Butterfly "Affect"

Busted. Yes, I hired out for this capture. Even my technological skills are not adequate for doing such highly advanced, time lapse photography.

Those of you with botanical knowledge may recognize the subject of these pictures is the increasingly popular “Butterfly Bush.” I’ll explain, briefly, as is my custom, the purpose for having these beautiful images as the heading for today’s blog.

I’ve become increasingly aware of the limited appreciation by the viewers of my artwork, for the amount of time and effort each piece requires. If I could’ve afforded it, I’d have had a time lapse video made of the making of my most recent piece. From start to finish, it took over 300 hours to complete. Wouldn’t that be exciting footage? I’d probably have my frequent trips to the kitchen edited out. Because I have a LITTLE bit of pride left. I’d most likely also not include my “no handed popcorn eating” performance in the film. I WOULD, however, include the pencil SHARPENING footage to give an element of high energy to the movie. In the bloopers that would accompany the credits, I’d share some of my more intriguing erasing moments as a bonus.

You’re wondering about the butterfly bushes, so I’m on it. A drawing such as my most recent piece can necessitate LOTS of advance planning. Sensing I’d one day need photo sources of a variety of butterflies, I planted a couple of butterfly bushes in my backyard several years ago. Carefully cultivating this temperamental foliage became a labor of love for me. After years of nurture, the plant was ready to live up to its nickname. My heart skipped a beat as I witnessed the multicolored monarch meandering toward the meticulously manicured bush. So excited was I, that I almost forgot to capture my fluttering friend with my camera.

I’ll soon be unveiling my most recent, butterfly-infested piece through a variety of channels. Stay tuned! 

ORIGINAL, HIGHLY SECRETIVE RECIPE!

I’m so tickled and humbled by the rapid growth of the number of people reading my blogs that I just HAD to show my appreciation. I decided to open my vault and reveal the recipe I’ve crafted over the past 12 years to my readership. This is a time sensitive revelation, as it requires the acquisition of wild blackcap raspberries while in season. So don’t delay.

Step #1. Be sure to have a substantial amount of 2% white milk on hand. Refrigeration required. Do NOT use if lumpy.

Step #2. Purchase two boxes of Rice Chex. Off brands not acceptable, but Corn Chex are an appropriate substitution.

Step #3. Inspect ceramic cereal bowls and spoons for cleanliness.

Step #4 is even trickier than #1-3, and involves a uniform.

-Find those blue jeans you’ve tucked away until autumn and put them on AFTER pulling a pair of socks over your feet. Socks should be the type that reach beyond your calves to increase protective value. A long sleeve tee shirt and the shoes you wear for lawn mowing will complete your ensemble. You’ll no doubt want to pause to take a selfie at this point.

Step #5. Take a small pail and venture into the great outdoors seeking wild, blackcap raspberries. If you’re fortunate enough to have these growing on your own property, your job will become easier, and will reduce the odds of a brush with the law.

It's now time to begin picking. Large, dark berries are those that are ready to harvest. Lightly pinch each berry before removing from the bush. If the berry puts up a fight, let go, as it's politely telling you to “Come back tomorrow.”

Many of the best berries will require climbing into the foliage. This is where your uniform becomes significant. Your sleeves will protect you from plants of the poisonous variety AND reduce the depth into your flesh that the raspberry prickers will invade. Should you become entangled in the prickers, do NOT panic. Simply turn your body in the opposite direction the tangling produced. If skin is perforated as a result, simply smile, and remind yourself of the upcoming reward for your efforts.

Once your bucket is filled, it is time to return to your abode.

Step #6. Rinse all berries, remove stems and any bugs that came along for the ride.

Step #7. Cover the bottom of your cereal bowl with berries, followed by a layer of Rice Chex. Next, a dense layer of berries should conceal the Chex, followed by a second cereal layer and finally a pile of berries to top it off.

If you’re confident you’ll not be interrupted by family members, a dog that needs to be let outside, or a Fedex delivery, you may now add your non-chunky milk. I like to pour just enough milk into the bowl to moisten (lovely word) the cereal, but not submerge the top layer of berries.

