Friday, December 24, 2010

Bing Crosby for Christmas, Anyone?

I'm a huge Bing Crosby fan. So I was delighted when Crosby Enterprises released some new, great material this holiday season. You can read more about this, together with my brief Q&A with Bing's son, Harry, in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Among the recent releases are The Crosby Christmas Sessions CD and The Television Specials: Vol 2 - The Christmas Specials DVD, the latter containing the famous David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet of "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth." I've had the CD in my player non-stop for the past two weeks - sure, everyone is the house is being driven nuts - but 'tis the season for my annual Christmas Bing binge. Additional Bing material to be released in January. And for a touch of more Bing nostalgia, visit one of the Bing Crosby restaurants in San Diego, Rancho Mirage, or Walnut Creek.

"May your days be merry and bright"

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Beauty and Her Beasts

Artist Emily Reynolds fell in love with New York after visiting the city in 2003. So she never left. Now she paints from her studio in the West Village, where she specializes in whimsical depictions of man’s other best friend. Splashed with vibrant eye-catching colors, Emily’s quirky acrylic and oil pastels are as playful as the felines they depict.

Bubba and Lima Bean
While occasionally commissioned to immortalize a beloved pet on canvass, most of Emily’s cats are actually fictitious beasts that simply spring from her mischievous imagination. Aside from the strong visual appeal of her art, Emily gives each of her cats a name and personality, the latter usually revealed through a short poem that accompanies each piece. The artist says she began composing poems several years ago when she took her first cat painting to be framed.

“The framer suggested that I write a little story about the cat and put it with the painting,” explains the petite, blue-eyed blond, a native of Montgomery, Ala. “I loved the idea.”

At the time, Emily was enrolled in a college poetry course at the University of Alabama, where she was majoring in creative writing and journalism, so phrasing the story in verse seemed appropriate. She chose to use a simple four-lined rhyme and that has been the formula ever since.

Emily had little formal art training at school, but continued to paint as a hobby throughout college. Pierce Herbst, owner of Washington Commons Gallery in Cape May, NJ, is glad she stuck with it. He discovered her work while attending an exhibition in Atlanta in September, 2005, and purchased several pieces for his gallery.

“They were brightly colored, happy cats that really got my attention,” says Herbst. “It’s fun and carefree art and her style is very unique, especially since each piece is accompanied by a poem which lends an insight into the individual animal’s personality.”

CauliflowerCauliflower, the vegan, no meat will she take.
With aerobics and pilates she stays in great shape.
Though not far from perfect, she has but one vice,
Which she keeps in check with lots of soy-mice.
Emily says her unique blend of art and poetry breathes life into her paintings, making them more personable. She has created more than fifty feline characters in the past few years, and says people will often discover elements of themselves, or someone they know, in a particular piece.

Amongst her favorites are: “Jose Lopez,” a young, nightclubbing cat from Cuba; “Gertrude McRae,” a country club fraternizing socialite; the refined and elderly “Bertrand Giroux” and “O’Flaherty,” a delightfully naughty Irish redhead and renowned kitty Casanova.

When Wall Street broker Gene Croddick purchased one of Reynolds’ cats for his daughter’s birthday, the child was thrilled. She had been ill, says Croddick, and he wanted to give her something that would lift her spirits. “Emily’s work is really inspirational and not just for kids - adults get a kick out of them too,” he added.

From time to time, Emily has painted other animals, including dogs, cows, leopards, and llamas, but domestic cats dominate her work. “A cat can be many-a-devious thing and they have so many different personalities,” she mused. “I love that about them.”

Emily’s cats currently sell for around $800 to over $2,000. Not exactly pocket change, perhaps, but certainly affordable in today’s market. Painted on canvass with sizes up to 24” x 36”, her cats quickly find homes or hang in art galleries across North America awaiting ‘adoption.’

And for those with tight budgets, Emily also produces limited Giclee prints from some of her originals. This technique, which involves scanning a painting with a computer and using archival quality inks and high-resolution printers, produces incredibly detailed canvass copies of the original. Reynolds also produces posters, and has a line of greeting cards that will bring out a smile on all occasions.

The luck 'o the Irish O'Flaherty does keep.
He'll get to your she-cat while you're fast asleep.
A few weeks later you'll wake from your bed
To a basket of kittens with their papa's red head.

Emily's menagerie of cats can be viewed on her web site.
All images © Emily R Reynolds