Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Post Square 12.30.13 ~ Shanahan Hits the Road

Post Square 12.30.13 ~ Shanahan Hits the Road
A synopsis of a story in the Washington Post by Mark Maske and Mike Jones

Coach Mike Shanahan’s last game with the Redskins was a rain-soaked disappointment. The New York Giants beat them in the season finale, 20-6. It was the Skin’s eighth defeat in a row, bringing their record to just 3 wins and 13 losses.

Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl winner while leading the Denver Broncos, had joined the Redskins in January of 2010. In his four years as their coach he was not able to instill the stability or professionalism all had been hoping for when he was hired. 

In spite of their lousy record with him, the Redskin players defend Shanahan, saying it wasn’t his fault.

Drawing taken from a detail of a photo by John McDonnell
This is a bit of a mark on what I’m assuming is the end zone of the football field from which Mike Shanahan is exiting in the photograph. I tried choosing two random colors, one light, one dark for the simple composition, but I kept picking blue pencils. That’s the color it happens to be in the photo, so I got the message to just stick to the image as is. Used 3 different blues and white. Looks like a road to me, the road that the ex-coach has been told to hit.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Post Square 12.29.13 ~ Red and Blue Are Not Complimentary Colors

Post Square 12.29.13 ~ Red and Blue Are Not Complimentary Colors
A Synopsis of a story in the Washington Post by Dan Balz

In America, 37 states have governors and both houses of their legislatures under the control of a single party. 23 are Republican (red) and 14 are Democratic (blue).

The red states favor limited government and traditional values. The blue states believe in the essential role of government and tend to be more liberal when it comes to cultural issues.

Concerning the major points of debate, the differences are as follows…
  • Obama’s Affordable Care Act ~ This law counted on each state to establish its own marketplace to facilitate the purchase of health insurance. All 27 Republican states opted not to, making it necessary for their residents to buy a plan through the federal government. The states that did form their own exchanges are largely Democratic or have a divided government.
  • Tax Policy ~ Of the 18 states that cut taxes last year, 16 have Republican governors and the other 2 have Republican legislatures. Democratic governors have raised taxes, particularly on the wealthy, rather than cut their budgets.
  • Education ~ Republican leaders push for charter schools in lieu of spending more on education. Democrats are for spending money on schools and supporting the teachers unions.
  • Minimum Wage ~ Blue states are for increasing it. Red states are not.
  • Labor Relations ~ Republican governors and legislatures have moved to restrict collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions and approve right-to-work legislation. Democratic leaders support organized labor.
  • Abortion ~ Red states are for abortion restrictions. Blue states are not.
  • Same-Sex Marriage ~ Now legal in 17 states, mostly Democratic, Republican legislatures are moving to put prohibitions against it in their constitutions.
  • Gun Rights ~ Since the Sandy Hook shooting, 8 states have placed new restrictions on gun ownership. Seven of these states are under Democratic control. The director of public affairs for the NRA is quoted in this Post article as saying that in the states that Republicans hold power the organization is able to “advance [their] agenda”.
  • Voting Laws ~ Many red states have moved toward laws that restrict voter registration, requiring ID cards and cutting back on early voting. In blue and some red states legislators are trying to make access to voting easier, with things such as online registration.

The degree of single-party control within our states is greater than at any time in more than fifty years. Not long ago governors were more inclined to work together with legislators from the other party, acknowledging the diversity of their citizenry. But now the elected officials are taking more actions to promote their party’s agenda.

Some analysts see the red-blue contrast as just what our Founding Fathers had in mind for us. It wasn’t the plan to have a country dominated by one or the other. Each state is free to design its own policies and we as individuals are free to live wherever we feel at home.

Drawing taken from a detail of a photo by Melina Mara
The Post cover photo is of a Texas rancher feeding his cattle. The detail is from a feedbag he’s holding. The words “THE LINE” stuck out when I was searching for a 1” square section to enlarge. It could apply to the line dividing our country. The finished drawing is 4” square and done with randomly chosen colored pencils. I was struck by the coincidence of choosing bright red and blue as some of the first pencils, then by the many grays that appeared. Could the universe be promoting the concept of some compromise, in the proverbial “gray areas” of thought? Maybe things don’t have to be just black and white, or in this case, red and blue.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Post Square 12.28.13 ~ Terrapin Lost

Post Square 12.28.13 ~ Terrapin Lost

On Friday, December 27th, in the afternoon, the Maryland Terrapins played Marshall’s Thundering Herd at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Over 30,000 football fans watched as Marshall’s quarterback Rakeem Cato worked with tight end Gator Hoskins, who caught 6 passes, ran 104 yards and made 2 of the team’s touchdowns, to beat the Terps 31-20.

