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Inventory of skill sets

I started journaling earlier this year. I used to do it. Then just stopped for years. I don’t know why I stopped, and am really bummed I did.

I used to write everything in the journals. Super personal stuff. What I was feeling at the time.

I could go back to those journals and know how I felt as things in my life unfolded. Highly advise to keep journals. At the worst, at least it gets stuff off your chest.

In real life, I’m the rock for everyone else. Pretty much everyone around me. So who do I turn to? Actually, my art and my music. They’re both great outlets.

Anyways, last night’s journal was an honest personal inventory of skill sets. I rated my skill sets. I have a few at elite, a few more advanced, more at good, and several at in progress. Romanian, Spanish, and the piano are in progress.

My piano skills are so bad that I actually orchestrate from the guitar. Historically, there’s only one other composer who did that – Hector Berlioz. When things get less crazy and we get back to owning a home, I’m buying a piano. An old upright. I actually love the sound of those things.

Play to your strengths, but…

I’ve always believed in playing to your strengths. But you have to start all skill sets from somewhere.

I’m already proud of my pinup art. I know I make Allie, Roxy, and Sophia look good. They’re all attractive ladies in real life. The trick is to get them to look good in the paintings as well.

So yes, play to your strengths. But continually develop new strengths.

I’m taking writing seriously this year. Some time next year, I’ll publish a book of short stories. It’s funny because Opium Tales started as my short stories. Allie got me into taking my art seriously. Before that, I just did trolling cartoons.

And of course, I’ll release that game.

What about you? Have you ever actually written down your skill sets? Have you organized them into some sort of fashion, like elite, advanced, good, and in progress?

If not, I highly advise trying it. You get to take an inventory of where you’re at and what you need to improve.

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My top ten artists in order

Yes, I wrote my artistic influences last month. But I decided to put some order to it.

And note, these are my personal influences. Not necessarily who I think are the absolute best artists in the world.

For example, Judas Priest is my favorite band. Do they write the best music ever? Well…

I associate Judas Priest’s music with some of the best times of my life. Still, to this day when a day is really magical, I’ll often make it even better by adding some Priest.

Barry Bonds though was the more extreme example. When he retired, I stopped watching baseball altogether. I can’t even name five active baseball players now.

Yes, I get it that he was the heel. I take his side because very few people know the whole story. To make a long story short, he’s always been the media heel because he grew up hating the media.

He’s very close to his dad, who was often the media scapegoat. His father is one of those borderline hall of famers who for some reason, the media just hated the guy. So Barry hated the media back and refused to do interviews.

I’m going off on tangents here. The point is this – these are my favorites. I have mine. You have yours. And you know what? If you got a similar list, let me know! I’d love to read it.

Cutting down to 10

Cutting down to 10 was a serious challenge. My wife and I were at a wedding in Maui several years back, and took a bus to Hana. The men sat at the back of the bus and spent an hour arguing the top five basketball players of all-time.

We ended up with a list of 15 players who were the top five basketball players of all-time. And had the worst time trying to get ten of these greats off that list.

That’s the problem I have. I cut this down to 22 and feel absolutely horrible not including more in my top 22. Now pulling ten from this list?

Here’s my 22 list (in no order whatsoever):

Roman's 22 favorites

Every single one of those artists influenced my work. Bosch was my early high school favorite. Then I really started studying fantasy – Waterhouse, Vallejo, Frazetta, Elmore, and Rackham.

I went through a pinup phase – Elvgren, Bernardinis, etc.

I went through a Renaissance phase – Leonardo, Michelangelo, etc.

I went through a pure beauty phase – Bouguereau, Folero.

I’m not going to go through every phase I went through. But most recently, I bought a bunch of limited prints of Michael Cheval’s work. He’s still alive and I love his work since it’s out there, and combines a musical/dance element that I really like.

Ten

American pinup artist Gil Elvgren.

Why?

He’s the one I’ve been ripping off most recently.

I’ve painted four different women now – Allie, Roxy, Sophia, and Jin. All four women have flipped through my Gil Elvgren book.

Years ago, when I first started taking my drawing seriously (I had been a cartoonist before that), my wife surprised me with a Gil Elvgren book from Barnes and Noble. I started drawing girls from his book. And when my models come over, if I don’t have an idea prepared, they’ll flip through the book and mimic a pose they like.

