Monday, October 27, 2008

Smallish portraits

I have a small stack of 4x6 canvas boards and until recently, I was at a loss of what to do with them. Since I usually paint on a fairly large scale, I only have two uses for 4x6 surfaces;

1. Small preparatory studies - for color, value, composition and the like.
2. Practicing random approaches and experimentation.

The great thing about it of course, I don't have to prep any surface. So I get to unwrap the board and let loose. I'm trying to limit the studies to about an hour to help with strong decision making skills. I submit to you, the two that exist so far.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Well, I'm home. The last three weeks were intense, if nothing else. Being that far away from everything you know throws into sharp focus what really matters.


Enough of that babble. What have I been up to since being back? Not a lot, actually. Which is sad. Very sad indeed. Monday I promptly came home and napped for about five hours, then wasted away the rest of the day touching all of my things. Tuesday I woke up and spent the day cleaning. I was filled with a sudden and fervent zeal to make my studio more conducive to work. I was surprised in how little work I needed to do, but some gentle massaging was required after such a long absence; we had to get reacquainted, dont'cha know? Wednesday was where things took an interesting turn.

I woke up with a wicked head cold. I was in such a sad state at work that I made a careless mistake and ended up holding the short end of the stick. A good night's sleep and plenty of medication did little to improve my state of well-being. When I woke up Thursday the cold migrated down into my chest, so I took advantage of it. With the perfect excuse to stay in and not go out in hand, I holed up in the studio and kind of cranked out some studies. The aching in my back served as a perfect timer to prevent me from working on any one thing for too long.

And today? More cleaning and more creating. I dug out my brown paper sketchbook to do some drawings in as soon as I got back and I've been diligently scribbling in it. I've got some older paintings I want to rework and a few ideas for some new ones, so I've been all draw, draw, draw. So, for Rusty, I include a 'stration, for the 'Stration Station. Just a sketch of something to come.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's the final countdown!

Queue up the face-melting guitar solo and the synth-rock; this boy's coming home!

Oh, but I suppose there may be someone out there who wants to know what I've been up to for the last few days. Sigh. So, I guess I'll start there.

Thursday was a long day. Actually, I'll go out on a limb here and say it was the longest day of my trip. Well, except for maybe the day I flew in, but really, there's nothing that makes sense about leaving home at 4am and arriving at your destination at midnight. Nothing. But Thursday! I get a phone call from Jose at Avenging Angels at 8am and at that point pretty much forfeit the rest of my unconscious-time. Brian and I go out for breakfast at this little cafe around the corner with the simple idea of getting some food-stuff and caffeine. Why are the simple things always the most complicated? To make a long story short, it was staffed by three women who all spoke French (though I suspect it was one of the women's only language) and apparently had the stereotypical French attitude of serving Americans. Or maybe it's an East Coast thing. I don't know. The service sucked though and it took us about half an hour to procure our morning rations. We walked along 125th street and then parted ways so I could go pick up my portfolio.

The third guy that I was supposed to talk to apparently had a lot on his plate, so he's been in and out of the office all week, and I didn't get a chance to talk to him. However, Jose did say that they were all interested and that they'd be in touch soon. Which, you know, is promising. From here I set out on my real errand for the day. The night before Stephany told me that this bakery (which I suppose is one of the mighty bakeries in the bakery world) had opened a new shop in Rockefellar Center and had these adorable shirts that said I cupcake NY. Of course there's supposed to be an image of a cupcake instead of the word cupcake, obviously derived from the I heart NY paraphernilia. I bet Milton Glaser would be interested in these shirts... Anyway, I'm at 18th street and 5th avenue and I need to get up to 49th street and 4th avenue. It's early afternoon, the weather is nice and I'm feeling pretty chipper. I decide to walk it. I don't feel like looking up how far that is, but it took awhile to hoof it that far. I find the little bakery, Magnolia Bakery, by the by and I walk in with my head held high because I'm about to buy my lady something she's crazy over.

