Friday, November 23, 2018

Last Wedding Painting of 2018

I completed the last wedding painting of the year just a couple of days ago.  The next day, Klaire and Drew came by the studio to pick it up, and I had one of those moments that swells your heart.  The first time a couple sees their painting in real life is magic.  In this case it was a high-pitched "OHHHmygaaawwwwdddd", complete with eyes wide and hands to face.  Yep, I think I nailed it.

The last time they had seen their painting was at their reception.  I was packing up and they were about to head out the door for the sparkler run, but they came over to get one last look at it.  They already loved it, even though I told them it was just a rough block-in.  Here's how it looked then:

As a block-in, this is barely satisfactory.  It establishes the basic composition and the couple's pose, but that's about it.  The pose is roughed-in, the wedding party is just hinted at, and the crowd is nonexistent at this point.  Time to get to work in the studio.

Over the next few weeks, I reworked every square inch of the canvas multiple times.  Drew and Klaire were developed, the crowd added and changed, the wedding party developed, both sets of parents were included, the forest and arbor behind them were brought up to spec, and the two ferns on pedestals developed.  And here's how it turned out:

Quite a change, isn't it?  I feel pretty good about the end result.  Apparently, so do they!

My next booking isn't until well into spring, so now I have a bit of a hiatus from wedding paintings.  There are a lot of other works that I've had in mind for a long time, but haven't been able to get to them, so over the next few months they'll be tackled, one at a time.

If you'd like to know more about my wedding paintings and the whole process, check out the Asheville Event Paintings site.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hell in Paradise

Our son, Rick, and his family (wife Julie and son Jackson, aka Jax) live in Paradise, California.  That is, they did until last Thursday.  Their home was one of the thousands that was destroyed in the fire that also destroyed about 90% of the town.

They're lucky: they're safe and they have a nice place to stay for the time being.  A growing number of people didn't make it out at all (76 as I write this, with over 1,000 still missing).  Many of the survivors are living in tents or shelters.  It's a brutal situation.

So what happened with them?  Well, they had been watching the fire for a few days.  It was on the other side of a ridge, so it needed to be watched, but wasn't an imminent threat.  On Thursday morning, there was smoke in the air, but no sense of danger.  Jax went to school and Rick and Julie went their respective ways to work.

A couple of hours later, Jax called Rick at work.  Fire was approaching the school.  It was in the trees nearby and the kids were being evacuated, and Rick needed to come NOW to get him out.  Rick hightailed it over there and retrieved Jax.  They tried to get up to their house to get their dog, Sugar Ray, and whatever else they could.  The way was blocked: police wouldn't let them get anywhere near the area as the fire was already up there and moving way too fast.  They drove to Chico, about 15 miles away, where Julie had been working.  Her boss has a big house and they invited Rick and the family to stay with them.

The next day, Rick and Julie were able to get into their neighborhood, using a little subterfuge since only emergency workers were allowed in.  Their house was gone; in fact, it was still burning underfoot. The only thing standing was the chimney.  Worse, their dog Sugar Ray died in the fire.  Julie's mother lived on the other side of town.  She and Julie's sister had made it out as well, so they were safe, but Rick and Julie went to check on their house.  It was gone, too.  So was almost all of Paradise.

Since then, it's been a matter of regrouping, finding out what they have to do and what their options are, and discussing what they're going to do in the future.  Right now, there's not much they can do.  Rick still has a job of managing operations for Waste Management - a job that will be very important in the near future, I think.  The fire is still burning and people are not yet allowed back to their houses ... or at least, where their houses once stood.  Jax needs to be in school.  Julie's job is still safe since the fire hasn't gotten to Chico.  So they're figuring out what needs to be done first, then they'll work on the long-term plan.

In the meantime, Rick and Julie have been overwhelmed by the support from friends and strangers alike.  Here's what Rick had to say about it on Facebook:

Woke up this morning with an incredibly full heart, here’s why… Since this tragic fire, we have more people in our lives than prior. We have completely new friends. And while our relationship LITERALLY rose from the ashes… They are happy/healthy relationships that will continue to develop for the rest of my days. To be quite honest; if it weren’t for this fire, I would not have these people in my life. 
I have “new” old friends. These people have always been there. We go through life and tend to drift away every now and again. The term “Life sometimes gets in the way.“ describes this group of friends for me. Here’s what I can tell you about this group… They have been nothing short of spectacular. And while my little family is doing well, make no mistake, we are starting to run with our new lives a little bit more each day. It is comforting to know these people are running with us. Often times; they are leading the way! 

