Thursday, September 22, 2016

ART & CRAFT: The True Story of Forger Mark A. Landis

Mark A. Landis
I just watched one of the more stunning art or artist themed offerings available on Amazon Prime's movie channel. The subject?  About masterful forger Mark Augustus Landis who never charged a penny for his "masterpieces" yet managed to dupe museums for over 30 years! It is one of the more compelling and perplexing tales I think in the annuals of forging. It definitely reminded me of another book I read about forgeries and how to make them. The astonishing statement in that book was the authors statement that up to 40% of all masterpieces in art museums are forgeries.

This movie basically is about the mission of registrar Matthew Leininger who in doing his due diligence regarding any purchased or donated work of art discovered that pieces donated to Oklahoma City Museum of Art by Landis were also being shown in several other museums across the country. Since few artists, excepting Monet, ever make successive works of the same subject he came to realize that the donated works were also "donated" elsewhere. Ah, the Internet is having an effect in rooting out forgers.

Born in 1955 in Virginia to a father who was a lieutenant in the US Navy, he and his parents were
Poster for Art & Craft, the movie about Mark Landis.
Directed by Sam Pullman and Jennifer Grausman It poem
posted to many places around the world including the Philippines, Hong Kong, with NATO in Europe, France, London and finally Brussels where Landis began forging stamp cancellations for friends. His father died of cancer when he was 17 after moving to Mississippi where he still resides. He was admitted to a Kansas hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia being unable to cope with the loss of his father. It is a moving scene as he reads the report about himself from that time. Yes, he still had the documents! I don't think that I would have kept them. He seemed unfazed by the various descriptions of his mental state.

Landis at work. Every artist will recognize the tools and products he uses!
While the movie lightly touches on this, it is clear from watching him throughout the film that he is, well, not quite right. Yet somehow, he remains an amazing artist making copies using the very latest technology. I thought, well, he definitely isn't as simple as he appears. However, it is the scene where he goes to Hobby Lobby to buy frames for his work that makes you realize just how easy it is to make a masterpiece.

While he never graduated from college he did take classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and then in San Francisco where he worked on the maintenance of damaged paintings. For over 30 years he copied, giving his work to a variety of museums, churches and other public entities often of the same subject noting that "it gets easier each time you do it." Well, yes, I guess so! I know that when I would lose a days work doing graphic design work, the second time around certainly was faster to do as I had already worked out the problems I faced the first time.

Meininger and Tullos preparing for the show "Faux Real"

Landis with his forged "Mona Lisa"
Ultimately though, It was Matthew Leininger's obsession in stopping Landis that ruined, in many ways, his own life. A variety of magazines discovered this forger over the past few years and even some of his identities, one including a Catholic priest who gives away his masterpieces. After he attempted to give away another work saying that it belonged to his mother the director of that museum asked his register to examine the "gift" and the investigation revealed the fake. Museum director Mark Tullos teamed up with Meininger to expose Landis and ultimately organized a gallery showing of his work entitled "Faux Real" with 60 of his creations and the priest outfit he used in some of his donations.

Landis, viewer and Tullos at
Gallery show "Faux Real."
The irony in all this is that Landis had not actually broken any laws despite his deceptive activities.
No legal action has come forth. However, the film does show him meeting people at his show who ask him, "With your talent why don't you create your own paintings? Sign them with your name?" In fact he did his own original paintings but, of course, they never seemed as important as the masters he copied.

If there ever was a question about an artists talent Landis would certainly be the person to question. Here was an immensely talented artist who while skilled may have lacked the very factor that makes a great artist - the ability to create his own vision; not only create his own vision but be able to put it on canvas in a style that is uniquely his own. Like he said earlier, the first one takes much time and thought, it becomes easier with each successive copy. The masters he copied already had done the heavy lifting, all he had to do was faithfully copy what they had already done.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Crafting A Yellow Birdhouse: Additions Make All The Difference

Basic birdhouse, new feet, wooden
hearts and wooden trees.
One of the things I have to be aware of, when you are on blood thinners, is to beware of very sharp objects. Anyone who takes this medicine knows what I am talking about. A cut to the average person becomes a slasher movie in very short order for me. Yet, I am never completely happy with the items that I can buy.

Even though I forgot to photograph the birdhouse in its raw state, it still looks pretty bleak here. Adding the feet takes it a step above the original state and the addition of wooden hearts gives a dimensional embellishment to the painting that will follow.

Thinking the sides were a bit boring, I added wooden cutout trees and planned to paint them "treelike" and would glue them at the end of the project.

Armed with a pencil, pen and soft eraser the birdhouse takes shape!
This project started off as a sketch, one that I worked on at the new Palm Springs Art Group's studio, Studio 9. It happened quickly and during that afternoon I was able to create two designs!

Choosing a body color is often quite difficult. I try to decide on a basic color and based on that add other colors that I think compliment both the body color and what I envision in minds-eye. It may sound easy but can lead to all kinds of problems, especially when the colors don't work out the way you thought they would.

Putting the colors together
When we were decorating the new upstairs master bedroom after completing a second story on our home, we spent many hours deciding what colors we wanted up there. By dormering the roof front and back we would have lots of light but how could we tame the south facing windows? We settled on a peach paint for the ceilings and some of the walls but the bedroom portion was to have a forest green wallpaper and curtains. The wallpaper had small flowers arching across the walls yet went well with the peach paint. Trust me ... you had to see it. For carpeting we picked a medium coral color that won out over a pale mint green seen in the wallpaper. We felt the mint green would have made it look too dead. Since we couldn't find anyone to paint this new area, I would spend hours every night, after work, painting peach paint on new drywalled ceilings and walls. Next we had the wallpaper man come to put up the wallpaper and the next day the carpeting man so we could move upstairs before Christmas.

