Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Golden Opportunity

Rusty by Robert Phelps
I dropped off my most recent pet portrait commission today. A close friend of mine bought it as a wedding gift for her friends. I wasn't able to get it done in time for the ceremony but I think in the end it's better that way. Right now the painting is wrapped in white paper with silver hearts with a big, shiny, multi-colored bow dancing on the front. I delivered it directly to the hands of the newly married recipient's boss. First thing tomorrow morning....boom! Surprise surprise

Most wedding gifts get lost in the shuffle at the reception. Too many boxes, bows, emotions and booze melting all the goodwill into a gooey sentimental fondue. Plus most presents are just practical items purchased from gift registries. Nice, but not unique or special. This is a lovingly-crafted piece of artwork with weeks of effort seared into it. 


Tomorrow morning will be gray and gloomy thanks to a looming storm named Isaac. Our unsuspecting recipient will be getting to work early to start her shift, surely dodging drizzly drops from the soggy skies. Once inside she'll be rewarded with a shiny package with a beaming portrait of her beloved dog. I wish I could see her face! 

Huzzah for simple pleasures! Take a look HERE to see prints of Rusty. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How I conquered breakfast...

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Gustave Flaubert

This has long been one of my favorite quotes. I live by this maxim as much as possible. I do my best to organize and simplify the fundamentals of my work and life so that when I'm creating my mind is free. I organize my hundreds of reference books by subject so I can find them easily when inspiration strikes. My paints are sorted by color. I like to pay bills on autopay. All my workouts are scheduled and recorded. I rarely go to the grocery store without a list. 

Of course I could always do better. It's an art keeping a good flow to the important things in life. Finding new ways to streamline and coordinate my life is one of my greatest pleasures. Some things are just too important to leave to chance....like breakfast. 

Breakfast, as anyone will tell you, is probably the most important meal of the day. It kickstarts your metabolism and sets the nutritional tone for the day. Unfortunately for me I'm not a breakfast eater. I just don't want to eat anything for hours after I get up. It was always a struggle to force myself to eat something when the body is just not interested in anything but coffee. 

Fortunately I found a solution. Green smoothies! Now I don't have to cook or prepare breakfast. I have a quick routine of blending assorted veggies and other ingredients to make a nutrient and vitamin-rich breakfast that I can drink in minutes. 

I've been tinkering around with green smoothies for almost 20 years. My family has seen me gulp down some hideous concoctions that can only be described as swamp water to onlookers. I've tried throwing virtually every garden green and fruit into a blender to see what happens. Mostly I made a frothy mess. Over the years I've played around and experimented with different combinations and finally found a formula that works fantastically. For me anyway....

Behold, the Frankensmoothie! It's essentially a highly alkalizing, liquid salad loaded with extra goodies to give it a supercharge of protein, essential oils and omega 3s. I sometimes add beets or other veggies that turn it from a lovely, fresh green to a funky gray...hence "Frankensmoothie" instead of the traditional "green smoothie". 
MMMMM......Frankensmoothie goooood.....
I'll share my magic formula and a few tips so you can learn from my mistakes. 

Tip 1) Buy a good blender. I've burned out at least 3 good blenders experimenting with my formulas. I found that they work pretty well but can't quite make the cut...pun intended....on some of the more crunchy veggies like carrots and kale. After researching green smoothies I saw it was recommended to buy a $500 Blendtec or Vitamix blender. No way! For $100 I got a great 1000 Watt Ninja blender that works wonders. 

Tip 2) Don't overload the shake with calorie dense foods. I was putting too much coconut oil and avocado in my shakes for years. That combined with eating too many almonds and nuts (again, super high in calories) put me way over my daily calorie limit unbeknownst to me. For your convenience I have put my calorie estimates (based on online research) for the entire formula so you know what you are getting.

Tip 3) Add a half a frozen banana, 1/4 avocado or some protein powder as a thickening agent. One or all of these ingredients turn frothy swamp water into ambrosia of the gods. 

Tip 4) Put water into the blender first. Then blend your kale, carrots, celery and spinach to create a green base. This helps to fully blend the kale which tends to be the hardest ingredient to blend. Add the other ingredients afterwards.

