Lillie Mae Rische

My job has really taken a bite out of my drawing time lately, but I’m still able to sit down and do some sketching on Sunday evenings. I drew a picture of the Noid, a character from the old Domino’s Pizza commercials, last Sunday. This time, I drew Lillie Mae Rische, Jack White’s fiddle player. I bought his new CD last week while I was buying groceries and I’ve been listening to it over and over again. One of my favorite songs is Temporary Ground, where Lillie Mae sings and plays the fiddle. They performed this song on the Conan O’Brien show recently. It was brilliant. I liked their old-fashioned microphones and their matching silver instruments. I hope you all have a nice week.

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Weekend sketching

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Here are some drawings I’ve done recently. The first is Suzanne Somers. I drew her last weekend … or was it the weekend before? I can’t remember. Recent events are running together in my mind like oil in a parking lot. Anyway, I know for sure that I drew the second and third pictures this past Saturday. One is a caricature of Emily, a little girl who attends my church. I drew her in her taekwondo uniform. And the picture on the bottom is my new Facebook friend, Lorian Hemingway.

I drew the picture of Lorian Hemingway while spending Saturday night at the Econo Lodge in Rome, Georgia. I can’t explain it … I know it doesn’t make any sense at all … but I enjoy checking into a hotel room (once or twice a year) and drawing all night long, with nothing but the TV and the hum of the air conditioner to keep me company. It’s absolute bliss. In the middle of the night, I walked over to the diner next door (The Huddle House) and ate some greasy food. Then I returned to my room and kept on drawing. And this caricature of Lorian Hemingway is the result.

I’m not sure when I’ll post again. I haven’t been drawing as much lately since I’m still learning my new job. But I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying spring. (That is, if it’s spring in your part of the world … for some of you, I think it’s winter right now. Is it? Sorry. Never mind.)

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If you’re interested, you can click here to order my novels from Amazon. The new one is called Citizens of Purgatory. It’s about the misadventures of a struggling young sportswriter in Alabama. The other is Under the Electric Sun, a dark dystopian story aimed at young adults. The star is an electronic raccoon with a bitter outlook on life.

The lies I used to believe

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I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom as a teenager late one night, fiddling with the radio dial. It was July 4, 1995. I skipped from one station to another, listening to bits and pieces of grunge alternative music, until I was startled by an angry voice. A man was ranting about America, screaming into the microphone so loudly that many of his words were distorted. He sounded like he had just escaped from a mental institution. I gasped and leaned toward the speakers. The man said Independence Day was a joke. If he were sailing on the high seas, he said, and he saw two ships floating toward him — one ship flying a jolly-roger flag and the other ship displaying an American flag — he would steer toward the ship with the jolly-roger. He said pirates were more trustworthy than America.

Right away, I pulled my hand from the radio dial and laughed out loud at the screaming man. He sounded so ridiculous, growling and snarling. I heard him pounding his fists on the desk in front of him. I had never heard anything like it before.

Not only did the show grab my attention, the whole radio station seized me. I spent the rest of my teenage years listening to conservative talk radio – mostly because it was so outrageous and entertaining, but also because some of the philosophical arguments made sense to me. Amid the low-brow jokes about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, I also heard a lot of inspiring messages. The hosts often talked about the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. They said people should have the freedom to pursue their dreams. I remember Rush Limbaugh saying that if you do what you love for a living, people will have to beg you to take a vacation.

I still believe those things – but there are a few things I don’t believe anymore.

The talk show hosts insisted that rich people are hard workers and poor people are lazy sluggards. If you’re rich, you deserve to be rich. If you’re poor, you deserve to be poor.

When I was younger, sitting in front of my radio, I gobbled up this message. I believed that all wealthy people were honest, diligent, goal-oriented citizens … and poor people just needed to get off the couch and find a job.

Now that I’m 34 years old, I know this idea is nonsense. The world is filled with poor people who work hard every day. They work long hours, sometimes juggling multiple jobs, and they still live from paycheck to paycheck, biting their nails and wondering how they will pay their bills each month.

For five years, I worked at a textile mill, barely scraping by. During those five years, the mill never gave me a pay raise. (It wasn’t just me. The mill is known throughout the community for being tightfisted and stingy with the regular employees while the people in upper management swim in cash.) The most insulting thing about the mill is this: even though they refuse to give raises, they happily donate heaps of money to the local high school sports teams.

