Monday, October 26, 2009

Now the song is nearly over. We may never find out what it means.

Two friends in the group I was in, pre-show, at the Irish Rover on Broadway remarked separately that having seen the Pogues, it would be possible to "retire" from live shows. With streams of whiskey already flowing (o'Squish wound up driving, so didn't participate) and the band's catalog blasting non-stop on the juke box, one guy showed us his sleeve-length Shane MacGowan tattoo. Reports from other cities indicated the boys were in form, and Shane mostly upright. Excitement was high, and we piled into a cab to find out, I guess, whether Rock and Roll can ever die.

Well, not if Rachel Nagy has anything to say about it. "Enjoy the FUCK out the Pogues, she yelled as the Detroit Cobras left the stage after a strong set under the difficult circumstance of a full house awaiting breathlessly its first brush with Poguetry.

The lights went down, and out came the musicians, some now bald, many re-habbed, a cancer survivor. And shuffling behind them, the shambolic bard, shapeless, toothless in a handmade sweater. The general tone of commentary on Shane's later career, with his sweet rasping whiskey voice now reduced by 5 million cigarettes to mainly rasp, has been: He could've been someone. Well, so could anyone! And "Streams of Whiskey", "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" and "Broad Majestic Shannon", the traditional show-starting triad, proved that there is nothing wrong with the Pogues that 2,000 stomping, jumping fist-pumping 18-54 year-olds can't cure.

I had predicted here that tears would flow as "Thousands" was played, but it took less time than that. As the band launched into the blistering main body of "Young Ned of the Hill", a hail of those glow stick thingies, beer cups and the glittering, trailing plumes of the blessed beverage they had held filled the air, and there were tears on my cheeks. At that moment I was as happy as I've been in years, and I'll remember it all my life.

I can't recall a single disappointment with the show as it stood. Oh sure, 'Fairytale of New York", their iconic, junkie Xmas song was left out, not for lack of snow (the Pogues very resourcefully bring their own), But for a Kirsty MacColl or Emma Finer to sing it. The band was out of its mind, James Fearnley still jumping and diving, accordion in hand. Shane was in strong voice and chatty. Shane's Ray-Bans came off briefly during "Old Main Drag" where the singer complains that they "messed up my good looks"- priceless!

I got to sing along to "Dirty Old Town" and "Thousands Are Sailing", and did in fact "raise a glass to JFK", and 8 musicians besides. I was unprepared for the barely contained chaos that was "Fiesta", in which one of humankind's nobler inventions, the beer tray, gave its life on Spider Stacy's head. I tried to get a picture of that, but by that time, the place where I was, the first riser above the mosh pit, had turned into a second mosh pit itself. Don't mourn the beer tray. Reflect instead, on what could possibly get gray-hairs with high blood pressure and people who weren't even born yet when the song was first played bouncing sweatily, beerily, shoulder to shoulder. Can we apply that to health care reform?

I can now slide contentedly into middle age, though if the lads want to come back next year, I can easily put on my Docs and step back out. I never saw The Clash or the Ramones, and it's too late now ( Joe Strummer joined the Pogues after strung-out Shane was finally kicked out, and "Straight to Hell" plays before every show). But Rock and Roll has never been about what you didn't do, but what you did. Whiskey, heroin, peace and love, any which way the wind may be blowing. Mosh on, 18 year olds, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progress on the Beast

A lot of the simple graphic intensity does get lost as you add more layers, but there's a richness to the color. I'll probably do one more run-through, for straight black, which can sometimes add a lot of punch. Still no title, so I'm running out of time on that basic requirement. Obviously, there is both isolation and hope in the image.

I have another large print I'll start on next week. It's an interior, a bit more semi-abstract. I'll post a progress report on that next. I don't anticipate as many layers for the next one, as I'm not sure all the fine tuning really added much to this one. Interesting to find out, though!

Here are some links to previous incarnations of this print.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Neon Manifesto.

