Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post Christmas Release

It is no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas as an economic juggernaut of a holiday.  That said, when I'm not dealing with all the advertisements and the "I wants" and the carols playing ad infinitum I do enjoy myself.

The several days before the 25th this year I (with some help from my lovely wife Jill when she wasn't working) cleaned the entire house top to bottom.  Even the garage got a ton of junk moved out.  The carpets got shampooed, the walls got washed and it looked great.  Only the stairs needed to be shampooed but I ran out of time.

Christmas Eve my in-laws moved in for a couple of nights.  My wife's mom, dad, grandma, aunt, brother and her brother's wife and 3 year old son all stayed over.  Cheese fondue was made for Eve dinner.  I had canned spaghetti and hot dogs since the combination of wine and cheese in the fondue makes my stomach very unhappy.  After dinner we played Ticket to Ride (which I lost terribly) and Super Munchkin (which I won).  We stayed up way too late and drifted off to bed.

At 1 am the cat woke me up scratching at the bedroom door and I remembered that I had stocking stuff left to help Santa put out.  After that I slept soundly until morning.  Good reminder there kitty.  :D

Christmas morning we had the family gift exchange and then I took a nap until about noon.  With the morning dishes washed I stared on dinner.  I made beef & vegetable soup and vegetarian vegetable soup, a salad, and Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  My family showed up about 3 just after the Bagnalls left for a while.  We were a large group and it was awesome to see so many of my siblings and their families there.  I was quite pleased to see my nephew Jason.  I haven't seen him in several years.

After dinner the Dyer gift exchange took off.  We have a tradition started by my sister Sue that we have a wrapping paper war every year.  I think it is my favorite part of Christmas.  :-)  Much paper was hurled and much laughter ensued.

I was able to share the idea of artist trading cards with my brother Mark and I'm hoping he will be inspired to create some art again.

After WAY too many cookies, pies and ice cream everyone shuffled off home and the house was quiet.  Rick and Heidi and RJ had moved on to Heidi's parents' house and with less people and everyone exhausted we all settled down for a long winter nap.

Then at 4am in my son's room there arose such a clatter I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear but most of the desserts he had finished 8 hours earlier.  The poor kid was sick all day today.  He didn't eat anything and couldn't keep even water down.  He went to bed at 6:30 and has been out like a light since.  I hope it has passed by morning.

Since Caleb was bed ridden, he and Jill were not able to partake of my Christmas present to go see the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.  We were able to trade in their tickets for 2 in January so that is good.  I went with Pam and Dick (my in laws) and had a fantastic time.  I learned a lot and was amazed by some of the artifacts.  On the way home we visited Rick and Heidi at her parents' house to drop off some stuff they forgot here.  I got to see Heidi's sister Jill who is on break from teaching in China.  I always miss her so much when she is away and our time is always too short.  We are on for the Polar Bear Plunge on New Years though.

This evening was all about the relaxing.  Tomorrow the work to get the house back into some working order begins but for now I'm happy and content.  It was a fantastic holiday with lots of family and so much love and sharing it made my heart grow three sizes this year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What a Day!

Caleb woke up with a hacking cough and stayed home from school.  He likes the idea of sitting in his pajamas watching cartoons all day.  He wasn't happy to miss Cub Scouts though.

Cub Scouts was a lot of fun.  I divided the den into 3 groups of 3 (1 group had 4) and gave each 5 crayons, 5 zip ties, and a roll of Scotch tape.  They had 10 minutes to come up with a game that everyone could play. One group taped the crayon to the floor and turned the zip ties into rings for a ring toss game.  One made a soccer goal and the game was to roll 3 crayons at a time to make a goal.  The third made a small ring from the tie and a large square from the other 4.  1 person held the square while the other had to push a crayon though the small ring, through the square and have a catcher catch it.  Good job by all.

We also shared our collections.  Lots of coins and shells, some pressed pennies, baseball cards, and crystals.  I finally got the first 2 pages of my stamp album done after all these years.  Oh Canada!

Finally we made a 10 foot long banner for the Blue and Gold Banquet.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gotta Get Er Done!

I've been putting off a bunch of projects in the name of laziness.  Today it is time to get out of the computer chair and get some stuff done.

1.  Dishes.
2.  Laundry.
3.  Pack away the ebay stuff to sell until after the holidays.
4.  Find the pencil sharpener.
5.  Sharpen the pencils. Caleb has been a trooper using barely there leads in his pencils this week.

If I manage to get all of that done today I need a reward.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Art Brainstorming

I have decided to take a break from the playing card sized Artist Trading Cards for a few months and focus on larger creations. I pulled out my sketchbook yesterday looking for inspiration and came up with a ton of sketches for a couple of comics that I either started or never got around to doing. I have a full cast of characters and a setting and some conflict and it is all okay but not great.

I spent a few hours last night working on a character style. I like the Kim Possible style but it is a bit too cartoonish for what I want to do. I think it is working out to the love child of Archie and Wapsi Square. I don't know if I'm going anywhere with it or not.

I run into the problem that I can see in my head what I want to do but not where to go with it. So I can lay out the characters and setting but once the story gets moving I bog down. I'm not a great writer so that puts stumbling blocks down before me. In my brainstorming I'm writing fairly short chapters to limit the meta plot planning and hopefully if I decide to do this it will keep the story moving.

I am brainstorming my old webcomics "Magic and Miracles" and "Blackberry House" into a new story. "Magic and Miracles was about Penny (a Wiccan) and Charlotte (a Christian) who move into an old house together and by accident find themselves actually able to see the supernatural working around them. They are able to perform magic and miracles. This challenges both of their religious beliefs. The ancient Native American ghost camping in their living room doesn't help matters. M&M lasted 12 episodes.

From this story I'm starting with Penny. Instead of inheriting a house she gets a vacant building downtown. Her dream is to open a coffee shop there. Later Charlotte may come into the story, possibly as an employee.

