Wednesday, April 25, 2007


My friend Earl from Denver suggests that a new reader (we get new ones every day, it seems) would have no sense of the significance, as it relates to The Year of Magical Painting, of juxtaposing George Pickett and Richard Grasso.

The short answer is that I've painted Richard Grasso--an early version of which would, of course, be what you see here--and I am going to paint George Pickett.

Now, if you scrounge around the archives you can find the finished version of this painting. This, however, is the first iteration I thought worth displaying on the blog. And really, isn't this more interesting in some ways (certainly to those exploring The Year of Magical Painting with a rigorously academic mindset) than the final version.

Context is now thus provided.

With apologies...

I apologize for the recent emphasis on Father-related posts. I think it's therapeutic.

I know, however, that it's odd to be the guy who has to scrounge through your just-dead father's personal effects looking for things like your mother's death certificate (the one key document we all forgot to locate prior to his death).

I know that's odd.

Still... the stuff you find. Like this shot of him as what? An 18-year old?

Or here, a strapping guy in his 40s or 50s? Look how big his nostrils are.

Or a signed letter from General Douglas MacArthur to his father, my grandfather, which read:
Mr. Allen Raymond
Saturday Evening Post
Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Mr. Raymond:

It is a real pleasure to me to award you the Asiatic-Pacific Service Ribbon in view of your long and meritorious service in the Southwest Pacific Area with the forces of this command. You have added luster to the difficult, dangerous and arduous profession of War Correspondent.

From what I've heard, it comes as no surprise that MacArthur goes with all caps for his signature line. I remember some years ago watching a documentary on MacArthur's triumphant return to the Philippines. As they often do, they filled the footage gap with a zoom into the front page of The New York Times of the day. As I read the headline about MacArthur famously honoring his "I shall return" pledge, my eyes also caught sight of the byline of the main article's author. It was, in fact, Grandfather.

Which was a kick.

That second photo would make a fun painting, yes?

"I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe you should drive"

Any number of fans have communicated their favorite opening lines. One (submitted from Denver) that pops out goes like this:
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
In the interests of fairness, this is perhaps a better first paragraph than a first line, but still...

It comes, of course, from Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas--my favorite line from which goes, roughly:
"We're gonna need some golf shoes."

And this, of course...

And this, of course, would be me.

The George Pickett/Richard Grasso Juxtaposition

As noted in the previous post, General George Pickett's eyes share the same extravagantly sad lines as those of former NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso.

I swear to God, where would you get this stuff if I wasn't here just blogging away.

El Toro Negro, April 23/24

Two days ago I knocked out 32 miles at about 14 mph, which I thought was pretty good. For an old fat man.

Yesterday I drove to the Gettysburg National Military Park and rode 11 or 12 miles around the place. Averaged about 8, but that's just the lollygagging. All those plaques to read.

I must say, it was a perfect biking experience. You're far more likely to stop and read just any old thing if you are on two wheels than if you are on (or in) four. And, coming back down from Little Round Top, I managed to hit about 35 mph, which is pretty fast if you are on a bicycle.

I think the fastest I've ever gone on a bicycle is just over 40 miles an hour. My thinking this time, coming down the hill at a stern clip, was that if I died here, at least my blood would fall on hallowed ground, mingling with that of my Virginia and New York brothers.

It was a comforting thought. Glad it didn't happen.

And of course, the thing that hits you the hardest when you visit Gettysburg is the unbelievable distance of flat open ground between where Pickett's men left the trees on Seminary Ridge and the Copse of Trees on Cemetary Ridge--the target of their assault. In retrospect, it seems like a bad idea. Turns out it was.

All of which makes all the more amazing the fact that some of my Virginia brothers actually made it. General Lewis Armistead (actually a Tarheel) died there, at what is often called the high water mark for the Confederacy. His charges were then repulsed and the Union, as we now know it, was preserved.

In addition to the urn containing my father's ashes I just received from the funeral home, they also handed me a small velvet pouch containing a baggie filled with perhaps two ounces of ash. Funeral home jargon for this auxiliary package is a "hold-back." The things you learn...

