Friday, March 28, 2014

Conductor Kevin Mallon

I just loved meeting Kevin Mallon yesterday, here in Seattle to lead Seattle Baroque Orchestra in Bach's cantatas at Town Hall Seattle. We laughed a lot! Here's a segment from our interview -

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


My cartoon of pianist Yefim Bronfman, which I did shortly after interviewing him in Seattle.
Some folks from the online gallery where most of my art is, on a site called Toonpool, interviewed me a while back and they're featuring it again. Their questions don't have much to do with art, but I was so flattered to be chosen for a profile. Excerpt:

Toonpool: Tell me the biggest prank you've ever pulled on a friend. 

Me: I can’t think of a prank I pulled on someone else, but I remember a trick someone played on me. At an office Christmas party that was held at a nice hotel, one of my co-workers grabbed some silverware from a table setting and stuck it in my purse. I walked around all night with this silverware sticking out of my bag, and nobody told me! That’s the part I still can’t believe!

No bitters? I'm...bitter

What my old fashioned has become. It looks the same, but it's not.

We returned to one of our fave Belltown bars after having been away for a few months, the Rob Roy. The atmosphere is insanely adorable - think Urban Outfitters' assistant-to-the-chief-assistant-buyer's take on a 60's-era gentlemen's club, with walls paneled in black leather (or pleather), a deep-toned oil (or acrylic) painting of a topless lady who resembles Bettie Page, a conspicuously situated turntable (though the music seems to be coming from somewhere else), and Pepperidge Farm goldfish in long polished bamboo boats. Pretentious in a Seattle hipster faux-nostalgic way, but fun.

Anyway, all that stuff's still the same, but what killed me is that the old fashioneds have changed. Rob Roy used to brag about their Prohibition-era (or pre-Prohibition era?) ice techniques. The old fashioneds I loved used that special ice that ice sculptures are made of - super-dense with no air bubbles, so it doesn't melt for forever. You get your drink refreshed, but the ice is the same. And it makes the whole drink heavier in your hand and somehow more interesting.

So you could watch the bartender standing there chiseling a nice-sized crystaline chunk from an iceberg the size of a car, all for you and your little drink. And these things tasted really spicy - I assume because of the bitters they use. It's a classic drink, right, so the bitters are essential, not optional. Am I wrong here?

The other night when I ordered my old fashioned, it looked different. The ice lump is still gigantic, but it's no longer a hand-chipped segment of a hunk of special ice - it's tap water (or something) just poured into a mold shaped like a rough chunk of the denser stuff. The place is dark, so I slid it in front of the candle to make sure. Yeah - not the kewl ice. I checked the menu again, and found no mention of the prohibition era ice techniques. And the bitters had also been take out of the list of the old fashioned ingredients. Sadness!

Frank assures me the mounds of orange slices are still in the latrine. Good to know they kept what really counts.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Artist with Muse

My friend Bennet Norrbo died recently, and I can't quite get over it. I grew up on the street in Portland where he lived with his mother Marguerite. He took care of her his entire life. She was an adorable Swedish lady who plied the neighborhood boys with milk and cookies and taught the girls how to knit. She had a complicated way of doing it where she used mostly one hand. I couldn't figure it out.

When I got older I studied art, and that's when I began to be interested in Marguerite's son's paintings. Bennet Norrbo had worked for a while as a commercial artist in LA, but it didn't satisfy his soul's true ambition - to be a fine artist. So he came home to stay, and just painted - ALL the time. There was a back room in his mother's house that he stored all his stuff in, stuffed floor to ceiling with his canvases. He showed me his overflowing file of reference photos and magazine clippings. In the  eighties he was excited about a technique he was using with acrylics, underpainting. He described to me in minute detail how he accomplished effects like the one in the painting here, "Artist with Muse." I love how he puts Marilyn in a dowdy sweater, standing with her forearm covering her chest and one hand at her chin, in the kind of pose she was never photographed in. It's the muse imitating the artist for a change. I wish I could remember half of what he told me. I wish I had had a tape recorder then.

