Giving to Families Affected by The California Wildfires

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California has seen an unprecedented year of fire. In just one year we’ve seen nearly twice the total number of fires experienced over the previous five year average. The Thomas fire in Ventura is the latest in a growing problem and while I cannot hope to stop the problem, I can help those in need. We can help. Especially during this time of giving. From now until the end of the year, 100% of your purchases from my Etsy store will go to Ventura County to help the victims of the fires there. And in addition I will personally match, dollar-for-dollar, any money earned for this cause, doubling the donations. Perhaps, with our help, this small measure will make a difference for one family this Christmas.

If you’d rather donate directly, please send a text to: UWVC 41444. Or go to United Way Ventura County for more information on how to help. I encourage you to give a little to help save the holiday spirit in this difficult time.

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New Store Front Openning

Feature, Products

For a while now I’ve been looking for an option to help people get more direct access to my goods and I think I have a solution. A few people have mentioned a hesitation to buy from Etsy and I guess I understand some of it. We are drowning in complicated passwords and email marketing. It is such a huge hassle to create a new account, track the endless passwords and block the notifications. And unless I’m going to give the Etsy more money to set up yet another webpage, there’s no way to buy without registering for an account. I need to make it easier to buy. Not to mention that some of my prints don’t necessarily fit in with the cozy, good-feeling vibe, and female driven tastes that Etsy is trying to promote. I mean, fart jokes are awesome, but I don’t think hipsters aren’t really into school-boy humor. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.

Well, starting today, I’m going to try out an option provided by my mobile credit company and see how it goes. So now when you click on my “Store” link on this website it will take you to the Square sponsored storefront where you can order prints directly from me. No complicated logins to remember. No advertising. No hassle. Just unfiltered vulgarity beamed straight to your home from my demented brain.

Check it out.

 

Bigger Than Life

Feature

For the last month and a half I’ve been away from social media and frankly, it’s refreshing to be free of my electronic tether. To be selfless instead of always looking for validation in the black mirror. And there’s a good chance that I won’t come back to my online life. At least not as much as I once did, because for those of you wondering what has been happening in my life, where I have been: my Mother died.

The hardest part was watching her writhe in pain and terror in the hospital. Her animal instincts on overdrive pushing her to escape the hospital bed. But she didn’t have the strength anymore. She didn’t even have to strength to sit upright anymore. Her spirit was there, but her body gave out from under her.
That was hard to watch. For one month all I could do was stand in the background as my Mother was stabbed by needles, bruised and bleeding. I witnessed her panic and fight only to be doped into submission on high octane pain killers or sedation. Because of her claustrophobia she couldn’t tolerate the breathing masks the hospital staff attempted to put on her face, so the only option was sedation in order to shove tubes down her throat.

The waiting was agonizing. Waiting to see what happens next. To hope for some miracle – the staff was good that way I suppose, providing hope in dire circumstances – but I knew early on that things didn’t look good. When she rebounded mid way, I thought she might stand a chance. Cruelly, she collapsed again and never found her way back. And it created a lot of frustration. “Why drag this out?” “Why make this harder on her than it already is?”

This very undignified end for such a powerful force… the hospital is a brutal place. Not a place of comfort or care. Which is perhaps why she chose to hang on as long as she could. I don’t think she wanted to die in the hospital.

My Mother was incredible. Of course, that’s what anyone would say about their Mom, but my Mother wasn’t typical in a Motherly way. And we didn’t get along for many years because we never really developed a familial connection. While I loved her and card for her well being, we were different personalities. Her personality was much bigger than mine. As I said in her Eulogy, she was bigger than life itself.

Early on, her father’s commission with the Army Air Corp, before there was even an Air Force, allowed an upper middle class lifestyle. She rode horses in competition as well as for fun, but as a military family does, a move to the other side of the country forced them to give up her youthful delights. She rebelled, planning to run away and convinced a neighbor to join her in a midnight ride to a meager, hand-built-by-children stable in the woods where they had stashed supplies. Unfortunately their carpentry skills lacked and the makeshift corral they built for their horses failed to hold their horses which ran off home leaving Mom and her accomplice alone in the woods. That flight to freedom ended with a long, cold walk back home where an angry father discovered the plan when the horses returned to the stables without their riders.

That tenacity and fearlessness continued throughout her life. Rules never applied to her and she became very good at asking for forgiveness instead of permission. Later, after her father died, she would use that strength to begin a quest to learn more about her father’s life in World War II. He didn’t talk about it much and when all his possessions fell into her lap, she learned that he was a hero decorated with a Silver Star among other awards. Survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Raider on the Japanese in the South Pacific. Piloting supplies in the rebuilding of Europe and the Berlin Airlift. Veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. But it was her interest in her father’s WWII years that drove to search for lost planes in the distant and wild island county of Papua New Guinea.

