I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Friday, December 28, 2012

"New"

My brother had a new canvas.  He propped it against the sofa and studied it for a while.  He got up, got a cup of coffee, and sat down and studied the canvas some more.  He got up, paced around a while, got another cup of coffee, and studied some more.  This went on for a couple of hours and made someone who shall remain nameless absolutely nuts.  “It’s just a white canvas!” She thought all this contemplation was wasting time.  I thought the situation was hysterical, but neither seemed to appreciate my belly laughs about it.

I could see it from both perspectives.  My brother was painting many pictures in his head, so the canvas wasn’t blank to him.  The other person thought all those mental paintings were all well and good, but if none of them actually got painted, they didn’t really exist.  Another woman recently commented to me about how artists live in their own realities.  I knew this wasn’t a compliment, but I laughed and said that I didn’t mind as long as our personal realities could peacefully coexist.

I used to work with Ed who doodled war planes and hand grenades.  I doodled a flower, cut it out, and set it on one of his bombs.  I got called a “tree-hugger”.  Okay.  I’ve hugged my share of trees.  Besides, he didn’t say it to hurt.  I respected his personal world and didn’t mess up his bomb.  Ed tacked up my flower by his window.  Our personal worlds overlapped a little, and I felt pleased to put a flower on his battle field.

I’ve been thinking about these things because I often feel like artists get criticized for dreaming.  The world goes round because practical people do practical things, and they get impatient with dreamers.  You can’t stack up dreams on factory skids, but every major advance in society or technology started with what-if fantasies.  Suppose a lot of our fantasies are just dreams.  Tolkien created a whole world with his fantasies.  Didn’t his dreams add something more to our lives?  Or if you have to be practical, Tolkien’s world created real jobs for printers and the movie industry.  Da Vinci created useful machines along with a whole bunch of impractical contraptions.  Newton and Einstein changed the ways the rest of us understand our world.

When I started blogging, I had practical ideas about putting my art online to complement my resume because I was looking for work.  After all, dreaming is great as long as you can pay the mortgage.  Maybe my goal was a good idea, but I abandoned it almost immediately.  I found I needed to dream to create my concrete reality, and blogging provided an outlet, and by extension, maybe my perceptions can mean something to someone else.  Other people add to the conversation, and expand the ways we can all think about things.  It’s a symbiotic relationship of overlapping worlds that’s necessary in a world of too much practicality.

I’ve stared at blank canvases, and have done things for solely practical reasons.  This window is my view from my couch.  I’ve spent many hours staring at it, through it, or looking in that general direction without seeing it at all.  It’s just a glorified doodle with a ball point pen.  I was thinking of an old friend’s way of painting fabric, the birds in the yard, and how the neighbors’ house is too close to mine.  Maybe letting my mind float freely through all those associations will inspire new ideas – or not, but I think the idea of letting my mind go where it wants to go exercises an important but maligned aspect of being human and of being an artist.

Besides, I filled up some of those blank canvases.  Looking back on 2012, it feels like I filled up a lot of them!

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Glow"

Sometimes I forget to breathe.  I know that’s nuts.  After all, breathing is supposed to be one of those automatic things we do, but I don’t think I’m the only one who forgets to do it.  We get stressed, and our breath becomes shallow.  We don’t even notice there isn’t any oxygen in our lungs, but who hasn’t cried and ended up gulping air in dramatic sobs?  Tears trump air and actual survival.

I have an interesting uncle, the kind of uncle everybody should have.  He has a house full of mysteries that’s fun to explore.  He’s shot lightning across the basement with Tesla coils, melted glass in a kiln, and had huge tins of military surplus candy.  He also had a picture of a turbaned man lounging in a plastic recliner, which definitely wasn’t my idea of “spiritual leader”.  I couldn’t imagine Jesus in a plastic lawn chair.

My uncle was the first person I ever knew who chose a different religion than the one he was born into.  The idea was novel to me, exciting, disturbing – and I wasn’t really sure how to accept it.  I also didn’t know how to process things about that religion, especially when my uncle tried to explain how and why he meditated.  I couldn’t grasp the concept.  I simply couldn’t keep my attention on my third eye and kept thinking “this is impossible”.

When I reported back to my uncle that I couldn’t do it, he asked if I had ever looked at a cup on a table and become so absorbed by it that I forgot about everything else in the room, forgetting the table the cup was sitting on, and even forgetting about my own body?  Or, had I ever lost myself in the flame of a candle?  Well, sure, everybody’s done that, right?  Which I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it made sense to me.  “That’s meditating”, he said.

