Progress on the Beast

A lot of the simple graphic intensity does get lost as you add more layers, but there’s a richness to the color. I’ll probably do one more run-through, for straight black, which can sometimes add a lot of punch. Still no title, so I’m running out of time on that basic requirement. Obviously, there is both isolation and hope in the image.

I have another large print I’ll start on next week. It’s an interior, a bit more semi-abstract. I’ll post a progress report on that next. I don’t anticipate as many layers for the next one, as I’m not sure all the fine tuning really added much to this one. Interesting to find out, though!

Here are some links to previous incarnations of this print.

Neon Manifesto.

I’m in the process of posting year-by-year summaries of my artwork to my Facebook Fan Page. The latest deals with my colored pencil/oil pastel neon cityscape phase of the 80’s. I had just moved to Denver. Tomorrow I will post the latest progressions in the still-untitled large monotype I’ve been tracking here.

Have a look!

“Getaway”, Color Pencil, 1985 >

Don’t Drop the Ball

I previously posted a couple of photos showing progress on a large print. Printmakers like to call multiple runs through the press “drops”. Here is an entry on the first drop (or stage). And here is one of the second. Shown above is the 5th state, where it sits now. Below, there is some intermediate info.

I was in the studio Monday, but after staying up till midnight for a baseball game I was moving kind of slow, and forgot my camera. Fortunately, my friend Steve had his iPhone, so I’m posting some photos of drops 3, 4 and 5. Here’s 3:
Here’s the plate just before printing it.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s rare for me to do even a third layer on a picture so large, and this is the first time I’ve ever done five. This is partially the logistics of the beast, with many more chances to screw up the registration, etc. But it also has to do with losing graphic simplicity. For instance, though I like the cool grey and warm yellow/browns for adding visual balance to the sky, and a kind of surging richness to the land, I probably was a teeny bit heavy handed, always a problem for me. What do you think?

Spending this kind of time on a print allows for a more complex texture, but overworking it is always a possibility. A final drop is on the schedule next week where I’ll try to add blues and blacks back in, add a couple of minor compositional elements and bring it all into focus. Or turn it into an unholy mess. Stay tuned.

If I should fall from grace with God,
Where no Squishtoid can relieve me, If I’m buried ‘neath the sod, But the angels won’t receive me, Let me go boys let me go boys Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry -The Pogues

The Pogues were a definite part of the soundscape in downtown Denver mid 80’s, though the only ones who ever went there then were bohemians, punks and artists. I was more obsessed by the Replacements, Social Distortion and Husker Du, but pre-corporate KTCL played them enough to get me interested, and when a girlfriend gave me “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, I was pretty much hooked. She was thinking, Irish guy- Irish punk music, but of course as we’ve come to know, The Pogues did much more than single-handedly save Irish music from itself with their almost irresistable blend of Celtic rthyms and punk energy. They probably rival all but the Beatles, Ramones and Sex Pistols in the “number of bands started by-” category, and in fact, are one of a very few bands ( the Beatles and Ramones again come to mind) that can claim to have started an entire genre. And they also invented their own musical instrument- the beer tray (see Fig 1).

Whatever you may think of the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and the Real MacKenzies, it’s certainly true that none of them or their 5,000 Celtic Punk brethren would exist with out the Pogues. It’s also true that few have penned the type of song, such as If I Should Fall from Grace with God, or Sally Maclennane, or Broad Majestic Shannon that captures the fun and transgressive spirit of punk, while also being easy to mistake for traditional Irish music. I’m fairly certain no one has written a Christmas standard that features a drunk gambler and his junkie wife. It’s probably true that the entire crowd doesn’t sing along with Flogging Molly songs, though I don’t know; I haven’t been to one.

I haven’t been to a Pogues concert, either, though not from lack of trying. I just haven’t been able to get to Boston, New York or Chicago for one of their brief and infrequent American touch-downs. Now, fortune and Shane MacGowan’s liver permitting, that will change, as the Pogues make it to Denver for their first appearance. I did see Shane (with the Popes) at the Gothic Theatre a few years back- Shane only puked 3 times! Ah yes, Shane MacGowan- poet, warrior, drunken toothless mumbler.

