Monday, April 30, 2007

experiment in rust

I didn't have much energy for art this weekend, but I did experiment by concocting this solution that's supposed to "rust" objects. I've been wanting to do some assemblage and thought a rusted Altoid tin would be a nice starting place.

The recipe is equal parts of vinegar and household bleach. I used white vinegar. DO NOT TRY THIS INDOORS!!! Well, I guess you could; it doesn't seem to be volatile, but the stench is horrific. I did this outside and was still almost overcome by the fumes. Even my dog did not venture within five feet of the stuff.

I separated the parts at the hinge, poked some holes in them with a nail, haphazardly sanded the surface, submerged the pieces, and waited for the magic. Oh yes, I placed a rusty nail in there, too, which is supposed to accelerate the process. Two days later, this is what I got. What looks like rust is a runny slimy brown goo. There's a bit of oxidation around the edges, where the sandpaper bit more deeply, and where I scratched with the nail, but overall this is not what I expected. I'm letting the pieces dry to see if the goo will harden and/or stick to the metal. If not, I will probably sand a bit harder and try again.

I don't know what to do with this stinky pan of bleach and vinegar. I don't think it would be good to dump it on the ground or put it into the sewer system. I could let it evaporate, I guess. I don't know if I want living creatures to have to inhale the stuff. If I knew it wouldn't explode if put into a glass jar, I could do that and drop off at the hazardous chemical place. I should have thought of this beforehand.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Wings

The first thing that came to mind for this subject was an audio cue, a line from an old Bill Monroe song: "Give me wings, that I might fly away to Glory."

I thought of the close link between the Spanish spelling of Alas (wings) and Almas (souls). Why that constant association between the soul and wings? Has it to do only with angels? Probably not as the reference to one's heart being light as a feather seems to have been a part of ancient Egypt's religion.

There are so many kinds of wings and feathers one might wonder just which ones are the ones to do with souls. Are they are the tiny wings of hummingbirds, muscular whirling rotors rotating faster than the eye can see, allowing quick and precise access to the nectar hidden in the recesses of colorful flowers? Are they the enormous bouffants of the ostrich, largely useless to the bird, but coveted by Victorian ladies for their hats? Are they the "wings of the snow white dove," often alluded to in Christianity, which signify peace or allow the softest of landings on the grass? Or are they the gliders, the wings of eagles and red-tailed hawks which allow them to soar high above us earth-bound creatures for hours on end, seemingly without effort?

I would choose the raptors, the ravens, and the turkey vultures. Watching their endless drifting on unseen currents gives my heart wings. And when my heart takes flight I have no need for physical wings.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Studio Friday: Seven Deadly Sins (Envy)

Challenge #6: What do you desire that you are lacking and someone else has? If you could have it would you really want it or is it just a notion? How come you want to have it? What can you do to still that desire so that there is no need to be envious of any thing or anybody?

How do I envy? Let me count the ways....

This is a hard one to write about. I could do a humorous take-off on greed and sloth, but I can't find a way to mitigate the deadliness of envy.

The enviousness I see myself feeling repeatedly and most often have to do with health and time. I don't think a day goes by without me thinking about someone who is in better straits in these areas and wishing I was not in the shape I'm in. My health issues are twofold: physical and mental. I have severe anemia, which limits the amount of energy I have to expend on projects; and a bad back, which limits the length of time I can spend standing or sitting in certain positions. Mentally, I suffer from lifelong chronic depression. The medication I take to alleviate the symptoms tends to block my creativity. I so often wish I could be like "normal" people, that I could work ten hours instead of six without feeling exhausted, that I didn't have to fight medication as well as the usual mental blocks to creativity. As for time, it seems there's never enough of it. I spend almost two hours a day commuting to work, which seems like such a waste. Of course when I have the time I don't have enough energy to fully take advantage of it. If I had the energy I probably wouldn't appreciate it.

In Buddhist thought, desire is often tied to the suffering we experience in life, and desire is one of the key words of the definition of envy. I've been reading Hooked!, a collection of essays on desire and the urge to consume, and the solution proscribed to combat desire is to just let go of it. One writer calls it "Freedom through Non-clinging." If you cling to your desire, or to your envy, you'll inevitably be unhappy. I'm trying to apply the idea to my own urge to consume, and now to my envy.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