Most of my drawings don’t turn into paintings. I end up using them either for scratch paper or to wrap around my porcelain watercolor palette (as I use the same paints over and over and don’t want to get dust in them).

I honestly don’t know how many of my paintings ended up with variations of Elvgren’s girls’ poses.

Nine

Pre-Raphaelite co-founder and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti married one of the most beautiful women in history – Lizzie Siddal. If you’ve heard my waltz Lizzie’s Opium Waltz, that’s about his drug addicted muse and later wife.

But it’s not about his deceased wife nor his other muses, as he had quite a few famous affairs in his lifetime.

It’s about his art. Rossetti was heavily into Medievalism, as am I. He painted Arthurian characters as well as going through various periods after that period. Which is fine as I expect artists to continually evolve.

I actually like all the periods he went through. His artwork was so, well, Pre-Raphaelite.

I’ll eventually gun for that style as I get more comfortable with greens and reds. Not yet though. I have a long way to go with colors.

Eight

Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

Why did I put him so high?

Once again, colors.

His stuff is weird and totally not my style. But, I wish I had his commands of yellow and especially gold.

I actually always paint Roxy with a golden necklace and Allie with a golden double bracelet on her left arm. Both in honor to Klimt.

I want to get more comfortable with yellows and golds. Klimt commands those colors like Tom Brady commands a clock eating, wearing down defense drive.

I love gold. No, not the metal. The color.

Seven

Spanish Romantic artist Francisco Goya. This was one of my first articles after bringing this blog back from the dead.

It’s funny because I had two Goya periods in my life.

The first was as a child. I came across a Goya book. Thumbing through it, I jumped back and quickly shut the book when I saw Saturn devouring his children. Most disturbing painting I’ve ever seen.

Saturn’s eyes – pure madness, as he’s eating a dead child.

I couldn’t get that image out of my head, despite only seeing it for a split second. Years later as a teenager, I re-opened another Goya book, just to see that painting again. I had watched quite a few horror movies and had built a tolerance for that stuff. Also, I won a few fist fights recently and built a bit of a gut (not meaning the protruding kind, but gut as in tough stomach).

Yes. It was as disgusting as when I saw it as a child. Pure madness. So disturbing.

Then decades later, my wife and I somehow ended up in the upper middle class. My wife one day turned to me and said we should start traveling the world with all this money. No, we’re not rich, but we definitely feel rich after both of our respective childhoods.

2015, we found ourselves in Madrid and I got to see a lot of Goya’s paintings in real life. I’ll just say that the books don’t do a single one justice. You absolutely have to see them in real life to appreciate them. Not the same at all.

Goya is better than Picasso and anyone who says otherwise is plain out wrong. Not dogging Picasso by any means. We saw his museum in Barcelona and it was fascinating to see how Picasso evolved throughout the years. We even visited that God awful modern art museum in Madrid just to see Guernica in real life.

Yes. Picasso is great. Way better in real life.

Goya? Even better.

Six

How the hell did I rank Falero over Goya? Like I said in the beginning, this isn’t a list of who I think the best artists of all-time are. If it was, Michelangelo would be number one.

This is a list of my favorites. And I absolutely love Falero, despite not being able to find shit about the man anywhere.

All I know is he died at 45, he loved astronomy, and had good times with beautiful women.

My obsession with Selene? Who you think I got the idea from?

The way he paints women. Nobody paints women quite like Falero. I love how they’re almost borderline erotic. I’ve crossed that line a few times but you won’t see those paintings in my lifetime (and you’re going to have to wait a very long time as I’m planning on living a very long time).

Five

French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Live long enough and your style will go out of style. As exactly what happened with Bouguereau. The avant-garde (most of whom were pretentious douchebags) hated him towards the end of his life and Bouguereau was almost forgotten.

Until the 1980s when people actually started having taste again. Now, his paintings sell for an arm and a leg. As they should.

His work is excellent. It’s the same subject matter that I love to paint – Classical themes and beautiful women. I do either Classical or Fantasy themes and beautiful women.

He’s more realistic though. I’m more stylized.

Still, a heavy influence on me? Huge.

You’ve seen both Allie and Roxy imitating Baigneuse, one of his paintings. Well, the 1870 version.

Four

Fairies. Valkyries. Beautiful women. Edward Robert Hughes, English artist, part Pre-Raphaelite, part Aesthetics. Weird, huh? Almost sounds like an English version of me.

That’s why I put him so high on this list.