Or so I thought. They didn't have any shirts. Not one. Let alone the one I was in search of. Luckily for me I had written down the information of their other two stores, so I call the next closest one to where I was. They don't have any either. Joy. I call the first store, and yup, they've got shirts. Oh, the bad news is the store's back in the direction I had come from. Not wanting to walk back, I hop the subway. Getting off the train I wander (which is rare for me since I usually know where I'm going, but I swear, the streets didn't make sense) around the West Village until I find the store. Well, first I found the line to get into the store. I waited in line and get into the store, famished I pick up a cupcake and a drink and tell the nice woman I'd like a shirt. Guess what? Oh, they had shirts. Shirts for babies. Nothing else. I had been defeated by a cupcake and a t-shirt. At least they teamed up on me, I suppose. I hop the train and come home. So let this be a lesson to you; if you're looking for something specific for your spouse, ask the stupid questions. Questions like, do you have them in normal people sizes, before trekking all across an island looking for them. Trust me on this.

This was a great day. I had an appointment to talk to an art director type lady over at Penguin books. Actually, it was Puffin books, but who wants to split hairs? I hop the subway downtown and when I have an hour to kill before my appointment so I set out to find a deli or other such establishment. Whilst I was looking around I was struck by a deep dismay. I'm only a few blocks from where I ended up yesterday. A stone's throw from Magnolia bakery. If I had only known. Dismayed but not defeated, I duck into an Dunkin Donuts and order a pumpkin muffin and a drink. All is right with the world. I finish up and go wait outside the building where my appoint is fast approaching.

While I was waiting outside, absently leafing through a Communication Arts illustration annual I had picked up, my mind began to wander. I wasn't wandering anywhere in particular, but I offer it as explanation for what happens next. I was distracted and my wits weren't about me when from behind me I hear what has become one of the most gut-wrenchingly frightening sounds imaginable; and only fans of the show Lost can appreciate this. You know that tele-type mechanical noise the column of black smoke makes as it whisps about the island sucking people into holes and generally causing mayhem? Yeah, heard it from right behind me. I whip (no, I'm serious, I freaked out) around fully intending to see a giant amorphous shape hovering inches from my face about to strike. But it was a taxi. A normal, yellow, harmless taxi. Yeah, some of them have a receipt machine or something that makes that noise. That exact noise. I had heard it a few other times since being out here, so I knew what it was almost as soon as I turned, but like I said, I was distracted.

Having had enough with the noises of the world, I decide to go inside to wait. I check in and do all that good stuff and wait. I don't wait too awful long and Jeanine comes out to meet me. As we're walking back to where the show's going to go down, she tells me that another one of their designers wants to take a look at my portfolio as she's really interested in my work. We pick her up (for want of a better phrase) and she starts telling me she's looked at my site and really likes my work. I almost die. The portfolio review goes well, if only too quickly, but they both responded well to a few of my pieces and made positive comments. Apparently my ability to leave room in a dynamic compostion for type really pleased them both. Go figure. So, business being done I head back to the apartment. Brian and I went back to the MET and then went and saw Eagle Eye. I must say Shia did a better job than I had suspected he would and Rube Goldberg would be proud of this movie. That's all I have to say.

Brian and I definitely called it quits. It was obvious business was done and we were just going to kind of screw around and relax. We ran out to go down to the Society of Illustrators before they too decided to call it quits for the day, but when we got down there we find that it's closed for an educators symposium... or something like that. Crestfallen, we reevaluate our afternoon. We end up hanging out at Grand Central Terminal for a while and I was actually kind of disappointed in it. It wasn't as Grand as I thought it was going to be. I had all of these romantic images of it in my head and it just didn't deliver. It was pretty, but eh, not what I was hoping for. Then, a little later that evening we went over to Rusty's house for his birthday bash. It was a good time. I spent most of the evening talking to my new friends (at least I like to think so) Kurt and Zelda about all things illustration. It was fantastic. And that was it. Drinking was involved, but I'm 3000 miles from home, so I wasn't really intending on anything happening. Which brings me to

Brian and I went out to see a show at an art gallery that Dan Adel was in and that too was mildly disappointing. To finish off the evening we decide to hop a train into Brooklyn bound for the 36th street station to see Owen Smith's murals that were installed a little while back. We figured since one of our teacher's had mosaics in the subway, the least we could do was go see them. Then, we came home. That's it really. We got all packed up and ready to go. In about two hours we're going to head out to head home. I'll post again when I get home and fill it with nonsensical observations and whimsical musing. Until then!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Joy, sadness, and huh?

