Tuesday, December 28, 2010

As We Descend Into the New Year

Hello Friends (all four or five of you)
I've been SO neglectful of this, which is why so few of you have heard of this. You've not heard of me, because you've not heard from me. This is not a random statement. While I've been away, I've learned an essential reality about why certain people are on our radar, and certain people aren't. I'll give you a couple of really identifiable examples.

Lady Gaga. Seriously, who was she before she became who she is? A nice girl named Stephanie (I think) who happened to have a pretty awesome singing voice. But none of us knew that until we started hearing from her as Lady Gaga, who is, as anyone will agree, a larger than life persona in the mold of Madonna, and Cher before her. Once we started hearing from her, we all wondered what life was like before she got here. Whatever you think of her music (I try not to), she's on the radar and she isn't going to be easily dismissed. Love her, hate her, or simply be aghast at her, she makes an impact.

Example number two:

The cast of "Jersey Shore". Am I the only person who thinks "The Situation" is a symptom of multiple personality disorder which just happens to afflict an otherwise non-descript kid named Mike? What is it about this group of people that keeps us watching every ridiculous thing they do? What the Sam Hill is so special about "Snooki"? She's just a liliputian with a tan, for heaven's sake. Why do we care about their love affairs, their hook-ups, break ups, and whether Mike (the afore-mentioned "Situation") has a career as.... anything, after "Dancing With The Stars"? Really.
And yet, we're transfixed. Why? Because we keep hearing from them and they're just...self-absorbed enough and inappropriate enough to make them something you HAVE to look at, if only for a moment. Much like the way you have to look at a pile-up on the highway. It's just horrific enough. The problem with Snooki, Mike, Pauly D, and J-WOW, etc is you can't turn them off. They leave not just an impact, but impact trauma.
Almost got me into a full-on rant. Which goes to show that when you hear from people who make an impact, it causes a shift.
Now, since this is an art blog, what's any of this got to do with art, you ask?
We'll answer that in more detail next post.

More later


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Follow Up to Last Month's Weather Rant

This will probably interest no one but me, but I was just looking at the weather stats on weather.com for September (which by the way, after that freakish bout of hot weather we had at the beginning, it's been just WONDERFUL! Sorry you beach lovers aren't getting any more blazing hot days to bake in. Really. Sorry. NOT!), and there were only six days where the temperature went above 80 degrees since I posted my rant. There were 15 days where the temperature was in the 70s including four straight days of rain and temps in the 60s. Now I don't want to get ahead of myself or anything, but I just wonder if the weather gods were taking notice and decided to give us a break here in Central MA. Obviously I'm grateful. Of course I did mind the humidity QUITE A LOT!

Nobody was happier than me for rain and cooler temps back down here the week of Aug.21st.
I was in VT on vacation at the time where they were having up there what WE needed down here.
Anyway, all that to say this: we've had in September 10 DAYS (so far) of sunshine, rain, and cooler temperatures and nice nights for sleeping. I am totally down with that. HAPPY FALL, EVERYBODY!

More later

P.S. The fact that I get to haul out my sweaters is also pretty nice.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First, A Word from Our Weather Center


Various reports are out saying that the searing heat some places are experiencing (that would be due south and west of MA) is just the beginning of a trend that could become our new "normal" in about 40 years if steps aren't taken to reduce global warming or as it's called in some circles, "climate change". That means that the kids we're now having, literally or vicariously, could be grown and have kids of their own by the time the weather in Ogunquit, ME starts matching the current weather in Miami, FL and the weather in Miami starts feeling like a mild day in Iraq. Personally, I'm pretty tired of this little taste of one possible future for the planet. When you have people in Buffalo who can't wait for the snow, something's wrong. So maybe we all ought to stop fighting about whether climate change is happening. I'd say it is! So now that we have it, what do we do with it? I'm thinking letting trends continue as they have isn't an option. Just saying.

More later


Sending Out Introductions

Today, I started contacting companies to do specific design and illustration for web developers. Now, why am I targeting web developers? Because even though a lot of web developers are good designers, most of what they do targets the back end of a web site. This is not to say the front end aesthetics are always an afterthought, but it's something that I've been told could be improved on. My approach (assuming I'm not blown out of the water by invective) will be to create from scratch, compelling, impactful, meaningful images for websites. In essence, to be an illustrator for websites that might otherwise rely on stock images that don't really communicate in a particular context to a particular audience. There is all kinds of specialization going on these days. Lately it seems that there's an "app" (application) for everything. I'm personally not terribly interested in all the things you can do from your Blackberry or iPad. What does intrigue me and always has, is the tendency towards sameness we tend to exhibit as a culture that wrings all the flavor and color and texture out of life. And the first place you see it is in design. It all starts looking the same. Web pages look the same, sign graphics look the same. Colors, shapes, all start looking like the last thing you saw and it gets BORING. And you know, I don't necessarily blame designers. I mean, maybe some would, but I don't.
I think it's a lack of originality in our culture. A sort of herd mentality takes over and before you know it, the thing CNN did, with its logo on the bottom right corner of your screen, EVERYONE is doing. Every channel is doing it, and throwing other ads at you, while you're trying to watch a damned TV show!

