Friday, October 31, 2008

For Comparison Sake:

Here, for comparison sake (or is it "comparison's sake"?), is a shot of Big Alan, a painting annotated by Sharpie, juxtaposed with Big Satan ... er, excuse me, Big Sarah, annotated, as we know, with Magic Markers.

Me? Earler I was looking at them side-by-side in the studio. There is a neatness, an almost mathematical preciseness to the Greenspan annotations that the clunkier Palin comments just don't have. Spiderweb-like. Very compelling. Better product--one man's opinion.

Still, what's the fun of painting B.O. and Johnny Boy for a newspaper cover if, in the end, you can't read the annotations that you, dear readers, are (I am happy to report after some earlier unpleasantness) churning out like Shakers and rocking-chairs?

So I'm probably going to go with the markers.

Also, it should be noted that I will be inscribing the electronically submitted annotations myself and this, given my delicate hand with a writing instrument, should help a bit.

"The Annotated Palin"

This, as the title implies, is "The Annotated Palin."

Not too bad, although the jury is out regarding large markers vs. small. The big, color type--for lack of a better word--seems well suited for this particular painting. Will it work with what I hope will be more serious images of B.O. and John Boy? I'm thinking about it.

Whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting ... he's the traitor.

To paraphrase Don Vito Corleone, "Look how they messed with my bull."

Happy Halloween.

Loins: girded

What the hell does that even mean?  

Anyway, my loins are girded; my hook baited for Leviathan.  I take "The Annotated Palin..." into the belly of the beast in about five minutes.  If I never come back, it's been a pleasure.  Really.

Assuming I do come back, you should know that I'm trying an experiment.  I'll be taking annotations with standard size magic markers rather than the usual Sharpies.  I want to see if this is a way to make the annotations read better for my newspaper project.  We'll see.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And a final note before bed

Apparently you can tell a lot about a person by the condition of his desk. This would be mine:

Draw your own conclusions.

The Night of the Iguana

As in, "I think iguana be okay."

As it relates to "The Annotated Palin."

Which you can see here, more or less where it has sat for the last couple of weeks, staring at me like the picture of Dorian Gray or something.

Good God Almighty that's a nasty thing to behold.

And I am here to tell you I was in desperate straits tonight. I mean, tomorrow is going to be a lovely day, and I really liked the idea of taking a painting out for annotations, and we've already discussed the fact that I think Big Sarah, successfully executed and annotated, can put the fall political series to bed (with the exception of the upcoming McCain/Obama pair for Metro Papers).

Yet, dear reader, I was in desperate straits. Easier said than done, if you get my drift. Because if the painting sucks outloud, it sucks outloud. And I am here to tell you, I just couldn't get the thing even remotely right. I'll spare you the interim shots, but suffice to say I, at one point, even resorted to the old "fold the photo in half" trick. This would be that:

Which, actually, is kind of fun. Particularly if you've had a few beers. Which tonight I hadn't, but I'm speaking from experience.

Anyway, I think iguana be okay, because this is what I finally squeezed out the back end (if that's not too indelicate a metaphor for the act of painting). Quick aside: a vision just popped into my head--years from now, when they make a film about the story of my life, Gene Wilder's grandson will play the role of my grandson and reprise the famous line from Young Frankenstein: "My Grandfather's work is doo-doo."

Anyway, this is what I squeezed out:

Which, while certainly not my finest hour, rates in my book a letter-grade of C+. My favorite part? I love the slight weirdness of the teeth. Least? The hair is a disaster. I simply cannot paint hair using the drip technique. Leastways not hers. So I resort to squeezing straight from the tube, which yields this:

The less said the better.

Now this, my friend, leastways if you are a Democrat (or barring that, someone with the intelligence of a border collie or better), is a pretty scary fucking sight. But I do like the nose. And, to a lesser degree, the eyes. And I think I like her left eye better than her right.

The teeth do make me giggle.

So, given all this, tomorrow I head for the Financial District. The thinking, roughly, is to get in front of the NYSE early, garner a shitload of annotations, then saunter down to Goldman Sachs where, perhaps, one of their 94 newly-minted partners will be feeling flush enough to bite.

I've baited my hook for Leviathan but, if it's all the same to you, I'm not going to gird my loins until tomorrow morning--its uncomfortable sleeping that way.

Because life is a series of circles...

It should be noted that, after posting earlier that the comment "Woody Alan Greenspan" on the right side of "The Fallen Prince" kind of took the wind out of my sails, I'm sitting in the studio staring at my failed painting of Sarah Palin listening to Django Reinhardt.  