"Blackberry House" was about a group of college students and the haunted house they move into. Two characters from that are planned so far. Sean Martin is a comic book artist who fears he has reached his artistic peak. Molly Williams is a painter who lost her inspiration. They, along with Prophet Bonaventure, a theatrical technology buff and famous sculptor of inexplicable art, move into the loft space above the coffee shop with Penny. They have an art studio and a gallery that is attached to the coffee shop. BBH lasted 20 episodes.

Conflict comes from their very different personalities and backgrounds, the challenge of pushing their artistic skills forward, and the demands of running a business. There will probably be a ghost too. I haven't planned that far ahead.

Art Card of the Day
I did a series of ships for a recent ATC swap. Here is the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Happy Holidays

The last few days I have been expressing my opinions about the Christmas season on Facebook and many people have been great about sharing theirs. Some agree with me to some degree and some disagree. All but one have been polite about it and that person was banned. Since my feelings are both mixed and evolving I decided to bring them up here to see if I could find some clarity.

Let me start by saying I think all of the winter holidays are great. I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Year's Day. I know there are some other holidays but they aren't in my tradition to celebrate so I don't know if they are awesome or not. I'll assume so.

Thanksgiving I enjoy because I love having lots of people visiting (or us visiting them) and eating traditional food. I enjoy having a day of reflection on the past year, seeing it through a positive lens and looking forward optimistically. I love being with family and sharing long held traditions.

Christmas Eve and Christmas I also love, conditionally. What I enjoy is being with family and laughing with people I may only see once or twice a year. I enjoy the annual wrapping paper war and renewing the bonds of family. I like the church service and the music and telling the story of Christmas. I also like tracking Santa on the NORAD website every year and marking his position on the globe. I love my brother dressing up like Santa and making a silly fool of himself for the joy of the children and the embarrassment of the adults. What a cool gig.

Honestly, New Year's Eve/Day has never meant much to me. It is a time of looking ahead and making goals that I never keep. But it is also the beginning of the end of winter, at least in my mind. The weather doesn't often cooperate with me on that one.

In spite of all that, I dread the coming of the holidays every year. Each time my spirit gets heavier and my ill feelings grow. Part of this is the commercialization of Christmas. Part of it is the tidal wave of fanatic "Christmasiness" that overwhelms society. Some is also the insincerity.

Christmas is a commercial holiday. I get that. Stores need to use it to get even greater profits so they can stay in business and expand and get into the black. I hate that the whole thing is tied into love. "If you love your wife you will buy her this $800 necklace." "If you love your husband you can surely spare enough to buy that big screen TV. No money down. Put it on layaway!" Everyone must have gifts and they all must be perfect and awesome (and please from our store!). I've been seeing Christmas on TV for about 3 weeks now and there hasn't been a single reference to anything having to do with the religious holiday.

Christmas is a schizophrenic day. On one hand there is one of the two holiest days on the Christian calendar and on the other is the overwhelming demand to buy, buy, buy. The former is definitely the lesser of the two in our society. Christianity is so far separated from Christmas that we had to create a new mascot because Jesus wasn't a very good mascot for all the must have Christmas items we have to buy. Even Easter, arguably the more religious of the two greater holy days ended up with a cartoon rabbit for a mascot. I don't mind that Christmas has gift giving or that stores light up and play music and all that. I just think it is an insult to the person whose birthday is supposedly being celebrated.

Buying yourself into debt to somehow impress someone or keep up with the neighbors or whatever is hardly within the scope of Jesus' teaching after all. If you still have credit card debt from last Christmas (or many Christmases ago!) wisdom would say to cut back and not go further into debt for it this year. And yet we do, year after year.

Hand-in-hand with the commercialization of the holidays is the constant bombardment. Everywhere I go I see Christmas decorations and sales and candy and "the best deal of the year if you are willing to show up an hour before Thanksgiving dinner!" All of the commercials are now pushing me to buy buy buy for that special someone. The sales pitch is incessant and aggressive and pervasive. Only within my own home can I avoid it, as long as the mute button is handy on the TV remote. Again, I recognize the need to advertise. If I received this many ads for any product I would grow to disdain it. That the product is Christmas doesn't change it any more than if everywhere I went I was inundated with ads for hamburgers.

I know that I have friends and family who go ga ga for Christmas. I don't mind that. Bury your house in Christmas lights until the foundation cries for mercy. That is great. Preach the joy that Christmas music 24 hours a day brings you. Yes, I have a friend who plays it at night when he sleeps too. If this brings you joy and fulfillment, take it and enjoy it. Understand though that not everyone gets high on Santa fumes (ew!) and it doesn't mean the same thing to me.

Christmas music is another big pet peeve of mine. I don't mind that there is the music or that it is about Santa or snowmen or whatever. What bothers me is that it is so cherished when so much of it is either poorly written, poorly performed, or both. And yet I have to listen to it endlessly whenever I shop. I don't care for other genres of music and while I respect that other people enjoy it, I don't want to hear it when I'm picking out my dinner.

My final gripe about the season is the insincerity. Let me preface this by saying that I know most people are sincere and this is an opportunity to show community and love and friendship and I think that is great. The message that is bombarded to me by media though is to buy regardless of any of that. I saw a commercial with a family that were buying their neighbor a big screen TV. Come on. That has nothing to do with love or friendship. A talk show segment encouraged me to buy two extra presents just in case I forgot someone. Really? If they were close enough to me to buy a present I would remember them. If I forgot they clearly weren't that close. But we must be ready with a gift for everyone. I'm told I'm obligated to get that gift though even if it is someone I wouldn't normally give a gift to. Then starts the obligation. We had a couple that we were friends with for years but drifted apart. We finally only saw each other during Christmas week and only to exchange presents. Our friendship had lost its meaning but we still felt the societal obligation to spend money every year to prop it up. We finally stopped and the friendship met its natural end, as it should have long before.