Also, he has a better command of blues and greens than I do. I especially love his blues but his greens with the lady visiting the fairies really ranks high up there for my colors paintings.

As you can tell, I obsess with colors. But as much as I obsess with them, I struggle. I struggle to get the same command of blues that Hughes does. He can take a painting and make most of it blue, and it will still be absolutely fascinating. And that girl with the fairies painting – mostly greens and it’s still absolutely fascinating.

That’s a great artist right there. Can take one color. Split it into variations. And cover most of the entire painting with it. Yet, it’s not in the least bit boring.

I love also how he combined his Pre-Raphaelite past (nephew of one of the Pre-Raphaelites) with the Aesthetics present.

Philosophically, I’m sort of an Aestheticist. I want to make the world a more beautiful place. So I create miniature worlds that mimic the real world while delving into fantasy realms. And above all, I make them beautiful. It helps of course to have beautiful models to mimic.

Hughes has one foot in one room and one foot in another. And manages to pull off both brilliantly.

Three

American fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. A consistent favorite throughout my lifetime. Growing up, it was Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Larry Elmore, and Michael Parks who inspired me the most via the fantasy genre. But it was Frazetta who was the biggest of all of them.

That remained consistent throughout my life. My son even bought me a Frazetta poster as everyone knows how much I love Frazetta.

I’ve heard some rumors that Robert Rodriguez is doing to do a live action movie of Fire and Ice. Will it really happen? I hope so.

I definitely want to hit the Frazetta museum. He’s an American icon. From movie posters to album covers to comics to Conan to of course, his paintings.

If I ever painted heroic men, I’d frantically study Frazetta’s work. His painted epic men, unashamedly masculine.

His women? Shapely. In the Classical sense. Often either damsels in distress or armed and dangerous.

Two

Slavic Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

I went to an art gallery back in December and almost walked away with a Mucha lithograph. Sure, they’re expensive, but it’s fucking Mucha man!

Sure, I’m a Romantic first and foremost. But I also don’t believe in limiting yourself to one style. Art Nouveau is post-Romantic. And it’s a lovely art style.

Nobody did girls quite like Mucha. Sadly, it’s not what Mucha wanted to be known for. I get it though. The whole Slavic Nationalist movement. If you knew what was going on at that time, you’d know the importance of it.

Yes, he got interrogated and he eventually died in 1939.

But let’s roll back. Despite not being proud of the Art Nouveau era, that’s the era of his works that inspired me the most. The Mucha Girls.

Lovely, feminine, long hair, often red-headed. Often with flowers in their hair.

These girls were the epitome of what I’m currently gunning for. Allie and Roxy are Roman’s Girls and hopefully in the Afterlife, I’ll be able to drink with Mucha and have a few stories and laughs about our girls.

Alphonse Mucha - The Arts: Music
A Mucha Girl. The Arts – Music

I need more sales. The only thing that was keeping me back from buying that lithograph in December was finances. I’m still paying off my failed business that went under in 2017.

It’s been a fun three years since. But financially brutal.

I’m by no means perfect. A talented composer. A talented artist. A great husband and father. A trustworthy friend. An excellent investor.

But I can’t run a business worth a damn.

Had I not been paying off these debts still, I’d have more than one Mucha lithograph up in the house.

Mucha’s Girls mean the world to me artistically. I cannot overstate how much Mucha influenced my own works.

One

There’s only one above Mucha. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you already know who it is.

Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse. I used to work in the mall. I was in Heavy Metal bands and had real long hair.

Certain jobs at the time wanted you to cut your hair. So I had to take what I could take. Physical labor jobs. And working at the mall.

My mall had a poster shop that had some real cool art. I specifically fell in love with one painting, which was everything I artistically believed in growing up. Fantasy, beauty, aesthetics, it had everything.

The piece?

Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Waterhouse – La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Wait. Did I say piece?

I meant pieces. And…

Waterhouse The Lady of Shalott
Waterhouse – The Lady of Shalott

Everything about Waterhouse. His themes. His beautiful women. Fate. The works themselves. The backdrops. The settings.

Everything he did.

To this day, my favorite artist.

With each painting, I dare to do something new. Something that pushes me further along in my journey.

If there’s one artist I’d love to emulate more than any other, it would be Waterhouse.

This hasn’t changed since I worked in the mall and saw those two paintings.

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I decided to make a game

One of the regular things I do for fun – I’m in a Euro board game group. We meet once a week and play games.