The excruciating badness of the Palin painting makes me feel as if I am in a Woody Allen movie and, unlike the way he's always to nice to the Scarlett Johansson characters, he's being really mean to me.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where they all go to the Hamptons and there is this really ugly baby and Kramer, channeling the very soul of Ed Norton, does a spastic double-take upon laying eyes on the kid?  That's how bad this painting is. 

And speaking of comics, who could forget Sean Penn in "Sweet and Lowdown?"--which was full of Django.

Food for thought

This is one of the odder items to come across my desk...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Before I was tired; now I'm angry

It annoys me that no one has thrown any Obama/McCain annotations into the mix. I got one by email from a woman named Megan Green (whose photography, including some of me and Bernanke, can be seen at ), so at least somebody has stepped up to the plate. If you don't start sending them in, either via comments or direct email, I will individually call each and every one of you, up to such point as I can identify each and every one of you, and demand compliance right then and right there.

And do you want that?

I should have painted the WaMu guy

Not Fishman but the other guy. Check this out:


Pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Man, I'm tired--Volume 2

Man, I'm tired.

That said, I've just received a commission to paint portraits of Barack and Johnny to run on the cover of the various Metro papers on Election Day (or the day after).  The phrase "received a commission" is, in fact, a misnomer.  I've been asked to come up with the damned things, at which point Metro will buy usage rights.  Total fee to me?  More than my first car, which is, I suppose saying something.
Yes it is.
Saying something.
Yes it is.
How much did your first car cost?
It was a 1961 Triumph TR-3.  I bought it for 600 bucks.
How do you plan on paying the rent at that level?
Well, it is good publicity.  And I will still have the paintings to sell after the fact.  So it may turn out okay.
I thought you were tired.
I am.
Well, good luck with that.
Kind of fucks up my weekend plans.
I'll bet.

Now listen to this, dear readers, because it is important:  
The task of painting the paintings, assuming I lunge into top gear as fast as possible, is manageable.  But the physical act of obtaining the annotations (did I tell you they needed to be annotated) is a more time-consumptive task.  And I don't have any time.

So here is your mission:
You must, if you want to be allowed to continue to read this blog, submit via the comments button an annotation for each painting.  You are more than welcome to submit more than one per painting, but you have to cough up something for each one.  You must also indicate your party affiliation, as the markings will be color coded (red-rep, blue-dem, black-ind)

As Richard Dreyfus said to Roy Scheider as he was tying the end of the harpoon line to the float, "Don't wait on me!"  

I'll catch up.

Also, since I doubt we will reach the typical numbers I might achieve after a week on Wall Street, feel free to make them longer rather than shorter (to a degree).

Actually, the idea of developing the painting while annotating it at the same time is kind of interesting.  That is to say, I'm going to presumably have received X number of annotations by this time tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see how it goes.  I'll keep close photographic track.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Man, I am tired

Man, I am genuinely tired. I'm beat. Gobsmacked (that's not really the right word). Something else. None of them good.

I mean, since Lehman Brothers blew up I think I've painted 9 paintings for annotation. Somebody recently asked me the famous question (which she, in her defense, prefaced as such): "How do you know you are done?"

The answer, as it was with "The Screaming Pope," should not be: "I finished it last night because today it's being shot for a news piece."

This, I am here to tell you, is the wrong way to conduct one's affairs. That said, I like Big Hank Paulson quite a bit. But I did finish it because of a deadline imposed by The Today Show. Not actually imposed by them, both they and I would be quick to point out, but de facto imposed because Big Hank was the painting they filmed me painting in my studio and it was, if only for continuity sake, the one I wanted them to shoot the next week getting annotated in the street.

So there you are.

Left, I was thinking, on the cutting room floor? Sarah Palin's big painting, which still isn't done. I looked at it this weekend and basically said fuck it, I'm done with annotated paintings until the spring.

But then I was looking around the studio this morning and thinking I really needed to just finish that last one; finish out my election series (at least for now). Then I walked outside and headed toward Sonia's (beef stew on yellow rice with beans--five bucks) and it was such a blissfully warm day.

Anyway, the upshot is that you can look for Big Sarah on Wall Street on Thursday and Friday of this week. Perhaps one other location early next week. And then the election will be done, and so will I.

Because I am really tired.

The Fallen Prince is done

I've closed "The Fallen Prince." I did so earlier today after transcribing twelve suggested annotations from the comments section of Dealbreaker.

