Jun 30, 2012

Happy Buddha Birthday





When my wife was a little girl she lived in Korea. One of her favorite things to do was accompany her grandmother to their Buddhist Temple very early in the morning. It would be pre-dawn, completely covered in darkness, with the Temple only lit by candles. The location is in the heart of Seoul. It’s named Jogeysa. My wife could have never imagined that almost 4 decades later, her whitey husband would have a most surreal encounter at that exact Temple. I should also mention that my Buddhist mother-in-law’s favorite place on earth is Jogeysa. The story I am about to tell is going to make me a hero in her eyes.

Today happens to be my wife’s birthday. She checks out my blog everyday to see if I wrote anything new. This is actually a surprise for her. You see, I have not yet told her or my mother-in-law this tale yet. Yun will discover it here today at some point.

On the morning of Tuesday June 26th at 8 AM, I set up my stool and began to do this drawing of one of the 3 large Buddhas inside the Temple. As my sketch began to take shape, people gathered around me. At some point, I noticed I was surrounded by monks. A short time later a Korean guy approached me and introduced himself as Jay. He said the Headmaster of the Temple took notice of what I was doing and wanted to meet me. I said sure. About an hour later a monk presented himself to me. His name was Do-mun. I realized he had been leading the chants to a packed house the entire time I was drawing. He didn’t speak English, so Jay translated. The Headmaster asked if I would join him in his office for tea at 2 PM. He wanted to talk to me. How could I refuse.

Over tea, he told me when he first looked over my shoulder and saw my drawing, he just wanted to stay and watch me finish. The problem was, he had to lead the morning prayers for his flock. He said as he began to chant into the microphone, he forgot the words because couldn’t get my drawing out of his mind. Do-mun then told me a secret. He confessed he prayed to Buddha the whole time to make me not leave before he had a chance to speak to me. I was a bit shocked but when he revealed his plan for me, I understood why. First came the formalities. He wanted to know about me so I gave him the brief history. “I’m a squirrel who works in advertising. I do stuff for Samsung, that’s why I’m in Seoul.” Then I told him about Yun as a little girl and all about my mother-in-law’s Buddhist antics. He joyfully ate it up. Then he told me about himself and how he ended up as the boss of Jogeysa.

Then he proposed this to me: He wished for me to do a series of drawings for the Temple. These would be merchandized to benefit Jogeysa. They want to make calendars, postcards, t-shirts and what have you. He needed something special to give to dignitaries when they visit. Also he wanted to forge a closer bond with the tourists and people of Seoul to the temple. A marketing campaign if you will. I would be given free reign of the place, day or night. They would even supply me with monks to draw if I’d like. He said there was something about my drawings that gave the Temple a warm, inviting, approachable quality. Do-mun said he would personally escort me to any other Temples I wanted to see in Seoul or anywhere else in Korea for that matter. There was talk of wanting to meet Yun and my mother-in-law and take us all to dinner. The whole episode had such a crazy destiny quality to it. The Headmaster confessed to me that my work actually made him feel greedy. He said he wanted to own all of my drawings and keep them for himself. We laughed about that. I told him I would be delighted to do the drawings for the Temple.

My wife Yun has always been so helpful to my friends and family, with her time and legal advice. I have always been searching for a way to pay her back for all she does. Well my prayers have been answered. As a gift of love to Yun, I promise to make a dozen or so of my greatest drawings ever. In Yun’s honor I will give them to my new Buddhist friends.

Happy birthday to Yun.


Jun 28, 2012

Bones

This is the second drawing I did of the giant Finback whale. In order to get 2 elaborate drawings done, I really had to work my ass off. I only had a few hours. This one is a bit more abstract. It's really just the shapes of the bones close up. I loved being able to touch everything. If it was in a museum, I'd have been escorted out. In this joint, I could touch and lick everything. This guy's final home will be the Los Angeles county Museum of Natural History. A huge glass atrium is being built as an entrance way into the museum. The guy will hang from the ceiling. It will be quite an impressive sight. Millions of visitors will eventually walk under this big fellow. As they gaze up they will be looking upon all the bones I touched and licked in a New Jersey ghetto.

Jun 25, 2012

Museum Of Natural History

I was invited to tag along on a film slash photo shoot with the great Craig Cutler. He said I should come because he was going to an unusual place. Somewhere in the boonies of New Jersey there is an unassuming warehouse that sits along a tiny road in a ghetto neighborhood. What's inside would blow your mind. It's where a bunch of freaks put together the dinosaur bones for displays in Museums of Natural History's around the world. I did a few drawings that Craig gave to the owner. At the time we were there, a 40 foot long Finback Whale was hanging from the ceiling. Talk about surreal. It's head was the size of a Toyota Corolla. The guys who work there are welders and sculptors. Craig told me that one time when he was there, 2 T-Rex's were standing inside the place. A few of the guys working there took a liking to my drawing. They told me that they had a scale model build of a T-Rex upstairs that I might like drawing. Unfortunately I was on my way out. Damn.