Maryland isn’t unhappy with its 7-6 season, however. Their quarterback C.J. Brown told the Post journalist who covered this story that the team “had a great time at the Military Bowl”.

I chose as my detail from the Post’s cover photo a section of turf with the shadows of the Maryland players running onto the field. I turned it sideways when I was coloring it in and thought I might leave it that way, but when it was finished it seemed to suggest a landscape, so I kept it oriented as it was originally.

(Kind of funny all those pinks showing up as my random color choices, seeing how this is a football story and all.)

I burnished the 4”square colored pencil drawing with a tissue which gives the original art and an interesting patina.

I have fun coming up with the titles for these pieces. I get them from the stories and usually know what I want to call the drawing before I start it. This one I named after it was completed. “Terrapin Lost” seemed to go with the landscape idea ~ romantic and obscure.

Post Squares 12.27.13 ~ Chocolate Is Not Dying

Post Squares 12.27.13 ~ Chocolate Is Not Dying

According to a Washington Post investigation, hospice is turning into something much different from its original concept.

When hospice began, the programs that helped terminally ill patients and their families, were started and run by religious and community organizations. Beginning in 1983, Medicare started paying for hospice care.

As more Americans turned to hospice, big business saw an opportunity to make money. Today, for-profits dominate the industry.

Medicare pays about $150 a day, whether or not a patient receives care. If the hospice doesn’t need to pay for a visit from a nurse or aide, it pockets that daily allotment. The short-stay patient, one who is admitted in the last days of life, is not as profitable to the hospice company as a patient who lives for a longer time. That’s because upon first enrollment there are costs for diagnostic procedures, the set up of equipment at home and, typically, more visits as life is ending. The patient who is there for longer stretches of time, when no care is needed, yields more profit for the hospice company.

Some hospice workers, after seeing patients being brought into the system who were not dying, but being used to generate income for the companies, have quit their jobs and are bringing allegations against their former employers. They report being pressured to recruit people who they felt did not belong in hospice care. One executive tells of being penalized for not meeting a quota of enrollments, while another was given a massage chair for bringing in the most hospice patients.

The large for-profit businesses under attack deny the accusations and have lists of excuses and explanations for the remarkable differences in their earnings compared to the non-profits.

Medicare does have a cap on how much they will pay the hospices per patient. When this limited is reached, it is reported that the companies “dump” the individual, citing reasons of ineligibility.

This was the case for Chocolate Blount, 91, the man featured in this cover story. He was receiving in-home care by one of the big, for-profit companies under question. After about a year the company told his family he was “doing so good” he was no longer to be provided the hospice help upon which they had come to depend.

This 4” square colored pencil drawing is taken from a detail of Mr. Blount’s wheelchair. I didn’t color carefully in the lines, as I usually do. I scribbled the color into the general area of each section, and scribbled over the whole thing with a white pencil, making it look somewhat like a weaving. It has been turned up-side-down from the way it was first drawn.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Post Square 12.26.13 ~ His Gypsy Redneck

Post Square 12.26.13 ~ His Gypsy Redneck

Her husband calls her his “gypsy redneck”. Country singer Kellie Pickler, following in the footsteps of Dinah Shore in Normandy, Marilyn Monroe in Korea and Raquel Welch in Vietnam, travels to entertain the U.S. troops. On her 7th USO tour, the pretty, blonde star told her smitten audience in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province there was no place she’d rather spend Christmas.

Clad in camouflage leggings and sparkling boots, the 27-year-old former “American Idol” finalist sang love songs, joked with the soldiers and assured them America was grateful for the sacrifices they had made. Pickler also visited the wounded and fired a howitzer during her stay. She had brought her license to carry a concealed weapon to Kandahar, just in case.

U.S. troops have spent the past 13 Christmases in Afghanistan. For many, this is likely to be their last. The long war there is coming to a close and soldiers are being withdrawn. However, those in uniform are still fighting, and dying, in continued deployments, even as their bases are being dismantled around them.

The drawing ~ I repeated the technique from yesterday, starting with a charcoal line and letting the black smear into the colored pencil. I like this effect. I think it gives the drawing body and interest. The detail is from the Post’s cover photo of Kellie Pickler kneeling down in front of the makeshift stage, signing autographs for the troops. This is a section that includes her camouflage tights and rhinestone boots. The drawing is 5"square.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post Square 12.25.13 ~ The Wrong Toy

Post Square 12.25.13 ~ The Wrong Toy

The cover photo for the Post this Christmas is an image of a group of people singing carols on Christmas Eve. Their faces glow with candlelight. They wear nice clothes, jewelry. In contrast, the cover story is about a child named Christmas, who lives in a homeless shelter.

