Friday, July 30, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Reality TV Haiku

I've watched too much reality TV this week and it's affected me. Inspired me. Poetically. Haiku is the perfect art form for when you're tired, run-down, taking nature walks and watching reality TV. It fits all this criteria and more.

No one should win
HGTV's Design Star
Because they all suck

Bravo's Work of Art
Artists are in it to win it
Goya would be proud

I'm sorry to say
Jersey Shore is back, bitches
Situation: dire

On Project Runway
judges deliver harsh news
with vim and vigor

The Real Housewives of ________
Giving housewives a bad name
wealthy yet bankrupt

On The Road With Aus-
tin & Santino

America needs dresses
Lifetime needs filler

Say Yes To The Dress
For six grand you really need
to insist on sleeves

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Comics

At last--it's comics time. I drew comics for more than three decades (starting at age 7). Then I took a break. You'd think I'd be amazing at drawing comics, but I kind of hit a wall back in the early 90s. I'm not going to be much better than that, is my guess and that's OK.

Although it is heartbreaking when the Pro White dries up in the jar, and pencil lines won't erase clean, and the elbow in panel three has "drawing issues," there's something very satisfying about making comics. It's an almost total-mind-body artform. You have to come up with a story or joke, then you draft it out so it hopefully makes some kind of sense, then you arrange your ideas in storyboard form and start the actual drawing. It's done! Not so fast, Mister, you still have to ink it, you know. *Sigh* Then there's erasing and fixing. More inking and probably a typo or two to deal with. It's epic, I tell you! And then if you're lucky--publication in one of thousands of readily available magazines. Just kiddding! We're not in the 80s any more!

Most likely, it's going to go up on the Web, which is a terrible medium for comics. You're either clicking or scrolling to read them and they never reproduce like the sloppy little drawing you can hold in your hand. Oh well, it's still a kick. Especially for the natural-born wiseacre. Not that I know anything about that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh Betty Draper, you are a delight

Every time I watch "Mad Men," I want to hug my kid. Then I want to hug my mom. Such is the power of Betty Draper's vacuum of evil parenting. Beth Stebner of New York Magazine waded through the muck of Betty's suburban witchiness to come up with this delightful montage.

Critics have countered that Betty better get something going on--either show a sliver of redemption or go all Medea--but I've known a Betty or two while growing up, and they rarely make the effort in either direction. Just knowing that everyone around them is equally miserable seems to satisfy their life's work.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Found Footage Friday

I realize it's barely Friday any more, but "Found Footage Saturday" doesn't have that special "something" I look for in a title. Found footage is a fine and affordable form of recycling. And in today's polluted world, isn't recycling a good way to keep small, personal films out of our over-taxed landfills?

"Breakaway" (1966) by Bruce Conner

"Apocalypse" by Daniel Lucchesi

"(About) Robots" by burton721

"Video Dating" presented by the Found Footage Festival

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dot Racing at the Oakland Coliseum

Coming at you live! Dot racing is this dumb computer animation they put on the Jumbo-Tron at ball games and you're supposed to cheer on your dot (or cable car, or speed boat, or whatever it happens to be). The Oakland Coliseum adds its own whimsical touch and it is highly entertaining.

And the A's played really well against the Red Sox, who appeared to be hung over from their overnight stay in SAN FRANCISCO. Will an American League team ever stay in Oakland to wake up refreshed and ready to play the next day? Or will they continue to party across the Bay so they end up sluggish and slumpy on the field? It's a rhetorical question. Anyway, the A's looked good out there today and other than a couple of nice diving catches in the outfield, the Red Sox had some sloppy D.

Here's how the dot race played out. As you can see, in the race around the field, Blue Dot annihilated.

Hat's off to my friend Brian who noted they could all outrun David Ortiz.

And speaking of... I zoomed in so much to get this David Ortiz at-bat that it looks like the baseball toys my brother used to play with when he was a kid. At least it does to me. Zoom lenses can be mysterious that way.
Even miniaturized, Big Papi still looks pretty big.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Arts & Crafts

We've been very busy making the daily art and waiting for it to dry, then cleaning up and then cleaning up the area where the clean-up took place, after it dries. Art is kind of a pain! So why arts & crafts? Mainly because it's meditative and fun, plus low-cost for the most part.

I've been trying to get Jackson to do some art while he's recuperating from Crohn's Disease. The medication he's on at the moment makes him a bit unfocused and obsessed with Wii video games and computers way more than he should be. I understand that Wii is fun and clever and gets his arm moving like he's sort of bowling or playing table-tennis, but it's no substitute for making a turtle out of mud-dough. Normally he loves doing art, so I'm just reminding him what normal feels like.

