Friday, July 31, 2009

Burglar/Trapeze Artist

This masked man--make that kid--tromped around on my back porch this morning along with his six brothers and sisters. Mama stood aways off, encouraging a life of crime.

When I stepped out the door, they all split. "Cheez it! It's the fuzz!" one of them hissed.

Dreamer here didn't get the memo. He lingered, singing to himself, "I've been workin' on the railroad...," until he realized that he'd been skunked by his rat kin.

At first he didn't like the look of me, until he saw my press badge. Then he started busting some moves. "Check this one out," he tossed his hair, flexed his young muscles. Hanging ten, oh yeah, clearly this dude's got talent.

"Did you get that?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

These Boots Were Made For Stomping

Cute, or what? Grandkiddos are, to use jaimetemairik-speak, the Bee's Knees. Or the Ant's Pants. Or the Kitten's Mittens. What else,... oh, the Dog's Clogs, or the Antelope's Cantaloupe...Help! Get me out of here. O.K., I'm not a poet. Or clever.

But this heat is Last night at the Secret Garden Bookstore we had a fun book signing and talk. Thank you Christy, and Suzanne. Well, Ben and I had fun, the crowd, (make that Illuminati) were sweltering, and humoring us. Now, I looked up "Illuminati", and this crowd was not 16th century Spanish heretics, or George Washinton's Secret-Handshake-Bavarian cousins. These were the real deal.

A lot of times when I give a little talk, I realize that people in the audience are *way* ahead of me. Think, brilliant, Nobel Laureates, or writers whose words burn like molten magnesium. Artists who make Mona Lisa's mouth drop open. Such was the case last night. Thank you for coming, Chauni and Bill Haslet, lovely friends and stellar supporters of literacy, authors, and illustrators.

There were kids in the audience, the young kind, short children, who were apparently studying chemistry, and military ordinance, and two of them are book reviewers! I'm not kidding. That's right, none other that The Talking Potatoes. They could see right through us. Oy!

Back to the yellow rain boots. I loved those when I was a kid. Yes, rubber had been invented back then. And the color yellow existed too. Point is, Rain Boots. So, mateys, courage. Hold fast. It will rain again. And get cooler. So don't get all cocky, Sun, like you're so hot. This is the Northwest. Didn't you see Sleepless in Seattle? It rains nine months out of the year here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Oooo Factor

There was a time when everything was amazing. As we get older and so very sophisticated, we should not forget how wowy the world is. I'm talkin' sparkles and things that make you catch your breath. It's o.k. to talk to animals and insects. Try saying, "I love you to the wind", or better yet to someone who needs their chin lifted.

I remember watching Fourth of July fireworks with my dad, when I was shorter than Bilbo Baggins, and telling him, "Daddy, let me go catch the falling stars." He was a pragmatist and probably said, "Not a good idea, its white hot molten magnesium and red phosphorus, you would burn your hand to a crisp." But to this day, I still think that if he had let me try, I might have been able to catch just one, and put it in a jar.

Then again... wait, I'm getting that I think about that; When I was a young father, we took our kids and huge dog to see the fireworks at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Each year it's a serious display of pyrotechnics. Well, I wanted my little chickadees to be really close to fully experience that magic that I had pined for all those years. Sooo, we brought a picnic basket, a blankie, teddy bears, and our three wee bairns in their jammies all set for Daddy's surprise treat. Before the real action began, the hillside caught fire from a bunch of amateurs and their bottle rockets. This caused a little panic and some tourists burned rubber trying to get out in a hurry. We stayed put, this was the perfect spot right behind the Bowl itself. I was on edge after that, but the Pasadena Fire Dept. quickly got it under control.

As we waited for the fun, we sang sweet lullablys and calmed down to await the pretty sparkles. "It's going to be like Tinkerbell dust", said the father who hadn't thought things through. Turns out we were staked out right by where they fire off the rockets. All ten thousand of them.

What followed is a blur in my seared memory. A lot of deafening, KABLAMMMMS! KAPOWS! BOOSH! SCREEECH! KAJUNG! POW!! BLAMMO! BLAMMO! BLAMMO!!!..... You get the idea. Then there was screaming, and children running in opposite directions and the dog looked like one of those cartoon cats splayed out with fur electrified. He bolted off to hell. And the wifey looked at me like, "What kind of maniac father would do this to his family?"

