Sunday, May 29, 2011

there is a design

Now I'm going to reach even farther back, to a piece I started in 2008. At that time I had considered this finished:

Tidy Little Boring Collage

But as it sat on my art table, leaning against the wall with other projects in various states of completion, I realized I was not excited about it at all. There was no sparkle in its eye. But it had potential! So I decided to mess it up.

I swished some paint on the surface, over the hand, to busy it up a bit and incorporate it into the piece -- I didn't like how it was just sitting on top, all pristine and static. When that dried, I scribbled "You could choose anything" on it, because I was feeling loose-ended and sometimes it's the vastness of available choices that stops me from starting.

Then I blocked out most of the detail from the collage and kept daubing paint here and there on the hand until I felt like it was interesting but not too "done."

Finally, I covered up the little silver pieces at the top with blue, and drew lines like little strings that the fingers are pulling.

The original title was "There is a Design," because of the sewing pattern paper I'd used in the collage. I still like the title -- maybe even more now because it perfectly contradicts my handwritten assertion of free will. Perhaps it's a painting for an agnostic.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

in between bones

When the paints are out, no canvas is spared. And oh, the paints are OUT.

I started a bunch of pieces back in December of 2009, and didn't make any significant progress until almost a year later. I quaintly told you to "stay tuned" -- are you still tuned? Breath bated? I know, you haven't been able to sleep.

Less than a year since we left off, our hero looked like this:

I like the composition, and I like the movement of the brush-strokes, but it needed some serious changes. These first few layers have been acrylic paint, and I wanted to shift gears to oil. When I do that, I have to stop protecting what I like about the last layer. Like Annie Dillard says, you have to be willing to take out the bearing wall.

So this felt kind of risky, but I think it clarified things a bit. And now it's ready to be simplified even more... hopefully sooner than 2012! But you never know!

Here's another one in the works, from the same time. It was going to be another bone piece, but so far it hasn't decided what it wants. I started with the same wash-y yellows and browns:

Then collaged in some tissue/pattern paper and made a few hesitant swipes of blue and scratchings of charcoal.

I always want a really exciting layered background, but I clam up after the first layer and get scared to just attack it. I want to be bold, but I'm reluctant to make bold moves. I must move past this.

It's easier to move this one to oils, since there's no real subject yet. It's so nice to see the depth and softness of the oil paints... acrylics just can't compare.

It's kind of interesting to me that I'm doing all these variations on the same theme, with the same color combinations. I used to bemoan the fact that there was no consistency in my art -- it turns out all I have to do is paint the same things over and over. Truly, I did not know this.

I also didn't know it would take YEARS for some paintings to evolve. But I figure I'm doing pretty good, what with the two kids and the two moves. I hope I look back on this time and marvel that I was doing anything creative at all, besides making pudding.


Monday, May 23, 2011

new bones

I'm working on a new commission for a doctor friend of mine. Those doctors, they like the bones. This doctor, in particular, requested the following vertebrae:

first cervical (atlas)

6th cervical

7th thoracic

4th lumbar

I can see why he chose them... isn't it amazing how different they all are? They'll be arranged horizontally, on four separate canvases, like this:

Here is the first layer of paint:

I love yellow ochre and gray.

I have no idea what's happening next, but sometimes that's the most liberating position to be in.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

old bones

I finally finished some paintings that I started a year and a half ago. I don't have pictures of the process, but I'll just tell you that they started out as telephone wires. So, there was some evolution.

Thoracic Rising
oil on canvas, 9x12 in.

Lumbar Sinking
oil on canvas, 9x12 in.

It's good to have some finished pieces laying around, they remind me that it IS possible after all.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

the last slippers of the season

It's cold down in the basement, where I paint and sew, so I'm still wearing sweaters and making slippers.

And look at how arty my photos are! Wow, I know.

These are for my friend Beth, who lives on a farm in Missouri. She may eschew electricity, but she still needs fancy slippers. In May. SPRING: WARM UP, WILL YOU.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've embarked on a campaign to fatten my children up.

I don't believe in percentiles, per se: both of them have been at the absolute bottom of the chart -- Isla is even less than 0%, a statistical mind-boggler, in my opinion -- and they seem to be doing just fine. Isla's weight stalled out for a few months there, mainly because she learned to walk (AT 9 MONTHS, WTF) and then suddenly had places to go and toys to steal and couldn't be bothered to eat. But the pediatrician was concerned, and wanted me to start giving her PediaSure. (He also scheduled a "sweat test" to rule out Cystic Fibrosis as a cause for poor weight gain, and while it's a non-invasive, non-painful procedure, I think it has caused Isla to swear off anyone remotely doctor-ish FOREVAR.)

I know I'm already biased, but when I looked at list of ingredients on the PediaSure, I wanted to swear AT my doctor. Because really? You want me to give my kid chemical sugar milk, like 3 times a day? Aren't we already having a problem with childhood obesity and diabetes in this country? NO THANKS.

I decided to do it the old fashioned way, ie, with actual food.