thursday walk

I've been working on the house lately and have had to sacrifice my "art" time. Posting on this blog is my small way of keeping myself doing at least one small creative thing. I find myself also looking for "assignments" from other blogs and from groups on Flickr. My latest creative boost for photography is from Utata. This photo is from my first "Thursday Walk." I've been extremely lax about exercising and realized this was a small kick in the butt to get me out at least one day a week. I took a few short walks earlier this week in preparation for today's walk-and-shoot session. My dog, Phoebe, realized that I was going out and was so excited that I've had to start bringing her with me. The walks benefit both of us, of course, but it's sometimes hard to focus the camera when she wants to take off after some interesting scent.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

stormy weather

Morning has come and we survived another bout with Mother Nature. Traffic was barely creeping along the highway last night as 60 mph winds drove sheets of water across six lanes. I was glad to make it home in one piece. The honeysuckle is pretty perky today but many of the watersoaked roses are bent nearly double to the ground. Those that are still upright are mostly bereft of their petals. There are clumps of petals on the sidewalks, piled up by the driving wind that tore through yesterday. A neighbor who was anticipating the storm invited us over to view her backyard collection of roses, and I'm glad now that I took her up on the invitation. I shot this photo just as the storm was beginning to roll in. The pink showed up nicely against that grey house at the corner.

We also had our first tornado drill at work yesterday. I know the folks in charge of emergency procedures were itching for a chance to try out the system, and I guess the severe weather warnings yesterday were their golden opportunity. First we had a pre-recorded announcement in an annoying female voice: "May I have your attention please! May I have your attention please." Then a short blah blah blah and the voice urged us to "continue with normal activities." The announcement was repeated, then repeated a second time, a third, a fourth, a fifth time. By the third repetition we were nearly screaming at the speaker. "How can I be normal when this annoying loud voice will not shut up!!?" Some folks were keeping an eye on the local radar on their computers and we heard a possible funnel cloud had been spotted in Crowley, at the far end of the next county. This is enough to set off an official "Tornado Warning" from the National Weather Service for the county. That was the pretext needed for our emergency system to announce a "Warning" for our building.

From now on we are calling Tornado Drills "Sardine Drills" because in essence what happened was we had 30 people crowding into a room that wasn't meant for more than 4 or 5. We may become quite skilled at stuffing people into a phone booth, if there were any phone booths left to stuff ourselves into, or maybe we could stuff ourselves into a Volkswagen. Our "shelter" area seemed much less secure once it was packed with people. I don't see how we could do a "duck and cover" if a tornado were ripping off the roof. We'd stand there dumbstruck, goldfish caught in our bowl, bug-eyed, staring straight up, as that would be all the room we'd have. Mercifully, we were only confined for about ten or fifteen minutes.

We learned two important things. One was that the ventilation in our shelter wasn't made for a packed room and the other was that with the door shut we couldn't hear the "all clear" signal. Someone cheated and cracked the door to listen for it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

night music

Hush little baby, don't say a word;
Papa's gonna buy you a mocking- bird.

The song should end right there, because the following verse, which begins, if that mockingbird don't sing, is something that just AIN'T gonna happen.

I've been thinking about the bio-clocks of mockingbirds. I believe I could set my clocks to the mockingbird who sings outside my bedroom window. His song begins about 2:30 am and seems to continue nearly nonstop until dusk. I can see him through the window, usually perched in a particular tree, but sometimes flitting to the electrical wires above or to another tree, singing even as he is in flight. During the day his song is sometimes lost in the cacophony of the cardinals, the doves, the woodpeckers, and of course the sparrows, but I can almost always pick him out even while he imitates his neighbors. Such a talented creature. It's sometimes mentioned in books that these birds can imitate machinery, which sounds kind of crazy, but I have heard a mockingbird imitating a car alarm. Someone in my old neighborhood had an alarm that went off at the slightest vibration. It was one of those alarms that cycled through about ten different noises. Now, the bird that mimicked the car alarm didn't sound exactly like it, but it had the cadence, the spacing between each sound and the up and down flow of volume down to perfection. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing.

There was nothing to do at work again yesterday so I had the day off. At the rate the work is coming in I'll have used all my vacation days by the time my scheduled vacation week rolls around. So I stayed home and tried to put some order to the workshed. I cut and installed some wooden shelves and hung two fluorescent shop lights and somehow used up all my energy by 3 pm yesterday. I was worn out and went to bed early. I couldn't sleep because my physical tiredness was in deep conflict with my internal clock that said it wasn't bedtime.

And then at 2:32 am, just when I was drifting off, the mockingbird started his aria.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Greed Revisited

I think I spoke much too lightly about Greed on Studio Friday a few weeks back. I got two new books from Amazon the other day and they are wreaking havoc with my psyche.

