Monday, March 31, 2014

A Birdhouse Vision Of California

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I had a custom request for a "California" birdhouse, something I had never given much thought to before.  I live here. I often don't see something until someone from out of town comes and mentions it. However, if you consider it closely enough, it could open a whole genre of birdhouse ideas. Sometimes we are just too close to the forest to see the trees.

"California Birdhouse," right front angle
After many hours bringing both my vision in line with the client, I have finally decided to quit before I add too much and the simplicity of the idea gets lost in minutiae. As any crafter knows, THAT is easy to do. One small detail leads to many!!!

As I mentioned before, I have always been fascinated by the majestic waves of the Japanese artist Hokusai. Somehow the minute I read the request those waves sprang to mind. Then adding the things he wanted and I wanted I soon had a birdhouse unlike anything I had ever done before. Adding feet gave me a little more room to work with and on side allowed a small beach with palm trees.

It has taken me awhile to free myself from a rigid it has to look like the real thing to a sense of many elements that also create the "feeling" of what the subject should show.

As I am learning with each new idea and birdhouse it is the presentation that makes all the difference in the world. You either like it or you don't. That's what art and artists are all about!

"California Birdhouse" rear angle view
Part of the adventure, for me, is that while this was very carefully sketched out, it wasn't exactly what I had initially drawn. I am still very happy with it and amazed in so ways in how it turned out. I look at it and am almost in awe. Sure there are some things that need to be improved. My ability to draw figures is suspect but I do manage to give them a unique personality. That so many things could be combined to create this birdhouse vision makes we want to try a few more and see how the subject could be portrayed.

New York City with the Statue of Liberty, the new Trade Tower, Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge...all on one birdhouse? Seattle with the Space Needle, Car Ferries, docks or San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge spanning several sides with the "city" underneath and behind it and what about Washington, D.C.? Ah, the possibilities are endless. Yet, there also has to be a limit. Probably the best avenue is to do a few and invite custom orders for additional places.

If any lesson has been learned here, and there were many, its that we should never turn down an idea at least until we've tried it. Not every idea is a good idea but in art, its safe and rarely puts anyone in danger.

See more unique, original and hand painted crafts, birdhouse, paintings and photography at Thank you for visiting!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Custom Order: The Customer's vs. the Artist's Vision

Initial sketch of California Birdhouse
I had an order the other day that is every Etsy crafters dream come true; a customer purchased more than one or two items! Lining up the items he purchased before packing and shipping them off I was amazed, no really stunned, at the variety of things he purchased. While I am all over the place in genre's of design, he managed to pick just about one of each of my genres. He managed to choose the items I was really proud of.

Then the customer asked me if I would be interested in creating a "California Birdhouse?" I thought about it and wrote back and said, "Yes," I will send you a sketch in a day or two and see what you think! He said that would be fine and so I proceeded as you can see above.

One of he first considerations for me was whether it would be square or round? I envisioned Hokusai's style of waves with surfers riding the peaks. Mt. Fuji would be replaced by the Hollywood sign and the other side would have mountains. One side of the roof would include the sun and a palm tree, the other Grauman's Chinese, THE Hollywood landmark theatre.

The customer liked the general idea and once receiving the sketch had his own ideas as well. He wanted a male and female (in a bikini) surfers standing with a board, he wanted the name of California to show up as well as some famous beaches. Though I had already sketched in the design on the birdhouse, I quickly figured out ways to do what he wanted and began painting.

The initial layout and beginning of waves.
I have never done anything like this on request though I guess as a graphic designer you are always creating something a client wants. Up to now I painted what I wanted. Now, suddenly, I was creating something within a client's parameters. What surprised me was how fast you become at finding solutions. It may not have been what I wanted, but it gave me a chance for another sale, gave me a new direction to consider and it gave me an opportunity to think on my feet.

As you can see, it is about one-third done. The sky is in place, the water and waves are in place though there is some detail yet to do on the waves. I have all of the people to add yet and some of the background that will make it distinctive and Californian. One side of the roof, extending down to the base will be one or two palm trees with fronds showing through the sun.  the other side will have an old fashioned bi-plane hauling a banner that reads "California" behind it, something that is quite common, even today, to beach goers. That covers the word "California!"

California Birdhouse about a third done
One side will have those standing surfers while front and back those California surfers will be riding those great Hokosai waves!

