Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The WHEN factor

A buddy of mine from high school contacted me the other day after we lost contact with each other a few years ago. Our chat went the same as it usually does once we do an extensive search and find the other's phone number. Who got married? Who got divorced? Who made it big? Who died? We also discuss our own personal goals, our dreams and our setbacks. (For the purpose of this blog, I'll call him Mark. 'Cause that's his name) After talking with Mark I was left with the same thoughts, the same disconcertment, the same question I am normally left with after catching up with my friend. Why does he waste all that GOD-given, talent doing not-a-darn-thing? NOT A DARN THING! Literally.

Mark has to be the most talented brotha I have ever met. His talents are extraordinary. Intrinsic. His pencil drawings demonstrate a strong sense of the human anatomy, screaming with the inner beauty of the human spirit. His paintings displayed such skill, raising the bar for my artistic endeavors as I tried to compete with him. And his strong belief and faith in GOD has always been an inspiration to me. Armed with all that, Mark should have taken this world by storm. But he hasn't. Not even a small breeze.

That was 25 years ago. And 5 years later; then 10 years later; then 3 years later; then just last week he's still talking about what he'd like to do. What he'll do someday. What he's gonna do. What he could do only IF. IF he had more training. IF he had more money. IF he had more time. IF he could get into a particular vocational school. IF he had a better computer. IF he were as well connected as I. So many IFs. Afraid of success? Afraid of risk, and therefore failure? I don't know. Don't want to know because that's not how I operate.

Mark dreams of building a statue, an African-American angel twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. To create an animated cartoon series much bigger than Disney's Mickey Mouse. To be the next George Lucas. To open an art school for inner city kids . And I believe that with GODs help and Marks talents he can achieve any of these things. With faith and talent, all things are possible. (although the statue of liberty thing is somewhat a stretch)

Each time we have our catch-up conversation, Mark always seems awed by my accomplishments and I get the sense that he thinks my opportunities just fell from the sky and I was lucky enough to look up just in time to grab it out of the hands of another unfortunate guy. But actually, I worked hard. I haven't done anything extraordinary. I use my talents (On loan from GOD, as Rush would say). I ask many questions, and pursue my dreams with what I'll call the WHEN factor. Not IF I can have a great paying, professional career with only an associates degree, but WHEN (and always have). Not IF I get a children's trade book deal, but WHEN. Not IF I can get a teen memoir published, but WHEN. Not tooting my own horn...well maybe alittle...but to make a point.

So, Mark, if you've found this post, and I hope you did, my only point is that you can do it, too. You already have what it takes within you to do whatever you can dream to do. With what you have. No extra training, although it wouldn't hurt. No better computer, although that wouldn't hurt, either. No extra time, well, that's a lie. Just stop saying what you'd like to do. Stop saying what you will do some day. And just do it. Today.

Guess that's why I have no buddies. Call a brotha to say hi, and get outed on the internet as a hopeless failure.

Unrelated thought for the day: Maybe I shouldn't complain. I mean, Blogger is free. But why can't it work on the first...second....Why can't it just work sometime?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Post Easter observations

My son (left) with his cousins

Cooking fem-fatal
Easter dinner, two women from separate households, and one kitchen just don't mix.

Up the river with no paddle, or Easter dress
We did Easter in Fort Worth spending the night with our cousins, four hours away from our home in Austin. Easter morning I find myself almost fully dressed for church, when I turn to discover the wife standing behind me fully dressed. Almost. High heels, stockings, and slip. No Easter Dress.

"Honey, did you pack my Easter dress?" She ask me with a countenance of humor mixed with horror.

"No, sweetie. I didn't you pack your dress?" I answer with a returned look of "you're kidding me, right?"

"Uh-oh!" We say simotanesly.

What do we do at 9:15 a.m. and the service starts at 9:30, and the wife has no dress?

Walmart! And since the service lasted almost 5 hours, the dress dilemma was a blessing in disguise. Amen!

Easter is the only day you'll find a black man up in church wearing a bright-pink, lime-green, or lilac-purple, pin-striped, three-piece suit with a knee-length jacket and matching alligator shoes (same color as suit, of course). Topped off with a God Father style derby and you got one colorful brotha. I always wonder where they find these suits. Not the Dillard's we shop at.

Ghetto weaves
One 4-foot tall woman, plus 3 feet-high of synthetic hair weave, plus 5 bottles of Freeze-Hold hair spray equals one wildly-coiffured, 7-foot tall, Easter-basket-ish looking hairstyle. Complete with gift bows.

Easter eggs
Easter has to be the only time of the year a kid gets excited about receiving and actually eating hard-boiled eggs.

Always find myself sort of displaced at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. The unwritten rule states that the men congregate to watch football, basketball or anything ESPN. The women congregate to discuss hair, shopping or the men. My interests lie in none of the above. So I take a convenient nap.