Dealbreaker-brokered annotations are indicated with either the number of the comment (#3, for instance) or, more frequently the letters DB in parentheses. Two of my favorites:

--I am not Yoda (found near his ear on the right side of the painting)

--They should have brought that fucker in with leg irons. Our forecasting isn't 100%. Fuck you - exuberate this. (found in four sections, connected by arrows, cascading down the left side)

A friend of mine passed me in the studio and tut-tutted me, saying "That's cheating." I'm not sure if it is cheating; after all, if somebody comes back on the street and wants to add another annotation or modify an earlier one, I always say yes. Plus, I always provide the first annotation, so I am an annotator as well as the painter. Shouldn't I get the same treatment?

Anyway, I rarely write anything on these paintings after my first annotation unless I am writing on behalf of someone else. That said, I end up writing quite a bit. You can sometimes tell the similarity of the handwriting.

Anyway, it's not cheating.

Most troubling post? Woody Alan Greenspan (on the very right margin). Man, once you get Woody in your head it's hard to let go.

Big Alan is still for sale. $15,000. My email is

The Briefest of Political Notes

41 years ago today John McCain was shot down over Vietnam. Wow. By now, everybody knows the rest of the story. In a world full of craven nitwits, John McCain is a genuine hero. That this does not, on any level, qualify him to be President of the United States is not surprising. There's scant room in politics, I guess, for heroism. But attention must be paid.

41 years ago I was in the second month of my three year incarceration at Randolph Macon Academy, a military school in Front Royal, Virginia. The story goes that my brother (I forgive him now) didn't give a shit about school and my parents decided that I wasn't going to repeat that scenario. So at the beginning of 7th grade they told me I had to get my grades up. By the end of that year I metaphorically told them to shove it by laying what was probably a B, three Cs and a D on the breakfast table.

And so off to Front Royal I went.

Anna Quindlen once wrote an amazing column for The Times. The gist of it was that every parent holds onto certain things they did, at one time or another, to their children (good or bad, all parents end up doing shitty things to their children) that they believe left damaging psychic scars. Then later in life, when the kid does something horrible (like, say, gets caught driving across the Mexican border with 150lbs of dope in the back of a pick-up truck), they say to themselves, "Oy, if only I hadn't told little Johnny that he was a shitty saxaphone player."

This is only human nature, so okay. Except Quindlen went on to postit the notion that our children, if asked, would dredge up entirely different scarring acts of parental commission or omission than the ones we ourselves have cast in stone.

"I didn't care," Johnny might say years later, "that Mom thought I couldn't play the sax. Truth be told, she was right. I hated doing it and it sounded like I was strangling a chicken. It didn't bug me at all. But did she have to make us eat hot oatmeal every day of our lives? The vision of that morning bowl of hot sludge still haunts me, and the first thing I asked the Mexican Federales was, 'do you serve oatmeal in prison?' When they responded 'Oatmeal? You don't need no stinking oatmeal!' I found it to be a great comfort in an otherwise unpleasant moment."

Anyway, my parents always thought sending me to military school was the thing they did that left me with psychic scars. Naaah. I had a pretty good time. Also beaned out a 3.80 GPA at a time when 4.0 was the highest you could get. Three years later I was mighty glad to get out; don't get me wrong. And I still remember the moment I plopped myself down in first period of my 11th grade English class on my first day at Fairfax High School (ahhhh, free at last), up near the front (dutiful Geoff, the 3.80 student), turned to my left and spied a girl wearing the most extraordinary combination of pompons, saddle shoes, ribbons, eyeliner, lipgloss and a blue and white pleated skirt ... I mean, to see her in sunlight was to see Marxism die -- that's how pretty she was. My chin hit the top of my desk so hard I think I may still have that disease where your jaw doesn't align properly and it makes you behave oddly. Mad cow? Anyway, after that, academics seemed secondary.

But happy ending aside, I do remember October of 1967, having just turned thirteen, lying on my cot, eyes wide open long after they'd played Taps, thinking that this was a pretty shitty place to be. So my thoughts go out to John McCain on this day of all days.

And to my parents I would say, if I could, "It's all right Ma (I'm only bleeding)."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Attention must be paid

I think it was Willie Lohman's wife who said, to her annoying sons, "Attention must be paid." Or something like that.

And I am here to tell you that attention must be paid to my key associate Rachel Gardner of the Brooklyn Artists Gym. For it was she who stretched the canvases and sketched the likeness of Sarah Palin on the multi-paneled work titled "Pieces of Sarah." Me? I just came in and threw the paint down. I'm like Chuck Berry--I roll into town, grab me a band, smoke some reefer, play my guitar like ringing a bell, collect my check and move on to the next town.

Chuck Berry may not be the best example. I'm perhaps more like Titian (although Carravaggio is my main boy) than Chuck Berry.