Those are the most important tips. Here are the ingredients below. Essentially you just add a few cups of water to the blender and start with your greens. After that it's just a few more steps and you are on your way. I've got it down to a science where it takes me less than 5 minutes. It makes a lot of frankensmoothie--enough for breakfast, brunch on the road, and some left over in the fridge. I keep the last bit in the fridge so when I get home I have some to drink instead of snacking on munchies. 

So, here goes: 

FrankenSmoothie (basic recipe--calorie estimates included):


1. 2 scoops whey protein powder: 2 @ 140 per scoop = 280
2. 1/4 avocado: = 80
3. 1/2 banana: = 60
4. 1 cup raw spinach: 7 per cup = 7
5. 1 cup raw kale: 34 per cup = 34
6. 2 stalks celery: 2 @ 9 per stalk = 18
7. 1 tbsp chia seeds: 65 calories = 65
8. 1 medium cucumber (unpeeled): 45
9. 1 medium carrot: 25
10: Dole mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries: 70 per cup (1/4+ cup 20)
11: tbsp creatine: 15
12: 1/2 Cup oatmeal (raw): 150
13: 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil: 120
Oops. I forgot to add the coconut oil and oatmeal in this picture. You'll just have to imagine it ;-) 
So that's it. Start your day off right and give your body what it needs first thing in the AM....even if you don't like eating breakfast. ;-) 



Thursday, August 16, 2012

She's Such A Classic Girl.....


     One of the longest running themes in my life is my unwavering love of mythology. As a wee lad I would pour over mountains of mythology books, soaking in all the ancient grandeur like sun rays after a storm. My first official business card had a painting of Theseus wrestling the Minotaur. 

I don't have time to dive into the nuances of my obsession today but while spelunking I found a few gems from my archives. Nymphs and satyrs (or saytrs) have been my perennial favorite subjects since I was a teenager. 
This fun little video here is a fun trek down memory lane for me. My friend and patron Tom Callos purchased this small painting of Persephone I had painted in 2002 or so. I really appreciate his enthusiasm and high praise. It's one of the best parts about being an artist. Take a look....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Knock, knock. Who's there?

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Walt Whitman

    I've always loved fooling around with costumes and personas. Astrologers would say this was natural for a Gemini and I would have to agree. These days I am pretty much constantly working on murals, paintings, faux projects, etc. When I want to have some fun I fool around on the computer for a few minutes challenging myself to create a unique disguise a la Sherlock Holmes. I find it incredibly fun and it makes me titter like a monkey every time. 

The artist as a young miscreant. Here I am in 1986 or so as a wayward 10 year old. There was a companion picture to go with this. I dressed "preppy" for another one but my brother cropped my head off by accident. 

When I was a kid I just played with different personas with the camera. I'm far too lazy for playing dress up these days. 

This was a tribute to that within us all that is deathless. Soul, Atman...whatever. I painted this with the idea of myself  in death mask blowing a kiss to myself from beyond. It was a reminder of both death and eternal life. 
I've drawn and painted myself in all sorts of strange ways. What I would look like older, as an Asian, etc.  

Getting my Patrick Nagel on. Without my scruff I look like a totally different person. I didn't want to spend too much time on it. For a quickie I think it's pretty good....
Now on my coffee breaks I get into this kind of Photoshop chicanery.....

Old Timey Robert Phelps

Samurai Warrior Robert Phelps

Religious Toast Robert Phelps

Victorian Curmudgeon Robert Phelps

Hypnotic Neon Robert Phelps

Patriotic, Beer-Swiller Robert Phelps

80s Trading Card Robert Phelps

Suck It Robert Evans....Robert Phelps took your place in the movie poster

Frenchy Fancy Pants Robert Phelps

Civil War General Robert Phelps

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
A dedicated follower.....of the One True Ring! 
Robert Phelps vampire....Lost Boys not Twilight....
Robert Phelps zombie horde....









