Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Do you watch 106 and Park? I tore myself away from today's show, which was featuring newest American Idol J. Sparks (whose father played defensive back for the Giants for 8 years), to offer some quick math.

To wit, The Raymond Theorem (rT):

The Raymond Theorem postulates: when divided into squares, any canvas comprised of greater than or equal to four such squares will take a minimum of four days to paint, given that: a) no more than one set of squares is painted per day, and b) that every such set includes only non-adjacent squares.

As is pretty clearly illustrated by the computations outlined in red, the rT does not take into account so-called "finishing days" but rather is a measurement of what practitioners of the obscured box technique call "primary days."

Reality, baby

Here's the reality of the situation: There isn't a Jeb Stuart painting. It simply doesn't exist.

The reasons: A) I'm only human. B) Between Dad's memorial service--you're all invited--and my upcoming move to B-Town, there is a relatively high probability that you've heard the last of me for the next week or so.

Actually, that's not true. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if I pop up here and there--I think I'm addicted. But there won't be any fucking Jeb Stuart painting. And there won't be one for another month or so. And even then, it might get bumped for "The Annotated Murdoch", which is a time-sensitive project. Or my "Reclined Elena" painted as a cheerleader on five paper panels. Which would be a quiptych? A diptych is certainly two. Perhaps polyptych (since I haven't quite figured out the actual number of panels) might be a better choice. There are questions to be answered. For example, how far does her extended foot actually extend? You can't see it in the picture. And whither the pom-pons? Do they extend, not one but two of them, perhaps, some considerable distance to the right of her head? Is she wearing sneakers (a modern look) or those vintage-feel, pink-soled saddle shoes that look like little police cars?

These are all questions.

Likewise the question of whether a polyptych can, in fact, be one (hewing close to the primary definition) if the panels are not joined by a hinge or some sort.
I took a quiptych to the supermarket, where I had a nervous breakdown. Became unhinged.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

And Another Fucking Slideshow!

Manomanoman. This is, of course, the story of Blue Stephanie, told in pictures.

I tried a slighter higher-res image, as an experiment.

A Slideshow!

Check this out, Dog! You don't even have to click away to see my upgraded portfolio.

It's a slide show! Can't wait to see the naked cheerleaders. You?

And one more thing...

Now that I've noticed it, I can't not share.

Consider Exhibit A, about which much has been written lately:

And Exhibit B, who just cropped up in the last post:

Isn't it odd that they both feature the same anatomically incorrect rendering of the subjects' two eyes?

I would urge you to...

I would urge you to visit my newly upgraded on-line portfolio. It features all the new stuff you've seen unfold, and is tangible proof of what feels like my recent productivity.

Throwing a bit of water on that "recent productivity" business, I am chagrined to report that I have still not started on Jeb Stuart.

My problem? I can't stop wrestling with this cheerleader business. One fan wrote in:
Isn't it a bit skeevy for a 50 year old man to be painting high school cheerleaders eating bananas?
Funny, when I describe my work, and the wide-ranging thought processes that contribute to it, I use words like "noble" and "high-minded." My fans? They use words like "skeevy." And not to put too fine a point on it, but isn't it "skeezy?"

Anyway, my thoughts regarding the above accusation are these: First, I thought that painting the suggested images on the surface of beer cans added an insouscience, if you will, that insulated me from barbs like this. I mean, can't you have some fun with iconic American images? Given the history of art in the last 100 years, do I even need to ask that question? Or, likewise, permission?

Second, now that I'm thinking more about it, I might just paint a couple of cheerleaders straight--that is to say, without the beer cans and with the banana. Check this out:

It's called Michelle A, and one of the things I like about it is the flower in her hair and the fingers wrapped around her face. I don't mean to say that I'm dependent on visual props to create compelling images, but there is something to be said for mise en scene. This one was painted a couple of years ago, right after I saw the Gauguin show in Boston. The flower was my attempt at giving Gauguin the cheese, and man, I thought the whole thing came out gangbusters.

It should be noted that what really makes the painting is neither the flower nor the fingers, but the look in her eyes. Dreams of the South Pacific. I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair. Stuff like that.

So, to paraphrase the character named Gold Hat in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:
Bananas? I can assure you, sir, that we don't need any stinking bananas!
That said, now check out Elena in the Morning:

Could be one of my favorite paintings. This is her in real life:

Brrrrng! If that's how you spell it. Breeeerrnnnggg, maybe.

So I'm thinking two things: First, some days at the office are less difficult than others (see above). Second, I am liking the idea of rendering her life-size across the span of either four or five of the pieces of water-color paper I used to paint Self Portrait II (...Beets). And then painting in her pleated cheerleader dress, and her white socks and saddle shoes--the black and white ones with the pink soles that look like little police cars--and a pom-pon just to the right of her head. The foreground is green grass--i.e. a football field--and a banana peel. The back fades to black.

Undecided as to whether she's wearing a top. Doubt it, though. Adds a frisson of something, don't you know.

I think it's the return of "Friday Night Lights" that's making me think these skeevy thoughts. I wouldn't, otherwise, I swear. But I am, and that's just the way it is. Do you know the price of choosing to make your way in the world of ideas? It's that you don't have much control as to just where your mind is going to take you. And I'm not talking about some stinking blog; I'm talking about my mind. You should be glad I edit the stuff you see as tightly as I do.

The mind reels.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Seven more days continued

Ron Wood is also a painter. This is his version of Keith Richards. God bless them both.

Seven more days/the briefest of theological notes

I apologize for my recent dearth of postings. I spent several days in New York lubricating the gears for my return to the world's capital.

But that's just FYI. The real question is this: Did you see Ron Wood at what I think was BobFest sing a song called "Seven More Days"? It was one of the highlights, and I bring it up for a two reasons.

First, I'm told that today is Bob Dylan's birthday. That this moves me on a number of levels suggests either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting old. You do the math.

