Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rain, puddles, and tears (Part 1)

I always loved the rain. Rain awakens the senses. The way it pelts the ground and chills the air. How it makes everything take on that saturated sheen.

Dancing down on rooftops in a frenzy, the raindrops wash everything they touch. So thorough. So pure. And the best part is when it rains no one can tell you're crying.

How fitting that it rained off and on today....on my birthday. My 30th birthday.

Birthdays are supposed to represent the celebration of your birth, but I don't feel much like celebrating an unhappy life.

If ten years ago you told me I'd still be feeling like this, working a bullshit job, and just not where I thought I'd be in my life I probably would've jumped in a river by now.

Growing up in a poorer household, at least compared to my middle-class schoolmates, I always dreamed of being rich, powerful, and super successful. Clearly an adult now, I'm anything but those things. Not even close.

Me at First Communion. I was a goody-two-shoes even as a boy!

I always thought I still had time in my twenties. Turning thirty, I should have my shit together, right? Like the final grains of sand falling through the hourglass, it feels like I ran out of time....and options. And that's never a good feeling.

Nobody wants a nobody. A failure without any real success or major achievements to his name. A lack of focus, determination, and self-love. Will I ever get those things? Will I continue to flounder?

I have a couple friends that are several years younger with really good paying jobs. And yes, I know money doesn't automatically equate with success but they seem to be adjusting and thriving so much better than myself. I'm clearly doing it wrong.

Or am I just a late bloomer? What if by the time I finally bloom there'll be nothing left but spent petals....brittle and faded.

Out my window I see storm clouds stirring in the distance. Thank God for the rain. No one can see me crying.

I'm glad this day comes just once a year. Happy Birthday, Dean. You survived this far, I guess.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The gift of art.....

The "Queen of leaving comments" (also known as Sheila) had a contest over at her blog last week.

One winner was picked (not me) and another name was chosen as a consolation prize winner (me!). Hooray!!

The anticipation set in. 

There was a grin from ear to ear as I opened up her letter. Here's what arrived in the mail the other day. A neat little ACEO from Sheila herself!

I love the floral design in the background and all the symbolism being used. 

It put an instant smile on my face. To have another artist's work is such a powerful thing. A one-of-a-kind creation....their passion....shared with me.

Isn't this what great art is all about?

Thank you, Sheila!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Ugly" (self-portrait)

Mixed media on watercolor paper - 8" x 10"

Gross. Deformed. Ugly. That's what I usually think when I look in the mirror.

My reflection coldly staring back at me creates embarrassment. How sad it seems that I'm a perfectionist....literally wanting everything perfect and all I see in the mirror are imperfections.

I've always had issues with the way I look.

In grade school I was the one with glasses. Gaps in between my teeth ensured I always smiled with my mouth closed. In high school I got contacts but in college wore braces.

Heart-shaped face, blotchy/oily skin, annoying hairline, skinny neck, small chin, ears that jut out, and more feminine looking than I like....well, I pretty much am not happy with my appearance.

There are days where I "feel" downright repulsive and can't look in the mirror too long. I don't even like my skin to be touched anymore. These feelings weren't as strong when I was younger but now seem to have gotten more intense in recent years.

Close-up detail

When walking downtown I tend to look at the ground and quickly head to my destination. I find myself pulling up the hood on my jacket to "hide" even on days it's warm out.

Recently a coworker was talking to me in the back office on a day my face had really broken out. I had to take several steps away from her pretending to look at the wall calendar so she wouldn't be so close to my face.

I hate my profile and seeing my face from different angles seems "off" to me. Crooked and misshapen and squished.

I'm aware these feelings go so much deeper than just my looks. It's a deep-rooted, psychological thing that even I don't fully understand. Most likely the internalized way I feel about myself shifting to the outer appearance. Can you tell I don't think very highly of myself?

The ironic part? I actually like the way the self-portrait turned out!

I love the combination of the watercolors and ink. This has such an illustrative feel to it. Perfect since my main area of study in college was illustration.

It's a very warped, exaggerated image but sometimes it's how I "feel" I look.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Up in the sky.....

