Sunday, April 11, 2010

birthday haiku - ten AND eleven

follow my life's path

permanent ink stains my skin

icons mark the road


for Jon Dunlap

in this world there are all kinds of people...some people (like me) don't have any tattoos, some people (and i'm sure they're out there) have one tattoo, some people (like my wife) have multiple tattoos and hope to get more. then there's dunlap. he's covered. some fine artists have left their mark on my friend. dunlap's diversely colored skin includes such iconography as the three-eyed fish from "the simpsons" to a photorealistic rendering of kurdt cobain. his skin is etched with flames and band logo's and even the elfish inscription found inside tolkien's one ring (that one's around his wrist like an unmoving watchband). in all, dunlap has a story for every one of them and if you fill him with enough of his poison he'll tell you each story multiple times. dunlap's the man. the illustrated man. i wish we had invited him over tonight...


yesterday has passed

tomorrow's yet to be made

i'm looking ahead


for Erika Benson

i knew erika a lifetime ago when she had a different name but all the same cool. i'd pick her up on a saturday morning and we'd go check out the thrift shop and look for records, after we picked up hitchhikers of course. the hitchhiker thing only happened once and we both were left with a memory and the knowledge that we helped someone out. i've got lots of amazing memories of erika and i hope our paths cross again, whether there's a hitchhiker or not. although those halcyon days are gone i know her future is there for her to write. i wouldn't be surprised if one day erika ruled this world with her little peach at her side. she's just that cool.

about the haiku: haiku is a japanese form of poetry that contains a metered verse in seventeen on (equivalent to an english syllable). generally, but not always, the english haiku consists of three lines with a five-seven-five syllable structure. the best examples of haiku paint a detailed picture using the fewest words possible, often only revealing a portion of the subject so as to give the reader something to ponder.

Monday, April 5, 2010

picture pages - six

today i am presenting another workup of po-po the super cat. i drew this with the intention that it would become the cover of the book i put together for chloe. i worked with chloe on the colors of the costume, she originally picked yellow and pink as the primary colors but i was able to steer her to red and pink instead. i'm so glad that chloe wants to call herself po-po and even looks at these pictures and says, "is that me?" i'd much rather her pretend to be po-po (something i can control and influence) rather than sonic the hedgehog or a neopet.

i've spent more time than i'd like just on the logo. i wanted to make sure that i had something that i liked which wasn't easy. now i have to figure out how to use a vector editor to make a slick, professional looking logo (which every superhero needs). i'd better hurry up and finish this project because the only reason why i'm doing this is to help chloe to read and she's progressing so well and so quickly. susen and i see progress every day and that makes me so happy. i'm proud of our little girl and i hope that she can be proud of her daddy someday...

about this drawing: i started with another basic pencil drawing but i wasn't pleased with the positioning of the hands so i redrew the hands on a different section of the paper. when i inked the pencils with my light box i replaced the unsatisfactory hands with the good ones. then i scanned the inked drawing into photoshop, resized po-po, repositioned and resized the logo and cleaned the whole thing up a bit. i colored it in photoshop but chloe colored a black and white one that i had printed out and i liked her colors better (mine had brown hair and a brown tip on the tail, chloe gave po-po purple hair which looks infinitely better) so i put her page up instead of mine.

i have a b&w one up here if you want to print it out and color it yourself. good times.

more pictures of po-po are found in an older edition of picture pages.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

picture pages - five

s.d. smith has been writing a series of short stories for a regional magazine here in west virginia. all of the installments have been illustrated by some very talented artists. he asked me to illustrate the two most recent stories, the first of which was published this month and is featured in picture pages - one. i've really enjoyed the work and, along with some other projects i'm working on, i can really see how i should start taking art classes to better refine my work. as eric can attest, it has become increasingly more difficult to put down on paper what i see in my head. when writing my thoughts for this blog i make sure i pick my words carefully to properly convey my thoughts. i'm doing the same thing with my illustrations but it feels as if my vocabulary is limited. i'm trying very hard to expand the vocabulary of my art and you, my faithful readers, get to see the progress.