Second, this time next week I will have completed my not-yet-started painting of Jeb Stuart. I will employ what is now widely referred to as the "obscured box" technique. And, sorry to say, I will chronicle the process with only one picture per day on this blog. The whole Bobby Lee thing was exhausting. Perhaps with reason, but nonetheless exhausting.

So I now have seven more days.

Or is it six? I'm of two minds. Either way, it's a conundrum that directly relates to one of the fundamental building blocks of Christianity, which goes, depending on who you read, roughly: "On the third day He rose again."

One can glean from a close reading of the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Doesn't that make the "third day" a Monday, not the commonly accepted [Easter] Sunday? Or would that be "three days later" rather than "on the third day"? Maybe it's a Gregorian vs. non-Gregorian thing? Or perhaps simply grammatical? The English language is full of techniques that involve silent letters (see: my boy Tent, who spells it with an r) and implied clauses. I think it's the implied clause that warrents consideration here.

Thus: "On the third day [after He was crucified] He rose again."

Which is Monday. With Easter barely passed, I wonder if I should bring this up now or wait until next year.

I am also considering the following, although it might just be a bad idea: Portraits painted on a sea of beer cans. More than portraits ... portraits of cheerleaders! High school cheerleaders! Perhaps the varsity squad from my alma mater. I can remember at least three: Amy, Keri and Sally. No, four: add Pam--I went to college with her. I'm sure, given time to think, I could come up with more. Kathy--that's five. Each one eating a banana.

I just threw a bunch of beer cans away, but I bet it wouldn't take long to amass enough empty beer cans to cover the surface of a 4'x5' piece of fiberboard or masonite, then pour paint over the top to both permenantly affix the cans to the subsurface and, at the same time, create a portrait. I wonder if Tom Wolfe capitalizes masonite. He does Styrofoam.

It would be fun to do a series of them (although I bet the lure of a full series might fade after doing the first one). Each would be called some version of: "Cheerleader With Banana on Beer Cans." Cheerleaders are certainly potent, somewhat conflicted sexual icons. Having them eat a banana is an easily-interpreted further-sexualization of the image. And doing it on beer cans just makes me giggle.

Always the question resolves into pixels, or at least a painter's version of a pixel. Given that we are using an extremely crude method of rendering an image (paint drizzled over beer cans), what's the mathematical (geometric?) relationship between the size of a recognizable detail (the so-called pixel) and the total surface area of the painting?

If you look at a shitty picture on the web, the kind that show up--but will not enlarge when you double-click them--on blogs like mine, the dots per square inch number is often about 300. A beer can, laid on its side, measures just less than five inches by three inches. Quick math: a one foot square is just less than 150 square inches. So this gives you ten beer cans per foot. Twenty square feet in a 4'x5' "canvas." 200 cans per image. I can't do any more math, but that's a lot of beer. Currently I'm buying 12-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $5.99. That's just over $100 bucks for the beer cans alone.

Plus, what do you do with that much beer outside of football season?

Still, it's a fun idea. I mean, you have to push the envelope, even if getting drunk is the unfortunate byproduct.

I'm reminded of the statue of John F. Kennedy in the main hall of the Kennedy Center in Washington. Initially sculpted very roughly in clay, then rendered on a large scale in bronze, its rough-hewn details caused quite a stir in the day. Now it's considered a masterpiece.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tent In Denver

I spoke to TYOMP fan Tent in Denver. He, apparently, spells Tent with an "r." I didn't ask him if the "r" was silent, but honestly, how else do you get Tent out of that?

This is the second straight non-painting post. Tomorrow I'm taking Bobby Lee downstairs for a showing at the morning coffee group my father used to attend. They love it when I--the dutiful son--make an appearance, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the older ones swoon when they see the Prince of the Confederacy.

After that, I'm taking Bobby off his stretchers and rolling him up. Given my relatively constricted space, I only have so many sets of stretchers hanging around and I need the one's holding him together to paint my boy Jeb Stuart.

The Children of Hurin

Okay--clearly the painting-a-week, $450,000-a-year concept is flawed. So here I am, between paintings, thinking I'd review the new book by (not really--it's complicated) J.R.R. Tolkein. It's called The Children of Hurin. Don't rush out.

There. That's it. That's the review: Don't rush out.

More, you cry? Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you.

At first, being committed to a green lifestyle, I reserved a copy at the library. I started at #24 on the waiting list. A couple of weeks later, I went back to the library to see how I was doing.

"You're number twenty," the person told me, pleased that I'd shown so much progress in a mere two weeks.

Distraught, I went to the local Borders and bought the damned thing. What kind of a place is this that they don't even have Barnes and Noble (a vastly superior alternative to Borders)? It may be hell. I may, literally, be in hell. I mean, some people who die instantly (massive strokes, decapitations, crushed by a piano falling from the third floor of a brownstone) may not actually know they've made the transition from alive to dead. And you know God has one of those superfast Macs, so the yes/no decision re. heaven/hell is made instantaneously. You're walking down 19th Street one day and the next thing you know, you're in hell. Blink of an eye, literally.

Anyway, I went home and started to read the forward by Christopher Tolkein, the Master's son and virtual co-author.

Quick parenthetical aside: the genius of my boy J.R.R. was that he could actually render up all that epic dialogue, weird names and extraordinarily dense fake history in a manner that didn't sound like he had a stick up his ass. And this, let me tell you, is a lot harder than it sounds.

The acorn has apparently dropped, in the case of the son, quite a distance from the tree. Must have been a stiff wind. Because with every minute I spent reading the forward by young Tolkein the angrier I became. Who the hell left this pantload in charge of the proceedings? His choice to employ and then inability to wield the archaic syntax that his father made so pleasing left me open-mouthed.

I'm reminded of something I wrote a couple of weeks ago and shared with you:
There are insights to be gleaned from the "Aha! moment" regarding international vs. domestic and pcp vs. specialist prescription drivers which might warrant a press outreach, but they are currently either lost or impenetrable. They need to be granularized for media consumption.
But Yo, Dog! I was joking!