Anyway, by sprinkling some of them into the Plum Creek (the creek that runs through much of the battlefield), I've begun what I fondly call the Allen Raymond Memorial Sprinkling Tour. Next up is the Peter McManus Cafe, then somewhere in Barnegat Bay, likely the Atlantic Ocean, Central Park, and pretty much wherever else I figure he'd have gotten a kick out of getting sprinkled. The Catskills, perhaps.

In about two weeks, as part of the 5-Boro Bike Tour team sponsored by the now defunct Mammoth Group, I'll be at the top of the Verrazanno Bridge staring out at New York Harbor. Usually I just hock a loogy. This time, I think I'll toss some of Dad into the abyss.

One of the good things about spending so much time with a man who knew he was dying was that we discussed a number of items one might not ordinarly touch on. My sprinkling tour was one of them. He said, essentially, that I should spread him about liberally (him being a life-long Democrat); that he liked the idea of covering a wide area. He was also amused by the Keith Richards incident although specifically requested that I spare him that indignity.

So that's the plan.

Here, by the way, is a photograph of George Pickett. His eyes share their extravagantly sad lines with my boy, Richard Grasso.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Go Cards, Volume 3

The CUA Women's Lacrosse season came to a disappointing end yesterday. Up by two with about two minutes to go, against what one might argue was a lesser opponent, the Cardinals gave up exactly that many goals and allowed York to barge into overtime. York's tying goal came at about the ten second mark.

I mean, honestly.

The beauty of lacrosse is that if you can control the face-offs, you can score goal after goal. It's a lot like playing pick-up basketball--you make the shot, you get the ball back again. Alas, beauty is a harsh mistress (As an expert on beauty, I'm here to tell you), and it was this very aspect of the game that was the Cards' undoing. They just couldn't get the ball back.

Anyway, they scored first in overtime, then gave away another two, losing finally by a score of 19-18 (possibly 18-17).

I have a few quibbles about the Cards' coach's substitution patterns, but I am having trouble separating my objective assessment of them from my quite-biased desire to see my daughter play more minutes, so I won't air them here. I am, however, stating my concern for the record.

If this blog is, in fact, the record.

The choice of bike

If I am to ride to Miami--and really, there is no reason why I would, other than to be able to say I did. I don't know anybody there. And if I got all the way to Miami, I can't imagine not humping the last hundred or so miles down to Key West, just to get to the bottom of things (honk)--the question of what bike to ride certainly merits serious consideration.

The original concept was to ride my bicycle down there. Actually not my current bike, but a bike better suited than mine to long-distance travel. One with a rack for panniers, for example.

Then the question of Harley Davidsons came up. Not having ridden a motorcycle since I was, say, 19 years old, I could be asking for trouble with this strategy. But still, the idea of tootling about on a V-Rod ... I mean, look at the damned thing:

Now imagine it in red. I mean, honestly!
That boy could sure eat some beets!
Additionally to be considered: you can carry more on a motorcycle than you can on a bicycle. And you don't have to be constantly ramming energy bars and Snickers down your throat. I could include in my kit a sketch pad and some pencils, thus making the whole thing tax deductible.

Conversely, wrecking a motorcycle at 65 miles per hour must really suck. And there is always Dave's story about how a bug feels when it hits your face at that speed.

Conversely, you won't have thighs like granite (mine are currently like soapstone) and have dropped 40 pounds when you are done if you take a motorcycle.

Me? The worst wreck I've had in the last couple of years was southbound on Tenth Avenue (or maybe 9th) when a passenger-side cab door opened unexpectedly and there was no place for me to go. I was going maybe 12 or 15 mph when I identified the situation. I remember mumbling the words "gracious me" while reaching for my brakes. I was probably going about 5 mph when I hit the door.

You're familiar with the famous Tony Bennett song "I left my heart in San Francicso"? I left a considerable part of my shoulder, back and thigh on Tenth Avenue (or maybe 9th). And that was only going five!

Of course, had I been wearing my red leather jacket emblazoned with the words "That boy could sure eat some beets!" I likely would have suffered less damage to the derma. But still.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Self Portrait

Everybody knows I'm my father's son without me saying anything. When I ask how, they suggest a strong family resemblance as being the key.

Me? I don't see it.

But I've decided, since I doubt if I have more than a couple of paintings left for Leesburg, that a self-portrait might be a fun idea. A "shooting for the father in the son" sort of a thing, if you get my drift.

