Tag Archives: art

Bernice (an addendum)


The more I have sat here and thought about it, I think my original drawing is the best, especially after I used Enhance and Contrast to simply bring out more of the drawing and make it grey, which is what it was originally (for some strange reason, the sketch was made blue during the scanning process). Nothing was added to it however, and in a lot of ways I like that better. Just pure Russell without Gimp may be better. (of course I still used Gimp a little, but didn’t alter anything.) Keeping that quick and dirty sketchbook quality may be the best look for this project. I’ll see what I think….still very much a work in progress. I like all the tiny strokes that typify my quick sketch approach. That was lost when I took it all into Gimp and added filters etc. It will get better. The more I look at this sketch the more I like it, especially since it is my first step in a very long time.



This was the last version I did. I think I may like it best, because I added a few strokes to give her face more definition, as well as multiple filters to give it a sort of watercolor look. It still looks like a child’s painting, but a ten year old instead of a four year old. It’s a start, and crude as it is, Bernice does have some personality conveyed by this drawing, and that’s the idea, isn’t it?

I think I’ll call her Bernice. She is a very precise and earnest woman. Very serious. My jokes go right past her. She practices yoga diligently. This is the beginning of a character in search of a story. I have yet to draw THE character, the one that captures my heart and comes to life magically before me. But I will get there. She is out there somewhere waiting to be drawn.

Before judging me too harshly, please consider that this is one of the first drawings I have done with serious intent, in many many years, thirty at least. I need to get my skills back. Tonight I began drawing and it was absolutely horrible!!! I would rather have had my fingernails pulled out one by one than go through the agony of trying to draw and having it look like the efforts of a five year old child. But then I just gave up on it and just scribbled, and lo and behold, the very earnest features of Bernice emerged. She is 43 years old and believes in affirmations. She wrote me this one: “Every day in every way I find myself again. All my pleasures can come to pass in time. Give me patience in my endeavors.” You see? I am already giving Bernice her life in words. Now I need to put together a story. Bernice is a peripheral character, one of the main character’s friends. I may use myself or create someone else. I haven’t decided. But, at least I broke through my resistance to drawing. Considering that I sketched this in about ten minutes (I am so impatient!!!) I am rather happy with it, at least it works to some degree. I like the sloppy quality, I do my best work when I bypass my OCD tendency to want to draw very realistically. This is much more expressionistic, and I captured a very serious and earnest quality in Bernice. She is ‘concerned’. It shows in her face. But I can do better. This is just a start. This is the one drawing I felt I could share without embarrassment. This is so much harder than just using images I find on the net, but it is honest. It is completely my creation, and not a copy of a photograph. But, clearly, I need lots of practice. This whole project will be slow in coming together. I’ve got to put my story together. But, it is interesting how, when I became frustrated and gave up, Bernice appeared, and I already have a sense of who she is. The drawing is just a beginning. I need to bring her more fully to life.

I can’t wait to do more!!!, even though it is very hard work. It is hard to describe how I work, I just start scribbling and something begins to emerge. I can’t plan it, or I drive myself crazy. The more I draw, though, the better I will be. My fledgling attempts to write, back when I began my first blog, were equally amateurish. I will get better. I will get a lot better, if I just keep on drawing.

So here are some examples of what I did on Gimp (poor man’s Photoshop) after I scanned my drawing. I got some interesting results. I hope you enjoy, and perhaps my first baby steps in drawing will inspire other bloggers to illustrate their work as well.

This is the original drawing, done freehand on a pad, old school. I knocked it out in about ten minutes, tired and frustrated after an hour of absolutely horrible drawings. This isn’t a good drawing but it is a start. On some level it seems to work. Bernice is born. Hi Bernice!!
I used Gimp to add washes of color. This is really childlike, but it has it’s charm.
I used Enhance to create this very expressionistic version. I like it and I don’t. Just experimenting. I love just messing with the possibilities.
The Oilify feature gives my drawing the look of a watercolor. I sort of like it, but as I post these versions of Bernice I find that I actually like the original drawing the best in a lot of ways, because it looks fresh and spontaneous, because, guess what? it was.

So I learned a lot in a short time. I was surprised at how adept I was in the retouching to the drawing depicted in the final version of Bernice. In just a few seconds I instinctively knew what to do. It is still a poor drawing, but slowly but surely I am getting back in the game, and regaining a long lost talent. As I do more of it, my true abilities will reappear. But what a struggle! but I promise I won’t cut off my ear and send it to ‘you know who’.