Christmas, the 11-year-old girl, wants nothing more than a paint set. She had one before she and her mom were evicted from their one-bedroom apartment. She also has memories of trees with lights and bicycles and skates ~ all stuff that had to be left behind.

On Christmas day, Christmas the child, along with the over 500 other children in the D.C. General Shelter, were allowed to choose just one toy from the pile of donated items in the cafeteria. When she ran up to the table and searched with excitement for the paint set she wanted, in her haste she grabbed a cake-pops maker, which requires a refrigerator. She doesn’t have a refrigerator.

The drawing is a detail from the caroling crowd. I used charcoal for the outlines first, then added the color pencil. I like the effect of the smeared charcoal in the color. I burnished it with a tissue, which gives it a patina and emphasizes the smearing.

I can’t imagine not being able to color.

Post Square 12.24.13 ~ Indoor Cat

Post Square 12.24.13 ~ Indoor Cat                 

After 9/11, President George W. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to begin collecting data domestically without authority from Congress or the courts. Since then, the NSA has compiled records of ordinary people through hundreds of millions of email addresses, hundreds of billions of cell phone locations and trillions of domestic call logs.

Edward Snowden, former contractor at NSA, saw this activity as a “dangerous machine of mass surveillance” that was growing unchecked. He approached his supervisors and co-workers about his concerns, but no one he spoke to wanted to hear it.

Snowden knew he had to do something, even if it turned out that the public didn’t share his views. He felt strongly that the government should not know everything about everybody because it had the “power to take away life and freedom”, and because he saw privacy as a universal right.

In June 2013 Snowden leaked documents to the press that exposed the secret surveillance programs of the NSA. (And the shit hit the fan.) The repercussions were felt in Congress, the courts, in popular media, Silicon Valley and around the world.

When all this happened Snowden knew he needed to get the heck outta Dodge and fled to Russia, where he was granted asylum for one year. He stays in his Moscow hotel, lives on ramen noodles and chips, and is connected to the outside through the Internet. He describes his life as that of an indoor cat.

The actions of Edward Snowden have undoubtedly done some serious damage to America’s ability to gather intelligence, showing our adversaries just what they need to do to avoid being tracked. It is not apparent what NSA is doing differently at this point. The agency can still collect data on anyone, but companies such as Google and Yahoo are working on ways to make it harder for them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Post Square 12.23.13 ~ One Important Point

Post Square 12.23.13 ~ One Important Point

This drawing is done from a tracing of the photo on the cover of the Post. These guys are actually in these positions this far off the ground. There are a bunch of other legs and backsides involved in the pile, but I left them out to isolate these two ~ Washington’s London Fletcher (number 59) and Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.

The picture was taken just before Murray scored on the fourth down with something like 68 seconds left in the game to beat the Redskins (a name that is in dispute for obvious reasons) by one point. Washington had been leading and it looked like they were going to get at least 4 wins this pitiful season, but no dice. And it was poor Fletcher’s last home game. He’s retiring after this season.

The drawing is done in colored pencil. I smeared it by going over the finished color with a white pencil. It’s 4.5”square.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Post Square 12.23.13 ~ All Eyes On You

Post Square 12.22.13 ~ All Eyes On You

Surveillance technology ~ ya either love it or ya hate it.

No, wait, Americans both hate it and love it.

We might hate the idea of the NSA having a record of our phone calls, but we kinda like that app that let’s us know where our teenagers are.

It gives us the creepy crawlies to see our own car moving along that digital street map, but Hey! There’s a Starbucks!

And that store that knew we were there yesterday, at least it sent us a discount coupon.

The colored pencil drawing is a detail of a mother’s hand on her daughter’s arm. This is a mother who has opted for not tracking the whereabouts of her teenager in order to build a trusting relationship.

(I’m thinkin’ ~ good luck with that! God knows I could have used some surveillance as a 16-year-old!)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Post Square 12.21.13 ~ 55,000 Without a Home

Post Square 12.21.13 ~ 55,000 Without a Home

There are 55,000 Africans living illegally in Israel. They fled their countries because of the famine, genocide and fighting between government forces and rebel groups, and they are seeking asylum. A barrier has been constructed to keep more of these illegal migrants from coming in, but the problem remains about what to do with the refugees who are already there.

Israelis have differing attitudes toward the Africans. Some fear the increased crime and poverty. Others feel the migrants need work permits until they are able to present their cases for asylum.

The Israeli government does not want to force the African migrants to leave, but it does want to discourage them from staying. A detention facility was built in southern Israel to hold over 3,000 illegal immigrants. Residents there are required to answer daily roll calls, are not allowed to work, and they are locked in at night. Several of the first migrants sent to the facility left and crossed the desert to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They protested for asylum or to be turned over to an internal refugee agency.

