Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The REAL Swine Flu

Talk about a SWINE FLU!

 I am talking about the Republican and Conservative virus bubbling and spewing, even while much of the rest of the world tries to progress out of the hole they have been digging for decades. 

Hate hate hate. Look in the damned mirror, will you please? You kiss your children with that scowl of a mouth? For a bunch of "religious" folk, you sure smell like the devil to me! 

Please consider Matthew 25. This is true RELIGION. Not the bastard mutant sucking the life out of the poor, casting judgement upon everyone but the caster. Not the violent, hateful cancer that has grown upon this earth. But real religion, spoken from the words of the man himself. 
Pay attention!!

 31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

 44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."


....and Obama is the antichrist for trying to feed the hungry and clothe the naked? ... and Republicans and Conservatives are righteous because they try to preserve the wealth of the rich and cast the first stones? How did this get so backward? I mean, seriously. Backward. Flipped. Opposite. Calling the light dark and the dark light. . .    

                                                                 ... oh. 

Greg and Jesse in NY

Look out. 

The Chess Rumble crew is coming once again to the city to stir things up. If you are going to be in NY the last week of May and want to check us out, check back for a schedule. We will be doing at least one signing at Hue Man bookstore in Harlem, so come say hey in person.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The UNEDITED Book Talk with Jesse Joshua Watson

My answers for I AND I - Bob Marley "Book Talk" on the Lee & Low website were edited pretty severely and so I wanted to post the original answers for my people to get the full thoughts.

 Q: Does Bob Marley’s music have special meaning to you?  What have you learned from his music? 

A: I first heard Marley’s music when I was around 12 years old and it opened my eyes in a way I had never experienced. I became an instant devotee. And while I love and listen to so many other reggae artists as well, his music always holds a very special place.  I learn from Bob’s songs all the time. I am reminded of the pursuit of righteousness and the never-ending fight against injustice. I learn about the glories of Africa and the ancient history of Ethiopia. I learn what it means to suffer and fight against the system.  I learn about the indestructible spirit of the poor and “helpless” and the movement of Jah people. I am inspired to do good works and live my life for others more than my selfish ambitions. I learn of the heroes forgotten by the history books. And I learn about how in all things, we give thanks and praises to the Most High.


 Q: What was the biggest challenge in creating I and I Bob Marley?

 A: An early challenge in I AND I was to find out how to condense a lifetime of admiration into 40 pages. I had to decide what to include and what to omit. And then, I wanted to include visual themes that would be developed through the entire book.


As far as the depiction of Jamaica itself, I was very conscientious to remember the feeling of coming from a grey, cold Pacific Northwest into the sweltering color of the Caribbean. I walked off the plane into a wall of heat. The sun is so much more intense near the equator that the colors are all that much more saturated than way up north, where I live. My eyes will never forget the colors of Jamaica. I did my best to bring it to the book so that those readers who have not had the treat of visiting yet will get a taste of the real thing.


In this realistic style of illustration, I take photographs of ****** to work from in my paintings. And since Bob is not with us in flesh for me to photograph, I had to get creative. I used two ******, one for young Bob and one for the older Bob. However, since everybody knows what he looks like so well, I had to find a way of getting the face to look just like Bob did through these different stages of his life. That was a very challenging task. There are so few photographs of him as a young boy and teenager that it made my job extra tough. Yet, I am so happy with the results and some of those pieces are among my very favorite in the book.


 Q: It’s been almost 20 years since Bob Marley died. How has the world changed? How is it still the same?

A: Doesn’t it seem like Bob knew what was coming? I definitely consider him a prophet for all people. Those who can hear, let them hear - The voice of one calling in the wilderness.


We have grown closer as a planet, through media and technology and we have made great strides. But we are still plagued by so many of the same problems Bob fought during his life.


Racism has been a part of our lives and continues to persist. The election of a black president in America is a great step but it does not mean there is not still a very serious condition under the surface. Every country has its own struggle to see past color, creed and caste. Our beautiful children may be able to kill this beast once and for all, but it will require those of us who are the older generation to release them from our grip; from our prejudices, our bitterness, our dogma, our grudges inherited from our parents. Let’s not pass that burden on to our children.


Greed and oppression are also as prevalent as ever before. In fact, it seems that corporate injustice has even gotten worse. In light of the recent banking quagmire, I feel like most people see the financial institutions as oppressors. They beg handouts from the governments and then turn around and cause the people to suffer even more, while they bask in their wealth. But as Bob has reminded us over and over again: If you are the big tree, we are the small ax, sharpened to cut you down, ready to cut you down.

Q: Why do you think Bob Marley’s story is an important one for children to learn?

