Category Archives: Art

We Are the Brady Bunch


I love the holiday season. It gives me an excuse to celebrate the absurd, to make art, and to fill my life with color and memories. The 400+ pictures I used to decorate the living room for the yuletide season weren’t enough, apparently.

Today, something I made for my wife Dawn arrived: a canvas of us with the Brady Bunch. Dawn is the baby in the middle, her sister Darla is on the right, and my mother-in-law Julia is on the left. (She’s the retired boxer). I’m the weird dude on the right demonstrating what I might look like if someone surprised me and stapled my tongue to a board. PS: The scenario of getting my tongue stapled isn’t too far-fetched.

I’m hoping that Crystal Bridges doesn’t make Dawn an offer for this masterpiece. Like the infamous leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” this canvas is a true work of art, designed in the mind of a singular genius.



Note: Snapfish made this canvas. It’s hard to beat them for quality and price.

I’m in no way being compensated for saying this, either. I’ve bought a massive number of items from them over the years.

Mismatched Fingers of Color and Delight

wall attempt (1) name blurred.jpg

People are craving the weird and eccentric, even when they may not even know it. Sure, we like pants whose legs are both the same length and houses painted more or less one color – and even food that bears some resemblance to its assigned name. As for me, I’d prefer to live in a world of spilled paint, one adorned with mismatched clothing and polychromatic houses spelling doom for a bored eye. It would be a carpenter’s dream to build in such a world. (But a carpet installer’s nightmare.)

Being around people, though, demonstrates that their eyes are drawn to those things less expected and strange. They may behave differently about it if they feel they are being observed, but the fascination with the novel is undeniable. Given a way to stop and look at something, they usually will, provided life gives them a moment to do so. Too much of our daily life is devoted to cursory swipe-left or swipe-right stimulus, rapid judgments without careful insight. It’s true that we tend to enjoy the feeling or familiarity. I’m not arguing specifically against that tendency, but instead am pointing out that if given a chance, people will frequently step off the known path for a weird stroll. The more they choose to do so, the less appeal the black and white world holds for them.

This week, I had the opportunity to watch and listen to a multitude of voices. When given the chance, I would sit and draw strange things. Some years, I’ve done 20+ feet of artwork along the paper-laden tables in the common areas where people congregate. All of the writing and drawing occurs where people constantly pass by, most taking at least a stolen look at whatever I’m doing. Some projects go quickly, whereas others take hours.

People stop and comment, most of them engaging with humor and relatively striking admissions about art, their lives, or how they wish they were more creative or able to do whimsical things. This week, several asked me if I were an art teacher, a writer, or something impossible to guess; I take these wrong guesses as high praise. We all need a plumber when the tides rise, so to speak, but it is the unseen and shared je ne sais quoi underlying our motivations that truly make the extra step worthwhile.

The passersby perhaps think they are observing me; however, I’m certain I’m getting more from the interaction than they are. The “What in the heck….?” type of reaction never fails to amuse me. I suppose that some expect me to be engrossed in drawing something pragmatic, such as a large intestine with vascular indicators – or a boat sailing along a riverbank filled with somersaulting otters.

One of the teachers who expressed interest in what I was doing asked me, “How do you get the detail so exact?” Her question puzzled me, so I asked in return, “Why do you think I had a vision in mind? Life doesn’t work that way – and even when it does, everything changes once we’re halfway through.” She laughed, “It seems like you were just waiting for me to ask something like that.”

Several people shared their stories with me, while others told me about things which sprang to their minds when watching me draw. All of them had something interesting to say, something which was already perched inside of them, waiting to stretch out into the world.

For those trying to make sense of what I was drawing, I would offer a spontaneous interpretation for each, with my goal being to devise a new explanation for each person asking.

The scale of the picture is much larger than you would imagine: the paper stretched across a full-size cafeteria table. I couldn’t take a picture of it unless I had dangled by a harness from the ceiling. Given that I’m three times the girth of Tom Cruise, I opted to avoid buying the school a new ceiling. This time, instead of leaving all of my work for the puzzled maintenance staff, I cut one piece of it off and brought it home. One person insisted on writing a compliment to the artist, so I brought that, too.

