Dale Stephanos
Half Baked Ideas
Holy S@*!t! <
Not that the Pope is taking notes from me, but if you ever find yourself sheltering child rapists and giving them even more opportunities to ply their trade, then rest assured that you are a bad guy. You know, evil. I could go on and on, but I'll just let my little doodle do the talking and add that the Catholic Church (not it's followers) is as corrupt and evil an institution as there ever was. Thank you.
Sam Shepard
This is playwrite/actor/celebrity guy SamShepard. I'll admit a bit of cultural ignorance here and admit that I had really only known him from his great role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. For reference I used a photo by Rudy Waks from last week's NYT Book Review. This was really just for experimentation - I used several different drawing and painting programs, turned the thing sideways, upsidedown and backwards. It still looks like I did it though. I'm a big fan of the idea of cutting your own head off and trying to grow a new one, but that's easier said than done. Baby steps.
Brown is the new purple

This is what I love about politics. The election of Scott Brown to the US Senate last night was an upset for the ages. It’s right up there with the Red Sox’ victory over the Yankees in the ALCS in ’04,  Spinks beating Ali, and the US Olympic hockey team beating Russia in 1980. As pure political theater, it was as entertaining as anything I remember. Martha Coakley, the democratic candidate was pretty much considered the incumbent and the election itself was more ceremonial than anything. The republican candidate (just those words in Massachusetts brings a smug grin from most people around here) was treated the way an eight year old would be for attempting a magic trick at a family party – “That’s cute kid, very nice, now run along”.


As the campaign rolled along, we saw less and less of Coakley, which was okay because what we did see was a tight lipped, overly cautious, entitled politician who seemed to think that mixing it up with the electorate was a task that was beneath her. You almost expected to see her wearing latex gloves while out shaking hands with the people, and the way she showed her teeth was more grimace than smile. It takes a very special kind of politician to lose a 30 point lead to a republican in Massachusetts. Coakley seemed to be a great AG, but she belongs in politics about as much as I do. Talk about a charisma vacuum. It’s as though someone took Mike Dukakis, rolled him in with John Kerry, and then drained what little charm remained, if any.


On the other side you had Brown, driving from town to town in his battered pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it. He seemed to genuinely enjoy getting out and asking people for their vote. He’s as off the cuff and thrown together as Mitt Romney is shined and polished. While Brown was on television every day with his ads showing him in the family kitchen talking to you like a neighbor, Coakley was nowhere to be seen, only responding eventually with a barrage of negative ads.


As far as why Brown won, as always in politics, it’s as complicated as trying to design a flow chart on why someone falls in love. Lame lazy de facto incumbent meets eager, good looking refreshing challenger. A bad economy where the working people (those who are left) are asked to pay for someone else’s –war, bailout, healthcare, etc. We love an underdog in this country. But bottom line is that the country found out what we in Massachusetts have known for a long time. It’s the independents who rule this state. We elected Bill Weld and Mitt Romney not as republicans, but as a repudiation to an entrenched one party system. Same with Brown. We’re not a blue state, we’re not a red state, we’re a purple state.


After Brown’s rambling victory speech in which he seemed star struck at the idea of talking to the president, being onstage with Doug Flutie, and mentioning more than once that his daughter is available, I’ll bet that first twinge of buyer’s remorse may have flickered across many minds. There’s a big difference between politics and governance.


We all have very particular memories and feelings that present themselves like a stranger barging into the room when it comes to 9/11. The smallest thing can trigger an unwanted trip down memory lane. For me it’s a collage of colors and sounds. The bright yellow of the scrambled eggs I was making my kids for breakfast when my mother called from New York to tell me to turn on the TV. The earth tones our living room while we watched what was unfolding on TV. The sound of a broadcast suddenly being interrupted. The phone constantly ringing with calls from my wife’s station and the rushed conversation about whether they’d send her to New York or Washington to cover the story. Laughing children. The sight of almost everyone in lower Manhattan looking up and covering their mouths, as though that act would keep whatever evil had descended at bay.

Most of all, I remember looking at the incredibly vivid blue sky that day. Later on, alone with my young kids at the playground I kept glancing up at the sky, empty of clouds and airplanes, and felt myself trying to summon up the overcast that would fit the mood of the day. The fact that there was so much darkness on such a bright beautiful day made it all the more obscene.

I hope time has brought some comfort to all who were affected that day.

Summer Studio
This is the summer studio. Katama Bay, South Beach dunes beyond that, and then the Atlantic. I installed a nice breeze and the sound of waves crashing and laughing children. As Dudley Moore once said, “It doesn’t suck”.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for....
My favorite comedy routine growing up was Bill Cosby's bit on the ice creram man. My favorite Van Halen song? Ice Cream Man. I don't really eat the stuff these days.

