Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MILK, The Real Thing

You Gotta Give 'em Hope, Pt. 2

I finally got to see it. Thanks to Hulu (one of the greatest inventions of the Internet). I had heard this documentary was out there, floating somewhere in the media universe. This documentary won an Oscar and brought the Milk story into public awareness unfiltered by sensationalist news media. This film features interviews with people who knew and worked with Harvey. It’s a realistic portrayal of the man that far exceeds the new Sean Penn film.

You may have previously read how much I liked the MILK movie. I like this documentary as much or more than the new film. If you have seen the movie, I recommend you now watch the documentary to help put into perspective what you have seen. This does a much better job of showing the political and historical importance of what Harvey did.

After watching the documentary I have become a little less impressed with Sean Penn’s work. Please don’t misunderstand me. I respect his courage for taking on a role that many A-list actors would have run away from with the cowardice that only popularity crazed celebrities can muster. Penn’s Milk was an endearing portrayal. However, his interpretation was more a caricature than a character. While watching the documentary it becomes obvious that Milk was an intense, assertive and aggressive man. Penn’s character was an effeminate, flailing, capricious pixie compared to what the real man must have been like. Watching the footage of the real Harvey Milk debating with politicians supporting Proposition 6 showed real strength and intelligence. Also, any man that had the guts to stand up to Diane Feinstein was certainly no limp-wristed fairy. I’m disappointed that Penn felt it was necessary to bring those stereotypical personality traits into his performance. Surely he knows enough gay people in Hollywood to understand we don’t all act like that. Perhaps he feels the only way an American audience would believe the character was gay was if he “acted gay”.

Seeing the coverage of the Dan White trial made me even more angry than I had been after the movie. Listening to the interviews with his defense attorney, wife and supporters was sickening. The idea that Dan White should be pitied and that what he did was justifiable and excusable is gross. There are a lot of people in the world who have much more difficult circumstances than All-American athletic pretty boys like Dan White and they don’t resort to murder to solve their problems. The justice system failed Moscone and Milk in this instance.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kawena's Pirate Steals Our Heart

A few months ago I discovered an amazing new artist that is doing beautiful things with his work. The young (25 year old) and very talented David Kawena combines the romanticized fantasy illustrative style of Walt Disney’s animated classics with seductive male subjects. I previously posted a series created by David called the “Disney Heroes”. I was happy to write a brief review of the series and we have occasionally corresponded since then. The Disney Heroes series has gained David a large and growing fan base. I’m very happy for him. I was also happy to find a new Disney Hero David created based on the character Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean. This work is the first of the Disney Heroes based on a live action character instead of an animated hero.

The likeness to Orlando Bloom is remarkable. In keeping with the theme of the remainder of the series, Kawena employs an almost monochromatic sepia-toned palette to give it an Abercrombie and Fitch styling. It was fun to see animated characters brought to life this way. Its nice to see Kawena can achieve the same effect with live characters. Kawena’s Will Turner is appropriately costumed in a sexy version of his movie wardrobe. Its as if our rookie pirate decided to shop from the International Male catalog. He’s accessorized with his Aztec gold medallion and head wear borrowed from his buddy Captain Jack. I hope the swooning Miss Swann appreciates his new look as much as the rest of us do.

I have wondered why Kawena’s work has gained popularity so quickly. The obvious reason is that the subjects are very sexy. However, the Internet is full of websites featuring photos of attractive fitness models. David’s work appeals on another level. He interprets the male subject with a non-threatening innocence. The men in Kawena’s artwork are sexy and accessible without being vulgar. Female subjects have been portrayed in this way for years. Romance novels are covered with bodice busting imagery. A sexy, scantily clad woman can look trashy or virginal and vulnerable just by the costume, setting and expression of the model. David Kawena has found the technique to accomplish the same thing with male subjects.

The other key to his success is the cultural shift that has occurred. At one time animated characters were subjects for children. Cartoons were a medium to keep kids entertained on Saturday morning while mom cleaned the house and dad washed the car. But now, thanks to Japanese anime and manga, this artwork has gained an audience that includes the young adult/college-age generation. The saturation of our media with animated characters in video games and graphic novels has developed a very discriminating audience. They are also very comfortable with this media and don’t see it as juvenile or immature. Those of us from the previous generation are charmed by the nostalgia of this work, remembering the fantasies inspired by the original Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Mermaid. It should be no surprise that Kawena’s work has found a large and growing audience.

I would like to extend my thanks to David Kawena for providing me with an unwatermarked copy of this work to post on the blog. It’s a real honor for me to be allowed to post and review his work. In checking my website statistics I have found that the articles written about him are the most visited on my site. The David Kawena search terms are the most frequent entry points for new viewers of the Gemini Art blog. Pages featuring his work receive hundreds of page views per month.

I hope the viewers and readers of this site will respect David’s intellectual property rights and not copy or redistribute his work without his permission. In the email from David, he tipped me off to an upcoming big event. I won’t spoil it for him, but please stay tuned. I will be sure to share the news with you as soon as he gives permission.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dr. Horrible is Good Medicine

What do the following works of entertainment have in common? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Firefly/Serenity, Angel? They are all successful movies and television shows, you might say. True. They are all written, directed or produced by Joss Whedon. True. Joss Whedon has produced a new and very entertaining new musical. TRUE!

If you have not yet discovered it, let me be the first to introduce it to you. “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” is the latest invention of Joss Whedon and like everything else he has made, its outstanding. Just like any blog, its available for viewing online for free anytime (let’s hope Whedon has pioneered the next generation of entertainment distribution). Of course, there are links to purchase CD’s, mp3’s, DVD’s of this great little musical.

How did I find this little gem? I regret that I came across it months later than the rest of it’s cult following. I have spent the last few weeks watching old reruns of Buffy and Serenity. Last night I was satisfying my scifi itch by watching Starship Troopers again. Of course, I was completely entranced by a plucky young Casper Van Dien acting all butch and killing bugs. But, the long and lanky Neil Patrick Harris shows up occasionally on the show and I think to myself, “Gee, its nice to know that Neil is part of the family.” I wondered what else Neil might have done recently. I knew of the “How I Met Your Mother” thing and don’t care for it. A quick blog search found Neil as Dr. Horrible. A quick click later and I was hooked.

The blog begins with Neil as Dr. Horrible reading responses to blog viewers. We find that he is currently building a freeze ray but is in need of Wonderflonium. His nemesis is the dunderheaded hero Captain Hammer played by the hunkalicious Nathan Fillion (captain of the Serenity in Whedon’s Firefly). The story is wonderfully corny and silly. The plot is nothing more than a love triangle with our two male leads competing for the love of Penny (Felicia Day). In the hands of such experts this little jewel really shines. Neil and Nathan ham it up beautifully. The music is top notch the voices are great. Might we be looking at the next Rocky Horror Picture Show? I can certainly see this easily being expanded to a stage treatment. I hope Joss is thinking about it.

At the end of 43 minutes it leaves you begging for more. Whedon created this little indie short back during the summer while the writers strike was going on. Making it on his own instead of in the studio system allowed him to do his own thing. It’s great. If you remember, Toy Story was a musical and one episode of Buffy was a musical. It shouldn’t surprise us that Whedon would find success with Horrible in this genre. But, who knew that Fillion (the hunk) could sing and that Neil actually had comic chops?

Check this out. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

You Gotta Give Them Hope

I saw the movie, MILK, last night. I was skeptical at first. I was afraid this was Hollywood once again trying to capitalize on another sensational historic event like the assassination of JFK, Jimmy Hoffa, and the 9/11 tragedy. I was pessimistic because I suspected the straight actors involved were more interested in self-promotion than sincerely portraying this important turning point in the human rights struggle of gay people. You know how they are. Most celebrities will wear any ribbon and support any cause just to get another thirty seconds of publicity, i.e., “save the whales”, “don’t eat meat“, “have your pet spayed or neutered.”

To a certain degree those things were true of this movie. The story is sensational, the roles will get a lot of attention for the cast members, and the topic is a culturally relevant issue in modern current events. However, it still succeeded as a meaningful and entertaining film. I’m glad I saw it and I recommend everyone in the country to see it because you either know a gay person, or you should “get to know” a gay person. The film sets a perfect tempo of mixing shocking archival footage to let the viewer feel the discomfort and shame that gay people feel in our society with just the right amount of humor to remind us to laugh at ourselves and experience the joy of life more than the sorrow of it.