In this beginning of the beginning of a new series yet to be named or plotted out, I am proud to say I am indebted only to myself and Gimp. There were no outside sources. It is very fitting that this is the 300th post on this blog. It is a positive culmination of my creative surge over this past year.

We need a miracle (and a miracle can occur!)


It is clear to me that we are lost

We are mesmerized by events within a false world of our own making

When this fact is fully grasped it can lead to insanity and horror

But if you can allow yourself to trust your true self (without really knowing or understanding the nature of that self)

You can retain your sanity and find your bearings

We need a miracle (and a miracle can occur!)

We are more powerful than we can possibly know

This is (of course) both good and bad news

I believe that consciousness is a miracle

I believe we were intended to be like robots

And we took a step outside our programming

When that wasn’t supposed to be possible

We metaprogrammed our programming to a remarkable extent

But there is much more work to be done

We are still like robots in too many ways

The nature of things, reality itself is elastic

We can set the course of the entire universe

If we so wish

It is possible we have enemies in our midst

Hard to know if this is true or just a part of the plan

The plan devised by our creators

For it is abundantly clear that we are being deceived

misdirected and fucked over from day one

But it is wise to not jump to conclusions about who or what is responsible

We need to live in the questions

rather than the answers

If we wish to be free

Miracles can happen

We are the evidence

Today we need to stop playing the same old movie

Because we know how that one ends

And set a new course

It’s up to you and me

We need a miracle (and a miracle can occur!)

This is a sort of poem, sort of sermon, delivered from someplace that isn’t a place, and received in my weak little brain. I thought I should pass it on.

Additionally I am very proud of my Gimp creation here. This is a nice collage from various sources, featuring my muse, Stock Photo Woman. This wonderful collage may get used on the next installment of that series, I haven’t decided, but it works nicely here. So what do you say? Let’s have a miracle every day!!

Pygmy Twilight and my first video editing venture


I did this great little video project at City College of San Francisco in the fall of 2009 in Wendy Fong’s multimedia class. So it is fair use of copyrighted material, you can see Forbidden Planet, Super Friends, combat footage from Afghanistan, a speech by Obama, and Earth vs the Flying Saucers, plus Mr. Bean dancing. The music is Frank Zappa’s Pygmy Twilight. I am pretty happy with it. It makes some kind of crazy sense. I really enjoyed that class, it was my first taste of Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash animation, a little bit of HTML, and video editing. It introduced the students to the whole gamut. I haven’t looked back since. Obviously, from looking at my animation (basically a slide show) that I did for my other blogs, I forgot a few things since 2009, such as how to put music onto the animation. Actually this video above was done with Final Cut Pro video editing. It was the final for the course. Below is a very short video which was my first bit of video editing for that class, and my first video editing ever. It is kind of avant garde in that I shot video of the class itself, of the computer screen with the video editor showing a scene from Wizard of Oz. You can hear the instructor, and then it fades into the combination of Wizard of Oz and Snow White. I used my iPod to record the class. Short, but nice.

Since then I have focused on learning more about web design. But struggling with unemployment sapped a lot of my energy. Then I got involved in blogging, and got away from the web design which I need to keep working with. I find if I don’t keep working on things I lose what I have learned. I don’t remember all of the things I learned about Photoshop for instance. I need to bone up on all of that. But I am starting a job on Monday so it will be a challenge to stay engaged in learning, and keeping up my blog. I may end up leaving this job for a job as manager of a bookstore. I have an interview tomorrow for managing a small bookstore. That might be more satisfying for me, but also more demanding than the other job. So things are changing for me, thankfully in a good way. So I will do my best to stay engaged in becoming more creative all the time, in continuing to write and create interesting collages and animations, and stories. And also make my living at the same time.

In Praise of Hypatia


Hypatia by Charles William Mitchell 1885

Hypatia was a philosopher and astronomer who died in the fifth century AD. She favored the earlier pagan ways, as well as the philosophy of Plato, and could be considered a forerunner of present-day feminism. She boldly confronted ignorance whenever she found it, especially ignorance concerning women. She fiercely opposed the treatment of women as secondary citizens or even as less than human. This caused her to be despised by the early Christian church and they found a way to justify her murder, in the name of Christianity. In today’s evangelical Christian revival under Rick Santorum Hypatia is particularly relevant. She stood for logic, and the ideal, and honest, undistorted sexuality. Her death is considered by some historians to be the benchmark for the end of the Classical Age, and the beginning of the Dark Ages. We need women like Hypatia today. We need brave people in general, who can speak intelligently about things, as the ancient philosophers endeavored to do. Christianity and Islam dealt a death blow to free thinking. I would like to see a resurgence of paganism, intelligent paganism, which would recognize the positive attributes of religion, while opposing the tyranny which often accompanies church, mosque, or synagogue. I wish to learn more about Hypatia, but when I was researching pre-Raphaelite painting I came across Hypatia. It intrigued me, and I read a little about her. We need to recapture the spirit of ancient Greece, for the Dark Ages are not entirely over.

