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, April 3, 2020

Ditch Digging

This is just a small part of a willow tree.
Illustrationfriday seems to have been hijacked for someone's personal self promotion so I don't have weekly words anymore.  The Covid 19 pandemic has upset me beyond the forced imprisonment at home.  I had decided to get a dog.  All the shelters are closed.  World events and political idiocy gets me down.  Sympathy for all the people who are or will be suffering is a bigger issue than I can fix. With all this going on I just haven't had the heart for blogging lately.  I've attacked my yard instead.  And my neighbors' yards.

The main duck pond with the tributary ditches I've dug.
I call this the upper duck pond.  If left alone,
I'm pretty sure it would join the other pond.
You see, several years ago Mr. Next Door Neighbor (NDN1) had a dead willow tree on his property.  The city made him cut it down.  Mr. NDN1 had a bad attitude about this and dropped the giant tree into the drainage ditch.  Water has been backing up in all the yards as a result, and the pond of stagnant water that formed in his yard invited ducks and swarms of malarial mosquitoes.  I can't even scream at this jerk because he died.  As I've complained previously, Mrs. NDN1 never does yard work.  The neighbor 2 doors down (2DD) and I have been cutting her grass for years without a thank you or a contribution for gas.  She's certainly not motivated to fix the ditch.

2DD and I discussed burning the willow tree but we agreed the city would probably have an issue with our plan.  I also suggested dynamite.  2DD is aging and can't do ditch digging.  The neighbor on my other side (NDN2) is old and housebound.  He can't do ditch digging either.  I decided to take my housebound frustrations out on hydro-engineering and manual labor.  I've been at this for weeks, ever since Ohio decided I need to shelter in place.

I've been whittling away at this tree root with a hatchet and hammer. 
It may be a life-long project.
The willow tree is no longer the problem.  The current issue is all the other trees and their roots which have grown in the ditch since the jerk started this mess.  I got water to run in the ditch again and dirt and debris blocked it up again.  I dug it out again.  It got clogged again.  3 weeks of this and the ditch is still getting clogged up.  As the water level drops, more roots are exposed which block the water.  Water from uphill poured down.   It rained.  It rained again.  It kept F-ing raining.  I found it hard to offer sympathy to a friend who is living through a drought.

This is how I've been managing my sequestration.  Part of me moans about my sore muscles and many minor injuries and the other part of me is thankful I have a yard unlike people stuck in city apartments.  I look at my birds, threaten my groundhog with my hoe, and toss things in the deer's nest.  I'm determined to have a mosquito-free summer if I'm going to be stuck at home this year. 

Here's some photos of my efforts.  This doesn't even show the whole length of the ditches!

Looking North
Looking South
Looking East -- and yes, that is a lot of directions!
What have you been doing?  Stay well!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

"Dice 2"

My mom insists you catch cold if you go outside in winter with wet hair.  This isn't how viruses work but she's immovable on this.  Maybe Mom caught a cold as a child, or maybe Grandma said it.  It doesn't matter.  If Mom wants to dry her hair she can dry it.  It doesn't hurt anybody.  Drinking bleach to kill Covid-19 can hurt someone though.  Don't do it.  Let's severely punish the person who started that rumor.  Damned crazy people.

I went to the store and watched the Asian woman in front of me pile a large quantity and  variety of disinfectants and bleach on the conveyor belt.  I wondered if she's paranoid or if her Asian relatives told her something I don't know.  I went home, put away the groceries, and washed my hands.  That seemed sufficient to me?

I don't know how paranoid I should feel about the corona virus.  I'm pretty dismissive of mass panic and media scares.  It's like weather people who always predict blizzards and catastrophes.  They cry wolf too often, but once in a while it snows when they say it will.  Maybe Covid-19 is a disaster?  But mostly I think predicted blizzards will be an 1" of snow.  You might skid and get in an accident, but it's more likely you won't.  You might catch the virus and feel crappy for a few days and go about your life.  You might die.  We all might be put under house arrest until the whole business dies down.  It could be the apocalypse.  How are we supposed to know?

That said, we're going to have a national and global emergency.  They're closing all the bars and restaurants in Ohio.  Young people are going to starve to death because they don't know how to cook.  Restaurants will go out of business and their workers are going to be in a bad financial situation.  Workers and businesses won't be paying taxes.  Farmers won't be able to sell their food.  Truckers won't be driving all that stuff around.  Multiply by all the other businesses effected.  The stock market goes up and down because nobody knows what's going to happen.  The government spends more to help people, but with fewer taxes the national debt will go up.  People's retirement savings will be wiped out.  More government help, more debt.  Keep multiplying.  It's a mess.