Disclaimer: The above mentioned obversations reflect the thoughts of Devas T. Not the wife.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Serendipitous pillows

For Christmas, we usually do cash swaps with the sister-in-law and her family. Unbalanced of course and in my family's favor. This year the wife decides we'd use the money to buy some new pillows for the bed. The current ones were 12-year-old wedding gifts and long over-due for the trash man. "Wouldn't it be nice to have some new goosedowns?" She cajoled. "Sure honey," I think to myself although I'd prefer some new workout gloves or maybe that new Taebo kickboxing video. But pillows are cool. Long as we don't have to waste the money on some candles or potpourri, I'm fine. Although, I now recall that candles did make our shopping list that weekend.

Anyway, we set out to find some goosedowns. Our tastes differ on the question of softness. She likes big-firm (women, go figure). I like wide-cushy. We visit more than several stores before I completely break down insisting that we shop for a new digital camera, DVD player and some new tennis shoes for myself before we finish our pillow quest. That's a plan, so we do. We also decide it's probably best if she shop for our pillows on her own. Guess I'm not much the pillow kind of shopper.

She returns home with our pillows. $90, only two pillows. I'm not happy. I grew up sleeping on $8 pillows so I figure $90 should supply our whole neighborhood with something to sleep on. And I must be right 'cause the mother-in-law agreed. We return the pillows.

We set out on another pillow quest. Again, she wants big-firm. I want wide-cushy. Unable to reconcile, we decide to part ways. She gets big-firm, I get wide-cushy and they match like Venus and Mars. They don't.

Fast forward three months later. Wide-cushy makes my neck hurt. I now sleep big firm. Big firm makes her neck hurt, so she now sleeps wide-cushy.


P.S. And the son, well, he usually wakes up and climbs in our bed all squashed up somewhere in between the extremes.

Unrelated thought for the day: I agree with The Rev. Al Sharpton. If the language and violence in rap music can't be cleaned up, fine the Mutha F#@k*&s.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A very random and worthless rant

Is it a wife-thing; a woman-thing or just a stupid-guy thing? But why come....excuse come a brotha buys the wife a cellphone, but she doesn't pick up, after I've called twenty times and I need the credit card numbers after finding a good deal on plane tickets over at Hotwire but the ATM has eaten my card after I made a hurried withdraw because I was hungry and needed a donut?

As you can see, I'm at a loss for somethin' to blog about.

Unrelated thought for the day: That copy editor should have known that I can't pronounce, much less spell Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Like it digitally?

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But I go both ways. Most times I do it with paint. Acrylic preferrably. But I love it when an art buyer request it be done digitally. The pressure is off. Means I get to create the art in half the time. Means if revisions are requested, I can make them pretty much painlessly. Means I can send the final art out over the internet which in most cases buys me a few extra days because express delivery time is omitted. Not that I mind painting by hand. I don't. But every now and then, let me do it digitally!


Tweener calendar

Two images finished. Ten images left. Fourty-five days to deadline.

Children's book
Sketches to the publisher. Awaiting feedback.

Children's magazine
Received art direction. They'd like a pinch of this style, a pinch of that style. They'd like it digitally!

The newspaper
Using the rubber stamp tool to Photoshop new numbers onto license plates. Sounds illegal, but it's legit — in this case.

Fast Talk on a Slow Track by Rita Williams-Garcia
Acclimating myself to the genre in preparation of writing for teens. Since reading wasn't a part of my teenage vocabulary, I'm playing catchup.

YA manuscript
Slow. Ready to give up. But I won't. I'm not a giver-upper. But I'd better come up with a new strategy. Soon. *sigh*

Unrelated thought for the day: I knew there had to be a reasonable explanation for this whole crazy Michael Jackson thing.He died years ago!

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Finally finished sketching THE HIDDEN FEAST, a children's picture book which will publish early next year with August House. Pretty happy with how the sketches came out, and wish I could share some here, but I'm sure the editors wouldn't appreciate my publishing them before they do. But here's a knee-high look at the sketches that didn't make it.

Unrelated thought for the day: Yes, I'm pro-life. But, come on — leave this woman be.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Late Saturday night

So what's an artist to do on a Saturday night when the wife is asleep and the kid is in bed and I'm bored? I check my email and mom has responded to my inquiry about the missing details. The ones for my book. Those that I need, but can't remember about being 14. About the divorce. The other woman, the pain, the hurt and the anger. I don't remember that stuff. I think it's been blocked. So, I now understand my daughter's dilemma. I can relate to her pain. I understand her hurt and her anger. She's in the same place that I was some time ago.

Then I check her blog* and she's grounded this day. Her words are filled with the same hurt the same anger and the same pain that I felt some 25 years ago. And it reminds me that although I am mad and feeling distant to her. Although her words cut, and have caused me some pain. She is grounded — the doghouse, she's still just a kid. She's still just a child, so there's time for resolve.

So what's an artist to do on a Saturday night when the wife is asleep and the kid is in bed and I'm bored?

Call my daughter? No, she's angry remember. I call my mom, have a beer. Go to bed.

Good night.

*Profanity filled, so no link.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Digging for skeletons

Spent the last few days in the beginning stages of writing a teen memoir. A novel at this point would be way too much a challenge. And although I do like challenges, I like approaching them with knowledge. My knowledge of novel writing is limited. With a memoir I'm simply recounting real-life events while keeping in mind the story overall.