I will never forget the night after the wallpaper was put up. I dashed upstairs and looked at what had been done. I thought I had been sucker punched it looked so ugly. The deep green didn't go with the walls at all. With the carpeting man coming first thing in the morning all I could think of was that I was going to have to paint another color all over again and this time on top of the carpet and wallpapered walls. When my mother-in-law, there to let the carpet man in, called me the next day, urging me to come home for lunch, I went with a heavy, HEAVY heart. She was all smiles when I walked in the door and motioned me to go up and look. I can remember trudging up those stairs thinking, can it get worse?
I tend to paint the back to
mirror the front, many times with
a fake black bird-hole.

When I opened the door and beheld the carpeted room, I was stunned at how wonderful it looked. It was simply perfect. Somehow, that coral carpet pulled it all together just like the samples we had looked at and agonized over. Two of the three were disasters. When all the pieces were put together it worked. For artists, for many other people as well, colors work that way.

Painting the roof makes a difference.
I started this birdhouse at home, trying out the colors to see what would happen. The yellow was very bright but could handle the red and white as well as the three greens I chose ... black green, a Hauser Green and a citrus green. The dark green on the base was a wonderful contrast to the red feet and the various "leaves" were used from dark to light up the red hearts.

Once I got the front, back and sides painted, I stumbled yet again. What to do with the roof? For many years I would ignore the roof and either draw tiles, straw or use a multi colored series of strokes on top of a dark color ... usually an uninspired brown. I have moved away from that but what to do here. Like my home, the roof is very prominent. Finally after a bit of experimenting, I decided to try using the same colors for the roof as well as the trees setting them both off against the yellow.

Picking up the dark green from the base, I used teals and raw sienna stokes picked up from the tree to see what it would look like. The wonderful thing with acrylics is that you are merely another coat away from perfection! Putting two hearts on each side of the roof picked up the hearts on the front and back and made it look more unified. It is so tempting to add color and then more colors before you realize you are dealing with 15 or 20 colors.
Painted but not aged.

Just like the wild layouts in the early days of desktop publishing where a page might have 6 or 7 fonts and was usually unreadable (they had to call in retired typesetters to teach a new generation the secrets of typesetting) adding more and more colors does not make a craft lovely. If you study the finest pieces, the ones you might like the most you will see there are only 8 or 9 basic colors. Much Chinese and Japanese pottery used just blue on a white base to create some of the loveliest designs ever seen.

The antiqued final
What makes it lovely is those colors are repeated over and over yet in different and exciting pairings. I've had classes where just the face of a Santa had 15 different colors. It took so long to get those colors for just a dab, that I mixed them to the horror of my table mates. Coco Chanel had it right, "Less is more." It really is.

My style and yes it my alone is that while I use bright, vibrant colors, I really want each of my pieces to look old not new. I have always tended to antique each piece after taking a class that showed how bright, maybe discordant colors can be brought together when the whole is toned down. I loved the concept and couldn't wait to go home and put a few of my already finished, and admittedly garish pieces, to the test. I loved the effect and was especially pleased when people would ask where I had found this lovely old birdhouse, tray or platter.  When I said it was something I had done, they would stare, pick up the piece and give it the once over.

So, we don't have to just settle for what is out there in the marketplace. Just like scrapbooking I would guess, it is what you add to the project that makes a delightful whole.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design affects our lives ... and always has. 



Sunday, September 11, 2016

An Artists Senses: Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell, Touch

SMELL: Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell - 100,00 greater
than ours
Every morning, and I mean every morning, my dog Maggie wants to go for a walk. Not just around the perimeter of the condo complex for the WPP (walk, pee and poop)  but outside the gates into the "real" world. Even though, at least during the heat of this summer, we go very early in the morning, usually around 5 a.m., if not earlier in the dark of night, we follow about the same two routes ( I let her pick the one she wants). She always manages to find something new to sniff.

I finally became aware of smell the other day after Maggie smelled the same place about five days in a row. I realized that no matter if we went on the same route each and every morning she was constantly sniffing. I could only wonder, what was she smelling and how wonderful it must have been to her! I really have a terrible sense of smell but she sniffs and sniffs during the 30 or so minutes that we walk every day. What is her world like?

Recently I became acutely aware of this and wondered, how different her world must be to mine. Now Maggie is a black, and greying, 9 year-old Labrador Retriever. Unlike most breeds not only does she sniff the ground she looks up observing things above her as a good retriever should. Since moving here she has become a lizard catcher par excellance! She will even jump to catch lizards once narrowly missing a foot long one on a 5 ft. wall. Some she eats, some are left as "gifts" for me.

If we consider the 5 basic senses: sight, hearing, taste, small and touch, I began to muse about about our senses and how they affect how we see the world. Even though artists are considered mostly involved with "sight" I realized in many ways we are influenced by the other senses as well.

