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Month: February 2011



Late last week Sam emailed me asking if I wanted to go to “Cavalia” with her.  I had seen the billboards around town:

I assumed it was some sort of horse show.  I knew that Sam liked horses, although until this weekend I didn’t know just how much.  She likes them a lot.

After she asked me I googled it and found out it was a cirque du soleil show featuring horses.  I said I would go (I’ve never seen a cirque show, but secretly always wanted to see Love, the Beatles themed one).

Saturday was unusually cold in Southern California.  The show was in Burbank, which is one of the coldest parts of the valley.  The location was next to the bridge that leads to the Burbank mall.  Like some crazy movie set, there, in an old parking lot, a bunch of white spires pulled huge tents up into the night sky.  Here is Sam standing in front of the entrance to the main tent:

Inside the main circus tent half of the space was devoted to rapidly ascending bleachers and the other half a very deep and very wide stage.  There were no photographs allowed, but Sam snapped this on her phone after the show was over:

Apparently Sam’s impression of the show and mine were complete opposites.  She would have preferred a show with 100% horses every minute, and I would have preferred a show with 0% horses and 100% acrobatics/tricks.  I was lost a lot of the time.  There was an extraordinary amount of time devoted to just watching large groups of horses milling about or running around in circles.  The horses were also made to do a lot of “tricks” like walking in various formations.  Watching horses walk backwards in a row wasn’t impressive to me after seeing a human being do a back flip on top of a rolling 5 foot high ball  – but then I’m not the target audience here, this was a show for horse lovers.  The ticket prices were no less expensive than a regular cirque show (Sam found discounted tickets for under $100 each, but still quite expensive in my book), but there were 49 horses in the show, so if seeing horses was the goal, the audience got their money’s worth.

I liked that the music was performed by a live band, which was made visible at times behind the stage, if only to prove they really were playing live.  The show also employed a lot of lighting and atmospheric effects like projecting images on falling water, snow machines, etc.

Because the show involved so many animals there were a few times where miscues happened.  For instance, after an acrobat flipped on top of the rolling ball he stopped and waited for a horse to come out.  The horse came out to him but the horse and the man just waited for a good five minutes.  The man would slowly roll himself on the ball around, tap on the horses neck and wait for something.  Eventually the horse walked off the stage and he waved goodbye.  I wonder what was supposed to happen, perhaps a flip off of the ball onto the horse?

It was definitely a unique experience.

Art Lovers

Art Lovers

On Thursday night Sam and I headed to the Art Walk.  This Art Walk seemed more enthusiastic than the last one.  Perhaps this was only due to the positive beginning.   Unlike other walks we decided to eat first.  We circled 8th until the clock hit 6 and parking opened up right in front of the Hive.  We walked a few blocks north to the first food truck parking lot at Spring and 5th.

The options at this lot seemed much improved from the other lots, which usually consist of tacos, burgers and “Korean tacos.”   This time we were greeted by Italian food, Greek food, Persian food, seafood and more.  Sam got a pint of clam chowder and I got a lamb plate from Kabob n’ Roll.

For the first time, I have to say the food was delicious.  I had asked for all tomatoes instead of tomatoes and cucumbers – but Sam happily ate the cucumbers they gave me, so that wasn’t a big deal.  What I did like though was that they gave me extra “salad” instead of hummus (which is made with peas, so I can’t eat).  The “salad” was salad greens (the good kind, with kale and stuff like that, not that crappy white chopped lettuce stalks you get at other places)  and chopped tomatoes drowned in olive oil and red wine vinegar (this is how I eat all Persian food, if you don’t know… when I go to Shamshiri I’ll actually sometimes use the entire little bottle of olive oil they put at the table).  In addition to the salad the main part of the dish was a grilled lamb (which was tender enough), red peppers, onions and white rice.  They put a cup of yogurt (?) on top of that and then added pita bread on top of that.  It was really enough food for two.

Here is a photo of the dish from their website:

We walked all the way down Spring to Bang Gallery – which was boarded up and apparently put out of it’s misery.  The gallery across the street didn’t have a lot of new art (just one giant hanging mural), but had a band, Jayar, performing originals and covers (including a Led Zeppelin cover).