about this drawing: this is an illustration for the latest installment of s.d. smith's fledge chronicles published in west virginia south magazine. once i chose a scene to illustrate (which is not easy because s.d.'s writing is so ripe with imagery) i made a rough sketch of the angle from which i would draw. i then made a series of more defined pencil drawings that i would use to compose the final artwork. the man holding the cat is cyclop sammy (for obvious reasons) and i wanted to make sure that he was the center of our attention. i sketched him first and tiled the restaurant floor for perspective and then on a separate page sketched two additional characters (heck davis and the owner of the "grit-r-done" diner, hilda) along with various spilled dishes and utensils. i knew from my initial layout that i wanted to include an overturned chair but i wasn't sure where i would place it. once these sketches were complete i was able to start combining the elements on a finished page. using my light box and some micron art pens i started with cyclop sammy and then added heck davis and hilda. lastly, i placed the "carnage" on the floor...positioning the dishes and utensils along with a triangle cut piece of toast, a piece of bacon and a bunch of grits. at this point i knew where i wanted the chair so i added it and the tiles and i was done! all of the inked worked was done with the light box which has become an integral part of my toolset.

during the inking and finishing work i listened to my old small factory records; i do not love you, for if you cannot fly, and the industrial evolution.

from start to finish i spent five hours on this project.

Friday, April 2, 2010

memorable memories - one

susen and i were married on march 31, 2000. for those keeping track at home that was ten years ago this week. during those ten years susen and i have shared many great memories. we've had a great marriage with our share of ups and downs, some things that would shake anyone to the very bone and some things that couldn't even be dreamed up in the most imaginative love stories. through all of the years susen has made me feel like no one else ever has or ever will and that is more treasure than a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow could ever promise. i know that she's with me through the proverbial thick and thin and i trust that she knows the same from me.

for our anniversary we went to a fantastic local restaurant where susen had beef wellington. i've never been at the same table as this mythic dish in which a filet mignon is covered with foie gras (fwa-grah: the liver of a fattened duck) and wrapped in a puff pastry (think croissant). knowing that this was a memorable moment that we were sharing i asked susen to reflect on some of our most memorable memories. knowing that the first film that susen and i went to the cinema for as a married couple was "high fidelity" in which john cusack ranks everything in his life in "top" lists, we thought it would be fun to countdown our ten most memorable memories of the last ten years.

we have shared some incredible memories in our relationship...our seventh anniversary trip to the easton town centre in ohio, our interesting (to say the least) trip to the mall in king of prussia, pa, my parents living in our little south charleston apartment for six weeks in 1999, that south charleston apartment building catching on fire (a police car smashed into an en route fire truck!) and the subsequent four weeks in three different hotel rooms with our newborn chloe, drama, comedy, tragedy...we have TONS of shared memories and haven't even touched on the six years BEFORE we got married (those are some good ones too: our first kiss, the trips between new hampshire and michigan, the monet exhibit at the boston museum of fine arts, the looonng phone calls where susen would sit quietly for hours and i would just try to keep talking so she wouldn't hang up, the trips between west virginia and new hampshire, the proposal, etc.)

so over dinner susen and i reflected on these, the ten most memorable memories of our last ten years:

10 Our First Drive From NH to WV (2000)

you'll read about our wedding on down the list but two days after our marriage we loaded up a uhaul and moved to wv looking for a new life together. to understand the situation you'll need to know that susen was living in michigan and i was living with my folks in new hampshire when we started our relationship in earnest. susen's son, alan, was living in west virginia with his father and she was traveling down every month to see him. soon after we began our "long distance thing" susen got an apartment in nh and lived there for nine months before we were married. during those nine months we went traveled together to wv to see alan. it was 800 miles one way and because we weren't married we would make the trip in one day, usually twelve or thirteen hours of drive time. susen was on an alternating schedule with her son where one month she would get alan for a weekend and the next month for a full week so sometimes we would go spent the weekend at her father's house before driving back and sometimes we drove down on friday, back up on sunday and then again the following weekend. it was important that we made the trips but it wore us down so we decided to move to wv permanently once we got married.

this trip, our first drive from new hampshire to west virginia as a married couple, was very special. after four or five hours of driving we stopped at a hotel in pennsylvania, just over the new York state line. the hotel had an indoor pool and we were excited to use it after such a long, horrible new england winter. i remember that susen said that she knew "just where her swim suit" was in the uhaul and we opened up the truck, susen went right to where the suit was and we shut up the truck. how often does that happen? i tell you, it hasn't happened many times since then. we swam after grabbing a bite and hitting a little strip mall record store in which we purchased "winners never quit" from pedro the lion, our first cd as a married couple. the trip was full of "firsts" and it will always be a great memory for us.

as a little aside, on that trip we read a cover story article in usatoday about a best-selling series of books that was causing kids to read in droves. it was called "harry potter something-or-other" and we decided then that we really didn't need our kids to read stories about sorcerers and witches. we still, ten years later, don't think that our daughter really needs to read those books.