I found myself sitting at the river, watching the light bouncing off ripples of water.  I felt my heart calm, felt my breathing deepen, and realized I was great at meditating – when I actually remind myself to do it, and I didn’t have to convert to a religion with a guru sitting in plastic lawn furniture to do it.  In fact, I realized that meditation is a universal human activity when we go fishing, get lost in painting, or any other quiet, focused activity that humans do.

Today is the winter solstice.  That means the days will start getting longer again.  In many traditions, it’s time to meditate and let go of things that no longer serve us, time to look forward to new opportunities.  Breathe in good, and breathe out bad.  In is healing and universal light; out is stress, pain, disease, release. 

I’ve been distressed about the recent school shooting in Connecticut.  I don’t want to see video of stunned children forgetting to breathe, their faces white from shock.  Other people can argue what we should do about preventing events like this in the future. I’d like to remind people how to cope when bad things happen, and remind other people that while I hope you have the best of holidays this week, we also need to remember the people who are missing at the table this year.

There are candles lit all over the place right now for prayer vigils, Christmas, and Hanukah.  Let’s all remember to take some time to look into the glow of candles and remember to breathe.

The top illustration is scratchboard with some screwing around in PhotoShop.  The painting is something I did when I was first learning how to breathe on purpose and before I understood what cats look like.  It’s also my first oil painting, when I decided I hate sticky paint.

Wishing everyone the joy and peace of the season!

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Snow"

In my first year of college, my roommate ran into our apartment and shouted “You have to come outside!”  I was reluctant since I was diligently doing homework.  (Notice my halo.)  When I asked what was going on, she exclaimed “It’s snowing!!!”  I kept doing my homework, but her enthusiasm would not shut up, so I dragged myself away from my latest masterpiece and went outside.  There might’ve been about 10 airborne flakes in the sky.  It was October, and I wasn’t pleased.

“Isn’t it beautiful?!”  Yeah, okay, maybe it was, slightly, but I had to get my homework done.  She danced around in circles, I laughed at her, and it was a nice moment.  She had grown up in the South, and didn’t know snow.  By the end of winter, she was kicking piles of pissed on, pollution-streaked city snow and admitted it wasn’t fun anymore, just like the rest of us who had to trudge to school with wet oil paintings in the icy wind.

Except for a few noticeable weirdos, most people in Ohio have my attitude towards snow.  Aside from wishing for a white Christmas, most of us could do without it for the rest of the year.  I don’t want to hear naturalists and menopausal women rhapsodizing about dressing in layers.  Snow is an obstacle to be borne or overcome.

Sometimes we get one of those absolutely silent days where the world has been transformed into a white on white on blue spectacular that catches your breath.  I’ve been enraptured by the beauty of individual snowflakes clinging to my brightly colored coat.  Individual snowflakes are wonders, but they get together with their pals and make life hard.

Given my surly attitude towards winter, it might surprise you that I’m concerned about climate change.  I should just be happy that it’s mid-December and haven’t had much snow yet.  Okay, I am kind of glad I haven’t had to shovel the driveway, but the lack of winter worries me.  Every year is a little warmer, a little less like winter as I remember it.

When I was a kid, the river froze solid.  I ice skated up and down the river, but kids haven’t skated on the river since I was a kid.  One year my dad shoveled paths through the snow, and I couldn’t see over it.  It was like walking through white tunnels.  The winters of my childhood were white from November to April, with some extra white in October and May.  It just isn’t like that anymore.  It’s mid-December, and I can still pick things in my garden.  Instead of shoveling snow, I should probably cut the grass.

People seem to spend so little time outside these days, I don’t think very many people notice.  Food comes from the grocery store, so they aren’t worried about whether or not bees die off or crops failed last summer.  People notice that oranges cost more this year, but they aren’t connecting the dots that oranges are expensive because fruit trees bloomed too early last spring. 

The US elections are over, and maybe we can start talking again about the things that matter.  I know it was politically useful to deny science and say climate change hasn’t been proven yet, but it just isn’t true.  Scientists do agree that our weather is changing.  We can live without oranges and ice skating, but it’s time to quit the political games and start doing something to protect our home and our future.  I never thought I’d say it, but I want snow.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Explore"

I remember a woman from church visiting my mother when I was little.  I sat on the floor in the living room with my wooden blocks and listened to them talk.  I looked up at the woman and knew she was plotting and lying, and my childish self did not approve.  She looked down at me and knew I didn’t approve too.  She got rather snappy and irritable and started suggesting improvements for me.  I continued to play with my blocks, but I watched the women out of the corner of my eye.  I knew nothing good was going to come from “improvements”.

I don’t know why I remember this.  My memory is littered with little moments like this.  I’m just a little kid playing with blocks.  I’m not a threat to you, but if your actions can’t take the light of a little kid’s observations, you need to look inside and fix something about yourself.  It’s not like I said anything to that woman either, so I didn’t figure I merited improvements, but I started to catch on that I might be different.

