Friday, September 22, 2017

The Bell Rang

I'm excited for the release of my next print in "Sleepy Eye's My Hometown" series. The first one was titled "Mid-Morning at St. Mary's" and featured St. Mary's Church, a landmark of Sleepy Eye for more than 100 years.

My second print is titled "The Bell Rang" and it is of the old Public Elementary School, which was built in the late 1800s in Sleepy Eye. In 1976, when I was in third grade, the building was condemned because of a cracked i-beam in the roof. With three weeks to go in the school year, the school board made a decision for the safety of the students, to end the school year. Summer vacation came early that year.

In the mid 1980s, after years of being vacant and rumors that someone was going to buy it and renovate it, the old school was torn down. I remember watching part of the demolition. It was a sad day for me. Lots of childhood memories were relived and the chance of ever touring that old building were gone.

Fast forward thirty-some years and I began doing research and gathering reference photos of that old building. My desire was to create a nostalgic piece that all the kids who went to that school might appreciate. And it also would combine a couple ideas from one of my favorite Christmas movies, "A Christmas Story."

The concept was to capture the moment after the bell rang, the students had lined up and already filed into the school. And there's one straggler who, for whatever reason, is picking up the pace in order not to be marked too late.

That bell is now on display in front of the current elementary school.

The other thing I wanted to have on the painting was the flag pole. (You know, the triple-dog-dare and the tongue frozen to the pole scene?)

Well, one thing I wanted to do at the old school was to be one of the kids who got to fly the flag in the mornings. That honor was reserved for the sixth graders. And since the school closed when I was in third grade, that was something I never had the opportunity to do.

While working on the painting, I was flooded with so many memories from that old school and it was overwhelming at times. Christmas programs, the gym floor that almost bounced like a trampoline, the multi-level restrooms, radiators that clanked, the library on the second floor, the Spider Web, and the fire escapes. Just to name a few.

I know many of us would love to somehow take a tour of that building and explore it. For anyone who attended that school, however, all we have is our memories. I hope "The Bell Rang" brings back many pleasant memories for anyone who purchases a print.

It is exclusively available at Twice as Nice Coffee Shop in Sleepy Eye, MN.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January Already?

Wow, where does time go? Everyone says that. No one seems to have a good answer. It just keeps flying by at blistering speeds.

Onto my training goals for this year...

I've been pretty healthy this past year. Normal aches and pains along with an occasional cold or sickness. No nagging injuries at this time. That's always a plus. I want to keep it that way so I've held off on any power or strength cycles for a few months.

I turn the big 5-0 in about a week so I figured now is as good as time as any to get in good shape and try for an all-time best look. I actually started last February and gradually went from 217 to 201 right before Thanksgiving. After Christmastime, I'm only around 205 so that's not too bad as a second starting point.

I'm not looking to starve myself or do a get ripped quick plan and lose a lot of muscle. Just gonna keep watching the carbs and tighten up the eating on the weekends as well. Doing that should get me to around 185 by mid March.

With added cardio in late March and April, I should be closing in on a body weight of 175-180. I'm estimating my stage-ready weight to be 165-170 so I'll see how far I want to take it in April. Until then, it's time to take it one day at a time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hitting goals and setting records

It's a great feeling when you achieve something you haven't done before. At the beginning of this year I was able to crank several sets of singles at 315 on the bench press. That was awesome! Being a few days from turning 48 made it even better.

The most I've ever benched was 325. That was 10 years ago. I've had a number of shoulder/rotator cuff issues since then. I'm happy to say my shoulders have been fairly healthy the last few years and I've been able to push some heavy weights again.

My training weights in the bench press were heavier this year than when I pushed up 325 ten years ago. I was very much looking forward to trying to see what I could do for a one-rep max this year. 340 was not out of the realm of possibilities. Maxing day came and I was sick. I had a head cold and felt awful. Either I could rest and try another day or go ahead and see what happened. 

I knew based on past experience I'm weaker after being sick and I didn't really want risk injury factor by putting off maxing for another weak. My training timing was good and my strength was up, but I had that feeling that it was time to back off the heavy weights for a couple months.

So I went ahead and tried pushing up heavy weight on the day I was sick. I did my normal warm-ups and acclimation sets. 315 still felt pretty good. I wanted to do at least 330 to break my personal best from 2005. The bar went down and it felt good. I got it past my normal stick point a few inches off the chest, but to my surprise I couldn't lock it out. Another attempt was out of the question. It wasn't going to happen that day.

But after "resting" a couple months with lighter weights, I am in the beginning weeks of another power cycle. In about 8 weeks I will be ready to see if 330-340 can be broken. 

Pretty sure I'm gonna do it this time!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fine Art and Physique Art

It's been more than a year since my last post. I haven't taken a break from training... just blogging! Let me tell you what has been taking up a good chunk of my time.

Near the end of 2013 I got involved in a project for my church that produced an illustrative painting each week for our series in the book of Genesis that started in January of 2014. I've named it "The Genesis Project."

There are 50 chapters in Genesis and since a few chapters allowed a painting to be reused a couple times and there are a couple genealogies in there I think we are on target to have 46-47 paintings. I have a team of 6-7 other artists who have helped out, but I have done the majority of them. I'd have to sit down and count, but I think I've done close to 30 paintings in the last year. Some are in acrylics. Some are in oils. The time for each one varies depending on the complexity and how much time I need to allow for drying time of each layer I put down on a painting. One painting might take 6-7 hours and another might be closer to 20. Most have been done in the period of one week. Two weeks if I'm really lucky.