SIGHT: Dali, The Melting Watch
Starting with "sight" I realized that there are two kinds of sight - what we see around us and as artists, minds eye. While we can see the world and many great works of art record what the artist sees, an artists minds eye can often be as moving and unique as anything around us. If there were any artists that personify "mind's eye" it would have to be Picasso or Salvador Dali, ironically both famous and art changing Spanish artists. To me, they revealed how they felt they saw reality rather than portrayed reality itself.Are they wrong? I think not. We are so influenced by the world we see and don't see that sight is often considered to be the artist,'s, especially painters, greatest sense.
Ancient Egyptians recognized the importance of the eye

However, I say, not so fast. The other senses often influence us in ways we may not always be aware of. Anyone who has even seen the Disney movie "Fantasia" knows that the challenge for Disney and his artists was portraying how they felt the music they heard could be portrayed. Who can forget
HEARING: With iPod's and headset is music far away?
"The Night on Bald Mountain," "Ave Maria" or Beethoven's "6th"? Even "Dance of the Hours" with hippos and crocodiles dancing is memorable. I know that I cannot hear Strauss's "Blue Danube" played without seeing the Pan American shuttle flying to the space station in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Hearing today is not just the cacophony of the daily noise but noise we bring with us. Gone, mercifully, are the boomboxes of the 70"s and 80's. Now we see people twist and shout walking down the street thinking they have lost their minds ... that is until you see the ubiquitous white wires dangling from their ears. Hearing, as the painting clearly shows on the left, is something that affects and is often a subject of our art. Remember, Beethoven, deaf as a door created the greatest symphony ever written stone deaf. They had to turn him around so he could see the applause after its first performance! Was he a great artist? He  had both sound and art in mind.

That said, think record covers, concert posters, even t-shorts and hats, all artistic items extolling or recording the passage of music in our lives. Our here in the Coachella Valley the number of concerts create a blaze of artwork on billboards, advertisements, even the tickets allowing you in! There is simply no shortage of art.

How valuable is poster artwork? Watch "Antiques Roadshow" sometime and see what some of those posters from Woodstock, a Beatle Concert, Rolling Stones circa 1972 are worth. Sound begat art!

TASTE: Those who know, how what flavor this truffle is!
Taste may seem to be a risky choice for art but then ... look at the artwork you see on just about every package. Restaurants in Japan make models of their dishes so everyone, but especially Westerners, can go look and point. I know, my daughter was allergic to fish. Can we say the model maker was not artistic? The challenge was to create a fake meal that looked real and very, very tasty.

If you think that food has no place in art, think again. Some of the most famous and most important paintings in the history of art revolved around food.
Cezanne - apples, pears and peaches

Paul Cezanne and many, many others have made food, and paintings of food some of the hallmarks of their art. Eating food, meals and even what's left over have all had a place in art. Yes, taste is often portrayed and is considered an important piece in the history of art.

That leaves us with the last of the five senses, touch. Who among us doesn't remember finger painting? It was one of those rare moments, usually in school, where we could get paint all over our hands (and frequently ourselves) and could smear it all around. We already knew that doing that at home was not good. To do it in school, of all places, with the often sour-pussed teacher lurking over us, was a thing to behold. I discovered on a visit to my sister that she had taken up coloring in adult coloring books. While not as messy, it was not unlike the sudden infatuation we had with finger painting.  While we were told  not to go outside the lines, we can now if we wished. There is a kind of freedom, within bounds to be sure, to pick the colors and method you want to color with.  I really wouldn't be surprised if some sort of fingerprinting made a return ... only this time for adults! Just smearing that paint around with literally no limits sounds both liberating and sinful!

TOUCH: Possibly the most famous touch in art history,
God reaching out to Adam on the Sistine Chapel
If you are an artist like me, or have observed artists at work, we are not above using a finger to smear a line, or enhance a stroke. I am usually covered with paint after craft painting. Sometimes your creation just needs a little help, help that darn brush just can't manage to do!

Your senses are literally your greatest ally. Let not just what you see or feel define what you do and create, don't be afraid of your mind's eye ... how it perceives sound and smell and taste. The next time you prepare a dish look at the random way your leave your food, the knife, the cutting board. Is it something that is artistic? Could you paint it? Improve the composition? Does it make a statement? Do you take the time to record it? A quick sketch, a cell phone photo? Why not?

Look at great art and see how each of our senses have been portrayed from the ancient Egyptians until modern times. It you want to see what artists have done since time immortal, go to Google's home page, click images and when that comes up type in touch, sight, taste and see what comes up. You will be more than amazed!

Art does not exist in a vacuum, it brings to our consciousness the things that happen around us each and every day. That is what we so often just ignore.To improve your art, you must listen to all your senses! You will be glad you did!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design affects our lives ... and always has. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Creating a Red, Black and White Birdhouse

Back in the day ... the 60's in fact, when I was a Journalism / Advertising major at Oklahoma State, the director of our school, Dr. Allen, usually our advertising instructor, taught all of us to make small sketches of every ad we were going to create. They were usually small rectangle's that showed where we planned on putting the elements; copy, headlines, artwork. After a few forced tries, at least for me, I suddenly realized that the possibilities were, well, what desktop publishing in the future would be, endless. Now everything I create be it a birdhouse, a canvas painting, even arranging things in my home, each one gets a series of tiny sketches to see where things will be placed. Trust me, it saves a whole lot of time. Its much easier to "X" out a failed idea or erase an errant line than on a canvas, watercolor paper, moving heavy furniture or in my case wooden birdhouses!

The original Red Birdhouse Sketch

A sketch is, for me, an important way to arrange the elements I want to use and I find that once a design is settled on I don't waste time worrying about it once its completed. Now that is not to say there are new elements that could change all the careful arranging but it gives me a place to start.

