Thursday, October 3, 2013

Interview with Artist Dane Tilghman at the Little Chef

I walked into Little Chef Restaurant in Coatesville, past the lunch counter to find a seat in the main dining room. I have driven by this little family restaurant many times but only noticed the retro chef guy on the sign, never thinking I would stop in for a bite. Today was different; I was stopping in for lunch to meet artist/entrepreneur Dane Tilghman. I sat down and pulled my weighty wooden chair up to the table to wait for Dane's arrival. This would be the first time I had met Dane, so I wasn't sure what to expect. He is a big guy with an inner glow that radiates out from his eyes and smile. At first glance, I would say he looks like the typical intimidating big guy but really he is as kind and courteous as a true gentleman.

More surprising was the content of his character. He possesses a deep love and passion for all that is close to his heart. A family man that found out at a young age, while working for his father, that he didn't want the “9 to 5 thing. He had his mind set on being an artist. Come what may, he was going to support his wife and two children through the brilliance of his brush. With a pallet of styles and colors, he set out to capture his family and heritage on canvas. After mastering realism, he had reached a state of boredom. Pushing himself to do better and fueled by his passion for happiness; he broke free with an elongated Cubism inspired folk art. Tilghmanʼs totally fantastic style can capture blues players and Negro baseball players and present them to the everyday common man.

I hit record on my iPhone and placed it close to Dane to capture his soft-spoken voice and allow him to tell his story.
How did you get started making art?
It started when I was little kid. I was probably about four years old. We were in West Chester, right at Chestnut Street. My brother, who is about a year and a half older than me, would draw and I would draw too. I just did what my brother did. (Is he still doing it?) Heck no. He gave up on it a long time ago. So thatʼs how I started and then we moved to Paoli when I was like four and a half. He went to kindergarten and I stayed home and did some drawing. Then when I went to kindergarten, I started hanging out with people who could draw other stuff. You learn that way. I was like a sponge. If you were drawing a horse, then I would draw a horse.

Did you receive any formal art training?
I went to Kutztown and got a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic arts. Iʼll tell you what, I did not want to be a graphic designer. I went to Conestoga High School with Paul Bernhardt who was a tremendous ceramicist. He taught over at Yellow Springs. He was my teacher and he told me if you want to make a living as an artist you have to do this(graphic design) and I said ok, that makes sense, but I hated it. I got a degree in something I couldnʼt stand.

Describe your work in general.
Itʼs a...Iʼm a people person so people are the thing that I paint more than anything else. I center it around several other subject matters like music, whether itʼs Blues or Jazz or sports like Baseball. Thereʼs my what I call Everyday Man Series. I work from old black and white photography. In the beginning I was doing it in pencil and watercolor working from old photographs of my own family and relatives who have been in West Chester since 1900. I would have shows at my first gallery, Merrill Collection in West Chester, which is now in North Carolina. I would get a lot of the “old timers” come around and say, “Oh yeah, I remember her. I knew her.” That was pretty cool. I like history; I like family and I love a good story. These folks were telling me stuff that I didnʼt know about the people I was drawing at the time so it was pretty cool.

Whatʼs your medium of choice?
Right now, itʼs acrylic but like I said I started with watercolor and pencil. I started it maybe about 14 years ago. I still do pencil. I havenʼt done watercolor, I dropped it and I was really good at watercolor but it didnʼt allow me to do impressionism. I use a lot of palette knife now.

How do you choose your subject matter?
Well itʼs mostly from the black and white photography so I either go online to the Library of Congress website. Iʼve even gone down to the Library of Congress. They have a lot of black and white photographic books. I just flip through until something feels right. Thatʼs my thought process; it has to feel good. Then you start to put the picture together because sometimes a painting will have three or four different references. A little bit from here and a little bit from there so you are building a story. Sometimes a photo will tell a whole story but you arenʼt using all of the elements in the photo. Now Iʼm doing it in my elongated style.

Since you do black and white, where do you get your color palette from?
Well, Black and white, for me, is a vehicle; it gives me an image that tells a story. Color sometimes gets in the way of that story. I can feel the soul; I can connect better on almost a spiritual level to that photograph when itʼs just black and white. Once I get that story in me, then Iʼll allow the colors to come back out. I see it as a jumping off point.

What inspires you?
Again, itʼs people

Do you have any habits or routines in the morning, before you go to the easel? 
Yep, I usually get up as early as 6. I go straight to the computer. I read some books, some biblical stuff; read the Word. I would say by 9 or 9:30 Iʼm usually ready to do something related to the art business. That might be to run down to the city to take a piece of artwork to my photographer, Greg. You know that sort of thing. It varies, but when youʼre in business for yourself you have to do all of these things. I may not even get to some painting until 5 or 6 in the afternoon.