Still, I--the committed reader--beat my way through enough of Mr. Tolkein's crap to make the above read like Hemingway, hoping the book itself would be better. Sadly, I was mistaken. I put it down after thirty pages, so depressed I could go no further. Truth of the matter: I should have known better.

I mean, I'm a hobbit-head. Have been since 8th grade. I'll probably go back and make myself read it someday. But you? My advice to you is: Don't rush out.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Van Gogh

I hate people who pronounce Van Gogh like that bread that Jewish people like.
You mean like Van Guy?
No, man. I was thinking about challah. That kind of gutteral 'ch' at the end.
Not rye?
Like Van Goch. Gutteral.
Exactly. I hate that. Too pretentious. I pronounce it like Van Go.
Like Chinese food. To-go.
Exactly. I sometimes wonder what guys like Van Gogh did before they had Chinese to-go.
Because without those plastic to-go containers, where did they keep their paints?

Sometimes it's hard to know when enough is enough

This is, of course, true in so many things. Big plates of pasta jump immediately to mind. But this isn't about food--it's about painting.

So here's the question: On my way from One to Three, would I have been better served by stopping at Number Two?

One is obviously problematic. It's what I found when I tore all the paper and tape off.

And Three is a handsome, finished product. It will look beautiful above somebody's fireplace.

But have we lost some of the edge? I think we have. By we, I am, of course, referring to me and the Baby Ruth in my pocket. The more I look at Two, the more I think, hmmm, there's a lesson to be learned here.

And it gets back to painting the goddam thing in five days. What's lost in the shuffle is the whole sitting around in the middle of the night staring at the painting, listening to music, drinking a shot of whiskey. Or a beer. Or a glass of wine. Or orange juice. The process is not alcohol dependent. What's that line?
Nothing is or isn't, only thinking makes it so.
That's probably not it. Either way, this debate does one thing: it revises my 70 paintings/year equals $450,000 bucks in the pocket equation. Someone should alert my key people at the Peter McManus Cafe.

Truth be told, I paint about 12 a year. Since arriving Leesburg, I've painted Big Jim, Big Maria, Self Portrait II and Old Bobby Lee. Plus some sketching. Which is about on schedule. So what? Now I'm going to have to charge $38,000 per painting? Or spend less time with this stupid blog?

No way.

Instead, I am going to leave you with a positive thought:

I think I'm going to bang out Jeb Stuart... just to see how the bottom half of the thing comes out when subjected to the Obscured Box school of painting.

I do love those boots. And that plumed hat. And the gold braids on his left hip.

Let the spectacle begin.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Eyes of Lee

No. This isn't about Jeb Stuart. It is, to a degree, I suppose, about professional competence, but I'm sick of using that word in relation to what I do. I mean, how much can you really lean on competence if your whole thing is throwing paint from a stick, hoping it ends up looking like something? I'm more attracted to the notion of good luck being the residue of hard work. Although there are those who might debate sections of that language as well.

Hard work? they might ask. To which I would respond: Are you familiar with this?
There are fifty roads to Beauty, and only one of them involves blonde hair and a button nose.
Probably not. I just made it up. By the way, the one road that does involve blonde hair and a button nose is called, predictably enough, the Katherine Heigl Expressway. Six lanes, both ways.

But let's not worry about her now. Let's get back to hard work. It, like beauty, comes in all sorts of shapes. And there's that business about skinning cats--you're surely familar with that? And Thurber's complaint that the hardest part of his job was convincing his wife that it involved staring out the window? Now we're getting somewhere.

Me? Hard work for me comes, as often as not, late at night, sitting in a chair, staring at a half-finished--or in Big Maria's case, completely finished--painting and trying to figure out what's going on, what to do next, what's wrong, what's right. Just because I have some music on, and a glass of Evan Williams in my hand (Jack Daniels is too expensive), that doesn't mean the gears aren't churning away.

The painting is easy, most of the time. Freeing. Like playing catch with somebody who can't throw back. Like pitching to Mackey Sasser, if you are up on your New York Mets lore. No--the painting is easy. It's the thinking about the painting that's hard.

Big Maria jumps back to mind. Everytime I look at her I want to vomit. And I see her fifty times a day. Enough said.

And besides, the whole point of this post is to announce that my favorite part of Old Bobby Lee is the 50% differential between the size of one eye and the size of the other. His right eye (to your left) measures just under 4 mm in diameter. His left eye measures just over 6 mm. It is, frankly, dynamic disjuction functioning at its highest level. It is also a complete accident.

The thinking here is that if both eyes were the same size, much of the drama of the painting would be lost. As it is now, the increased size of his left eye dramatically alters the perspective of the painting, pulling that portion of his face closer to the viewer, pushing the far side of his face back into the distance. Further complementing the effect is the predominance of blue on the left side, which recedes, and red on the right side, which does whatever the opposite of recede is. Charges?
Now listen, George. I want you to take about 15,000 of your boys and charge like holy hell across this big meadow and up that ridge. The idea is to crack them Union bastards in half. Right down the middle. Do it and they'll roll up like a cheap suit. Any questions? Good. Let me know how it goes.
No wonder he looks sad.

I dont' have the energy to locate a appropriate Chuck Close image, even though there are tons that illustrate the point, but one of the things that makes his photographic images, and his early, super-realistic portraits made from those images, interesting is the fact that he opens his lens wide, radically compressing the camera's depth of field so that while the eyes are in focus the tip of the nose is not. Nor are the ears.

It's all the same shit. Me? It's like I'm walking with the giants.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Looking for some good, clean fun?

If so, click here. It will take you to my online gallery. When you are there, then click on the Old Bobby Lee box. Once you get there, there's a box near the top of the panel that says Slideshow. Click on that and have yourself more fun than...than...than I don't know what.

Additional note: I think the default speed of the slide show is one image per 4 seconds. I think it goes by more felicitously at about 2 seconds per shot.

If you are so inclined, you can also view the making of Blue Stephanie, plus another version of the making of Blue Stephanie that includes an earlier attempt to copy a Picasso in the drip style, which was, as you might imagine, a massive failure, and which became, because I don't like to throw canvas away (I mean, why? Just paint over it), Blue Stephanie.