It's been an interesting few days. It's been an interesting few days indeed.

Thanks to the efforts of my good buddy Rusty, I had an appointment with the good folks over at Avenging Angels to have a look-see at my little black book. (Hey, I've got to do something to make illustration sound exciting, don't I?) It was slated for early afternoon, so even if I slept a little longer than I had been lately, I would have been able to make it there A-ok with no kind of troubles. Or so I thought. Remember kids, when you're new to a big city, the last thing you want to do, from a navigation standpoint, is write down the wrong address. Well, I didn't so much write down the wrong address as I did write down the wrong street. But it was an easy mistake to make! It's on 18th street, and I'm staying on 118th street, so really, how could I not? Thanks to a phone call to my lady and the fact that I brought it to their attention that they didn't have their address listed on their website (which they saw to rectify in a timely fashion) I was back on track in no time. I made it to the appointed floor at my destination after riding in the world's smallest and most rickety elevator and sat down for a nice (read: nerve-racking) chat with some nice (read: nice) folks. The reaction to my work seemed very positive. It was so positive that they actually wanted to wait for the third art director to arrive to talk with me. But, since it wasn't looking like he was coming back any time soon, we had gotten started without him. At any rate, they seemed interested and since they wanted the absent art director too view my work, how could I not help but offer to leave it for him to see and to come back the following day? I know! So that's what I did. I'd get a call on the following day and I'd come back in to talk. Easy-peasy.

I waited for twenty minutes for the elevator (I told you this elevator was trouble) then set off into the world to... I don't know, paint the town red. I called Brian and since his plans had fallen through for the day, he decided he wanted to come downtown to help me paint the town; though he was dead-set on orange over red. We met up and aimlessly wandered. We wandered into a few vintage shops, a comic book store, and then meandered over to the Empire State Building. (Have you ever noticed it shares initials with the Empire Strikes Back? I have.) After navigating the maze of alizarin velvet we find ourselves 86 stories in the air... just kind of hanging out. On the ride up I mused at how this elevator was faster than the other one I had been in that day. Does that seem right to you? We spend some time on what very well be the top of the world, take some pictures, and then come back down to earth. In all honesty I despise doing the "tourist" thing. Oh, of course I took some pictures, but people are insane at that altitude! Pushing to the edge of the railing, cramming in as tight as can be just to take pictures of a 900 foot drop. I love pictures, as I'm sure anyone who knows me knows, but there is something to be said for stopping and enjoying the moment. Spending time with what's going on and keeping it in the biological memory, rather than the digital one - where really, who's going to see it?

After our descent we poke into an eatery and I have the most expensive, most disappointing and unfulfilling milksjake I've ever had in my life. The fries weren't very good either. When we had eaten our fill and set out into the night, we called it a night and headed home. Such the town-painters we are.


Remember that phone call I was supposed to be getting this day? Yeah, never happened. I sat around all day like an adolescent girl watching my phone waiting for it to ring. For a while I thought my phone might be busted, so I started calling for drop offs again. It worked going out, and just as I started to suspect that it might not be accepting incoming calls (there was no logical reason to be thinking this, but then again I felt like an adolescent girl, I wasn't exactly in charge of m facilities) Adbase called me back, but I didn't answer. I wasn't in the mood for a sales pitch. And besides, my dreamy contact might call back and who'd want to be on the other line when that happened? Nobody. That's who. So I spent all day waiting by the phone for a call that never came.


