Arts in the Family: A Family of Artists Just Trying to Make a Living in the Wilds of Texas


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mr. Gaiman's New Year Wish

Here's a wonderful New Years wish from the very eloquent Neil Gaiman you should read here.

Doc Ed 2012

The new year will be busy for good ol' Doc Edwards as he continues his mission to edu-tain kids in south central Texas about the Edwards Aquifer. Here's the schedule for the coming year so far:

Doc Ed at Braun Station Elementary.

January 11th Culebra Kids Play Group
January 27th Knowlton Elementary
February 23rd Carnahan Elementary
March 31st Witte Museum
April 3rd Medina County Fair
April 21st Kidfest
October 6th Hardberger Park's First Saturday Program

For more info on the Doc Ed presentations as well as other fun Doc Ed stuff click here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

From Way Back When: Stevie Nicks- Silent Night

Since the twelve days of Christmas aren't over here's another Christmas tune. Enjoy.

Friday Roundup

Pammy had a busy week at work preparing tasty treats for the New Years Eve revelers. On a day off from her hectic schedule we took the kids to see the new Chipmunks movie which turned out to be pretty fun. It was packed for the matinee-priced show that afternoon. There were kids everywhere laughing it up at the antics of Theodore, Simon and Alvin plus the Chipettes. We haven't learned the Chipettes names yet but I'm sure the kids will take care of that for us. My son mentioned ever so subtly how much he'd like to see the movie at home too.

Before the movie started we had about five minutes or more of previews. I've noticed that the volume for them is always louder than what is set for the main feature. I'm not sure why but it was extra louder this and it wasn't just me and my old ears complaining because my son sat there with his hands covering his ears. I plugged my ears with napkins but we finally got hem to adjust the volume. I kept the napkins in my ears. I'm old, man! I think Pammy and I will get a sitter for the next movie so we can check out the new Sherlock Holmes movie. I'll still plug my ears for previews.

Pammy and I have high hopes for the new year. We don't make resolutions but we
always try to raise the bar a little for ourselves in some general way. Life is too short to sit in your hands. Gotta keep moving forward and all that jazz. It keeps things interesting. We'll see how it goes. Buenas noches.

From the Sketchbook- Gandalf

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1970's Monster Funtime

I guess Jaws had made a pretty big impression on me so it made it on the cover of my sketchbook.

What a great cover!!

When I was a wee lad back in the mid-seventies I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland while browsing through comic books at a phamarcy in San Antonio. It was issue #100 with the face of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster gracing the cover. I was hooked! After having collected a few more I decided to draw the assorted characters found in each issue.

I drew and collected them in a manila folder and titled it "Monsters", in honor of my favorite magazine. This was the time before I they started selling Starlog magazine in my neck of the woods. Most of the images I drew were from FM but I also started collecting newspaper clippings advertising movies playing in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo which was across the river in Mexico. The clippings all seem to date back between 1975 and 1977. I'm surprised I did collect a Star Wars ad.

Above and below are pages one and two of my sketchbook.

Above are a couple of items I clipped. The first is a film I don't recall seeing but the ad looked cool enough to save. The second is a photo of Harry Houdini the legendary magician and escape artist. I was a big fan at the time. I wasn't practicing magic. It was Halloween and they would have a seance to try to contact his spirit as they had been doing since his death on October 31st 1926. That type of thing fascinated me and I was always hoping they'd succeed. I don't know if they still gather for the seance. I'll post more stuff later.

Monday, December 26, 2011

From Way Back When: Joni Mitchell -Both Sides Now (1970)

The Day After

Irish Coffee. Mmmmm.

This weekend we spread the Christmas cheer with family and friends. We ate and drank which led to being very merry. Then we opened gifts which led to more eating and drinking goodies made to warm the bones and fend off the chill that ushered in the holiday. All in all it was a pretty good one.

The kids got plenty of toys. Santa made sure not to give them too many noisy ones this year. Kids are walking sound effects machines. I am now the proud owner of a magnifying lamp to assist by tired peepers as I paint or draw. I've been needing one for a long time. Pammy got a book by her favorite t.v. master chef Jacques Pepin. The book came with a dvd as well. Bonus!