This is the first time I have put such work and preparation before creating a project. While I do sketch out every project and try to keep those sketches, because of the variety of things going on here that on the surface appears very simple, I wanted to record what I had done because it was complicated.

Luckily I had the Hokosai wave a screensaver behind this blog, as a print on the wall of my workspace and his book of "Thirty-Six Views Of Mt. Fuji" as a reference. Then I researched surfers, their poses and riding the waves. The bi-plane was easy and I have seen enough of them flying around with banners streaming behind them to know how to sketch that. The man and woman surfers standing with a surfboard resulted in another search. Palm trees are everywhere here. That would be the perfect addition completing not only one side of the roof, but one side of the birdhouse. However, THIS time, I wanted all the pieces together because once gathered the painting went on much faster.  It fact it has gone on faster than I thought possible.

As you can see, this is not completed but I wanted to share a work in progress. All too often we see the start and the end, but not the processes that went on in-between. If it all goes well, I may then try a round version as well. Even with the same elements they will not be the same. In fact, they may end up being very different sharing as a common element the beautiful but stylistic waves that I am making my own but were inspired by Hokusai.

If there is any lesson here, I would add that we should never be afraid of creating on spec or, taking a custom order. My eyes have been opened and I realize the nearly limitless range of things I could create! The customer even suggested that I create a series of state birdhouses of New York, Illinois, and Florida as they each have distinctive features as well. But first, lets get this one completed and then see where it takes me.

Please visit I am slowly adding some Halloween and Christmas items to the store for those early bird shoppers. Thank you for reading.

Monday, March 24, 2014

1913, The New York City Armory Show

1913: In Search of the World Before The Great War
After reading an article in AMERICAN ARTS QUARTERLY, that I disagreed with,  I started a more detailed search for what happened at The Armory Show of 1913 in New York City. Even though I couldn't find the book definitively about it for free from my library (using the iOS App Overdrive) I did stumble across a book titled 1913. So I downloaded that.

George Santayana, the great philosopher stated, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Back to the Armory Show first. The Quarterly correctly noted that the critics and most American Museums hated the European artists that many had seen for the very first time at this show. In fact, no major museum purchased any art by those artists (except for a few American artists) for decades. Van Gogh was dismissed as being unable to lay a smooth layer of paint on canvas. Duchamp had no skills with real life so reduced life to lines and so on. The howls continued on to Chicago's Art Institute and Boston's fine art museum.

What the article didn't say, and this book does, is that the American public was at worst shocked yet loved the show! Just about every American artist who saw the show and American art in particular changed forever. It was the permission they needed to paint how and what they really felt! Many works were purchased by American private collectors as they already had been in Europe and Russia. So much for critics, then and now!

What 1913 makes sadly clear, and everyone should take Santayana's warning to heart, is that what he clearly stated is true. Emmerson covers the entire world telling about events in 1913, the year before the great war. ALL, and I do mean all of the usual suspects are here just like they are 101 years later. Turkey falling apart as the Ottoman Empire fades, the Jews immigrating to Palestine and the very same worries by the locals exists today. You have Europe with an ascendant Germany worrying an increasingly xenophobic France (heard about the Nationalist party that wants to pull out of the EU?), the Balkans chaffing under the thumb of the Austra-Hungary Empire, fears that if China ever gets its act together will be a force to reckon with. The list goes on and on. No country or its peoples are missed in this amazing and sadly prescient discussion. What makes it sad is that we haven't learned a thing.

Russia was considered a bully in 1913 JUST like it is today. The Russians and British were politely fighting over Iran but for different reasons. Russia didn't want to be isolated and Britain realized they needed the oil in Iran to modernize their fleet and protect their colonies in India, Australia, New Zealand and points west. Wars have been fought over the Crimera before but Russia, more or less landlocked because of weather and geography needed the open year round Black Sea ports. If Ukraine turned to the west, what did that mean to Russia? Same thing it did in 1913. Isolation.

People, and no I don't just mean Americans, need to look at their history a bit more. The British in 1913 were closely studying Ancient Rome. It was openly talked and written about in fact. While they may have been studying it, they obviously didn't learn any lessons. Reading the papers and of course watching TV and following on the Internet, the question then is, do we? Will we learn from history?

