Saturday, October 31, 2015


No standard pumpkins for us. Instead, we decided to carve various winter squash.

A sketch for our butternut squash. Green and silver tempera paint and "ghosty" holes.

Ghost butternut squash.

Bob the (butternut) ghost by Troy's Work Table; Squishy the (carnival) werewolf by The Child; and John the (sweet meat) frog spirit, which was a joint effort.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


"Dad in Green, High School" by Troy's Work Table. Pencil and colored pencil.


What started as some after work nighttime doodling soon turned into what looks to me like my father from pictures when he was younger. There was no source picture that I worked from and I wasn't intending to draw my dad, but there he is.

Monday, October 26, 2015


"Some naive artists do not seek professional instruction but just begin painting, often with impressive results...Others acquire some technical know-how, and if they are lucky in their choice of teachers, their imagination doesn't suffer."

—page 8, Naive and Fantastic Art in Iceland by Adalsteinn Ingólfsson.


My friend and fellow writer Dave gave me a copy of this book as a gift and it is absolutely stunning. There are eleven Icelandic artists featured and their art, although different in approach and execution, is all without academic or artistic training behind it. These pieces of art are beautiful visions of their creators—personal and powerful.


My favorite featured artists are Karl Einarsson Dunganon, Sölvi Helgason, and Thórdur Valdimarsson (as Kíkó Korríró).


Dunganon's works feature a limited color palette of brick red, orange, blue-green, umber, golden yellow, and black, all with white outlines. Most feature strangely elongated animals and human figures, perhaps mythological creatures. And if they aren't the creatures of an established mythology, then they definitely figure as the characters of one for Dunganon.


Helgason's pieces are filled with intricate handwritten text, human figures with multiple eyes, fluid lines and forms, soft pencil and pen textures, and scatological "humor."


Valdimarsson's mixed media drawings are vibrant and chaotic, filled with wild and bold colors, dark outlines to contain the color, and a dynamism that threatens to leap off the page. Many of the pieces make me feel like I'm going to be bitten at any moment!


I think I sense a few near future chalk art pieces that are influenced by these three artists.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


"Whatever its sources, Goya's stocky little martyr-of-the-people* is one of the most vivid human "presences" in all art. In an age of unremitting war and cruelty, when the value of human life seems to be at the deepest discount in human history, when our culture is saturated with endless images of torment, brutality, and death, he continues to haunt us."

—page 314, Goya by Robert Hughes


"[W]ith this painting, the modern image of war as anonymous killing is born, and a long tradition of killing as ennobled spectacle comes to its overdue end."

—page 317, Goya by Robert Hughes


*referring to the central figure in Goya's 1814 oil painting, **El Tres de Mayo de 1808 en Madrid o Los fusilamentos en la montaña del Príncipe Pío (The Third of May, 1808, or The Executions on Príncipe Pío Hill). [detail above]


"The landscape of the Desastres* is perhaps the first realization, in graphic art, of the landscapes that would become so ominously familiar to Europeans a century later: the almost featureless deserts of mud, shell holes, and blasted trees into which trench warfare had turned the once bountiful fields of Flanders and the Somme Valley. This is no accident, since Goya's landscape is also the first representation in art of Mother Nature plowed up and dismembered by the fury of artillery bombardment against fixed positions."

—page 295, Goya by Robert Hughes


* Desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War) is a series of etchings and aquatint prints that Goya made between 1810 and 1820.


"How much of the fighting Goya watched isn't known. He did see what was left behind: stripped torsos and bloody human limbs stuck on tree branches like fragments of marble sculpture, this and more, enough for his purpose. He kept no journal of his thoughts but he registered a prodigious flowering of rage, not hastily in a sketchbook; later, after he had time to absorb the meaning, hunched over copper plates."

—page 175, Francisco Goya: A Life by Evan S. Connell

Saturday, October 24, 2015


"[I]t is, on the whole, brutality that is predominant among the ex-Communists—in comparison, Balzacian society, which emerged from the decomposition of royalty, seems a miracle of charity and gentleness. It is good to distrust doctrines preaching fraternity."

—pages 72–73, The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq


"All in all, I was harking back to the ancient Greeks. When you get old, you always hark back to the ancient Greeks."

—page 61, The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

Friday, October 23, 2015


"Tash" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 23 October 2015.


Three influences/inspirations: C. S. Lewis, Francisco Goya, and the Fauvists.


Lewis is the foremost influence, since his character Tash, the anti-Aslan, from The Last Battle (book seven of The Chronicles of Narnia) is what this chalk creature is modeled upon. Vulture-like head. Four arms raised above its head. Although rather than the gaunt, translucent, ephemeral, and soon-to-be-fleeting creature of Lewis's book, this Tash is well-sated by the evil of its adherents.


A while back, I read in Goya by Robert Hughes that Dali borrowed Saturn's strangely shaped leg in Goya's Saturno devorando a su hijo (Saturn Devouring His Son, 1820-1824) for his own 1936 painting Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of a Civil War). So I decided to borrow it as well, although in a closer approximation to Goya than the plastic and elongated rendition that Dali executed. I also tried to capture some of the spirit of Goya's Los desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War) series of etchings and aquatints, which seems fair for what is the Narnian equivalent of the Antichrist.