Mr. Norrbo (it was hard for me to get used to calling him anything else) loved Erich Wolfgang Korngold's music - the first time I'd ever heard that composer's name - and Scriabin. He lived simply and never married. I asked him if he ever missed his paintings once he sold them. "No, not really. I need to sell them so that I can have enough money to buy supplies and do another painting." To me it seemed that he was living on air. His modest lifestyle was the epitome of good taste, and it made me feel weird about my parents' in-your-face style of conspicuous consumption.

When my mother died, I went over to Bennet's house and we listened to Scriabin in one of the basement rooms where his music collection was. There was a painting there of a beautiful dark-haired girl in the shadows. It was a quiet, romantic portrait. He said he'd done it when he was younger, and he didn't paint that way anymore. I wonder whatever happened to that painting?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Gerard Schwarz and William Wolfram, a Seattle Dream Team

William Wolfram's performance last night of Richard Strauss' Burleske with Gerard Schwarz and Seattle Symphony simply ROCKED my world! Strauss' lush showpiece for piano and orchestra is a technical stunner, and Wolfram pushed its capacity from the inside out to extreme regions -- shattering power at one end, profound tenderness and humor at the other, and every gradation of feeling in between. His emotional capacity seems limitless, and as an audience member you feel privileged to be witnessing an utterly unique performance - an inspired, intensely personal statement that strikes once and can never be repeated. He'll perform the Burleske again, but never (you imagine) in precisely the same way.

It was so great to see SSO's Conductor Laureate, Maestro Gerard Schwarz, in the house again. You could feel the rush of affection from the audience as he strode onstage. On the bill: Don Juan, the Suite from Divertimento, Op. 86, and his own arrangement of the Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. Schwarz' intimate understanding of the music of Strauss, one of his favorites, produced an especially muscular, fiery, flexible and profound performance last night. I sat there thinking, WHY oh WHY can't I spend the rest of my life just sitting right here! I'm complete!

I caught up with William Wolfram earlier this week. He graces Benaroya's Nordstrom Recital Hall stage today at 2pm with SSO players in a concert featuring Dvorak and Poulenc, after which he's jetting off to perform Lizst's First Piano Concerto and Howard Hansons' Piano Concerto.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ben Stein

I knew Ben Stein many years ago. I loved his legendary turn in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and delighted in his tongue-in-cheek self-help books.  His American Spectator columns were not always about politics. His best ones were meditations on the oddities of daily life in LA - they were personal, introspective, very funny, at times moving. Not what you'd expect from the typical righty-bloviator.

So yes, he's an extreme right-winger, and I'm somewhere between "not a righty" to "very much the opposite." What, you didn't know lefties and righties could be friends? Yeah, they can. (Hey, I didn't say they necessarily remain friends.)

Anyway, this is my tribute to Ben Stein in color. I never saw him on a skateboard, but I wouldn't be surprised if I did.

Getty Images, job hunting, language, and Christoph Eschenbach

So I'm in between regular paid gigs, right, scouring the job sites every day. I'm finding that a few companies present themselves coherently, but a lot of them are delegating the task of writing their job descriptions to people who can't write too well. It can be a bit disorienting, especially when it's a well-known company. Today's example:

"You are a talented, data-driven and energetic product manager with a background in e-commerce and content management integration. You have a strong knowledge about Content Management Systems (CMS) and a deep understanding of e-commerce and customers in general."

It should be "knowledge OF," not ABOUT, right? Not a huge deal, but it stood out. When did prepositions become arbitrary? Are those pesky connectors in English sentences just placeholders now? You just mix and match, slap an "about" or a "to" or a "with" right in there, or whatever you feel like today? The reason I mention it is that it happens a lot. Not too shocking when you hear this kind of thing in conversation (or in radio copy, don't ask me how I know), but Getty Images is the crème de la crème.

I suppose it's just as well I don't have a strong "knowledge about" Content Management Systems. Anyway, I've posted one of my all-time favorite Getty Images photos above, of conductor Christoph Eschenbach as a young man. I just love this one and I've been wanting to buy it for a long time. See, I'm not really cranky with, or at, or about, Getty Images. They've just shattered my illustions, is all! [cries]

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy birthday Vivaldi!

I did this one a while back, but I reworked the colors and stuff. He just kind of needed an upgrade.

