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I have just returned from Manuel’s, a restaurant and cantina in easy walking distance, after a hugely entertaining discussion with a man who hired me to illustrate his poetry, and was magnaminous enough to permit me to use the images he got from me though he owns them outright.

His name is Bernard Schober. The Valley poetry scene knows him as The Klute. He is so interested in sharks and their place in the Universe that he goes to see them in Fiji and other habitats, caging himself when necessary. His enthusiasm about these unique creatures lights him up–when the talk turned to Guitar Sharks and the way their teeth form an amazing pattern, he almost fell over himself getting an image on his smartphone and showing me.

Good for him. He is spreading truth about these much-maligned creatures in his poetry. The illustration that heads this post concerns an Israeli shark whose white-topped dorsal fin is remindful of a yarmulke. His poem put to rest the vile canard that the shark was deliberately placed in Egyptian waters by Israel to wreak havoc. The illustration makes a lot more sense with the poem than without it. That’s the delight of collaboration.

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In his poem “The Hunt” he compares the hunt for prey with the hunt for a mate among the black tip sharks.

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Another poem explores Commensalism, the biological arrangement between creatures of different species for mutual benefit. Great Whites get along win-winningly with three such creatures.

Bernard and I talked also about more poems to illustrate up the road. He’s also thinking of a children’s book. I hope we do more of this stuff, and soon!

 

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SHARKS: Poet and shark enthusiast Bernard Schober, whose nom de guerre is The Klute, has in the last five weeks commissioned me to illustrate four poems of his. I put the finishing touches on the last of them yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll hand over the originals and be handed payment of two kinds. I’m quite grateful for the work, and tickled that I got to be Ralph Steadman to his Hunter S. Thompson. (Not that I have exclusive Steadmanship; he has other Steadmans on call, including our superhero friend Russ “Speed Cameron” Kazmierczak.) I worked really hard on these drawings, and a big motivator was a wish to match the quality of the poetry.

SHANKS: “Shank’s Mare” is another way of saying “on foot.” I now own a Fitbit, a device that records and stores my steps per day along with other biometrics.

THANKS: My daughter Kate gave me an early Father’s Day gift in the form of an all-day pass to ComiCon Phoenix on Sunday, the 30th of May. The cake for that icing was that she and I got a lot of quality time together, including eats and a DVD afterward. She is great comic-convention, meal and movie company, and my gratitude to her for that special day continues.

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HANKS: I now own the DVD of ROAD TO PERDITION, and this morning watched it, freezing the frame now and then to sketch the principals, including Tom Hanks, who got first billing. I am warming up for my next post. Please stay tuned!

We are well into the days of 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit, here in the Valley of the Sun. Consequently, after I walk home the half mile or so from the bus stop after a workday of being on my feet from early morning to midafternoon, my usual action upon arriving home is to get down to my underthings and fall down on the mattress on my bedroom floor. More often than not there will be fitful napping.

Another consequence, I hope a temporary one, is a falling-off of creative production. This is the first blog post in several days.

The images presented in this post reflect these consequences, and the frustration on not having my creative engine on the high idle I like. But the second image hints that the pendulum may be on the upswing.

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This is “Indecisiveness.” There is a manifold panel of unwritten possibilities that impedes vision and action.

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This is “Ownership.” The figure on the right may be the owner, or the figure on the left may be owning a dysfunctional scenario, or the dwellinglike structure in the middle may be imposing its insensate ownership on its occupants–or the artist may be owning up to something in his murky past. The drawing began with the middle structure, using a carpenter’s pencil that enabled checkerboarding in single strokes.

I know a goddess. That sounds presumptuous or delusional, I know. But there is a goddess in human form who walks the portion of the earth known as the Valley of the Sun, and it has been my honor to spend some time with her.

Her hegemony in the pantheon of personifications is Pattern. Of the more than 37,000 images in her smartphone, never mind her thumbdrives and computers, many of them reveal something mortals such as myself usually miss. Some day, if you are lucky, you will visit a museum to see the latest collection of astonishing images she has compiled. I will not deprive you of the “shock of the new” thrill you will get by posting any of what she has done here.

Many people can say that they have had a sonnet written about them. She has had at least two, done today, and the day is far from over. Here is the non-acrostic one:

Pattern Goddess

A Goddess strolls the earth in human form.
Her bailiwick is Pattern—its discernment,
Appropriateness, shift, free flow or storm;
Disorder’s secret orderly internment.

A lizard’s swept his tailtip through the dust.
The goddess reconstructs the “crime” (it’s not
A crime at all: he’s doing what he must)
And wishes Brother Lizard all he’d sought.

Awareness of her Earthly limitations
Enhances her awareness of the lunar
And its ellipsoid mood-shift imitations,
For Mood is Pattern too, and she’ll attune her

Sensorium to guide her through each strait, sure
To hone her stewardship of Unforced Nature.

Those last two words–“Unforced Nature”–well describe her interaction with the environment. She visits but does not impose beyond the level of rubbing a leaflet to get its scent, as she did on a hiking venture I asked her to include me in, so that I could see through her eyes. We did two hikes that day, and between hikes I did a two-minute drawing of her hand. Later she disclosed that while she liked ladybugs, “it is the cute & curious jumping spider that really calls my name.” So I finished the drawing, with either fakery or “artistry” depending on who you talk to, and included a hand-evoking jumping spider:

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There is also her hand, holding an alginate CAST of her hand, in the circle on the life-modeled hand. Such is her influence that I am more aware of the pattern inherent in motif.