Visiting the studio that a few of us artists have started and are supporting, I brought my folding table and chair but had no supplies with me. However, I always carry a legal pad and pencils so I got that out and started sketching two birdhouses I wanted to do ... this red one and another design that uses a base coat of yellow. Before I knew it,  I was completely absorbed and heard little of what was going on around me.


This medium sized birdhouse, started as a Wal-mart $1.00 special. At 5 ¾" high, it was a over an inch taller than the smaller ones found at Michael's. I had spotted it earlier that morning in my own studio on my way out for the usual host of chores. On the left you can see that the ideas from the original sketch are being drawn. The back of this birdhouse is naked as the day it was bought! If you look closely you can see a fairly faithful rendering on the wood taken from the sketch. It doesn't always work out this way. However, for once I sealed the wood seeing if I like the effect better and if it would cut down the number of coats of paint I would need. (Hint, it didn't even though the black was black and I used DecoArt's Traditions Naphtha Red).

Pencil sketch and details worked out!
Once all the sides are sketched in, the painting begins. While this item is larger I always manage to create little details that demand a very fine brush. I usually use a liner to get me into those tight places.

Starting with red and white paint
top to bottom
When people pick up these pieces and look at all the sides, they have no idea that unlike a canvas that is usually painted on the front side, birdhouses have seven sides ... front, back, two sides, roof usually in two parts and you can't forget the bottom. Even if its a solid color, every brushstroke takes time.And yes, they DO take much more time to create, more than I would like to admit to but I enjoy the creating, whimsy and at times the oh and ah's! I guess that's a little part of why we paint.

Since I don't know about other artists, my workbench is usually a scene of chaos ... colors I plan to use litter the surface, the water tub, paintbrushes laid all around and as you can see, the sketch pad that was used for reference many times because I painted over my sketch!

Here is an example of a lesson I have yet to learn despite the creation of a few hundred items: PUT THE BASE COLORS ON FIRST, THEN SKETCH THE DETAILS IN. The second coat of red obscured pretty much all the details of the roof up upper sides, the white was a bit more forgiving but all hope was lost with the black. Ah, well! This was one time that I really used my sketches.

Once the three background colors were in place, using them inside the other colors must be done. It was at this time I introduced gold, the fourth and accent color I hoped would pull all the other colors together. Because the paints didn't dry

all at the same time as
Getting closer ... adding the golden accents
you went around the sides there are inevitable smears ... on you, your painting apron and most of all on the birdhouse. Ugh!!! I hate to wait and used some of that time to work on the yellow birdhouse.

I must admit the liner brush, I have several slightly different versions, and I have become fast friends. While I like using pens like Sharpie's and such, I find that you have to be very, VERY careful when using them. Often, the inks are dissolved when you use acrylic varnish. After all the hard work of putting them on you grit your teeth and then try to put as light a coat as possible over the ink hoping it will retain its sharpness and color. That was one of the reasons I was drawn to Comic-Con, I was curious to see what kind of pens they were using and as I imagined, they were using things I had never heard of. I can see a trip to the local art supply store in my future and buying one of each type and see if it will work for me.

The final product:


Never content to use just the birdhouse I buy, I always try to add additional elements, improving the things that you buy just off the shelf.  Since I am on blood thinners and have to avoid sharp objects; saws, sanders, anything that can cut the skin and case me to bleed, I have to be creative and keep an eye out for things I can add on items creatively! In this case this birdhouse was only about 6 ½" after I added the round painted gold wooden beads that gave it a different and definitely unique look that set it apart from the original.  I urge everyone to consider this concept. It doesn't take much to make your creation distinctive ... fake flowers, birds, trees, any number of things that make your final creation stand out from the crowd. Go ahead and try it! You will be surprised at the difference it makes. One word of warning though, lay your additions on your item, scotch tape it even because once you glue it on, it could be on forever!

One additional observation, you might have noticed, this is a definitely abstract or possibly an art deco design not the usual Rosemaling or Pennsylvania Dutch I use. I needed to try something new!Maybe you do too!

Thank you for reading the KrugsStudio blog. I try to talk about all things design. Every aspect of our lives are designed by someone. Well, as we all know, some designs are more successful than others. I encourage you to read earlier blogs. They discuss all kinds of things you might enjoy!


Friday, September 2, 2016

WHO Designs Medicine Bottle Caps: From A Senior Struggling to Open Them!



Look familiar? You want one and get many!
Having reached a certain age, the number of prescriptions I take has increased with the increase in years. Sound familiar? While, in fact, the number of medicines (meds) I take daily has rather dramatically decreased, the struggle to open some of them has not. I know many seniors whose prescriptions have increased though. You want one and as the photo so clearly shows, you get many, too many.

I have wondered why someone, anyone, has not invented and patented a prescription bottle cap that simply gives you one pill, the number the vast majority of us take at any given time during the day? Everyday I curse the three or four or none that magically appear or don't appear as you fish around for them. I'm convinced they wait for me in their special drawer. I can just hear them, "Here he comes, tighten up!" Maybe like screams in the movie "Monster, Inc." the struggles give them more power over us. They may be on to something. In fact we do age a little bit more every day!
Can't open it? Give it to a kid.

When my son was about 3 or 4, I remember struggling with one when I had yet another sinus infection. After watching me struggle, he asked to try it ... you know the one you push and twist and well, it doesn't? He took it from me and opened it without even flexing a muscle. I stood there looking at him. My in-law's,  it seems, had already discovered the same thing. An adult can't open it? Give a childproof bottle to a kid, they can open it.