Kids are wells that absorb all the groundwater.  They see everything, but they’re still close to creation, and have an innate sense of right and wrong.  A friend’s infant son gave me a look once when my friend and I parted ways for a while.  His look was sorrowful, with a little bit of the “you could fix this if you tried hard enough” thrown in for extra guilt.  He was right too, but it took us grownups a while to figure that out for ourselves.

Exploring isn’t just covering ground; it’s noticing what’s on the ground we’re covering.  Being an artist, and just being human, is a growth process.  First we learn how to repeat what we see, then we realize that just duplicating something isn’t enough.  We have to share our observations, and those observations aren’t just the surface of a perfectly painted canvas.  This is the same as saying that what someone looks like isn’t the same as knowing who that person is.

This was a very fast painting, or at least very fast for me. I was in a phase when I didn’t want to paint at all, and I had mixed feelings about the person I was painting. His dad asked why I made his forehead red. I laughed. “Why do you think his forehead is red?” Poor dad of the subject got a disturbed look on his face and didn’t answer. I think he had conflicted feelings too.

The painting is what it is.  Most of the time it hibernates in my box of stuff I don’t look at very often, and when I do see it, I get a little annoyed that it exists, or maybe that he exists.  But at the same time, the painting and the subject were lessons for me, something I explored – and every painting I’ve made is a part of the journal I keep of my life.

I look at this painting now and wonder how much of what I painted was subliminal or intentional.  When I’m in the zen of painting, they are often the same thing, and the act of it can lead me to greater understandings of things I don’t know how to understand without going through the process.  I need the deep meditations of making things with my hands and letting my mind get “into the flow” when I lose track of time and the present.

Non-artists often ask what’s going in artists’ heads, or what makes them different.  Maybe it’s as simple as artists have to observe and explore?

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Stretch"

Sometimes we have to reach outside our comfort zones.  We have to stretch our minds, stretch our bodies, stretch our openness to the extraordinary – except I don’t like that whole thing about stretching my body because that sounds an awful lot like exercising, which I oppose on principle. 

My exercise program consists of trying to master the corpse pose in yoga.  Mom taught it to me when I was about 5, and if it worked then, I figure it ought to be working for me now.  Dad used to do handstands against the door and do pushups in that position.  He also liked to do pushups with as many kids as possible on his back for more resistance.  I certainly wasn’t ever going to accomplish that, so why bother?  Besides, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to have kids to create exercise equipment.

I’m not a complete slug.  I do physical things.  I’m even considering raking my leaves since I’ve successfully postponed that task into December, and still haven’t gotten enough snow to justify forgetting about them until spring.  It’s just that I really can’t see the point of doing unnecessary work or counting.  A friend told me about her new exercise routine.  She likes 17, so she’s doing 17 repetitions of each of her exercises.  I’m sure I’d lose track after about 3 or 4, and that means I could accidently do more than 17 leg lifts or crunches.

I was listening to the news and heard President Obama sent Jason Mraz to Myanmar/Burma, “the first international artist to perform… in the country since the end of military rule… and the second Western act to perform in the country in decades” according to Huff Post.  I like Jason, so I turned on youtube and danced my dog around the room.  This had the unfortunate result of getting Jason stuck in my head for 3 days, which just goes to show exercise is dangerous.  You can listen to Jason here  or here, but be warned; just looking up these links made me burst into a new round of singing, chair dancing, and toe tapping.

I recently found this little booklet.  For a mere 25 cents, you could learn how to develop a new personality.  Unfortunately, Joe Bonomo seemed to think exercise was part of the plan, and obviously women needed a new personality far more than men.  No matter how much I might be willing to stretch in theory, I don’t think I can go with his program.  Besides exercise, Joe said “The girl who is too self-sufficient… or gives the appearance of being so… can drive a guy away.  He’ll think she’s perfectly capable… too capable… of taking care of herself and her own problems.”

Hmm… I knew I was doing something wrong.  I should’ve learned how to swoon on cue so the man could catch me like in the picture, but wouldn’t you think with all that exercising that the woman couldn’t faint because of all that excess healthiness?

Joe seemed to know a lot about fixing women.  Some of his other books included “Lovelier after 40”, “Simplify your Housekeeping”, “Figure Ritual for Beautiful Bust Contour”, and “How to Give Successful Parties”.