Something I don't hear anyone talking about though is how this all fits in with climate change.  Animals are moving because of the warming weather.  This animal talks to that one and they share their diseases in new and frightening ways.  People eat the animals and catch their diseases then hand them off to others who travel and spread the diseases all over the world.  Antibiotics aren't working on everything, partly because of their overuse and the oversanitation of everything.  We're going to have more pandemics.

Let's be sensible.  Us regular people can't solve all those problems.  We can considerately cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze.  We can avoid going to high-risk places and stay home when sick.  Eat right and exercise.  Smear lamb's blood on the door so the angel of death passes us by.  I'm obviously kidding on that last point.  Lamb blood probably contains Covid-20.

How do you feel about this pandemic?  Have you changed what you're doing or how you're doing it?  Do you know anyone who has gotten it?

I said last week my only other "dice" idea was chopping up celery.  Since everyone will be spending more time at home, and maybe getting sick, let me recommend making chicken soup.  Here's how to dice celery.  You can freeze it in a freezer baggie for later.  Squish out any air in the bag and freeze flat for easier use...


Remove bad spots and trim off dried ends

Slice lengthwise.  I like to keep one end intact for easier handling

Slice across stalks to dice.  Keep the tops.  They're tender and taste good.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

"Dice"

I had to take "Color Concept" in college.  This was a mandatory, multi-year course on color theory designed by the college president.  It was incomprehensible.  To this day I have no idea what I was supposed to be learning other than humility since my roommate got consistent As in the course and even went back to the college to teach it.  I also learned Color-Aid sheets of color were persnickety sources of obscenities since they chipped easily when I cut them into 1" squares and they were permanently marred by rubber cement.  At least I didn't set myself on fire doing Color Concept homework like one of my classmates when her propane heater set her messy hands alight.  She survived, but I bet her pain made her hate the course even more than I did.  At least she got out of doing Color Concept homework while her injured paws healed after a midnight trip to the hospital.

I complained about all this to other classmates as we took a break from our never-ending homework.  My pals waxed enthusiastic about Color Concept.  One even brought out a color theory book he'd been studying in his own time.  The conversation devolved from there, definitely not helped by drinking heavily while they talked about stuff I couldn't wrap my mind around.  Yeah, I learned humility, but it still seems to me some people try to mystify others with their brilliance by spreading an impenetrable order on things.  Or maybe I just have a blind spot on the science of the subject?

That said, there are certain usual rules about color I do understand.  Red and green are opposites on the color wheel and stands for Christmas.  Two adjacent colors are often contrasted with their opposing color.  On and on and on.  If you paint a purple iris with green leaves, well, nature naturally gives us nice combinations.  Yellow and black wasps scream a warning about their stingers.  I think we all intuitively get the obvious rules.

Novice artists are often afraid of color (though some embrace it from the start).  Many doodle and sketch in pencil or pen to develop skills.  When they start dabbling in color they often dislike the messiness of it all.  They're timid in their approach.  They can make some unpleasant choices.  Push on!  Keep trying!  It will eventually start coming together, whether or not you take expensive and incomprehensible college courses on color theory.

Computers make a lot of this kind of thing so much easier these days.  Create something, change your mind, try different combinations.  Roll the dice and see what happens.  Yeah, that's a stretch for "dice", but contemplating dice made me think of color charts.  Hey, don't stifle my creativity!  It was this or chopping celery :)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

"Princess"

I've been playing with Barbies lately.  I know, it doesn't seem like me.  Maybe it's time to get in touch with my inner child and move past my disdain for dolls?  Well, I'm not actually playing with dolls.  I'm just painting 2-D Barbies, and the more I paint them, the more ideas I have for them.  Maybe this is the point of play?

I recently started a painting (not this one), knowing that most of an object I labored over creating was going to eventually be painted over with something else.  This was an irritating decision, but I decided it's unavoidable.  Enjoy the process.  Experiment.  Be curious.  See where things go.  If it turns out badly, paint over it.  Talk to Barbie.

You can't learn anything new if you insist you already know everything or if you're afraid to try.  If every painting is a masterpiece, it devalues the path to your actual achievements.  Be willing to fail.  Learn.  Grow.

Barbie is a lot like fairy tale princesses.  Pretty and special with her handsome Ken.  She has an endless happily ever after where nobody gets sick or old.  Being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be if Meghan Markle is any indication though.  Good for her for deciding what she wants her life to be, and good for her to pick a husband who supports her choices.  Live long and prosper.

I think a lot of us are invested in the princess fantasy.  Having a foot small enough for a glass slipper can get you out of scrubbing floors forever.  Who wouldn't want that?  Sounds great.  I hate washing floors.  It's too bad I have average sized feet and I've never met a handsome prince who wants to measure them.

