Monday, December 31, 2007

Wicked was Wicked!





Have you seen it? No? Too bad for you, I did! Have you heard of it? No? Then you must be living in a greater cultural wasteland than I do. What a pity.


While in Chicago a couple of friends and I had the chance to see this little gem. I had read the book by Gregory Macguire and thought it was very deep and intellectual. I thought it would be a silly little spoof or satire of the original. But, instead he treated the characters with a lot of respect and depth. Of course, what many people don't know (those who have only seen the Garland pic and not read the Oz book) is that Baum's novel was very dark. When 1930's Hollywood got hold of it and added red sequins to Dorothy's "silver slippers" it made Baum's rich original chocolate cake of a novel into a pop tart. It was a delicious and well made pop-tart, however, it was still a pop tart.


After reading Wicked and then heard it was to be made into a musical a few years back I thought, "Yikes, what are they thinking? Anyone in the U.S. who has seen the Oz musical with Garland are going to be outraged when the witch becomes the misunderstood heroine and our poor mislocated Dorothy and the Good Witch of the North become the villains." But, fortunately I was wrong. The musical, Wicked, wisely modifies and abbreviates some of the darker elements of the story into the traditional romantic-comedy/love-triangle format that we in the Western world now believe is the only form of story telling that can be entertaining to us.


Here's my synopsis of the staged version. We are introduced to Galinda announcing to the frightening and near demonic munchkins that the Wicked Witch of the West is dead. The typical dancing celebration of course ensues. Galinda is asked why the Witch had been Wicked. She responds that some people are born wicked and some people have wickedness thrust upon them. This statement tastefully and intelligently sets up the plot of the entire play. Next we briefly see that Elphaba (the Witch) is of illegitimate birth. Then we skip many chapters of the novel to focus on Elphaba being a geeky, nerdy, misunderstood academic during her years at the Shiz University. Galinda is her "good" and popular nemesis that is vain, flippant and shallow. Through several scenes and musical numbers the women gain a grudging respect for one another and then become friends. Elphaba, with the young and vivacious Prince Fiyero (wouldn't we all love to have a sporty, athletic little dancing prince named after a sports car), are thrown into a situation where they are required to break the law in order to protect the literate and speech capable animal citizens of Oz. Galinda, being Good, can't bring herself to break the law. However, she does help Elphaba and Fiyero escape. Earlier in the story Galinda gives Elphaba a hideous black hat in order to embarrass her. Then during the escape, Galinda puts a long black cloak around Elphaba to keep her warm during her escape from Shiz. Thus, we see that it is Galinda, The Good, who has literally made Elphaba into The Witch. Elphaba has had "wickedness thrust upon her." The end of the escape scene is the amazing end of the first act of the play with Elphaba flying above Oz on her broom for the first time and singing the song, "Defying Gravity." This number when performed to its fullest potential, as it was the night we saw it, is perfectly designed to pull a standing ovation from the audience.


Spoiler alert! Now I'll wrap it up. Here's how the musical really differs from the book and how the play connects itself to the 1939 movie version. The book continues on with Elphaba moving into the castle, having a child and living for years there studying magic and ruling her people. In the play, she is forced to use magic in order to save lives, yet is demonized by reports of her witchcraft being used to harm people. In order to soothe a frightened little lion from attacking during its rescue, she removes its courage. To save the fiancee of her sister after his death, Elphaba turns him into a "clockwork tin man." Then to save her lover, Fiyero, from being beaten to death she turns him into a straw man incapable of having his body broken. We see in silhouette the figure of Dorothy arriving at the castle and dousing Elphaba with water who melts, naturally. But, contrary to the book and movie (and to give us a warm, fuzzy, happy ending to our romantic-comedy), the scarecrow (Fiyero) returns to the castle and pulls Elphie out of the trap door where she has staged her own death. And we assume they live happily ever after as Galinda sings the final number.


For some reason the wonderful actress singing the Elphaba role on the night of our play did not perform the second act. The understudy did an acceptable job but certainly lacked the energy and punch of the actress in the first act who knocked us out with "Defying Gravity". The part of Galinda is not a secondary role by any means. The character is rich with comic elements and big emotional notes as she argues with Elphaba. The Galinda musical numbers require a soprano with almost magical powers in order to get them out. Wow, what range this lady had! I enjoyed our performers in Chicago but would have loved to have seen the original cast in New York. I bought the souvenir program and saw who they were. Galinda was originally played by Kristen Chenoweth (I recognize her from The West Wing), a brilliant little blond pixie that must have been a real pistol in the original production (picture from Wireimage.com).

So, after seeing it, I understand why this musical incarnation of Oz connects so successfully with its audience just as much as the original did. In 1939 the innocent, mostly agricultural and sweetly optimistic Americans identified with lost little Dorothy. We all long for home and family, its a universal theme. But, here in our much more cynical and technological world, many of us identify with the embittered Elphaba. We all feel the need to fit in. Our fashion and image obsessed culture drive us to want to be one of the "pretty people" like Galinda and Fiyero. Intelligence and academia are suppressed under the expectation to be young, fit, and POPULAR (as Galinda marvellously sings)!

I loved the Chicago cast, but Kristen, if you're out there reading this, I'll buy you dinner at Olive Garden if you'll drop by the house and sing some of these tunes for me. What actress in an Oz inspired musical could possibly turn down an offer to eat Italian food with a perfectly safe, musical-theatre loving gay guy. Who knows, the connection just might turn you into the next Garland-esque gay icon.



Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chicago

I just returned from Chicago. I had a great time. I was officially there for business, attended conferences, workshops, etc. But, there was plenty of time leftover for fun and sightseeing. The attached photos are not mine. One is a public domain shot I found on the Internet. The other is a post card of the hotel I stayed in.

I don't think anyone will be very interested in the business part of the trip. But, I'll be sure to catch you up on the adventures I had while there. Here's a preview: Ate at great restaurants, SAW WICKED!, got stranded at O'Hare, road the train. Did I mention I saw Wicked. Wow!





Accepted!!!

I'm back from my trip (more about that later). When I checked the email I found out some exciting information. My picture of the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas was excepted by the Schmap Vegas Guide website. I'm so excited. Here is a copy of the email I received. I'm also posting a link to their site. I'm also going to include a "widget" of their site as a courtesy for publishing my picture. Travel is not necessarily the focus of this blog so I'm not sure how long I'll leave up the widget. If it adds to the aesthetic of the page I'll leave it, if not I'll take it down sometime.

Hi Gemini Art,

I am delighted to let you know that your
submitted
photo has been selected
for inclusion in the newly released fourth
edition of our Schmap Las Vegas
Guide.

Thanks so much for
letting us include your photo - please enjoy the
guide!

Best
regards,
Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides


Link to Schmap Guide, Las Vegas page. As you can see, my photo of the Mirage hotel, taken from the balcony of the Venetian, is in the upper right hand corner of the web page. There's even a little attribution to "Gemini Art" beneath it. I'm famous! I hope all my loyal readers will leave their generous compliments for me in the comments section on this blog entry and check out the Schmap Guide in appreciation for their wisdom in recognizing my photographic genius.





Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Exciting Email Today


Sometimes there are little things that come out of the blue that really make your day. You know, unexpected miracles like I wrote about in my prayer previously. Well, today it happened. When I checked the email this morning I had received this little note from a viewer on Flickr. (I've excluded some of the note that explained how to submit the photo for inclusion in the guide.)




Hi Gemini Art,

I am writing to let you know that one of your photos hasbeen
short-listed for inclusion in the fourth edition ofour Schmap Las Vegas Guide, to be published late
December 2007.

