First Taste

The First Taste of my First Homebrew

Wow. I just cracked open the first beer that I brewed, fermented, racked, conditioned, and bottled myself. I have two different IPA varieties going right now, and the Chinook IPA is done and finally ready. Here’s the low down:

Before the pour.

Immediately after the pour. Very bright golden red color. Decent carbonation in view – this is something I was worried about. I over-sugared just a tad in the priming stage during bottling just to make sure I’d have some action. The head, as you can see, is light, but the carbonation is active and continuing. I left less than an ounce in the bottle; some gunk had precipitated out, but it was very light.

Here’s a shot a few minutes after the pour:

Bubbles shooting up there.

The smell is amazingly fruity and very close to a fresh grapefruit. The taste is very sweet, also grapefruit-like. On my tongue it reminds me even more of a ruby red grapefruit laced with sugar. After the swallow there’s a very light bitterness. I love and have tried dozens of IPAs; this one is very mellow overall. Sweet and tangy in the hops, low bitterness in the aftertaste, with a slightly acidic feel on the back of the tongue in the minute after a pull from the glass. Very citrus to me.

As I write this I’m taking the beer very slowly, letting it sit. The residuals – left over sensations on the tongue and burps, etc – are very pleasant and not at all stinky or turned bitter. Twenty minutes after pour I’ve taken about 8 ounces. There’s still a nice, active, thin head on the beer and good lacing on the glass. Earlier this evening I had a Ranger IPA and what I’m drinking now feels so much better to me. I’m amazed at that fruit taste – nothing harsh about this beer.

An early shot of the gathering head, a few minutes after first pour.

A little data on this brew:

Type: Chinook IPA via Northern Brewer.

Declared Timeframe: 6 weeks.

Brew Day: July 6, 2012

Racked to Secondary: July 15, 2012

Dry-Hopped: August 19, 2012

Bottled: August 25, 2012

Yield: 47 bottles (just under 5 gallons)

First open: August 31, 2012

Total timeframe: 57 days, just over 8 weeks.

Overall impression: Amazed. Most of the homebrews I’ve had have felt middle to low quality to me. I really tried to be very safe with this brew, though I did add in special grains to tweak the recipe. But with sanitation, timing, and conditioning I tried to overdo it. I wanted to work a couple extra weeks into the process to let it condition in the secondary carboy before bottling since it seems to me that bottling too soon accounts for a lot of the inconsistency of homebrews (but what do I really know?). In any case, I feel like I got it right and I’m really happy with this beer.


Adding her to what we are, adding us to what she is

Just a few hours ago we received preliminary approval from China to bring this beautiful, divine, valuable girl home ~ Dang Cai Qun.

It’s a huge thing to be on the verge of having your life transformed as you transform the life of those around you. I’m thankful tonight. Such an adventure, this life. So many miracles and graces.

Dang Cai Qun ~ click her name to hear one of my former graduate students, Jackie (herself from China), pronounce the name for us.

If you want to help us with the final stretch of fundraising, check out the latest work I’ve posted to my etsy shop. If you want to hear more of the details as we move forward in the coming months to bring this little one home, see my wife’s site here. Be happy with us!

New Mandalas

I’ve created nearly 30 new mandalas in the last few weeks. Each is primarly oil or oil pastel on paper with colored pencil, crayon, or other mixed media added. Most are about 9 inches in diameter. Below are two of the group. Click for more detail.

Both Sides of the Brain

Mr. Aaron Coleman, mezzotinter extraordinaire, has been coordinating this traveling exhibition for quite some time. And now the first shows are coming soon.

Cover for the folio cases: GLORY! Photo by Aaron Coleman.