This movie could have easily drifted into the cliché mode with lots of, “Gay Pride” slogans or “I’m here, I’m queer, get over it” quotes. But, the director smartly stayed away from that and replaced it with a more universal theme of, “You gotta give them hope.” While Harvey Milk was a gay city supervisor, he ultimately represented not only gay people, but a constituency of many that were unrepresented by the system, the homeless, elderly, the handicapped. I like that the film’s protagonist was the country’s conformity to the status quo. The idea that injustice is acceptable as long as the majority doesn’t disagree with it was the great obstacle to overcome.

I was a child when these events were being played out in California. I vaguely remember seeing Anita Bryant on TV complaining about the terrible sinners that were destroying our country. I grew up in a religious family so it was not something we talked about. I didn’t understand that I was gay and I didn’t understand that Anita was talking about gay people. The movie did a wonderful job of crystallizing that whole ugly mess. It wasn’t until last night that I, a forty year old man, understood all that Milk and his supporters did to combat such a crusade of bigotry and hate. If I was unaware of it, then I’m sure that people younger than myself knew.

Gay young people today have it so much easier than my generation when it comes to finding acceptance in society. My generation is even finding it easier to be open and honest with our friends and families. Many of us at middle age are beginning to hope that we might have the possibility of a “normal” open and loving relationship during our lifetimes. Much of this is due to the work began by Harvey Milk and his supporters. If nothing else, this movie is important because it has made us aware of that.

The movie also makes us aware of some missteps taken by the “gay rights” movement. I was unaware that it was Harvey Milk that started his speeches with the words, “I’m Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.” While those of us with a bit of intelligence understand that he was “recruiting” people to support his cause of human rights and social justice, the homophobic extremophiles insisted that he was recruiting wholesome heterosexual young men to become homosexual. There has not been any more damaging concept about gay people than that we are not born gay but that we recruit, teach, and train innocent, vulnerable straight people to be one of us. The idea that gay people have the magical powers to convert heterosexuals into something they are not has been deadly.

The villainous character, Dan White, was expertly portrayed by Josh Brolin. The writers and director designed the character to represent everything that is still oppressing gay people. Dan White was a charming, attractive face that masked a deep underlying evil of hatred and intolerance based on moral superiority and religious intolerance. Dan White represented everything that we Americans love in a man. He was a fireman, a police officer, he was heroic. He was a masculine and attractive, religious family man. He was an ignorant and incompetent public official who was elected based on his many appealing superficial qualities. When those pitiful charms failed to help him accomplish his meaningless agenda, he reverted to the violent animal that he truly was. Perhaps this portrayal by Brolin will help some people re-evaluate what they consider to be the marks of a “real man.”

MILK is a great movie. I can’t encourage you to go see it quickly enough.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Star of Wonder

I have been very down during this holiday season because of the move and a few personal tragedies that have occurred. I know several readers have been concerned and I have regretted imposing my emotional baggage on this audience. Today I have been somewhat restored to the true Christmas spirit.

So many of my recent past Christmases have been solemn for various reasons. But, today I spent Christmas with a family with children. I had said in a previous post that I felt Christmas is a holiday of love that is best enjoyed by romantics and families with young children. Today I experienced a Christmas morning that included smiles and laughter. I felt the joy of a family that was able to overcome for a few hours the worries of a bad economy and the anxiety of a troubled world and focus on each other. I felt warmth and inclusion with their family. I was given the temporary status of “Uncle” and had a stocking on their mantle of my own. There was a small gift for me to remember what it feels like to tear paper and be surprised. I had hoped that light and love would come back to my Christmas and it has.

Recently my family and friends have once again endured loss during the holiday season. I expected to have another melancholy holiday. But, last night the symbolism of the Catholic service I attended spoke to me. I was reminded of the plight of a young expectant mother in need of comfort on a night when no one was willing to offer shelter. I sat in a darkened room at midnight imagining how much greater her sense of hopelessness and despair must have been. My family and friends have recently suffered loss and felt such despair. Then the church lights blazed at the stroke of midnight, and I and the other musicians struck a brilliant fanfare on brass instruments, organ and voice. Suddenly, light came from darkness, hope returned to the world and a Child was born.

This morning I am reminded that this holiday is all about hope. Its all about love. This is the day when mankind was given a way out of hopelessness and despair. Remember that in the darkest most desperate hour a miracle can occur. In our scientific age we rarely consider the act of birth to be miraculous. But, let’s remember the miraculous potential that every life has. The life of one Child changed the world. I pray that each of us continues to experience that light, love, and sense of hope during the remainder of this season and for the entire new year.

Photo credit, C.A. Muller at Flickr

Monday, December 22, 2008


I reviewed a previous post and found it a little bleak and negative for the holiday season, so I deleted it. "Season's Greetings From Holiday Hell" is no longer available.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, I Can!

The last few posts have been a little melancholy. I appreciate the patience of all the readers that have tolerated my personal introspection. This blog is sometimes a place where I work through issues in my own version of online “talk therapy”. I’ve decided the best way to shake out of the deep blue funk I have been in is to get back to the central purpose of the blog. Its time for a new piece of art from Gemini Art.

A few tacky individuals (no one in my immediate local circle of fans) have foolishly suggested that the only reason I practice my artistic talents is for the purpose of celebrating beautiful men. It has been suggested that I might not be able to create images of other subjects. I have one simple answer to that, “Yes, I can!”

I’m sure this image will bring a smirk to the face of most of the readers that know me personally. I rarely draw female subjects and it has been very good practice for me. I have to admit that it was a greater challenge than I anticipated. The female form has much more subtle lines and curves. The shapes and forms are softer and not as sculptural as a male figure. Male poses are also more dynamic and energetic. It took a lot of effort to knock back the rigid nature of the initial block in. The model’s pose was very relaxed and gentle. I originally had her looking like a Wonder Woman superhero ready to leap into action.

I’m posting a very tastefully cropped image of this work because I want to keep this blog rated PG. The full image is actually seated and draped around the hips. She is displaying a completely unclothed upper torso (enough said). The nudity in this work is not extremely explicit. I am just being sensitive to the fact that not everyone’s tolerance level is the same. If you would like to see a completely uncropped image of this work please click on the link to my Flickr account.

This work is graphite and white chalk on a blue-gray toned paper. The dimensions are 12X17.5 inches. The resource photo is provided courtesy of stock photographer Marcus Ranum. Feel free to leave a comment if you like it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sad News

For those of you who have not heard, I have just recently learned of my grandmother’s passing on Monday evening. It is sad news. I’m glad to say that she lived a very full and meaningful life and raised a large family who loved and respected her very much. She will be missed.

This news is increasingly sad because it is one more heartbreak to add to our family that has suffered so much tragedy near the holidays. Both of my grandmothers passed away between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just a few years ago I remember that my maternal grandmother passed away and many of the flowers at her funeral were poinsettias. That plant no longer holds much appeal for me. When I was in college my uncle and his family were involved in a terrible car accident the night before Thanksgiving. My aunt died in the crash and the entire family was very seriously injured. Our turkey and dressing Thanksgiving dinner became the visitation meal to feed all the mourners.

As you can see from this post and from the previous one, I am not used to much joy and cheer during the holiday season. Once again our family will celebrate with one more empty chair at our table, one more gift left unopened. Perhaps there is a lesson in this. Our family has certainly learned that holidays are solemn occasions. There is deeper meaning to these days than overindulgence and excessive materialism. All of us are forced to turn introspective and do serious soul searching. We have learned to value each other. We must focus more on what we have and less on what we want. To celebrate it otherwise would be disrespectful to the memory of those we have lost. I hope one day the light and love of the season will find its way back into our Christmas. Until then, please keep us in your thoughts.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Erntedank - thanksgiving

What a beautiful and meaningful holiday this is. It’s probably my favorite holiday on the calendar. We are becoming a more and more secular nation. However, this holiday is as close as we Americans come to taking time to reflect and be somewhat introspective. Most of us “get it”, especially those of us who were born to Depression Era grandparents and Cold War moms and dads. Those of us who suffered through “trickle down” Reaganomics when the drips and drops of cash never quite reached those of us on the bottom of the socio-economic scale. We understand what it is to be truly thankful for the small things in life. We understand the spirit of this holiday.

There are still too many status-hungry materialists that miss the point of what it is to be truly grateful for what we have. Too many fail to understand that we have far more to be thankful for than what we bought at “SamLand” (Wal-Mart/Sam‘s Club) last week. As a subtle pushback against those who have missed the point, I would like to dedicate this post to those things I am grateful for that have little or nothing to do with wealth or personal possessions.