I have watched friends and relatives struggling with the same thing especially a favorite aunt who had so many medicines I wondered how she ever kept track of them. She took them morning, noon and night in a kind of medical ballet I didn't envy at all. I still don't know how she did it.

First we try the hands, then the hammer and if all else
fails, there is the trusty crowbar.
During her weekly ritual filling her next weeks case, I witnessed a scene not unlike the women on the left and while she never (or hardly) swore the looks on her face told volumes about her feelings. In fact her struggles caused her to loose track and she had to check what she had already put in to make sure she didn't miss a thing. I would have helped but that would have altered her mo-jo so I would just sit and watch. Its almost like watching a chess game. Where will they move? How long will it take?

Later when she was no longer able to do this herself my uncle had to be the medicine guru in their home, a task I didn't envy!

Why do bottles have to be so difficult? I can understand a child opening them and taking an overdose of something. My daughter as a teenager grabbed a bottle of my blood thinner and popping my pills instead of her's, prompted a call to the CDC that urged us to get her to vomit them out. One 3 mg. warfarin tablet would be OK but not 4. I don't even remember what she was on, probably her steroids during an asthma attack. While I held the phone and listened to the CDC, my wife urged her to vomit the pills by sticking a finger down her throat. It worked. However, that still doesn't explain why bottles are so difficult to open.
It appears ICE BREAKERS has already solved this
dilemma. You can choose one OR many.

The other day, while riding in a friends car, I fished out a container that contained mints, ICE BREAKERS. It was hot here in Palm Springs, my mouth and throat were dry so I looked at the case to find where it opened. You can imagine my surprise when I saw it clearly marked ... for getting ONE tablet at the top and MANY tablets at the bottom. Whoever invented this clever solution is missing out on a patent fortune! Just imagine what his or her patent would generate if every prescription bottle on earth gave us this option? I mean, it would be like "sliced" bread!

Will mean the end of "Push Down
and Twist? I sure hope so!!!
 Ice Breaker Mints works for me!
So, a simple and existing solution is already among us and well, no one is even giving it a try. I bet that thousands, no millions of people around the world would welcome this amazing cap and its designer as if they were a hero, akin to the discovery of polio vaccine, flu shots even remedies that solve countless other diseases that we manage to accumulate in our lifetimes and require that ubiquitous orange, plastic medicine bottle with that nasty, twisting white cap that never relents urging "push down and twist." Its the 21st Century; time for a change, right?

I urge you to send this column to your Wal-Marts, RiteAids, Walgreens, CVS and any other pharmacy you use and ask for ... no DEMAND that they switch their caps to something akin to this. We can ask for a simple cap, if there are no kids around, that is still tight enough to spill everything on the counter when you get it off.  Here, you would get a tab merely big enough to get one tablet, that wouldn't open or give you more than one. How simple is that? Let me know what you think.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design affects our lives ... and always has. 


Hang 'em High!

Anyone who has seen an old Clint Eastwood sphagetti western knows this popular and often pungent movie title and theme. Old Clint rides into town, looking like some forlorn homeless man smoking a stogy riding a moth-eaten horse wearing a huge 6-gun on his hip! When challenged by the bad guys it turns out he is a dead eye shot inspiring fear in those same bad guys! Death for the "stranger" is not an option, it is a given! Maybe we need ole Clint on the Internet. There certainly are enough bad guys (and to be PC, probably girls too)!

I am sitting here at 3 a.m., unable to sleep and was planning on catching up a bit on my blog writing when I stupidly agreed to update my iMac with yet another security update. First it was the iPhone and iPad a few days ago and then this morning an insistent bouncing icon on my computer bar finally convinced me that I should do the update. It was relentless. If I said later it wanted to know when. I don't know ... next year? However, that option wasn't available so I finally clicked to start it. It was huge; 414 MB but after 8 minutes seemed fast enough. At 3 a.m. all the geeks are finally in bed. All seemed to go well enough until after a restart 8 or so minutes later all that I got, or saw, was a grey screen, an Apple logo and a solid bar that just sat there. After 15 minutes, I turned the iMac off, and picked up a book. The MacBook Pro I decided to update had the same problem, a grey screen. After a page of a real book with pages and images that could be seen, those grey screens got to me and I came back, restarted both computers and was greeted yet again with grey. Using my iPad I Tweeted a thank you to Apple for finally crippling both computers when finally, finally after another 15 minutes the icons came up to prompt me to sign in.

The fun wasn't over yet though. I was told on the iMac that the computer had been restarted because of a problem! You think? Going past that it continued with a blurry image of El Capitan for yet another 5 minutes or so with the dashes going round and around. It isn't hard to tell your wait times; Apple thoughtfully puts a clock in the top bar of the screen. Which is worse, those dashes or the spinning beach ball of death? Apple has learned its lesson well from Microsoft substituting the "blue screen of death" for a beach ball. Finally, FINALLY after starting nearly an hour before, I got my home screen back. Still though, it is very sluggish as if it isn't sure it wants to work.

The laptop wasn't any better. Its screens prompted me to basically act like I just got a new operating system. No, I didn't. Obviously the update thought otherwise.

