Music

Embryonic

Another one from the five-year plan file. It should be noted that such pictures rarely, if ever, resemble the images that were floating in my head years ago, since new work is done on them when it's their turn to be painted. In this case, I was still living in CA when this one hatched. From even the earliest days on this blog, I've made a couple of references to the feeling of floating in space. Usually it's been a musical sensation, but there does seem to be something awfully embryonic about the imagery.

The image floated around in my head for awhile, as it were, until recently. I'd been wanting to paint something in the science-fiction vein for awhile, and this image was popping up again, among others. What sealed the deal was iTunes. Once again, music. In this case, it was seeing that, without my notice, the Flaming Lips had just released a new album, entitled, strangely enough, "Embryonic," which from the beginning was the very title I had in mind for this painting. Well, I considered the deal sealed (and bought the album while I was at it). I started gathering images of embryos, and loved the reddish glow present in most of them. Nebula in the distance helped to get across the back-lit fluidity of environment present in some of the images. The pencil drawing below then was the basis for the image:

The image was then painted 18x24" in oils. Though while painting I'm often rotating the painting to work on it from different angles, I painted it originally in the horizontal aspect of the sketch. However, in the end, I actually preferred it as a vertical for some reason. I'd actually already signed it horizontally, but ever since finishing it, I have preferred showing it vertically, and it currently hangs in my house in that orientation. As well, it's being presented on my website vertically. I suppose it's a positive thing that I think it works in a couple of orientations, given the weightless no-way-is-up nature of deep space. I may change my mind again at some point, who knows?

Wide or tall, tall or wide...?

All Points West 2008

What with the Beijing Olympics on the TV behind me where I work and last weekend's All Points West Festival (I attended Friday evening only), it's been tough to stay focused between conventions.

My last concerts, sad to say, were over a year ago. I love live shows, but man--the cost! So I headed down to the APW in the afternoon to catch the two acts I paid to see, really: Andrew Bird and Radiohead.

I discovered Bird last fall right around the time of my series of unfortunate events. Though I pick up albums here and there, really only one or two dig themselves in deep. While the other albums will get some play, the one or two will invariably dominate my ears for about 6 months straight. From October through March of this year or so, it was the two Bird albums I mentioned earlier, just about non-stop. He came through San Francisco when I was in California for a stint during that time; I couldn't afford the show and life had me down, so I stayed home kicking myself instead.

Seeing him live (front row center) was fantastic. He's known for changing songs quite a bit live, and his show feels like it's about to go off the rails at any second. Playing multiple violin parts which he loops live, along with very proficient whistling, glockenspiel, guitar, and singing is like watching Bugs Bunny trying to manage his one-man band act. But then the drummer gets into the act with more live-looping of drum and keyboard portions. When it works it's very, very fun to watch and gorgeous sounding. He jumps back and forth between instruments frequently mid-song, and I've heard some shows where he misses cues or has to start over. No such mess-ups on Friday.

I didn't bring a camera, unfortunately


Radiohead I haven't seen since the OK Computer tour. I consider that album to be the best rock album of the 90s, so when they delivered their next two albums they felt like someone you were great friends with went off to college, got all into drugs and stuff and you hardly recognized them by winter break. And yes, OK Computer was one of those 6 month albums, too. I've kept up with them though and after the most recent two albums felt like seeing them again.

On both stages the sound was probably the best live sound I've ever heard. Clean separation of instruments, deep silky bass, clear vocals, loud but not ear-splitting. The weather was good (for a change) and I thoroughly enjoyed myself...except for when a gal passed out behind me. Radiohead had a good show, though there are a few slow, plodding numbers that did kill the momentum here and there. They were the exact opposite of Bird, rendering nearly note-for-note reproductions of their recorded songs.

The main stage was a good 3/4 mile or more away from the light rail station. When the show ended, fearing a huge delay getting home as tons of people made their way to the station, I took advantage of my running to basically bypass everyone and hop on the very next train. I win!

And with that, time to pack it up and head to Indy again!

Pensées

It struck me while discussing my running habit that artists are custom-made to be runners. I run with no iPod or other media distractions (neither are they allowed in most races anyway), and this makes the whole thing completely unthinkable to most people. Yet artists are alone with their thoughts (

pensées)

all day long, everyday, often in solitude not so different from a run. While I do listen to stuff while painting, it's not unusual for something to finish and me not notice, I just continue on quietly for awhile.

Since last

mentioning it

, I have reread the first 4 books of

King's

Dark Tower series

and finally got to reading a new entry, finishing "Wolves of the Calla" last week. Though not the only books I've read in that time, they are the only fiction. I probably won't begin the next (even longer) book for a few months.