I am so thankful for good health. Anyone who takes this for granted should be required to visit a nursing home or hospital for an afternoon. I don’t have to park in a handicapped parking space. I hustle into and out of the supermarket with my arms full of bags without needing help from anyone. I dash up and down the aisles without having to ride a scooter and ask for assistance to reach items on the top shelf. I eat anything I want without fear that it will make me sick. All my parts work and I still have all my original equipment with no customization.

I’m grateful for independence. This includes such a wide category. It requires me to be thankful to so many people in my life and in my past. I’m fortunate that I have had good parents and family that cared for me until I could care for myself. I’ve had good teachers that taught me enough about the world that I could survive in it without being an excessive burden on society or placing myself under obligation to others. I’ve had role models and mentors that have instilled a sense of values within me that places me appropriately within society and my community. I see the need to contribute to the collective humanity and not simply consume the fruits of others labor. My country allows me to think freely and live in a world where ideas are cherished and unsuppressed. I’m grateful to every man and woman that has sacrificed their life to maintain this freedom and guarantee my continuing independence.

I’m thankful for meaningful relationships. There is no substitute for the lessons of life we learn through contact with other people. I’ve been embraced with compassion and cautioned with kindness. Through every relationship, whether friendly or not, I’ve learned more about myself and about the world. I’ve learned how to “be” and how “not to be”. I’ve felt acceptance from others when I couldn’t muster it for myself.

Finally, I’m thankful for peace of mind. After living for years under repression and self-denial, I’m so glad to just be myself. It’s a beautiful thing to live with a clean conscience knowing that the face I show the world now is mine, not a mask. There is no deception in my daily life. I can just be.

I hope everyone that reads this finds time to express their gratitude and thankfulness in a spiritual, non-materialistic way. Look for deeper meaning than the superficial traditions and religion we have been taught for years. Find meaning that becomes personal and unique to you and share it. In the sharing, perhaps someone else will find a deeper sense of thanksgiving than they had experienced before.

Photo Credit: Publik-Oberberg, on Flickr

Thursday, November 20, 2008

OMG! The Final Frontier Was Never This Sexy

Hey, friends! You know what a huge Trek geek I am. I was furious when I heard that a new movie was being made featuring the ST:OS characters without the original cast. How dare they defile such an exquisite and perfect piece of American science fiction history. Why, the Great Bird of the Galaxy (Roddenberry) would roll over in his grave (but he was cremated and shot into orbit) if he had seen this.

But, I was so wrong. I was breathless after watching this very slick and adrenaline pumping trailer. I loved that first mysterious “Enterprise in the construction yard” thing that they first put out but was still skeptical when I saw the boy toy cast that was going to be playing my childhood heroes. Then I saw this little gem of a trailer today. I can’t tell you how many times I gasped while I watched the kid in the car go over the cliff, the fight between Kirk and Spock, the original clunky ship zipping across the screen as if it really were aerodynamic. Wow!

If you, my dear readers, bear any love for me at all, you will share in my joy about this new prequel. Let’s boldly go to this new movie. WOW!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Artistic Discomfort

As many of you know, I work exclusively from photo references when making my drawings and portraits. Part of that is due to the fact that I’ve never taken a life drawing class. I am pretty much self-taught through books and art magazine study. The other part is because I would feel very self-conscious asking someone to pose for me. I would feel so embarrassed if someone offered to pose for me, trusted me to see them in an exposed and vulnerable fashion and then the work I created was less than high quality and didn’t do justice to their confidence in me.

When I saw this Saturday Night Live sketch it crystallized every fear that I have about drawing from life. The creepy factor in this video is so uncomfortable to watch. But, its funny too. Isn’t that the way most uncomfortable situations make you feel? Why is it we find inappropriate behavior funny? Such as, laughing in church, squirting milk through our nose at dinner, or accidentally farting in a profoundly quiet place like a library or funeral home.

Enjoy the video. I personally think that both Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg are the perfect combination of hysterical funny and colossal cutie pies. But, when I see them in this video I have to keep averting my eyes due to the “Ewww, yucky!” feeling I get from what they’re doing. All the while I’m laughing my butt off. I thought Paul was a scream in Forty Year Old Virgin. Its been nice to see that he has gained more and more exposure as a comic since that movie. But, for the record, he has far too much exposure in this little sketch. Don’t you agree?

This little clip comes to us courtesy of Hulu.com. I love this site. It has almost replaced TV for me. Being able to watch the reruns of almost any favorite show anytime you want with thirty second commercials is just the coolest thing ever. Besides, who wants to watch all the stupid guest host stuff on SNL and the questionable musical guests when you can watch it the next morning without all that? I have found that an hour of SNL live can be reduced to about fifteen minutes of funny skits. I recommend you check it out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Inner Old Fart

That's Mister Old Fart To You Picture

Back in the mid to late nineties there was a ridiculous pop psychology trend that encouraged us to nurture our “inner child”. It was a warm and fuzzy concept that taught many of us to take better care of ourselves. According to this theory we should spend some time comforting ourselves physically and emotionally everyday. Supposedly its good for the soul and mental well-being. It was the perfect kind of stuff for Oprah and her ilk to tout on their talk shows on “up with people” days.

Personally, I don’t think I have an inner child. I may have had an inner child once but I seem to recall putting him up for adoption or sending the brat off to reform school years ago for being a pesky nuisance. I couldn't tolerate the whining and tantrums that went on inside my head. If anything, I believe that I possess an “inner old fart.”

Our inner child is supposed to be nurtured and comforted. Our inner child should be allowed time for play, fun, and frivolity. My inner old fart doesn’t usually want to have anything to do with that kind of stuff. Comforting my inner old fart usually means stirring up a big pot of pinto beans and a pan of cornbread. Nurturing the old SOB means simply wrapping up in an old afghan and kicking back in my creaky old recliner and falling asleep while watching the second or third cycle of whatever news magazine is repeating on CNN.

This particular “old fart” personality trait is difficult to assimilate into my social life. I have to work so hard when I’m “out on the town” to pull off the dashing, charming and clever gay man bit. I know that I should just be myself. But, can you imagine the kind of frumpy broken down derelict I would attract if I let my inner geriatric freak flag fly? I can’t do that. Despite my elderly disposition, this cowboy still has a hankerin’ for the young ponies and wild stallions (but to my disappointment there’s really very little ropin’ and ridin’ goes on ‘round these parts).

The clothes and dry cleaning budget to disguise the real me gets darned expensive. When nobody’s looking, I’m a sweat shirt and pajama bottom kinda guy. Elastic waistbands are our friends. Fortunately, the body is still in a younger time zone than the attitude. But, I’m not going to be taking any chances by slouching around in something that makes me look ready for the nursing home while hunting for hotties.

I’m glad I’ve gotten that off my chest. They say confession is good for the soul, so now I consider myself purged. After that and a tall glass of prune juice the job will be complete.

(illustration credit, Henry "Hank" Brown at flickr)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My New Muse

Gemini Art is finally getting back to making and posting artwork. This is my first drawing since the move so its very special to me. Its also special to me because the subject is one of the new friends I’ve met here. He was very generous to allow me to use a photo of him as a reference for this drawing. I generally use references found online of celebrities and such. This is the first drawing I’ve made using a completely original model and photo that I’ve taken myself.

This drawing is based on one of the photos taken on Halloween night (see Helluva Halloween). The room was dark and my flash was over exposing most of the pictures. There was a lot of activity and most of the pictures were blurry. But, this one turned out okay enough to draw from.

I won’t reveal too much about the model here. I think we should respect his privacy. But, I will say that he has become the class sweetheart of our little supper club. Not only is he a beautiful guy, he’s also one of the friendliest and nicest fellas you’ll ever meet. I believe all of us are a little protective of him. He’s a truly lovely person and I’m honored that he allowed me to draw his picture. No matter how pretty the picture it doesn’t do justice to his sweet and friendly personality.

There are some great technical strengths to this piece. I’ve tried to incorporate more of Anthony Ryder’s techniques in this work. I’ve tried to make better use of the encapsulating line to bound the form. I like the look it gives. The work stands out from the page stronger that my previous drawings. I feel there execution of the ear and hair are the greatest parts of the face. The modeling of the arm and shoulder are much better than I’ve accomplished previously also. I worked the fabric folds differently than I usually do. Instead of simply drawing and shading, I used a lot more eraser work to highlight the folds.

