the Spinablog

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So far the Spinablog has created 19 blog entries.

100 Years of Wrigley Field

By |August 1st, 2015|Syndicated Content|

100 Years of Wrigley FieldLast year, but I’m catching up on the blogging.

Here’s what we’ve got:

1. An overview of the stadium, circa maybe 1995.
2. Mordecai Brown.
3. A depiction of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Because why not.

My friend Kevin Sherrington, a sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News, made up the expression, “It’s snowing like a Mordecai.” I do not think, as of this writing, that said expression has gained any traction whatsoever. Anywhere.

I exaggerated the flatness of Mr. Brown’s features upon his face because that is what illustrators and artists do. Exaggerate. And the Whales cap. Gotta like that. I’ll bet cash money Ebbets Field Flannels carries that hat, and I swear I haven’t checked. Note also the buttoned-up guaranteed scratchy collared jersey. My brother and I rejected approximately 137,583 sweaters and other potential back-to-school articles of clothing with the assertion that they were scratchy. Worked every time. And yet we wore out Little League jerseys, worn scratchy by a full generation of my home town having washed them as harshy as possible. Imagine all that.

I went for an early High School art class vibe to the historical panorama of the trigger event for WW1. Based on (somewhat) more realistic artistic accounts from that time. You can imagine the Archduke making arch comments to the dude with the pistol.

And the background colors tie together the overlapping foreground graphic elements.

Ah, the Formosa…

By |November 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Elvis’s favorite Hollywood hangout. U2’s, too. And one of mine.

A youngish woman wearing a Chinatown dress, trying to capture some of that 1950s idea of Chinese cuisine.

The sign, visible through the blinds. Money left on the table. A very foregrounded martini. The red banquettes. The hipster dude with two-toned wingtips and hat with upturned bill.

The wall of black and white autographed head shots.

It’s cinematic.

I was really exploring my own version of a naive folk style of representation. Real life anecdote: I was showing my portfolio to the head of an ad agency, back when people did that. I was suppoed to meet with the head creative director but he was busy meeting some deadline so they shunted me off to the guy who’s name was on the masthead, so to speak. The founder of the firm. The oldest guy in the joint. A guy who, he told me, had his eye on the exits, career-wise.

I brought the actual painting because an art director friend told me I shiould do some of that, so they could really feel the texture. I pulled it out first, mainly so it didn’t get damaged by the other cards in the portfolio. I started showing him various styles and various projects that I had assembled and he nodded a lot and had a kind of ‘let’s just get this over with air’ about him.

And then, halfway in, so after about 15 minutes, his face lights up and he smiles.

He says, “Steve, when you first pulled that painting out I thought oh no, this is an absolute and complete waste of my time. That this guy doesn’t have the basic artistic skill to do anything. That someone should tell him this before he goes too far down this road. And as I saw your other work my eyes kept going back to the martinin paintiing. And now that I’ve been sneaking looks at it for all this time it just clicked. It’s now my favorite of your images. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the best images I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

And of course I smiled from ear to ear.

Unfortunately he retired less than six weeks later.

Vanguard Night

By |September 13th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Hallowed ground. Best, most quintessential jazz club in the world. Sunday night haunt when I (not coincidentally) lived a hundred sixty yards from there.

And I’ve depicted some aspect of the Vanguard before, in a large 3D construction currently residing in Nashville, in my children’s book, in my Coltrane painting.

I wanted to capture some of the atmosphere of the Vanguard at night, with a show about to happen. People waiting outside. Other musicians hovering about. Traffic. Rivoli Pizza. Mmmmmmm......

I had taken a photo of the guy with the sax in a case, dialing his cell phone a few years back. I knew he needed to be there. I have a thing for cabs. I love the yellows. And the brick buildings in the Village, love those reds and oranges and pinks and ambers. The awning, the front doors - fire engine red. I like the pattern that the subway grates create. And the iconic neon sign. They replaced the sign with a brand spankin’ new one about five years ago but I went with the corroded, rusty old classic.

