figure out where to entertain and interview our out of place city dwellers. I say out of place because I truly believe they are a little country at heart. I hate to divulge this but we took them to Wyebrook Farm in Honey Brook for food, music and farm animals. I hesitate to share this information because everyone will start to flock to this awesome place. It’s such a beautiful little gem on the outskirts of Chester County. I believe if the Vikings had discovered it first they would have tricked us and named it as deceptively as they named Iceland. Wyebrook Farm elevates the word “farm” to an exceptional culinary feast. A feast for the senses; the quietness of the country, scenic vistas, and a taste of grass fed animals. We avoided the bright sun and sat under the carriage shed drinking Dogfish 90-minutes to cool us down. The interview only lasted 20 minutes but we still had 2 more 90 minutes. So we got started…

How did you get started making art?
I had been making art my whole life on a personal level but started to notice a shift in direction around 2000. I was deeply involved in the skateboard industry on the graphic design side but felt I had a more personal message to convey and so I started producing a large body of experimental work until I had a solid collection to show. The roadtrip pieces were the beginning of where I am today.

Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in?
Parsons School of Design in New York City. I majored in illustration and graphic design.

How would you describe your work in general for the readers?
My work deals predominantly with the 1950’s and 60’s in America and the modern day influences that came out of that era. I am drawn to the architecture, graphic design, furniture design, and car design of those particular decades. Since 2009 it shifted away from these particular icons  and more towards the celebrity personalities that left an indelible mark on American popular culture.

What is your media?
Mixed media on wood panel. But more specifically they are multiple process paintings that involve layers of paper, vintage ephemera, paint, and acrylic transfers with the final process being an epoxy resin coated to encase the layering and texture into a smooth, glossy finish.

How do you choose your subject matter?
It comes from a lot of research. It started off with the American icons left over from Route 66 culture, so there were neon signs and the cars from the 50’s, the 60’s. That was something that appealed to me on a basic level from my youth. I was taking several road trips a year to small towns in America and photographing the remaining pieces of American culture still standing and using these as my subject matter. From there, it began evolving into the personalities of the era, obviously Marilyn Monroe is the most famous, but also focusing on the beauty of  Grace Kelly, and the masculinity of James Dean, the classic styling of Jackie O, and the sensuality of Brigitte Bardot (although not American she still has that star quality).. It is not only about the people but capturing the iconic quality of their image and presenting it in a contemporary manner.

What are your thoughts on perfection?
Perfection is the great illusion. Marilyn, for example, appears perfect in photo shoots and films but she 
had her complex issues and I try to tell that story in my work. There is an imperfect quality to my work which becomes less apparent after resin coating them but in looking closer you can see the cracks in the foundation.

Tell me about some of your favorite techniques...
I will spend a good amount of time on any piece layering vintage newspaper, maps, and magazine clippings and, then apply a paint layer making it as perfect as possible, and then I will take sandpaper to the whole thing to reveal the "underpainting" and let the sandpaper create imperfections and a weathered effect. I really like the random things that can happen with that process.

Where do you find your imagery?
Everywhere. In books and magazines. I have a pretty big library of things from that era in my studio which I will dissect and organize into piles for use as I am building up the layering.

Where do you go shopping?
Ebay is good for buying large lots of things like old Life magazines but a lot of it is shopping small towns while on the road trips. I scour the antique stores along the way and find old ephemera and ship back boxes to New York.

I hate when a viewer asks is it done? So I’m going to ask you “How do you decide when an artwork is done?"
Fifteen minutes after I started… No, I think you just get to a general satisfaction level. I think that’s the thing about pop art, it’s the immediacy of it. Its not having something last for a month and working on it and reworking it. You choose all the materials and you have them there and you just make it work. It tends to become about your confidence in decision making while creating.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
Robert Rauschenberg. His use of material. His constantly evolving body of work. His general outlook on life and art. He was a true master.

What inspires you? Really gets your creative juices pumping?
It’s funny, because as much as I complain about New York when I'm there and the constant stimulation overload, the city is really what drives me. When you boil it all down, you’re surrounded by a lot of fashion, a lot of good design, a lot of good art, and even things like graffiti play an important part of the culture. It is all an influence when making art.