So I’m not expecting transcendent musical moments here, though I’m pretty sure tears will flow, especially when they play “Thousands are Sailing”. Mostly I just want to say I saw them, sing “Dirty Old Town” with 3,000 other voices, and remember the days when Doc Martens and live music were a bigger priority than health care and mortgage payments, and we had downtown all to our (drunken) selves. It was the best decade in rock and roll, and the best decade of my life. I can’t get it back, but- with the help of a wee bit of beer- I can certainly try. Look for me there, I should be easy to spot -I’ll be the drunk guy in Docs.


I posted a few images from 2006 on my fan page on Facebook. There’s also 2004, from a previous post, and as I slowly organize my digital files ( and scan in the old slides), I’ll try to catch up on all the other years as well. Also, as the class didn’t fill, the deadline has been extended to Oct. 16, and the workshop will now run through Dec 7. If you know anyone who might be interested, please mention it to them. They are instituting online registration, and their website appears to be down right now, so no link. It’s, or you can call 303.778.6990. I’ll be posting class doings and photos to this blog, and we will keep it lively and fun. I believe you can also attend certain weeks, and pay a pro-rated fee. The full fee is $220 for all 8 weeks. See you there!

Round Peg In a Square State of Mind

Whew! Yes, it was a frantic September; yes, procrastination tends to feed on itself, and yes, (oh-no!) the Days-Without-Job portion of the Squish-o-meter is ticking off its final days.

What I like to refer to as Square State Tour ’09 did not provide a lot of cash. In retrospect not so surprising given the economy, and the shows I chose, most in places that like most American cities, struggle to see the value in buying fine art anyway. That was actually part of the plan; unfortunately there is no way to find out if these cities ( Casper, WY; Salida, CO; Albuquerque NM; sorry, UT..) will buy art until one goes and does a show there.

Nor was the timing something I could control; with the corporations racing to gut pension plans before Obama stops the Bushies’ greed-fest, I was in a take-it-or leave-it situation.

But the experience was still a joy and not just for its effect on the ol’ Squishometer. In fact, why don’t we step over and take a peek at where it stands, right now?

Days without job: 190

So I made 6 months, and again, I recognize that I’m certainly better off than most in corporate America, where personal time is viewed with suspicion, and creativity is something that appears only in those tacky motivational posters. Simply put, there is no substitute for time spent on your own goals. Other benefits:

– Got to see a lot of the Rockies, always a plus. Mostly stayed on the 1-25 corridor, from Sandia Peak and early fall Raton Pass roughly up to Laramie Peak, with Pikes Peak in the middle. Throw in South Park and College Peaks, with the late afternoon sun glazing the iconic western pyramids. It doesn’t get much better than that.

– Got positive feedback, and made connections that may be valuable in the future. Casper and Albuquerque seem within a few years of being viable art markets. Casperites in particular seemed to really be pained not to be able to buy art, as if in Paul Westerberg’s words, they were “aching to be” Also saw old friends, including after 30 years, high school buddy George.

-fine tuned my preparation and organization for future shows, and of course, there is no shelf date on unsold artwork. In fact, with all the new work I added this year it’s just more choice to offer when the economy improves.

-Finally, the surprising fact that Denver’s art scene is quite strong. We knew there was good work here, but importantly, Denver has begun to offer real support. The Denver show nearly tripled the other three in sales combined, and I’ve realized that it’s wrong to put down the scene, which only taps into coastal prejudices.

Upshot, for me, I’ll get used to my part time job, and sales will improve, though in 2010, they’ll be improving in Denver only. No other Rocky Mountain city is really ready for fine art. After things improve, I’ll look at other large cities.

Short-term, these positives won’t prevent the necessity of getting a job. Riding out the rough weather a bit. Just as those of us who may have wished for a quick turn around from the dark years in the political landscape are finding out, it’s going to be a long haul. Sunshine on amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty, eyes open, one foot forward.