Regrettably the likeness isn’t as accurate as I usually accomplish. I definitely missed on the angle and length of the nose. Had this been a commissioned portrait I would had to start again. I attempted to draw some of the vascularity in his bicep. But, one of the viewers thought they looked like scars. In the future I need to try a different technique or try for a more delicate execution of those features.

I hope you enjoy the work. Leave a comment if you like. Also, if you are acquainted with the model, send him your compliments.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friends, Acquaintances, Relationships & Lovers

Rick & Steve - Cast

In the straight world the boundaries and definitions of interpersonal relationships are much more clear cut. Friends are people you care about and are faithful to support in times of adversity. Acquaintances are people you have met and are familiar with but share no special bond. Straight people have “relationships” with others they feel an emotional intimacy with and affection. Lovers are people that share an emotional and physical intimacy. In the gay world these categories lose all cohesion. In the gay world it seems that interpersonal relationships are as insubstantial as half-set Jello.

Its because we don’t clarify and respect the boundaries of our relationships that we so frequently appear flaky and shallow. We are our own worst enemy. When I say “we” I mean the collective gay “us”. With all the progress that has been made for gay people; hate crime laws, non-discrimination laws for sexual orientation, even gay marriage, we so often continue to play into the ridiculous stereotypes that the homophobes promote about us. Now that I live in a larger town I’ve seen a greater cross-section of the gay community. Ninety-nine percent of the time gay men are just the same as the people I know in the straight world. But, every once in a while they really “go off the reservation.” We need to remember, as the straight world does, how to treat our friends. We have to take care of our own.

I’m shocked at the cross-pollination that happens between gay relationships. For instance, some gay men share a close intimate relationship with a best friend yet they are not lovers. Some gay men quickly become physically intimate with a casual acquaintance yet they share no special bond. Friends are people to share a good time with but quickly turn on if its no longer convenient or comfortable. The lines are so blurry that its hard to make sense of things.

The most painful stereotype to watch is the exchange of snarkey insults and sniping that goes on between gay men. So often gay men are considered petty and immature. Its hard to disagree when two men are seen insulting each other about the color and texture of sportswear, or, when two men almost come to blows over who makes a better cheese dip. Its like watching an argument between Paula Deen versus Martha Stewart, but add testosterone. Hence, the many well-justified accusations that we gay guys indulge in excessive drama.

We don’t police ourselves on these situations either. Why is it that we older, more mature guys don’t keep the young bucks in check? If a couple of smartass college boys were to show up at a bar or bowling alley full of middle-aged straight guys and start criticizing them, the old-boys would collectively kick their college-boy asses. But, not the gays. Why do we tolerate any amount of bad behavior from these men just because they happen to be young and attractive? Are we so desperate for the attention of these pretty young things that we will accept insults, criticism, and personal embarrassment just so at the end of the evening we might get a brief hug and peck on the cheek before we head home?

Having said that, let’s consider the more positive relationships and associations between gay people. Quite simply we call it “family” and for good reason. Because most of us are single (un-partnered, unmarried…..whatever) we tend to look out for one another. If we don’t, who will? Its true that biological families love us but only a fellow gay man understands what its like to live in this skin. Only a fellow gay has lived with the repression, the discrimination, the feeling of alienation from ninety percent of the human population. When a group of friends can share their feelings about the hurts and laugh despite them, they become family. When they find that their affection for one another is deeper than the physical attraction, it exceeds friendship. It becomes something else. The closest analog in straight culture is family.

What role does this family play? They offer comfort, acceptance, and most importantly security. A sad and real truth about the gay world is that there are a few predators lurking in the dark. I’ve been the recipient of cautious advice from dear friends to avoid some characters I’ve met. I’ve seen young, newly out gay men fiercely protected by their seniors without any anticipation of an inappropriate reciprocation. There is great nobility in the gay community. After all, we are a bunch of queens, right?

Occasionally one finds the rare long-term, committed monogamous relationship between two men. It’s a rare and precious thing to see. When you consider that only ten percent of the population is gay, then consider that a smaller fraction of that has compatible age and interests with one another, its amazing that two men find each other at all. How special it is when two men happen to find each other and stay together for longer than a weekend dinner party. But, whether the straights believe it or not, that long-term-relationship (LTR) is that to which most of us aspire. So many people in the straight world believe gay folk to be promiscuous, carefree bon vivants with no capacity for true love or the ability to commit. If they only realized that its simply a problem of math. In the straight world there are dozens of potentials for every man and woman but in our world its one in ten at best.

I didn’t say all that to garner any sympathy or pity for myself or “my people”. I said it with a heartfelt intent to provoke and inspire thought about issues in the gay world that should be slightly more important than who should win the next round of “Dancing with the Stars”. I’m saying it to both the gay world and straight world to highlight the fact that we are more alike than different. We both care about the same things in life, our friends, acquaintances, relationships and lovers. We care about each other.

(photo credit: logoonline at flickr)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations! President Elect Obama

I’m so pleased to have witnessed history. I just wish I could have participated in it. Due to my rapid move from there to here I wasn’t able to get registered in time to vote in this election. But, no matter. It turned out the way it was supposed to anyway.

You may not know this, but I’m a big ol’ pol. I’m a political news junkie. The tube stays set to CNN all the time and I check the headlines in the paper every morning. I’m quite serious about it. I am one of the rare people that actually writes to my senators and congressmen occasionally. I have letters back from them to prove it.

Please don’t hate me because I didn’t get more aggressive about signing up to take part in this thing. But, let me defend myself and explain why I procrastinated. I’m going to take us on a long way around to explain why I’m not very happy about our electoral process and tell you why our constitution and political parties make some Americans less important than others.

I began to get excited about Barack Obama way back when I heard him speak at the Democratic Convention a few years ago. It was the first time that a politician’s speech had moved me to tears with feelings of patriotism. I felt inspired to be a better American. I had heard people tell me that JFK had made them feel that way. I was excited that we might be seeing someone like that in my lifetime.

I was also excited that Hillary Clinton was running for president because she is just so gosh darn smart. She’s a moderate democrat like me. She seemed perfect. When Obama ran for the same nomination I was heart broken. I wanted both of them to be president. Unfortunately, our damned two party system required that I choose one or the other. After Hillary was pushed out and McCain became the only challenge to Obama I became certain that the Democrats would win.

As we got closer to the election it became clear that states were lining up in their respective blue and red categories. It also became clear that the candidates only cared to visit and pay attention to those states that would be the most help to them. Thanks to our constitution, our votes don’t “really” count. The majority vote only determines how the states’ electors will vote. Because of the elector formula not every state and its citizens are as valuable as others. My little state only contributes 6 votes to the grand total. Therefore, candidates don’t care much about how we vote unless the race is really, really close. Also, because of modern polling, its easy to find out if a state is likely to vote conservative or liberal. Our little state is small and historically conservative, so my favorite candidate didn’t bother to campaign here.

It didn’t take long to realize that a few of the big electoral states would be a close race; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana. Therefore, those Americans became more important in choosing the president than the rest of us.

I want my vote to count for something. I’m sure that if I had seen that this election were going to be close and that my state’s electoral vote would make a difference in the election I would have voted. If I had seen that the popular vote in my state would have been close, I would have voted. But, it wasn’t. Pollsters had us clearly in the red column. Therefore, my vote wasn’t important. I was an unimportant, less valuable American voter. The constitution says so and the politicians agreed by their not campaigning in my state.

Our system isn’t perfect but I still believe that its better than any other on the planet. I just wish we could pass an amendment to eliminate the electoral college and choose our presidents by popular vote. Until then the idea that we are all equal according to our constitution is something of an exaggeration. As a matter of fact, my vote is almost three-fourths less equal than that of a Californian.

Still, my guy won and I’m happy about it. Congratulations, President elect Obama. Now, as soon as he can get himself inaugurated, its time for some Supreme Court Justices to start retiring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Helluva Halloween

As I understand it, Halloween is the official holiday of “my people.” But, until last night I never truly celebrated the evening to its fullest potential. Having always lived as a “stranger in a strange land” (around straight people), I’ve always celebrated as they do. They dress up in old ragged clothes, call themselves hobos and haul their kids around in SUV’s into the suburbs to subsidize dentists salaries for years to come. Oh, my! How the breeders are missing the true spirit of the evening.