I know New Englanders haven’t cornered the market on loving ice cream, but I read something somewhere at some point long ago that we eat more of the stuff up in our little corner of the country than all the rest of you combined. I suspect that maybe because we have such long dark Winters and endless dreary Springs, we binge on ice cream in the summertime. Maybe, maybe not, it’s just a theory.

What I am sure of is that New England in particular is home to dozens of roadside ice cream stands. Many of them are seasonal only, opening up on April 15, giving comfort to all - the devout, the liars, the cheats, the shady dealers as well as the play by the rules types – on tax day, when everybody needs a little extra sweetness their lives, and closing on Columbus day, when we’re all distracted by the autumn foliage exploding all around us. A few of these joints have morphed into honest to god empires.

Richardson’s in Middleton, MA is the big one around here. Many a unsuspecting chocolate chip cookie dough fiend (Me) have waddled up to the local ice cream stand , the fantasy of some family owned recipe being secretly doled out just for their quavering tongues. Sometimes that’s actually the case, but mostly it’s dropped off in the back by an unmarked truck. Usually, if it’s good, it’s Richardson’s. It doesn’t matter though, the stuff is sweet.

For me, Carter’s in Bradford (which is part of Haverhill) MA is special. It’s the place up there on my banner at the moment. In fact, if you look at that picture you’ll see my wife and her best friend since childhood, Jane (Grape Nut), holding daughter Sydney’s (our god daughter) hand as they approach the back of the line. Jane’s father and Maria’s father where best friends as well. And now our kids are all best friends. 3 generations of close families stopping at the same road side ice cream shack. How can they say this stuff is bad for you?

My wife (Chocolate) had her first taste of ice cream (pistachio I think) at Carter’s. So did my daughter (Chocolate and vanilla, but she’s moved on to black rasberry). My son too (Chocolate, but he’s more adventurous. His latest is coconut). When I was in High School and going steady with the girl I’d marry we’d often walk the 2 1/2 miles to Carter’s from my house. I have no idea what we’d talk about, but it was endlessly fascinating. These days we walk a mile to get there from Jane’s house.

When you reach the intersection where Carter’s stands there’s a great view – the one in the banner – of Bradford, and across the Merrimack River, Haverhill, which sits on the side of a hill. Haverhill was where Archie Comics creator Bob Montana grew up and based his town of Riverdale. The old High School is a dead ringer for the one in the comics. I haven’t seen Jughead, but I’ll bet that at one point in his life he scooped a few at Carter’s.

Ray Charles
Here's something I've been poking away at between sketches, finals, phone calls and jam sessions with the kids. I've been trying to get my digital wotk to look less polished, while trying to polish up any traditional media work I do. I have dozens of half done pieces lying around and in files and it's fun to revisit them. It's also very productive to hit "delete" when the time comes.
Crumb at Mass Art
I met a few friends at Mass Art last night to see the R. Crumb exhibit. I've always admired Crumb's uncompromising dedication to his artistic vision even though the actual subject matter makes me want to protect any child that may be within a mile of his work. Women in particular could learn quite a bit about what it's like in a man's head if they saw/read what I saw last night. I fear that there would be more lesbians in the world if this material were distributed widely. Not that that would be a bad thing.
One of the more interesting images I saw was this piece - a drawing on acid blotter. You sure don't get that kind of drawing high working digitally.
It ain't stealing if it's art.
This is from today's Boston Globe. There's an exhibition of Shepard Fairy's work at the ICA in Boston this month and he's been doing a lot of press. I like what he does and the spirit in which he proceeds, but I can see how it would get a panty or two twisted up in a knot. One thing that did jump out at me in one of his interviews was when he was asked about appropriating someone else's images into his own work. "When you go see a band and they play cover tunes they never introduce the song by saying,'This is a cover song by...". Well, often they do. And if it's a recording of someone else's song then the writer is receiving credit and revenue from the recording (after giving permission).
 Anyway, I think it's an interesting issue and I'm firmly on the fence. I reserve my right to enjoy the transformative work of others and I'm fully prepared to be outraged, litigious and flattered if anyone ever has the poor judgement (financial and aesthetic) to use my work as a basis for theirs.
Or not.
NEW YORK - On buttons, posters, and websites, the image was everywhere during last year's presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white, and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE.

Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Manny Garcia at the National Press Club in Washington.

The AP says it owns the copyright and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.

"The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission," the AP's director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement.

"AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution."

"We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here," says Fairey's attorney, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and a lecturer at the Stanford Law School.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP."

Fairey, in Boston for the opening of his solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, could not be reached for comment. The ICA declined to comment on the case, said deputy director Paul Bessire.

Punk rocker and social activist Henry Rollins, a friend of Fairey's who contributed an essay to the ICA show catalog, dismissed AP's claim.

"Shepard's image is his interpretation of an image," he said. "That is to say, it is not a photograph of a photograph, but a drawn image that resembles a photograph. Basically, AP's got no traction here. Nice try. Art wins again."