Most years, I leave the tables intact, with whatever I’ve created upon them. No matter how diligently you work, even on a whim, you simply are going to get up from the table one day, without even a glance behind you, and leave this world. Some of us will lament, “Not enough time!” while others will just shrug their shoulders and admit, “I didn’t make enough time.”

I’m hoping that you have color-stained fingers and a mind stuffed to the rafters with strange ideas when it’s your turn to go. You have permission to lead a normal, unflinching life, but it’s possible to lead a normal life and still have your hair full of crazy straws and pockets filled with half-scribbled notes to yourself.

I learned a lot this week, as I always do. I met new friends and shared outrageous jokes. However life is measured, my mind grew a bit, which is more than many days offer.



The Maple



Below is a simple story. My friend Anita painted another treat for me. As always, I accept the responsibility of trying to describe what I saw when I first looked at the painting. This is what seemed to be the story…

Their accidental love was just blossoming when they bought their first house; one so small that they once joked that their elbows rubbing together so often might reduce it to cinders. On their first anniversary, they planted a maple sapling in the back yard. They would sit on their small porch, quietly swinging, looking west, and observing the majesty of nature and their contribution to it. As the sapling grew, they used it to measure their shared time. In year three, lightning struck it and made it a pile of smoldering splinters. They replanted, laughing, hands thick with dirt. In year seventeen, a surprising and brief tornado ripped the replacement and took it to parts unknown. As he walked among the saplings in his neighbor’s nearby field to choose another, he felt the sharp pains again. This time, they stubbornly persisted. The doctor confirmed what he feared and as they planted the third maple, he gave her the devastating news and comforted her in the quiet way that only he knew. As his disease progressed, he lost his job and then she lost hers to care for the only man she had ever loved. They frowned and then giggled as the bank came to let them know that their small house of big love was theirs no longer. The day he died, she returned and hesitantly walked around and behind the now lifeless empty house, nervously holding her breath as the October sun beckoned her, even as the chilly breeze tugged at her. Even though their special tree was again no more than a small vertical challenge to the sky, she could picture what might have been. She could feel the warmth of the autumn sun and the lingering presence of him. She smiled, knowing that everything was just as it should be.

Clint Eastwood Painting…


I had this Clint Eastwood painted piece as a special request for me. It’s 24X30, much bigger than what this picture appears to indicate. I haven’t hung it yet, but each time I pass it, I solemnly swear I hear Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, Bad, and The Ugly” waft through the air, causing the hair on the nape of my neck to stand on end.


The piece of furniture in the top picture is about 7 feet long, which skews the perspective of size for this painting.


In the above picture, the 16×20 Doc Holiday painting to the left gives a better perspective of size.


Doc Holliday Art…

no flash

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.  I finally got one for myself and framed it, although the simplicity of the painting lends itself to placing without a frame. My wife convinced me that the silver frame would offset perfectly against the orange and black – and she was right.

I’ve bought 5 of these, as well as a few others for friends and family.When people see the painting, they invariably react with “Cool” and ask me about it. I think it would be a huge hit and surprise for most guys for their birthdays or Xmas.

I’m having a Clint Eastwood painting done and I’m sure it will be just as big a hit as the others. My latest is 16X20, although other sizes are available.


“Down by the creek, walking on water.” That’s where I’ll be.

Taken For Granted

Black Hole Sun
The same sun, yet
filtered by negligent eyes
renders darkly all that shines
 (X Teri)
It is our inevitable nature to marginalize and forget the people, ideas and things that we hold most valuable. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is a well-known cliche that I would modify: “Familiarity breeds neglect.”
Even when we think we are being mindful custodians of our lives, the fatigue and incessant throng of daily living distracts us. Sometimes, the distraction threatens to make us so inattentive that our lives begin to orbit eccentrically, threatening to hurl things and people away from us.

The above painting is one I asked a friend to paint for me as a surprise gift for my wife. It’s a woman in silhouette, sitting near the top of a hill on a bright, sunny day, near a gorgeous tree. Yet, to her, the sun is a black hole. Even she is black against the beautiful backdrop. In a similar fashion, we incrementally fail to appreciate things of beauty or exquisite nature, so much so that their presence seems to almost become the opposite of reality.

(Sidenote: my friend who painted the work doesn’t think of herself as a painter. It’s obviously not true. If it gave me an inspiration and I was willing to pay her for her time and effort, then by definition, she is a painter.)