A wonderfully warm, yet mild spring day here in Chicago!

Now that the sun is becoming more intense the sunsets are getting more elaborate.

Here's a wonderful backyard shot of the sky this evening. Would make a lovely painting, don't you agree?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

*Happy Dance* I got a Lemonade Award!

It's been three months since I started this little art blog of mine and it finally happened. I got an award!

Fabio Cembranelli won the Lemonade Award over at his blog, and keeping with the rules, nominated seven other of whom was me!

Funny thing is, earlier in that same day, Sheila, had sent a message offering her Lemonade Award to me via e-mail. Sweet, but technically cheating. Now I got it fair and square! Hooray!

And you know what that means? Now I'm an award-winning artist! Ahahaaha, get it?


The Lemonade Award is given to bloggers that show a positive attitude and/or gratitude. It also exemplifies people who have a willingness to share their ideas, support, and online friendship.

I'm not sure that I qualify for this! If you read my posts you'll see I'm not always the most optimistic person and tend to be very critical of myself. But I have been told by several artists that the constructive comments I leave on their blogs are very helpful so maybe I deserve it for that reason (?).

The rules for the award (though I have seen these change from time to time):

1. Put the lemonade logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate at least 7 blogs that show great gratitude and/or attitude
3. Be sure to list and link your nominees within your post
4. Let them know they have received this award by leaving a comment on their blog

[Note: I'll leave it up to the winners to decide if they want nominate seven other bloggers (or not) on their own blogs]

In keeping with the above themes, here's my top seven (in no particular order):


--Kelley MacDonald (Kelley MacDonald's Daily Paintings). This fellow painter left some really nice comments on a couple of my more personal posts. We exchanged e-mails and without even asking she offered a lot of help, tips, and suggestions (since I was still new to blogging at the time).

I will always remember that act of kindness!


--Kathleen Coy (Life Earth Sky). Her blog just screams coolness and always cheers me up. "Wordless Wednesday" friggin' brilliant! I should have thought of that!

Her blog would be the one I'd most likely try to copy off of. "Typeless Tuesday" here I come! LOL


--Tascha (Time with Tascha). Her whimsical paintings and dolls are adorable. I dare you not to smile when looking at her latest creations. Such joy and happiness in her work. Too cute!


--Anna T. (See. Be. Draw). See. Be. Draw. That's the premise behind Anna's unique blog. She discusses meditation and focus while drawing....connecting with the subject and being in the moment. Such a wonderful way of looking at things.
How fitting that the Lemonade Award is of a lemonade stand, because Anna launched her own online store based on the teachings found in her blog. The "T" in "Anna T." must stand for "terrific"!


--Susan Beauchemin (Painting Daily). Her subject matter is often of her granddaughter happily playing with other children or close-ups of nature scenes. Her watercolor paintings are fantastic! I love her style so much and am secretly trying to copy it. Shhh.

Oh, and her sister and niece are awesome artists too. Runs in the family I guess!


--Mattias Adolfsson (Mattias Inks). A super-talent here! Such amazing, whimsical illustrations churned out on a daily basis. Fantastical creatures, animals, and everything in must be amazing inside the mind of Mattias!

Witty, clever, and oh-so-unique pen and ink drawings by this modern day master! And his wife is quite the artist herself!


--David Stehle (The Rest Is Still Unwritten). Technically, the only non-artist on my list! I found his blog not that long ago and find it great reading. Lovely writing style and his thought provoking posts often involve the viewing audience which is nice.

He's a go-getter, forward thinker, and an entrepreneur of sorts....and that's just plain sexy to me. Oh, and his dog, Diesel, is a cutie too!


So that's my list.

I'd love to name so many more blogs. There are quite a few I follow religiously. But I could only pick seven and tried to give the award for very specific reasons.

Just know that if I comment on your blog that means I'm interested in what you post and have to say. I genuinely mean that!

Now what are you waiting for? Go check out my winners!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pansy sketch and unexpected city colors!

I had to work this weekend and was determined to do some sketching before I started!

It was pretty sunny today in Chicago so I chose a shaded spot near the southwest Loop.