Fair use is a legal concept that allows exceptions to copyright law, based on, among other factors, how much of the original is used, what the new work is used for, and how the original is affected by the new work.

Fairey is not the first artist accused of copyright infringement. Campbell's raised the issue when Pop Art icon Andy Warhol created his famous works inspired by a soup can; no legal action was taken. More recently, visual artist Richard Prince, who typically takes photographs used in ads and blows them up to make gallery pieces, has been sued by a French photographer for using his images without permission.

A longtime rebel with a history of breaking rules, Fairey has said he found the photograph using Google Images. He released the image on his website shortly after he created it, in early 2008, and made thousands of posters for the street.

As it caught on, supporters began downloading the image and distributing it at campaign events, while blogs and other Internet sites picked it up. Fairey has said that he did not receive any of the money raised.

A former Obama campaign official said they were well aware of the image based on the picture taken by Garcia, a temporary hire no longer with the AP, but never licensed it or used it officially. The Obama official asked not to be identified because no one was authorized anymore to speak on behalf of the campaign.

The image's fame did not end with the election. It will be included at the ICA exhibit, opening tomorrow, and a mixed-media stenciled collage version has been added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

"The continued use of the poster, regardless of whether it is for galleries or other distribution, is part of the discussion AP is having with Mr. Fairey's representative," Colford said.

Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in Washington and Geoff Edgers of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
John Updike
John Updike died yesterday. Along with Andrew Wyeth, who died last week, he takes with him one of the great American voices of the 20th century. I read a fair amount of what Updike wrote - I enjoyed "Run, Rabbit, Run" in particular - but I can't say that I'm any kind of authority on his work. I always saw a kind of kinship in the approaches of Updike and Wyeth in their stark verisimilitude, cold sexulality, and amazing technique. I also see a bond in their timing here: Just as the last vestiges of the American Century are going down in flames two of it's artistic giants bail out.
I did this portrait of Updike a couple of years ago for an alternative weekly. As I recall, the angle of the story was that Updike was a Renaissance man. Or something like that.
Crackle alert!
McCain seems to have a good sense of humor about himself which will help him get through this tough time.
I hope you all get out and vote today....unless you haven't made up your mind yet which would mean that you haven't been paying attention and are probably uninformed. In that case, just watch Spongebob Squarepants and we'll take care of things for ya! You betcha!
Grand Theft Auto
One of the most provocative pieces of writing I’ve come across recently was a  New York Times review of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. It was the first time I’ve been asked to consider a video game as a legitimate work of art, in the same vein as motion pictures or literature.  And here I was, just thinking it was about killing, raping, and all sorts of until now unimagined mayhem.

I’ll say up front that my video game exposure in the last 25 years has been limited to getting my tail kicked by my kids on their Wii, and wondering how the hell to turn a Nintendo DS off so that it would stop…that…music. Still, reading  the Times GTA review made me feel as though the train for pop culture’s future was leaving the station and I hadn’t bought a ticket.

A couple of months ago Chuck Klosterman wrote in Esquire about never having read any of the Harry Potter books and never intending to. What concerned him was the thought that he was willingly letting a generational gap open up between where he stood and those who had read the books. His point was that from here on out, the people who read the books would integrate the ideas and catch phrases into everyday life, and he wouldn’t even know that he wasn’t “getting it”.  He seemed to be at peace with the idea of not being in on whatever joke these kids are playing.

I feel the same with video games. To me, it’s just a bunch of noise, killing, and bad behavior. But when you look at the numbers – Grand Theft Auto IV has claimed two entertainment industry sales records, posting the best ever single-day and seven-day sales totals for a computer game. Last year’s Halo 3 sold $300 Million it’s first week. That makes your typical Hollywood blockbuster opening look like peanuts.

But is it or can it be art? I don’t even know what art is most of the time, so yeah, sure, it’s art. What I do know is that this is a huge industry that is only going to grow in the years to come. If I were a young artist getting out of school and blinking in the harsh bright daylight of the professional world, I’d seriously consider the possibility of killing, carjacking, and drugging my way to a career.
Please don't vote.
Are you undecided? Has the presidential campaign just started showing up on your radar? Are you leaning towards Obama because you think it might be nice to finally have a black president, or Hillary because "It's about time a woman was elected president"?

If you've found yourself in any of these positions and you live in New Hampshire, then please, please, don't vote tomorrow. An ignorant vote is worse than no vote. It's what put our current president in office, and as a result quite a few people have died. Pick up a newspaper and read about that nice looking candidate. Hell, even the internet can provide some information about these folks. But you won't find what you need in the TV listings. This is not a new show that you can tune out of with no consequence. Yes, John Edwards has withstood quite a lot of heartache in his life, and may be in for more. He has a very courageous wife. He has GREAT hair. Do you know where he stands on immigration?