Unfortunately for me, the guy who runs the group likes to play a new game every week. I don’t. I like playing the same 10-20 games over and over again.

If you don’t know what a Euro board game is, let me explain. You probably already know American board games like Monopoly, Risk, Life, or Sorry. They’re based off of luck and once you get the basic strategies, you’re mostly counting on good luck, generally from dice rolls, from there on out.

Euro board games do their best to take luck out of the equation. Or at least limit it.

My favorite game is now considered a Euro classic – Agricola. You’re a Dutch farmer in I think the 1600s. You need resources like wood, clay, and stone to build everything from your home to fences.

You grow crops and breed animals. One catch – you also have to feed your family. Whereas the more kids you have, the more victory points you have at the end of the game, but also the more food you’ll need to feed your family.

And if you don’t feed your family, you get begging tokens, which will count against you at the end of the game.

Sound fun? Well, to me it’s a blast.

At the end of the game, if you’ve won, you did a lot of smart things. If you lost, you generally know what you did wrong. From there, you can strategize what to do better next time.

My game

So my game will incorporate a lot of strategy. You’re dependent on certain factors in order to build something else. And timing will play a big part in it.

I don’t expect it to sell tons of copies. This is my first go.

Now, keep in mind I wrote articles before on making side money as an artist. This venture is a great way to get my art out there.

A lot of these Euro games actually have pretty good art. I played one last year where you had to gather bird eggs and the one who had the best collection won the game. I forgot what it’s called, but it was a damn good looking game.

When I saw that, I immediately thought “I should do that.” But I forgot about it.

Suddenly last month, the idea popped back into my head. Why not make a game? I’ve been playing in this group for a decade now. I’ve played over a hundred different Euro games. I know what works and what doesn’t.

Playability is huge. So I’ll game test it a lot before actually producing it.

I also have to test the mechanics. I might have to fool around with the numbers until I get them to work.

And it’s funny how your goals change. I wrote an article on what I plan on accomplishing in 2020 last year, and I had no idea I’d be doing this.

That’s yet another reason why I think some goals should be somewhat fluid. More on that another day though.

Anyways, I’ll post some screenshots when it starts getting close. I’ve playtested it a bit and it still needs a lot of work. I’m also trying to see how many players I should make this game for. So far, it works with two.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes. Both Allie and Roxy have already modeled for characters in the game.

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Back from Central America cruise

Hello. My wife and I are back from a Costa Rica and Panama cruise.

It’s our fifth cruise, and first time doing Winstar. They have smaller ships – about 220 passengers plus crew. Much smaller than those large cruise ships that we’ve always taken before.

Not all our vacations are cruises. But my wife loves them so we go on them often.

My wife and I have a hard rule that every year, we have to leave the country to a country we haven’t been to before. This year started out with Costa Rica and Panama.

Costa Rica and Panama have gorgeous beaches and wonderful weather in January. I got a slight sunburn as I stayed in the water all day. I’m pretty dark so it’s not easy for me to get burned. I pretty much have to stay in the water all day.

But it’s hard not to. It’s so warm and lovely.

We saw dolphins, monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, and macaws. I didn’t bring a good camera. Just my cell phone. So these pictures aren’t great.

I’m more into having a good time anyways than taking pictures.

However, I did take a lot of jungle shots. I’ll be using them for my tropical mermaid paintings.

A monkey in Panama

So, I also learned a few things. Do you know the difference between African monkeys and South African monkeys? South African monkeys have prehensile tails, meaning that they can use them like an extra limb.

Pretty cool to see them doing it live. I didn’t get very close as these shots were taken in the jungle.

A Jesus Christ lizard in Panama

Do you know why it’s called a Jesus Christ lizard? This lizard can literally run across the water.

No, I didn’t get any video of him doing that. However, at least I got a picture of him chilling.

Jungle in Costa Rica
A pair of dolphins

All in all, had a great time. Definitely ate and drank too much. Looks like I’m going to have to hit the weights harder and incorporate some running in there to work some of that vacation weight off.

But, had a great time.

We finished the vacation crossing the Panama Canal. Highly recommend for people who like technology as for its time, it was an engineering miracle. France begun the work in 1881 but had to abandon it due to a high mortality rate for the workers. The USA took it over in 1904 and completed the work in 1914. The American Society of Civil Engineers lists it as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

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Self-improvement goals for 2020

No matter who you are, you can always get better. You’ll notice that successful athletes do better with certain coaches than others. A good coach gets the best out of his players.