City workers already started filling the downtown street planters so I picked one filled with pansies to draw. Just a simple pen and ink sketch of a solid yellow bloom.

But I noticed something.

Across the alleyway, behind the building on Washington and Franklin Street was a lovely green fire escape. You know how I just love all things I had to get a picture! Here's what it looked like.

The metal ladders, trim, and emergency fire exits were all a soft, slightly muted patina with a hint of kelly green. Just gorgeous!

I actually ended up on private property to get this shot but it was worth it. And yes, I would totally have climbed up the fire escape to get a better look at the color and details if I could! LOL

Just below the escape ladders was a row of fire-engine red dumpsters neatly lining the alley.

Very intense color! Surprisingly clean too!

And right next to this building was a small parking lot. The main pay booth was a shocking yellow! (You can see the fire escape in the distance).

So many bright colors so close to one another. How unexpected! Just wanted to share my nerd-filled discoveries with you all!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dean Facts!

I thought it would be fun to let you all know a little bit more about me.

All the quirky, useless minutia that makes me unique!

So without further ado....the very first installment of "Dean Facts!"
  • Officially, I stand at 5' 7 1/2" but always say I'm 5' 8". I need that extra 1/2 inch, dammit!
  • I wear my glasses when feeling ugly to hide my face and wear my contacts when feeling cute so as not to hide.
  • I'm left-handed
  • I'm passionate about comic books and my most favorite character is Wonder Woman!
  • I do some baking in my spare time and have gotten so good at it I've been offered money for my baked goods! (Mrs. Fields watch out!)
That's all for now. Until next time.....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Glass Ashtray" ACEO

Watercolor on watercolor paper - 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" (NFS)

Happy Easter everyone!

The whole family came over today. I found out my uncle had finally quit smoking cigarettes! This is HUGE! My uncle had been a daily smoker for at least the past 50 years (he's in his early 70's) so to stop "cold turkey" takes real guts and stamina.

I was so excited about the news that I had to mention it on my blog! To tie it into my artwork, I did a tiny painting of the ashtray he used to use when he'd visit.

This was so hard to draw! So many little bends of light. Quite hard to keep track of it all. Almost overwhelming. I started erasing and redrawing so many times I thought I'd ruin the paper. And painting the ashtray was just as difficult with all the layers in the glass.

I wanted to listen to something a bit more "macho" while working on the ashtray. My old RuPaul CD just wouldn't do (sorry Ru--you're still fierce!). I chose Aaron Copland's Rodeo Suite instead. Think masculine....classical....cowboys. Yee-haw!

The artwork was started early this morning. I touched it up here and there along the afternoon, putting the finishing touches on it this evening.

This didn't turn out perfectly. It almost looks like metal instead of glass which annoys me. But for my first real study/painting of glass I think I did a good job.

Just wanted to post something which represented what my uncle accomplished and will continue to accomplish. Way to go, Uncle Bill!

Close-up photo of my amaryllis blooming!

Oh, and my amaryllis bulb opened its first bud this morning. A bright, beautiful pink! Perfect timing, wouldn't you say?

A really great day. I haven't had one of those in a long time. Hope everyone else's was as nice!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chicago's Millennium Park at Night!

My late nights are on Wednesday. When I got out of work this evening I thought it'd be wonderful to take some nighttime pictures of the city with my camera.

Here are some amazing shots of Millennium Park....if I do say so myself!

The picture above is of Cloud Gate. We Chicagoans call it "the Bean". Normally I stay away from this tourist attraction but really wanted to see what it looked like at night. So glad I did!

All the lit up skyscrapers along Michigan Avenue reflected onto the Bean's silver, metallic surface. Unbelievably beautiful! This photo does not do it justice. Just impressive to see up close. Chicago never looked better!

Next, I walked over to The Crown Fountain, just south of Cloud Gate. This is where two towering structures project a person's face which appears to "spit" water onto the crowd. Here's a backside view of one of the towers.

The Crown Fountain turning green!

The neat part is they constantly change colors. From green, to blue, to purple, to red, to yellow. At night this really stands out.

The Crown Fountain turning yellow!

And last but not least.....