But now that it's almost over I'm missing the holiday season already. I miss the whole energy of it all. I miss the excitement and anticipation. I miss the silly things too like the holiday commercials on the radio and t.v. and the all day Christmas music stations playing the same 27 songs over and over again. Let's not forget the holiday specials that have been a part of the season for decades. It just wouldn't be the same without Frosty. Then there are the Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols playing at every theater in town whose ticket sales bring in most of the money they'll make all year.

But what I miss most of all is knowing that most any person I see shopping is there to buy something for someone else. The spirit of giving is never so strong as it is during the holiday season. We've seen our share of that and done our share as well. Sure there's all the commercialism but nothing is ever perfect. It does come pretty close, though. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Roundup

The two photos above are a tiny sampling of the goodies Pammy has been baking the last couple of weeks. Just looking at them makes me put on some weight.

Here it is once again: Friday. And not only is it Friday but it is Christmas Eve Eve! The spirit of the season is strong here at Rancho Ramirez. It's cloudy and cold around here as it should be this time of year. It helps puts one in the proper holiday frame of mind. I suspect we'll be making hot chocolate before too long.

My son and daughter have been keeping busy in various ways. My son has been devouring the book
Eregon for the last few days and today is just a few pages from the end. Very cool. We've got the second book and he'll no doubt begin reading it even while the first book is still warm. My little girl has been busy making homemade presents of all sorts in secret and setting the wrapped goodies under the tree. She is indeed a jolly ol' elf just like her mom.

Pammy, the jolliest of elves, has been busy baking at work and over at her buddy Diana's house having a merry old time in the process. These are high school friends she's never lost touch with over the years. Talk about a Festivus miracle! I've pretty much lost touch with all my old friends and I often wonder where they are now. Facebook is not an option. Life will just have to bring us together or not.
I've been drawing and painting these last few days before the big day but mostly I've been wrapping gifts and sending out cards. I think it's o.k. if they get to their destination a little after Christmas because for many, including ourselves, the holidays don't end until after the New Year. The show ain't over till the school bell rings.

Well, I'm off to have another cup of "Joe" and see what's going on in the rest of the bloggerhood. Hasta luego.

From the Sketchbook- Mutt

General Electric/Rankin Bass Rudolph Commercials (1964)

Happy Festivus!

Tis the season for aluminum poles, feats of strength and the airing of grievances!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here- Vince Guaraldi Trio

December Sky #9

More Hobbit Fun

Apparently there's also a Hobbit blog. I should have known. More fun stuff to enjoy! Click here to go to the Hobbit blog. Enjoy.

The Road Goes Ever On And On...

Check this out! It's the first trailer for the upcoming film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It looks fantastic and December 14th 2012 can't come soon enough. Thanks to The One Ring.Net for posting it. Check out the official movie site here and go to the One Ring.Net here.

Theater Memories- DCT's Best Christmas Pageant Ever 1996

Our first year in Dallas was difficult. We had very little money with only enough to make rent and pay bills more or less. We juggled them for a while. But in a very short time, thanks to our dear friend Christy, we had some work clowning at various functions which helped a great deal allowing a little breathing room to do more theater. Toward the end of the second year we had finally started to establish ourselves in the theater community.

The Dallas Children's Theater provided us with the most work in the first few years. During the holidays you can count on seeing most any theater putting on A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in which I played the Reverend Hopkins who was supposed to be in his early forties ( I was thirty one. I love theater). It had a pretty big cast consisting mostly of children. The main child characters were the Herdmans who were described as "the worst kids in the history of the whole world."

During one moment in the play the Herdmans focus their destructive attention on the reverand who is a quiet and somewhat meek character. There's was no description for what the Herdmans did to the reverand. He enters the stage after being accosted by them and makes a brief speech. I wanted the reverend to look like he'd been roughed up a bit so I removed one shoe, pulled the sock so that it was barely on my foot,un-tucked my shirt, messed up my hair, undid my necktie and put a "kick me" sign on my back. The director thought the sign was too much but like the rest. When I saw the play a few years later they were still using my bits 'o' comedy. Made me feel good.

The cast was doubled up so we had two sets of all the kids and some of the adults. I, as well as most of the adults were not double cast so I got to be in all the shows which was great. It just made the holidays all the more fun. Pammy and I were far away from our families so it was lonely. We didn't get to travel home much early on because money was tight and our vehicles were not ready for the long drive to San Antonio and Laredo.