Some of the details of specific events I'm not recalling so easily. That's where creative license comes into play. But where does the memoir end, and the novel begin? Is it still a memoir if my creative imagination comes into play in the details I can't remember? This is not so simple.

I find blogging easier. When I blog, I'm usually dealing with what's on my mind that day. What am I feeling passionate about that very minute. It may be a client that just called and infuriated me. I write about it. It may be a conversation I just had that strikes me as humorous or compelling. I write about it. But writing a memoir from the vantage point of myself as a teenager is difficult because whatever I was passionate about at a given point, whatever challenge or conflict I was wrestling with at that time, I've already resolved years ago. And in most cases let go and moved on. So I'm really having to dig. I know the story I want to tell. I was there. But I'm really having to dig deep into my memory banks to rediscover some of the thoughts, feelings and occurances of my teen years. I am needing to exhume some of the stuff I had wrapped up and buried long ago. Some of those things I would rather not unearth. Because many of those things were never properly dealt with before lowering them into the grave. Now they're coming back to haunt my conscience.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

An American Idol?

For the third time in the past week, I've been told how much I look like the American Idol contestant, Nikko Smith(photo on right). Besides the fact that we are both black, and wear similar glasses, I don't see the resemblance. But let's hope he has no enemies or vengeful baby's momma's.

Unrelated thought for the day: She changed. Somewhere slightly after she turned 12-years old, I lost my dearly-beloved, sweet, dimple-faced, baby girl — and gained an uggstabuggle. She's 17 now. Hope it's just a stage.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Changing gears

A conversation I recently had over lunch with two of my law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool old house with a friendly ghost:

Devas T.: Think I'd like to do some writing someday. Maybe a children's picture book.

My law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool old house with a friendly ghost: Picture books are great. Go for it! But why not give a try at writing a young adult memoir similar to your style of writing used in this blog?

Devas T.: I draw pictures. I can't write. (excuses)

My law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool old house with a friendly ghost: We've read your blog, we think you can write. You have talent. You just need to develop it further.

Devas T.: Thanks, but I have a full-time job. I illustrate children's books. I have a wife and a son. An internet connection. I don't have time to sleep, much less write a young adult memoir? When would I do that? (more excuses, fear of failure, rejection)

My law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool old house with a friendly ghost: During the hour or more you spend everyday blogging. Cut back your blogging time and write a book manuscript instead.

Devas T.: Geniuses! But where do I start?

My law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool old house with a friendly ghost: Continue writing. Tell your story. Read plenty of other young adult novels. We can recommend a few to start with.

I think my law school educated, well-published, nice author friends who live in a cool old house with a friendly ghost are exactly right. I do write everyday. That takes discipline. I can do this! So for that reason, from this day forward, I will blog just once or twice per week. I'll still write everyday. But but to be published. No, not with Blogger. A book publisher. A children's book publisher. And with the strong support of the children's literary community in Austin, I think I an do this. So, who is my law school educated, well published, nice author friends who live in a very cool house with a friendly ghost? I'm not saying. Don't want their mailboxes bombarded with 50 "can you please read my manuscript" emails. I will reveal who they are on the dedication page of my first published young adult memoir.

Unrelated thought for the day: Is it just me, or has Blogger not been workin' right?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Reality bloggin': Anatomy of an art studio

Reality TV's got nothing on me. Although I won't be eating any pigs eyeballs, here's a look at my messy, but semi-productive when-I'm-not-blogging art studio. I did one of those panoramic shots, standing in the center of my studio and doing a complete circle. No, I didn't clean it up for the occasion.

PHOTO SET 1: Me, red-eyed and grouchy first thing in the morning not appreciating the camera (although I'm the photographer) in my face before getting a chance to comb my hair or brush my teeth; A signed poster of "The Battle of Belle Dorcas" poster illustrated and signed personally for me by award-winning children's illustrator Brian Pinkney; An oil painting of my daughter I created when she was about 7-years old, One half of my children's book collection off limits to my kids; Two empty bottles of Mississippi Mud; My wedding-day boutonniere clipped to a photo of me and the wife; A group shot of authors from the Texas Book Festival, 2001, me included; A leather chair the wife bought me so she could have some place to sit and hang out when I'm busy and can't chat with her over dinner; A picture of my son as he was newly born.

PHOTO SET 2: My collection of old-school tunes for those days that Dr. Laura is gettin' on my nerves; Artwork created in honor of me by Miss Culvers 3rd-grade class, Dallas, TX; A Hotwheels lunchbox and trash can (I like Hotwheels); Other scale-model cars; Photos of my three children although my grown daughters say I try to hide the fact that I have two daughters, not just the son; Sketches and reference photos for the HIDDEN FEAST to publish spring 2006; Work area with drawing table full of Liquitex acrylics, oil alkyds and brushes; An empty box from a brand new HP lazer printer that I've been too busy to deal with and a painting of the wife tucked under the table that I haven't touched in over a year.