Only we who live 365 days a year in polite personal repression in deference to our straight families and friends truly understand how important it is to really “let your hair down” for just one night each year. When living with the daily requirement to avoid the slightest eye contact with someone you might find attractive, or editing your dinner conversation in fear that a young couple might be offended by what their children overhear at the next table, it becomes absolutely necessary to embrace the outrageous and the absurd. That’s exactly what Halloween is to the gays. It’s the one night a year that “anything goes.” You don’t even have to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Being that this is my first big city Halloween event I was both excited and frightened about how to dress for the evening. It was so overwhelming that I almost decided to pull on some unremarkable street clothes and just watch the show from the sidelines. But, last week I wrote on here how I’m often disengaged from the action. I proclaimed my intent to “prance like a pony” occasionally. Well, baby, this was my moment and I was not about to let it pass. I just couldn’t do that and look myself in the eye the next morning.

So, I had to come up with a costume. It was an intimidating undertaking. I was dressing to be in the company of several distinguished “fancy boys.” Costuming is a serious business with these guys. I knew that a half-assed effort would not be appreciated. A shabby hobo from the attic storage boxes is not acceptable. I knew going into the evening that I was going to see a “fabulous” Tammy Wynette, a grisly but audacious Doris Day, and a twinkilicious twenty-something showing more skin than the Olympic men’s swim team. I toyed with the idea of leather. Its masculine, its aggressive, it’s a full-throttle, in-your-face statement. But, its also damned expensive and frightens small children and church ladies. I knew that dressing in drag was not for me. I may be gay but I don’t want anyone confused about the fact that I’m a guy. I enjoy being a man and I appreciate men that enjoy me being a man. I also wanted a costume that showed the inner me, my personality and style.

It came to me. Ever since I moved here I’ve been goggle-eyed by the larger population of beautiful men. I’ve made no secret about my admiration of several of them around some of my new friends. I would be a “horny little devil.” I wore my all black Perry Ellis ensemble, and added a black cape and plastic horns. I painted my face a ghastly and sinister white and black. Then to demonstrate my ability to accessorize I added a chain necklace with a bulky red cross, red socks, and of course a black and red marabou feather boa. No well-dressed gay little devil would be caught dead without his feather boa, right?

It was a great night. We howled at each other as we made our grand entries into the bar. Cameras clicked all night long and I collected so many pictures that can be used “with permission only”. My escort for most of the evening was an imposing and magnificent (but benevolent) wicked witch complete with stockings and heels. Elphaba, look out, someone’s after your job. I used my Halloween personae to shamelessly flirt with anyone and everyone that caught my eye regardless of age or attire. It was a helluva Halloween! Then at midnight, like Cinderella, I dashed away from the ball unceremoniously and unescorted. After arriving home it took a good hour to soak the cosmetics off my face and hair. I washed away every bit of last night except some great memories and pictures (and a fabulous feather boa).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Waffle House American

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved the smell of coffee first thing in the morning. I would always wake up before daylight because Dad made so much noise “tip-toeing” around the kitchen. He was “quietly” watching the morning news, scraping butter into his toast and filling the old white plastic ‘70’s era Mr. Coffee maker. The kitchen noise funneled down our trailer house hallway into my bedroom as he rinsed, filled and banged the coffee pot against the side of the stainless steel sink. That was several years before the divorce so the fighting was about ten percent less than it was near the end. So, in my mind, those were “the good ol’ days” of my childhood. I’ve always associated the smell of fresh-brewed coffee first thing in the morning with that time of my life. You know, just like that warm fuzzy Folger’s commercial of the young man returning home on a holiday to wake up his happy parents.

We were a rural, country family. I’ve joked about us being “white trash” because we lived in a trailer out in the woods but nothing could be further from the truth. Daddy actually valued hard work and had served in both the army and navy. He was very career oriented and eventually retired after working for the same company for over 30 years. But, that’s all just preamble to my little story. The greatest insult I would ever hear my dad say about anyone was to call them a “lazy worthless so-in-so”. So, I learned early that “good people” were hard working, early-to-bed-early-to-rise, folks. That’s what made you a real American. Anyone who stayed in bed until daylight was certainly demonstrating faulty character. If you weren’t having breakfast by the time the rooster crowed you had overslept. And yes, we did have a chicken house.

Now that I’m grown, I’ve retained a lot of that old country farm-boy upbringing. I hold two degrees and my job rarely requires me to step outside of a climate controlled environment. However, I still consider myself very blue-collar in nature. I get up at 5AM every morning. Just like Dad, I fix a pot of coffee (in my very gay French-press pot) every morning. I sit and watch the news (hosted by the most attractive anchormen that CNN can afford) and read my paper. I’m proud of having kept that tradition.

Even on weekends I find it hard to stay in bed past 7 AM. There’s very little besides great personal illness or company that will keep me under the covers after daylight. Of course, it also depends on the disposition of my company how long I stay in bed. Yet, I digress. On weekends Mom would cook big breakfasts with eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy….you get the picture. I still love to have those kinds of big breakfasts but I’m not a fan of putting that much effort into a meal on my day off. It does feel right, though, to get up early and have a big meal like that. Its spiritually and emotionally comforting to see the sun rise and be filled up with a big hot meal. So, I’ve become a Waffle House American.

I’ve started my own morning ritual on weekends. I get up without a shower or shave, throw on sweats and a cap and jump in the truck for an early morning drive to the diner. I love the chill in the air. I watch the sunrise. Its also great to see the roads and the city empty of traffic. It’s a beautiful feeling because, as we know, only the most industrious and virtuous among us are actually out and about during that time. If a national disaster struck on a Sunday morning at 6 or 7AM, only those of us on our way to Waffle House for breakfast would be in charge. I can imagine us setting up an emergency command center in the dining room with short order cooks in charge and waitresses guarding the perimeter. And, as you know if you’ve ever been taken care of by a Waffle House waitress, they can handle anything or anyone. If you’ve not had the experience, I caution you not to come between a Waffle House waitress and her tip, and certainly do not try to correct her if she misspeaks on “scattered, smothered, covered, chopped, diced, chunked!”.

Yes, I’ve heard the rumors that Waffle House does not have the most “gay-friendly” business practices. I’m somewhat indifferent to all that hoopla. Who am I to interfere with how those folks run their business. I can’t imagine that too many of us “fancy-boys” have applied to work as short order cooks or dishwashers anyway. Its usually not our scene. I’ll just say this. If Waffle House keeps serving me a hot breakfast first thing in the morning and leave me to read my paper in peace and quiet, I promise not to make out with any guys in the dining room.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Workhorse Roundup

Four Horses

My adventure continues. Slowly and surely I’m making a life out of this experience that I have thought of as an adventure. I’m afraid that its turning out a little different than I expected. But, that’s okay. That’s the nature of adventure anyway, right? I’m also learning a lot about myself. I guess that I had the mistaken belief that if I changed my environment, my location, that something about me would change. It doesn’t. While I am certainly surrounded by new possibilities and experiences, my core values are the same. My response to these experiences are the same as they always have been throughout my life; conservative, thoughtful, analytical. I’m observant but not engaged, present but politely detached.

I’m still the same old workhorse I’ve always been, just with a new saddle and new stable (see the previous post on Workhorses and Carousel Ponies). The difference now is that I’m surrounded by acquaintances that identify with me in ways that I have never experienced before. I appreciate that most of them are like me. They’re reliable, steady, hard-working guys that value personal responsibility. I wouldn’t be friends with anyone less inclined.

However, and this is bizarre, there is now a sprinkling of circus ponies that I have become acquainted with and I love them dearly. I doubt I embarrass anyone with that moniker. These are certainly guys that would quickly acknowledge that they are in this category. With a twinkle in their eye and a flashy smile they would own up to this without any reservation. I have learned to respect their view of life. It is right in line with the classic old quote, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” I’ve come to respect this view of life because each of these fellas would admit that soon enough, time and life will require that they eventually become workhorses themselves. Its regrettable that I missed that “pony-boy” stage of my life. I’m sure that the memories from those times must enrich one’s life a great deal. If anything, I’ve learned that I probably need to lighten up a little and not take myself so seriously. It might be quite possible, and even recommended, for an old workhorse like myself to prance like a pony every once in a while.

(photo credit, Four Horses by halfpic at flickr)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Whether you love the man or hate him, you will like the movie. Believe it or not, Oliver Stone has made a fair and very entertaining film about our current and soon to be former (thank goodness) president.