All that said, it should be noted that Willie Lohman was a schlub. Rachel, on the other hand, is an artist of vibrant talents; a portraitist whose treatment of Palin's face has given me a good deal of insight into my own substandard efforts in the exact same department.

So attention must be paid. This is she in the middle. I am on the right. Sarah is on the left. My head, with its new, post-Today Show haircut, looks like a bowling ball.

If you need to reach me...

Another reader commented that he was having problems with the "contact me" button.  If that's true, my email is:

Thank you for your interest.  This particularly applies to the above noted reader who, in his/her  comment suggested interest in "The Fallen Prince."

Which, by the way, looks like this:

... the product of a three-location day.  Early morning at the NYSE, afternoon behind Goldman Sachs, evening at the PMC.  Almost full.

I offered Dealbreaker readers a chance to submit annotations through the Dealbreaker comments section.  I think than once I transcribe them onto the canvas I'll be done.


Here's what I had for dinner, Volume 2

Warning: This post may not be of interest to you. It's all about cars and hardly at all about painting. Or what I had for dinner.

That said, a comment about the previous post came through last night from a reader named Tree. It reads:
You do know that's a Shelby Cobra, right?
Now you've cast doubt on if you really ate that pickle.
These are legitimate observations. Tree refers, I believe, to the line in the previous post that reads something like "This, by the way, is the original small Mercedes with a big engine. If you catch my drift." It was then followed by a photo of a spectacular, steely blue 427 (I'm thinking) Shelby AC Cobra. Or a replica of the same thing, since never in the history of the world has a car been officially or unofficially copied as much as the Cobra.

And yes, Tree, I did know it was a Shelby Cobra. To further explain my drift, it was Carroll Shelby who first stuffed a Ford 289 engine into a tiny English sports car called an AC Ace and spawned the Cobra. Born with it (probably not a true statement, actually) was the notion of stuffing big fat engines into small, light cars. And although the C-class Mercedes is hardly light, it is relatively small and 468 horsepower is 468 horsepower.

The original Cobra (which actually had a 260 for the first 75 cars) could do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. This is a modern supercar level of performance. These are motorcycle numbers, not car numbers. This, my friend, is the holy grail. This, I want to tell you, is the Trenchtown Experience.
The what?
Sorry. That Trenchtown line came from the introduction to Bob Marley Live.
Why'd you say it?
I don't know. I was these-ing and this-ing and it just came out. It's one of my favorite all-time sentences that begins with "This."
You categorize favorite sentences based on their first word?
Well, yes. But not consciously.
Of course not. That would be bizarre.
As if this whole endeavor wasn't bizarre enough.
What endeavor?
The Year of Magical Painting and all it represents.
I hear you on that, baby.
What's your favorite sentence, all time?
Two are tied for first place.
And they are?
Well, the first one is: When do we eat?
No surprise there. And the second.
It's that one from Pride and Prejudice about a truth universally acknowledged.
Yeah, that's a good one.
Did I tell you that the night my father died I sat next to him, waiting for the funeral guys, and read the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice--his favorite book?
And THAT, my friend, was the real Trenchtown experience.
Yes it was.
Last note on the Shelby Cobra: For years, up until very recently in fact, the Shelby Cobra held the record for fastest car from zero to 100 mph and then back to zero. Imagine that for a minute--this tiny aluminum car screaming up the road, smoking strips of black rubber left in its wake, the driver like a young James Tiberius Kirk, no doubt grinning like a maniac as he boldly goes where no man had gone before ... then you hit 100 and stamp your foot on the clampers.

I mean, the mind reels.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Here's what I had for dinner

When things get too hectic, one's nutrition often times suffers. Here's what I had for dinner:

--At around 7:45 I had the last slice of the half-of-a-blueberry-pie Chuck and Wyn gave me.
--Around 8:15 I had a sour pickle that I bought from Dr. Pickle (Sundays at the 5th Ave. farmer's market. You should taste his pickled mushrooms). Dr. Pickle, it should be noted, has also been hitting on my roommate. So when I was there last Sunday I gave a moment's thought to just grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, dragging him across the counter and kicking his ass. Cooler heads prevailed, obviously. Plus you start thrashing around on the sidewalk with a guy like that and you smell like pickles for a week.
--Around 9 I had one and a half cucumber (which, FYI, are what pickles are before you brine them) sandwiches on whole wheat, each with salt and pepper, Gulden's spicy brown and, of course, Duke's mayonnaise.

So at least I'm thematic. With the cukes and pickles, I mean.