Best regards,

Emma Williams,

Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

I never dreamed that my little photo I took of my hotel might attract the attention of someone who might publish it. But, I'm glad its being recognized. Wish me luck everyone. It would be cool to have my photo included in a mainstream, highly visible website. I'm anxious to know if it makes the final cut. I'll let you know as soon as I find out. Of course, I'm reposting the selected picture here on the blog again.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Prayer



During this time of year I get very tired. The summer months are always hard work and exhausting. It takes a mental and physical toll on me. By the month of November I've usually experienced so much stress that my health goes bad (I've got a cold), my outlook suffers (I worry about everything) and the prospect of the holidays fill me with dread. I don't like that feeling. I want to feel the hopefullness and anticipation that children have when we get near holidays. I don't like feeling, "Oh, now we have to do this stuff again." So, when the seasons began to change this year I decided to turn the TV off, make the house quiet and spend more time alone with my thoughts. I've taken a few long quiet drives and sat on the porch outside. Of course that naturally leads to reflection, meditation and prayer for me. Believe it or not, I'm a very introspective person.

While I was thinking through things this little prayer came to me. Its sorf of a generic, all-purpose little supplication, good for most life situations. It may seem a little weird, esoteric, New Agey and mystical to some people, but then again, so am I. It was special to me. If it has any meaning to you, I'm glad. If it doesn't, at least I've shared.

A Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Under the influence of Your Divine Intelligence and Love,

May the Universe resolve
To create and support the perfect and ideal reality
For myself, my family, and those whom I love.

Grant me the ability as Your child,
Through faith in You and unwavering belief,
To hold in my mind, with confidence,
The image of that total perfection.

May the Universe resolve
To resonate in harmony
With the sympathies of the Creator.
Those being the affections of
Love, Peace, Compassion,
Abundance, Prosperity, Beauty,
and Joy.

May the Universe resolve
To reveal miracles,
Both anticipated and unexpected.
May they burst forth as naturally
As a hidden spring in the desert
Or a cool breeze in the hot summer.

May they encourage the vitality and hope of life
As flowers that sprout through
The cover of icy snow.

May the Universe resolve
To extinguish suffering
Regardless of condition
Be it physical pain, emotional grief,
Or spiritual emptiness.

Eliminate the condition of despair
Recover from the hopelessness of loss.
Give comfort to those suffering pain
And move them to ease from the condition of disease.

May the Universe resolve
To provide for every need,
That there be no lack or want
In the heart or mind.
Allow such great abundance
That those with similar needs by provided for.

May the Universe resolve
To open doorways between
The Worlds temporal and eternal.
Allow the passage of celestial beings
As messengers and counselors.
Uncover our mortal eyes to the world of spirit
And grant us the grace to make welcome
Those heavenly visitors without fear or hesitation.

And may the Universe resolve
To diminish the causes of
Hate, anger, violence,
Greed and oppression.
May those who lust for such base desires
Develop a longing to retire
From such pursuits.

May they seek to rest from the weariness
Of such burdensome practices.
May each and every one
Be reminded of their humanity.
May they feel the need for compassion and humility.

And may the Universe resolve
To reveal the presence of God’s Breath
In each of us
Through the manifestation
Of this continuing prayer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Work Horses and Carousel Ponies


Sometimes my readers get to read something worthwhile here and sometimes they just get a sample of the noise that rattles around in my head. I'm afraid this entry is the latter type of post. A friend and I had a conversation earlier today that inspired this little bit of rambling aggravation.


I've decided that there are two types of people in the world. Some of us are work horses and some of us are carousel ponies. (Did I hear a giggle from the back of the room?) I'm sure you will have to admit that you can categorize everyone in your life as one of these two types. But, if your having trouble with the classification, allow me to describe them.


I believe that I, my close friends and everyone I respect is a work horse. The work horse makes a contribution to the world. The life of a work horse revolves around their duty. They demonstrate strength, dilligence and perseverance. The workhorse is generally modest, patient and long-suffering in the execution of his job. A good work horse is a calm and intelligent animal. He often times knows his job better than his handler. Just ask any farmer that has absent mindedly plowed a field. A good horse can keep the furrow straight even if the idiot behind the plow doesn't know the difference between "gee" and "haw".


Unfortunately, the majority of the world falls into the category of carousel pony. That animal is a pure phony. Its not even a real horse. The carousel pony is a vain, brightly painted artifice that serves no real purpose except to indulge the public in a brief, cheap thrill. It spends its entire existence traveling thousands of miles yet goes nowhere. It revolves in small circles and has no desire to expand the limits of its circulation. Its the carousel pony type that gets most of the attention in our celebrity obsessed world. The creature that look great, shows a flashy style and craves personal attention are those who gain the favor of the public. Who enjoys an old tired work horse when there's a dashing carousel pony available? But, lets not forget. You'll never get a lick of work done by a carousel pony unless its impaled on a metal rod with a motor attached to it. (Did I hear another snicker in the back of the room?)


Everyone let me know if you are currently having to tolerate too many carousel ponies in your life. Leave a comment and we will share our desperation.
(The photo in this post is provided by Degan Beley. More of her work is available on Flickr, screen name Luckyfish.)


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Supporting "Real" Art


A friend recently referred me to an online article about research into some of DaVinci's painting techniques. He is aware of my interest in Renaissance artists and thought I would enjoy the article. When I wrote my thank you note for sending the article, I found myself writing my thoughts about our current place in art history. I think I learned a little about myself when I wrote this. I had never quite organized my thoughts about contemporary art in this way. I'll share them with you and invite your feedback about your own opinions regarding "modern art".



I'll begin by posting a link to the original article about DaVinci.
(This picture attributed to Reuters news service)


Here are my thoughts after reading the article:

"Its interesting that so many artists that have become the most appreciated
painted in this layering, canvas-mixing technique. Another artist (a favorite of
mine) that painted in a similar technique was American illustrator Maxfield
Parrish. He painted with only one pure pigment on each layer without mixing them on the palette. He allowed the combined transparent colors to modulate the reflected light to create his images. (Here's an online essay that explains how he did it "Maxfield Parrish")

Pure pigments create brilliant, intense images. Paintings created in this fashion appear to glow even in minimal lighting. Mixed colors get dull and neutralized in their intensity. This amateurish mixing of incompatible colors on the palette is one reason that modern artwork is missing the brilliance of the old works. Working in this style was an important
technique to master back in the days before modern chemistry made lots of subtle colors available through commercial oil paints. The Modernist movement of the early 20th century almost destroyed/supplanted artists that knew how to do this. So, now we're having to do scientific investigations of these old paintings in order to learn how these old masters got the results they did. There's a great website called Art Renewal International that supports the efforts of artists that are trying to maintain the legacy of legitimate art history. It supports artists that use traditional established techniques and methods rather than painters who gain attention just through sheer sensationalism. I'm including a link to the ARC website. Its very informative."

Art Renewal

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Returning Soon

Finally, I've begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've done all the geeky things that make me feel better when I've had a disappointment. I've hung out in book stores, Hobby Lobby, Office Depot, Best Buy. I've indulged in my favorite evening beverages, cheap wine and fruity rum drinks whipped up in the blender. I've thrown myself into work day and night to distract myself from the harsh reality of my situation. And now, I'm coming out of it.

I was standing in Hobby Lobby watching all the scrapbookers flutter around (how annoying). I always gravitate to the art/painting books. I think I've purchased almost every book on the subject of acrylic painting. So, I've begun reading some of the books about oil painting. I've always avoided that medium for several reasons:
1) I've heard its a terribly messy medium that requires a lot of specialized equipment to work with.
2) I've read that the noxious odors are unbearable to live with if you have a studio in your home.
3) I'm intimidated by the fact that oil painting is the medium of the great masters. I'm afraid that if your not an "expert", or "professional" artist you can't deal with this medium.

