Monday, June 19, 2017

New Work In Progress

I've been at this picture for a while. It's a kind of update or snapshot of my progress as an artist in the last 20 years. It's called "Chiaroscuro 2.0". Now the word "chiaroscuro" comes from the Renaissance painters who used light and dark to create a dramatic effect when rendering three-dimensional forms. Leonardo daVinci and Rembrandt van Rijn are known for developing the technique. When it's done right, the results are stunning.

My attempt began 20 years ago with a pen and ink rendering based on some really great photography in a Victoria's Secret catalog. Now, some may scoff, but I should note here that beyond the obviously gorgeous women and the clothes, the photography in these catalogs is quite exquisite. One could argue that Russell James (no relation to LeBron) has a pretty sweet gig.

Anyway, my attempt in 1997 won Honorable Mention in a town art show up here in New England. Not too shabby considering that I was just figuring out how light and dark contrasts worked and how to render them correctly. Twenty years later, I'm still intrigued by it and I wanted to do another version of the piece, but this time in colored pencil. Herewith, I present to you, the original, and the newer piece which, at this moment is a work in progress.


 The original, done in 1997 and, below, the update for 2017 work in progress.

As you can see in this last image, it really begins to take on a kind of life, a substance if you will, which is exciting for me. Sometimes, prior to that moment, I have no idea whether the damned thing is even going to work. Here, it begins to. Obviously, it needs more to get the full effect, but we're well on the way at last. Check back for more updates as this gets closer to completion.

More Later

Friday, June 2, 2017

P.S. Re: Chris Cornell

Just a note to add to the story of Chris Cornell's still bewildering suicide: according to his wife Vicky Karayiannis, Cornell spoke to her after his show in Detroit and she noticed that his speech was slurred, so she asked that one of his crew check on him. He said that he may have taken a bit more Ativan, which is an anti-anxiety medication, than he should have. One of the side effects of the drug is suicidal thoughts. Ativan reportedly is taken by some recovering addicts.

Chris Cornell had been an addict but was in recovery.

Everyone around him said he was fine, upbeat, and looking forward to more of life, more of touring, more of his family, so the suddenness of his passing is confusing to say the least. That he committed suicide is even more confusing, and only adds to the grief his wife and family, as well as all who knew him are feeling. Bad enough that he's gone. Worse that the circumstances surrounding his death are unresolved. Adding to this is the fact that the City of Detroit Police Dept.  is considering this an "open investigation" and hasn't released any records yet.

Cornell's remains were cremated on May 23rd.
He is gone. Now we can only remember.

More Later

Thursday, June 1, 2017

And Now Chris Cornell Is Dead!

Chris Cornell, former (hellified!) lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave died May 17th in Michigan after playing a sold out show as part of the reunited Soundgarden's tour. Early confirmed reports say that he committed suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom of his hotel. His wife was shocked and grieved by his sudden departure, as were his many fans who were looking forward to seeing him perform. He had a full slate of appearances scheduled. Cornell was only 52.

He was in Worcester, MA last summer to do a show at the Hanover Theater. I never got to see him. Another flame of creative passion has been snuffed out for reasons that I cannot, and we cannot begin to imagine. I will be sad if the cause was related to addiction. Or depression. Sad because we still don't understand these things. Sad because it continues to afflict all of us.

Nothing else to say here. So I leave you with his music and with sadness that he cannot bring us more joy through his distinctive gift.

Chris Cornell
Born July 20th, 1964
Died May 17th, 2017

Rest In Peace
We were not ready for you to leave us.

Also, in other news, Gregg Allman died last week on May 27th. He was considered one of the pioneers of what has been called "Southern Rock". He was also the co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. He was 69.

Rest in Peace.

More Later

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Year Ago This Time

Last year this time, we were still reeling in shock and sadness over the sudden death of Prince on April 21st. I attempted to write about it at the time, but no words seemed adequate to describe what he had been, the sheer enormity of his talent and prodigious productivity or how the loss of him would reverberate. He was an incandescent flame of creative energy. We all feel the darkness now that he's no longer here.

Last year this time, we were beginning to suffocate as the news media was giving us unprecedented coverage (and an unprecedented amount of air time) to a simpleton, rage-fueled, attention whore, racist, erstwhile billionaire TV personality who was aspiring to the White House. He figured his scheme of being outrageously xenophobic enough, unbelievably "politically incorrect" enough might actually work. Meanwhile, many of us underestimated him, including me.

