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Drawing Talent: Joe Dunbar Designs & Talent Cafe

Dunbar Designs & Total Picture

Draw quick, before they go!

Yes, while researching this blog post, I found out that Joe Dunbar Designs & The Total Picture are leaving Talent to set up shop in nearby Medford, OR. Mr. Dunbar has a good following for his custom designed, one of a kind garments.

Total Picture & Joe Dunbar Designs, a Watercolor Sketch by Artist Margaret Stermer-Cox

Mr. Dunbar & Talent

Mr. Dunbar has donated much of his time to our community by serving on the Talent Public Arts Committee.  Both he and his mother are visual artists as well.  They run a framing business along side of the dress making and art creating businesses.

Come to think of it, the title “Total Picture” applies.  Fashion design, framing and painting all under one roof ; it works!

I’m happy that I drew this building while Mr. Dunbar’s business still resides in it.  You might see the suggestion of two dresses in the front right hand building.

The Building!

But, the building remains!  And, the building was there before Mr. Dunbar established his business.

The First Talent Cafe

Years ago, two women owned a cafe in the building, named the Talent Cafe*.  A third woman helped them run it. My husband remembers it well. As a boy living in this valley, he went with his parent to the cafe on occasion. One rule was that if you did not finish your dinner, you did not receive any desert. Funny; can you imagine a cafe having such a rule today?

Lila Parker & Marie Long

I am able to verify my husband’s memory on the Friends of Talent website. The ladies that owned the cafe were Lila Parker and Marie Long. My husband remembers their marble soda fountain.  He remembers the ladies and thought they were cool.  The dinners were homemade and good. He always cleaned his plate. One of the ladies used a crutch but still served.

Personal Connection

I have a recollection of going to the cafe with my husband and his parents in 1981. There was generally only one entrée on the menu.  For example, on Thursday night’s meatloaf was served with appropriate sides. I remember sitting at a table up front in a lovely, old fashioned cafe. It was a treat.

Note About Today’s Talent Cafe

* There is a “Talent Cafe” currently operating in Talent.  The building in which it resides is not the original building; its a couple of blocks away.  The owners and crew are different too.  I have had a cup of espresso there and found it tasted good.  Perhaps I will draw their place too one day.

Next Up:  30 Paintings in 30 Days

Starting tomorrow, September 1st, I plan to participate in the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” Challenge hosted by Leslie Saeta Fine Art.  More soon!



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Beautiful bonus

photo (5)


A nice bonus of participating in the Tallahassee International turned out to be the first-rate catalog they published of the exhibit. Each artist was given equal space with a full-color plate and the opportunity for an artist’s statement about the work. In the back, they’ve offered a brief profile of each artist with a listing of awards. Outside of the marvelous catalogs Manifest produces for each of its shows, this is the highest-quality catalog I’ve gotten for any show I’ve participated in over the past seven or eight years.

Watercolor Society of Oregon – “I Can’t Hear You”


My painting “I Can’t Hear You” has been accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s 49th Annual Transparent Media Exhibition, to be held in Medford, OR.

If you are in the area this October, I invite you to come see the show!


  • The exhibition will be at The Rogue Gallery, 40 South Barlett St., Medford, OR.
  • Dates for the show are October 3 through November 15.
  • Gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday 11am – 3pm.
  • Entrance to the exhibition is free and open to the public.
  • Juror was Ms. Linda Baker, AWS, NWS.

I Can't Hear You


Thank You

There are many fine artists in the Watercolor Society of Oregon, of which almost 200 submitted over 300 paintings to the show.  I am grateful that my painting was one of the 80 selected.

Thank you Linda Baker for accepting my painting.

“Just Sayin’ Series”

“I Can’t Hear You” is one of the paintings in my “Just Sayin’…” series, inspired by watching people on their cell phones.

I think the cell phone is one of the interesting phenomena of our culture. It effects our gestures, our relationships and our activities. I find it fascinating that it has become so common. Young and old alike use the device; its everywhere!

Congrats WSO

To my friends and fellow Oregon watercolor artists who were accepted into the show as well, congratulations! I can hardly wait to see your paintings in person!


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Perceptual painters at Manifest

David Campbell's contribution to Perceptual Painters at Manifest

David Campbell, in Perceptual Painters at Manifest

A show I’d love to see, if Cincinnati were any closer.