PHOTO SET 3: Another work area with papertowels the wife buys me because she can't stand when I use her strawberry print towels to clean my brushes, Clay models I use as reference for my books, A paper cutter too small to use for just about anything, Tax bills tacked to the wall, Newspaper clippings sent to me from Dianna Aston on artist Bill Traylor; My scale-model, fully-functional Harley Davidson; reference books including Cooking and Booking Texas Style in which I contributed a story and recipe; An HP printer and CPU; My wallet sans any money; My computer station (see mom, nothing dirty on the screen); A wacom tablet; Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots mousepad; Franklin Mint scale-model cars which include a 1962 VW van and 1957 Chevy BelAir among others.

PHOTO SET 4: A photo of me and other students who attended a Poynter Institute infographics course; Two trophies (2nd place - open men medium, 1st place - novice men medium) won from the Upper Midwest Body Building competition, 98 (NANBF); Art Director's of Iowa awards and various others including two from the Associated Press; One two-week old banana peel; Antidepressants (for muscle pain, I'm not depressed, I don't think); Top secret contact info for artists and authors of Houghton Mifflin although then never return my calls; A naked modeling mannequin; A painting of Jimmie JJ Walker from the TV show Good Times (My childhood artist mentor); My copier station with several hundred unused American Showcase ad tear sheets.

PHOTO SET 5: A template I made for creating and adjusting the colors on my computer-generated art; A catalog sheet for the book A Camping Spree with Mr. McGee (this book looks retro-cool); 1960s Sylvania Solid State stereo that my grandfather gave me but keeps bugging me to give back because although I think Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie are cool people, and I do like old-school, I'm not that old-school; A homemade rooster wing belonging to Brother Rooster that I made to study for the purpose of seeing how a roosters wing actually bends, used as reference for a children's book I'm illustrating; Several thumbnail sketches for the book; My hubcap clock and me now in a much better mood now that I've had my morning coffee.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The family man

My uncle was the epitomy of 1970s cool. At least as cool as cool could be living in the corn capitol of the world, Des Moines, Iowa. To top it off, he drove a disco-van.

I don't remember the model, it didn't matter. What mattered was the materials used to ultimately produce this travelling party on wheels. Smoked-bubble windows were mounted on both sides of the van. And as we drove through the neighborhood all eyes were on us. Wood-paneled walls stained to a deep brown were smooth to the touch, streaked with black and made for a dark but relaxing atmosphere. The dome light was replaced with a black bulb which brilliantly lit up a poster that glowed of psychedelic butterflies and afro-faries. The combination of black velvet and neon pinks, purples and orange made them seem to fly clean off the walls. Stained-glass beads dangled from the roof and created their own music, chiming in rhythm as they swayed and colided from each bump from the salt-cracked Iowa roads.

I'd kick back feeling royal in a purple, leather bean-bag chair and take in the sweet aroma of jasmine insence which masked a sort of burnt smell unfamiliar to me at the time. Shag carpeting lined the floors and my hands would be completely lost as I ran my fingers through it, combing it as though my hands were oversized, five-fingered afro-combs. We'd fish through a pile of cassettes handing our request over to the driver, my uncle, and DJ for the ride, who would play our favorite tunes. "Flashlight," a funky George Clinton tune was usually our choice to blare through the loud speakers which were rigged-up somehow to his 8-track tape player. And we'd bop our heads and snap our fingers to the music, as flickers of lights danced across the walls, up over our faces, reflections from a glass disco-ball that hung from the rear-view mirror. The adornments were worth more than the vehicle itself.

And what car in the 70s didn't possess a CB radio?

The Family Man was my uncles handle, the equivalent of today's screen name or IM address. And we were impressed by his use of black slang and CB-isms which he confidently used when communicating with a passing trucker.

"Breaker 1-9, This is the Family Man at your back door. Any bears in the bushes? 10-4, good buddy," he'd say with an air of coolness I longed to posesse myself someday.

My uncle was a trip in himself, a popular barber and creative artist. He was a blues-man, a member in various nightclub bands that performed in clubs throughout the midwest. Unconventional in his dress, he didn't succumb to the fashion trend of the day, but he was never out of style. He created his own. Cool in his jean coveralls, white dress-shirt and tie. A vest which was recycled from a too-small three-piece suit latched in the back causing his paunch to give away his true age. This statement was usually topped off with an 8-panel apple hat slightly tilted to one side, his grey-peppered afro brandishing a black-power pick. And he smelled of English leather. Many men of the time walked with a strut, a pimp-walk as they called it, and my uncle strutted his to the hilt.

I suppose my uncle was a hippie. A freespirit. A liberal. And as far as he was concerned, there wasn't much in the way of structure or rules except, "Do what I say when I say it — or else!" And we did. But we liked hanging with him in the disco van, and the memories are many. It was my refuge at a Halloween, haunted house that I wanted no parts of. It was our camper on fishing trips. Our limo at the state fair "Chic" concert. And our hotel room as we travelled to see the P-Funk all star show in Kansas City. Trips to the drive-in movies were the best. "Walking Tall" (the original) contrasted the night sky, as we gathered on the floor in a group, munching popcorn and pepsi, as my uncle sipped on his own concoction of wine and whatever. Ratings weren't an issue, mom didn't know.

