Life is Eternal / Like A River

 

My Beautiful Saxon Princess lost her mother early yesterday morning. Lori was particularly close to her mom and while I want to say that Velma has gone on to happier place there is still that inner Cro-Magnon that wants to howl at the separation of death. I think I am also coming to grips with losing my own mom two years ago – I wasn’t able to attend the funeral so there was no closure. I do remember how hard it was to emotionally process the loss of both Mom and Dad so I am doing my best to provide emotional support.

These two songs helped me a lot and I am hoping they will do the same for my BSP…or for anyone else coping with loss for that matter

What I Looked Like Once Upon a Time

I wish I had a better copy of this photo. It was taken at Ricks College in the autumn of 1973 during the most successful semester of my collegiate career, but like most of my undergraduate semesters I was flat broke and couldn’t afford any of the photo print packages. This image was scanned out of a yearbook published back when color printing was a luxury rather than the rule.

This is the first time in forty-six years I’ve looked at this closely, and as I look it over two questions come to mind:

  1. Who wrote “Wow!” along the left-hand margin?
  2.  At what time  in those intervening forty-six years did I learn how to correctly fold down my collar?

 

Ricks19730015

A Time and A Season for Everything

“May you live in interesting times”. 

It’s allegedly an old Chinese saying and has been alternately described as a blessing or a curse, but in this case it’s more of an observation. This past year has been interesting but I managed to survive and learn a little bit. I’ve inched up the scale on my  cripple-ometer but the new upstairs studio continues to be a blessing and losing my job at the college has turned out to be a much better development than I anticipated, if for nothing else than all the URI’s (upper respiratory infections) I’m NOT getting.

My blog-world has changed for the better as well with many more followers and some genuine friendships into the bargain so I’d like to extend a gift of sorts in return

The four symbols below were developed as a feature of a deck of cards designed in grad school years ago.  Instead of the traditional heart/club/diamond/spade designations I divided my deck into winter/spring/summer/autumn suits. I also designed the royalty figures (king/queen/jack) to age from suit to suit – spring: youth, summer: adolescence . autumn: adulthood and winter: elderly. (I’ll show the art another time.)

The images from those new suits can be found below and I’m sharing with you all today as tattoo patterns – if you read this blog you’re welcome to use them in that manner. Some of the solid black areas have washed out a bit (perils of using designers’ markers on unfamiliar vellum)  but they’re still great patterns to work from. There’s no need for any kind of payment – all I ask is that you keep karma in mind when you do use them i.e. don’t steal credit for their creation, don’t take unfair advantage using them for profit and don’t use them for something other than tattoo art.

I’d be happy to answer any questions and I’d love to see photos as long as they’re in good taste. I’d rather not have to explain a tramp-stamp to my grandson.

CeltWinterLogo

CeltAutumnLogoCeltSummerLogoCeltSpringLogo

Lonely Nights….

Good morning mister sunshine, you brighten up my day
Come sit beside me in your way
I see you every morning, outside the restaurants
The music plays so nonchalant

Lonely days, lonely nights.
Where would I be without my woman?

It was several years before the Brothers Gibb switched to size small jockeys and started shrieking “Ah-ah-ah-ah stayin’ alive” that I first heard their earlier song Lonely Nights. It was the middle of an Alaskan winter, I was a senior in high school in between girlfriends and feeling lonely as only a seventeen-year-old can know…and I had no idea that there would come a day where I daily dealt with an even deeper state of alone-ness.

Please excuse the pun but I am not alone in this matter. The 11 January issue of THE WEEK magazine contains an article that hit very close to home for me, an article entitled:  “An Epidemic of Loneliness”. It cites multiple studies from around the world that all conclude that a LOT of us are lonely and it doesn’t do us one bit of good.

Connections have been found between loneliness and:

  • Mental issues like insomnia, depression and
  • Physical issues like increased risk for heart attack and weakened immune system
  • Social issues like increased political polarization.

There are plenty of reasons for this increased state of isolation to include the breakdown of the family unit, the often-transient nature of work and the emotional pitfalls found in social media. I’ve seen it in my own life – thirty years ago in addition to my family and local friends I had a circle of about twenty people I would routinely correspond with but now contact from anyone other than my Beautiful Saxon Princess and one or two friends is very sporadic.

I’m not going to snivel about how lonely I get slaving away in my studio, but I would like to suggest that you take a moment each day and think about those friends and relatives that might be shut-in or otherwise isolated. We live in perilous times and while so many of the terrors that lurk in our lives seem insurmountable (taking away my old aerosol cans won’t make a bit of difference to the ozone layer) this a problem that individually we can actually do something about.

It brings to mind a story I heard of  a man who’d walk along the beach at low tide to pick up stranded starfish and throw them back in the water. He was told “ You’re just wasting your time – there are thousands of stranded critters! Do you really think you’re making any difference?”  to which the man replied (after replacing yet another starfish):

 “I made a difference to that one!”