I made cookies with all the most fattening things I could think of, like peanut butter and flax meal and coconut oil and walnuts and butter and avocado -- surprisingly good! -- and then, because I was on a roll, I found this recipe for chocolate pudding made with avocado. I'll let the critics' faces speak for themselves:

(Okay, Isla looks alternately melancholy and deranged, but trust me, she loves it!)

If you want to try it yourself:

1 avocado
1/4 cup maple syrup (or more, to taste)
2-3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

The maple syrup and vanilla cover the avocado taste nicely, and the texture is perfectly creamy. Blend and slurp!


Monday, May 9, 2011

denim booties

More booties:


(It's a twofer... you get to look at some awesome journal art, too.)

My cousin and his wife recently adopted a baby -- he's four months old, all squishy and cuddly and making me realize that Isla is NO LONGER A BABY. Wah.

But that doesn't mean I can't still make cute baby stuff and give it away... so I think these will go to him.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

tunnel vision

Sometimes I feel like I've crash-landed into this parenting thing.

I lie in bed at night, a quivering mass of pulp where my brain should be, and wonder why I can't get things done. It's only when I'm lying there, perfectly still, that I think of the phone call I meant to make, the email I meant to write, the article I meant to read, the toenails I meant to clip. Then, of course, I'm too tired to even make a list.

During the day, I scramble to keep up. I flail two steps behind the mess-makers, trying to negotiate peace. I yell and cajole. I make deals, I bribe, I entertain, I build things and then wreck them. I wrestle. I prepare food and serve food and clean up food, ad infinitum. I stare into space by mid-afternoon and pray for dinnertime.

It takes so much creativity, this work, something I thought I had plenty of. But my talent is for arranging shapes and colors into pretty pictures, not in coming up with new and different and awesome ways to get toddlers to stop mauling each other.

I'm three years in, and I still can't remember to pack the diaper bag the night before.

I'll do better tomorrow, I resolve. I'll be more willing to play. I won't get so annoyed when they splash water out of the bath.

But tomorrow comes so quickly, usually after someone has woken me up at least twice during the night, and they hardly wait for me to have some coffee before they attach themselves to my legs and start needing things. Then we spend the morning becoming little wind-up toys, ticking the spring farther and farther back until the tension is too much and we must explode into forward motion or we will seriously malfunction. There is inevitably a potty accident involved.


Isla is obsessed with balls and dolls, is easily entertained with a set of keys or a serrated knife pilfered from the dishwasher. She's really a sweet and mild kid, but mischievous too, and has learned from Auden the finer points of how to avoid getting dressed, and how to keen backward dramatically when you really want someone to pick you up.

Auden usually wants nothing more than to assign roles and act out some story again and again, which sounds delightful until you've taken turns all day being Nausicaa and Lord Yupa and Super Why and Wonder Red and Pee-Wee and Little Richie and the Wonder Pets and R2-D2 and Luke Sykwalker (and sometimes Luke Skywalker's cousin, no lie), and Caillou... Caillou. CAILLOU. DAMN YOU, CAILLOU, AND YOUR INSUFFERABLE PLUCK.

It's my fault, though, I admit it. I rely heavily on TV when I want to, say, eat a meal, put Isla down for a nap, or indulge in a few minutes of sewing. I'm really good at justifying it -- He's fine! He's super smart! A little TV won't hurt! -- and I only feel guilty when he goes catatonic in front of the screen and throws epic tantrums when it's time to turn it off. Oh, wait, that's every time. Garr.

Isla is old enough to get into Auden's shit, and is lightning fast in grabbing his robots or toppling his lego masterpiece. She's also old enough to understand that I'll come running whenever she screeches about some injustice, whether she provoked it or not. Auden, for his part, is only too ready to be provoked, and no amount of stern talkings-to and stair time seem to disavow him of hitting and biting and tackling to get the toy he wants. Which, of course, is the toy he didn't know he wanted until Isla had it in her hand.

I get it. I do -- he doesn't get nearly as much attention as Isla, and spends a lot of time itching with jealousy. He even pretends to BE Isla sometimes, which has the unintended effect of annoying me even more. Poor kid. The ego blooms only to be totally hammered by wind and rain and little sisters.

So. I juggle their needs with mine, all day every day, and I'm an awkward juggler, tripping and grunting.


But there is light (you know, at the end of the tunnel): Jason just finished his semester of teaching, and today we breathed out a huge chugging sigh of relief. We're going to have TIME to do things TOGETHER. LIKE TALK.

And then I'm going to be all, Welcome to My World, Muaahhh haaaa!

Course then I'm going to have to give up the righteous mommy martyr thing. Huh.


While it's true that I'll have lots more time for myself in the coming months -- relief, sweet relief! -- it's also true that I've had a lot of help getting through the past few. Okay, eight. Annnnnd it's also true that I can polish any grievance to a high shine with my constant attention and verbosity, making all the normal growing pains into Mother's Lament: The Fugue.

I'm working on it, okay? I'm a stubborn perfectionist, a character flaw that doesn't jive at all with being a parent. As we have seen.

Recently a friend sent me a quote from Marshall Rosenberg, the "Nonviolent Communication" guy, that went something like,

"The goal is not to be a perfect parent... the goal is to be progressively less stupid every day."

Crash-landings notwithstanding.