Many of the immigrants live in crowded apartments in Tel Aviv. Some have found off-the-books work as restaurant workers or maids. Some have opened small shops. They live in fear of being arrested. They know Israel wants them to go home, but they have no homes to return to.

The drawing ~ I took the image of a group of African men running across the Israeli desert and colored in their flat silhouettes with a dark red-brown, then went over that with a sand color to blur the edges and suggest movement. When I scanned the image it really didn’t read well on the computer and I ended up inverting the colors to make it bolder.

Post Square 12.20.13 ~ Repairing a Symbol

Post Square 12.20.13 ~ Repairing a Symbol

Nine million tons of cast iron make up the dome atop the U.S. Capital building in Washington, D.C. The construction took place 150 years ago, during our civil war.

In the 1860s cast iron was the state-of-the-art building material. It was lighter and easier to build with than stone and it didn’t carry the fire hazards of wood.

The elements have taken their toll over the years and now over a thousand cracks in the structure are letting in moisture which is threatening the interior of the building.

In the spring, the $60 million repair job will begin, encasing the dome in scaffolding for at least two years. The tourists who visit D.C. are expected to take this in stride. The people most inconvenienced may be the makers of movies and television shows who rely on a shot of the Capital to fix the locale of their productions.

The old iron is too soft for welding, so technicians will be “stitching” the cracks back together with pins. The huge curved exterior sheets will have to be sandblasted to bare metal, the tons of lead-based paint carefully collected and safely disposed of. The painters will then have eight hours, max, to beat the rust.

A tourist from Pennsylvania told the journalist who wrote this story she was glad they were taking care of the beautiful dome, but she wished “they would fix our roads”.

The piece of the cover photo I chose to draw from is a square inch at the very bottom right corner. It is a detail of the interior of the dome. I used my random selection method to pick the colored pencils, but I decided what I wanted dark and light to retain the contrasts that create the wonderful, sharp architectural lines and shapes. I rotated the drawing after it was finished because I thought it read better.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Post Square 12.19.13 ~ A Different D.C.

Post Square 12.19.13 ~ A Different D.C.

Washington D.C. has changed. Used to be, all the great jobs were with the government. Now, hundreds of local start-ups are thriving without ties to federal contracts.

Many of the smart, young people who came to D.C. to work in politics found they could be better off in the business sector. They found a city that prospered because the federal government granted contracts to hundreds of new companies which created well paying jobs. This new money and growing population changed the button-down population to one more comfortable with spending. Neighborhoods were gentrified and new restaurants and night spots opened up.

Even when the economy faltered, D.C. flourished. The government needed computer technology and that attracted engineers, developers and other IT specialists.

Other fields, such as health, education, energy, transportation and hospitality also enjoyed growth.

One thing that helps D.C. maintain such innovation is the unusual number of dual-income, high-earning couples who live and work there, including a large percentage of women in top executive positions.

The image I’ve drawn is an abstract of a 1” square detail of the cover story photograph ~ a woman sitting in an old-fashioned phone booth. This phone booth, one in a row set up at a business start-up space called 1776 in downtown D.C., provides privacy for people working for or running the fledgling companies.

4.5” square, colored pencil.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Post Square 12.18.13 ~ Rock and a Hard Place

Post Square 12.18.13 ~ Rock and a Hard Place

Revisiting the story from December 13th, continued coverage of the anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine. The protestors shown in the cover photo are for closer ties with the European Union. They don’t trust the motives of Russia, which has just given them a 15 billion dollar loan. They wonder what their president, Viktor Yanukovych, has agreed to, to get such a deal.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also cut the price of natural gas for Ukraine, but, he said, this may just be temporary. There are suspicions that Yanukovych secured the loan by offering as collateral Ukraine property, possibly its natural gas pipeline network.

Ukraine is heading for serious financial trouble. It has been bouncing back and forth between Russia and the European Union for a solution. The amount of trade it does with both is the same, but Russia has threatened to put up barriers if Ukraine goes with the E.U. And if Ukraine turns to Moscow, it’s possible that their businesses would fall prey to the Russians.

The protestors, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, who have gathered at an encampment in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, are against Yanukovych’s decision to back away from negotiations with the E.U. about new terms for a trade pact. They are demanding that he and his government resign.

I could have picked out an abstract section of the cover photo, there were many, but I kept going back to this woman’s face. She is one of the protestors. What isn’t showing is her attractive fluffy white scarf and matching hat with the Christmas holly pin decorating it.

I was going to trace the image and color it, as I am wont to do, but I decided to shed my dinosaur scales on this one and use Picasa to create an image I could paint over. I scanned the one inch square cut from the newspaper, played with it in Picasa to distort it, printed it, then used acrylic paint and colored pencil over the print.