Jun 21, 2012

Old Time New York

My good friend, photographer Craig Cutler, has a new studio and it happens to be in Little Italy. The view from the rear window is really amazing. It felt like going back in time. Seeing clothes hanging on clotheslines was really cool. There used to be millions of clotheslines in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Now you don't see any. I was at the studio for a few days. One day I noticed that a Chinese lady was putting tons of clothes on all the clotheslines. She had stuff on hangers, on the fire escape and window sills. It looked like she was running a laundry service out of her apartment. There is always a story lurking behind the walls of New York city apartments.

Jun 18, 2012

US Postal Service

Selling prints on Etsy means I spend a lot of time in Post Offices mailing things. It's amazing how they've deteriorated in the United States. The one in Red Hook, Brooklyn, I've abandoned altogether. When they say they open at 9AM, that really means 9:30 or 9:45. Now I go to the one on Canal street in Chinatown. It's like being in the movie, "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray. Every time I step to the counter,they say the same thing. "Do you have exact change because I can't make change?" Really? That is basically their only job. You would think after years on the verge of going under that someone would get the bright idea to get lots of change from the bank each weekend. I don't mind that no one there can barely speak English. That I kind of dig. It's the not being able to make change thing that drives me nuts. At least my packages still get to their destinations.

Jun 12, 2012

LuLu Draws Tommy Kane

I got a pleasant surprise the other morning. LuLu Rocha, who is an illustrator, did a great portrait of me. She posted it to my Facebook page. A few other artists have done this for me in the past. It's always a thrill. I must really like myself. Thank you LuLu. You can see some more of her work on her Facebook page.

Jun 11, 2012

Help Desk

I am having some scanning issues. I had a bunch of scans that were only scanned at 150 DPI. I needed them done at 300 DPI, so I rescanned them on the same scanner. They just don't compare. The ones I scanned 4 or 5 years ago are far superior. The scans seem weak. Does anyone know if over time, scanners just stop being able to pick up colors and details? Do they wear out? Do I just have to go into the settings in my computer and play around with the settings before I scan? Can you recalibrate scanners? I know this is vague but maybe someone else has had these issues. I'm using one in the office because it is for my oversize drawings. They cost like 3 grand so there is no way I am getting a new one for my home, if you know what I mean. Even in Photoshop, I can't bring out the details. It's just not there. Help. This drawing is not an example, by the way.

Jun 7, 2012

Hoarder

As an artist, one develops strange habits and hobbies. About 25 years ago for some unknown reason I started to collect tomato cans. I thought the artwork on them was beautiful. My collection started to grow at an alarming rate. Each one had to be different and unique. As I traveled the world, I would scour supermarkets and specialty stores seeing what their imported tomato cans were like. Over time it has grown to hundreds. They are all empty because I used the tomatoes for sauce. Also over time the cans would explode from the gas inside. Plus my collection would be too heavy. About 6 years ago before Yun and I moved to Brooklyn, I had build a huge frame that they were displayed in. It was an incredible piece of art. Since Brooklyn, they have put put away in boxes. In that period the collection has grown quite a bit. At some point I need to drag them out and build the ultimate frame to display them in. It will blow people's mind. Especially my own.

Jun 6, 2012

Recently my Aunt and Uncle had their 50th wedding anniversary. All my young cousins were there. Actually they are not so young anymore. Everyone stands around looking at their phones. Actually it's not a phone, it's really a small computer. The stupid thing does everything except tell you when to go to the bathroom. It can tell you where to eat, take pictures, make movies, send e-mails, play music, movies, TV shows and even play games with you. I always see people in the their cars using it. The thing is very addictive. We've banned smoking but when no one was looking we all got hooked on the smart phone. It has become our brain doing all the thinking. I wanted to use my imagination instead of having my phone tell me what to do. Usually when I draw, I go someplace and sit and then draw from life. I hardly use my brain anymore. Having an iphone, I don't need to. So for once I just used my head and drew the first thing that came into it. No reference, no pictures, no computer, I just up and did this all on my own. It felt good. I'd like to write more about this but my phone just rang, so I better take the call.

Jun 4, 2012

Pen Collector

A lot of people have hobbies. Collecting stuff or going to the gym. I dig art supplies. I suppose I have to, being an artist and all. In the past, I tried out lots of different pens. There was a thought in my head that maybe there was some pen I hadn't tried yet that was really amazing and would actually make me draw better. It's like golfers who keep buying new fangled drivers thinking it will make their ball travel a few extra feet. That used to be me but no more. I only use one pen. The Uniball black fine vision pen. You can purchase it at any art store.

Jun 1, 2012

A New Sketchbook Film

Danny Gregory went out and made an amazing sketchbook film on his own. His son Jack Tea was operating the camera. It is quite fun and will make you smile if you have 4 minutes to spare.