I'm in the process of posting year-by-year summaries of my artwork to my Facebook Fan Page. The latest deals with my colored pencil/oil pastel neon cityscape phase of the 80's. I had just moved to Denver. Tomorrow I will post the latest progressions in the still-untitled large monotype I've been tracking here.

Have a look!

"Getaway", Color Pencil, 1985 >

Don't Drop the Ball

I previously posted a couple of photos showing progress on a large print. Printmakers like to call multiple runs through the press "drops". Here is an entry on the first drop (or stage). And here is one of the second. Shown above is the 5th state, where it sits now. Below, there is some intermediate info.

I was in the studio Monday, but after staying up till midnight for a baseball game I was moving kind of slow, and forgot my camera. Fortunately, my friend Steve had his iPhone, so I'm posting some photos of drops 3, 4 and 5. Here's 3:
Here's the plate just before printing it.
As I've mentioned, it's rare for me to do even a third layer on a picture so large, and this is the first time I've ever done five. This is partially the logistics of the beast, with many more chances to screw up the registration, etc. But it also has to do with losing graphic simplicity. For instance, though I like the cool grey and warm yellow/browns for adding visual balance to the sky, and a kind of surging richness to the land, I probably was a teeny bit heavy handed, always a problem for me. What do you think?

Spending this kind of time on a print allows for a more complex texture, but overworking it is always a possibility. A final drop is on the schedule next week where I'll try to add blues and blacks back in, add a couple of minor compositional elements and bring it all into focus. Or turn it into an unholy mess. Stay tuned.

If I should fall from grace with God,
Where no Squishtoid can relieve me, If I'm buried 'neath the sod, But the angels won't receive me, Let me go boys let me go boys Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry -The Pogues

The Pogues were a definite part of the soundscape in downtown Denver mid 80's, though the only ones who ever went there then were bohemians, punks and artists. I was more obsessed by the Replacements, Social Distortion and Husker Du, but pre-corporate KTCL played them enough to get me interested, and when a girlfriend gave me "If I Should Fall From Grace With God", I was pretty much hooked.
She was thinking, Irish guy- Irish punk music, but of course as we've come to know, The Pogues did much more than single-handedly save Irish music from itself with their almost irresistable blend of Celtic rthyms and punk energy. They probably rival all but the Beatles, Ramones and Sex Pistols in the "number of bands started by-" category, and in fact, are one of a very few bands ( the Beatles and Ramones again come to mind) that can claim to have started an entire genre. And they also invented their own musical instrument- the beer tray (see Fig 1).

Whatever you may think of the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and the Real MacKenzies, it's certainly true that none of them or their 5,000 Celtic Punk brethren would exist with out the Pogues. It's also true that few have penned the type of song, such as If I Should Fall from Grace with God, or Sally Maclennane, or Broad Majestic Shannon that captures the fun and transgressive spirit of punk, while also being easy to mistake for traditional Irish music. I'm fairly certain no one has written a Christmas standard that features a drunk gambler and his junkie wife. It's probably true that the entire crowd doesn't sing along with Flogging Molly songs, though I don't know; I haven't been to one.

I haven't been to a Pogues concert, either, though not from lack of trying. I just haven't been able to get to Boston, New York or Chicago for one of their brief and infrequent American touch-downs. Now, fortune and Shane MacGowan's liver permitting, that will change, as the Pogues make it to Denver for their first appearance. I did see Shane (with the Popes) at the Gothic Theatre a few years back- Shane only puked 3 times! Ah yes, Shane MacGowan- poet, warrior, drunken toothless mumbler.