I wanted the colors to be bright blue and purple as though gaudy bruises, highlighted by bright oranges and red for the head, so I borrowed the palette of les Fauves ("the wild beasts") and let my chalk speak.


My two favorite pieces are small details, but the most satisfying for me. The first is the deadness of Tash's eye, which really speaks to me. The second is the small colored "berries" adorning his crown feathers.


Some chalk pieces just don't quite work the way I want them to. Some are fine. And some, like this piece, keep calling to me, even after I'm done with them.

I did a preliminary sketch of Tash in pencil and colored pencil on paper. More often than not, I usually like my pencil sketch better than the chalk that follows. But not this time. I think chalk Tash sings to me more richly than pencil Tash.


View more pictures of "Tash" HERE.

Friday, October 16, 2015


"Yggdrasil" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 16 October 2015.


I wanted to draw Yggdrasil as weary of the nine worlds that it connects. And I didn't want them to be roots, but branches and leaves that weigh the tree down. It may have something to do with constantly raking up leaves and walnuts and twigs and windfall branches from my black walnut tree these past few weeks. (And I've got a few more to go.)


Anyway, I didn't want the "nice" little tree "chart" that I usually see drawn out for the nine Norse worlds and the tree that unites them. I wanted it to be rough and ugly, disheveled and ungainly.


Detail of Yggdrasil: wizened and world weary.


When I was drawing the "face" of Yggdrasil, I put down a layer of charcoal and got some vertical grooves going in it. Then I added the brown chalk and rubbed it in. When I was done, I noticed that a small mouth of charcoal dust had formed. I didn't plan it; it simply appeared of its own accord. So I let it stay and decided not to outline or highlight it other than what formed around it during its creation.


View more pictures of "Yggdrasil" HERE.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


And the "hidden" theme of the list is—



Pitch Perfect was the movie I was supposed to look for at the library for The Wife. But I kept thinking of Pitch Black.


When I found the Library of America edition of Nabokov for which I was searching, the notes for Ada, or Ardor were written by Vivian Darkbloom (an anagram of Vladimir Nabokov).


Compass made me think of The Golden Compass, the first novel in the His Dark Materials series.


And chocolate: I don't like milk chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the better.

Friday, October 09, 2015


"Octopus X (after Sargent)" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 09 October 2015.


"Octopus X" is modeled after Madame X, a portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau by John Singer Sargent.

Madame Gautreau was apparently the late nineteenth century equivalent of Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian and Sargent's painting of her was considered somewhat scandalous. But his painting is so rich and alive and it has been haunting me.


When I first imagined Madame X as a human avatar of the Mother Octopus, I kept thinking that perhaps some Disney animator had this painting in mind when drawing Ursula for The Little Mermaid.


Anyway, I liked the idea of the dress form remaining intact as the ink cloud column that Mother Octopus produces and rises above. And there you have her: Octopus X.


(Yesterday was World Octopus Day!)


You can view more pictures of "Octopus X" HERE.

Thursday, October 08, 2015


Today is National Poetry Day 2015 in Great Britain. The theme is "light."


I'm not British, but I thought I would participate anyway. I've decided to share some of the poets who have been lights in my life. In other words, they've influenced me in some way as a reader and a writer.


This list is by no means exhaustive nor is it ranked in any way. It's also in no particular order.


The list is by poet, followed by one of collections or poems of the poet that have been a light for me.


Homer • The Odyssey

Alice Oswald • Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad

John of Patmos • The Book of Revelation

The Psalmists • The Psalms

Emily Dickinson • The Complete Poems

T. S. Eliot • The Waste Land

Victoria Chang • The Boss

Alta Ifland • Voice of Ice/Voix de Glace

Katie Ford • Deposition

William Kupinse • Fallow

dg nanouk okpik • Corpse Whale 

Nate Marshall • Wild Hundreds

Anne Carson • Autobiography of Red

Marvin Bell • Ardor

Robinson Jeffers • Rock and Hawk

Diana Khoi Nguyen • "Buzkashi"

Kathleen Flenniken • Plume

Greta Wrolstad • "Notes on Sea & Shore"

Mark Jarman • Questions for Ecclesiastes

Scott Cairns • Philokalia

Don Marquis • Archy and Mehitabel

William Shakespeare • Sonnets

Walt Whitman • Leaves of Grass

Caroline Knox • Nine Worthies

Michael Robbins • Alien vs. Predator

Carol Ann Duffy • The Bees

Edgar Allan Poe • Complete Poems

W. H. Auden • Poems 1927-1931

Evan S. Connell • Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel

Friday, October 02, 2015


"Yojo's Dream" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 02 October 2015.


Yojo, Queequeg's idol in Moby-Dick: Of what does a small wooden idol dream?

Being one of the moai of Rapa Nui? Perhaps.


View more pictures of "Yojo's Dream" HERE.