Everyone of the European artists at the Armory Show went on to fame, though rarely to fortune. Julian Barnes, the great collector from Philadelphia purchased 583 pieces of Impressionistic and Expressionistic art. He was not alone. Every major museum in the United States proudly displays their European art from that period and a Van Gogh is considered a high point in any collection. I remember when the Getty Museum here in California purchased IRISES for $56 million, then the most expensive painting in history, then hid it in the back of their multi-media room because they didn't know what to do with it. It finally prompted them to spend $1 billion for Getty Center and a much broader selection of art. We have learned artistically. Oh, if we could learn historically!

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Tale of Three Pagoda's

A few years after I started painting birdhouses and craft items I hit upon the idea of buying three of a style, especially if they were on sale. I don't know why as I hadn't even heard about Etsy yet. I guess I figured they would make wonderful gifts. Three seemed like a good number and was an efficient use of time! One design, three products!  I could use the same design on three items rather than just one and paint them all together. By the time I finished a color on the third one, the first one would be dry. Not hard to do with the use of acrylic paints!

It was an interesting concept and after a few years I did manage to sell most of the items I had created three of after I opened my Etsy store. Each one was hand painted after being hand sketched so while they were similar they were still original hand painted, one-of-a-kind items.

Raw, Unpainted Pagoda Birdhouse
On one of my early buying sprees, I picked up three pagoda birdhouses. They have sat in the garage for years. Truth be told, I just didn't know what to do with them. One day, looking at all the loot I have picked up over the years I came across two pot metal dragons I picked up on a trip to Quartzite, AZ. They have a gem show every winter and I always browse the venues to see what they have. On a whim, I picked up two dragons.

Dragons in hand I then scoured the garage to see where I could use them. I vaguely remembered the pagodas and found them...all three of them. Picking up the first one, I sanded the rather rough exterior and then brought it in to my work desk.

iPad in hand, I searched the web for photos of Asian temples. I was surprised at the variety. So many colors, designs, complexity! As I looked closely at each one, I discovered design ideas that I could use, even in a simplified form. There was no way I would ever be able to duplicate those designs on a small wooden birdhouse. Here are the results.

Three Birdhouse Pagodas by KrugsStudio
My first attempt was the red pagoda. I had planned from the beginning was to use the dragons on the roof and luckily realized they faced in and not out on the roof. I decorated balconies, doorways and was faithful in creating a tile looking roof. Red is a popular temple color so with golden accents it was certainly different than anything else I had ever created.

But I wanted more. A close Chinese friend and I talked about Chinese art and temples and he gave me a brief lesson about the temples, their decorations, traditions, how they used dragons.

The golden birdhouse was literally spray painted gold. I was able to get the insides, outsides and everything else in-between gold! I decided to wrap a dragon around the base and use wisteria branches coming down all the sides. It was a dramatic contrast and wasn't so ornate. It was more in line with what I felt were Western tastes. However, the motifs were definitely Asian just simplified! You can see more detailed photos on my Etsy store. A wisteria branch wraps around the roof and on each of the six sides the wisteria blossoms hang down.

The last pagoda, the copper colored one on the right (above) was the most detailed and complex. My friend explained and sent me many photos showing temples with dragons,  explained their use of colors, what they meant and how they were to be placed. It seems that if one dragon faces left, the next one faces right. The standard body colors are either blue, red and yellow or gold. Every dragon chases an orb that represents the sun. EVERYTHING is very stylized and a proper temple has a phoenix at the top.

I used a blue, then red and finally a yellow dragon on each tier of this birdhouse. The first balcony has a stylized sea where the dragon both resides and rises from. Some fly so the top balcony has stylized clouds against a blue sky. On top is a fiery phoenix symbol in all cultures of rebirth!

I have never tried to create this complex or such a unique birdhouse before. As complex as I felt Rosemaling was, this is far, FAR more complex, more detailed. As in all art, the elements are meant to flow into each other. Whether I got it right or not, it does create a unique statement. I included the elements I could do and tried to be faithful to the concept of a temple since I realized I could never include all of the almost overwhelming details.

The lessons learned here are:

1. Never give up. If the first one doesn't work right, try again. While I am proud of all of the birdhouses, it is the final and most complex one that I am the proudest of. It showed me that I could learn and adapt and with time and patience excel.