How did you develop your unique view on perspective?
It started with realism. I was really good at realism. I still am but it got boring. It was almost like I was looking to be perfect at figures and stuff. There was even a point when I stopped doing figures and was doing rocks and water and leaves. Youʼre talking some pretty complicated stuff. I was getting the reflections right and the whole prismatic thing going on and the highlights. It was fun but youʼre talking about pieces that took 125 hours to do.

What does home mean to you?
Hmmm...thatʼs an interesting question. How do you answer a question like that? My home is where my studio is; I do everything from there. Being around my kids and my wife and having my own space is like routine. I would say home is like routine.

What is your proudest moment?
My kids being born for sure

What was your mother right about?
(Laughing) Well my dad used to say, “I canʼt wait until you become a father.” Heʼd say he couldnʼt wait until we became fathers so he could sit back and laugh at us. I donʼt know how to answer the one about my mother.

Money is ok, but it isnʼt what life is about. What is it about?
Living it. Living it straight out.

Where did you grow up?
In Paoli

What was the last book you read?
Well, the Bible; I read the Word of God all of the time. Outside of that, I read a lot of self help books.

You collect?
Other artists’ artwork
Something that is important on your nightstand?
My earplugs

Your strangest possession?
My coin collection

At your best, you are most like this famous person?
Bill Cosby

What was the first play you saw?
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

First big break?
It was in Gary, Indiana. I was coming back with Ros, my wife, and my daughter who was probably 3 at the time. I went out there to do an engineerʼs convention. I didnʼt make any money but on the way back, we stopped at a lawyerʼs house who I had told that I was coming to Chicago. She said, “Well since youʼre passing by Chicago give me a call and bring some new artwork.” We go to her house and she bought like 5 originals cause the show in Chicago sucked. I made like $12,000.

First album
Kool and the Gang

First concert
It might have been Kool and the Gang

First plane ride
It was in college from Washington, DC to Allentown

First piece of art you sold
A picture of a little boy on a back porch, sitting on the steps. It was done in pastel. I sold it for $25.

I had to hit pause to give Dane a chance to eat. The questions led to deeper
discussions and random tangents of shared experiences. Dane finished up his overly stuffed turkey hoagie, brimming with fresh turkey, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. It was one of his favorites here at Little Chefʼs. He proudly stated that it was real turkey. For reasons unknown to me, I ordered the Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions topped with cheese; it just sounded so good. I was not disappointed. A generous sized roll that Subway might look into using soaked up the sauce while making a nice cradle for the flavor-loaded sausage. Each of the lunch entrees was priced at a modest $7.99; you can't beat it for the portions. Dane ordered another iced tea and since there was no booze to be had, I went with my standard choice, another glass of chocolate milk. I hit record and finished the questions.

Time was short, the meal was big and we both left a quarter of our sandwiches, unable to finish them. Then we headed over to his store/gallery/storage space in the heart of Coatesville. The sign read PLJC and the window read, artwork of Dane Tilghman. It was a public relations nightmare in brand identity. Once inside it all made sense. Dane is an artist and entrepreneur. We walked past rows of paintings stacked five deep against the wall near his assembly station. He showed me the die-cutter he bought to help make funeral fans. Yes he expanded his business and printed his southern folk art on the fronts of funeral fans. Back in the day he was selling thousands of them. He commented, “If you want to see something strange, go to a funeral convention.” I'll take his word on it. We walked downstairs as he told me his plans to open a restaurant in the building someday or maybe a gallery or something else. Once we reached the bottom of the stairs, he admitted that he wants to simplify his life. At 55, having made art for the past 35 years, Iʼd say this won't be easy. I stood there looking at five rows of shelving packed with prints, artwork, uncut funeral fans and much, much more. Truthfully, I wanted to stay and root through this collection of Dane's art history. It was his own unorganized retrospective. It put Al Capone's vault to shame and made Egypt's kings look poor. We headed back upstairs and once outside, he closed the door to his accomplishments behind him and headed to Philadelphia for a meeting. I didn't ask what the meeting was for; I mused that it was another big project or idea with which Dane had been blessed.

The Speed Round Question:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Planes, Terranes and Organic — A Duck Hunter’s Diary