OK – so my inner hippie is showing, but please, please pick up the phone, tap at your keyboard or write a letter to that invalid uncle, your old room-mate who’s now a single mom, your high school buddy who’s now a widower – anyone that you know who’s fighting to get through each day alone.

Tuesday’s Reflection on Monday’s Isolation

As much as I hoped otherwise there was a price to be paid for the work we did around the house this past weekend. I woke up Sunday feeling as though an icepick had been shoved through my right knee, and by Monday morning I was wondering if I would ever walk unassisted again in this life (which was a kind of “d’oh!” moment inasmuch as I have been using a cane for well over a decade now). I’ve made a habit of keeping a work-satchel handy but neither the sketch pads or laptops seemed to hold my attention while I forced myself to sit still and heal a bit.

I spent the time thinking.

One of my older friends insists  that I was born out of my time, that I’d be happier in Ancient Greece when ) “people just sat around and thought all the time”. I am partial to things like indoor plumbing, cushioned seating and heavier-than-air flight so I doubt I’d take a trip back in time were it possible, but there is something to be said about living a less-cluttered, less cacophonous life.

At this point I’d settle for just being able to go the corner store and buy a packet of Necco wafers.

 

It’s a Year

As I have written before I am beset with several autoimmune disorders, the cumulative effect being chronic severe pain in most of my joints, and while I welcome the chance to lay down at night and take the  load off those aching joints I dread mornings. Mornings are not my friend and when my Beautiful Saxon Princess wishes me a good morning I usually respond with “It’s a morning…”

That’s similar  to what I am feeling this New Year’s Eve. When asked about 2018 the best I can say is “It was a year”. The trip through life this year has been like taking a little sip of water out of a fire hydrant and I feel like a horse that has been ridden hard and put in the barn wet . I really dislike that diving-Stuka feeling I get in my stomach when alternately counting up setbacks and perils so for now my plan is to do my best to be kind, considerate  thoughtful – and to pray/meditate/generate “positive waves Moriarity” that 2019 is a better year for all of us.

I Never Saw It Coming

I’m a product of the Seventies in that both my social sense and my creative vision were influenced a great deal by what was going on in the decade from 1970 to 1979. Economically speaking it was terrible with most of the decade stuck in ‘stagflation’ – a stagnant economy wracked by inflation,  and the country suffered a major geopolitical black-eye in Southeast Asia. At the same time it looked like racial issues were being addressed, and the multicultural bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise more than an escapist’s dream – which made my heart warm. My parents were an anomaly for their generation in that they were color-blind when it came to race, and so the idea of  everyone of all colors getting along and working well together seemed only natural.

I was excited to be studying ‘commercial art’  as well and I loved the flamboyant renderings and splashy color choices of illustrators like Bob Peake that were so popular at the time. I looked forward to working in that design world, so at times it was challenging to have my illustration career on hold for five years while I served in the Army….but when I came out of the Army things were starting to change. Individual art directors were being replaced by committees and group-think tends to shun the experimental. Race relations were starting to change as well and the future didn’t seem as positive as we thought in the previous decade.

One indication of the changes was also one of my signature bodies of work –  the group of uniform designs I created in 1986 and 1987 for FASA’s foil-covered BattleTech House books. It was a marvelous opportunity and a great learning experience: if you line the books up in order of their production you can see a gradual positive change in both my figure drawing and marker technique.

Unfortunately that project is unlikely to happen again with the same results.

Why? Jordan Weismann was the sole art director for the entire project and he pretty much let me run with my ideas  –  in the entire series he turned back exactly one drawing. Unfortunately by the last book Jordan had left and I had to contend with three different people dictating often conflicting changes which made for a drop in concept and quality. I no longer had the freedom to excel.

There were other trends that were disturbing me… Early on in the BattleTech project I was able to keep that Enterprise bridge crew model-mix of genders and races but as the series wound up with the committee in charge, it seemed like all the figures they took exception to had darker skins or only “X” chromosomes. Those committee objections took me totally by surprise (hence the title of today’s post). I’d been tooling along with my Seventies goggles but when I stopped and took a good look around in 1988 everything was very different.

I won’t even go into how I feel about the way things are now, but rest assured that I still prefer that Seventies perspective and I still put more stock in a person’s actions than the way they look.

 


 

This laser-equipped trooper from the Eridani Light Horse happened at the very beginning of the series

Eridani Light Horse 19860001

Re-visualized version from earlier in this decade

Eridani Light Horse Color Rework

Unto the Third and Fourth Generation

Working with my Star Pupil doesn’t always entail slaving over the drawing board. This picture documents one of the many breaks we take in between drawing and sculpting,  though you could refer to this as yet another study session.

