Surviving Cancer (so far)

January 06, 2017

Sure, life could be easier. I could have a paid off mortgage, a time-share in Florida, plenty of cash for all that little stuff. I could have a skeleton I could trust, and not be deathly afraid of falling and breaking it to smithereens. Sure, I could be in remission without the need to be on a study drug that will never go to market. But, I survive. And I can never complain.

They gave me two years to live and it has been twelve – wow! – ten extra years. “Ya gotta’ be happy with that!” Sure, I’m happy with that, but I would rather live to be an old geezer like everyone else, I don’t want it cut short. But, I’m getting used to the idea of a potential Multiple Myeloma relapse and early death. The relapse three years ago wasn’t nearly as frightening as the original shock of the “C” word in 2005.

Surviving means finding a place for the guilt, as well as the sense of inadequacy. There is also the accumulated responsibility that increases with the “specialness” of surviving. All three things – guilt, inadequacy, and specialness – are hoaxes and smoke up your butt. Survivors just have a little less physicality to work with, we have bad days sometimes. Sure, I feel lucky to be alive most of the time, but the ever-present pending doom keeps me on my toes.

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Mad, Camels, Popeye, and the Card Playing Dogs

December 16, 2016

We often speak about the onslaught of images we see in the digitized 21st century as overwhelming, but I see this as normal. We have long been conditioned to quickly read and process the visual barrage and store what we can for future reference. Experiencing visual stimuli before the digital revolution depended more on our proximity to the sources: TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, books, window shopping, and all matter of print media. Advertisers specialized in “finding viewers” and getting us to choose their channel, or pick their magazine off the rack. Access to images was diverse and fairly dependent on the fickle agency of the viewer. “Browsing” was a physical act which moved your feet from store to store. Now, the images are all on The Screen, and we carry that screen in our pockets, and we pull it out one hundred times a day. Now, we “research” items and seek the Holy Grail called “free shipping”. Now, we go directly to the advertiser. Now, we actually pay to wear his logo.

In the Analog Age our stimulus was less diverse but far richer. C. M. Coolidge’s Poker Playing Dog paintings have had a special influence on kids for over 100 years, myself included. I vaguely recall my uncle had a copy of the dogs in his basement card room where they played Sheepshead and drank Blatz beer in Milwaukee during the early 1960′s. The kids might wander downstairs into the loud smokey room to snatch a handful of pretzels or a piece of the “good” sausage. There it hung as a backdrop to the real poker players. Originally intended to sell cigars, those bad dogs were smoking and drinking and gambling — three major vices we were warned about as children (which our parents practiced religiously).

Black and white Popeye cartoons had beautiful black shadows under the characters. Mickey Mouse was in his purest form in Steamboat Willie. The Camel cigarettes pack was my only glimpse at the “Exotic”. The tiny drawings within the Mad Magazine logo represented camp, burlesque, nudity, and the secret world of the forbidden.Why are we as children so drawn to the scatological, the naughty, and the bad? It was a working class visual fantasy world of low-brow mischief and cool, and I couldn’t get enough. If you want to get to Heaven, ya gotta raise a little Hell. Here’s to A Little Hell.

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| More: art, camel. popeye, Comics, Sketchbook

Hieronymous Bosch

November 25, 2016

It seems that Hieronymous Bosch was the goofiest painter of the Renaissance. He single-handedly brought the grotesque to the highest level. Along with his hard nosed moral depictions and allegorical forays, Bosch brought the ugly every-day burger into his work. Even his renderings of Christ have a dopey schlubb kind of expression. There is almost nothing contemporaneously written about him and little else known, but, he has always been one of my favorites.

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The Junkman

October 20, 2016

The Junkmen that I saw were older Black Men with beater junkyard pickup trucks slowly wandering through the alleys of inner-city Milwaukee. The way they piled up the junk was a sculptural miracle, far better than any preacher’s art car. The radiator would pour out a little steam, the tailpipe a little blue smoke, mismatched fenders and wheels, pulling a homemade trailer. Somehow he reduced the waste while making a living in scrapping it all. The invisible infrastructure every city needs. So, if you have something decent to get rid of don’t take it to the for-profit Goodwill store, put it in the alley for the Junkman. 4-color Lithograph, 9 x 12.

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Unexpected improvement

September 19, 2016

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Like the drummer who started out hitting pots and pans on the kitchen floor as a child, the artist remembers drawing pictures as soon as he could hold a crayon. I am no exception, drawing family members, houses, pets, cars, soldiers, spaceships, monsters, aliens, and every comic strip in the newspaper. In Junior High school I started on the typical path drawing caricatures of teachers, friends and politicians and eventually trying to master chrome.