I boarded the plane making my way through the narrow aisles with my carry-on and cooler in tow. Trying not to anger all the other frustrated passengers, I arrived at the back of the plane. I happily threw my suitcase filled with four days of dirty clothes in the compartment above my head, saving myself $25 in luggage fees. I shoved the cooler under the seat and sat down to recollect the last four days of bliss when the stewardess asked how the fishing was?
I was perplexed, “Fishing?” Then I thought maybe the scruffy four days of unkempt facial hair and the camouflage jacket was the giveaway. I replied, “No I was in Louisiana, hunting ducks.” Her eyes turned sad. Her finely plucked eyebrows furrowed and her welcome aboard smile turned to a frown. “Why? What did the ducks do to you?” she asked. Trying to raise her spirits, considering I was going to rely on her for my limited selection of food and beverage for the next two hours, I tried to justify my perceived mass genocide of the bird population. I calmly told her we used slingshots. That seemed to quell the mass hysteria of gun control debates I could see swirling in her head. I directed her back to the conversation of food and asked her what she eats. Before she could answer, I rattled off the major farm animals, chicken, beef and pork. All were answered with a no.
I had found myself face to face with a vegetarian. At first I was nervous, considering I was dressed in her favorite food group. Then she mentioned fish. I asked, “What did the fish do to you?” She laughed, knowing full well the conversation was going to be entertaining and thoughtful. Since she couldn’t think of one instance where a fish harmed her, I continued the conversation regarding my means of procuring organic protein.
If you eat something on that plate, it had to have lived somewhere and it ended up dead on your plate. My meal is more than that. My meal is an experience filled with contemplative thought, friendship, stewardship and the satisfaction that I know where my meal came from. My “food” started in Waterproof, Louisiana a few hours north of New Orleans on 800 acres of woods, bayous and a lake. For help with the procuring process, I had my Dad and a fellow friend fly with me to visit our friendly “organic farmer.” Not only a farmer, he is the owner of a beautiful little piece of America. As a friend of five years, I appreciate the time he spends feeding, cultivating and ensuring a healthy habitat for these passing aviary culinary delights.

The next three days would be spent waking up at some ungodly hour before the sun casts its first warming rays. While fully dressed in the stewardesses favorite food, we would nestle ourselves in a small hut waiting for up to seven hours to fulfill our limit of six feathered friends.
One might consider this boring or compare it to watching paint dry. I think not. Artists have tried to capture the vastness and grandeur of a glowing ball of fire cresting over the horizon to bring warmth and light. I get to experience the slowness of this event for the next three mornings.
Within the first moments, the glow is filled with ducks speeding to their next destination. Some fly sporadically high, other fly low or are structured in a V formation. The sight reminds me of World War II movies with the mass amounts of bombers heading to Europe for victory. Unlike the bombers, ducks fly this route every year and have been for the past hundred years. We sometimes waited in silence soaking up the grandness of it all or in conversation retelling adventures of procuring and gathering. The sun finally reveals its light. It dances and sparkles across the water. Plastic forms of floating ducks break up the dance. Then it happens.
Duck HuntingTwo out of the thousands of ducks that make their journey down the Mississippi Delta, decide to rest in our flock of plastic silhouettes. Patience and travel have paid off. Now it is up to me to put food on the table. Success is now resting in the center of the circular ripples.
The plane’s engines start to roar and everyone quickly sends their last text; then puts their personal electronics in the off position.
I think of the possibilities for my feathered friends at my feet: roasted, smoked, braised, basted or salted. The possibilities are endless and then the thought of side dishes and beverages! Yes … I’ll have beverages, better known as in-flight cocktails. The small bag of six peanuts and the $8 beer doesn’t cure my hunger or stop the mouthwatering thoughts of how I’m going to cook my organic poultry.
One of my favorite dishes is a smoked duck and pecan pate. It doesn’t get more southern than this. The process makes three days sitting in a hut waiting, seem like short and easy work. The petit pate takes a week to make. The ducks must be undressed of their plumage, which is no easy task. Then the naked duck needs to be soaked in brine for a few days. The local grocery store doesn’t carry brine but they do carry all the necessary fresh ingredients to make it from cider vinegar to apple juice to herbs to oranges. I am not skimping here.
Like I said, this is farm-fresh to table, no MSG or hard to pronounce chemical compounds. Once the meat has soaked and becomes full of flavor and tender, it’s time to smoke. Four hours of apple wood chips smoldering below causes billowing smoke to wrap around the breasts keeping the juicy goodness inside. Cooked and deboned, this tender scrumptious meat is mixed with pecans, sautéed mushrooms, Louisiana hot sauce and fresh herbs. Wait, there is more!
It needs a binder, which is no other than the heart stopping goodness that is mayonnaise. Don’t think that after watching sunrises and being personally accosted in airport security, that I’m grabbing a jar of Miracle Whip. Nope, I’m using the finest eggs from the chickens we have in the backyard and 2 cups of oil (that I didn’t make) and some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dollop of mustard. The KitchenAid blender is ready to make chemistry come to life, better known as emulsifying. This is a wild and crazy process that’s fairly easy. The only requirement is patience. BAM! I have fresh mayonnaise to add to my mixture. All this hard work doesn’t end with a scoop of pate on a plate. All is packed into little molds to set, and then be distributed.
The time spent procuring is just half of the experience. It is a time for bonding with friends, gathering your thoughts and appreciating nature, taking notice of the minutes that fill an hour. The quietness of 800 acres without a road, a car or a building in sight causes one to become aware of their smallness. The second half of the whole experience is sharing small gestures of gratitude. My gratitude is in the form of little dome shaped molds of smoked duck pate that I share with friends. Nothing makes one more welcome than showing up at your friend’s house bearing food. I haven’t been turned down yet when I make a call with some freshly made food.
Schaller's Kids Love Duck PateThe captain’s voice snaps me from my gastronomical daydream, time to power down our personal electronics. This was a quicker journey than my feathered friends make, but they leave a smaller carbon footprint. My friendly stewardess makes her way to the back of the plane, insuring all the seats are in their upright positions. She glances at the cooler, making sure nothing has escaped, and smiles.
Seatbelts are fastened and I feel as safe as anyone speeding through the air at over 500 miles an hour with a nylon belt strapped around their waist. Since the stewardess is also strapped in, and my need for her service has come to an end, I continued our culinary conversation. Looking for common ground in our joys of food, I asked her what kind of wine she likes with her green crunchy friends. Her reply made me realize we weren’t even going to be Facebook friends, not even through mutual acquaintances. The answer wasn’t even a beverage of any kind, it was a statement about her last triathlon. I thought gathering food was a sport. If done well you can even turn it into a three course meal.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Going Green