However, while I was reading the introduction to an oil painting method book I cam across an author that had a similar experience. She said she had been an acrylic painter who had been striving to get the look of oil paints but was afraid of the medium. She had developed a method of oil painting that was complementary with her technique in acrylics. She wrote at length about painting in oils using alkyd mediums to accelerate drying times. She definitely caught my attention. I'm just slightly impatient (an exaggeration) and I don't like the idea of having to wait for days while a painting dries when I'm inspired and in the mood to paint. She may have encouraged me to try this.

The real clincher for me was that her paintings were the most luminous, glowing still lifes I had seen. She captured a realism and sense of light that was breathtaking. It reminded me of the chiaroscuro effects of some great Renaissance and Counter-Reformation era painters. There is such drama in her works that I have to learn how to do that. So, I immediately bought the book. That's an unusual step for me since I usually focus on figures and portraits. I've decided that if I can learn to capture those same effects I'll gladly take a detour into still life painting. I'm going to experiment (again) with her transparent techniques using acyclic media and varnish as well as slow drying agents for increased blending. But, I'm afraid I won't get it to work. The next time you read me you'll probably see that I've gone out and invested in a few hundred dollars worth of new equipment and supplies to work in oil. Wish me luck.

I'm back!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hiatus

I have to take a break. My apologies to everyone that have become loyal and supportive readers. The comments, notes and questions about my work have been a great encouragement in my amateurish artistic endeavors. I'm amazed at how supportive that established artists can be towards someone just starting out.

You may have noticed that my blog postings have become more infrequent of late. It appeared that I went strangely silent after I finished the "Watch the Artist" series featuring the "Pink Trunks" work. I didn't plan to stop painting at that point. As a matter of fact, this summer has been one of my most creative periods. However, I've gone through a slight personal crisis in the last few weeks. An emotional nuclear bomb is a more accurate description of what happened. Fellow artists can attest that such things are often paralyzing to the creative process. I know that some artists can use such emotional pain to birth new ideas and artwork, but I can't. I've come to believe that beautiful men should be admired from afar and never approached. The combination of a flashing smile, kind eyes and promising words are a lethal combination.

I think Shakespeare describes my mood best in what Hamlet said:

"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so."

-William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The human animal (especially the male) is the most powerful and dangerous thing on the face of creation. A beautiful, strong, intelligent man is an awe-inspiring yet fearsome thing. For that reason alone it makes the human male a worthy and amazing artistic subject. Shakespeare says exactly what I feel, "...in form and moving, how express and admirable!...the beauty of the world!" Yet, such a lovely countenance can camouflage the most dangerous creature ever made. I'll be more cautious from now on. I would certainly be careful and guarded if admiring a tiger, lion, or other beautiful wild thing. I'll remember in the future that the human animal is not so far removed from the wild. Only the human animal is able to match its capacity for affection with an equal measure of cruelty.

So, having said that and gotten it off my chest, I'll move on now. For a while I'll critique and review other artists' work. But, as for myself, I think I'll stick to drawing and painting still lifes, landscapes, other mundane subjects that don't have quite the emotional impact. But, then again, where's the fun in that?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Echoes of Leyendecker 2



I hope that you read an article I wrote a few months back about the great American illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. I love his work and would like very much to be able to create work in that style.


After painting the "Pink Trunks" man I was very disappointed. I felt as if I had started out with a good idea but got further and further away from the original composition I had planned. The original idea was to work in a very soft and transparent style. I wanted a very romanticized and atmospheric piece of artwork. Instead, my piece was very hard and sculptural and solid. I think the end product was one hundred percent the opposite of the style I planned to create.


While the result was unintended I have to admit that its not unappealing. There are some strong points about this piece. The balance and symmetry of the figure is good. The treatment of light, shadow, highlight, reflected light, and skin tones are appropriate. But, why did I lean in this direction? I thought about what my personal tastes in figurative art were. I tried to remember what influenced me. My first love of art was the Renaissance master works of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. The sculpture of Michelangelo and Bernini. So, is there any wonder why my work might have that very modeled and sculptural look to it.


I've also just been reading a book about the great American illustrators, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, and his mentor J.C. Leyendecker. I found some illustrations by Leyendecker and was struck by a few similarities between his work and mine. First of all, there is the very statuesque and stylized rendering of the figure. Secondly, I noticed the cool bluish reflected light on the legs. And finally, I see the strong, almost polished quality of the highlights on the skin.
Am I suggesting that my work matches the quality of Leyendecker? Absolutely not. I'm analyzing this piece with as much modesty as I can muster. But, I am trying to convince myself that the aesthetic that I achieved is one that has been previously demonstrated and widely appreciated in another era. It can't be denied that the beautiful male figures in Leyendecker's work were extremely stylized and decorative. He wasn't trying to show those men as hardworking All-American athletes. He was blatantly celebrating a fantasized, idealized depiction of beautiful men. Apparently the publishers and readers of the Saturday Evening Post were celebrating right along with him.


Leyendecker's athletes had a definite sensual vitality to them. They look waxed and ready to go onstage as Chippendale's dancers more than prepared for a rowing competition. Yet, in the 1930's this image had a certain innocence to it. In that day and age these figures could be admired as beautiful without being overtly sexual. If the same type of cover were on a magazine today it wouldn't be a painting. It would feature a photograph of near naked sweaty fitness models. Where's the "art" in that? When put that way, I'm proud to have painted a piece that reflects Leyendecker's style.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Doing Digital

I've recently found a site called Deviant Art. I know, I know. The name of the site sounds suspicious, but believe me, it's not. I t mainly focuses on non-traditional artists. It's a clearing house for photographers, painters of all sorts, and digital artists. I've lately become fascinated by the digital artists. They are truly the innovators and pioneers of modern artists. Most of them share my love for fantasy art. That follows, doesn't it? People who love science fiction and fantasy usually love computers. Hence, their art medium becomes the new digital technology out there. One of the features that I love about Deviant Art (DA its commonly referred to) is that it allows for artists to compose tutorials and post them along side the artwork. Its a wonderful online community there. The spirit of collaboration is amazing. Its so supportive and encouraging. I've recently downloaded some tutorials on making digital art with Photoshop. I only have Photoshop Elements which is a stripped down version. But, most of the features are there. I also have an inexpensive WACOM pen tablet. That's what many of the artists say they use. I'm experimenting. If I get a piece completed I'll post it. I'll probably start a separate blog for the digital material. I understand that ArtBlogs4U is opposed to listing digital art. So, I'll give you the link when I do it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Art Blogs 4 U

I hope all my loyal and beloved readers will notice there is a new link added to my favorites list. Its called Art Blogs 4 U. I love the concept of this site. Its basically a clearing house or collection of blogs written by artists about their work. Very much like mine. I have applied to the list host with the hope that my blog will be added to her list. Its a moderated site so she will do a review of my blog before she adds me to the list. Keep your fingers crossed. I would like very much to be part of this group.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Watch the Artist - Final Chapter



It's Finished! For better or for worse, I'm done with it. Is it successful? Hmmmm? It is successful in some ways more than others. Am I happy with the result? Is it what I expected? Not entirely. Remember that we were working on a new technique here. We were throwing in several new variables I've not dealt with before.


Let's start with the positives. I think the modulation of skin tones is more successful than any of my previous works. My ability to capture the light on the figure is much improved. The inclusion of cool (bluish) skin tones in the reflected light is an improvement over my previous works. I also hit a few spots with harder notes of red and gold that I had been afraid to try before.


I feel I have to stop there with the positives. I ended with several problems I couldn't reconcile. I lost the likeness. That is one thing I have always prided myself on, my ability to accurately render facial features. The foot and hand are a mess! Ugh! My draftsmanship is usually much better than this. For most of the drawing I retained great contours in that hand and foot. I knew we were working small scale and I would have to be careful. But, that last round of painting covered up some landmark lines and I lost the forms. I thought I could bring it back with some pencil work and shading. I couldn't. The background looks like an afterthought. It was supposed to be somewhat impressionistic of a tile wall. I missed. I also made a technical error that ruined the background, also.