But my uncle put in the time. He spent time with his kids. And his nephews. And we adored him. He's my uncle, my cousin's dad, grandpa and now great-grandpa. Retired.

And he now drives a Hyundai.

© 2005 Don Tate II


Friday, March 11, 2005

Pondering a death

I'm not a touchy-feely kind of brotha. I don't do emotions. I don't show them. Express them. Talk about them. Or for that matter, care too much about them. Ya feel me? Don't know where this came from. I wasn't raised in an emotionless family. A day didn't go by that my mom didn't either tell or show me that she loved me. My grandmother, although harsh at times, showed her affectionation through giving, providing and bragging on us. And grandpa to this day will lay a sloppy-wet smooch on my 41-year old face and cry like a baby when you tell him how much he's loved.

I never intended to deal with emotions or anything too deep in this weblog. But today, I'm dealing with feelings. And I'll be brutally honest.

Someone whose path crosses mine almost daily just died. And I feel awful. But I'm not sure why. I'm confused. Because I can't say that I liked this person. There, I've said it. It's what I've been trying not to think all afternoon. Didn't want to admit it. Nice guys don't say things like that. But I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

I don't want to go tacky here, so for that reason I won't identify this person by name or give the circumstances of their death.

What do you do, what do you say, how do you react and what do you think when someone dies and that someone honestly made your stomach turn when you saw them approaching? Really. Let's face it, there are some people we like. Some people we dislike. And since we all die, there's a 50/50 chance you'll fall on one side or the other. Am I right? Then how come I feel wrong?

I listened to the nice comments people made in honor of this person. The bearers of the news choked back tears. Their voices cracked as they honored this persons many accomplishments. As they honored the persons professionalism. They recalled the good times. Everyone was silent as the news was announced. Melancholy. And I, too, felt sad. But for different reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on. The person I knew displayed condescension towards me. This person was arrogant. This person was short and abrupt. Occasionally polite. But not with me. And they smelled bad to boot.

For someone who has trouble expressing their feelings, I just did quite well, huh?

I pondered this for awhile. Pensive. Then gave the wife a call. She's does touch-feely better than I. Figured she'd have a Bible verse or something that would make it all make better sense. She didn't. "If you think there's something in the Bible that's going to say it's ok to dislike somebody and not care when they die, I don't where you'll find it in the Good Book," she says. She thought for a bit but had no answer. We ended the call.

Then it came to me.

My wife is the type of person who'll never allow other people's negative qualities to get the best of her. She sees right past the bad stuff in search of the good stuff. When treated disrespectful, she'll set a person straight. She's a sista. But then she'll forgive, look deeper and find that persons bright side. I tend to fester. That's a problem I need to work on. And probably explains why I feel so bad. I never let myself see this persons bright side. And now they're gone. And all that remains in my memory of this person is ugly. That's not good.

So that's my answer. I have to get to a place where I can see the good in everyone. Even those who may treat me unfairly. Even those who are mean. Even those whose personalities conflict with mine or who look down on me for no good reason. Regardless of their baggage or unflattering personality issues. Cause I got some of those myself.

Unrelated thought for the day: Can't say I've had any other thoughts today.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Drawin' and dancin'

Just read an article in today's New York Times about Jennifer Lopez's new CD, "Rebirth." Apparently a quarter of a million people bought the CD last week while four times that many people purchased 50 Cent's new CD "Massacre." I must be getting old, or something because my initial response was, "so what." I'm not flippin with excitement here.

But you should have seen my moves yesterday when I discovered and downloaded Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," an old-school joint from the late 80s with a revolutionary beat that gets a brotha up and away from the drawing board, jammin' like a crazy man when no one is looking. I'm kinda shy like that.

Today's popular music is nothing more than old-school, overly-sampled, mixes played under loud noise with a loud-mouthed rapper, dressed like anybody's nightmare, screaming something offending that he couldn't spell if he had to. White ones, too. Used to be they kept their loud-mouthed screaming in the genre of Rock or Metal. But anymore, music has sort of melted into one big cooking pot of wish I had a better vocabulary to describe it. Whatever it is, it's no good.

Remember in the day when a new black artist would debut on MTV and the pride you felt at how we were finally able to display our talents to the world and the world was taking note? Now I just cringe with embarrassment and turn the channel.

There are a few bright spots. Usher and Outcast. And I do like Kanye, but why's he telling our kids that college is a poor choice? That education leads to drugs and jobs at the Gap. I've met some kids who dress like gangsters, can't talk without cursin' and will be lucky to even be considered for employment at the Gap.

My example of Public Enemy might not be the best. They rap. They're loud. They curse. Possibly even over sample. But I like 'em and this is my rant.

So what's an illustrator like me normally listening to while creating the next wanna-be Caldecott winning book?

Dr. Laura, of course. Yes, I tend to run against the tide.

Guess I'll zip on over to iTunes and give Ms. Lopez a listen to. But 50 Cent won't get my dime.

Unrelated thought for the day: I really didn't have a problem with Dan Rather. With the exception of his David Letterman crying episode, I kinda liked him.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Prodigal daughter

The wife and I are watching TV when the local news announces that the yearly kite festival held at Zilker Park will be postponed a week. We visited that festival this time last year, taking our son who was much too afraid of all the colorful flying creatures to enjoy the sites.