Now when I said I don't necessarily blame designers, I mean this: advertisers don't always go with what's original or fresh. A lot of them have to walk a fine line between grabbing an audience and not frightening them away, so they can tend to play safe. Money and time are factors as well. So it's easy to see how sometimes creativity can get sacrificed to expediency and the result is bland, banal design that doesn't move you. It melts into the landscape that you don't notice. This of course is not to say that designers don't get lazy or even cynical. Sometimes we do. But the idea is to be aware of that and resist that impulse.
So this is what I'm up to today. Fresh original images. Homemade.
Next post, I'll show you what I mean.

More later,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ogling Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel Photography

Lately, well, this past week anyway, I was doing a design style contrast with Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. Actually I was ogling Pottery Barn's aesthetic the way some people ogle muscle cars. The furniture hasn't actually changed a heck of a lot from 10 years ago. There are some new pieces, new slipcovers and so on. But one change is the more determined use of color. That's more obvious on the blankets and duvets (yeah, you're spending some bucks to have this stuff; that hasn't changed) and pillows. There used to be an almost fierce reliance on whites and pastels and cream colors. Now they don't seem content with splashes of color. Now it's everywhere, and I think that's a welcome change. It's much warmer and more accessible. They're calling their latest branding effort "The Art of Living". I dig it.

What then to say of Crate & Barrel? They had a flirtation about a decade ago with some old French Country stuff that offset their more minimalist sensibilities. But they've since abandoned that for full-on contemporary styling. Clean lines. Bright colors. Everything nice and shiny. I get it. I can even appreciate it on a not-so-subtle level. More so than I can appreciate, say, IKEA. You can easily imagine this aesthetic in NYC or just about any urban upscale setting. It works great in lofts or apartments or really modern looking suburbs. All the newlyweds I've known recently registered there.
So what's the point of me going on about this? To discuss tastes?


The point of the exercise was to help me define my own design identity and value statement. Every artist has what's called a "visual vocabulary", a sort of language or personality that develops over time. I was using the two aesthetics to help me define mine so I could articulate it to people if I needed to. It helped me see the way that I prefer to create images, how I like to place them and what kind of feel I want them to have. So you could say I really respond to Pottery Barn's use of light and color in their images. I love how they've staged the pieces and shot them. I also respond on another level to Crate & Barrel's cool, clean aesthetic. I enjoy their use of bright colors and modern settings, but it's not as ultimately satisfying for me as an artist to go to that well all the time. It might be necessary for a particular client, but I might want to suggest an approach that feels more "organic", for want of a better term.

And that helps me define my own visual identity.

More later


Friday, July 23, 2010

New Design Blog

I happened upon a new blog for designers this week. It's called Statements by Thesis.
This would be the first blog I would recommend to all...four or five of you who might get a kick out of reading about what designers contemplate in the profession. Basically, these people post "thought papers" about trends and patterns in the design profession, and they address particular issues with what I feel is quite startlingly forward thinking insight. I've already commented a couple of times. They publish once a month, and their latest post is from a designer who admits to a dirty little secret that no one dares share lest they be ridiculed (or worse!). The link is here, and I'll be adding it to the list of blogs I read.

Okay, I'll be starting the list of blogs I read with this one. As soon as I figure out how to make the list.

More later


Monday, May 24, 2010

After Long Abstinence

Back on the air again, folks!
I could regale you with the latest tale of computer woes (in short, the computer burned out a processor which is an expensive fix), but I should not bore you with those details. Everyone has had a computer glitch that threatened to bring down if not civilization as we know it, certainly life as you've known it. There's a Holy Cross professor who was telling me about his steady descent into the technological concentric ring of hell over the last two weeks. It's truly amazing how dependent we've become on all this little gadgets. Even our president could not fully assume his duties as President if he were to be somehow parted from his Blackberry. One can only imagine how the Borg Collective would survive without its cybernetic appliances.

Shifting gears...