Do we blame Apple? Well, no, at least not totally. Because this was a security update, much if not all of the problem is the result of geeks from around the world that seem to have nothing better to do than hack other peoples computers. It is relentless. Any geek with a $200 computer, lots of time and some computer skills it seems, can hack into just about anyones computer ... yours, mine, the Federal Government, our banks even the electrical grid. You would think, just like the endless and even more time consuming updates of Microsoft Office, that they would finally get it right. Hackers are exploiting flaws in the operating systems of all the products we use. After a year or two, wouldn't you think it would be repaired? The gaps fixed? Apparently not.

It was revealed this week that a small and largely unknown software firm in Israel has been selling on the QT software that allows governments to hack into our phones, computers, anything that government wants so that it can keep an eye on terrorists. Now, we all know that there are terrorists that want to either kill us or convert us, we read about them daily. However, since information is power, who defines who is a terrorist? What if you just want to keep an eye on a political enemy? It is well known that Russia and China do that routinely. No government really wants to get replaced and the best way to do that is to keep an eye on your enemies, or the competition. Remember Watergate? Ask Snowden or read the Panama Papers and Wikileaks. There isn't a fictional political thriller that can top some of those revelations. If you or I were to bring a manuscript with some of these real life stories to a publisher, we would be kicked out of the office! Not only the hackers are not our friends, our own governments, elected or not, aren't either.

Just like my issue with car airbags, maybe companies need to stop the incessant updating and instead finally and seriously work on correcting the flaws of the products we already have. That companies like Microsoft continue to sell products that are a hackers paradise using code patched from software written 20 years ago is unforgivable. That car manufacturers can continue to sell millions of new cars when something upwards of 85 million cars on the road continue to have potentially defective and lethal airbags is unexcuseable. The mantra should be, just get it fixed for once and for all!

I guess, after this rant, we should applaud Apple for trying to keep our systems immune from hackers. However, I wish that before we have to do it,  and I am not saying that we don't,  we need to be made aware of what will happen so we can plan for when we will do it!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design affects our lives ... and always has. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Comic-Con In Palm Springs - Being A Kid Again!

Official Palm Springs
Comic-Con badge
When I was a kid growing up in the 50's all of my friends, like me, collected comic books. In those days, yes eat your hearts out Millennials, they cost 5¢, then later 10¢. If you got the big ones, as in thicker with multiple stories, they cost a whole 25¢! Big money in those days. As I went to high school and then far away to college, comic books were the last things on my mind. When my mother moved to New Mexico they, like a great many other possessions, went I would imagine into the trash.

I never gave comic books much thought as after getting married and having kids, I barely even read the funnies in the paper anymore either. Dick Tracey, any super hero, even Doonesbury bit the dust until someone pointed me to Dilbert and I have remained a daily fan because he speaks so clearly of the human condition today in the workplace.

Star Wars Storm Trouper.
Really?
Through the years I have heard of Comic-Con and after following the antics of the boys on "The Big Band Theory" and their childlike love of action figures, comics and such, thought it would be fun to go to Comic-Con, at least once. The biggest and evidently first Comic-Con was the creation of Stan Lee, a comic book artist and promoter. The first show was in San Diego in 1970 and has spread, from what I hear, all over the world.

Paint me blue!
To be honest, I went for the titillation, the gawking of the attendees. I had heard about and seen photos on Google. Images of fully grown adults, like on BBT that for some reason embrace this stuff ... almost, you might say, worship imaginary icons! Sure I stayed up all night in the 50's waiting for the US to launch its first satellite only to watch the Vanguard explode over and over again until finally the army succeeded with their Redstone Rocket. I saw every monster and space movie there was and until "2001: A Space Odyssey" they were a pretty sorry lot. Who can forget the contrail of Buck Rogers space ship, the silly costumes of the monster from the black lagoon. Even "Frankenstein" looked homemade as was apparent in Mel Brooks remake "Young Frankenstein." It was all fun and gave us all a thrill or three at the time. I especially remember Steve McQueen in "The Blob"!

Yes, I saw all the grownups dressed like our storm trooper, there was even an Avatar whose body was painted in blue (how'd you like to wash that off let alone put it on)? What I was not prepared for was the art. While it was not my kind of art, there is no denying that there were many, I mean MANY talented men and women there selling their art. Many artists were there not only selling their comics, posters and such, but were actually drawing and
Cards from various artists!
more than glad to answer your questions. I was curious where they found such amazing pens and inks that gave crisp, clean lines far beyond what a Sharpie can deliver. Sorry Sharpie, but its the truth. For me, always looking for a permanent way to keep a clean line on my birdhouses and such, this was a revelation.

The other surprise, be kind, I'm 70, was that many of these artists also have YouTube videos where you can watch them draw as they give you pointers on their art!

You might think that you were at a Playboy Magazine convention there were sooooo many nude and usually near nude women images for sale. That surprised me as well. There wasn't a piece of art there, no matter what the subject that wasn't amazing, clean, almost flawless if you are into that sort of thing. I don't know exactly what I was expecting but not this much art and such an amazing range of talent. However, I would be remiss not to point out, the majority fit into a very narrow range of both style and subject but the execution was impeccable. It was stunning but would have no place in my home.
The Convention hall before the crowd really hit. Over 12,000 attended the first Palm Springs Comic-Con
Art for sale
Looking at this as art and sellable art at that, it is an overwhelming success. Stumbling on an artist friend whose husband in an artist in this genre, several people bought some of his art, while we caught up on our lives. While many of the men there appeared to be Millennials, most were unmarried and often had bags of things already
before the crowd really hit. I mean, look at just one of the choices here on the left! While there were women there, the majority of the sellers and buyers were male ... of a certain age. It was hard to tell how old the costume wearers were because they were made up, and well! They would do any makeup artist in Hollywood proud. One scene seared in my brain was the two guys getting into and adjusting their Ninja Turtle outfits in the men's restroom. If that wouldn't give you the heebie jeebies, I don't know what would. One three or four year old stood there with his mouth hanging open! Yes, they are that good.