Thoughtlessness! I reworked the face and made some adjustments with colored pencil. Things were looking good. I added some blue tiles into the "grout" lines in the background. They really sparkled for a while. I added the little "Gemini Art" cartouche. Then I made the mistake. I started to give the work one last coat of acrylic matte varnish. To my utter horror most of the delicate prismacolor work began to melt and blur away. That hadn't happened on the underdrawing. But then I remembered the underdrawing was done on bare paper. This pencil work was glazed over top of a solid coat of acrylic pigments and matte medium. There was nothing for the prismacolor pigment to hold on to. So most of it simply brushed away. The darkest, most intense pencil work remained but not the delicate blending and shading work. Note to self, "Don't liquid varnish over CP work. Use fixatives only!!" How many times are artists told to spot test a small section before applying chemicals to a whole work? I certainly learned my lesson. Oh well, that's why I'm still considered an "amateur" artist.


I thought about redoing the prismacolor work. However, both I and the subject are tired of this. When I ruined it with the varnish accident I do believe Mr. Pink Trunks scowled at me. I wondered about redoing that last step, but he told me he wasn't leaning against that tile wall for another five minutes. Then he stomped his foot and stormed off while I put up my art supplies. I told him that's the last time I'd work with him. I won't tolerate a model who cops an attitude with me. Maybe he can find work modeling as a superhero for the comic books. I only do "serious" artwork anyway. So there!


P.S. You guys do realize that last little bit was a complete and total fabrication to lighten the mood over the disappointing finish of this work, right?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Watch the Artist, Part Six




The painting stages have officially ended. But, it's not finished. I'm sure some artists would leave it here and say they want to allow it to have that "painterly effect." Or, I could take a few more steps and many more hours of painstaking detail work to finish the hands, feet, face and background in acrylic. However, those parts are going to require a lot of detail and I've never been a fan of working with brushes the size of an eyelash.


I said from the beginning this would be a piece of artwork that combined prismacolor pencil with acrylic. I feel a lot more comfortable with doing the detail work in prismacolor because I like the control I have with the pencil.


In this last painting stage it was all about drybrushing and evening out the rough edges. I mixed a very neutral beige color using mostly white gesso and burnt umber. Just for the sake of harmony I added a generous portion of the original skin tone color. When I felt comfortable with the smoothness of the edges I mixed a bright yellowish white to added some sheen with highlights. As you see, I replaced that awful yellow foreground with a neutral grayish blue.


I'll varnish it again and get started with the pencil work. Please be patient and give me a few days to work on this next part. I'm sure I'll become very obsessive compulsive about the detail. Let me know what you think so far.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Watch the Artist, Part Five - Sunburn!!




Oops, I accidentally gave him a sunburn. I'm sure several of you are laughing at me. After all the big talk I made about not mixing skin tones too red or too pink, here I go and blister this guy. Don't worry, it'll be okay. I'll fix it.




Here's where we are. This is the "dry-brushing" stage. I hadn't intended to be at this stage right now. But, as experienced artists will tell you, you have to go where the artwork takes you. It seems to me that there comes a point in a piece of artwork where it almost takes on a life of it's own. After that, its a mistake to force the thing into being something its not. If you've planned well and have established a well balanced composition and have included solid principles of design, then it'll probably end okay.




I had intended to intensify the shadow edge of the figure. Remember, the shadows were originally painted with a low intensity cool steel gray. It was great for the color scheme but really didn't do much to model the shapes of the form. So, I used a dark burnt umber to intensify the shadow edge. That was working okay. What remained of the steel gray worked perfectly as a reflected light in the shadow. But, I began to notice the burnt umber was to harsh and overpowering for the colors and values I'd used up until this point. I also felt as if the figure was a little too yellow and lifeless looking especially because the blue background served as a complementary color to the yellow in the skin tone and projected it stronger than it should be. So, what to do? Time to add a little color to the skin. I added just a touch of cad red to the skin mixture I was using. I loved the way it looked on the face. So, I kept going. I'm afraid I went a little overboard with it because I liked it so much.




We're nearing the end now. We only have two or three steps left. I'll probably finish one more of them this afternoon. Next is to go back to the more neutral and lighter skin tone and blend the edges of the colors. Then I'll go with almost pure white, possibly titanium white now, and add highlights. I'll probably varnish it again at that point to lock down what I've done. Then, the final step will be to use colored pencil work to detail the face and finish the background.




I'm also going to redo that tile floor he's standing on. I thought putting brown down there would tie into the brown on the figure. Big mistake. I hate the way that looks. I want that to be more bluish so it doesn't detract from the figure. Remember, cools recede, warms advance. That warm yellow on the floor jumps out and takes attention from the figure. Gotta stop that.



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Watch the Artist, Part Four



We're about to enter what some art instruction books call "the ugly phase". So, prepare yourself. This part always scares me. I just have to think of it as the challenge to overcome while working toward a beautiful finished artwork. We've covered our figure in a base coat of local color. Basically, we've covered the skin with a light skin color. But, as the light touches our guy his basic skin color will change lighter and darker. We're going to make him start to "pop" off the page now. He looks very flat because he's all one color. To make him start to "pop" we'll add a warm color that will advance toward us, red, right? We'll take a big dollop of that base color we made up and starting adding a hint of cad red to it. When it turns noticebly pink we're ready to use it. Use the reference photo to find all the aread on our guy that is sun-kissed. All the bright areas and highlights get a stroke of this color. Add the glow of health and fitness to him. We'll not cover all of him with this color, especially not the shadow areas. We also want that golden skin tone to peek through here and there. It's more interesting that way, I think.




So, now we go back to the shadows again. We can see them under the skin color because we underpainted them maroon, remember? I'm not one to rush into things too quickly. That's the conservative, non-risk taker in me. I'd hate to get too eager with my color selections and ruin everything I've done up to this point. So, we're going to make a gradual progression toward our shadow areas. Some people might think to create a shadow color would mean to mix up a darker color of skin tone and paint the dark spots. But, that's boring. We don't just see shades of light and dark. We see change in color and changes in temperature. His shadowed areas are not just darker, they're cooler. Cooler colors also change color, they change hue not just change value. I'm going to be bold and choose a cool color. We'll go back to that dark neutral we created for the background and put a big dollop of it into a new area. Begin adding white gesso until it turns about fifty percent gray. I see that this truly is gray and has little temperature to it at all. So, I add a touch of blue until we have a pretty steel blue, or cadet blue as it used to say in the Crayola crayon box. This is going to help harmonize our color scheme. The parent of this shadow color is the same as the dark cast shadow color in the background. It's also very close to the same hue as our blue-gray background. See, there's method to my madness. Color harmony is one of the principles of design. We'll lightly paint the shadows with this color. I work very gradually and keep an old, clean brush handy. After I paint a small area I use the clean brush to gently blend and soften this color as I apply it. I want to start to eliminating my hard edges. Take several breaks to step back and look at him from a distance. Is he starting to lift off the page a little? I hope so. Let's not do too much with this shadow color. We can always add more. It's harder to cover up or take away.



Give the floor he's standing on just a little texture and we're done with this step. I notice that I've lost some of the edges I wanted to keep and I've really lost the face. So, before it's too covered I take a colored pencil and bring those lines and edges back into focus so I can see what I'm doing. I'm gonna cover this guy with another coat of matte varnish. Acrylics have the bad habit of turning loose when you paint several thin layers. The varnish helps lock things down in between layers so we can keep working without worrying about that. Now, let's set him on a bright shelf in the living room and live with him for a while so he can tell us what he needs next. Mist and cover the paints so they don't dry out. Let's watch TV with him for a while.




Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Watch the Artist, Part Three


Okay, here we go again. In this session we've started to paint. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, what paints shall we use? Anyone out there have a tube of skin colored paint? White skin, tan skin, shadowed skin, shiny skin? No? Then I guess we have to mix our own. But first, use matte varnish and cover the whole page. I don't want the paper to curl and pucker so we'll prepare the paper with varnish and then paint on top of that. While this varnish is drying we'll mix paint.