No? Skip this round.

There'll be another soon enough, and you'll know more by then.

Remember, every vote counts(hopefully). Make it an informed one.

Thank you.
Artists Against the War
Dead Tie
Here's my piece for the Artists Against the War show that Steve Brodner has put together. David Flaherty said on his blog that it's such an enormous subject that boiling it all down to one image that sums up how you feel is daunting. I agree. I feel very conflicted about this conflict and I find that I'm against myself half the time, and the rest of the time I’m just plain wrong. Don't even ask how the inner dialogue sounds - it ain’t pretty. Suffice it to say that there have been some real room clearing brawls up in that melon of mine. I care though, if that counts.

After batting around many ideas, I finally settled on the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach. I kept asking myself, " How can I hang the deaths of these soldiers, who Bush professes to support, around his neck?" I posted an earlier stab at this a while back, but this is the version that ended up in the show.

I’m also including a peek at some failed attempts to try to get at what I was trying to say. I still don’t feel that the image I settled on sums up my feelings as much as it illustrates one aspect of how I feel about this mess.

I hope to see many of you at the opening.
I reverted back to the editorial cartoonist in me, which is really my default setting. I wanted something with a more elegant solution. This felt like a sledgehammer. Or a cleaver.
Does the world need another Napolean picture? No. Not from me it doesn't.
I was talking to a friend the other day and somehow the conversation drifted into that dark neighborhood at the corner of Disappointment and Shame. Now these are two very different avenues, even if they look similar at first. While those who dwell on Disappointment are renters, the residents of Shame are the owners of a mortgage that will never be paid in full.

I think I'll step off that metaphor here.

I got to thinking about my disappointments and  those things of which I am truly ashamed.

My wasted later teenage years? Disappointed.
My love of 80's metal? Shame. (But I ain't changing - Shout at the devil!)

You get the idea. I can justify my love of Journey ( Guitarist Neal Schon turned down a gig as Clapton's rhythm guitarist when he was 17 so he could go on tour with Santana).

I think the only times I've really been ashamed is when I knew I could do something and didn't. It's like watching someone steal a part of you and not fighting to get it back.

And just so you know I'm giving it my all, I'll admit to, maybe I won't go that far. Maybe over a beer sometime.
Red Sox Win!
So the Red Sox won the World Series last night, sweeping the Colorado Whattayacallits in 4 games. When the Sox won the series in '04 it was like the lancing of a black festering boil that had taken over the region over 86 years. People had been born, lived long lives, and died without ever seeing their beloved Red Sox win a World Series. The way it is now, my kids have seen 2 series victories in their short lives. Don't get me wrong, it's great, but it's not that 3000lb weight off of our collective shoulders.

This all got me in a "Careful what you wish for" frame of mind when a friend sent me these photos. This poor(?) little guy chased down a porcupine, caught him, and got what was coming to him. Now, am I saying that sports fans deserve a mouthful of quills? Well, many do, yes indeed. But many don't. I guess my point is that the chase is often just as, if not more, rewarding than the catch. You can insert whatever equivalent platitude suits you here. My main point is damn, winning can really hurt the next day.

Go Pats!
Ah, Halloween, the season of ghosts, ghouls, and… Giving!
Around here, the kids have a Halloween tradition that’s right up my alley. It combines juvenile delinquency with kindness. It’s called “Ghosting”.

I had never heard of this until my daughter brought the idea home with her a few years ago. Here’s how it goes: At night, a bunch of kids go around the neighborhood to their friend’s houses, creep up the stairs, quietly place a paper bag in front of the door, ring the doorbell, and then RUN LIKE HELL!

The catch is that the paper bag is filled with candy, along with a note that the recipient has been “Ghosted”. You’re supposed to put the sign up on your door so you don’t get repeat offenders, but somehow, that sign never seems to stay up for long, and before you know it your doorbell’s ringing again.

Since this is an activity that requires exacting parental supervision, I end up driving the getaway SUV. It’s a lot of fun really. We stake out a good out of sight spot, and after the kids do the deed, they come sprinting back to the car, pile in on top of each other, panting, sweating, and screaming “GOGOGO! “and I lay down some serious rubber getting out of there. The next day at school is the great guessing game of who ghosted whom.

As I said, I had never heard of this game in particular, although I have heard stories of a paper bag, dog crap, a match, a doorbell, Mrs. Smith, parents hanging up the phone, and a spanking. Maybe I saw all that in a movie. Maybe not.

*Traditionally, the tag accompanying the bag o' candy is your basic photocopied, handwritten affair. I thought I'd show up the local moms and show what you can do with a computer and 10 minutes.
The way I saw it.
Like many of you, I start the day with the biggest, strongest bucket of coffee I can rustle up. There's a Starbucks up the road and the drive up there is a pleasure. I go past the local farm where the change of season presents itself daily, I get to play “beat the crossing guard”, and that guy who stands in front of his house pacing and chain smoking all day never let’s me down (such dedication!) The early morning joggers, walkers, bikers, and exercisers of all stripes get me inspired to go out and chase them all down.