2. There is always more than one way to create something. Even the same theme can often be used over and over again if seen in different lights such as time of day, season, emotional feeling, colors, style and most important skill. Think Monet's "Church at Rouen" or his haystack series. The church shows the same location at different times of the day. Seen together, you realize how different a place can be during the day! The other shows haystacks at different times of the year.You will find that even if you do the same thing over and over, each time you become more proficient, more skilled. While I didn't want to create the same thing three times here, I did want to create something more and more authentic, more complex yet in deference to what I could handle. As I was trying to do that, I also became more aware of the history, tradition and how I could and would interpret it.

If you have never tried this, I urge you to do so. I fought for years this very concept asking myself, "Why would I ever want to do the same thing again?" After I did it a few times I began to understand why, you just become better and better at it!

Please visit for more photos of these birdhouses and the wide selection of crafts and fine art I feature there. Thank you for visiting.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Do Others See Us?

Photo taken March 15, 2014
Walking today I was struck by the wording on the sign of the local florist. I guess he really wants you to order early for Valentine's Day, 2015 because it is March 15th and Valentine's Day is long over.

While it would be prudent to change the sign now and then, at least make it timely as, after all, Easter is right around the corner, it got me to wonder, just how do people perceive us? Us being the artist in us. When they see one of our creations, do they see a behind the times notice of things past or are they viewing the excitement of the now that we feel when we create? It is something to definitely consider.

I don't think that it has anything to do with the style.  It could be a landscape painting in the manner of the Impressionists or Constable. It can be abstract or Pennsylvania Dutch birdhouse or tray or piece of clothing. What does count, at least to me, is that it is something new, something that maybe no one has seen or noticed before.

Reams of articles, Etsy being one of the most notorious, have been written about sprucing up your store, getting noticed such as: 10 Tips for Success On The Interest, Pinterest, Etsy, etc., How to Get Noticed, and on and on. However, while these are all important considerations, I still think that when all is said and done, timeliness is the order of the day. In its own sad way, it reflects what many of us do and not what we are or want to be.  Keep that sign in mind, its a trap that we don't want to fill into.

I figure that in April I will post my Halloween items, that's 6 months away. In July it will be time to put back those Christmas items. Six months is a good lead time don't you think? I know some people shop for Christmas year around but maybe out of sight for awhile makes them all that more precious and original when they are available again.

When all is said and done, the reality is, we enjoy the process of creation. Being able to sell and maybe even make a living off of our creations is icing on the cake!

Visit for a wide selection of birdhouses, crafts and fine art and photography.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everyone Can Be A Critic: Art vs. The Artist

Are you an artist? I like to consider myself one. The reality? It's still up in the air.

Can you explain your art? I mean can words truly express what you feel when you paint and what you've created?  Do your words make sense? I know when I paint I am frequently in another world. I may take pictures of each stage and can tell you the steps I used ( well maybe), but what I feel? No, not really. With over 1 million words, English doesn't cover every thought and feeling still.

View of Armory Show in 1913, New York City
Reading my latest AMERICAN ARTS QUARTERLY, I was struck by what several writers had written about art. My father-in-law, much to my wife's chagrin, said that those that can't do, teach.  I wonder, does that mean those that can't paint become art critics? If you can't or don't paint, can you truly understand the artistic process? That would be like walking in another's man's shoes. I do believe though that you CAN appreciate art and maybe at a level beyond words.

The lead article, a year late I might add, concerns the 1913 Armory Show in New York City. 1600 pieces of art were displayed, featuring mostly American but many European artists. For many this was the first time they had ever seen what had been happening in Europe since around the 1860's. Art by ALL the usual suspects was there, artists such: George Bellows, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Brancusi, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Camile Corbet, Edgar Degas, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Gauguin, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Edouard Manet, Henri Rousseau, Georges Rouault, Auguste Rodin, Georges Seurat and James Whistler among others.

The author dismisses many of the American artists of that time and gives wondrous praise to the Europeans. However, Americans, at least at that time and maybe any time, had a different take on the show and its artists singling out the, to them, outrageous "Nude Descending A Staircase, #2" painted the year before by Marcel Duchamp as the perfect example of how immoral Europe had become. While many American artists were familiar with trends in Europe as were the upper classes, those who had never traveled to Europe were shocked. American critics had a field day with many of these paintings. This show traveled on to the Art Institute in Chicago (where Seurat's SUNDAY AFTERNOON ON THE GRANDE JATTE resides today) and finally Boston to equal outrage.