I'll talk about mixing skin color in a minute but first let's get the boring stuff out of the way, like the big shadow on the wall behind him. I like getting the background out of the way early because I'll feel better knowing I won't have to work on it later. I can focus on the fun of painting our good looking swimmer dude. I learned from a smart artist (and from making several dull paintings) that you never paint with black except for tiny little bits to serve as emphasis. The most beautiful blacks are mixed as rich, dark neutrals. True blacks completely close out the light reflecting potential and cause the painting to look flat. So, we'll mix our "black" using a warm and cool complementary color. I start with equal parts of Raw Umber (a dark warm brown) and Prussian Blue (a dark navy blue). I adjust the mixture until it I can't see a bluish or brownish tint to it. Then paint the shadows.

Now, back to the skin color. For Caucasian skin, which our guy is, we need to have a gold cast to it. Pink? NO! Trust me, if you start with pink the poor young fella will be sunburned from the get go. Take a look at most make-up foundations. The base is usually a very sickly yellowish color. Then, pinkish highlighting powders and shadows are put on to that. Think about painting our guy with those colors. Let's look at our source photo for reference. Sure enough he has a healthy golden glow to his skin. The shadows on his skin are a ruddy brown and where he's had to much sun there's just a slight pinkness. But, we usually focus on the pink in a person's skin because in color theory cool neutral colors recede and warm saturated colors advance. Therefore, the warm reds in a person's skin pop out at us.
I know that if we don't emphasize the drawing with a dark rich color the colored pencil lines will be covered up by the opaque paints. So, let's mix up a dark natural skin color, a dark, brownish maroon color (cadmium red and raw umber with a touch of white gesso). Just about the color of a bad bruise. Paint over the pencil drawing with the bruise color being as careful as you can not to lose the image. It won't be perfect because a brush won't be as accurate as a pencil. This thin maroon color will have some brush strokes in it. But, that's okay. This is underpainting. There will be several layers on top of this. You might still see a little of it when we're finished, but just barely. This is like the skeleton. You don't see a person's bones when you look at them, you just know they're there. Right?

While this dries mix the base coat for the skin. Let's not mix too yellow or we'll give him jaundice. Let's not go too red or he'll look sunburned. Start with a big dollop of cadmium yellow. Then, add just a touch of cadmium red. You'll be surprised how far a little touch of red will go. You'll make orange in a hurry with just a little bit. When you have a yellowish orange color start adding white gesso. Add a little at a time until we have a healthy light peach color. Then add a touch more white because acrylics always dry a little darker than you think. So go lighter to be on the safe side. At this point I use gesso for the white instead of titanium white because I want the easy flow of the liquid paint. Titanium white will be so thick it will cover every thing we've done. And right now we still want some translucence. Carefully, start to overpaint the maroon colored figure with the peach color. If its too opaque to see the underpainting wipe it off. You can do that if you primed the paper with varnish. Add a little water and try again. Then, base coat the swim trunks with a light pink mixed from cad red and white and paint them. When the figure is covered we're done with this session. Gee, that was exhausting let's go take a nap and dream of what he'll look like when finished.




Record Hit Count on Flickr!!

Here's exciting news. I just checked my Flickr album. I have three pieces of artwork that have just past a landmark for my little album. "Gridiron Warrior","Poolboy", and "Ganges" have reached or exceded 100 page views each. I only hope now that everyone that viewed the photo would also go to the gallery site and make a purchase. Or, at least drop me an email and let me know if they like what they saw. But, I see progress. The future is bright.





Monday, July 9, 2007

Watch the Artist, Part 2




Thanks for checking in again. I hope this little drawing is holding your interest. This is the second stage of my process with this drawing. First of all, let's review where we've been. We started with a simple line drawing in graphite of the figure that established composition on the page and proportions. Now, we've undone everything we started with. Honestly, I went back over the drawing with a drafting cleanup bag and almost completely obliterated the original graphite until it was barely a ghosted image. Then, as I removed a few lines I replaced them with prismacolor pencil. I didn't do that all at once. I went very slowly and carefully one line at a time. This is definitely not a time to rush through the work. We all know that every fine piece of artwork begins with a top-notch drawing. Without that, what have you got? Nothing. In this stage I've replaced the graphite with a very subtle neutral pinkish color. I'm still just wanting a ghost of an image. This will be the framework to which we'll ad color and light. As you can see, our guy looks a lot more substantial now. As I replaced the line work I also began modeling forms with a very soft hatching. This is not a step that is supposed to stand out. When I work in this step I like to think of applying the pigment as you would be sprinkling the paper with powder. There is nothing in this stage that is applied so intensely that it can't be edited easily. Just while I've been looking at this drawing while I've been writing I've seen some spots that need editing. I don't really like the balance in the foreground of the tile work on the floor. There appears to be more on the right than the left. So, I'm about to get the kneaded eraser and remove from the right and then add to the left. I'll keep you posted. Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Watch the Artist


Here's the beginning of a new piece I'll be working on. I thought it would be fun to let the readers follow along on this one. For those of you who are fellow artists, you can laugh at my mistakes. For those of you who are not artists, I hope you'll get an idea how much time and energy it takes to put a piece of artwork together. To help you get an idea of the scale we're working with, this support (Artagain Paper) is roughly 8.5X 19, in. The paper is about the thickness of poster board (a little thinner) with a light texture to it. This particular paper is a light ash gray. I know this particular dimension is a little strange. However, I'm basically working on a piece of scrap here.
Now, we have the potential for a lot of mistakes, because I'm gonna be practicing new techniques. My last artwork, "Blue Towel," was pretty basic traditional colored pencil technique. But, as with anything, if you want to improve you have to practice. You have to try new things. So that's what I'm doing here. I found an artist's website that executed the most beautiful figurative work using a combo of acrylic paint washes and Prismacolor pencils. He even has a page on his website that describes his process. His finished works have an almost airbrushed delicate quality to them. But, he stresses that there is only hand drawn pencil work on the artwork. Since acrylic and colored pencil are the two media that I work with primarily, and I love figurative subjects, I thought I'd try it out.
This is not the most imaginative or original subject, I realize. But, since I'm trying something new I didn't want to deal with a complicated pose or a lot of wrinkled, flowing, billowing drapery on the figure. So, we'll stick with something simple, a straight forward athletic figure in full sunlight lit from the upper right. I also had this "scrap" of gray paper I wanted to use. Because of it's dimensions I needed an upright standing pose. This one just happened to fit perfectly.
Although we're just at the very beginning of the drawing, there has been a lot of work that has gone on already. I've worked about three or four hours off and on to get to this stage. Let's keep track of the time on this one so I can charge by the hour plus the cost of materials like a building contractor. So far, I've copied the source photo in black and white (you can see values better in black and white) and in color. I decided what part of the photo to use. There is a lot of empty, unimaginative background in the original that we're not going to use. But, there's a contrasting shadow being cast on the wall behind our guy that will lend some interest to the work.
Since this support is a little flimsy, and we're going to be using a little bit of wet media on it, I've taped it down with masking tape on a foamboard backing. I've tested the paper's reaction to getting wet. It puckers a little but smooths out again when dry. I hit it with the blow dryer for about 2 minutes and it was right back to flat. We won't be drawing on it when its wet anyway. And the piece I tested wasn't taped to a backing. We should be in good shape here. I think matte board would be a better choice but I don't have any. If we do this again we'll get the matte board (but have to charge more for the drawing because matte board is more expensive).
After that, it was a simple matter of enlarging the subject to fit the paper. For those of you who are not artists that might not sound so simple. But, trust me, it just takes a little practice. I checked and double checked my proportions and angles. Then did almost an hour's worth of clean up with a kneaded eraser and drafting cleanup bag. I've done all that just to have created the equivalent of a coloring book page. The next step will be a little heartbreaking. All of these dark graphite lines have to be replaced (therefore erased) with a more subtle, neutral Prismacolor line. I'm expecting another two or three hours for that part. Did you notice I didn't work in a lot of detail on the face? He looks a little comic bookish, right? Its because I didn't want to have a lot of eraser marks and roughed up paper on the face. I just drew in the landmarks, I'll detail the face in color. Then, after all that, we finally get to add just a little, and I mean a very little, bit of paint.
Hope you didn't think this would go quickly. It might be almost as interesting as watching paint dry.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I'm in the Art Business!


