Thursday, October 29, 2009

my big little guy

Dear Auden,

You're 19 months old today and I am totally in love with you right now. We've got a good thing, you and I.

We've got inside jokes and special games; I know that you're going to look for the hammer in this book about trucks, and you're going to match the cement mixer on the cover with the cement mixer inside that book about trucks; I understand you when you say "wee wee" for fire trucks and "no no" for tofu and "ani" for elephants; I know just where to tickle you to get the best belly laughs.

I didn't know toddler-hood was going to be this much fun -- I was so worried I wouldn't know how to handle you that I overlooked the possibility of knowing you even better now than I did a year ago. I didn't know how delightful it would be to hear you pronounce your first words, or how rewarding it would be to observe the keenness of your memory. I didn't know how entertaining you would be, singing to your trucks and hamming it up in the tub.

You made up a sign for turtle of your own accord -- it's intuitive and perfect. You sit your stuffed giraffe on the potty as your proxy and make great farting noises for him; you also like to put your slippers (that you refuse to wear) on his feet. The other day you were eating a piece of bread and I watched as you broke off a tiny piece to feed to one of your cars... it was heartbreakingly sweet.

Papa taught you how to say "what?" and made a funny game where he answers "I don't know!"

You babble words and sounds in little strings of syllabic associations: mama, mommy, mani, bunny, bapi, potty, papa, bapa...

You call your grandpas "bama," and your grandmas "nana."

The sound of your voice alone makes me laugh:

I think I'm getting better at letting time pass, at allowing you to grow at the breakneck speed you employ for just about everything. But I suspect too that being a mother means always harboring an ache for these sweet uncomplicated days and all the ones that came before.

But let's charge ahead! I'm with you now and no matter what, loving you up the best I can.



Friday, October 16, 2009


A few months ago I posted some new bone collages on Etsy. I have been fascinated by bones for years and have done quite a few pieces about them, but still felt a tad worried that they would be, I don't know, too morbid for mass appeal.

Not long after I put them up, a doctor friend contacted me and commissioned me to do a sphenoid bone in the same style. Okay, I said, as soon as I find out what that is. Turns out to be a tiny piece of sculpture in the middle of your skull, with arching, scooped wings like a pelvis, and strange little feet like a spaceship. I couldn't get a good rendering from the anatomy books I have, so Jason suggested I find a model and draw it from life (or, uh... death? Well, it's plastic, anyway). It was easier than I thought to get my hands on one -- thanks CraigsList! -- and resulted in a way better drawing:

I started my ground by collaging on the canvas, using scraps of construction paper, old Japanese train schedules, and a funny German map whose lines echoed the graceful contours of the bone. Then I washed it lightly with gesso (click on any of these images for a big, detailed version):

Next I drew the sphenoid onto the ground and painted around it with another light wash of acrylic, to make the bone stand out:

Then I coated the entire piece with encaustic -- a wax you spread on like frosting and melt with a heat gun. I love doing this, I have wanted to use encaustic for years because of this tool. It makes me look really serious.

I mixed some pale gray paint into the wax just above the bone, and it spread out like watercolor when the wax melted -- perfect:

I had run out of the transparent brown tissue paper I used on the earlier bone collages, which is a shame because it was so useful, so I improvised (read: messed up) here with some other stuff. I had a piece of fiber-y paper that would have been just right if it wasn't so peach-colored... I glued it on and tried to like it, but just couldn't. I painted over it to soften the color a little, but that made it too opaque and cumbersome. I got frustrated and peeled it off, and discovered that the paint had dried enough to leave a really cool textured pattern behind. I repeated that a couple more times, then painted over it with a thin layer of yellowish-brown:

Finally, I coated everything with encaustic again, covering the brown patch and evening out the top layer. The wax gives everything a thick sheen, blurring the lines a bit and suspending them under a window the color of old book pages. It also reminds me of strange specimens trapped in apothecary jars, which is just right considering the subject:

It was hard to get the color just right through photoshop, not to mention the warmth of it and the cool lumpy texture, but here's the finished piece:

I loved it and almost didn't want to part with it... but I was thrilled to send it to my friend, and amazed at how effortlessly it came together. After my last couple of commissions, and, let's be honest, my painting style in general, I needed this kind of confidence!

My friend also mentioned an osteopathic convention he knows about, and would I be interested in maybe representing my work there? So despite the five hundred other ideas and projects I have going at the moment, I'm giving myself permission to work on nothing but bones for the foreseeable future.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ithaca really is gorges, but what do they say about Albany?

By now all the details are fading from memory, but we did go to upstate New York last month to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and good friend, and it surprised me by being just as beautiful as it's fabled to be.

First we stopped at Kathy's new house in Ithaca. This, plus 16 more acres (!), is her back yard:

She took us to the science center, where Auden had a blast and we got to see what a mutant hybrid of Jason and Kathy would look like ("A typical Williamsburg Hipster" according to Kathy):

We took the bus home, which was just as much fun as anything at the science center. In fact, I'm thinking it's going to be a cheap form of winter entertainment for us. Here's Auden riding the bus AND signing for "more bus":

Then we drove to Albany to see my brother and his wife. We spent more time outdoors:

And more time with awesome vehicles:

This face of pure joy was the result of naughty uncle Ben letting go of the parking brake and allowing the car to roll forward a few feet with Auden in the driver's seat:

After a weekend of farmer's markets, good meals, hikes in the woods, chasing the kitty around the house, and a spontaneous Sunday picnic, we headed back to Ithaca for another day with Kathy and more enchanted waterfalls:

Jason joked about looking for a position at Cornell, because this would not be such a bad place to live:

I think we'll have to go back.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

... aaaaand now I'm sick

With a head cold that Auden generously passed on to me, and which I think I am currently passing on to Jason. While we all blow our noses, here's a little video montage of more of our New York trip:

(Thanks Kathy for taking us to the Science Center!)


Monday, October 5, 2009

excuses excuses

I'm going to blame my lack of getting my head on straight in a timely fashion after our vacation on, oh... the toddler! You didn't see that coming!

This morning I realized that the draggy body feeling and mid-afternoon slow brain I've been experiencing the past two weeks reminds me uncannily of the days when Auden WASN'T SLEEPING. Because while we were away he was waking up every night and since we've been back he's waking up every night and over the weekend it was TWICE a night plus crying and too-short naps and then I realized whoo boy if this feels bad we're in for quite a ride come February. So just humor me while I spend my time lighting incense at sleep altars and praying to goblin kings instead of blogging, k?

Why, here's the little rascal, now, fooling you with cuteness:

I don't care what anyone says, there's Benadryl in your future, kid!