The sad thing for me, and I am sure with a great many men of my generation is the loss of our comics that might be very valuable today. We had so many, many comics. They surely have a value today; more than a nickel or a dime.
You pays your money and takes your pick!
What I paid 5 or 10¢ for was now going for $5, 0r $10, some up to $200. I can remember a friend who still have a hard time forgiving his mother for throwing out his baseball collection. He now knows for a fact some of those cards are worth substantial amounts.

Considering that the Palm Springs Comic-Con was announced shortly after the closing of the San Diego show, in less than a month it drew 12,000 attendees. I heard from a friend that the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con selling around 150,000 tickets was sold out in 10 minutes. It was a success. They are already planning on a second show here in Palm Springs for 2017.

The long row of "stars" in one aisle gave me pause. While I didn't see Stan Lee, he came after I left, I did see Lou Ferrigno, known as the original "Hulk" signing autographs as a long line waited to purchase and have him sign a photograph. I stopped and looking at the others with their names emblazoned in large letters above them, had to admit I didn't recognize any of them even though I had seen some of the movies they were in. I do know that capitalizing on even minor fame is not worth this. Fame is fleeting but somehow they tried to capitalize on it and maybe fans did too.

Will I go again? My ticket cost $32 and it was done more as a lark than with any serious intention of stocking up so to speak on fantasy materials. The art is impressive, the skill of many of these artists is truly amazing. I almost felt, was even tempted to say, please create something that is meaningful but had an epiphany; that maybe, just like graffiti art, this genre is art too. Just because it isn't my thing, it obviously is to millions around the world!

Thank you for reading my blog. I encourage you to read some of my earlier blogs as they all deal with art and the design of things that shape our daily living!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Starting As An Artist All Over Again

Dipping into artistic waters again
A resin snowman
For most of us the simple act of starting ... something ... anything ... is a difficult if not daunting process. Starting all over again, is I have found even harder. Why?  Because starting all over again IS literally ... I believe ... starting ALL over again! 

After completing a mailbox birdhouse I started two years ago, I grabbed a white, resin snowman and started painting, finally, a few months after getting the new "studio" more of less set up. As mundane as this sounds, it gave me an opportunity to explore color again and hone my painters touch! However, as I quickly discovered, it was hardly set up, ready to go, as there were paints and add-on items to individualize my projects in about 20 different places. The question then is ... do you paint or do you spend the time organizing? I chose to paint and as for the rest, organize as you go!

As I wrote earlier about finally being in a Gallery show, I realized that with one exception, it is with items I created from past glories, items created, with one exception, from another time, another place. Even the newest completed item was started two years ago and only completed last month! It has been difficult first to create an artistic home in my new environment, dealing with the thousands of minutiae that involves: new doctors, new spaces, new vehicle, new friends, then getting inspired all over again. If you've never had to do that you are fortunate. Those that have know exactly what I mean.

Creating a new work space has been for me the most daunting thing. As I have slowly started to get inspired and finally paint again, I realize how much more organizing I need to do. To find one item (and discovering others you forgot you had) involves going through bags, and tubs and trays that eats into your "creative" time. It is rewarding in many ways and yet shows you how much disorganization still remains.

Blank fan from Hong Kong - paper masks from Cananda

Then there is the collecting of new items you find along the way ... a blank fan from Hong Kong, papier- mâché masks from Canada, a new lettered canvas design at Michaels, a new paint, new cool permanent ink pens ... the list goes on and on! What's an artist to do? For me at least, it is to now forge on. It is very easy to get buried in the minutia of life and I realized that is exactly what I have done. Seeing fellow artists at work not bothered by the fact their lives were, at least in that moment of time, troubled or insecure, were creating something finally gave me the permission to create again as well.
A new challenge - an A canvas!

The other big advantage of living in Palm Springs, though some might dispute the fact that it is an advantage, is that it is so fricking hot during the summer that no one wants to go outside during the day unless they absolutely have too! In fact, I was told shortly after I moved here that when summer hits, and it did around the end of June, that you close all the blinds, turn on the air and leave it on 24 / 7, strip naked and catch up on all the TV you missed fall, winter and spring.  

You laugh. There is a reason all the snow birds come here beginning around the end of September and have flown home by May ... we don't have any snow to shovel and being outside takes precedence to being inside. Summers though are ... well, let me put it this way, succinctly, HELL! My new air conditioner failed and they finally got it fixed a week later the day it reached 122º. The bags were packed, in fact, it was that bad.


A blank slate of any size is good!


Yet it also creates an enforced creative time, a time that you can finally spend without all the distractions the Coachella Valley has to offer most of the year. Art, music, design, films ... the list goes on and on. There isn't a month that there isn't something to do and now even summer is beginning to draw crowds with events like the first ever Palm Springs Comic-con at the end of August. The 2017 show in San Diego rumor has it is already sold out so for the first time in my life I'm going to go. I figure one day away from a brush and a bottle of paint is worth the stimulation of people that, to be kind, seem to live in another world ... far, far away! And I have been told you wish they did!