The other week I visited the Prints and Potter Gallery on Highland St. where I saw the most fascinating collection of figure drawings done by the Worcester Life Drawing Group. The exhibit is called "Body Work" Very tastefully done nudes and evidence of real talent. This tells me that Worcester is beginning to broaden its horizons to include more visual art. I think that's a good thing! Now I'm quite sure that some out here will look askance at me and say, "What the hell are you talking about? Worcester appreciates visual art." I realize I'm speaking from my own limited experience, of course and I don't have a bunch of evidence, but most of what I've seen here in this town has tended to be more craft-oriented. This stuck out and I thought it was telling that a gallery would display this kind of work right in its front window. It suggested to me that there's a bit of broader thinking going on. And as I said, there's nothing salacious about the pictures. It's just nice artwork, well displayed. Check it out. It's on through May 29th. If you can't physically get there, visit www.printsandpotter.com Like I said, this may not register with some folks, but for a visual artist like myself, I found this really encouraging.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Bit of Progress

Well things are getting interesting. A local gift shop wants to take the Seasons image prints on consignment. Despite the famed "bargain" mentality of the Worcester, MA buying community, I have a good feeling about this. Now I should say a word about this mindset. It's perfectly understandable in a town like this which was an old mill town just like a lot of them are here in MA. Central MA in particular has a history of manufacturing that goes back at least a century or more. Whole towns were kept going by companies like AO in Southbridge, and Wyman Gordon in Grafton. AO now is a shell of what it once was, and the towns surrounding it are not the better for it. Wyman Gordon was huge, and it's much smaller now. So much has been outsourced or shipped overseas where there's supposedly "cheaper" labor. In some ways, Worcester, the hub of Central MA has not ever quite been the same since this mass exodus. Now of course, the city is seeking to re-invent itself, but the sort of utilitarian mindset still lingers. Art that you can use is what a lot of folks here understand. Like a chair, or a dresser, or jewelry, and these are all good things.

Now, factor in this little shockwave we've had called "The Great Recession" and you see why people are holding onto their funds a little tighter. I get it. Having said that, I also believe that people here are understanding the value of visual art. No, you can't wear it, or eat out of it, or store things in it, but a piece of well-executed visual artwork just does something for you that nothing else quite does. Maybe you can't explain what it evokes in you, what feelings it draws out of you, but you feel something.

That's what good artwork will do, and that's what I'm expecting at Bhadon Gift Gallery on Pleasant St. in Worcester, open since the mid 1970s, and as much a part of this town as any factory or college. Come check it out.

More Later


Thursday, March 25, 2010


I should take time to mention that there are a couple of things that are different around here. Namely, the name change. Going forward, this space will be known as artWork Chronicles. It's a take off from a title of an old movie, "The Martian Chronicles". I believe it featured Rock Hudson and Farrah Fawcett in what looked like surprisingly good production values for the time, which was perhaps 1980. Wow. That was 30 years ago. It can't be a good thing if I'm saying "30 years ago". I aint that old. Am I? Anyway, the title also seemed better and more fitting than the title of Norman Rockwell's old book, "My Adventures as an Illustrator", which was given to me for my birthday...15 years ago. I think.

Oh boy.
Where's the Geritol?
Oh...that doesn't exist anymore does it?
And almost nobody remembers it. The fact that I do...does not bode well.
All right. I'm gonna go rest my weary bones.


The Common Mistake, and I've Just Made It

The common mistake is being away and not paying attention to your blog. I've just made it. I let myself get distracted by too many other things. And so much has happened! The gallery is now up on Imagekind and it's had over 120 image views. Now that doesn't sound like a lot, but considering that it's only been two months, and there's still about a week left of this month, that's pretty good.
Also, a historic moment: healthcare legislation, after a year plus of hyperbole, overreaction, paranoia, and hysteria has been signed into law by President Barack Obama and...the earth continues to turn. My goodness, after all the predictions of doom surrounding this debate (for want of a better word), you'd think the planet was going to suddenly turn backwards on its axis. Yet the sun rises. People are going to work. The morning rush hour is still...well...rushed. And the Bolsheviks are, strangely, not anywhere near the gate. Not to wax political here at an art blog, but I would suggest that those who were certain we would go to hell in a hand basket over this, those overwrought ones should actually find some sober, sane analysis of the bill and read it. There are some who would argue it doesn't go far enough. I can't speak to that.
But it does get us going down the path toward universal coverage, which most developed countries have.
It's also the best package a market-based system like ours could have come up with. It's hardly perfect, and whatever your persuasion, you won't like everything that's in it or not in it.
But before you go off on a rant, you owe it to yourself to at least read the damned thing. Not all 2500 pages, obviously. But surely you can Google "healthcare law" and get a summary and some sensible analysis. Then you can get on with your day.

