Monday, March 12, 2018

Lautrec and Peck

Hopefully you've all adjusted to the time change. Lucky for me I know how to change the clocks on the stove and the microwave and of course the good old fashioned one with actual hands, the rest of them have tapped into Skynet and all changed on their own. My previous two Jeeps rarely displayed the correct time.  I didn't know how to change the clocks and couldn't be bothered to look in the owner's manual to figure out how to change them. Daylight savings always feels like a gag gift. You take the wrapping paper off the box but you can't trust what's inside. You see a clock but you can't be sure it's correct.

There were several movies from last week but this is the one I chose to share, The Valley of Decision. It may have not been the best movie I watched but it's the only one with Gregory Peck in it. It's the third movie he made so it's a relatively young Peck but you can't tell, his acting skills in this movie are just as sharp as any other. This is one of those sappy "love" stories. Peck's character, Paul Scott, is the son of a wealthy steel mill owner. Paul works at the mill and his younger siblings spend the money. Mary, played by Greer Garson, is the "Irish maid" that's hired to take care of two of the siblings. The movie is described as the Irish maid falls in love with wealthy boss's son but it's more the other way around. Paul falls for Mary and what's not to like? There's no official trailer for the movie but I found this clip that someone put on Youtube, it shows Mary Rafferty bringing the sass. 
The book I read, Lautrec.  I'm currently working on a project that I needed some inspiration in order to get more momentum. Illustrating a children's book, it helps to know what the kids are reading these days, so I hit the pavement and headed to the library. Feeling somewhat satisfied with my brilliant idea to see how other artists dealt with design issues I made my way up and down the aisles to grab some books. I fully intended on looking, not actually checking anything out because, I'll admit it, I felt a bit creepy in the kiddie section. With a pile of books in hand I decided to look for a book that I would check out and read at home. As I was walking through the aisles, with much disappointment(seriously, this library has a whole section of Harlequin romance novels. LAME!), one of the librarians kindly mentioned that they would be closing in 10 minutes. Seriously? The sun was just beginning to set? The librarians must be werewolves. So, in a hurry, I grabbed a bunch of books that looked halfway interesting, nothing from the Harlequin section, soon to be renamed the old lady fan-fiction section.  I grabbed this book, Lautrec by Denys Sutton and felt pretty good about that selection. Then I went to check out and the librarian wasn't going to let me take it. She said I reached my limit of children's books, you can only check out five at a time. WHAT!? I was fully prepared to hand her one back but why did she call me out on this one and then call it a children's book? It reminded me of the time I volunteered as a docent and was teaching a classroom full of fifth graders about Vincent Van Gogh. There were two "naked lady" drawings in the books I passed around and OH MY GOD WHAT A HORRIBLE PERSON I WAS FOR SHOWING THAT TO FIFTH GRADERS!!!! Yea, that happened and the teacher wasn't even going to back me up on it, she told me if the parents got angry I had to deal with it. I don't volunteer with that group anymore. Point is, there are way more naked ladies in this book and it wasn't even in the children's book section, so what gives? Anywho, the book is put together very well.  The description of  the plates are really well done. Most books on art/artists have all the claptrap from art historians, but this is actually informative. They give the technical information, some background information on the people/places depicted in them and where they're on display,or at least were when the book was published. The introduction is a little art historian-y, as in it contains a slight amount of BS. When writers write as if they know why an artist painted a certain way, or why they changed their style, unless they can back that up they really can't say. Saying someone chose to paint something red because of some sort of influence, unless the artist themselves said it, it's speculation, BS.  There's another section called "Toulouse-Lautrec as Seen by his Contemporaries", how odd that almost every single one commented on the way Lautrec looked. "He looked more like an ape than a man", "with a broad forehead, fine and extremely intelligent eyes, he had lips of a startling scarlet, turned as it were outwards, and strangely wide, which gave a hideous expression to his face", "his black eyes shone furiously, eyes that amused themselves enormously", "he had thick lips, and hands such as he draws with bony, wide-apart fingers and bent-back thumbs". Then the section, "Toulouse-Lautrec as seen by the Critics", not as much is said about his personal life or appearance here, but about his work. None of them used the same words to describe his work, but it seems as though they all agreed he was a genius. They may not have enjoyed looking at his work, one even called it monstrous, but that same critic praised his genius for colour combinations and called him a master in all of the mediums. 
In a way I'm glad the librarians are werewolves because I would not have read this book if I wasn't forced to check it out and be on my way. I would have simply glanced at the pictures and left it for them to sniff out its home and replace it on the shelf. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Rotten Rivers

