M. Brown - "Untitled"

M. Brown, Untitled (10/2004), 10-3/4″ x 7-1/8″, Graphite and ink
marker on drawing board.
An energetic and emotional portrayal of a young man painfully struggling from the mental anguish of a love relationship gone bad, loss of a family member, sibling abuse, etc. The reasons are as varying as they are timeless. The realistic rendering of the scene intensifies the emotional drama that is both familiar and saddening. Most of us can identify with the pain of dealing with tragedy seemingly alone, but in retrospect we appreciate the experience as psychological growth and the forming of character (at least that's what they tell us).

I love this passionate depiction of a struggle with strong emotion, and the rich textures and surrounding the artist employed to relate the feeling of desolation and disparity. The subtle texture of the young man’s back and arms contrast against the bold and confining geometry of the floor and doors. Is this an allegorical work depicting man against authoritarianism? Is the young man being shut out, or shut in? Is it a self-portrait? That’s the beauty of the visual arts–you can make of it what you wish, unless the artist indicates otherwise through another form of narration.

The detail and texture of this piece are truly impressive when viewed in person. The ink marker outlining of the young man’s jeans and the heavy shading of the window blinds guides our eyes to the real sentiment of the composition; a young and fragile mind. I find myself envious of artists that can render such dramatic and graphic emotion with something as simple as a pencil. The knack to visually create is something an artist is born with but it may take time and experience before it surfaces. I have no such knack, and that was made clear to me in junior high school when my desire to create and collect art became apparent. I was deeply into the old masters and wanted to become an expert on the realistic rendering of my left hand. I drew that hand in every possible contortion imaginable; fingers bent forward, backward, flighty, mighty and in repose. I perfected crosshatching for shading in different lighting and had digit perspective down pat. It was with stratospheric pride that I handed-in my extracurricular handiwork to my art teacher, only to see him quickly dump them into the trash can one day when he thought I wasn’t watching. When I inquired why he treated my work with such disdain, he said there could only be one “A” in the class (?), and that it would go to the naturally talented kid who drew cartoons with flair. I could hardly object. The kid was pretty good at it. I continued my artistic endeavors into high school with equal success, but I made a personal agreement that if I couldn’t draw or paint with the same quality of work that I admired, I’d collect it instead. That’s another way of saying why I do what I do.

But, sometimes there’s a downside to collecting art, and this is a good example of it. I came across this piece while browsing the Direct from the Artist category on eBay. From there you can narrow down your search by selecting a type of art, such as “Drawings,” which is where I found it. It was striking when viewed online, and after a modest winning bid, became a valued addition to my collection. The only problem is I have no idea who the heck M. Brown is since I can’t find my purchase records!

eBay is a great resource for discovering new artistic talent. I’ve spent countless hours perusing the art pages and have discovered some real finds, new and old. And the prices for new and upcoming artists are a bit more realistic than you’ll find in most places. If you find a work you really like and the opening bid is too high in your opinion, make them an offer. I’ve also used that to my advantage when an auction goes off unsuccessfully. I’ll write the artist and make a more realistic offer citing their failure to get a bid at their asking price. That usually opens a dialog in which we can come to a more agreeable price. You may think your purchase only amounts to taking a chance on an unknown artist’s future popularity. In reality you are simply purchasing something that delights your senses with the potential to grow with it over time. You should NEVER have to grow to like a work of art, unless, of course, it was a gift.

But with all the search tools and the overwhelming variety of art available on eBay, their auction records only go back as far as 60 days. I know I acquired this piece within the last two years but I have no way of knowing for sure, and a search for M. Brown has turned up nothing. I manually search the drawing category now and then to look for a similar style in hope to locate the artist, but so far that has come up empty. As a registered member of eBay you have the option of setting up a search that will notify you when your criteria has been met over a period of time. I’ve done that for this artist and hopefully something will come of it soon. A Google search for M. Brown turned up everything from Sopranos to photographers, but nothing that remotely resembled this work. That’s a shame because I truly believe this artist should have their own eBay Store, or at least a listing on some artist community site (there are literally millions of them).

You may think a piece of art without an identity is as worthless as an orchid without a tag, but that’s simply not true. Look in any major art gallery and you will find several masterpieces by an Unknown artist hanging on the walls right next to the Raphaels and the Tintorettos. This piece is signed and dated by the artist, but like many art works it may simply end up as a transient moment of creativity relegated to the same nicotine-stained walls as those unidentifiable old paintings hanging in back alley antique stores around the world. Then again, great art speaks for itself (but it is nice knowing from whom it came).

What’s the moral of this story? Save everything related to an art purchase, and store it in a location you’ll be able to find again!


Push Button Cookery with Vincent Price

In the 1970’s actor, art collector and connoisseur Vincent Price recorded a series of 12 cassette tapes called, “The Beverly Hills Cookbook,” later titled, “Push Button Cookery,” to capitalize on the growing popularity of portable audio players. I acquired a set of these tapes while yard sale rummaging one Saturday morning and was immediately taken by Price’s familiar voice and wonderfully charming character. It was after playing these deliciously narrative recipes that I realized how much I really missed his presence. He was a gentleman who has never been matched in graciousness, taste and a lover of everything life had to offer - characteristics that are sorely missing today. The recipes aren’t bad, either. I digitized the tapes and am making them available here for your enjoyment. Listen to them all, and try out a few recipes in the same spirit as they are presented. I hope you savor them as much as I have.

Tip: Clicking on a title will open a window allowing you to select your music player of choice for playback, or download the .mp3 file for your personal use.

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