Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Creature Drawings


rThese creature are inspired by people I see everyday-- on the subway, walking down the street, at my day job, wandering down the grocery store aisles, or other places I randomly find myself. I made a point to infuse each beast with the emotion I was feeling when I drew it. Each one is an improvisation-- pen, ink and brush on paper. Some characters turned out better than others. I have my personal favorites... I encourage you to click on the image to make larger if you would like to see more detail.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Larger Works

"Summer City"
36" X 38"

I've been working on some larger-scale pieces. The words at the top of this drawing read "I See Beauty Every Day." The artwork consists of 9 drawings sewn together with thread-- like a quilt of drawings on paper. I scanned each piece individually, so the image above is a bit of a fabrication-- the artwork has some clumsy stitching around the separate pieces, and has buckled a bit from a lot of drawing, painting, collaging, editing, adding, removing, re-working, etc. This piece has been marinating on my dining room wall for over 2 years, and has gone through a lot of changes. An expedient artist I am not. I end a piece when I'm sick of working on it.

As the title implies, I make a valiant attempt to find beauty somewhere, someplace every day. It's easy when you're biking by the lake, or walking past a gorgeous tree, or admiring the lovely flowers that Mayor Daley planted all over the place. But beauty often lurks in some ugly, smelly, dank, dark, anxious environments-- subtle expressions of dignity-- and that is the kind of beauty you have to search for... and that makes me feel okay with the world sometimes...

If you haven't figured out yet from reading my other blogs, humans drive me nuts. And I'm not exempt from my own scorn, in case you were wondering. But still... still we humans are terribly interesting creatures with both ugly and beautiful tendencies, and I never get tired of looking at and drawing people.

"Song for Autumn"
34" X 37"

This piece is called "Song for Autumn" and was made before the first one-- about 4 years ago. I guess that I would describe it as a meditation on death. While the first piece was inspired by summertime-- a joyful and festive time in Chicago-- this artwork is an ode to the colder months. I had moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles, and there had been a few deaths and sicknesses in the family. I had forgotten how melancholy Chicago is in autumn and how utterly austere and dour winter is... I lived near a cemetery with a park nearby where people walked their dogs. I am amazed by how much dog owners start to resemble their dogs, and vice versa. It was a lonely time-- I didn't know too many people here, so I found solace in long walks around the neighborhoods to get reaquainted with the city I left 11 years before.

I have since done a little more doodling on this piece on a few panels-- the image above is an older scan, so the latest version looks a little different. I will attempt to take a successful photograph of this piece eventually.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Parade for the Wretched

"Parade for the Wretched" 22" X 30" mixed media

I love the city. Cities are like large life-forms in which every inch seems anthropomorphized. The rats, pigeons, squirrels, seagulls, cats, dogs, coyote, raccoons, owls, buildings, sidewalks, parks, beaches, benches, subways, trains and busses all seem like people. They have distinct, human personalities and in the best of times, I have this harmonious feeling that "we're all in it together."

I see city life as a giant Clown Car stuffed with goofballs, and I’m one of them. I like a good parade-- music, pageantry, colors, dancing. In Lombard, IL, where I grew up, every Spring was ushered in by the annual Lilac parade. By New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro standards, the Lilac parade is a 5th rate procession of suburban oddities accompanied by marching bands and droves of motorcyclists. But nonetheless, the yearly parade stoked my appetite for people watching.

The parade of faces I observe daily on my commute through downtown is food for the soul. These faces are the raw materials that make me want to draw. The rhythm of walking gives city streets a flow, a dance, movement-- a reminder that this giant microcosm is evolving in real time.

On one of my sojourns walking up Clark Street in Edgewater last autumn, a priest wearing coke-bottle thick, horn-rimmed glasses stopped abruptly, looked me in the eye, and said, “keep trying each and every day. Never stop.” Then he continued walking. I felt that that was some pretty good advice and catered directly to me, particularly because I am someone who often is the first to fold-- to give in, give up-- to let “nature run its course.” I typically take zero action, then sulk when nothing happens.

I title this piece, “Parade for the Wretched,”-- an homage to the flawed human condition. A poem for all the people who are trying each and every day to make it work, and fail more often than succeed. This art piece is not dedicated to the corporate, self-satisfied, high on life, self-promotional, survival-of-the-fittest types. They write the rules and have Team America in their pockets so they don’t need any art pieces glorifying them. This is artwork for the people, beautiful and ugly, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, who may not have tried hard enough-- who regret hurting others, damaging themselves, feel existential despair and yet..... somehow keep the crazy train moving.

I have been told, and imagine it to be true, that the most important human qualities for living with one another are compassion and empathy. When I was a bartender in Los Angeles, a bar regular, John Ramirez, told me that I'm a misanthropic philanthropist. And I do believe that he's right. I feel great compassion for the lonely-hearted, destitute souls asking me for money. I empathize with the working person, slogging through snow on their day to a dull and unsatisfying job. I feel for the kids who don't fit in. Strangers pour their hearts out to me at the bus stop. I'm a good listener.

But on the flip-side, I’m an ornery person with an occasional nihilistic streak. Seas of humans bent over cell phones, texting while walking, weaving down the sidewalk like buoys bobbing on the ocean make me wonder if a giant asteroid would do us all a favor. Birthers, tea baggers, CEOs, styrojerks, asshats and douchebags-- I want the sidewalk to open up and swallow them whole.