I figure I got enough exercise today just looking for my sketchbook.  That involved climbing stairs, bending, squats…

I had a simple idea when I started this project today, but PhotoShop gives me too many toys to play with.  I ended up wasting a heck of a lot of time for what ended up being a pretty simple idea, no matter how many options I tried.  Even so, all of us should experiment with options in our software.  Sometimes we end up with a new favorite.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Whiskers"

I’ll admit it, I’m a Scrooge.  Bah, Humbug.  I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t say to bankrupt your family on plastic toys and computer games for your kids.  I’m also pretty sure there weren’t any elves in Bethlehem, but don’t let me stop you from having your fun.  Run around and buy your presents and stick pretty bows on them.  Bake your cookies and send out cards.  I’ll put your cards on the mantle.  I’m just Christmased out.  It’s an occupational hazard.  I’ve spent years of my life making Santa Clauses and snowmen and all things red and green.

I do like some of the less than religious aspects of Christmas.  Elves at the North Pole?  C’mon, that’s just funny when discussing a religion started in the Middle East.  I only have one ornament up, and that’s of the 3 astrologers.  Someone once told me “Real Christians don’t believe in astrology!”  Really?  Then why were the 3 wise men following that star to Bethlehem?

Okay, maybe I’m irreverent sometimes, but I have to behave myself at my job for a religious organization, and can I really stay proper all the time?  God made me, so God must have a sense of humor.  Besides, the history of Christianity was a brilliant display of superior marketing abilities, and as a person who’s worked in marketing, I have to admire that.  For instance, the Celts of Europe worshipped a mother goddess.  The chauvinistic Middle Eastern religion didn’t, but hey, Jesus had a mom.  Mother Mary won the Celts over.  Pagan Germans had a thing for decorating trees?  No problem.  Now it’s a Christmas tree.  Northern Pagans wanted the sun to come back in mid-winter because it’s depressingly dark then.  They had holidays around the winter solstice.  Voila!  That’s when Jesus was born.

Those early Christian marketers weren’t really changing the Bible, they were just practical and creative.  I’ve got to admire that.  Okay, so when absorbing pagan holidays didn’t work, they had the Crusades and Conquistadors, but most people fell in line without having to kill them to save their souls in a frenzy of brotherly love, and the end result is that Christianity has been a tremendously successful religion.  It was successful because it absorbed the other religions without necessarily destroying the parts of them that the masses enjoyed.

The religions that seem to fight with each other the most are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, which is ironic since they’re all siblings, with Abraham of the Old Testament as their common ancestor.  I’d say we should all send them to Dr. Phil for a family intervention, but he’s Christian and would probably take sides.  Maybe we should send them all to Deepak Chopra or the Dali Lama?

I think I’ll stick with thoughts of Santa Claus today instead of trying to resolve world conflicts.  At least Santa has never been associated with wars.  Even Gandalf and Dumbledore can’t claim that, so obviously wisdom and white chin whiskers aren’t the solution.  Besides, today is “Black Friday”, the day Americans go shopping, and Santa is the guy who totally understands presents.

This is really old art, but Santa hasn’t changed too much over the years.  I think the Europeans make him skinnier, but well, there’s all those Christmas cookies over here – and never mind my Scrooge-like tendencies, none of my bah humbugging applies to cookies.  There are never enough cookies!

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Zoom"

Bees are wonderful creatures.  I’ve never really understood the people who scream and swat around wildly when they see one, even though I’ve been stung like anybody else who runs around barefoot.  My mom has a knack of catching them in a hand towel and putting them outside when they find a way into the house.  I love to watch the bees zooming around, dancing from flower to flower.  The fact that they aren’t supposed to be able to fly makes them all the more fun to watch.

There’s a flower garden where I work, and I watch the bees when I take a break.  A very antisocial priest tends the garden, and he’s walled it off so nobody else can enjoy it.  I’m pretty sure he’s unhappy I acquired a key to get in, but I leave him alone, and he leaves me alone, and we both leave the bees alone.  I’m pretty sure they’re going to sleep for the winter now anyway.

Up till this summer’s bee watching, I never really paid attention to how many kinds of bees there are – black bees, yellow bees, striped bees, bumblebees, and lots of other bees too.  I’m pretty sure the variety of bees in the priest’s garden is because of the wide variety of flowers he plants in there.  I’m pretty sure there has to be acres of honey somewhere, but I’ll leave the bees to it.

Completely un-zoom related, I recently fixed a friend’s dresser.  In fact, this was kind of an anti-zoom activity because I had to build up layers of wood putty to mend the broken bric-a-brac.  I’m pretty sure I spent entirely too much time doing this, but I have to admit I enjoyed it.  I conferred with another friend about what kind of paint to use to camouflage the putty (we decided on oils), and she suggested that I take before and after pictures.  Good idea.  Wish she suggested that before I started, but I think you can tell what I was doing from these pictures.

This dresser was put out for the trash a lot of years ago, and my friend’s husband rescued it.  I’m glad he did.  It’s very solid, and now it’s pretty again too.