I find it ironic that the Impressionists would have caused much of a stir. California Impressionism started around the 1880's lasting as a movement until the 1920's and is still popular and immulated even today. Art by those artists graced many magazine covers, travel posters and museums. Many of those original covers and posters are valuable today. In fact, they used colors even more vivid than the Europeans because the desert Southwest was wondrously colorful. Think ARIZONA HIGHWAYS.

Abstract art though was another thing. Americans are, if nothing else, very literal. It took a long time before they began to venture into that genre. Our most popular artists of that time were Hopper, Whistler, Bellows, Hassam, Innes and Cassett who followed a more American version of Impressionism. We had a different take on art and the world around us. Does that make it better? Or Worse? Can a critic truthfully make that judgment? The proof of the pudding, so to speak, is who buys it.

Abstract art was dismissed in this country until around WWII because it was considered too European and therefore un-American. There was little support by patrons and even less by museums. Did the Armory Show change art in the United States? Probably but it took 50 years before it became a force to be reckoned with. Some may postulate that it predicted WWI. It showed that the European moral fabric was failing. I once read an amazing book that felt art and artists predicted movements and trends before they occurred. Did Duchamp's nude show the coming shattering of Europe? A case could be made that it did that very thing. After the war, every government, every empire changed or fell apart. Very little of the old Europe was left.

Art IS important. How one can say what an artist was trying to do, even the artist themselves, becomes problematic. What is important is how the people, all the people, relate to it. I find it ironic that Leonardo's MONA LISA is considered the finest painting, finest piece of art in the world. It is an enigma wrapped in an enigma. What is more surprising though is that STARRY NIGHT by Van Gogh comes in second place. Reams of words have been written about these two pieces of art. However, it is whats written in the people's hearts that makes all the difference in the world. We are moved often in ways that we can't explain. For me, that's all that matters.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Stretch Your Boundaries - Create A Series!

After a few weeks of recovery I finally got my "juice" back but quickly discovered that I had only at most two hours of concentration time a day and then was wiped out. However, my mind didn't stop and I painted in my mind what became the paintings on the left.

I love cactus plants and find in their shapes an infinite range of colors and shapes. I don't think any artist could ask for much more!
Palette Knife Cactus Series by Alan Krug
I woke up one morning all ready to paint and the first one of the series was top left. I talked about that earlier and when completed considered what I had done and if I wanted to continue. I did. This was my first painting using primarily a palette knife and I liked the freedom it gave me from fussy details.

Next I created the bottom left painting using the palette knife to take reds and oranges down to yellows and whites. The cactus was an amazing contrast of yellow greens, purples thick with thorns sitting on top of an older grey green branch whose thorns were long gone. Finally, I added hints of the cactus that surrounded my subject but not too much to take away from the wild and dramatic look it created. You can just about feel those thorns. I noticed that I hold the painting on the edges...just in case!

The red saguaro cactus was the creation of several memories, one visiting Saguaro National Park and the other seeing the setting sun hitting a cactus in a red light creating an otherworldly effect that until you see it, makes you question what a painter was smoking when you see such paintings the first time! When my mother moved to Albuquerque, NM the first sunset illuminating the Sandia Mountains behind the city made me understand exactly what western artists were painting. It really looked like that. Red mountains and deep purple shadows! Sandia means watermelon I later found out. The colors are breathtaking.

I added a cobalt to turquoise sky against the red saguaro, a moon and yellow meteor streaks for dramatic effect. If you have ever been in the middle of the desert on a dark night, you rarely have to wait long for a streak to race across the sky.

The final painting in the "Cactus Quartet" took a whole collection of the red fruit contrasted against the green cactus with a lavender and blue textured sky. The effect is dramatic and is much more pronounced seen in person. Colors twist and turn from reds fading to yellow greens, deeper greens to lighter yellow greens all stretching into the lavender sky. Like it or not, each panel or the four taken together create quite a tableau of color and design. The common theme is cactus!