Since it’s night there kind of a blue tint all over.

If you’ve never been you really should just clomp down those narrow stairs and soak up some jazz saturated oxygen down there.

Rock ‘n Roll 7-11

By |July 21st, 2013|Uncategorized|

Back when I lived in L.A. people had nicknames for things like Ralph’s (grocery stores) and 7-11 (convenience stores.) There was a retro Ralph’s, a red Ralph’s, a renovated Ralph’s and a rundown Ralph’s. Yes, they all had to start with an “R”.

And in the cheaper section of Hollywood, where a lot of aspiring rock and rollers lived, sharing rents and taking day gigs while working toward that big break in the music biz, there was a 7-11 everybody knew as the Rock ‘n Roll 7-11.

This 7-11 was a little grittier, a little darker, a little less cared-for than the typical 7-11. It was staffed entirely be guys who were in hair bands. They wore black t-shirts, had tattoos, really long and / or big hair. In short: they looked marginally different than 90% of the rest of Los Angeles citizenry.

This 7-11 was on Sunset, at Curson.

I frequented other 7-11s close to where I lived, but one by one their soda fountains went flat. You could TELL them that their fountains were flat and they’d acknowledge that they had heard you but nothing would every actually CHANGE about the situation. And then one day you’d be ready for a Big Gulp and you’d think “I wonder how that 7-11 over by the Mexican restaurant’s fountain drinks are?” And you’d audition that fountain.

The Rock ‘n Roll 7-11 was my main 7-11 for a couple or three years. I took some photos way back in that day, including one of a couple of pumped-up LAPD officers cuffing some guy, and one of his shoes was on the asphalt. When I decided to immortalize this location in a painting I had to work that in. I also had to work in one of my favorite apartment buildings, the Sunset Curson. Even though it’s like a block away. And I thought that on Sunset Blvd. it ought to BE sunset.

The main guy who worked the counter had long, flowing blond hair, was thin and wiry, and had the tattoos and black t-shirt uniform of the neighborhood. I decided to place him directly at the center of the composition, foregrounding the Super Big Gulp, with its fuzzy effervescence. The tattoo is my Gipson SG, on fire. The car in the parking lot with the vanity license plate was car from MY immediate neighborhood which I could never figure out:


Too loose for you?

Too lucky for you?

I’ll most likely never know...

Robin’s Song

By |June 8th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Commissioned after someone saw a couple of my bird-related paintings. We had a discussion about robins being her favorite bird because when you start seeing them and hearing them it means that Winter is finally over and Spring is right around the corn...


By |April 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|

The day our kids’ school was founded. So I was asked (once again) to contribute a painting for a fundraiser. The cost of the materials involved can be written off on your taxes. Big woo.

I’d fallen back onto a smallish square portrait of the school, but this year - THIS YEAR - would be different.


I looked up stuff that happened 100 years ago and thought some of that would make a great border around my usual square picture of the school. Charlie Chaplin, Woodrow Wilson, Grand Central Station, that’s stuff from another world. 1913 was the year that the I.R.S. started collecting Federal income taxes. I decided to leave that one out.

Marketing decision.

I went slightly more folk art / navie this year, distorting the school enough to give it a cartoonish character. Brightened up some of the outline colors from previous years. Yellowed up the green of the grass. The sky is two tones of blue, separated by the American flag. One cloud is outliney and the other one is volumetric-ish. I love combining different styles within the same overall image. Not sure whether or not the eventual high bidder got all that (I’m not really sure who that was) but it pleases me.

The Actual Physical Item

By |April 9th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Jeremy Peppas warned me that the printers would have quite a challenge to do justice to the image I created. I’d say they rose to that challenge. This is the supplement that the North Little Rock Times puts out at the beginning of baseball season, and they hand it out on opening night of the Travelers, the AA team situated in North Little Rock.