My ideal holiday season does actually have stores decorated and music playing and all that. Instead of the holiday's volume (more than one meaning) being cranked to 11 it is a moderate 5 though. If it were toned down I wouldn't mind it so much. I want family at home and our family decorations and lights, all in moderation. I don't need to have a house that is seen from space to feel "the Christmas spirit," whatever that is. I want there to be excitement for Caleb to open presents in the morning but an acknowledgement of the religious meaning of the day as well. I want a simple meal and not a feast because I want to spend time with my family and not spend it cooking and cleaning. My Christmas music will be hand selected and not a lot of random songs just because they are holiday music. I want to buy gifts but not feel obligated to go into debt as a result. I guess in conclusion I want to control my own Christmas instead of every corner of society screaming at me about what I SHOULD want.

So if I seem Grinchy this year, it is partly true. It is in large part because of the headache I have for months from being hit in the head with the Christmas hammer over-and-over. I will get better though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yellow Bird: The Dance of the Cub Scouts

Last night a couple more boys joined the Wolf Den. We made American flag neckerchief slides and learned to fold the American flag. Some of the early arriving boys learned to play Mancala, which I may end up addicted to if I'm not careful.

In addition to our flag studies I am also working with the boys to earn the Languages and Culture belt loops which requires them to play two games from other cultures. Last week we played Cat in the Corner from Norway. This week, in addition to Mancala (Middle East) we learned to Limbo. The game is from the Caribbean. Instead of the annoying Limbo Rock I used the Haitian song Yellow Bird played on Jamaican steel drums. I had no idea that a dozen 2nd graders would get so into it. They were dancing and partying like crazy and actually got very low.

I am excited about the next year of Cub Scouts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hiking, Tug of War, and an Evening Under the Stars

Today has been nice and warm. I know how rare it is to have such a long streak of warm weather here and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

Yesterday Caleb went to a friend's birthday party and I went to Forest Park in Everett to help the Cub Scouts with an event. We walked through the trails looking at nature, played tug-of-war, and played a huge game of amoeba tag. I think we had 18 Scouts plus 3 or 4 siblings. A good time was had by all and we got free ice cream at the end because a business meeting in the park had extras they donated to us. :D

While the men folk were out of the house Jill did a bunch of heavy transplanting around the yard followed by a well deserved super hot bath.

It is almost midnight but I think I'm going to go sit outside for a while and enjoy the night.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking Back (art heavy)

I'm starting a new artistic journey and it is sometimes enlightening to take a look back at where one has been before moving forward. I spent part of the day looking over old drawings going back to before I can remember. This creates a timeline of my artistic ability.

The first time I remember ever sitting down with the intention of drawing was in 4th grade. Our family had moved back to Riverside, California which back in the late 1970s I believed was a dust filled dive with dead eyed teachers and a growing gang problem. This was the school where I was chased by Mexican 6th graders who spoke only a tiny amount of English and whose favorite game was to pick on the pasty, short white kid from Washington. They called me many bad words plus "homo." I didn't fully understand that one. I had no idea what a homosexual was but the cap on the top of the milk jug at home had the word on it (short for homogenized). I figured it was a racist term for white people. I remember they chased me one recess with the intention of pain obvious. I was so scared I peed myself and didn't care. As long as I could keep running. A 6th grade girl came to my defense and helped me get to the office without anyone seeing my wet pants.

I was alone, in a place I was afraid of everything and everyone. I had no friends but I discovered a Big Chief Tablet of paper and began to draw. I must have seen Star Trek at some point but at the time I wasn't aware of it. The similarities are too close for coincidence though. I created a ship and crew and a fighter and ran stories over and over in my head. Their world was relatively safe. They had an accountant on board! Interesting that decades later I would marry one. Read into that what you will.

I filled books with drawings. Unfortunately they were likely tossed out when we moved back to Anacortes half way through the school year. I continued to draw, mostly cartoons and superheroes. I won a contest in 6th grade and my drawing of the superhero Atom Ant's lair was hung up on the Anacortes Post Office's wall for all the world to see. That same year my drawing of a Smurf talking to an ant was put on the regional TV show "Captain Seatac" which made me a local celebrity at Mt. Erie Elementary. They pulled me out of class to tell me the good news. I didn't draw for years after that though. I don't really know why.

My next obsession was superheroes. I wasn't interested in drawing established heroes but I created dozens of my own. It was at this point, probably early in my high school career that I realized I wasn't very good. I tried and I enjoyed the effort but my skills were very low. I recruited my few friends who could draw better than I to draw my heroes in an attempt to get them on paper the way I saw them in my head. Looking back on high school I was bullied every day. One guy teased me every time he saw me and even slammed a locker door on my head (although I don't know if he was trying to hurt me or scare me.) I was roughed up often and it was during that time I turned back to art, just like in 4th Grade.

It was the year after I graduated from high school. I had an internship with the drama/typing/civics teacher, Mr. Russell at the high school. I was given the job of running the sound station at the model United Nations. My friend Brian and I began passing notes back and forth between he and the audio desk we named "Audio Land." A bevy of heroes and villains were created in an afternoon and that night I went home and drew 17 pages of comic book goodness called the "Heroes of Audio Land." The drawing was atrocious but for the first time I felt like I had created something that was worth reading. A second, longer issue came out the following year. Then I went away to college.

At Whitworth College I gave up superheroes. For the most part I gave up on art. My junior year there I discovered drawing with a simple black pen and I began to draw animals from photo and life references. I still think they were the best things I have ever drawn. I was also falling into old patterns. I was my dorm's chaplain and I had enemies. The guys who lived next door to me that I busted for pot. My own roommate that trashed my side of the room and filled a 30 gallon trash can with beer bottles while I was home for Thanksgiving break. The person who began pulling dangerous and destructive "pranks" on me. The anonymous person who wrote me a note threatening to cut off my testicles if I didn't move out of the dorm. At the same time I was wrapping myself in the blanket of art.