One might argue that all the focus on him helped propel him to the Oval Office. Hence, our current national nightmare. The US House of Representatives just voted today to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something substantially worse.

Last year this time, with the Paris Climate Accords having been signed in NY in April (the day after Prince died), we had hope that we were finally as a planet going to get a handle on climate change. Innovation and technology are leading the charge ahead of actual government policy, which I think is encouraging. Our collective creativity may yet win the day.

The conclusion I'm drawing here is that despite the turbulent and even savage times we live in, we are finding inventive ways to create lives that work, or at least work better. Take this story about an art studio in Manitoba, Canada that helps people who are mentally ill (which is to say suffering from things like depression, schizophrenia, etc.). They lost a federal grant which was worth $100,000, but the community stepped up and gave $153,000 to more than make up for the loss. This was reported just yesterday on the Good News Network. This is just one example of the ways in which we all find ways to "keep on keepin' on", as the old song goes.

The results can be pretty damned awesome.

More Later

P.S. The song, by Gladys Knight and the Pips from the 1970s is called "I've Got To Use My Imagination". Appropriate for these times, no?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Administration: New Attack On The Arts

The moment that many of us have dreaded since November 8th has finally arrived. Donald Trump was formally sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20th, 2017. It's probably the most scandal plagued administration that ever took office in the history of the Republic, as recent events are bearing out. Out of respect for my peace of mind, I am now ignoring the 24-hour news cycle and selectively reading stories that catch my interest. 

Noting that, as this is a blog about art, the new president, consistent with Republican ideology will attempt to make dramatic cuts to things that we know to be public goods, such as Social Security, Medicare, funding for public education, healthcare, and the arts. Things such as the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting which helps fund NPR, Sesame Street and Masterpiece Theatre), the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and others are once again in the crosshairs. Now, to be fair, funding for the arts has never been particularly robust at the federal level. In fact, according to a new analysis by writer Scott Timberg, the previous administration's commitment to arts and culture funding was less than his predecessor, George W. Bush, who I note with continued shock, in his post-presidency, has taken up painting!

The new administration's budget blueprint calls for eliminating these agencies altogether. It's basically a symbolic move to show voters that they're serious about eliminating "wasteful spending". The truth is the combined money spent at the federal level on arts and culture is a scintilla of the overall federal budget. We still spend more on defense that the next 7 nations combined. What would happen if that were inverted? What would happen if things like inspiration, beauty, and reflection were actually priorities of local, state, and federal governments? What would our country, and indeed the world look like?

Whether these cuts happen or not is really dependent on people standing up and saying "NO" just the way we should be saying "NO" to the renewed and really quite tired attempt to slash Social Security and Medicare and all the rest. We must once again prove that engagement with art (having it and making it) is beneficial to the public and worth public investment.
There is a lot of research that shows that it is. Without these things we become more savage, less able to think and reason deeply, less contemplative and reflective, and more prone to the simplistic and reductionist ideologies of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and authoritarian-style strongman rule.

In other words, since our public investment in arts funding has been historically abysmal, I would argue it is part of the reason we have Donald Trump in the White House and not someone who truly represents the best of the US. The best of us. Now I understand that this is more political than this blog has tended to be, and I have heard the argument that the arts and artists shouldn't be political. Art shouldn't be provocative, or so the thinking goes. But it's precisely because art is provocative that repressive governments attempt to eliminate art from the public space. There's historical precedent for what's being contemplated here, and it's why we all need to make our current government STOP THIS.  Ultimately, we the people have the power to stop yet another idiotic and cynical attempt to cut something that does a tremendous amount of good for a relative pittance.

Do the math: $448 million to the CPB vs. $54 BILLION for our military apparatus.

More Later


Please visit

Monday, November 21, 2016


My return from blogging purgatory is greeted by a new, grim, surreality. It's called Donald Trump as incoming President of the United States.

What the hell happened?

Well, simply, 61 million people voted in the states that mattered in the Electoral College and on November 9th, the rest of us woke up in this alternate universe. And you thought "Flashpoint" was just a story arc on "The Flash".

People are imagining the worst possible scenarios right now in a Trump Administration. It's not unreasonable to assume that at least some of that could happen. I've spent nearly two weeks in a near fetal position waiting to be awakened when it's over. But I've also spent the last few months doing what I do: making art, and that takes on renewed and critical significance given the new landscape. So while journalists and sages (we call them "pundits") report the details and provide analysis, I will continue to do what I have been doing, what I would have been doing if Hillary Clinton were the incoming President of the United States. From that perspective, nothing has changed. If things were the other way around, there would still be a need for the kind of breath of fresh air that living with well-made art of all kinds brings. There would still be the need for beauty and deepening of soul. There would still be the need for the kind of emotional and mental reset that art brings.