Do you have any habits or morning routines you do before going to the easel?
I used to get coffee, not any more. Monday and Tuesday I get there around 8 because I have my assistant come in at 9.  The rest of the days I get there around 9, work until 6. I always take a lunch break to make sure I have that down time. When I am there, I spend a lot of time thinking about the work before I start making it. You’re in that mode of, “I am going to make this,” and you’ve given all the thought to it and then it becomes about the creation.

How important was your graphic design background to your work now?
My graphic design background plays an integral part of my art. It is so much more about the graphic design influence than it is about actual fine art influence, it is just the materials that are different. It's more analog than digital.

What are you eating right now?
A hamburger, medium, French Fries, and a Dogfish Head beer, the 120 Minute IPA.

What is your favorite food?
That’s a hard question; I will consider myself a foodie and say that I will enjoy almost all foods. I love the basics like a slice of Joe’s NY Pizza in the village, or mussels and a Hoegaarden at Market and we always have our favorite Egyptian spot, Kebab house, in Astoria.

What does home mean to you?
Peacefulness. Surrounded by art.

Your proudest moment?
That guy (referring to his son). And when I actually stepped away from the day job, and committed to being an artist.

Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about. What is it about?
Its about your health. It’s about having your health and having your friends and family close.

Where did you grow up?
Dirty Jersey.

What is the last book you read?
Curious George actually…

You collect?
I’m kind of collecting art right now.

Something that is important on your nightstand?
I have an alarm clock on my nightstand and that helps me wake up to get to my studio on time.

Your strangest possession?
My wisdom tooth. I still have that from 1986.

Your best birthday?
40th. My wife made that very special and I am not a birthday person.
The Interview ended and we gazed over the fields of grass as the cows grazed. I swear you could taste the grass in every bite of that hamburger. A burger so fresh you didn’t feel guilty eating the fried pickle on top or the French fries fried in the rendered lard. All this meat would make any Viking envious. We gathered our troops and went back to my studio to talk more shop, relax and imbibe. As the conversation turned to staying another night, his wife inquired about our zip code so she could look up some local real-estate listings. I think we might have another local artist soon.

The “Speed Round Questions”

Learn more about Rob Mars and his work by visiting robertmars.com. Rob’s also a blogger too, which is readable here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I have been promised world fame and turned it down, twice

The opportunity to hang in every dorm room or hang in that perfectly designed Swedish room right over the sofa that was put together with one “L” shaped tool. Seriously, quite a few times over the years, people offering to make prints and posters of my paintings have approached me. Although I was very tempted to jump into the business of high speed quality printing to make more prints than my bookkeeper could keep up with; I still said no. Why, because I make prints. I make silkscreened pieces of art.  Their reply was, “We’ll, make prints of your prints.”…Seriously?

Now there are the high speed unlimited prints that you see in the mall or as you exit the gift shop. There is also the giclee, a fancy French word for ink jetprint. I’m not knocking them, there are some really great printers out there with amazing print technology that can pull this off and they do. I have used them for certain projects where a reproduction of my art was needed or where the image was made on the computer and there isn’t another way of getting it out of that little box of ones and zeros.

But what I love to do second to painting is making prints with silkscreens. I describe silkscreening or serigraphs, as it is sometimes called, as a fancy stencil. The majority of people remember it from high school if they took a second year of art class. You had the red “rubylith” and cut your design out with an X-acto knife. There was a guy named Andy Warhol that used silkscreening that became wildly successful and they even made prints of his prints. If you don’t know Warhol, you can also find silkscreened images on a bottle of Rolling Rock. If you’re not a Pennsylvania beer drinker, you can easily find a silkscreened image on any university sweatshirt that has an image on it. Yup, that’s a silkscreen. Each color is printed individually through it’s own screen. Now take that image and print it on paper and it’s worth more.

World fame and money aside, I just enjoy the process of making something and making many of them. It’s a tedious task of printing one color at a time on one piece of paper, over and over again. The joy can be found in the slight variations and nuances of each print. A shift in the paper can put the image out of registration so that it becomes reminiscent of the Sunday comics. The process of silkscreening allows me to deconstruct my paintings and bring them back together color by color, piece by piece.  I balance that with my need to get things done and the attention span of a gnat by keeping my editions small. I’m slowly taking over the world with twenty pieces of paper at a time.