Plus my current portfolio, which, let me tell you, contains some scintillating images.

Ahhhh...we're done

We're thinking we're done.

Which reminds me of that line from McCabe and Mrs. Miller regarding the so-called "Royal We."
What do you have? A turd in your pocket?
No. It turns out to be a Baby Ruth. But still, we're thinking we're done. And this is what we're done with:

Not bad for five days' work.

Probably aren't really done. I'm of two minds regarding the drop-out to black treatment on the cravat, as opposed to painting it in. I have some additional thoughts as well, but if my dealer called me and said "We need a painting tomorrow, we don't care what it is"--well, I'd just call it done and send it out.

I wonder what my dealer has in her pocket. A Baby Ruth?

Can't really think about that though. Wrapped up in math. To wit: five days per painting. Average price of painting--let's say $6,500. Given two weeks vacation, plus one personal day, this means 70 paintings per year, which yields about $450,000/year.

Wow. Somebody should alert my key people at the Peter McManus Cafe...tell them drinks are on me once I get there.

I know you people worry...

I know you people worry about these paintings, probably more than me. So I'm throwing you a bone.

Here's the freshly unwrapped Lee:

Granted, there are problems.

But here is the now-revised Lee.

See how easily some things just fall into place. Adding the beard on the left side has done wonders. I think a little definition between the edge of his jaw and the top of his collar, plus figuring out some issues related to his jacket and the location of his third star, plus a bit of work on the cravat and all will be well, except for one thing.

That, of course, would be the size differential between eyes. And there's a part of me that says let sleeping dogs lie.

I would further direct you to a cropped version of Spikus Aurelius:

One could argue that one of the defining aspects of the painting is the difference between his two eyes. Plus, perhaps the blue hair.

To suggest that I'm totally buggin' would be to vastly understate the level of my distress

When you were a kid did you ever read that comic book about the WWI German Fighter Ace who was always, after having knocked a Spad or a Sopwith Camel out of the air, philosophizing that "The sky is the enemy of us all"?

Easy for him to say. He wasn't the one who was dead.

Well my version of the saying would be: "Technology is the enemy of us all." Underscoring this point, I videotaped the unveiling of Old Bobby Lee, complete with Christmas-morning-like two-handed ripping away of paper and tape, and featuring, as you would of course expect, witty, self-deprecating commentary. Good so far.

Yet when I tried to load it into YouTube it told me the file was too big. How could it have been too big? The damned thing was less than thirty seconds long.

And, as if this wasn't enough, I got so caught up in the America's Cup quarterfinals that I burned my grilled cheese sandwiches.

Anyway, here's my painting of Old Bobby Lee:

And I know what you are saying. You're saying something like:
"Let's try to be nice to him next time we see him; we know he's in a fragile state and his painting is a total fucking disaster."
Something like that?

I would say back to you, "Worry not, dear friend. It's early, and the game is afoot."

I mean, isn't it supposed to be a disaster at this point? If I've learned anything from painting the way I paint, it's that all is not lost until all is, in fact, lost. And we're not even close yet. Me? I'm sanguine, whatever that means.

At first glance, I must say, a couple of things do pop into my head. First, there seems to be a noticable shift in scale between his left eye and his right. Odd, that. Also, what's with the hair on the left side of the image? Truth be told, I forgot to paint in the bottom part of that lick of hair, so that is easily resolved.

I do like the jacket a lot. This is dynamic disjunction at its best. And the seam between 6 and 7 blends with an almost stunning felicity.

But I must tell you, there will be no video. And it was really good, too.

Me? I'm going to have a beer and stare at my painting. Already I'm warming to the task.

And now we are done

Man, can you believe we are done?

Now for the unveiling--about which I have considerable anxiety. I mean, you LITERALLY know as much as I do about how this painting is going to look.

Also, just for the record, we are not actually done. There's at least another day or two of tuning, problem resolution, and background painting (I don't think I'm going to leave the background pure black. I'm thinking about a very dark gray dripped overlay, just to help pull it all together).

And there's the question of the dogwood branch. This may, in the end, be discarded.

Stuart's Square

This would be Stuart's Square:

This is a close-up with some background painted in:

More paint:

More paint:

More paint:

More paint, this time rubbed into the surface of the painting with my finger. For added sales value, this is called "hand rubbed."

The truth of the matter is that I alternate between four types of paint application:

1 Brush for backgrounds. Once this is finished I try not to revisit the brush. Cheapens the effort, in my opinion
2. Splotching the stuff on to create an underlayment of color (see above)
3. Tossing the stuff from the end of my stick
4. Hand rubbing.

Hand rubbing is actually one of the coolest parts. You put on a latex glove (you can buy them in boxes of 50 from the drug store) and then either dip your finger or thumb into a can of liquid paint or, more typically, squeeze some tube paint onto your finger, then stroke it on. I am particularly pleased with the effect when it goes on top of recently dripped white. This can be seen in the final image of the series along what will end up being my Boy Bobby's jawline. Because of the physical height of the globs of white, the edges actually catch more paint than the surface, which makes for a two-toned effect. And, of course, the white is neutrally receptive, so you get what you want (you put blue on white and you get blue, you put the same blue on, say, yellow and you get green.

Which brings me to something called Pthalo Green. Manomanoman, this stuff is off the dial. I use it for two things. First for shadows. If you look closely at Blue Stephanie you will see a ton of dark green. Mostly it reads as black, but when it edges over (on top of white, for instance) you can see the green pop. There's already a fair amount of pthalo green on Bobby Lee, although I'm not sure where because the damned thing is covered with newspaper and tape. I also use it to sign my paintings. Straight from the tube, typically on the black background. You almost can't see it in the photos, but it is, I can assure you, there.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

No use crying over spilt milk...

Now isn't this about the most interesting thing you'll ever see?

On top: The original left eye of Lee. The one that, you may remember, I painted in the wrong square and then had to white (black) out..