The author of an article I recently read also suggested that you create a series. Just as I learned the panels change and each one becomes a wonderful way to study ideas and techniques. If nothing else, they take the techniques you used before and when you add another gives that new panel a new dimension. I recommend at least a series of four. By the fourth you now have a kind of repertoire learned from the rest of the series and this possibly is the starting point to create yet another series! The axiom learn and try or die is the same for all artists. Never be afraid to try something new. While it can be safe to paint the same thing or style over and over, every great artist was never afraid to add something new to each of their work. Art, music, stories, you need to keep trying learning, stretching your comfort zone.

To see more of these paintings, please visit While they are quartet each one can be purchased separately!  Thank you for visiting.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Shame On AARP

As a reluctant senior, I find that I read the AARP magazine and their bulletin getting a perverse pleasure in seeing who else is getting older too! Who can forget getting their very first AARP invitation at 49 ½ and thinking, NO! I can't be that old!!! AARP? Its a sobering thought to realize in a very few months you will be considered, at 50, to be a senior.

However, as I have written earlier, I am recovering from prostrate cancer surgery, something I find no man wants to talk about. They need to check out the statistics in the letter below for a sober reality check. I can't even begin to express my outrage when I started reading the AARP Bulletin yesterday that came in the mail. One of the tests they pooh pooh was a PSA check, something that has only been available since only the mid-90's and saved or at least extended many a man's life. They included 9 others as well, many I sadly must admit I was also familiar with and that have kept me  and I have no doubt many others alive.

Here is my letter to the CEO of AARP. If you haven't read the article, "10 Tests To Avoid" by Elizabeth Agnvall,  I urge that you do. I also hope that, like me, you express your concerns about printing such material in the face of the facts. The address is here I hope you use it!

Mr. A. Barry Rand, CEO

601 E Street, NW

Washington DC 20049

Dear Mr. Rand,

I just read the recent article in the AARP BULLETIN – “10 Tests To Avoid.” Shame on AARP for printing such an article.

I am in the process of recovering from prostrate cancer surgery. I am 68. In January of 2013 I had my normal physical exam that included a DRE (digital rectal exam) and a PSA test. While my PSA was a little elevated at 3.8 my doctor was not worried. However, because of what turned out to be colitis, a blood test in August showed that my PSA had climbed to 4.2. My doctor became concerned and referred me to a urologist. In my September exam he found a lump. A biopsy was scheduled and on my 68th birthday I found out that I had prostrate cancer. It was T2B with a Gleason score of 8 meaning it was very aggressive.

After many meetings with doctors, reading and yes praying, I finally decided to have surgery through the City of Hope, here in Southern California, in January 2014. While the pathology report was generally good there may have been a breach of the capsule. When I asked my surgeon about time, “So I didn’t have much time to decide then?” “None,” he replied. Now I am in watchful waiting. There is a 40% chance the cancer will return in 5 years. I would receive radiation.

Going to a cancer group I have discovered many stories such as this. A young person with cancer that oftentimes by a fluke was discovered. I guess the author of that article hadn’t done much research. Here are some facts to ponder:

Estimated New Cancer Cases in 2014

                                                            MEN                            WOMEN
Colon Cancer                                      71,830                         65,000
Lung Cancer                                        116,000                       108,210
Breast Cancer                                                                          232,670
Prostrate Cancer                                  233,000

Of male prostrate cancers, 98,010 will be younger than 65, 135,000 will be older.

Estimated New Cancer Deaths in 2014

                                                            MEN                            WOMEN
Colon Cancer                                      26,270                         24,040
Lung Cancer                                        86,930                         72,330
Breast Cancer                                                                          40,000
Prostrate Cancer                                  29,480

As a patient with stenosis of the lower back and with a blood disorder that has caused two massive pulmonary embolisms, I am also familiar with several of the other 10 steps to avoid. In fact, if it wasn’t for most of those very tests to avoid, I wouldn’t be alive.

As you can imagine that when the cancer word was uttered I hunkered down and read everything I could on the subject, something your author clearly did not. ALL men should be checked by the age of 50 though a dear friend was just diagnosed at 48. African American men should start at 40 as they have the highest prostrate cancer rate of all races. Any man with a family history should be checked from the age of 40. These two tests, the PSA and DRE can save many men’s lives.

Listening to survivors, so far, of breast cancer, they tell similar stories. They went in yearly and then missed a year. When they went back the cancer was there.