This little miracle of the cyberworld is great. As I promised yesterday I took care of the business of getting connected with PayPal*. It's been an all day process, required an overhaul of the Gemini Art webpage (after I had just finished and overhaul of the Gemini webpage) and the purchase of new software.
The problem also boiled down to faulty design software. The version software I was using was about four years old. I couldn't figure out why I kept getting error messages when I tried to link or make sales buttons for PayPal. I'd gone through the registration process and had been confirmed years ago. I've bought things on ebay through Paypal. I started researching my software and found that my version was 5.0. The most recent version is 7.0. So, I'm a little behind. No wonder I was out of sync with the operation. PayPal doesn't even use the same addresses that were programmed into my software. But, I'm all fixed up now with some beautiful "Add to Cart" buttons on my catalogue page that work like a dream.
I only have one small problem. This new software writes the site into code that is a little different. I guess with the advent of a new version of Windows and a new version of Internet Explorer the design software had to modify some things. You can't imagine how my heart leaped into my throat when I clicked on my link and got the IE disaster warning. I had to log on to my ISP and go directly into my website file manager to find the correct file. I'll correct my link on blogger but I'm afraid there are a lot of people out there that will be trying to find the gallery and thinking I've taken the site down.
So, here is the new "revised" Gemini art web address. Please forward it to everyone that might have missed this blog.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Grand Opening - Gemini Art Gallery is New and Improved

At last!!! The new site is up and running. http://members.cox.net/gemini_art/gemini_art.htm.
I can't describe how excited I am about this new site. There are so many improvements that I want to point out to you.
First of all, the color scheme and layout is much more inviting. I got rid of the black and orange that made it so imposing. Also, I have samples of artwork on the very first page. I realized that if I have an art gallery website, I needed to focus on art. I narrowed my focus and only featured the works that I like. I read a few essays online about good website design. They all recommended that the content be very direct and to the point. I've included an artist's statement in the "about me" section. I've decided to highlight my figurative works. On my last site I was showing my landscapes and everything. I thought (in my misguided way) that I was demonstrating my versatility. NOT!! The truth is that they (the landscapes) were just not good. Creating artwork with the male figure as the primary subject is my first love. Its what I enjoy working on and so that's what I plan to showcase on this site.
I've finally decided to sell my artwork. The first website was truly a gallery only. It was my little photo album of what I can do. But, now I've decided that if someone enjoys my work, I'd like to see it hanging on their wall. I've had very kind complements from viewers on this blog and from other sites. Its given me the confidence to put prices on the work.
Now for the disappointments. I want very badly to be able to accept secure payments. I tried for a long time tonight trying to get Paypal sales to work. I have a Paypal account. I took all the right steps of creating "Buy Now" buttons. But, to no avail. If anyone out there in the cyber ether knows how to make this work, let me know. I'm desperate.
I've also included more contact information, even my phone number. I may regret that decision, but we'll see. If it results in my selling a painting, then that's great. I also included a paragraph soliciting commissions and models. I know it looks a little presumptuous, but taking on commissions is one more source of income. If I want paying clients then I have to ask for them, right? I was hesitant about asking for models. However, I know that to create legitimate, respected work I have to create unique and original subjects. I can't spend an artistic career just copying from photos taken by other artists (photographers). I have ideas for artwork that will never be realized unless I contract and pose my own models. I may get some undesirables because of this, but I'll use my own judgement about who to accept. If there are any artists out there with advice, I'm willing to listen. But, for now, please visit the new site and let me know what you think. Link to it and check back often to see when I post new work. It would be nice if you also bought a painting or two.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Artwork in Prismacolor




It's finished. Here is the completed colored pencil drawing of the man in a blue towel. It's 12X16 prismacolor on gray Artagain paper. I'm very proud of the way it turned out. I promise it looks better when actually viewed. My photography skills and inadequate lighting don't do this justice. It is not yet framed so it doesn't lay as flat as it possibly could. I hope everyone enjoys it and sends lots of feedback. This one's for sale. Its also the first one that I signed with the "Gemini Art" moniker. I've used that on the blog and the website so often that I thought I should stick it on artwork so people can use it as a point of reference. I'm tired of pencils for a while. I'm going back to painting for the next artwork.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Painting Balls



Okay, does the silly title of this entry catch your attention? (giggle) Here's the story. I've lately felt my technique was getting a little rusty. I've been drawing and painting and practicing with various techniques but I've just not been happy with the results. So, I decided to take myself back to school, so to speak. Maybe it would be a good idea to practice the basics again for awhile. I recently bought a new book on painting portraits in acrylic (my primary interest as you know). It's a book by Lee Hammond, one of my favorites. Some may feel Hammond is sophomoric in her approach. Some may see her as a commercial sell-out rather than a legitimate artist. Trust me, I've thought the same thing. But, you have to admit, her books are sold on the same shelves as the heavy weights in drawing like Anthony Ryder and Burne Hogarth. I've learned a lot by reading her books. I'll stick with her a little longer. After this I'll try the exercises in painting individual features and practice with different color mixtures for a variety of skin tones. After that, I'll pick a subject and try again. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Happy Birtday, Gemini!




Yes, its true. Today I aged a year. However, the Gemini Art fans and family all got together on Saturday night to celebrate the big event. We ate at a local Japanese steak house. We had a great time. Then later we had birthday cake at home. Presents included a gift certificate for new art supplies, a bottle of wine and a beautiful art print that makes me cry when I read the sentiment printed on it. I'll update my age on the Blogger bio page soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Art Gallery Web Page Upgrade





Just a taste of the new and improved look.

As all good artists know, one of the keys to great art is the creator's ability to self edit. Using that as a motto I've taken a look at the old Gemini Art Gallery site. Its dark, bizarre and unfocused. I don't like it. After visiting a lot of gallery sites with art that I like I've begun a re-design that has a look that makes me more comfortable. I'm looking for two things in the new design. First, I want a more relaxed and inviting presentation. No modern, edgy, mysterious, or frighten-you-away-look will be included. I wanted a background color that makes you think of old parchment. I also wanted a limited palette of muted colors to take the edge off the emotional impact. I want the visitor to feel a more soothing atmosphere and presence. I also thought a touch of black and white imagery would give an "old-fashioned" feeling to it. I think the current black, orange and white of the current site is too intimidating and edgy. I feel like my work is more fantasy and romance driven. It's main subject is almost always the male figure, but it's a idealized aesthetic of the male figure.

The second thing I'm focusing on in the re-design is to show the viewer immediately that they are looking at an art gallery/album site. I've also edited out the work that is not good. I'm chunking the landscapes. I know they stink. I'm also putting thumbnails of my best work right on the front page. Hopefully the viewer will take fewer clicks to get to see the work they're interested in.

And, I'm gonna try to sell some work. I have a Paypal account and I plan to research how I can incorporate that into the site. I know lots of small online businesses use Paypal now. I think its a safe service. Its well established. Pricing the work? No idea. I'll start low because I acknowledge my amateur status. I'll also be willing to barter a little. I'll sell one real cheap in exchange for a flattering comment from a buyer I can post on the site.

