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Hands

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From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been good with a pencil. Posting about Aaron’s much greater talent reminded me of when my mom hired a drawing tutor for me when I was 12 or so. I can’t remember the woman’s name, probably because I resented her so at the time, but she was, I realize now, brilliant.

I had been fooling around for years with my drawing, mainly copying what was in the funny papers. I was good at mimicking other people’s styles, which served me well when I spent some time doing edits and corrections at Marvel Comics a few years later. But this tutor seemed so abrupt and so cold.

She handed me a thick spiral-bound pad of toothy paper and an Eberhard Faber #2 pencil and said, “Before we meet again, draw me 150 hands. Use this pad and number them as you go. Now get busy. I want to feel the bones beneath the skin.” I couldn’t believe it, but I got busy.

The following week, I handed her the pad and she looked over my work. She nodded and said, “By about #80 here, you’ve begun to draw a decent hand. Now do 150 more by next week.”

I was outraged, but I did it. The tutor never talked much but what she said was correct and guided me. After the hands, I got to draw tree bark, and the surface texture of bricks and then I did hundreds of drawings of wadded up paper of different types; some were blank paper wadded up and some had photos or type on them. I drew them all, struggling with the shading and texture. I was glad when I was done drawing the paper wads and moved on to folded cloth. By then, I was able to see the textures with a practiced eye and instead of being frustrated I felt challenged to master the tools; the pencil and the paper and especially my eyes.

The tutor’s rule was that if you want to draw, you have to be able to see. Terse but true.

Perspective was a bear, but she was able to explain it to me and once I got it, I loved it. I still love to draw perspectives; it’s somehow soothing.

I wish I could remember more about that woman. She taught me how to draw. The attached image isn’t my work; it’s something from the Web. But it is correct in what it shows us. Now get a pencil and get busy!!!

Aaron Page Art

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Creativity, in most of its forms, scares the living Hell out of many people; by definition it is original or different, and that makes many people uncomfortable. I can understand that, but my wife and I encouraged our two kids to be creative in what they do. My wife and kids are all good at various kinds of art, which makes me proud. My wife, Patty, is an amazingly skilled cook and a wonderful photographer.

My daughter, Colleen, is also a talented photographer, and she’s a whiz at calligraphy and design; she has a color and texture/pattern sense that I envy. She won national awards during her school days playing music; I recall panicking when her music teacher informed us that she needed a pro-level Buffet Crampon clarinet in the third grade, because they don’t come cheap, but I sold a couple of guitars and got her one.

Today, I want to showcase some of my son’s work. Aaron is 27 years old and is self taught as an artist. He’s also a heck of a bass and guitar player and he’s a good writer. Today, we look at some of the digital art he’s done.

For some reason known only to himself, he insists on using PC-based software to do his work. As a Mac user, I don’t quite understand where he’s coming from on that score, but to each his own.

I know he used to use a Wacom tablet but doesn’t anymore; he now uses a Penpower Picasso and that the software he uses are Photoshop and Illustrator. He’s now tackling zBrush on the PC to learn 3D modeling. Aaron’s not talkative, so that’s about all I know.

I showed, or tried to show, some of Aaron’s work to a fellow who’s an artist rep in NYC, but from his response, I know that he threw a stock answer at me and never looked at the JPEGs I sent him. So it goes. But I hope that Aaron gets an opportunity to use his talent. He wants to get into character or concept art for a career. His website is at http://www.aaronpage-art.com and his email address is aaronpage.art#gmail.com (I’m trying to defeat spambots with the way I wrote that email address; for the real one, substitute a @ for the #).

If you have any way he can help you, please give him a shout.

Here’s some of his work. Enjoy!!!

Saturday Nights With The Usual Suspects . . .

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Music is a big part of my life. My aunt bought me a little kid’s record player before I went into the first grade, and she provided three 45 records with it: One was Elvis, one was Patty Page, and one was country singer Claude King. Stunned me; I had listened to radio, but being able to pick what I wanted to hear played opened up a new world.

Later, as a third grader, I was walking in the French Quarter of New Orleans one afternoon and saw a group of older men sitting in chairs on the sidewalk, jamming on some blues tune. I was gobsmacked; you mean regular folks can make their own music? Astonishing! Soon I had my aunt’s alto sax and was trying to play what I heard from those guys at Preservation Hall. It was so difficult to learn to play but that was part of the fun.

Seeing The Beatles on TV one Sunday night in early 1964 was another seminal event; I knew I’d switch from sax to guitar and bass.

Here are some of my musical buddies last night, playing in John Sapper’s backyard gazebo in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have a group of perhaps a dozen friends who get together most weekends to jam and sing. We call this assemblage The Usual Suspects, and we never know who will show up.

Last night, at John’s, it was John, Dan Collier, David Martin and me. I had already packed up my Telecaster when this song began, so I filmed it with my iPhone:

I belong to a more conventional band called The Gizmos, which plays blues, Bakersfield country, rockabilly and classic rock. I’ll try to get some video of that group soon!

iPhone Cameras Are Amazing . . .

