Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This Super Bowl Sunday Is No Ordinary Day

The first Sunday of February 2007, aka Black History Month 2007, is fast approaching. Super Bowl XLI will be played on that day, not your average run of the mill Super Bowl, but one of historic proportions. No, I’m not saying this because Prince will be performing at half time, though I do find that to be pretty cool. The reason I’m excited about 2/4/07, even though it will be one more Super Bowl Sunday that does not feature my beloved New York Jets, is because African-American men will be patrolling both sidelines as the respective head coaches of this year’s participants – the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears.

Black men are certainly not in short supply on NFL fields of play, in fact, they constitute the vast majority of those in pads and uniforms. But when it comes to the skin tone of their bosses, there has been shockingly little rise in melanin count from the league’s earliest days when Vince Lombardi and his pack ruled supreme. One could reasonably cite racism as the cause of such a slow rate of progression. How else to explain the rationale behind Richie Kotite being hired to run more than one team over his career while a large number of qualified African-American head coach wannabes have had to wait and wait and wait for their shot?

The 2006 season began with 7 Black head coaches in a league of 32 teams. Two of them have since been fired and one team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) recently hired an African-American to be the man in charge of the troops, bringing the current total to 6. Two of those six, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, will face off against one another in this year’s Super Bowl. The odds of this happening were probably better than the odds of someone named Lovie ever being a professional football coach, but still, it makes for quite the story, an even bigger one than the castaways (This is not a Survivor reference, sports is my reality television) finally getting off of Gilligan’s Island.

Tony Dungy has clearly paid his dues, overcoming what would seem to be debilitating personal tragedy with the suicide of his son and fielding a football team that was finally able to get over the hump and make it to the big show. For this reason, coupled with the fact that Peyton Manning slings the rock with precision abandon and shoots some pretty funny television commercials, my rooting interest is swayed towards the Colts, especially since this season’s version of the Da Bears is no where near as entertaining as the last team they sent to the Super Bowl back in 1985 (has it really been 22 years since America experienced its love affair with William “The Refrigerator” Perry and I was pledging Delta Phi during my freshman year at NYU?). If I was a betting man, I’d gamble that years of getting so close without grabbing the cigar is enough to give Indy the advantage over Chi-town, even if the latter is my kind of town, Chicago is.

History in the making by a couple of class acts on the sidelines, the purple reign of Prince at halftime, at least one television commercial featuring the “talents” of Kevin Federline (who has somehow ended up looking like the classier half of his televised marriage to Britney “no need to put my baby in a car seat cuz I’m country” Spears), and a great offensive team going up against a great defensive one should make for quite a game. Since the NFL is famous for being a copycat league, perhaps numerous teams will go in search of a qualified black guy to be their head coach, much like many of them tried to copy the success of the west coast offense or the 3-4 defense in years past. Or will the NFL prove itself to only be a copycat league when the cat is a white feline rather than one who evokes fear simply by crossing your path? We’ll see soon enough.

My hope if not quite my prediction is that the appearance of Tony Dungy and Lovie “the millionaire’s wife” Smith will lead to social progress. If the Rooney Rule required any vindication, consider this year's Super Bowl to be it. Perhaps in the not too distant future the number of African American head coaches will reach double digits. Or maybe the impact will be even bigger than that. This historic Super Bowl may actually have enough impact to finally convince the powers that be to move the celebration of Black History to a month with more than 28-29 days.

- Roy L. Pickering Jr.

P.S. - Being that Dungy and Smith are such classy guys, some might find them a bit on the boring side. So visit the link below if you wish to see a head coach demonstrating that he epitomizes the last three letters of class.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Tiger Emerging" first in a planned series of 6

Success! I completed my first illustration of the New Year. "Tiger Emerging" is the first in a planned series of 6 animal portraits in ink on board in the ACEO format, 2.5" x 3.5". The animals will emerge from the paper as I re-emerge as an artist.

"Tiger Emerging"
Ink on 4-ply alpharag board, 2.5"x3.5"
copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

First line by Erin, remainder by me

To get myself going in the new year, I told Erin if she provided a sentence that would serve as the first line, I would take it from there and write a vignette. So she did, and I proceeded to keep my word.

The shadow men had pursued her for a lifetime and finally she was face to face with her demons. Surprisingly she felt neither fear nor resignation, but rather, impatient curiousity. After chasing her for many years, surely they had an objective in mind. Now that she had allowed herself to be caught, why did they not immediately pounce and devour? What did they hesitate for? Did they linger over their prey mainly to prolong agony, or had they hunted for so long that the original objective was long forgotten?

When fangs were finally bared, she was surprised to see that they were her own. She stepped forward against all instinct and was forced to supress a grin when the demons took one back in retreat. She raised her line of vision to the heavens and howled at the moon, because for years it had been the lone witness to her terror. Now it was again her audience of one as she sprang to meet her demons head on. If she was to perish at their claws, at least it would be on her own terms. But instead of tearing into their flesh, she found herself clutching at the vacant air they had vanished into.