Step #8. Wait until you’re done smiling, and carefully slide your spoon into the bowl. Dip deep enough to obtain at least a couple of cereal bits, so as to add the intoxicating crunch to your first bite. Repeat until bowl is empty.

Please do not try this recipe without adult supervision and ENJOY!

ANT TRAINING

Yes, I have many skills. I am able to get an extra week or two out of a tube of toothpaste my kids deemed empty. I know how to fold a fitted sheet, though I choose not to. I’m also very adept at sharpening color pencils with both powered and manual hand held sharpeners. I can practically hear your “firework reactions” already. “Oooooh. Ahhhhh. WOOOOAH!”

This summer I decided to take up a new hobby. I’m now an official “Ant trainer.” This is not to be confused with “Aunt trainer,” which I was a master of at a young age. I learned very quickly how to deter some of my wonderful aunts’ desires to pinch my youthful chubby cheeks. Typically, my great speed of foot was all that was necessary, as long as I detected the pinch in advance. In the event I was distracted by a heavily frosted cake, a baseball, or a developing game of Capture the Flag with cousins, and didn’t notice a stalking aunt in time, I’d refer to my fine acting skills. Simply pretending to be nauseous and bending at the waist always did the trick. Unfortunately, it also removed my eligibility status for partaking of cake for a time.

No, this type of training, the training of insects, requires more than just acting skills. It requires patience, a plot of grass, and a brain at least twice the size of an ant. Two out of three is sufficient.

A careful eye will see a finely manicured path leading through my lawn. Like north and south going sneetches (Dr. Seuss reference), you’ll also notice ants following the path in either direction with near flawless obedience. The positive implications for this form of training should be obvious.

At this point in my training, the ants are merely transferring items that are beneficial to their own lives. Tiny edible crumbs and small fragments of dried grass for nesting are most common. Soon, a subtle transition will occur. I’ll gradually increase the size of their cargo, so as not to alert them to my grand design. If all goes as planned, these unsuspecting ants will be moving and stacking firewood for me by autumn.

As to be expected, every group seems to have a bad apple. This is the little guy that thought the path was an “optional” route across my lawn. He’s spending a brief time in isolation until his attitude is adjusted. Defiant little creature.

More than marshmallows

Yep, I love this man more than marshmallows. Toasted, roasted, dipped in dark chocolate or straight out of the bag.

This man’s presence has changed in recent years. You won’t know it, however, when he prays, jokes, or when his eyes tell you he loves you. He’s told me using words that he loves me twice in my lifetime. Funny what we remember. He’s told me with his eyes and his actions more times than I can count. If I had a choice, I’d choose actions over words, though I hold dear the memory of him telling me.

My dad has dementia. Its not ideal. I’d love to share experiences in the same way we used to. I miss recapping Tiger games with him. I’d also love to hear him preach again. I could make a list of what I know I’ll never have with him again, but realize how fortunate I am to have him at all.

I’m sure some of you know exactly how it feels to have your parents age, and have some of the roles in your relationship reversed. Others would give anything to have the chance. This doesn’t escape me. I’m lucky.

Father’s Day was wonderful. We had a feast with both my parents and many of my dad’s kids and their kids in attendance. Few things give my dad joy these days, but watching his family laugh still does the trick. Pie does too.

Perhaps my readership is wondering if this blog entry is being written by a ghost writer due to its serious tone. No apologies. I’m writing what’s on my heart in a heavy way.

To honor my dad I will share two stories with you that will give you a snapshot of his sense of humor and his competitive spirit.

As an elementary student in the Catskill Mountains, my dad found an interesting game to play with his classmates. A bees’ nest would be found and placed inside a circle drawn in the dirt. Competing students would see who could remain in the circle longest after poking the nest with a stick. My dad always won.

In college, my dad felt convicted to bring one of the guys in his dorm “out of his shell.” I’ll change the classmate’s name to protect the innocent and refer to him as “John Smith.” After making a call to the funeral home (quite certain this wouldn’t work today), a knock was heard at “John’s” door. When John answered the door, the gentleman dressed in a black suit and possessing a long cart, stated in a reverent tone, “We’ve come for the body of John Smith.”