I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed an Oliver Stone film until now. The “Last Temptation of Christ” was offensive. “Nixon” was chaotic and oppressive. Most of his other films are so complicated they are impossible to watch without a road map. But, this one hit the perfect balance. “W.” shows the bumbling buffoon of a swaggering cowboy that Bush is well known for. But, by the end of the picture Stone has led us to a place to feel honest compassion and sympathy for a man that is quite simply in over his head. While the picture shows George W. Bush to be simple and somewhat stupid, he isn’t devious or malicious. I really wanted to give the guy a hug and a pat on the back when it was over. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hunky Josh Brolin makes me want to sing “Hail to the Chief” with a whole new sense of enthusiasm. And, Brolin also makes us proud to know that GW is a brief’s, not boxers, guy.

I had heard that Stone had included the President’s Christian conversion. I was dreading seeing it on film because I feared it would be mocked in true Hollywood fashion. Instead, it was treated with great sensitivity and feeling. I can imagine that very scene happening in most of the churches across the South.

Stone’s movie finally hit the right blend of emotional elements; humor, sorrow, anger. It was easy to identify the multiple story/timelines involved. The supporting cast made all the characters serious and meaningful. It would have been a piece of fluff if the only major player had been the President. But, Brolin’s George W. seemed seriously presidential when surrounded by a cabinet that includes Richard Dreyfuss and Scott Glenn. The only questionable casting decision was Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as PM Tony Blair.

Brolin should receive an Oscar for this performance. The character is perfect from accent and gestures, to swagger and expressions. Even in the scenes that showed W. at his most ridiculous I never felt that Brolin was mocking the man. The character was played with real respect and dignity. Brolin was able to deliver the charm and personal charisma that was present in the younger Bush when he ran for his first presidential campaign. The pre-9/11 Bush was the man that everyone wanted to “have a beer with.” Brolin gave us exactly that. With Brolin in the role it was impossible to dislike the guy. If George W. Bush were to be made into an action figure, it would look like Josh Brolin.

Make no mistake. Watching this movie will certainly not turn you into a Republican. I doubt that one could even call it historically or biographically accurate. But, its certainly entertaining. You should not be afraid to see this film. If anything, Oliver Stone and Josh Brolin have shown us that George W. Bush is not a monster. And, while they have not defended him, they may have explained and apologized for him.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Long Butch, We'll Miss You

I was heartbroken this morning to hear of the passing of a true classic movie star of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Our beloved Paul Newman has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 83.

I don't know of anyone in the country that hasn't found at least one of Newman's characters to fall hopelessly in love with. Whether you love the steamy and sultry Ben Quick, the moody and brooding Brick of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", or the iconic, precocious and forever playful Butch Cassidy, you're sure to have loved Paul in some way. Even straight men would have to admit that while they don't feel the attraction to Ben Quick, they secretly admire Cool Hand Luke.

I completed this prismacolor drawing of Paul as Butch Cassidy a few years ago. Over the summer I began an oil painting of him. Regrettably, I don't have a photo of it to post. But, as you see, Newman has been an inspiration to me for a long time.

For more news about Paul's passing, click on the following link.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Little Rocker

River City vertical
I'm officially a Little Rock resident. I've rented an apartment and my mail has been forwarded to my new address. I'm getting into a regular routine and making friends here. As a matter of fact, I'm meeting friends tonight at a local bar to watch the most recent episode of "Sordid Lives". That's certainly something I would never have done previously. I had dinner tonight with a friend and we talked about "guy stuff". I'm currently sitting at a Barnes and Noble paying bills online because my Internet won't be turned on until Saturday. I'm home sick and not feeling extremely successful yet, but its because I'm way out of my comfort zone. I knew it would be like this for a while. But, its a good thing. I had become complacent and stagnant. It was time to grow personally and professionally. I like to think of this current discomfort as "growing pains".
So many friends and acquaintances have been surprised at my sudden change in job and location. I've had so many responses such as, "I can't believe you did this," and "this is the last thing I ever thought you would do." To all of those comments I simply say, "Good!" I can't remember the last time I did something risky, unpredictable and spontaneous. Let me explain it a different way with this analogy.
Remember the last Lord of the Rings movie? In the final scene a very old and frail Bilbo Baggins is taken to the Elves ship to sail away with them. He is so old that it seems he has nothing left to do except lay down and die. But, as he is about to board the boat he looks at his companions and says, "I think I'm ready for another adventure." That's exactly how I feel. Its been a long time since I've felt challenged or inspired. The last time I pushed myself for a new adventure or a personal challenge was when I went through graduate school. It was difficult. It was gruelling. But, I came out the other side stronger, smarter, and better for it. This will be the same way. It will be tough at the beginning. But, I will learn something about myself and be stronger for it. And if I'm lucky, I'll find someone to share my life with and end a lifetime of isolation and separation from the world. That isolation is the potential future I faced had I not made this move. I have a chance to make a difference in the future of my life. That's something I didn't have before.
The embedded picture of the Little Rock skyline and Arkansas River in the foreground is from a Flickr album by justpics2000.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Dear friends, I've made a life-changing decision. I've recently and suddenly changed jobs. I'm in a very hectic work and moving schedule. Posts to this blog will be very infrequent for the next few weeks. Please be patient with me during this change. I certainly could use all the emotional support I can get. Feel free to drop me an email at this new temporary address until things settle down. geminiart01@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Andy, The Silver Fox

This is my first attempt at including video clips in the blog. I usually don't do this because I doubt YouTube really needs my help to advertise and market its service. However, when I saw this clip of Andy, The Silver Fox, dishing gossip on the Regis and Kelly show, it made my heart sing.

I know that this video has nothing to do with art but I'm not opposed to offering commentary about pop culture and current events. I'm actually enthusiastic when the subject of the video is the CNN anchor of every gay man's dream (Rob Marciano doesn't count because he's a weather man). I'm certainly not suggesting that Andy is gay (merely hoping). He's a true professional and has never discussed such private matters in a public forum. I shouldn't speculate on such things. I know that I am sensitive about people making inferences about my private life and I don't like it at all. But, I would be so excited to find out that Andy was part of "the family". I think this clip may give us a little extra hope that he might be.

I think he sent us some signals when he agreed to appear on the Kathy Griffin show earlier this season. We all know that just watching "My Life on the D-List" means you're ninety percent gay. He actually appeared on the show. In this clip with Kelly he snipes and gossips. He shares his love of reality shows including "Project Runway". Its sounds to me like his TV is frequently tuned to the Bravo network. I think that might just tip the other ten percent. In this interview he even spouts one of Ms. Kathy's favorite favorite buzz words, "allegedly". It sounds to me like he's a fan. Its so much fun hearing Andy dish the dirt like a snarky queen instead of reporting how many politicians lied to us this week. I think he may have missed his calling. Wouldn't it be great if Bravo gave him his own talk show/current events show where he could let loose the inner Andy and give us so much fun. But, CNN and Washington probably wouldn't take him quite as seriously if he did such a thing.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Avoid Mamma Mia, Save Meryl’s Reputation

“I have a dream……”

That’s how it begins, and after those words are sung the dream quickly becomes a nightmare.

I’ve always wanted to keep the Gemini Art blog positive and upbeat. I don’t want to be perceived as the typical spiteful, bitter ol’ queen with nothing but venom to spew onto the Internet. However, I must use a little space here to complain about the great injustice done to a musical theatre piece that I love very much. “Mamma Mia: The Movie” had to be one of the worst things I’ve ever paid money to sit through. The last time I paid money to endure that much suffering was for my last dental filling. I think the audience was in agreement with my opinion judging by the snickers and giggles I heard at inappropriate times through the show (some of them from me).

I went into the movie with some skepticism. If anyone has seen Meryl Streep’s closing number at the end of “Postcards from the Edge”, they would have known that casting her in a leading musical role might not be the best idea. But, I loved the stage version of the musical and was eager to see what this all-star cast would be able to do with it. I also attended the movie with a couple of fellow “fancy-boys”. Needless to say, our people are quite friendly to the musical theatre format. But it wasn’t long before we were all three wincing and cringing with embarassment of watching this talented actress crash and burn in this glorious cinematic failure. After the first two bars of Streep’s “Money, Money, Money”, her Donna looked old, tired, pathetic and totally unbelievable. By the way, for the uninitiated, Donna is the heroine of our story. We’re supposed to be cheering for her, not pitying her. Her dancing was a difficult routine of awkwardness to watch. I kept averting my eyes in discomfort while watching a near 60 year-old in overalls and stringy hair attempt sexiness and touching herself inappropriately. You know, it’s the same feeling you get when you accidentally walk in on grandma in the bath tub (just add music).