Did I mention that I’m using this tedious technology to help me get to Cuba? Considering I don’t have Pinky and I’m the brain behind this, I had to find a way to sell it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Conversations Between an Artist and Their Spouse

"… I know we were supposed to be there an hour ago but I got caught up in the creative spirit. I just needed one more brush stroke, one more line and a touch of red. I was about to turn off the lights and shut the door and then I realized if I darkened the bottom right corner, the whole painting would come to life.  I’m sorry."

"I’m sorry that I didn’t realize this was going to be such a formal party. I swear on the invite it said the dress was casual and that we were allowed one guest. I chose you dear because you are so special and you support all of my endeavors. No one will notice the paint on my pants. It’s not my fault. Everyone came right from work wearing suits and ties. I just came from painting. We are fine. We will fit right in. I love you."

"I’m sorry. You must be so exhausted. We will leave shortly. I just have to look at this painting one more time. – Oh, there is the artist. I’ll just say hi. It will be quick. – Oh, there is the gallery director. I should probably go over and introduce myself. Why don’t you go get a glass of wine, I’ll only be a minute… 30 minutes later…I ended up meeting that guy who owns the coffee shop down the street. He knew who I was! I was so honored. Then he asked me if I’d hang some paintings in there next month. We should probably stop in for coffee and check out the place. Oh, I love you."

"So what did you think of the show? It is definitely not what I expected. I can’t believe they can show such crap! I don’t understand. I could probably have a show there. I would probably do way better. I would even have red dots on the wall. Did you notice that they had no red dots? There was only a green one. Really? Do they really think that means hold? That’s just dumb. They should just buy it…well if it was good. But it’s crap! If that were my piece, it would have had a red dot. Honey…honey, are you awake? I love you."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Erica Brown Interview

Enjoying lunch at Pietros in West Chester is the last place you would find artist Erica Brown, but I dragged her out of her house with daughter in tow.  I say dragged because catching Erica, when she isn’t painting or working or catching her breath with a 9 month old is a pull in the opposite direction. She is a night owl with bright blue eyes and a welcoming smile. If you’ve ordered a beverage at the bar of Pietros, she probably served it to you. So now you know how the restaurant review is going to go, it is like Erica’s second home.

I brought her to Pietros to find out about her second love…painting. Her first love is her beautiful blue eyed daughter, Annaleah, who contentedly sat on her lap for our conversation. One word used to describe Erica is passionate. She puts her heart, soul, fears, and beliefs behind and in front of a field of chaotic harmonious color. It is mixed media layered with the past and the tranquility of the present. As an artist she changes mediums effortlessly, be it encaustic or acrylic, it is always passionate. There is an intense desire to find herself and her ever-changing life. Hopefully her answers to the questions below give some insight to her abstract work.