Last week I was tapped to jury an art show. Between being honored and busy I decided it was a good idea to broaden my horizons and put another notch in my belt. Not that I was getting fatter. It was more that my doors needed widening cause my head was getting bigger. Then I started to philosophically daydream, you know that stream of images where you are actually looking up at yourself saying, “Wow!” Now take that awe and mix it with an imaginative artist’s mind and you can make Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Coat look like a windbreaker.

Now allow me to jump up on the awards platform to share my genius idea and how I came to the conclusion that I should go green. In a delusion of grandeur I decided that if they picked me to jury a show of 70 artists, I must hold something special in my keen artistic aesthetic. Then self-doubt creeps in…what should I choose? How should the show look? Do they want my aesthetic or is this some mediocre show where I'm supposed to give everyone an award because they showed up. What if all the artists are waiting in the next room and I am the one that decides it they will continue making flat ill proportioned figures holding pet cats or send them packing to consider another hobby like making macramé wine bottle holders. The pressure is on; my ego and artistic merit is at stake.

I arrive at the designated location 10 minutes early to compose myself and make sure my head fits out the car door. The rain drizzles and builds upon the windshield. I watch as artists open their car trunks, pull out their masterpieces and scramble to make the deadline. The artists that disembark from their cars are of all ages and  not to stereotype but an observation is they are mostly women. The target on my big head just got bigger. The deadline for entries approaches and I come to the conclusion that they chose me because of my artistic vision, aesthetics and frequent genius moments. It's 11 o'clock and I have been known to have my most genius moments at this time. So here it comes. Not to be held at fault for insulting the elders, discouraging the pet painters, the watercolor dabblers or oil mud makers but…I decide I'm going green! Any painting that has green in it will be accepted. Damien Hirst look out, I have placed the diamond encrusted skull to the side and have trumped you with a conceptual piece that is bigger than your Tigershark and doesn't need replacement. Plus, I'm so in touch with the cultural movement of going green. It's 11:01 and I head in to change the art world. Luckily for me it is a double door entrance!

The moral of the story is don't be disappointed if you are rejected from a juried show. There may be no rhyme or reason. People have bad days, outlandish thoughts and agendas. Be confident in your work and always show confidence along with quality.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Class of Truth and Reality

Two weeks ago I found myself back in the classroom. I sat five rows back from the front so I wasn't close enough to be a brown noser and I wasn't  too far back to be disinterested. I considered it to be more of a lecture than a class since there would be no tests, homework or grades so the pressure was off. The topic was about truth and reality.

I'll spare the stories and the chalkboard diagrams with all due respect to the teacher. However, I was sucked in, engaged and felt enlightened. If I had to narrow it down to its essence, make it fit into my life and write a blog about it where I compare it to a situation in my life, this is what we would have...a blog.

So fact is, for an example: the Titanic sunk. We all know there's a huge ship that is sitting on the bottom of the ocean and James Cameron made a film about it. That is a fact. Reality now has some variations and interpretations. In other words there may be a thread of facts linked together in the movie and a good enough storyline that it becomes truth. Thus, we have a movie called Titanic. There is enough facts in the plot to make it truth and enough truth to make it a reality. It boils down to a ship that sunk and the cause of its sinking, we know. But, what happened during the sinking and the emotions felt during that time can only be imagined.

Now I have fulfilled my duty with the first two parts of the blog; I described the class and wrote a blog about it. 

I am almost ready to tie this into my life with a comparison. This is how it fits in, within my recent trip to Cuba. The fact is I went to Cuba. The true reality of my experience of Cuba is the question. My dilemma is to visualize the truth or depict the facts. Everyone loved the movie of a gigantic ship crashing into an iceberg and hundreds of people drowning. It was a love story, a visual bonanza, a you know how it's going to end, edge of your seat two hour walk away melancholy, wish your life could end so confidently, type of feeling. 

