Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

The Chess King

Monday, February 13th, 2017

This was their fourth day as husband and wife, or, as she liked to think of it, their fourth anniversary. She shook her head in happy, dumbfounded amazement. Here she was, a full-grown, level-headed adult as giddily head-over-heels in love as a little girl is with her first man teacher. She stared dreamily at her husband as he sat under the lamp reading the newspaper and couldn’t help but smile. She felt foolish and embarrassed and ecstatic and wonderful and every joyous adjective under the sun. She never knew love could feel like this… that she could feel like this. And she knew, knew to the depths of her electrified soul, that this love would thrive forever.

Her husband, seemingly unaware she was observing him, looked up from his paper at the wall, let out a slow sigh, bit his lip and gently, nearly imperceptibly, shook his head. Her heart instantly shattered into a million pieces. “Honey,” she cried out, “what is it? You look so sad! What’s wrong?”

He jumped, a little theatrically, at her voice. “Oh,” he said, “you startled me. I didn’t know you were there. Were you waiting for the paper?”

“Don’t change the subject, dear. You looked so sad! What is it? Is something wrong?”

He stared at her for some time, an inscrutable look in his eyes. For the first time in their relationship she felt alarmed and the sudden worry made her stomach hurt. After a while, although it seemed like ages to her, he let out another low, long sigh. He then reached his hand out for hers and quietly said, “I have something to tell you; something I think you should know.”

She swallowed hard. All her joy momentarily gave way to fear and bewilderment. She noticed her hand was trembling as she reached out to seize his. What could be troubling him? How dare any evil thing invade their perfect world! Who or what would dare hurt this wonderful man? With that last question she threw back her shoulders and her love, her powerful love, swelled up again and obliterated her fears. There was nothing that could harm him that her love could not heal!

“I have something to tell you,” he said, “something I guess I should have told you long ago.”

“What is it, dear?”

“Did you read today’s paper?”

“I glanced at it. Why?”

“There was an editorial about how chess tournaments make the news only when a grandmaster seems eccentric. When the competitors are all normal, or at least reasonably normal, you never hear about the games.”

She stared at him blankly for a moment. “So? Honey, don’t torture me like this! Tell me what’s wrong!”

He let out another sigh. “Do you follow any chess tournaments when ‘normal’ people play?”

“Honey, I never follow them even when the crazies are playing.”

“Well” he averted his eyes, “I used to play chess, long ago. I mean, I really, really played chess. In fact,” he swallowed, “in fact, I was so good I even won the championship one year. I was a master, a grandmaster. I was… well, I was the world champion.”

Her eyes grew large. “He never said a word! I had no idea! I knew he was smart, but… wow! Is there anything this man can’t do?” It was inconceivable, but her love for him suddenly grew even greater!

“That’s wonderful, honey, absolutely wonderful!” she cried, “But why should something like that depress you?”

He still didn’t look at her. “Well, it was so exciting and all. I was on top of the world, you know, winning the championship. It was great. But then,” he sighed, “then the officials did some investigating and… well, to make a long, horrible story short, they stripped me of my title and barred me from ever playing again.”

“But why, dear, why would they do that to my precious angel? What happened?”

He looked her straight in the eye then and said, “They found out I had a checkered past.”

She filed for divorce first thing the next morning.

Marriage of a Mouse

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

First Sarah published two books of poetry. Then her Aunt Barb Stork published a children’s book titled Jeep the Cat. Then another relative, whose name escapes me for the moment, published a collection of short stories. Now Sarah’s mother, Kathy (aka Kathleen) published her retelling of a Japanese fable, titling it Marriage of a Mouse. The book has a little bit of a history. It was written and illustrated before Sarah was born. It garnered its fair share of rejection slips with one bearing a handwritten note stating the book was seriously considered for publication before being turned down. Then Sarah came along and the book was forgotten for twenty years. But now it’s available to readers and lovers of anthropomorphic mice everywhere! You can purchase your copy from Amazon. You’ll be glad you did!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 5th, 2016

In Memory

Friday, November 4th, 2016

The following is part of a poem by Abraham Lincoln. I feel it’s slightly analogous to what I was trying to say in this painting, even though the painting, by comparison, is but a shabby and decrepit simulacrum. His meditation may not express quite the degree of optimism I tried to hint at in this image, yet I still feel both works share some little things in common; albeit his words are far, far more powerful than my chaotic daubs. And now, Mr. Lincoln, sir, the floor is all yours.

My childhood’s home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There’s pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
‘Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that’s earthly, vile,
Seem hallowed, pure and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle
All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day;
As bugle-tones that, passing by,
In distance die away;

As, leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar –
So memory will hallow all
We’ve known but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things,
But seeing them to mind again
The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray;
And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell
And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I’m living in the tombs.