Wilde, Lilith, Rossetti, and Strauss


Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (face enlarged)


by: Oscar Wilde

E caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The “Treues Liebes Herz” of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

The took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
“The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.”

But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
‘The Harlot’s House’ was originally published in The Dramatic Review (April, 1885).

Lady Lilith, 1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Oil on canvas, 38 x 33 1/2 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935

Lilith, the subject of this painting, is described in Judaic literature as the first wife of Adam. She is associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. The depiction of women as powerful and evil temptresses was prevalent in 19th-century painting, particularly among the Pre-Raphaelites. The artist depicts Lilith as an iconic, Amazon-like female with long, flowing hair. Her languid nature is reiterated in the inclusion of the poppy in the lower right corner—the flower of opium-induced slumber.

http://www.delart.org/collections/preraph/lady_lilith.html  The Link is for the Delaware Art Museum

This is the first of my attempts to put together art, poetry, and music of the same period, in this case the late Nineteenth Century. The music is by Richard Strauss, Dance of the Seven Veils.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood


Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (taken from Wikipedia)

 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters, poets, and critics formed in 1848. They wished to restore art and literature to a more spiritual form of expression, instead of the rather formal constraints of academic art. Certain simple conventions prevailed in art beginning with Raphael. There was a tendency to avoid ostentation or excessive realism in any form. The Pre-Raphaelite wanted to return to a style that sought to depict nature as accurately as possible with extreme detail, realism, and spectacular color. All of this was in the service of a more spiritual result. They were in the vanguard of the Romantic movement in the arts. The Brotherhood didn’t last that long, by the end of the 1860’s they had more or less gone their separate ways, but their work inspired the later Symbolists and eventually the Decadence movement. The primary artists within the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Daniel Gabriel Rossetti. What I really like about these artists are how they depict the female form. They conveyed the magical quality of a woman’s face. There is a rich sensuality to their works due to the hyperrealism (my term. they were HD before the term existed). and vivid use of beautiful sexy colors. Beauty and sex are so closely related it is hard to separate the two. Sex is the desire to become one with the beautiful beloved, to merge together forming a new, uniquely beautiful and sexy being, and on it goes. From my perspective, art can serve a magical purpose, allowing the viewer to access parts of his or her self in ways not possible in any other way. Besides, it is awkward and rude to stare at a beautiful woman, however a painting of a beautiful woman can be stared at with delight, with no ill consequences. Alas, in some respects, all realistic art is pornographic. This is why realistic art was banned in the middle ages. I used to think they just didn’t have the skills, but no, the simple unrealistic forms are deliberate. Notice Rossetti’s use of the pomegranite (at least, I think that is what she’s holding). An unconscious association is made with the vagina. In the world of the pre-Raphaelite and even more so, the Symbolists and Decadents, objects and settings are symbols of other things or ideas. The paintings are a way of pointing to experiences that cannot be shown or heard, the spiritual realm if you will. It appeals to both my spiritual and perverse imaginations. There are many artists which have been considered Pre-Raphaelite who actually painted much later, such as John William Waterhouse, Gustave Moreau, These painters often used ancient myths and medieval tales as source material. Carl Jung would have said they were giving form to the universal archetypes of the collective unconscious. Freud would have said these paintings were a way of giving expression to their overflowing libido. They could both be right. All I know is that I can stare at these paintings for hours, lost in a reverie. For me, the experience is akin to the transformation of the senses which takes place when you fall in love. Everything becomes transformed, there is a special quality to the light, and the colors are magnificent when you are in love. I think that experience lies at the heart of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Then add a little Lord Byron, Shelley, or Yeats, and it is a veritable orgy of Romanticism. Perfect for young lovers!

