Monday, June 30, 2014

Ravel and Stravinsky

Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, when they were young - and before Stravinsky acquired glasses and moustache. I did this from a photograph that shows them standing close together, but not sitting exactly like this. Not sure why they're so close, but it seemed to work.

Best line I've read recently, from novelist and fiction coach Alan Watt: "Only in France can a kid tell his folks, 'Well, I waffled between med school and law school, but I've decided to write tone poems.' "

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jean Baptiste-Lully

My original drawing of JBL made him look like a dead ringer for Cher. I tried again - but I'm still not happy. His face looks like it was pasted down on top of the hair. So I consider this one intermediate...still working on it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do Not Disturb Further

Ferdinand Ries here is a composer and contemporary of Beethoven. I was struck by his face in the original portrait, and his eyes especially, which looked a bit lovestruck to me. And when I realized that I had unintentionally drawn his lapels in the shape of hearts, I had to call this one Ferdinand Ries in Love.

It's been a weird week. I've had the most bewildering exchange with a therapist ever. I saw this guy's info online - let's call him Marc - and he seemed pretty impressive. I was struck by his focus and description of his own methods on his site. He mentioned that one of his specialties was helping people in the aftermath of job loss, and he also had a bullet point on there stating that the initial session was free. Sounded good to me.

His name was French, first and last. I wasn't sure if he was American or French. In our first email exchange, I asked him if he might have something open that week, if he took insurance, and one other question I can't recall. His response was, "Yes from all three," and he said we should go ahead and set an appointment.

I felt sure the guy must be French. "Yes from all three" was probably a simple grammatical error, like the kind you'd make if you were still learning English. I was actually kind of looking forward to having a therapist who was a gen-yoo-ayn French fella. A French therapist would have to be the complete opposite of an American life coach, for instance.

I had a life-coach therapist once - a guy (let's call him Stan) who kept telling me, when I had problems at work, to just "be the lion" with my boss. "Be the lion!" he'd yell. Sure. Easy to say, harder to do. And what does that even mean, anyway? When Stan wasn't yelling at me me to be the lion, he was telling me I should: "Do whatever your boss wants!" He seemed unaware that these two approaches might have anything contradictory about them. He used to reach behind him where he had a bookcase full of fat tomes, and would pull one down and thwack it open on his desk. "If you don't believe me, look at this! IT'S RIGHT HERE!" We didn't last long, but he was helpful in steering me away from easy-fix, you're-a-winner-except-when-you're-not approaches to therapy.

I figured the French dude would be a deep-delver, not superficial. He might even be open to interesting philosophical chats. There's nothing you couldn't say to a French therapist. I was ready to roll up my sleeves.

Marc, disappointingly, turned out to be American, though (I assume) of French extraction. His face was long and he had large eyes. He looked sympathetic, and the signs that he was a new-age guy - dark red shirt, candles on a side table - seemed to bode well for the likelihood that he was not a life coach.

Marc and I had one session, and it went well enough that I wanted to  continue. There was one strange moment when I asked him whether the first session was free. He gave me this long, sad, searching look. "You saw that?" I felt I had made some sort of stumble, but wasn't sure why.

I said, yes, I had read about the free initial session on his web site, and wanted to find out if it was still true. Therapists are not always great about keeping their sites updated, and since he hadn't mentioned it yet, I figured I should get clear on it. He said, "Yes, well, the session is free to you.  But I'll be billing your insurance for it."

When I called my insurance, they told me that Marc was out of network, and that I would have to pay up to a largish deductible before they would start covering a portion of the cost of my sessions. I emailed Marc to let him know that since my insurance wasn't going to be covering my sessions for a while, and I didn't have any income at present, I would need to delay starting therapy until I could pay his fees. I confirmed that I would pay him myself for the first session, and was positive and pleasant. In a second message I gave him my address, so he could send me the bill.

I expected him to say, "Sure, no worries, looking forward to seeing you again when you can resume," or whatever. But his response seemed a bit panicked. He said I should definitely come back immediately, and he would give me a reduced rate - some percentage off his fee of $140. He explained that the first-free-session thing would only work if I was seeing him and paying up to the deductible. It would take about ten sessions to reach that point.

I had sent him a second message giving him my mailing address for billing purposes, and he had responded individually to this in a tone that seemed pissy to me. No greeting, but just: "Didn't you ask for a free session?"

I was a bit stunned. I shot back, "I didn't ASK FOR a free session. I had seen your offer on your web site, and I asked about it to find out more." I told him again that I would have to delay starting a program of therapy until I could pay for the sessions. I also said I needed confirmation that I was cancelling next week's session in time not to get billed for it.

He responded with a complaint that I seemed "upset" in my message. He conceded we might be able to resume sessions at some point, but only if he had something open then. (Oh great, the scarcity-anxiety manipulation, gotta love that one!)

