Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Austin and Alice

Since I am partially colorblind, I have never felt quite as confident with painting as I have with drawing. Even so, I was more pleased with the way this painting of my father turned out than any other painting I have done.

By the way, my father is Austin, not Alice.

Painted in 1982 (I think), the painting was an experimental oil painting. I had never painted a portrait before that was set in a natural background. Up until that time, all my paintings were fantastic and dealt with imaginary beings and settings. This painting of my father was inspired by a photograph of him out in the Mojave Desert, which was one of his favorite places to be. It captures him well and anyone who knew him would recognize the likeness and the appropriateness of the setting.

I may have tried to incorporate too many different influences but even twenty-five years later I still find the combination pleasing. The upper background was prepared with a textured gesso and the painting was inspired by Monet. For the foreground I prepared my own mixture of Japan drier and gesso that forced the surface to crack, which was painted over with a wash so that the paint would seep into the cracks to give them definition.

In the 1970s I was listening to albums on vinyl records, which meant that while you listened you could analyze the artwork on the large album covers. The album covers that impressed me the most were the Yes covers by Roger Dean and the Welcome to My Nightmare cover by Drew Struzan. With apologies to my father, this album cover influenced how I rendered him in the above painting. Struzan imitates a 1920's stylization that is crisp and clear and has patterned embellishments, that are usually seen in drawings and advertisements rather than paintings. These appear as sharp edged flat lines for shadows and highlights. (Note Alice Cooper's top-hat, hair, hands and the bottom of his vest.)

The painting of my dad is not as crisp nor as precisely stylized as Struzan's but it was the main influence to the style. Due to the informal setting of my father's portrait, in contrast to the formal setting for Alice Cooper, I rendered the lines in my dad's shirt more organically and not so rigidly as in Alice's tuxedo.

For me though, the best thing about the painting is not who influenced my technique; it is that it reminds me of the person who most influenced my ideal for character and integrity.

Welcome to My Nightmare - Artist: Drew Struzan

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Flock of Sheep

There once was a flock of sheep
Who eyed a green hillside so steep
The shepherd ran away
And the wolves came to play
That unfortunate flock of sheep

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Killers From Space

My wife has observed more than once that I am the "other demographic" that people talk about but she never believed those people actually existed. Saint Austin's Pub is the place to be for the "other demographic" - including the types of movies that we watch. This is why we will never be highlighted on Google's "Blogs of Note". But the "other demographic" (OD) would never openly care about such a thing - all the while secretly wishing to find itself there.

Even as a child, I was a member of the OD. I am not sure if it was because I already was a member of the OD, or the situation that I am about to describe was part of my formation into the OD; you decide since actually I really don't care. When I was about 11 or 12 years old in the early '70s, a new UHF TV station came on the air that clearly had no money to pay for programming. They had no commercials; just old movies and very old re-run TV shows and public service announcements from time to time. All of the movies were in black and white and fell into the lower than "B-movie" category. Many of the movies were westerns, old Saturday morning movie serials, silent movies, Sherlock Holmes, horror movies of such as might be named, "The Bride of the Second-Cousin of Frankenstein's Podiatrist", and all of the Godzilla movies. This is the age at which I graduated from Saturday morning cartoons to the Saturday afternoon matinee triple-feature. My parents ought to have said, "Enough is enough. Go outside and play!" But who knew? TV was still a relatively new concept. We still had a B&W TV and everyone still thought Benjamin Spock knew what he was talking about. Speaking of Dr Spock, my favorite of these less-than-B-movies were the science fictions. Wow! Giant tarantulas. A giant woman. A giant man-eating bird. The end of the world. Man-eating plants, and scores of invaders from space. What could be better?

So, it was with great delight, as I was standing in line at Walmart a few weeks ago, that my eye fell upon a DVD titled, "The Sci-Fi Invasion!" - "4 science fiction classics" for a dollar! It was too good to be true and of course I bought it. Later at home, I presented the incredible cultural and entertainment value of these movies to my wife with such enthusiasm that I actually talked her into watching the first one with me. I will admit that the first movie was not that great and so without giving it a second chance, my wife dismissed this entire entertainment genre as one that belonged solely to the OD. I however, was not put off by this one minor set-back and continued to watch the other three movies - alone.

I am pleased to tell you that I was not disappointed. The second movie on the DVD was "Killers from Space" starring none other than Peter Graves of Mission Impossible fame. I would have paid THREE dollars, for that movie all by itself. It was great! It had everything: mind control, bug-eyed alien invaders, USAF planes, pilots and generals, a nuclear explosion, a psycho-ward, giant lizards, giant spiders, giant cockroaches, old cars like my grandparents drove, weird desert scenes, an underground alien HQ. What more could anyone want from a movie?

By the way, if this guy shows up on your TV screen, watch out!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

New Words

I have added the following new words to my dictionary.

Insomania. (n) The volatile and unpleasant mood and actions of one who is suffering from a lack of sleep. Insomania is also known to cause collateral suffering to the family, friends and co-workers of the insomaniac (see below).

Insomaniac. (n) One who is under the influence of insomania.

Ecumenace. (n) One who is committed to the obliteration of the unique identity, vision or purpose of a church or denomination, for the sake ecumenism or unity.

Feel free to add these new words to your vocabulary. No fees or royalties are required - just leave a tip in the jar next to the pretzels.