Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The long weekend

Oh sleep. The weekend started the middle of last week (all nighter of a test, game company. Didn't get it. Blast. Sniff...Fine, maybe not my dream job. But getting any pay check not signed by mom is rather like a dream right now.) From there came a flurry of sleepless activity including preparing for an art show (Healdsburg, Sonoma County). But was fine by Friday afternoon when my friends and I set about the town. I wouldn't get a good night sleep though until Saturday. I can't sleep, it seems, in unfamiliar places, (we stayed overnight) not even after two glasses of wine, two beers, a few hours in a Santa Rosa dance club and two Tylenol PMs. If all that couldn't knock me out, I was hoping it would at least kill me, spare me the misery that is insomnia. So basically, I had a sleepless, but fun and interesting, weekend. It's amazing what reserves of energy I can pull up when I need it.

Paintings from a Healdsburg gallery I wouldn't mind getting into...the Erickson Fine Art Gallery. The owner had taken my card as a courtesy, but I hope, with my work showing down the street, she will walk over there and realize she must, she must make me one of her gallery artists. She must.

My paintings, at the Plaza Arts Center (wine country nibbles & wine, most excellent), Ginza Monk, Ottowa Flower Market, Toy Shop Window, & At The Temple (see online portfolio) won this...Yay me. When L. asked how I felt about it I said, "it means...I didn't win first place." No, of course that's not what it meant. I had no idea they would give out awards so any award came as a very happy surprise. And what it means is I will soon make a full living off my paintings, able to travel round the world looking for inspiration with collectors eagerly anticipating my next collection...
Powell's candy store, after the reception.L.'s dance instructor. He performs around the bay area and that night, Saturday night, he was performing at the Brazilian place we dined at.And this, of course, is the Castro. Gay pride week.These guys...were just a few of the dancers to be found in this hot, sweaty and unbelievably crowded dance club we went to. This also being the first ever post Michael Jackson weekend, they played a lot of his music. I've always loved his songs. I'm used to him providing us with music and gossip at regular intervals. A few years back, I was even in a bad Thriller remake (long story) as a dancing zombie. (There's something that'll pop up to haunt me one day. At least I was two sizes thinner then.) So hearing his music everywhere was unexpectedly moving.Looking around us that night we were especially struck by the beauty and creativity we saw all around us. Here was a collection of what my family would call freaks who should all burn in hell. But...let a person be who they really are, without constraint or judgment, what beauty results. But here...
the Angels of Castro Street come to the rescue of a young woman. One of them had seen her boyfriend (?) hit her so hard that he knocked her against the wall. We saw you hit her! they said. The spindly chicken shit, wide eyed and gesturing frantically, said, no, I was just reaching out to her and she fell. - We saw you! (to her) What happened honey? Do you need help? Unfortunately, her fear (which was palpable) or perhaps an inability to speak English kept her from speaking up for herself though if she'd but said one word, even in another language, or had grabbed an angel by the hand I'm sure they would have given her whatever help she'd needed. After they left, I saw the cs drag her off in a headlock, push her against a wall holding her there by the throat, then drag her off again, then stop to talk to a rather sleazy looking character.

My friends said it was just an argument. But my gut said no, this is something else...the cs was willing to hit her in public then drag her off in a head lock. Cs was not her boyfriend. Or maybe that's not all he was...

Sorry to tell that rather hopeless story. But I haven't been able to erase it from my head since it happened. Could I have done something? Probably not, I suppose, if a flock of angels, each twice the size of the spindly chicken shit, couldn't. It was just so striking, the contrast between all that joyful expression - and this!...this truly ugly scene.

I cannot leave you with that though. I ran across these incredible folks...on our way back to our car when we stopped for a slice of pizza. Hanging out in front was the man in the aquamarine t-shirt. With his fist against an ice cream cart, he kept a steady beat as he improvised a rap song. Then the other three joined him, the young man coming up with rhymes so easily I was in complete awe. And so glad to be able to witness this spontaneous and joyful self expression.
(lone protester I spotted after a day of plein air painting Sunday)

Sadness and joy. Creativity and cruelty. Freedom.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Smile UR B - E - A - U- Tiful!