Click here to read my daily blog...(It contains my heart and soul.)

It has been brought to my attention that folks don't know what on earth this WordKeepers thing is. This is my personal blog. I use it to post art projects, some of which I do on a daily basis.

I'm working on something now. I'm calling it my Post Squares series. I've given myself the project of creating a piece of artwork each day based on inspiration I find from the cover story and photo of the Washington Post newspaper. I often create a color abstract of just a small area of the photo. And then, because I enjoy the challenge, I try to write a synopsis of the article, which is certainly the most difficult part. But it's fun, too. Which is why I'm doing this. Challenging and fun at the same time.

In January I'll have a show at the Fire Hall Gallery in Charles Town, West Virginia. The opening is Sunday, January 5th at 2:00. Of course I would love to see you. The show will feature 30 or so of the daily pieces I've created in this month, December 2013.

I mention my heart and soul in the heading of this post. It's a strange thing to do, to make things and put them out there. Artists are masters at that kind of leap of faith. Where would we be without that ability? We are willing to be vulnerable. We just put it out there and let everybody think whatever they want and it can't matter. Part of the "leap" is trusting that we will touch someone, anyone in a way that is good. Even if the only thing it does is show that it's an okay thing to do.

Post Square 12.17.13 ~ Our Asymmetrical Military

Post Square 12.17.13 ~ Our Asymmetrical Military

There is a difference of opinion about the importance of the United States National Guard versus that of the active-duty armed forces. This difference is being stressed as the U.S. military braces for new rounds of budget cuts in defense spending.

Active-duty leaders want the National Guard and reserve forces to absorb the brunt of the budget cuts. Guard and reserve leaders believe the reductions should go to the active-duty contingent.

Active-duty members are a professional volunteer force in which many officers and enlisted personnel spend twenty or more years in uniform, often acquiring specialized skills while in the service. The Guard’s “citizen soldiers” are state-based militias who protect local interests as well as serve in foreign conflicts when necessary. Because the Guard members and reservists are part-time soldiers they come with special training and bring professional knowledge from their full-time jobs.

This past year, the average active-duty service member cost the U.S. government over three times more than a Guard member. The small Guard bases are not like the full-scale installments of, for example, the Air Force, with its bowling alleys, movie theaters, golf courses and stately homes for officers.

The argument boils down to what kind of military America wants or needs. It is a choice between a foreign-legion force and a force of nationally based protectors. (I’m left wondering why it has to be one or the other ~ why the cuts can’t be split. But then there are a lot of things I don’t understand in this grown-up world.)

The Pentagon will have a say in how much is trimmed and where. Local leaders within each state who want to protect local jobs will weigh in as well. It will be Congress that makes the ultimate decision, and in the past they have generally sided with the National Guard.


This had to be a symmetrical drawing. The photo on the front page for this story is of Col. Gary McCue, commander of the National Guard 179th Airlift Wing, standing symmetrically over a yellow line, in front, and smack dab in the middle of the nose of a cargo plane, the propellers of which are exactly perpendicular to the wings.

And it had to be exactly square. And exactly 4” square. The image is the top of Col. McCue’s bald head and the windows of the plane, the tail visible in the back. I had a terrible time trying to get the proportions right on this drawing. My brother would have been able to draw it in his sleep. He was a combat artist for the Marines during the Vietnam War. But I had to trace the thing and then blow it up. I drew one half first and flipped the drawing to get the other half symmetrical.

I chose the color pencils randomly, as I often do, to fill in the areas of the design. As I colored away I thought about what a dinosaur I am, taking the time to color in the drawing, like a coloring book. If I knew how, I could do this in a couple of seconds in Photoshop, or whatever. And probably make it a lot more interesting. Maybe recognizing this is the first step. If I get tired enough of being a dinosaur, maybe I’ll change. Don’t know.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Post Square 12.16.13 ~ Going Nowhere

Post Square 12.16.13 ~ Going Nowhere

Tiara Richmond, 22, has smooth brown skin and soft dreadlocks, the only things she got from her deadbeat father. Her great grandmother worked as a cook in the White House when Jimmy Carter was president. Tiara, who is a talented musician, single and childless, with a high school diploma and a clean record, cannot find a job. She and her mother, who is on disability, depend on food stamps to feed the many mouths under their roof. And those food stamps have been cut by Congress.

In part of the Post article Tiara goes on a tirade against President Obama, asking him, essentially, how on earth he is letting the people in his own city suffer so.

The photos that cover this story are two shots of the same refrigerator, that of the Richmond’s. In the first image, dated December 7th, the shelves are bare. In the second, dated the next day, the day the food stamps arrive, there is the food that will need to last them a month.