We would still have divisions to heal in this country, hurting and angry people that haven't been listened to or tended to for a long time, people who haven't benefited from this "recovery" that the current administration is so proud of. Unfortunately, that anger has given oxygen to the very worst elements of our political expression.

So I would say grieve if you must. Go through the stages, ride the waves of emotion that will surely surge. God knows I am. But when those waves recede, and they will, remember that this wave will recede as well. It's already happening in the UK as people rethink Brexit.  

Meanwhile, here's some fresh artwork in progress.


More Later

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Year, Already Too Much Death

David Bowie is dead at 69. He fought an 18 month battle with cancer that apparently no one knew about except his family.

Alan Rickman, a.k.a. Severus Snape (and the bad guy in "Die Hard", and the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" who chewed the scenery while Kevin Costner attempted, badly, to affect a British accent) of the Harry Potter franchise is dead at 69. Apparently he had cancer as well and kept it a secret.

Now, here stateside comes word that Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles has died of a variety of illnesses relating to arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. He was 67. The Eagles had completed a two-year tour called "History of the Eagles" this past July. The tour came with a 3-hour documentary on Showtime that was quite compelling.

We're not even 3 weeks into 2016. What the hell's going on? Well, on one level, there is a very natural passing on of life. People like me grew up listening to the Eagles in the 1970s and were trying to figure out just who or what the hell Ziggy Stardust was. Alan Rickman was already 28 years old when he started his career as an actor. No one had ever even heard of him. Now, Don Henley calls the day he met Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 a moment that changed his life forever. The proof is in the pudding obviously. But that was 45 years ago.


By the time Alan Rickman cast a contemptuous eye on his unsuspecting students at Hogwarts Academy as Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master,  his career as an actor had spanned 25 years. And David Bowie was long past his Ziggy Stardust, gender bending days by 2001. A mere 15 years ago. In my mind, and in the minds of many others my age, these people, these artists were doing amazing things, and I was still a kid. I hadn't figured out anything. So it's a shock when these people suddenly pass because we're still looking up to them to inspire us, to lead us. Maybe to let us know that there's still time to sort it out. One more spin of "Heartache Tonight" or "New Kid in Town".  Or one more turn of "Let's Dance" or "Fame" by Bowie. One more time watching Rickman as Snape or the Sheriff of Nottingham. One more time around. Where's that VHS?

Oh. It's a DVD now. No. It's BluRay. Or Netflix. Or Hulu. Now you can see it (or hear it) on these little mini-computers that allow you to make phone calls. They're called "smart phones".

Smart phones? It took me hours and a search to figure out how to just answer the goddamned thing when a call comes in. I feel pretty dumb to be honest.

And I feel blindsided.

And I don't really care a damn that these people have had pretty amazing lives, done pretty awesome things and have now moved on. It's too damned soon. I wasn't ready for them to leave. I'm just beginning. How will I know whether I've got it right? When did it happen, when was the moment that I stopped being a kid? I was always in awe of these people. Like so many of us.

Now, we have to take the stage ourselves without them. Swallow the fear as they must have. Lean into that uncertainty and fling ourselves out there. Look to catch the wind and soar as they did. They were here to inspire us, but they couldn't very well fly for us, could they? Nor could we very well expect them to stay and watch. Something has ended. We feel that. But the time for our own uniqueness in this world has only begun. And it can't happen if we wait for the next great thing these people create while our own greatness languishes, while our own music still has yet to play. So maybe the way to remember these and others who've passed and who've left such a mark (like Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, and Mic Gillette who founded Tower Of Power) is by noting that though their time has passed, ours has come. And we're ready.

But first we mourn:

David Bowie (born: David Robert Jones January 8th, 1947; died: January 10th, 2016)
Alan Rickman (born: Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman February 21st, 1946; died January 14th, 2016)
Glenn Frey (born: Glenn Lewis Frey November 6th 1948; died January 18th, 2016)

Working artists all. We were not ready for you to leave us.

Rest In Peace.

"Let's Dance" by David Bowie

"New Kid In Town" by the Eagles with Glenn Frey on guitar and vocals.

The Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" played with  relish by Alan Rickman.

More Later