Did I find truth in Cuba? No. Is the truth of Cuba; street scenes of old American cars from the 1950's zipping through streets? How about Cuban cigar smoke rolling out of your mouth as you mimic mafia hand gestures? Or maybe it's the pouring of the smoothest rum to your lips as your head dances to the words "Viva la Vida." Or is the fact that, the reason vintage cars zip around the island is because that is all they have? Does the story become a Twilight Zone episode? Does the cigar smoke that swirls around your head taste better because there's a sense of doing wrong by breaking laws in your own country? Does that make the tobacco sweeter? The rum that flows so cheaply is the only option because there's no room for competition because the government crushed it.

I sat five rows back listening to truth and reality as I doodled in my sketchbook. The truth is I was figuring out reality while drawing boats that don't exist in Cuba.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interview with Dan Reed @ The Peanut Bar

Dan Reed is everything I wanted to be when I grew up. He paints our “love affair” with the 1950’s and captures it’s allure by painting classic automobiles. I so wanted to use the word “cars” but I thought it uncouth; it’s like calling the Venus De Milo a lawn ornament.

I grew up in the “car culture.” My dad was and still is a big “motorhead.” I was more interested in getting from one place to another. Ironically it was my dad that brought Dan and I together. My dad saw this awesome painting, which happened to be Dan’s, and they became Facebook friends. When I happened to need a Christmas present for my dad; it was a match made in Heaven. What followed shortly after was a very enjoyable lunch at the Peanut Bar.

Now one does not have to be Freud to see my envy towards Dan. Dan masters perspective and has a view of the world that would make you think that he is three feet tall. Not at all, rather it’s the angle of his reference photos that best capture the beautiful curves of a classic automobile. He only paints the cars he has seen so it becomes a personal connection. Maybe it is a stealing from childhood memories and an affinity for the automobile he still shares with his dad. Which is why his dad frequently visits him at work. If Dan isn’t at his home studio, he can be found at many of the invitational auto shows. It’s a busy season and a niche market that he has successfully navigated through. He can tell it better than I can.

How did you get started making art?
I don’t know. (Laughs) I guess like most of us, I started when I was a kid. I wasn’t good at sports…the only thing I was really into was art and music and by the time I reached college, it was the only thing I could even contemplate.

Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in?
My only formal training was at West Chester University as an art major. I was specifically a graphic design major but when I actually started taking things like pottery and sculpting, I found out I had a better knack at painting than graphic design. So, that’s the route I wound up going. I switched over about halfway through my college years. 

Can you describe your work in general for the readers?

Most recently, especially in the last ten years, I really started billing myself as an automotive fine artist because that’s my craft. My interest in classic and antique automobiles goes back as far as my interest in art. So it was really a natural progression.

What is your media?

I paint all in acrylics.

Why did you start painting cars?

Gus Sermas (his art professor) told me I should (laughs). It’s funny cause the graphic design instructor that I had at the time came over my shoulder one day while I was in between classes, doing my own painting and said, “You’re not going to make money painting cars.” Sermas is the one who told me to paint what you know.

What are your thoughts on perfection?
I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist. This is a good question because I really don’t know the answer. It’s so subjective. It’s nice when people comment on my work and I think as an outsider, a lot of people put me into that category when it comes to the detail. A lot of people say, “Oh my gosh, I feel like I could walk into that canvas, open the door and sit in that car.” But it’s not something I’m necessarily conscious of. When I put paint to canvas, I find myself more recently trying to get away from some of the real minute detail and I think Sermas is still in the back of my head saying, “Use a bigger brush…put more paint on the canvas.” I tend to start a canvas that way. I throw the paint on and one great thing I like about acrylics is that it dries in ten minutes so I can put a second layer on.

Tell me about some of your favorite techniques?

For the automotive type artwork there has to be a certain amount of tightness. Unlike the backgrounds in my paintings that aren’t drawn in, the car is. One of my techniques is the good old fashioned, find the vanishing points, get the perspective right and I lay the canvas flat on a large work table so my vanishing point may be out several inches from the canvas itself. That technique allows me to get the car in proportion because if it looks out of proportion, people spot that a mile away. These car guys are going to know if I painted a ’37 Packard. They’ll know if the fenders aren’t right or if the headlights aren’t in the right position. So I’m a stickler when it comes to the automobiles specifically for them to be correct, proportionately, the perspective and accurate in every last detail of the automobile.

How do you decide when an artwork is done?
Usually that happens pretty easily. I always leave it up on the easel for at least a day; step away from it, get some other stuff done then come back to it and there’s always something when you come back to it fresh. Usually it is things like highlights which with the automotive work really makes it pop off the canvas.