Americans are so averse to doing what can be done to prevent something. They are very good at attempting to fix what is broken. How can anyone, especially a professional, say that tests are not needed when the cost to cure cancer must be what, 10 times the cost of prevention or early discovery?

After reading this article, I now question the validity of AARP, what it stands for and how they represent me. I have a feeling that AARP has become just another regulatory agency that instead of protecting the public protects the people it was meant to police.

Please remove me from your rolls. I don’t need to read or be involved with clap track such as this. I was a journalism major many years ago and the author of this piece would have gotten a D- at best for such research in any of my classes. To have you feature such an article is beyond the pale.


Alan Krug

Friday, March 7, 2014

Race To Save: Fine Art Paintings vs. Fine Art Photographs

Before the invention of photography man had to rely on a variety of materials to render images.  None of them were quick. Because they were stone, marble or wood they could last a very long time. Not particularly portable some of them have survived so that we can admire them in museums the world over. They represent the finest that man and his culture has to offer.

Digital Image of painting FLOWERING CACTUS
Over the centuries other materials were tried to render shape and color. Cave men pioneered a variety of  pigment based paints that have survived thousands of years. Romans perfected the mosaic and Egyptians added wax to their pigments. Today we can see their wonderful art on their funerary headstones. They were in many ways the very first portraits.

When photography finally became a reality in around 1839, we finally had a way to capture the true likeness of things. However, as with all things, photography had its limits. One of those was longevity. Since that very first photo was developed it has been a race to find a way to make those images more permanent.

To stand in front of "The Night Watch" at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam is to see not only glorious art but also to see the only medium we have developed thus far that will retain an image for 100's of years. "Night Watch" was painted in 1642. The oil paints Rembrandt used were mostly hand ground. While it may have faded, it remains vibrant, glorious in its use of lights and darks, reds and unbelievably rich blacks...and just about every other color in between.
Painting, FLOWERING CACTUS by Alan Krug

As far as I know there is no photograph that has lasted that long and for most photographs will ever last that long.

I show here the digital image of my painting "Flowering Cactus." It was taken with my iPhone during one of my morning walks. The original was a JPEG image, a process that compresses the image and then expands when it is "opened" in computer software, in this case PhotoShop. How long will this image last? No one knows. Possibly as long as JPEG remains the format of choice for photographers. If you printed it how long would it last? It depends. On the wall probably not all that long despite the claims by Canon and Epson. They claim 200 years in a dark closet in an archival box. Whats the point?

For my painting I used acrylic paints. These were introduced in the 1970's and while they use many of the same pigments as oil paints, we really have no idea of how long they will last. I also used a archival polyester canvas, another wrinkle in the time honored tradition of using oil paints and fine linen canvases properly gessoed so the paint can not bleed into the canvas. Many artists, FINE ART ARTISTS, have embraced acrylic paints so one can hope they will be as archival and long lasting as oils. They certainly are healthier!

We know that natural canvases last a long time. All you have to do is check out painting from the Middle Ages to see proof of that. However, they were always not so confident. Many paintings then and into the Renaissance used wood for their base prepared in roughly the same way we prepare canvases today. So, which will last longer?

One of the biggest shocks of my art life was to find that paintings by Van Gogh did not look the way he painted them. Two of the colors he used and favored used natural pigments that within 10 years had faded remarkably. The bedroom painting in Provence originally was much brighter in tone. While still a moving piece, the PhotoShoped version of it putting back the faded colors showed an almost different painting. How did they find out? Removing the paintings for cleaning they discovered much brighter colors in the ¼" along the edges covered by the frame.

Nothing then is permanent. Between wars, stolen treasures, fires, many of the greatest works of man have disappeared. However, if I was to place a bet between a photo (and who doesn't have a family photo from the 70's and even later that has a decidedly red cast with most of the other colors gone) and a painting, "The Blue Boy" by Gainsborough come to mind, I think the painting stands a much better chance to retaining the colors and image of the original. I say, give paintings a chance. They may cost more initially but in most cases will still be as vibrant as they originally were long after a photo has faded away.

