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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.

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Me and Ozymandius

I’m well listened. I know my symphonies, concertos, and ballets. I have a pretty strong knowledge of them from a technical standpoint as well as I’ve actually studied the scores of a lot of great Classical music.

But, for poetry? C-. Maybe even a D+. I don’t know my poetry.

It’s a weakness.

I’m also not as literate as I should be. Last cruise I was on back in May, I was bragging to the Russian bartender that I was a big fan of Russian culture. I’ve studied the scores of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. One of these days, I’ll get around to Rachmaninoff and Borodin as well.

Then, she asked me if I’ve ever read Russian Lit. I gave a blank stare and she gave me a shameful look.

But, like life, work in progress. Some day, I’ll be well-read.

I want to whip out my favorite poem of all-time. It’s from Percy Bysshe Shelley and since he died in 1822, I think we can safely say the copyright has long expired. So, I can legally print it in full and his descendants can’t sue me.

Ozymandius

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Why I liked it

I was absolutely obsessed with fame as a teenager. I wanted to be the greatest quarterback there ever was back in junior high. I was awesome. The best football player in my grade.

Then, everyone else grew. I didn’t.

I had some empty years. Treated everyone like shit because I was bitter and lost.

Then we moved to the South. In the middle of my high school years.

No loss for me though. Like I said, I was bitter and lost. Totally empty. I had no purpose.

Then out of the blue, second day of my new high school, this guy sits right behind me. He just got out of jail, and nobody would talk to him.

So of course, he and I became immediately best friends.

He taught me to play guitar, then disappeared six months later.

I moved back to California alone after high school. Obsessed with fame with my newfound gift, I went from band to band. Each one rising. Each one with dreams of being the one that made it. Then, each one faltering. And I became Ozymandius, except, without the statue in the sand.

Decades later

I read this poem again to be reminded of the futility of hubris. Was I creating music for fame and fortune? What if I had made it, become a larger than life figure, and realized in the end that I did it for all the wrong reasons? Knowing the music fell short and I did it for fortune and fame rather than for the art, and died in despair?

Now, decades later, I come to art once more, as a humble student. One without a quest for fortune or fame. But rather one with a trio of muses, and a passion for the art for art’s sake.

Now, whether I die as a regular man or as a famous artist, I can die without despair. I’ve lived a worthy life. And did art for all the right reasons.

I am not Ozymandius. I am me. Finally.

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I always paint the same painting twice

Over the years, I’ve developed certain habits that really helped me out in life. There’s an old saying that you can’t get rid of a habit. Rather, you need to replace it.

You’ll be successful in life if you develop good habits. Keep in mind, habits don’t have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, the word habit has a negative connotation. If you have a habit of putting 10% of every paycheck into an investment account, over a period of twenty years, you’ll have a decent sized chunk of money. That’s an example of a good habit.

Another good habit would be waking up and going for a walk. Imagine if you did that every day. For one, you’d be in pretty decent shape. For another, I bet you’d be happier than the majority of your peers.

When my wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise, I’d wake up at 7AM every morning and immediately walk around the ship twice. Some lady in her 70s every morning would pass my ass up. And I walk pretty fast so that’s doubly saying something.

I got a chance to talk to her one day and you know what? She loved life! I mean, really really loved life. Surprise surprise.

Painting the same painting twice

I always paint the same painting twice. I have an idea. Then, I execute it.

If it turns out fantastic, I’ll keep it and paint a similar painting. If it turns out awful, I’ll paint it one more time. Unless it’s not the execution that failed. If the idea itself was awful, I’ll scrap it and call it a loss.

I’ve heard successful football teams will run a play until the defense figures out how to stop it. Then, they’d change it to something else and keep trying different plays until they found one the defense struggles with. And once again, they’ll start running that play until the defense figures out how to stop it.

Same concept? Well, similar at least.

Of course I don’t ever want to be boring either. So I’m going to mix it up a lot. I’ll do two with water at night. Then do two straight ones in a cave. Or something like that. You could change the setting, the time, the colors, the subjects, the theme. There’s really no limit to what you can do in painting.

Here’s an example of two paintings that turned out good

These paintings are pretty much the same painting. I painted the first one of Roxy and liked it so much that I wanted to do the same painting with Allie. Same colors. Similar concept. Different models. But let’s be real – it’s almost the same painting.

I painted Midnight Bather first. I loved how it turned out. So, I decided to paint the same painting again, but adding a volcano. I also changed how the moonlight reflected off the water.

Priestesses of Pele is physically bigger. And it’s a better painting since I got more comfortable with both those brand new colors (to me) and the concepts.

The Mucha homages

I’m doing this again with my homage to Alphonse Mucha. I’m a huge fan of his Mucha Girls paintings. I actually love Art Nouveau. It had a look to it, so natural, so real. Art Nouveau intentionally mimicked nature and you’ll see flowers and leaves and twigs everywhere throughout their art.

Antoni Gaudí and Alphonse Mucha are my two favorite Art Nouveau artists. My wife and I got to see a lot of Gaudí’s works in real life in Barcelona, including his infamous Sagrada Família. We didn’t go inside though because the line was ridiculously long that day. I know that would almost sound like sacrilege to some folks, but if you knew my personality, you’d know how Type A I am. I can’t stand still for that long.