Name two influential automotive artists?

Ken Eberts and Tom Hale

What inspires you?

A lot of things. Naturally I’m inspired by some of the automobiles I see at a show. I always have my camera. I always get a chance to run out and catch things that spark my interest but inspiration can come from the weirdest places.  Like a painting that was inspired by a trip to a nursery that my wife drug me out to. I wanted to be in the studio. It was one of those rare sunny days in the middle of the summer where there was very low humidity so there was really no haze. The nursery was on an old farm and I was standing a few feet away from this barn and I had my sunglasses on. My wife’s looking for plants and I happen to look up and the sun is shining down on the metal roof of this barn and it was so bright against the sky that the sky was really a dark blue as you looked straight up at it. I felt like, “Come on let’s go. I gotta get out of here. I have to get back to the studio.” I got back and sketched it out really quickly just so I wouldn’t forget the idea; a brightly sunlit building against a dark, dark blue sky. I eventually used that concept for one of my paintings. People love it. It’s a hot selling print and I sold the original to someone down in Texas.

Do you have any habits or morning routines you do before going to the easel?
Yeah, I usually make a pot of coffee. Email and Facebook are the first two things that I check in the morning as I drink my cup of coffee. My routine pretty much conforms to my wife’s schedule.

What are you eating right now?

A roast beef sandwich.

What is your favorite food?
It would have to be pasta. I do most of the cooking. One of my favorite things was my grandmother’s chicken cutlet. My grandmother on my mom’s side is Italian so she gave me her recipe for it and I make it at least once a week.

What does home mean to you?

Well, that’s where my studio is. One thing I noticed, working twelve years at a corporate 9-5 job, is that I couldn’t wait for vacation time. Eight years ago when I transitioned to doing art work full time, and I left the corporate world; I don’t appreciate vacation time. My wife works at a tough job and she loves vacations. Our main vacation is taking two weeks off in October, right around our wedding anniversary. She can’t wait. Not that I don’t want to go. I appreciate the time off because we get to do some fun things together but it’s tough not to walk into that studio and want to do something. So I’m perfectly content to have the studio be part of the house but it’s tough to not go in there all the time.

Your proudest moment?

Off the top of my head it was probably when I was selling one of my paintings for a record amount…at auction.

What was your mother right about?
I gotta hand it to her, she was right about a lot of things.

Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about. What is it about?
I’m happiest when I am creating. When I get an idea in my head, I can’t wait to work it out.

Where did you grow up?
In Chester County, Glenmoore.

What is the last book you read?

Now that I had totally lived my “Sliding Door” (movie reference) moment, I came to terms with the path that I had chosen and realized that I had forgot that I needed to write about the restaurant at which we were eating. After all, these are lunch interviews.

Jim Kramer’s Peanut Bar has an allure and hype combined with good prices, a friendly staff and your standard bar fare that really make it interesting. It’s history in and of itself is very cool. Since Dan’s paintings have that vintage flair, we might as well eat at a place that has the same vibe.

We finished our beers which were a Fraziskaner and  a Victory Prima Pils. We talked some more about our similarities and then our differences. The more people you know, the smaller the world becomes. We discussed our college professors and both had the exact same experience in reference to how we became artists. Despite the fact that we went to different universities and had different professors, we were told to focus on graphic design because we would never make it as painters. Maybe that was the best part of the meal, the sweetness of success.

Dan Reed’s prints can be seen here

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pour Some Sugar On It

I read that if you use song titles in your headline, you'll get more people to read it. I'm not pretending to be a one armed poet; I’m more like Mr. Nice Guy taking cliches to a whole new level or bringing truth to myth busters. The phrase you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar or some type of insect to “Shhhh…it went out the window” is demonstrated in one recent example where a little sugarcoated humor got me a sweet deal.

After a very cramped plane ride to Miami and a navigational marathon through baggage, I had a feeling of enlightenment come over me as I saw my suitcase on the conveyor belt. Soon after I found myself at the car rental counter with paperwork in hand detailing the super awesome deal I got online. I felt confident. There were no super Jedi mind tricks that could persuade me into an upgrade, prepaid gas, or meteorite insurance. The sales agent had been trained to milk every last dollar out of my wallet even if it was a per day charge. Luckily for me, I was only renting for five days so I could use my other hand if the math got tough. I stuck to my guns… “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you.” He must have caught on to my inner force being stronger than his when my reply to his question, “Are you here on vacation?” was no thank you. I left the counter with keys in hand to pick any one of the low-end budget rentals; but I was proud and I was happy.