Now, for some compassion. I love Meryl. The ol’ girl’s got skills. She’s one of the most talented and consistent leading ladies in Hollywood. In a dramatic role, there’s none better. Remember “Silkwood“? As a comedian, she can go there too. I loved, loved, loved her in, “Death Becomes Her”, and “The Devil Wears Prada”. I would bet that a professional actress like her is probably delivering the dialogue and presenting the character exactly like she’s being asked to. So, we should probably blame the director for this turkey.

Streep is surrounded with an all-star ensemble that has big-time show biz creds. But, this was just not the movie for them. Pierce Brosnan is still the dashing, tall, dark and handsome business that he’s always been. He is still leading man material in anybody’s book. Who doesn’t love “007”? I promise, any day of the week, I would let Pierce Brosnan be the “Spy Who Shagged Me”. But if I have to listen to that man sing I’ll have to put him on the couch for the night. The casting director should have asked Brosnan’s agent if he can sing because this is a MUSICAL. And, by the way, he can’t.

I didn’t understand the weird interpretation of the movie’s time setting or the characters ages. In the dialogue we hear that Donna was a young “rock chick” in the early 70’s. Her daughter was born in 1974 and is now 20 years old. If Donna and her friends were around 20 in 1974 then they should now be about 40. But, its obvious that the adult leads in the movie are closer to 60 than 40. The freakish idea of any one of them has a 20 year old daughter here in 2008 is just bizarre. I wasn’t sure what type of strange scifi time-warping explanation the director has for this. Whatever.

The players that came closest to hitting their parts were Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Colin Firth. These three certainly understood that they were in a musical comedy. Baranski and Walters looked like they were having fun. I’ve met old sisters like them who enjoy being silly and don’t take themselves too seriously (my mother for one). You could tell they were laughing at themselves and it made it fun to laugh along with them. Baranski is an old pro at playing the man-eating middle-age cougar. It would have been fun to see more of her in this picture. Firth brought us some of the same Mark Darcy up-tight Brit that we loved in Bridget Jones’ Diary except here he was much more the ham. It was nice to see him playing for laughs against Brosnan’s straight man, the role that Firth usually fills in the Bridget Jones movies.

Another positive about this movie is the beauty of the location and the male chorus line. For those of us that quickly tired of watching the poor performance of the leads and the messy story-telling in this movie it was easy enough to just shift our attention to the beautiful scenery. The locations made me want to move to Greece today and the Speedo clad man-candy singing and dancing their hearts out was enough to hold my attention if nothing else did.

So, if you want to see Mama Mia, be sure and see it on stage. I don’t want anyone to think that this movie is the appropriate interpretation of this musical. If you feel you must see this movie, then wait until it comes out on DVD and then borrow it from a friend. Do not spend money on this one.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fallen Icarus by Randall Good

He's finally at home. I've just returned from the framer with my latest Randall Good drawing from Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This piece is a beautiful large drawing (roughly 22X27) of the mythological figure of Icarus as he lays wrecked on the earth after falling from the sky with his damaged wings. The work actually frames out to about 37" in height. I couldn't be more pleased with the final result. He will now take the place of honor over the head board of my bed. The small Icarus watercolors will go out to flanking positions on either side of this larger work.
Let's talk about the work now. Why are mythological themes still relevant in the 21st century? I feel the mythological themes are needed today just as much or possibly more than in previous centuries. During the ages of the Renaissance and later the Reformation, artists and philosophers grasped for these themes because the institutions of thought and spirituality had become so shallow and empty. Education during their times was parceled out exclusively by the church. However, the church had become nothing more than a political institution clinging to traditions and rituals that did not address the deeper needs of their followers. The figures of myth were much more visceral. They appealed more to the intellect. The themes were more universal and not culturally specific. They were what Jung would refer to as "archetypes" residing in the collective consciousness of us all. Can we agree that we are a society that has become just as intellectually complacent as that preceding the Renaissance and Reformation? Our cultural diet is fed to us through the mass media and television, our education is a government formulated collection of books and subjects, and the dominant religion (Christian Evangelicals) has become corrupt with greed for political power (Republicans). Yes, I'd say that we can benefit from the objective lessons the ancient myths have to teach us. They show us to accept our fallibility and humanity.
In this drawing Icarus has arrogantly flown too high and too close the the sun, the Solar Apollo. His man-made wings of wax and feathers has melted in the heat and he has fallen to his ruin on the rocks below. Let's examine the obvious lesson here that the ancient Greeks tried to follow. We are to respect the boundaries of our human limitations. Be careful that our "reach does not exceed our grasp." Was Icarus destroyed because he had the audacity to believe he could fly? No. His father, Daedalus, also built a pair of wings and flew without incident to safety and landed unharmed. It was Icarus, with his youthful arrogance, pride, and vanity that drove him to want to go higher. He wanted to show-off to his father, he wanted to exceed what his father had done. He ventured into territory where he was unwelcome and out of his league. Let's not forget that the Greek sun was a chariot driven across the heavens by the Solar Apollo. Apollo was the most beautiful and radiant being in the Greek pantheon. He was also the most vain and proud male in the universe (like most beautiful young men are). Icarus trespassed into Apollo's territory and the god took his revenge. Another lesson here is, do not presume to think we are equal to the gods. We are not omnipotent. If we believe that we have power over nature and the elements, its merely an illusion.
At first glance some may see only the violence and despair of Icarus failure and death. I see more than that in the pose of the figure and the composition of the overall piece. Notice that the figure, the dead body of Icarus, is low in the picture plane giving it less importance, almost an afterthought. The wing however, is dead center vertically and horizontally in the space. This represents that the focus is not on the man, but on his creation, his flight. The optimistic view of the Icarus story is not that he died, its that HE FLEW! Seen in this context Icarus takes on an almost Christ-like character. The Greeks also believed that mankind was the greatest creation of the gods and that's why they elevated their admiration of the human form to an almost worshipful reverence. The emphasis placed on the great wing in this drawing reminds us of man's resourcefulness and inventiveness. Only mankind has the ability to do this. The wing represents the greatness of man's achievements. Its the sum of these achievements that make us greater than we are as weak mortal beings. The wing centered in the picture plane reminds us of this.
I see in this drawing of Icarus death one last victory. The figure's pose is not static. The upward thrusting arm reaches back defiantly at the sun. The hand in the foreground is clenched claw like. And while Solar Apollo may have defeated Icarus, he did not win completely. Apollo did not go untouched. The tip of Icarus' wing stabs into the disc of the sun ever so slightly. Even in death Icarus challenges the god, piercing the perfection of the sun. The artist shows this so effectively by interrupting the one purely geometric shape in this piece with the rough and organic construction of the man's wing.
I hope you enjoy this drawing as much as I do. If anyone would like to view it personally, drop me an email and I'll invite you over. I have four of Good's works now so I've thought about charging admission to the bedroom. Just kidding, I'll probably give you a glass of wine and bore you with a long lecture on why these drawings and watercolors are so special to me. Just please don't be so tacky as to ask me how much they cost. To me they're priceless.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ganges Under Glass

Ganges has been laying around the house for a couple of years now. I postponed having him framed because I knew it would be expensive. Larger works cost more to frame, and let's face it, Ganges is a big ol' boy. This work is actually 16"X20". After matting the frame was a good size.

What was the inspiration for this drawing of Ganges? Let's go back a bit and review. A few years ago I read Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons". In my opinion its a better read than "DaVinci Code". It didn't get as much attention because the story isn't as controversial and scandalous. But, its a much more exciting and adventurous tale. Just as the works of DaVinci were the star of "Code", the art of the sculptor Bernini was featured in "Angels". The basic premise is that Bernini's many angel sculptures that are sprinkled all over Rome help our hero, Robert Langdon, solve the murders being comitted by a serial killer.

One of the most exciting scenes involves a fight to the death between Langdon and the villain in the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Bernini sculpted four anthropomorphic male figures to represent the major river of each of the four continents known to Europe at that time. There is the Nile to represent Africa, the Danube to represent Europe, the Rio da Platta for the Americas and Ganges to represent Asia. These four figures support an Egyptian obelisk that is crowned by a dove. The Post-Reformation symbolism meant that the power of the church (dove symbol) triumphs over every continent in the world (the male river figures). Each of the male figures holds another symbol to help identify him and attach him to his associated river. For instance, the head of the Nile was unknown at that time so the male figure has a cloak pulled over his head and hides his face. The American figure shows non-European features (some suggest it is a native American figure, others say it has Negro features) and includes piles of coins around him to represent the riches of the New World. Ganges is holding an oar to represent that river as a major transportation and trade route through Asia.