I love this man.

Riveting Retirement

“So, how’s retirement going, Paul?” A nickel. Just one nickel for every time I’ve been asked this question. That’s all I’d need to pay off my mortgage. Don’t misunderstand. The question is asked with the kindest of intentions. People are generally happy for me, with the exception of my former colleagues who secretly wish they were in my place.

My answer is typically cordial, and informative. Who is surprised by this? It also is a bit on the lengthy side, if time allows and I have the inquisitive one trapped. Retirement can be lonely, so we retirees seek out conversation with anyone, even if they have their arms filled with bags of groceries. I actually prefer that audience because they rarely ask follow up questions.

My answer to the “How’s retirement?” question is this. “I’m not retired from the work force, just retired from teaching, at least in its previous form. I may very well choose to teach private lessons, or night classes, at some point in the future. I’m VERY happy in my ability to focus more on my art business, and am also enjoying house painting during normal hours, rather than the after school shift. I miss working with kids big time. I miss making them laugh (sometimes on purpose), watching in awe at the things they’d create, and yelling at them when they run in the hall. I do NOT miss witnessing projectile vomit, nose picking, butt scratching, and tattling.”

As a visual artist, I adhere STRONGLY to the “A picture paints a thousand words” doctrine. Since I’m quite the techie, I often step it up and employ the “Moving pictures paint MORE than a thousand words” philosophy. “Moving Pictures” also happens to be Rush’s best album. That’s not open to debate, though your comments of agreement are welcome. Speaking of “comments,” since it relates to what I was writing about, and I’m a stickler for staying on point, they ARE welcome and even encouraged, especially if they’re glowing in nature.

The number of readers addicted to my ingenious and thoughtful blogs has been growing at an alarming rate. The number of comments, however, is not. My manager just told me I’m starting to run on a little long with my sentences and am coming DANGEROUSLY close to veering off point. Personally, I think she’s just a little grumpy this morning. She also requests I not use “all caps” so often. It uses more ink, and money is a little tight in the day6art account. In the words of Steve Martin, “WELL EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME!!!!!!!” I feel better now.

Please enjoy the video. The sci fi clip from my previous blog was such a hit I decided I’d try and capture the electricity of my “retirement” experience thus far in a short film. It’s a bit more “family friendly” than the previous footage, so feel free to gather the kids around your laptop for an evening of enjoyment. Don’t forget the popcorn!

HIGH TECH, SFX, SCI FI THRILLER. WARNING! VIDEO MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

You never know when the opportunity may arise to capture a moment of intense drama. I found myself in the parking lot of my local Speedway, where I had just procured a healthy snack. When approaching my vehicle I noticed this imposing neon green creature. Thankfully I, like most people over the age of four on our fine planet, now have a fairly high quality digital camera on my person at all times. Were I NOT to have the ability to film this event, who would have believed me?

You’ve undoubtedly viewed this gripping short film multiple times by this point. Let me put your mind at ease. The risk of severe bodily harm to my person was kept to a minimum, thanks to the fact I happened to be wearing a shirt made with material bearing the pattern of a brick wall, which PERFECTLY matched the exterior wall of Speedway. Yes, it's an attractive shirt, brings out the color of my eyes, doesn’t make me look fat, and is NOT available in stores. More importantly, in this instance, it may have been a lifesaver. I was able to stand motionless against the gas station wall so as not to be seen by the massive creature.

I also want to assure you that at no time was any animal mistreated or injured in the making of this film. More importantly, the green beast was unable to obtain the 20 oz. bottle of heaven's sweetest nectar nestled in the cup holder of my automobile.

Needless to say, I’m grateful for my iphone, my local Speedway and my brick patterned shirt.

Be safe, people.

