Thursday, June 30, 2005


End of the week for me again. And we get paid today. I'm much more tired today than I have been. Very hard to get moving. We have caught up enough at work that everyone is getting a 3-day weekend for Fourth of July holiday.

Since I can hardly think about writing, I shot a photo of some of my old ink bottles and writing accessories. The cabinet card of the woman even has a deer-head ink reservoir on the desk.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Once I got down past Stephenville on Route 67 I couldn't get away from the turkey buzzards. They literally look like turkeys until you get close and see those naked red heads staring at you. I spotted my first "gang" of vultures somewhere south of Stephenville when one of a set of seemingly interesting fencepost ornaments suddenly launched into flight and I saw I had been looking at a whole row of buzzards. They were a constant sight after that, feasting on road kill, hovering in trees, or circling in droves high overhead out in the middle of nowhere. I tried to shoot photos of them a dozen times or more by slowing to a crawl on the highway when there were no other cars around, which was often, hoping to get close enough in my car that I could get a good shot. The vultures would, without fail, allow me to get almost close enough, and then take off into the sky beyond reach. They take off pretty quickly for such a large bird. So I never got a really good photo of them. I did kill one with my car. I was on my way home after leaving Big Bend, on a nearly deserted highway going 70 mph when I spotted yet another vulture breakfasting on a road-kill cottontail. This was the only vulture who didn't fly away before I got too close. As I realized I was too close I swerved to the left. As the vulture realized I was too close it launched itself, but right into the front of my car. I must have knocked that bird fifty feet from the road. I felt bad. After awhile, though, I started noticing how many other vultures had become road-kill, so I realized it was part of the life-cycle out there in West Texas. The buzzard came back to haunt me though. At work the assortment of sample merchandise now includes two life-size turkey-buzzards cast in resin. They have become a fixture atop one of the cubicles, perennially scanning for victims.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

the window

It took about 90 minutes to reach the end of the hike where slick rock jutted up to frame a precipitous drop that looked out over the Chisos Mountains. I got vertigo even fifteen feet back and just barely got a shot of "the window," the opening in the peaked rock formation some distance away. A century plant stands guard to the right of the window.

I was too tired to fully appreciate the view. The climb down had been easy but the last quarter mile involved clambering over stone and cement steps cut into the rocks and the sun had climbed high enough so shade was becoming scarce as the temperature steadily increased. My real lessons were learned on the way back as the ardurous climb ever upward began to tell on my already tired legs. My boots were broken in, but I was not used to a constant downhill jaunt or uphill climb. I could feel blisters forming as the boots wore on uncalloused toes. Half a mile up the trail I rested on a bench in some providential shade. The few other hikers I met seemed tired, but I was already down to my reserve energy. The higher I climbed the more difficult it became to just put one foot in front of the other. I had to stop and sit for awhile after every 200 steps, then after 100 steps, and I gradually declined until I could not climb more than ten steps without stopping to rest. I thought of the Lion Warnings and realized I had become a good candidate for a Lion-snack. I would not have been able to run, which was good, but I so resembled a wounded deer a lion would not have hesitated to strike. Then I ran out of water. I had started with a gallon and had drank all of it. I was only a quarter mile from the lodge and was well-hydrated but as my water reservoir emptied I trulyI came to see the value of water. I understood why ranchers fought over water rights and how someone could kill for another's canteen. I also learned not to take the desert for granted. I'd been enthralled by its beauty for years; now I bowed to the beauty of its danger.

Monday, June 27, 2005

the window view

My first sunset at Big Bend National Park was devoid of spectacular colors but not from spectacular light. The next morning presented a much different view of the same scene as I began my hike toward that small v-shaped notch called "the window view." I had originally planned to do a much shorter hike the first day but after my 600 mile trip I was tired of driving and the proximity of the trail head to my sleeping quarters beckoned. I was feeling good and didn't think a 2.5-mile-hike would be that difficult.

I miscalculated. The hike was 2.5 miles in ONE direction making it 5 miles round trip. The first half of the hike was a descent with a loss of 1000 feet of elevation. That meant an uphill climb back in the midday desert sun but I didn't find that out until later. I set out about 8 a.m. and planned to be back before noon. I had a gallon of water and some snacks and had slathered on a considerable amount of SPF-50 sunscreen.