If you know anything about me, you know I pride myself on doing and being more for my friends. For me, it is all about relationships. I fear, I could never be more than my friends have been for my family over the last week. I WILL TRY!

This kinda tells me that they're going to be all right.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

An iMac and the Mojave Update

"What did you do to the computer?"  That question from my wife was the first indication that we had a problem.

We have an iMac that's two years old and had been running well.  The previous day, we had a notification from Apple that we should update to the new OS, called Mojave.  Earlier updates hadn't been much of a problem, so that evening, I started the update.  Several hours later, when we were calling it a night, I checked and the progress bar showed about 75%.  Slow, but these updates were slow sometimes, so no problem.

The next morning, though, it was still at 75%.  No progress at all over 10 or so hours.  I did a bit of research on my old Dell and there were recommendations on restarting the process.  So I shut the iMac down and restarted it.  And discovered major, major issues.  Boot time was about 15 minutes.  Once booted, it didn't recognize the keyboard and mouse for a long time.  When it finally did, the response time to a mouse click or keyboard entry could be 30 seconds or more.  I rebooted and it was the same.  So I started looking at how to dump the Mojave update and revert to the previous operating system and quickly discovered that it was going to be beyond my skill level.  I shut the computer down, unplugged it, and hauled it off to Charlotte Street Computers.  This is Asheville's best Mac store and repair shop and we've had super service out of them before.

Even our technician at Charlotte Street had problems with our computer.  First, he verified that our hardware was all working correctly.  Then he tried the usual assortment of tricks and fixes, but nothing worked.  The next step was to duplicate all our data, wipe the drive, reformat, and do a fresh install of either High Sierra (the previous OS) or Mojave.  I decided on Mojave, since it'll have to be done sooner or later, anyway, so why not have a pro do it?  Except this fresh install of Mojave didn't work, either.  It was still incredibly slow and acted up.  More research by the tech indicated that Mojave seems to have been designed for computers with solid-state drives instead of hard drives.  Hard drives are spinning discs and, while they operate extremely fast, they can only do one thing at a time.  Mojave wants to the processors to access the drive multiple times simultaneously.  No problem for a solid-state drive, but impossible for hard drives.

So I decided to upgrade to a solid-state drive.  Our tech did the installation, ran some tests that showed it was running as designed, then migrated all our data back onto the new drive.  While he was at it, he took our old drive and mounted it in an external case to use as our backup drive.  Great!

The only remaining issue seemed to be that all our passwords were gone.  I'd have to re-set our computer and application passwords, and we'd have to re-set all our internet passwords when we visited various sites.  A bit of an annoyance, but not a problem.

So I took the computer home and, over the course of a couple of hours, discovered that there were till two problems.  One was that my mail application didn't want to work at all.  It did for Janis's account and for the tech's, but not mine.  The other was that the computer didn't see the ethernet port anymore.  Wifi worked, but not the ethernet.  Back to Charlotte Street.  Our now-harried tech fixed the mail problem (a known issue with Mac upgrades), but couldn't for the life of him figure out why the ethernet port wasn't working.  So he gave us a Thunderbolt-to-ethernet connection (Thunderbolt is another port on Macs, apparently; I have no idea what it's all about).  I picked up the computer again yesterday and set it up again at home.  Knock on wood, everything seems to be just fine now.

According to our tech, this Mojave update has been fraught with problems.  It was really bad when first released a couple of months ago and has gradually gotten better, but it is still problematic, as we just proved.  This was NOT a well-designed Apple update.  They released it too early and didn't think some things through.  The hard drive issue, for example.  Apple's poor development work wound up costing me about $350, five days, and a lot of heartburn.  So for all the Mac users out there, think twice before jumping on the Mojave update.  Wait several more months before trying it, and be prepared to take your computer to a pro if it crashes.  So far, I haven't seen anything that jumps out at me as a major step forward from the older OS, so I can't say this was all worth it.