And here’s a listing of the locations for this traveling show – click the highlights for more info about the specific exhibitions:


August 13 – September 18, 2012 ~ Basile Gallery, Herron School of Art. Indianapolis, Indiana

October 3 – October 28, 2012 – Washington Printmakers Gallery. Silver Spring, Maryland

TBA – Gallery 215. Northern Illinois University School of Art. Dekalb, Illinois (link when available)


May 20 – August 29, 2013 – George Caleb Bingham Gallery. University of Missouri,┬áColumbia, Missouri (link when available)

TBA – Lamar D. Fain School of Art. Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas (link when available)

The edition is in the permanent collections of Herron School of Art and Northern Illinois University School of Art. BOO-YEAH!

Decision Point

In January of 1997 I was a 20 year old kid working for a landscape design company. My job actually involved parking lot maintenance using a street-sweeping truck or trailer attached to a pickup truck. I worked all over the central New York region, but mostly in the area triangulated by Rome, Utica, and Syracuse.

I was fairly aimless after high school. Having grown up in Upstate New York the very idea of going to college seemed distant and was, in many ways, discouraged by the people who surrounded me… “What are you gonna do with that?” scoffed the wire mill workers who frequented the gas station where I worked a day shift. That was my life: gas station in the day; empty parking lots for the overnight. But I’d been working on something else, and something else had been working on me for a long time.

I’d spent the previous 6 or 7 years actively studying the foundations of art-making. The first few years I used Bert Dodson’s fantastic Keys to Drawing (thanks Grandma Clara!), but eventually moved on to self-directed work from observation and imagination. I was writing and reading a lot, listening to CDs of classic books in the cab of my street sweeper on those late nights, and dreaming prayer-like dreams into the night. I was also smoking like a chimney, singing Pantera songs at the top of my voice, and popping caffeine pills to stay awake; I generally worked from 11pm through til 5 or 6 in the morning. It was a surreal life. I saw and experienced more than I can ever describe to anyone who wasn’t there. I needed to go through it all. The questions and desires that grew within me during that time were necessary to who I would become.

So there I was after 18 months on the job, driving my truck through a mall in Mattydale just north of Syracuse, on an icy cold January morning. It was 2:30am. Why I was there I’m not sure. With all of the lake effect snow we’d gotten there was no way I could “sweep” the parking lot. And my regional boss had taken my sweeping truck and left me a sweeping trailer attached to an old Ford Ranger. What I would soon learn was that the hitch on the sweeper was a different size than the ball on the pickup…

This is the place where the trailer jumped the ball… I took this photo last week at the very spot where it all began (I was in Syracuse visiting one of my former students, Jake Crook, who is an MFA candidate at SU).

Of course, this grate and the pavement surrounding it are all entirely different now. At the time, however, the grate was a huge divot in the ice-covered pavement and it tossed the loose trailer off easily. As I l knelt in the freezing slush and figured out how to jack the trailer back up, bend the hitch back around, and chain it all in some semi-safe fashion to get it the 50 miles home, I made a decision. I knew I had to at least try this whole art thing. I knew I didn’t want this sort of event to be the measure of my ability. I knew that I didn’t want to wake up in a decade and wonder what the hell I had been doing with my life. I knew I didn’t want to just get by. I knew I would make an attempt at something different.

The next day I applied to Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, an extension of Pratt. After a couple years I earned a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I ended up doing and experiencing a lot of wonderful things. A lot of hard things. A lot of humbling things. A lot of true things. A lot of astonishing things. And every single thing that’s happened to me – going to Ox-bow, spending time in Italy, earning an MFA, getting married to my best friend, publishing essays, having shows all over the world, having the amazing and humbling joy of working with students, all of it – are a result of laying in that snow and ice with the orange sodium-vapor glow shining down on me. I needed that experience to come to a point of decision.

I’m really thankful for that hitch coming loose. I’m thankful that the ball was too small. I’m thankful that the wind was cold. I’m thankful that I was over-tired and pissed off.

I think God was close by that night.


By the way, my latest essay, Standing Beside Gods, is available on Neoteric Art. Click to read it.