We walked a block south to main to the Citizen LA Art Park.

There were a few interesting booths including Branch of Life, the cactus plant guy who makes very pleasant looking arrangements of succulents and cacti proper and sells them for not really that much money.  I’m always tempted to buy some but I don’t want to have to walk around for the rest of the night fighting crowds with a delicate plant.  ….but eventually I really want to get some of these for my house!

I also passed by a booth of wares from Bill Green that were all inspired by The Big Lewbowski.

Including the Duddha rug…

After that we stopped at Urth Cafe (formerly Dead Souls) for a “steamer” and a smoothie before heading to the “upstairs” gallery.  Blue Canvas was sadly nowhere to be found on this art walk, but there was actually an interesting artist at the “upstairs” gallery (this is a first!).   The artist was Eve Kessler, who apparently has a very minimal web presence.  What she does is make little watercolor paintings of goldfish.  I learned a long time ago not to try to photograph the art at the art walk because #1 some galleries don’t like it and #2 most artists have all their work available on the web.  Apparently Eve doesn’t have anything on the web (or is not making it easily discoverable).

This little cropping is about all I could find, but you get the idea I suppose.  Her website is a template that just simply has her short bio and email address… no art.

Across the street from the upstairs gallery was one apartment window featuring a specific timely theme.  I wish I had a “real” camera so I could have made something more significant out of this…

Walking on Spring (or near) we passed the regular Hari Krishnas, African drumming, etc.

and whatever this is…

Outside the Hive Pukac was doing a live painting demo.

Inside the Hive were several crazy characters dressed up in steampunk/pirate attire… like this guy..

There were several good pieces at this show.  There was a large piece by Sean Joyce, an excellent realist painter.  This piece can be seen behind the pirate in the photo above.  Like James Zar, a frequent in the next door Temple of Visions gallery, Sean is one of the old Hollywood matte painters, which demands some serious skill.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a decent image of the above painting, Eve of Paradise, online.

One of the main Hive featured artists, Patrick Mizumoto, had some very “dream-like” paintings.  There are more/better photos of the works up at the Hive’s web site, but here is one of them on the flyer for this months’ show:

As I walked through the gallery I ran into the proprietor of the Hive.  He shook my hand and said “congratulations.”  I thought it was odd – but I said “yeah, it’s a great show.”  I thought maybe he was referring to my piece being in the outer (first room) part of the gallery, which had only happened once before (in October).  Sam and I were separated momentarily and I met up with her outside a few minutes later.  When she also said “congratulations” I said “wait… for what?”  She informed me that she’d seen a red dot by my work.  For those not in the know, a red dot next to a piece at a gallery means that it has been sold.

It was high on the wall, so I didn’t even notice when I went by earlier and/or Saturday (don’t know when the sale took place).  This is my first piece of art that I’ve ever sold (I think).  The interesting thing is that I drastically reduced my price on this piece to experiment.  I decided to sell this one for $95, which is much cheaper than most other artists would sell a similarly sized piece.   I decided to do this for three reasons – #1 if I make ANY money at all off of these paintings that is a good thing #2 I need to start selling as I’m running out of storage space anyway #3 If I was able to sell something at a lower price that means that someone actually likes what I’m doing enough to pay for it – so maybe now I can all myself a “professional”… and do you know what that means?  It means I’m now in the “business” of selling my art.  Do you know what THAT means?  It means all my art supplies are tax deductible (too bad I bought that expensive easel in 2010, darn!)!

Here is the photo of the piece available on the Hive website:

Trying times

Trying times

This could be considered a sad update to the last post.  As detailed in the previous blog entry, I had sketched out this complicated weird perspective piece.  I always take on more than I think I can handle with these paintings, forcing myself to learn/paint new things.  However, this time it was just too much.  I’ve never painted a forest floor like that before.  The usage of the Cheshire cat holding the camera was really awkward.  The rabbit’s footing doesn’t make much sense and was really hard to imagine at that off-angle (I don’t exactly have a rabbit to pose in real life to study from).  However, more than anything, the small size of the canvas (11×14) was making painting the small lines necessary for the playing card army impossible! (how the hell do painters do tiny detailed pieces with acrylic paint?!)