Below it is the second version--the one that currently exists on the surface of the painting.

Wow. I'm of two minds.

For those who look for insight into technique, the difference is pretty obvious. The first one was given a rough background of pinkish-white. The second was given a rough background of bluish-white. The rest just goes from there.

It's posts like this that make me think about adding an admission fee to The Year of Magical Painting. Maybe it's a suggested admission, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, rather than the hard twenty (TWENTY!?!) that MOMA demands.

I'm of two minds.

Lee's Progress

My boy Bobby Lee is making great strides, starting with this:

And then this (note, I'm skipping a couple of layers in the interest of time):

Until, here, we have them untaped (but we still can't see any of the previously painted squares), awaiting the next phase:

The next phase starts, of course, like this:

Then turns into this (with a bad crop):

Then turns into this, as near as I can tell:

Me? I'm starting to get fired up. What you see above is the final iteration of this phase (barring some last minutes noodling). Once masked, this will leave only squares 5, 9 and Stuart's Square. Given that 5 and 9 contain none of the image and so will remain black, I have only Stuart's Square to paint.

After that, the unveiling.

Me? I'm starting to get fired up.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Too hoarse

I'm hoarse from all this typing, so I'll let the pictures tell most of the story. Here's Old Bobby Lee, half done if you count number of squares painted:

Now here's a tight crop of squares 17 through 20. Manomanoman, all kinds of shit is happening in the name of dynamic disjunction, particularly the mis-alignment of images between squares 18 and 19. Cool.

This is either a bell curve, a dead 'possum, a Venn diagram, or a particularly appealing display of how two adjacent squares, each painted without the benefit of cross-reference, once revealed, butt up against one another in a pleasing, albeit stimulating manner. If every "seam" could be as complementary as the one in the middle of this, I'd be delighted. As it is, I'm beginning to get excited. You?

And this is where we stand now. Given my recent travails, I can assure you I have gone to great lengths to confirm that the painting is positioned correctly on the wall and that I won't be painting new squares in upside-down.

You can see that the entire top and bottom rows are now permanently masked off, as is square 10. #12 is so minimally painted that I spared myself the hassle of masking it off. Squares 6, 8, 14 & 16 are now masked and ready for painting. When these four squares are done, they will then also be permanently masked, leaving only the two columns comprised of 5, 9 & 13 and 7, Stuart's Square & 15.

And my promise to you, gentle reader? Henceforth I will not uncover a previously masked area, but instead shall press ahead, painting and masking, until the whole damned thing is a sea of old newspapers and blue tape.

Next up: squares 7, 13 & 15. A day later I'll finish by painting that Blackheart--Stuart's Square.

And then? You, dear friend, and I shall witness the unpeeling of the finished painting together, through the miracle of YouTube.

Honestly, could you just die? I'm literally beside myself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

El Toro Negro, May 4, 5, and 6, Continued


6:30 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
6:45 Coat my groin with vaseline (to avoid chafing).
6:50 Get dressed, go downstairs, tend to the myriad details necessary for getting out the door by 7:15.
7:15 Out the door. It is pretty fucking cold. I'm glad I wore three layers.
7:45 Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. A sight even the most jaded would suggest was one to behold.
7:50 We wend our way through downtown Manhattan, attempting to avoid the official starting line crowds; make our way to the West Side Bike Path. I point out the new Frank Gehry building on 18th Street to Dave. I remain undecided on the relative merits of this structure.
7:59 We pass the place where the Intrepid used to dock. We have also, by this time, passed two white bikes. White bikes are just that, old bikes painted white, tires and all, and chained to some unmoveable object. Each is a memorial to someone who died riding his/her bike on the path. I was once almost killed by a van near one of the white bikes.
8:30 We join the top of the tour at the top of the park. We perceive ourselves to be elite riders.
9:30 Am surprised, actually, that the climb up the entrance ramp to the 59th Street Bridge is as trouble-free as it is. I find myself thinking about painting Old Bobby Lee.
9:40 Riding through a particularly ugly part of Queens, heading for the Astoria Park, I realize I've not applied enough vaseline. This troubles me, as we are only about 20 miles in and I'm heating up, as they say.
11:00 We are cruising along one of my favorite parts of the route, just a noplace road somewhere near where Queens turns into Brooklyn. We pass the Brooklyn Navy Yards and enter Dumbo. The view of the bridges is fun, and then we're on the BQE. The night before, I had promised Don that we would, at a certain point, ride with a hole in our formation in acknowledgement of his previous excellent work on the tour, much the way the Blue Angels leave a hole in their formation to honor fallen comrades. Although I'm writing about it now, I don't thing we ever adopt the formation.
11:30 Pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, etc.
12:15 Begin the ascent of the Verrazano Bridge. I am pleased to find that the wind is to our backs, making the trip easier. Just FYI, the Tibetan word for Mt. Everest is Sagarmatha.
12:29 We reach the center of the bridge's span and pull over, as previously agreed, so I can toss Dad over the side.
12:30 The New York Harbor is shining like a National guitar.
12:31 The wind subsides enough so that most of Dad goes down, not up. I think it is going well. I toss out a bit of Shakespeare. Dave says something like, "Good bye, Allen."
12:32 I turn to Chuck and say, "Chuck, thank you for being a part of this," or something to that effect. Chuck was supposed to have said a Hebrew prayer but he forgot. I did too, so how can I hold it against him?
12:33 I turn to Dave and say, "Dave, thank you for..." At this point I find that my throat has clenched shut and I can't get the rest of the words out. Instead of finishing the sentence I give him a manly embrace instead. I was talking to my aunt Betty earlier today and explaining that even though I am at peace with the time and manner of Dad's death, there are moments of great sadness that hit me unexpectedly. And it was there, on Sagarmatha, in the freezing cold, with the wind screaming around us, each of us, in our own way, fighting for survival, when I felt like I was going to burst into tears. Since everybody's eyes were already watering, likewise our noses, I dont' think anyone noticed my extremus.
12:33:30 It occurs to me that Dave and Chuck are two of my dearest friends, and that I am happy to share this strangely gripping moment with the two of them. My only regret is the absence of BFF Earl from Denver. Had he been there it would have been perfect (even if one of us would have had to short-rope him up the bridge). That, and if Chuck had remembered his Hebrew prayer.
13:30 Steaming towards Manhattan on the ferry.
14:00 Despite Lenny coming up a bit lame right at the end, we get to New York Noodle Town and order Barbequed pork appetizers, fried chives with duck, salt baked shrimp, chicken breast in a ginger sauce and Shanghai Mai Fun. This last one isn't actually the correct name, but close enough. I'm missing a word, and some of the other words may be incorrect. This is why I always let Chuck order. Anyway, it's damned good.
16:30 Take a shower. Take a nap.
17:20 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
18:00 Find myself, with Dave, Chuck and Wynne, inexplicably eating another meal. The only reason I agreed to such foolishness was that we were going to Momofuku, which, really, is not to be missed.
19:00 Buy a black and white cookie from a Jewish bakery on 2nd Avenue. It is excellent. I am reminded of Jerry Seinfeld's thoughts on black and white cookies:
The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want
to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better
than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us.
If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.
22:00 Go to bed.