9 Seeing Lucero at Mountain Stage (2010)

this memorable moment occurred just six or so weeks ago when susen's favorite band came to charleston, wv for the first time. my old friend bob comped tickets for us since he works for wv public radio which produces the mountain stage program. i wrote a little about the show in a previous blog post. this memory is so memorable for me because i love to see my wife get excited about things. just watching her pick the shots she wanted to take with her camera, watching her get to meet ben was a really great time and i'll always reflect favorable on the whole evening.

8 Going To the Purple Door Festival (2000)

that summer after we got married susen wanted to "do something" so we decided on taking a trip to lancaster county, pa where the annual purple door festival is held. it's billed as a festival of arts where bands play and art is exhibited. this year (2000) is the only year we've been but i know given the right circumstances we wouldn't hesitate to go again. susen and i met ronnie martin and jeff cloud at the joy electric merch table which was a hoot because alan would listen to je as bedtime music that summer he turned six. i'll never forget the smirk on ronnie's face when we told him that his was our 6-year old's favorite band.

we saw joy electric play as well as starflyer 59 (ronnie martin's brother, jason), brandtson (our first exposure to such a wonderful band), pedro the lion and switchfoot. susen's not a fan of switchfoot at all and i'm a big fan of theirs especially considering that this was several years ahead of their big commercial breakthrough. however, susen noted that she like the switchfoot set best because it looked like they were actually enjoying themselves. i enjoyed pedro the lion most, they played indoors where an art installation from matt wignall (havalina, jackson rubio records) was housed and the room was packed to the gills with everyone transfixed by the amazing song-stories told by david bazan and his band.

another note to this memory: there were just as many great bands that played that we didn't even see...p.o.d., over the rhine, havalina rail co., blaster the rocket boy. it was a good year at the purple door.

7 Going To King's Island With Alan (2004)

i'm not a fan of amusement parks but i truly enjoy going with people that do enjoy them. we drove out to ohio and got a hotel room with a shuttle that went back and forth to the park. it was fun and we really enjoyed walking around with alan, riding rides, eating awful carnival food...everything that king's island is cracked up to be. i remember going on a scooby doo haunted house ride where they took a picture of you during the ride and tried to sell it to you after. we just took a photo of our picture as they displayed it on a screen. alan and susen looked so happy together. the two of them love each other so much. that time with alan is such a cherished memory.

6 Going To Our First ROH Show With Paul (2003)

ring of honor is a wrestling promotion from philadelphia. it is NOTHING like you would see on teevee from wwe or what have you. they actually wrestle, none of the soap opera stuff people are used to. i can go on and on about my history with pro wrestling but now is not the time. what i should say is that my brother paul is responsible for me seeking out this company that was just over a year old at the time. this event was in wilmington, oh at a hotel/conference center. we checked into our room and walked down to the conference center where a gun show was just wrapping up. we went into the gun show door and ended up in the back stage/dressing room area of the wrestling show. after talking with a couple of the wrestlers we were politely asked to leave the building and go wait outside until they were ready to open the doors to the public. there is nothing quite like standing in line waiting for a venue to open, surrounded by excited fanboys trying to be cool...and susen. bless her heart, my wife must really love me to endure that. the show was in a ball room (literally) with two huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. it was fun. there is even dvd proof that we were there. best moment: protecting my wife as mark brisco took an ole kick from the giant samoa joe right in front of us. priceless.

5 Susen's Baptism (2003)

we went to church at north charleston baptist church during this time. my friend, jon jicka was the pastor and he baptized susen there that sunday night. i stood at the side of the baptistery and felt so proud of my wife for making that public profession of her faith. susen's son was there as well as her mom and step-dad and grandmother. i'm still very proud of my wife and the grasp she has of Jesus and His redeeming work.

4 Reuniting With Alan (2009)

the summer after chloe was born alan stopped coming around. we moved from our rented two-bedroom house in dunbar to a three-bedroom house in nitro (still renting) so that alan could have his own room. for whatever reason, alan just didn't come around. we lived there for almost three years before alan even saw his own bedroom. i understand it's strange and complicated but the fact is this: alan loves his mom and susen loves her son.

susen's sister, jessica, got married in october, 2009 and alan came to the wedding (he lives two doors from the church). that whole weekend was great. susen and her son made peace with the past (and left it in the past) and had fun together. i sat with alan during the wedding and while we were just chatting he leaned over and said, "maybe i could come spend the weekend with you guys." alan was fourteen then but susen and i had to keep reminding ourselves that he was just a freshman in high school. it felt like an old friend of ours was in town for the weekend, catching up, swapping stories. that first weekend wasn't at all like we were parents of a teenager. for the next month we saw him almost every day. good times.

