Tuesday 30 January 2018

Work in progress video

I put up a video of a time lapse photo series on YouTube, showing a bit of my process for painting a small oil:

Until I get a video camera, a series of still photos will have to do! Apologies for the few that turned out to be out of focus; they looked perfectly fine on the camera's view screen. I tried to sharpen them up as best I could.

I'm sure I still have the piano version of sheet music somewhere on disk. It's ridiculously simple and easy - write me a note if you want it.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Salt shaker and cherry tomatoes

Oil on board, 15 x 10 cm (= about 6 x 4 inches):

As I worked on this one, I took a series of WIP photos, which I planned on working into a YouTube video. I'll see if I get around to it. Unfortunately some of the photos came out thoroughly out of focus, so it might not be too spectacular. I can say this: there are few things that break one's concentration and "flow" quite as much as stopping all the time to take a photo!

Tuesday 23 January 2018

And a new book available!

My new tween read is finally available. You can read the first few pages for free, (just scroll down a bit) or buy at Amazon here. The cover looks like this:

 Now don't even try to tell me this doesn't make your fingers itch to start turning pages...

Here are the first few pages:

From Thomas Avalon's pin board, newspaper clipping:

Bizarre "pet murderer" scares residents
Flora Jennings

Residents of the eastern suburb Hillside are up in arms about a series of incidents in which pets have apparently been killed and mutilated by parties unknown.
The local police is particularly mystified by the fact that many of the bodies have been found inside their own owners' yards, indicating that the culprit(s) must have entered the premises.
The animals are typically found with their bodies torn open, as if by a large predator. Thus far, only one resident has seen anything at all, and her story seems incredible.


Mrs. Muriel Kowalski, a widow, has been living in Hillside for the past forty-five years. Her cat, Mystic, was killed in the early hours of Monday morning, but what makes the case unusual is the killer Mrs. Kowalski claims to have seen.
"I woke up in the middle of the night," she told City Press reporters. "I could hear Mystic growling outside. I first thought it was just a fight with another cat, but then she started screaming. I heard a monstrous growling noise, much deeper than any cat can make..."

At this point the widow broke down and needed some time to regain control.
"I grabbed a broom and ran outside. And then I saw what had killed my cat. I have never seen anything quite like it. It looked like some hideous cross between a human and a hyena. It still had part of her little body clutched in one paw, and when it saw me it ran off. I couldn't save my cat, she was torn to pieces."
According to wildlife officials, there is no chance that hyenas live in this city, and the ones in the zoo are all safely behind bars and accounted for. So what killed Mrs. Kowalski's cat? Was it the same creature responsible for all the other dead and mutilated pets?
Police officials have declined to comment.
"We are still investigating the case," said police spokesman Jay Smith. "Mrs. Kowalski is elderly and it is possible that she simply misunderstood what she saw, but at this stage we cannot tell. We can assure residents that the police force will do everything in its power to bring the perpetrator of these attacks to justice."
Mr. Smith declined to comment on whether any animal tracks were found on the scene, or whether the police has any opinion on rumors that a local coven of satanists was involved.
In the meantime Mrs. Kowalski is left to pick up the pieces alone. She is considering moving her crystal healing business elsewhere.
"I'm just not sure this neighborhood is at all safe anymore," she says.


Yup, I'm that kid. The one who lives in the basement room and actually likes it there. The one with the "I want to believe" poster on the wall. The weird one, who gets avoided by the half of school smaller than himself, and rudely shoved by the half bigger. Grade sevens are supposed to study math, participate in athletics, think about high school and girls. You know, do normal stuff. Not to investigate the paranormal. And no, I don't play around with ouija boards and deliberately move the planchette to spell out creepy messages to make the girls giggle and scream.

As that replicant dude in Blade Runner said, I have seen things you people wouldn't believe.

My name is Thomas A. Avalon. The A stands for Alpha. My parents thought they were naming me after Thomas Alva Edison. Not too bright, those two. That could be why my interests bother them as much as it bothers almost everyone else. My father thinks it is weird enough for someone my age to actually read books. But books about ghosts! That's just too much, and sometimes he bugs me about it. Mercifully, he's not at home all that often, and when he is, he mostly ignores me.

Of course they don't take me seriously. They never have, at least not when it comes to my hobby. I have learned not to say too much about it, or about what I have seen and heard.

