Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Handmade Books Coming Soon!

I'm working on handmade books written and illustrated by yours truly soon to be available on Etsy! (and here!)I've written and illustrated books before, but never had any success getting them published (my dream of dreams) for me, it has been a long drawn out process: I was taught to have the entire manuscript done (which I did in two cases, but have several others under construction, which can be seen here.) Then send it in to ONE publisher, which was chosen through careful research to determine the most likely to buy your unsolisited manuscript, then in 6 weeks to 6 months, when it returns rejected; as it will (longer than 6 months is a rejection also) you then repeat the process having eliminated the last publisher. The only way to get a manuscript solicited is to have an agent who can only be gotten by being already published: Yay!

Anyway, I recently discovered that Etsy has a book section (most of which is journals, sketchbooks, repurposed books, and used or vintage books. But there are a few actual original books that are professionally handmade, and I will be adding myself to that category.
I've made books before, so I know what I'm getting into. They won't be cheap, but they will definitely be worth it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Belief is a powerful thing. It is often misunderstood and as a word it is often misused. Belief shapes the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves and others. Jesus says repeatedly; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." We are always being told to "believe in ourselves". We hear it so often, it loses its meaning.
When I was in college, I took a small business management class. We were all art students at a prestigious art school and a common question was; "when will my work be worth a lot of money?" and the answer was always, "When you believe you are worth it." The students wanted a pragmatic answer; "Oh you have to pay your dues learning the ropes for five years, then you can start your own business and in a couple of years, you will be in the top 5%" or something like that. Everyone's journey is different and there is no pat answer to such a question. That's what I thought this non answer was about. But the answer was pragmatic. Belief rules every decision we make.
In spiritual matters, belief seems to have a slightly different meaning that is tied to faith and implies doubt. Whereas knowledge is the elimination of doubt. I would differentiate the two like this: "I believe in God, but I know the sky is blue." I know the sky is blue because I can see it. I have proof. I have no experiential knowledge of God. A Sufi teacher once told me that she would not give her soul to something she wasn't sure of; something she only had read of in a book or been told of by others. Her soul was too important to her. She had to have experiential knowledge of God if she was going to give her soul over to such a being. She argued that this was not too much to ask, and that in fact it would be foolish to do otherwise. This has always stuck with me. She said she had found it in the Sufi path. Indeed this is a recurring theme among seekers and the guides we meet along the path.
I did not follow that teacher or dedicate my life to her school. I did follow her advise though.
She said: "The best way to get directions to someone's house is to ask the owner. If, however, you don't know how to contact the owner, the next best thing to do is get directions from someone who has been there."
"If you don't know how to get to God's house, find someone who has been there who can show you the way."
Then she said this:
"If you don't know someone who has been to God's house, pray for God to send someone to show you the way, and if your prayer is sincere, God will send you a guide."
I went home and prayed for a guide. Soon after I met someone who after much cajoling would teach me to meditate. I learned a great deal from this teacher. I learned much more than just meditating. Being on the Path is a way of life. It is the ultimate endeavor in life, and should permeate every aspect of every action and thought. Of course we are human and will falter. We must live our lives, pay our bills meet our obligations, and we must live a life that will last a lifetime. If we dedicate ourselves to God and don't do anything else, and it doesn't pay off in a short time, we may quit. But if we have the long term in mind, we can carry on with our lives, but with a new focus, through this new prism of getting home to God's house.
I have moved on from life with that teacher. She told me from the outset that she too was on the Path, but had not been to God's house. She showed me what she could and we have moved on with our lives.

Perhaps my prayer wasn't earnest enough. Perhaps I held a fear that an enlightened master would make me give up more than I was ready to give up. Whatever the case, God sent me exactly what I needed at the time. Just as I believed He would

Thursday, May 10, 2012

None of Your Business!

If you hang around the circles I hang around, sooner or later you are going to hear the phrase, "Your life is none of your business." There are many variations, like; "What happens to you is none of your business," "What other people think of you is none of your business," "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." That last one may not quite fit, but you get the idea. This is one of the annoying sayings that are deliberately obtuse. What is that supposed to mean? I finally gained some insight.
It's really a variation on my last post. I didn't realize that until just now. I guess I'll just have to scrap this post and write about something else. Except this is kind of the point. If this is the post I'm writing, who am I to question its validity? The author? Well, no actually I'm not. If I'm getting this lesson over and over, then that's the lesson I'm supposed to be getting. My friend Nate explained it to me; "If I'm doing my best and I'm not doing anything wrong and shit is still happening to me, then that shit is supposed to be happening to me."
To me this means that if I'm not doing my best or I'm am doing something wrong, and shit is happening to me that I don't like, I should clean up my act. That's all I can do: Do the best I can and not do anything I'm not supposed to be doing. This will alleviate most of the problems I experience. If there is still shit happening to me after I have ceased to misbehave, then there are other lessons to learn.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Song of Awakening