But still, wouldn't stir-fried vegetables with some brown rice have been better for me? Or a big, fat steak? I think it's the stress of my upcoming Today Show appearance. If, in fact, appearance is even the right word for when they won't let you come sit on the sofa and make dream-boat eyes at Ann Curry.

Anyway, c'mon. I know you people think I'm like James Bond or something. But hey--I'm human too. And consider this: if the Today Show piece is a good one it will, best case scenario, assist me in selling The Screaming Pope for, say, one hundred seventy-five thousand dollars. Which would be a high for me.

This would then enable me to go out and buy that C-class Mercedes with the 468 horsepower V-8 they've been advertising recently. And the giggling that would then ensue? Manomanoman, I am here to tell you.

This, by the way, is the original small Mercedes with a big engine. If you catch my drift. Oh shit--just look at it! It reminds me of Ali the waitress (who I shot earlier today).

Imagine owning one of those. Imagine owning one of those and doing the bump-and-grind parking thing once a week on the Brooklyn streets above which I live. I mean, the mind reels. It is said that the more your car sounds like a boat the cooler it is. This car doesn't just sound like a boat; it sounds like the cigarette boat Sonny Crockett used to establish his street cred (canal cred?) on Miami Vice.

Anyway, there's a lot of pressure and I just burbled up a memory of Dr. Pickle.

My Sarah Palin fundraiser

The color correction seems to escape me,  but here is "Pieces of Sarah"--my four panel annotated portrait of a person less likely to be Vice President than Joe Biden.   As perhaps hs been discussed previously, the painting gets annotated as a whole, then separated during the auction.

Auction is actually the wrong word.  But anyway, that's the plan.

I don't know why it's so dark.  But speaking of the darkness at the edge of town, herewith is the first version of my Greenspan portrait, tentatively titled "The Dark Prince."  

He looks a little like that strange British actor whose name is, I think, Rowan Atkinson.  

In any case, it is with interest that I watch the darkness of the lower half of his face get darker and darker as the rest of the paint goes on.  This, as noted, is an early version.  It's way darker now.  Blues and purples--all the cool stuff.  You should see it.

I'm trying to limit my palette to reds, whites and blues, just to make Andrea Mitchell happy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My schedule

Monday morning at 10--N.Y.Times is shooting a spread of me painting. That afternoon, I'm shooting Ali-the-waitress for a series of paintings (man, it's good to be painting waitresses again). Tuesday, Japanese TV is interviewing me in the studio for a piece about the financial melt-down. Wednesday, some guy is interviewing me in the studio for a documentary about Bear Stearns. Thursday morning, I'm on the Today Show (7:30-8:00). Thursday afternoon, back to the BSC documentary. Friday morning I'd like to do some actual freaking painting (unlike the pretend painting you do when the cameras are on). Perhaps later in the day, beers with my buddies Jimmy, Pat and the Gravedigger. Saturday morning, Eggs Mediterranean at Belleville. Saturday evening, the BAG Fund fundraiser.

Some people thrive on doing a bunch of stuff. Me? I find doing more than one thing per day exhausting.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This in from The New York Times

I was told by a photo editor at The Times that AP had to send out an after-the-fact warning regarding photos of my (probably) Fuld painting because obscenities within the annotations may have been legible on the photos.

That makes me smile.

Here, super cropped, is an obscenity from The Screaming Pope:

My friend Earl thinks there's more negativism on Big Hank than the situation warrants.

Expandable Day 2 Screaming Pope

This is an expandable version of what you see a couple of posts below. Double click to read comments. My favorite? Some woman wrote "The Gentle Laxitive" in blocky letters in the upper right quadrant. I asked what it meant. "It's the name of my band," she told me.


Pieces of Sarah

This four-panel thing is called "Pieces of Sarah." I am donating it to the Brooklyn Artist's Gym fund-raising event titled Brooklyn 111. You should buy a ticket. The recipient of the proceeds is the B.A.G. fund, which provides art space and equipment for lower-income kids with artistic promise.

The idea is that the painting(s) will be annotated during the next week or so at various events in the BAG sphere of activities, then be separated so that each painting is available, during the Brooklyn 111 event, for grabbing by attending donors. It is easy to see the split separating the right side from the left. If you look closely you can also see a horizontal seam. Thus there are actually four canvases. I don't however, think it qualifies as a quadriptych--if that's the word. Don't they all have to be joined in a linear manner to "...iptych" classification?

The theory buried somewhere in here is that you--and I mean YOU--can own a genuine Geoff Raymond for only $200.

Hard to say no to that.

