Monday, November 21, 2011

Trampoline no more!


Here's the follow-up to the piece that was giving me fits two blog entries ago or so (For more information and a much CRAZIER version, please reference my blog titled "A Trampoline for Your Eyes").  Basically, I toned down the background with several translucent coats of grey/green.  Whew!  It's amazing what just a few coats of paint will do!

And now I'm sort of kicking myself for WAITING TWO WEEKS to do that!  I think I was a little afraid that it wouldn't work and that I would be out ALL the labor and time it took to lay in that tartan pattern!

Oh, well.  The way out is the way through.  I just had to grit my teeth and do it!  And the portrait is clearly all about the DOG now, instead of being about the giant red SQUARES and then the green and then sort of the dog and then...WHY do I suddenly have a craving for Walker's shortbread and a headache???

Okay, back to work!  I have a bunch more in the way of holiday portraits to work on...and travel plans in the offing as well!  So if I don't get back to another entry before the holidays, please have a happy thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On non-profits...

How many of you have worked with or at non-profit agencies?

Do you find that their leadership is typically SHORT-SIGHTED?  Or they work with BLINDERS ON, like these horses from Colonial Williamsburg?

I’ve been wondering about this, partly because I used to work for non-profits in the education sector.  And, in my experience, while the delivery (or research, or policy analysis) staff were EXCELLENT and hard-working, upper management was an amazingly silly (and frequently corrupt) batch of lunatics.  Not that you could always tell that at first sight.

Anyhow, I ran into this again this week, but from the OUTSIDE this time.

Here’s how it came about.  I’ve been scheduled as the featured artist for a show early next year at a Barnes & Noble store about an hour away.  And my artist reception is scheduled at the same time as B&N is holding a bookfair for a nonprofit up there – a place that has a herd of therapy horses that they use to work with physically and emotionally-disabled people.

For the purposes of this blog, I’ll call the place “Hernias and Horses.”

My being scheduled for a show at the B&N had NOTHING to do with Hernias and Horses. 

It had to do with the fact that I used to sell my children’s book up there a few years ago and when I stopped by recently to visit my friends who worked there, they remembered that I USED TO DRESS UP AS A SHEEP AND REGULARLY SHOW UP FOR SCHOOL BOOKFAIRS. Even in blizzards. 

And they liked my current paintings. 

And they think of me (somehow, despite the sheep costume) as a professional they can count on. 

So they scheduled me for February.

I’ve been looking to paint some horses for awhile now.  I’ve stopped by local riding stables and taken photos, as well as a number of shots when I travel.  And I thought, “Why not call Hernias and Horses and see if they’d like to do something TOGETHER for the bookfair?”

Why not, INDEED

I’m basically a team player.  So I worked up an idea about possibly painting a horse or two from the Hernias and Horses herd to add to my body of work, getting a print made and seeing if we could sell it at the bookfair.  And I’d donate HALF THE PROFITS (after the cost of making the print) to Hernias and Horses.

I didn’t HAVE to offer this, you know.

But it SEEMED like a win-win situation to me.  Hernias and Horses would be out NO money, and potentially could make some money.  I could get a few more horse photos to add to my collection and paint some horses to add to my body of work.  And sure, it would cost me a little bit, but I take that sort of cost on all the time when I work with pet supply stores and vets’ offices.

With the understanding, of course, that I WILL GET PAID IF THE WORK SELLS.

Because I am also a professional.

The program director at Hernias and Horses LOVED my idea.  She seemed to be on board with the whole idea, at least until I mentioned little things like charging the customer enough to PAY FOR PRODUCTION.

And she said she’d take it to the Executive Director, who apparently is the head guy with the blinders on.


So I started going through my OWN horse photos and selecting some for use in paintings for this show.  Because I already KNEW what was coming...

When the program director called back, I could tell she was kind of embarrassed.  And the message she had for me from the Executive Director was something like this:

“Typically when we work with people like professional photographers and the like, they donate 100% to Hernias and Horses.  We’re giving them EXPOSURE and it’s part of their marketing cost. It would be a lot cleaner to have a 100% donation.”