This is me getting ready to take my picture. My hair looks strange because I have just gotten back from my ride and it's greasy from sweat. There is quite a bit of it.

Did I mention that I wanted to only do the top half of my face?

I like this one... It seems to have the most radical crop. I think I look Jeffersonian.

This one merits consideration ...

As does this one, with its piercing stare ...

And by painting only the top half, nobody is going to remark about the size of my nostrils. This was a problem with my first self-portrait.

This, of course, is Bob Dylan's self-portrait with a similar crop:

Shit! He looks just like my dad!

El Toro Negro, April 20/21

Yesterday I faced the bull. Six quick miles. No need for statistics, but it was the first 60+ day in a long time.

Today I knocked back fifteen miles, 14 mps, lots of heavy breathing. Temp approaching 70. Very nice.


Having reclaimed the contents of my father's room at Heritage Hall I am left with the question of "What the fuck am I going to do with myself now?" The acronym for which is WTFAIGTDWMN.

Some thought is being given to raising rabbits and traveling from state to state. Without papers.

A neighbor of my friend Chuck rode his bike from NYC to Miami. I bet that takes some pounds off. It would be interesting to take the shore route all the way. Ride the ferries at The Battery, Cape May and probably somewhere in the Virginia Beach area. And then again down near the lighthouse on the bottom of the North Carolina barrier islands. Is that Cape Fear? I think instead it is something like Amagansett, only that's obviously not it.

Those shore winds can be a monster, though. Makes raising rabbits seem more sensible. Chuck, his wife Wyn and I had dinner in Brooklyn a month or so ago and I had braised rabbit. Outstanding. Plus what they called a "winter" salad, made only from thinly sliced vegetables that were white--onions, leeks, cauliflower, water chestnuts...can't think of any more. It, too, was memorable.

Apparently there's also money in those animals that look like small llamas. Yamas. Yamulchas. Yamahas. Maybe I should buy a motorcycle; rethink the whole trip that way. Although I wouldn't buy a Yamaha. Probably a Harley V-Rod. Bright red. Matching red leather jacket. Emblazoned on the back: "That boy could sure eat some beets!"

Alternatively: "Los Tomatoes!"--which is the name of a band I'd like to start.

These are all thoughts.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Good Night Sweet Prince...

A call came through my cell phone last night around 1 a.m. That late, I figured it could be one of only two things: a) my friend Earl calling from a bar to discuss American Idol or b) a nurse from my father's nursing home calling to tell me he had died.

It was the second.

But don't be Blue, Stephanie. After a bit of sad reflection I've come to recognize this passing, because it is so right for so many reasons, as a cause for celebration.

So hereafter, at least in some circles, April 19th will be forever called Allen Raymond Day.

Me? I got out of bed, drove down to the nursing home and sat next to Dad until the people from the funeral home came to pick him up. Resting on the table next to the bed was perhaps his favorite book---Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The large type version.

I sat close to the bed, in the stillness of the nursing home, just one light on, and read the first chapter as I waited. Some guy named Bingley had apparently rented the big house down the road from the Bennets. Who knew?

Actually, I knew. What a beautiful book.

Like "Call me Ismael," or "It was the best of times...", the beginning of P&P is one of the most famous opening lines in literature. It goes:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
A few days earlier, having checked this very book out of the library, I had read this sentence aloud to my father. It made him smile like a madman.

Me? I once described the writing of P.G.Wodehouse (Dad's and my shared all-time favorite) as what Jane Austen would have written were she dropping acid.

That night I watched about an hour of "The Mask" dubbed into Spanish. This, too, was like dropping acid. I found it very comforting.

Likewise my memory of my father's now-peaceful face as he lay in bed next to me as I read my Jane Austen.

Good Night Sweet Prince.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Box Wine

As if I didn't have enough to think about, I had to wrestle the inner lining out of my box of wine in order to reach the last bit. Turned out, after squeezing the thing as one might a cow's udder, I got about half a glass. Now I can throw it away.

Odd, I had assumed the lining would be black. Don't know why.

Also visible in the picture, if you're interested, is my yellow beetle--bottom left.

