Saturday, September 30, 2006

early morning stream of consciousness

I'd have liked sleeping in this morning, but that seems impossible.
Very busy day ahead.
It's raining.
Also, it's kind of cold.
I want coffee. The real kind.
I can't have it.
It's been years and years since I hung a show. Maybe I forgot how.

Every weekday morning as I'm driving the youngest kid to school I pass a worker-man walking up the street carrying a lunchbox. Only the past few days, he's traded in the lunchbox for a one-liter jug of Mountain Dew. And I always think, Drinking your lunch, eh? It was funny the first time I thought it, and now I just want to think something else, or roll down the window and just say it so I can get it out of my head, let it into the wild to be free and unchained and not yanking at a bit somewhere in my surly little brain.

Mountain Dew is orange juice with caffeine. I used to live on Mountain Dew in my reporter days. I'd tell myself it was high-octane Vitamin C.

High octane is not what I need anyway. I manufacture that naturally. What I need is milk with tranquilizers in it, probably.

The husband and I went to the hardware store yesterday to pick up corner moulding for my frames. I haven't made a frame for a painting since I was a freshman in college and my painting professor taught me how. My painting professor who was later brutally murdered by the kid who cut his grass in the summers. So making the frame for the carousel painting took me back a ways indeed.

We got the lumber home and debated (after cutting it) how to treat it. Paint it or stain it? Unexpectedly I heard Mr. Brooks say in his gruff voice that always reminded me (a little bit) of Sean Connery with that same hoarseness around the edges: "You want titanium white with stains of yellow ochre."

Funny how a wave of sorrow like that can make the skin around your throat feel stretched and taut, as a trampoline will bear almost unendurable weight.

But then it gives, and springs back again, fully intact. Because if you couldn't be flexible, how could anyone go on?

The old man probably never knew how hard I was listening, or how long, after he stopped speaking, I gave up trying to hear.

It's silly to wonder what he'd think of this show, I know. What he'd say of all those bright colors in the paintings, or if he'd just say, "When I told you to only paint with colors you'd wear, I didn't mean colors you'd wear to the circus."

I'd have liked sleeping in this morning, but that seems impossible.

Friday, September 29, 2006

a dream I had, just before waking this morning

A pregnant woman was running away from danger. She manuevered the obstacles with suprising agility, considering the added girth of the baby. She even managed to escape, though with some difficulty toward the end. After a grueling foot race she stood impatiently at a train station waiting for the next train to arrive and take her away from the ensuing battle.

When the train finally pulled up she could see clearly into all of the train cars’ windows.

But the cars were completely filled with people; only one train car remained pristine and untouched. Its furniture, its appointments, were elegant and polished to a high shine. The velvet-padded chairs looked so warm and inviting.

The pregnant woman asked the porter: What do you mean, there are no open seats? What about that room with the velvet chairs?

No one sits there, said the porter, because that train car in particular is under a curse.

That’s ridiculous, the woman said. There’s no such thing as curses. What harm could come from sitting in such a beautiful room?

It is told, the porter said urgently and ardently, that anyone who steps into that car will instantly be placed with an incurable, irretrievable grief for the one thing they have lost --- and will never have again.

She considered this. She could hear the din in the distance, the sound of danger. It was the only way to protect her child, and she would, she knew, take it. She gave the porter her ticket, and against his cries of dismay, stepped resolutely into the elegant but cursed room. The other travelers grew very hushed, awed or fearful either one.

The door slid closed behind her with a firm click.

The train ground forward again, grating and insistent, carrying the woman -- and the other travelers -- ahead into their unknown destinations, their personal aims and travel plans. Try as they might, the other passengers craning their necks for a better glimpse through the doors never did see her face; the only one who did was a man walking home from his night shift, sauntering at an easy pace through a field and humming a little as he swung his heavy black metal lunch pail.

He saw the yellowish-white streams of light trailing in a blur as the train swept through, and the one car at the end sitting empty save for one anguished woman staring into her own reflection in the window, staring at herself blankly -- as if searching for someone who was no longer there.

what art show?

I got sidetracked for a day or so and forgot all about it.

Or, more to the point, there was an article in the back of the local weekly newspaper here, and then an announcement on the radio, and then I had to stop thinking about it altogether lest I throw up.

Now it's in the daily paper this morning. And I am so not looking at it. Because. I just can't.

It looks like I'm going to start writing for another site soon. In addition to this, my own blog, of course. It's a site with a journalistic bent, with a terrific, highly talented staff -- most of whom I either know, or know of, from my own days at the newspaper.

What I'm saying is: it's a fine compliment to be invited on board, and I'm most appreciative. I'm also grateful that I haven't been lost and forgotten in my seven dramatic years of seclusion, in which I took monastic oaths, vows of silence, cut my hair and took the veils, or similar. Whew.

I am working on my first column.

I'm very happy about the chance to work again with the people I so enjoyed working with before. It was one of the deepest griefs in getting out of the business, for me --- losing touch with co-workers who had come to be treasured friends. By some fell swoop, a bit of that gift has been restored.

And some of the friends I've had all along -- Melonie, Laura, Heather -- are going to be here this weekend for the art show!

Now I go back to solving the not insurmountable task of framing a 44" x 46" painting. (One thing at a time, you and me, Cristy Lane, all the way.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

...So I worked on the cherub a little bit more last night, and this is what I came up with. It's finally finished.(20" x 30", watercolor and ink on Arches paper).

growing pains

I had a talk this morning with my sons, about bullies. Bullies, and people who just plain don't like you. It seems like at least once in the school year we have to have this discussion all over again, but sadly it's necessary.