Snowy Day on the Skunk River

Last week I spent my free time watching Rotten. I know it's not a movie but it's just as good. It's a documentary series about the food industry. It covers everything from honey, poultry, allergies and fish. It was really well done and I encourage everyone to watch.  It's easy to think that people who seem to be fanatic about what's in their food are just some hippie weirdos but after watching this you might want to be more pro-active about what you purchase to put in your own body. 
The book I finished last week, What Did I Do? by Larry Rivers. My friend Deb gave me this book and when she handed it to me she shook her head, smiled and said 'it's weird'.  That can mean a lot of things but it intrigued me to say the least. Weird is one way to describe this book.  Wonderfully honest is how I'd describe it. I can't say I walked away a fan of Mr. Rivers or his work, there are a few pages with photos of his paintings,  but what a life. What a voice. He drags you through all of the emotions.  At first you'll think he's great, a young guy making it happen. Going on tour with a band, following his passion to be a musician, being patriotic by flubbing his way into the military. Then he makes you find him a vile and disgusting piece of garbage, all in a matter of paragraphs. We've all met people like that, they're fascinating and exciting until the curtain swells a little to reveal the man behind.  I like that he blew back the curtain really quickly in the book.  I would have been angry if I had read 300 pages thinking he was a great guy only to get to the last few chapters to see how he truly was. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

When Chaos Walks Into a Diner

Tourists 5x7" ink on Bristol. 

This day needs more coffee. Not to wake me up, but to clear the cobwebs. There was just so much going on last week and then I wake up on a Monday morning to practically nothing. It's the highs and lows of a free-lancer that's for sure. The rest of the week is picking up so I should cherish this moment/feeling of I have nothing to do and all day to do it. 

I had the pleasure of seeing a few new movies last week but this one is the one I choose to share with you.  I was looking for something to kill some time and went to my HBO GO app on my phone. It has recommended movies and in the 80s movies this one was among the many others, that I've already seen a gillion times, why have I never seen Diner? I'm not going to lie, I don't think I've ever even heard of it. If it's on a list of 80s must see movies, why haven't I seen it? Well, for one thing there's no horror involved, not the type I usually watch anyway. It's like St. Elmo's Fire and Animal House had a bratty kid. What I enjoyed most about the movie is the dialogue. It's honest.  Maybe not where you're from but for me this is how guys act around each other. Stupid, funny, loving, caring and sports lots and lots of sports. It's relate-able and that's one of the reasons why I enjoyed it. The other was Daniel Stern's character, Shrevie. He's arguing with his wife, played by Ellen Barkin, about his records. She's been listening to his records but not putting them back in the proper order. She put James Brown in the "J's".  It sounds neurotic but it's also inspired. To be so passionate and knowledgeable about something is wonderful. Yea, maybe it's just music to you but for him it's so much more.  He tells his wife about the first time he ever saw her,  where they were, when it was, the way she looked and what song was playing. It's probably the best part of the whole movie. 
The book reading has been all over the place. I'm currently reading five different books. I'm sure that makes zero sense to some of you but to me it's how I roll. Sometimes there's a lull in the book I'm reading and I have to move on. I always go back and finish but I just need a change of pace and when it's a long book it just happens. I know a lot of people who enjoy starting a new book but have trouble finishing.  It's like meeting people, at first they're all shiny, new and exciting, then you get to know them and you realise they're just as dull as the last person you walked away from. It just happens. Anywho, in order to supplement my need to finish a book in a week I grabbed this book, Cartoons of World War II. Yea, I know it's pretty much a picture book but it's one of the best picture books I've ever put in front of my peepers. I look at the political cartoons in the newspaper everyday and I'm rarely impressed. They all look the same and seem to be done by the same hand. Also, they seem really bitchy.  Perhaps cartoonists need to peruse this book for some inspiration?  
"Cartoons have a unique ability not only to unite and inspire, but also to get under the skin of those they lambast.  Napoleon once admitted that caricaturists 'did more than all the armies of Europe' to bring about his defeat."  
I found that the cartoons in this book are powerful.  Not only are they well done, they say something.  That's probably why the political cartoons are so powerful.  Even if you don't speak the language that's printed on them you can still see the message. 
"It must have been really exciting to be a cartoonist then. You were given absolute freedom to vent your rage, to provide a piece of your mind.  There were practically no limits.  You could characterize your enemy as graphically as you wanted.  You could distort and defame anyone on the other side.  Indeed it was your duty to do so".  
Perhaps that answers why the cartoons of today are so blah. Either way it was incredibly ejoyable and eye opening to look through this book. It's also pretty inexpensive