The artists life is never easy. Many toil yet few achieve success or recognition. We are driven and maybe at some time and place what we have created will be appreciated and our talent recognized.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to explore earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design affects our lives ... and always has. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Gallery Show At Last

500 Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA
One of the things every artist desires is to make it to a bono fide art Gallery, in this case Gallery 500 in Palm Springs, CA. Showing in a gallery is something that I've always wanted and while I did come close at a show in San Dimas, CA, it was spoken of as one of the slowest shows in years. I did manage to sell a few small mini birdhouses.

You can imagine my surprise at an acceptance letter after I showed both paintings and creative crafts ... birdhouses and such with some very talented artists here in the Coachella Valley. The letter said that I had been accepted to show my birdhouses now and paintings later at a new gallery, Gallery 500 that was being constructed. I received that letter on a trip and only after returning realized that of 87 artists submitting their art, I was one of seven selected for the initial opening show!

At a local show in a temporary gallery in Cathedral City from March to May of this year, I had 4 or 5
Pennsylvania Dutch inspired wooden tray
paintings on the wall but when I asked if I could also show my birdhouses, they took one look, I received a resounding yes, then they hunted down a table for me to display them and urged me to bring more. Someone even had a black tablecloth that showed my wildly colored items to their best advantage! I even managed to sell a few!

I imagine that many crafters are like me. Art is something that I have dabbled in since I was a child. My Dad was manager of a shaver shop in downtown Portland, OR that was open half days on Saturday. Around the 5th grade, my Dad, who really was a talented artist but didn't explore his talents much, discovered the Portland Museum of Art had kids classes Saturday mornings. So, for a few years I would go downtown with him every Saturday morning to take classes. In the remaining time after class I would explore the museum.

For some reason Portland had amazing traveling shows. The first one, I remember, that started a lifelong love of Van Gogh, was their traveling Van Gogh Exhibit that seemed to be there a long time. I studied them carefully each week, admiring his amazing use of colors and remembered many of them when I finally saw them again at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam 50 years later!

Blue Mailbox Birdhouse
The Chrysler Collection was next and I can still remember the huge Waterlilies by Monet that hung near the entrance. Its jewel like colors seemed to drench the entire museum with color. They left an impression that lingers still.

Over the years I took an art class here or there but never made it my major though as a Journalism / Advertising major, being able to draw helped me in the days when we had to often draw our own products and hand letter a variety of type faces with India Ink. I broke all the rules and often, got an "A" in spite of it.

I taught my students art as a Peace Corps teacher and was amazed at how their drawings changed from a near Ancient Egyptian view of the world, two dimensional, to three dimensions after showing and explaining the use of perspective.

Returning home, I really didn't draw nearly as much as I had in high school and college. Then I got married, had kids and started gardening losing my interest in art. However, around 52, quitting my job and starting my own graphics design business, my interest in art returned. After wrestling with computer software all day creating catalog sheets, newsletters, price list, etc., I bought a birdhouse at Michaels and finding a

Patriotic Birdhouse
pamphlet on Pennsylvania Dutch designs started painting. First one, then another and before long I had a collection. Never one to stay mired in one style, I experimented.

The turning point for me was going to the Las Vegas Painting Convention taking as many classes as I could. I had resumed an interest in painting, already started with a class in oil painting I was taking in Sierra Madre, CA and broadened my skills in craft painting. Usually the only man in a class ... you can't even imagine the feeling of walking into a room full of women who stare at you like you don't belong ... I learned techniques that gave me better skills and I thrived. For two different years I submitted projects to teach and was accepted only to have serious health issues that made it impossible for me to teach. I regret that opportunity deeply.

While I lived in the assisted living home returning to health, something I wrote about last year, I finally got a chance to teach but discovered seniors can often be as stubborn as youngsters. However, when I would see them clutching their latest creation during the day, it made me proud to give them something to stimulate them and something they were proud of.
Perfect example of modifying - raffia,
trees, behaves were added changing
this item completely!

While the gallery is being constructed I discovered that their store was looking for small items people could buy and carry home. I approached the gallery manager, submitted the items, some shown here, and asked if there were any he might be interested in. He called and said, "All of them." He drew up a contract, I took them over and we priced everything together. I stressed again, after being told of comments at the earlier show, while I did not build them due to issues with blood thinners and sharp tools, I did modify them and painted each and everyone by hand. No, they were not made in China and being resold. There may be some interest as a customer at the shop fingered them and expressed interest as she bought a Coke.

While I was extremely busy with a move to Palm Springs, a divorce and all that entails plus several long distance trips overseas, it has taken some time to rekindle an interest in art. However, a group of us are supporting studio space and when I went over this week to set up my own work table and chair, I sat down and began doodling and chatting with the four other artists there. There really is something to be said about working with other artists. We all have different styles and interests but there is a synergy that I realized I missed. Coming home that afternoon I started, at long last, to get my artistic interest together readying new birdhouse based on my doodles at the studio. I finally appreciate the studio I took such time and effort to create.

I am very excited about the coming opportunity and hope that finally, at the age of 70, I can make, if nothing else, a small local name for myself. My advice ... NEVER GIVE UP! We never know at whatever age when what we have created is appreciated by others! Remember Grandma Moses. She started seriously painting at the age of 78 and lived to 101. Some of her paintings have sold for over $1 million dollars, a sum you can bet she never saw! So ... pick up that needle, brush, knitting or crochet hook, saw or welding torch and get to work! We are all rooting for you!!!

Thank you for reading my blog! Please check out earlier blogs that talk about many things but each and every one with an eye on design ... the designs of modern living.