Back to these two homages, you could tell the second one is better than the first. I looked at what I got right and duplicated it. Her face in the first one is slightly hard. I did a few changes in the second one to soften her face. I wanted her to be really pretty like Mucha Girls.

Dissecting old songs

I still practice guitar every day. I love picking up my guitar and just playing.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of cover songs and also wrote a lot of my own. This morning, I started playing a song I wrote back in 1992. It’s not a good song. It has some good parts, but it’s not a good song.

But, I’ve ripped out the good parts and put them into other songs.

You’re allowed to do that with both music and art. Take what’s good from your previous works and recycle them.

You’ll see a lot of artists doing just that. They’ll have a piece of a painting where you’ve seen that same thing in another work of theirs. Or five.

There’s nothing wrong with using a good idea multiple times. Like Goya went through his black period. Picasso went through his blue period which was nearly monochromatic.

I do the same with paints. I’ll use the same colors multiple times in a row.

Luckily for me, Allie and Roxy have very similar skin tones. In fact, I don’t even change the mixes. I’m using the same skin tone mix for both of them. That’s the commonality you’ll see in all my paintings. (Well, there’s more than one, but that’s one of them).

Also, Allie always wears two gold 70s Wonder Woman styled bracelets on her left wrist in my paintings and Roxy always wears a gold necklace, usually with a gem. I’ve adopted those two things as simply part of my style.

If you don’t know what to paint next..

So if you don’t know what to paint next, try painting a previous painting. Make a goal that it needs to be better than the previous one.

Chances are, you’ll improve upon it. For one, you’ve already done it so you already know you’re capable of doing it. For another, you can do a quick glance at the painting and see what you’d like to improve the second time around.

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Why I don’t take my Instagram account too seriously

Yes, I have an Instagram account. No, there are hardly any followers.

I don’t take it seriously. At all.

When you start a blog, you should ask yourself why you’re starting it. Do you write because you simply enjoy writing? Are you planning on making money with your blog? Or are you doing this to meet a certain type of person?

I write to sell my art. I also enjoy helping others. Most of my articles are helpful in one way or another. I’ve written about everything from painting skin tones with watercolor to painting watercolor on wood to explaining the difference between a warm color and a cool color.

Time commitment vs performance

I enjoy maintaining this blog. Whether or not I sell as much as I’d like to, I’m still keeping the blog.

Instagram on the other hand takes a commitment. I simply don’t have time for every social media platform. I don’t even have a Facebook account. Last time I was on Facebook, my friends and family would argue nonstop about politics. It was the biggest waste of time of any social media platform. By far.

For Instagram to actually work for me, I need thousands of followers. That takes a lot of time and effort to build that much of a following.

Blogging alone already gets reads. I’d much rather spend my time blogging and making sure these articles are quality articles that actually benefit people than growing an Instagram following.

Suspended accounts

I personally know several models who have had their accounts suspended. Some for no reason at all. Instagram just does that.

They’d have to go through all that trouble to build their followings back. That’s something I’d hate to have to go through.

With a blog, it’s here. I have a backup service just in case I do something really stupid by accident. It backs up my account daily. At worst, I lose a day.

I used to use paid models. Now, I just use my friends Allie and Roxy for all my fantasy pinup art. I’ll still use an occasional paid model when I’m going for something completely different. Jin was the last paid model I used.

A lot of these models have had problems with their Instagram accounts. Which is terrible because they rely so much on them for their businesses. Modeling is their job.

Imagine having your primary source of meeting new clients suddenly suspend you for nothing. Plus, since most of my artwork are nudes, I’d probably be in danger of suspension more than the average person.

So no, I won’t be taking my Instagram account too seriously any time soon. I haven’t posted in almost two months. I should post something as I’ve done a few paintings since then. However, I’m quite indifferent to it.

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Where I’ve been the past year…

If you’re wondering what happened to me after I finished the Princess for the Night short story last year, I got heavily into art. I haven’t written a single piece of fiction since January of last year when I finished up that one. So, this blog will have a dual focus now.

I’ll still write my fairy tale style fiction. But I’ll also use this blog to sell my art. I’ve always been an artist. I just never took it seriously. That all changed when I started becoming close friends with Allie.

We knew each other, but not that well. Then, it was she who suggested that she model for me. The rest is history.

I now have some of the artwork for sale on the front page. Allie models for most of it. I also use another friend of mine – Roxy. I haven’t seen Roxy in a few months now. She’s quite moody. So we might be seeing almost all Allie from here on out except when I paint Roxy based on my old sketches of her.

No, we didn’t get in a fight or anything. If you know her, you’ll understand. She goes through her phases where you just don’t hear from her.

My art and watercolor tips blog posts

When I get inspired for the next short story, I’ll write again. Nothing’s been coming. In the meantime, I do want to keep this blog active.

I actually love writing. Back in high school, everyone else seemed to view writing as a chore. I didn’t. I fucking loved it!

So far, I got a post on combining watercolor and gouache and a post explaining how I get my skin tones in watercolor. I haven’t tried oils or acrylics yet.

I love watercolors so much though that I more than likely won’t be trying those other two mediums any time soon. Check out my artwork when you get a chance. And if you like it, please buy it. I don’t bite.