All the kids were great. They followed direction well and never missed a cue. Real pros all of them. Karl Schaeffer who was on staff at the theater and was cast as the eldest Herdman kid, took some video backstage and I recently found it. he interviewed some of the cast and then made copies for everyone as a gift. I think only one theater around here has put on that play in the nine years we've been here. It's a bigger than usual cast that includes many children and not a lot of theaters have the experience and patience of working with so many children. It's a good story, perhaps a little corny but very family friendly. Check it out if it's playing in your area. It's a nice change of pace from the usual holiday fare. Below is a condensed look at the t.v. version aired way back in 1983.

Monday, December 19, 2011

December Sky #7

From the Sketchbook- Terrier

Monday, Monday, Monday

The holiday break started with colds for the kids and pink eye for my daughter. Man,oh, man! At least they'll be well for the big day this Sunday. I'm not sick yet and hope I don't catch anything. I'm too old for pink eye!

Good news on the puppet front. Our salamander puppet being made by the good folks at the Dallas Puppet Theater is nearer to being finished. We got a peek at it and it looks pretty good!

I'm still working on the Texas history comic book and I hope to start inking sometime before the New Year. I'm pretty happy with the results so far. I think the hardest part hasn't been the drawing but the research and editing down of the text to the most essential facts of this particular historical event while trying to tell both sides of the story as evenly as possible. Texas history covering the Texas Revolution and the events leading up to the Mexican American War are still a pretty touchy subject around here and people like to take sides. For me, in order to tell the story correctly and do it justice, I shouldn't be favoring either side. Just the facts, ma'am.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Muppet Show- Bernadette Peters

Here's a little something from the Muppet Show to make you feel like you could do anything.

Circus Sarasota's Bellomania!

Daredevil clown Bello Nock will be performing with the not for profit Circus Sarasota in February. If you happen to be in the area catch the show. He's the best clown under the big top. He was the featured clown on the Ringling show when Pammy and I toured last and got to know him a bit. He a really nice person and a very funny and entertaining performer. If we get half the chance we'll make a beeline to Sarasota to see him. For more on Circus Sarasota click here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Roundup

Let's see. This week saw a few Doc Ed shows around town. I even got a little mail from the kids at Crestview Elementary with some neat drawings they made after my visit there back in September. I think they'll be posting some of them on the Edwards Aquifer Authority Facebook page. Now that school will be out for the holidays Doc Ed shows will be on hiatus until January when the kiddos are back in school. In the meantime there will be some time spent fixing up the props that I use for the show. I'll also be making a few new ones. Actually they'll be duplicates for the ones I already use. It never hurts to have those around in case of emergency.

Texas History comic book sketch.

I put in some work on the Texas history comic book too. I've added a couple of pages to it that will help the pacing of the story. As it was before, eight pages wasn't enough to tell a proper story. It's still not ready to ink but I'm getting pretty close. It's only the first of three stories that will be complied into one book and all of them will cover events that took place during the Texas Revolution and and the time period after that led up to the Mexican American War.

Pammy has been pretty busy at work baking away like there's no tomorrow. Baked goods are very popular during the holidays. Last Saturday she spent the better part of the day baking cookies at her friend Diana's house. She always looks forward to that. It's something they've been doing together for years. She's an old friend of Pammy's from way back she doesn't get to see often enough so it's always a real treat for her when she get to share some time with her. Tomorrow Pammy will be there again baking Christmas goodies spending quality time with good friends.

Pammy has been wanting to do some video work. It's educational subject matter relating to the environment and water conservation. We've worked out a rough idea for it and will be doing the shoot over the holidays. Pammy has plenty of ideas and she's got a sharp director's eye so it should look pretty good.

That's it for now. have a great weekend and thanks for spending some time here at our little blog. We really appreciate it. Adios, amigos!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Circus Memories - Hospital Visits 1995

In the clipping above Benny Schultz, Gina Allison and I spend some time with the kids on the pediatric floor at Huntsville Hospital.

One of the most challenging and rewarding experiences on the road as a circus clown were the times we'd visit the hospital pediatric wards. We'd go into the rooms for a couple of minutes to hoping to make a child smile. We bring a few props and usually a little gift like the teddy bear you see in the photo above.

I'd never visited a children's ward before joining the circus. And in the past when I had been to see a sick relative in the hospital entertaining them wasn't exactly on my mind. Hospital etiquette required one to be serious in the presence of a patient. That kind of etiquette didn't necessarily apply with a child. I soon learned that even when hospitalized a child usually wants to laugh and play.

