Tuesday, July 29, 2008

30 Minute Self Portrait

Same picture as the last post. Same sketch book. Same ball point pen. More time.

I thought it would be interesting to do the same sketch and just spend a little more time... see how things go.

It's hard for me to stick with a sketch for more than about 30 minutes anyway, so I doubt I'll be trying the 60 minute or two hour version.

Monday, July 28, 2008

10 Minute Self Portrait

This was from a photo taken by my webcam. Ten minutes with a ballpoint... no erasing and that much speed means you've just got to let the mistakes go... and maybe it even ends up more closely reflecting reality because you can't make any edits to flatter yourself.

That said, it always amazes me how long my face and head are. My fragile self-image has me much more square jawed.. like Dick Tracy. But in reality, I've got a head like a cucumber, more like Bert from Sesame Street!

By the way, you can compare this with the me from 25 years ago... same long face and head... just a lot more miles.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

House Memories - Harmon Ave

We moved from Siren when I entered first grade. The house we moved into, on Harmon Ave., I guess will always be "home" for me, as it's the house I grew up in. It wasn't much larger than the Siren house initially, but my Dad kept expanding it. First he made the original garage into a family room, with a Ben Franklin wood-burning stove right in the middle. Then he refinished the basement, and finally added a master bedroom and work shop on the back.

Some memories from this house:

  • Hauling in wood all fall, winter and spring. We had a wood burning furnace as well as the Ben Franklin fireplace, and so we went through wood like nobody's business.
  • The chickens, rabbits and ducks we raised in the sheds every year.
  • The menagerie of cats we always had around, and Gomer, the family mutt.
  • The large garden, where my parents planted potatoes, corn and all sorts of green veggies.
  • The maple tree in the southeast corner of the lot, that I'd climb on nearly a daily basis.
  • The trails through the woods all around the house, that were tramped down by years of bike riding and running.
  • The neighborhood games of softball, football, soccer, kick the can, hide and seek, war, etc. There were about 10 kids on the street, in all grade school ages.

Friday, July 25, 2008

House Memories - Nyberg Road, Siren

"Hememd", a member of the Everyday Matters group took as a project to sketch the houses she used to live in. This sounded like a great idea, so I decided to do it myself.

When I was about five, my parents rented a house on Nyberg Road in Siren. It was a small house, heated by propane, and it was always cold and drafty. The main floor had a living room, a kitchen, a dining room and the only bathroom. Upstairs were four tiny bathrooms. The entire house was only 1200 sq feet.

I remember small things from this house...

  • Riding my bike with training wheels in the dirt driveway.
  • Taking a walk in the woods with my older brother and parents (my younger brother wasn't born yet).
  • Getting my hand burned on my Dad's cigarette one night when he picked me up.
  • Standing on a tree stump and singing "I Did It My Way" during a windy day.
  • Getting my tongue frozen to the metal handrail on the back steps one winter.
  • Jealously seeing my older brother go off to school in the fall while I stayed home.
During a recent trip through Siren, I decided to drive by the house and saw it was for sale. The house and 14 acres was going for $127,000. If it's still on the market, the listing can be seen here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Natalie, the Little Mermaid

This last weekend, we visited my 90 year old grandfather and took the kids swimming in a local lake in Wisconsin. My 6 year old daughter surprised me with how well she took to the water. We spent a long time diving underwater, back and forth, grabbing hands and legs.

And just last month, she didn't even want to get her face wet! I guess those swimming lessons are paying off.

I hope in the future, she'll come across this and understand how proud she made me that day and remember how much fun we had together... me and my little mermaid .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Chemical Romace - The Black Parade

Nobody can make the argument that my musical tastes aren't varied.

A recently released album I really enjoyed was "The Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance. Released in 2006, the CD was a concept album. The songs told the story and thoughts of a young, terminal cancer patient. Bitter, angry, morbid, regretful... many of the songs express some pretty dark themes. But there's also tenderness and sweetness... the band's singer (Gerard Way) believes that when death comes for you, it comes in the guise of your fondest memory. In this case, the memory of a parade that the young patient's father took him to as a child.

Perhaps too theatrical and loud for some, I really enjoyed it and still listen to it often. Favorite songs... "Disenchanted," "Famous Last Words" and "I Don't Love You"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kitty Closeup

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

1997 Pontiac Sunfire Convertible

I guess I'm on a car kick here lately. So be it.

I'm not too happy with the sketch at left... it is a bit too rushed. (By the way, in the car is me and my then-fiance, soon-to-be wife.)