The same goes for real life. I’ve always hired coaches to help me with life. I hire coaches for everything from weightlifting to diet. I also hire people to do the things that I’m weak at.

Knowing yourself is powerful. You get to know what you’re naturally good at. What you’re naturally bad at. And what you can improve.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, I don’t believe in wasting time at what I’m naturally bad at. I feel like it’s simply a waste of time. Especially if I don’t like doing it in the first place.

Now my natural strengths? I believe in playing to my strengths.

Tom Brady is a pocket passer. He’d get killed if he tried to be a mobile quarterback like Lamar Jackson. So he plays to his strengths. He stays in the pocket.

The same thing with life.

Artistically, what am I good at? Still life? Hell no! I hate that stuff to begin with so I’m not even going to bother.

I like women

I like women. I play to my strengths. Sunday, I’ll work with Allie. She’ll be topless, looking out in the distance. I’m going to paint her as a Siren, you know, the femme fatale Siren?

Roxy is currently busy. I haven’t worked with her in months. Great news for her, but I’m supposed to keep it private. She’s still one of my besties and if you’re wondering what happened to her, she’s doing fantastic.

So in the meantime, I hired Sophia to replace Roxy temporarily. And you know what? Sophia is such an awesome pinup model that it won’t be temporary. I already know I’ll work with Sophia for years. She’s cool AF in real life! I didn’t expect her to be this cool.

Once again, play to your strengths. I do fantasy pinups because I love fantasy and I love women. Strengths plus passion equals long-term success.

That doesn’t just go for art. That goes for everything.

If you find out what you’re really good at and you feel passion for it, you will kick ass. Guaranteed. You may even reach the upper 1% of the field. But you’ll reach at least the upper 10% and that’s enough to get paid doing it. No matter the field.

Goals

Some folks love to set New Years Resolutions. Some don’t.

Either way is fine.

I’m constantly setting goals. I don’t care what time of the year it is.

But for 2020, I already have some goals set. I have a certain financial goal that I want to meet. I also already paid for a vacation to see two new countries that I haven’t been to yet. My wife loves traveling and she got me into it as well.

I’m also learning Romanian. I was speaking Spanish last night with my buddy’s girlfriend and I blurted out loud “damn, I wish I spoke Romanian as well as I do Spanish.” Yeah. Definitely need to study more.

Musically, I’m going to release Volume II. If you haven’t heard it yet, definitely give Opium Tales Volume I a listen. It’s only $5 and I’m very sure you’ll like at least one song in there. I wrote two dance numbers, two waltzes, and one ballad. All orchestrated.

You could even preview the whole Princess for the Night song and a sample of Lizzie’s Opium Waltz if you’re wondering what to expect. On your laptop, they’re on the right column. On your phone, go to almost the bottom of this page.

I’ll release one more EP next year with new songs. Same singers.

Artistically, I want to get better at ink. I’m going to release an eBook of my short stories with brand new illustrations. Most of them will be ink only. A few will have watercolors. I’d love to get better at ink.

You get better by doing

This applies for everything. You get better by doing.

The absolute best thing I could do for my art is to get even better at drawing. I love the way I draw women now. But you know what? I could get better at backgrounds. I could draw better trees and better rocks.

There’s always some aspect that you can get better at.

I also want to get better at marketing. I haven’t sold enough of my EP to break even yet. I’m paying real orchestral musicians. Damn good ones. But as expected, good orchestral musicians cost money. And I’m still in the hole.

I need to learn to market my music better. It’s good music. I’ve yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t love at least one song. So far, I’ve heard Princess for the Night, Lizzie’s Opium Waltz, and One More Serenade are everyone’s favorite songs on the EP. I got people emailing me about the songs. I absolutely love hearing what they have to say!

But marketing? Still could get way better. I want to hear Princess of the Night blasting in a dance club. Until then, my marketing isn’t good enough. It’s a damn good dance song and deserves to be danced to.

What about you?

What about you? What are your goals for 2020?

Did you meet your expectations for 2019? I certainly did. I loved 2019 and will look back fondly on this year.

But I know what I could have done better and I’ll be doing those things in 2020.

It’s important to think what you could have done better. Then, you need to act. You can’t just make a list of things to improve then not do it.

Good luck in 2020. May next year be spectacular for you!

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I suck at pottery

Ever have one of those wine and painting courses? Well, I haven’t.

