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Month: January 2010

An Owl without a Tootsie Pop is like Jesus without a….

An Owl without a Tootsie Pop is like Jesus without a….

It started off with a sketch.

Which became another sketch.

Which gave me something to do with that horrible monstrosity:

I considered painting over this- but I decided to take a different route.  A route that I hadn’t travelled since college.  I decided to glue paper to the canvas and create an unconventional painting surface.  Since originally the guy in my sketches looked like Jesus, and the painting was going to symbolize various things (I won’t go into it, but you can look up the meanings for owls in the bible and all of that nonsense on your own if you like) I decided to make the paper fit the subject matter.  So, I spent a whole night tearing out pages from The History of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints and cementing them to the canvas.  It was meant to be… as the book had a perfect number of pages to cover every inch of the canvas with none left over.

Wow, that is one shitty looking Owl, huh?

Okay, we’re now a little better.  The owl’s body looks like it was based on a cat’s though -so this is no good.  I should mention that at this point I was still eyeballing and gridding everything, so proportions were constantly fudged. Hey, I know… how about if I add some flames!  Yeah, that’ll fix that owl!………

Um, no.  No, that won’t work, stupid…  How about you step back and study Owl anatomy a little more and start over (but I liked the owl’s face!)….

So, as you can see above I took a day or two and did some serious owl anatomy studying.  Much improved from before, right?  Count the feathers in the wings, there should even be the right amount of feathers now!

Once the bird started progressing I decided to work on the human.  I decided to make him a Native American since he was starting to look more and more like one.  I liked how the paint looked on the rough paper.  The features on the face look distorted.  In the photo above you can get a sense of how I work on these large canvases, I get right up in there.   What that also means is that I lose perspective and body parts can become distorted.  I don’t notice until I step way back.  However, I decided to keep the face distorted, because the rest of the piece was heading in that direction. 

I had a devil of a time trying to figure out what the background would/should be like in this piece.  It changed as I went along.

Eventually I settled with some crazy mountains in the background and bushes/brambles in the foreground. 

This piece ended up looking really strange.  There are many elements I like – but none of them seem to fit together very well.  Even the hair, which I’ve done successfully in the past, looks bizarre; like some kind of black waterfall cascading over rocks.  I was also unsure what to do about the bird’s smaller wing, which appears much lighter in color.  I decided to leave it that way as the sun could be shining through and change the color.  Some nice elements that you can’t see via photograph are the tiny details in the brambles and how the underlying paper and thinner layer of paint makes the man’s skin seem more thin and luminous.

Cactus bloom

Cactus bloom

Everybody has quirks.  My mother is  no exception.  One unique thing about my mother is a penchant for shipping strange items across the country or bringing them in her luggage.  In the past she’s shipped or brought things like old stretcher bars, oreo cookies and broken lava lamps (no mom, you didn’t break it, it’s been broken for ten years).  This past visit was no different.  This time she brought two plants.  Her choice this time was interesting and if I were a woman I’m sure I would fit in the word “cute” to describe the idea.  Since we were going to Tucson she brought two “Christmas cactus.” (cacti?)  Earlier this week they started blooming, bringing some color to my drab kitchen.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time a plant has ever flowered inside my home that wasn’t bought that way.  Hopefully I will be able to keep it alive long enough for her to see it on her next visit.

This is a detail shot from a painting on unfinished poplar I’m working on.  It is a portrait of a family member that I found this great emotion packed photo of in my mom’s vault of photos.   One side of my family has green eyes that are made of lots of little bits of brown and blue mixed together.  The eye here is still a little too emerald green for my taste, but I suppose if the subject of the painting wasn’t there beside the painting nobody would be the wiser.

oh – yeah – I had no idea there was a hair in there until I opened this up in photoshop.  The image above is actually larger than same area on the real piece.

As I was moving the camera around I giggled when I saw a Mark Ryden (google it) painting in the viewfinder:

Now I know his secret!

radio silence

radio silence

I have three new paintings that are nearly finished.  My thoughts are elsewhere, however.  Every month my expenses go up (okay, sometimes not every month – but January 2010 brought in many rate increases, like a $30 increase to monthly HOA payments), and every month my income goes down.   I was promoted to management two years ago -but still don’t earn a penny more than before the promotion and barely more than I made when I started five years ago

Luckily, I’ve always had alternate sources of income (don’t worry, perfectly legal).  However, those secondary sources have dropped down to nearly zero.  I say nearly, because I still pick up odd jobs from freelance clients every now and then, but I’m lucky if I can make $100 a month now, where on really good months years ago I could make twenty times that (from the same clients).  Jobs that were projected for three years got cancelled in a flash.  Whole businesses that provided reliable income every month for ongoing projects simply closed up shop.

Like a responsible citizen, when I was actually pulling in a decent amount of freelance work in 2007 and 2008 I socked away nearly all of that money.  If I hadn’t done that, I would be abandoning my home right now.  Still, those years weren’t THAT great, and I also poured a lot of it into retirement savings. 