The first couple of rooms we were at were tough for me. I felt bad for those kids
but the kids didn't want me to feel for them. They had plenty of other folks doing that already. They wanted to smile and laugh and be silly. That's why we were there. It got a little easier after that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Mural Kids

Hamming it up at the end of the day: The best mural crew ever.

Here are most of the kids that would come by to volunteer their time to paint the "Monuments of Man" murals at Mirasol Courts. Part of our job was not only to document the mural painting process but to also document the names of the children that participated in the painting. I wish I had that list now. Those children deserve to be recognized and honored for their work. They're all grown up now and in their late twenties, early thirties. Maybe they've started families of their own. With any luck maybe one of them will run across this blog and pleasantly surprised.

I've posted some of their photos but I've still got few more I'll post soon of these wonderful kids. Before I forget I want relate something I still remember about the last day we painted there. As Alex and I were cleaning up our brushes and putting away our tools one the kids came up to me with a parting gift. His mom had an herb garden and he'd plucked a cilantro plant, roots and all, out of the ground present to me. I was touched. I took that plant and thanked him. He smiled and ran home. Good kids, all of them. I hope they're doing well.

Doc Ed Update

Today was a fun day putting on a show for first and fourth grade students at the Witte Museum. I didn't take any photos because my camera is on the fritz and I was tired of being disappointed by a set of ruined photos. Boo, hoo, hoo, I say. All went well and my next show is on Thursday. It will be the last one before school is out for the holiday. Things wont start up again for Doc Ed until after the new year begins. I've still got plenty to keep me busy, though. For more on the Edwards Aquifer Authority, Doc Edwards and his educational presentations click here .

From the Sketchbook- Goblin Archer

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Roundup

Hi to all. I started this entry yesterday and forgot to post it. Friday was a tad bit busy. Sorry.

Today was a full day starting and finishing the day with Doc Edwards presentations for a gaggle of first grade kiddos at Knowlton Elementary School. The are few sounds in the world that delight me more than the sound of laughter especially the laughter of a child. My shows are educational but sprinkled in heavy doses is a my brand of silliness that helps the science medicine go down. I'd have some photos of the shows but once again my camera acted up so the photos didn't come out. Bummer! I know what I'd like Santa to bring me for Christmas.

When I wasn't doing shows I was busy drawing the remaining pages for a Texas history comic book that focuses on the period before the Mexican American War (1846-1848). I'll post some art for it as soon as I'm able but above is a color study for one possible cover.

Beyond that all is well here at Rancho Ramirez. The Christmas lights and decorations are up but we still have more we haven't put up. That's on the schedule for the weekend. It should be fun. I hope your weekend is a fun one too. Over and out!

December Sky #6

My camera hasn't been taking the best of pictures lately. They've been looking washed out and there are horizontal are visible on the image. But I really like the way the moon looked a few nights ago so I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Joy of William Joyce

One of my favorite children's book authors and illustrators and filmmaker is William Joyce. I love the magical dream-like quality in his books. I'd lost touch with what he'd been up to these last few years but apparently he's been very busy. It's amazing what a little search on the internet will produce.

The first book of "The Gaurdians of Childhood" series titled "Nicolas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King" has finally been released. I've been waiting a long time for this one.

There's also "The Man in the Moon" which is somehow a part of the "Guardians of Childhood " series! It's all very exciting! More research needs to be done and I've got to re-do my letter to Santa pronto!!

Making the rounds on film festival circuit is a short film from Moonbot Studios co-founded by Joyce and based out of Louisiana. I think it's also based on another of his books called "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore". The preview looks wonderful. And it has a lead character that looks a lot like Buster Keaton my favorite silent movie clown. My fellow clownies should check this film out as should anyone should you have the chance.

December Sky #5

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holidays Are Coming!

That's right, baby!

Monuments of Man Murals

That's me giving the neighborhood kids a chance to help create a mural.

In my previous day's post I mentioned I'd be chatting a bit more on these murals that Alex Rubio and I designed and painted at the Mirasol Courts on the westside of town in 1988. The head of the Community Cultural Arts Program (C.C.A.O.) sent Alex and I out there in mid or late November. Can't remember exactly but it was a few weeks away from Christmas.