This event also marks a year since my then 21-year old daughter returned home after spending the previous 3 years attending classes at the East Texas Community College of Hard Knocks — Humility 101. And she didn't pass.

She left home to attend a real college. A predominately-black, Christian college in East Texas. But without my blessing, and against my warnings she decided to make a transfer.

Won't go into detail about how she spent those years. I'll just say that she turned away from the values my wife and I tried to instill. I felt the years had been wasted. The evenings spent drilling for spelling tests. The years she spent attending the "better schools." The summers of making her take art classes. Of encouraging her to take speech. Of expensive summer camps in the woods. Clarinet and golf lessons. Disneyland and science camps. Of insisting she participate in church activities where she'd be around people with values like mine. Of making her volunteer time at a hospital. All that effort was wasted. She rebelled. And I questioned the time I spent with my 3-year old son. Will I waste time again?

But then she called home. She was ready to leave of the College of Hard Knocks. Ready to make a new start. Although sitting in a dark apartment for three months with no electricity or water was a factor, I'm sure.

She came with nothing but the clothes on her back. And we welcomed her. We fed her. We clothed her. We loved her. She found a job and joined church. We finally could talk! Well, we could talk more. Well, we didn't talk for several weeks following a disagreement, but she had changed. In the four months that she'd been home, I discovered that she had grown up since originally leaving home. So I thought.

But she met a new guy and the School of Hard Knocks called on her once more. And she reenrolled, packed her bags and left. This time the Tuscon, Arizona Campus of Hard Knocks. On a farm with real goats.

Now she's having a baby.

But she's a good young woman, finally matured. And I'm proud of her. What I thought went to waste — my teaching, my values, my time — had simply been put on hold. She's falling back on those things. They've been there all along.

And she wants her son to have those same things we gave her. So she says. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A semi-eventless Monday

  • Found this image on, a website featuring turn of the century, public domain clip art and children's book illustrations. Yes, there are less offensive images on the site. Aren't you glad the children's book industry has evolved?

  • Received an email inquiry from a middle eastern student studying visual communications at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The student would like to feature me and my work as the subject of a class multimedia project. Cool! Yes, it kinda freaked me out at first, ignorance on my part, I guess. But I now see this is an opportunity for me to learn and better familiarize myself with a culture I really know nothing about. Such a sheltered Iowa brotha.

  • Received an email from an art buyer at Advance Publishing, a Texas publishing company who is interested in discussing the possibility of my illustrating a 48-page children's book. Exciting!

  • Mailed out two signed licensing contracts.

  • Confirmed a lunch date with authors Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith.

  • Enjoyed listening to Dr. Walter Williams insights into social security reform. Dr. Williams sat in today for Rush (yes, I love that show) and I listened while getting in three sets of extra-heavy, head-rushing deadlifts.

  • Worked my evening gig at the newspaper.

    Not a bad day. And the weather was fantastic.

    Unrelated thought for the day: When my oldest daughter graduated highschool she was immature, selfish, and mean. I knew she truly would not be an adult until she could see her parents as live human beings just like she. Not until I could actually look forward to her phone calls.
    And now three years later, she does. And I do, too. She's turned out to be a fantastic young woman. Don't give up on your kids.
  • Monday, March 07, 2005

    Illustrators, don't you love it when...

    ...a client calls and offers a freelance project with a budget less than $1000.00 of what is considered industry standard?

    ...that same client gets the art specifications to you a week later than they said they would, although the deadline does not change?

    ...that same client shortens your deadline because their production schedule has changed?

    ...that same client isn't willing to give you any extra time to meet their deadline, so you stay up all night to get the final paintings in the mail before FedEx closes?

    ...that same client pays you more than 90 days(3 months) after you ship and invoice the artwork because they have a policy of not processing invoices until after publication although they didn't tell you that before hand?

    ...that same client doesn't return your calls in regards to "where's my money at," even though you left several very trying-to-be-nice messages?

    ...that same client has a "why are you bothering us" attitude when you finally get in touch with of them?

    ...that same client repeats all of the above steps three months later but you accept the work again thinking maybe it was all just a big misunderstanding and would never happen again? But it does.

    ...that same client fails to send you printed samples, but you don't want to call and get that same "why are you bothering us" attitude again?

    ...that same client never returns your original artwork even though they are contractually obligated to do so and they've had your art for over a year and they ignore your phone calls and emails?

    ...that same client calls you again to offer you another project, and you accept only because you figure it's the only hope you have to get your original art returned, so you promise to take on the project in exchange for them returning your artwork a.s.a.p.? But they still don't.

    ...when that same client is a big-name, well-known children's publishing company who every children's illustrator wants to be able to work with at some point in their publishing career just to be able to claim on their resume that they've worked with __________, but only if they knew beforehand how they'd be treated, they'd give it a second thought? can blog about them without revealing who they are because they might read your blog and you still might consider working for them again because money is money regardless how they treat you?

    Unrelated thought for the day: Why is it that our society rewards stupidity with wealth?

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Visual blogology!

