Thursday, September 28, 2006

Heidi Vs. Heidi

A year or so ago, my cousin, Nick, married my childhood next door neighbor, Kelly. The two met and, after a whirlwind two week courtship, got engaged and were married the following Tuesday. I felt as if two different dimensions had collided. I was (and still am) happy for both of them, but I felt like I was going to wake up from a strange dream at any minute.

The reason Nick and Kelly are the subject of today's journal entry is because of the two drawings shown here. Right after the two began dating, several of us went out for dinner and drinks. It should be pointed out here that Kelly's family has always been obsessed with Miniature Schnauzers. Throughout the time my family has known theirs, they've had no less than 22 of them total. The one that stands out the most in my memory is the one they called Heidi. To Kelly's amusement, I often times enjoy scribbling out a drawing of Heidi on a bar napkin or a ply of toilet paper. This particular night out was no different. After a few hours of conversation and drinks the topic turned to Miniature Schnauzers. This is when the pen came out. Kelly knew what was coming and giggled with excitement and glee. Nick had never witnessed this exchange and one could tell by the look on his face that he felt threatened by what might be on the verge of happening. Afterall, he had only known Kelly for a few days.

In a matter of seconds, I scrawled out a line drawing of the much-talked-about Miniature Schnauzer, much like the detail in the first picture. The crowd was pleased and the sight of the drawing was met with a thunderous applause from our party. Not to be outdone, Nick grabbed the pen from me and carefully drew out his own rendition of Heidi. It took no less than eight minutes and the group looked on in silence and confusion at what was being put down before us on the cocktail napkin. By the time the drawing was complete, Nick had managed to etch out some sort of half man/half beast with stick legs, buck teeth and some strange facial hair that somehow managed to grow around the chin and up over the nose. I'm not sure what ever became of that drawing, but I went home that night and drew it in my sketchbook while it was still fresh in my mind. Somehow, Kelly was able to get past the image of this monster that, I'm sure, was burned into her memory like some sort of tragic accident. As for Heidi herself, I'm sure she was rolling over in her grave.

While I'm on the topic of Nick, I'll also point out that his older brother, Pete, made a mention of my journal in his own blog, Feel Me Don't You, as a call to arms when I made the comment last week about the lack of traffic around here. Some of you may know him as "Steamin' Bowl O' Calderone." He's a good guy. And it's much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Brothers Gumm

Part Hardy Boys, part Little Rascals, part Willy Wonka, The Brothers Gumm is another failed attempt at a graphic novel. It follows the adventures of two brothers, Seymour and Humphrey Gumm, the great-grandchildren of a chewing gum tycoon (apparently, having the last name of "Gumm" is nothing more than a pure coincidence). One afternoon, the brothers are visiting their grandfather at his factory and end-up getting lost, only to discover an entire city, Chicleslovakia, buried beneath the foundation. Here, they run into various characters consisting of talking minerals, dancing frogs and, you guessed it, a gang of pixie sticks who terrorize the town. It's up to the Brothers Gumm to lead the citizens in an uprising against the Pixie Mafia and, at the same time solve the mysterious death of the mayor of Chicleslovakia, E.W. Mineralwater.

I conjured up the idea for this story over a four month period around the time I returned to school a few years ago. I managed to draw the above portrait of Seymour and Humphrey before abandoning the idea altogether. That was about the same time I stopped taking my meds. Dammit.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Chubby Balls

I found this drawing, an idea for a greeting card, on an old Zip disk from seven or eight years ago. It was around this time, while in Design school, that Jim and I decided we wanted to go into business designing, manufacturing and selling our own line of cards. Off and on for a few years, we would print these off and give them to friends and family on appropriate occasions. We decided to call the company Chubby Balls Cards. The name was clever and to-the-point. When Lisa caught wind of this, she put her foot down, exclaiming that "the day's going to come where our child asks me what Daddy does for a living and I'm not going to tell him he works at a place called 'Chubby Balls.'" The name was quickly abandoned and, in due time, so was our dream of a card company. It just wasn't the same without that name. And Lisa had a point. Is Target really going to want to carry a product called "Chubby Balls?" A website? Perhaps. But upon Googling the words "chubby+balls," we were met with hundreds of pages of fetish and snake oil sites.