How did you get started making art?
As soon as I could hold a crayon I would be drawing. I grew up in a studio so there would be things around to use. My mom would be encouraging me. She would give me watercolors and brushes.
Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in?
I did, in school I actually transferred to a private school my junior and senior year. There was a really great art teacher I wanted to study under, Mrs. Unger.  Then, I went to Tyler for college.
Please describe your work in general for the readers?
I would say abstract but organically based and inspired by nature.
What is your medium?
Mainly encaustic, but I do work in acrylic and sometimes pencil; I do drawing as well.
How do you do choose your subject matter? 
I find my paintings as I paint them. So, a lot of times there are things that may be in my head but I like to paint the paintings through the process of making them. Later, down the road, I find them. I usually work on about six at once, all different sizes. That way if I get really frustrated with one, I move to another.
What are your thoughts on perfection?
Well I think every artist is a perfectionist to some extent. People ask me what is my favorite painting. I have some I like better than others, and have some that I think are more successful than others. But I have not painted perfection yet. I may never paint that painting. If I painted a painting that I thought was perfect than I would have no reason to keep going.
What are a few tips for encaustic painters?
Oh be careful about the fumes. And be careful about the flames. At Tyler I got into using wax and someone said, “Why don’t you try encaustic?” But I couldn’t do it on the premises because of the fumes.  So I had to do it at home. At the time I was living in an apartment so my studio was in the basement with a tiny little window and a tiny little fan. I hadn’t researched it a ton and was in love with Prussian blue. I started getting really sick: fatigued, achy, and had a weird taste in the back of my mouth.  Out of curiosity a friend looked it up for me and found out that Prussian blue produces cyanide gas. So, I found out I was giving myself cyanide poisoning.
How do you decide when an artwork is done?
Obviously I was trained at Tyler and so I  know certain things, but honestly it’s like a fight going on with all the paintings I am working on. I kind of go around and around; most of the time its very angsty with all that’s going on. People think I am crazy, but I guess I kind of am. When we’re not fighting any more its like “Oh this is all you need.” It doesn’t mean its good, but it’s done.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Family and friends. Jeff Schaller, you have been very encouraging.
What would you like your daughter to remember about you?
That I love her. Some people say, “Maybe you should just go on sabbatical?” But, I would much rather have her see her mother working very hard and struggling financially while pursuing something she loves.
What inspires you?
A lot of small things: Looking around in my travels, music, emotions, inspired stories; the way windows are cracked. Or there’s a tree over on Gay Street that is eating the bricks, and I pass it all the time. I love it! And the cracking of paint, I’m always like, “That’s so cool!” That’s just something I am naturally attracted to, the wear and tear.
You’re a late night painter, what’s your normal routine?
Usually I kind of get the place cleaned up and that sort of thing. Than, I look over what I have done the night before; removing fire hazards. Its more of finding my tools again, because they all get covered in wax. So it’s re-harvesting my materials, removing fire hazards, and getting back into it.
You have made reference to being an artist is humbling, why?
Well, painting on demand is hard. It’s a struggle. Your work is not always appreciated. You may hate the painting or feel cheated. I might labor and the whole thing might be hard but than I see someone standing in front of one of my paintings and their incredibly moved and touched in a way I feel like I cant take credit for. There are people that are like, “Wow I feel like I am exactly where that painting’s at.” There is just sometimes a really deep connection some people have with artwork and when I see that, I just want to tip toe away. I remember the first time that happened to me with the first big truly abstract painting I had ever done. I had been working and went to take a break late at night. I came back and there was somebody standing there five feet away with their head cocked. And they had this look on their face that was like, Wow! And I remember being like, “That’s awesome,” and tip toed away.

What are you eating right now?
I am eating the sirloin burger with steak fries. It’s delicious.
What is your favorite food?
Everything that’s really bad for me: fries, fried chicken, ice cream, but I don’t let myself eat that very often.
What does home mean to you?
I think it’s more of an environment than a place. It’s where you can let your guard down and feel at ease.
Your proudest moment?
I think I continually keep having them since I have had her (looking at Annaleah).
What was your mother right about?
She told me this would be hard, not that she didn’t want me to do it. She was encouraging, but she knew that it would be rough. It has been, but I would rather have it this way then not. It’s worth it.
Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about. What is it about?
It’s about living, experiencing, and loving. Most people will be poor most of their lives but we’re so rich in so many ways.  You can’t buy the things that bring you joy. There have been times where I needed to choose between food and paint and I chose paint. And literally, I wouldn’t eat for a few days. But I would have that color red for that painting I was trying to get done. It’s crazy but it’s not always that dramatic or hard. Now that my career has been built up a bit it’s not like that. But if you’re coming from there than your like, “ I can eat anything! Life is great!”
Where did you grow up?
In Malvern, PA.
What is the last book you read?
Unfortunately, most books I have been trying to read lately are about parenting. If I have the time or energy I am usually in the studio or trying to sleep.
You collect?
Odd things like tree branches. The oddest things strike my fancy. I like having them around, they inspire me.
Something that is important on your nightstand?
Your strangest possession?
My water buffalo skull.
Your best birthday?
My best birthday was two birthdays ago. Bill and I were dating. It was right before she came along. He just made me this great dinner and gave me this really beautiful gift, than we went out.