  • I didn’t laugh in her face. 
  • I didn’t ask her how long the so-called professional photographers could afford to keep doing photography and not pick up a barrista job at Starbucks because they worked with too many short-sighted non-profits like Hernias and Horses.

I just thought, “Well, a 0% donation is also a lot cleaner, and that’s the route I’m planning to take now.”

I feel sorry for the lady.  She seemed to feel really bad about it, and she personally loved my artwork. It's not her fault she's working for a dope.  She wanted to let me know that the door isn’t closed (at least not from THEIR direction) and invited me up to visit their facilities and talk with the Executive Director in person.

But I don’t think it’s a very good use of my time.  


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Walking Dead--a rant...

This is an image from AMC's "The Walking Dead" and they have all the copyrights, etc. etc.  I am just using this to have a relevant image for this post.

Anyhow, I forgot the magic word—or shortened word (Decaf, in case you are wondering) when I picked up my Starbucks at 1:45 yesterday afternoon, so I am wide awake and it’s the middle of the night and I’m too jittery to pick up a paintbrush (although I have SOLVED the “trampoline for the eyes” problem of my last post!)…

But my typing speed is SPECTACULAR.

And, typically for me after watching TV last night, I am thinking about zombies.

(Just a sideline; did you ever wonder about how many HUGE real-world problems might be solved if people actually spent their time solving real-world problems instead of fanwanking about zombies?  Probably a lot.  Clearly zombie fiction is the cause of current societal downfall.  Or maybe it’s vampire fiction.  If you ask me, there is NOTHING MORE TERRIFYING and telling about our current low standards for literacy and storytelling and expectations for boyfriends than the “Twilight” series’ success..)

But again, I digress.

If you haven’t watched the 11/13 episode of TWD, I am going to spill the beans.  So go elsewhere or suck it up.

I started out LOVING TWD. And what I LOVED about the show really has to do with WHO THE REAL MONSTERS ARE.

Hint:  They’re not always the undead.

In fact, they’re USUALLY NOT.

But lately, it’s been getting on my last nerve.  Here are the reasons:

Reason #1:
The pace of the writing is GLACIAL. 

Our Gang of Zombie Survivors has been looking for that idiotic child, Sophia, for what seems like YEARS now. Dale should have died OF OLD AGE in the space of time these people have been hanging out and sponging off of Veterinarian Hershel, using up his antibiotics, losing his horses, screwing his daughter, and SOMEHOW TOTALLY MISSING THE FACT  (until last night) THAT HE HAS A BARN FULL OF ZOMBIES.

Which kind of makes me hate the show more.  Just as I’m about to un-DVR it, SOMETHING KIND OF MIND-BLOWING happens like that and I’m sucked in for another few weeks of nothing happening except for extremely idiotic characters getting pregnant, arguments about the presence of God, etc.  And a few zombies for window dressing.

It’s almost as bad as “Ringer,” which I only started watching because I was a “Buffy” fan and now I’m realizing why Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar never talk much about each other.  

They clearly have REALLY DIFFERENT IDEAS of what’s GOOD.

Sigh.  At least with TWD, the zombies LOOK like zombies.  In “Ringer,” they’re just very pretty people all ACTING like zombies.

Anyhow, back to TWD.  I could get all Doc Jensen-y here and ramble on for PAGES about the metaphorical significance of Sophia, “Sophia” being the Greek word for wisdom.  And the show is a big MESSAGE, possibly about our lifelong search for wisdom, blah blah blah, until death comes for us, probably in the form of a lot of rotting, staggering things who catch us and gnaw us to death because someone we THOUGHT WAS OUR ALLY used his last bullet to SHOOT US IN THE LEG so he could get away.

But I’ll leave that to Doc Jensen.
Which leads to…

Reason #2:



It’s been bothering me ALL WEEK that the ONLY character that I even remotely want to survive TWD’s zombie apocalypse is a bigoted, crossbow-toting redneck.  Then I watched last night’s episode, and, in addition to being bigoted, here are some of Darryl’s OTHER qualities:

  • AND HE’S STARTING TO GET VISITED BY HIS PSYCHOTIC (and presumably dead) BROTHER MERLE, who cut off his own HAND last season to escape the zombies, kind of like Gaius Baltar’s visits from HeadSix on Battlestar Galactica.