Ever since Seattle, a city which, as far as I could tell, seems to work in every way the Bay Area doesn't, I've been paradoxically looking around me and wondering is it really so bad where I live? Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of something, a view, charming storefronts...or interesting locals going about their lives and I'll feel something close to affection for the place I live in. For example, Saturday morning, while sketching in Starbuck's, I saw this adorable scene...This Starbuck's, by the way, my neighborhood Starbuck's, always has clean bathrooms. They also serve super strong small batch coffees, as good as anything I tried in Seattle. And they've begun carrying Top Pot donuts!

Next to the mother and child above sat these gentlemen... And when I saw the one in the red shirt, I thought, it's Butler and the Bagman! Butler and the Bagman! But I doubt he speaks in a thick Russian accent. Though he might, during a chess game, try to psyche his opponent out by saying stuff (without the accent) like, uh-oh! Do you really vant to do dat? I don't tink so. I tink you are making a mistake. Uh-oh!

Goldfinger in Dolores Park Saturday night, with downtown SF and the bay bridge in the distance.
Afterwards, raucous, wild North Beach again. There is always a platoon of policemen here standing by just in case...And this weekend, a ship load of US Navy men, too...
L. and I were daring each other to approach one of these guys for a dance. We had been talking earlier about seizing opportunities despite the possibility of making mistakes and getting hurt because someone L. works with wants to set her up on a blind date. But in high school, I remember - High school!!!? High school!!!? L. just because something happened in the past doesn't mean it'll happen again! I reminded her how, for the past few years, she has gone from safe and shy to the sort of woman who gets firemen's phone numbers in night clubs. And even though the next step in her evolution (and mine) is a much scarier and riskier one she couldn't stop now or who knew how long it would take for her to get back to this point. So naturally in the night club we were daring each other to seize the opportunity. We didn't. More to the point, I didn't. It's so much easier being the approached rather than the approacher. And L. being wonderful L. didn't rub it in after all my don't give in to fear now talk.

Free Father's day concert in Golden Gate Park featuring Sugar Ray, Matt Nathanson, Parachute and Gavin Rossdale... I took this photo after sneaking into the VIP section to take advantage of the covered tables and chairs. (Why not?) You think the guy with the guitar is a rock star?Interesting locals...After the concert I wandered around Haight Street. It's been a while since I played tourist here. One thing that always strikes me about it are it's interesting and bedraggled collection of surly youths such as the dreadlocked one below who demanded money after I snapped her photo. I told her on my return, meaning of course, I'd be sure to walk on the other side of the street on the way back. Another surly youth made fun of the size of my bee-hind and his pot smoking companion told him he was a jerk in the sort of tone that implied he was not at all a jerk but the coolest guy he knows. But it's not what the surly youth said that hit me like a wad of spit between the eyes. It was his sense of being offended by my appearance. Yes, I thought, I do have a well rounded back side. And I've always rather liked it. My voluptuousness, I like to think, makes up for my teeny weeny-ness. And here was this jerk telling me my J. Lo-esque ass offended him. I'm laughing now but, oh boy, for a moment there I felt, like I said before, like I'd been spit on. But before I had a full on tantrum I remembered what I'd been telling L. the night before. (This time I'd walk the talk, I said to myself.) There will always be people who judge without kindness. Some will intentionally try to wound. But you can't let that keep you from fully experiencing your life. A wonderful life is worth risking a bruised ego once in a while.

And, as if to make sure I didn't back-slide into negativity, I caught sight of this on my way back to my car.... How can I not love the place I call home?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I dare you to watch this without smiling

This blog'll never be a check what I found on the internet type of blog (I like talking about myself too much), but I just had to share this video. (Though judging by its YouTube popularity, you might already have.) That's what I want to do! Dance in every country in the world. I've danced the tango by the River Seine. And I've danced here of course. Two down. Every other country in the world to go. Yay!


Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The bluest skies you'll ever see are in...

Seattle. And the hills the greenest green in Seattle. Like a beautiful child, growing up, free an' wild. Full of hopes and full of fears, full of laughter, full of tears, full of dreams to last the years, in Seattle...in Seattle...(lyrics courtesy of God and Perry Como)
I'd originally planned four more Seattle posts: Seattle at night; Seattle art; Eating in Seattle; and Seattle and Victoria. Too much? Then you might be glad that as much as I'd love to go back, I've got other things on my mind these days. And however many images I show, I think the only way to get a true feel for this gorgeous city would be to go there and walk around in it, which I hope you all do one day. I know that before I went I looked through a lot of guidebooks and saw a lot of photos, but I still didn't really know what to expect, except maybe a lot of grungy hipsters, militant vegans or nerdy Rick Steves types. Maybe even a Frasier or Niles. Anywhoo, Seattle, a synopsis:
I found this and several more in a city bus, in some of the spaces usually reserved for advertisements. A pretty good idea, I thought. I'd much rather read a poem than an ad trying to sell me something.

An actual poet...Some interesting grafitti...The Seattle Art Museum or the SAM... This car thing is a depiction of an accident, and one of the few works of art I was able to photograph.

And this...
is the other one. Sorry. I was really kicking myself for picking this, this kitschy painting (which I think was once owned by Elvis) out of all the amazing works in the SAM to photograph before the guards marked me as a major camera risk. Oh well, it is pretty cool actually. It's called Big Blonde in the Woods. Another work of art which make me think, hey, if this can make it into a major city museum, then darn it...!

This... is a wall covered in gum, in case you can't tell. Care to guess how many pieces of gum are stuck there?

Wouldn't you love to eat here?...(well, maybe not after that wall)...This place, Cowgirls Inc. American Saloon...is the only dance club L. and I were able to find, a bar unlike any place we've ever been to before. So we were at first pretty intimidated (and almost went to see a movie instead) with the patrons being ninety percent male and the four (how can we compete with these) gorgeous women dancing on the counter. Not to mention the huge and scary bouncers they had everywhere. But after a beer, and a fun but very short ride on the bull... we figured, oh, what the heck, and got on the dance floor. It was then we realized we'd been afraid of nothing because of course, with so many men around us, we had no shortage of dance partners.

This... is the metro bus tunnel, which came as a total surprise to us. We were expecting trains, the usual thing one finds in an underground metro tunnel.

And this...is one of our breakfasts (fascinating, huh?) a selection of Pike Place Market goodies: Beecher's Flagship cheese and macaroni and cheese, a baguet, candied smoked salmon, a raspberry cheesecake, and coffees. There were grapes too but we forgot to put them in the picture. I must say the food everywhere we went was excellent. In fact one of our most memorable meals was in this bar called Curves during happy hour. Down here four dollar happy hour food usually means something overly salted and greasy. Up there it's the best oyster stew I've ever had.

And these Pike Place pooches... were providing their owner with easy money, perhaps paying for their own vet bills.

L. and I were really impressed by how clean Seattle was. If you've ever been to San Francisco you'd understand why this would impress us so much. As L. said, even the dirt looked clean. Not a stray weed in the entire city. And the water...!Looking over a pier in San Francisco one would never be able to see all the way down, even in water this shallow. All you'd see is an impenetrable layer of grayish green murkiness.

We were also impressed by how safe the city felt. Maybe this isn't really so, but to see obviously non homeless people sleeping on city benches at night, as if taking cat naps after one too many drinks with buddies downtown, something that would never happen in our part of the world, said a lot to us about this city.

Bald eagle we saw en route to Victoria B. C. Imagine how long it took to build that nest. I took over two dozen photographs in pretty Victoria. Like this one... But, this... is the only one I found interesting mainly because I really wanted to buy every single pair of shoes I saw in this window.