Not everyone is going to like you.
Just like you don't like everybody you meet, either.
It's rarely personal.
These are ages in your lives when the people around you are changing and worried about themselves, not you.
You're going to have to be strong.
Don't let people demean you. Stand up for yourself.
This is a time when you earn your values.

This time I added a twist, though. I admitted I had similar problems at their ages. This fascinated them no end: a story, finally, in which their mother does not figure in the most flattering light. They actually held their chins up with their hands, listening.

I didn't mean to remember it, but I had the most unexpected flash of recollection: eighth grade, sitting in Health class, and listening to the announcement that our math teacher had just had a baby. Immediately following the announcement a boy who picked on me seemingly all the time (and with whom I was having a personal feud at the moment) stood up and declared: "Some babies are boys, some babies are girls, Sharon IT."

The class tittered. My face burned.

If you wanted to pick on me, then, the target was easy: my face and my body. (We won't even touch upon my Technicolor hair -- that would be adding insult to injury.) I was so scrawny and short at thirteen that at the county fair, the carnies wouldn't let me on the bumper car rides: I looked like a nine-year-old boy.

My girlfriends would scramble on, tossing glossy hair over their shoulders and laughing. I'd stand like an urchin out of Oliver Twist, humiliated all over again.

Doubtless, it was a blessing in disguise. Had I been endowed with long lovely hair and a 36D bust at the age of thirteen I might have fallen prey to the most ...unscrupulous kind of characters. That's something I think about a lot, even now. How lucky I am that things worked out the way they did. But at the time there was nothing Providential about it whatsoever. I was ugly and skinny and apparently singled out by God to be an anomaly of my gender. I wanted to look like Madonna, not David Bowie.

So that swift jab in the classroom stung quite a bit. It illumined a closely guarded closet and revealed that everyone else saw me as I, myself, did.

Being a teenager is awful business. I'd never want to go through it again. It's just too painful.

"Not everyone likes me, even now," I told my sons.
This, clearly, suprised them. "Who? What could they say about you?"
"Anything they wanted. But usually people are going to pick on whatever it is you do the best, because they feel jealous and insecure. I mean -- they want what you've got, so they'll try to take it away from you and make you think you don't have it either."
"Who doesn't like you?" they wanted to know.
I shrugged. "Lots of people, I'm sure. It just doesn't matter."
"How can it not matter?" Wanting to know what the secret is -- the secret of inner detachment from public opinion, however selectively canvassed.
"Because knowing who you are and what you're about is more important. Trying to decide who you are from what other people say about you -- it's like trying to fill up a paper cup with a hole in it. You'll never be able to do it."

They went off to school thoughtful, the younger boys singing gaily, "Some babies are boys, some babies are girls, Sharon is an IT!" as I repeated, wearily, "It wasn't that fun to hear the first time -- let's not hash it out again, please."

It's amazing, though, how the cycles continue. There's always a handful of personalities in each class -- the bully, the shy child, the exuberant child, the scholar, the class clown. It's almost as if there's a script, somewhere, only we never really get to see the lines: we just instinctively know how the play is going to read out. This is the hardest part of parenting (I contend) -- allowing our children to get up on stage, knowing all too acutely how it played out for us. Maybe this time it's going to go better.

But, honest to God, ... you just never know.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What I'm working on today

I don't know...watercolors are generally more dilute than this. I can't seem to get away from these pure, concentrated bursts of color.

And this one I matted and framed yesterday. Another Technicolor watercolor:

random thoughts

  • Why are talk radio shows always programmed in the morning? Morning is the last time of the day I feel like listening to talk radio. At 6:30 a.m. I don't care what your opinion is on, oh, just about anything. My compassion and empathy for other human beings has to be sort of nursed and nurtured along as the day continues, much as an elderly arthritic dog has to take its time getting up off the floor to mosey toward the water dish.
  • The morning talk radio shows seem to be traditionally set up with a woman and a man. The man is the straight line for the woman's punch and every time he goes out there with any kind of declarative statement the woman clubs him over the head verbally and all the other women call in cheering, "Yah, sister!" As I drive along frowning thinking, Yes, this is fun. Isn't it fun? But somewhere station managers have decreed society perceives this as entertaining. And apparently, it does, which annoys me even more. No, I'm not much of a feminist.
  • No one names their kids anything ordinary anymore. If they do, they spell it as phoenetically as possible so their child won't be identical with anyone else on the planet. I don't understand this. There were two Sharons in my graduating class and we suffered no noticeable identity crises. Were I to be born today my name would doubtless be tortured into some unrecognizable moniker: Shareraun. Sheerin. Shaerawn (an Old English spelling perhaps). Spare me. Advice for new parents: name your kid Mary or John, or Sue, or Bob. No one in the classroom will have ever heard of it. I promise.
  • Anyone driving an SUV or a minivan should be required to take a tractor-trailer driving course first just to practice tooling around with a high center of gravity and to learn how to back up a vehicle with considerable girth out of cramped places like parking spaces in supermarket lots.*

*with the exception of Heather and Melonie, both of whom are very good drivers, of course. So maybe I should amend that to some driving an SUV or a minivan....oh, never mind. Someone cut me off this morning -- and we'll just leave it at that.

  • Decaf coffee is, clearly, just not good enough. It's right up there with tofu and soybean hamburgers and skim milk: a sadly inadequate substitution. And the justification for that statement, judging from the assertions above, should be very much self-explanatory.
I'll be in my studio if you need me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

H/n - Sf= 0

I keep having these horrifying dreams at night. Last night I dreamed all my teeth fell out and I kept trying to fit them back into the gums but every time I tilted my head forward they all tumbled out of my mouth like Chiclets. And I wanted dentures but the dentist didn't have any teeth for the plates -- just the old caps from the paint tubes in my tacklebox.