I never liked this particular drawing, but couldn't understand why, as I've always found eskimos being sent into people's bodies to remove gall bladders as quite amusing. In retrospect, and with my years of art training, I found that it's the presence of the two surgeons that I always found bothersome. Today, it's quite obvious to me how out-of-place they look in a one-point-perspective. When I found the image tonight, I considered cropping the doctors out, but ultimately decided that their presence only adds to the overall theme of the picture. Without them, the irony is lost, so I kept them in. Perhaps one day Chubby Balls will be reborn and I'll have a reason to redraw the two doctors. But for now, I'll just have to not look at it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Still Life In Green Chair

This sketch was done in 1999, when I was working with special needs adults in a domestic setting. I did a series of studies titled "Still Life In Green Chair" which, I believe, there ended up being no less than five. Each featured Brian in his favorite green chair. I had meant for it to become a finished painting, but have yet to begin one. Instead, I went ahead and added the tacky green color. I feel like this, alone, captures his essence.

The elementary school I'm working at is actually down the street from Brian's house. On several occasions, I've driven by it on the way home and thought about stopping in to see if the green chair was still present, with perhaps Brian still sitting in it. But then I think about Brian's roommate, David, and how he would pull down his pants and pee on the shoes of unexpected visitors. And then I continue driving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

H. Quincy Smith

When I was in school, working on my degree in Education, we often read articles written by a professor by the name of Henry Quincy Smith. Throughout the 1950s, Smith gained fame by studying the daily habits of third graders. In his book, "A World Without Patience: Trials And Tribulations Of The Children Of Grade Three," Smith actually lived among these young people for an entire academic school year. In doing this, he was able to blend-in, and pose, as an eight-year-old male student in a classroom full of third graders. Nobody in the school (students, as well as faculty) was the wiser to this experiment. By the end of his study, Smith concluded through his observations that these students spent the better part of their time retrieving various supplies off the floor, which had been dropped moments before. As well as standing in line at the pencil sharpener, often times up to eight times in an hour.

Today, I read that Henry Quincy Smith passed away at his home in Baltimore, Maryland, thus losing his long battle with acid reflex. He was 72.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

One Man Ghetto Jam Session

Here's a request from my dad to his buddy, Joe. This piece was done with charcoal on bristol board, and taken from an old National Geographic photo.

Be sure and click on it for a closer look.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lisa Marie

I was looking through some old sketchbooks and came across one from 1998. It wasn't the year I met Lisa (I believe we actually met in '96 or '97) but it was around the time we started dating. This, I believe, is the first portrait I ever drew of her. Note also the title of "Lisa Marie." I should point out that I met Lisa within the window of time that I was obsessed with everything that was Elvis Presley. I thought that having a girlfriend with the same name as The King's daughter was some kind of sign. So I called her that constantly, but eventually stopped since she never really liked it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Life Is Good

No, I haven't abandoned the journal. Not that it gets that much traffic. But I do know there are a few of you out there who've been complaining of my absence. I is boring.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Over the holiday weekend, my good friend, Jimmy, got married to his long-time girlfriend, Kelly. Congratulations to the happy couple. I was hoping that I could get the man who inspired "Pig Hammers" to fork over one of his infamous sketches for exhibit here, but the boy was just too busy. Methinks I see one in the future though. But Jimmy, I promise you, we WILL collaborate on something one of these days. If not now, then when you're a famous indie film maker and I'll have to ride your coattails. But I digress. Since the weekend of the wedding, we've been pretty busy.

This week, Lisa and I traded-in our Honda CR-V for a Ford Escape, courtesy of The Eliminator and his friends down at Olathe Ford. Much appreciation goes out to them from the three of us, seeing as how we managed to knock a few dollars off our regular monthly payment, making it possible for us to eat again this week. Speaking of eating, the illustration business has been pretty slow as of late, so don't hesitate to forward my online journal on to anybody who you think might be interested.

I recently resigned from Michaels. Between some things that have been going on at home and my having to drag myself in there most evenings after having worked at the school all day, something had to give. Audrey has been a real handful lately and parenting has definently become a two-person job. It was a tough decision, seeing as how I really liked the job, as well as the people.

Overall, life is going okay. My moods have been like a rollercoaster these past couple of weeks, but Lisa has been there for me. I'm lucky to have a wife and daughter who love me so much. I often times think they deserve better. As for my parents, brothers, and their own families, I'm lucky to have you around. And I truly have some great friends. Some who have gone above and beyond the call of duty recently to help me out. You know who you are.