There is long and interesting history of how God=sound. Where to start? How about the beginning?
 "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." The Gospel according to John, King James Version.
I love the old English phrasing of the King James Version. This is easily my favorite Bible passage. Notice that God is also "Light" Most people will tell you that this is a metaphor. This is funny to me because many of these same people will tell you that the story of Adam & Eve is not a metaphor. Well the story of Adam & Eve is a metaphor (this is a story for another time as it could be its own blog post), But the idea that God is sound and Light is not a metaphor. God is more than sound and light, don't get me wrong, but the idea that the existence of all things came into being through God as sound is accurate. 
In Sanskrit, the ancient Indian sacred language, this sound is "Om" and is written in what appears to Westerners to be a 3 with a tail, and an umlaut over it. In my description of of my hand carved lino print of this sacred word, I combine these two ideas and say; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Om" This ancient spiritual symbol is a sound and it is the Creator.
Sometimes the symbol is translated; "Aum" The thinking is that the vowel sound where the word originates itself originates at the back of the throat and the ending "m" sound ends at the mouth, thus traveling the expanse of the physical body creating it. This explanation is a metaphor for the beginning and end of all creation. Compare this to Jesus' saying; "I am the Alpha and the Omega". Here the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet signify the beginning and the end (which is the line that follows in the Bible) but also anything that can be spoken as Jesus is saying he is not just the beginning and the end but everything in between.
But you say to me, "Rod, What about science?" First of all don't interrupt, it's rude. Second of all, good question.
In the 1950's the phone company, at that time concerned with quality service, wanted to get to the bottom of a buzz that was coming through on all their lines. They hired and deployed two scientists; Peebles and Dick to discover and fix the problem. What they found was that this sound was everywhere. It permeates everything. It is the background radiation leftover from the Big Bang. (you know, the sound and light that created everything that exists.) It existed at exactly the wavelength that the scientist who postulated the Big Bang theory predicted it would.
There are many mantras (sacred words or phrases to repeated many times) and prayers (like the rosary) that believers know will bring them closer to God. The Sufis have a saying, "Nothing exists save God" pronounced, "La Illaha Illa Allah" Which is more of a mantra than a prayer, but they don't use the Sanskrit word. 
In his book "Autobiography of a Yogi" Paramahansa Yogananda states that sacred Indian music can bring us closer to enlightenment, as can the music of Bach. Astronomers and alchemists refer to the "Music of the Spheres"
It is all around you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Only Path to Serenity

It is often said "Do your best and leave the results up to God." This axiom can be found in multiple disciplines: I have heard it in the Tao te Ching verse 9 (written by Lao Tsu, in ancient China; his text is the foundation of Taoism, a spiritual philosophy of world influence), and in the immortal Bhagivad Gita. This is a difficult principle to understand, but doing it without understanding is actually the first step of doing it. What I mean is, as I struggle to understand it, I was doing it in some aspects of my life. I've written in the past about my struggling business, but I keep doing my business even though I seem to be unable to control my success or lack there of. My devotion to God is part of my work, so it doesn't matter if it makes me any money or not. This is what I tell myself to keep me from quitting.
Today, I decided to look for some Shanti calligraphy on Google to aid me in a new design I'm thinking of doing. My search was actually "Om Shanti Calligraphy" Well, to my surprise, there on the first page was my own design!

Without trying to get the number one page spot on Google, I just did my best. God took care of the rest. Sometimes we get little displays of blessings in our lives to keep us going!

Monday, April 16, 2012

All You Need is Love

Hi guys! I've decided to take my blog in a new direction. Although I'm sure you are all fascinated by my meanderings about my blind stumbling through the oddities of the print business, it occurs to me that we all might be better served if I write about: 1. something I have experience in, 2. something that’s interesting, and possibly 3. something that might benefit us by talking about.
My life and my art have centered on spiritual matters for years, so even if I’m not an enlightened master, I may be able to pass on some bits of information that could be passably entertaining to some. My other areas of interest in art like dinosaurs and myriad other subjects usually get enough research by me when I’m working on the piece to at least make a blog post about.
The first post on these lines will of course be something I’ve already talked about (repetitive and contradictory!) My spiritual outlook can be summed up thusly:

“I am the Blue Dragon. I serve the Blue Light; whose physical manifestation is the Universe: the One Voice, the Eternal Word, the Infinite Sound. All things are revealed by the Light. All shadows are created by the Light. Love is the Way of the Light. Either one serves Love or one opposes Love. One cannot claim to serve Love through hate. Anger and fear are the absence of Love. Love is omnipresent. There is nowhere it is not. It does not shirk; it does not hide. To be unable to feel its presence is delusion. It is we who turn away from the Light. It is constant and never abandons us. It is The Energy; The Force; The Power. The Source of all. Love is indiscriminate. Love is not concerned with what name it is called, or what rituals it is worshiped by. Love does not favor one over another. Love does not punish. Love wants you to be happy and healthy. For this to happen you must conform to Love. Love cannot be ruled by you. You are a manifestation of Love. There is no intermediary.”