This is a long, well-written and unbiased article full of the detailed struggles of a family trying to do their best with what they have. It leaves us wondering what our reactions to reading it tells us about ourselves.

The composition of the drawing is from a detail of the empty refrigerator. The colors were chosen randomly. The title Going Nowhere is taken from Tiara’s tirade.  


Monday, December 16, 2013

Post Square 12.15.13 ~ Each Icon: 10,000 People

Post Square 12.15.13 ~ Each Icon: 10,000 People

The two photos for the cover story on Sunday’s Post are of, Dania, a little girl from Syria. In the first photo she is looking into the camera with eyes that appear much older than her seven years. The second is an overhead view of her lying on her hospital bed. She is covered in wounds and scars.

The story describes the horrific ordeal that landed Dania in a foreign hospital. This is used as a segue into a description of the enormous changes experienced by the countries that are finding themselves hosts to a massive influx of Syrian refugees who are leaving their homes to escape the danger and disruption of civil war.

In an insert within the story, 10 tiny human icons stand next to a smaller group of three. There is a dash, and then the words “each icon: 10,000 people”. It is a chart illustrating the number of Syrians who have died since the violence began in their country.

I chose as my subject the pattern from Dania’s backpack. It is drawn over a print of grouped human-shaped icons (turned sideways) representing a number of IDPs (internally displaced persons) or refugees. Colored pencils chosen randomly.

Post Square 12.14.13 ~ A Story Too Sad

Post Square 12.14.13 ~ A Story Too Sad

The Washington Post periodically features a story as part of a series called Guns in America, which examines the “role of guns and the influence of the gun industry in the United States”.

Saturday’s article was about the 91 children under the age of ten who were killed by deliberate gunfire in this country last year.

Reading the story, I got as far as the sentence “Seventeen were shot by their mothers…”. That was when I thought I might not want to read the whole thing. Scanning further I found the chilling, clinical description of an autopsy on a “female child appearing consistent with the reported age of four years, measuring approximately 42” in length…” and I decided to stop.

It’s a long article.

The cover photo is of a beautiful boy standing in front of his grandmother’s house, waiting to go to church. One of the lucky ones who was only wounded. I searched this image for a long time before finding the piece of it I wanted for my drawing. It’s a section of a door frame on the house behind the boy. It made me think of a simple icon for a child. I stayed with the colors from the photograph.

The drawing measures a little under 4” by a little over 4” and was done in charcoal and colored pencil.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Post Squares 12.11,12,13 ~ Weather or Not / Haves and Have Nots / Not Likely

Post Squares 12.11,12,13 ~ Weather or Not / Haves and Have Nots / Not Likely

On Tuesday the 10th the snowy weather kept us from getting our paper delivery. The next day the cover story on the Post was about, you guessed it, the weather.

Wednesday’s article, written by the same journalist who covered the story on Sunday’s storm for the Monday article, repeated the woes of closed businesses and schools, delayed flights, and the excellent job performed by the road crews. The point was made that perhaps the forecast had been much ado about nothing.

On Thursday; an explanation of why a 4-year-old in Owensburg, Kentucky was kicked out of her Head Start program due to the “sequester”, while other organizations, with their rainy-day funds and friends in high places (things Head Start does not have) felt no pain.

Friday’s story came from Ukraine, where protesters, demanding attention to their government’s corruption and the removal of the president, Viktor Yanukovych, are unlikely to have their wishes fulfilled.

I’ve had to group these three drawings to get back on schedule. I’m doing a show this weekend and I worked on the drawings there, which is why they are in ink, an easy medium to transport and work with sporadically.

There was a tree theme to all of the cover photos. The weather story had trees in the snow. The story about the little girl had a tree etched into a mirror behind her and there was a single tree stuck in a huge snow barricade built by the Ukrainian protestors. I also used the pattern created by tires on the pile.

It wasn’t until I typed out the three titles to the drawings that I realized there was also a theme of “Nots”. I’d had in mind as I did the drawings that they would be sparse to reflect the things lacking in each story. That’s how it played out.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Post Square 12.09.13 ~ All About the Weather

Post Square 12.09.13 ~ All About the Weather

If you are just joining me (and if you are, welcome!) I’d like to encourage you to visit the posts on Nov 20th and Dec 4th. They explain the daily projects that show up here and things might make a little more sense…

The cover story on the Post was all about the weather ~ the treacherous roads, closed schools, cancelled flights, power outages, halted Christmas shopping…although the sales of Christmas trees at the Church of Saint Clement in Alexandria, Virginia seemed encouraged by the snow.