One of the things I snicker at every morning in a pompous, superior way is the "The Way I See It" campaign that 'Bucky's has printed on their cups. They're all inspirational-ish sayings that you would hear on Oprah if you weren't actually trying to make a living. This morning's was something about warning us not to turn into our enemies in the pursuit of justice. Good point, but I feel like a tool when I get my wisdom from overly sentimental tripe that’s printed on a coffee cup.

*reprinted from yesterday's edition.
Society of Illustrators entries
See any winners?
I'm taking an hour or so from actual work to make my annual donation to the Society of Illustrators in the form of entries for the Annual. I'm getting better about throwing the obvious losers out and I've narrowed it down to only a few pieces. I've been in the show a few times, but more often than not, I get shut out. I'm hoping this year's jury is good and drunk by the time they get to my work so that I can get some work into the show and not feel like a tool for hanging out at the opening in February without having some art hanging on the walls.

By the way, we should all just enter a piece under Staake's name so it looks like he cares about this sort of thing.
Seeing what you believe, see?
I started this as a doodle while I was on the phone. When I began, the proportions where "correct", but I didn't see Sean Penn in there, just his likeness. After a drawing version of "Fight Club" ensued I finally whipped him into shape.
For a long time now I’ve wondered why I tend towards exaggeration. It’s not an intentional thing, but more a reflexive impulse to underline and emphasize the way I see things.

I’ve tried drawing over projected images a la Norman Rockwell (I used to call this “tracing”, but there’s more to it than that.)
I’ve tried grid drawing, and the drawing on the right side of the brain thing. To me, things never look quite right until I’ve thrown some elbows and pushed the subject around a bit until I get things my way.

I think I actually see in exaggeration. People look like this to me.

Lou Brooks put it best over on Zina Saunders great portrait of Joe Newton –“Same uncanny quality as the great comic book masters. By that I mean, if you begin to deconstruct their drawings, you can easily feel that it's drawn all wrong -- but really, it's oh so right! And moving anything in the drawing around causes it to start to collapse, because it is not a literal interpretation at all, but some weird delightful thing in the wiring between their eye and hand. They just see things incorrectly -- which is really 100% correct.

Jules Pfeiffer said something or other once (boy, do I gotta paraphrase here) about artists being able to paint the sky red because they already know it's blue... and them there NORMAL people GOTTA paint it blue, because otherwise, everybody will think they're stupid.”

I’ve been enjoying just plain drawing lately, and there are times when I’d love to say to an art director that we shouldn’t go past the sketch phase, because it won’t get any better, it’ll just be more “finished”.
Musical Memories
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco
I don’t have a sense of smell. Never have. Sometimes this is good (I changed a lot of diapers when my children were small) and other times it leaves me feeling as though I’m missing a critical part of life. For me, that magical link between the olfactory and memory doesn’t exist. Remember the smell of cookies baking when you got home from grade school? I don’t. How about the smell of your newborn child’s skin? Not me. How about that first whiff of Spring in the air on a blustery March day? Nope. I’m told that smell and memory are lashed together like King Kong and the Empire State Building, or Ahab and Moby. You smell my drift.

For me, instead of smells being the exit ramp to Memory Lane, it’s music. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John brings me right back to a nasty bout of insomnia I had for a time when I was around ten years old. ”You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor puts me back on Nantucket with my mother during the summers when I was younger. I heard the song “DOA” by Bloodrock recently, and the hair on my arm stood up because that song was the soundtrack to a nightmare I had when I was very young. And yeah, there’s “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead that brings me right back to stage diving at the Channel in Boston and getting knocked out.

Every few years I reach the end of the musical cul de sac I’m strolling through and it’s difficult to make my way out. I usually try to just keep going straight and hack my way through the brush, forcing myself to listen to music I haven’t heard before. Or, more likely, I’ll try to appreciate a band that all the critics have proclaimed brilliant, but to me, seems anemic.

In 2002, Wilco was that band.

I bought Wilco’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” after reading all the glowing reviews and after a couple of listens I chalked it up to another case of record reviewers having themselves a little joke at our expense. Jeff Tweedy sounded like he had just woken up, the songs were disjointed, and it seemed like there had been a fistfight between the songwriter and the producer and the listening audience somehow got pulled into it and got it’s ass kicked.

In the summer of 2002 I decided to attend the Illustration Academy, which was run by Mark English (and featured, among others, Sterling Hundley) and his son John.  The drive from my house near Boston would take about 9 hours, so it’s natural that I only remembered to bring one CD. Of course, it was the CD I just described above, so I took it as a chance to make a music appreciation breakthrough on my way to a creative breakthrough. I listened to that damned disc for 9 hours straight, and by the time I got to Richmond, VA, it was starting to grow on me. Of course, when I got there, all ready for 3 uninterrupted weeks of self-improvement, the calls for jobs started flooding in. Good jobs, too. Not just the usual spots that you can toss off over night. So, after a week and a half, I finally gave up and headed for home.