OK...I once vowed I'd never show a photograph of myself on this blog. But I'll show this one, a photograph I inadvertently took of myself, because of the contentment on my face. (And because it's too grainy to make out my flaws!) Seattle was a hard city to leave. L. at the airport felt her legs nearly fail her as we rushed to catch our plane, as if her body was screaming to her, don't leave! You've been so happy here! Aaaah, Seattle...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My current work in progress...

He called himself Lorenzo the Gigolo. He had a big, gruff voice and a friendly demeanor. I don't know his circumstances, but I guessed from the well worn look of his clothing and the way he wore his hat slightly askew, as if he rarely had need to consider his appearance, that he probably wasn't walking home to a house on a hill with three cars in the driveway. But he couldn't have been homeless either. He was unkempt but he was not unclean. Whatever his story was, he had cast himself in the happy, and perhaps even heroic role of Lorenzo the Gigolo, the sort of character who, more than likely, took enjoyment wherever he found it.

But how did that character look in his mind?

Not how he looked on the tiny screen of my camera, evidently. One glance at his grainy self and he said, Throw it away!
I didn't, thank God. I wanted to tell his story, one which is probably worth a novel, at least. But since he lives in Seattle and I'll probably never see him again a painting in which I can only hint at the sort of life that created a character like him will have to do. I can get setting and features well enough. Capturing humor and dignity and a sense of a life that, in many ways, has not been easy is far more difficult.I had planned to finish the painting in a flat, comic book inspired style, with muted colors and a heavy use of outline. It's a style I've been experimenting with lately. But midway through the process, before I started on the background, I talked again with a Seattle gallery who may or may not show some of my work. They might be interested in my comic book inspired stuff. They'll need time to consider it. But, if I could do more work like this...which currently hangs in a gallery in Sausalito, CA, where it has resided for the last two years. And, if this work should still be available...

I had seconds, a moment really, to consider two things:

1. Should I remain loyal to my gallery in spite of how disappointed I've been in their ability to sell my work? Will I be labeled as fickle - and therefor not worth the risk - in the fine art world? Or should I take back my paintings and offer it to this other gallery which, as far as I can tell, seems far better able to sell work in general? The afternoon I walked in there they'd sold five paintings the day before. Last I heard from my current gallery things were not going so well but they remained hopeful. And, from what I've heard here and there, I would not be the first artist to take back my work due to lack of sales.

2. Should I deliberately work in a certain style because a gallery feels they would be better able to sell works like these rather than to continue experimenting? How will this affect my natural progression as an artist?

Well, whatever I should have said, what I did say was, Yes! I will be glad to remove that work from its current space to instead show in their gallery. And, yes, I have many works planned in a similar style....

After that I took a very long walk where I happened upon these chalky bits of encouragement and direction, sidewalk art drawn by three young (?) artists...
The next manhole cover (which I wish I'd taken a photo of) reads, Pause and sing a song.Back home, I worked until the wee hours to finish my painting. I was on a roll and didn't want to stop. But it still needs many more hours of work before I'll feel satisfied with it. Some things need correcting, others need to be brought forward, or to be toned down. And the background and foreground, since they were done in two different styles, need to be balanced out somehow.

A part of me thinks, sell out. Another part of me thinks, well, this is just another challenge. How to incorporate an older style with what I'm trying to do, whatever that is, now. And I'm tired of being a struggling artist. Oh, Lord, I can't tell you how tired I am of that. Lorenzo and I might have a lot in common. If this is a mistake I will deal with it. I will learn. If not I will say thank God I jumped at the chance.

But...working last night...I remembered what it is about that style I loved so much and still do. What I had been striving for was the sense of music translated into color and brush strokes, long soft passages flowing into quick staccato notes, people lined up on a platform, notes on a page, my hand playing the sounds quickly, evenly, then slowly, until it leaves the canvas....

God, I love painting.