From the Manifest website:

This exhibition of paintings by two groups of artists sharing a common approach to their art making is one of six selected from among 165 proposals submitted for consideration for Manifest’s tenth season. Manifest is proud to showcase this tour de force of perceptual painting, and to welcome thirteen artists from the Perceptual Painters collective to Cincinnati. The exhibit, proposed by David Campbell, was conceived to explore and celebrate the common ground shared between the Perceptual Painters group, all from outside the Cincinnati area with many either from, or having crossed paths in, Philadelphia, with a group of five artists currently or originally from the Cincinnati area. Furthermore, it pleases us to share that the five artists in the ‘Cincinnati Group’ are Manifest alum, having exhibited at the gallery or instructed courses or led life drawing sessions in our Drawing Center program over many years. Most continue to be involved in our programming today. The outreach of the Perceptual Painters to invite these artists in our own community to share in this exhibition suggests Cincinnati has a part in this important contemporary movement, and that Manifest has fostered a rich environment in which this can happen.

Camelot in Talent

Camelot Theatre Company

I am indeed speaking of our local Camelot, not the legend of King Arthur, his court and castle. Talent’s theater company is semi-professional and focuses on producing plays, musicals and musical events.

James Morrison Collier Theatre Building

Today’s subject is the local James Morrison Collier Theatre Building in Talent, OR, which is the home to the Camelot Theatre Company.

This is not the first building that housed the Camelot Theatre Company. Initially, the company performed in a converted feed store. Times and Talent changed; the company needed a new building.

Camelot Theatre Co & Collier Theatre

Mr. Collier, Philanthropist

The short story is that the company needed funding to build their new accommodations. Fortunately, local philanthropist Mr. James M. Collier made a sizable contribution to the project. Mr. Collier’s support jumpstarted the fund raising and ensured the building was constructed.  The Camelot Theatre Co has recognized his generosity by naming the building in Mr. Collier’s honor. The long story is worthy of the name “Camelot”, (please see references below).

Personal Connections

  • I’ve been to a musical production and thought it was expertly done.  It was “Spotlight on Woody Guthrie”
  • An acquaintance maintains the landscaping.
  • I met Mr. Collier through on of my aunts; my aunt and Mr. Collier are friends.

I found an article on line about Mr. Collier. I thought it was interesting that he has a Masters degree in English. He was a teacher for over 30 years. He received an inheritance and has used it to support the performing arts here in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon and elsewhere.

Even though I am not a frequent visitor to the Camelot Theatre Company’s production at James Morrison Collier Theatre, I am happy that it is here in our town. It is special.

Today’s “Drawing Talent” Session

No disasters with equipment or paint today. No fingers in the yellow, red or blue paint.  I didn’t drop my pallet or spill the water. It was a straight forward painting session.

Hah!  Never fear, self doubt always lurks in the brain. I worked through it and enjoyed my brief encounter with Camelot and King J.M. Collier*.

*Mr. Collier was crowned “King” for the opening ceremonies. He said “Long live Camelot” as he entered.


For more information about Mr. Collier or the Camelot Theatre Company:



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Berkshire landscape

©7/14 r potak
Berkshire Landscape
11 x 14″ 
acrylic on treated canvas paper

Drawing Talent: Sidewalk Closed

Talent Round About Construction

The city is having a round about constructed on one of the main thoroughfare in Talent.  Since it is Saturday, I thought it would be fun to go down to the construction site and draw something.  I was attracted to a big tractor parked in front of a “Sidewalk Closed” sign.

Sidewalk Closed

Naturally, since the sidewalk was closed, I sat and drew right outside the construction zone.  I sat under a tree and got down to business. 

Funny thing, several people ignored the “sidewalk closed” sign and walked through the construction zone.  Because no one was working, I suppose all felt it was OK/fine.

Side Walk ClosedConstruction Police

One lady did think that I was the construction police and asked if she could walk on the sidewalk.  She wanted to know if she would be arrested if she did.  I told her I wasn’t sure.

Yellow Trouble

Speaking of getting down to business, I kept getting myself into trouble today.  Problems in my set up soon became evident!

First of all, I had just loaded my pallet with fresh yellow paint.  The first thing I did was put my finger into the well of gooey paint and proceeded to get it everywhere.  It was a good thing the tractor was yellow.

Next, I put my pallet on my tool box and proceeded to knock it over.  Fortunately, I caught it with my paint brush, that was dipped in red.  Luckily, it was a synthetic bristle brush otherwise I would have ruined it.  I used the bristle end to catch the pallet; not good.


OK, I need practice and experience.  Still, it was fun and interesting!

PS.  No, I’m not the construction police.