Play- Bye Bye Birdie
Album- Its either the Cranberries or Ace of Base
Concert-  James Taylor.
Plane ride- To Seattle 

As for Erica’s second home, Pietros is everything you’d expect in a steak house; rustic brick walls, heavy wooden chairs, and tables with linens. Since it’s a steak place, I’m getting the ribeye sandwich with a side of onion rings. There “she” was, presented as a perfect 9oz steak on bread and huge breaded golden-crisp onion rings the rings were huge and generously coated with batter. It would make your heart stop…literally. Erica’s suggestion of a beautiful Cabernet was Crusher, a perfect companion for my steak. Erica had a hefty hamburger with a side of fries, which was enough to last her through all my questions and beyond. Her daughter, Annaleah, was mostly content on her moms lap and being the center of attention among the wait staff. She let us know when the interview was over. Her eyelids grew heavy and it was nap time. We walked back to Erica’s studio talking about more art and raising kids. I left to go back to my studio and finish painting but I did consider a nap myself. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the year...

It's the most wonderful time of the year...fall. The lazy days of summer are over and all of my white pants and sports jackets have been put away in storage. Dont get me wrong, I do enjoy summer, but I love what I do. I tend to slow down in the summer and relax with the family while trying to soak up every ray of sunshine.  It is one of the preoccupations of living in an area  where the possibility of 12 inches of snow in three months time could become a reality.  Summer is a time to get up an hour later to enjoy coffee outside and go to sleep a little later after enjoying that summer cocktail. I believe in eating and drinking seasonally. Right now it's tomatos all around. Tomatoes and mozzarella, tomatoes in salsa and tomatoes pureed for gazpacho! There are so many tomatoes!!! I don't dare wear white! As for the summer cocktail, summer is not long enough to enjoy a pitcher of all kinds of beverages! Sometimes I just drink so I can keep my mint plants at bay. Mojitos and mint juleps are always a keep cool gratification. Once I have kicked the bottle of rum and the bottle of bourbon, or two, trying to stay cool to no avail, there is GIN! Gin & Tonics, Salty Dogs and Gimlets are just a few of my favorites. It starts to sound like a Dr. Seuss story.

One Gin
    Two Gin
       Green Gin
           Blue Gin
Some are old and some are new
                      Some are bad
But all make me glad
    And some make me very glad
Why are they
        a fad, bad or had?
I do not know for I do not own a kite 

     and I no longer can wear white

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Worst Feeling

I can’t guarantee it but it’s what I'm currently feeling so I’m going to tell it like it’s the worst. It happens as you watch your child grow up; they slowly pluck away at your heart. I believe when they are young your heart gets so big,  because you give and give. The giving just feeds your heart and makes it so big and bursting with love and pride that it becomes a contagious smile across your face. It’s like an animal that stores all its fat because it’s going to be a lean winter.

You know its going to be lean because you can feel it. You can’t put a finger on it but you know. It’s like that swamp scene in “Return of the Jedi” with Luke and Yoda…feel the force! For me that force is adolescence, not mine, but my daughter's. She feels it and I’m the old squirrelly guy in a sack with sandals. Truthfully, I wish it were plaid shorts, black socks and sandals, but I digress. It is everything you taught them being used to walk away.

Yet the force is GOOD! It assures their minds that are full of doubt and in pursuit of confidence. As would a young Jedi go to his master, a daughter goes to her father; presenting him with drawings that she so quietly and diligently worked on. Those once small brown eyes, now looking equally into mine, wants confirmation at a job well done. I’m not a master, as I also stumble to find my way I joyfully express my enthusiasm for a job well done and a valiant effort. But always the teacher, words of correction and reassurance fall from my lips. It is a dash of encouragement with the bitterness of life that nourishes the soul. Following the praise, I offer the suggestion that a drawn line might be off or a greater depth of shading is needed here or there. I view it as adding sunshine to a plant that is ready to flower.