The Juggler

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

And here is yet another old piece, so old that I’m rather surprised the paper hasn’t crumbled away. I think it was my second attempt at using technical pens. There’s not much I can say about it except that I like the hat.

Where Lethe Runs Dry

Friday, September 30th, 2016

This is an old oil painting. It’s not good, even by my low standards, and I can’t deny it might even be kitschy. It was just an experiment, and an experiment is what one does when one doesn’t know what one is doing. I wouldn’t have posted this painting if I had chanced upon a more successful piece on the same theme. The reason I’m posting it now is because I’m reading a biography on Henry James and I’m at a part where many of his family and friends are dying. That brought to the fore remembrances of people I knew who have passed away. They weren’t expatriate literati or cosmopolitan aristocrats, but they certainly deserve some sort of memorial. This piece is not ideal, but it’s all I had on hand to pay a silent tribute and pensive farewell to all those who have stepped over the threshold. “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Long Ago

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

I came across this while dusting and straightening some mummified corpses in the attic. It’s a very, very old piece, done when I apparently had a lot more nervous energy than I do now. I think it was my first serious attempt at a pen and ink work and was done, as I recall, with technical pens. It’s not good but I was outrageously proud of it way back when and, truth be told, I like it even now, if only for sentimental reasons. Besides bringing back memories of a misspent youth, there’s just something about it, I’m not sure what, that I find charming.

In the Grasslands

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

This was done eight years ago. I assume I made most of the colors drab and sunken hoping that the contrast would make the white feather and yellow flower stand out. There’s precious little, hardly a single brushstroke, that I wouldn’t radically change if I were to paint this image now. Still, despite the somberness of the colors and the figure’s expression, it was obviously done just for the fun of it. Since I hadn’t looked or even thought about this piece in almost a decade, I can look at it now without any prejudice or vanity. Thus, I can, with cool disinterest, state that the piece is certainly no masterpiece, but it does succeed, in some measure, in being a “just fun to look at” exercise, which is what it was obviously supposed to be. Despite its flaws, I like it.

The Apple Seller Tells His Riddle

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

They walked together silently in the apple orchard that cool June night. It was a good season for the fireflies and the two wanderers were delighted at the wild profusion of scintillating, hovering living lights. As always, the beetles slowly converged in a space between the wanderers and the tops of the trees, aligning themselves and synchronizing their signals. In a few minutes their bioluminescent glow formed into a lambent quote, different from the ones on previous nights. Their lights spelled out “Thou shalt say a thousand things, and saying them a thousand times over, thou shalt still have said nothing.”

“Hawthorne?” asked the boy.

“Who else?” smiled the father. “That’s a pretty fine quote, don’t you think?”

“Well, for fireflies,” the boy grudgingly conceded. “They flash their lights to find a mate, don’t they?”

“So I’ve heard. I’ve also heard tell that they use their lights to attract prey.”

“Mates and prey: aren’t they one and the same? And the poor beetles go through all this trouble merely to die shortly afterward.”

“It’s their nature; but how beautiful they are while they’re here, despite the reason. To them it is a grim struggle for temporary survival or procreation, but to us their lights are things of intangible beauty. Things are always beautiful when you look at them from the outside, when you’re not the one involved.” The father smiled and studied his son from the corner of his eye. “And surely even you must agree that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.”

“So you say,” the boy muttered. “Yet so many others, they tell me love is like death and that death is nothing… but I don’t know what that means.”

“That’s all right,” the father said, putting his arm over his son’s shoulder and watching the fireflies leisurely disperse, “they don’t know what it means either.”

And father and son walked away into the darkening night.

Cornered

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

One inspiration for this piece was my thinking about Botticelli and a
couple of other Renaissance artists whose styles were strongly
hard-edged and linear. No matter the subject, their style suffuses every
work with a certain pale and quiet sadness that is easily felt but
difficult to describe, like that universal yet unsharable sadness which
is part and parcel of every life. There is no sfumato in the artists’
works to mellow or hide that sensation, nothing to compromise or lessen
its harsh representations. This sketch is merely my response to that
certain melancholy inherent in every linear work. The creature inhabits
a harsh, brittle realm of unyielding and emphatic demarcations that
allow no thing to really touch another, a world of sharp outlines, sharp
and stinging like nettles and barbs, a world of boundaries that cannot
be crossed. Yet the creature itself is also harsh, untouchable and
armored in its own severe outline. It belongs in its world. It’s a
little bowed and battered by its environs, but it is not broken. It
perseveres and is not overwhelmed. To me, that is part of Botticelli’s
genius. There is an ambient sadness in his work reflected even in his
smiling or dancing figures. Yet they survive in the sadness and somehow,
magically, impart a graceful undefinable happiness, even joy, to the
entire piece. And that is part of what makes Botticelli’s works beautiful.