    A recent exchange between the wife and I after she discovers this photo of me laying on my drawing board:

    The wife: What in the world are you doing in this picture? You look ridiculous.

    Devas T. That's not me in the picture, honey. That's Brother Donkey who is shocked and aghast at Brother Rooster's disrespectful and abhorrent behavior after he abruptly gets up from the formally dressed and decorated dining table while knocking over his chair which makes a loud bang then storms out of the dinner party thrown for the animals upon discovering his meal is not quite what he expected.

    The wife: You're a bit different than other husbands.

    Devas T. *smile* Yes, I am.

    For those of you non-artist types, I sometimes take photos of myself or hire models to use as reference for some of the books I illustrate.


    I'd like to thank Ward Jenkins of The Ward-O-Matic, a visitor at this blog who enlightened me on the ways of visual blogology. It's all in the tags (a little html lingo). I can finally post pictures! Although, I won't very often. I don't want the visuals to make me lazy at bettering my words.

    The New York Public Library is now offering their vast collection of primary sources to the public over the internet. This includes maps, posters, photographs, dust jackets, cigarette cards and more. Free to the public and available for download. How cool. A great new resource for illustrators like myself in desperate need of some obscure historical...thing.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Bad things, good people

    Just learned that a coworker of mine at a previous newspaper where I worked was just diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. And in most cases it's fatal.

    I heard the news in a roundabout manner. I read in an email, "Did you hear that Barcellona has Luke Erik's disease?" I figured it out.

    I don't know Rob Borsellino very well. We worked in the same newsroom at the Des Moines Register. He's a news columnist/reporter/editor type. We crossed paths when he had an infographic need and occasionally in the shower after a morning workout at the YMCA. At my request he once wrote and published a column about my grandfather who was sent on his dream pilgrimage to Israel, paid for by a complete stranger.

    I like Rob. He's a good guy. Why do bad things have to happen to good people? And bad people just seem to breed?

    Think of Rob and his family in your prayers.

    Springtime book hunt

    It’s March, one of my favorite times of the year! This is when publisher’s start releasing their children’s titles for spring. Also when I begin my daily haunting of local bookstores in search of new books by Mark Teague, Brian Pinkney, Kadir Nelson and David Kirk, a few of my favorite children's books illustrators. Publisher's Weekly offers their list looking at new children's spring releases and a sneak-peek at the fall. And since you won't find my name on the list for 2005, shoot me an email with the name of a good agent. Mine is on extended vacation. Apparently.

    Summer Sun Risin', my first book to publish with Lee & Low Books will also publish this spring in paperback form.

    Below are a few titles I plan to snatch-up. Nothing official, I'll buy those titles whos illustrator I am a fan of. I also collect titles of African American interest. I'm African American and it just be like that.

    Here's my most wanted list:

    The School is Not White!: A True Story of the Civil Rights Movement
    by Doreen Rappaport ills. by Curtis James

    Brothers In Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
    by Mary Williams, illus. by R. Gregory Christie

    Let Them Play
    by Margot Theis Raven, illus. Chris Ellison

    The Sun's Daughter
    by Pat Sherman, illu. R. Gregory Christie

    The Loathsome Dragon
    by David Wiesner, illus. by Kim Kahng
    Looks to be cool!

    A Season for Mangoes
    by Regina Hanson, illus. by Eric Velasquez

    Ant and Honey Bee: What a Pair!
    by Megan McDonald, illus. by G. Brian Karas
    I'm a fan of everything Karas!

    Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood
    by John Duggleby
    (Grant Wood was an Iowan and I am, too. Although transplanted in Texas)

    Henry and Pawl and the Round Yellow Ball
    written and illustrated by Tom Casmer and Mary GrandPré
    The illustrator of Harry Potter fame. I love Mary's work!

    Wet Dog!
    by Elise Broach, illus. by David Catrow
    Catrow is a fellow news artist. We collect our paychecks from the same news organization.

    The Real Slam Dunk

    by Charisse Richardson, illus. by Kadir Nelson
    I buy everything Kadir

    In the Promised Land
    by Doreen Rappaport, illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

    Hold the Flag High
    by Catherine Clinton, illus. by Shane W. Evans
    Shane has to be the busiest guy in book biz

    The Hello, Goodbye Window
    by Norton Juster, illus. by Chris Raschka
    Chris has a wonderful feel-good quality about his work

    The Big Race Starring Tommy Tortoise and Harry Hare
    by Shirley Glaser, illus. by Milton Glaser
    Milton Glaser is a legend. I'm assuming this is the same legendary guy. I once heard him speak at Drake University. Inspirational artist/designer/illustrator/extraordinaire. Husband/wife team, maybe?

    Diaper David Books: Oh, David! and Oops!
    by David Shannon

    This Little Light of Mine
    illus. by E.B. Lewis

    Honey Baby Sugar Child
    by Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Susan Keeter
    Grand Total: Way to much. Need to cut back

    Unrelated thought for the day: Neil Bortz! I love this show!

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    News flash listed my blog as one of their "cool writer blogs" (scroll down to see the list). How cool is that! Thanks. is a site for everyone who writes, reads, or teaches literature for kids.