Somewhat related: after a way-too-long hiatus,

Michael Whelan

has relaunched his website. It's a little prettier than the old, and has a whole lot of his personal work, which I mostly love. Sadly there wasn't much I hadn't seen--I'd been going to his online gallery

Tree's Place

and getting my fix there for some time. I'm guessing this new site goes strong for a year or so then dies the long death of artist inattention again.

After discovering

Andrew Bird

on a

Late Night With Conan O'Brien

rerun about a month ago I have listened to little else. I have a habit of burning out new albums by listening to them over and over and..., burning them into my head until I finally absorb them completely or am distracted by something better/newer. Having picked up "

Armchair Apocrypha

" and the wonderfully titled "

the Mysterious Production of Eggs

," I find myself once again years behind the hipper music scenesters who no doubt were following this guy long before Marriot's

Residence Inn

found him, basically right about when I did. Actually, even they beat me, I just didn't know who it was. My indie cred expired a decade ago.

My schedule for all of recent memory: paint/draw/work ~10:00-4pm go for a run, shower, eat dinner and rest for a bit (or keep painting with maybe a half hour nap on off days). Work again 7pm-anywhere from midnight to 2am. It varies depending on my runs, but 9-12 hours a day total has been typical. 6 days a week, though often life doesn't allow the 6th day's evening painting session. Trust me, I'm

not bragging

here.

Have a sketch while you're here, as reward for reading the randomness:

This piece saw many changes by the time it was finalized and approved.

disintegration

i hadn’t heard it in quite awhile, but last night while doing some thumbnails i popped in the cure’s “disintegration” album. last year i bought a sweet set of sony dj-headphones: big fat leaky headphones with great range. i bought them in china so i’m sure they probably aren’t even sony, but they still sound great. so i decided to get reacquainted with the album on the new ‘phones.

i had a big ol' poster of the full album cover art in my bedroom. wish i'd kept it, i could earn a mint on ebay, probably. their album art took a decidedly downward turn from here.

i had a big ol' poster of the full album cover art in my bedroom. wish i'd kept it, i could earn a mint on ebay, probably. their album art took a decidedly downward turn from here.

disintegration was released in early 1989. i was 14 still and in my sophomore year of high school. i had just finished my first attempt at painting, ever, in acrylics. while i remember it as being sort of the soundtrack to all of highschool, in reality it played a very prominent role for about a year (a year of highschool does feel like a lifetime, though). it’s still one of my favorite albums, even if it doesn’t see play all that much as other bands and albums have crowded my playlist.

so i’m sitting there listening to the overpowering rumble of “plainsong” the album’s opening track, at high volume (the only way to hear that track, really) when i almost fell out of my chair….disintegration is 17 years old. 17…years…old. i remember the day i bought the album, on cassette. i was newly into the cure, really, and mainly familiar with their singles collection, “staring at the sea” i wasn’t overly familiar with their newer stuff and certainly not a lot of their darker stuff. i went for a walk to the corner store with it in my walkman. i remember hearing plainsong for the first time and after growing up on 80’s pop i recall just not getting it. it didn’t make musical sense to me. it didn’t take long for it to click, however, and the rest is history.

but really, 17 years? indeed. it was one of those moments when you realize what year it is again, and how old you really are. it’s hard to feel old when you’re only 31, but i definitely felt like i’d crossed a generational chasm. i mean, kids that were born on that fateful day in may when i bought the album are now juniors and seniors in high school. wow, just…wow.

i still didn’t really get the meaning of this gap. so i tried to imagine being 14 again, in 1989, and what i felt and thought about music done 17 years before—music that came out in 1972. before i was born, no less! in 1972, david bowie’s ziggy stardust, and the eagle’s debut album were released…. now, considering that late 70’s music already sounded dated to me at the time, (not to mention how the eagles already sounded!) i can only imagine what disintegration would sound like, today, to a 14 or 17 year old growing up with kaiser chiefs.

i’ve lived in a musical continuum from then through now, still keeping in touch with new music as best i can, so when i listened to it it didn’t seem dated or whatever, although it could use a remastering. but i’m sure that if you took out the 90’s from your musical knowledge and compared it to stuff being done today it’d be quite a departure.

the concert for that tour was amazing. another band i came to greatly like but who were short-lived, shelleyan orphan, opened. plainsong was the first song of the set and i recall it rumbling in my chest, back before the shoreline amphitheater started regulating sound levels. my wife was out there in the audience too, but we weren’t to formally meet for another couple of weeks yet.