Whys, Hows, and Other Lofty Considerations That Can Distract

If you’ve invested any time in looking at my artwork in any analytical manner, you’ve no doubt drawn a few conclusions, or possibly formulated a few questions. When having the privilege of speaking about my work to an audience, I’ve come to expect certain questions. “How do you come up with the concepts for your work?” “Are these really drawn using color pencil?” “Will you accept more than your asking price?” “Do you now, or have you ever used drugs?” “Were you dropped as a child?” It is possible one of these questions has yet to be asked, but I can dream.

One of the most-asked questions regards the time it takes to create my drawings. The answer is, “a LOT of time.” My drawing titled, “A Game Of Cat And Mouse,” for instance, took 350 hours. Patience, a love of the process, a good drawing table with a comfortable stool, and a complete disregard for a social life are all requirements for being a color pencil artist.

I’ve noticed how easily I can become distracted when trying to get my pencils in motion. Often deep questions will occupy my mind. This time of year, I spend a great deal of time considering the lilac. Not very masculine of me, I know. Don’t judge. My question, which I’ll ask God in person one day, is “Why does it only bloom once a year, and keep so poorly in a vase?” I LOVE the smell of these beauties. They even make mowing enjoyable. If anyone has advice as to how I can get this scent more readily available I welcome your assistance.

I also wonder “If hens can produce such colorful eggs as these, why do we let the white egg producing hens still have work?”

Or, “How did this natural wonder occur, and how hard would I have to push the upper half to make it fall.... and would I regret doing so if I decided to find out?”

Sometimes, I recall memories from my teaching career. Like the time I was working in my classroom and had my door to the outside open for fresh air, or for my son to deliver a Mountain Dew. Suddenly, I noticed I had a little visitor come see if I was working.

Instead of drawing, I might wonder how my little friend is doing today? I still find it disappointing that I was unable to lure the rodent into the hallway, where he could have added a bit of excitement to the school day.

Time to draw...

 

The most wonderful time of the year -- day or night

Before pontificating on the merits of spring, let’s take a moment to absorb the beauty of my landscaping masterpiece.

Because this picture is taken at night, one can enjoy the rich, deep shades of gray provided by my skillfully sealed black top. You can hardly tell I used a cheap product from Menard’s. Or, that I didn’t mix together ALL of the 5-gallon cans to provide for a consistent hue, OR that it rained soon after the sealant was applied. The forecast contained no mention of any precipitation, for the record; yet there I was, mere minutes after completing the application, standing in centerfield, ready to spring in any direction to run down a softball for the benefit of my team, when I felt a drop or two. As luck would have it, the occasional drip crescendoed into a lovely downpour. I live just 3 miles from the softball field, so I was fairly certain the effort and expense I put in to protecting my lengthy driveway were in vain. Thus, the benefit of taking this photo at night.

A 5” concrete border separates the rich blacktop from the carefully placed (by a professional, not the current homeowner) brick mosaic that leads to my front door. But let’s not jump so hastily to the front door. Beautifully and lovingly positioned around the perimeter of the foliage is a rectangular shape made up of field stones of various shapes, sizes and colors. I made it look easy.

Nestled inside, and occasionally creeping over the fieldstones, is a bed of myrtle. Fun fact, myrtle is my favorite ground cover. I’m guessing many guys don’t have a favorite. Myrtle is fairly forgiving, doesn’t climb siding or trees, produces bright little purple flowers in the spring, and multiplies for FREE!

Of course, the fieldstone is merely the frame, and the myrtle a matte, for the 8’ Weeping Cherry tree. Like the myrtle, the weeper is crying for attention this time of year. If I were intending to place my house on the market, I’d use photos of my house during this short-lived explosion of color. It seems like the window of opportunity is about an hour and a half. Either a heatwave melts the blossoms to the ground, or heavy winds and torrential rains wash them away.

Lucky for all of us, I took the delightful picture above at JUST the right time. You’re very welcome.

It IS the most wonderful time of the year. No disrespect to winter, but seriously, it’s amazing. Color everywhere. Less layers of clothing required when outdoors. And mowing beats snow blowing EVERY day of the week, and only needs to be done once a week.

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR (DAY OR NIGHT)

Spring has sprung!!!