She learned about a crew that flew under the command of her father that was on it’s way to the far off island county of Papua New Guinea (PNG). They had gotten lost. Crashed somewhere in the wilderness or maybe the endless ocean. So her that runaway spirit took hold and led her on many adventures dedicated to finding lost WWII aircraft. In the early-1990s she went to PNG with a handful of clues pointing to lost aircraft. And when she found one crash site, overgrown by the jungles deep in the mountains, only accessible by jumping out of a helicopter on to a pile of logs cut to create a makeshift landing pad, she discovered the long lost bones of full B-17 bomber crew – ten men – led by LT Howard Eberly, who was easily identified by a golden bracelet that had his name on it that had survived fifty years in the jungle. She was able to return the remains of those lost airmen home and, as fortune would have it, the bracelet had a match held by Eberly’s surviving widow. My Mother gave that bracelet back in person.

Mom at one time lived on the Navajo reservation in Arizona witnessing dances that “no white-man has ever seen”. She got to see Canyon de Chelly in it’s prime and cliff dwellings now closed off to most people. She spoke to Navajo vets who spent time in Vietnam and it left a deep impression on her soul.

She broke glass ceilings in a time when women weren’t necessarily promoted to executive positions in business, climbing to a corner office in the (then) Sears Tower.

In her youth she moved to Mexico City and lived there for a time. Then met some Canadian hitch hikers on the road north in California and decided to move to Vancouver where she lived and worked for a while. We still have close friends there.

While I cannot possibly do justice to her memory, in it’s entirety, because she was such a huge personality, it would be a shame to not say something about her loss. And while our relationship was rocky in the end, which I may regret as I learn more about her – oddly enough I’m learning more about her in death than I did in life – I can see the love and affection she had for me in the old photos from my early years. I’m glad I at least had the chance to tell her that I love her very much in her final moments.

Compared to those days in the hospital there is some relief in knowing that she is no longer in pain. That her endless searching and pushing for the next thing has finally been put to rest.

I will miss her laughter. Loud, and clear, and carefree. I will miss her grammar corrections and will be forever trying to improve my writing because of her. I will miss her inspiring energy and drive. I will miss arguing about politics and the long conversations about the stars and physics. I have missed the opportunity to ask her about the old days and the parts of her life that I wasn’t a part of. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to introduce her Reggie Watts, because I really think she would have really liked his style. But I’m glad that she was my Mom. I consider myself lucky to have known such an extraordinary woman in a time when such greatness is rare.
So now, looking back over the last two months a lot has changed. The end of this bigger-than-life person has made me reconsider my place in the world and how I approach living. Perhaps that’s my Mom’s parting gift: to help me refocus and build the wherewithal to pursue things that are more meaningful. To shine light on the preciousness that life can hold. This isn’t goodbye to the online world necessarily, but definitely a step back to think about what value these mediums offer.

Hack and Saw

Feature, Woodworking

My nine-to-five requires a lot of construction, and I’m okay at it. Not great. But when I have time to devote to making things I really enjoy piecing together lumber and turning it into useful things. Those days of plowing through Legos must have planted a seed. Only now I get to make custom pieces without having to dig through piles of plastic.

Sometimes I need to pivot. My five-to-nine, drawing and printing, can tap me out so when I start running dry, but still have the urge to create, I’ll start looking for other ways to bang my head against the wall. I’ve made music, writings, home improvement projects, taken photographs, and blown my brains out on video games. Lately a few people have taken notice of the woodworking I’ve been doing. Not really sure why.

Take this standing desk (gallery above): built from scratch, stained, and covered in a sleek polyurethane coat. Made from lumber – I guess you could say recycled or maybe it’s reclaimed wood; I’m not sure – scrapped from previous theatre shows. It was a request by a teacher I work with and it turned out alright.

Like most things I cook up this desk is simple in design. After all my brain can only handle so much processing. There are a few rough spots, but overall it will provide a stable platform for a least a couple of years. I think it’ll do fine considering, though I did get a chance to put a bit more work into this particular model, so it’s above par for my standard. Not sexy, but functional.

The strange thing is people seem to like the work. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when I get to talking about all the work that goes into a particular project you can see a look of “impressed” slowly materialize over their faces as the begin to understand the amount effort required. We don’t hear about handmade things very often and I think I forget that not everyone is a hack craftsman like me. It’s not complicate work, but it can be hard work and maybe we have forgotten what that’s like in this modern age of technology and information. More than a few people think that’s one reason why craft fairs have become so popular. I’m inclined to agree.

So long as people like this stuff I’ll keep making it. And it’s my goal to always use lumber that people might want to throw away. Trying to do my part in controlling waste in a wasteful society. Let me know what you think by hitting that little “Like” button in the corner and stay tuned for more to come.

Giving Thanks

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I have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m in control. 

A few month’s ago I was explaining to my hair lady that my 30’s have been some of the best times that I lived through so far. She said she’d heard that before then asked why that was. What it came down to is that basically I have more stability, creativity, good friends, sense of purpose and understanding than any time in my life so far. 