The first book was this glorious Artist Trading Card Workshop by Bernie Berlin that is fully of scrumptious ATC's and is making me crave a bunch of new art supplies so I can try out some of the techniques she describes. This has made me realize some new things about Greed. I don't just like to hoard my little stamp collection; I like to hoard all kinds of things. I love to pore over books, especially how-to and art books, and I love to buy new art supplies. So today I'm here at work, all alone, just me and my Greed. There wasn't much for me to do today when I clocked in, but I feel like I should stay at least long enough to pay for the gas that got me here. After I finished my few projects, I spent a little time searching for some supplies mentioned in this book. I had been wanting to add a little luminescence to some of my pieces and the Lumiere metallic paints by Jacquard and a Krylon metallic leafing pen seemed like good possibilities. I found both items at ArtSuppliesOnline. The price isn't the lowest but they are offering Free Shipping to new customers until May 31, 2007, which makes their supplies a good deal. I just had to place an order.

Here's the ugly side of this lovely story. The other book I got last week was Hooked!, a collection of Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume. It was easy to be greedy far far away from the cover of this book, but I know it will be staring me in the face when I get home. The bits I've read are so logical, so Sensible, I don't know why I want to choose to ignore them. The best I can say to myself right now is that I will do my best to use the supplies I purchase, much as I use the nails or drywall compound or trowel I bought to work on repairs for the house. The greed seems to come from my internal gushing over lovely supplies and imagining a roomful of them at my beck and call. It's not the purchase of the items that's greed; it's the overwhelming desire to possess them. The idea that struck me most in the chapter I was reading was that Freedom in your life comes from Not Clinging - to things, to people, to ideas. I wonder how it can help me with my art?


My roots more closely resemble those of a honeysuckle vine rather than an oak tree. Like the vines, I've stretched so far from my roots that we hardly bear any relationship to one another. Like the roots, my spirit is always alive, but hidden by dirt and no one knows for sure if I will reappear. My branches look like dead sticks most of the year, tough brown extenders woven into chain link fences, creeping along the ground and around trees. Then spring comes and the woody stems show tiny buds of green. Soon the green vines are growing madly, sprouting leaves and clinging to everything in their path. Finally flowers of purest white burst forth, dispensing their clean sweet scent throughout the neighborhood.

That's me and my creativity. It may only be noticeable a few times a year, but when it blooms, it's sweet.

Friday, April 20, 2007

the eyes have it!

The sky was overcast but bright and it seemed ideal for shooting macros. I shot 3 or 4 different small flies sampling wildflower nectar but this one is just crazy: its eyes take up most of its head. The camera can see so many things I can't with my faulty vision, and it gives me so much more to appreciate about everyday things.

I've got a crush on my new electrician. I guess I can't resist a guy in a uniform. This guy certainly was a credit to his crisp white shirt with sewn-on nametag and navy blue Dickie's pants cinched with a leather western belt. It didn't take him long to get that shirt dirty, creeping through the tight attic space above the bathroom. He did a great job. I feel a lot safer now those old wires have been pulled out and replaced with properly connected new ones. Maybe this is similar to the fixation experienced by patients who become attached to their doctors or psychiatrists. I hope they send the same guy next time. I'll look forward to that. Next time I hope I'm not wearing my dirtiest sweatpants and that I've gotten rid of this huge glowing red zit that appeared on my face last week. Sheesh. What a picture I must have made.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Studio Friday: Seven Deadly Sins (Wrath)

Challenge #5: Wrath. Anger. Hatred. Prejudice. Discrim- ination. Not...good. How does it show up every now and then in your studio? Do you break things just because you are in its grip? Why? Do you smash your last creation and destroy it? How do you deal with it?

I'm rarely angry because of my art. Maybe it's because my studio is my "happy" place.

I think anger mostly appears in my studio after it has lost its brute force. In its aftermath I'm able to think through matters more clearly: to masticate my thoughts before spitting them out. I may rant about my dissatisfaction with politics, or social situations, or corporate stupidity in my blog, but I try to couple my anger with humor. It helps keep me sane.

I don't usually bring anger into the studio because my anger doesn't usually foster a creative atmosphere. I remember the outrage I felt at the treatment of the New Orleans citizens stranded in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. I tried to channel my anger into a collage and became frustrated because it didn't do much to alleviate my outrage. I felt less anger but more hopelessness.