This is not to say that I believe that I am literally a dragon or even believe in the existence of dragons. I was born on the year of the dragon, and in Eastern philosophy the dragon is a symbol of enlightenment. The dragon is just a metaphor. Try not to get caught up in particulars. Find the general theme. The theme here is Love.
What I mean is that God is not angry or hateful or punishing. You can’t worship God by being that way. If you can accept this principle, everything else will fall into place. Many religions have been corrupted by men to say that God hates, but this is simply not true. This belief is brought about by our own short sightedness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m human and I become angry and declare that I hate things, but I know this does not bring me closer to God. It separates me from god via my clouded perception.

Try to connect to Love in everyway you can. Listen to music that has a healthy view of Love. (Jealousy and other negative emotions connected by our culture to love are natural to have but they are not Love.) Know that we are all struggling through our daily lives and when we wrong each other it is usually out of the pain of our struggles than any vindictiveness on our part. In this way we can forgive each other as we need to be forgiven for out missteps (sound familiar?)
Finally a word about various faiths. The word Allah means “God of Abraham” which is a Judeo/Christian epithet for God. Krishna is known as the “Lord of Love” as is Jesus. Just as many cultures have different words for “hat”, and different ways to have weddings, so there are many ways to worship God. Religions that say otherwise were designed to say that by their leaders because these leaders want to be the leaders of everyone. It doesn’t nullify the whole religion, just the part that says they are the only way.
Remember, when Jesus says, “I am the way and the Light and the Truth” he is speaking as God. He is not saying Kali is not the way, he is saying that heaven can only be found through God. Whether you worship God as Kali or Jesus or something else is up to you.
Ok, now time for my shameless plug: I am so enamored of the Blue Dragon that I have painted many of them. (What the dragon says is absolutely true, even if he is fiction.) You can get any print of my blue dragons and you can have the blue dragon quote included with them if you want.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Hello all! I recently read an article which encourages people to narrow their focus to gain success. The impulse is to expand and the author says that confuses potential customers. I am going to give this a try. I have been struggling for a while, couple this with the bad news that my gf & I didn't get accepted into the craft fair we had applied to, and I'm looking to make improvements. Some things take a while and improvement is something all businesses must constantly look to but it's hard not to get discouraged. I wonder if I'm marketing on the wrong site; Etsy is primarily handmade stuff, and while all my products are derived from handmade art, many of them are printed out of a computer. I love Etsy and am going to stick with it. I may have to figure out a better production system.
So, to narrow my focus, I'm going to make less greeting cards. Although initially greeting cards was my main focus, they were always just an outlet for my art. I never said, "What can I paint to make a good birthday card?", I always said, "What kind of card can I make from this painting?" (Of course, I made many Christmas cards just for Christmas with that in mind, but sold none...) I know there are many factors at play but I'm going to give this advise a try. It comes from Handmadeology, which I respect alot.
What I am going to focus on is art prints. Mostly spiritual. I have a total of 21 Saint related product. This is not counting non Christian spiritual products of which there are 12. There are an additional 12 that are motivational or sober related that could be grouped into the spiritual catagory. That's 45 and there's still some Easter cards I didn't count because they have the Easterbunny instead of a spiritual theme to them. I have 83 products total so the remainder are landscapes, dino prints, and other non spiritual products. Now just to be clear, all my Christmas stuff is down, or there would be more of both catagories. Aren't you glad I'm telling you all this? My hope is that others going through the same struggle will be able to get something out of it even if it's just commiseration.

So I added some new prints along those lines. I've completed 3 more paintings in my "saint" series and I love them all. I've listed them as prints on their own, or as posters with some text to go with them. I've been visiting the gf's family and some old friends, so I've given up alot of creating time for that. I hope to redouble my output to keep offering great things to people.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mystery Solved

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Patchwork Art Fair!