In a perfect world, the painting would be better. But hey, I'm still working on it. We'll see. I can't decide whether to keep it clamped together during the painting and just pretend it's one canvas, or separate them and let each panel evolve away from the other three.

The annotation I have planned for the upper right panel will be: "Shit! I can see Russia from here!"

Who wouldn't pay 200 bucks for that?

The Cult of Apple--

Don't let the cult of Apple fool you.  Based on my experience, they are pieces of shit just as large as their comparable Dells.

Maybe my problem is that I'm at the bottom rung of the cult and don't fully understand how to unearth the magic.  I'm searching my brain for words like Thaytan--which is, as I understand it (and I don't), is what people like Tom Cruise are.  Maybe I'm thinking of Thandie Newton, although she's nothing like Tom Cruise.

The point is that, as I attempt to blog on my laptop--a cheap Mac, but one that is loaded with everything my desktop Mac has--the dynamics are completely different.  Photos loaded from the laptop won't blow up.  I get weird double spacing of the copy that I can't seem to get rid of.

The whole thing is unbelievably frustrating--particularly the blowing-up business.  Because, honestly, if you can't read the annotations what is the point?

Case in point, here's Big Hank at the end of Day 2:

In a perfect world it would be a bigger file.  But what can a soul do?

Monday, October 13, 2008

End of Day 1

Here's "The Screaming Pope" at the end of Day 1:

I'll be in the plaza behind 85 Broad Street tomorrow from about 11:30 am-3 pm.

The Screaming Pope

This is "The Screaming Pope" prior to annotation. 4' x 5', acrylic on canvas with red ink.

$25,000 +

For details on the annotation process, the thinking behind the painting, a bunch of stuff about Diego Velazquez and Francis Bacon, etc., go to screamingpope.blogspot.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's fun to make the correspondent blanch

So I'm sitting on a stool with my painting of Ben Bernanke, beautifully lit, propped on an easel behind me.  Arrayed before me are the producer, camera guy, sound guy and correspondent from The Today Show.  Peter Alexander is the guy asking the questions.  Unless Peter Alexander is the housing complex just north of Stuyvesant Town.  Then it was Peter Cooper asking the questions.  I think it's Alexander.

Anyway, it's all going well enough.  Then Mr. Alexander asks me something along the lines of "When you are done with the Wall Street guys, what are you planning to paint?"

To which I respond, roughly, "I'm gonna do a series of portraits of the Bush cabinet, each one festooned with those brown latex baby bottle nipples.  My first one is going to be Cheney and I'm gonna call it 'Nipple Cheney.'"

Which causes Mr. Alexander to make a face.  Not a bad face, but a face.  More of a brief grimace.  At which point I knew I was winning the battle.  Because really, what's an interview if not a battle?

At this juncture I should remind you that we are taping the interview.  I didn't utter the words "Nipple Cheney" on live Today Show air.  That would be rude.  Or perhaps inappropriate.  But we're on tape, so come on.  Let's have a giggle or two.  I mean, I'm giving them my best material.  Except that Alexander and the producer are, at this point, looking at me like I had two heads.  Ricardo, the sound guy, smiled.  Hey, everytime I think about what is sometimes called "The Nipple Initiative" I smile.

Anyway, back to winning the battle.  It is important, when you are the subject a news piece, not to confuse winning the battle with winning the war.  The war is always won in the edit room.  Today comes back on Tuesday to shoot me on Wall Street taking annotations on the finished Screaming Pope.  It will be interesting to see how it comes out.

Closing note:  I saw in his bio that Peter Alexander recently interviewed Fidel Castro.  Fidel freaking Castro!  I think I have a pretty cool job, but manomanoman ... interviewing Fidel?  

And me?   I wonder who was more interesting.

I've painted Fidel, by the way.  

Not, I would say, my finest effort.  Although the image you see here may not be the final version.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I honestly don't remember.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Today Show

It's almost nine and The Today Show is here.  

They have been since eight.   I'm still angry I don't get to sit on the couch and stare at Ann Curry in the way that's always been so successful for me at bars.  For me it's always been some version of channelling Antonio Banderas.  I wonder if it's because I didn't get a haircut.

I was thinking about doing so.  Getting a haircut that is.  But the place I usually go--the Russian women on 7th and 21st--was closed.  I wonder if they've gone out of business.

So here I sit.   

Later the plan is that we take The Annotated Fed down to Wall Street.  As is always the case with TAFed, I'll inscribe a headline from the NYT to indicate the date.  I'm thinking of going with "Plan B:  Flood Banks with Cash." 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ecstasy in the workplace

I'm not talking about the pills.  I'm talking about actually experiencing ecstasy during the course of the workday.  Doing, for purposes of further clarification, the thing you define as your work.  