However, I’ve had wine and pottery. Yeah, wine wasn’t included. Should have been though because my pottery probably wouldn’t be this bad.

But, like anything else, you get good by doing.

I did pottery when I was a little kid. My parents enrolled us in summer courses where we learned everything from pottery to photography. I got pretty good at photography. Even learned how to break open a film canister under a special thick black blanket and put it in one of those film things that you dip in the solution that processes your film.

Film? Yes. That’s right. I was really good in the darkroom.

All those dodge and burn things you young ones do in Photoshop? I did that stuff in real life. With film.

But pottery? A completely different beast.

So, decades later, I did the pottery thing. And it turned out, well, crooked.

But, it’s absolutely perfect for my watercolor brushes!

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See those bands!

OK. Something personal.

I was supposed to see Prince awhile back. He played four straight nights in a small venue where we would have actually seen Prince. Not far away. Really seeing him.

To top it off, Carlos Santana jumped on stage and jammed several songs with him.

Imagine, seeing two Guitar Gods performing on the same night.

Then, a few months later, Prince died. We never bought this tickets.

Very sad. Not just for us, but for the whole music world. You can’t replace Prince. You just can’t.

Prince was one of those once in a lifetime people. Good at everything. Purple Rain to this day is one of my favorite albums of all-time.

So we decided after Prince’s death to not miss bands.

Iron Maiden

So when Iron Maiden came to town, no way we weren’t going to see Iron Maiden. I loved their first five albums. Hopefully this isn’t sacrilege, but I stopped following them after Live After Death. I got heavily into Classical music and didn’t really listen to modern music that much from that time period on. Nothing against Maiden. More my own personal musical transformation.

That said, I still listen to all five of those first five albums. And when Iron Maiden came into town. they played only their 80s stuff. Which was great. It was mostly the stuff I liked.

Iron Maiden - Flight of Icarus
Iron Maiden – Flight of Icarus 2019

Billy Idol

And, got to keep the Mrs happy. Her second favorite singer is Billy Idol. Her first is Frank Sinatra but I don’t have a time machine.

Billy Idol played locally. We decided instead to go nuts and rather than seeing him locally, fly into Vegas and spend the weekend doing really cool stuff.

Billy Idol put on a heck of a show. Steve Stevens did a lot of guitar solos, including one with a Flamenco guitar.

The band was tight and the crowd really got into it. Everyone danced when Rebel Yell came on. We all just got up and danced.

Billy Idol live in Vegas
Billy Idol live in Vegas

See those shows, my friends. Bands break up. People die. You might not get that chance again.

You got to keep scratching things off your bucketlist.

Any excuse to go to Vegas

Yeah, I get it. Vegas isn’t everyone’s thing.

The funny thing is, I don’t gamble. I just don’t. Not like it’s a religious or moral thing for me. I don’t gamble because I don’t like losing money. And like it or not, the house almost always wins.

But everything else? Great place to see live bands. We absolutely loved the venue, inside the Palms hotel.

We could have had a 7′ tall man sitting in front of us and we still would have seen the show. Absolutely loved how they managed to make the seats so you could actually see.

And of course, you always meet neat people along the Strip. These two girls were pretty cool. They were both having a pretty bad day because some drunk ladies took out their frustrations on them, just because they were there.

Vegas girls
Vegas girls

We had fantastic bartenders everywhere we went. Killed a bottle of wine in the Luxor. We also had quite a few whiskeys in the Sands. The bartenders were fascinating people. I was most impressed by the bartender at the Sands. Under 30 and really had her future cut out well for her.

Anyways, not every blog post is going to be a watercolor lesson. I wanted to share some of my human side with you.

And I strongly believe that whether you believe in an afterlife, reincarnation, or this is all we get, you got to scratch things off your bucketlist in this life. See those bands you need to see!

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And it’s released – Opium Tales Volume I

Roman's Paul Reed Smith SE

After years and years of being a starving musician, I’ve finally released something I’m proud of. Five songs, all fully orchestrated.

I’ve been in band after band. I quit music for good in 1994 after our band literally got in a fight with ourselves on the stage. I think there may have been four or five people still in the audience at the time.

Yeah, it was that bad.

Then in 2007, I decided to get back into music. I joined a band. Then left it and started my own.

We struggled. We sounded just like everyone else.

The revelation

It came in the Summer of 2012. Our music really did sound like everyone else.