Ashley Halsey III, the journalist, ended the article with a warm spot in the storm ~ a man proposing to his beloved in the middle of the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. This guy, Julio, had flown his gal, Lorieth, from Panama City to D.C. for the weekend because she’d “always wanted to see snow”. (I’d say he’s a keeper, Lori!) She said yes. Smart woman. 

The artwork (play) ~ A charcoal pencil outline, a quick wash of blue watercolor sprinkled with salt to make snowy texture. Then bits of the Post cover photo, using the designs of two striking umbrella patterns, torn, cut and pasted on. I know … it looks like dirty snow. That’s artistic license for ya.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Post Square 12.08.13 ~ Nomalizo Xhoma’s house

Post Square 12.08.13 ~ Nomalizo Xhoma’s house

Nomalizo Xhoma lives with her two children in a home where Nelson Mandela once lived when he was in his early twenties. The family of three is pictured in their yard of dirt on the cover of today’s Post. I found an interesting square to use for my drawing in the drying laundry that surrounds them.

The drawing is 4” square and colored with randomly chosen pencils.

What is now the Xhoma house is in Alexandra, the poorest part of Johannesburg. It had been the first place Mandela lived after leaving his ancestral village of Qunu to escape an arranged marriage. He lived there for two years before moving on to Soweto to study law.

Compared to the other areas where Mandela lived and worked, Alexandra does not get much attention. There is no monument to him there. A small museum dedicated to the area’s apartheid-rich history has never been finished. Xhoma’s one-room house with no running water, has had little done to it to preserve it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Post Square 12.07.13 ~ Mandela’s Unfulfilled Legacy

Post Square 12.07.13 ~ Mandela’s Unfulfilled Legacy

The cover photo on the Post today was taken in Johannesburg, where a group of people marched to honor former South African president Nelson Mandela. In the front of the crowd a small, towheaded boy reaches for the hand of an older black woman identified as his nanny.

I chose as my detail a small section of a wall in the background. I picked my colors randomly, but all at once and decided where to put them instead of leaving that to chance. I’m pleased that, as it turned out, I was able to illustrate a strong contrast using the bright compliments of yellow and purple because it’s appropriate to the story.

Nelson Mandela envisioned a South Africa that thrived on equality, with a political system that deserved the respect of the rest of the world. During his presidency enormous strides were made toward these goals, but the present day South Africa is still a nation with devastating poverty which accentuates the racial divide and a corrupt government.

White South Africans, on average, make six times that of their black counterparts.

The current president, Jacob Zuma, has been accused of spending close to twenty million dollars of state funds to renovate his luxurious private home.

Fourteen-year-old student, Thandeke Belle, states in the article, “If you are a normal person with no connections, you will be nothing in today’s South Africa.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

Post Square 12.06.13 ~ Rolihlahla, the “troublemaker”

Post Square 12.06.13 ~ Rolihlahla, the “troublemaker”

Today he’s gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.
President Barack Obama

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Post Square 12.05.13 ~ The Uninspired

Post Square 12.05.13 ~ The Uninspired

Wal-Mart does not pay its employees well.
But it pays them something.
And something is better than nothing for a lot of people.
Besides, you can buy a starfruit there for 50 cents.
And now the residents of D.C. don’t have to drive to Maryland or Virginia to buy a starfruit.
They have two newly opened Wal-Marts of their very own where they can get one.

Sorry, not inspired
by Wal-Mart. Don’t even have
a decent haiku.

And, as you can see, I’ve reverted back to finding a design in a square inch of the photo when just yesterday I said I wasn’t doing that anymore. The image is the Wal-Mart logo star thing.

I even went for the randomly chosen pencils to color it in. The first one I chose was the black for the background. When I saw it I said, “whoa, okay, a black background it is.” Yesterday’s background was black, too, but that was on purpose. Then I picked the flesh tone and the brown and the slate gray, and had this earthy thing going, but I just knew in the back of my mind things were going to get weird like some sort of horrid green and bingo! It was even more downhill from there, that yellow and orange (a dangerous color) and, good grief, another bad green, and a bright red to go with it, no less, how Christmassy! At this point I’m thinking I’m going to go over the whole thing with white and blur it together. Then, I finished covering the last of the white with those blue and taupe stripes and it was done. It was what it was. I propped it up in front of me and those flesh ovals said, “FACES!”, so I drew those on. They could represent the oppressed masses at Wal-Mart.

I have to tell you one last thing about today’s article. There is the most wonderful quote. It was something said by D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, who is running for mayor. He was talking about how the debate whether to let Wal-Mart into the city or not led to the vote supporting a citywide minimum wage of $11.50 by 2016. He said, “You have to go through stuff to get to stuff.”