It's almost ten at night.  I'm in the studio, gessoing the canvas that, by the time the people from the Today Show show up tomorrow morning, will exhibit the early gestures that will eventually become The Screaming Pope.  Jimi Hendrix is playing "Hey Joe" on the stereo.  And at some point in the proceedings he sort of blurts out the word "aaach."  "Ack" maybe.  He was, I believe, experiencing ecstasy in the workplace.  What's the word for words like that anyway?  Not exactly onomanopoeia, if that's even the word.

Brief aside.  I remember reading my grandfather's account of the landing of Amelia Earhardt in Ireland written for The New York Times of the day.  He, to my amusement, used the word "ejaculate" to describe bystanders blurting out words of astonishment at the feat.  These days that particular usage comes in as Number 2 on my desktop dictionary.   It is described as "dated" in the sense of an anachronisticism, if that's even the word.

Anyway, listening to Jimi ejaculate the word Aaach! while playing his solo made me think a bit about how little, in the old days, I used to experience ecstasy at work and how frequently I do now.  Which I suppose makes me a lucky guy.  Work wise.  

I mean, there are moments when the paint goes down just right and you realize that you've exceeded your expectations by a wide margin, that you suddenly, out of whole-cloth, have created something wonderful.  I mean, they don't call it The Year of Magical Painting for nothing.  And you step back and say something like "Oh shit!"

For the record, I didn't get that much when I worked in public relations.

But there was one time, I remember.  It was mid-December.  Money was tight.  Rich and I were checking the mail the way whoever checks whatever when they are anxious to receive whatever.  In this case, we were waiting for a significant check from a significant client.  I think it was scheduled to be about sixty grand.

So the days dragged on.  Everyday the mail came.  No check.  And manomanoman, things were tight.  Christmas was coming hard upon us and, with no check in sight, it was going to be a pretty lame holiday, gift and merriment-wise.   Things were so tight we had switched from Bass Ale to Bud Light at the Peter McManus Cafe.  That's how freaking tight things were.
Catastrophic is a word that jumps to mind
Thank you.  Nicely said.  Catastrophic was very much how it was feeling.
And perhaps strangely claustrophobic.
Who's fucking blog is this, man?   Don't be laying stuff like that on the table.  I'm in charge of stuff like that.
I just thought it was fun.  The phonetic similarities between catastrophic and claustrophobic.
Fine.  But in the future leave that stuff to me.
Okay, sorry.
Anyway, things were so tight it was almost claustrophobic.  I mean, things were that tight.  And then, on a snowy day in the late teens of December, the check arrived.

Now let me tell you something about small businesses.  If things have been tight for a while, the arrival of a sixty thousand dollar check is absolutely fabulous and all that, but by the time you pay your back rent and the vendors who need paying and taxes and the rest of the bullshit that has nothing to do with the buying of presents or engaging in holiday merriment, there's very little left, oddly enough, for the buying of presents or engaging in holiday merriment.

That said, sixty grand is sixty grand.  Just for the record.

So it was with with either dry fingers or a dry mouth that I opened the envelope and pulled out the check and looked at it.  It was made out for $120,000.

"Hey Rich"
"They made the check out wrong."
"Oh shit..."
"But in a good way."
"Oh shit!"
"A hundred twenty."

A silence fell over the room.   For about an hour.  Possibly two.  Then we repaired to the Peter McManus Cafe to think the matter through carefully.  

"I'll take a Bass Ale," I remember one of us saying to Howie.
"Me too," I remember the other one saying.

Eventually we mutually acknowledged that if we just nabbed the buck-twenty and didn't say anything, they'd eventually find out and either get really pissed off or just fire us outright.

"We gotta tell them," one of us said.
"Yeah," the other one agreed.

So, in the division of labor that characterized the Mammoth Group at the time, it was my job to call the primary contact and tell her that her company has paid us double.  So I did.  And once she was on the line, it only took a couple of minutes for her to glean the gist of the matter.

"What do you want to do?" I asked.  "Should we return it and you guys can cut us one for the right amount?"
"Nah," she said.  "Why don't you just deposit that one and you can credit us going forward."
"Aaach!" I remember ejaculating.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," I mumbled, a little embarrassed at having experienced ecstasy in the workplace while on the phone with the primary contact.  Who was, truth be told, kind of hot.
"Merry Christmas," she said as she hung up.

And it was, dear reader.  It was.

And it would be fun if, at least once during the painting of The Screaming Pope, I experienced ecstasy.  One can certainly hope.