Do you know that phrase "On a need to know basis"? I feel like my box wine is treating me like someone who doesn't need to know. Like it works in the E Ring of the Pentagon but my security clearance is only good for A, B, and C.

I may go back to bottles.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Public Service

I offer this as a public service because not many videos actually give me goose-bumps.

I remember seeing, maybe at BobFest, the fat kid from Booker T and the MGs (Steve Cropper) watch Eric Clapton play guitar so furiously that he (Cropper--a spectacular guitarist in his own right) could only shake his head in amazement.

Likewise, about five minutes into this, when Prince is burning down the house with his extended, song-ending solo, Tom Petty and Dhani Harrison share a look and a giggle that can only say "Manomanoman, if I could play guitar like that..." or something that effect. There is also a period of time in which they appear to forget how to sing the song.

Too bad the audio is subpar.

Me? I love the way Prince just tosses his guitar, now out of tears, into the audience at the end of the song and just walks off.

The thinking here is that it's Prince's world and we just live in it.

(QUICK USER NOTE: if you double-click on the image moments after it begins playing, it will take you to the video's place on youtube. You can then click on the full-screen window near the bottom, on the right. This will give you enhanced viewing, particularly given the weird window in window format of the piece)

Painting sculptures

There's a problem with painting sculptures.

Actually, the problem is related to shooting them--we haven't even gotten close to painting one yet. And the problem is this:

Without a tripod I can't hold my camera still enough to take a sharp picture. Yet, when I use the flash (the obvious solution), it casts the statue in an unnatural, unflattering light. This, of course, would be that:

So I'm flummoxed, to a degree. Nonetheless, check out this bas-relief of the Virgin Mary. Whoa--that's a trip. Make a note of the slightly stretched, somewhat surreal natue of the rendition. Part of it is the camera angle, but part of it is built in.

The irony, I suppose, is that one could legitimately ask Why, given the gestural nature of your work, do you need a sharp image from which to start?

Fair question. The only answer is that you spend a lot of time looking at the damned picture while you do the painting, and it is a hardship to look at a blurry image.

You sportin'?

I am troubled that the Volkswagon Beetle--my current ride--has been included in the list of Top Ten Gay Cars of the year by no less an authority than The New York Times. I drive a yellow one--owned by my father, actually--with yellow and white plastic daisies in the dashboard-mounted vase. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I should also state, for the record, that I am not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that either.

Now this is Amelia Earhart's plane. A Lockheed Vega 5B, if you're counting. Ms. Earhart was, I am sure, gay. And you can see, if you have the gift, a clear and vital link between the two machines. So I can see what they are talking about.

My grandfather covered her historic arrival in the UK for The Times. I have read the article before (I found it while googling my cousin by the same name) and though I can't seem to dredge it up from the Times archives, I remember with some fondness his use of the word 'ejaculate' as a verb meaning, roughly, to blurt out a statement.

He is mentioned in an article about the same event written by Captain Hilton H. Railey of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not only am I not gay, but lately I've been employing a new strategy to meet women in Leesburg. Now that the weather is a bit warmer, whenever I pull up next to an attractive woman at a traffic light, I toot the horn of my yellow Beetle and ejaculate the words "You sportin'?" out my open window.

I have entitled the initiative "The Audacity of Hope." Which, I think, is catchy. Thus far, it is a failed strategy. I nonetheless persist.

As I understand it, Ms. Earhart got into her plane one day, on the way to someplace else, and never came back.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More On Vonnegut

Somebody once said Kurt Vonnegut was the closest thing America came to having a Voltaire. Odd how, just as the poor guy was dying yesterday, I was snapping shots of two statues of Voltaire, one with a wig, one without; both, clearly, with nose.

Man, that boy had a hook! I thought he was a bit overrated too, although those were different times.

More to the point, I sometimes reflect on the idea of painting monochromatic portraits of famous people from photographs of their statues. The National Gallery, to my surprise and as you can see above, allows flash photography.

Except at the Jasper Johns show.

I may, nonetheless, go back and shoot some statues. The white marble is an interesting photographic challenge, likewise the angles you can get without a ladder (I'm sure they don't allow them)--usually angling up at a tall sculpture. I get the feeling that a longer lens would help, but my camera is limited in its ability to reach out and grab distant objects.