My girlfriend and I have applied to be in the Patchwork Craft show in Santa Ana this May. We haven't received word that we've been accepted but the best strategy is to act as if we have so we can be ready. We are going to label all our stuff, and make displays. It is our first show. We will be sharing a booth. We don't have a lot of money, but we want to be sure to cover all the basics. We could get a cash register for about $100, but I think that we can do with out it this first time until we can get an idea if this will prove profitable and how difficult it would be to deal with out one. We plan on having aprons with pockets to keep cash in. I think this will serve. I want to get a calculator with a printable tape to give as receipts. This can be had for $15, which is more doable than the $100 register. It cost $80 each to apply and our merchandise ranges from about $4 to about $50. I figure people coming to a street fair style craft show are probably not prepared to spend more than that in cash any way. We could also get a credit card reader for our phones ostensible free when we agree to a processing fee for each transaction. Again, I would like to start simple and complicate things as we become accustomed to what we are doing. I plan on keeping my prices the same as in my etsy shop. I would appreciate any advice or stories of experience you guys may have.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Change the world

The stunning new Kony 2012 video is going hyper viral right now and is entirely new to my experience. I have shared it on facebook & google+ as well as posting it on my senators' pages. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's a 30 minute youtube video intended to result in the arrest of Ugandan warlord known as Kony. It's told in a highly personal and moving fashion.
As with anything creating so much attention, its getting a fair ammount of criticism. I think the critics may come to regret their posotions. Sure, there are flaws in the filmakers aproach to this problem, and sure there are other ways to solve it. Yes there are countless other equally heinous crimes being commited in the world, but no one solution is perfect, and all this criticism can possibly accomplish is to keep Kony in power, an no one wants that.
This video is galvanizing the public like nothing I've ever seen before, and continued, sustained focus on this problem will solve it faster and more effectively than anything else.
Watch the video. Pass it on. Donate if you can. Let your reps in congress know this issue is important to you. Let's act together and change the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Salon's Woman Problem

I love Salon. That's why I have this blog here. (Not because of Julie & Julia, that's for sure!) But every once in while, they do something silly. Lately, it's been a string of articles with the words "Woman Problem" in the title. The latest is about the Oscars. Are you kidding me? The Oscars have a female catagory for every male catagory. True the majority of writers and directors are men, but that's the industry (and society) that the Oscars exist within, not the Oscars fault. I get the feeling that some editor read something in Google Anatytics that made them think that the phrase "Woman Problem" would get them more eyeballs. That is the kind of thinking that made Huffpo the load of crap it is today.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On Top of Everything I have a Cold.

Well, the holidays are over and I made it out alive. I didn't have a great Christmas retail season, but my business is still in the learning stages. One piece of mine on Etsy was chosen to be in 8 different treasury lists by the people who curated them. Several others were also in treasuries. I think it’s because I joined a team called “Etsy on Facebook”, or EOF. There are thousands of members, many of whom are buyers (not just other sellers) anyone can join, & they have “discussions” where you post your listings and you favorite someone’s listing and hopefully someone will favorite yours. Your favorites (and theirs show up as people browse through Etsy while they shop. the more of your listings are favorited, the better chance someone will who might buy it will see it. Another piece was favorited 14 times the first night I posted it.

That listing is an original landscape I painted specifically to sell as an original on Etsy. Many of my paintings were originally meant to be illustrations for cards or stories, & I don’t really want to sell them. So I decided that I should create some originals to sell at moderate prices. Night landscapes are my favorite non religious subject to paint, but as I am painting to sell, I’m painting things I think people are looking for. I will continue to do night landscapes and spiritual paintings, as well as block prints, but I am trying to expand my repertoire. Landscape (regular day landscapes), and I decided to paint woodland creatures too. I originally wanted to do a painting a day, but that is a tough goal to keep. I’ve painted a couple of paintings that didn’t come out because I didn’t give them enough time or have the right reference to work from or whatever.

To this end I purchased a poshod box with my Xmas bonus (thank you San Clemente Art Supply) it is a Sienna brand that I have had my eye on for some time. I got the medium [there is no small apparently; it’s like Starbucks; ) .] It fits in my new backpack that my girlfriend, Rose, got me for Christmas. I also got a tripod with a gift certificate that I got. (A poshod box is like a French easel that attaches to a camera tripod or can be used on a table top without the tripod) I got my first opportunity to use it today and went out to the hills near my girlfriend’s house. I could never have painted in that spot without the poshod box. As a watercolorist, I have talked myself out of getting it for a long time because any flat surface can be used to paint on (like a much less expensive TV tray for instance.) but on this hillside, I doubt I could have even set up a French easel which isn’t as adjustable as a tripod. The painting came out O.K. I guess. I was irritated that at the end I nearly wrecked it by putting in to heave a brush stroke on a branch of the tree in the foreground. Then I erased half the tree when I wiped it off. It was late in the afternoon and I had to get home, it was getting dark too, so I was really short on time. I fixed it pretty quick which was good, but also irritating because it took me all day to paint but only a minute to fill in what had been wiped away. Still I’m happy with it over all.

Finally, I am also creating bookmarks. One I made specifically to be a bookmark & another I made from an existing illustration. I hope all this begins to pay off soon. I really hope to begin to learn how to make this into my livelihood. This is the year to realize that the artists I know aren’t superhuman, their work isn’t any better than mine (mostly) and that I am just as much of an artist as they are and I should start acting like it. My next move will be to join the San Clemente Art Association.

Wish me luck.