I don’t seriously wish anyone harm, but you get the picture. Even the most harmonious moments can be derailed in a nanosecond with reminders that we’re all autonomous souls who don’t always enjoy great chemistry with each other. And that’s where empathy comes full-circle. People sometimes aggravate us, but we all have to live together—a dancing parade of complex souls with a blend of victory and defeat in our vocabulary of life experience-- some people with a heartier dose than others in either department, but we are indeed trying to make it work together. And nobody is exempt from joining the parade of the wretched every once in awhile...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tax Cuts for Rich People: A helpful guide

The republican’s insistence on gifting tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans threatens to add trillions to the deficit in the next few years. The GOP fought hard for this, and President Obama and dems caved to their pithy demands. (If only Congress had fought so hard to prevent Bush from invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have saved lives and money). The GOP machine labeled repeal of Bush tax cuts as “redistribution of wealth” and somehow managed to convince Congress that a tax increase for the wealthy will put an irreparable strain on the American psyche for years to come.

For the 98% of Americans whose average income has either stagnated or disappeared entirely despite a wildly growing economy and bank bailouts, it looks as if we are living in a plutocracy: the rich rule politics.

If the wealthy are in the minority, how do they manage to convince the other 98% of the population that their tax cuts are vital to the economic health of our nation? How is this fraud sold to the public?

For some odd reason, many rich people in this country express that they feel victimized by the system. As if they are being punished for their hard work and success. As if making more money that 98% of the population of the world is a burden that they must shoulder, cold and all alone. As if working long hours as a venture capitalist is so much harder on the body and soul as working long hours as a janitor cleaning up after venture capitalists. Either way, the work we do is WORK.

For example, when I land an illustration assignment or somebody purchases my art, I am working very hard for very little money. Yet, the work is challenging, and I love it, despite the low monetary compensation. This is freelance work with no health benefits, no 401K plan and no taxes taken out until the end of the year. When I drag my tired ass to my day-job at a giant non-profit healthcare policy factory to process piles of mind-numbingly boring paperwork for 7.5 hours, I am exhausted by the end of the day because I have worked hard at something that I feel no passion for. And my butt hurts from sitting in a cheap office chair. My posture resembles a question mark. My hands, vital to my art career, ache from returning email, working on Excel charts, typing stuff into useless databases and filing junk. My brain hurts from being a part of a dysfunctional bureaucracy where employees labor needlessly on their self-appraisal charts for the pathetic bonus handed out every April. My modest hourly wage never seems like enough compensation for losing those hours of my life. But it’s work, and I pay taxes, and the company provides the illusive health benefits.

Unlike many of the top 2% earner-whiners, middle-class and low-wage workers perhaps are struggling too much to feel sorry for themselves all of the time. Or they are realists who accept life as a “you win some, you lose some” existence. They might be not be making as much as they think they should, but they are following their passions. Or perhaps they are working two soul-crushing low-wage jobs with no medical benefits, but they must work to survive. People making a wage far above the national average should thank their lucky stars. Period. Hell, if I made that much money, I would gladly pay higher taxes.

So, if these tax cuts must happen under the auspices that extra money in the pockets of the richest 2% will trickle down to the rest of us, then perhaps there should at least be some stipulations.

Give rich people their damn tax cuts. But I suggest that for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, their tax cut should come in the form of a “voucher.” Kind of like a food stamp. Some basic rules:
  1. The tax cut comes in the form of vouchers (kind of like Monopoly money) and cannot be redeemed for cash. It only has value when it is given to a business or person to be redeemed by the government. People might say, “oh no, that person’s paying with rich stamps!!” But the stamps will be converted to cash from any bank that had received a government bailout.
  2. The tax cut a.k.a “rich stamps” cannot be invested, or put into a savings account.
  3. Rich stamps cannot be used to purchase stocks, bonds, mutual funds, derivatives or any other piece of intangible Wall Street tomfoolery
  4. Rich stamps cannot be gifted to a family member
  5. Rich stamps cannot be donated to your favorite GOP candidate or any political party, but can be donated to charitable non-political organizations.
  6. Rich stamps expire in 12 months. This makes sense as it has been argued that the wealthiest Americans are living hand to mouth and need this assistance to survive. Also, it has been argued that these vouchers are necessary to stimulate the US economy.
  7. If a participant does not redeem all the stamps within a year, the money is returned to the government and the person is sent a medal and considered to be a great patriot.
Here are some useful suggestions for how to use your tax cut voucher:
  1. Buy American!
  2. Purchase art from your local neighborhood starving artist
  3. Buy groceries, cookware, clothing, massages, dance lessons, memberships to the gym, books, videos, movies, dinner, dessert
  4. Drop it in the jar of your local homeless person
  5. Donate to a food bank
  6. Use it on botox treatments, get a spray-tan, get your nails done, buy a garish purse with designer labels all over it, seek counseling for your angry poodle
  7. Use it for health: visit the dentist, get that deluxe colon cleansing, get that diagnostic test that your insurance won’t cover, remove that melanoma, buy some free-range meat products and loads of organic vegetables. Buy a tote bag to put all your delicious vegetables in. Take a pilates class.
  8. Have a dinner party and invite all of your friends. Hire a caterer!
  9. Give your butler a large bonus. Gift your maid with a day at the spa. Buy your nanny a new cell phone.
  10. See a play! Gift your local theater company or favorite museum!
  11. Visit some national parks!
  12. Purchase a space heater for your neighbors who are freezing
  13. Get a new computer
  14. Buy a hybrid car made in the USA (if there is one). Put some fancy rims on it! Buy some new tires!
  15. Send it to soldiers who are on their 3rd rotation in Iraq.
  16. Invest in music lessons
  17. Put some new tuneage on that ipod
  18. Cultivate a hobby or two
  19. Buy some beers for your friends
  20. Tip your waiter more than 12%
  21. Purchase some business casual clothes that don’t make you look like a dork.
The possibilities are endless!!!

I hope that you join me in pushing for the rich stamps program.