Friday, December 25, 2009

Illustration Friday - Pioneer

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
'Space...the Final Frontier' ;o)
These are the modern day pioneers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Illustration Friday - Undone

San Francisco 2061
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
'San Francisco 2061' - When everything comes undone, whether through earthquakes or mere progress, things are always redone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Illustration Friday - Hatch

Picture 053
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
It's 'batten down the hatches' in this acrylic I did for the Ultimation, Inc. game, "Silent Hunter".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Yesterday I did something I realized I hadn't done in years. I got a tree at a Christmas Tree lot. You know the ones, they set them up during the holidays at vacant lots, and stock them with trees that were cut probably as early as October.
In recent years, I simply put lights around a potted tree I already had, or bought a small live one at the grocery store. All during the 80's and 90's I would get those little ones, and after the holidays I would drive up to Lake Tahoe. There's a rest stop along highway 88 where I would replant them. I haven't been up there in ages, but I'm hoping some of them have grown to full own grove!
When I lived in Rohnert Park, for a few years there I went to a tree farm near Sebastopol. Shawn would come with me and we'd cut one down, making sure to leave a few branches at the bottom so it could continue to grow. We'd bring it home and decorate it. I even bought an electric train to go around it, because I had one when I was a kid.
It all takes me back. But getting one this year had a certain poignancy. My mom and I walked along rows of pre-cut trees, other families were browsing too, "How about this one?"
"Nah, too lopsided."
I couldn't help but think of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" where he and Linus went tree shopping and picked out a forlorn little tree. All of them reminded me of that little tree. Just sitting there waiting for a home, almost as if to say, "oooh pick me! pick me!" only to slump over when people passed them by.
There were also stacks of trees leaning against the fence, with no stands. They seemed even more forlorn, like wallflowers at a high school dance. I noticed one of those, it was nicely proportioned. "How about this one?"
"Yeah that's a nice one, but it doesn't have a stand."
"That's okay, I'll make one."
I stood it up and fluffed out its branches, it WAS nice! "Okay let's get this one." It felt as though we were rescuing a puppy from the pound. It would have a nice home, for a while anyway.
On the drive back, with the tree stuffed in the trunk, a memory struck me from long ago as they often do. When I was about 4 or 5, I was with my mom at Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose. Outside in the parking lot, a doughboy pool was set up, stocked with little trout where kids could fish with small rods. For 50 cents, they gave you a rod with bait. "You wanna try it?" my mom asked. "Okay!"
So I dropped the line in, and sure enough I caught a little trout, about 5 inches long. "You caught one Danny!" They put the fish in a plastic baggie and we went home. I sat in the car and stared at the fish in my lap. Even back then, I felt sorry for it. Earlier it was swimming innocently in the pool, now here it was stuffed in a baggie.
With the tree back there in the trunk, I had thought of that little fish, coming home to its final act on this earth. Since the tree had been cut over a month ago, it was hard to think of it as a still a living thing, but it was green and it smelled like Christmas, so it still had an essence of life. I made a wooden stand for it, acutely aware of the fact that I wasn't using my old stand that held water, to keep it moist. No, this was strictly old-school. I found myself apologizing to it, as if were a sentient being. It's funny how the older I get, the more attuned I am to those things.
We brought it in and decorated it, which really took me back. Maybe it was the Christmas Tree smell that triggers it. I thought of my old train, and that stringy tinsel they used to sell, and presents under there. A ton of memories of Christmases past. And the tree does indeed have a certain spirit now. Even though it's in its final days, it's going in style. It seems happy.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Illustration Friday - Crunchy

Picture 050
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
This is the final scene in the Nintendo game, 'Mario is Missing'...Bowser is about to get crunched by a dinosaur.
This was back in the Deluxe Paint days. :o)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's All In The Details

Today I was out in the garden planting garlic bulbs, which I had never done before, in a 'winter garden'. I even checked online to make sure I was doing it right. But first I had to clear a space in the dirt. I have a row of carrots and radishes just now sprouting. They're on raised beds, and the rows are parallel. The carrot row is about 6 inches higher than the radishes, so when I water them, the excess water drains down through canals to the radish row below.
When I made a bed for the garlic, I made sure to level it off about 6 inches below the radishes, thus making it a catch-basin for the runoff from above. Not stopping there, I made yet another bed about 6 inches below that one, and used that to plant the rest of the radish seeds. So now when I water the carrots, a series of drainage canals will ensure that all of the water will be transferred down and dispersed evenly to the terraced beds below, even allowing channels for the sediment that the water will carry with it. That was the fun part, building the thing. Of course, watching the seedlings pop out of the ground for the first time is a joy all it's own, but it's the building of the garden that carries a certain satisfaction, like a tiny civilization. The key words are building, creating.

I've always liked to create things. Not just artwork, but things. I have all my life. I have a fort made out of toothpicks that I started in 1971, and to this day it remains a work in progress. And it's the details that interest me the most. Whether it's in a drawing or painting, a toothpick fort, a garden, a story, music, or just about anything, the more details the better. Sometimes, to the exclusion of all else. Except of course, when a series of distant, esoteric but vivid memories go through my mind as clear as if they happened yesterday.

About a year or so ago, a friend told me about a radio program she was listening to. A man was being interviewed and he described a similar history of being focused on detail to an extreme, how he too had distant but vivid memories.

She told me, "it reminded me of you!"

He was talking about something called Aspergers Syndrome. A mild form of autism that was only recently diagnosed. I read the guy's interview and sure enough, I could relate to a lot of what he was saying. After reading more articles and blogs on the subject, and an excellent one is here: I realized that hmm, I think I may have a touch of it myself...
Not an extreme case, but definitely some signs of it.
I also found it interesting that in most of the cases I've read about, they are men in their 50's who never knew what it was until recently, and who realized, "well, that explains a lot."

Though more extreme cases include a lack of communication or social skills, and a lack of empathy. And while I seem to have an adequate amount of communication and social skills, sometimes it seems to require some effort. And I've always felt a deep amount of empathy towards others...and animals. So perhaps in my case, I've only dipped my toe in this ocean called Aspergers. And that is, if I have it at all...

But I can empathize (ha) with those who do. When they talk about being keenly focused on detail, and the slightest minutae of drawing, painting, music, model making, etc.
Or memories that would usually be long forgotten, they come frequently, every day. I remember what we had for dinner on June 17, 1975...and the conversation we had about putting up a new wall in the patio.

When they talk about being uncomfortable in crowds, I can relate, somewhat. I usually don't mind crowds at all. In fact, I enjoy parties, and I've thrown some. And I enjoy concerts and sporting events and street fairs, where large crowds gather. I've always been especially drawn to people with a sense of humor, I love to laugh. But those are crowds I choose to be in, with people who I'm comfortable with. On the other hand, when I worked at the store, I was astounded at how drained I would feel afterwards, like I wanted to retreat into a cave and just sleep.

I also empathize with shy people, because I've always been shy myself, especially when I was a kid. Or introverted at least. How I've always envied and admired extroverts, the ones who aren't shy at all, who feel invigorated being in large crowds. Sometimes I wish I could be an extrovert, and I've tried, but it's just an act. I'm not 'wired' that way.

And then I think, would I still be able to focus on the precise details of what I was drawing, or building? Would I even care then? Because if I didn't, I don't think I would even bother to start. Not that being an extrovert would preclude that, but I wouldn't want to know. It would be too much of a departure from whom I've always been, and what I do. When I finish a drawing, there's a certain joy that comes with it that resonates deeply, like a blessing beyond blessings.
So if Aspergers has been a part of all that, even a small part, then so be it, I wouldn't have it any other way.