I used to do lots of 70s-era crafts with my crafty mom. I was deeply interested in the concepts of paper mache and decoupage. My mom subscribed to a craft-of-the-month club and once I got to make a plastic wood-grained spinning wheel that held a container of fake flowers. It made no sense before, during or after its completion--just like the 70s. And I loved it.

Here's some arts & crafts that we think you'll find craftastic.

Mud dough is made from dirt, sand, salt, Elmer's Glue and lots of water (since Northern California dirt in the summer is more like dust). You get this fleckstone kind of sculpture that crumbles if you look at it funny. Ephemeral! The googly eyes help anchor it into the here and now.
Venus de Bay Area.
Mud turtle.
Do not mess with mud turtle.
Jackson made a dapper little mudman.
We made some leaf prints too. You take a leaf and shove it all around your stamp pad, then you smash it down gently on the paper to reveal--a leaf! There's something kind of magical about printing. Kids really like lifting up their potato or whatever they're printing with, to see what happened. And so do I. Something from almost nothing. Also weird: my white ink refuses to dry all the way. So if you receive a card from me with a leaf print on it, wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Then I was rummaging around in the junk box we're filling for our future garage sale and I wondered if we could make some patterns from stamping throw-away items into acrylic paint.
The answer was: yes we could. I started printing on these rather dull blank greeting cards that are made from recycled money. At first I was kind of stately and organized about it. Then I got a little lost in the process. The one on the right is definitely "lost." I tried to salvage it by pretending I was making something amazing from Ghana, but it looks more like my 7-inch record collection.
These below left are not boobs. They're just boob-like. Keys are always symbolic, aren't they? These keys are from several houses ago and we have no idea what they were for. Jackson used to play with them on a springy key-ring.
This card says "How's your crystal-meth addiction coming along? Mine's just great!"
Jackson made a bunch of stuff too. The one on top was made from a Matchbox car, which inspired him to proclaim, "I like rolling this car in paint." Well, who doesn't? You can get a bunch of Matchbox cars and trucks and just roll them around in paint most of the afternoon. No one would hold it against you. After this, he said, "This was a good art project." Pause. "Can I play Wii now?"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Painting a Polygon

It's all about the process. At least this project was. I was trying to make a decagon, or something like it, and ended up with a pentagon instead. Then I hung it from the loquat tree and let Jackson do some painting. It was a nice blustery day; perfect for flying art work.

But let me say this: for some reason, this particular little video gave me more technical difficulties than I've ever encountered in the history of YouTube uploading. I won't go into detail. Oh yes, I will. There were resolution issues, copyright infringement issues (there was background music originally), editing and sound issues. It was the Moby Dick of video publishing. And like a bad relationship, going nowhere, I stuck it out, trying to figure out WHAT I was doing wrong.

They say we artists and artist wanna-be's learn from our mistakes. What I learned: nothing. Except I am stupidly stubborn. And my computer is peculiar. And I need to get out more. Next up: rock art.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Harvey Pekar was an unusual guy...

Here's a nice write-up of Harvey Pekar by David Ulin in the LA Times. Pekar was perhaps one of the greatest comic-book writers of all time. But he wrote about seemingly nothing and couldn't draw. Yet his comics are steeped in reality and are thought-provoking meditations on day-to-day existence--the frustrations and simple pleasures of a "regular guy's" life. Yet he was no regular guy at all. He was a complete iconoclast, masquerading as a regular guy. What an artistic blend of interesting contradictions was Harvey Pekar.

One of my friends left this 1981 issue of American Splendor behind (among many other things) when she moved across the country. This was my introduction to Harvey Pekar's work. I didn't know what to make of it at first. I had stacks of underground comics lying around from my friend's booty and my own collection that I was slowly building by haunting San Francisco comic-book shops (that's another story--guys who ran comic-book stores back in the 80s--hoo boy). Most underground comics blew up reality into surreal, angry chunks of graphic matter. Drugs, sexual kinks and raving madness were typical themes. That wasn't the scenario with American Splendor.

I didn't understand the "banality of life" situation that Harvey was getting at so cleverly throughout his work. I was in my early 20s, maybe even younger, and life was a banquet unfolding, you know? NOW I get it. Heh. I did like his tone and outlook. He was an observer and he was very creative, using comics to string together biographical moments of time.

A panel from my favorite story from this issue, "Rip-off Chick." The story of a small-town femme-fatale and a bad relationship, illustrated by Greg Budgett and Gary Dumm. Back in my early years, this resonated.
A thoughtful discussion about the comics medium.

Harvey messes with the sleek talk-show format in 1987. True performance art and entertaining too.