All this makes Darryl EVEN MORE AWESOME TO ME.

Maybe I’ll keep watching it, just to check out Darryl and HeadMerle.

Because everyone else is an IDIOT.  And I don't CARE about them.

Shane is a self-serving, friend-shooting, best-friend’s-wife-screwing hothead whom I suspect is carrying a stash of steroids (which would explain some of his behavior).  The wife in question is both vapid and opinionated (although she is NOT, contrary to typical Hollywood casting, blonde), and she’s a package deal with the kid, who would be much more interesting if he got zombified. 

There IS a blonde who used to be interesting but is now mainly a compelling argument for gun control, since she is always yelling about her Second Amendment rights but could not pass a Hunter Safety course even if she slept with the instructor, and who, in fact, once she GOT her gun and learned how to point it, shot DARRYL instead of one of the undead. 

Glen, whom I used to like, got very uninteresting once he discovered sex (lost his virginity?) with the vet’s daughter, although he did just discover the secret barnload full of zombies…and then there are other characters that I resent too much even to list.

Although—GREAT LINES OF DIALOGUE between Glen and the vet’s daughter:

GLEN:  “What would you say if I told you we had 11 condoms left?”
DAUGHTER:  “I’d say that was 11 more minutes of my life I’d never get back.”

Unfortunately, examples of this type of dialogue are few and far between. 

And Rick, the main character, went from being a real person to an allegorical mouthpiece for hope (as well as… atheism???) in about TWO EPISODES FLAT.  Let’s get real.  We could kill him off and SOME OTHER CHARACTER could say those lines, and we probably wouldn’t notice the difference.  After all, Rick has already given his sheriff’s hat to Carl, along with whatever personality he had.

It’s interesting though.  It makes me wonder if that’s the point of the show—to bring out the viewers’ intolerances of others.  After all, I don’t TYPICALLY dislike people.  Real people, that is.  But this show is bringing out the monster in me – which is a horror theme at LEAST as old as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Or maybe it’s just too much caffeine.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A trampoline for your eyes...

The image is of a client's piece that's in progress that is GIVING ME A TREMENDOUS HEADACHE.

It's kind of a secret because the piece will be a surprise Christmas gift, but I figured, "Hey, I only have about five blog followers and I'm not using names here."  So please do NOT RAT ME OUT or share this with anybody who has a Scottish Terrier until AFTER CHRISTMAS.


Anyhow, because the client has a Celtic heritage (no, the OTHER Celtics, they are NOT Boston basketball fans), I thought it would be BRILLIANT to incorporate their terrier with a tartan background that relates directly to their family.  So I did the research and found out what the tartan looked like.

Then I pitched it to the client along with a rough sketch.  They ALSO thought it would be brilliant!

So I went ahead with the painting.



I have spent DAYS on that freaking plaid background, toning it down, bringing it back up, etc.

And what I have is like that silly Old Spice Commercial where the hunky, six-packed dude says, "Look at your boyfriend.  Now look at look at your boyfriend..."

Although I think I encountered that first with the ad for "Puss in Boots" where Antonio Banderas' voice purrs out of Puss' mouth, "Look at your cat.  Now look at ME..."

But this version is more like:

  • You look at one of the BIG RED SQUARES.
  • Then you look at the dog.
  • Then you look BACK at the BIG RED SQUARES.  

Boy, you think, those are big.
And red.
What was this piece supposed to be a painting of, I wonder?

  • Then (maybe) you look back at the dog.  
Oh's a dog portrait!
  • Then it's back to those freaking red squares.  Or maybe one of the blue lines.
  • Then ANOTHER piece of the background--maybe that IDIOTIC white and yellow line.
  • Then you go lie down with a headache.  
  • Or you go pick up a Magic Eye book, to give your OWN EYES A BREAK!

I called my friend, Ann, today (she is one of my most trusted artist friends), to try and get her critique on it, and, after I described it to her, she said,
"Oh, so it's like a trampoline for your eyes?"

And YES.


They bounce ALL OVER THE PLACE with this thing.

And it's supposed to be ABOUT THE DOG!

So I need to change that.  I've decided to bury it in the closet this weekend and take a look at it early next week with Ann, to see how to fix it.

