It seems to be a bad year for my little cat friends. An old buddy/ex-bandmate, John Skaritza, from Richmond asked me to paint a portrait of his ailing furfriend, Shumai. She passed away before the portrait was finished, but hopefully this will serve as a nice memorial. The fact that she's primarily black and the reference photo was kinda blurry made this especially challenging, but I think it turned out pretty well. Shumai, you will be missed!
Sorry for the forced sabbatical. The ol' computer was in the shop (broken disc drive one month after the warranty expired) for a while.
We decided to significantly pare down the Hanukkah/Xmas gift-giving extravaganza around here this year, so we decided on one big present each for Hanukka and one small one for Xmas.
Every year I try to get an artist both Karen and I like to do a portrait of Pony, so this year Jeffrey Brown was nice enough to do the honors. Like myself, he's a big fan of cats so he suggested including Lucy in one of the usual stand-offs between warring factions Ponysville and Lucillistan. I laugh every time I look at it, and hopefully Karen does, too.
Karen's gift to me was, I'm assuming, inspired by the tedium of seeing me drag out the same bear costume that I've been using since my friend Ben Snakepit (nee White) donated it to me in 1996 or so. Granted, I always switch up the theme (carrying a Torts law book = "Bearly Legal", Wearing moustache with halved baby doll attached = "Beart Reynolds & Dolly Partin'", etc.), but she's not as big a fan of puns as I am. So, now I have a whole new theme to work with, as well as being able to represent one of my favorite primates: The Gorilla. Behold:
Sorry for the screaming all caps subject heading, but I'm excited! I just opened an acceptance letter from the Xeric Grant Foundation. That means that I'll be getting a cash award to publish my first solo collection of comics. From everything I've read, it's a total headache, and you can count on breaking even at the very best. I've never been a good businessman, so I suppose it will be business as usual. I'm just eager to learn about the printing process, the advertising & promotion process, and the dwindling funds process first hand.
I struggled a lot with this little guy's face, but I think I finally nailed it. The background color palette harkens back to the days when I'd use harshly bright primaries right out of the tube, but in this case I think (hope) it works.
I also started a portrait for my old pal John Skariza from Richmond. His little buddy is very sick, but hopefully she'll muddle through. This portrait should be very challenging since the photo is somewhat blurry and the cat is mostly black. We'll see what happens!
Another good friend (and talented photographer) Aubrey Edwards' poor kitty, Harry, had to be put to sleep this week. I know it's never an easy decision, having just been through it with one of my cats, but sometimes you have to let them go so that they don't suffer. Here are a couple of portraits Aubrey snapped before heading to the vet. R.I.P., Harry!
Our ex-roommate, Chris, has told us about past holiday parties at his work in which the owner puts up $1,000 for the winner of a fried cheese ball eating contest. There are different rounds in which speed is usually a factor (three balls in under two minutes is the general rule). Each ball is a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Sometimes they'll have to eat jalapeno poppers or chug a full glass of Coke in 30 seconds.
I've begged Chris to get me into one of these, and he came through on Wednesday. His boss allowed Karen and I to attend (we were the only non-employees) under the condition that we not bring a camera. This only made it more intriguing.
We got there about an hour before the contest, but we were entertained by people riding the giant mechanical bull. The guy controlling the bull was beyond ennui...he seemed depressed. I ended up watching him more than the people riding the bull. Everyone would be freaking out and cheering, booing, whatever, and he'd be absolutely nonplussed.
When the cheese ball competition started, Karen and I squished into a spot right at the front of the long table. It was the perfect view of all involved. The referee stood above them yelling into his bullhorn, forcing them to wolf down the giant disgusting cheese balls (in fairness, Karen wanted one very badly, so I guess they're only disgusting to us vegans). The climax arrived when, as Chris had promised, a guy puked into his lap. Apparently, this year was much tamer than last with only one guy throwing up, but hey, I enjoyed it immensely.
We were in the perfect spot for wonderful photos, but as I mentioned, we weren't allowed to have cameras. Sorry!
Here's a new painting of a bunny wearing a pirate's hat. You might think the person who commissioned it would be a Williamsburg hipster or something, but you'd be wrong. He's a middle-aged realator who drives a BMW or Mercedes or some such sports car! I love when people defy my expectations.
You all know how I loathe the winter. Well, last year I found the silver lining to the black cloud that is November through March: Honeycrisp apples. Every sunday I stock up at the farmer's market near my apartment. I recently discovered (via a random poster somewhere on Orchard St.) that Honeycrisps have only been around since the early '90's. Oh man, they're delicious.
In other food-related news, I've been experimenting with recipes I wouldn't usually make, hoping to shake things up. Last night I made a roasted root vegetable dish (along with a snow-pea shoot based salad with tahini-vanilla dressing). The verdict: I still don't like beets, but the rest (parsnips, yams, carrots) were good.
In art related news, I went to a couple of good shows this weekend.
My old bandmate/buddy Marty Key plays with Ted Leo & The Pharmacists now, and they played a benefit where they first played a set of their music, then played backing band for live karaoke. Andrew W.K. was the emcee. Several people wanted to do karaoke versions of Ted Leo's songs. Personally, I would find it strange to sing someone's songs while they were right behind me, especially if I didn't know the words and pretty much slaughtered it. But, apparently other people didn't feel that way. I was feeling kind of sick when I got there, but the healing power of rock n' roll cured my sore throat.
The other show was of the visual art variety. My pal/ex-coworker Jay Pluck curated a collection of paintings by ex-Utrecht employee Zoe Nelson and current Utrecht customer Joseph Greenberg. It was incredibly packed, and we couldn't see the artwork, so we stayed long enough to say hi to our friends and then got some dinner. I can't remember ever seeing Joe so happy, so that was gratifying. He's actually the guy that led me to draw my "Old Man Winter" comic. The character doesn't look like him, and hopefully the events are not in any way predictive of his future. He always talks adoringly about his deceased wife, and you can tell how much he misses her. The essence of that loneliness was the germ of the "Old Man" comic.