You have to go through stuff to get to stuff. Don’t you love it? My new mantra.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Post Square 12.04.13 ~ Nativity Procession

Post Square 12.04.13 ~ Nativity Procession

I was relieved to see that the cover of the Post had a gentle photograph today, taken by Bill O’Leary. The subject is a Nativity procession, an annual event sponsored by the evangelical nonprofit group Faith and Action.

In the photo a camel donning an elegant red blanket and matching halter waits patiently with a donkey, a sheep and their handlers dressed in draping robes. They look odd stopped in front of the marbled-columned Supreme Court building.

Today’s haiku ~

Camels in D.C.
Nativity procession
marble columns watch

To get an idea of what to draw I moved my inch square around the photo to find an intriguing area to use for a design. There were quite a few possibilities, but while I was looking this idea of the animal pyramid came to mind and felt more fun. I seem to be getting away from my original idea of using the random square to make an abstract design…for now anyway.

In a wonderful, thick Natural History book published by Smithsonian I found pictures of the camel, the donkey and the sheep to use for reference. I wanted to find animals that would be authentic to the geography of the Nativity. Pictured here is the Bactrian camel, not the Dromedary. On the donkey’s back is a Jacob Sheep, which, according to the book, is said to have “originated in Palestine”.

I added the wreath and jingle bell anklets and the donkey’s blanket and tail bow.

The drawing, which measures 4”X6”, was done in pencil first, then painted with watercolor. It’s on Bristol board.

I think I could have my Christmas card for this year.

Why I Do What I Do

Noah Scalin, author of 365, A Creativity Journal, Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life, has a cool blog where he posts the projects of creative people all over the world. You can find it here ~
If you want your project to be considered for a post he asks you to answer two questions. This is what I sent him...

Rebecca Grace Jones
Shepherdstown, West Virginia USA
PROJECT NAME  ~ (My) Artplay at 60 ~ Using the Daily News as Inspiration
URL ~ www.wordkeepers.blogspot.com
A BRIEF PROJECT DESCRIPTION ~ Using the cover photo and story of the Washington Post newspaper for inspiration to create a piece of artwork, in image and word, every day in the month of December 2013 and present the results as a show in January 2014

Why did I decide to do this project and how has doing a daily project affected my life?

As an artist I have two needs ~ 1) the challenge of creating something and
2) someone to show it to.

This means that in the sixty years I’ve been walking around on this earth I’ve not evolved much from the child who would bound out of bed in the morning eager to see what I could scribble together with my crayons and then run to show it to my mother.

As a small child I was able to come up with my own inspiration for crayon scribbles. When I started attending school I learned that it was possible to make things from the suggestions of others. It was also quite satisfying, because then they would acknowledge my accomplishment in the form of a rating system called a “grade”.  This was different from my mother’s reaction in that it might not always be favorable, but the recognition fed me nonetheless.

The challenge of creating something from a presented idea became a puzzle to solve, an activity upon which I thrived. This made me a good art student through graduate school and a decent free-lance illustrator early in my career.

The audience has changed over the years from mother, to teacher, to art director, and now to you, the public. It’s been necessary to evolve, at least to a degree, in order to accept the levels of acknowledgement I receive and continue to produce my art regardless. As a child it’s possible that, if my mother hadn’t gushed over everything I showed her, I might not have pursued the life of an artist. Now, I find I’m able to, well, actually, I need to create things whether you, my audience, like them or not, though, of course, it’s nice when you do. I don’t think I could continue if what I created was being completely ignored, but I am able to find the motivation I need to keep working in even a limited amount of attention.

Having spent 2012 completing the 365 projects from Noah Scalin’s book, Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life, where I was given ideas, I find now, that in order to keep up the daily practice of creating, I am in a position of having to make up my own assignments. That’s where this latest project comes in ~ Using the cover photo and story from the Washington Post for inspiration, I find something to draw or collage and write about, either as a synopsis of the story or a poem in haiku form. I enjoy writing, particularly constructing the haiku in its 5-7-5 syllable structure, because of the puzzle-solving element involved.

This project, the working title of which is (My) Artplay at 60 ~ Using the Daily News as Inspiration, gives me the structure of being there every day and presenting me with a challenge of finding something inspiring enough to be creative. When I post the artwork (or artplay) and word-thing on my blog, www.wordkeepers.blogspot.com, I get to see if it has any effect on anyone.

The incentive for this project was an invitation to have a show at the Fire House Gallery in Charles Town, WV for the month of January 2014, during which I will turn 60. It made me want to do something fresh and interesting.

How has this changed my life? It is the difference between getting up in the morning and being presented with a blur of things to do, and bounding out of bed to get the newspaper to see what today’s assignment is, and then to my computer to see if you got, or didn’t get, what I did yesterday. It’s what I need to do.