Yes, this is all my fault.  Yes, I took out loans I probably shouldn’t have and listened to a “friend” in the real estate business that reassured me of things that weren’t true and convinced me to buy a house $100,000 over my original limit.  My worst mistake was leaving all the loan decisions (picking a bank) to this “friend’s” wife.  If I had put my money in Fanny, Freddy or any national bank’s pockets I’d be eligible for a slew of government refinancing programs right now.  Instead, my loans were chopped up and sold off all within three months of purchase – and so now are owned by loan holding businesses who don’t give a damn about helping me make sure I can keep paying (I’ve already called them). Of course, I also trusted this “friend” that my interest rates were good for my credit (which turned out not to be true).  I never considered myself a “victim” because it was my own fault for not reading the fine print.  However, isn’t that every victim’s story?   How many of those “bad loans” actually broke their own terms?  Surely those people stuck in adjustable rate mortgages had documents that said “adjustable rate” in them… right?  My realtor didn’t explain the terms to me either.  Am I that different or is it just a matter of perspective and feeling of entitlement?  I was definitely “taken advantage of;” my realtor even made verbal promises about buying appliances that he never followed up on and once the papers were signed he vanished off the face of the Earth – not even our mutual friends have heard from him since.  But, I always looked at the whole ordeal as my problem – my fault.   However, if I lose my house and others who didn’t think it was their fault keep theirs I’m going to be fighting mad.

After all that though, I’d still be fine if we weren’t in the worst recession in thirty years (although some are now wanting to stretch that figure back twice as much in time). 

I’m a numbers guy (although curiously not a math guy), so in those terms I’m making roughly 51% less than a year ago.  I have a few months left to make major changes (and believe me, nobody wants to touch my loans, I’ve inquired about that… repeatedly) or even my “emergency funds” will be down to zero.  I need to come up with another $1,200 or so of income every month just to break even.  To put that in perspective, according to Salary.com even the lowest earning 10% of marketing managers make $2,000 more a month than I do. Of course, in another year I’ll have to start paying back $70,000 in college tuition.  If I actually made what only the bottom 10% of my peers in the same town in the same industry made (according to the website, which may be inaccurate, but not THAT inaccurate) I’d still break even even with $800 a month in tuition loans to pay back.

More than one close friend has told me now to just “walk away” and take the hit on my credit score but keep my money.  For some reason I just can’t stomach that option, not yet anyway.  All it takes are a few things to work in my favor.  Every day I keep searching and hoping.  I can’t say for what – but I’m sure you get the idea.

Some people are out on the street.  Some people are in Haiti.  I guess I should be thankful that I still sleep on a bed at night, that I still have friends and family and I still (for now) have a job.  I also should be thankful for a special someone that’s been supplying me with delicious home-cooked meals lately.  I no longer sleep with heat though, trying to save money by not running the heater.  Thank goodness I live somewhere that only gets down to the 40s or 50s at night.

unfinished business

unfinished business

Two of my new paintings are “finished”, but I want to show them to some other people before I say for sure.  They both have some very obvious flaws, so I’m going to let them sit, get some opinions and come back to them later.  While I’m waiting for that I’m starting work on another portrait… but this time using transfer paper from my original so hopefully I’ll get a better likeness.  My boss loaned me seasons 1 and 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm today – so I’ll watch that while painting.

While surfing today I saw this terrible ad  and thought all of these things:

And for anybody saying “what?”:

Oasis parkas and helicopters video.

Type o negative

rolling stones open mouth logo

“that guy from linkin park”

a very blue day

a very blue day

Saturday began with a trip to Landmark to see Avatar with Sam, her sister and brother in-law.  I don’t know if it was because it was my second time seeing it, but everything seemed much clearer and crisper than in Tucson. Whereas before most “blue cat people” shots seemed still too fuzzy and fake they now seemed closer to “the real.”

Afterwards we went to Noodle Planet in Westwood.  Later we split up so that Sam and I could go to Long Beach and visit the “late night” event at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  There were a ton of loud incorrigible uncontrollable children screaming and banging on the tanks.  Often we were discouraged to see the “parents” banging on the glass and hollering both to wrangle their children (who were previously running wild) and to startle the poor animals on the other side to perform on demand.  Occasionally there were a few children with big eyes and mouths agape in awe letting out nothing more than a quiet coo of fascination and wonderment.  Very rarely did these children communicate their discoveries back to their parents in english or spanish.

The first floor of the museum had some large tanks and some outdoor touch tanks, but was fairly lackluster.  Upstairs was where time really started to slow and we started to enjoy our visit.  Upstairs there are several exhibits featuring the rarer creatures of the sea such as jellyfish, sea horses and giant spider crabs.  Here are a few photos:

In one hidden corner there was a floor to ceiling half cylinder that a few visitors at a time could stand in.  The cylinder had a ceiling about seven feet high that curved over.  This feature was added so rays could lay on top of it underwater and we could look up at their curiously amusing grins, usually unseen.

The most annoying screaming I’ve heard in a long time occurred when children saw the spider crab tank.  Although these creatures were scary looking, I can only imagine if they’d been the real deal version with a leg span of twelve feet.  These minimonsters had a span of less than half that.

There were at least four different Jellyfish tanks.

throughout the museum there were a plethora of starfish suckling on the glass.

New things for an old year

New things for an old year

On new year’s eve Sam invited me to go with her to dinner and join her friends and friends of theirs.  There were eleven of us eating at the Dragon Restaurant in Koreatown.  Dragon brands itself as “Chinese Restaurant,” but it is known for its fusion of Korean and Chinese cuisine.  They have eight different banquet deals to pick from for large parties (ten or more).  Much like Korean karaoke, our party was given its own private room with a TV that I’ll assume is used for karaoke, but we never turned on, with a giant round table and massive lazy Susan.

I think there were  ten different pieces to the banquet.  I don’t remember all of them, but a few things were offered that I’d never tried before. Two of them were shark fins (in a soup) and jellyfish (in some kind of cold salad).  I wasn’t really partial to either of them (the only food I like cold is ice cream) as they both had a rubbery texture and not much flavor.  I still have to try shark steak and rattlesnake.  We probably could have found rattlesnake somewhere in Tucson, but I didn’t think of it.

Maybe next this year.