Thursday, November 29, 2007

All I want for Christmas is for my body to hold together just a little while longer...

As I arrived home yesterday evening, my oldest child (Ross, 6yrs old) burst into the garage. He could barely contain himself. I couldn't hear him--the windows were up, and the only sound that would leak through anyhow was the sound of the engine reverberating off the various surfaces in the garage. But I could tell that he was shouting something. Once I finally gathered my things and extricated myself from the vehicle, I could finally understand what all the excitement was about.

He had a loose tooth.

This is huge. A big milestone. It's his first, and while he was an early teether, most of his friends have lost at least one tooth already. His contemporaries look like they belong at a convention of Tennessee mountain folk. When I see a group of them together, I have to fight the urge to pass out banjos, washboards and jugs. Not even the fact that he's one of the few kids his age anywhere with a silver tooth (he calls it his "bling") has dulled his ache to start losing teeth.

And I guess that's the big difference between being young and getting old. I'm pretty content to have all my body parts stay more or less attached. In fact, I'd be pretty alarmed if they didn't.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

a true fax

a true fax, originally uploaded by basest.

Let me start by saying that while I continue to be a little bit skeptical about the benefits of the slogans and platitudes that my current pseudoemployer displays to motivate it's workers, it is generally a decent place to work. I've had no complaints thus far. (Give me time, I'm sure I'll come up with something...)

Not everybody is as pleased with Office Max as I am. Much to my amusement, I found the above fax transmission that had somehow ended up at the fax machine on my floor.

I don't know how it ended up there. I don't believe there are customer service people on my floor.

And I don't really know what happened to this person to make them so angry. What kind of speech could Office Max possibly try to be silencing?

I do know that someone with access to a fax machine at the offices of Pacific Gas and Electric is very angry. I hope he has a better day tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


girlsketch_111907, originally uploaded by basest.

Don't have much to say today...or much time to write the many words I normally use to say so little. So here's a little sketch I whipped off in a minute or two.

I liked the energy of the drawing. Unfortunately, when I was finished, I realized her head wasn't properly attached to her body. I fixed it in the scan.

I'm interested in Truth in art...but sometimes you have to massage the truth a little bit to make it palatable.

Friday, November 16, 2007

today's report from the workplace

My status as an employee of the Company where I work is a little bit strange. I am not a true employee, as my paychecks come from a placement service, not the Large Office Supply Corporation where I work. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that I can't be sure whether or not I will have a job from week to week, or even day to day. A smaller inconvenience is that I am not allowed directly into the building, but rather have to login to a security computer every day and print out a new identification card that says "VISITOR", clearly signifying to anyone who might care to look at my badge that I don't genuinely belong. (I suppose this is a step up from high school, where my fellow students didn't need any sort of identification. They assumed that I didn't belong.)

The upside to this is that even though I otherwise function as a full-time employee, I feel free to park my car in the spaces reserved for visitors. It's the perk I give myself as a pseudoemployee.

This morning, the gentleman in front of me was having some difficulty logging in as a visitor. As it happens, he wasn't a freelancer like me... more of an actual "visitor". Visiting. And it had been some time since his last visit, so his information was no longer active in the database. If I saved any time by parking in the visitor spaces this morning, I lost it because I was waiting for this guy to be processed.

This gave me some time to glance around the building some. I actually like the building, but find some aspects of it unsettling. It's five floors, not including the basement, which houses the cafeteria. The office spaces are all centered around an atrium, so there is a lot of open space in the building. There's also a hole cut out of the lobby floor to expose parts of the eating area of the cafeteria. This creates a strange sense of space that I'm sure the architects designed to make the interior of the building even larger than it is, but in me manages to induce a slight sense of vertigo. I avoid walking to close to the edge of the walkway. Even though there's a 40inch glass wall to keep me safe, I imagine myself plummeting to my death and really spoiling someone's lunch.

The Company sends mixed messages to it's employees in the form of slogans applied in large vinyl appliqué letters applied to various glass surfaces throughout the building. From my side of the building, I can see the tagline "passionate | innovative | fun" repeated in a friendly font along a whimsical curvy path. This is on the windows on the third floor. If my work area was located on the other side of the office, the direction from which I was looking this morning, standing by the security station, I would get a completely different message.

Those on the South side of the building enjoy a different kind of inspiration. If your perspective finds you facing north, you will read five different phrases:

focus & discipline
sense of urgency
think company & customer first
teamwork & trust
integrity & accountability

Instead of following a curved path in a light typeface, these messages are bold and straight. Less friendly. At least they're lower case, otherwise, it would be a really aggressive use of type.

So today I count myself lucky that while I work I'm reminded to be passionate, innovative and fun. worst, to work on my enilpicsid & sucof.