After college I lost my muse. I was married and happy and no longer threatened. I tried to draw many times over the years but I couldn't regain the level of perceived quality that I had in college. It wasn't until 2009 when I found artist trading cards that some spark to create returned. I created nearly a hundred cards, some okay, some terrible. A very few with sparks of what I really want out of my drawings.

Now 3 1/2 years later I am tired of fighting to draw. I am tired of feeling that I can only draw inspiration when I am feeling threatened somehow. I am tired of drawing at the micro level. I want to create something large that I would not be ashamed to hang on my wall. I am not looking for money. I'm not foolish enough to believe people would want to buy what I am selling: at least not yet. I want to create art. So in September I will sit down and create. I will embrace my past but rise above it and finally prove to myself that I can do it. Or I will fail. I am good about driving myself to failure with my foot on the accelerator. I need to succeed though. I need to prove to a terrified 4th grade kid hiding his wet lap under a pile of sand on the playground that something good came from it all.

Separation of Church and Mind

I am not a great scholar and many elements of human interaction seem odd and counter-intuitive to me. Religion I understand at its most basic level. Where I fall off the train of understanding is when a person claims to be religious but acts in ways that are counter to their religious beliefs and even in ways that are considered mortal sins.

Catholic priests commit horrible acts of child rape and yet are encouraged by their church with a system of cover ups and transfers that allow the behavior to continue. Catholic dogma teaches that it is wrong on many levels; pedophilia, sodomy, deceit, priests having sexual relations of any kind. But there is justification of it and an institutional acceptance that nearly brought the church to its knees, and not in prayer.

I don't understand how Islam can teach that an insult to Mohammed is a justification for murdering people who did not insult that prophet. Recently an individual American made a film slamming Mohammed. In response 4 members of the American embassy in Libya, including the ambassador, were murdered. Another embassy in Yemen was attacked. I don't really understand Islam on a lot of levels but it would seem to me logical that if someone committed what the religion considers a crime that person should be punished. How people unrelated to that crime can be murdered in his place is beyond me.

Perhaps it is simply that religion does not require reason for acceptance. Religions encourage people to turn off their minds to what their observational senses tell them. Dinosaurs could not have existed because they are not described in Genesis and a monk said the world was only 6,000 years old. We are told to ignore the fossils we dig up. I was actually told by a pastor growing up that there were put there by God to test our faith.

That example of the separation of church and mind may seem extreme (although true) but the same fight goes on about evolution. We an see plants and animals evolve before our very eyes. We see them adapting to their environment and becoming new forms of plants and animals. Yet Christianity will often deny what our eyes, what our science teaches us.

We are taught from a young age to shut off our mind and accept what is being taught without question. And we do. Perhaps if we accept shutting off our minds for the acceptance of faith we allow ourselves the freedom to to shut off our minds to the actual teachings of the faith when it is convenient.

Or maybe it is not so much shutting off the mind as compartmentalizing it. Church stuff is here and real life is here and never the two shall meet. "I believe for the benefit of all mankind in the total separation of church and mind," as Steve Taylor so sarcastically put it (see video below). When we step into the church side of our mind we can shut all that pesky real world stuff out and be devout and sincere. When we want to do something that our religion would frown on we can ignore the Church compartment. After all, God forgives everything anyway, right?

How all of this applies to Catholic pedophiles and Muslim murderers I don't know. I think I'm going to put it all in a compartment in my mind and shut if off for a while. Dwelling on this has given me a headache.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Today I start my drawing process to create a larger work of art. I've been working with baseball card sized art so long I'm feeling cramped by it. So in September I need to make something at least 11x17 inches.

The process is going to start with material selection and some sketches to see what I want to create.

One of my big artistic inspirations has been Laurie Meynig. We have traded a lot of art cards over the years and I've enjoyed watching her art from from great to fantastic. She has been filming her artistic process on youtube and it has been a great kick in the pants for me.

She also sells her art at her etsy shop.

In other news I had a long talk with the District Scout Executive today and got a lot of things worked out with some of the recruitment issues I've been having. He was very impressed how many kids we have signing up. :D

Art Card of the Day

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recruitment and the Empty House

I am the membership chair of our Cub Scout pack. It is my job to organize a membership drive every year, coordinate with the new parents, and make sure everything goes smoothly as we welcome a new batch of Cub Scouts.

Today was Caleb's school open house. The pack had a table outside with flyers and a place for people to sign up for more information. In less than 2 hours we had 27 families signed up for more information. If each joined and only had one boy it would almost double our pack size. We have about 35 boys now. I know several of the families have 2 boys. This is going to be a very interesting year. I predict that many will join but not all, and we will be happily popping at the seams.

I am excited for the new Cub Scouting year. I'm also excited because tomorrow is the first day of school for Caleb. He is in second grade. I know he will have a good time but I am going to have the joyful silence that can only come from an empty house. I am looking forward to not having the sounds of Caleb and his friends. I look forward to finding the time I need to list the growing mountain of things I have to sell on eBay. I look forward blissfully creating art.

Art Card of the Day

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Great Challenge

Weeks ago I talked about how I needed to get past the artist trading card sized artwork and expand into something larger. I need to grow as an artist and the small size is preventing that.

Two months later and I still haven't done anything. So it is time to challenge myself. During the month of September I will complete a drawing or painting at least 11 x 17 inches in size. Since people are one of my biggest challenges as well as one of my biggest interests the piece must be of a person, but not a portrait.

I don't expect to make a masterpiece, but I expect to increase my skill at least a small amount. Feel free to challenge me by asking how it is going. The project will start after September 5 (Caleb's first day of school)

Art Card of the Day: What I feel like doing right now!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buttons and Popcorn

When I was a teenager in Royal Rangers (the Assembly of God's scouting program)I really wanted to get a button machine to make those cool 1 inch buttons. I figured I could sell hundreds of them to buy my way to a big camping trip in some exotic place like Canada or Missouri.