It's a very bad dream, to have a dream like this. I don't know what it means, but I know how it feels -- the frustration and the anxiety and the scrabbling to fix what's been ruined irretrievably. You only get one set of teeth. You don't want to go around replacing them with paint caps.

I have under a week in which to finish the work for the art show. And that's fine. Although. Every time I pick up a paintbrush, or a telephone, or sit down in front of the computer, one of the children has a crisis and threatens to jump out the window if I don't stop everything I'm doing thisminute and attend to them. NOW!

In fact one does start to wonder if one is in fact kidding oneself about entertaining the very idea that one can have a career entirely separate from one's home. Really.

Which brings me to the other dream I had: that I had to go back to eighth grade (again! and I'm so tired of eighth grade. I seem to visit it once or twice a week) whereas I stood up in math class and delivered this stunning report:

"Given my mathematical equasion, the anomaly in scientific formula that I have discovered reads that productive hours of the day (H) left toward deadline must be divided by number of children one has birthed and then subtracted in increasing increments by the number of times said children whine (which will be hereafter referred to as the Screech Factor, or Sf) upon their realizing that said mother is otherwise occupied with something not exactly pertaining to said children. Therefore my equasion reads:"

H/n - Sf = 0

Then I wanted to drive my own car home and everyone else got mad at me because they had to ride the bus.

I'm sure I'll be much easier to be around after next Sunday. Really. I mean it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

any ink is good ink, I think

Hard to believe that this time next week I'll be having my art show. Heather will be here, too! (Ever since they found out she's coming, my kids have been busy writing up their questions about Texas for her. They want to know if the great state of Texas really has cowboys, if posses still exist, and if there are any job openings for sheriff in her town, preferably a sheriff who rides around on a horse, a sheriff's job namely for six-year-olds with no experience and an affinity for wearing ten-gallon hats.)

As for me, the studio looks like my muse threw up.
I'm punchy.

It's been pointed out to me that much of the success in being a professional artist is in knowing how to toot your own horn. And it's true, an age-old secret of the creative arts: if you don't shy away from shameless self-promotion, you just might make it. Look at Walt Whitman, who got his start by publishing his own work and then writing glowing reviews for himself under various pen names.

Fortunately, I've been tooting my own horn since I was 36. Right after I learned how to put my shoes on the right feet and properly identify my own elbow in a lineup of rumps.

The October calendar in the Arts and Living section of the Sunday paper this morning reads:

Oct. 1 - ArtsLink art exhibit, 2-4 p.m., free.

Hello? Art exhibit by ME. ME! ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME! Honestly! This paper! But I used to work for these people. Which is why I'm not calling them up to make a "clarification" (rule number one in journalism: it's never a correction. Correction implies you are at fault. Clarification is just an adjustment in focus, simply an enhancement of details, and assigns no personal responsibility or blame. Class dismissed).

If I complain they might rewrite it and then put it in the obituaries, under Burials Today.

Here's the other thing: they might actually remember me and say, "But ...wait. You mean you're an artist? Didn't you used to work for us? Weren't you a writer?"

I was, but see? I went and changed tracks. Like that's actually possible. Like I just woke up one day and said, "Well, enough of that. From now on, let's be an artist instead."

Since when are you an artist, Sharon?

Since....since, I always have been. I just didn't finish my training, and then after I dropped out I didn't want to talk about it.

Because ....why.

This is scary, you know.
But it also feels -- really right.

Friday, September 22, 2006

my workspace/studio

I have a room in the house now just for storing my art and working on my art.

If any of my influence is to be felt at all in a room, there will be one of the following:

  1. music
  2. pets
  3. artwork
So, there has to be a token aquarium (complete with sculpted mermaid lying lazily in front of it):

And my dog, Max, because he follows me from room to room anyway.

And, of course, the stereo. It's usually on.

My stained glass art in the windows.

The drafting table at moment holds two 22"x 30" drawings I'm working on very busily:

These are the close ups:

Last fall I drew this cherub, but on 5" x 7" marble paper. Then I gave it away to a high school classmate who was dying of cancer. So I'm drawing it again on 22" x 30" watercolor paper.

Then, since I went that far, I went ahead and did a companion piece -- what I call the Rainy Angel, also on 22" x 30" watercolor paper. And, just to be different, with watercolor. Of course, this is only the preliminary work.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

how sweet it is

My "Happiness" painting got accepted at a gallery and they put it in the window for passerby to see. After I dropped the youngest child off at preschool, I drove by and stood on the sidewalk looking at it like a proud father waving at his newborn child in the nursery. I even took pictures.

My other gallery show is coming up on Oct. 1. Now I stop admiring myself and get back to work again, getting ready for it. I haven't even sent out invitations or really let anyone know about it. Too busy. Which means I'll be working like a dog for it and then no one will come.

I'm not too great at PR, I'm afraid.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a walk at night

I like walking the dog at night. I don't always do it. I have to be in the mood. But when I do, it's very relaxing. The night sky. The stars. The friendly yellow light suffused through the curtains in other people's dining room windows. It's warming, somehow. The routineness of people's lives -- the reassuringness of it.

Like last night. Eight-thirty, or roundabouts, I leashed up the dog and told my husband I'd be back in ten minutes or so. I heard him call, "Okaaaaay" distantly from somewhere else in the house. The children were upstairs in the teenager's room, laughing. The youngest (my littlest tiger) giggling so hard he ran out of breath and started anew with a fresh peal of laughter when he inhaled again.

I was smiling when I closed the sliding screen behind me, gently. I almost wasn't sure I'd pushed it all the way in, my touch was so light.

