Monday, February 23, 2009

My List

My wife who is very creative has made a list of things about herself on her blog and after reading her wonderful list I am inspired to do the same, if only to remember the little things about myself that I may have forgotten lately.

1. My wife is pregnant with our baby boy and we have given him the name after Sam's mother Jude who is a strong source of wisdom and peace. I am aware of the increasing size of my wife's belly as we are at the 6 month cusp and still I cannot fathom the reality of what is to come. I have used a string to mark Sam's tummy growth which is measured by way of knots for each week.

2. I met my wife in the most curious way, 10 years ago on a penpal site on the web before all those dating sites sprang up. I responded to her profile based on her wonderful brief summary description without knowing even what she looked like. It was at least a month of writing two page letters each day that I got her picture in a package she sent to me by mail. We moved in and out of writing for years, through various relationships and different stages in our lives and somehow I convinced her to visit me in Ca from Canada for a week with Isabella and convinced her to marry me. Bizzare world indeed.

3. I feel most alive when I am gardening vegetables. I once had a small plot in Polish Hill, Pittsburgh Pa, where I tended to corn, zucchini, several varieties of tomatoes (grape, plum, yellow boy), bell peppers, and oh yes, Cinderella Pumpkins at 50 pounds each. I fell in love with eating raw vegetables right from the stem, which is something I wouldn't care to do from store bought produce.
4. I am a rockhound at heart and did not discover this truly until I moved to California. I have always sought out treasures but now I know better about where to look. I have travelled to some remote places to find a variety of geological prizes. I even found large red mica schist garnets in the river that runs through Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, extinct oyster shells 80-130 million years old in Utah, dinosaur bone in Mojave Ca, Obsidian of all sheens from Davis Creek in Ca, Topaz crystals from the great Topaz mountain in Utah, Petrified Whale bone and the list goes on.

5. I am an avid reader though not a fast one. I love to read all sorts of books, including historical fiction, nonfiction (Simon Wincester for one) and of course classics. One of my favorites is the book, The Tin Drum, by Gunter Grass which has given me the name for my shop at Etsy.

6. I am proud to say that I don't have a television at all and haven't for 4 years now. I just don't want to subscribe to commercialism and I believe it has contributed to my daughters imagination and our family spends more time together play card games at night, writing, drawing and sometimes dancing. I read that the average person will have spent 14 years of their life watching TV (Eckert Tolle).

7. I have had some very special connections with nature in my life which I took to be significant signs and I will post pictures above of two particular moments. One dealing with a coyote on a trip up to Sequoia National Park and the other with a huge desert hare in the salt flats of Wendover Utah.

8. I used to teach art at Public School 173 in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York for 2 years and then I was a lead art instructor working with middle school students for the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, PA.

9. Living in Rome, Italy for 10 months changed my life when I was 21. Before that wonderful plane ride abroad, I had never before ridden an airplane before. The Italians taught me that life is more to be enjoyed and when life gets to you, just sit down with a gelato in hand and enjoy the view.

10. I have a love for Christmas lights and believe that they should stay up all year round and so we have them draped around the ceiling in our home. Every other light is covered in an origami box (waterbomb it's called) to create a nice lantern effect.

I will stop here for now. I don't think I can reach my wife's list of 25 but I will hopefully come back to this another time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BirdSprung

Rainy Day Recess


It was a strange day back to school from the three day weekend. Some bandits took the opportunity over the long weekend to break into the school office and principle's personal office with a crowbar to steal camcorders and electronic goods along with cash out of a safe box.
The computer screens in the office were smash for no reason at all. They also got from the principle's office all the spare keys to other buildings and rooms throughout the campus which aided them to break into many portable classrooms along 98th avenue. They took all things valuable belonging to the teachers and destroyed things they couldn't take. For example in one teachers classroom they pour juice all over the hard drive of her computer, as it was bolted down, disabling it completely. Another classroom, the thieves used a fire extinguisher on desks, papers and walls leaving an awful mess and a chemical residue that gave their class runny noses. The crowbar was used also in an attempt to break into the main building but despite ripping off pieces of the door they were unable to get inside. On Monday, one of my colleagues came to school despite the holiday to work in her classroom and found later that her car drivers side window was smashed in, though nothing was taken as her radio was already torn out last year by theft while teaching in the classroom at our school last year. Security wires were cut and apparently the alarm was disable so that these guys had lots of time to move through all these classrooms. The pointless vandalism would have someone believe that it was teenagers who might have done this but I have the belief that they were clearly adults who would like us to think this. The juice that was used to douse a computer still had much of its contents left over and objects smashed were chosen from shelves methodically while other things next to them stood untouched. I know that the police came but only to make a report as they did not set foot into any of the vandalized classroom to collect evidence or to speak with any of the teachers of those rooms. I am saddened that I work in such a lowly place where the thieves cared nothing for the children of the community whom will ultimately be most impacted by their crime. I can't imagine that many people know how difficult it is for teachers who work in these urban settings within the public school system. I don't know how many people know how forgotten and underserved these communities are and how the people of these communities often end up destroying each other.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rainy Days