When I saw the "Bear Warning" sign, I thought it was funny. Bears are rarely seen and I thought the trail was so well-traveled I certainly wouldn't see any. Then I saw the "Lion Warning" sign and sobered up a bit. A woman at the lodge had spotted a mountain lion only a few days ago. I had to remember not to run if I saw one. Still, I felt reasonably safe. There were so many birds and plants, some familiar, many not. I was surprised by how many mockingbirds inhabited the park and at how many vultures there were, too. I had thought their many numbers were mostly due to the abundant road kill, but now began to realize that there must be many carcasses resulting from something other than vehicle impacts.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


The smog was so thick yesterday you could cut it with a knife. Wonder how many times I've thought or written that statement? The newspaper moved the weather & air quality report to page 2 of section 2 so it's harder to find. They've made the pollution index into a really small chart and it's in black and white instead of color so you don't notice you've just been through a week of RED days and oh, yeah, yesterday was a PURPLE day! Propagandists at work for the city of Dallas. Well, most of us don't need no stinking chart to know WE CAN'T BREATHE and THE AIR HURTS OUR EYES!

My co-worker and I have started taking walks at night to avoid the heat and pollution. We take a brisk walk around the parking lot and warehouse about 1:30 a.m. after I clock out for the day. It takes about 15 minutes and I think it may be about half a mile. It helps to wake me up so I can be alert for the drive home and Ed says it should help him get through the wee hours of the morning. It won't help him much on his drive home during morning rush hour. The temperature was down to 85 degrees last night (this morning?) but the pollution hadn't let up - we still had a thick haze overlaying the countryside. Part of it may have been humidity from the lawn sprinklers or the nearby canals that run through Las Colinas. I could smell dampness.

Yesterday was a real smell-a-thon. I got behind a garbage truck that was fleeing an abbatoire, blood and stench dripping a gruesome trail on I30 into downtown. On the way home I got an almost unbearable odor from the open sewer they call the Trinity River as I passed through the downtown mixmaster.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

stormy window

yes, another day of desperate collaging fighting off the name-calling demons who say I should sink into the oblivion weariness brings. Most of my creative thought goes into problem-solving at work so how can there be much left over? Am hoping I can stoke a few embers over the summer but I'm already becoming unable to make sense of technical jargon when it occurs in conversation. In a few weeks I'll be lucky to understand basic English and to be able to find my way home at night.

I've had to make a mini-budget to rectify my mindless purchase of collage materials of late. I got a couple of items that I really don't know what to do with so now I'm forcing myself to at least ration purchases on paper before executing them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

hump day

inching toward the top, hoping to coast through to the weekend.

The addition of at least six extra bodies at work in the form of freelancers has suddenly and dramatically increased the noise level in the afternoon. Neiman's has also increased the number of their personnel, resulting in more noise in their area, fewer parking spaces in the lot and an all too frequent emptiness in the diet dr. pepper slot of the soft drink machine. And now's the time of year when the restroom really resembles a sty after the pigs have had a good wallow. All I can do is clap on the headphones and get to work.

Monday, June 20, 2005

books on cd

I've got a new reason to expect mail. I signed up for a books-on-tape rental service so I can have new inspiration at work while I'm slogging away at my work station. I tried the service last summer and was enormously entertained. I decided it was worth it to try again. I've got tons of music cd's, have almost filled my 30GB iPod with songs, and can listen to other folks' iTunes at work over our network but it's never enough when you have to be sitting in front of a computer screen doing a lot of intensely detailed but fairly repetitious photoshopping. Music helps me get in "the zone" but after awhile it starts running together and becomes a humming annoyance because it's not fresh. I was surprised to find last year that books often did a better job than music of distracting me from my weariness and made those ten-hour shifts just fly by. I'm going for the comedy of David Sedaris, Garrison Keillor, and others of their ilk with some stories and educational stuff thrown in for variety.

Besides, it's always groovy to get stuff in the mail.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

best buy

the beans that keep yer kar kitten-quiet. altho as Saffanna put it, "I think I'll stay off of Route 9 for awhile."

I cracked myself up with this ATC. It practically created itself. I hope lots of people got giggles from it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

the rubaiyat

Here's the cover of "the rubaiyat" book I may be altering. I think it's probably a good size - the pages are 6.5 x 9.25 inches - but I'm a little intimidated by it so I may have to work up to it. Am also still intimidated by the thought of ripping up a perfectly good book. My practice altered-book is a paperback, which made it a little easier. I'm still enjoying the musty smell which evokes visions of tall dimly-lit aisles containing a multitude of dusty tomes long-forgotten and considerably marked down in price. This copy of "The Rubaiyat" is not rare and cost me less than what I might pay for a used paperback, yet the connotation of "book" renders it somehow sacred.