Go Cards, Volume 2

The Cardinals scored an impressive win yesterday over somebody. 22-4. It was a thrumping. And, once again, it was cold. Note the leggings on #11 as she clamps down defensively.

Trompe la bouche

I had pasta for lunch yesterday. And a little red wine from a box.

You start by peeling a medium-sized onion. Then cut it in half, lengthwise. Then slice each half onion crosswise, creating about 120 half-moon onion strips, each about 1/4" wide.

Saute the onions til done but firm. I like to put salt and pepper on my onions because I don't know about where you come from but around here, the onions don't come already seasoned.

Then toss in whatever version of Paul Newman's red sauce you like best. Then mix, using that scoop/toss method that real chefs use (but which can be tricky with a wet sauce).

Then toss in the pasta. Presumably you've been cooking it all this time. It should be done but firm. Mix again.

Then toss in some grated cheese. Mix again.

And now, the secret: let it all just sit there for five minutes. It's amazing how much better the dish is if the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce. Likewise, the pungency of the cheese is significantly more pronounced after the wait. Really, it's like eating a really dirty, sweaty foot--the cheese becomes that pungent.

And the really fun part? First check out the progression below, then we'll get to the fun part.

Quick note: it was Lydia Bastianich who told me about the letting it sit for five minutes part. I don't remember, however, if covering it is a good idea or not.

Back to the fun part, which is this: If you have sliced your onions correctly, they are, when covered with red sauce, indistinguishable from the fettucini that's also floating around. So you are never quite sure what you're slamming into the old hopper.

The French for this is trompe la bouche--a term I just coined. It means "fooling the mouth."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My one Imus post

Since every person on the planet with a blog appears to have weighed in on Imus, I thought I would throw my two cents in as well. Actually not mine but rather that of the estimable Snoop Dogg. He notes, in an interview with somebody who wasn't me, that guys like him and Diddy and Mo B. Dick calling girls "hos" (pronounced: hose) is a very different animal than some wrinkled old white racist motherfucker (my description, not Snoop's) doing so:
"It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop, barking over the phone from a hotel room in L.A. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC [the cable network home to Imus] going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him."
Well, thank God we got that cleared up.

Me? I'm just a good man who did a stupid thing.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead

Kurt Vonnegut's dead.

The above is actually a painting by Sol Lewitt (sort of--it's complicated), who also just died. So it's a group thing.

Regarding Lewitt (as opposed to Vonnegut), I always thought his stuff sucked. I thought Vonnegut was merely overrated. Actually I like the one above. But I think it's the only one. It's currently hanging (sort of--it's complicated) in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.

Nearby is Pollock's Lavender Mist. Which is a good one. A classic.

As noted earlier, I bet Maria Bartiromo wears eye shadow by the same name. I would.

I mean ... were I she.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

General Tsao

Maybe I should just accept that for all the cheap newspapers and beer you can get in Upper Virginia, the Chinese food here just stinks. Maybe that's what's rotten in Denmark.

I stopped by China King on my way to visit my father earlier tonight with the thought of grabbing some General Tsao's Chicken as a treat for him. He previously mentioned liking the stuff.

For those of you who don't regularly engage the cuisine of China, here's a representative recipe for the dish, just to give you a sense:

3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
l 1/2 tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Combine marinade ingredients in a non-metallic bowl or ziploc bag. Submerge washed chicken in marinade covering all portions.

Allow to stand for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 small dried red chilies
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red chilies
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in water
1/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
Mix sauce ingredients well in a small bowl.
Place a wok over high heat and add oil, swirling to coat sides. Stir-fry the chilies for 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook two minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, green onions, and crushed chilies; cook for one minute.

Pour in sauce and stir fry for one minute.

In a cup, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and stir until smooth. Pour slowly into the wok and cook until sauce bubbles and thickens.

Serve chicken garnished with a sprinkling of peanuts.

I might add some broccoli to help achieve my 5-9 servings a day goal, and maybe more onions. But otherwise, this is fine. It is supposed to look, roughly, like this:

(Note the broccoli)

The idea is for the chunks of fried chicken to be coated in a sauce that's spicy, sweet and sharp (from the vinegar), all at the same time. For a Chinese chef, this, I can assure you, ain't brain surgery.