So, on Tuesday night, I had a mini-breakdown and felt like I did in college and the few years after where I would try to paint, get a horrible result and eventually give up assuming I was a terrible artist.  This always occurred because I didn’t know what to do or how to do it.  My painting “instruction” in college consisted of critiques, not technical (color mixing, glazing, etc.) lessons.  Back then I thought that the things I didn’t understand were supposed to be latent (after all, why ELSE would my instructors never touch upon it?).  I didn’t realize until much later that even people like Norman Rockwell took photographs of everything they were about to paint so they could get it to look right and “real.”  It turned out that my instructors in college weren’t concerned with the “real” and were focused on “modern” and/or “abstract” art.  They conveniently forgot that even Picasso was a classically trained artist and could paint in the realist style very well.  Check out this portrait of his mother he painted:

CLEARLY Picasso had skills developed in similar fashion to the old masters before turning to more abstract forms.  In fact, Picasso’s father was a fine art instructor, and his family sent him to the best art academy in Spain that counts Dali as a fellow alumni and Goya as a director.   The lesson here is that great art doesn’t appear out of thin air – or just “from your imagination” as many like to say.

Needless to say I have no photographs of walking talking (and angry!) playing cards, old rabbits or cats holding cameras.  After about a week of work (maybe 6 or 7 hours) putting paint on the canvas I was getting slower and slower, enjoying it less and less until Tuesday night not at all.  I was trying to force something good out of my “imagination.”  However, without any experience with the subject matter my imagination hit severe stumbling blocks, like what a cat’s paw REALLY looks like holding a camera.  It was too much.

I did something I rarely do – stop, admit failure and start over.

Just for some perspective on how hard this was for me, keep in mind I never dropped a class in my entire collegiate career or even arrived late!  I don’t quit things.

But I did quit.  And painted over the above disaster on Wednesday night to start something new.  Of course, since February is a short month I’m now under the gun to get the new piece ready in time for the show!

On Wednesday I sketched out a much simpler concept (inspired, I’ll admit, by Ray Caesar‘s work).

To be fair, I noticed the next day that the pose is very similar to a sketch that Sam did last year in her sketchbook of a little girl holding a pig.  However, I haven’t seen that drawing in a year, and obviously didn’t sketch over it – so I don’t think I’m pulling a Shepard Fairey or anything….right?

A bad xerox scan of the unfinished drawing appears below…

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Now that the Lovers show is up (look for my Art Walk review with my piece in the Hive show next Friday) the time has come to worry about the next show.  Of course, I’d been trying to wrap my brain around it for a while.   Once again I misunderstood the theme.  In the first materials I received (months ago) about the show it was called “Alice II.”  I mistook this to mean we’d be imagining an Alice in Wonderland sequel, which of course already exists in Through the Looking Glass.  Eventually I realized that the “II” just meant that this was the second year the hive would be doing an Alice themed show – and the artwork did not have to reflect that fact.  So, I tossed out the bad ideas I’d been sketching up – such as making a mock movie poster with severed rabbit ears making the “II” of the “Alice II” – an allusion to the Saw II poster using severed fingers for the roman numerals.

While still working under the misunderstanding I showed these ideas to Sam and she suggested I have an Asian Alice doing the peace sign for the roman numerals.  I thought this was not any worse than my ideas so far and we did some test shots.  After realizing that “II” would have nothing to do with the artwork I decided to take the pose down a different (and more interesting) path.  In the new Alice, the young girl in question is Asian and has fallen down the rabbit hole with her portable camera.  I thought this was fitting as young girls in Japan right now are wearing clothing that is sometimes similar to Alice’s original outfit. The crappy Xerox scan of my outlined sketch is what I have begun to work with on canvas as of yesterday.  Is it too obvious who is holding the camera…or not obvious enough?  The rabbit looks rather unanimated – but I could not figure out a way at that angle to show a worried open mouth that didn’t look cartoony.  Other than the playing cards, I’m trying to avoid the Disney cartoon look.

This is also going to be the first time I’ve ever tried to paint a forest floor – something which is worrying me the most out of all the elements in the painting (but will likely receive the least scrutiny upon completion).