Monday, February 19, 2018

28 Days of Doom

At the beginning of February I decided to do a month long challenge. I couldn't think of anything better to do so I decided to draw Dr. Doom for 28 days.  After 19 days in and one helluva a bad Monday it made me laugh. Just as today has turned into a steamy pile of poo I looked through the sketchbook I made for the challenge and some days Dr. Doom looks really good and other days he's just a mess. Trying different poses and different mediums, it's a diary of Doom and his ups and downs.  His good days and bad days could represent mine as well. If only I had written notes about how I was feeling that particular day it may reflect on the way I drew him. I'm guessing on my good days Doom looks bad and on my bad days he looks good. For me, it's easier to try new things and have less of a fear of failing when everything else about the day is going well. On a bad day I don't want to try something new because it just adds to the stress that's already there. Today all of my stress is being caused by technology and having to work/associate with morons. I should have given both of those things up for Lent.

The movie I saw last week, Hostiles.  Most people know about my love/hate relationship with westerns so I wasn't too fired up about watching this.  The movie begins with a brutal scene and it made me a smidge angry. Portraying native americans as complete savages and trying to make you feel sorry for the white man who encroached on their land. It didn't sit well with me and it took me most of the movie to warm up to it. One word to describe this movie, emotional.  It will make you feel all of the feels whether you want to or not. Rory Cochrane's performance will make you wonder who's cutting onions. Seriously, he's so good.  Adam Beach plays Black Hawk and was easy to pick out but it wasn't until I was in the car, halfway home, until I figured out who played Chief Yellow Hawk. Duh, it was Wes Studi.  Studi and Beach were in a show together called, Skinwalkers and it's a good one. So the movie is basically about Chief Yellow Hawk, who is a prisoner, asking to be taken home to die. He has cancer so it's his last request. Christian Bale's character, Captain Joseph Blocker, has been given the task to escort Chief Yellow Hawk and his family from New Mexico to Montana. Blocker hates Yellow Hawk and at first refuses the job. When he's threatened with  a dishonorable discharge and no pension he changes his mind, but only about the task.  The story moves fast, there's a lot of things and characters thrown at you but it has some substance to it. The ending is very satisfying. Imagine being punched in the stomach a few times then your assailant hands you an ice cream cone for surviving. It's like that. 
The book I read this week, A Real Book About Stars, by Hal Goodwin.  I bought this book as a joke because when I picked it up and saw the cover it was funny.  A real book, no way, I thought it was funny like when little kids ask for a puppy and their parents give them a stuffed animal instead. This isn't a toy book, it's a real book. Either way I decided I had better read it since I bought it. It is a kid's book, not a children's book but maybe junior high age and up. Written in the 50s there will surely be complaints about how the information is outdated but since it had a lot of information I never knew to begin with I thought I'd give it a whirl. For example, I had no idea that Betelgeuse was the ninth brightest star in the sky. I just thought he was a character in a Tim Burton movie. You know what I really loved about this book?  There's a pronunciation dictionary in the back.  I've given up reading so many books simply because I can't get beyond not being able to pronounce the words. I never read a Harry Potter book until after the movies because it simply made me crazy not knowing how to pronounce the made up words. The names of stars are mostly based on Latin so it's not horribly difficult to get through this book but it was still nice to have that resource handy. This book really isn't all that fun but it's informative. You feel like you're learning something difficult to understand but it's being taught in a way that doesn't make you feel stupid or like you're being talked down to. If I ever come across any more "real books" I'll give them a read.

Last, but definitely not the least of what I did last week, I went to a cooking class and learned that I've been cooking almost everything wrong. No really. I also discovered I really like this stuff called olive salad. Apparently you need a good olive salad in order to make a good muffaleta, something else I didn't know. But this recipe was easy enough I can attempt to make on my own. Green olives, kalamata olives, capers,  lemon juice, olive oil and any other seasoning like salt and pepper, put in the food processor and pulse until it's chopped. Yum!  Put that stuff on everything. In the picture we were learning how to make bruschetta, something else I've been making wrong. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Julie, Julia and the Bell Jar

Ladies Lunching 7x5 ink on Bristol 
The movie I watched this week is one I never imagined I'd ever watch. I remember when it first came out and I thought to myself, huh that looks like a waste of a trip to the movie theatre. Nothing about it appealed to me.