Today was exciting. Sometime last week, Brian somehow managed to get ahold of Donato Giancola and arranged a studio visit. I of course, intended to tag along. We schlepped out to Brooklyn and once we found the right house we stormed the gates! Or tentetively rang his doorbell. One of the two, I'm still a mite fuzzy on the events of the day. For those of you who don't know and are too lazy to click the link, Donato is a fantasy/science fiction illustrator. He's been in Spectrum loads of times and has won bunches of awards. He's illustrated a thing here or there for Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, and even into the Marvel universe with Iron Man. And I was staning in his living room looking at all of his wonderful stuff. Then it got better, we ascended into his studio and got to poke through his things. Oh, and watch him paint. That was cool too. But we asked a lot of pointed questions about how he got his start and all of the other trivial nuts and bolts kind of things that people like us want to know. And this is where it gets wierd. Apparently he thinks that painting is dead. At least from an illustration stand point. That only people that are established are able to keep with painting because it's too late from them to make the switch and not lose their brand identity, as it were. He also expressed the notion that doing portfolio drop-offs were dead too. That art directors just wanted to get PDFs of new talent's work. (An idea that I don't agree with 100%, but I'm defintely going to try this PDF thing now too.) The visit was eye-opening, informational, and inspirational, but I didn't leave with stars in my eyes or a stone in my gut. I just kind of left with a...


I suppose it's just food for thought and should all be taken with a grain of salt. If nothing else it's more evidence that there is no one right way to do what it is I'm trying to do. I do know, however, that I'm going to come home and redo a lot of the paintings I've previously done. I've been toying with that idea for quite some time, but now... now I'm certain of it. Pull together some of my older work into a more cohesive body of work. Yeah... I think that'll be a swell idea.

Hopefully I'll get my book back from the Avenging Angels, and that's really all I have planned. They have the better of my two books, so hopefully I'll get to it soon. I have need for it on Friday. Oh yes. I have plans indeed.

Not famous yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happy birthday mom!

Well, it isn't today. It was yesterday. But I wanted to start a post with happy birthday wishes to my mother.

Yesterday was... emotionally charged. To cut to the quick, I visited the New Yorker again. This time to pick up my portfolio. I trek back down to Times Square and weave my way through the tourists and busy New York pedestrians, heading straight to the Conde Nast building. Since the guy I talked to in the mail room gave me the impression that I should go back there to pick it up, that's what I did. I poke my head in into the small room and I'm happy to see the guy I spoke with on Wednesday. And, lucky me, he recognizes me and remembers what I'm there for. I start to feel hopeful. The feeling quickly fades as he can't find my portfolio anywhere. He calls upstairs for the person I dropped it off for (he half-remembered her name too, I was impressed by this guy) but got her voicemail. Drats. He leaves a message and I tell him I'll come back a little later to check on things. I decide I'll also give the art director a call - not because I didn't trust the guy in the mail room, but because I'm a control freak.

So... now what? I'm in a bad mood and I'm anxious. I can't get the idea that these people loose portfolios out of my head. So sight-seeing isn't high on my list of priorities. But, I'm in Times Square, so I feel a powerful need to walk around to just check things out. I walk through a massive Toys "R" Us and I think my breath was actually taken away. Aside from ferris wheel that greets you inside the door, there are at least four stories to this place. I say at least because I didn't want to explore too much, for fear of spending money. But there were people doing demonstrations of toys and a group of girls doing dance routines. It was crazy! OH! and there was a animatronic tyrannasaurus rex... it was probably about half of "actual size" but it was intense. Now, I'm a reasonable grown man, but I was slightly more than mildly terrified of it. It was scary!

I leave with no purchases in hand (the Star Wars and Lego sections were intensely difficult to pass up. They had the Mace Windu might mugg too!) So I wander back out onto the street and walk further up the street. I see the Naked Cowboy and resist the urge to take pictures of this iconic New York figure. Eventually I find a place to sit and I just watch the world go by. It got annoying walking behind tourists anyway. After about an hour total I make my way back to the mail room. "My guy" is there and he calls upstairs again. This time he gets a hold of the woman and she gives him her extension and tells him to send me up. I almost pass out. I walk up to the desk and get cleared through security (the art director corrected the guard on the pronunciation of my name, which pleased me greatly) and push the button for the elevator.

I can't begin to describe how I felt at this point. It took a short eternity for the elevator to come, and the trip to the 20th floor took a slightly longer eternity. My stomach bottomed out and my pulse quickened. I took off my hat and started to try to preen myself in the reflection of the elevator doors. Oh yeah, I was a mess. I step out of the elevator and tell the man at the desk who I'm there to see. Unfortunately this is where I stop feeling so good . He asked if I was there to pick up my portfolio and then points to it in a stack on his desk. Hey, at least I was at the top of the pile, right? Good news is I got my book back and it's in one piece AND all of the cards I put in it are gone. Bad news is the leave behind is still there. Oh well.