Up the street, two women leaned against a parked car, talking in low, confiding voices that seemed to draw a forbidding dome around them. I crossed to the other side of the street, even, as if forewarned -- trying not to intrude. One of the women said something animatedly and the other one laughed, startled; then they laughed together, pleasantly.

It was kind of nice, even though I had no part in it, of course.

My dog is quirky. Max won't go to the bathroom in anyone else's yard, or at least he hasn't ever done it when I've walked him. It's as if he's too polite, or something. He just trots along with his tail wagging, peering curiously at the other dogs as they run up to their fences jumping and barking. If anything he might pause to sniff the air appreciatively, but his interest seems to wane there. That's sort of a relief.

An awful lot of people watch TV. I don't; I never seem to have the time. There's always something else pressing that needs to be done. Preferably drawing or painting or reading, but more likely laundry or dishes or pairing up socks. I walk by houses and I can tell, instantly, who's watching television and who isn't; most people keep their televisions somewhere close to the front door (do we? as a matter of fact, yes, I realize, we do) and regardless of make and model the televisions all emit the same bluish glow into the couches -- the people sitting there motionless, their eyes round, as if hypnotized.

I walked past a teenage girl sitting on the front porch and talking, apparently, into a telephone. Her voice carried down the street and caught up with me long before I got there -- I wasn't listening to the words, only heard that dragging, downward tone teenagers can have that always reminds me of someone stopping their bicycle with the toe of their flip-flops. Her monologue broke off when Max and I strolled past.

"My God! That dog got huge," I heard her say into the phone (or to me? Hard to tell). I smiled in her general direction into the darkness, though because I really couldn't make out her face or see her reaction my smile felt false.

Then every yard we passed seemed to have a dog and each of those dogs started up barking and yelping almost hysterically. I couldn't help grinning; Max just pattered along, head up, looking serenely from side to side like a beauty queen, grinning. It made him seem impervious, in a way. Calm. Unflustered.

I felt unaccountably proud, as if the credit for his disposition were entirely mine.

I was only gone for ten minutes, but it felt like such a rich and full ten minutes -- going out collecting sights and sounds, the smell of freshly mown grass lying in shaggy clippings on a lawn, the crystalline twinkle of someone's wind chimes rustling in the night breeze. I came home feeling entirely rested, a sound sleep ahead well assured. Such a beautiful world. It can feed the soul just to go on living in it.

the littlest tiger

Sharpie marker, colored pencil, watercolor paper

The youngest child in his Halloween costume. It's still September, I know. He gets a bit excited about the month of October.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

my first grader

Sharpie marker on cardstock.

This is my first-grader, lying on the area rug and contemplating the day ahead. The kid who, upon waking, comes in and asks to check my pulse and then does so, with two fingers over the pacemaker scar, announcing: "I can feel your heart beating. I can feel the pacemaker working, too."

I only realize now, after I've posted the sketch, that I didn't finish the detail on the back of his jeans pocket.

Friday, September 15, 2006

if you're a medium and you know it, clap your hands

I twisted my ankles this week -- both of them. The left one first, because I still have a distressing tendency to suddenly lose my balance and just imitate a rug at any given time. It happened at the beginning of the week, while walking my youngest son into his classroom. Someone ran out into the hallway to assist but by then I'd regained my composure (and my sense of resistance against gravity) and gotten back upright again. I felt like a fool, face burning, etc., etc.

I only noticed later that I'd twisted my left ankle in the process. But, I reasoned, I got out of there in record time with a minimum of comment -- and that's the important thing.

The second time, I fell again. Also at the school, and the teachers came running. (Keep this up and they might imagine I'm a drinker.) The way I fell (face first) my right ankle turned in a very unnatural way -- like a cartoon character, with the foot turning in on itself, toes toward shin. As if I'm double-jointed -- except, not.

This is what I say when I fall: "Sorry." Then I duck my head and saunter away, as if I've done something indiscreet. People aren't supposed to walk around falling down all the time. It disrupts everyone else's sense of equilbrium. Unless there's an earthquake going on at the exact same moment, which never seems to happen. Shout "earthquake" when you've gone down and we come back to the drinking rumors again. ("Earthquake," or even "Incoming!" -- that would be equally effective.) So it's best to just walk off and pretend it never happened. Denial is a beautiful thing.

This was what, Wednesday. Here it is Friday and my right foot especially has a creaselike bruise the color of a rotting banana across the top of the arch. I'm fixing up my "studio" right now -- my own, honest to gosh work space. And the limp was sort of getting in the way. So I got this brilliant idea: put an Ace bandage on it. That's because in my illustrious childhood everything could be cured by
  1. toast and tea
  2. a warm bath
  3. a bowel movement
  4. brushed teeth or (failing all other options)
  5. Ace bandages.
We only had one Ace bandage in the house in my youth. It was about as long as two winter scarves sewn together end to end and the metal clip at the tail had long since fallen away in the vast legions of minor injuries to befall us. My mother kept it in the first drawer of her bureau along with her slips and pantyhose so it wouldn't get lost.

And then if you sprained your ankle or hurt your wrist she would go into her bedroom and come out with this flaccid Band-Aid colored medic's banner and wrap the offending limb with it joint to joint, tamping it securely with an overlarge safety pin (sometimes a yellow-plastic tipped one left over from my little brother's diaper days). A sprained ankle could leave you looking like a burn victim when she was done with you. No matter, Ace bandages worked. They worked, or we forsook them and endured the unbridled pain as the lesser of two embarassments, one or the other.