The only reason why I watched this movie was because Pickles had surgery last week and she has stitches.  Since her cone of shame prevents her from walking up and down the stairs or out the door I've let her roam free without it but that means I must watch her like a hawk. That being said I was stuck in the bed with her, making sure she didn't rip her stitches out and I couldn't find the remote. I was trapped and let me tell you, any movie with Amy Adams feels like a trap with torture involved. She's awful, which was great for this movie because the main "character" is also awful. I say "character" because it's based on a real person, so the real life Julie is either awful or Amy Adams just made her really seem like an awful person, which is 100% believable. The movie is about a girl named Julie who is, besides awful, dying inside because SHE'S A WRITER. SHE'S A WRITER BUT SHE'S STUCK IN CRAPPY JOB AND LIVES IN A CRAPPY APARTMENT AND HAS CRAPPY FRIENDS AND A CRAPPY HUSBAND. Oh, wait, her husband isn't crappy at all. She keeps calling him a saint, which makes him angry, but that's because she only says it to him when she's being a horrible person and he puts up with her. Honestly, he was the only decent person portrayed in this film, well in Julie's portion of the film. So this awful person decides to push herself to write a blog, everyday, and share her experiences cooking recipes from Julia Child's cookbook. Which I was surprised to find out it wasn't just Julia's cookbook.  See how marketing works.  She's even a crybaby about something she chose to do. She makes a big dramatic production about some of the things she HAS to do, but then they turn out to not be so bad after all. Hopefully in  real life this wasn't acted out so poorly. Long story short, she cooked her way through the book and finally at the end she proclaims she IS a writer. OK, good job, nice pearls. Julia's portion of the story was more endearing and it had nothing to do with Meryl Streep's performance. Most people know the over the top Julia Childs, her mannerisms and oHHH, herrrrrRRR VOice. Awful, but like Bob Ross's afro and happy little trees, we will always associate her voice with her cooking. It's almost as if she couldn't cook without it. Her story is better because it made her not look like a big jerkface like Julie's story did. It showed the obstacles Julia had to maneuver and her strength to get through them. It showed how she didn't give up, and wasn't a whiny little twat about it. Throughout the back and forth of the story Julie keeps referring to this inspiration she received from Julia and how they had some sort of "relationship". It's sad really because it felt like Julie got none of the good parts about Julia.  Julia was passionate about cooking and creating something. Julie never shared her true passion. which she said was writing. Maybe it's just more easy for me to relate to Julia and her sassy, take charge ways and too hard to relate to Julie's whiny bitch, feel sorry for me attitude. In the end I'm glad I watched the movie. It's not on my list to watch again any time soon, but I might try to make the Boeuf Bourguignon
Lately there have been a ridiculous amount of coincidences in my life and I'm not quite sure what it means. The crazy coincidences continued when I picked up The Bell Jar right after watching Julie and Julia. I started reading The Bell Jar a long time ago but put it down because, OMG it's just so feminist. Seriously, I heard way to much praise for it from the feminazis that I just put it away. When I went to pick it up to start to read it again, I told myself it was just as stupid to not read it because of what the new wave of feminists are doing. Just because they want this book to be about something for them doesn't mean it can't mean something else to me so I plucked it off the shelf and began by reading the foreward. Ever since reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, I always read the forewards now. I used to skip them because I just wanted to get to the good stuff, but the foreward , written by Robert McKee,  to The War of Art is just as good as the book. The foreward in my copy of The Bell Jar is written by Frances McCullough. It's nicely written and tells the short version of her equally short career/life. The first coincidence was that I had picked up this book just days before the anniversary of Plath's death. That freaked me out a little bit. February 11, 1963 was the day that Sylvia Plath took her own life. At first it hit me, how sad it was that she was so young. Then something else hit me, how much she accomplished in so little time. She was like one of those sparklers that burns all at once instead of a slow, steady burn. The next strange coincidence came when I read that Knopf published her book. Just mere moments before reading that I was watching a movie about Julia Childs and her quest to be published and guess who published her mammoth sized cookbook? Knopf. WEIRD.  The thing about this book isn't that it has feminist undertones or whatever it is that's supposed to be there. What it has is an honest voice. It's not a cute story wrapped in pretty paper with a fancy bow.  It's been described as "dark" but that's probably because that's where most people hide their truths. I'm glad I grabbed this one back off the shelf and I'm putting it somewhere that I can see it easily so I can read it again very soon. 
On a side note, my copy came with eight drawings Plath did and they're pretty good. *sigh*