I had mixed feelings as I got back on the Subway, I was still in a bad mood, but I wasn't anxious anymore. (I was about to write that there wasn't a love note in my book from the people who looked at it, but then I realized I actually hadn't looked through the whole book. I just checked the first page to make sure it was mine and the last page to see what was still there. There WAS a love note, of sorts!) All I wanted to do was come back to the apartment and work on painting something in my sketchbook. That's what I did. First, I spent the rest of the afternoon making phone calls, looking for more people to leave my book with. I had some moderately good responses to this and felt a little better about the world. A little after 5 pm I called it quits, figuring most people would be leaving for the day pretty soon, what with it being Friday and all. I settle in and paint for a little while until Brian got home.

We whittle away the evening and watch the first episode of the new Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon on Cartoon Network. Eventually we hop up and head out into the night. Rusty was having a show at a small shop out in Brooklyn, so we were heading over there to hang out. We get there kind of late in the game, but are able to enjoy the work - and the store. It was like the most awesome kitsch store in the world. Only, it was the most awesome kitsch store in the world. When things wind down we start to head back. Ugh. It was a two hour ride back to Harlem from Brooklyn on the trains running after midnight. We get back and both promptly pass out.

We both slept until past noon. And, we have no plans for the day. I think we're going to be taking it easy today.

The picture is from a Halloween store that Brian and I visited on Wednesday. I think it's the best table ever. She's so squishy and pinch-able. How could I resist taking a picture?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Back to business

Yesterday, not a lot got done, but I definitely feel accomplished. I feel... better. I decided I wanted to go exploring a little bit, so that's what I set out to do. But, no more than a few steps out of my front door, I feel the itch to call Rusty. I end up going out to his place where we talk shop. He shows me a couple things that I didn't know about that he thought I should know about, and most importantly, there were twenty-five cent chicken wings. I was in hog heaven. Also, his dog Magnus, which apparently has a natural aversion to tall thin people, fell in love with me. Rusty thinks it's because I'm a living cartoon. Which could very well be, in all honesty. He also read me the riot act for not having " 'strations" on the 'Stration Station. Now is not the time, but soon. Very soon.

I walked away with a renewed sense of purpose and came back to waste the rest of my evening.

Today, however, was a little bit exciting. It was the portfolio drop off day at the New Yorker, so I headed out into the world with all my facts in order. Or so I thought. Brian and I get out there and to begin with, we have trouble finding the building. But, silly me, I was looking for the front door and street number on the street the address was listed on. Eventually I spy the doors and street number on a side street, so I head on in. Then things get interesting.

The security crew informs me that I need to have a contact to get a pass to get into the building. This is after the series of "who are you here to see" questions, to none of which the answers were derivative of "the illustration department". I made a few phone calls, and eventually got a contact name. Apparently the security guard couldn't find her in the system and as she was getting ready to make me a temporary pass by hand, the other guard chimes in by asking me what I'm doing there, for the umpteenth time. (Oh yes, he was a part of the initial questioning where I outline the purpose for my visit.) I tell him that I'm there to drop off my portfolio. All of a sudden he has an answer for me; to go around to the other side of the lobby to the internal mail room. Awesome.

I walk up and when asked if someone can help me, I reply that I'm here to drop off my portfolio for review by the good people at the New Yorker. He pulls the most interesting face for all but a moment then tells me that they've informed him last week that all submissions must be done online but he'll call to double-check for me. New Yorkers are fantastic. At this point I'm thinking they get a bad rap for being impatient and rude. (Though the receptionist I spoke with on Monday apparently gave me false information.) He hops onto the line and calls up to the 20th floor. The woman asks him some questions which he promptly relays to me and he gives her my reply. This game of telephone (woah) goes on for a brief minute and the woman he's talking to decides to come down to the lobby to check this out for herself.