15 minutes later after navigating escalators and elevators, I found the right floor for the parking garage. I strolled down once again confidently with rental papers in hand and my roller bag behind me. I approached another car rental employee. I could see it wasn't going well. She stood there being yelled at by one unhappy customer. I approached slowly, leaving enough distance for the steaming mad customer to pass me while ranting and raving something about, "Shhh…it goes out the window and hits the fan.” Then I thought about my journey… Don't stop believin’. So I poured some sugar on it and turned that frown upside down. I walked up smiling and said, “Oooh, you're in trouble now. He’s all angry.” I was pleasant as pie and still smiling. I followed up with, “Why do people have to be so nasty? How about an upgrade?” She said, “Sure, anything in the SUV row.” She checked the paperwork and signed her name Suzanne. I was off on my journey.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why The Super Bowl is Super

I left the studio at 6:25 to meander up to the house so I could be sitting in front of my 72” TV with a cold beverage precisely at 6:30. It's game time. I'll admit there was never a Monday night or Sunday that I had previously placed myself in front of the TV to watch this game. Truthfully, I didn't know there were two brothers leading two different teams to the biggest game of the year until Tuesday. That was the day I found out who was actually playing also.

So why bother getting all excited and following the hype? Because I don't and that is what makes it so fun. Super Bowl becomes a mini holiday at our house. We gather around the boob tube as a family and watch high-priced commercials and highly paid athletes battle it out.

Growing up, I didn't have an athletic competitive bone in my body. That isn’t to say I didn't play sports. I attempted many. I played everything from soccer to baseball and I even tried football. The ability of my brain to tell my feet where to go has never fully developed. I think the majority of my nerves control my hands and then it stops there. I’d still go to all the practices and participate in keeping the bench warm every week. When I played sports there wasn’t a desire and drive like when I approach the easel. By college, my sports career had subsided and given way to beer pong and cards.

This is why I gather the kids around the television; to show them some competition. I believe a little competitive edge is needed to get through life. Not that it takes much convincing to get the kids to watch TV because it is a considered a luxury and a privilege at our home. I entice them with food and soda pop. It's that mini holiday feast of chicken wings, french fries and any other leftover item I can throw in the deep fryer. All of this followed by nachos and more icy cold soda pops and adult beverages. We sit five crammed on the sofa with just enough room to lift our beverage to our lips. We cheer and the kids pick teams by the color of the jerseys and continue to call them by color for the remainder of the game. “Go white team,” screams Mia. Then it happens; the silence and anticipation of the first commercial aired. I wonder if it is going to be a talking baby, a talking beer or an obscure reference to 1984 so a fruit stock can rise. Nope, it's a family oriented company called godaddy. Anything with dad in it has to be good, right? As I sit with these three kids nestled in my arms, we watch. Godaddy isn't really about dads, instead it’s a commercial loosely based on a Greek tragedy where the awkward kid wins the heart of a beautiful woman. I guess because a 30 second commercial costs over $1 million, they show the main characters then speed it up and skip all the dialogue. They went for the final shot; an extreme close-up of lip locking and tonsil hockey. I then wished I hadn’t chosen the HD feature. My daughter then turns to inform me that was a “Parisian kiss.” All I could think of was that there was no way we were going to watch the World Series. I don't need commentary on how to get to second base.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Addressing the Lichtenstein Retrospective in DC

Four guys and four days ago two fathers, a single guy and a DINK set forth on this continent, to a national museum, conceived in knowledge and dedicated to the proposition that all art can be collected.

Now we are engaged in a great retrospective, testing whether dots or an artist can paint four colors and can be so dedicated that they can endure. We met at the National Gallery Museum. We have come to this destination, as a starting point, to comemorate those artists that have come before us so that we might create. It is altogether fitting and proper that we (David, David, Adrian and I) should do this.

But in a larger sense, I cannot describe, rather depict, nor round out this artist…Roy Lichtenstein. So I, as a Pennsylvanian, drove to DC with these artists to examine, give praise and admire a collection of Lichtenstein's work. Though I and my cohorts would have rather seen the retrospective in chronological order; those higher up than I decided to arrange the show by subject matter. Could it be an easy answer to showcase an artist that broke out onto the art scene at the age of 37. The comic figure subject is the first step and exemplified by the large Mickey and Donald painting centered at the entrance. This is the piece that we as artists all strive for…the break out piece. “Look Mickey” is supported by documentation and two other abstract paintings on the second floor. I'm sure Mr. Lichtenstein wouldn't mind me saying he wasn't very good at the abstract stuff.