El Papa Gritando

El Papa Gritando = The Screaming Pope

All by way of saying, with my Palin being such a complete disaster of a painting, one that gnaws at the bones of my mind, one that puts the lie to my manhood the way only a failed painting can, I've turned to Henry Paulson.

The reference here is, of course, that whole Velazquez/Bacon/Raymond continuum that the art historians conjure up on such a regular and tiresome basis.

What is worth noting is this:  I typically go out of my way to choose a resource photo that is, more or less, neutral in tone.  However, in the case of The Screaming Pope [more properly called either "The Annotated Treasury" or "The Annotated Paulson"], I've chosen a somewhat more animated shot.  

Good clean fun should be had by all come annotation time.   Were I a passerby annotating my painting I might consider one of those cartoon voice balloons coming out of his mouth saying either:

--Remain calm.  We are bailing you out!
--Abandon ship.  The bailout isn't working!

Only time will tell.

This, by the way, is the painting that got the whole thing started.  

And it's good, I suppose, to be connected that far back.  Like those Vikings in "The 13th Warrior" as they prepare for battle and likely death, seeing Valhalla before them in the mist, beckoning.  

Did you see that movie?  A smasher, if you like that sort of thing.  Even Antonio Banderas, a cheese-ball of massive proportion, couldn't screw it up.  "Lo," they chant, staring at the oncoming horde. "Lo there do I see my father..."

I wonder if the Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal were thinking something similar when they saw the Marines hit the beach.

The whole thing goes like this:
Lo there do I see my father
Lo there do I see my mother
Lo there do I see my brothers and sisters.
Lo there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo they do call to me;
they bid me take my place among them in the Halls of Valhalla
where the brave may live forever.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Who the hell are these people?

I just had a back and forth with an editor from ArtNet Magazine. In addition to being a magazine, it's a pretty comprehensive listing of what's happening in the art world. If you are a subscriber (I think), you can also access pricing information for a slew of international artists.

Anyway, I wondered if I was listed, so I went to the Rs, then to the Raymonds. And I am using the plural. Here is the list of Raymonds I found:
Alex Raymond (American, 1909-1956)
Alexandre Raymond
Carlos Raymond
Casimir Raymond (French, 1870)
E. Raymond
Elizabeth Raymond (American, 1904-1986)
F. Raymond
Francois Raymond (1880)
H. Raymond
Jean-Paul Raymond (French, 1948)
Kelsey Raymond (Canadian, 1926-2001)
Lilo Raymond (American, 1922)
Lodovico Raymond (Italian, 1825-1898)
Marie Raymond (French, 1908-1988)
Maurice Raymond (Canadian, 1912)
Robert Maurice Raymond (French)
Zizi Raymond (American)
I mean, who the hell are these people? And how come there are so many of them?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Uncle Hugh

We buried my Uncle Hugh this weekend.

Imagine being a young officer leading, let's say, a platoon of Marines onto the beach at Guadalcanal. Or Okinawa. Or Tarawa. Or Peleliu. Or some combination of all of them. My guess is that, unless you were there, you simply can't.

My father once told me a story about flying "The Upstairs Maid," his B-24, over Germany. Looking out his starboard window he saw the plane next to him take a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire and, more or less, vaporize.

"What did you do?" I asked.
"Kept flying," he said.

He said this to me from the bed in which he would die perhaps a month later, a skinny, 84 year-old man talking about stuff he did when he was 19. Me? When I was 19 I was reading Shakespeare at the University of Virginia and thanking God that my draft number was 303.

Anyway, fast forward to this Friday. As a young Marine sergeant handed my Aunt Betty that flag, folded into the familiar triangle, and spoke to her in a low voice while her shoulders trembled, there was a moment when I realized I couldn't see a damned thing--everything was blurred.

I looked around wondering what the hell was wrong. Then a tear rolled down my cheek and I knew.

The Marine's Hymn is the oldest song in the United States Military. It would, of course, be this:

From the halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From the dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And have never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

A cousin of mine put it best. He said that the ceremony we saw at Arlington National Cemetery was notable for its absolute absence of irony. In today's world, that's saying something.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Zuit alors!, Volume Deux

Zuit alors! Je viens vendu ma peinture de Eliot Spitzer à un avocat à Paris pour $14000. Si cela a été une publicité pour "Gossip Girl", l'acronyme serait ZFA!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Back to the trenches

The birthday is over. Now back to the trenches.

Now ... avert your eyes if you are easily scared because here is an early phase of my Sarah Palin painting.


It obviously needs a little work. But that's the fun of The Year of Magical Painting--watching these things develop in front of your eyes. Man, you should try painting them.