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The good news is I don't think they remember much, at least the therapy hasn't brought it to the surface yet. The dog never recovered. Complete wacko. I am a little deaf ever since. Yeah, come to think of it, I don't need to catch the sparkles anymore, been there, done that, thanks anyway.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sky Feather

Breath of wind. Where did our breath come from? When did we first appear in a dream? Who first wrote our name? I looked up and saw the pen that was used to write new names. A feather quill made of angel laughter and cloud crystals.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maximum Art

There is something compelling about art that sits down and makes itself at home. My friend, Max Grover, does art that puts its feet up and grabs the remote.

His artwork is slightly unhinged, and yet brilliant. For instance, he is the only artist I know who has painted a still life of a sink full of dirty dishes. He often paints
the occasional ode to vacuum cleaners.

Get a whiff of these labels
that Max did for Sue Ohlson, the owner and
Master Roaster at Sunrise Coffee Company Ltd. of Port Townsend, Washington. These labels are a perfect matching of concept, technique, color and client. It would be hard to imagine this town without Max's art. Paris has its E tower, NYC has the ESB, and Egypt has its pyramids. PT has MGA.

I don't know about you, but a good label grabs me. When I was in Russia (before capitalism) they had plain brown bags labeled in red Cyrillic block letters, SUGAR, or TEA, or COFFEE. That's it. Well, they soitenly didn't grab me.
But those were desperate times, and people were glad to get anything. How did I get here? Point is, art makes the world more beautiful. And funky. Funky is good.

If you are into great fresh roasted coffee visit:

Visit Max's site:

What I like best about Max is that he is himself,
and his art is great art. To say his art is funky, is getting warm, but I am not sure there are words to adequately describe this wrinkle in the space/time continuum.

Let the Maxmoblile take you for a ride. You will find a whole new way of looking at things like bathtubs, red cars, baseball and asphalt. And coffee.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

There's A Reason

It's like Mae West said, "When your husband gives you a gift for no reason. There's a reason." All that to say, that the artist uses him/her self as a model for a reason. A lot of reasons. First, because we are all so cooperative. And good looking. Plus we work for peanuts.

Next, the artist can mess with his own head. So if we want to make us look fatter or skinnier, no problemo. Or if we want to make us look like idiots, then it's just straight realism.

Artists have done self portraits forever. Look at God, for Pete's sake. He made man in his image. Some of my favorite self portraits show the artist at various stages in their lives, bandaged ear and all.

We all, if we are honest, have those bandaged ear phases of our lives. It is not always easy to be so transparent and naked when painting a self portrait. But it is good for the soul, and tells the world a lot. Sometimes more than you might realize.

I enjoy it when people analyze a painting. "You may be right, or you may be wrong, are you gonna miss me when I'm gone..."-Leadbelly.

An interpretation of art says as much about the reviewer as the art. I was just at an art show and a woman was looking at a painting that was a simple self portrait of the artist standing by his canvas. And I heard her saying, "This artist was a lover. He knew that he had to grab the opportunity that was in front of him. He had such passion, such lust for life. He knew that if he did not commit to the love in front of him, it wouldn't be there if he left and came back."
Well, she was really talking about herself and her boyfriend. You see he was just leaving for a round the world trip by himself. I knew him.

Each of these paintings is a self portrait of myself. I used me not because I am an egomaniac, although, I guess I don't get to vote on that one, but because I was ready, willing, and available. A cheap date.

The top piece is from my book Tom Thumb, and I was a derelict tinker. As I said, realism. The elf dancing is probably more Freudian, but it is me, I like to dance, and draw with a really big pen. See, I say one thing and you think another. One of my favorite lines is in Ground Hog Day after Phil steals the groundhog, and Andie McDowell says, "Why would anyone steal a groundhog?". And Larry says, "I could think of a few reasons, ...pervert!"

It is like the icon. It is a window into the artist's soul, but also a window into the viewer.

The elf with the key was the first painting for my version of Clement Moore's, The Night Before Christmas. It is an accurate self portrait in that I did not know what kind of art I was going to do for this book. I could not see where I was going, like the elf with his hat over his eyes. But he is holding a gold key. So deep inside, I knew that I was on the right track, I just had to press on and I would find the treasure chest.

The guy on the left is me. I used my grandfather's watch. He was a watch maker, a strawberry farmer, and a circus performer. I used this image as a sign for our gallery that we had for a while in Port Townsend. I made up his vest. I wish I had a vest like that. Stars on the front with cresent moon buttons, and checkerboard on the back.

