Monday, September 28, 2009


It is my usual discipline to leave this journal focused on my adventures in art-making, but a busy year of uninterrupted work left me feeling really burnt out. I had been painting day and night, sessions on several canvases tucked between my job for over the last month in pursuit to keep the flame alight, when I finally needed to step away for a spell. I needed to do anything else. I was reminded of a challenge I had turned down for far too long- fixing up that clunker of a snare drum I’d avoided for many years, neglected in a forgotten corner of my apartment.

My pal Dan sold me this drum along with a matching Slingerland 14” floor tom, a small 60’s Ludwig drumkit with mismatched toms & bass drum, an assortment of old hardware, and some beautiful Zildjian cymbals. I had cleaned up/replaced the heads on the floor tom & Ludwig kit in the past year or so, which I use for my acoustic band, The Good Medicine Revival Show, but had long been intimidated by the disrepair of this snare that gathered dust & paperwork near the computer at home. The snare strainer system was so cranky that I sincerely believed it to be broken, but upon closer inspection a couple weeks ago coupled with some internet research on the subject it merely needed some tender loving care. When finally realizing what I had on my hands, the thought came: “the time has come to polish off this diamond in the ruff”.

A few clues as to where this drum surfaced in my study on the subject, including the seemingly dysfunctional strainer/throw-off mechanics. The strainer is a 3-point Radio King, various designs of which having been manufactured all the way back to 1928. The strainer assembly dismantled revealed further evidence this is circa ’60-‘61 Slingerland: according to Dr. C.J. Wenk, the upper arm of the throw-off is no longer screwed on/removable, but permanently riveted. When I purchased the drum 7 or 8 yrs ago, shoestrings had been used to attach an old set of Pearl snare wires to the strainer, so I knew that wasn’t stock, but I had no idea then about the unique snare wires system designed for the hardware. Most of the snare drums I had dealt with had utilized cord to hold the snare wire set to the strainer save some of the marching snares I used in school and my Ludwig Coliseum snare, which used a Classic P87 (pain-in-the-ass). Unique to this design is the use of metal tabs riveted to the snare wires, which clamp right into butt end and to the throw off side. I had Drum Headquarters in Maplewood attached the new Puresound snare wires, after my cleaning and reassembly of the drum and it’s strainer hardware. I couldn’t see how this could system work effectively when I first discovered it, but it does work quite well.

My other clues concerning the times of this drum were:
*a solid maple shell with solid maple reinforcing rings, prevalent from 1955-1964.

*Used from April ’61 until Sept. ’62, a black Niles, Illinois black badge with raised gold script without a serial number was another clue to the vintage of this drum, serial numbers not having been employed on Slingerland drums until October 1962.

*a darker shade of Black Diamond Pearl finish/wrap with “more of a black on black character”, according to the fruits of Dr. C. J. Wenk’s research featured on, where I found a great deal of info on Slingerland history.

With the appropriate snare wires, Danny’s Slingerland has unusually sensitive snare tensioning- simply incredible... it’s whisper is heavy with breath using brushes, and a throaty thump with snappy high-end dynamic commands attention when using a stick. As a musician of many years, I believe instruments have a soul of sorts- they want to be played and cared for. Music is the most abstract form of art, the most developed voices of which having been employed by us humans- our tools used in wielding this art are the machines of the Gods, crafted by mankind. A week of work on the drum had uncovered an unrealized and divine little possession- I played the refurbished drum at an impromptu jam session this past Friday and I couldn’t be happier!

Tearing it down:

...the cranky strainer in question, disassembled:

...and the buttend plate assembly:

...the internal muffler was in great working order:

...okay, all cleaned up and reassembled:

...back from Drum Headquarters with the appropriate snare wires attached:

Mission Accomplished!

Thank you, Mike for the WD-40 and the silicone grease! Thank you Drum Headquarters for installing the snare wires for me!

Monday, September 21, 2009

More progress...