Squish-o-Meter: Aching to be

p.s. Squishtoid will certainly continue, though I’ll have to re-calibrate the Squish-o-Meter a bit. Next up: more works-in-progress; approximately 4 solid weeks of Pogues/Detroit Cobras pre-hype, exegesis, and review; and Ohhh Yesssss- pointlessly bitter and scathing remarks about whatever benighted part time job I wind up falling into ( unless it provides health care, of course).

Stage (2) Fright

As promised, stage 2 of the aforementioned, as-yet-untitled print I posted a few weeks ago.

The blues and tans give it a bit fuller, more painterly feel, but of course, there is a little bit busier, patchier look now.

Planning an image is a bit tougher when you start from the black and brown ghost of the original drop, then work toward lighter, fuller colors. I’m usually traveling in the opposite direction (lighter to dark).

Still, I think a third drop is in order; probably another brown /black overlay to add detail and, as the Dude would say “tie the room together”.

I’ll post that one when it’s done.

Hot Off the Press

I’ve been adding fences and telephone poles to create at least a little tension. I do like the rhythmic minimalism, but fear that they don’t communicate the real visual power of western landscape. I often post new images, including intermediate stages at my fan page on Facebook.

Days without Job: 146
Squishometer: Squish, or be squished!

Weekend Squish: Book Review

It’s Pynchon month in Squishytown! We started the festivities off by bussing down August 4 to Tattered Cover for his latest, INHERENT VICE. Things really ramped up with a 94-word run-on tribute sentence wedged into the previous Squishtoid post – still far short of the 400+ monster that opens MASON AND DIXON, but I guess that’s why TP has a MacArthur Genius Grant and the Squish doesn’t (yet).

And now, because 77,000 reviews ( one for each wacky TP character moniker) in 2 weeks just don’t seem enough, comes my review. And unlike all the others, this one doesn’t mention the word “paranoia”. Oh. Damn.

Thomas Pynchon, a writer whom many associate with dense, hard to read doorstop -type books, has created what will surely become the entry point for his work with INHERENT VICE. The previous entry point, CRYING OF LOT 49, deals with the same place, Southern California, and many of the same cultural and metaphorical issues, but doesn’t have two things that VICE does: the easy flow of genre (here, detective) fiction, and an agreeable, heck, lovable- central character who smokes way too much pot, in much the same way Phillip Marlowe drank way too much whiskey.

That combination, lifted whole from the classics of the Noir era, smooths the way for Pynchon’s usual mix of irony, pathos and satiric humor, and provides a peek into the heartbreakingly funny and ineffectual lives he celebrates, along with the crushing, relentless systems of power and control that provide the juice for his electric and very post modern prose. It’s always sex magic versus death-mongering with Pynchon, but here he adds in a lot of nostalgia for late 60’s Los Angeles, and a spirit of place that, like Raymond Chandler’s, feels like the real deal.

Like LOT 49, and another earlier NoCal novel, VINELAND, that are quickly being formed by the commentariati into an ad-hoc trilogy, the goofy proles and bra-less babes who redeem their floundering, drug enhanced lives, speak to the betrayal of simple pleasures by those nameless, humorless forces of greed and frigid fear that would bulldoze a community to erect soul-less developments rather than nurture a neighborhood. Only this time, unlike past TP epics, even some of the villains have names and come off as flawed, almost lovable losers themselves.

Discussing plot is always somewhat beside the point in Pynchon. His characters are questers, lighting off manically in search of answers to questions they know not, stopping for a quick buzz or fuck along the way. There is enough here to keep the lovable losers scrambling and the pages turning, but Doc Sportello, The laid-back, hard-“baked” PI who tries to sort it all out, understands that in the end, it’s finding kinship through the smog that makes a city, however Noir, vivid and real. Pynchon appears to have made that leap as well, with the later novels, from VINELAND on featuring progressively more sympathetic characters; special mention made here of the exquisite MASON AND DIXON.