We are dormant in this gray atmosphere. staying in from the ceaseless rain that has blown in and out these past two days. I had hoped to get out for some painting on the patio but the weather says that it is not yet the time to dabble in oils, as we know water and oil don't mix. There is hope that the clouds above us will break and we will have some clear blue sky today and so there may be room for some adventure on my day off. Sam my wife is looking more maternal these days as the baby continues to grow well inside her and I am anxious to get some pictures of her sporting her lovely round tummy. I don't believe I ever saw one single picture of my mother while she was pregnant and she carried 5 children to term. It is a wondrous thing to watch the progression of Sam's pregnancy. Some time will pass without much noticeable difference in her belly shape or size and then it appears as if overnight that she has grown an inch or so. The baby kicks when Sam is excited or at rest but sleeps when Sam is active. Oh, the sky is turning blue before my eyes and the rain has stopped, what luck. Today we have gone to Trader Joe's to restock our frig and now we are going to sit down to enjoy a nice lunch consisting of soup and fancy cheese bread. I am not sure what to do today,,, hmmm stay in and do tax stuff, sketch out something new for Etsy (which feels void of sales at this time) or set out on a trip. Lately, I have been doing some sketching of faces inspired by German Expressionist, Max Beckman, Otto Dix, etc. I am trying to move into a new style of drawing with the hopes of breaking out of old stylistic habits. I have an interest in subjects that express a sense of vulnerability and border on struggle or inner conflict,, torture. Oh,, it's time to eat,, I must be off so that my soup doesn't get cold.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All Due to the Full Moon


Wednesday evening: I didn't always believe in the metaphysical properties of the moon, until I began teaching elementary school. I go into school with an open mind and try to observe the emotional and physical actions of the students at the time of a full moon and new moon. At this time students get jittery and hyperactive, bouncing around in their seats, arguing and exhibiting absurd behaviors like crawling on all fours to their desk, or banging things against their heads. I am currently teaching 2nd grade with a class that I have taught since Kindergarten and so I know them so well academically and personally.

I happen to work in Oakland, California which has at one time received the distinctive honor of being the murder capital of the U.S. as well as a birthplace of one of the major influences of rap music. When driving through Oakland, one does not see the squalor and disrepair that one would expect from a city with such a reputation and I am positive that I have seen much worse in Philadelphia when I lived there. Near where I work in the South part of Oakland one can see simple beauty and filth coexisting together. Very quaint colorful little houses with neat gated yards lie next to traffic and wayward souls ambling about on the sidewalks. Many of those walking the sidewalks are homeless, or addicts, but most are wearing a scowl on their face, a look that looks aggressive and also self protective. I have met with parents who are speaking to me but can barely put words together to string a sentence because of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and parents who are active participants in their child's learning and then are off to jail for a couple of months. We have folks trying to pick their child up drunk and those who burst into classrooms in the middle of instruction to yell about something that is on their mind. I suppose maybe the full moon has prompted me to write more about my personal life. There are so many stories to be told of what has taken place at my school in these past years and I cannot certainly tell them all at once, though I wish to. I can say that my job is very difficult and I see many of my colleagues struggling and fighting against a system that doesn't support them. I work with some of the most passionate hardworking teachers who are the best at what they do but I see that they are slowly being worn down.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wounded in Love Etching Made the Front Page



I just wanted to write that I was thrilled that my humble etching made it on an Etsy front page. I love the simplicity of this print which has a wonderful sophistication to it in person but does not carry well in its digital reproduction. One of several doll etchings that was made years ago when I was fortunate enough to have access to a printing press, etching acids and block printing inks. One of these days I will sell this one and the girl etching that goes nicely with it.