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Art is an ark

photo (3)There’s Spoon and then there’s everything else in contemporary music. When Parquet Courts released Light Up Gold, after a few listens, I thought: hm, look out, Spoon. I emailed the hosts of Sound Opinions praising them for ranking the Parquet Courts debut as one of the brightest moments in music last year. Yet I regret to confess that I actually ended that email with the something like the following words, knowing Jim and Greg love Spoon: “Move over, Spoon. There’s a new sheriff in town.” (Me with my giddy crush on “Master of My Craft”.) Though the second effort from Parquet Courts has a few tracks that rank with the best from Light Up Gold, in general it left me a little crestfallen. It sounded as if they were being petulantly difficult, upping the noise and monotony—which worked on their first album. Now they sound as if they’re daring you to not to like them—just to prove they didn’t care if anybody would pay to hear them assert their defiant low-fi integrity. I still love them on principle, but I’m not as in love with them now, if you know what I’m saying. (I once had a pet theory that Sinead O’Conner shaved her head because she was too beautiful to get taken seriously with a full head of hair.) In other words, PC seems to be pushing back against the risks of popularity they know they might achieve if they upped the production quality to Spoon level—which they do perfectly, just to show you they can, on one or two tracks from Sunbathing Animals. If Parquet Courts would just relax and make the irresistibly gut-punching music they know how to make, pop-punk songs offset by complex, poetic lyrics, in such a seemingly effortless way, imagine a concert where they would open for Spoon. Who could top that?

That’s a long way to say They Want My Soul may have already become my favorite Spoon album. Better than anyone recording music right now, Spoon is concocting the most sophisticatedly beautiful songs that also invite your limbic brain to the shindig. They split the difference between The Beatles and The Replacements. (Britt Daniel put it another way once: “Marvin Gaye meets Iggy Pop.”) After nearly twenty years of recording, Spoon keeps going for the brass ring: they are trying to be a timelessly great rock band, as if such a thing were possible anymore, given music’s incredible fragmentation and the inescapable obscurity so many great musical artists face. (There are great bands now, but are they rock bands?) Spoon keeps defying its era, dissecting old rock and roll songs and assembling new ones, unpacking new sounds from old ones. Daniels once listened to Revolver on repeat, until (as I like to imagine it) the memory of it was playing involuntarily in his head day and night. I read somewhere that he had an exasperated girlfriend who asked him, “Does it always have to be about rock and roll?” I visualize her on her way out the door with Daniel calling out, sotto voce, to himself really, with a smile of relief on his face, “All the plants are gonna die!” Spoon is living on the same corner as Lennon and McCartney or R.E.M.—hoping to be popular because they are brilliantly good. Critics back around the time of Gimme Fiction were predicting Spoon could break out and do exactly what R.E.M did: achieve big popularity and still win critical raves. I don’t get the impression they are immensely popular, even though you can hear them in all sorts of unexpected places. They are still near the top of every critic’s list. I can’t even find the new album on the Billboard rankings. Too soon? Am I looking at the wrong list? I feel like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer when I venture onto that website. I’m a little more at home on Pitchfork, but not that much. On the other hand, so many of my friends don’t get it. They listen and shrug or they actively don’t like Spoon. It’s as if I’m surrounded by people who have secretly agreed to pretend they despise motherhood or beer or Abe Lincoln.

I discovered Spoon about a decade ago. My son, Matt, was in the house, getting ready to head somewhere with his friends. Outside, I walked up to his friend Al Swinburne, in the driver’s seat of his car in our suburban driveway, where he was running the engine, a couple other friends in the back. My wife and I had known all of them since they were in kindergarten, give or take a year or two. As we caught up with one another, in the mix Al was playing I heard those first gorgeous carousel-like organ notes from “Anything You Want.” I kept talking, but not for long. About thirty seconds into it, I shut up and said, “Who is that.”  He said, “A band called Spoon.” I got more and more thrilled by what I was hearing, and he said, “My brother let Britt Daniel crash in his Boston apartment for a couple weeks.” Shortly thereafter, I told my son, Matt, “Listen to this.” He and I drove to Cleveland to hear them at the Beachland Ballroom, getting there early, standing at the edge of the stage. Matt jumped up and stole the set list afterward, and now, nine years later, I still have it on my wall.  What a dork.