What is not pretty is the dark brown puddle of oil-based stain I kicked onto my friend’s carpet.  I will take any suggestion if anyone knows how to rectify that mess.  I tried blotting and also tried turpentine, but the main thing I accomplished by that was to make myself rather high and befuddled.  She says not to worry about it, but I feel bad and would like to know how to fix it.

Coincidently, I talked to another friend recently (which is starting to sound like I have an awful lot of friends!) who made the observation that I spend too much time feeling bad about other people’s issues.  I’m not so sure his observation applies in this case since I am very clearly at fault, but it does give me something to think about – which brings me back to bees…

I watched a nature show which talked about how bees communicate, and the host said bees are a lot like how our brains work.  One bee = one brain cell or synapse.  When you put all those synapses together, it’s like a whole hive of bees swarming together as one conscious thought.  I started thinking about that, and wonder if each human = one brain cell of society, and don’t humans swarm the same as bees?  Just something for you to think about, or maybe I’m justifying feeling bad too much when other people feel bad?  On the other hand, if everybody’s happy, then I’m happy too!

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Tree"

“What are you?” is a pretty common question in the US, but maybe not very common other places.  I’m pretty sure Germany is full of Germans and China is full of Chinese people.  Maybe Germany has some Turks or China has some Koreans, but I’m guessing those people haven’t been there long enough to become an unrecognizable blend to prompt the question, “What are you?”

A black friend of mine once asked me why nobody asked what she is.  I hadn’t thought about it up till then, but I’m guessing they don’t ask because they figure A. she’s black, and that’s pretty obvious, or B. maybe black people don’t know what they are since America had that whole slavery problem.  She and I are actually very alike in our ancestry, so we had some fun.  We’d introduce each other to new people with, “This is my sister” and watch people suffer internal cerebral crumbling.  We’d relent a little and say, “We had different mothers.”  Then laughed while whoever it was tried to accept that into their world view.  We didn’t feel a need to fill those people in that we also had different fathers.  There’s more than one way to tackle racism.

In a recent conversation with someone who immigrated to the US from the other side of the planet, he mentioned that he couldn’t trace his family any further back than his great grandfather.  I found it curious he never asked his parents or grandparents about their younger lives and older relatives, but maybe it’s as simple as their lives were the same as the lives of everybody else who had occupied that corner of the world as long as people have lived there?

My family tree is a textbook study in American migration patterns.  Pick a branch and you’ll find out how white people filled up everything east of the Mississippi.  For those of you outside the US, that means the right half of the country, not counting Alaska and Hawaii.  It’s conceivable I’m related to everybody in America in some way or another, including my black girlfriend.  That feels nice, but it also makes me want to know who I’m more directly related to too.

All that moving around in the frontier meant that people picked up and left relatives behind.  They couldn’t talk to someone on the phone back then, and often those branches of the family tree were pruned away and forgotten.  The question of “what” I am becomes a certain longing to know where my people came from, and this is echoed throughout America no matter what color you are in the Crayon box.  We have tv shows and websites and clubs and libraries to help in the search.  It’s fun to find relatives you didn’t know you had.  It’s fun when we find out we had famous relatives too.  Everybody should have some royalty in them somewhere, but it’s also good to know we’re related to regular people too.  It’s rather amazing how much stuff has been written down about them.

As for current news from Ohio, Election Day is over!  No matter how anyone voted, I’m pretty sure all Ohioans are relieved we can answer the phone again without robocalls and can safely go to the mailbox without seeing half a forest of political ads.  I feel like I’ve been under assault for months by politicians’ verbal abuse.  It’s hard to express my pleasure in getting a grocery store ad again.  Especially a Thanksgiving ad, which has got to be America’s best holiday, our national contemplation of gratitude… like being grateful pollsters will ignore Ohio for a while again!

BTW, I used to do work for Heinen’s.  This isn’t my ad, but you can imagine some of the glory of working at that job.  (That’s sarcasm in case you missed it.)  Still, it’s a good store if you’ve got one.  I hear they have turkeys.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Shy"

I sang happily and often when I was young, and that was just great until some adult or other noticed that I had a pretty good singing voice.  Then I’d get pushed onto a stage for school assemblies, and that’s when it was no longer fun.  I’d start calculating how hard my head was going to hit the floor when I fainted or whether I was going to puke in front of the whole school.  I never lost that fear even though I happily sang hymns to my college pals when we got drunk, or sang around campfires, sang in the garden, sang at the top of my lungs with all the windows open. 

When I was in 2nd grade, I went to a school assembly and “Vince”, a 6th grader, a very, very tough 6th grader, did a solo of “Beautiful Dreamer”.  I was spell bound.  Who could’ve predicted that a neighborhood bully could sing like an angel?  Nobody was going to laugh at Vince.  He’d pummel them for an accidental smile.