Now that I'm working with Cub Scouts I'm considering actually doing it. It is that time of year when Scouts turn their eyes to popcorn sales. It is the primary means of funding our Pack activities. The problem is that many people find paying $20 for a bag of popcorn to be a bit pricey. I know I do.

Caleb has a goal of $350 minimum this year with all the cool prizes kicking in around $600. I have no doubt we will make that amount. But I wonder sometimes if we had a booth at a craft fair selling $1 buttons we could make more. They cost 10 cents to make plus a minimal amount for printing. A booth full of cute grade school kids in blue uniforms and I think we would make a ton of money. I have been doing a lot of small scale art that would look good on a button (I think).

Of course to do any fundraising other than/in addition to popcorn sales requires a lot of paperwork to get the council's approval.

But then we could use the button machine for making custom event badges and "demerit" awards also.

Until I can afford to drop a couple hundred dollars on a button machine I guess we will stick to popcorn sales. Fortunately we have a new tool to help. We can now sell popcorn online with delivery to the customer's door.

If you feel so inclined to help Caleb reach his popcorn selling goal please feel free to peruse the website. That link will give credit to Caleb for anything you buy or donate to "Popcorn for the Troops."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Now Hosting New ATC swaps

This is just a quick note to let you know that I am now hosting 2 new artist trading card swaps. "What are artist trading cards," you say? They are original art pieces 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches on heavy paper. For my swaps they are all hand drawn or painted. Other swaps can use collage, stickers, stamps, and all sorts of other things.

You draw 3 cards (or 6 in some swaps) on a specific theme and mail them to a central host. You might also draw an extra card as a gift for the host to thank him or her for all the work involved in running the swap. That is optional. Many other people also do the same thing, sending their art cards to the same host. Every swap has a deadline and when that deadline hits the host will swap the cards with the other players' cards. So if you sent 3 cards you will receive back 3 cards. All will be from different artists all over the world.

"I'm not that great of an artist." Everyone starts somewhere. This hobby is pretty nurturing and encourages you to do your best. We accept that. If along the way your best gets better then that is awesome!

I have completed and collected more than a hundred individual, original pieces of art this way. I know it sounds interesting to you. How do you get started? First, go to and start a free account. Then browse through the open swap forum and find a swap or two that interests you. Post in the thread that you want to sign up. Start with 3 or less swaps until you get used to it so you don't over-commit yourself.

You can also sign up for the swaps that I am hosting. I have a swap called "Big and Tall Ships." I also have one called "Open Theme Nudes."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This week has been one to both strengthen the spirit and weaken the body. It has been Cub Scout week. Day Camp dominated our days and left us happy and exhausted at night.

Caleb joined Den 2 (of 16): a pack of Wolf Scouts. Every day, Monday through Thursday they did cooking, woodworking, and archery. He also got classes in fishing, knots, citizenship, nature, science, leathercraft, and sports. He made lots of friends, learned new songs, and made paper crafts. The week was capped off with an egg drop. He put his egg pilot "Yolkie Eggleston" in a box filled with dry oatmeal. The Boy Scouts launched it from a rubber tube catapult. Caleb was very proud that Yolkie survived.

The only real drama of the week was Caleb pounding his thumb with a hammer in either woodworking or leathercraft. He had an impressive amount of blood but he refused to be kept from the fun for very long and was right back on the line hammering.

I spent the week teaching knots to groups of kids as large as 16. I was amazed by a few things. First, the older the kids the less easily they were managed. With one exception all of the Webelos dens were very difficult to teach to. The second is that the kids that wanted to learn absorbed everything I had to teach and wanted more. They learned a disappearing knot trick and how to tie between 5 and 7 knots (depending on the age and willingness to learn). The last day I brought my yo yo and did a couple of tricks for them at the end of class if they cooperated. Many adults also learned a few knots which I find very fulfilling because I know they will now pass that on in their own packs.

Thursday night after Day Camp was over I went to Romio's Pizza for a Pack 31 leadership meeting. We learned about the popcorn sale coming up. Then we planned a few events and spent a lot of time gabbing. Unfortunately I ate dinner there. I had beef ravioli and I never did find much beef. I've eaten spaghetti there too and it was pretty bad as well. I hope their pizza is better.

Today the pack got together for a "welcome back" picnic in the park. We drank root beer made by our Cubmaster. We completed a very fun scavenger hunt and the boys learned about the popcorn sale coming up. We were going to play flag football but the field was soggy and the kids were already having fun on the playground.

As Caleb and I enjoyed Scouts all week, Jill and her parents were busy painting the bathroom and replacing our bathroom floor. The previous owners (in order to sell this place quick) put a linoleum tile floor directly over the existing linoleum floor. None of it was water sealed. We recently had a leak in our toilet that got under both floors and caused the particle board sub-floor to expand. So all of it had to be ripped out and replaced. Jill and her dad worked themselves to exhaustion but the floor got in. We are letting the grout cure before sealing the whole thing and installing our new low flow, duel flush toilet that my in laws gave as a gift.

Jill and Caleb have become addicted to the Angry Birds game and spent most of the day playing.

Art Card of the Day

The two art card swaps I have been hosting are done. Probably tomorrow I will be starting two more. One will be an open themed nude swap and the other large ships. The card above I did a few years ago. I'm going to try for more detail this time around.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Art Week

This week has been filled with art. I've been racing to get cards done for many of the artist trading card (ATC) swaps I'm committed to. 4 Sailor Moon and 3 Teen Titan cards have been finished as well as 4 random themed ones. Next are 4 based on the worlds of Joss Whedon.