I will start by ripping out the color illustrations. I think there are twelve. After that, more destruction will be easier, I think.

creative philosophy

I was so dull yesterday, still trying to adjust to my new work schedule and the pressure that's going along with it, that I felt I would never be creative again. I took some time to prep a few pages in my mini-journal with a wash of acrylic paint and that helped a little in that I was doing something, but it didn't feel creative. I finally just started clipping words out of the newspaper and gradually the above page came together with some useful quotes about creativity that seemed to be the spark I needed. I feel better now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

dullish day

My office reeks of an ancient mustiness which emanates from a 1937 hardback copy of "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" I got in the mail yesterday. It has some nicely colored illustrations in an art-nouveau style but more than that, the book has suddenly become a very likely candidate for alteration. It has a sturdy binding and is just the right size. I think the couplets of poetry could be clipped to make some nice text to accompany the alteration I would be doing.

But alas, I am dull today.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

thursday's friday

will have to do without a photo today. It is Friday for me since my work week runs Sunday thru Thursday. The nine-hour days haven't been too bad but my brain is already getting tired. My priority-setting skills are much deteriorated and I feel I have too many irons in the fire. I don't know how I will keep up with my non-work projects. It's so hot when I get up and the pollution's been so bad I don't want to take Phoebe out for a walk but the next two days I'll be able to take her out in the evening.

I enlisted in the Gluebook group at Yahoo but now I don't know if I'll be able to contribute to the group. I may be able to at least do some of the challenges on my own time and learn a few new things. After all, the gluebook (my mini-journal) is supposed to be for me. The random glueing thing is a great idea, relieving the pressure of having to plan and just letting things fall together. Today I found a drafting template left over from school and I got wonderful results using it in the book to draw a bunch of different sized circles and then coloring them in with crayons.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Creative time is becoming a faint memory already as the jobs pile up each day at work. We've gone from a backlog of about 88 images to over 200 in just a few days and that's only the beginning.

I glued in my mini-journal today out of desperation to do SOMEthing creative. I'm glad I had some more pages prepped with background color. It's becoming more difficult to do any writing in the journal because of its small size and the giant rings binding the pages, but I would like to keep it for mini collages and to practice technique.

My photographer friend Susie and I are debating the ethics and copyright infringement possibilities of shooting graffiti and then making money off the photos. She is almost definitely going to buy the Canon EOS slr. I like the idea of a digital slr but I'm leaning toward the new Canon Powershot with the 12x zoom and image stabilization. I like the idea of not having to change lenses in the field. And on long hikes every extra ounce feels like a ton of bricks.

here's a video clip of some graffiti artists plying their trade in Germany:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

pre-rush hour

I can feel rush hour nipping at my heels every day now on my way to work. The barrier for the HOV lane is in place or in the process of being zipped down and traffic from the opposite direction is already at a standstill. Traffic after midnight is so much lighter than early evening but there are more people driving faster. Last night a storm passed through and I had slick roads and an oily windshield to deal with. The lightning was bright but not scary.

I've been learning about colored pencils from my artist friend, Larry. I'd been trying to add color to some of the old black & white illustrations I'd clipped from magazines without much sucess. Acrylic is too thick and when thinned it wrinkles the paper too much. My cheap watercolors were a little too watery and I was considering artist-quality paint. Then I thought about colored pencils and thats what I want to try next. Larry told me about the "art stix", wide flat pencils you can use to lay down a background, and about watercolor pencils that you color with and smudge with a damp brush for a watercolor effect. How exciting! So today I've been researching availability and prices. The local art stores I've been frequenting either don't carry the brand I want (PrismaColor) or their prices are higher than what I would have to pay through an online store. So it's a math problem: spending money & time here on gas to drive to the store plus higher price plus sales tax versus lower online price plus shipping. Where's my calculator?

I found some really cool wallpaper in Better Homes & Gardens magazine that I'm thinking about putting up somewhere. It's white paper with frames drawn all over it so you can draw or paint on it or glue things on it to make your wall covered in mini-works of art. My problem would be that I would probably want to save my art and how would I get it off the wall?

Monday, June 13, 2005


I've started my 9-hour shifts and at the same time I have to push my schedule forward to arrive at work at 3pm and leave at 1am. My sleep is already disrupted after only one day! I'm putting blankets over the windows to help me since I'll probably be sleeping til almost noon. Photography & collage may fall by the wayside sooner than I anticipated.

This is another page from my mini journal done after reading another short bio on Kandinsky, one of my favorite artists.

Friday, June 10, 2005

journal practice

The mini journal is evolving. I thought it would be strictly a glue and stamp book but now I'm adding writing to see what happens. It looks kind of interesting as a design element and it might help me with the blog, too, since that's also a work in progress.