Thanks to Al and Ian, I was a Spoon disciple before anyone knew Gimme Fiction was on the way, which is when the band started getting attention in the mainstream press. Anything You Want remains my favorite Spoon song, and after ten years, when it starts playing, it sounds just as fresh, as innocent, as joyful as when I heard it in my driveway—a song I believe could have shot up the charts in the 60s, even though it was composed and recorded decades later. A couple others are right up there with it, in my list of all-time favorites: “The Figures of Art,” which is its equal for all the same reasons, and “The Fitted Shirt”(which was side-by-side with “Anything You Want” on Girls Can Tell, for one of the all-time greatest one-two punches of pop rock and roll), and now “Rainy Taxi”andLet Me Be Mine.” (I would include “Like Ice Cream,” from Daniel’s stint with Divine Fits.) As About 1:50 into “Rainy Taxi,” Spoon briefly hits its cruising altitude and seems to achieve the musical equivalent of perpetual motion. (Parquet Courts rides that same tailwind in “Master of My Craft” at around 2:16 after the best line from the album, “Socrates died in the fucking gutter!” Innocent joy isn’t part of the bargain with PQ. But it’s a funny line.) Bottom line: half a century after The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan and established rock and roll as the only music that was going to matter for a long time, Spoon is keeping the pure heart of it alive in ways no other band seems to be attempting with the same intensity.

Spoon samples from the past in its own way. They’ve internalized what’s great, and they try to do it justice by making something new that measures up to it. They’re traditionalists, not obedient to what’s preceded them, but dedicated to liberating new opportunities from inside earlier practices. They have absorbed, if not memorized, a large portion of pop music from the past half century, starting, I think, with songs recorded the year Eno was born, 1966, and then picking and choosing from various tracks ever since, seeking a path forward for a new tune by dissecting the way bands tackled musical challenges half a century ago. Or just a few years ago: Daniel was studying Dr. Dre from 2001 while Spoon was making the new disk. It’s a perfect fit: he and Dre worship a certain kind of restrained beat, and they’re both minimalists, getting the most from the smallest quantity of sound. The perfectionism of that cushiony soundproof studio texture—it’s there in the best work of both artists.

Spoon always sounds like Spoon, but you hear echoes of dozens of influences from one song to the next. As a New York Times writer put it, they build songs the way a magpie builds its nest, drawing materials from all over the place. Like a great DJ, they’ll grab the core of a previous song, the beat and the rhythm of a few notes, and spin something completely new from it. “Got Nuffin” and “Rainy Taxi” both begin by echoing the rhythm and guitar textures of “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group. The opening of “Got Nuffin,” at the same time, evokes 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago, and then moves on to become something completely different. One lone blogger, a while back, pointed out that the first few bars of “The Fitted Shirt” sound a lot like the opening for a lesser-known track from Heartexcept the Spoon track seems much harder to get a fix on, in a good way, as if two time signatures have been superimposed, one for the drums and the other for the melody. It’s typical: the opening seconds of a Spoon song can sound instantly familiar, even if they’re entirely original, and then the song becomes what it is—not a pastiche or a cover, but a reworking and discovery of the untapped potential still coiled in an earlier work. Tear Me Down always feels to me like a track that didn’t make it onto Let It Bleed. Daniel said that he immersed himself in both Revolver and the soundtrack for the remake of Solaris when the band was recording Gimme Fiction.

Spoon songs don’t wear out for me. After ten years of listening, some of the earliest are still fresh. I’ve found some of the most lasting tracks in their catalog for me can be found on their first recordings: Telephono and Series of Sneaks. They’re raw, minimal, and physically aggressive, essentially punk, and yet the sound of each instrument is exquisite and rich and there’s a quietness that hovers in the songs, as it usually does with Spoon ever since, isolating each instrument and voice. Hi-fi punk. No crumbly low-fi distortion anywhere. The sound of a Spoon song is something Daniel and Eno work themselves to death to get right—there isn’t a note where they don’t intend for it to be and the sound is usually both lush and roughly commanding. The production values get massaged until it feels as if the entire song has turned your skull into a soundproof studio. The purity of the sound is sacrosanct.

Yet, on some of the new tracks, depending on the system I’m using to play it, the loudest tones seem to thin out and get brittle and too crispy, as if the microphones can’t handle the volume so that even certain layers of the track on the CD sound like an mp3. I noticed this on one of the best songs from Transcendence, “Trouble Comes Running.” It felt like something I was hearing through the single center speaker in the dashboard of a 1964 Chevy, before there was eight-track. The effect is more pronounced and more common throughout the new album if I’m listening on an iPod shuffle, but even the best stereo doesn’t deliver “Rent I Pay” at the same level of quality as anything on Gimme Fiction. On the older recordings, the guitars, piano, organ, bass, drums, all sound as if they’re playing at mid-volume in the studio, no matter how much you crank it up—the tones of guitar, snare drum, cymbals, are all pure and distinct and full-bodied. I don’t get this impression on some of the great songs here: “Rent I Pay,” “They Want My Soul,” “New York Kiss.” Ostensibly, the outside producer they brought in likes his tracks “distorted and dirty” so maybe that’s what’s happening. My son doesn’t hear it, but it lets me down, just a little, every time I play those tracks. It’s puzzling. It’s my only cavil: everything used to be perfect, at a Dr. Dre level, in a great Spoon song, and this could be the strongest album they’ve ever recorded, and yet on these few stand-outs they seem to be messing with the formula.