    Illustrator Roz Fulcher, one of my Texas cyber-buddies wrote a blurb in the 2005 Children's Writers & Illustrator's Market guide. Contratz to her!

    Artist undercover

    I'm at the point where I'm running out of things to say here on a daily basis. I almost resorted to writing a little essay about the macho practice of male spitting. But changed my mind and saved it as a draft for a more desperate day. Probably tomorrow. Look for it soon.

    In the meantime, I'm getting closer to finishing my sketches for THE HIDDEN FEAST. And after laying everything out I realize that my character development has sort of evolved as I've worked my way through the book. I've grown more confident. Less inhibited. So, I'll need to spend some time reacquainting myself with these animals and make some adjustments for consistency sake.

    But that's my day job. By night I go undercover posing as a journalist. A visual journalist. A graphics reporter for the American Statesman. Today, I make maps. But a cartographer I am not.

    I have no sense of direction. I am one of those guys who would get lost with map in hand, compass on dash and GPS calling out the directions. So sometimes I find it ironic that my job entails creating anything that will help anybody find their way anywhere. And today I have to create a map that will help our readers find their way around highway construction detours. Those same detours I sat lost and confused in just six hours ago. So somebody's in trouble.

    I received some tasty news from my publishers at August House and wanted to be the first to break it right here. To tell the story. To have everyone talking. To inform and to be able to say you heard it first right here. But they asked me to keep it hush until after Publisher's Weekly makes the announcement sometime next week. Bummer for the little guys.

    Unrelated thought for the day: She read my blog! And she liked. Suppose now I'll have to listen to her practice her upcoming speech.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    I think I'll start a blog. Part II

    My post yesterday triggered a lively discussion among folks in my yahoo group. Several members, who consist of Texas children's illustrators, have already joined the blog-o-sphere and a few more are considering. The subject we discussed: what to write about in our blogs; what's appropriate and what's not appropriate considering children may have access. Do we censor ourselves? Interesting. Illustrators discussing writing.

    Some have decided not to post anything inappropriate to children since their blogs are linked to their websites which may attract them. Others are concerned about art directors and editors seeing something offensive. Me, I have differing thoughts.

    My blog is my first attempt at writing — anything. Having a blog gives me a reason to write, a purpose and an immediate end result. I do enjoy writing, but I'm not disciplined enough, yet, to write everyday simply for the practice and exercise of doint it. So a blog makes for me the perfect tool to publish my work until I become more comfortable with writing and sharing my written word with others.

    So at this point, I don't put limits on myself. I just write. I'm not writing for children. I'm writing for myself, and I'm grown. If I focus too much on who the reader might be; what the reader might think about me or my writing; if my writing is appropiate, I'd get writer's block. And I do. I become intimidated, the same way I am in person with the spoken word. Self conscious and clumsy. My ultimate goal is to write for children. But I'm not there, yet.

    I don't write anything vulgar. But vulgar is subjective. What you find vulgar, others find amusing. Take the word fart. Just used it the other day in a blog post referring to my son. Called him a little fart. And he can be. But the word doesn't bother me because I figure — people do. Fart. And if they say otherwise, they've lied. Or are bloated and on the verge of exploding. Editors and art directors included.

    Some find it funny. They can relate because they have a little fart, too, who's terrorized their Saturday. Just like Kolb terrorized mine.

    So for awhile, I may unlink my blog from my webpage. Keep them completely separate till I find my writing voice. And that voice doesn't embarrass me at my next school visit.

    Are there do's and don'ts to blogging? I figure, do what you want. Write what you like. It's free. Or at least very cheap. But don't do the following. These are my peeves:

    People who use creative capitalization:
    toDaY, i wiLL wRitE liKe I HaVe nO sChOoL tRainINg

    People who embed some John Denver-ish tune into their blog page which blares upon loading and announces to the entire office that my hands aren't as busy as my eyes are trying to make everyone think I am.

    People who pepper their entries with unnecessary expletives. Every other word is F-this and B-that. Damn, I hate profanity.

    People who don't know html, but tinker with the code so it crashes your computer upon loading.

    People who create lists of "100 things you didn't know about them."
    If I don't know you, I'm not gonna read anything after, say, #9.
    If I already know you, I might make it to, say, #10.
    # 59 is out of the question and...

    People who post pictures and visuals. Just makes me jealous because Blogger restricts Mac users from posting photos. I may have to move my blog to a more Mac-friendly host.

    People who think letters, words, sentences and paragraphs are all relative, disregarding any use of basic punctuation.

    People who can't conjure enough creativity to begin their post with something besides, "Hmm, just started my blog today, what will I write about? Welcome to my world"

    People who use predictable blog language such as rants, raves or musings to discuss only themselves. Oops, just described "my world" here.

    Happy surfing and check out an informational blog by Texas children's illustrator Janee Trasler: To Rep or Not to Rep

    Ah, and another very cool austin illustrator/animator I just happened to run across. Jared Chapman. How come I was the last to know about him? And he's got a blog, too.

    Unrelated thought for the day: Why is it so difficult to accept the notion that men and women's brains might be different, when everything else about 'em is?