I wasn’t sure what I was learning when I listened to Vince sing, but I knew it was important.  He seemed to know he could get away with singing pre-adolescent soprano when nobody expected it of him.  To my knowledge, he never performed again, at least he never sang in front of me again.  It’s one of those memories that stay in my heart, without really knowing why except that it was so beautiful.  Maybe that’s reason enough?

But even so, it was the tough boy singing so exquisitely that made the difference.  If he could do it, I could do it, and did when it was my turn on the stage.  People clapped politely when I was done, and I knew I was safe from school assemblies for another year.

I recently read Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  She makes the point that even extroverts can be shy.  Haven’t we all had moments when we felt like the Ugly Duckling?  After reading this book, I’m more sure than ever that I’m an introvert, but was left wondering just how shy I actually am.  I’ve felt shy.  Painfully, achingly shy sometimes.  I know the feeling of being lonely in a crowd.  Still, I can talk to strangers and have managed talking to hundreds of people at a time.  Of course I had out of body experiences in moments like that, but people have told me that I didn’t have Turrets swearing episodes, so it all worked out and I lived to tell the tale.

I recommend Cain’s book.  It’s good for introverts who want to feel some validation in an extroverted world, but I wish extroverts would read it too.  As Cain points out, it takes both kinds to make the world go round, and maybe if extroverts understood introverts better maybe they might quit trying to make us all get together for brainstorming and teambuilding activities.  Real creativity happens when we’re by ourselves.  Cain recommends people come up with ideas before a brainstorming session because when people are in a group, they have to take turns in expressing ideas, and often the loudest, most persuasive person’s ideas are used instead of the best ideas.

On the other hand, we have to be able to sell our ideas or they end up in the closet and nobody gets to see them.  It would be as if Vince never sang “Beautiful Dreamer”.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Haunt 2"

When I was just old enough to start bicycling my way out of my river valley, one of my first accomplishments was visiting the graveyard next to the Grange Hall.  A Grange Hall is a place where farmers get together and talk about stuff, probably price fixing or manure sharing or something.  I’m not really sure what the farmers talked about because even though the Grange is still used and maintained, there aren’t that many farmers around these days. 

It used to be on the other side of the street, but there isn’t an other side of the street any more.  It’s just air next to the giant cliff that shadows my valley.  It’s a spectacular spot which gives a view of trees and river that stretches for miles.  See that blue down there amongst the trees?  That’s where I grew up.  The street was moved over since the cliff kept collapsing, and in the bare beginnings of my memory, the cliff was reinforced with a steel retaining wall.  I don’t know if they had to move the cemetery or not, but it is currently right next to the Grange Hall, almost invisible in a pretty grove of trees.  You can barely see it in the top photo, to the left of the building, just past that big yellow, orange maple tree. 

There aren’t that many headstones, and whoever decided where to put the graves lacked organization, with graves scattered around in various clumps.  The graves are old.  Okay, maybe not European or Egyptian old, but old for Ohio, with dates from the early 1800’s.  The Indians in the area didn’t put up headstones, though a school friend told me they had an old Indian buried on his property.  I always meant to go and visit the Indian, but never did.  It’s too late now since that area is covered with McMansions.  I bet that old Indian isn’t too happy about it.

Ella’s grave was the one that really captured my young attention.  She got one face of a 4-sided obelisk, one of the later graves, and easily the largest hidden in the trees.  She was only 17 when she died, and was married to a very old man.  Or at least that’s the way I’ve always remembered it.  I went to the cemetery last week to take pictures of the fall leaves and pay my respects to Ella, but I couldn’t read her stone any more since the weather has been wearing down her memory over the decades since I first rode my bike to visit her.  I went back today, despite my lingering cold, and despite the overflow of hurricane Sandy impossibly smacking Ohio.  It was cold, wet, and windy, but I did a rubbing of Ella’s grave so she won’t be forgotten yet.

Anybody can do rubbings of headstones.  Just put a thinnish piece of paper over the inscription and rub a crayon, charcoal, or something over the paper.  The inscription appears like magic.  I used one of the oil pastels I got from cleaning Polly’s house last week.  It seemed appropriate to use a recently passed woman’s pastel to remember another woman, or at least that’s the way I was thinking at the time -- counting me, it was a 3-woman job.  I tried doing a rubbing of an older grave, but some stones are too far gone to be recaptured.

When I was young, I was outraged Ella was married off to the old guy and she was listed like his possession.  What good is it to marry an old guy just because he has enough money for a fancy headstone?  What was her maiden name?  Is her family planted around her in the same tiny rock garden?  I felt bad she died so young.  Going back to visit her, I don’t feel so bad or mad about any of it any more.  This is a peaceful grave yard.  R.I.P. Ella.