Last week when I had a few days off I went to Stamp Asylum in Plano. It's a small store packed with mounted rubber stamps, printed ephemera, cards, stamp pads, chalks, tools, embellishments, and I forgot what else. I bought two rubber stamps, and got a stamp pad and a "rubber stamper" magazine at half price. The store has classes for all levels of rubber stampers that look interesting but most are too expensive for me ($60 to $150 on average) and seem to require items I don't already own.

All of the stamps at the store are mounted stamps; there weren't any unmounted ones. I've discovered that unmounted stamps are much less expensive so I bought a few to try them out. They work great although I have to handle them differently. I've ordered some acrylic mounts and static cling foam that will let me mount each stamp temporarily when I want to use it. So many new things out there in the art world!

I got a rubber brayer that I've been using to ink some of my stamps and also to mash down some of the pieces on my collages. I like it better than my burnisher.(I think my burnisher is the same thing as a "bone folder" but I like the term "burnisher" better.) You get really even pressure over a small area or an entire page of a book.

The Rubber Stamper magazine was interesting for some of its examples and techniques, but I didn't like it enough to subscribe. I did get the names of some rubber stamp manufacturers and a few interesting tips about layering papers that could be useful. They have a web site with a few tips on rubber stamping.


Finally the weekend arrives. I have so many projects I don't know where to start! In addition to my art projects I have to replace a doorknob my mom destroyed. I don't know how she breaks so many things that seem to be relatively durable. A curse of old age?

Next week I'll be working 9-hour shifts so I'm going to start getting tired soon.

Freelancer "A" is going to stay with us for 3 weeks and then go to her new permanent job elsewhere. We will be stuck with "Prince Charles" the megalomaniac. Someone asked the boss how he could even think about hiring a person that no one wants to work with - I guess he feels he has no other option. The job market is bad, it's true, but it's mainly a bad attitude that keeps this moron unemployed.

Both air conditioners in the scanning/proofing room malfunctioned yesterday. The temperature got up to 89 degrees and the new proofing machine went haywire. We got it down to 87 and were able to use the equipment. The air conditioner leaked 5-10 gallons of water per day into our work area last summer which we caught in a big trash can and emptied throughout the day. We can't do anything because the building belongs to the customer we're contracted to so it's their responsibility to fix it. The head of their production department has finally got angry at the building crew because our malfunctioning equipment means their proofs arrive late.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

making sense

I was invited to join a new group on Flickr called "we don't make sense." One of my favorite albums was the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense" so the title of the group appealed to me. But what is "sense"? How do I NOT make sense? I posted this photo of sticker graffiti that I really liked but no one had ever commented on. I figured it must not have made sense to anyone but me.

I don't think it's possible to really STOP making sense unless you have become senseLESS and by that I mean lacking the ability to sense things such as being in a vegetative state. The simple act of labeling, whether or not the label itself makes
sense, is making sense. Even the most deranged mentality is probably trying to make sense of things.The perceptions are different and so are the coping mechanisms.

We have unexpected visitors from Tennesse today. I wonder how they will react to the non-functioning doorknob on the front door? Will it make sense to them? It makes sense to me!

I have Tiger at work now. A no-brainer after becoming used to Panther. Biggest change is I have some widgets on the Mac dashboard. I don't understand the excitement my nerdy co-workers display over them; they only seem like eye-candy to me. There's even a widget for the Flickr Zeitgeist but it's so tiny it might as well not be there. As long as the operating system works so I can get my job done I'm happy. Today I'll be getting Photoshop CS2 which will be more of a challenge. Every upgrade in Photoshop has required more mouse moving and thus more wrist problems. The program is geared to creativity, no doubt about that, but it's not geared to improve the plight of the workers who mass produce for hours on end.

I have learned through the grapevine that Freelancer "A" has been offered a permanent position at another company. My boss has counteroffered because if she leaves now, we have a problem for summer production. The only qualified candidate for her position is a snotty prima-donna who worked for us briefly last summer. He is not a team player and refused to conform to our production system. He also tended to talk more than work. I get really irritated by people like that. If you've agreed to accept money to be part of a production process you just can't be a diva.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I ate the red ones!

The 4th & 5th tomatoes of the year. Yumm. As Guy Clark wrote, "what would life be without homegrown tomatoes?" Yesterday someone brought tomato & mozzarella sandwiches drenched in olive oil & vinegar. I will have to make some of those if we get big tomatoes.