The Greatest Moments in Rock and Roll

I know what the greatest live moment in the history of Rock and Roll is: it was the time my friend Eric and I were watching our friend LP someplace in New York and somehow, in the middle of a song of hers we weren't particularly familar with, she slid--and I mean slid--into about 16 bars of "Whole Lotta Love." Then she just slid back out.

Man, that was something. We looked at eachother in astonishment.

Second on the list was standing ten feet away from Bruce Springsteen when he came out near the end of Patti Scialfa's concert at the Bowery Ballroom, stood next to his buddy Miami Steve Van Zandt, and played rhythm guitar. He was, the record should note, playing a 12 string Telecaster.

As far as recorded music goes, well I was sitting down a little while ago, waiting for the paint on Bobby Lee to dry, watching the tivo'd season finale of "My Name is Earl"--a show that I don't normally watch but which received a rave review in the WaPo--and one of the songs that pops up at a particularly appropriate moment was "House of the Rising Sun." And, I must tell you, even after all these years, when that organ kicks in towards the end, manomanoman it gives me goosebumps. So that could be it, but I'm probably more comfortable listing it as a close second.

No, gentle reader, the greatest moment in the history of recorded Rock and Roll is when Charlie Watts, right at the end of "You can't always get what you want" slides--and I mean slides--into a slightly syncopated inversion of the beat he's already laying down, and the London Philharmonic Chorus swells in the background, and manomanoman, that is really something. If you are having trouble envisioning it, so to speak, imagine sitting next to somebody on the F train who's listening to headphones. All you can hear is the clicking sound of the snare drum. If it changes, kind of right at the end, from "chick-chick-chicka-chicka" to "bang-BANG-chicka-chicka-bang-BANG-chicka-chicka... (you know these noises are approximate, right?)"--well, you're experiencing the greatest moment in recorded Rock and Roll history.

Makes you miss New York, doesn't it?

The truth of the matter

Okay. The truth of the matter is that I wasn't really drinking Jack Daniels. Or Heineken ponies. Although I do have fond memories of being young, working in the restaurant business, and drinking, after hours, Heinekens and shots of Gran Marnier. The sharp tang of the beer and the cloying sweetness of the, that was good. Sounds a little like Chinese food.

Anyway, the proof of the truth is that I couldn't possibly have been drunk and resolved my image download problem. And, that said, here is the apple of my eye, so to speak. I'm calling it J.E.B. Stuart because Stuart's cavalry was often referred to as Lee's eyes on the battlefield, and it was Stuart who failed Lee at Gettysburg.

Here you can see the disasterous placement of Stuart on the battlefield, so to speak.

You can see we are one square too low. I remain stunned at this idiocy, but honestly, what do you do? Keep fighting, I suppose.

You can now see the revised canvas, with new tape beginning to outline the next squares to be painted, and newspaper obscuring those squares already completed. Two additional items are worth noting: First, I have painted over square number 11, hereafter knowN as Stuart's Square, in a shade of dark gray, as a way of acknowledging what went before.

Second--and this is quickly obvious to the eagle-eyed--I am cheating a little and plan to paint squares 19 and 20 as one unit. This is not a particularly important part of the painting and it will enable me, once done to conveniently mask off the entire top and bottom rows of squares. You can't tell here, but I will also be masking and painting squares 10 and 12 as well.

This may also put me back on schedule. As if I had a schedule. Actually I did have an idea that by painting six non-adjacent squares a day for five days I could complete the primary phase of the painting in that amount of time. Add two more days of "all over" painting and voila, we are done in a week! Stuart's betrayal has cost me time I will never recover, although I am not, by nature, comfortable with completing a painting in a week. Big Maria has taken several months and I'm about to erase half the damned thing, so I'm not even close to where I need to be with her.

I remain, nonetheless, sanguine. Whatever that means.

It's 10 in the morning and I'm doing shots

It's ten in the morning and I'm on my third shot of Jack Daniels.

Why? you ask, aghast.

Well, a couple of reasons:

a) Don't all painters do shots in the morning? Liquid courage? You think this shit is easy?
b) I woke up this morning and realized, while still in bed, that something was terribly wrong with my portrait of Old Bobby Lee. Turned out I was right, in the most horrible way imaginable. I'd show you a picture, but I'm having trouble downloading the photo files from my camera. What a morning. You'd do a shot too.

Give me a second, I'm just finishing my Heineken. In the interest of sobriety, I'm drinking those 8oz. ponies, although I must admit, I've done about five by now.

As it turns out, I transferred, and then painted, Bobby's left eye onto the wrong grid section of th canvas. How? you ask. I can honestly say, I have no fucking idea. Sometimes we become so absorbed in the system that we lose track of the larger picture. This is why I exited the real world, as we know it, a year or so ago. Who knew it would track me down. I'm like Shane--a man with a past I cannot escape.