After a little research...

I thought Elizabeth made an excellent suggestion to do some research on Ella, and I found out that Ella died of "consumption".  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that means "a progressive wasting away of the body especially from pulmonary tuberculosis".  Poor Ella.

On a brighter note, check out Elizabeth's blog here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Haunt"

It was a 3 ½ gun day.  I’ll bet you think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  I helped my friend John clean his mother’s house today.  She died a while back, and it’s been a big job for him to work full-time and sort through her belongings in his spare time.  I was mostly bagging up clothes for the thrift store and cleaning closets when I found the first gun and ½.  What’s a half a gun?  In this case, it was a rifle stock.  The other rifle looked complete, and John took some pleasure in showing me how the bayonet worked.  That gun was from WWI.

I went through a closet in another room and found another rifle.  John was pleased and joked about me finding more in the house.  Well, that just becomes a challenge.  I found a BB gun revolver in a drawer, so that equaled 3 ½ guns for the day.  I was starting to like Polly.  You’ve got to have a sense of humor to have a gun hidden next to a baby bootie.  I also got to keep Polly’s art supplies.  John gave me some other things too, the only condition being to say a prayer for Polly.  Easy, and glad to do it.

Maybe I’ve got a screw loose, but I enjoy the archeological dig of an old lady’s house, especially a lady with character.  I can’t imagine Polly would waste time haunting anybody.  She probably laughed at me wearing her very cool hats.

I suppose this week is always devoted to people who have passed as we approach Halloween.  I went to an old cemetery earlier in the week and took a couple pictures.  Old fashioned pictures that use film.  Are you old enough to remember film?  Well, let me clue you in, film is hard to get developed these days.  The boys in the drugstore looked at me like I had 3 heads with horns when I brought it in.  Guess I shouldn’t keep that camera around anymore, except I’ll bet I will.  Someday somebody is going to have to clean out my house and will laugh at the stuff I’ve got packed away everywhere.

So, in my future bequests, there are the cameras that take film, the bags of bags, gift boxes I might want to use someday, appliances I’ll never use, or user manuals for things I don't have any more… I’m torn between laughing and feeling concerned that there really isn’t that much difference between Polly and me and our packed closets.  Maybe I should get some guns to store with baby booties?

My doodle just popped into my head this week, and it existed so clearly in my mind, I had to put it on paper.  Then I decided to give my mummy scarecrow a girlfriend.  I don’t know why these drawings needed to exist, but it’s always good to go with our inspirations.
I really meant to write something about the old cemetery this week, but I’ve been sick as a dog – literally, since my dog also got sick.  My apologies for the delay in responding to your comments!  If the weather cooperates with my ideas, I’ll add an extra post this week about the cemetery.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Sky"

The sky in Ohio is full of colorful leaves right now.  When I was a kid it was still legal to burn them, and the smell of burning leaves mingled with the aroma of pumpkin pie in the oven and the anticipation of Halloween around the corner made fall a happy season.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

That’s by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I just love him.  He had something good to say about everything and wrote in exclamation marks.  I thought of his poem “The Swing” first when I saw Illustration Friday’s word of the week is “Sky”…

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

I repeat that poem in my head every time I see a swing.  If you have a child in your life, get A Child’s Garden of Verses.  It will get them through every season, happy experience, and inspire their creativity.  Or, to heck with the kids.  Get that book for yourself or read it online here.  I realize poetry isn’t that fashionable any more, but sometimes it says things that can’t be said any other way.  RLS’s poems have meant a great deal to me, but sometimes I write things of my own…

A cyclone of words swirl over me
Their colors spun into a circling web
Words unspoken, unwritten, unexpressed
The energy of their feelings, of my feelings
Spin in an endlessly spiraling vortex.

I keep a file of poetry beginnings, and the above is something I wrote so long ago that I don’t remember what inspired it.  I’m much better at poetry beginnings than writing finished poems to tell the truth, but maybe it doesn’t matter?  It doesn't even matter if it's good.  It’s the art of expression, in whatever medium we choose to express ourselves.  Today I’m thinking of autumn, and this poem seems to be a verbal illustration of falling leaves in the sky.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Water"

“Foamies” are brightly colored foam sheets with sticky backs.  They’re made by a local company who did not hire me after a completely competent interview.  “Jason” and “Tiffany” seemed more concerned that I live on the other side of Cleveland than they were about what was in my portfolio.  “Are you sure you can get to work on time with such a long drive?”  “Yes!”  In fact, I said “yes” to that 3 or 4 times, but apparently there’s a black hole in between the east and west sides which cannot be bridged by waking up earlier.  Fine.  I hate waking up early and admit a long drive is a drag, but sometimes you’ve just got to have a job-- even a job making stupid kiddie patterns with Foamies.  Oh.  Maybe my general disdain and/or desperation might’ve leaked through my perfectly poised competence in the interview?  Oops.