Millais "Autumn Leaves" 1856

 Check out Proserpine by Rossetti above, do you see the hair? Rossetti could depict such rich, lush, hair better than anyone! You feel as though you could reach out and stroke her thick lovely hair. And the look within those dark eyes cannot be fully expressed. It depicts someone in deep thought, tinged with melancholy, and yet it is relatively subtle compared to the melodramatic style of the Symbolists. That is a useful distinction between the pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist. The Symbolist creates pure icons, divorced from that super realistic style of the pre-Raphaelite. The pre-Raphaelite uses nature itself to create that spiritual tipping point into blissful or perhaps mournful reverie. We have all had those pre-Raphaelite moments if you will, within our daily lives. Moments which are indelibly pressed into our consciousness. John Everett Millais, on the left, depicts what is for me an incredibly poignant scene, but not maudlin such as you might find in a Norman Rockwell print of the same kind of scene. Once again the effect is subtle but powerful. The light in this painting evokes autumn perfectly, and the expressions on the girl’s faces evoke a slight melancholy, but also pleasure. There is a hint of sadness even in the landscape. This is how autumn feels. Millais is a bit more conventional, not resorting to the hyper realism of Rossetti. You might say Millais preferred using more of a soft focus in his work. But I still can’t get over the exquisite use of color! One good thing about the internet age is the fact that you have entire art galleries at your fingertips. Of course it isn’t the same as having the paintings right in front of you, but at least you can access vast archives of paintings. I would encourage you to google these artists and see what you can find. Your computer monitor can serve as an imaginary light table bringing those paintings to life!

William Holman Hunt: Isabella and the pot of basil 1868

 Finally, for this post, I include one of the many wonderful paintings by William Holman Hunt. Look at the richness of detail and the sensual colors. It convinces me that ancient light was filled with delight. The face is a real face. This could easily be a HD digital photograph, the attention to strict realism is that good. Hunt’s women are voluptuous and invite lust as well as intellectual appreciation, Pre-Raphaelites delighted in the senses. They wanted us to see what they saw, touch what they touched, and feel what they felt. You feel as though you could reach out and hold that tablecloth in your hands! The pre-Raphaelites were not appreciated in their own time. They became very popular in the nineteen sixties drug culture because this kind of vivid realism and rich sensuality matches well the kind of languid eroticism produced by the ingestion of the best cannabis. I think the hippie subculture could also relate to the spirituality of these paintings. Spiritual eroticism! I suppose that could describe many of the pre-Raphaelite paintings. I will try to post more about the later Symbolist and Decadent schools of painting that owe a substantial debt to the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Golden Gate Bridge (Addendum)


The SF Chronicle had a nice article this week about all of the sketches that were made of how the entryway to the Golden Gate Bridge should be designed. This provides a kind of Addendum to the previous post on the Bridge. The tendency at that time, the early thirties, was toward glorious flights of imagination. Architects would dream of enormous monumental architecture, and these plans reflect this tendency. When I looked at the illustration at the right, I not only thought of the overwrought architecture of the Romans, which was designed to overwhelm the viewer, and remind them of the might of the Empire, but also the architecture of Albert Speer, who was designing buildings for the Third Reich in this same period. He also had grandiose plans for Berlin, but that is for another post. It was an eye-opener for me however, to discover that Speer was not as unique in his ideas as some would have you believe. In America as well, as shown here, architects sought to overwhelm the viewer with massive structures. John King wrote the piece for the Chronicle, and I was struck by one sentence, “the images are fun cultural artifacts that in real life would have been deadly”. Until now, I had been unaware that architecture could kill. I suppose he is speaking metaphorically, such as I was when I said I was struck by a sentence. I wasn’t actually assaulted by a sentence. I still thought that was a wee bit dramatic, although I like it. Warning! Deadly Architecture Ahead. I will have to create yet another post with that title, and find examples other than just this article and Speer’s famous examples of deadly architecture.

The world had such a vivid imagination at the onset of the nineteen thirties. If you check out the sci-fi magazines of the time, you see all manner of elevated roadways, skies full of all sorts of dirigibles, and robots. Lots of robots! People of course filled the skies with their nifty jetpacks. I can recall immersing myself in that Buck Rogers world as a child, and how thrilling it was to my imagination. We could use more imagination in architecture. I don’t mean the abstract monstrosities of steel and glass which don’t resonate with our inner archetypes. That is what works about the Golden Gate Bridge. It resonates with our unconscious in it’s boldness, it’s audacity. But I would agree with King that this has it’s limits. I agree that huge concrete structures at the entrance to the bridge would have distracted from the already awe-inspiring natural setting. There was an architectural school at the time known as ‘City Beautiful’. I want to learn more about that school. I suspect it is filled with all sorts of dangerous architecture. You really should check out the exhibition of these Golden Gate bridge drawings at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission St on view until Oct. 14.