Kierkegaard and Bettie

A bunch of these drawings were uploaded elsewhere, so these are not new-new but I'm adding them in over time. I think Kierkegaard and Bettie Page would have liked each other, so I put them together.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Just shoot me

I found out a few days ago that a story I published online about a weird work adventure, is being picked up by a network that does re-enactments of weird tales of the workplace. I love that idea, but they're going to interview me too - and that part I'm not quite so down with. Why? I look like utter and complete crap on video. My face expands to fill all available screen space, and I look like a giant matzoh ball that's been sitting in its bath of chicken soup for a about a week. Plus I feel fat all the time anyway. I'm going through a phase where I only let people take pictures of me from above. I'm forgetting, I guess, that though my double chin is hidden here, all my other fat looks pretty much the same no matter what the angle.

PDJ Bach

Here's the original of the "pimp daddy Johann" version posted previously. Done lots of Bachs, never feel I'm getting him quite right. But this one comes closest.

My Ludwig

A drawing I created for last year's Public Radio Music Month.

My pal Joseph Haydn took a trip... Norway this month. An Oslo choir called the Baerum Kammerkor featured my drawing in this fab poster they designed for their concert. My art always looks better when it's being used for something. Does that make me a...utilitarian?


A lone bloom outside the post office in Seattle's Lower Queen Anne neighbhorhood...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Images that make the opposite point of the article they're dressing up, part deux

Here's another illustration from the same article on presence I referenced in my previous post. The woman here looks like she's a job seeker meeting two potential employers for the first time.

Aside from the fact that these figures are horribly drawn (or traced) and everybody looks crazy, there's the problem of what they're doing to the woman physically. They're much taller than she is. Are they on a platform, or is she just really short? It's clear that they have all the power. They have ties, loose fitting suits and semi-hip hair cuts, but she doesn't get a even a smidgeon of makeup or jewelry. Her plunging neckline hints at vulnerability.

She seems to be a lefty. No problem with that of course, but here the left-handedness creates a sense that she's somehow helpless. She doesn't look like she strode up to the guys and extended her hand to them. She looks like she's sinking and faltering after having just given blood, and the dude with boths hands on her appears to be yanking her forward. Is he a doctor? If not, there's no excuse for all that handsy action on a woman he's just met.

Images that make the opposite point of the article they're dressing up

I can't remember why I was searching for this, but I must have googled "presence" or "charisma." Up popped a link to an instructional site whose preview promised me all kinds of tips on how to increase the effectiveness of my personal presentation. These folks also promised me that their tips would be enhanced "WITH PICTURES!" Like nobody had ever done that before.

So I clicked on it (why?) and found myself reading this super long article about how to have presence. The article wasn't so bad, but the images were pretty awful. Aside from the fact that they're poorly executed (looking like tracings of crappy stock photos rather than real drawings), they're  strangely out of sync with the points the article is making.

This lady is  supposed to be a woman with extraordinary presence and ideal body language.  But what's with the hands?  They're clasped and held just below her boobs. All the body language guys since time immemorial will tell you that hands placed in front of the body telegraphs coldness and a need for self-protection. Which is of course the opposite of the open, warm, vivacious quality a woman with "presence" should actually have. This is a woman who's ill at ease, with a smile that's actually a grimace, and to me (maybe because I have introvert tendencies myself), she looks like an introvert trying desperately to disguise it. I don't think there's anything wrong with being an introvert, by the way. I just think it's nutty to hold up a portrait of panicked introversion and present it as the epitome of ease and confidence.


Aftra was the name of the union I was in when I worked for a certain Seattle radio station. They merged with SAG and are now SAG-AFTRA. They had a big convention here in Seattle for the first time in aeons, so I drew a poster for the event. They didn't use it, but I discovered a Photoshop filter that makes mud look fabulous. There's always an upside.

I got memed...

One of my deviantart pals, Chaos5five5, memed a drawing I did of Bach. I love what he did with it!

chaos5five5 on DA

Here we go...again

I somehow locked myself out of my other blog, so I'm starting a new one. I'm making a resolution to be more positive here.

Tribute to Malevich

This is a piece I drew for a book about the Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malewich, edited by an artist friend I connected with at a German site, Toonpool. As far as I know the book hasn't come out - I haven't received a status update in a while. Better check on that! My Toonpool gallery