Fantasy is a plus and a minus.  Creativity leads to many wonderful things.  If we can dream of something, we can work towards making it a reality.  If we get mired in our dreams without doing anything, we live in poverty with dirty floors.  We marry the guy who turns into a beast instead of turning into Prince Charming.  We whine it's unfair we weren't born princesses.

Play is important.  Kids have to play to learn.  The more fun the learning, the more they learn.  Who decides when a kid is too old for that kind of thing?  Probably somebody who wants the kid to be quiet or live out the aspirations of the person banning the playing.  Evil step-mothers who envy youth and beauty aren't the only ones who squash the joy in kids.  Sometimes even the best intentioned people take away others' joy because that's the way they think it has to be.  Give those people Barbies.

I've been keeping my thoughts to myself lately because I've been bouncing between outrage and depression as I watch the destruction of democracy in the US amidst others' apathy and misinformation.  It didn't seem very useful to spread those kinds of feeling around.  I've been reading in Robin Hobbs' books instead, in other words, escaping into fantasy.  Kings, queens, princes, and princesses -- they're all great if they're fictional in a fictional world and all the blood is red paint.  Maybe I should paint a Farseer assassin Barbie?


Friday, January 31, 2020

"Trial"

A wise woman once told me, "The law doesn't guarantee justice; it gives you a chance for justice."  I was young, angry, and idealistic then.  I didn't just want justice, I needed it.  I didn't get it.  Others with more power, influence, and money won despite a boxful of documented proof and a signed confession.  I'll admit to some lasting bitterness.

My wise friend was right.  We only get a chance for justice.  That doesn't mean we'll get it.  OJ Simpson got off.  Kobe Bryant was hailed as a fallen hero this week despite admitting his behavior was nonconsensual when a teenager accused him of a violent rape.  Kobe paid her off like so many other powerful men paid their rape victims to keep them silent.  The reporter who dared mention this after his sudden death was suspended.

So, even while hope springs eternal, I have a jaded view of 45's current trial in the US Senate.  Everyone knows he's guilty.  He's admitted it, his chief of staff admitted it, on and on and on.  It takes a 2/3 majority to convict and it's a foregone conclusion the Republican senators will let him off.  Too many Americans don't know the facts and don't care to learn them.  I'm afraid this criminal will not only get acquitted, but get reelected and/or tank the economy and/or get us into more wars, not to mention setting a legal standard which destroys the principles upon which the US was founded.

I've been through this before.  As a child, I watched the Watergate hearings.  Guilty, guilty, guilty -- yet the Republicans defended the indefensible.  I couldn't believe they supported criminal behavior.  When Nixon resigned, I was elated to see some sort of justice.  When Ford pardoned him, I felt betrayed.  Reagan and Bush got off on the Iran-Contra proceedings.  Clinton got off for his actions with his intern.  Let's face it, perps get off all the time, and the more money and power they've got, the more likely they'll get off even if everyone knows they're guilty.  I feel like going to DC and yelling "For shame!" at all of them.

A pal and I bashed the Washington idiots over lunch this week.  My friend had worked up a head of steam when our pretty, young waitress showed up with our bill.  I said, "If you agree with us about the trial it'll be good for your tip!"  She looked surprised and I felt a little abashed for putting her on the spot -- then she launched into an impassioned, impromptu speech about how no young person could support the president, no woman should support him.  Her hand on her heart, she didn't bother to lower her voice as she poured out her feelings in an educated lecture of the state of things.

She looked like a heroine from another era.  Get that girl a soapbox!  Let's take her on tour!  She is everything good and wonderful and she did my heart a lot of good.  She gives me hope for the future no matter how messed up the current state of things might be.  (She got a healthy tip too.)

So yeah, hope springs eternal even while I expect to be angry and disappointed by the Senate trial.  This too shall pass, yet this disappointment is motivating people.  I have hope that the current Senate cowards will be replaced in November.  Maybe we'll get another trial next year with a more just outcome?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

"Selling Art (or anything else)"

I met a fellow painter not so long ago.  She wants to sell more art.  Yeah, we all want that.  She thinks the answer is Instagram.  Okay.  Do that then.  She did, but her art didn't sell even though her art is good enough to be marketable.  I got to know this woman a bit more and recognized she lacks empathy.  The only thing she cares about her customers is that they give her money for painting whatever she wants to paint.  She talks non-stop about herself.  She's taxing to be around so I quit talking with her.  I'm pretty sure her customers feel the same way and don't like being treated like ATMs.