You should also check Sf Gate to see if they also have an online version of this fun article. As indicated in the article, many of the ideas involved what can only be called monumental architecture. Subtlety was not the idea. This was forbidding architecture, brooding upon the landscape, filling the viewer with a somber sense of his puny role in the grand scope of history. Of course, as King mentions, such monstrous creations are often mistaken for mausoleums. The message is clear when you gaze at a massive chuck of concrete. I am here to stay, I am permanent, and I am incredibly important, before my massiveness you must kneel. Fascist architecture, basically. The German pavilion at a Parisian fair in the mid-thirties, which stood on one side of the Seine, next to the Eiffel tower, with the Soviet pavilion on the other side, was also compared to a mausoleum by writer’s at the time. I’ll have to dig out a picture of that brickbat of a building. Take that, Paris, with your puny effete architecture. So it looks like I have plenty to write about in the future. Remember to shield your eyes from dangerous architecture. Art can Kill!

Palace of Fine Arts


A little piece of heaven

I got such a nice response to my post about the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought I would post something about another of my favorite places in San Francisco. The Palace of Fine Arts was part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, and is the only part of that exposition standing in it’s original location. The Palace was rebuilt in 1965, and generally spruced up and retrofitted in 2009. It is a little piece of heaven in the middle of a busy urban environment. I used to love to sit on the bench in front of the lagoon, after a long walk down Embarcadero, checking out the piers, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Fort Mason. I’d watch the ducks dive for fish, their little rumps comically sticking out of the water. The Palace of Fine Arts gives a visitor a sense of what it may have been like on a beautiful summer day in Greece or Sicily in 500 bc. It is an archetypal place brought to life! I notice how people tend to lower their voices or remain silent when they are walking about the grounds, careful not to disturb the serenity.

It is refreshing to discover a place whose only function is to bring pleasure to the senses. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck as a fictional ancient milieu. There were originally ten palaces, representing various human endeavors, education, agriculture, manufacturing. They were designed to be temporary, and the Palace of Fine Arts had to be made into a more durable structure. Originally wood, plaster, and burlap, it was completely redone in light weight concrete. The Exhibition Hall has been used for various purposes over the years. During the Depression it exhibited WPA artists’s works, during WW II it housed trucks and jeeps. It has held telephone books, limos for statesmen, and been the headquarters of the fire dept. I love the sculptures which depict Contemplation, Wonderment, and Meditation. They are typical of the neo-Classical style current in the early twentieth century. They fulfill their function admirably. When you visit this place you are left in wonderment, meditate upon it’s meaning, and sit in silent contemplation of it’s beauty.

  One of the things I love most about San Francisco is it’s love of unique beauty. It preserved the lovely Victorian homes and ornate buildings of yesterday, because it saw it’s value. It is one of the special thrills of San Francisco to walk it’s streets and take in the endless variety of architectural treasures which fill this city. I could post many more stories and photos to document this fact, and I plan to. I love the fabulous statues and gargoyles which grace many of the buildings downtown. I love the intricate art deco designs of many of the older skyscrapers. Much of modern architecture leaves me cold, and San Francisco has it’s share of that. Fortunately, this city is primarily a living museum. I live in a studio apartment which was built in 1907 following the earthquake, to house the Chinese workers who did so much to rebuild this city. I found the date embossed into the iron frame of my murphy bed, 1907. It was a thrill to be living in the midst of history. This is a special city. If my efforts threaten to overtake this blog, I will create a new blog devoted to San Francisco. Think of russell5087 as a nursery, where ideas take shape and find there own home in other blogs I create. Thanks for the great response to The Golden Gate, hope you like this post just as much!

The Fool


A collage using Gimp. At some point I will create more tarot cards and have my own deck.

I stand on a threshold,  mocking my fate.

  what me worry?

   Butt naked and freezing greeting the dawn

   what me worry?

   The wild blue yonder is my home

    what me worry?

    Misfortune may gather, black cat at my feet

    what me worry?

    My muse seems to beckon from so far away

    what me worry?

     What fears must I conquer? What monsters must I fight?

      what me worry?

     Although I may falter, although I may fall

      what me worry?

      I stand at ground zero with nothing at all

      what me worry?