My wife brought home a video of a BBC dramatization of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony. In it, you got to see Haydn pass the torch to Beethoven. At the time, Beethoven was too revolutionary for some. But anyone with any brains knew that he was doing something revolutionary.

Beethoven
Beethoven

After watching that dramatization, I had a revelation. What am I doing? Why aren’t I really using the skill sets I had?

After all, nobody studied Classical music like I did. So, I decided to take it a step further. I’d study orchestration.

Luckily for me, almost everyone I liked has been dead for 70+ years. So all those scores and even the textbooks they studied from are public domain.

The main two references I used were Hector Berlioz’s (updated by Richard Strauss) Treatise on Instrumentation and Walter Piston’s Orchestration. Between those two textbooks and studying scores, I got all the knowledge I needed to orchestrate my own pieces.

The five songs

Of these five songs, I orchestrated all five of them. Two are dance songs. Two are straight up Classical waltzes. And I included one ballad, backed by a lovely string quartet.

Princess for the Night. I wrote this one for Roxy. She’s a great dancer, and one of my most dear friends I’ve ever had. Great listener. And of course, great model.

A real fun piece. Whereas the music sounds happy, the lyrics are quite dark.

Lizzie’s Opium Waltz. Named after 19th century supermodel Lizzie Siddal. She was the most famous of the models for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and withered away on opium until she died in her early 30s. Dedicated to my friend Joe who advised I should take a more Classical route.

I’m in Love. I may or may not have mentioned that Allie’s getting married. She has a baby, and they’re finally going to get hitched next year. I wrote this for Allie and her soon-to-be husband (and father of their child). He’s a great guy, and I can see them together for the next fifty years. I hope they have at least one more kid. They’d be great parents. Allie’s my blonde model if you haven’t been following this blog. And of course one of my besties.

Make Me a New Heart. I’m not going to go into my personal dysfunction, but I didn’t exactly have the most functional family growing up. Good thing though is my wife and my mother got really close. When my mother died, it crushed my wife. As dysfunctional as my family was, at least I had one. My wife had no one. So my mother was the closest thing she had to a family. And this is dedicated to my wife.

One More Serenade. I love ending an album on a ballad. I wrote this one also for my wife. However, I wrote this song back in 2009. It’s finally seeing the light of day. I didn’t add the string quartet until recently. It was just band and synth.

Thanks

Too many people to give thanks to. I especially want to thank though Randy of Stout Recording Studio who produced the album and played all the drums and percussion. He’s played in everything from Jazz trios on cruise ships to 18-piece Jazz bands. I personally don’t like Jazz too much. However, I’ll be the first to admit that that genre produces damn good musicians.

I also want to thank my two singers – Sarah and Liel. Both ladies sounded superb on their respective songs.

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Speaker Girl and finally a release

OK, I’ve been meaning to get this out the door forever. One thing went wrong after another.

First, I drew up a pretty nice picture from an old live sketch of Roxy, inked it, and ruined it because I didn’t clean my watercolor brushes correctly between colors.

It happens though. The more you paint, the more mistakes you’ll make. Which is great. You don’t learn from talking. You learn from doing.

And I draw and/or paint daily. Yes. Every single day.

Even on vacation. I’ll still bring a sketchpad and just draw.

It’s because I love it. Some folks swear by meditation. More power to them.

It’s not me. I can’t imagine anything worse than getting nothing done. Meditation is sitting around for hours not doing anything. That doesn’t sound too exciting. I’m pretty sure I get all the benefits of that peace of mind thing from painting.

Anyways, after killing that painting, I decided to do it again. Because what did I just write about? If you’ve done it once, you can do it again? Damn right!

I say this shit because mindset is paramount to success. It’s hard enough to make it as an artist. You’ll definitely have the leg up if you got the right mental approach to it all.

Speaker Girl

It’s funny because this is an old concept for me. Even before my drawing was any good, I’d still draw a girl between two speakers.

This one has a fantasy cat on top of one of the speakers. I think the next one will have a baby dragon.

When you’re the artist, you get to make the rules.

Allie recently did the same pose as this one. So I’ve already prepared for a bunch of these.

I haven’t seen Roxy in weeks. Just Allie. So I’ll probably do five or six of these speaker girl paintings with Allie in the next few months.

I love the concept.

