Thursday, July 30, 2009

First one in the country!!!

Woo Hoo! This is Caleb and Kate. Yesterday, while I was visiting the Conway Public Library, they became the first people in the country (and, I suppose, the entire world) to buy a copy of The Messiest Desk. You will notice how happy they look. That feeling of elation will no doubt last for several decades.*

•You can't get it in stores yet...
•You can't get it online yet...
•You can't even get it by rubbing a magic lamp and demanding it of the genie who appears.**

So how can you be as happy as Kate and Caleb? Actually, right now, you'll just have to be patient until the book gets to book stores. There are going to be giant release parties all over the country, just like there are for Harry Potter books.*** If you want to dress up like Benjamin Putt, all you have to do is stick a plunger to your head. I'd recommend a new one.

*This claim has not yet been tested.
**Neither has this one.
*** Lies, lies, all lies - But please feel free to organize your own release party! I'll bring the cookies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Website

3 posts in one day! Do I rock?

Really, do I?

Eh, maybe a little.

So, my website has been totally redesigned and remade. New layout, new images, all that jazz. I'd love any feedback - good or bad - I can take it. Let me know what you think.


Newest Book Now Available!

Waahoo! The Messiest Desk is officially here. I just got a shipment of books from the publisher. Yippie-Ding! It looks pretty good (if I do say so, myself) so I'm going to recommend that you all go right out and order a few dozen copies.
Thank you in advance.

Niagara Falls

We just returned from a fun-filled family trip to Niagara Falls (unofficial motto: "Bring Lots of Money and Leave it Here").
We had a great time and I was relieved not to have to carry around all that heavy money in my pocket for long. Perhaps you remember the scene in The Blues Brothers where Mr. Fabulous is explaining to Jake and Elwood that they don't belong in a particular restaurant because the soup is $#%@&^* $10?
That's nothing. I had to take out a second mortgage to get a refill on my coffee one morning.
Anyhow, it was a great trip. Our hotel overlooked the falls and the floor to ceiling windows afforded dizzying and wonderful views. We did all the tourist things like walking around waiting in line. We actually had to wait in line to leave our hotel on the last morning. (true!) That's how crowded it is up there.
I've decided (though everyone around me has known for years) that I have some sort of anxiety disorder when I'm crammed into a heaving throng of humanity. I really don't like crowds and noise. That's why I live out here in the middle of nowhere and love it.
It was fun seeing the falls again. I made a quick trip out there when I was going to school in Canada, but we didn't have much time then. This time we were able to really appreciate how beautiful the falls are. And crowded. And expensive. Did I mention that?
Seriously. Don't even get me started on the special $85 Breakfast of Despair that we suffered through on one morning.
Too much crabbing here, I think. It was a very fun trip. We all had a great time and the kids were surprisingly unaffected by spending 9 hours in the car each way. We had a lot of fun and I'd recommend the trip to anyone.
Just, don't forget your wallet...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home and out again...

Since I've been home from New York, one of my children commented on the fact that I actually haven't been home much. Slightly depressing, but all too true.
Home on Sunday night and then a show with Steve Blunt Monday morning. We had fun, but I can't say it was a career defining show for us. We had both been away for several days and still hadn't quite gotten our groove back. The show was for a library, but was held at a day-camp where the eager young campers crammed into a loud room that might be generously described as "acoustically challenging". The kids were very excited and the music was very loud, so from that perspective, the show was a success. Some indoor pyrotechnics would have completed the event to a nicety, but the ceiling was very low and the threat of self immolation was all too real. Though thrilling in the short term, it would require tedious rescheduling of future shows.
More shows, both with and without Steve followed, and yesterday I once again accompanied my intrepid friend Julie up the treacherous slopes of a NH 4,000 footer. The destination was Mt. Jefferson, the third highest peak in NH and, quite possibly, the rockiest place on the face of the planet. After a gentle, though ceaseless, climb along a gently forested trail, we were given a few fleeting glances at the spectacular scenery that surrounded us as the trees thinned out and we were suddenly (and yes, it does happen suddenly) above tree line.