Here is the second, acrostic sonnet:

pattern goddess

paved parking lots have rendered her agog
piled branches give her thrill and chill and zing
a shadow stripéd path’s a travelog
and cracks evoke the dynasty of Ming. o
to be a light-ensorcelled see-er, led
through labyrinths of fractals on a strand
then dot-connect, dispelling woe and dread
the message clarifies and takes a hand
eureka! (“I have found it!”) word or phrase
epiphanatic—it’s the Great Because.
regardful of the Moon, she marks her days
refractively—reflecting what she does.
new wisdom of her making aids our Gnosis.
no wonder she’s attained Apotheosis.

And here is my portrait of her, based on a photo I took of her at dusk during a subsequent outing:

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Somehow, almost against my will, a cat snuck into the drawing. (Sylvia does cohabit with three cats. I haven’t met them.) The Moon over the cat’s ear is easy to understand, though. Sylvia keeps track of moonrises and moonsets, and occasionally informs her friends of ideal viewing times.

I do not Live Each Day As If It Were My Last. As mentioned before, I’d be a weeping mess, shrieking that I didn’t want to die, if I did. But every visit with Sylvia, I treat as if it were my last. A, you never know; B, you just don’t take a Goddess for granted, Friends. 🙂

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Our server Chelsea warmed my old man’s heart not long after she started working with us. It was a particularly busy day, and we were up to our patooties in alligators trying to keep up, and as always, everyone had a plane to catch and needed to be sat to eat NOW. So I was in overdrive, doing dignity-free bussing, bobbing and weaving, seating, wiping tables, saying Hello to the invading hordes and Thank You to the satisfied pussycats on their way out. Toward the end of the day Chelsea said three words to me that everyone I can think of loves to hear, as long as their name and not mine is the first word: “Gary, you’re amazing.” Well, so are you, my friend.

Here are the words to the double acrostic. As I indicate in the image, I’m grateful to Joni Mitchell, who wrote “Chelsea Morning” more than four decades ago. I have it playing in my head this very minute. And I am grateful that titles of creative work are not subject to copyright. “Chelsea” is seven letters long, and so is “Morning,” and “Morning” has an O in it, which enables me to rhyme-cheat a little.

clock in at dawn a. m
how Diners haw & hem–O
extracting wishes for
lean lusciousness this morn
see someone fine as Princess Di
ethereal as she’s benign
and Time is worth the whiling/when teaming brings the smiling

My old man’s paternalistic, patronizing, mansplaining awfulself comes up with this additional description, which is patently unfair: “She’s a good kid.” No. She’s a fine person, appreciative and kind.

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My vacation, which started a week ago and ends at 6AM Thursday morning, has seen some really hard work and really fun play. Yesterday was hard work: I helped my brother Brian set up his yard sale, and that involved heavy lifting and moving of dozens of items, including one of the biggest pre-flat-screen TVs ever made. About nine hours later all unsold items, including that honker of a TV, and display apparatus, including a long, heavy, falling-apart table about as heavy as the TV, had to be re-stashed. Wisely, Brian had me put the table where it could be conveniently taken to the alley for bulk trash pickup.

So today my back and legs are sore but my brain is fresh as a daisy, thanks to a long and heavy series of sleeps, commencing at 7:30 PM and continuing through the night. And for the first time in quite a while I felt like doing some hard brainwork/artwork/ acrostification in the service of portraiture. I’d just watched THE FOUNDER, the story of Ray Kroc’s discovery and gradual appropriation of the McDonald brothers’ revolutionary fast food method. It is more fascinating and horrifying to watch than a train wreck. And yet again I was left with an admiration of Michael Keaton’s skill and versatility.

I went a day overdue returning THE FOUNDER to Redbox, and it may take yet another day, and another $1.62 down the drain. I’ve been sketching, not only Keaton, but others involved in this incredible movie, and I’ve yet to do Jeremy Renner, actor turned producer, and Laura Dern, whom I also admire, who plays Kroc’s first wife, and gives an outstanding performance as a strong, supportive woman who was exploited, neglected, taken for granted, and ultimately cast aside. She will go next to Michael, smaller but with more time taken to get her right.

And then there is the acrostic. I’ve met the challenge of making MICHAEL the same length as KEATON, by conjoining the A and E in a way we don’t often see any more. I think the poem will be iambic, because I’ve had much more experience with iambic versifying than any other meter, and I will need all the help I can get with this one, since I intend to make each line of exactly equal character length, as befits a “true” acrostic, unlike the cheats I usually do. That is why the area between MICHAEL and KEATON is gridded. (Hint to aspiring acrostifiers: Microsoft Excel is a good place to do double-or-more acrostic construction. Format the cells to be of equal length and width, put your acrostics in the first and last columns, give yourself plenty of in-between columns, and hack away. NOTE: An easy way to add columns is hot-keying Control-Plus; subtracting, Control-Minus.)

But “Aesop,” the most familiar and least confusing of the AE possibilities, is trochaic, not iambic. But “Aesopian” IS iambic, and so one minor hurdle is jumped. There will be many others, especially since I stuck “batman” in there, in lower-case incognity.

Is this hard work or hard play? It is both. Please stay tuned!

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Just a hair shy of a week ago I was at an art show opening, in the glorious company of my friends Sylvia Frost and Clottee Hammons, enjoying the artwork of our friend Rafael Navarro. A lady there whom I had just met talked of one of Rafa’s sculptures that incorporated a school of fish. I told her I’d done some fish too, and showed her a drawing of a lionfish I had made.

We also talked about printmaking and I mentioned that I had done an intaglio etching of a fish. Somewhere I made the commitment to post that print on my blog within a week. The deadline looms, but this fulfills the commitment.