The point, in fact, is that General Tsao's Chicken is one of the basic Chinese-to-go recipes that every--EVERY--low to medium range Chinese restaurant should be able to do. (It reminds me of that line about pizza: Even bad pizza is pretty good--something like that.) The fact that China King can't muster the requisite whatever to churn some of this stuff out dumbfounds me. China King, by the way, was the place where I had previously had the worst cold noodles with sesame sauce in my life.

So, you're saying, why didn't he learn his lesson the first time?

Because every Chinese restaurant should be able to prepare a satisfactory version of this dish. Because I couldn't find another Chinese restaurant in Leesburg. Because I have faith in my fellow man, despite every indication that such faith is without foundation.

These would only be some of the reasons.

The waitstaff is also uniformly, startlingly beautiful. And while under ordinary circumstances that just might be enough (see: Elmo), these are hardly ordinary circumstances.

Or you can call me Ishmael

I've been watching a lot of "106 and Park"--that's the urban countdown show on BET hosted by Terrance and Rocsi--and decided that if I was a rapper I'd call myself Mo B. Dick.

Re: Fridge

Part of the idea of putting The Money Madonna into the icebox was so I wouldn't have to think about her. Problem is, everytime I reach in for a beer, there she is ... staring at me with those accusing eyes.

What? Like Jesus never had a beer? You should see her when I try to get to the onion dip.

Anyway, maybe she's not ready to be put aside. I thought it might be instructive to see the three key stages: the photo I took off the air, my initial sketch, and the near-finished product--all in a bunch. Thus:

The sketch is particularly strong.

Additionally, regarding all my complaining about her never-really-problematic upper lip and flume, these two are fun to view, one atop the other:

I wish the rendition of color was closer between the two. Nonetheless, all we really did was kind of spread her lip up a little and out.

And now, into the refridgerator

Soups and (even more so, one might argue) stews all prosper by sitting in the refridgerator for a day or two after cooking. So I am putting Big Maria into the icebox. Truth be told, the stew analogy is probably a bad one, at least as far as this painting is concerned. One presumes that the stew is done before cooling. Not so the case with Big Maria. With her much work remains.

Most notably, as lovely as the red veil is, the shape of it doesn't really suggest what it would look like were it, in fact, draped over the top of her head. That said, there are points to be scored for referencing the slighly surreal imagery of early religious iconography. Certainly anatomical correctness (AC) was low on their list of key qualities.

Nonetheless, I'm putting Maria away for a little bit--enough time to allow me to stew (honk!) about her. For argument's sake, one could muster a position that says make the space under the arch blue, black and red (as the veil is now), and make the veil yellow, black and blue (as the space is now). This would solve the question of the shape of the veil by making it as much a halo as a piece of clothing. No way I'm jumping on that bandwagon, but still, it's there.

Further to the question of the halo. I mentioned in my video that I would put one in. Upon further stewing (honk!) I decided that the yellow archway is as much a halo as it is an architectural element Also, with a less overt halo, the religious part of the paint doesn't necessarily get rammed down the throat, so to speak, the way one might, say, force-feed corn to a goose.

(Just typing those words makes me think fondly of how the chefs at Lutece used to stuff pate de foi gras under the skin of a chicken just before roasting it. Alas, those were different times)

Please note that despite all this talk of refridgerators, this is not to say that the creative fields will now lie fallow. No. There'll be no winter mustard crop for me, no matter how cold it remains here in Upper Virginia.

No. Instead, I submit for your consideration the following:

Let the spectacle begin!

I'll close with a quick note on the lyrics of Joan Baez' "The Night They Drove Ole' Dixie Down." More to the point: the actual words in the line that often goes You can't raise a Cane back up when it's in defeat are, in fact, open to significant debate. I am particularly speaking about "defeat" (which I always thought was actually "the fields"), but also "it's" vs. "he's", "the" vs. "a", and the capitalization of Cane.

I'm assuming that as I paint Robert E. Lee all these things will become clear to me. I see no reason why they wouldn't.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ah ... Progress (Volume 2)

Yo. Check it out, Dog...

