Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Benefit and a Painting for Cedric Curtis

In a continuing effort to stray from stories of the world going to heck in a hecktocopter, I will make an unprecedented second straight personal post.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Cedrick Curtis, asking if I could return a preamp I'd borrowed from him.

"How's things?" I asked.

"Oh, "he said, "pretty good, only I'm having this problem with my hair falling out."

"Ha!" I said, and then turning it into a joke, as I tend to do with everyting, " long as it doesn't have to do with chemotherapy, I guess it's ok."

"As a matter of fact, it is chemotherapy..."

Cedric Curtis is a heck of a guitar player. He's also a heck of a nice guy. He also has breast cancer.

Turns out his dad also had it, but never mentioned it to him. "Just had a little cyst removed, that's all..." he told Ceddy.

Being a musician, he has no health insurance, so a bunch of his friends have organized a benefit for him.

I got a flyer in the email last week about the upcoming benefit. It's to be at an outrageously opulent castle that a famous vintner built just south of Calistoga. Four bands are listed to play, but I suspect every musician in Napa County will be there. I hope there will also be some rich people (usually, the local set of muscians and set of rich people do not intersect) so some money will be raised. I noticed in the flyer that there would be a benefit auction. Ah ha! A chance to prod myself into painting! As luck would have it, my schedule was open the last few days, with only one gig in Napa on Thursday night.

So the last few days I whipped out a painting for the silent benefit auction. Wednesday, I searched through my voluminous archives for a shot of Ced playing his favorite Strat at a gig, found one, and took a digital photo of it. He was kinda small, in the background, but it was good enough. Put it into Photoshop, whiped out the background, gridded it, and drew it onto a canvas I had lying around.

Thursday, I inked it in with a waterproof ink pen. Looked pretty good. Then I went off to Napa to play at Kelley's No Bad Days Cafe with Tom Overton. At the end of the gig, my friend Keith Borges walked in with his brother, Daryll. Daryll and Ced and I had been in a band in the summer of 1995. Daryll had left at the end of the summer for Nashville, and after a year or two (and a close call from a tornado) hightailed it back west to Las Vegas, where he's been working in bands in casinos ever since. I told Keith about Ced and the benefit as soon as I heard. He called Daryll, and Daryll flew in just for the benefit.

Back to Petaluma, to work. I painted in the drawing until about 3:30am. Here's what it looked like at that point:

I actually considered leaving it like that. It had a nice, unfinished but elegant kinda look. But, no, I had another day to work on it...

About half way between Napa and Petaluma, I realized I'd left my camera at Kelley's in Napa. I'd planned to stop by Cedric's frame shop in Napa and pick up a ticket to the benefit. So, Wednesday afternoon after getting the camera I hung out with Ced and his partner Marie and their amazingly cat-sized dog for a couple of hours, until Robbie, the lady who was doing the logistics and catalogue for the silent auction, arrived. She said I could email her the info about the painting and then just bring it to the benefit. Good, since I didn't bring it with me to Napa...and I wanted to work on it more. Ced and Marie insisted on giving me a ticket. Ok. I'd make it up to them with my painting. I hoped. I told them I was making one, but didn't say what it was. A surprise.

Back in Petaluma, I spent hours looking for a background. Again, back to the archives. Found a nice digital photo of some spectacular clouds over Mt. Veeder. A warm, subdued look seemed to be a good goal to work towards. Loaded the photo into Photoshop and rotated the color hue around until the sky turned a nice brown. Copied it into a new layer of the Ced photo. Enlarged it to fit and slid it around until it looked good.

Painting. I'm always surprised at how much fun this part is. Painted in the background. After I painted behind Cedric's head the shape of it no longer looked right, so I checked back to the original photo and got things looking correct. Redid the clouds around the head. Put on my signature. Painted the edges of the canvasboard. Coated it with gloss medium. Noticed it was 3:30am again! Funny how that time keeps coming up. Remembered I was supposed to send a short bio, description of the painting, and price to Robbie. Got it sent just before 4am. Here's what it looks like now:

Got up today and realized I'd not quite sent Robbie the correct info, and so sent the correct info.

The benefit is tonight. I'll take the painting straight to the castle. Hope it raises some money. Maybe I'll get to play some music. I'm sure it will be an unforgettable experience. I'll bring my camera and my earplugs.

The next day:
Last night was certainly memorable. Nearly every musician in Napa county (and many from elsewhere) was there. Earplugs were indeed needed, almost constantly. I brought my sketch pad and pens, in case a situation developed where I could do portraits, but it didn't happen.

Keith and Daryll showed, and Keith brought his sister Tammy, who lives in Oakland. Daryll hitched a ride with Kellie, the MC for the evening, who has a local radio program called Kellie in the Morning. I took lots of photos, of the crowd, of people I knew, and of the castle itself, which is quite a place. Nearly everyone seemed to be running into a friends they hadn't seen in years, even decades.

All the bands were very good, and Cedric sat in and played guitar with each of them. At the end of the evening there was a small jam, and Daryll got to play drums. I was hoping to play the keyboard that had been set up all evening, but someone had dismantled it and it lay, useless, on a table off to the side. So much for my musical contribution.

As for my artistic contribution, I fear the painting was too good. No one would bid on it. Ced and Marie were totally blown away by it, and immediately wanted to buy it themselves. "No, you can't do that!" I said. "That would defeat the whole purpose!" The minimum bid was marked down, down, down, throughout the evening, but no one bit. Perhaps it's for the best. I'll just give it to Ced and Marie.

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