So I pick her up and whisk her away only to plant memories. My heart grows smaller but the memories grow fonder.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Path Less Chosen

I have chosen many paths in my life and I’m sure there will be many more ahead. The first path I chose was Robert Frost’s less traveled one. It was for my high school yearbook, I thought it was so poetic. Granted it was in a poem but it had a nicer ring than some of the other words of wisdom I heard during the 80’s… I wear my sunglasses at night so I can… or about dirty laundry or dancing safely. The path less traveled seemed a bit more “arty” and rebellious. It was one of those things you see or read and can’t believe that someone else can feel just like you. Then you realize it is like that brand new car you bought, the one that nobody else has. On the way home from the dealership, you pass 10 of the exact “different car” you just bought. That’s were I am now; the less traveled path seems to be humming with people.

This time I decided to build my own path to my own castle. No, I really did. I busted up a perfectly well built concrete walkway to my front door. I did it because I wanted my own walkway; something different and I wanted to do it. I know this sounds crazy and if it doesn’t then you don’t have to read any further cause you get it.

It’s about aesthetics, procrastination, and a bit of sweat equity. After all I am an artist, I like to make things… more difficult. I had visualized this project four years ago and have been collecting the perfectly worn and distressed bricks since then. I had the rock I was going to use as a step to the castle entrance; it has been resting precariously under the hammock for the past three years. The grunt work was done and I was ready to enter the zone, a zone of mathematical mental strength in pattern recognition.  You’d think I was flying a fighter jet. No I was just trying to figure out a true herringbone pattern. Once the first coarse is set its all mental relaxation; pick a brick, lay it down, pick a brick, lay it down, get the rubber mallet and set a beat. It’s a wonderful, backbreaking experience. The repetition and the speed of laying a path gives one great satisfaction in accomplishment. Accomplishing a task while your mind wanders is the best form of procrastination. Making a new path might be the best way to bust up writers block and move forward.

My new path opened many doors to new ideas and my procrastination was up. It was time to start painting. I painted and listened to words of wisdom streaming from my computer…”You fill me up, my red solo cup…”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Artist, The Commissioner, The Businessperson

My idea for a new reality tv show or is this just reality...

The Artist: A free spirited individual with creativity being the main driving force. Enjoys quite time reflecting upon their sheer genius. Can be dependable, but prone to distraction by shiny objects and other non/productive tasks. Usually found feverishly working in front of an easel constantly switching mediums spawned by brilliant ideas. They can also be found walking around in circles or walking back and forth staring at a big blank canvas perched on an easel, not really knowing what will happen next.

The Commissioner: A creative supporter of the arts who enjoys the fruits of the artist’s labor but usually lacks the ability to create more than a stick figure. Enjoys communicating and sharing their profound ideas and imposing them on others. Always very successful at their other job and has extra income to share with those that can add shading to a stick figure. The Commissioner comes in many shapes and sizes and can be found almost anywhere.  Some unassuming ones can be found in a cubicle diligently typing in front of a computer. They can also be found walking briskly through city streets with a phone attached to their ear demanding that the person on the other end buy or sell something. The rarest and most difficult Commissioners to find are hardly seen because they are usually vacationing on some remote island. They can only be reached through informants who filter out undesirables that may interrupt them as they develop their superior ideas.

The Businessperson: This part can be casted by a multitude of persons. Sometimes the artist switches hats and steps away from the easel to become the businessperson. Other times it is a mediator or liaison that has a better understanding of the terrain that separates the artist’s Ivory Tower from the bustling network of office buildings. The Businessperson can usually be found sitting in front of a lavish meal and a bottle of wine, (known in the industry as a sales lubricant) chatting and smiling with any of the above characters. Although this description can be interpreted as suspicious, the best business people have all parties benefitting while being well rewarded for their negotiating skills.

Act I
Scene I
Commissioner approaches the Artist regarding speculative work. [Enter Businessperson] who entertains both parties and all the ideas, later to flush out a reasonable set of rules to engage. Artist retreats to the Ivory Tower, thinking she/he has super natural powers of clairvoyance. Commissioner retreats to exclusive lair and assembles minions to establish a chain of hierarchy. Businessperson continues eating and drinking then picks up the tab. [Pan] to Ivory Tower where Artist quietly celebrates their ability to shade stick figures and creates multiple versions of this masterpiece, reinforcing the idea they can clearly see the multiple personalities of the Commissioner. (The Commissioner in this story continues to work on their tan and build their empire.) [Businessperson enters] collects artist’s attempts and reports to the commissioner. [Cut to Businessperson] return to artist’s studio with modifications and a translation of the Commissioner’s imaginative pure brilliance. The Businessperson opens previously purchased wine, this time solely with the artist, this is to help remind the artist that if he/she would like to continue living in the Ivory Tower, compromises must be made to appease the creative supporter of the arts. [Artist retreats] gathers remaining ego and then continues to rework original masterpieces to fit a more general appeal. Businessperson reminds artist that collaborations sometimes result in great masterpieces. After all, architects don’t build their own buildings. A happy medium is reached; commissioner’s vision is satisfied while artists pride and false view of integrity are upheld. [Fade to black]