The rabbit who is reading, was a self portrait that I did as a demo for a class that I was teaching in Hawaii. I and the students did several self portraits, and it is a challenge, because you have to ask, "Who am I? What is it that captures who I was, am and want to be? What medium do I use? How honest do I want to be?" Since I was just beginning to work on my book, The Magic Rabbit at the time, I was totally immersed in all things rabbit. I was in fact, a rabbit.

Making a self portrait is a form of catharsis. Try it. Who cares if they will use it on the cover of Vanity Fair. It might however give you insight into yourself. It will surely be a gift for someone else.

This last one is me and tape. What can I say. I like tape.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In the jowls of the tale. Or tail.

It's inspiring in a way, watching writers write. I don't mean sitting by them and staring as they clickety pickety tuck tuck tuck, back space, delete, delete... But watching their angst, and effort as they squeeze into their characters' heads and souls. All of my kids are writers and artists and each struggles mightily like Homer Simpson as he wrestled with an object yelling, "Why won't you be art?"

This sketch shows son, Ben getting into character. There be coffee of course. But what you don't see are the dog buscuits he just scarfed, or his teeth marks on the coffee table. And the fire hydrant...I don't even want to go there. But Ben holds his cards close, so I am always blown away when I finally get a peek at what he has been up to.

I don't want to jinx him, but the novel he is working on is somewhere between Hemingway and the Hardy Boys, William Carlos Williams and Martha Stewart's jail journal. The Desert Fathers and those little Hubba Bubba comic wrappers. You rock Ben.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ma Chatte et Moi

When my cat wants out, I put her out. Claw the glass, I let her in. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Why do I put up with this? Two reasons. First, she sometimes brings me breakfast: mice, rats, moles, birds, bugs. She is honestly trying to contribute to the welfare of the pride. And it nicely rounds out my poached eggs.

Second, the creeeching sound gets to me. You know it costs a lot to put a cat through Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie Acadamie. She toyed with the idea of being a butcher... Anyway, now she agrees to let me use her in my art. In this painting, she is a French pastry chef. I would like to be a French pastry chef. I would like to eat some French pastries right now. Notice the delectable marzipan mice. Oui? C'est magnifique, n'est pas?

I sketched a lot of other not so tasty looking mice before I came up with these beauties. Moin! (That is French for kissing your fingers with the yummy gesture). Oddly enough, Susi just read outloud from her MacBook, "...a man died from falling into a vat of chocolate...".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book of Mud

You will be hard pressed to find anything that does not come from mud. Try. Everything you are wearing was grown in mud, or grazed on grass growing from mud. Your homes and buildings came ultimately from mud. Okay, maybe gold and some other prima donnas from the periodic table have their own shtick, but chances are they spent some time in mud.

Gold prospectors find flakes or nuggets in good old garden variety mud. Even diamonds are compressed mud. Basically.

"What about meteorites?", you ask. Oh, I don't know...maybe someone else's mud.

The writers from antiquity tell us, "The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground." Dust plus water makes mud. What water? Maybe God's tears because he knew our pain to come.

My parents often recited this bit from Langdon Smith's poem, Evolution,

When I was a tadpole and you were a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.

Photo by coolest photographer I know (and awesome brother): Steven Dean Davis

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lookin Fer Gold

I think their names were Elsie and Dr. Drummond. Intelligent, hard working, true gypsies at heart, and weathered, rugged souls. The mules that is. I don't remember his name. Maybe it was Delirious. We passed him time and again on the two lane highway in the Mojave desert, where I lived til I was seven. My dad pulled off the road in our GMC Carryall and took this picture in 1954 or so. Delirious would be arguing with the sage brush and cussing at tortoises. It honestly got as hot as 130 degrees in the summer. Your loftier thoughts would simply boil inside your head. You wanted wet water in the worst way, or Coke or Orange Crush, Seven Up, Grape Soda, anything cold, why you might just suck on a cactus. The roof of my mouff iss dry juss ssccthinking about it. Water, wadder, wa-er....

He would go up into them hills and look for gold. His bones may still be bleaching in the sand somewhere out there. There used to be a lot of wild burros in the desert. I don't think they were looking for gold, per se. Animals know how to find treasure. They graze. Right here. Right now. They know that it is right in front of you if you just take the time to look.