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the ramblings of an artist, musician, poet and fool...

4/22/14 07:25 am - 22 APRIL 2014

YOU DON'T KNOW JACK And maybe I don't either. Today is Jack Nicholson's 77th birthday. Happy Birthday, Jack! What I don't seem to know about Jack—or more specifically this illustration of Jack—is when it came about. Oh, it's stamped with a 2007 watermark, so at least I should know where to start as I sift through the blog archives. But in last night's search, I was unable to come up with an answer.

It appears it was rendered in colored pencil, then "electrified" in Photoshop.

Then Jack became "Jack the Ripper" in this digital collage of a few selected lines from Bob Dylan's "Tombstone Blues."

The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous.

The ghost of Belle Star she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits

At the head of the chamber of commerce.

But I don't know when. Oh well, there's "no need to be nervous."


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4/21/14 07:40 am - 21 APRIL 2014

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them
as much as you please."
~Mark Twain

Mark Twain died on this day in 1910 in Redding, Connecticut at age 74.

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4/20/14 08:57 am - 20 APRIL 2014

ON THIS DAY IN 2012 I created this illustration on a lunch break. It was intended for use in my third self-published art-magazine, "A Place I Don't Belong."

But the purpose of today's blog is not about this image—though it's fitting as he's smoking—but rather THIS DAY, APRIL 20 or 420. I've known for some time this date has something of meaning for potheads but I never quite knew exactly what.

And that is why God invented GOOGLE!

So, I looked it up this morning. It appears, it was started by some California teenagers back in the seventies who called themselves—of all the coolest names—The WALDOES (Now, I wonder if "finding them" has some pot connection, too?). According to what I read, there's some big scheme about finding a cannibas stash and a secret meeting place, etc., etc. And the buzz word (pun intended) was 420.

I basically skimmed this Wikipedia entry but found one of the reasons this seemingly insignificant group of teens and their "pot term" became so important was the connection to the band, the Grateful Dead.

Now, of all the Dead-heads I've met—well, if there isn't a "religious cult-like" quality to them! And today 420 or APRIL 20th is also Easter. Pretty powerful day, I say!

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

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4/19/14 07:54 am - 19 APRIL 2014

ON THIS DAY in 2005 I shared a poem about a man who would "Smoke On The Water." Yeah, I'm sure the opening riff to that classic Deep Purple song is chugging through your brain right now. But my story was about a man who would smoke a cigarette while floating on his back in a lake—not some pyrotechnics gone bad.

April 19, 2005 was a Tuesday. How do I know this? My poem was a "day-late" entry to my good friend's, Jo Knowles, Monday Morning Warm-up.

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4/18/14 07:17 am - 18 APRIL 2014

ON FEBRUARY 9, 1964 My life changed forever. The event itself—the family gathered around the TV set for a Sunday night viewing of The Ed Sullivan Show—seemed rather routine. It's what we did almost every Sunday night. Ed Sullivan. My Favorite Martian. Bonanza. Something like that. Sometimes we would have pizza but that was more of a treat than routine. Ed Sullivan was routine.

But on that particular night in February of '64, something was very different. My mother informed me during the week that this "new musical act, this rock 'n roll band from England" was going to debut. They were causing quite a stir. In part, because of how they looked. Their haircuts.

I remember finding those haircuts to be a little strange. Maybe because nothing like that would ever be allowed to grow on my head! Not in my house. Not with my dad.

And girls screaming was very strange to comprehend.

But what they were doing was most intriguing. Playing electric guitars and drums and singing. And I thought, this was their job. WOW! All my ideas of being an astronaut or a cowboy went right out the window. Yeah, these guys dressed like my dad did for work—in white shirts, ties and suit coats—but I don't think they came home from work and fell asleep on the couch all tired and overworked. No, they looked like they were having FUN doing their job!

Anyhow, this little introduction is for a sketch I'd like to share. It's for my latest "graphic-poem," SAINT RINGO. The fictionalized-autobiographical story of a Fab Four fan who found it very difficult to chose a Confirmation name in the Year of the Devil. The story includes my account of February 9, 1964 and this illustration, proportionately, depicts my perceived importance of which Beatle I most wanted to be like.