By now, the Wilco disc had settled in nicely, I knew the words, was used to the idiosyncratic structure of the songs, and I thought the album was brilliant. Happily driving north on 95 on a bright sunny June day, I looked up the road and saw a car silently rolling over. “Huh, that’s funny, that car’s just turning over and over” I thought. As I approached, it seemed a little unreal. There were no crashing sounds, no dramatic camera angles, just a one shot 200 yard away view of a non descript car rolling over the median and then coming to a rest on the other side of the road.

By the time I pulled up, several trucks had stopped as well. The car’s roof was almost flattened, all the windows smashed and the woman who had been driving was staggering around mumbling something about needed to get her CD’s. The highway was strewn with debris from the car - cups, candy wrappers clothing,  CD’s, a sippie cup.

Hold on there, I thought. That’s what my kids drink from.

I asked the woman, who was now sitting on the road holding her bleeding forehead, “Are you alone”? She didn’t seem to speak English, but she pointed a shaking finger at the back of the car “CD!” the yelled, very anxiously. “CD”.

Shit. Seat? As in “child seat”?

I looked at the rear end of the car and it’s smashed in roof, and perused my fellow bystanders. They were all southern trucker types. Not one of them under 6’4”, 250 lbs. I felt like a sapling in a redwood forest. No way were they going to fit through that narrow assed slit that used to be a rear window. We were all on the same page though, and without discussion, decided that I was going in. One of the big guys had some sort of metal tool and cleared the remaining safety glass shards from the edges of the opening I’d go through with one sweep of his arm. I squeezed through and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that all that was back there was the usual detritus that’s left of your possessions after you roll your car.

 I heard someone say “Fire” quietly ( I couldn’t smell smoke) beyond the cramped, wrinkled confines of the car, and started to maneuver my way around to get the hell out of there when I sensed movement. The passenger’s side front seat had been pushed back into the back seat. But there was a strange plastic thing between the two. It was vaguely familiar. “Hey”, I thought, “That looks like the bottom of our booster seat at home”.  I lifted up the front seat and there were these big brown eyes looking blankly up at me. I thought it was a doll at first. Then the eyes blinked. “Uh, there’s a kid back here” I said calmly. I tried to lift him up and out of the space, but he was buckled in pretty tight. “He’s strapped too tightly, I can’t get him loose” I called, and almost immediately a huge, tattooed, fleshy arm holding what looked like an even bigger knife came swinging in through the space, flailing blindly. “Hey, you’re gonna kill me!” I yelled. I took the knife and carefully cut the straps holding the little guy into his seat, then gently eased him out, praying he’d emerge from his little space all in one piece. After handing the boy out to the many waiting big strong arms, I squeezed my way back through the opening, vaguely aware that there was a smoke taste in my mouth and my eyes were stinging.

I stood on the road watching the men bring the boy over to his dazed, bleeding mother and looked at the thick black smoke billowing from under the crinkled hood of what used to be a car. I felt as though I had been watching these events unfold, as opposed to participating in them. As the first responders arrived, I kicked my way through the shattered glass and debris, back to my still running car with it’s driver side door ajar and the song “I am trying to break your heart” playing through the speakers on the other side of the highway, got in, and drove away into the bright June morning.

A quarter hour or so later, I noticed the steering wheel shaking, and thought, “Oh great, the damned car’s coming apart”. But then I realized the car was fine. It was me that was a little shaky. I called my wife and said to her, “I know it’s a cliché and all, but I just pulled a kid from a burning car”. She had kind of a “Oh, that’s nice” sort of reaction, which is just about right. It wasn’t a big dramatic thing, it was more a case of following events to their logical conclusion without a whole lot of debate.

So, when I hear Jeff Tweedy’s voice now, I think of burning cars, frightened children, and perfect June days.
The Cannibal
“I used to just sit on my bike, weeping in pain” – Eddy Merckx

Babe. Michael. Tiger. Lance. Say these names and nobody says “…who”? Virtually unknown here in the States but a legend in Europe, Eddy Merckx is the mountain on every bike racer’s horizon that none can climb, only pass by in a valley.

With over 500 wins in his career, Eddy was nicknamed “The Cannibal”, for his aggressive style of riding and winning. He achieved 5 Tour de France wins, including 34 stage wins and 96 days in the yellow jersey. He’s also the only man ever to win all three jerseys in one Tour (Yellow-Overall leader, Green-Sprint points winner, Polka Dot-Climbers points).He also won the Giro d’Italia 4 times, and the Vuelta once.