She walked up to the full length mirror and let her robe fall to the floor, revealing her naked form. She regarded the violent bruises for a moment, then looked beyond them at the moonlight reflection of a woman made of cast iron. Her days of running were over. The time had come to start hoping she was not irreparably damaged, to begin anew by baptizing herself with the demon blood on her hands.

Copyright 2007 by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Introduction to Us

To blog or not to blog? For my wife and I, the answer to this question was an emphatic YES, followed immediately and diligently by procrastination. Days tend to be pretty full when you're both working full time and coming home to a lively infant on the verge of becoming a high speed toddler. There are only so many hours in the day, and they all seem to be accounted for with a variety of mundane but necessary tasks. During Ava's colicky prime, on the many nights when she would wake up every couple hours between midnight and dawn to remind us of her presence, the thought of extracurricular activity was ludicrous. The only extra that we craved, particularly my wife Erin who shouldered the bulk of the late hours load, was sleep.

Lately though, the concept of sleeping through the night is one that our daughter somewhat regularly embraces. As for the never ending list of chores to be done, having a good system makes them a tad less overwhelming. We don't quite have that system in place yet, but with experience we have slowly but surely improved our time management, making the notion of writing a blog slightly less daunting. And so here I sit, scribbling our introductory note to the world, or at least to the World Wide Web which is close enough. We have no idea who will find their way here, so will leave that for fate for decide. But whoever reads these words may want to know what has brought Erin and I to the world of blogging. A paraphrase of one of our favorite quotes provides the motive - "A line a day".

You see, Erin and I are both artists. She is a painter and I am a writer. We knew when we got married three years ago that our lives would dramatically change. It was our intention to go from urban apartment dwellers to suburban home owners, and that we did. We agreed to blossom our partnership of two into a family, and after a sometimes brutal and sometimes hilarious period of battling the fertility gods, we happily went the adoption route. We talked frequently about chronicling our experiences during this eventful time, but never quite got around to it. When you're in the process of being poked and prodded, making love in a closet sized room to a cup, and then abandoning that craziness in favor of voluntarily undergoing the Inquisition to prove your worth as future parents, it can take quite a toll on the creative process.

All worked out perfectly in the end. We have a great house in a wonderful community filled with great neighbors, and Ava is the realization of our most beautiful dream. It is so amazing to watch her learn about the world around her, and to learn from the process of being her parents. But the purpose of this blog is not to tell our life story, which you now know several of the highlights of. It is not to blather on about our neighborhood activities, or our house projects, or even to brag about our precocious daughter. These are subjects that we will probably touch on from time to time, but they are peripheral to our main objective. What Erin and I are here for is to make good on the promise we made to ourselves and each other. As stated before and bears repeating, Erin is a painter. I am a writer. Neither of us makes a living at these endeavors, yet it is how we ultimately define ourselves. Without a pen or keypad, my sense of self is lost. Without a paintbrush or pencil in hand, Erin is still a beautiful and compassionate woman whom I love with all my heart. But she would not be the woman that I pledged to spend my life with. She would be someone else. Neither of us wants to be someone else. We want to remain committed to the aspirations that have sustained us for most of our lives. We want to tell stories with words and brushstrokes. Our wish is for the pages and canvases of our lives to be routinely covered with the magic that only we can make.

It is much too easy and common to give up on your dreams. The far more difficult and worthwhile path is to rage against the machine of inertia. No doubt there are others out there who seek inspiration and motivation to continue their own noble pursuits. Perhaps by striving to provide this for those who happen by, we will simultaneously re-discover it for ourselves. John Lennon once wisely noted that life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. Other plans can be all consuming, but Erin and I refuse to be gobbled alive. Instead we will live, she through her painting and I through my writing, and both of us through each other and Ava and whatever other miracles the future may have in store. This blog will be the testament to our will power. Here you will find our opinions, observations, theories and philosophies about the things we are most passionate about. And above all else, you will discover our art.

Goodbye for now. We are off to create stories and pictures that will hopefully add to the beauty of the world.

- Roy L. Pickering Jr.


I will leave the writing to Roy since he makes magic with words, but want to give some insight to my images and where I am at. The bottom line is I did no painting in 2006 and it left me feeling disconnected and growly. The longer I went without creating, the more the nightmares came. I think I will be a better person, wife and mother if I am faithful to my desire to create art. With all that went on last year that, and also including a surgery, a few subsequent health scares, and my monthly out of town business trips, I simply could not find the time or energy. 2007 will be different.

We made a promise to each other and ourselves to post new work to our blog every 2 weeks. I am hoping the deadline will help me to carve out time each day, even if it's a struggle, to work on an illustration or painting. So far so good. I started the ink tiger portrait on Jan 1st and have worked on it almost daily since... even if only for 20 minutes a day after all the daily chores are done and I am set up for the next day. It is small format so completion feels attainable. I am following the format for an ACEO which stands for "Art Cards, Editions and Originals".

These cards are 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches - the size of a trading card. My goal is to complete a series of 6 animal portraits before moving on to my next subject. The cards will be put up for auction on ebay.

Thanks for visiting and being part of our creative process.

- Erin Rogers Pickering