You haven't seen "American Splendor" yet? One of my favorite movies ever and VERY inspiring, like the man himself.

So long, American original.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Self-portraits

More artwork-a-day, or something along those lines. Originally I was going to do nothing but self-portraits for ten days worth of art. Thankfully, common sense kicked in, or self-disinterest. Maybe it's all one and the same. Here's my quick little portraits, done to avoid housework.

Back in the 80s, I used to paint fluorescent portraits on black paper. They were really fast, scribbly things and resembled masks more than actual people. The colors seemed to glow off the paper and gave everything a kind of peyote vibe. I've never taken peyote, but if I had, perhaps I would look like this.

Bravely, I soldiered on to the next self-portrait of the day. This time I used oil pastels that some co-workers of Keith kindly gave to Jackson when he was in the hospital (along with some very nice art paper--thank you!). Jackson's too little for oil pastels. Actually, so am I. They've always freaked me out. On the package, they claim to be "easy-blend" but if you don't have a stomp, and you don't practice your blending a lot, you get a lot of muddy looking muck. And dirty fingers.

Oil pastels want to be a drawing instrument and a painting medium. It's too much for one little rounded crayon to handle. When I want to make a line, it comes out smudgy. When I want to fill a large space, I get a bunch of lines. That's why this is only a partial portrait. Also, I don't have any hand-mirrors. I had to use a tiny magnifying mirror. So, tiny areas of my face are all I could muster. And Kool-Aid lips, due to "easy-blending." The frightened expression in my eye shows my oil-pastel trepidation. But I'll try again. It's easier than setting up a paint studio--less smelly too.
Tonight, Jackson kept encouraging me to try something out on his Fisher Price Digital Arts & Crafts Studio, which is one of his favorite art devices of all time. It's kind of like Photoshop for little kids with a drawing tablet and lots of digital features for making pictures, cards, party hats, coloring pages, etc. It's a very fun arty/techy toy for arty/techy kids. So I didn't tell him I've already done some work on it, and I attempted a portrait here.

I have a lot of trouble controlling the "pen" that comes with the tablet. It's clunky and takes some getting used to, but here you go anyway. It's my "missing the Northwest" look. The background is a photo that Jackson took of his United States puzzle--collaboration! You can combine lots of different images with this toy, which is very digital indeed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Lol Hamster

I have this new plan to make an artwork a day. At first I thought every day would be a self-portrait. But after only two portraits, I got pretty sick of myself. And you would too, so now it's just art and it's daily and I'm going to try it for ten days and see what I can make.

Jackson point-blank asked me, "Why?" when I told him we should make an artwork every day. I had to come up with something fast to cover up the fact that I'm crazy and obsessive. So this is what I said: Because then you get really good at art.

You be the judge.

First up, is easy because it's in the computer already and I don't have to scan or photograph anything. That's right: my artwork is lazy, people. And often sloppy. I subscribe to the slapdash genre--but never slipshod and certainly not half-ass. At least, never intentionally. And to prove it: Lol Hamster (in Spanglish, because the world needs more of that).

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dark Night of the Soul is almost here but what is it?

I didn't know. I saw an ad for it in the New Yorker that was so dark and gray-scale, I could barely read it. It had a photo of a shadowy hand holding a tiny lamb and I saw something about Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch all mixed up in there.

Apparently it's an album produced by Brian Burton (Danger Mouse), the late Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), and crazy mo-fo David Lynch, with a bunch of collaborators. It all got held up in the legal department of EMI Records but now it will be released July 13th. Who's on the album? Lots of luminaries: Iggy Pop, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Suzanne Vega, James Mercer (The Shins), Nina Persson (The Cardigans), plus Frank Black and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel. Plus the late Vic Chesnutt. Plus a 48-page book of David Lynch photos that he took based on the songs. And David Lynch sings. Well.

NPR has the album for streaming right now this very moment. Otherwise, records and cds with booklet and other printed matter will be available next week. And no, I received no money for publicizing this album. I just wanted to help out after seeing that crazy-dark ad in the New Yorker. I guess darkness is a marketing direction, just not necessarily a very clear one, even if it reflects the product.

Love Julian Casablancas' voice:

Hey, Suzanne Vega--good to hear you again:

David Lynch sounds great:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Of Humans and Hamster Wheels

Hope everyone had a good 4th of July. We celebrated with bowling, swimming and pizza. Then we cleaned out the hamster cage. It doesn't get any more American than that. There will be Tilden Park steam-train rides in the near future as well. That's a three-day-weekend, suckers!

Here's some human hamster wheels for when you feel like you're spinning your wheels. I'm like that most of the time these days. I don't get anywhere but it's good exercise!