A: Children in every country on earth can look to Bob and take heart that no matter how hard your living is, no matter how unimportant you may feel, you are unique and mighty and you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Just look at Bob. A smart person would have written him off as just a tiny, poor, country kid without a chance. He had way too many roadblocks; no education, no money, no hope of escaping the cycle of poverty. And yet he climbed to the pinnacle of fame. But not by wanting to be famous! He didn’t let that desire overcome his mission to bring love and justice to the people of the world. Obviously he was just a man and had many flaws, some of them glaring. However, like all of our greatest heroes his story is one of passion and determination. His message fits more perfectly into our world now than ever before, making him our very own humble prophet.


Q: Are there particular challenges to illustrating a book largely about music – translating or connecting something auditory to something visual?

 A: Yes, that is a challenge that comes with visually depicting somebody we are all used to hearing. I have enjoyed finding ways of bringing out the musical character of artists I have portrayed for years in my fine art. This book shares a lot of that. When you get a likeness of a person down but miss the spirit of that person then the work feels hollow. I need a painting to encompass the musician more, bringing the spirit of their music and message to the canvas somehow. It begins to not only look like that person but to become them. I see my duty as being similar to shaman’s in a way. I take a piece of art and I breathe a heartbeat into it. If I do my job well the viewer can hear the music coming from the painting sitting on a wall. It dances. It has life within. And this is maybe my highest calling as an artist.

 Q: What about Bob Marley’s life intrigues you the most?

 A: I am intrigued by Bob’s journey of faith. He seemed to be on a lifelong search for a father. He preached about the black king he found in Ras Tafari/ Haile Selassie, whom he adopted as a father figure. When Selassie was killed, one can observe such a conflict within Bob. It must have been like the crisis that the disciples of Jesus faced when he was killed.  It was during that time that he wrote one of my favorite Marley songs ever, “Jah Live”; a beautiful and heartbreaking song about his undying faith in the person of Ras Tafari.

Bob was not particular to one specific faction of Rastafari, like the Bobo Ashanti or Nyabinghi or Twelve Tribes. He was able to bridge the gap between them all.

Then there was a gradual evolution in Bob’s faith. He went from worshipping Selassie as the second coming of Jesus and in fact as God, to following Haile Selassie’s own direction denouncing emperor worship, instead worshiping God alone. Shortly before his death, Bob was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, taking the name Berhane Selassie, which means “light of the trinity.” Bob’s mother revealed that his last words were “Jesus take me.”

In my heart I believe that Bob found the father he was looking for all of his life in the Father of life. I believe I will see Bob one day with my own eyes and I will thank him for what he has given me. Jah live! Children, Yeah!


 Q: Many different artists have depicted Bob Marley in their work over the years. How did the abundance of other artwork inspired by Marley make it harder or easier to work on this book?

 A: To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I looked at a single piece of anyone else’s artwork of Bob Marley during this entire process. I don’t like to be influenced, even subconsciously when I have a task to do like this one. Of course I have seen art around over the years, but I just did my thing. This book is something I have been training to do my whole life. The many paintings I have done of Bob over the years must be smiling from their art collectors’ walls at this book. It feels like a culmination of twenty+ years of practice. And it really is just nothing but love. They say to paint what you love. This is what I love.


 Q: Any last thoughts? 

A: I am very grateful to have been a part of creating this book. With so much commercial pillaging of sacred things, I am proud to say that this book has none of that. The author and I are lifelong fans of the music of Bob Marley and we have abounding admiration and praise for the man. There is a deep connection in this artwork that comes from time I have spent in Jamaica, my Jamaican friends, my Rasta people and from this musical form that has helped raise me into a man. I am stronger because of reggae music and the culture of Rastafari, which I admire so deeply. I fight against the system of oppression and have since I was a teenager because of the empowering lyrics carried to the world through reggae music and through Bob Marley. And if I can leave one message myself, it is that I desire the youth to be wise and strong and to never grow feint of heart but press on to the mountaintop. The darker the night, the brighter the dawn that is coming! One bright morning, when my work is over I will fly away home!





Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hank Zipzer in progress

Working on this book cover. Thought I would take pics along the way. 

First there is the sketch which was done with pencil on paper, but in various stages, and on various papers. I will scan in a separate drawing of the dog or of one of the characters, leaving them all in layers in a photoshop document. Then I ge
t to continually adapt my sketch depending on how the different elements are working together. In this case, none of us liked the two characters on the bottom right of the page, so we are leaving them out in the final. The face of Hank was good from the first sketch I submitted, and I want to preserve the elation in his expression. One thing that happens during the process sometimes is that you end up drawing the same face so many times it becomes a little stiff. Luckily
, that did not happen this time. 