Nonetheless, when I got to the pharmacy today I didn't buy an Ace bandage, that panacea I look upon with such mixed emotion. I bought an Ace ankle wrap because it seemed so much neater and efficient, a minimum of fabric and no clasps or pins, please. Also, given my predilection to obsessive compulsive rechecking it's more likely, given a whole rolled Ace bandage, I'd wrap and rewrap my foot until I tied it into a tourniquet and choked it right off the leg altogether. So let's stick with the premade sheaths, please. Yes, I like the sound of that.

Only Ace ankle wraps come in sizes. Since when? Society got so sophisticated when I wasn't looking. I blithely bought an XL without realizing and then tried it on in the car and realized that not only is it an XL and it does not fit, but it made me look like I was wearing spats. Like Donald Duck's uncle, the rich one with spectacles and the velvet smoking jacket.

Dammit, I thought. Because I do swear in my head sometimes. I took off the ankle wrap and put it back in the box and took it back and exchanged it for its exact opposite, a small, looking at my feet doubtfully as I did so wondering if my leg really does measure seven to ten inches in circumference from ankle to heel as suggested on the illustration on the box. I mean, dear God, I hope not, because seven to ten inches in circumference sounds so mighty. As if the Jolly Green Giant and I ought to be campaigning together to eat more vegetables.

I put it on. With some confusion. Because an Ace ankle wrap is really very ambiguously shaped and it's hard to tell which opening your foot is actually supposed to slide into. It's not like underwear or socks. You could hand me haggis and it would probably be much easier to interpret than an Ace ankle wrap, in terms of figuring out where it ends and where it begins. Though if you're sliding your foot into a plate of haggis, it might be your alcoholic tendencies I have to call into question, not mine.

After some grunting and complicated negotiation I got it on and it hurt like holy hell after about ten minutes and I peeled it off wincing and threw it, not in my bureau drawer, not somewhere that it could remain easily accessible, but into the computer hutch on top of a stack of school papers from the children. There it lies yet, gaping at me sadly even as we speak, as if the great enormity of my swollen foot has shocked it into a sort of defeated silence.

It could be worse. I could be a ballet dancer, which, fortunately, I'm not. No one cares if the artist is shuffling along. I could even work it up into some kind of political statement if I tried really hard. Just like Brad Pitt claiming he'll marry Angelina Jolie once everyone who wants to get married, can. I'll say I'll walk (and stay!) upright when all God's children can have the right sized Ace bandages.

Me and my great, big, fat feet, and my medium-sized Ace ankle wraps. One for each foot, because I'm clumsy, or prone to method acting and I'm playing a carpet in my next performance, or I'm a drinker (but I'm not), whatever.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the evolution of the Carousel painting

Joe wrote a nice post about my artwork. Thank you, Joe.

Speaking of which --
The original carousel photograph that I took at Kings Island.

The 8" x 10" pastel drawing I did from the photograph that I took at Kings Island.

The first brushstrokes sketched out on the 44" x 46" canvas I'd had stored in the garage.

And the successive layers that followed.

a world of difference

I have two canvases drying right now and I have to pick up my youngest son from preschool in half an hour. So, I'll write.

I made this rule for myself when the school year started. I promised myself I'd only work on my paintings when the kids were in school. When they come home in the afternoons, that's their time and I'll put the canvases away.
This is the first year that all three children are in school, full-time. Everyone thinks this means more free time for me, but it doesn't really. I don't go back to bed when they're out the door, or linger over my (decaf) coffee while watching the news, or even take a leisurely shower and bother to take that extra step and condition my hair after I shampoo it, for a change instead of just washing it with Suave shampoo and letting it air dry like I always do.

What really happens is that I walk in the door after taking the youngest to preschool, pour another cup of decaf with sugar and cream, put on a classical CD and start painting. Then, what seems like ten or fifteen minutes later, it's 1:30 p.m. and I have to start closing up shop again so I can start the afternoon rounds.

Oh, people call or stop by and visit, I'm not on an island, but throughout it all I'm continually in motion. Even if you're only on the telephone with me, you can easily hear the slap-slap of the brush on the canvas as I'm talking, or you are. I have to warn you, though: I may not be all there. Painting is a private luxury for me. I'm somewhere immersed in a field of lovely colors and it's really one of my favorite places to be.

I like warm colors. I like appealing textures. If colors have moods then I like the serene ones. They can be wistful, whimsical, vibrant or melodious, but not flat or dampening or sad. Those we don't invite in for the Coppelia Ballet by Delibes (oh, do I love that one). My next favorite being Air on a G String (Bach). I want that played at my funeral.

Blues and greens are restful but under my hand they're easily sad and contemplative too. So I have to use those sparingly.

I keep running out of Cadmium Yellow and Titanium White.

When I started out in art, oh, yay many years ago, I didn't have to structure my time this way. But then, I can also say in all honesty that now I am rarely, if ever, bored. And back then I was; I used to drag my brush toward the end of the third hour of the studio class twitching and moaning about everything out there in the world I wasn't exploring because I was tied down to an easel being bossed about by some overeducated puppet of academe.

Now I have a slim window every day in which to explore the canvas instead of the world. I've seen a bit of the world since then, and I've found I prefer the canvas. Seems there's a world of difference just between the student I used to be and the woman I became. This is another private luxury, a sort of rich knowledge gleaned only by me, for me. To know the value of things. What my elders would have called, a long time ago, appreciating what you've got.

And I really do...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the carousel painting, now

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

oh de wahs and so on and so forth

I think I might actually sit down and write a whole post instead of copping out and posting pictures of artwork instead. I might not be unlike the tedious hostess who insists on showing you an entire carousel of slides from Hawaii -- minus the commentary, of course. Here, this was vacation. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick. Any questions? Too bad.