We're getting Tiger & Photoshop CS-2 installed at work this week and next. I hate getting new software as summer arrives because it means I'll have to learn all the new stuff while under extra pressure. At least there may be a week of grace so I can get familiar with it. The scripting on our FileMaker database has been getting locked up so that's not a good sign. And worry is spreading because we have not got the photos this week that were already two weeks late. Our prognosis has already changed since Monday. I was told yesterday I'm definitely getting someone on second shift to run the proofing and laminating machines. We replaced one of our old Kodak proofers with a new machine that runs twice as fast but it is so labor intensive that I can't run it and do my regular work as I did before. I'm reminded again of The Religion of Technology by David W. Noble which discusses how technology is not meant to make our lives easier.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Phoebe has been munching on some of the plants in the back yard. Today it's the squash plants.

The first freelancers started working yesterday. We rely on freelancers to get us through the summer weeks so it's important to have good ones. Even mediocre ones are ok if they're reliable. "A" is a former employee who went to a different job, got laid off in November 2003, and hasn't been able to find a permanent job since. She's reliable, hard-working, funny and has great taste in music. (We share a lot of music at work!) "B" is also a former employee who was fired in September 2004 after more than two years of inconsistency and bad attitude brought on by a bitter divorce and excessive drinking. He can be relied upon to be unreliable. When he freelanced for us this last winter he often failed to show up when he said he would, so it's hard to understand why my boss has hired him again. He has dyed his hair blue and silver which might not look bad on a younger guy, but this man is forty and stuck in the 70's so he looks more homeless than hip.

We work 8-hour shifts this week and will increase to ten hours the following week or two. Initial prediction from my boss is that we won't be in "trouble" until the week of July 12. It will be interesting to see how accurate that prediction turns out.

Monday, June 06, 2005

lighten up

roy & dale
Summer Looms. I saw the first sign posted yesterday as a note about "impending production increase" which means it's a matter of a week or so until my life goes "on hold" for 3 months. So when I flipped over my calendar at work and saw Roy & Dale fighting I knew I didn't want to look at it for the rest of the month. We will all be cranky enough soon without a bickering couple looking at us. I think visual surroundings affect us even when we're not thinking about them. Maybe that's why my brain gets confused? because my home office/studio seems to be a big mess most of the time. I'm making an effort to keep it neater because I'm getting a big collection of paper bits, magazine clippings, paint, glue and otehr stuff related to making collages, and a messy area means I can't find what I want when I want it.

If I can keep up this blog I may be able to leave a record of the annual deterioration that occurs each summer when we have the bulk of our work. I'm way more proficient on my camera than I was a year ago so I may be able to add photos. It's hard to be objective, though, when you are dead tired and trying to meet a deadline almost every day.

We had the first of the Halloween items two weeks ago. I expect the Christmas/Holiday items will appear this week or next.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

art journal

I found this nice little spiral notebook at a garage sale yesterday for 50 cents. It has a thick board cover and the pages are nice and white. I don't think it's vellum but it seemed like a good way to get started on an art journal. It's about twice the width of an ATC so I can enlarge my scope without feeling too overwhelmed by a large canvas. The ATC format has been a great starting point for me but sometimes my brain can't fit stuff onto a card. The altered book I'm working on is good for practicing composition but I needed a smaller format for practicing some new techniques, comparing inks & paints, etc.

I've been looking at some amazing journals and tips by Teesha Moore. I love the rubber stamps she and her husband sell. I ordered two stamps from them and they sent a couple of extra stamps and some collage bits as a "thank you." What generosity there is in this art community!

I've become much more of a scavenger lately. When I take my dog Phoebe for a walk I am usually keeping an eye out for scraps of paper I can use for collaging. At work I've got to check the packaging material of anything we receive to see if there's something to add to my collection.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

dog day afternoon

beetle dog

I've been obsessing over making ATCs so much I haven't been using my camera much, except during my Big Bend Trip. Then I go and I get a simple shot like this that I just love, even though the zoom sucks, and I wonder how I could NOT be shooting.


I had such a great time at Big Bend National Park! It's been over three years since I've been to a nice desert so it was real nourishment for my spirit. Just me and the landscape and a few other hikers. There were still a lot of things blooming, especiailly in the upper elevations, but nothing close to the colors of March and April (so I'm told). I took a lot of photos and I'm still going through them all. I've had a lot of frustration trying to identify many of the wildflowers I saw. My reference books are woefully inadequate so I was searching the web and found this site dedicated to Texas wildflowers. Jo Cox has really put a lot of energy into this great website and now I'm going to be helping in a small way by contributing some of my own flower shots. Since we live 200 miles apart, we're in different geologic regions of Texas so I do see a few flowers she doesn't. Now I have to improve my observation skills to get better shots of plant parts other than the blossoms.