If anyone out there has ideas for me on starting up a little art business, I'm all ears. I think it would be lots of fun to sell enough artwork to be able to keep myself supplied with canvas, paper, paint and brushes.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I Apologize

Readers, I'm very sorry about a mistake I made in the settings for this blog. It has been impossible for anyone to post comments. I've been surprised that there have been few comments made on the blog while I've been sent very nice compliments via email. I very carelessly set the comments to allow blogger members only to post messages. That was never my intention. I would love to hear from everyone who looks at the work on this site. I hope that there will be discussion generated now that I've made this little adjustment. Again, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. Perhaps a few loyal readers will go back through their favorite posts and pictures and leave a comment. I always love hearing from people.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Drawing in Progress









Blue Eyes and Blue Towel


I hope this drawing proves to my audience out there that I actually have been working on some artwork. Again I'm dealing with my favorite subject, a beautiful man. Isn't that everyone's favorite subject? Hmmm, should be, if it isn't already. This is a Prismacolor drawing on Artagain gray tinted paper. I'd say this work is about 3/4 finished. I still need to finish the hands and towel. Then I'll go back in and really intensify some of the values. I really want the eyes to pop. I need a lot more detail in the hair and gotta smooth out the skin tones a little. If anyone out there sees something that needs correcting let me know. I aim to please. Also, if you see or know any great looking guys out there that are in desperate need of being made into artwork, send him my way.

The Great Experiement


Some artists would never dare show you their failures. Well, I'm a firm believer that if we don't learn from our mistakes we're bound to repeat them. This thing was a mistake and here is what I've learned. I won't try to create a painting with nothing but glazes ever again!! However, there are parts of the painting (such as the background) that achieved a luminosity and depth of tone I hadn't previously achieved. I was able to get a graduation of values I hadn't gotten before. But, here's the rub. Once you build up those intense darks, you can't come away from it. If I tried to put white back into the work, the opaque spot would suddenly stand out like a birth mark on the Mona Lisa.
This thing was only a little 8X10 experiment. It served its purpose. I learned my lesson (the hard way) and now it can be retired. It is soon going into the experimental artwork graveyard. So, if anyone wants the pitiful thing send me a note. I'll probably give it to you in exchange for a bottle of very cheap wine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend






Gulpha Gorge


Yes, I went on vacation (a small one) again. I went to one of my favorite places in the world, Hot Springs, Arkansas. Its one of the greatest vacation spots ever. I know it like the back of my hand, and, its close to home. What more could you ask for?

You're looking at pictures of the creek that runs through Gulpha Gorge camp ground. No, I didn't camp out. For me, camping is a miserable experience. I've never been camping when I enjoyed it. My definition of "roughing it" means staying in a hotel room with no mini-bar and no room service. I stayed at a Best Western on this trip. So, I was definitely "roughing it".

I do enjoy nature and I love the scenery around the Ouachitas so I couldn't resist a little hiking excursion. I lugged the camera along but these were the only two pictures I took at Gulpha Gorge. I had a friend with me so I was all about being a tour guide. I pointed out the amphitheatre where Jim Ed Brown hosted a "Nashville On the Road" episode when I was a kid. I commented how Jerry Clower was a real jerk to little kids. And, I was disappointed that Wendy Holcomb was older than me and didn't have pigtails when I met her.

We also toured Bath House Row. I have pictures of that I'll share someday. We went to the Mountain Tower and practiced overcoming our fear of heights (I was the brave one). That was a memorable experience. We looked out on the scenic vista of verdant forests and while we were "oohing and ahhing" a nauseous toddler threw-up nearby. It was a lovely and serene moment until just then. It really killed the mood.

We stopped by the Grotto on Central Avenue across from the art galleries. We tried to be adventurous by sampling the experience of the "oxygen bar". Hmmm, how shall I describe it? Imagine sniffing cheap air freshener while hyperventilating and then being charged $16 bucks for the effort. Its not something I would recommend. The most enjoyable part of the that deal was the friendly and attentive college-age hottie that hooked up the air supply. He was real easy on the eyes, if ya know what I mean.

Of course, the high point of the trip was the visit to the galleries. The first day there we visited Gallery Central. Good work there, but a little stuffy and sterile. We visited a new gallery featuring Allison Parsons. Allison focuses mainly on watercolors and acrylics with Hot Springs landscapes and architecture as the subject. I like her work very much. Its vibrant, brilliant, and she treats the subject with a lot of love and affection. Allison is a sweet lady and took time to visit with us about her work even though we weren't buying that day.

On Monday (Memorial Day) I was finally able to make my pilgrimage to my personal artistic shrine, Blue Moon Art Gallery. I almost ran back to the Randall Good section and stared holes into every piece on the walls. Pat and Dishongh each gave me a big hug and made me feel like family. That's why I love that place. The folks at Blue Moon not only love art, they love art-lovers. There was an artist about to bring in her work yet they still took time to visit with me. I'm the proud collector of three beautiful Randall Good drawings, but I assure you I'm not one of their biggest spending clients. But still, they treated me as if I were the most important person in the room. I was touched.

I have my eye on another drawing. It complements the Icarus/Daedalus pair of watercolors I have. Its a much larger work and I want it badly. Its a drawing of the "fallen Icarus" (or is it Daedalus weeping over his fallen son?). Its the most unique composition. I won't describe it here. We'll wait until I've acquired it. Pat tells me there has been some interest in it. But, she kindly said she would give me a call if anyone gets serious about it. I've got first dibs on it, in other words. I just love that lady.

Then, I stepped over and quietly lusted after the Debilynn Fendley drawings. What is it about drawings that get to me? There are two of her pieces that I'm in love with. However, the subject is the most beautiful, titillating male nude. I'd have a lot of explaining to do to any visitors if I acquired those. But, I'm madly in love with the pieces and almost willing to take the risk.

Simply put, Memorial Day was memorable.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Youth with Lillies



This is another image that gained some comment on the Flickr album. I even had one viewer express interest in acquiring it. I followed up and haven't heard back from him. I guess he's just an artist tease.

I call this painting "Youth with Lilies," a bland but descriptive title. I don't feel like it is complete but I did abandon work on it. I achieved a combination of color contrasts and textural brushstrokes that I thought were interesting and then I stopped. This work is based on old 19th century photographs by a European photographer who went by the moniker of Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (I don't think he was truly part of any nobility, it was an alias). I also enjoy the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. Since von Gloeden was making his photographs during that same time, and posing his models in a mythological/Mediterranean theme like the Pre-Raphaelites, I've tried to combine the two styles into a new medium. I'm not completely satisfied with the result yet, but I want to keep at it.

From what little I've been able to find about von Gloeden on the Internet, I take it he was gay. That would be understandable. Most of his photographic subjects seem to have been male. I can imagine that would have been a scandalous situation in his day and age. It can still be scandalous today in some places. But, there are a few websites that have some biographical and historical information about him that acknowledge his artistic talent. Perhaps one day his work will be viewed credibly.

This painting is starting to grow on me even in its unfinished condition. If it doesn't sell soon I may frame it and stick it on a wall somewhere.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Flickr Hits!!!


Wow, I've just had a lot of new visits and a few comments on my Flickr! album. Over the last few weeks I've posted some very nice pictures of my trip to Vegas and my flowers in the front yard. I have had moderate interest. There were fewer than 10 visits to each of those pictures. Then, over the last few days I posted photographs of my paintings and drawings. You know the ones, right? My favorite subjects, right?
Lo, and behold, my hit count on those pictures jumped very noticeably. This guy to the left, who I affectionately call the "Gridiron Warrior" received 39 hits in just two days. Wow!! I knew he was good looking but I never realized just how much. I've always felt this was one of my better paintings but I never expected such a response to him from the larger audience. Yes, I'm excited!
In addition to the increased hits to my photos, I've received an email from a Flickr member that has requested I paint his portrait. He is a very fit athlete with a great physique. He wants me to use one of his photos as a reference for the artwork. Wow! that's even more exciting. Wish me luck.
I guess its true what they say, "Sex sells!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

More books!