Enough slides. Where are the hors d'oeuvres, anyway? (My dad once confessed to me that growing up, he thought hors d'oeuvres was pronounced oh de wahs, and ever since I've involuntarily replaced the real pronunciation with his because I prefer it. I'm like that.)

I'm a little crazy right now. You'll have to excuse me. I've got an art show coming up on October 1, and like an overenthusiastic aerobics instructor I'm feeling the burn. I've shown my work places before, yes. This is not my first time. I'm showing them in places of commerce right now, as a matter of fact (I just haven't said where) and yet, this is a bona fide art show in a bona fide art gallery. Composed of work entirely!

Excuse us while we pause for station identification.

I'm submitting my artist's statement and resume this week. I wasn't ever too hot at writing these in art school. I'm recalling a particularly stellar moment in my career when I announced in a printmaking critique that this entire class was really, truly like a phone conversation with a person I didn't even like...that the litho stone and I had absolutely nothing to say to each other.

What, like that's not enough?

Can't you just look at it and leave my opinion slash intention entirely somewhere else? It's really not important. Honest. You'd be disappointed if you knew what my opinion was. I'm not trying to make a deep statement. I just enjoy immersing myself in a panoply of color. It's almost not right I'm asking you to pay for my playtime. I mean it.

It's so not important that I keep forgetting to sign my paintings, even now. I have to go back in and put them in (as small as possible, preferably in the left-hand corner, for that is where most admissions tend to start) as an afterthought. I just dropped a painting off at a gallery (another one!) a few weeks ago, where it's going to be showcased in the window (but you didn't hear that from me), and the owner scolded me kindly: "Why isn't your signature bigger? You need a bigger signature. Someone's going to buy this and want to hang it in their home and let everyone know it came from you. Why, the frame alone hides the signature from view. You'll have to do something about that."

Um...okay. As I scratch a note out to myself somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain. Here's another thing I didn't learn in art school. MAKE THE SIGNATURE BIGGER.

Unframed canvases are only appealing in studios. Galleries prefer framed works. I have to learn how to frame my own paintings again. I think I remember. It's been a while.

I write my resume and I feel most unimpressive. There's no pretty way to admit I didn't finish college, and I haven't had a half dozen shows in big important galleries. I haven't even been an active member of the art community until this year. And activity is important. I guess I know that as well as anybody. Most people who know me -- even people who have known me their whole life -- don't necessarily know that art is part of what I'm about (hopefully).

I wake up in the middle of the night and see a shadow cast a certain way from a streetlight burning outside the window and I have to get up and sketch it, before I lose it. I feel a bit frantic -- there's so much to record, and I'm missing most of it. It's as if I'm making up for lost time.

Sometimes I spend a whole day painting and come away disgusted -- it all looks so puerile and flat and I hate everything I try to do and revile myself for imagining I have the ability to even attempt this. Then I spend a morning, like I did today, singlemindedly slashing some private reverie into two dimensions, and I feel almost superhuman -- like I performed some alchemy that involves (in part) wishful thinking and a handful of magic. I think you have to see it and then you have to want it and then you have to step back and let it show up and not interrupt too much while it's taking form. That's kind of how it works for me sometimes.

I know I'm getting very inwardly turned right now, focusing on these pieces going into the show. I feel like I'm even being moderately rude to everyone else, and I don't mean to be. I feel like I'm on the verge of figuring something out -- some equasion that's eluded me for well over a decade. I've become the person I wanted to be eighteen years ago, but didn't have the courage. I'm listening to myself for a change.

It feels good.

round and round she goes

I just stretched a canvas and roughed out, with acrylics, the forms of the carousel pastel I did yesterday. The pastel was on an 9" x 12" sheet of paper. The canvas is about 46" x 44".

Trying to sustain that blurry motion effect I had going on in the pastel. I'm liking this so far. It has the potential to work.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

controversial! without even trying!

As stultifying as it may seem, I like to think that, most of the time, I am more or less a G-rated blogger. You could almost say that if blogging were music, I'd be R.E.M.; bland, vague, mostly incomprehensible.

That in mind, it's terrifically funny to me that one of my first drawing videos on You Tube got flagged as objectionable. Heather saw it first; she passed it on to me.

If you click on the video after it starts playing, it takes you to a page that says:

This video may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube's user community.

Hey. I've been censored!

But what was it, pray tell, that raised the hackles? I think it was the prominent product placement of a box of Nilla Wafers. Or that the little girl is holding a bouquet of flowers. Flowers are quite iffy. Georgia O'Keeffe taught us this.

Because I like to push the envelope, I'm putting it up one more time.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Caught in mid-sentence, as usual.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Part of the Rx from my doctors, after my trip to Cleveland Clinic, involves upping my salt intake as much as possible. The Florinef is going to be increased, and the Florinef is a corticosteroid which means I'm going to be that much hungrier and consquently, rounder. As it is I'm starting to feel like one of those balloons that hover over the floats in the big parades.

I know that's an exaggeration, but still.

What they said to me was, salt pills couldn't hurt, so go ahead and try them. And keep drinking the water, as much as you can, because that will bring your blood volume back up faster than anything. You have to stay hydrated, honey, you and the begonias and Phyllis Diller. You just do.

In fact, they said, go ahead and eat some potato chips. Right now! I know that sounds terrible, they said, laughing a little. But seriously, you need the salt. The salt, and the water.

H20 and NaCl. I feel like I'm back in high school chemistry class. So everything in life at some point does reduce to formula. I always wondered.