Be sure to check out my store, and see my oil and acrylic paintings. The newest items include brightly colored, palate knife cactus paintings.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Sorrow Of The Ukraine

In America we have a saying "that once a bully, always a bully." Well, until you get the crap beat of you that is. History is replete with examples. I would have to say that the fall of the Soviet Union and the entire Eastern Bloc came about because the bully didn't scare anyone any more. The glorious revolution of 1917 (for some) collapsed under its own weight. Can you design a government without the consent of its people?

Henry Kissinger observed in his book about European diplomacy that France played the role of the great spoiler making sure no one, including Russia or Germany became too dominate. Yet as long as Russia kept out of European affairs they were allowed to gobble up countries in the east and they did. He noted though that was the way Russia held together. Grow or die.

Ukraine may have been the motherland of modern Russia, after all Slavic Rus captured Kiev in the 800's, but the one never truly accepted the other. Language, culture, customs were different. Russians however, Putin among them, never accepted the collapse of the Soviet Union not understanding that it didn't work. Corruption permeated every level of their society. Refusing to learn from their Chinese neighbors their Communist Party stifled rather than encouraged business.

I feel what Russians like Putin don't like and moreover do not understand and envy is that the pieces of the corrupt Soviet Republics have formed successful governments and have generally thrived, at least better than Russia. Today's Russia with it's few immensely wealthy oligarch's and struggling masses is little different from Russia of the Czars. Well, is it? Putin is more like Czar Nicholas in sweats! Is Peter The Greats founding of St. Petersburg any different than what occurred in Sochi? A divine king decreed that it would be built as a window to the west. Sochi not only hosted the west but much of the known world. However, many of the old republics and everyone of the old eastern bloc has cast their lot with the west. They see the future. They don't want the past. Not any part of it.

Democracy cannot be given. We can try, we can lead, we can set an example but people, the people must find a way to govern themselves. They have to want and earn it. Americans have a rather limited view of others thinking often believing that everyone wants to live like us. President Johnson never understood that many Viet Namese didn't want to be Americans. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late 60's in West Africa I got to see first hand how other governments worked. Many talked a good line but like the original 13 colonies, their tribes, 28 in Liberia alone, had yet to sit down and truly talk to each other. Within a year coming home the Liberian President was assassinated and 25 years of civil war raged led by Americo-Liberians, repatriated slaves, who became the elite. Several A-L factions fought for power enlisting tribal hatreds to wage their long, bloody civil war.

African wars continue because boundaries set by grasping Europeans in the 19th Century live on.  Tribal areas were split, trade routes destroyed with culture and polity ignored. Other areas of  the world were similarly divided. Similar wars were fought there as well.

Yes, most of mankind wants freedom but in each culture the definition is oftentimes different. There are always dissidents but do they represent the masses? Is the Chinese communist party much different from 5,000 years of dynasties and emperors? Is the democracy of Germany the same as the one in South Africa? Even the United States and England, some say our "mother" country, have differing political systems. Is one better than than other? Are they both Democracies?

So, are we on the brink? Is this August 1914 all over again? Stupidity and alliances caused that war. It was really a family war. Every head of state was related. Wilhelm II was the grandson of Queen Victoria as was Alexandra, Empress of Russia. The British royal family were Germans.  They only adopted the name House of Windsor in 1917 to hide that fact. The House of Hollenzollern just didn't cut it.

So a country with the largest landmass boundary on earth, one it cannot manage, picks on a smaller nation because past rulers moved Russians en mass to ensure loyalty. Today they cry for protection. Maybe it's time for Russia to do what what all of Europe did after WWII, when nearly 50 million people moved back to where those newly liberated countries thought they belonged. In retrospect it's a win win for Russia. With a population dropping like a stone, a few million repatriated Russians sounds like just what the doctor ordered. They sure have the land and maybe those returning will stimulate the economy like never before. South Korea with a third of Russia's population in a space not much bigger than the Crimea, has half the GDP of Russia.

The world is tired of war. Putin counts on that. Yet, a close reading of Gladstone's meeting with Hitler is sobering. Putin, like Hitler, is sure the west being so eager to avoid war would let him get away with what he did. We will see. The biggest difference this time though is the world in inter-connected in ways that were unimaginable in 1938. Sanctions could become crippling. Germany, so dependent on energy from Russia will be reluctant to do anything. Yet, with the US fast approaching the leading exporter of oil in the world, that is something that can be remedied. Marie Antionette incautiously said "let them eat cake." Maybe we can tell the Russians, let them drink oil!