Why do I bring this up on my blog that mostly has to do with bodybuilding? Because for as long as I can remember I have been an artist. My earliest memory is from when I was age 2. I was drawing a picture of Frankenstein on a small notebook on the coffee table in my house growing up.

10 years later at age 12 I decided I wanted to build my body as a sculpture -- a physique artist, if you will. Arnold's illustration in "Pumping Iron" about a bodybuilder treats his body like a sculptor treats clay. I totally got that way back then.

So here I am today. 48 years old and still a fine artist and still a physique artist.

After about a good solid year of "bulking" and lifting heavy, I'm ready for the refinement stage of sculpting my physique. When I started training, Arnold was my inspiration but I aspired to look like Frank Zane. My arms hit 19" pumped at the end of last year. Not bad since they were 9.5 inches when I started. Quick arithmetic brings you to the conclusion that I doubled my arm size. That was a life-long goal. Feels good to have finally achieved it.

Now it's on to the refinement time. With the added size I put on in the last year, I'm looking forwarded to melting the fat and see how close I do look to Frank Zane when he was near retirement age in his last couple of Olympias.

Only about 3 weeks into the ripping phase and I'm very excited to see what is unveiled this year under the layers of marbled fat. Time to get out the chisel and add the details.

36 years and this stuff never gets old!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Last Scenario: New Champ On His First Attempt

The last scenario I've got for y'all is Big Ramy winning the whole thing on his first try. Not even Phil Heath did that. Or Arnold. Or Ronnie. Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia did it back in 1965. So it would be really, really cool for someone to come in to the Mr. Olympia and win the whole thing.

Big Ramy qualified for the Mr. Olympia by winning the IFBB Amateur Olympia last year. He made his pro debut in May at the New York Pro and pretty much shocked the bodybuilding world. He won that competition and even knocked off Victor Martinez in the process.

This guy has only been training about 3-4 years. I believe he's only 25 and he is HUGE! He has decent conditioning and a small waist to boot. Can he win the Mr. Olympia this year on his first try? Maybe. But his win will depend on all the other guys not being on target. I think he could win in this situation, but it isn't likely. Big Ramy needs more separation and refinement to take it all this year.

Personally, I would have liked him to wait a year or two to compete in the Olympia like Heath and Evan did. With two more years of training and dieting and figuring out how his body reacts, he could dominate the field just like Ronnie did. I'll go out on limb and predict MORE than Ronnie, but that's if Ramy stays healthy and keeps making stellar progress. With youth on his side, Ramy has a very bright future ahead of him.

Judging is tonight and only about 12 hours away! I'll give you a clue as to who I think is going to win it this year: I am wearing a black shirt that has a design on the front that looks like the Obama Hope poster... but it isn't Obama and it doesn't say HOPE.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Movie Review

As promised here is my review of "Generation Iron" after watching it last night.

First of all, it wasn't showing at any local theaters so I had to search for a theater that was showing it. The closest was in Monterey Park, which is more than an hour away down in Los Angeles. My buddy Mike Harris and I went down to watch it with me.

Both Mike and I enjoyed the movie. It sort of had the look of the original movie "Pumping Iron" but it didn't have the same feel. "Generation Iron" seemed a little darker than "Pumping Iron" in the way it told the story and Mickey Rourke's gravelly voice attributed to that as well. I think another voice would have been better.

I did enjoy the training sequences. They were shot in a more artistic way than the hundreds of online videos of pros training. The cinematography did a great job of capturing the effort and the blood, sweat and tears of workouts. They aren't always pretty and the productive workouts do not look like posed magazine photo shoots.

The storytelling was good and most of the editing was top notch, but a few scenes were a bit awkward in the way b-roll was used. It seemed choppy and out of place at times.

The documentary was slanted towards Kai being the underdog much like Big Lou Ferrigno in the original. I guess you could say Phil Heath reprised the role of Arnold in this film. Heath was shown to be sort of an arrogant guy who thinks his natural talent goes further with hard work and because of that he won't lose to Kai or anyone else. My guess is that footage was edited in order to portray that more than what Phil intended. I'm pretty sure much of it was taken out of context.

Speaking of out of context, in the final match-up at the Mr. Olympia when Phil and Kai are waiting for the emcee to announce the winner, the emcee made a joke that there was only one point separating...  fourth and fifth place in an earlier division before the men's Mr. Olympia. The movie made it sound like there was only one point separating Phil and Kai. The actual scores reflected that Phil had almost all straight first place votes from the judges and it really wasn't that close. But that's a documentary for you. They try to build up drama and present a view that might not be accurate. Lots of documentaries do that.

I liked the personal side of the bodybuilders that the movie revealed. They were shown as real people instead of super heroes like the magazines portray them sometimes.

If the movie wasn't more than an hour away, I'd go see it again. It gets a thumbs-up from me. I will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out. Actually I'll probably pick up the Blue-Ray, which will finally give me an excuse to buy a Blue-Ray player.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Generation Iron

I'm going to see it tonight. I'll have my review here in a couple days.