Art is a collaboration between the artist and the viewer.  If you want money from someone (in any field), you have to give them something they want in return.  You need to be empathetic to what their wants might be, not just to manipulate them into one-time purchases, but to honestly care about what they want to build relationships.

Maybe they want cat art because they like cats.  Maybe they want to feel like they're part of the creative process and their support is a contribution that makes them feel good about themselves.  Maybe they want to be friends with the artist.  There are loads of reasons for people to buy art that doesn't have anything to do with what's on the canvas.  We need to figure out what customers are actually seeking and match efforts to the buyer.  If you create only to suit yourself, then don't be surprised nobody is buying it.

I've been having art flashbacks since visiting the National Gallery in Washington, marveling at the technical skills of the masters, but also trying to define the magic they captured.  In contrast, I've thought about people online.  Most show the world their ideal selves, not the sweat pants torn t-shirt version of themselves eating ice cream.  Some people relentlessly put all their insecurities and vulnerabilities out there.  It's too much either way.  I've got my own problems.  Don't dump your perfection or garbage on me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy when other people are happy.  I'm sad when others live hard times. It's just that there has to be some balance and honesty in our relationship.

Rembrandt was hugely successful and made tons of money when he was young.  He lost it all and died poor.  Somewhere in the course of his mistakes and tragedies he learned humility.  His honesty comes across in his later work.  His self portrait is vulnerable.  He was certainly capable of painting himself in Photoshopped Facebook perfection, but he painted himself with flaws.  My heart aches for him across the centuries.

Rembrandt is speaking to his viewers.  He trusted them with his truth because he had the empathy to know others wanted to see that honesty.  That takes bravery, and I think all the masters share that kind of trust and courage.  I think we're missing that today, or maybe it was rare even in Rembrandt's day?

Many people can learn to paint well (or write, program, or whatever).  Technical mastery is a skill.  Put in enough time and effort and you'll master just about anything you aim to do.  Getting someone else to care about your mastery requires more.  You have to have the courage to let people see your flaws for them to actually care about you and what you do.  Relationships and money follow truth.

The above art is from my current painting.  I'll admit it was an itchy, difficult effort to paint a negative.  I took a photo and reversed it to see how well I'd done it.  I'm rather pleased at the results considering the faces are only 1/2" high on rough canvas, and I'm also pleased at the imperfections since it's of my wedding photo.  My ex looks like a zombie and that seems appropriate.  I've made mistakes.  I kind of like seeing that reflected in the art :)


Sunday, January 19, 2020

"Red Panda"

I was only dimly aware red pandas exist before IF inspired me to look them up.  Now I know they look kind of like raccoons and Wikipedia says there are fewer than 10,000 of them in the Eastern Himalayas and South Western China due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding.  Sad pandas.

I don't know what I can do for them.  The extinction of plants and animals around the world worries me, and I hope somebody can save them, but it is just too big an issue for me to handle.  I suspect most of us feel this way.  Maybe we donate to a charity and then just go about our lives.  There's probably something I should start or stop doing to save the pandas, but I don't know what it is.

Ignoring problems or getting depressed about them don't solve those issues.  What can we do?

I read about the decline of Monarch Butterflies.  Around 1 billion of them have disappeared since 1990.  I like butterflies.  They're pretty.  They pollinate things.  They eat milkweed.  I'll plant some milkweed.  This may not solve the larger issues of big agriculture's chemical use, but it's at least something within my abilities.  One positive action off my to do list.

The point is to do something, anything that helps.  I have a little landscape pond in my back yard for the wildlife.  I enjoy watching the song birds splashing around in it.  I keep goldfish in it to eat bugs.  More people need to have ponds and bird baths because the birds need water.

I don't use chemicals in my yard.  It only makes sense to me that a product designed to kill one thing will probably kill more than the intended targets and isn't healthy for anyone.  Other people's lawn chemicals get washed off and leak into the water supply which poisons all of us, including the plants and animals.

I compost.  Healthier soil makes healthier plants which are stronger in their fight against the things that attack them.  Healthier plants also make for healthier animals.  I've shown you how glossy and healthy my groundhogs are.

I take my own bags to the store.  There's no reason for me to get plastic bags every time I shop.  I try to avoid buying plastic or things packaged in it.  After I wash clothes, I hang them up to dry instead of running the dryer.  I wash my dishes by hand because it takes less hot water (and I don't have a family to clean up after).  I use cruise control on the freeway (mostly to stop myself from speeding too much, but it takes less energy too).  I turn off lights and use energy-efficient bulbs (except for where I read).  I recycle.

There are a lot of ways we can help the planet.  I welcome your suggestions.  Let's do what we can to live in a world with butterflies and pandas.