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hopper and Acantilado

Sunny Afternoon in Louisiana 16x20" oil on wood panel
It's just a coincidence that I read a book about Hopper and a friend suggested we go see a show featuring some of his work. He's one of my all time favourites, so of course yes to both.  I've read several books about Hopper but this one is short and sweet but contains a lot of photos of his paintings. In true chaotic fashion I've been reading more than one book.  That 400+ page book I mentioned last week, two that I keep having to put down because they make me angry and this one to keep me on the task of finishing and sharing with you.
With only about 30 pages of text the rest of the 125 pages filled with paintings and snippets of information on each painting. On page 60, "The Sheridan Theatre",  "When Hopper did not feel like painting he would go to the movies: 'I go on a regular movie-binge.' His favourite was the stunning 2,342-seater Loew's Sheridan Theatre built in 1921 (and demolished in 1969) in Greenwich Village."  After reading so much about Hopper I get the feeling that he's one of my favourites because of similarities between us. I also go on movie binges. I also lived in Mexico. I also sometimes just want to paint the light on the side of a building without having to make up some elaborate nonsensical story behind it. Something I found interesting was that, as children, Edward and his sister were encouraged to draw, paint and experiment with the supplies they were given. I'm curious to see what kind of work his sister produced. Not because of the whole boy vs girl narrative that some extreme feminists are trying to shove down our throats, but because it would be interesting to compare and contrast. It's always interesting to see what two different people create with the same exact materials.  Again, it's a fairly short read but it's a nice one that gives some background information on his life.

Acantilado, or The Cliff, is one of the movies I watched this week. I watched this right after I watched the documentary, The Family, about a cult in Australia. Both are well worth watching.  The Family is a little bit harder to watch because of the interviews. The children that were born into the cult, the women who were forced to give up their babies, it's rough.  The hardest part was when one girl said she was interviewed by the police and social services. They asked her if she was getting enough to eat and her response was yes, but how did she know what was enough.  She never knew what other kids ate or how the world really worked, she was forced to live in the cult.  Acantilado is also about a cult. It's based on a novel by Lucia Etxeberria, The Contents of Silence.  Imdb only gives it 5 out of 10 stars but I'd give it at least a 7 and I'd watch it again. It begins with several cult members voluntarily jumping off a cliff.  The cinematography in that scene alone was enough to get me hooked. The story was what kept me watching. A detective is hell bent on capturing the cult leader and when one of the cult members, Cordelia, is the sister of a district attorney it helps her and also makes the story much more interesting. Cordelia's body was not found among the member's bodies that washed up on the beach so they can only believe she is alive or dead somewhere else. If they find Cordelia they'll find the cult leader. It's a great thriller but with a serious story behind it. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Deception in Black and White

This is an ink drawing of an old movie theater in my home town. I never watched a movie in it when I was growing up because it wasn't open. It was a place before my time but it was loved enough that people put in a lot of effort to bring it back to life.  It's a nice venue to see independent films and movies that don't depend greatly on loud crashes and over the top sound effects. The acoustics aren't wonderful and the screen is smaller than what you get in the big cineplexes now, but it's an intimate setting which makes the movie going experience a little different. A few years back I went to see "To Kill a Mockingbird", in this theatre and it was a treat. It's possible that film was played in this very theatre when it was first released.  The crowd that showed up for the movie that day helped create the atmosphere of the movie. It felt so formal and classy like we were all there going to witness something really important. Most of us had already seen the movie but for those viewing for the first time, I think seeing it in that setting really made it that more special.

The new, to me, movie I watched last week was "Deception" starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains.  This movie is good despite me hating the main character. Davis plays a piano teacher/student but she's actually just a huge liar liar pants on fire.  She couldn't tell the truth if a piano was about to fall on her head. It gets depressing watching these old films and seeing how relationships are portrayed.  If life was truly like the movies it's no wonder there was a great depression, people were out of money, out of food and cheating and lying to each other all of the time! Perhaps I'm too naive but I hate to think people in real life treat each this way. Back to the movie, she plays the piano and she's in love with a man who was trapped in Europe after the war. She tried to get him into the United States and when he finally gets there she insists they get right back to the way they were before they were separated. She just happens to omit the fact that some other, highly successful, musician has been paying for all of her luxuries and he is under the impression that they're exclusive. All of the lies and deceit end up in murder but the movie ends at a weird spot.  For those who appreciate good cinematography you need to put this movie in front of your peepers.  It's a stunningly beautiful black and white film to see. As far as the characters, they're completely flawed.
As for the book I was going to tell you about, it helps if I don't start a 400 plus page book on a Thursday night to write about on a Monday. It's a good one so it'll be worth the wait.