Scene II
Setting: Commissioner’s Luxurious Estate
[Businessperson is hardly seen during this time] Artist presents the shared masterpiece to the applause of the Commissioner and minions. Much celebrating ensues as they recall moments of shared genius. Lots of high fives and back patting fills the estate with a warm fuzzy feeling. The champagne glasses clink, the Commissioner parts with his/her hard earned money, which will be split with the artist and Businessperson. [Dim lights on masterpiece. Curtain closes]


Act II
Scene I
Setting: Gallery
Minion approaches Businessperson to share the fact that Commissioner has had a change of heart and no longer considers the artwork a work of genius. [Pan to Ivory Tower] Armed with a list of color changes, a request for a bit more sunlight, and some more elements to help with the composition, the Businessperson cautiously approaches the Ivory Tower to present the new proclamation to the artist. Receiving the news, the artist…to be continued

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Self-Imposed Isolation with 336 Hours

It was the perfect time to get everything done. My wife and three kids were headed south to spend two weeks with her sister. I’m not going to get emotional about how much I missed them. I was going to be strong, and self-sufficient like a special ops team; seal team six! Actually no, they work in teams and have really cool gadgets. I’m thinking this is going to be a mixture of Henry Thoreau and Tim from Home Improvement. I’m going to use the time to knock out my “honey do list,” fix the studio and give our castle some curb appeal. Then find time to actually paint and further my career. Little did I know, 336 hours isn’t a lot of time and by the end of the second week I can answer my own thoughts out loud.

My first call to action was to make a list of everything I needed to get done. I love to check things off, so this was going to be very satisfying. All those motivational self-help books were about to pay off. Second thing; read more motivational books. That is where I should have stopped but I started getting creative and thought Dwell magazine might be showing up for a photo shoot later this summer. My list consisted of two brick patios, replace sink faucet, install those cool European café lights stung across the yard, get Apple TV, repaint guest bed room, and replace window trim. Then there were all the other tasks like: cooking, cleaning, and eating.

I was determined to become an efficient machine, leaving plenty of time for thought and reflection. I was so deep in thought I decided to accomplish the mundane tasks so I could concentrate on the bigger projects. I loaded the dishwasher; filled it with soap, shut the door to let technology take over. Hours later, as I took care of smaller tasks, I came back to empty the time saving dishwashing device and put the dishes away. With three dishes left, I noticed the soap untouched by water; I had forgotten to push the “on button.” Now my task consisted simply of thought. I had to find all the dirty dishes that I put back. After this mistake, I decided I needed to be more efficient. Where could I save more of my 336 hours and use them more wisely for the important projects? Actually washing dishes between meals seemed to be a good place to find time. Why should I wash silverware when I was going to use it in a couple of hours again? After posting my newfound wisdom on Facebook, I found out through many comments it wasn’t a good idea because of this thing called bacteria.

The hours passed by as I worked like a dog…more like a beaver. My two weeks were up and the family was five hours away from arriving. I looked around to see what I had accomplished. I had a new faucet, dug two moats around the house where paths are supposed to lay, tracked the remaining dirt through the house and crossed off me making a list. With the last three hours of my 336 hours, I had to make it look like I had not given up hope on our castle. I cleaned; I scrubbed, and painted the trim and walls. The family pulls into the driveway as I grabbed ice cubes from the freezer for my cocktail and realized I had forgotten to empty the freezer…I had concluded bacteria can’t grow in the freezer, and therefore it would be a great place to put the plates and silverware that I was just going to use in a few hours for my next meal.