I was six when I saw the flying saucer. I was still sleeping in my upstairs room then, and generally slept well. Funny thing is, I wasn’t not one of those kids who thought there were monsters in the closet or under the bed. Except of course when there really were. But mostly, I slept like a log, and so it was actually a bit of a surprise when I woke up one night and saw the blue light falling through the window.

I didn't feel afraid. I was just curious, so I slipped out of bed and looked through a crack in the curtain. And there it was: my first saucer.

It was hanging in the air above the neighbors' roof, revolving, giving off an unearthly, pulsating light of the richest blue I had ever seen. It was simply beautiful.

In high excitement, I ran to my parents' bedroom to go tell them. It took minutes to get my father to wake up. He stumbled groggily into my room, looked out the window, and saw nothing. There was nothing left to see.

"Tommy, you just had a dream. Go back to bed."

"But dad, it was there! I saw it!" I couldn't believe he would brush me off like that, though in retrospect I suppose I couldn't really blame him. I was just six, after all. Six-year-olds do sometimes confuse dreams with reality (where else would the monster in the closet come from?), or have imaginary friends. Or see alien spacecraft where none actually exist.

But somehow I was not surprised when I heard the next day that Millie, the neighbors' teenage daughter, had disappeared without a trace that night. And when she was found two days later, a thousand miles away and without any memory of what had happened to her or how she got where she was, I knew: there is more in this universe than we think.

Maybe when six-year-olds say they have seen things, we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it. Maybe they see more than adults do, rather than less. Maybe because they are more open to simply seeing what is there, without the filter of an education.

After that night, I was scared of what might be out there in the dark. But, I couldn't help it: I was also excited. It seemed to me I had been offered a glimpse of a world most other people cannot even imagine. I sat up many nights, waiting for the craft to return, but it never did.

I was hooked, however. If it is strange, if it is weird, if it scary, if it is one of those things that can't possibly be, you can't keep me from it with a barbed wire fence and a shotgun.

Hence my collection of newspaper reports of whatever strange things happen around here. And my huge and growing collection of books on such things.

Sometimes they are all I have to feed my addiction. Sometimes I manage get out there and go make my own observations. I have quietly joined up with some groups dedicated to that sort of thing, and when I can, I go with them on their ghost hunts. My parents would probably go through the roof if they knew all I got up to – what about our family’s good name? I mean, they know I have weird interests, but not how often I hang out with those sort of people. So part of my job, you could say, is to keep the secret from my parents.

That's where Rhapsody comes in. We've been friends since kindergarten, and she's one of my few friends. She's as weird as I am, I suppose. But if I pretend that I am over at her place, my parents don't bug me, and they are not on intimate terms with her folks, so the two sets of parents are unlikely to compare notes. And of course, Rhapsody will happily cover for me.

She's a certified genius and has helped me acquire most of the equipment I use in my investigations. Some of it is better than anything the professionals have, and I keep those items to myself. You will not believe the stuff she can make, the things she can get a computer to do, the information she can get hold of. And this despite the fact that she's rather incredulous of the things I mostly investigate. Well, she just hasn't seen much yet.

I wouldn't have gotten her involved in the Getty Street thing. But I didn't know how it was going to turn out.

Rhapsody Mulder’s Diary

Of course he's going to investigate this. Getty Street is just a few blocks from here, no way one could keep him away, he's like a tabloid journalist. And of course he'll want my help. Especially when he sees the new gadget. He'd never get anything done without my gadgets, but I gotta say, that's not the only reason why we're friends. Perhaps the only reason is that we wouldn't have any other friends anyway, so we might as well stick together.

I first realized I was different in first grade, when I could read and no one else could. And that I was quite different in grade two, when I realized that my own teacher would have some difficulty following the book I was reading (I was working on introductory calculus then, seems like a million years ago). And again two weeks ago, when dad asked my help in solving a problem he's working on.

Why am I not in a school for the gifted? I'm clearly gifted. My parents mumble things about socialization and learning to fit in and learning humility and working with others and, and, and...

It's pretty obvious I'm never going to fit in anywhere. Except with Thomas, who doesn't have half my brain, but he at least isn't all jealous about it. Now if I could get him to quit his woo-woo stuff and do something real. It doesn't have to be physics.

Well, let's see what happens tomorrow.

Thomas, Rhapsody, Chip Dawkins.

"Yeah, I thought you might want to, so I took the liberty of looking up a few things."

Rhapsody managed her usual, ever so slightly bored, why-on-earth-do-you-bother-with-this-stuff look. Of course, she wasn't fooling me. She enjoys this stuff more than she lets on. Perhaps more than she would admit even to herself.