Art history –  because we are analyzing a classic television program…

Unto the third and fourth generation

I definitely I learned a lot from this session – as in discovering  the degree to which my hair has gone  thin and white…

Music: Wichita Lineman (Revisited)

 

 

There’s always “the one”, the friend that was either too hip or too nerdy, too edgy or too zealous to fit in with the rest of your friends and or family. You know the one:

  • Their name elicits snickers when mentioned.
  • They are allowed in the house only if an exit strategy is already in place with your folks.
  • Any positive traits seem to be known only to you.

If songs were people Wichita Lineman would be “that” friend.

Maybe it’s because it was too popular too many years ago and when it was popular our parents liked the song just as much as we did. We also have to consider the lobster-in-the-pot syndrome as well –  Americans tend to drag down a star just as quickly as a lobster escaping a pot of boiling water gets pulled back by his companions – and that song made a whole bundle of money.  Unfortunately what it boils down to for Wichita Lineman is that over the years the song has become the poster child for the comically un-hip; ironically touted as aural kitsch, which can be evidenced by its use as Uber-nerd Matthew’s rock anthem on NBC’s wickedly funny ‘90s sitcom NewsRadio.

It most definitely was not viewed so dismissively when it was released in late1968 as yet another hit song penned by Jimmy Webb. Wichita Lineman stayed on the top 100 for 15 weeks and as of Glen Campbell’s1 passing in 2017 it had sold over 350,000 downloads. Back in the day it was covered by a staggering number of A-list recording artists from a wide range of genres, and was praised by British music journalist Stuart Maconie as “the greatest pop song ever composed”.

…but that’s not why I love it.

For most of my youth I lived in areas where the wind blew.

All. The. Time.

With marginal tree cover there wasn’t much to keep the wind from coming off the Siskiyou Mountains and roaring past our home in Little Shasta Valley2. Likewise with Sterling Alaska: our ranch was situated right in the middle of the scrubs, snags and saplings trying to recover some of the 300,000+ acres leveled by the Skilak Lake Fire of 1947.

In both locales the wind blew past the homes, outbuildings, and through the winding lengths of power lines, phone line antennae, and guy wires that surrounded all those buildings, creating a haunting melody that changed as the wind altered its direction and speed. Despite the lack of a Walkman or even a transistor radio we never lacked for a haunting musical soundtrack to outdoor activities be it work or play.

By the use of high-pitched violins and strategically-placed changes in key, the instrumental background to Wichita Lineman comes closer to the sound and feeling of wind in the wire than any other piece of music I’ve ever heard. While the lyrics specifically refer to power company maintenance workers the message applies to anyone who has spent time around power or telephone lines running through a desolate windswept area; people who know that those lines aren’t just making noise – they’re voices talking – or better yet – singing to you.

It brings to mind Henry Farney’s masterpiece from 1904 Song of the Talking Wire.

Song of the Talking Wire

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve found myself standing in this gentleman’s moccasins. This image and Wichita Lineman come  the closest to capturing the essence of solitude on a windy winter night  – especially as I would walk in between hitched rides and listen to the wind and the wire sing. It gave me a sense of connection with something larger than myself – something cosmic.

….which makes this closing clip all that much more cool…in more ways than one.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-46490149/listen-to-the-wind-whistle-on-mars

It’s a very faint, very subtle sound and even with augmentation it’s hard to pick out, but what you are listening to is  a recording of the wind as recorded by the British seismometer package carried on Nasa’s InSight lander as it  detected the vibrations from Martian air rushing over the probe’s solar panels.

At least that’s what the BBC say it is.

To me it’s the sound of the wind in the wire as I’m walking from the highway to the ranch along Scout Lake Loop road.


 

Notes:

  1. It was only when Glen Campbell passed away in August of 2017 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s that the snarky comments began to slow down. It was then that Mr. Campbell, and by extension his work, started receiving the objective appraisal he so richly deserved. Consider for a moment the following list of achievements:
  • Twenty-nine Top 10 hit songs
  • Twelve gold albums
  • Four platinum albums
  • One double album
  • Multiple Grammy awards
  • A hit CBS TV series in the late ‘60s

Most noteworthy was his status as a charter member of the legendary group of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. The Monkees weren’t the only pop musicians that “didn’t play their own instruments”. Top 40 headliners from the Beach Boys on down would rely on the Wrecking Crew to provide instrumental back-up to their vocals when cutting a record.

2. located in the actively-volcanic high desert of northern-almost Oregon California.

Class Portrait

When NSCC kicked me to the curb last summer my Beautiful Saxon Princess told me that the only thing that had  changed was  the size of my classes. –  before I had anywhere from  25 to 30 students but now I just have one – my grandson Jayden.

I couldn’t agree more. Jayden is just the latest in a succession of kids growing up in my studio. We had a great day in the studio today learning about sculpture and sculpting tools and as  we were finishing up BSP decided to take pictures.

Initial shot

TheGuys2

Attitude Adjustment

TheGuys1

Final version….

TheGuys3