3 Driving To Minnesota To See Wilco (2008)

in the spring of 2008 susen started making purchases on ebay. one day she said, "chris, i got something dirt cheap on ebay but i didn't think that i would win the bid and i just don't know if it's going to be something that we can afford." i thought she bought a car. i was relieved to discover that susen had scored tenth row, middle of the floor tickets to a wilco show for only $1.26 (yes, sixty-three cents a ticket). rock. we both love wilco and would enjoy the show and you can't beat dirt cheap tickets, right? well...the show was in rochester, mn. EIGHT HUNDRED miles away. i'll save the story of this truly event filled trip for another time but i'll tell you this: susen got on priceline and found a great rate on a hotel room, susen got on hotwire and found a great rate on a rental car, susen got on speedway's website and found all the speedways between here and there (even gas prices at each location, remember at this time gas was over four dollars a gallon) and cashed in our speedyrewards points for enough gas to get us there and back. susen made it work. even though we try not to think about the driving, it was just as memorable as the amazing show that wilco performed. there was so much happening on that trip i'll have to make its own "memorable memories" post. what a great memory.

2 Getting Married in My Parent's Living Room (2000)

we were married on a friday night in my parents living room. susen and i had been planning on getting married since i proposed on the capitol steps in charleston, wv christmas of 1999. we had to line things up and as we made trips back and forth from nh to wv things started to fall into place. susen picked out a lovely dress (on clearance of course, the only way susen shops), we found an apartment when we weren't expecting it and my transfer with work was all green lit so we decided to call a justice of the peace and tie the knot. my father is a minister but said all along that he didn't want to perform the marriage ceremonies for any of us button boys so he could sit and hold our mother as she gave up her sons. my mom made her incredible lasagna. our friend emily made an amazing cake. susen's mom and step-dad traveled in from michigan. everything was right. i believe fourteen people were there (including us) and i played "just like heaven" for susen on my guitar. our good friend, louise, gifted us with a night at the very "new england" fitzwilliam inn. that breakfast on saturday morning was part of the wonderful memories we experienced. the whole thing was perfect. our marriage has been blessed since day one.

1 The Birth of Our Daughter (2005)

our little girl, chloe michel button, was born on january 27, 2005. she was born four weeks early but you'd never know it. the four weeks leading up to chloe's birth was fun-filled and exciting as susen's amniotic fluid was very low and we had ultra-sounds at the ob's every other day for four weeks. i remember going for a scan and the doctors concluding that everything was fine, the fluid levels were high enough to stop scanning after the last scheduled ultra-sound. we went to the last scan thinking that this would be the end of it and we could finish preparing those last four weeks before delivery. of course, the levels were the lowest they had ever been and the doctor "sent us downstairs" to get more tests. i still crack up that as they put us in a room susen and i both thought that they were going to take blood or something and send us on our way, no-no, susen was being admitted and wouldn't leave the hospital until after chloe was born four days later. i have nothing but good memories about those days. staying in that room with susen was almost fun. we laughed, we talked, we dreamed, we prayed. everything was fine because we were together. what more could anyone ask for? we were together. i remember how scared i was when dr. cotes came to get susen. he made a c-section sound dangerous (maybe it is, i don't know) and gave susen the option to go natural if she didn't want the scar on her belly (what? who cares about the scar? we want our baby to be safe!). i remember putting scrubs on so i could be there with my lady. i remember looking into susen's eyes as she gave birth to our little girl. i remember the anxious second (literally only a second but it felt like everything was paused for an eternity) while we waited to hear our little girl cry. i remember every second of it. every detail is burned into my mind. looking into my daughters eyes for the first time. i remember. every. last. moment.

IN CONCLUSION: our marriage has been filled with memorable memories. i'm completely overwhelmed by how God continually shows His love for us. sure there have been rough times but look at this list and tell me that susen and i haven't had a great time. it's impossible to think that we haven't had a great marriage. ten years on and we're still working out the kinks but we latched on to a verse of scripture from the very beginning. it says: "i know the plans i have for you, declares the Lord. plans to prosper you and not to harm you. plans to give you hope and a future." (jeremiah 29:11). the future isn't over so i know that wherever we break bread on our twentieth anniversary we'll be counting down the top twenty most memorable memories in our married life.

can i get some sleep now?