The tragedy? Man, I really liked that eye. The purples and the blues... Some other stuff too. As I went to bed last night, all I could think about was how much I liked it, how the painting seemed to be going particularly well. And now? Now I've got to white (black) it out and do it over again. And here's my promise to you: it won't be the same. It may be okay. Hell, it may be better. But I wanted the one I did last night, and in about half an hour, it will, I assure you, be gone.

I'm reminded of Sophie's Choice. You think this shit is easy?

Anyway, part of me isn't surprised. When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

El Toro Negro, May 4, 5 and 6

Herewith, in installments, the blow-by-blow of the 5-Boro Bike Tour. All dialogue guaranteed verbatim. All time (shown in military notation) accurate to within 90 minutes.


7:30 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
9:30 Car is packed. Dave and I depart Leesburg, VA for Brooklyn, NY
12:00 Arrive at Mike's Famous Harley Davidson Dealership, located in Delaware at the base of the Del. Mem. Bridge.
12:15 It occurs to Dave and I that we are very much unlike the rest of the people milling about Mike's Famous. Aliens, if you will. Strangers in a strange land, if you will. The give away? Everybody but us is carrying the kind of wallet that attaches to your belt with a chain. I pause for a moment, wishing that I had enough money to warrant physically chaining it to me.
12:30 The food arrives. I ordered something with the word "Cincinnatti" in it. Chili (all the way) poured over top of some spaghetti. Tastey, in a sort of counterproductive way. What's that Paul Simon line? "All right, in a sort of a limited way for an off night." Something like that. I'm thinking about Paul Simon because Dave, who's car we are using, is playing a tape (TAPE!) of one of his more obscure albums.
12:36 It occurs to me that the waitress is kind of hot in that only-16-but-already-
worn-around-the-edges kind of a way. Her name might be Emily.
12:37 At one particularly surreal moment, I shout at the top of my lungs: "We're going to need golf shoes to get out of here."
12:50 Dave and I tour the Harleys. The one I want (a black V-Rod with a lot of chrome) costs roughly $21,000. This seems like a lot of money. No wonder these people chain their wallets.
13:00 Dave and I get the hell out of Dodge.
15:45 We arrive more or less at the corner of 6th Avenue and 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY--the rough location of Chuck's house. We unload our bikes and stuff.
16:00 Chat with Chuck and Wynne.
16:10 Take bikes out for a single circuit circumnavigation of Prospect Park's bike loop. Couldn't have been lovelier. I make a passing, regretful note that my friend Eric's suggestion that the women of New York are taking all their cloze off is not completely accurate. Perhaps it's more the case in Manhattan. Perhaps it's just a little too chilly.
17:00 Shower, nap
18:06 Watch the Kentucky Derby. My horse, Hard Spun, leads all the way, loses down the stretch to Street Sense. I am, nonetheless, pleased.
18:30 Dinner at a Japanese restaurant with Chuck, Wynne, Dave, Lenny the Vet and his wife Erica. Lenny, who, paired with Erica, would make a great subject for a painting--very vivid--tells us that racehorses are not nice animals. I file this away. I had, by the way, spicy seafood soup, seaweed salad with sesame, and a specialty roll called, perhaps, a Napoleon, and red wine and hot tea. Dave has a New York Roll. Both feature eel, which, I guess, is our nod to carbo-loading (Eels, as I understand it, are complex carbohydrates).
20:00 Arrive, en mass (this is not to be confused with post mass, as I believe I was the only Catholic in the group), at the house of someone named Judy. It is her house that will house, if you will, Don's house concert. We spend a good amount of time waiting for Judy to make an appearance, then the music starts.
20:15 I hope Judy doesn't mind that Don's burning the house down. I mean, burning it down! Late in the set he does an open-tuned Scottish number called John MacLean's March that is absolutely transportational. Likewise the next one, Great Dream From Heaven, played with a strong Ry Cooder feel. The urge to shout "I'll take another, on Ry," is almost beyond my ability to control.
21:oo Don takes a break. Thank God I have a moment to collect myself.
21:15 He starts back up, this time accompanied by his duet partner, Jenny. I find myself drawn to her in a number of ways.
21:55 I'm introduced to Jenny. Feeling a good bit of performance anxiety, I fall back on my most effective conversational gambit:
21:55:30 "Don't I know you from the cinematographer's party?" I ask.
21:56 She shakes her head and turns to speak to someone else. I think it is going well.
22:15 Walk home, bidding Lenny and Erica adieu at some point, agreeing to meet in front of Chuck's house the next morning at 7:15.
22:25 Brief ablutions. I put Dad in my fannypack so as not to forget him in the morning's rush.
22:45 In bed. At some point, I fall asleep. But not, however, before considering just how much onion dip I've eaten in Leesburg and how it was going to come back and haunt me the next day.

I'm in a bit of a squeeze

I'm in a bit of a squeeze given that the stretchers I have available are a pair of my typical 5' verticals but, unfortunately, a pair of atypical 44" horizontals--making my portrait of Ole Bobby Lee a good four inches thinner, side to side, than what I am used to.

There is a theory that says painting is all about math. If this is true, and it may be, then I'm having a little trouble with my math. This may not surprise those who called attention to this quote from my "Oh Shit...200 Posts" post:
That's 200 posts in about 300 days, which is what? Two a day? Something like that?
The suggestion by some wags was that I'm math challenged. Me? I don't like math anyway--it's full of problems.

Here is my working maquette of Robert E. Lee. It's a famous photo.

You can see, if you click in, that I have inscribed a two-inch grid on the surface of the 8x10 photo. I have then quadrisected the two inch squares, allowing me more landmarks by which to transfer the image, square by square, to the canvas. Sometimes the big lines and the small lines get confusing, so I've also indicated the corners of the primary squares with little Xs. Double click and you can see better.