I'm getting better in some areas and not progressing in others. I think some of my portraits are getting better. I love the Raven card and the Sailor Mars one is pretty good too.

I'm still struggling doing full bodies in such a small format. I need to get some smaller pens which will help a little but 2.5 x 3.5 inches is smaller than I'm comfortable drawing people.

I'm contemplating my next swaps to host. Artistic Nudes and Teen Titans end on Wednesday. I've really enjoyed the nudes swap and I will likely do another, perhaps broadening the theme. I'm thinking of a sailing ship themed one also.

Here are some of the cards I've completed this week:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Art Times

Summer in the Seattle area sometimes comes with about a week of sunshine bracketed by weeks of chilly weather and rain. This weekend summer hit and we ran north to Anacortes. A family tradition for as long as I can remember has been to go to the annual Arts (and formerly Crafts) festival. Temps went over 85 as we patrolled the canopy lined streets filled with artisans hawking paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and arts and crafts of all sorts. Caleb played with a wind up wooden boat, and we watched painters, chainsaw carvers, glass blowers, metal smiths, print makers, and musicians demonstrate their art. My foot held up pretty good until near the end when it started hurting and I had to go home.

We saw my brothers Bud and Mark, my sister-in-law Kathy, my Mom, and my niece Katie which made the day even better. I don't get to see my family nearly enough and I treasure when I am able to see them.

Now I am home again. Caleb stayed in Anacortes to attend vacation Bible school. My job today has been to clean my den from top to bottom. I need to put a couple dozen items on eBay this week and get some art cards done too. Perhaps I should turn off the computer and get to work on that.

Card of the Day

Monday, July 30, 2012

Anniversary, Downton Abbey, and Nude Cards

Caleb made a remarkable recovery from his ear/throat pain of last night and this morning. Half an hour with his ear on the heating pad and he was right as rain. He should lose a tooth tomorrow too.

We had a nice dinner at Azteca to celebrate our 18th anniversary. Jill automatically starts greeting people in Spanish. Normally the waitress will start speaking English after the first round. This time she started a full conversation with a twinkle in her eye knowing that Jill had run her limit. Jill finally had to laugh and admit she was in over her head. The rest of the night the waitress spoke English to Caleb and me but everything she said to Jill was in Spanish first and English second. It was adorable and Jill was a great sport about it.

After Jill went to bed I dived into the Downton Abbey DVDs I got from Netflix. They have been back ordered for months and I got the last 2 at the same time. I'm very happy.

I am hosting 2 artist trading card swaps. The Teen Titans swap is very small. The Artistic Nudes swap is very large. I've been getting cards from all over the world this week and most of them are fantastic.

Card of the Day: The Engineer

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Limping the Wolf Path

The swelling and most of the visible bruising on my foot is gone. That is a great thing. I can put a shoe on again. The downsides (aren't there always?) are that shoes are extremely painful and the lack of swelling has ended the dull constant ache and increased the sharp sudden ones from the bone. I'm still sitting most of the day which is driving me nuts. In spite of that I think I may be on my feet too much. I'm going to use the pedometer to gauge if I'm walking more than I think I am.

July has been a fairly relaxing month for Cub Scouts. We've had a few events but everything has been low key. The leaders need time to recharge after all. I sewed my new Wolf Den Leader patch on my uniform. Now I'm writing up the detailed meeting plans for September. Wolves are more fun than Tigers because the boys are older and can do cooler things. The first month is going to be packed with tons of stuff.

I also am teaching knotcraft at the Cub Scout Day Camp. I am supposed to teach most of the common Scouting knots (overhand, square, sheet bend, bowline, etc.) but for the Tigers I get to teach them how to sew on a button and the Wolves get to learn to tie a necktie in addition to other knots. Their requirements are based on their den handbooks. I'm also planning to have a different rope magic trick to perform each day and perhaps have a tug-of-war rope and/or jump ropes handy for when we need that break halfway.

Art Card of the Day: My new self portrait. My family thinks it might as well be a mirror it looks so much like me. :-p

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scouting Frustration

I am not gay. My son is 7 so I have no idea if he is gay. But if either of us were we would be kicked out of Cub Scouts (I'm his Wolf Den Leader). Boy Scouts of America is the largest youth organization in the world and the courts have agreed they are allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The BSA confirmed today that gays are not allowed. Their main reasoning seems to be that they don't want to expose kids to sexual issues. I can respect that reasoning but I think it is not entirely truthful.

I believe that BSA is afraid of past and future scandals involving child abuse in the organization. If they permit gay people as leaders it will look like an endorsement of man/boy love somehow and people will rise up against them. I think they are right to fear child abuse within the BSA. We have to take annual training and many layers of safeguards have been put in to avoid it. But if a den or troop leader says they are gay that doesn't make them any more likely to abuse children than if they say they are straight. If I were a pedophile and a Scout leader I would try to appear as straight as possible to prevent anyone finding out.

A better policy in my opinion would be to not discriminate based on sexual orientation, make the youth protection policy as strong as it possibly can be, and outlaw sexual discussion instead. If they are concerned about kids learning about sex because of the orientation of the leader, they must also consider heterosexuals who (I am pretty sure) have just as much sex as gay people. Should they then not allow divorced people? I'm sure some of them are divorced because of sexual infidelity after all. If leaders agreed not to talk about sex that would solve the problem...unless the goal is that Scouts are being kept from even KNOWING any gay people.

If I were bisexual, would I be banned from Scouts? I could say I'm not gay and be honest about it. (I don't honestly know the extent of their policy.)

And don't even get me started on their policy on Atheists.

I allow my child to be in Cub Scouts. Our Pack's policy is more akin to don't ask, don't tell as far as religion and sexuality go. They are happy for whatever help they can get. I allow him to be part of it because it is an excellent organization in most other respects. Caleb gets so much out of it. Someday their policy will change and I would love it if he were part of it when it did. Perhaps he will even help to change it.