We last spoke while here:

Troubled by those scary eyes, we got ourselves to here:

And then, finally (at least for today), by closing up both the upper and lower lids to create that steely, television-anchor glint in the eyes, we got to here:

Even though her hair has changed quite a bit, it remains a problem. Likewise her neck, but truth be told, I haven't even started working on that, so I'm not really worried about it. I'm not crazy about the lower lip either, but that may just end up staying just like it is.

You will also, I hope, notice the implemention of the complementary diagonals of the shadow on her cheek and the line of her bangs.

Quick note on courage: I have none. Which is odd for a painter, given that the mere act of tossing some paint on a canvas with the intention of showing somebody else calls for gobs of the stuff.

Me? None. Not a drop. Thus my disinclination to mess with her mouth. I can tell you from experience that just the smallest change can totally mess the thing up, and despite summoning the full scope and extent of my considerable skills, I might just not get it back.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Oh Shit ... 200th Posts!

Oh shit! OH SHIT! This is the two hundredth installment in The Year of Magical Painting!

Quick math: I've been at this since July 4, 2006 and it's now April 8, 2007. That's 200 posts in about 300 days, which is what? Two a day? Something like that?

That's a lot in anybody's book!

And to celebrate the event in the most self-deprecating manner possible, I am providing you with an actual photo of $Honey and a similarly-cropped shot of $Madonna. If you grab the scroll bar and shake it up and back, you can get a sense of just how far off the mark I am.

Me? I'm not the least bit worried. It's like what my Mother once said when she visited me in a dream:
"Everything will be all right," she said.
And I believe her.

And besides, I just figured it out. Or something, at least. I figured something out.
What, you ask?
I figured out that you can draw a diagonal line from the right side of the tip of $Honey's chin up to her hairline near her right temple and it will, if replicated on $Madonna, define the structure of the side of her face. It will, additionally, complement the diagonal created by the bangs on the left (picture) side of her forehead. Go ahead. Check it out.

Wow... all this and the 200th post too.

My heart soars like an eagle. Which, oddly enough, was how my Mother appeared in my dream. A white eagle. Man, that is so totally William Blake. They should lock me up now.

Yo Dog...Check It Out (Volume 2)

Yo Dog. Pay close attention because we're going to be moving pretty quickly. We previously left off with this:

Then we added some color. Here's a tip. If we know that Maria's veil is going to end up being red (which, I can assure you, we do), then throw some red around other parts of the painting. The actual coloring is red and black, laid over the previous blue...

And now we're adding a belt of black (which, as discussed, will eventually be red) to serve as the background for the veil.

If you look now, you can see how the general shape of the thing is going to turn out. I like the biomorphic (but not necessarily anatomically correct), asymetrical shape of the veiled head with the arch behind it. It feels very 14th Century, but also hip and modern, like Blake Lewis singing Mack the Knife.

It also reminds me a little of Munch. Not Art Monk, the Redskins' now-retired, all-star wide receiver. But Edvard Munch. The Scream. All that angst. You're familiar.

Okay, moving on. And now, I'm here to tell you, it's getting interesting. I am pleased with the way the lettering came out--I went with Helvetica Bold, roughly--although I'll need to repaint the letters with another coat to get maximum irridescence.

Also, it became clear to me that the white background on the arch was never going to work. So we added some yellow and orange. Much nicer. Kind of stained-glassy. Luminescent.

Yo Dog... check it out: Here's the first take on the face.

And here's an update. Note the patch of blue next to her neck. When the veil ends up red, this is going to just look fabulous.

Man, those are some creepy eyes! Don't, however, get in a big lather. I understand that, as well as things are obviously going, the one salient problem is that Big Maria doesn't look much like the actual Big Maria. In fact, she kind of reminds me of the Les Miserables poster girl.

Hey! You think this is easy? Oddly enough, the previously much-talked-about upper lip and flume seem like the best parts of the damned thing right now...

But I'll promise you this: By the time I get everything else right (or as right as I can get it), I will have screwed up her mouth. It will remain a point of contention throughout the progression of the painting.

Additionally, under the "Don't Get In a Lather" category, I would remind you that Blue Stephanie, as beautifully as she turned out, at one point looked like this:

So I would advise you to keep your pants on, although when this picture was taken, I wasn't wearing any.