Another person, another riveting series of questions. She wants to know who I'm looking for. Demanding, would be more appropriate, actually. She was very insistent to know their name and extension. Now would be a good time to point out that the name I had, she didn't recognize either. Joy. I explain that I spoke with a receptionist on Monday (she wanted to know his name too) and I was told that portfolio drop offs were Wednesday from 10 am until 6 pm. Her explaination for wanting so much information is they've had problems with portfolios in the past. They've lost some, it would seem. She didn't want me to drop mine off without a contact, have it get lost, and then come back with attitude. Oh, attitude I would have in spades, but I tell her I understand her concern (even though I can feel fear creeping up my leg and spine) and ask what information I need. She promptly invites me to collect all of the pertinent facts (name and extension) and then come back to try it again. I walk off to the other side of the lobby, retracting my previous thought about New Yorkers to myself, and start trying to call up to the 20th floor again.

This time I get a receptionist, which I thought was fantastic, maybe my luck is beginning to turn. Why? Why do I even bother thinking things like that? I explain again who I am and what I'm trying to do, and further the explanation saying I need the proper name of the art director and their extension. The name he gives up easy enough, so I'm stoked on that, furiously scribbling into my sketchbook perched on my knee. I ask for her extension and apparently I asked too much. He repeats her name, and I point out that I was instructed to get an extension. He gives me their main line's extension. Bundling up all of the "pertinent facts" I walk back to the mail room and approached the woman I had just dealt with. Handing the facts over to her she pokes her head back into the mail room and asks for a Conde Nast sticker.

They don't have any; instead they hand her a blank label for me to address myself and place on the front of my portfolio. Yeah, somehow I didn't see myself placing a very sticky label onto the front of my professional portfolio. I ask for a bag or manilla envelope to place my book in to which I can place the sticker on the outside. I get a plastic retail shopping bag to put the accumulation of my skills to date in. Worry hits me upside the back of my head and nearly knocks me to the floor. Tentatively I place my book in the bag and put the label on the bag and hand it to the guy in the mailroom. He tells me that it should be where it needs to be by 2 pm (it was 1:35 pm at that particular moment) and asks if I have anything he needs to sign. My face goes blank and, even though I don't much care to do it, I answered his question with a question, knowing full well he probably didn't have an answer. I asked where I should go to pick up my book. He assumes the person I addressed it to will come down with it, and that I should probably just come back to the mailroom. Fantastic.

Honestly, I'm more than a little worried. Losing it wouldn't be the end of the world, but I would prefer not to lose it if I can avoid it. Especially after the woman who came down to talk to me put some fear in me. I plan on calling the contact I got tomorrow and checking in on my book and trying to find out when it is I can expect to show up to get it. Hopefully that goes smoothly. Anyway, after that ordeal and some sketching outside of the Conde Nast building Brian and I head out into the city. Our travels saw us further south where we geeked out in a brand new art store then decided to head up towards Central Park and the Met .

Upon exiting the subway we began walking, like you do, and my thoughts start to wander. About a block from the park I'm violently wrenched from my flights of fancy. I find myself staring into a window across the street at paintings. Beautiful, beautiful paintings. Suddenly I'm gripped by deja vu. I've been here before, and I know what I'm looking at; the American Illustrators Gallery. We head on in and guess who has a bunch of working hanging on the wall? Only my favorite artist ever! Joseph Christian Leyendecker . Oh yeah, you heard me. We spent about half an hour staring at the works of beauty, and I plan on going back tomorrow. Oh, coincidentally, the curator of the gallery is the guy who just wrote the new book on Leyendecker that's going to be coming out. click My copy has already been purchased, but I felt delightful being able to look through it before the public at large. I'm so excited.

When we leave it starts raining, so the plan for people watching and drawing were killed. Instead we decide to walk back to the apartment. We were on 77th street, and we needed to get to 118th street. We walked. According to google, it's a distance of 3.2 miles. Which, I'm going to say, feels like a lot more when you've been walking for most of the day already, and you're carrying a moderately heavy bag over your shoulder. Nice.

And that's where it pretty much ends. We got back and kind of just fell out. I layed down on the couch and didn't really get up. Then I started blogging, and here you are.

Tomorrow, it sounds like we're going to visit some museums. And I, of course, am going to try to get my book back. I'll probably make some business phone calls too. Fun and exciting, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.