I bought Foamies before the interview in order to be familiar with their product and to impress them with my initiative.  Pfft.  I shoved the Foamies in my supply closet to be forgotten until I discovered them in a recent archeological dig in there for a goal I can’t remember.  Since I had recently been in the upstairs storage unearthing frames which are now scattered all over the living room, it seemed like a great time to lay on the couch and cut out colorful shapes.  It might’ve been the first time I’ve related to Henri Matisse’s cut paper period.

Now my house has messes in every room when I’m pretty sure the original goal was to clean house.  This is especially timely since I had company yesterday and plan on more tomorrow, and I’m not sure anyone I’m thinking of giving these treasures to will be as pleased about receiving them as I was about their creation.  It’s also ironic that I’ve been cutting all these colorful things when my original goal was to do a black and white Halloween series.  Ah well.  My next quest could be for my 3-D paint, which I think I may have used up, but I found stained glass paint when I was looking for the 3-D paint…

… After an undetermined time of staring at orange flowers and wondering if I could pass them off as water lilies, or maybe making a Foamie frog, then lunch, and back to pondering orange flowers, it occurred to me that what I’m actually supposed to be doing is cleaning house.  I then had grouchy thoughts about how many times housekeeping has interfered with my potential masterpieces and feeling quite self-righteous, shout “I won’t fall into that trap today!”  Besides, I think a turtle might be better than a frog, and I can never have enough turtles…

This kind of free flowing thought is exactly the sort of thing grownups try to stamp out of us when they uphold discipline and social order and enforce potty training, but precisely the stream of thought necessary for creativity.  We should all paddle in that canoe and forget what the grownups want.  The relative cleanliness of my house isn’t as important as a Foamie turtle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Mirror"

When I was little, I thought about Narcissus and tried to look at my reflection in the river.  For those of you who might wonder why a little kid is thinking about Narcissus, you can see last week’s post about “book” which only touched on the edges of my parents’ eclectic library.  Dad liked Greek myths for the action.  Admittedly, Narcissus had very little action since he just looked at himself in a pool of water until he died, but the story interested me because I doubted the premise.  I didn’t think a pool of water would reflect like a mirror, and the endlessly rippling water of my river proved me right.  I tried looking in a pond, but that didn’t work any better.  I made a pool of water by diverting some river water and waiting for the mud to settle.  A water bug crawled across my murky, distorted reflection.

Okay, I was a very bored child, but I had endless sources of activities in the woods, and nobody was watching me looking at my reflection.  Besides, river, pond, and puddle making only took a couple hours.  I had the rest of the day to scour the woods for something else to reflect my image.  Here’s the thing – there isn’t a natural mirror except other people’s eyes, and that’s a tiny reflection.  Narcissism isn’t possible without chemistry and a furnace, and my interest in Narcissus just wasn’t strong enough for me to learn how to melt glass, mine silver, or whatever else it would take to make a mirror.

Besides, even if I could’ve made a mirror, a mirror doesn’t really show us as we appear to others.  Our view of ourselves is necessarily skewed by what we focus on in the mirror or by how we see ourselves reflected in the faces of other people.  I have been hit on when I looked my absolute worst.  I haven’t been hit on when I’ve looked my absolute best.  Okay, I’m getting too old to be hit on much at all anymore, but I remember such things, and the whole dynamic is terribly confusing, made more confusing by other people’s comments and a gigantic cosmetic/fashion industry designed to make us all feel insecure.

When I was in college, a friend remarked that I have big ears.  Huh?  Since we were studying anatomy, I had reference to know how big ears are supposed to be, and mine were exactly average in proportion to my head.  My friend is a significantly smaller person, with smaller ears to go with her smaller head – but that has very little bearing on why she’d remark on my ears in the first place.  Maybe she felt insecure about her own ears?  Maybe she had earlobe envy?  Maybe she thought I needed knocked down a peg to lift herself up?  Whatever her reasons, my ears had nothing to do with her issues, and if I didn’t have proof that my ears were normal I might’ve developed insecurities about them.  Pick a body part and multiply by a million tactless comments or stray looks or defective mirrors.

Remember, there isn’t a natural mirror.  I don’t think we’re supposed to spend our lives looking at ourselves and picking apart our flaws or falling in love with our faces like Narcissus.  The wicked queen in Sleeping Beauty wasn’t beautiful inside and made herself miserable waiting for her beauty to be usurped by someone younger.  Let’s face it.  We all get old and die.  There’s always someone younger and more beautiful.  The best we can do is make sure we put laugh lines on our faces instead of frowns.