I read the report from the Clinic, myself. It reads like a stock market report with all the silly numbers and acronyms. I did read words like "decreased" and "accelerated." These are words that, loosely put, could define a NASCAR race. Only I'm not a car, and if I were, I'd be low on oil with a bad camshaft. Do you follow me?

So I hung up the phone and went to the pharmacy to see if they had sodium supplements. I made the mistake of asking the guy who was filling in at the pharmacy, not my regular pharmacy guy, but a new guy I've never seen before, if they have those on the shelf.

He actually stopped what he was doing and came out of the pharmacy area to stand there in front of the shelves like a security guard, or a policeman. Like if I got testy and wanted to wrestle him for it, he'd throw down on me in a big way.

"What's wrong with you?" he said. He sneered. I swear he sneered.

"Nothing," I said defensively. He still just stood there. So I said, falteringly, "I have low blood pressure."

"Must be low, if you think you can take a salt pill for it. Salt pill's going to raise your blood pressure."

"I think," I said carefully, "that is the general idea."

"That's an old-fashioned remedy anyway," he says to me. "Doctors don't even use it anymore."
"That's funny," I say back. "My doctor just got off the phone with me telling me to use it."
"Your doctor," he says. Like I wasn't clear.
"My doctor."

"It's not like you work in a steel mill, or anything like that," he goes on. "Those are the only kinds of people who ever need it."
I just looked at the floor. I didn't feel like helping him out on this.

" you faint? Is that what you do?"
Give me a break, would you? "Yes."

The guy crossed his arms. He crossed his arms! And he wouldn't budge from his position in front of the vitamin supplements, like I was a crook and might try to steal something.

Then he said, not very nicely!: "If you need salt so bad, why don't you just eat it?"

I'm so tired right now. I don't know how to communicate this. I'm tired. I've had an awful lot of testing and jumping through hoops and giving blood and losing blood and getting IV's and radioactive injections and lying still under collimators and enduring the half life of adenosine. I know more about cardiac indexes and hypovolemia and hyperkinetic circulation and pulmonary transit times than any human being without a medical degree should know.

So all I want --right now -- is to be able to walk into a pharmacy and pick up what the doctor prescribed for me without having to fight someone for it, or launch into a long-winded explanation of how I need it and why, or even have any kind of conversation about the whole damn thing at all. Just smile and give it to me and tell me to have a nice day like you do everyone else. I'm not a freak, I'm not in a side show, I'm not a junkie trying to crash a government-funded methadone clinic for just one more hit.

I nearly cried, but I didn't cry. I just turned around and walked toward the door. It was another employee who overheard the conversation and ran to catch up with me before my hand touched the doorknob, letting me know -- breathlessly -- she'd put in an order for me, it'll be here tomorrow, no worries, okay?

Thank you, I said, and I meant it, my relief was palpable. I still wanted to cry, though, regardless of the fact that I finally got what I wanted. Not everything should have to be so hard all the time. Really, honest to God. It shouldn't.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

the best thing that I could do

Last night was Meet The Teacher Night at the elementary school. I really didn't have time to go. From 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. I'm on lifeguard patrol, full-time. Breaking up fights, fixing up snacks, looking over homework assignments, signing papers that have to go back to school in the morning, looking through the lunchboxes to survey what was eaten/what was not.

Three boys, three different schools. Everyone has a different schedule. It's a bit chaotic.

"It's Meet the Teacher night," my middle child said hopefully as he walked into the house. "We're going. Right?"

"Right," I murmured, looking over the Xeroxed informational sheet he'd handed me. In my mind I'm already calculating how much sooner I'll have to put the Chicken Dijon together for dinner, grateful I've already frosted the yellow cake I baked after picking up the youngest child from preschool.

(How I love having something baked coming out of the oven just as the kids walk in the door, so I can hear the middle child say dreamily, "What is that enchanting smell!")

Wondering how much Meet the Teacher night will eat out of homework time. Probably a lot.

For me, Meet the Teacher Night is a been-there,done-that kind of deal. But for a first-grader, Meet the Teacher Night is a major event. So, you know. We went.

He held my hand, walking into the school. His first grade teacher was my first-grade teacher, which makes for an odd layering of past and present. The gym is the same, but so much smaller than I remember it. The stage has velvet curtains now. I used to sit on those wooden steps leading up to the stage and do the day's homework in the afternoons, before the bus came.

Five grades and a kindergarten jostled each other in this vast, echoing room as I bent my head over the notebook in my lap: it always seemed so noisy. Bad acoustics. It hurt my head. I'd come home every night from school talking much too loudly, my sense of volume distorted by a day spent trying to be heard over all the others.

How I upbraided a supervising teacher, back then, who'd asked me what it was I looked so serious about.

"I'm deciding on my career," I'd answered, perfectly earnest. "I'd like to be a teacher, but I'd really rather be a published writer."
He'd chuckled.
"You've got a long, long time to think about it. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you," he'd answered.

My hackles went up. "Why? Because I'm a girl? Because I'm a child? Eight is a perfectly logical time to start choosing an occupation," I flared. "I resent being patronized just because of my age and gender."

He'd walked away sighing as I renewed my plans with fervor. So I'm to be just a housewife, then! Resigned to be a hausfrau just because I'd been born with a double X chromosome. Hah! I'd be published, I'd be rich, I'd be glamorous, I'd come back in furs and with a personal servant, and I'd stroll up and ask to speak to that teacher personally.

"Oh, by the way," I imagined saying so casually. "I decided on that profession, and I guess you were a little hasty in your judgment, eh?"

His look of chagrin, as I fantasized it, warmed me all the way to my toes. As I sat there dreaming over the notebook in my lap, work left undone, not hearing the clamoring children in the gym with me; I was somewhere else entirely, in a world of instant gratification and easy money.