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It was in High School that entirely original drawings dominated my output, including surrealistic worlds, and every kind of counter-cultural experience. It was drawing for the sake of drawing, spending endless hours listening to FM radio and drawing. The elapse of time had no meaning.

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Forty years later, I now spend a few hours each morning drawing in my little moleskine sketchbook. I alternately copy from the great artists and also draw whatever comes to mind each day. I do not have any plans but I do try to compose each page and finish every drawing. I feel like a kid again, time whips by, and I can see a marked improvement in skill and speed. I’m able to jam more and more complexity into these tiny pages. If I can do it, you can do it. The hard part is starting. You can view all the sketchbook pages HERE.

 

 

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The Daily Sketchbook Habit

August 24, 2016

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Old dogs really can learn new tricks. I have always kept a sketchbook since the 1970′s, but I’ve never made it a daily practice. When I came across artists who did in fact draw every day – I was in awe. Their sketchbooks were loaded with everyday scenes, doodles, designs, patterns, notes, and quotes. I sporadically used the sketchbook for doodles and quotes from books I read, and ideas for future prints.

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One day I decided to start practicing drawing characters for a graphic novel, and began filling up all my sketchbooks. I was getting a little burned out so I pulled out a Gustave Klimt book, took a cup of coffee and my tobacco pipe out to the balcony and began to copy Klimt. Next morning I copied Frank Stella, Next morning Max Earnst, then Max Beckmann, Aubrey Beardsley, Giorgio di Chirico, Oskar Kokoschka, Modigliani, Marianne von Werefkin, Fred Stonehouse, Tony Fitzpatrick, Enrique Chagoya, Alfred Kubin, Danny Lyon, Franz Marc, Dali, Daumier, and several obscure Russian Futurists.

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I was on a roll and needed more sketchbooks, I was hooked and the Summer weather beckoned me to my tree surrounded balcony. I started to actually compose my tiny moleskine sketchbook pages as little finished works. My original drawings were getting better and I started to use color and more complex crosshatching. Now I can honestly say daily drawing in the sketchbook has become my habit, I wonder if I can do same thing with exercise? I have scanned these pages and created a new category in Gallery called Sketchbooks, see the complete works HERE.

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A slight shift in direction

July 26, 2016

If you have ever been to Burningman in the Nevada Black Rock Desert, you will remember that the very best and most impressive art works were burned with fire to the ground at the end of the event. I often relish the courage it takes to part ways and destroy works of art. The idea of a “clean slate” is very appealing; a fresh start; drawing a line in the sand. For me it means trying to forget every creative impulse that seemed forced, or lazy, or without concern for the viewer for whom I am making the art. C. S. Lewis quoted Horace in his essay “Good Work and Good Works” roughly paraphrased, “Art is to delight and inform the public.” As a Post-Evangelical Left wing Christian Sympathizer, I still feel the duty to serve the public as an artist – to delight and inform.

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A Slight Doubt
2016, Rubber stamp, found paper ephemera, and gouache.
9 x 11″

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Elegant Drudgery

July 21, 2016

Looking at the elegant golden gowns of Gustave Klimt led to a little diptych painted on recycled antique book covers. Cooking and cleaning marked my mother’s generation as the measurement of a good housewife. These terms have become vile and insulting to post-modern generations, but there was a certain elegance to domestic work that is worth considering.

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Elegant Drudgery I
2016, Gouache, gold leaf, and ink on found book covers
6 x 9″

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Elegant Drudgery II
2016, Gouache, gold leaf, and ink on found book covers
6 x 9

 

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CMYK process painting

If I were a painter I’d blow up famous paintings from art books, crop them, and paint them using a halftone screen in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

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Napoleon’s Horse
(after Jacques-Louis David)
2016, Acrylic on panel, 29 x 35

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Hare
(after Albrecht Durer)
2016, Acrylic on panel, 29 x 35

 

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Comics Blown-Up

If I were a Pop Artist I would take a magnifying glass to the color Sunday Comics, crop my favorite characters, and make acrylic paintings using an ellipse halftone screen using just four process colors. L to R: Powerhouse Pepper by Basil Wolverton, Popeye, Batman, Little Nemo, Lois Lane, Olive Oyl, Superman, Flip, and Krazy Kat. And a healthy nod to the late Roy Lichtenstein.

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Comics Blown-Up
2016, Acrylic on panel, each 15 x 15″

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