To put things into perspective my wife and I came out of the recession with a touch of financial PTSD. Even now with a couple of month’s wages saved up I feel a slight anxiousness that maybe it’s not enough. And my wife… forever hates green bell peppers because it was a staple food item in poverty. 

We’re a bit tainted from that experience. However we are coming out of it and this year really feels different mostly because I’ve taken steps to start a side hustle – illustration and printing. 

A lot of things had to come together to make this work. Steady job, room for inspiration, extra cash, reduced debt, and much more. So now that the proverbial stars are aligning it makes me feel like I don’t have to worry as much. That the decisions I’m making are benefiting me in a forward momentum kind of way not because circumstances have forced my hand and I have to get by. 

It feels great. It feels great to be alive and I’m excited about… everything! I don’t remember the last time I felt this way. But I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can and this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for all the positive changes and people that have helped me to reach this point.

I hope you are as lucky as I am to share in that sense of empowerment this holiday. Now I’m going to go celebrate by supporting America’s favorite tradition of gluttony. Happy turkey day!

Yosemite by Robert Olson

Yosemite Handmade Art Print

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Yosemite by Robert Olson

My mind was blown when we came up on Tunnel View and saw the valley for the first time. Pictures didn’t do it justice and nothing that I could ever create would come close to seeing it in person, but for those of us who have been there it beckons.

When we parked to take in the view I remember thinking, “I wonder what would it would have been like before crowds of people taking selfies where here?”

Then it occurred to me that if I can imagine it, I can draw it.

Yosemite Handmade Art Print now available on Etsy for 14.99 USD

from Etsy http://ift.tt/1lbVJYT

Dino Beer Poster: Tricerahops IPA

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Dino Beer Poster: Tricerahops IPA now available on Etsy for 14.99 USD

from Etsy http://ift.tt/1ixFcNM

Yosemite Haunting Me

Feature, Graphic Design, Illustration

Glacier Point Yosemite National Park 

Yosemite…

What can I say that would do justice to the majesty I have witnessed. When people asked me how our trip was I didn’t have words. The best that I could muster was, “I’ve seen pictures of Yosemite and thought, that’s pretty, but what you see when you get there blows your mind.” The best works of Ansel Adams don’t even come close to expressing the feelings you get from experiencing it first hand. You have to see it in person.

We drove in from the south. Nearly seven hours total through the means streets of Orange County, to our friends’ place in the desert, past the vast wastelands, and into the gates of the park and there was silent excitement as we waited to see what came around the next corner.

Something about the woods strums up heartwarming memories of running through the parched trees of Big Bear where as a child I would explore and learn. The shushing road and warm air scented with pine lulls me as we skim over the winding Wawona hills. As we start to see the rock heave up to form the corners of the mouth that opens up to the valley and find ourselves peering down into the steeply formed river bottom, I sleepily come to realize that this dream is about to become real.

 

We explode into the valley with what is one of the best ways to start your adventure. “Tunnel View” doesn’t begin to describe the spectacular scene that unfolds before you, but after many hours on the road it was the golden treasure at the end of a long journey. I could have gone home right then and there.

Tunnel View Yosemite National Park

It is overwhelming. It’s bigger than life. It makes you curious and tickles that exploratory itch. We couldn’t just look. We had to dive in and feel the water go over our heads. We were immersed in Yosemite’s power for almost a week. And we left wanting more.

Afterwards it haunted us. Not just because of the vacation withdrawals we felt being back at work. So when I sat down to tackle some artwork I was blinded by memories of what I just experienced. I had something stirring in me that needed to escape.

While inspired by our trip the image I came up with fails to come anywhere close to the experience I shared with friends. For those of us who have made the pilgrimage these images link to that part of our inner being that like a film negative has been permanently exposed with those memories of our experiences. Perhaps we can keep the memory alive with these artifacts. Maybe it will only feed that craving of the most addictive drug, adventure.

The beauty is with us still and continues to nourish our souls.

Yosemite Print 

Velocity Raptor Now Available

Graphic Design, Illustration, Products

Velocity Raptor

Get ready kids ’cause Velocity Raptor is coming for your guts. My new 11×17, two-color poster is on Etsy, so get out your credit cards and grab the first poster from the upcoming trilogy for only $14.99.

There are 50 handmade prints and will soon start prepping the next batch so be sure to look out for Pterodact Ale and Tricera Hops.

Faux Beer Label No. 3

Illustration

triceratopshops

The final planned dinosaur themed beer that you can only find in your imagination (at the moment). This hand-drawn illustration and typography still has some work ahead before it’s ready to become a two-color, hand-pulled screen print. With some motivation I might be able to start publishing these prints later this month to my Etsy site.

Just goes to show how an afternoon on the beach with the love of my life and some beer can get the creative juices going!

Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates and random garbage.

Copyright © Robert C. Olson 2015