So, here we are.

Here and there in the crowd I'd see a former classmate -- someone I'd attended this elementary school with, someone who's now a parent, like me, with kids of their own to guide through the system. Familiar faces, friendly faces. So much changes, so much stays the same. Thirty years ago, who could have predicted which of us would still be here, unswervingly habitual and obedient, like the little wooden people in those German clocks that come out, on the hour, and curtsy to each other before twirling in a circle and swerving dutifully back inside?

My kid wanted to nominate me for president of the parent-teacher group. He also wanted to nominate me for vice-president, treasurer and secretary. He kept yanking on my right arm and trying to wave it in the air, as a flag, and I'd wriggle away, pushing my arm back down. With each new announcement of an open position we'd lurch unevenly, like capsized boaters struggling for the same lifejacket.

"You could be everything," he breathed, looking up into my face trustfully.

I looked around me, nodding, at this gym I grew up in. Yes. I used to think that, too.

But then he wanted me to meet the teacher, even though I've already met the teacher, I've been meeting that teacher my whole life if you want to get down to it; and he put his hand in mine again, trustfully, to show me where the classroom is (as if I didn't know).

I let him guide me around the room, and show me his seat at the table, and oohed and aahed over it as if I'd never seen such a thing before. Because I chose, at some point, not to be everything; but to be one thing, instead -- an invisible thing, maybe, a not-very-glamorous thing, but a terribly important thing nonetheless, the kind you can't see or really notice, only know and feel.

I chose to be a mom, and I felt myself swelling with pride all over again -- at my amazing, incredible kid, and how lucky I am to still be a part of all this. I was here before and I'm here now and probably in another two decades I'll be here again with my grandchildren, God willing.

Before, I didn't want anyone to tell me this was the only thing I could do, personally; now, I realize, I know, myself, it certainly isn't the only thing; but it is, somehow ( for me), the best.

running through a field

This is a close-up of the painting I worked on yesterday. The actual canvas is 16" x 20" -- and the sky takes up three quarters of the panel, just to amplify that feeling of impressive space overhead.

What I painted isn't quite what I see in my head, but the feeling at least is there -- one person, running through a field of flowers under a gigantic looming sky.

Where is she running.
Why is she alone.
Where are the people that love her?
Where are the people that she loves?
Are they in the horizon?
...Or are they behind her?

Anyway, it's not finished. This is just what I have so far.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

a field of violets

This artPad sketch has given me an idea for another painting.

Monday, September 04, 2006

my artPad sketch today

Sunday, September 03, 2006

a red rose

Some time ago, I took this photograph of a red rose on a trellis.

Today I made a painting from that photograph.

The painting is the truer interpretation of what I really saw when I looked at that rose. That one spot of glowing crimson in a net of verdant greens. Roses tend to grow in clumps...I liked it that this one stood off alone. Its singular and stunning beauty felt deserved.

I also found this ArtPad site tonight, a discovery that has delighted us all. The kids have been taking turns on it for hours, drawing and painting and even framing it to hang in the "gallery" when they're finished.

This was my sketch. I could have added paint, but decided not to. I like how images just emerge when I'm mousing over the canvas. I didn't plan on drawing a sleepy-eyed girl who looks like she's lifting her head from a pillow, but she showed up anyway. I like that.

Take a whack at it. It's incredibly fun.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I went to an antique store yesterday. They had an old electric organ in the back. I mean really old -- the kind with pedals on the bottom for volume. The guy was anxious to sell it to me -- he said he'd let it go for $150. It was the kind you just turn on and play, and you can pull knobs out for different effects.

He had another one in the back -- it didn't work, but it was much more elaborate. Foot pedals to make it go, instead of an electric cord. Thick, cumbersome woodwork with scrolls and bars. Keys yellowed like teeth. The store proprietor didn't have to tell me that the broken organ is much more valuable than the working one. I could tell by looking that a little restoration would put its value somewhere in the thousands.

Just seeing the organs took me back a ways. My grandfather loved pipe organs. He even bought one from a theater back when theaters still had pipe organs, and added a room on to his home to house it. When we visited he'd let me turn it on and play it. A real pipe organ, with those huge pipes, the kind you only see now in churches sometimes.

I would go in the room where the pipes were and just look up at them, wonderingly. You had to go through this elaborate process to start the pipe organ up. You had to turn on a switch by the stairs outside the pipe organ room to get it started, for one. All that air, rustling and huffing like an asthmatic beast. You could hear it pumping and winding up, flooding your lungs with a sense of expectation.

My grandfather's pipe organ had wooden keys on its floor, black and brown, so you could play with your feet while you played with your hands. I was playing on it long before my legs were long enough to reach the floor keys. Even once I got tall enough (and it took a while) I never really mastered the art of playing with all four limbs. Far too difficult, for me, to think that three-dimensionally.

The antique store owner, he invited me to sit down at the working organ and play something. "It's how we sold the last one," he said. I sat down at the spindle-legged bench (its feet scraping awkwardly on the cold tile floor as I pushed it back to accomodate me) and played "In the Mood," by Glenn Miller.

So much is familiar about the pausing in an old organ's voice -- that split second of hesitation between notes, as if checking its paces carefully; as if it's an elderly dog, trying to run like a pup again. So much is familiar about the white round knobs printed in elegant calligraphy in words I used to know by heart: "Vox Humana." "Octave Coupler." "Treble."

I couldn't play more than one song. It made me feel too sad and fond, all at the same time. I don't like looking backward. But there I was, in an antique shop. Somehow, it seemed I'd invited the past to come in, sit down and play an old song with me, yes, please, just one more time.