The photo above is one of the few times a satisfactory creation came from the midst of anger. About five years ago my office was working ten hours a day seven days a week trying to meet impossible deadlines. After six weeks without a day off most of us were very tired and very angry. A co-worker suggested we all create a piece of art express our feelings. I created a digital collage with a scene from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" to depict our daily drudgery and used Jose Guadalupe Posada's portrayal of the infamous General Huerta as a representation of our company's CEO, who seemed to be the only one profiting from our labors. That one felt really good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

STAR (ling) WARS

We put out the last suet cake for the birds during the cold spell last week. Some of our favorite birds, the woodpeckers, chickadees and finches love the suet and seed concoction. Unfortunately, so do the "nuisance" birds: the starlings. They are virtual pigs when it comes to suet. I got a few shots of these two squabbling over the feeder.

I added the captions and background with Plasq's Comic Life software for Macs. I played around with a free demo of this program about a year ago and then forgot about it. In the meantime the original publisher was acquired by Plasq, so today I was able to download a demo of the new improved software. I may have to play some more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Intuitive Demolition

Sometimes you just have to follow your muse in whatever unexpected direction it wants to go, especially if it's the Muse of Destruction.

One of the therapeutic advantages of renovating an old house is the opportunity to tear stuff apart in the name of discovery. Yesterday I was installing a new light fixture in the bathroom when I unearthed some scary connections made by the electrician we used a few months ago. He was highly recommended, but after seeing what he left behind the sheet rock I don't think we'll be using him again.

I couldn't quite figure out where the power came from. I had to dismantle several outlets and pull switches and wires trying to find all the links on the bathroom's electrical circuit with only partial success. Where some of the wires come from and where they go is a mystery. This photo shows the kind of wiring that exists in most of the house. Would YOU want this kind of wiring in YOUR house? I tend to forget quite quickly how much abuse this old house has taken in its 100 or so years of existence. Electricity scares me enough that I don't like to do much more than replacing outlets, fixtures, or switches. This circuit needs to be entirely replaced and connected to a new breaker in the circuit box, a job that is beyond my capabilities and my courage. I just hope I can find a good electrician this time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

tornado warning

A series of tornadoes passed through North Central Texas last night. Here is a photo of a small church in Haltom City, just east of Fort Worth, that had its roof ripped off and another photo of a funnel cloud approaching Oak Cliff in the southwest part of Dallas just minutes later. If you've never seen an approaching tornado you don't know how scary it is. I'm really glad McKinney was too far north to really worry about this storm. I was especially glad we moved when I heard about the damage that occurred just a few blocks from where we used to live in Dallas. I hate tornado season.
About 3 weeks ago the two signs you see at the upper right suddenly appeared in the office where I work. I've worked in this building for eleven years and we only just now got these signs and a plan of action for tornadoes. I think this happened because of the lawsuits in Alabama filed against a school where some students were killed when a tornado devastated the school. The people in charge had no plan in place and kids died because of it. I guess my corporate masters didn't want the same thing happening to them. These areas that are labeled aren't even the primary tornado shelters. It takes about five minutes to get to the real shelter, a little quicker if you're running, but tornadoes tend to travel much faster than humans do.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Office Move

I'm moving into a new cubicle at work. I packed all my stuff into two cardboard boxes yesterday. When I return to the office on Monday they will have been relocated to my new cell, if all goes as planned.

Lego Guy here (an office mascot located in the coffee/copy/fax area) is ready, too. You can see he's got his stuff in the official-size supplied cardboard box. The piece of cardboard inserted into his cubicle between his desk and the box is there because the "move" is really a matter of disassembling the cubicles in our office and re-assembling them so they are about 30% smaller than they were. I think we're going to have to find a new cube for Lego Guy, too.

Notice Lego Guy has used the requisite Green Sticker for this week's move. God forbid he should use the orange sticker from last week's move; his stuff would end up in the trash bin. The label thing is one of those corporate mandates that makes no sense to me. Our move/reconfiguration is being done in 4 phases. The office was divided into 4 sections. The group scheduled for moving packs their stuff and leaves on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday the moving crew comes in, moves the boxes out of the scheduled area, reconfigures the cubicles, and moves the boxes back into the appropriate cubes. Each box is labeled by its owner with the appropriate cubicle number so it gets to the right place. I don't understand why the label must also be a certain color. It's a little like the post office saying they won't deliver mail to a particular state unless the address is written on a colored label specified by the government.

I guess I should be grateful I wasn't required to attend a seminar on how to pack my stuff into the cardboard box.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Studio Friday: Seven Deadly Sins (Sloth)

Challenge #4: "How do you fail to utilize your gift and talents? How do you feel at those moments? Are you unwilling to act? Is it that you are afraid? What is really going on? How can a few simple steps change you? What do you need for that to happen?"