From experience, I know that I'm smack-dab in the UGLY UNDERPAINTING PHASE.  And the only way out is through.

But I don't have to ENJOY it!  Grrrr....

If you have any insights, they are HUGELY APPRECIATED!  But I'm taking the weekend off from this guy!  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remembering Autumn...

It’s the Day of the Dead, which has gotten me to thinking.  Last weekend, I booked my first commission for a deceased pet—a bouncy, playful Australian Shepherd who apparently met a premature end.

But, then again, I think that the short lifespans of most pets (barring those relatively noncuddly things like parrots and tortoises) ALWAYS seem premature.

Bonding with an animal that you’re almost guaranteed to outlive – well, that’s one of the crueler aspects of life on this planet, even with a cat that’s ALMOST TWENTY.

In case it is not TOTALLY obvious, I had to help send my little almost-20 cat, Autumn, on to the great beyond last May.

It seemed DAMNED premature.  Even at the last, I could still see her as a kitten, when we used to make “cat burritos” by rolling her up in my Mexican rug.  And then I would tease her and poke at her from outside the rug and she would grab at me from the inside, eyes glowing and whiskers twitching with excitement.

Autumn and I LOVED making cat burritos.

So, in May, we made one last cat burrito together.  I rolled her scrawny old body up in her kitty-cat printed quilt, and we took her to meet with a vet for the last time to help her away.

It was not as fun as it used to be, but it had to be done.

Because, even though it seemed premature, it was simultaneously WAY PAST TIME.  Her little body was past its expiration date, she was REALLY ready to go, and those things were crystal clear.  Her last breath was a sigh of relief.

But it didn’t really make it any easier for me to have to do it. For about two weeks, I was just SAD a lot.  And I don’t typically hold onto sadness about much of anything, although I’m crying like the guy from Pagliacci as I’m writing this.  I don’t regret anything about having Autumn in my life for the past nineteen years, including having to give her a good death.  But these silly short lifespans are just a pain to have to deal with.

Even though Autumn remained “my” cat for her whole life, about seven years ago, we sent her up to my parents’ house on an extended sabbatical.  Here's how it happened:

Smokey, a recent escapee from the former meth lab across the street (I am SPECULATING here, but those people really had some odd habits.  Maybe I have been watching too much "Breaking Bad" but Smokey does wheeze sometimes around chemicals like carpet cleaner, like maybe they'd been cooking a batch of meth and forgot to give her a respirator.), had come to live with us after the meth cooks moved elsewhere and apparently abandoned her to starve.  And we already had another cat, Windy.

And Autumn, with her genteel ways, went straight to the bottom of the household cat power structure.  The other two cats, much as we tried to intervene, banished her from our laps, and Miss Autumn was mainly relegated to hiding under the stairs and crying about the injustice of it all.  So off she went to Idaho Springs, where she could once again be the main cat in the household and get some attention.

But she would still visit every once in awhile, because my mother, despite her status as Queen Bee of Idaho Springs society, suddenly found herself incapable of asking ANYBODY ELSE besides me to take care of Autumn when she wanted to travel.  (Despite agreeing to take Autumn, she was not 100% on board with the whole sabbatical program, so that was her way of getting back at me.  That's my interpretation of it.)

Anyhow, several times a year, Autumn would get stuffed into the Pet Taxi and brought back down to our house, where she had a standing reservation in the Greta Garbo Suite for Cats Who Want to be Left Alone (by other cats). And when she visited, she LOVED laundry duty.  I would sort the laundry into a basket and then leave it out for her, so she could burrow into the socks and towels and hang out.  And I got a bunch of great photos of her several years ago.

So I painted a portrait of her, a month or two after she was gone.  That’s it, above.  My husband is not that thrilled that, in addition to Autumn, his dirty socks are memorialized for everybody to see.  But IT REALLY COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE.  I edited all the underwear out of the painting.

Anyhow, I’m very happy with this portrait.  I think that, on this day where we commemorate the dead, it helps to do that for me with Autumn! I feel like I have something of Autumn and her personality with me still and I’m very thankful for the times I had with her!

I hope I can do the same for the shepherd’s owner!