I chose to paint Ganges simply because the photo reference I had showed great compositional elements. There are two strong diagonal lines in the work. The reclined body and legs move upper left to lower right and the direction of the oar crosses the opposite direction. The two lines intersect at the center of the mid-point of the work. The right leg of the figure is extremely foreshortened and almost thrusts out of the picture plane. I thought this was a great artistic challenge for me and enjoyed working on the drawing.

I originally planned to do more finishing work on this drawing. But, I started having artistic arguments with myself. I often get too fussy and picky with my works. I sweat over every detail. I started adding the classical columns in the background, then I worked more on the stone. So I asked myself. What is the main focus of this drawing? Well, its the very dynamic pose and action of this beautiful classical figure, of course. So, I realized that if I kept scratching and smudging around on the other stuff in the drawing that I would just distract from the central theme. So, I saw that I had pretty much completed the figure. So, I followed Maestro DaVinci's saying, "... a painting is never completed, merely abandoned." So I stopped and put him away.

I hope everyone enjoys this piece as much as I enjoyed making it. Some of my friends have already perceived Ganges' oar as a phallic symbol and have given me quite a bit of harassment about that. Personally, I never even saw it that way until some of them pointed it out. So, I suggest that they may be reading too much into it. They should remember that sometimes an "oar is just and oar."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Alex Ojeda in eFortSmith Magazine

Its always a pleasure to share good news. Its even more fun when the good news is about a good friend and their artwork. I just heard that the photography of Alex Ojeda will be featured in this month's Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.

We've been looking forward to this for a few weeks now. Alex consulted several of us a while back to help in his selection process. I was very flattered that he asked my opinion on his photos. He wanted his friends to help him pick 10 pieces to be featured in this month's issue. Of course, Alex never takes a bad picture so it was not an easy decision.

As you see from this sample magazine page, the subject of this series focused on commercial signage. These four images are just a sample of a much larger collection that included faded signs in disrepair found along the highway all the way up to the most elegant lights of Times Square and Broadway. Alex does a great job at making these very static images convey a very tangible sense of mood and character. The seedy old motel signs give us a nostalgic reminder of what glorious things they must have been in the days right before mass air travel led to their demise. The neon of Broadway glows with the radiance and hauteur of the stars that grace their stages. Of course, I'm partial to the black and white, and monochromatic images. Alex has a fine sense of value, balance and composition. In my opinion, its these photos where those qualities show up best.

I hope everyone will take the time to look at this months issue of Entertainment Fort Smith. Its easy to find locally. There are usually free copies at most local restaurants and newsstands. For convenience I'm including a link to this month's Entertainment Fort Smith web page. I'm also including a link to Alex's photography web page.

Congratulations, mi amigo!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Randall Good on NPR

On Monday I took one of my regular pilgrimages to Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I consulted with my favorite art gurus Pat and Dishongh Scavo. They've updated me on the latest news about my favorite artist, Randall Good. While I was there I acquired my fourth piece of work by Randall. Its a large and dramatic drawing of "The Fallen Icarus". As some of my frequent readers know I've collected a couple of drawings and a couple of small watercolor studies of Good's mythology subjects. Three of the works are in the Icarus series.

My last trip to Blue Moon was in March. Randall just happened to be at the gallery. He had just been interviewed by a local NPR station about his work and the exhibit at Blue Moon Art Gallery. Dishongh and Pat told me on Monday that the radio station had just recently given them a copy of the interview and it is now posted on the Gallery's website. I am including a link here for those of you that would like to hear Randall himself speaking about his work. I'm sure you will hear how knowledgeable he is about art history. He's a very articulate speaker but also a very accessible artist. I'm sure you will enjoy the interview.
There is more exciting news about Randall and his work. His work is currently showing in New York and getting quite a bit of positive notice. Also, several of Randall's major works in oil have recently been acquired by an admiring collector. I'm very happy for Randall and Blue Moon for their success. But, its sad for those of us that love to see his work at the gallery won't be able to see those paintings any longer. The up side is that Randall is always working on new drawings and paintings and the gallery will soon have more beautiful things of his to show us. I'm particulary interested in a new breathtaking series of angel subjects he has started.
I will have the new "Fallen Icarus" drawing framed some time this summer. Its a large piece and I want some special things done for its presentation. I'll be sure to post a whole article of it when its ready. I will also be attending the next Gallery Walk event in Hot Springs on Friday, June 6th and visiting Blue Moon Art Gallery then. I hope many of you will make plans to attend also. I hope to see you there. For more details about the event be sure and contact Pat or Dishongh at Blue Moon via the email links on their website. If you see me be sure and say hi. I will be the guy standing in the Randall Good shrine at the back of the gallery staring hypnotically at the inspiring imagery. Just shake me out of my trance and shake my hand.
Be sure and check out Randall's NPR interview. I'm sure you will enjoy it. Leave a comment here if you feel inclined to share or drop me an email.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Now Public News

I was recently contacted by a fellow blogger that wrote an article for Now Public News. He had seen my Memorial Day photos on Flickr and asked to use some of them to illustrate his article. I was very flattered. Click on the links in this post to view those articles and photos.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remember Their Sacrifice

Yesterday I attended a Memorial Day service at our National Cemetery. We were honored to even have a Pearl Harbor survivor with us in attendance. After the ceremonies I walked around taking pictures. It was a beautiful day for it. I used the time for personal reflection while I looked over the cemetery. So many of us see this holiday as nothing more than the beginning of summer. Its the start of the picnic and grilling season. I too often confuse the holiday of Memorial Day with Veterans' Day. But yesterday as I walked around I tried to focus on the differences between the two holidays. On Veterans' Day we celebrate and show thanks for our service men and women. On Memorial Day we honor the sacrifice of those service men and women who lost their lives in service to our country.

I was very moved by this simple grave marker. We think of the tomb of the unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery because of its size, the daily ceremonies and Presidential wreath laying that we see on TV. This little marker reminded me that the Arlington tomb is merely a symbol of all the many unknowns that have lost their lives in service. This soldier will never have a flower or wreath placed on his grave because his family doesn't know where he was laid. No doubt his mother and father knew their son was lost in action but never heard more about him. The could remember him but never visit his grave. This simple flag placed by his marker will be the only tribute he ever receives. It was heartbreaking to see not just this one, but row after row of unknown grave markers. It certainly puts our American freedoms into perspective. To see more of the Memorial Day photos I took yesterday, please visit my Flickr account.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caravaggio Rocks

I'm currently reading about the Italian Renaissance artist, Caravaggio. I've always admired the dramatic pictures that he made. He created emotional religious scenes, lusty classical themes of pagan gods and most of them included beautiful young men as featured subjects. I always put him in the same classical category as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, etc. As a matter of fact, he was almost a contemporary of those guys. Lived just slightly afterward. What I'm just beginning to learn is that he had a rock star personality that rivaled his artistic talent.

The painting featured here is obviously an interpretation of Bacchus. He has the toga, the grape leaves wreath on his head and the obligatory cluster of gapes in hand. All that's missing is the bloated, gluttonous physique. However, I personally prefer this younger more muscular figure. I've seen this painting in art history books, encyclopedias, the Internet, for years. But, until I recently read a biography of Caravaggio I didn't know the whole story. This painting is actually a self-portrait. The drunken Bacchus in this picture is the face of Caravaggio himself.

It seems that Caravaggio was a real wild man of the art world. He got into a lot of trouble during his lifetime. He was always drinking, feuding, and brawling. It was only due to the fact that he had influential patrons that respected his work that he was able to avoid a lifetime of prison. He did spend his share of time in jail. It seems that he was always pulling a knife on someone, throwing rocks at them, you name it. It sounds like he was the Russell Crowe or Naomi Campbell of the art world. It didn't help things that he was frequently intoxicated and sick from drink.

I regret that because of his undisciplined personal life that Caravaggio died way before his time. His painting career lasted only 15 years. But I've been so glad to hear that this guy was a "real" person. There is no way to force him into the idealized role of academic Renaissance artist. He was perhaps one of the most original, talented, and creative of his time. But, he was just a regular guy.