I wanna be your dog! 
Psychedelic Robert Phelps
Time waster? Maybe. But everyone needs hobbies ;-) 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Magic of Tinking Big

The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals.
James Thurber


     This is one of my more recent pet portraits. This little girl is named "Tink" which is short for "tinkle". She would get herself all worked up and come a runnin' and as soon as she got to your feet she produced a golden river all over the tile floor. I don't really know why. After a few times you learned not to put your hand down for the petting party because that was the switch which set the flood gates off. If you could hold off a bit she would calm down and you might be spared the soggy sandals. 

     Tink is an example of the many dogs in my life who were cold and suspicious of me at first and then melted into a fuzzy BFF after a few visits. I never think too much about this phenomenon....or I at least try not to take it personally. I figure a guy with a low voice and the sweet stench (to a dog's nose) of two house cats must warrant some trepidation. But I love almost all dogs and they usually come to love me back. 




     This portrait was especially fun. It was commissioned by the owner's roommate, a lovely woman for whom I worked for a few weeks named Annette. It was a birthday gift for her room mate, Heather. Tink is her pride and joy. We conspired to do it as a surprise gift and the unveiling was spectacular. Heather and Annette hosted a fantastic dinner party with drinks on the beach. It was an amazing spread of roasted vegetables, exotic cheeses, spiced meats, luxurious salads. I'm still in awe of their entertaining skills. 

     It was a fantastic evening of cordial conversation and interesting stories. As the evening wound down we all settled in for couch n' cocktails. As the birthday girl was distracted reading cards we sprung Tink's portrait on her. What a fantastic surprise. You could feel the air swell with a wave of joy. That was a hoot! 

     I've made Tink's portrait available as prints which you can find by clicking HERE. Or if you'd like to see Tink and other dog art on a wide array of products please visit my store by clicking HERE. She's an amazingly unique specimen of Dachshund with two different colored eyes and very unique markings. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Doing the Lord's Work.....until the weekend.

Ahhh.....sweet relief. I finished the Risen Christ mural around 7 PM last night. It took quite a bit of finessing to get the right look. For nearly 5 hours I obsessed over the details of the face. Everything looked fantastic when you looked directly at it 20 feet up in the air but I noticed that when viewed from below and afar, as the congregation would see it, that the colors and tones melded together in a way that looked way too intense for Jesus. 




Sooooo.....like an espresso-filled squirrel I scurried up and down the scaffolding making adjustment after adjustment. At one point there was a terrible lightning storm blustering outside. I spent one dramatic hour literally kneeling before Jesus (while high on the scaffolding) in a large and empty church while the windows were blasted with white flashes and the hall echoed with thunder. It was a pretty dramatic scene. 

At one point I thought I might go nuts. Adjustment after adjustment in tone and color yielded the same results from the lower vantage point. Jesus looked too intense with a dark piercing gaze and a dark, masculine beard. Nothing seemed to work!

Then I remembered an interview with Jim Morrison that I'd read where he explained that on a large stage that he had to exaggerate his movements. In a similar fashion I had to adjust to larger venue and forced perspective. Ultimately I decided to soften and "feminize" the features to go from lion to lamb. It took a long time but I finally found a way to work it out. 




In the end I really liked how it looked. I'm hoping the parishioners do as well. The church hosts its first service next week. It took me 6 days total to get it totally done. Now, on the 7th day.....I'm going to rest ;-) 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Doing the Lord's work days 3 & 4


Day 3 ended with a blaze of glory. It took me quite a while to measure and chalk in all the halo lines. Alas...it was for nothing. On the following morning, day 4 of painting, I had to erase all the lines I had drawn. The client asked me to extend the field of blue sky and to have it melt more gracefully with the background.

Before and after

Done and done! The next step was painting in all the golden rays. I think I may need to soften them a bit tomorrow. I spent the whole day thinking about my complex relationship with Jesus. I'm very much a fan of Jesus. I love reading about Him and looking at all the great artwork He inspired. However, I'm by no means a religious guy.

I see Jesus as a great teacher like Buddha or Lao-Tzu. I always imagine that He'd be really interesting to meet. There are many wise words attributed to him and I embrace His teachings. I can genuinely say I've enjoyed painting Him (despite the exhausting climbs up the scaffolding) and that I look forward to doing it again. One more day tomorrow....the final stretch!