I'm sure that, had the weather been better and had all those pesky mountains not been in the way, we would have had clear views of the North Pole and Melbourne, Australia. The expanse of land, trees, mountains, and tourists on distant roads was breathtaking.
We plodded upward across treacherous winding paths, fending off mountain goats, indigenous mountain people, and evil trolls lurking under craggy rock outcroppings until finally, many weeks later we arrived at a sign that told us the summit was only 0.1 miles away. You can see this sign in the picture of Julie. We were happy then. Happy and hopeful. After another 150,000 miles, we finally reached the summit, our tender spirits crushed; our tender feet blistered.
As we sat to eat our lunches. We relaxed, stretched our legs, and laid back across the rocks to soak up some sun and get a clear, unobstructed view of the roiling thunderheads that were speeding in our direction.
We gagged down the rest of our lunches and considered our options. They were:

1. Get off the summit.
2. Die a hideous death on the summit.

After some deliberation we opted for the first choice and began the slow, tortuous descent down the hill. At the point in our descent where the rocks were at their most treacherous, the rain started to add the additional thrill of "slipperiness".

This is the point where I told Julie that I am terrified of heights. She did not find this information helpful or reassuring, as I had hoped.

After we slid down many sheer rock faces, clenching our respective buttocks to maintain a tenacious grip on the rocks (a technique I do not, in retrospect, recommend) we managed to get safely below tree line.

Then the sun came out.


We made our sodden way down the mountain and headed to Lincoln for our mandatory post-climb ice cream. I tried Dinosaur Crunch. This particular confection seems to have been designed exclusively for the under 5 crowd. From the deceptive name–it contains no actual dinosaur; crunchy or otherwise–to the alarmingly blue hue. A color found nowhere in nature and reminding me more of a race car than of anything a human should ingest. To add a distinct visual counterpoint to the blue, there were near-black globs of a fudge-like substance swirled throughout it. Adding to its textural diversity were a universe of cake crumbs (no doubt swept up from the floor of some second rate high volume snack treat factory).

So while I am glad to be home today, I may not actually be able to spend as much time with my children as I would like. I'll probably spend the day in the bathroom brushing the residual dinosaur flavor out of my mouth. Maybe I'll see the kids next week...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 5 - Home Again

Class is finished and I have returned home, if only briefly. I am off to Northfield, NH today to do a show with my buddy Steve Blunt.
You may notice that I did not post a picture today. That is because after several hours of additional work, my painting is not perceptably different. Certainly not in a way that would show up on a low-res online posting. I still have not really had a chance to sit and assimilate all that I have learned from my week in McCormack Bootcamp, but I am prepared to share the secret of Paul's work with any who might like to know.
It has been said that there is a fine line between genius and madness. The secret to Paul's amazing artwork is that he is stark-raving, bark-at-the-moon crazy. Not in a dangerous lunatic, dose him with Thorazine sort of way, though. In fact, I will say again that Paul and Karen are delightful, funny people who are both very pleasant to be around.
When he begins working, though, the true extent of Paul's insanity becomes instantly evident. He sees things. Details so small and nuanced that the average person would need an electron microscope strapped to his face (not comfortable, I should imagine) to have any hope of noticing it. He sees patterns of light, color, and temperature. And he spends countless hours transforming what he sees into art by using the tiniest brush strokes. Strokes nearly imperceptible to the human eye.
Paul is obviously not human.
In spite of his creepy powers of observation (or, perhaps, because of them) and his maniacal, obsessive attention to detail, he is a terrific teacher. If you are all sensitive and can't stand criticism, then I would suggest that you avoid his classes at all costs. If you have problems in your work, he will tell you. He'll help you fix them and see why they were problems. If, however, you are looking to truly grow and develop as an artist, you could ask for no better teacher.*

*Paul, I'll be sending you a bill for this commercial in my blog.