The story goes, or at the very least it works better in my mind, that Roy made it to LeoCastelli's gallery a few days before Warhol. Leo took Roy's work in and hung the “Look Mickey” piece. A few days later Andy comes into the gallery to show Leo some of his paintings of Superman, but Andy is blown away by the accuracy of Roy’s comic strip drawings and goes back to the drawing board (rather silkscreen) and cleans up his act. The rest is history.
This is mytake on Lichtenstein. The show is made out to illustrate that Roy has a good sense of humor and he can even poke fun at his newfound success. Becoming confident in his vocabulary he pushes Benday dots in yellow, red, blue, white and black all over the art history books while keeping up with the times. I'm too young to know for sure but I’d think everyone was saying he was as cliché in 1970 as Kincaid is today. Yet, look at back at art history in 1970. We have Donald Judd and SolLeWitt coming to the forefront with this minimal, clean, conceptual art and Roy comes out with his mirror series. Brilliant! It is conceptual, modern, minimal, and slick but has all the essence of a Lichtenstein with a few colors. The curators break the show up into Roy appropriating other artist, then landscapes and ending with an Asian influence. I see it as an artist that developed his own language then used that language to speak his thoughts on art history and it’s simplicity via dots and lines.

If you paid the five dollars for the headset you could have heard him say, “Art is based on art history or we would all be painting like children.” Or something like that. But I digress… These artists shall not have died in vain, that this retrospective under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the artists, for the people, shall not perish from this earth. So if you're headed to DC to see the inauguration or the tail end of the retrospective or voting for the Oscars, remember Lincoln but see Roy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

C'ya 2012

It’s that time again when everyone recaps the past year. You hear everything from "who the person of the year" is to the best of and the worst of. I can’t help but  to play along while sharing my personal experiences. Hopefully it will help me with my biographers when they need to fill the pages between me inventing the Internet and making yellow the new black on the runways. With the help of Facebook's timeline app, I was able to glance back at the year and figure out why I'm 10 pounds heavier this January. My timeline is a montage of food, beverages, places, family and the occasional new piece of art.

One would think that with being an artist there would be more than the occasional piece of art. It’s not that I wasn't producing art; it was more that I was exercising my creativity and my desire to make things. Actually last year as I sat in a room of 20 artists “confessing” what our true resolutions were and how we wanted to better ourselves and what we wanted to accomplish in the year, I thought to myself, then said aloud, "I want to make my house a home. I want to create a place in which my kids will always want to come back." There I said it, my commitment had nothing to do with making more or better art; it had to do with living life and by the end of the year a majority of it fell into place.

I could not have done this without others wanting to enjoy and celebrate their own lives. At the beginning of the year I was blessed with many commissions that supported me and kept me busy throughout the year. One client wanted to reward herself and remind herself that she had survived breast cancer the previous year. Another client wanted to pass on a passion for art by creating a special birthday present. Still another client fell in love with the lushness of encaustic and wanted a portrait to give to her husband as a gift. These patrons and others like them celebrated special moments with art that I created. How could I not fulfill my own commitment!

So I began with a hammer and some nails, the tape measure that I later figured out how to read and a level that I swore was level. With the help of a friend I built the most magnificent shed. My intention for the shed was to store the contents that now fill my basement. This was the first step in refinishing my basement, so that when the kids do come back, we can have a cozy “French resistance mixed with a 1920s speakeasy flare” bar to hang out in. This has yet to be built but I'm working on it. The stuff is moved out and the shed is filled to the brim. As with all projects, if you're going to do “this” well then you might as well do “that”, all while doing the main “thing”. Three months later, I'm on to the front yard making brick paths. I find so much solace in laying bricks and in building stonewalls. It is like figuring out a puzzle that is life-size and potentially holding up something. The brick path starts at the front door and nicely curves around the side of the house fading into the ground where it shall resume and continue this year. Yet 30 feet to the south of this brick path, a new stone path and patio was built. I proudly made a somewhat perfect circle out of stones and placed our newfound antique iron patio set on top. Determined to finish one project before 2013, I graded the soil and seeded it. There are reports of grass before the first snowfall.

I can't finish the chronicle of my previous year without mentioning the other “C” words: Carouge, Canada and Cuba. These once again fulfill my mission by year’s completion. To ensure that my kids like me and want to come back home, I so diligently worked on last year. I took my oldest daughter on a father-daughter excursion to Carouge, Switzerland. A week in Switzerland eating chocolates and singing through the hills had solidified the notion that I am the best dad and that she will be coming home later in life. I now had to convince my other two kids that waited patiently at home. This year we chose Canada as our family vacation, not because it was an election year and everyone threatened to move there. I chose it because of Montreal, which was the closest we’d get to a European city feel without having to purchase five plane tickets. As always it was eight days of wandering, eating and allowing the surplus of time to make the memories. The last “C” was a curveball that wasn't even a thought entering into January 1, 2012, Cuba. Opportunity knocked and patrons joined in my Kickstarter moment that ended the year with me in Cuba and began this year with a few Cuba inspired art shows.

By the time 2012 ended I had finished all my paintings. Some were already hanging and others were under the Christmas tree. I had documented some peoples’ memories brining a smile to their walls. In return I confirmed my “confession” by committing to it, then ventured out to countless countries.

All I can hope for this year is that it not be too demanding. Maybe have more dinners and drinks, drawing and maybe Denmark with just enough dinero to distribute.