So the free session, according to Marc, is like a cereal box prize you can claim if you're clever enough to spot it on the web site. His interpretation of events was that I had asked him for the free session, and then he had (magnanimously!) agreed to it. So we had had this secret dance about it in his mind. All of this, of course, was something I'd been unaware of. The hidden assumption, I now know, was that I must stay in therapy long enough to reach my deductible. This is why the guy's face fell when I mentioned the free session. He knew he'd be left holding the bag for the amount of the fee if I didn't come back.

It would be so easy to protect himself from this eventuality. Why not be transparent? He could easily put a piece of documentation together that includes some boilerplate such as: "If for whatever reason the client chooses not to continue after the first session, then he or she will forfeit the free initial session offer." Simple. A therapist is a small business owner. Compensation should not be a gray area.

He seemed so weird and put out about the whole free session thing, though, that I decided I would just pay him for it, and I told him as much in my first email. But he says: "I don't remember you saying you're going to pay for the first session. I remember agreeing to free first session but my memory is not always accurate. Do what you think is right."

I read that and instantly turned into Munch's The Scream.  I cut and pasted my promise to pay him from the previous message, and told him that he already had my billing address.

And the poor memory thing - omfg. Having a poor memory, for a therapist, is kind of a big old red flag. I mean, you're a therapist! 

A person seeking therapy is emotionally fragile. It takes courage to walk through that door and start spilling your guts to someone you don't even know. The therapist has an obligation not to make things worse by being less than transparent about the financial aspect, or any other aspect of the process. Look, Dollface, you're a healer. First, do no harm -- or, as the cartoonist and philosopher Callahan put it, DO NOT DISTURB FURTHER. Be clear about your terms of service.

I'm not saying the guy wasn't within his rights to set any stipulations he likes. He just needs to be clear about what they are.

And he wasn't even French! [cries]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Antonio Barbosa

My drawing of Antonio Barbosa, the Brazilian pianist who studied with Claudio Arrau. He died at age 50. I mean to collect all his recordings.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ephraim Bernstein-inspired portrait

Some likenesses elude me completely. I found a self-portrait at age seventeen by an American artist who mostly does architecture paintings now, Ephraim Bernstein. He was studying the paintings of Goya at the time, and the work has a haunting quality -- really looks like it was done in a previous century. I fell in love with it and tried to reproduce it in my own style (whatever that is), without much success. Anyway, this doesn't look much like the original, but I learned something about portraiture as I was trying to get it right.

I think romantic portraits meant to evoke the past look better with exaggerated, long noses, even when the original doesn't have one.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Summertime in Seattle makes me think of oldster fashion, then and now.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Clementi and Clementini, parents and eye contact

I was reading a book of essays by a favorite author of mine, Francine Prose, called Reading Like a Writer. Toward the beginning of the book there's a reference to the composer "Clementini." After a second I realized she must have meant Muzio Clementi - but my imagination was fired by the idea of Clementini. So I drew them both!

My parents were East Coasters and the children of immigrants, so my early life was noisy and drama-filled. My folks were loud-talking gregarious people who loved dancing and food and parties, and their friends loved them. It took me years to realize that they weren't actually present -- at least not to me. They did all kinds of great things for me, like raising and feeding me and paying for large chunks of my schooling. But my father was always on trips and pretty much emotionally unavailable, except once every quarter when he would suddenly fly into a screaming, red-faced rage. The causes were varied and I never quite figured out the triggers.  I was unable to anticipate these things or to avoid punishment, and I sunk into helpless depression (I think it's actually called that by the shrinks, btw).

My mother I could write a book about. She was convinced I was crazy, and was constantly trying to get confirmation of this. She shuttled me to shrinks and brain doctors, hoping for a diagnosis of insanity. My theory is that her marriage was troubled, but she couldn't sacrifice her relationship with my father - so she chose me as her scapegoat. As a child I simply had no idea what was going on. I internalized my mother's anxiety, and grew up believing there was something terribly wrong with me. After she gave up on therapy, I took it up on my own and continued the search. For what? I've never known, but I'm still dependent on therapists (talk about parental substitutes!).

My parents rarely made eye contact with me, or looked at my face. As a result, I find it hard to remember their faces (they died years ago) and I need photographs to recall what they looked like. Since my father was emotionally absent, men have always obsessed me -- and I happen to like classical music and composers, which is why I draw male composers and musicians so much. In these drawings I pay a lot of attention to facial expression and the expression in the eyes. I draw men's faces as I wish to see them - looking back at me with affection and a long, lingering gaze, as my father should have done but never did.

Doing art helps a lot. It allows me to construct my own ideal world of color and warmth, humor and love and gazing, and people with faces that actually say something to me.

Note - first time I've used hatching brushes on a finished piece. So easy, I feel like I'm cheating! Robert Crumb wouldn't approve of course...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Drawing of Ivan Ilić

I don't think I've posted my drawing of Ivan here yet, though I did post it to my other blog (that I somehow can't access anymore). The guy has incredible eyes.

Things I miss about being on the air...

...include saying composer's names that are fun, like Jean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville. Love his music too. My sketch.