Why does the mill sling money all over the community? Is it because the company big shots are generous people? Obviously not. It’s because the government gives them tax breaks for their “charitable” donations. They gain money by giving money away.

I think the government should give tax breaks to companies that pay workers well. It might cause greedy old men to become more generous … and it might help some of the hardworking poor people in our country.

(I don’t usually talk about politics on this blog, but I’ve felt really annoyed about this situation lately. I’m not an expert on any of these things at all. My opinion isn’t worth much. But I would rather offer a solution to the problem than simply gripe about it. Griping is therapeutic, but it doesn’t really fix anything.)

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You can click here if you would like to order my novels, Citizens of Purgatory and Under the Electric Sun. My new novel, Citizens of Purgatory, is a dark comedy set in Alabama. It’s roughly based on a few of my experiences in the mill.

Snowbound

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It snowed heavily today. Well, some people might not use the word “heavily,” but we rarely get snow in Georgia, so any amount of snow is a major event. Because the roads were icy and people had a hard time driving, there were traffic jams galore. A lot of people were stranded in their vehicles for hours. And many other people abandoned their vehicles and started walking.

I’m thankful I didn’t have to work today. I didn’t have to get out in it. I mostly stayed home and drew. At one point, I did walk over to the gas station on the corner to buy a phone card. On my way back, I saw people in trucks struggling to drive up the gentle slope in the road nearby. They weren’t able to make it. They kept sliding backwards. I was terrified for them. I helped one lady push her SUV into a ditch — since her tires kept spinning on the ice … and the ditch seemed to be the safest place.

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The other day, my friend Dan (who was my history teacher in high school) came over and brought me a kerosene heater. For some reason, this image (above) popped into my head after he left. This evening, while I was hanging around in my apartment with nothing to do, I sat down and put it on paper. (While watching the Andy Williams Christmas Special from 1967 on YouTube.)

It’s a dog … with Dan’s head … warming himself in front of a heater. I’m hoping to do a better version later, maybe tomorrow if I’m still snowed in.

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NOTE: My novel, Citizens of Purgatory, will be available in paperback soon. In the meantime, you can click here to download the electronic version to your Kindle. Citizens of Purgatory is a novel about the misadventures of Nick, a young sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. Nick’s life turns into a nightmare when an ex-convict crashes into his car one morning.

The Electronic Lemonade Stand

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About a year ago, I set up a store on CafePress. Several of my drawings are available on coffee mugs, posters, puzzles, and other items. During the past year, I’ve become busy with this blog, with my e-books, and with the relentless demands of everyday life … and I forgot all about the store. Last night, I realized what a lousy shopkeeper I was. I went in and made a few little nit-picky changes and added a couple of new items.

If you’re interested, you can click here to visit The Electronic Lemonade Stand.

I hope you’re all having a great year and staying warm. I’ll write more later, after my hands thaw out. Cheers.

 

The Clockwork series

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Here are some colored pencil drawings I did back in 2010. They tell the story of a person’s life from birth to death. In each picture, you see the same man in a different stage of life. You also see a robot, with a clock for a head, relentlessly stalking the man. The robot represents time. I originally did these pictures in 2003, when I was 23 and still learning about colored pencils … but I decided to do fresh, new versions of them in 2010. I’m currently selling them on posters and coffee mugs in my CafePress store.

You can click here to visit my store. I have other art there, too … and the other stuff isn’t nearly as depressing. You will find pictures of happy things like kittens and flowers. (Seriously. Go take a look.)

I haven’t used colored pencils in a long, long time. Colored pencils are tedious. For the past few years, I’ve just worked with graphite pencils. I’ve mainly done “head and shoulder” portraits this year. I plan to do bigger, more ambitious art in 2014.

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In other news, I’m still sticking with my new eating regimen. This week, I’ve been subsisting on Styrofoam discs (aka rice cakes) and steamed broccoli. But today is a special day. Today is “splurge” day. I’m about to visit this quaint little Mexican restaurant I recently discovered.

Have a lovely weekend and try to stay out of trouble.

(Also: you can click here if you’d like to download my new novel, Citizens of Purgatory. It’s a story about Nick Youngblood, a struggling sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. One morning, as Nick drives to the newspaper office, a deranged ex-convict crashes into the back of his car. A nasty conflict ensues … and Nick’s life becomes very complicated.)