Since the 80s, I’ve purchased only two vinyl LPs: Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight. I haven’t broken the seal on either those disks. You see, I don’t own my old turntable anymore, and I haven’t bought a new one. They sit, unopened, like a pair of time capsules, under an antique table, awaiting their first listen. Some day, I’ll actually buy and set up a turntable and play them. Until then those purchases represent a pledge of allegiance, a ritual of faith, more than an act of consumerism. I’m sad to report that I download almost all the music I buy now, or just queue it up on Spotify much of the time, and yet I still buy each new Spoon album on disk. When I listen to most new music, I’m invariably doing something else. When the latest Spoon arrives, once again the world is just as it was on the day Sgt. Pepper’s came out or when I brought home the 45, in its little paper sleeve, with Paperback Writer on the A side and Rain on the B. (That, by the way, was the greatest one-two punch in rock and roll history.) Not long after it arrives, I carry a new Spoon CD to the best stereo in the house, slice it open, and start playing it, while sitting on the carpet a certain distance from my old Boston Acoustic floor speakers and my cheap subwoofer, with dials I keep adjusting for each song. I actually stare at the music, as if I were watching a movie. I do nothing but listen. I listen and remember what music once was, and what it is, right now, at least while Spoon is playing.

Drawing Memorials: Talent’s Old Town & Skate Park

Drawing Talent, OR

I find that there are always “things” to do around the house.  Sometimes, I just have to put things aside and get down to the business drawing or painting.

Recently, the urge to draw was calling my name.  I “needed” to do another “Drawing Talent” piece so I went out in the southern Oregon heat to find a shady place to draw.  It was in the 90s in the sun; not quite so bad in the shade.  I walked by a place I’ve drawn before, the sculpture outside of the Talent Skate Park.  I was attracted by the shapes of the water fountain and the sculpture.  I decided to draw it again, this time from a different view.

To explain, Talent has a skate park that is part of the Old Town Park. The sculpture, though its outside of the skate park, is right next to it in the Old Town Park.  Its a park with a sub park.

Memorials in Talent Old Town Park & Skate Par

Skate Park Sculpture

The sculpture in the park is titled “Heaven Is A Half – Pipe” and is sculpted by local artist Kevin Christman.  It is a memorial dedicated to the memory of two local young men.  The young men were skate boarders, friends and mentors to many in our community; they are remembered.

Water Fountain and Memorial

Right next to the skate sculpture is a water fountain.  I have passed in several times a week for two years.  Yet, I had not noticed that it had a memorial plaque attached to it.  It reads “Her message to children:  Drink pure water for your health.  Lois V. Edwards”.  Ms. Edwards was another member of our community.  I think she knew what she was talking about!

Regarding Memorials

As I was quietly working, it struck me that the memorials speak volumes in a quiet way too.  They stand quietly for us to see, contemplate and remember.  I do like the fact that this is a place of quiet, even as the young people enjoy the curves and rolls of the skate park.

Skate Park Memorial Sculpture Talent OR


Previous Drawing

For those of you who have followed my various blogs over the years, you might have recognized the sculpture.  I drew it about a year ago.   I thought I’d include the drawing as one of my first “Drawing Talent” type drawing.  Plus, you can see a different view of the sculpture.  I was sitting on a bench near the water fountain as I drew this version.

I enjoy this park and  I imagine I will be back again someday, working on yet another version.  Thank you.



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Selling without selling out

An inventory of Gertrude Stein's favorite objects

An inventory of Gertrude Stein’s favorite objects

Interesting post from Brain Pickings on how to succeed–in the sense of making money (in my book, Van Gogh succeeded even though he wasn’t a “success”)–without lowering your standards:

 . . . for many working artists, who straddle the balance between creativity and commerce, art swells into a form of uncomfortable self-consciousness . . . cartoonist Hugh MacLeod captured this perfectly in proclaiming that “art suffers the moment other people start paying for it.” Such sentiments, argues artist Lisa Congdon in Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist (public library), are among the most toxic myths we subscribe to as a culture and reflect a mentality immeasurably limiting for creative people.

It includes a nice compare-and-contrast guide to the “Starving Artist Mindset” and the “Thriving Artist Mindset.”