It was a great experience and I hope that it will send all my artwork–even the goofiest stuff–in a new (and with luck, better) direction.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 4

So now I'm caught up in my postings, but I have to hurry because there is a show opening for one of Paul's former students tonight. He told us if we didn't go, he's not going to teach us anything else.
I'm kidding. He actually said that if we didn't show up he's going to lock us out of his studio and sell all our supplies on EBay.
Also kidding, people. He wouldn't do that. He'd keep the supplies for himself. He's no dummy.

So today I officially gave up on completing my painting. Don't cry. It's okay. I am going to focus on the area around the right eye - the focal point of the painting. I'm going to try to bring that to a beautiful finished state so the painting will look like an amorphous blob with an eyeball on the middle.

Paul's rendering techniques are unimaginably time-consuming. The results (when he does it) are stunning. I figure I'll do better to try to complete a part with his help rather than scramble to finish the entire thing.

I'll probably do what I said in an earlier post and try to incorporate a few of his techniques in my own work. I'm excited to get back to the painting I started before I left for NY.

I've really learned a lot and I'm eager to see what's in store for tomorrow. That is, if he hasn't sold all my supplies.

Day 3

I know. I know. I'm a day late posting here. I'd like to make it perfectly clear that it is not my fault. It is Paul's fault. We were chatting before class yesterday and I mentioned some sort of fair or something that was being set up in the middle of the town. He told me that it was the annual Roof-A-Thon (?).
What the heck a Roof-A-Thon is, is frankly, entirely beside the point.
The important point here is that Paul told me that Dee Snyder is heavily involved in these yearly events. Dee Snyder, I'm sure you will remember, was the gregarious, make-up clad lead singer for Twisted Sister. If you do not know what Twisted Sister was, I suggest you go back under whatever rock you recently emerged from and quietly contemplate eternity.
So I raced here to the hotel, gagged down some dinner, and raced back to the Roof-A-Thon (not a roof in sight, I may add) where I spent the entire evening gawking at everybody, looking for Dee Snyder.
The happy ending is not coming, I'm afraid. there was no Dee, but I had a delightful evening listening to the bands and admiring all the various biker gangs who were in attendance. It was biker night! It was a feast for the eyes and as an added bonus, I took years off my life inhaling their second hand smoke and exhaust.
So, in conclusion, my failure to post yesterday was entirely Paul's fault and I think he owes me Dee Snyder's autograph or a cup of Dee's sweat or some other memento.
Oh yeah. I did some painting, too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


So, this class has not gotten any easier, but it's a lot of fun and I think I'm learning a lot. I considered myself to be fairly competent as a painter, but there is so much new stuff here. New colors (yes it makes a difference), and working vertically on an easel instead of horizontally on my drawing table. That has been incredibly difficult, but I came for a challenge. I don't think I'm going to produce my masterpiece here, but I'll be able to apply Paul's techniques to the way I normally work and, with luck, create a nice hybrid.
Here is today's work:

It's still at the very beginning stages, but so far, no unrecoverable disasters. Looks pretty creepy without those irises, doesn't it?
And, if you are the type who wonders about such things (I am), Fishkill is named after a creek. It appears that in NY, a kill is a creek (or brook, or stream, or crick...). So Fishkill=Fishcreek. Easy.
Of course it lends itself to some amusing names. I saw the Fishkill Pool Center today. Paul told me that they considered opening an aquarium in Fishkill. What they might name it I cannot fathom...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Portrait Class!

So, people. I am in Fishkill, New York.
Fishkill. Really. I love the name of this place.
I'm taking a 5 day portrait painting class with Paul McCormack, an amazing artist and a really nice guy to boot.
Today was the first day. We spent it drawing the model (Paul's wife, Karen - also really nice). I usually work from photos and find working from life to be very challenging. Here is the sum total of the day's work:

Not my best work, I'll admit, but this is just the preliminary sketch. I'll try to post pictures of each day's work to show how it's coming along. If there are no more pictures and this is never mentioned again, you may presume that my painting was not a success...

Stay tuned.