Monday, November 5, 2007

art therapy

Over the weekend, I spent a good portion of time coaxing the likeness of a dead man and his wife out of a charcoal pencil. I happen to be able to somewhat accurately render people's portraits in a variety of media--charcoal, oil paint, watercolor. I can't recall when I discovered this skill, but I have reasonably good portraits dating back to high school. Actually, I have a pretty nice piece that I drew of my grandfather who died when I was in 8th grade. I'm better now...but for that age, I wasn't bad.

When I was younger, most of my subjects had been alive when I drew them. Often they were girls to whom I was trying to ingratiate myself. (They were flattered, but I rarely achieved my intended objective.)

Around this time of year in 1999, I quickly drew a portrait of Polly's dad for use on the memorial folder at his wake/funeral. This turned out to be a good marketing move. That drawing has led to a fair amount of portrait commissions. I haven't exactly kept track of it, but I'm pretty certain that I have sold more portraits than any other kind of art. Not that I've really focused on selling my art.

While I have been commissioned to do a fair amount of live people--children, engagement portraits, that sort of thing--I have also drawn probably more than my share of dead people. I don't mind. It's nice that I can do it, and those left behind often appreciate it. It has lead to the occasional awkward exchange. I can think of at least one family member who liked the memorial portrait I had done of one relative or other that he wanted to be sure that when he shuffled off this mortal coil, I was ready to capture his likeness. I don't think I have to work from his actual corpse. I think it's probably okay to use a photo.

Which begs the question: is it a life drawing or a still life? Not a bad name for an exhibition of these death portraits...something to consider.

Speaking of exhibits, recently I entered a not-so-recent painting into a local art show. I felt a bit fraudulent, because my artistic output has mostly been limited to random sketches, some illustrations for theatre posters and the occasional portrait commission. The piece I entered was done in 2000. However, the requirements for the show was that the artist resided in the Fox Valley area, the work was ready to hang and it hadn't been entered in this same show in previous years. Age didn't matter. I presume the Mona Lisa could have been entered, if the Louvre was inclined to loan it out. And if Leonardo DaVinci's remains had been exhumed and moved to Aurora.

The show is called "Vicinity 2007" and the theme is that all the artists live within some radius of the gallery. I entered in the show for a couple reasons. There were five monetary prizes, one for $1000 and four for $250. Those would have been nice, but I really didn't expect to win. (And I would have really thought myself a fraud if I had won, since the work was so old. Still would have cashed the check, though.) The real reason was to pad my resume. I want to get in the habit of making art work and exhibiting it, and I wanted more juried shows to name check for that purpose.

About a year and a half ago, I did a solo exhibit of my work. All of it was old work. It was my intent that it would be the last time this stuff was shown, and I would start to make new work. I called the show "Cobwebs" and promised myself that I would take this opportunity to dust off my creativity and start to make new work. My hope was to have built up a large enough body of work to do another solo exhibit of new work within a year.

I broke that promise.

So feeling like a bit of a failure, I attended the opening reception for the Vicinity show yesterday. It was a bit of an odd experience, but would have been odder if I had more invested emotionally in it. I went with Polly and her mother, and we took the three kids along. I wasn't crazy about the idea of taking the kids along. Polly didn't think it would be a big deal. Nothing that happened at the exhibit change either of our opinions. Our kids are relatively well behaved (with the exception of Rosalie, who at 2 has taken the idea of the terrible twos to heart). No scenes were made. No art was ripped off the walls. Ultimately, I wasn't able to relax and focus on the event and look at the art and hang around anonymously near my painting and listen to other people's comments about it because I was more focused on what the kids were doing. So I guess it's just a matter of opinion. That said, I did enjoy talking to Ross (my six-year old) about the art. I just would rather have done it when the gallery was less occupied.

I didn't win any prizes. Not even an honorable mention. I don't know if I would have known before the event whether or not my work had been awarded. Even so: while I would have felt a fraud had I won anything, and didn't expect to win a little part of me was disappointed. I guess I'm just a little bit human.

(The piece I entered in the exhibit is's a portrait of my uncle and grandmother from a photo taken when they were in Cuba, juxtaposed with political iconography. There was a theme running through my work about 7 years ago that dealt with some of those ideas.)

santos de la revolución 2000, originally uploaded by basest.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

another day, another drawing

creepy-old-man, originally uploaded by basest.

All is quiet on the western front...or whichever front upon which I happen to be. Instead, I present you with yet another quick sketch I did at work. This time, I wasn't even waiting for my computer to do anything...I was just...


I was sort of playing with using lines to create the illustion of drapery in the guy's cloak (frock, habit, whatever he's wearing). I think I was successful in some parts.

Friday, November 2, 2007

sketch of the day

snow-beach, originally uploaded by basest.

nothing really to say about this. just a random sketch done at work while waiting for a really giant file to save. I wasn't even doing anything to the file, just saving it in two variable press-ready formats. The whole process took me about 1 1/2 hours. The sketch didn't take that long. I'm slow...but not that slow.