Where I'm From



I am from Fulton New York
where my Grampa Black once engineered great chocolate making machines,
exhaling the aroma of bittersweet chocolate that perfumed the air
and blessed us each with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge in white patterned porcelain bowls.

I am from the edge of the murky pond
where we caught fish with bread crumbs, near the endless orchards
of concord grapes and apple trees ready for the picking
where we unearthed crystal treasures from their cold earthy slumber.

Mabel

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Post- Original David Painting


Well, today I stayed home from work sick with a plugged up head and a drowsy aching body. Though ill, I was thankful for the rest, putting my feet up and laying in with a good book. Socrates the cat was ever so delighted to have me still in bed in the morning and purred and wheezed with happiness on my chest. Sam and I got to spend some time together discussing various random things and even art. Sam sent me to the store to get her some Dulce de leche which is our favorite ice cream of all time next to the Rollo ice cream I had in Canada which was surprisingly yummy. I regret that I did not indulge in the eating of ice cream as I am more health conscious now that I have been jogging for the past couple weeks. I decided almost a month ago that I needed to stay active, moreso then the constant pacing of a school teacher in his classroom. I was a bit inspired by an article I read where a person did pushups for only 1 minute each day for a month, but the gradual routine of doing so helped her to tone her arms and encouraged her to make heathier food choices. I have throughout my life had an all-or-nothing mentally about my interests which allowed me to abandon action if I was unsure about whether I could implement it fully into my life. So now I do my pushups and stretching every morning before breakfast and do a circuit around Lake Merritt every few days to lose unnecessary weight. What a splended idea that our lives can change so by just making a habit of doing something valuable for just a few minutes a day. Even the act of meditating and remembering to breathe fully, feeling the air filling up lungs that have so often taken in shallow breaths. Being mindful enough to feel the stillness and space within, apart from the incessant chatter of ones thoughts that has us living without notice of what beauty lies before us.
I have added a new painting to my shop of an acquaintance I once knew when living in New York City. There is definitely a gloom and vulnerability that I feel when looking at his portraits which was I suppose is how I felt about the person in the flesh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My picture for the day of Blue being comfortable in his own way.

You are The Hermit

Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.

The Hermit points to all things hidden, such as knowledge and inspiration,hidden enemies. The illumination is from within, and retirement from participation in current events.
The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. You do not desire to socialize; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. You prefer to take the time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent but these feelings eventually lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.


The Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I sold a painting!


I am very excited today that I sold one of my child portraits in oil that I did last spring. I will soon run out of paintings altogether in my shop which tells me that I should start painting new ones. Once a painting is done it take several months for a painting to completely dry before sealing it with Damar Varnish which helps to seal it and preserve the luster of the pigment. I am really excited that Etsy which is a very craft oriented venue allows for artist to sell their work. I have waited for the weather to warm up before venturing outside to paint more portraits but I am excited to get started. I feel fortunate to have a buyer who appreciates my work and it is definitely a lift for an artist to make a sale. My studio is the outdoor patio where I am sure not to harm my wife Sam and Isabella with the toxic fumes of the medium. I have to use an encaustic lotion over my hands and arms to prevent the paint or mineral spirits from leeching into my skin. Medals in paint and mineral spirits can be particularly hazardous to the central nervous system. When painting it's best to have an even amount of light and painting outside can be difficult unless the light is consistent. I enjoy spending a really good while mixing a palette of colors before I begin so that I can spend more time reacting to the canvas which allows me to make quick color choices rather than stopping continuously to begin mixing up a more complex colors. I still mix colors as I am painting but my palette is full of well mixed colors that I can work with rather than colors right from the tube. I have a busy week of teaching so alas I will conform to being a Sunday painter until I am given more time. I have the thought of doing watercolor but they are so very difficult to photograph or scan into the digital realm so that they can be posted on Etsy. Watercolors have such a sublime subtlety that is hard to capture in a reproduction and so I am not sure I want to struggle with that. I am excited to create more.