Meanwhile, cruise by the gallery if you haven't yet. It'll give you a lift. See you soon.


Monday, February 8, 2010

More Technical Difficulties

Because this is a blog about art work, it makes sense that you should be able to see mine and link to it. You know, in case you want to, possibly LOOK at it or, well, BUY SOME. But there were glitches in loading a slideshow to give you a sense of what I'm doing. As soon as those are worked out, I'll have REAL LIVE ART to show you. Meanwhile, you can check out http://ourbliss.imagekind.com and take a look at our just completed Seasons series. This is imagery inspired in part by Alphonse Mucha. He attempted a rendering of the seasons which I was privileged to see at the Worcester Art Museum some years ago. If I can find the link to more of his work, particularly that piece, I'll post it here. Our series also features poetry by Barbara Randall, an English professor, poet, writer, and my partner and soulmate. The combination of her words and my art has proven to be very moving for people who've seen it. Enjoy! And if you like it, share the link with your friends and by all means, BUY SOME. Imagekind is owned by Cafe Press. They are an on-demand printer and they provide a selection of mats, frames, and even custom papers to really do the work justice.

So ends the shameless plug for today. As soon as I resolve some of these technical issues, I'll be able to have links or a slideshow here. Until next time.


Sunday, February 7, 2010


I have been doing some research into the whole myth of the "starving artist" lately. Most of what I've found so far has appeared on other blogs whose authors echo the same sentiment. Namely that the whole myth is precisely that. It's had some romanticized appeal over a long period of time and now, that time has past, or at least, it's about time that it did. This is 2010. The second decade of the 21st century, and while it can be argued that the first decade saw an increase in idiocy and howling-mad insanity the likes of which has not been seen in recent memory, you can also argue that the '00s have seen artists of all stripes smartening up and realizing that if you want to actually make a living doing this (drawing, painting, singing, playing the dulcimer, acting in something more high-brow than community theater), than you have to treat it as a business and your skills as the product you're offering. Even if you do other things at the moment.
Most of us look to transition out of that "other thing" whatever it is into doing artistic work full time. The truth about that seems to be that it means finding a way or ways to promote what you do. You cannot be shy about it if you want to make money with it. A lot of us look at Vincent van Gogh as the sort of prototypical starving or tortured artist. I would suggest that he probably is not the best model for our aspirations. Just because he created art in the midst of great depression and sadness does not mean we have to. Nor is that the only fuel for our work. A more modern influence might be Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. Artists and tortured souls, both. AND THEY'RE BOTH DEAD. Imagine what they would be able to give us if they weren't tortured, drug-addicted, and demon-possessed. We all have so much more to offer the world as sane, healthy people. It's just not so that great art comes from great suffering, anymore than it's true that great character comes from great suffering. These are myths. They were never the truth and it's time they were re-examined and let go. Our sanity, viability as artists, and our financial stability depends on seeing this for what it is. Far from a romantic notion, it's an impractical and destructive idea that has no value for us.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Experiencing Technical Difficulties. Please Stand By

A nice little way of saying I'm sorry that I've not posted in nearly a week. This is all rather new and I'm still feeling my way around. So the above title is not entirely wrong. They used to say this on TV when something happened at the station and there was suddenly dead space. It sounded like aliens were in fact, taking command of the airwaves. They may as well have said, "The attack upon your planet is imminent; PREPARE TO DIE, EARTH SCUM!"

Those were the days...

Of course, now they just post a message. Nice and quiet. No need for alarm. Sigh. Just relax and we'll have your favorite escape fantasy back on in a moment.
Or in this case, refer to the above title. More soon.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Begin Here...

Well, here we are. Introducing my blog! Key fanfare, confetti, really lousy sounding horns (you know the ones), and cheers.

OK stop.

Here at the artWorks-kcd blog, you will find (or at least hear about) everything I'm doing as an artist (designer, illustrator, etc), random observations, questions I have that may or may not have answers, my take on the events of the day (meaningless though they may be, opinions seem to carry weight these days, and I have one like anyone else), but, more than all that, this blog is about ART work. Mine, perhaps those of friends, or just people I admire like Norman Rockwell (who's dead and has been for 30-plus years now), or Frank Frazetta (who's 80 years old now and is still drawing and painting left-handed after a series of strokes), or Simone Bianchi who did a well-received Astonishing X-Men story last year.
These are the people I want to be when I grow up. Minus the dead part and the series of paralyzing strokes part. I just thought I should mention that I really don't need those particular items. It's a point of distinction.
So...this is a beginning. The beginning. Of really interesting and really cool things. And you get to watch it all unfold with me. Enjoy the ride.