Part of the job was recruiting the neighborhood kids to help paint the murals which was part of the CCAO's mission. It wasn't simply enough to create a mural in these housing projects but it was also necessary to get the youth of the area involved in the process of mural painting. It would provide them with a unique experience, nurture a sense of pride in their community a
nd who know, maybe a child might be inspired to go into the arts.

Alex and I spent quite a bit of time researching in the CCAO's library and the city library looking through stacks of books on ancient history and American history. This was way back before the internet but even today I'd prefer to look in the library first.

Monument #1.

We tackled the Aztec pyramids first. It seemed the easiest because we already had plenty of experience painting this subject matter in many of the housing projects, many of which were predominantly Mexican-American.

Our work schedule was Monday through Friday from nine to five. I painted the foreground images to the left and most of the Aztec calendar while Alex worked on the rest of the mural. I remember being a little concerned to the time it would take to complete the calendar as we had around three weeks to work on all the murals. While I obsessed over the Aztec calendar Alex began the next mural which is pictured below.

Monument #2

A week had already passed by the time this mural was started. Alex painted the majority of this one and I focused strictly on the mask of your favorite boy pharaoh and mine: Tutankhamun or King Tut as he is commonly known.

With the deadline a little closer and the imposing number of murals to be completed we decided painting on more than one mural at a time would be best. We probably could have painted a little faster on the Aztec mural and had more time for the rest but at the the start of the project that deadline seemed so distant. In reality, the deadline was tight making it impractical for both of us to work together on one mural from start to finish.

Monument #3. The little boy in the photo above lived in the apartment to the right of the mural.

Keep in mind that during all this time we had children that helped out too. If a child showed up and wanted to paint it we handed him a brush and guided him in painting in a particular spot, say the rocky surface on the lower right of Mount Rushmore. Sometimes there might a handful of kids and other times a dozen. When school let out in the afternoon they usually came our way after they had a snack at home. Some of the kids lived in the apartments adjacent to the murals. I think this project had the most kids participating that I can recall. In general, after 3p.m. our progress slowed a bit. When you have that many little hands painting sometimes Alex and I would have to fix things the following day.

If there were too many kids for us to keep busy on the walls I provided them with markers and paper so they could draw as we rotated the kids from mural to mural. When those murals were completed they could look at hem with pride knowing the had helped make them happen.

We finished the last of the murals a few days before Christmas. Back then I was single and had no expenses other than rent and utilities for my modest one-room apartment and gas for my car. That week I decided I would give them extra toys to find under the tree on Christmas morning. I headed to the toy store buying enough toys to fill a large trash bag and then called Alex to see if he wouldn't mind driving back to the site to deliver the gifts on Christmas eve. I

I had a red Chrysler Cordoba, my sleigh, which had plenty of room for the sack of toys in the back seat. I stopped by Alex's house after dark and headed for the Mirasol Courts. The weather had finally gotten very cold that week and it was pretty windy too. It seemed like the perfect night for our Yuletide task. I decided I wanted to remain anonymous and let Alex hand out the gifts while I waited in the car.

Of all the murals I painted over the years the Monuments of Man were the most fun. Ironically, the murals are no longer there. A few years ago the San Antonio Housing Authority, which is in charge of all the low income housing projects in town, demolished to old buildings to replace them with new ones. Unfortunately preserving those murals wasn't a part of the plan. Life is funny, huh? The joke was on us. The murals, which were supposed to last for years and years only exist now in photos and our memories and now on this blog. A miniature monument to the accomplishments of a small group of people brought together for a short while but creating memories that will last a lifetime... I hope.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monuments of Man Murals

Back in 1989 when Alex Rubio and I were still working for the Community Cultural Arts Organization, we were assigned to design and paint a series of murals at Mirasol Courts in San Antonio depicting various artistic and architectural achievements through the centuries. Pictured above is sketch for one of the murals and below is the finished work. More on these murals tomorrow.

Monday Blahs

I started the day feeling a little melancholy. I don't know why. Maybe it's the change in the weather. Maybe not enough tacos were consumed this weekend. A little music always helps to lifts my spirits. I wonder if one's spirits age along with one's body? I'm thinking too much.

I posted a song by multi-talented artist Theresa Andersson sometime before but this kind of talent always merits a second look-see. Happy Monday and enjoy.

December Sky #4

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