In any event, I bought my first "brand new" car in 1997. As I mentioned in my last post , I got a fever for convertibles after having the Suzuki Samurai. So the only brand new convertible that I could fit in my meager budget was a Pontiac Sunfire (price around $19,000?)

The convertible aspect of this car was fantastic. The top retracted in a very efficient, fun-to-watch, motorized way with the twist of a handle. The other really cool thing that I remember about it was that the stereo and CD player controls were on the steering wheel (awesome!). Other than that, the car was kind of a dog. Gas mileage was so-so (around 23 mpg?), and I had to take it into the shop a number of times for various engine warnings, etc. But the biggest pain was that the roof leaked in the driver's side corner. It would drip on my left knee, even in the lightest fog or haze. If it rained heavily, it was like a garden hose. I took it in countless times to get that fixed, but they could never take care of it. I even had the roof completely replaced. I finally gave up and just kept a towel in the car for the specific purpose of covering my knee.

I sold this car about three years later to a guy who was buying it for his college-aged daughter. I sold it for $10,500 (cash). I made the mistake of not doing the transaction right at the motor vehicle department, and as a result, she didn't register it properly.

I got her speeding and parking tickets delivered to my house for the next year or so (she got a lot of them!) and so once every few months I'd have to go into the DMV and prove the tickets weren't mine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

1987 Suzuki Samurai

After college, I bought a Suzuki Samurai. This is the car that was infamous for flipping over on any curve taken at moderate speeds. This car was also made before the days when cars were basically rust-proof.

In short, the car was a rattling death trap. But it was a total blast to drive in the summer with the top off. It was my first convertible and will likely not be my last.

I remember at times driving down the freeway, with people waving at me, trying to get my attention that a fender was about to tear off in the wind. One time, when I parked the car at work, I walked around and the front bumper basically fell off at my feet.

I sold this car to my younger brother... I forget the price. Maybe $500? He painted the entire thing camouflage and put on wooden beams for bumpers, wrapping them in barbed wire. It was the perfect north-backwoods vehicle - four wheel drive and small enough to fit on any old lumber trail, maybe even a deer path.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Batman - Detective Comics #475

The upcoming Batman movie has me thinking about my own mental image of Batman. In my pre-teen memories, he was a detective, skilled at hand to hand combat, fit and trained as any Olympic athlete... but he was less bombastic than the Hollywood version. He would rather sneak in and anonymously take down an evil-doer than smash through the front door with a tank-like, rocket fueled motorbike.

I'm not saying the new Batman movie won't be good. It will just be a different Batman than I grew up with. My Batman was much more introspective... quieter.

Friday, July 04, 2008

St. Nikola Icon

Today, July 4th, our uncle Nick passed away after a battle with cancer. One of the most important things to Nick was his Orthodox faith. In honor of that, here's a sketch of St. Nikola from the 12th century.

Strangely enough, this icon bears an astonishing resemblance to uncle Nick himself.

Rest in peace Nick.

See more information on St. Nikola at

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hound Dog Taylor

Around 1990, I bought a cassette tape called "Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection" and heard a song called "Give Me Back My Wig". It had such a raw, ragged blues sound I loved. I went out and bought a few LP records (from a used record store) by Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers. That launched a life long love of the blues and personal discovery of artists like Professor Longhair, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Koko Taylor and BB King.

Hound Dog Taylor played Chicago blues through the 60s and 70s. He lived a hard, but colorful bluesman's life, drinking whiskey & chasing women. There's a tale told that he once had to spend the night hiding in Mississippi ditches to avoid the Klu Klux Klan, who were hunting him down for having an affair with a white woman. The name "Hound Dog" stuck because he was always on the hunt for romance.

In 1975, Hound Dog and his bass player Brewer Phillips, although life long friends were in another of their numerous fights. Hound Dog felt that Phillips insulted his wife Freda, and shot Phillips twice (aiming for the crotch, but hitting Phillips' arm and leg). Hound Dog was charged with attempted murder, but never made it to trial. He had fatal lung cancer from a lifetime of chain smoking cigarettes. Before the trial and at his deathbed, Phillips forgave Hound Dog for the shooting. Hound Dog died the day after getting Phillips' forgiveness.

Hound Dog's music is loud, distorted and sometimes screeching and off-key, but it has a bouncing blues beat that's irresistible. It's easy to imagine a smoky Chicago bar, the floor thumping from people keeping the beat with Hound Dog.

Some favorites in addition to "Give Me Back My Wig" (from his first album) and "See Me In the Evening", "Sadie" and "Sitting Home Alone" (from his second).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008