But will VICE please the lovers of intricate, labyrinthine masterpieces such as LOT 49, GRAVITY’S RAINBOW, and V? As one who’s read all of his books, many twice, and counts RAINBOW among the century’s best, I say it doesn’t have to. Pynchon’s done his fair share of heavy lifting. He’s metaphorically compared Information Theory to Thermodynamics, hefted Riemann surfaces and Hollow-Earth theories and squished in hashish and weird menages a trois. Now he wants to be Chandler or Elmore Leonard, or even Jeff Lebowski. Or all three. Wait, that’s a weird menage a trois, too.

Pynchon, if the famous Simpsons “appearances” and the trailer he did for VICE are any indication, may want to be popular for once. That’s not such a bad thing, and INHERENT VICE is not such a bad way to get there. If you never got past the famous 100-page barrier of GR, this eccentric yet agreeable book may get you to the bottom of the mystery of why it’s worth another try.

Goin’ Down the Road…

We’ve all got wheels,
to take us far away.
We’ve got [Squishtoid blogs] to say, what we can’t say…

-Flying Burrito Bros.

Spent the weekend listening to mountain music. That specific mix of Bluegrass, Folk, and Country Rock I first inhaled after leaving the bleak, Hard-Rock steel yards of the Queen City of the Lakes many moons ago.

It hasn’t changed much since I left the Queen City of the Plains (so many queens! There’s a Dame Edna joke in there somewhere..) to come to the Denver Punk scene. Some of it I can go months or even years without. But I don’t mind snoozing through the obligatory Grateful Dead homage to get to the good stuff- Billy Bragg or Gram Parsons. This is the sound track of the many mushroom- and pot-fueled mountain camp outs I’ve stumbled through out in the sage, under the Wyoming moon.

It’s late summer in the Rockies. That time when each hot day contains a hint, like a strip of cool white tan line at the edge of a well-filled yellow bikini, of something to be simultaneously longed for yet postponed as long as possible: Fall. Downtown Salida sitting in its 19th century glory on the banks of the preternaturally turbulent Arkansas River ( August would normally mark the end of flow, and the rafting, but we’ve had a wet Summer), rimmed by the Collegiate Peaks -tall iconic pyramids dappled with the slightly tarnished sunlight of August and skimmed by the fluffy billowing white clouds strobing by like freight cars, with the rustle of cottonwood leaves and the strum of mandolin riffs from the stage at this little festival in the park, is where wraith-like, Autumn ’09 first appeared for this Squishtoid.

It was a pleasant enough show, with a fairly steady stream of interested visitors, many of whom, I heard later, were still raving about my work when they entered the local Mexican bistro across the street; faint praise indeed when none were willing to put pen to checkbook. Oh, well.

Driving out, late sun sliding across rippled arpeggios of mountain peaks like a Sneaky Pete Kleinow solo, then up past the tailings and Superfund degradation of Leadville and onto 70 and down through its interminable, apocalyptically signed descent- ” TRUCKERS DON’T BE FOOLED! STILL 4 MORE MILES OF 6% GRADE WITH TIGHT CURVES!” and as a GP-synth-fill grace note the jagged lightning strokes slashing and hacking away at Lyons, or some other some poor farm town east of Denver.

I spent Monday organizing the garage, to avoid the sort of loading slip-up from Friday, in which a minor part of the tent was left behind ( Um. The roof). I avoided the 5 hour retrieval round trip thanks to a nice woman who had a spare, slightly wind-mangled pop-up, which thanks to the calm weather, worked like a charm. Except, of course, for the no sales part.

But to paraphrase Freewheelin’ Franklin, times of time and no money are better than times of money and no time. Part of the promised but still undelivered Squishtoid Manifesto, folks! Watch for it!

Of course, Freewheelin’ Franklin and his cannabinoid musings are very much on my mind lately, as I solaced my self after my zippo blanco show by laying in bed and finishing Inherent Vice. About which, full review tomorrow, though speaking as one who the only Pynchon books he hasn’t read twice are the ones he’s about to read twice, don’t expect a negative reaction, as it turns out to be kind of a page-turner without losing that delightfully bizarre TP mojo.

The run-on sentence in graf three being in his honor.

Days with out job: 139
Squishometer: “We’re not afraid to ride…”
Number of Words in Graf 3 Run-on: 94