Now, I would do this for any painting. What flummoxes me is that my canvas no longer directly reflects the dimensions of the photo (8"x10" being the same format as 4'x5'). So my plan, once the surface is ready, is to divide the canvas into 11" squares. This will account for the side to side variance. I will just let the top and bottom squares run longer vertically, and this will solve the problem to a degree.

The question is always, how so to do it. I've got five inches to deal with, which is really quite a bit. One theory says to go with 10" squares and paint one" top and side borders, with a wider bottom border. The effect here would be one of a massive Poloroid print.

I don't expect to do this. Perhaps a beer will help.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Fan Writes

A fan writes:
For the record, recent blog entries are becoming a bit too diary-like, for my tastes.
To which I would, of course, reply:

a) Isn't it supposed to be like a diary?
b) You don't like it? Write your own fucking blog.

That bit of bookkeeping aside, I've now finally completely stepped away from this whole alien thing. Turns out I'm not an alien; I'm a prophet.

I knew it was something.

Why, you ask, do I think I'm a prophet?

Well, two reasons:

a) Not less than a couple of days after my screed about women's feet in strappy sandals, no less an authority than The Washington Post essentially mirrored my concerns. Lacking the poetic vision you encounter here at the Year of Magical Painting, they missed the asparagus analogy, but otherwise...

Here's a graphic. I'm particularly troubled by:

I) the hammertoe illustration
II) likewise the bunion
III) their obvious use of Hillary Clinton as a leg model. Shouldn't she be campaigning?

b) As many may know, one of the Gibb boys was the mentoring artist on American Idol. Me? I was never a massive fan of the BGs during their Saturday Night Fever disco thing. But I did like the early stuff. And all day today I've been humming the tune and whatever words I can scratch up to "To love somebody." And tonight, what song does Andy, or Barry, or whoever it was (these people are like the Ramones), choose to sing? "To love somebody."

So something is up.

Tomorrow, I will show you what the hell is happening with my painting of Bobby Lee. To give you a preview, the idea is to use blue painter's tape to rim six grid squares (out of a total of 30). These squares will then be drawn and painted. Once dry, they will be sealed off by additional tape, so the squares next to them will be painted in a "vacuum." And so on, until the thing is roughly finished. At which point, I'll expose all the squares and we'll see what we'll see.

It sounds a bit like a game show, doesn't it?

More likely, it will look a bit disjointed. Which is good. Adds dynamic disjunction. I'll then do two things:

a) Treat the image as a whole for a couple of layers, throwing down some paint just to pull the damned thing back together
b) Paint (perhaps in a natural style, with a brush, rather than dripped) a dogwood branch across the bottom of the image, also to pull the damned thing back together, plus give Virginia the cheese, to a degree, plus pimp up a kind of faux-Asian woodcut thing.

All this said, the intent is to get back to a more clearly defined grid. This was successful for me with my painting of Chuck Close, but I've never quite achieved the same fully-defined grid in subsequent paintings. So that's something to shoot for.

This, of course, is me on my way to a halloween party dressed as Andy Gibb.:

Tomorrow will also feature, assuming a level of energy on my part, an expanded version of El Toro Negro with an in-depth blow-by-blow of the 5-Boro Bike Tour weekend.

This is "Close, But Not Quite"--as discussed above.

This is "Elena In The Morning"--which features a grid created by laying twine across the face of the canvas and gessoing over it. This, I must tell you, is a stunning painting in real life. Around the edge you can see that the twine extends about an inch and a half on each side, creating both its own "frame" as well as the effect you see in cartooning when they draw lines around an image to suggest excitement, vibrancy, or, in this case, dynamic disjunction.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Don't ever play with guns

I mentioned Brandi Carlile's cover of Folsom Prison Blues a few posts back. I believe I also misspelt Folsom. Anyway, here, of course, are the complete lyrics:

I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck at Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
But that train keeps rollin' on down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folk eatin' in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a movin', and that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move on over a little farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away

Me? I never shot anybody. But one of the reasons why I like this song is that it's the first song I ever just figured out how to play on guitar by ear. I don't remember how it goes now, but I vividly remember striking a D (maybe) with a kink of a chuka-chuka strum and thinking Whoa, that sounds like the beginning of the Folsom Prison Blues. Then I hit an E (maybe). All of which is odd, because the chord charts I checked a minute ago all start with an E.

Intro: / B7 - - - / - - - - / E - - - / - - - - / - - - - / - - - - /

E (8)

I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,

A (4)
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,

E (4)
And time keeps draggin' on,

B7 (4)
But that train keeps a-rollin',

E (4)
On down to San Antone.

E (8)
When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"

A (4)
But I shot a man in Reno,

E (4)
Just to watch him die,

B7 (4)
When I hear that whistle blowin',

E (2)
I hang my head and cry.

Solo (instrumental verse)

E (8)
I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,

A (4)
But I know I had it comin',

E (4)
I know I can't be free,

B7 (4)
But those people keep a-movin',

E (2)
And that's what tortures me.

Solo (instrumental verse)

E (8)
Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,

A (4)
Far from Folsom Prison,

E (4)
That's where I want to stay,

B7 (4)
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,

E (2)
Blow my blues away.

/ B7 - - - / - - - - / E - - - / E (hold) /

Solo (1st 4 measures):

And I'm not even sure I know how to play a B7. Maybe I did then. Maybe I inadvertantly transposed it into another key. Anyway, the larger observation is that music, when played by and to oneself, is an act of self delusion in the most positive sense. I remember when I was first learning how to play guitar and trying to figure out how to finger a new chord--and I never liked B, by the way--I could stop the song in mid-flight, spend two or three actual seconds (a musical eternity) reconfiguring my fingers, and then continue as if nothing had happened.

Painting is likewise such an opportunity for self-delusion. I was talking to a friend of mine about Self Portrait II (That Boy Could Sure Eat Some Beets) and he had two thoughts: A) he didn't realize it was me, and B) he didn't like the title. I wasn't sure how to respond, other than to suggest that the titles of paintings are a lot like the NFL draft. We can't judge them in the present; we have to wait ten years or so to really decide how good they are.