Baseball on Broadway

By |March 6th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Jeremy Peppas at the North Little Rock Times e-mailed me last week about doing the cover for their annual baseball supplement, to be published on Opening Day for the AA team, the Travelers. They also distribute the supplement to everyone walking into the game that night.

Perusing this website Jeremy had the notion that we ought to do something kind of retro. It had to include “BASEBALL ON BROADWAY.” And the number “7”, this being the seventh annual supplement.

I played around with some conceptual ideas: a ballplayer buying cotton candy in the stands, a ballplayer leading a parade down Broadway, a ballplayer manning the ticket window. But I felt that these didn’t hit the retro vibe we’d discussed.

And then the classic format for baseball cards popped into my head. Instantly recognizable. Substitute the headline for the player’s name. The 7 for the team and position. Boom.

I found a card with the familiar pose of a pitcher who’s just thrown a pitch. I saw an oppotunity to use the pinstripes that the Travelers added a couple of years ago as a dynamic design element. By tightening the frame around my first sketch I saw that the background could be partitioned off into four distinct areas. I like stuff like that.

I sketched in the most recognizable part of Dickey-Stephens Park, the clock tower and triangular entrance roof in the upper lefthand side. A bank of lights on the right. A brick marquee on the lower left and a double lamp with a banner on the right. And I situated the player actually out on Broadway, with a double yellow stripe.

A card design from the 60s, with a orange-y background texture, seemed to work optimally. (My research led me to the horizontal cards of 1960, look these up, they’re BEAUTIFUL. But horizontal wasn’t going to work.)

I’m really pleased with the finished product. I photographed it and manipulated that photo with Pixelmator. Now I guess I need to make a point of going to opening night and standing around stage whispering “Wow - what a fantastic cover they’ve got this year!”

Mmmmmm… Pancakes

By |February 4th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Fat Tuesday’s coming up but who really needs an EXCUSE to eat some hotcakes?

I wanted to REALLY stretch my tendency to mix volumetricly rendered items with flat ones. That is, make the stack of pancakes look somewhat rounded and spatially sophisticated (if decidedly eccentric) and things like the glass of milk flat. Another way to produce a feeling of spatial depth is with shadowing, and I shadowed some areas, such as the area on the eater’s forehead underneath the baseball cap, or the areas down and to the right of the various plates on the table. Again, hoping to create a subtle mismatch of representational modes, so to speak.

Why do this?

For fun.

I’ve gotten in the habit of sketching out the painting in one color as an outline, to confirm the composition on the canvas. And a lot of the time I’ll find myself really liking the outlined version. I’ve even taken photos of just the outline, or just the outline and a color of two of underpinning of large areas. The result of this is that I may let those underlines show through the final painting. Whatever looks good. So I’m thinking more about what color to use to outline now. (In the past I’d just grab whatever color was handy.)

The custom blue that outlines A LOT of this image was chosen to balance with the reds and yellows and browns thaty dominate the rest of the canvas.

The primary compositional shtick is that the pancakes are THE EXACT CENTER OF THE IMAGE. This nicely organized the painting into a busy and detailed top and a sparser bottom. Which I like. I feel that a viewer’s eyes are really drawn to the pancakes. Which is the way it should be.

Election Day

By |January 4th, 2013|Uncategorized|

First-time candidate, out in front of the neighborhood polling place (an old fire station), competing with all of the other candidates and paid and volunteer electioneers.

The thing that interested me about this was the chaos of ALL of these people thrusting signs at approaching voters. With the candidate splitting the square right down the middle. All of this kind of signage is rectangular, or square, so things were feeling a bit too orderly. So I concentrated on other patterns that could compete with the poltical signs and their rigid geometry. The leaves on and off the tree. The herringbone of the sport coat. The lines crossing on his shirt.

This is not quite the finished image, I placed a brochure in the candidate’s hand, and delineated the fingers / hands of the sign-holders, but I’m having a problem finding the photo of the ultimate version and I wanted to start the year of bogging off sooner rather than later.