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4/17/14 07:24 am - 17 APRIL 2014


"Set the WAYBACK Machine for THURSDAY, February 27th, 2014, Sherman."

"OK, Mister Peadbody!"

Here I am, nervous as all hell, as the featured reader at the monthly Coffee and Poetry Night hosted by Northfield Coffee and Books.

Even though the night tried to scare off some folks with "wintry tricks," the turn out was AWESOME!

Like I said, awesome turn out!

See, what I mean?

So, I take a seat and begin to read (it appears I can't do that without making faces that match the expressions).

And sometimes I just needed to "sing it out!"

More goofy faces (or maybe this is the part where someone eats lemons?).

The old chair tried its best to swallow me whole!

Maybe I got upset about that (or this is the face I make when I do Sister Mary Shelley's parts).

Well, I made it. Now, it's my turn to join my good friend, Laura, in the audience and enjoy some of the other poets during the "open mic" part.

Like Michael Humphries...

...and Trish Crapo.

THANKS to all my friends who came and showed their support—you guys ROCK! And a very special thank you to my friend, Kathleen Johnson, for her photographs, here.

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4/16/14 08:07 am - 16 APRIL 2014

NINE YEARS AGO TODAY I shared this post about my training in "gallery sitting" for the co-op gallery, 267. I had just been accepted as a member.

At NINE this morning, I will head over to join some artist friends of mine for coffee, conversation and to share art—what we've been working on since we last met.

(One of the artists expected to join us this morning was also a member of Gallery 267—in fact, she recommended I apply.)

I will share the book cover I recently designed and illustrated and the companion bookmark. Maybe I'll share the roughs for my next "graphic-poem" art magazine.

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4/15/14 07:55 am - 15 APRIL 2014

IT'S COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE Most people look at me like I'm some kind of obsessed nut-job. I'm so easily hooked on "things." And my Love Affair with Emily Dickinson is a perfect example. It all started back in December 2004 when I set out to do a portrait of the Belle of Amherst. Six portraits later and her inclusion in all but one of my four art magazines, I think it's safe to say, "I obsess much."

Here's a song parody I wrote on this day back in 2011 on that very subject.


Waiting for a bus in South Amherst,
Trying to get to Holyoke or Ware.
The man at a Mac said, "You've got a new book?"
"Is there something with us that you can share?"

POE! You know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
The way this is going
I'm gonna EMILY me.

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4/14/14 09:13 am - 14 APRIL 2014

Happy Birthday, BUFFY!
I don't think I ever watched this TV show—BUFFY, the Vampire Killer. I got my weekly subscription to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and I was "well read" in all that entertainment news but "what was cool" was not necessarily an opinion I formed myself. All I know is when it came time to match up an adversary to the most famous vampire—Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula—for a song parody I was illustrating, "this week's what's cool vampire killer" might be just what I was looking for! So, I grabbed my EW magazine sources and inked away.

And here she is! And here it is her birthday!

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4/13/14 09:42 am - 13 APRIL 2014

APRIL 13, 1981 was my first day in my new job as a Senior Artist at the Channing L. Bete Company in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. I started out in Promotion Art (what would become their advertising department). We designed "junk mail" to promote their main product, booklets. They published 8 and 16 page two-color booklets and pamphlets. The kind you could find in the "Take One" racks at the doctor's office or school guidance counselor's office. The subjects were "What You Should Know" about most any health, safety or education topic. As I said, they were two-color and written in a very conversational style and illustrated with cartoony stick-man character all the artists at my new job called "The Dude."

I spent almost four years in this department. My main responsibility was to create art mechanicals—a dinosaur term in the publishing field that equates to an art work that could be reproduced to film so it could be burned to a plate and printed on a web or off-set press.

But during these four years, the company had a desire to create an "alternative product." They asked the artists to take part in a sort of "contest." My submission was a cartoon-illustrated product where the characters were a little more realistically rendered. Maybe something inspired by my years of MAD magazine worship or in a style similar to that I had used on a big freelance project I had worked on in the Boston area just prior to my accepting my new job here. Anyhow, the art director in Product Design decided this cartoon style might work well for an activity book line aimed at 3rd and 4th graders, so, production began in rolling out this new product. I was "borrowed" from the Promotion Department for use in the Product Design department until a job opened in AUGUST of 1984.