Most impressive for me though, are his Spring Classics victories. While the grand tours (the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta) are what most folks associate with bike racing, it is these one day winner take all races that are most exciting. Think of them as the bike equivalent of Ultimate Fighting, and you begin to get the picture. In one season, Eddy won 7 Classics, including the legendary Paris-Roubaix.

With all the doping scandal that infests this beautiful sport, it’s hard not to look back at Eddy’s dominance and think that maybe he was a pioneer in more ways than one. I prefer to just enjoy the idea that maybe he was just that good.

A word about the art:  One of the things I enjoy about having a blog is the opportunity to swerve off my usual path on occasion. I like simple drawing as much as I like the more rendered way my work usually appears. I've been an illustrator for many years, and this messing around with different ways to skin a cat is sort of like recess was in elementary school was for me.
Life on the dock.
My mother’s house is smack dab on the side of a lake in a quaint little western New England village. She refers to it as SturBuffalo during the harsh winters when the lake has over 2 foot thick ice. But summers there are splendid.

The drive out there is just long enough to make you commit to a full day visit, whether anyone likes it or not. Once you’re out on her dock with it’s small armada of paddle boats, canoes, rowboats, inner tubes and oh yeah, a carbon fiber rowing shell (Mum is a rowing fanatic!) time slows to a crawl, and then before you know it, stops altogether. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at the end of that dock fishing and floating with my kids for what seems like forever, and at the same time, just a fleeting moment.

Time stands still on the dock and that’s the way I like it.

Here’s a sketch I did last week of my son Liam, after several hours of swimming and catching fish. Probably the same fish over and over. It looked pretty tuckered out by the end of the day. The routine is usually fish for 10 minutes, swim for ten minutes, then repeat, and repeat…

 Liam is in the High Summer of his boyhood. His world is all about baseball, riding bikes, drawing, fishing, swimming, and hanging out with his Dad. I realize these days are numbered and the world with its endless fascinations will lead him onto his own exciting path. While I look forward to see what kind of man Liam will become, I’ll miss this particular time of his life.
My drawing reminded me of my favorite Andrew Wyeth painting, "Roasted Chestnuts". I relate to Wyeth's sense of time without neccesarily being nostalgic in his paintings.
Tough Guys
There's a train of thought that says we are attracted to our opposites. That must be true because if you crack open any of my sketchbooks you'll find that they're full of Tough Guys. Like this one here, Yvon Chouinard.

Yvon is the founder of Patagonia clothing. He started out as a hard core mountaineer, surviving on whatever equipment he could sell out of the trunk of his car. Today, Patagonia is a huge Fortune 500 company.

I'm not sure why I like drawing Tough Guys. Maybe it's because I'm lazy and it comes easily to me. Maybe because it gives me a chance to show whatever humble ability I have in a showoffy way without actually showing off.

But it's probably because I'm not really a Tough Guy, and it's a chance for me to climb into their skin for a few minutes like a Halloween costume. When I close the sketchbook I'm Peter Parker again, or worse, whoever Aqua Man's alter ego is.

I used a photo from Outside mag for reference. The photog is Jim Herrington. Thanks Jim.
With a $400,000 "Performance Bonus" on the way before he leaves, Wolfie waves goodbye.
The thing I find most upsetting in the Paul Wolfowitz saga is that he has a girlfriend. I know that there's someone for everyone and I'm glad that the Wolf Man is gettin' some. But it's like when you were a kid and realized that your parents actually had sex. At least once. I picture Uncle Paulie with his mortician's demeanor putting the moves on and I have to go somewhere else in my mind. Somewhere more pleasant. Iraq, even.

Stashing your girlfriend(s) on the payroll is a time honored tradition in politics, but so is getting caught. The Wolfster is a two time loser in this administration, which probably puts him ahead.


I'll try to do this once in a while until Professor Brodner starts up the summer semester. Until then, don't mess with the substitute teacher.
Short Cuts
The late Robert Altman, legendary film director.
I had the good fortune of getting a piece into American Illustration this year. The piece was unusual for me in that I normally get pretty anal in how "finished" a final is. My favorite part of the process (after the idea itself) is just plain old fashioned drawing. The spontaneity of a good sketch is hard to beat, and layers of paint won't make it any better, just more colorful. In my opinion anyway.

So I'll be trying out a fresh approach and we'll see if it works. It's fun to change it up sometimes.
Belated piggyback
This is in response to Sterling Hundley's post a few days ago on the Illustration Academy. I had this at my old blog, but I thought the Drawger crowd might appreciate it more than my former audience.(My mother)

Chris Payne is one of my favorite illustrators. I attended a couple of weeks at the Illustration Academy in KC a few years ago, and I had the privilege of sitting across from Chris for a week. He did a few demos, and told a lot of great stories about his life as an illustrator. Come to think of it, he told great stories about EVERYTHING. I enjoyed the fact that he seasoned his amiable mid western accent with perfectly placed obscenities. Although I didn't really get to know him, I thoroughly enjoyed the CF Payne Experience. I still drop some of his quotes just to make my wife roll her eyes.

