Alvin Greene — Ultimate Warrior

Technically it isn’t criminal for Alvin Greene to recive 330,000 votes.  But it’s a little weird, right?  He’s an out-of-work discharged serviceman with felony charges, and a campaign that consists of two things: the sentence “Demint started the recession,” and a comic book starring Alvin Greene as The Ultimate Warrior.

On election night Alvin Greene stood in an empty hotel conference room with a miniature cucumber sandwich in his hand and rows and rows of empty chairs behind him.  He bobbed and weaved as a small group of newsmen followed him about the room.  His plan was simple: walk away from people with cameras.  When reporters cornered him and peppered him with questions, he relied on plan B: shove sandwich in mouth to delay answers.  Finally, when it couldn’t be avoided, he made a comment:

“Last year at this time I was unknown … so that’s a good thing … so um, like I said, and now, um … you know, I have things like these [holds up the cover of his comic book The Ultimate Warrior] and so we can, you know, promote things like these.”

This ridiculousness is made possible by the straight-party-ticket-vote.  Now I guess I understand straight party voting back in the day when you had color coded ballots and you needed easy ways to sort them, but it doesn’t make any sense today.  In fact, it seems that the only function of the straight party vote is to strengthen the weakest candidates on the party’s ticket.  I’m not a fan of the Democratic Party, but when a straight party line vote means that a person drawn to the polls to vote for Jim Clyburn ends up supporting Jim Clyburn’s nemesis Alvin Greene, something’s wrong.

John Owen Underpainting

John Owen illustration based on Greenhill's portrait

This is the underpainting to a slightly caricatured portrait of the Puritan John Owen (based on Greenhill’s painting).  I didn’t rub in a mid tone.  Normally I do, but I put so much matte medium on the paper (which is sort of like Elmer’s glue) that it obscured the drawing a little.  I worried that a mid tone would obliterate the drawing altogether so I just painted the face and I’ll scrub in the background during the color stage.

Robert E. Lee

Today is a historic civil war date.  It marks the death of John Wilkes Booth, the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston’s army to General William Tecumseh Sherman, and Confederate Memorial Day, observed officially in seven States.

It is an entirely unexpected coincidence that my post of the finished the picture of Robert E. Lee falls on Confederate Memorial Day.  I started the painting after reading about Lee and Lincoln in Paul Johnson’s book Heroes and with the desire to compliment my Lincoln painting.

Chapter eight of Heroes describes both Lincoln and Lee as “Two Kinds of Nobility.”  Both men were fiercely ambitious, but it seems Lee’s ambition arose to suppress a legacy of shame.  His father was a revolutionary war general and a governor of Virginia.  According to Johnson, he became a dishonest land speculator, was jailed twice, and declared bankruptcy.  He fled to the Caribbean when young Robert was six and he never returned.

Here’s what Johnson writes, “Robert E. Lee seems to have set himself up, quite deliberately, to redeem the family honor by leading an exemplary life of public service. ‘Honor,’ a word he pronounced with a special loving emphasis, putting a stress on each syllable, meant everything to him.  His dedication to honor made him a peculiarly suitable person to become the equivalent to the South of Lincoln, sanctifying its cause by personal probity and virtuous inspiration.”

When South Carolina seceded, all eyes looked to Virginia to see which way the Old Dominion would side.  It is said that Lee denounced secession privately in letters, and saw it as a betrayal of the Founder’s first principles.  When asked if he would fight for the Confederacy, Lee replied “I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.” At the recommendation of Winfield Scott, Lincoln offered Lee a top command in the forthcoming Union army, but when the Old Dominion voted for secession, Lee refused Lincoln’s offer.  He said, “I prize the Union very highly and know of no personal sacrifice I would not make to preserve it, save that of honour.”  Unlike his father, Lee it seems, would not break his commitments or otherwise embarrass the State of Virginia.  Two days after Lincoln’s offer, Lee resigned from the U.S. Army.  Three days after that, he took command of Virginia’s State forces.