Art Card of the Day

Mighty Hunter - Make It Or Break It

Mighty Hunter

My 11 year old cat Sunfire is a fat orange tabby who is able to be contained in the backyard because he is too big to jump onto the fence. Last week he caught his first bird and presented it to me in our living room. Today he dropped a rat in the exact same spot for Caleb. These are the only animals larger than a tiny tree frog that either of our cats have brought to us. I think that in his senior years Sunfire has decided to cross that "big game hunter" dream off his bucket list. :D

Make It Or Break It

I watched the ABC series "Make It Or Break It" on Netflix this week. It is the story of several elite women gymnasts as they struggle to get to the Olympics. There were a few things that bothered me but overall I really enjoyed the series.

What I liked:
A Christian character was portrayed who was not a stereotype but was genuine but also weak. Too often the Christian is played for a laugh or is the antagonist somehow. I like that she struggled with her faith and how it affected her relationships.

The actual gymnastics were fun to watch. Whoever they got as the body doubles were great.

I liked that when a character had a problem it carried through the entire series and was not wrapped up in an episode or two. One of the gymnasts breaks her back and that affected everything she did right and the choices she made right up until the end.

One of the actresses got pregnant and they wrote it into the show. They dealt with the issue of abortion in a way that I haven't seen since "Rhoda" way back in the 70s. It was frank and honest and the struggle between terminating the pregnancy or the dream of Olympic gold was well played out.

What I did not like:
One of the gymnasts is the bad girl of the group. I don't mind that but until the 3rd season every word that came out of her mouth was designed to hurt someone or play an angle or get her way. She was played so much to stereotype that there was nothing to love about her. Unfortunately she was best friends with two of the other lead characters and I found myself wondering why they didn't kick her to the curb years ago. No one would ever want to be friends with her.

That girl did something that humiliated her best friend and got their beloved coach fired. The story was played up over the course of most of the series. When it is finally revealed that she was responsible the humiliated girl forgives her on the spot. That wasn't at all realistic to me. This may have been because the last season was cut to only 8 episodes and the plot needed quick resolution.

The shortened season was the other thing I didn't like. It was rushed as the girls attempt to qualify for the Olympics. New characters were introduced and most of the parents cut from the show but there was little time to explore the new characters. One of the new gymnasts was very interesting and while they did a good job on her story given the time they had I think a full season would have been better for her story. The series ends with the revelation of who made the Olympic team and who didn't. We never learn how they do. That may be a good ending or not depending on your point-of-view.

Lego Help Needed

For the last few days I have been building a Lego community of sorts. It has a central lawn that is 2 x 2 feet. Along one edge is a house. Another edge has 2 houses and the third has a larger community center building. The final side is bordered by a large lake. Every house has its own parking spot. The yard is designed to be communal for all the residents.

There is a large grill, a fire pit, a treehouse, a half court basketball court, a sandbox, a dock, a lily pond with frogs, a flower garden, a small island perfect for diving into the lake, a large picnic table, a set of lawn chairs and table, a few trees, surfboards (on a lake?) and a remote control toy car. The community center has a rooftop garden, a picnic table, and an area for the rock band I'm going to eventually build.

Any ideas on what else to add? If this were your commune, what would you want?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Settlers, Tickets, China and Russia visit

Today was pretty awesome. My sister-in-law Jill visited. She teaches in China since there are few jobs for teachers here in the states. We get to see her about twice a year and always play Settlers of Catan. She is a shark at that game and continued her winning streak today. We also played the Lego Ninjago board game which was a lot of fun. We downed about 70 strawberries from the garden and had a real good talk. I miss her a lot and wish she could move back home.

After sister-in-law Jill left, Caleb, wife Jill and I played Ticket to Ride for the first time. Caleb played with his cards face up so we could help him but he picked up the rules way faster than we thought he would. This game was extremely fun and we are going to make it a regular part of our game rotation.

Unfortunately I hurt my foot a bit more today. Caleb accidentally kicked the broken toe. It was entirely my fault. I had braced my foot under his chair while we were playing Settlers and he swung his foot back and got me. A couple of hours later I was going into the kitchen and turned my foot, dropping a lot of weight on that side of my foot. A few new bruises have risen and the pain is about as bad as day 2.

The Lego commune is coming along pretty nicely. Today I added a very cool treehouse, a campfire, and a tree shaded area for people to sit in lawn chairs.

The Galaxy Scouts book is crawling along. I wanted to hand write the dialogue and it is proving to be very time consuming.

I'm not sure why but half my views this week have come from Russia. If you are from Russia, leave a comment. :D

Card of the Day: Typewriter

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Healing Creativity Time

I am in the enviable position of having my son visiting his grandparents in Anacortes for 4 days and me not being in a well enough condition to have to mow the lawn while he is gone. My foot remains a sore subject. Ba dum dum.


Before he left Caleb and I began working on a grand new Lego project. We are building a sort of commune. I was inspired by a friend's Facebook post a couple of days ago. There is a large field with three small houses and one long utility building for everyone to share. It is bordered on one side by a lake. There will be room for a small farm, a half basketball court, a fire pit, a tree house, and a large communal lawn for the kids to play. On the street will be a fruit/vegetable stand. I don't have a Lego goat or chickens so I may have to abstract those. It isn't big enough for a cow or horse or polar bear to be comfortable.


So during my time without Caleb I am going to do as little walking and standing as possible. I will use the time to heal and be creative. I will draw like crazy to progress on "Galaxy Scouts." I will build Legos and watch DVDs. The only job I'm forcing myself to do is the laundry because it is driving me nuts having so much of it.


I have 24 DVDs in my queue. 12 of them have short to very long waits. Has Netflix run out of videos?