So I'm not expecting transcendent musical moments here, though I'm pretty sure tears will flow, especially when they play "Thousands are Sailing". Mostly I just want to say I saw them, sing "Dirty Old Town" with 3,000 other voices, and remember the days when Doc Martens and live music were a bigger priority than health care and mortgage payments, and we had downtown all to our (drunken) selves. It was the best decade in rock and roll, and the best decade of my life. I can't get it back, but- with the help of a wee bit of beer- I can certainly try. Look for me there, I should be easy to spot -I'll be the drunk guy in Docs.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I posted a few images from 2006 on my fan page on Facebook. There's also 2004, from a previous post, and as I slowly organize my digital files ( and scan in the old slides), I'll try to catch up on all the other years as well. Also, as the class didn't fill, the deadline has been extended to Oct. 16, and the workshop will now run through Dec 7. If you know anyone who might be interested, please mention it to them. They are instituting online registration, and their website appears to be down right now, so no link. It's, or you can call 303.778.6990. I'll be posting class doings and photos to this blog, and we will keep it lively and fun. I believe you can also attend certain weeks, and pay a pro-rated fee. The full fee is $220 for all 8 weeks. See you there!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Round Peg In a Square State of Mind

Whew! Yes, it was a frantic September; yes, procrastination tends to feed on itself, and yes, (oh-no!) the Days-Without-Job portion of the Squish-o-meter is ticking off its final days.

What I like to refer to as Square State Tour '09 did not provide a lot of cash. In retrospect not so surprising given the economy, and the shows I chose, most in places that like most American cities, struggle to see the value in buying fine art anyway. That was actually part of the plan; unfortunately there is no way to find out if these cities ( Casper, WY; Salida, CO; Albuquerque NM; sorry, UT..) will buy art until one goes and does a show there.

Nor was the timing something I could control; with the corporations racing to gut pension plans before Obama stops the Bushies' greed-fest, I was in a take-it-or leave-it situation.

But the experience was still a joy and not just for its effect on the ol' Squishometer. In fact, why don't we step over and take a peek at where it stands, right now?

Days without job: 190

So I made 6 months, and again, I recognize that I'm certainly better off than most in corporate America, where personal time is viewed with suspicion, and creativity is something that appears only in those tacky motivational posters. Simply put, there is no substitute for time spent on your own goals. Other benefits:

- Got to see a lot of the Rockies, always a plus. Mostly stayed on the 1-25 corridor, from Sandia Peak and early fall Raton Pass roughly up to Laramie Peak, with Pikes Peak in the middle. Throw in South Park and College Peaks, with the late afternoon sun glazing the iconic western pyramids. It doesn't get much better than that.

- Got positive feedback, and made connections that may be valuable in the future. Casper and Albuquerque seem within a few years of being viable art markets. Casperites in particular seemed to really be pained not to be able to buy art, as if in Paul Westerberg's words, they were "aching to be" Also saw old friends, including after 30 years, high school buddy George.

-fine tuned my preparation and organization for future shows, and of course, there is no shelf date on unsold artwork. In fact, with all the new work I added this year it's just more choice to offer when the economy improves.

-Finally, the surprising fact that Denver's art scene is quite strong. We knew there was good work here, but importantly, Denver has begun to offer real support. The Denver show nearly tripled the other three in sales combined, and I've realized that it's wrong to put down the scene, which only taps into coastal prejudices.

Upshot, for me, I'll get used to my part time job, and sales will improve, though in 2010, they'll be improving in Denver only. No other Rocky Mountain city is really ready for fine art. After things improve, I'll look at other large cities.

Short-term, these positives won't prevent the necessity of getting a job. Riding out the rough weather a bit. Just as those of us who may have wished for a quick turn around from the dark years in the political landscape are finding out, it's going to be a long haul. Sunshine on amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty, eyes open, one foot forward.

Squish-o-Meter: Aching to be

p.s. Squishtoid will certainly continue, though I'll have to re-calibrate the Squish-o-Meter a bit. Next up: more works-in-progress; approximately 4 solid weeks of Pogues/Detroit Cobras pre-hype, exegesis, and review; and Ohhh Yesssss- pointlessly bitter and scathing remarks about whatever benighted part time job I wind up falling into ( unless it provides health care, of course).