More progress on "Fox and Hare"... a lot of brushwork over the last two rainy days on this one and "Secret Marriage":

Friday, September 18, 2009

Playing Wth Crayons...

This is another drawing from my private sketchbooks, circa 1995, a simple hilly landscape in crayon, rendered almost entirely abstract due to its exaggerated simplicity. I was drawing with Crayolas daily during this period due to my preschool teaching post while attending the university for Art Education. I never did finish my teaching degree, running off to the city to be a Famous Artist instead, but that’s another story. I’d argue I learned more about drawing from my daily drawing time with my preschoolers than I did in the many hours spent in figure drawing class in the years prior. Watching my little students draw/drawing with them really unlocked my playful nature- children are the ultimate experimentalists, unconcerned with the formalities of undergraduate art disciplines. Children draw as an activity; the artifact left behind is merely that. Many afternoons spent in the parks around town on our weekly outings likely influenced my landscape here, perhaps an example of blending crayons to create spatial effects with color … or maybe I was only playing with my crayons like the other kids.

Another crayon drawing from the same sketchbook, very surreal... pretty far out, I must say...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Works in Progress

Above: beginnings of a 30 x 40" canvas

The reason you haven’t seen much new work here on my blog lately is due to the fact that I’ve been working on five new paintings simultaneously, with more to come as soon as I get these under control. Additionally, between my day job, band rehearsals/performances, and social obligations, squeezing in time to craft these multi-layered mixed media pieces can be tricky. This very process-oriented method takes time- building up collage materials, gesso, glue, washes of paint, and more acrylic to create the finished product. While there is some general planning involved in working this way, I like to allow them time to develop- making a few at a time allows time for layers to dry, for future direction to formulate on one while I work on the others. I’m not really in a hurry...

So here’s a little tour of my progress:
Here, 2 smaller canvases on the easel next to a larger one on the table- after collaged canvas & gesso applied. Beyond the easel, "July" and "August" hang on the wall in a more finished state...

Below: "Fox and Hare" taking shape on the table next to the smaller, less finished "Secret Marriage"

Below: "Secret Marriage" dries on the easel after more collage work.

..."Fox and Hare" dries on the easel after more collage work...

Below: detail of "Fox and Hare".

Below: "Summer Grass" gets a base coat of green after collage work/glue drawing.

..."Summer Grass" much further along after more collage and painting

Below: "Summer Grass" in different lighting to better illustrate it's layered surface texture.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let Me Drown

“Let Me Drown” is another dark little sketch I found in the same book I drew “Hole in My Life” back in 1995 (see previous blog entry). In fact I found several little marker drawings like this, all very moody! *laughs* … “deep thinker, that young man”. Like “Hole in My Life”, it contains some seemingly veiled imagery that I cannot recall the reason for drawing. I suspect they mean nothing actually, as I am prone to working from sets of words I like together or bits of poetry or song that catch my ear- then simply making up imagery to go with the title I’ve chosen. In this case, the result was a very surreal enigma my memory cannot unlock.

"Let Me Drown", 1995
marker on paper, from the artist's private sketchbook

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just a sketch...

Sketchbooks are fascinating things- a glimpse into roughed-out ideas, some which bore fruit in the form of finished art, some that amounted to nothing more than scrawl, momentary muse. I began keeping a sketchbook back in 1991 when I attended art school at East Central College, and keep one going to this day. There are months when I hardly touch it, and other periods it overflows with a sudden unexplained streak of inspiration. I have several from over the years, some of which contain very personal diaristic notation detailing a young artist awkwardly “testing his powers”. Now and again over the years when someone would peruse one of these books, they would comment on how interesting they are- some freely telling me they liked them more than my finished art. There has been a small resurgence of interest in my old sketches, so I will share one or two here with you on occasion in no particular order, some with a note on the drawing’s significance, some without. I hope you will enjoy and that it might provide some sort of insight into the creative process.

"Hole in My Life", 1995
marker on paper, from the artist's private sketchbook