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I’m constantly astonished at the photos that can be taken with an iPhone. Here’s a spiderweb I saw this morning, taken from 15 feet away:

As one who used to lug the old Speed Graphic, Graflex, Mamiya and other bulky large- and medium-format cameras around, I appreciate what the little iPhone camera can do! And no film processing!!!

Here’s another iPhone photo of that spiderweb, which is above the hedge separating our yard from the one next door. It was taken from five feet:

Ansel Adams was once asked, “What’s the most useful camera accessory?” He replied, “Your feet.”

Cars With Fins!

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Perhaps the prettiest car I ever had was this 1958 DeSoto Firesweep Sportsman, given to me by my dad when I first started driving. Here’s a drawing from an ad:

He had bought me a ’58 Chevy first, but that car was a loser, so he bought himself an Oldsmobile and gave his DeSoto to me. Here are my mom, my brother Jeff, our then-new Chihuahua, Tiger, and me standing by the DeSoto in Apalachicola, Florida in 1966, just as I started driving; don’t know what I’m pointing at here:

There were a lot of cool features to the DeSoto, but the push-button automatic transmission may have been the coolest. Here’s a Web photo of the dashboard; the transmission controls are on the left side of the dashboard. See ’em?

Another dash photo. Look at the groovy knobs! Of course, this was before the government made car-makers have safety uppermost in mind when designing a dashboard. I’m not certain this car even had seat belts; I suspect it didn’t, unless my dad put them in later. He had an aftermarket AC put in and it worked so well it would fling ice at you from the rear deck.

Here’s a great Web photo of some lucky person’s pink DeSoto convertible. How I would love to have that car!!!

Many cars today look like little bars of soap rolling down the road. I loved it when cars looked like jet airplanes or the TV-show Batmobile!

You Gonna Lose That Good Thing, Baby– Oh, YEAH!

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I found this on YouTube today and can’t stop playing it. It’s from the early-1960s and had Barbara Lynn and her band live playing You’ll Lose a Good Thing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jAnSyQA_fT4

Please notice that’s she’s playing, not a Telecaster, but a Fender Esquire– no neck pickup– lefthanded. Many folks don’t realize that Leo Fender’s original design for what became the Tele was what was later called the Esquire, as it was a bridge-pickup-only guitar.

If you think that band behind Ms Lynn is totally locked in a perfect groove, you’re correct! And what a band that is. On piano is Mr. Johnnie Johnson who played behind Chuck Berry on all his sides, and many believe he actually at least co-wrote many of the songs Berry took credit for. He was just a stunning piano player. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 after Keith Richards waged a campaign for years for his inclusion.

On bass is Mr. Billy Cox, who was Jimi Hendrix’s first and last bass player. He’s played with everybody at one time or another and is still going strong. He was in both the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies. He met Jimi when they were in the Army together and encouraged his guitar playing. That bass he’s playing appears to be a Fender Precision fitted with a Jazz Bass neck.

On the maple-glo Rickenbacker guitar is none other than Mr. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who was a guitar legend. Originally a drummer, he got his first break as a very young man filling in for an ailing T-Bone Walker on guitar and never looked back. He’s in the Blues Hall of Fame and may be better known in Europe than he is here in the States. Guitar-slingers study Gatemouth Brown and take careful notes.

As for Ms. Lynn, she’s living in Beaumont, Texas, and still plays out regularly. I refuse to give her precise age, but she’s two days shy of being ten years older than yours truly.

Notice her left hand; she’s using a thumb pick and her strumming is almost all upswings. Also, that Esquire has a rosewood fretboard and she kept the bridge cover on it. Cool guitar– and a pink strap! Oh, YEAH!!! Ms Lynn plays a white Strat nowadays but I hope she still has that Esquire in a closet somewhere.

That’s MISTER Blue To You . . .

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Anyone taking on the task of covering the 1959 Fleetwoods hit, Mr. Blue, has a big job on their hands.

The original version has a lead vocal by The Fleetwoods’ Gary Troxel, who originally auditioned for Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis, the founding members of the group, as a trumpet player, and Gary is one of the smoothest singers of that era.

Here he and (I believe) Gretchen, joined by an unidentified background vocalist, do a live version of the song on the TV show Midnight Special 15 years after their single came out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuY-YyyZAPE&feature=related

Still has his chops, eh? I’ve seen recent videos of him in the current incarnation of The Fleetwoods, and he still has the seemingly easy delivery he had as a teenager.

This great and evocative song is a bear to sing, especially if you’re playing an instrument at the same time. I’ve always ditched the spoken intro, which I consider a tad too hokey; Pat Boone’s cover from 1962 or so also ditched it. Interestingly, The Fleetwoods, who were from Washington state, I believe, always recorded their vocals accappella, and their LA producer would drop in the instruments later. Glen Campbell on guitar and Leon Russell on keyboards worked on their records, so they didn’t lack for talent!

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we now have a lovely cover of this tune by a young fellow named Steven Oakland:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCSj_IXv10

I have no info on Steven other than I envy him not only his vocal talents but the maple-necked sunburst Tele on the wall behind him in this video. He chose to use a Boss harmony pedal instead of background vocalists but otherwise he nails a very difficult project with elan. Why he hides his face behind his microphone and pop filter is a mystery.

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