Drawing of the Day: TIE fighter

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

I have a garden. I find it relaxing and fresh treats at the table are always welcome. Right now the carrots are starting to poke their greens up (after 3 attempts to grow) and the peas are growing nicely. The cauliflower and spinach are coming along well and lettuce I didn't plant has come in, possibly from a previous year.

I've been growing strawberries for 5 years in a 4 foot square garden box on the north side of the house. As the years have passed trees have cut out the sunlight there and what were once prosperous bushes were all but useless last year. I started a new box last year on the south side of the house with some transplants some friends gave me. We didn't get a lot of fruit from them, which was expected since they were transplanted just before they were due to flower. This spring I moved the northern strawberry plants into the new box and into 4 square feet of the box full of leaf vegetables. The size was amazing. The old plants were 1/3 the size of the transplants and I feared they might not survive at all. Fast forward a couple of months and the northern plants have doubled in size and we have started to come in strawberries.

Our garden now has 20 square feet of strawberry plants. Today we pulled 90 strawberries and added them to the 120 we had picked already. Probably 50 more have been eaten by bugs and birds. We are probably about 1/2 way through the harvest. So far on average the garden has produced 210 edible strawberries or about 10 1/2 per square foot.

Next spring I am going to invite the Cub Scouts to take over my garden boxes, planting what they want, weeding, watering, and harvesting for their own families with us taking as share as well. Every year we have some that grow great and many that don't. I would love to have a full garden with everything growing in huge numbers.

The garden currently has 4 boxes and two deeper planters (for the carrots)totaling 66 square feet. Next year the plan is to try and double that.

Book Update
I finished writing the script of the comic today. The title is "The Galaxy Scouts and the Night of the BazOOmabOOs." It is an adventure comic for kids and will be 64 pages. The main character designs are finalized. I need to do some character sheets for the BazOOmabOOs and an alien and then I can get to drawing the comic.

Card of the Day - Bachelor Buttons

Monday, July 9, 2012

Life Drawing and Lessons in Pain

I decided today that I really need to get into a life drawing class at some point. I have reached a plateau in drawing and while they are a lot of fun the size of the art cards is limiting me. I need to move from small to large. The problem is that classes run from $25 an hour and up in this area. I can go a certain distance by people watching but I don't self teach particularly well. I also tend to insulate myself from outside critique, which is generally not useful.

It was suggested by a friend that I could host drawing sessions at my house, charge $10 per person to pay for a model (or seek volunteers) and go from there. I'm not sure if I have the connections to set that up. I would need several artists to make it worth while and contacts with willing models. It would end up being like a writing group as far as education. I'll have to mull it over. If you are an artist in the Mill Creek area who would be interested in something like that let me know.

I felt really good when I woke up this morning. My foot is sore but I didn't need the cane most of the day. I got some work done. I played games with my son. I watched part of a Harry Potter movie.

But somehow all the little things that didn't bother me glommed together into one big ache in the toe. I'm barely walking at this point. The ice is helping. The pain killers I can take in another hour will help even more. I need to learn the lesson that pain is the body's way to telling you to take it easy.

Card of the Day: Moaning Myrtle

Sunday, July 8, 2012

the Sun and the Nudes and the Drawings

Today was all about relaxing. I kept my foot rested and iced. The swelling has gone down and the purple has come out. A fair trade I believe.

I spent about half an hour napping in the sun in just a pair of shorts and a sleeping mask. Too bad the shorts are mandatory in our society. Our neighbor sunbathes nude. I discovered this when I tried to return a tool without calling first last month. He was cool with it. His yard is completely enclosed in trees so he has a reasonable expectation of privacy. I don't. If I had my druthers I would probably just wear shoes and socks most of the time anyway. Clothes are annoying.

I've been doing more and more nude art lately. I've been drawing people since I was in 4th grade but always in a comic book or cartoon style. I've been trying to get more realistic poses and proportions. So far I've drawn 3 males and 4 females. These have all been from photo references from stock websites or from my imagination. I would love to be in a class with live models. I would probably have to draw in something larger than a baseball card for those though.

Once I finish the Galaxy Scouts comic book I'm going to put my mind to some larger life drawing projects just to improve my skill.

In order to keep the blog family friendly I'll point you toward my gallery.

Card of the Day

A Wager

I tend to get more done when I have something at stake. My friend Nate has been working on a novel for a long time and is trying to wrap up the editing so we agreed on a date in August as the final date. As an incentive he agreed to a most horrible punishment should he fail to meet the date.

He will have to watch a Bob Sagat comedy special. True punishment indeed.

But then I thought that wasn't fair. I have been wanting to draw a 64 page comic book for years now. I decided to take the same bet. I've been drawing on and off all month but I haven't been able to find the character design I'm really interested in. Then it hit me! Back when I worked at KB Toys I bought a bunch of Bendos figures and they are perfect as a starting place for my design. There was a lot of tweaking but the initial sketches are promising.

I've admit I've been procrastinating actually writing the thing. I know what I want. It will be only slightly more mature than Captain Underpants.

This morning I was wasting some time doing manual labor. I had to disassemble the Cub Scout Pack's Independence Day parade float. Everything was going swimmingly until a sheet of plywood slipped out of my hand and landed corner first on my big toe. Yup. Broken. I'm off my feet for the foreseeable future. But I wrote the first 1/4 of the book throughout the day. So maybe the fates perspired against me once again.

Here is my art card of the day. I'm going to try to put out one piece a day. They have been created over several years. Cheers.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


All the ducks are in a row now. Nice little ducks. I closed my dreamhost account because I simply wasn't using it. I renewed my url for 3 years using some of the credit I got for closing the other account. After about 2 days it points to this new blog.

So what will I use it for? It is an all purpose blog that I will mirror on Facebook. I will show off new art cards as I finish them. I will probably share some Cub Scout ideas and other things I pick up from around the web. To celebrate the new blog, here are some artist trading cards I've completed recently. To see my entire collection, including the artistic nudes which I can't post here due to TOS please visit