In an 1874 speech before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Benjamin Harvey Hill remarked that Lee “… was a Ceasar, without his ambition; Fredrick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward.”

In the end Lincoln and Lee are the fitting tragic heroes in a war shot through with tragedy.

EDIT: Thanks to Justin for taking pictures of my painting with his space camera.

Lee Painting Work In Progress

The colors are a bit vibrant.  I’ve got to finish the General’s coat and pants and then recede some of the colors.  Also, I should probably neutralize the background a bit.  Lot of little loose ends today kept me distracted from the painting, Hopefully I can get most of it done tomorrow.


While I’m waiting for the highlights in my General Lee painting to dry, I’ve started on three slightly caricaturish portraits.  I have two of the drawings finished.  Here’s the first–a drawing of Athanasius.

I based the drawing on this icon.

I get confused with the religious art hand signals, and I can’t find any information on what they mean.  I did a search and found one article that seems to be written in a journal for hand surgeons.  You have to pay to read it.  I didn’t read it.  I initially gave Athanasius what I think might be the sign for “I love you.”  Some friends lovingly pointed out that it seems pretty close to the sign heavy metal fans make while they bob their heads and/or stick out their tongues.  Anyway, in order to be safe I changed it to the drawing.  The old scan is below.  If anybody knows what the gestures mean or knows a hand surgeon who knows what they mean please leave me a comment, thanks.

Machiavelli is the Devil



I was in Columbia the other day and I bought a book called 10 Books That Screwed Up The World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. Benjamin Wiker, the author, examines 15 foundational books that persuasively justify bad ideas.  Mr. Wiker suggests that the best way to inoculate one’s self from these ideologically diseased works is to read them.  In case you’re unpersuaded that this is necessary, Wiker explores  the arguments of each of the books and alerts the reader to their trendy current mutation.  The chapters are long enough to give you serious food for thought, but short enough to reach a wide audience. Mr. Wiker is a good stylist and he deftly distills abstract thoughts into concrete sentences.  His first chapter is a punchy take on Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book The Prince.  I liked what he said so much that I did this painting.

The Prince is both controversial and strangely popular.  It is controversial because it rationalizes the separation of power from ethics and popular because many folks want this rationalization.  Wiker writes, “Machiavelli knew evil.  But then, so did many others, in many other times and places … What makes Machiavelli different is that he looked evil in the face and smiled.  That friendly smile and a wink is The Prince.”

Here’s how the worship of power seems to unfold.  Power seduces because we prefer “what is mine” to “what is right.”  The more personalized our moral code, the harder it is to do wrong.  Since we think highly of our personal virtue, we give our desires little scrutiny.  Soon, we focus our energies to acquire power so we can do what we want i.e. “good.”  In the end, our attempts at Utopia kill 6 million Jews, or 100 million dissenters, or we fly a plane full of innocents into a building full of innocents.  Such actions get the thumbs up from Machiavelli.  Wiker says, “Machiavelli convinces the reader that great evils, unspeakable crimes, foul deeds are not only excusable but praiseworthy if they are done in the service of some good.  Since this advice occurs in the context of atheism, then there are no limits on the kind of evil one can do if he thinks he is somehow benefitting humanity.”‘

Machiavelli is a devil because he repeats the old lie that the ends justify the means.  It’s not new.

Matt 4:8-9

“Again, the devil took him [Jesus] to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'”

Here is Wiker’s succinct take on Machiavelli:

“His great classic The Prince is a monument of wicked counsel, meant for rulers who had shed all moral and religious scruples and were therefore daring enough to believe that evil–deep, dark, and almost unthinkable evil–is often more effective than good.”

In conclusion Mr. Wiker contends that Machiavelli lit the fuse that runs through Rousseau, and Marx, and Nietzsche, and that ultimately set off the powder keg of the 20th century.  He fathered the lie in political science that was first told by the father of lies: “It is best to exchange personal goodness for personal power.”  Thumbs down for Machiavelli.

Work in Progress shot:

EDIT: A Machiavellian word from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

“It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies always immoral; a world where ‘reconciliation’ means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation.”