The first thing Chris did when he entered the studio was to pull out this big 10 pound blob of color and plop it on the desk. It's his palette, and I think it has paint on it from every job he's ever done.

The coolest thing was getting to watch while he worked on an actual job. It was a Mad magazine cover.(At the time, I thought that if I could do a cover for Mad I could pack it in and call it a life. It was a goal I'd dream of, but I didn't think it would ever happen. Within 2 months I had done my first Mad cover).

The thing I remember most was how hard he worked. I heard some really smart college kid say "He's not showing us his real secrets during the demos". I said to this kid, "You know how when we go to lunch, Chris keeps working? And when we take our afternoon break Chris keeps working? And when we go to dinner Chris keeps working? And when we're done at 9pm and go out for a beer Chris keeps working? And when we go back to the studio at 9 am and Chris is there working? THAT'S the secret step he does't show you during the demo"!

How many great paintings do you think came off of this?
This is the Year!
Really! It really is this time. Dice-K is here to prove that '04 wasn't a fluke and the Red Sox are the real thing.

Or not.

All I really want to do is go hang out at Fenway a few times this year. On a nice summer night, there is no better place in the world, no matter what the score is.

Play Ball!
Torturing kids is fun
Just in case you didn't appreciate Steve Brodner's person of the day series, you will after this. I spend my mornings ricocheting between Howard Stern and NPR while catching up on important news in the papers and of course, Drawger. On Stern’s show, they’re excited about a website called, whose mission is to subvert the voting process on American Idol by, you guessed it, voting for the worst person there. The consensus “worst” by far this season is this poor kid Sanjaya. Each week he survives, he looks more shocked than anyone. He’s like a black hole when it comes to charisma and talent. I think what started out as a wonderful experience will turn into the defining ugly episode in his life. My heart goes out to him. American Idol is one of the few prime time shows that I’m comfortable watching with my children. After the initial audition period at least, where they routinely humiliate those self-delusional, attention seeking souls who just want some attention. But even at 6 and 9 years old, my kids recognize that Sanjaya should be put out of his misery and voted off. Last week, my daughter moaned “My GOD, what is America DOING”? Wait until she’s old enough to understand politics!
Teddy and Jack
Ted and Jack
There were one or two or three posts on my old blog that I wished I could have put up here because I thought the Drawger community would enjoy them. Here's one.

I've never been a big Kennedy fan. Here in the Boston area, the Kennedy's are like royalty. And like royalty, the public seems to be split into lovers and haters. I've never been either, but if pushed, I'd usually be in the more critical camp.

Last year, though, my wife had the opportunity to interview Teddy at his home in Hyannisport. She's one of the few journalists I've seen who has managed to get him to reveal himself as a real human being instead of the caricature that we're usually presented with (Often by yours truly).

He went through his home with her, showing old photos of the family, telling stories about when he was a kid walking on the beach with his mother, and most interestingly to me, about the small artistic rivalry he had with his brother Jack. At one point he stopped in front of a painting Jack had done when he was young (not bad) and explained that Jack was the better painter of the two, but Ted explained that he always tried to keep up. He seemed choked up. It was a rare moment of vulnerability and he kind of won me over. I've been looking at him as, well, more human since then.

My wife later recounted her story at a family gathering that was full of, let's just say, not Kennedy fans. She felt honored to have been able to sit in a historic home and speak frankly with a true historical figure, and get paid for it. Instead of saying "Wow, what a great experience", there were lots of "I hate that guy" type comments. It got me thinking about how in politics, we easily dehumanize the other side so that it's easier to ignore their point of view.

This piece took a lot of twists and turns. I'm still not sure if I'm done or if it will take another turn, but here it is. I'm also showing a Ted Kennedy that I did about 10 years ago. It shows the evolution I've made in a number of ways. Not bettter, but different.
Ted K as the winner of Survivor.
Sinead O'Connor from a Laura Levine photo
I'll make my first post here at Drawger totally Drawger-centric. This sketch is a departure from what I normally do. I'd usually spend another 6 hours or so beating the life out of what looked really nice after 5 minutes of drawing.

This is from a photo that fellow Drawger gal and all around super cool renaissance chick Laura Levine shot back before Sinead was Sinead.

I want to extend a big thanks to Edel for the invite, and to Bob Staake for making me feel welcome waaaaay back. Same goes for Leo, Rob D, Rob S, Zina, David Flaherty and Tim O'Brien.

An especially big thanks to David Bamundo for the original invite, and  of course, to Zimm. This is a very cool hangout. I'm happy to be here.

I only hope to live up to half of what Monkeysong was.
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Stephanos is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!