I transferred to PRODUCT DESIGN.

The desire to find a "realistic alternative product" to the two-color product illustrated by "the dude" did not end. I was then asked to submit designs and illustrations for this realistically illustrated product. Once approved, a whole line of illustrated products for all reading levels was rolled out. I had the unique role of being a designer in the Product Design group who also worked as an illustrator in the Product Art group (I began this role when I first worked on the activity books as the illustration style was really "mine" and needed to be taught to the illustrators of that department). I was also still designing booklets for the 'dude-booklets,' too. I would eventually be trained in how to illustrate that style so I could assist the illustrators there as well. In the future, all artists would eventually be required to have design and illustration skills—in fact, when Product Design and Product Art merged, all the illustrators magically became designers and all artists going forward worked for Product would be called designer-illustrators—but back in the late eighties and early nineties, I was only artist doing this at this small publisher.

As we entered the nineties and headed towards the 21st century, the computer would become a new art tool. We were introduced and trained to use design applications like PageMaker. It would eventually be replaced by Quark X-Press which would be replaced after a very long run by inDesign (which reminds me a lot of PageMaker). And FreeHand would become the vector art application we would all use until it was replaced by the (cumbersome, IMHO) application, Illustrator. And all through this, the one constant application (and my favorite) was Photoshop. Yes, computers made art mechanicals history and the job of art in publishing a whole new world.

That world would see all our line art illustrations become four-color illustrations. But the outside world and our customers would come to see illustration as dated and demand that we design with photographs. We complied and our illustration work would only appear in workbooks and such targeted for children.

By the 2000's, the company I started working for in 1981—with only three product formats, then—now had tons of different products! All age groups, all ethnicities, all socio-economic groups, all—and I mean EVERYBODY! had products targeted for each of their needs.

And all through this, I loved my job!

Yes, I consider myself a very lucky person. I have no art degree. After graduating from high school, I attended an unaccredited three-year art school. I received a diploma in Fine Arts upon graduation. As a Fine Artist with a diploma, I worked as a janitor and a dishwasher. After a few lucky breaks working for awhile in two different art departments, I got enough on-the-job training that would allow me to pursue freelance work. Another lucky break landed me a big freelance job that lasted over two years. I was able to take all this post-school training and use it to land a full-time with benefits job that lasted more than three decades!

APRIL 13, 2013 I celebrated my 32nd year at that job. By this time, a lot had changed in my job. An art department that once had nearly 15 artists was now down to five. Times were tough. But they were tough everywhere. We discontinued many of the products over the years and were now working on the handful of product formats that seemed to still have a buying audience. And a few new prototypes had been introduced which seemed promising (and were also fun to work on). I had my sights set on retirement—or at least, I was making plans for that direction—but at 58, it still seemed like a long way off.

JUNE 5, 2013 I turned in my SOP for web design of the company's intra-net web site that contained all our company-owned photographs. As the company was preparing for a huge computer and application upgrade, this standard operating procedure document was one of the last loose-ends that needed to be updated. Upon turning it in, I headed off for a short vacation. Little did I know, I would never return to this job except to clean my desk out.

JULY 1, 2013 after a two week stay in the hospital, I was diagnosed with cancer. Four days later, I would meet my oncologist and begin chemotherapy.

DECEMBER 6, 2013 my short-term disability became long-term and my job officially ended.

APRIL 13, 2014 I woke up and set about creating this post about a day-job that I loved. One that lasted a little over 32 years. One where I was trained in everything that was 'industry standard' in publishing. One where I would meet and work with some of the most talented people I have ever known. And many of these people have become life-long friends. And this job would afford me a life-style where I could pursue with little concern my many artistic releases in art and music. And this day-job would also introduce me to me to many talented people would become part of these creative side ventures of mine—especially, in music.

Yes, April 13th will no longer be the anniversary date I tick off as I make my way to retirement day. No, in a way, that day is already here. But I suspect on April 13th, I will always look at what that day-job was all about and how it brought me here.

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