Now, if you’re wondering why I do them, during the mixes, we decide in advance where we want the instruments to go. The Sound Engineer I work with only likes three places – hard left, center, and hard right. He’s very much against the concept of partial left or partial right.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’m talking about where an instrument goes when you’re mixing the music. For instance, on your average song, you’ll have bass drum, snare drum, lead vocals, harmony vocals, and bass guitar right up the middle. You might have your violins and guitar on the left and your pianos and synthesizers on the right. Your toms and cymbals will also be on the sides.

Now that I’ve said all that, pick your favorite song. Put on headphones. And write down where you hear the different instruments. Left, center, or right? See if you can figure it out for each instrument.

Roxy as Speaker Girl
Roxy as Speaker Girl

This of course is an actual watercolor and gouache painting. Back when I did the diagrams, I’d draw a topless model in the middle of two speakers and actually write where I want the instruments. And give it to my Sound Engineer like that.

Upcoming songs

Yes, my muse is a beautiful woman. Well, most of the time. Sometimes a friend of mine.

I got five songs coming up. They’ll be available next week. Two of them, I wrote for my wife. One of them I wrote for Roxy. Another I wrote for Allie. And one I wrote for my friend Joe who encouraged me to go a more Classical direction.

I was in one failing Heavy Metal band after another. And Joe said that my Metal was OK, but my Classical was outstanding. He encouraged me to pursue that direction. So you know what? He gets a song too.

So yes, five songs coming up. They’ll be available on this site next week. Right now, the Mastering Engineer is mastering them.

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Upcoming next month

I got some good news.

Next month, I’ll be releasing my first purely digital product. It’s a package. Five songs, including two dance songs, two waltzes, and one ballad. All full orchestrated.

There’s no band. Just a bunch of session musicians. I play guitar, piano, synthesizer, and harmony vocals. Sarah Kay is your lead vocalist. She also layers harmony after harmony, making her sound on some of the songs like a chorus of angels. Randy Burk plays drums and percussion.

We have a lot of orchestral musicians. Some songs have 8 Violins I, 7 Violins II, 5 Violas, 3 Cellos, and 2 Double Basses. All the songs have at least strings.

So besides the music, I’m also including two booklets. One fiction. The other personal. I decided to talk a little bit about what makes me tick. I actually get pretty personal. Which for me is weird because I’m the type of guy who’d rather listen to you talk about yourself than me tell you all about myself.

Oh, and of course it will include artwork. Lots of artwork. The fiction will be fully illustrated by yours truly. Ink and watercolor. Roxy modeled for the main girl and one of my Twitter friends modeled as the tall, dark stranger.

I’m also trying to get back into shape

We haven’t had gym memberships since 2017. So much has happened since then. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had time to do much physically.

Yeah, I know. You only get one body. You don’t have to remind me. I’m well aware of this.

I do start off every morning with 50 push-ups and 25 squats. So at least it’s something.

I also need to stretch more. I think this is why my body sometimes feels like shit. I don’t stretch at all.

I’ve been running for a few months. But I haven’t run in two weeks because it’s been so freaking hot. Still, that’s a lame excuse. There’s always mornings. I’ve just been using that as an excuse.

While I still had a gym membership, I was in really good shape. At 150 pounds, I did 14 pull-ups, benched 185×5. Dead-lifted 315 once. And squat – 210×5. All the way down too.

I was well-rounded. None of those were elite numbers but all of them are good. A lot of folks are strong here but weak there. I’m not. I’m pretty well rounded.

Well, not anymore. Like I said, I haven’t touched a gym since 2017.

Next weekend

Randy also doubles as my Producer. I don’t know a thing about Sound Engineering. He’s the drummer, percussionist, lead Sound Engineer, and Producer. Wears a lot of hats.

This project is so big that we’ve worked with a lot of Sound Engineers. Chris Hughes deserves a mention. I wish I remember his interns names as I’d love to credit them too. Those guys worked hard, for college credits. Didn’t make a penny.

I tried to buy them lunch but they brought sandwiches and worked through lunch. Yes, seriously.

In case you don’t already know, I’m not just an artist. I’m also a Classical composer. I write a neo-Romantic style. My faves are Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner. I also really like Mendelssohn, Chopin, and lately have been getting heavily into Rachmaninoff.

I’ve played in tons of Metal bands as well. No, none you’ve ever heard of. Last time I played live was 1994 and we literally broke up in the middle of a live show, fighting right on stage.

It was super lame. I haven’t played anywhere since.

Anyways, look out for it. I’ll give you plenty of notice when it happens.