"Let me guess: you have found out where the widow Kowalski lives."

She smiled. "Indeed. Getty Street, just a few blocks from here. Who woulda thunk your ghosts and stuff would come for a visit to our neighborhood?"

"And since this information wasn't in the paper, I guess it would be better if I didn't ask where exactly you got it from..."

"Right again. You might start to think I hack into systems, and that's illegal, and I wouldn’t want you to think badly of me."

She looks so innocent and nerdy, I don't think a judge could possibly find her guilty of anything, even if she stood over a dead body with a knife dripping blood. You know the type: perpetual bad hair day, huge glasses (mercifully they're not thick as well), clothes that may have been in fashion in 1970. Buck teeth as well? No, not quite, but almost. And then the thing you can't see: a brain the size of a planet.

No wonder the boys don't exactly like her, and endlessly tease me about my "girlfriend." But of course, it's not like that. We are just pals, and have been just about forever.

"So. What are your plans?" She probably have better ideas than I do, but when it comes to paranormal investigation, she lets me take the lead. Then again, perhaps it's the one thing I really do know more about than she does.

"Well, I would very much like some way to get into the widow's house, and take some readings. Perhaps there is something to be learned from that. Or maybe she has something interesting to say?"
"Yeah, right. A batty old widow with a cat, who is into crystal healing, will have new insights into the mysteries of the universe."

"Actually," I said, "she used to have a cat. Now she has cat goulash." Rhapsody giggled. "Anyway, it's as good a start as any. I'm just not sure how we are going to pull it off, because the press has probably been bugging her for days and I'm not sure she'd open the door even for the police anymore, let alone a couple of curious kids."

"You'll think of something. Let me know when you have a plan. Come, we're late for, er, 'math.'" Yeah, she doesn’t think much of the subject of grade seven math, but who can blame her? At least old Mrs. Norton has the sense to leave her in peace to read a book instead.

Something like a truck hit me from behind, sending me staggering into Rhapsody, who uttered a little shriek.

"Hiya Spooks! Howya doin'!" General laughter. I slowly got up from my knees. So it goes just about every day around here. And yes, just as I thought: Chip Dawkins. Standing there grinning his stupid grin at me, daring me to do anything. Like I would dare to take on a guy who weighs twice as much as I do.

I stared at him without expression, then turned around and walked off, Rhapsody beside me. We both had the sense to know that sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war. We'd deal with him one day, some day. Or at least, that's what we liked to think.

I didn't focus too well on school work that day, and couldn't really think of any particularly original way to approach the widow Kowalski. We'd have to go with the flow and improvise.

So when the bell finally rang for the end of the school day, I asked Rhapsody to put on her uniform and come by my place. We were going to sell some cookies to a certain widow: who could possibly be rude to a girl scout?

"And what if she sends us packing? Or opens fire with a blunderbuss or something?"

"I don't know. If you can think of any better idea, now's the time to tell me."

She couldn't, so she didn't.

From Thomas Avalon's field notes

Probably not a real case. Getty street close by though. Pet murders seem to be real, so there is something to investigate. Is it paranormal or just a predator? Mrs. Kowalski's description - strange, will have to read up on hyenas in folklore. Remember to assess her mental state during interview. How reliable a witness is she?

Procedures to follow if possible:
EVP recording, orb photography, non-flash photography. Take temp. readings if possible.
Questions: Does she regularly see things? If so: result of being psychic or mentally unstable?


And thus endeth the first bit. Trust me, it gets ever more exciting.

Monday 22 January 2018

Crepe myrtle

Oil on board, 25 x 20 cm (= about 10 x 8 inches):


Also known as Pride-of-India (Lagerstroemia indica). These plants are originally from India and China, but are now commonly grown as ornamentals wherever the climate will allow. They are currently in bloom around here, so I couldn't resist...

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Morning Glory

Oil on board, 20 x 15 cm (= about 8 x 6 inches):

Weeding the vegetable garden produced a bit of treasure!

Monday 15 January 2018

Three Figs

Oil on board, 15 x 20 cm (= about 6 x 8 inches):

Happened to walk past a fig tree in fruit and shamelessly stole myself some to serve as models...

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Mustard and tomato

Oil on board, 15 x 20 cm (= about 6 x 8 inches):

After a long battle with lack of sun and tough clay soil, I finally managed to get a tomato plant to grow and produce a few fruit. Makes for a nice edible model!