I'm sure there is some type of pathology I suffer from. Perhaps those of you smarter than I can figure it out. I just bought another couple of art technique books today. Regrettably, out of the hundreds of dollars I've spent on books, magazines, and various artistic media, I've never sold a piece of my work. Of course, I'm displayed on the walls of family and friends who love me (or feel sorry for me). I think its the adult equivalent of having your work put on the refrigerator door. You know, when the kids' drawing really isn't good enough to frame and stick on the wall, it temporarily goes on the refrigerator. Same here. I realize I'm not up to professional level yet, but, I keep trying.

I haven't bought near this many books related to my profession. Can you imagine how good I would be at my real life job if I studied it as much as I do drawing and painting. Perhaps I should think of it this way. Art for me is a stress reliever, a distraction from the daily grind. Its a means for me to stretch my imagination, explore and create in a medium that is completely unrelated to my career. I guess it could be argued that it makes me better at work because I have a hobby, a diversionary interest. My hobby may be expensive, but its a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy, huh?

Therapy, huh? I did that once, ya know? Can't say it helped as much as painting. And I enjoy painting a whole lot more than the therapy, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Garvan Gardens Series


Since I've continued to procrastinate about drawing and painting I've decided to continue with blogs about photography. Some of my favorite photographs I've taken are of the beautiful plantings at Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
These were taken last year (2006) around Easter. This dogwood flower is one of my favorites. I had just had my digital camera stolen and had bought a new (and better) one. I stopped at Garvan Gardens to try it out. I had never been there before and wasn't sure what to expect. I was overwhelmed. It's a beautiful place. I'll share the pictures over the next few days. I don't know that any of the pictures have a special message behind them, but I'll try to be inspirational. Nature always brings out the philosopher/spiritualist in me. This bloom seemed to be new, pristine, perfect in its form. I'm so glad the photo turned out well. I hope you enjoy it. I'll post more on the Flickr album.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Melancholy Memories

Ah, Vegas. It was only last month but already it feels like a lifetime ago. I've previously posted pictures of the gaudy Vegas, i.e. Harrah's, Venetian, Caesar's. But, I've not posted the pictures of the more romantic side of Vegas. This is the Belaggio fountain. The water is choreographed to the most beautiful music. The scale of the spectacle is dramatic and hard to describe unless its seen in person. I'll just say that when each jet of water goes off it sounds like a shotgun firing. Its a very powerful experience.

This picture was taken at sunset. You can see the sky glowing slightly warmer near the horizon. You can see the bluish gray clouds hovering just above the treetops. The fountain lights had just been turned on and the base of the waterworks is faintly illuminated. It was a wistful and romantic evening. Its how I choose to remember my time there. This is probably the last of the Vegas pictures I'll post. I'm about to retire this series. So, its appropriate that I end it with a picture of the fountain at sunset. This was my favorite evening in Vegas. If anyone is interested in seeing more of the Vegas pictures check out my web album by clicking on the Flickr link.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yard Disaster

Ugh!! I'm so annoyed. When I got home from work today there was a gas company truck sitting in the driveway. There was also a backhoe and a stack of large diameter PVC pipe. I knew this couldn't be a good sign. Sure enough, the city was laying water lines and hit a gas line. So, I'm without hot water. And, to add insult to injury there will now be an ugly ditch across my yard, and I think they'll dig up the edge of the driveway also. So, forget about having an attractive front yard this year. I'm just hoping for a hot shower.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's Spring Time, Don't ya know?


I enjoyed Vegas so much. I've got even more pictures of Vegas to share. However, I'm ready for a change of topic. If you haven't noticed, spring time is here. The flowers are blooming, things are turning green and I'm coming out of my annual winter funk.


Along with the flowers, romance is blooming around here. If you haven't been growing your flowers or growing your romance, you should check in with me more often. I can let you know how its done.


We've had a little cold snap that has bit the flowers but they'll be back in shape in no time. But, while things have been frosty in the garden the romance has been warm and cozy. Stay tuned for more about Vegas. To see more of the garden pictures, click on the Flickr link. I've uploaded a large set of garden pictures to my photo album.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Flickr

Have you noticed I've added a new address to my link section of the blog? I discovered the fun of Flickr. Its an online photo sharing site. Like most artists I love photography. When I'm too busy or stressed to draw or paint I spend time snapping pics of things to use as source material for future artwork. The picture included today is one I found on Flickr. The picture was posted by Darth Roland.

I'm gonna be busy this weekend. I'm afraid I might not have time to post another blog until next week sometime. Everyone use this time to checkout my Flickr photo album and let me know what you think. Heck, while you're there you might as well sign up for your own account. Its free.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hoover Dam-Arizona Side


This picture was taken from the Arizona side of the Dam. Photographers get the best view of the whole complex from this vantage point. Its sad, though. Arizona seems to have not received the same funds to develop a park or visitor's center for their side of the complex. Nevada, on the other hand, has a museum, visitor's center with gift shop, cafe and a huge multi-story parking deck. The Arizona side had a camper trailer sitting on a dirt parking lot selling bottled water, and Porta-potties for bathrooms. Gee, how much would it cost the state of Arizona to invest in a few picnic tables and some landscaping. They might even sell a few more bottles of water to the tourists. They definitely have the best panoramic view of the dam.

The Vegas Strip Monorail

There was something about this cheesy bit of decoration I just loved. This figure is the joker that adorns the entrance of Harrah's Hotel and Casino just adjacent to The Venetian and across the street from The Mirage. It's located on The Strip. Harrah's doesn't seem to be as ornate and classy as the other Strip casinos. I would consider this place the poor man's Caesar's. Its the Belaggio of the Wal Mart Shoppers, the Venetian of the NASCAR set. The feature attraction of the place seemed to be a bar inside that was endorsed by country singer Toby Keith and named after one of his songs. I didn't get the feeling this place was "fancy".

This wasn't the kind of place I wanted to frequent. However, it was necessary for me to visit. This was the Center Strip entrance for the all-important Las Vegas Strip Monorail. Anyone not wanting to spend a fortune on taxi fares and wear out lots of shoe leather had to be a patron of the Monorail system. Therefore, one must visit Harrah's and go slumming with the trailer park folk.

I was a fan of the monorail. There were automated kiosks to purchase monorail tickets. Insert debit card, punch in numbers, out pops a ticket. You can customize your ticket to suit your transportation requirements (2 rides, 9 rides, 15 rides, a day of riding, etc.). There were stations at most of the major casino locations. The north end stopped at the Hilton (home of Star Trek stuff) and the south end at the MGM Grand. Intermediate stops were at Harrah's, Paris Hilton (the hotel, not the ho), and a couple of other unremarkable places.

We had quite a few trips on the monorail. It took us to all the major sites on the Strip. And all of the monorail stops are usually connected to a system of overpasses and escalators to quickly get you to most of the large attractions. Escalators seemed to be a secondary theme of Las Vegas. I've decided that if you count all the escalators, moving sidewalks and the monorail, Vegas probably has more rides than Disneyland.

Intake Towers

These are the intake towers at Hoover Dam. Water is drawn in at the bottom and funneled down into the generators of the dam. There are four towers sitting in Lake Mead. Two sit on the Arizona side, and two on the Nevada side. On each of the two nearest towers are large clock faces. One clock reads Nevada time (Pacific Time Zone), the other reads Arizona time (Mountain Time Zone). For half the year the clocks are one hour apart. For the remainder of the year the clocks read the exact same time. Why? Because Arizona has voted not to observe Daylight Saving Time. Therefore, when the Pacific Time Zone begins Daylight Saving Time and Arizona does not change its clocks, it brings both the Arizona and Nevada clocks into synchronicity.