I'm a lucky fellow indeed.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

King Of The Underdogs

When my older brother, Matt, was a very young man, he had an obsession with characters of fiction who were, by nature, the underdog. One prime example, and of my earliest recollection, was none other than king of the underdogs himself, Charlie Brown. Charles Schulz's beloved American icon has spent over fifty years in the public eye, trying to get it right. Like Charlie Brown, Matt has always had a driving desire to press on, even after falling down several times in the process. He's never been one to grasp at the gold ring in the athletic sense (like me, he detests sports), but he's always set untraditional goals for himself. For example, another continuous theme throughout his life--and one that continues today--is an interest in fish-out-of-water stories. Perhaps this stems from the character of Charlie Brown (honestly, did old Chuck really have any business setting foot on the football field at all?). But how many eight-year-old boys do you know who try to get their family to uproot everything to move out to Marceline, Missouri, boyhood home of Walt Disney? Could it be his fascination with Eddie Albert's character in Green Acres? Or could it be that he wanted to be the voice of reason in a small town of zany characters, much like Andy Taylor in Mayberry? Or maybe it was the idea of living in the very town that inspired Mickey Mouse.

But if an eight-year-old being obsessed with Mickey Mouse isn't considered "untraditional," then try being a devoted collector of classical music at the tender age of thirteen. While his classmates were singing the praises of Quiet Riot, Matt was "boppin' to the beat" of Johann Sebastian Bach on his Sony Walkman. Despite the ridicule from his peers, Matt listened to what appealed to him. I always knew my brother was different from others, but I always thought there was something exceptionally cool about being the only kid in school to be listening to something that was written by a person who died over three hundred years ago.

To this very day, I believe Matt's interest in classical music is what made him turn his attention toward God. And maybe if it weren't for this music, he may have never gone off to seminary and become an Episcopal Priest. Which means he wouldn't have performed the wedding ceremony for Lisa and me, and countless other people we know. It also means that he wouldn't have been there to help bury Fran and Lloyd Fish's son, Mark, ten years ago.

Matt and I have grown closer and closer over the years. He's been there for me on some of my darkest days and has been a continous support system for me. There have been a few months in the past couple of years where we have spoken on the phone every single day for hours on end. In all honesty, I don't think I could have made it without him. And I know that he'll continue being there for me. Whenever he comes to town, the two of us always make plans to meet for coffee. I'll always tell people that, despite being together for a few hours, it's never enough time. He's the only person who I feel completely understands me one hundred percent. There's something very comforting about having a person like that in your life.

Today is Matt's thirty-sixth birthday. And he's still the same fellow he was growing up. I could go on and on, just like one of our talks. It doesn't seem like I have a place where I can wrap it up, so I'll have to do so with a little story. As my devoted readers can attest, my stories are generally full of irony and there is nothing more ironic than the one that I'm about to write. Matt's fascination with Charlie Brown is one thing that didn't really continue. I think there's still a place in Matt's heart for the little underdog, but it just wasn't the same after the particular day that I'm about to lay out for you.

In grade school, there was a bully who rode on the bus with us. I can't say how old Matt and I were at the time, but I would venture to guess that I was in first grade and he was in third. Anyway, this young man was a year or so older than Matt and somewhat taller. He sat in the back of the bus and continually ridiculed those who were younger and smaller than him. There were several occasions where I was his target. This went on, for what seemed like, the entire school year. Finally, one day, the bully had me cornered in the back of the bus and Matt worked up the courage to get up out of his seat to approach him.

Matt crept up behind him and cleared his throat. The young man turned around.

"What the hell do you want?" he asked.

Matt took a deep breath and said "I'm tired of you treating people like this. I want to know your name because I'm going to tell the principal what you've been doing."

The young man laughed and pushed Matt aside so he could walk back up toward the front of the bus. Matt followed and grabbed him by the arm.

"I said I want to know your name so I can report you to the principal."

The kid turned around, punched Matt in the stomach and said, "My name is Charlie Brown. Tell THAT to the principal."

Matt went home with an aching stomach that day. But not before he reported the kid to the principal and had him thrown off the bus. And, in case your wondering, the kid's name really was Charlie Brown. He wasn't being sarcastic.

Please take the time to wish Matt a happy birthday. Because he'll do the same for you when the time comes.