I sanded the gessoed illustration board (probably three layers or so...I like it very smooth for these types of cover illustrations), then projected the approved pencil sketch to scale on the surface.  Then I did a light wash of Sap Green over everything. Dont quite know why I picked that color, but I did it for one of the pieces in the BOB book and it turned out with this really nice depth to it. I think I chose Sap Green because of th
at unmistakeable feeling you get in the south or the east coast during a hot summer. This lush, thick green that is just overpowering. I am sensing it in this piece now, as I get closer to being finished so I am stoked it worked out. I also like Ultramarine Blue and Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and even a Cad Red. Depends on the final mood of the piece. If I want to kick it in a certain direction nice and early, this is one way to really expedite that. Get it all early summery feeling from the beginning. 

Then begins the process of layers. "The magic of layers," as I tell my painting students constantly. Nothing but time spent filling in the shapes and building up the highlights and shadows. Not too technical or tricky or even difficult. Just takes work and patience. 

Next step is the T-shirt, the buildings and the pants. Once the layers on those are starting to shape up, then back to the face and the skin, and then back to the buildings,.... 
...and on and on and on and on. 

OK, now I am done with the last Hank Zipzer book. Well, at least I think I am. I emailed the jpeg to the boss (bosses) and we will see. 

Peace Out, Hank. You've been a blast, kid!

This year's Chair Affair

 Here is my"Chair Affair" art chair for this year's auction to raise money for art in the schools. 

It has become a sculpture/painted piece, complete with some wax and a few mags. 

The front desk surface is a scene of Sunset Cliffs in SD, while the front and back of the rest is of our own Pacific Northwest. 

Monday, April 06, 2009

Buffalo and Ice Cream

I think we need to get the leaders of the world together for some Elevated Ice Cream and a ride on the wooden Buffalo. If T and F can work it out, then the rest of us are in pretty good shape. 

$500 worth the ride?

Is it really worth snapping a nice new $500 board? 

Oh HELL yeah!

(ok, it wasn't me, and it wasn't my board.... but the answer is still always yes.)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Blissful Surf, NOwhere near Washington State

Beautiful day. Beautiful family. Beautiful life. 
Thank you God. 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I AND I in hand

My lovely editor took a moment away from her schedule of prenatal vitamins and red pens to send me an advanced copy of the Bob Marley book. Not the F&G's or the proofs but an actual, real life bound book. 
I am so happy with this book. 
I feel like I won the freakin lottery when I look at this. 

Help me get the word out on this book.


Improving Your Art

While doing a presentation recently I said some things that apparently came out of my subconscious. 

Most of the voices I hear are in the well recognized and overwhelmingly unhelpful form of self doubt, depression, paranoia, ruminations, and that type of junk. But occasionally I will hear ideas escape my lips that my brain had not arranged ahead of time. That sort of thing comes out with great confidence, like unintentionally blurting out something you well know the answer to. You don't have to think about it, you just let it fly. 

My epiphany, which may sound like an obvious conclusion to you, was that the single most important difference between my art before and my art in the last ten years is this: stubborn persistence. No brainer, eh? Well, for whatever reason and maybe because my dad is an artist, but I guess I assumed that if you are an artist, your art will just flow out of you in a perfect finished state. Just like Matisse. (I guess I forgot that Matisse had been making art for like eight hundred years!)

I painted tons of stuff as a teenager but I guess I was lazy. I expected my art to come out right. It was all One-Take. If it didn't turn out how I liked it right out of the chute, I would throw it away and feel bad about myself. I did a couple great pieces but for the most part my work was mediocre. Or worse.

Perhaps all life's problems and pain have simply made me a stubborn, grumpy bastard, but I just do not take no for an answer nowadays. If a painting looks like crap, I will just work even harder trying to pull it around. I still have paintings doomed from conception that I end up abandoning and painting over the top of. But I have found that if I suck at drawing or painting something in particular, I no longer avoid it. Hands, for example. When I started doing illustration, Art Directors probably wondered why my characters were always turned just so that you could not see their hands... or why so many of them were wearing baseball mitts. Now, when I see something that is really hard to do I just do it a lot. I do it until I get results I am looking for. Hands are still hard, but after doing a hundred, it gets a little easier. After a thousand, it might start being effortless. 

Visual art is no different in this regard than Theatre, Dance, Music, Sport. It requires practice. It requires sweat and time. There is no SKIP button. Just like my dad told me when I was fifteen and seventeen and twenty and twenty six and twenty nine. sigh. Now nearly an old man, I understand.