My favorite Crown Fountain transition! Stunning blue!

Lastly, I walked over to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, where all the outdoor concerts are held in Millennium Park. Down below is a shot of the metal wall on the side of the building. I love how the silver catches all the light from the nearby lamposts.

Close-up detail of side wall on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The weather was just perfect. Cool and chilled but not cold. Full moon overhead in a clear sky. And except for a few tourists there was hardly anyone around. Just the way I like it!

The whole setting was ridiculously romantic....too bad I had no one to share it with.  *melancholy sigh*  I Guess all of my blogging friends will have to do for now!

The rest of the park was closed off for the night so that concludes my mini tour of a popular Chicago landmark!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"One is the loneliest number"

Watercolor with gouache on watercolor paper - 5" x 7"

I finished this one over the weekend.

I'm pleased to report that I really like the way this painting turned out. Normally I use an overhead light for my still lifes, literally pointing down on the subject(s). This time around I used just one light source from the side.

What a difference! This made the pear look much more dramatic and moody and a lot more fun to paint!

With the low light and dark shadows, I thought the pear looked kind of sad here. I think it needs an apple or an orange to talk to and cheer it up!   (^_^)

I'm definitely going to stick with lighting my subjects this way from now on. So much more interesting to paint this way.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"I love you. I need you to survive."

The Chicago Cultural Center was hosting its annual Creative Chicago Expo today, which is basically a one-day event filled with tips and advice for artists (the business side of things). I missed this last year and wanted to check it out this time around.

Here's the problem.....

I have a thing about being in large crowds. In the past I've had mild panic/anxiety attacks when put in social situations. Getting incredibly nervous, feeling nauseous and dizzy, heart beating quicker. I just can't seem to handle big groups of people.


I went inside and the place was already crowded! Crap!

I was determined to at least walk through and look around. The first floor mainly had people at tables giving out info about their organizations. I moved to the second floor thinking it'd be less busy. It was even more packed up there! Double crap!

I saw a sign that showed a list of free workshops that were being held there. I picked the one titled, "Marketing on a budget". Perfect. I don't make a lot at my current job and I could definitely learn some tricks to market my artwork better. So I headed up to the third floor. When I got there, the room was filled to capacity and people were already standing! Triple crap!

When faced with so many people I did what I normally do....I ran for it.

I went to higher ground on the fourth floor to see if any other workshops were going on. Nope. Only on the floors below. Feeling depressed and stupid that I came here only to NOT take part in any of the free events, I went to the highest level (the fifth floor Garland Room).

Here's a shot of the staircase leading to the Garland Room

For those of you who've never seen it, the Chicago Cultural Center is super beautiful on the inside. Very ornate. I started taking pictures with my camera. I should at least do that while I'm here.

And then I heard it. Singing.....

In one of the rooms on the fifth floor was a group performing some songs. I later found out it was the Chicago Children's Choir rehearsing. I heard about the CCC but never knew they performed in this building.

There was a small group watching them, mostly parents and other students. I kind of snuck in and sat in the back.

A shot of the choir perfoming. Sorry, the picture's blurred!

I was thoroughly impressed. These kids can sing! They had to be in there early teens but sang in harmony so well! I was able to hear at least three songs, all upbeat, energetic, and powerful.

One song in particular caught my attention. It was a gospel song and part of the refrain went, "I love you. I need you to survive."

I'll be damned if they weren't singing that to just me. At that moment, feeling really low and foolish, that's just what I needed to hear. A heavenly voice telling me, "I love you. I need you to survive."

It moved me and I got a bit teary-eyed.

I have to give props to the Chicago Children's Choir's instructor/conductor/artistic director, Josephine Lee. She handled her class beautifully. She was happy, open, enthusiastic, focused, and in her element doing what she loved. The children seemed to feed off that energy and it showed in their performance.

I wanted what she had and was so envious. I hope to be like that one day as an artist and as a person. Will I get there....who knows.

But I do know I'll be checking out the CCC perform live now that I've heard them practice. The day didn't go as planned but I knew I'd be just fine after that. Those lyrics will always stay with me.

"I love you. I need you to survive."