I am woman: hear me snore! Yes, it's the deadly sound of sloth at my house. I'm guilty of slacking more often than I like to think about.

Look at this corner of my workspace. It's a fair representation of what seems like my whole life these days. My desk, where I delayed doing my taxes, and tend to put off paying bills, doesn't look much better than this. Stacks of art stuff have crept onto the kitchen table and into my bedroom and sitting area. We've packed a few boxes of extras to donate to charity, but they are likewise scattered about. I like to use the excuse that it's because we moved into a smaller house, that I haven't unpacked and found everything yet, or that things are continually shifting locations because we're renovating. Those things are all true, but it's been four months and it hardly seems things are any better now than they were in December.

I'm overwhelmed by projects pulling me in all directions. I'll walk in, look at the mess, and stand transfixed until I throw my hands up in despair and walk away; or I'll rummage through the piles until I find enough interesting pieces to create "accidental" art. The act of rummaging results in more stuff piling up and the mess gets worse.

I think the trick is not to let myself become overwhelmed. Something I read a while back said if you looked at a pile of food, which was all the food you were going to be eating for the rest of your life, you'd go crazy trying to figure out how you were going to eat it all; but you don't have to eat it all at once. You're going to be eating it one bite at a time, one meal at a time. I'm trying to apply that parable to my messy house. One paper at a time, one pile at a time. I tried this yesterday and was amazed at how far just a little bit of organizing and rearranging went to clear up our living space.

My own workspace still has a ways to go.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

recycled tags

Lately I've been using Artists' Journals & Sketch- books by Lynne Perrella as a reference tool. I study the pieces I really like and try to imitate what the artist has done. After all, many art students hone their painting skills by copying the works of the masters; why shouldn't I do the same kind of practice?

One of the things that caught my eye was the interesting use of shipping tags as attachments and embellishments and I wanted to experiment with them. Before spending money on new tags I decided to see if I had anything on hand that I could use first. I am above all, a recycler. I'm also cheap. I'm thrilled when I can get free art supplies by re-using old materials. I found a small assortment of price tags I had saved from purchased items. I had intended to use the words on the tags in collage but realized I could create some faux shipping tags by resurfacing them with gesso. You can see the results in this photo.

The tag with the attached string had an interesting technical drawing on one side and an ambiguous technical message on the other so I left it alone except for smearing it on an ink pad to add some "age". It had some nice crinkles that gave some depth to the ink. After laying down several coats of gesso on the other three tags I drew lines with a pencil on one, used a black permanent marker on one, and added pink squiggles from a pink brush/pen to the other. Then I put a light coat of acrylic medium yellow over all. I mixed a little burnt sienna with the yellow for the middle one.

Of the three tags I gessoed, the only one that didn't come out well was the one that was slick on two sides. The gesso didn't seem to add any body to the tag, and I think it may have become even flimsier than it already was. The tags with a matte surface worked much better.

Monday, April 09, 2007

muffle my brain

I picked up this car muffler yesterday. It had been lying in the median across near the old McKinney Dairy Queen for a couple of weeks. I spotted it one day in my rearview mirror and almost couldn't believe my eyes. I had just been telling a friend about an art installation I saw once in which someone aligned several hundred of these things in a grid on a grassy quad. I've never forgotten what a great piece it was. I walked amongst those heaps of metal, all different, in wonder at the imagination that created the display.

I don't know what I'm going to do with this but I'm sure I'll eventually think of something. In the meantime I'll let it Rust In Peace.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

memento mori

This roadside cross represents the beginning of one of my non-artistic projects. When I moved to McKinney in November I noticed several roadside memorials prominently displayed around the city. I've seen lots of these in New Mexico and Arizona and here in Texas, too, but usually they're not smack dab in the middle of a residential area. This cross in particular spoke to me, as the deceased person was only a child, a nine-year-old boy. I decided to do some research, but so far the passage below, an obituary from an unnamed source, is all I've found. I'm hoping to investigate further when time allows.

In the meantime, I imagine what might have happened. He was killed by a drunk driver; as only those memorials are allowed to remain by the Texas Highway Department. The apartment complex where this cross is placed is about a block away from a Movie Complex. Was he waiting for a ride one weekend night after watching a funny animated film? Did the driver come roaring around the gentle curve so fast he didn't see the little boy standing on the sidewalk? Maybe I'll find out some day. I guess my goal is to change these memorials from objects of curiosity into real people.

Dezmond Christopher Raney, born July 25, 1993, in McKinney, passed away suddenly Oct. 26, 2002, at the age of nine years. He was a student at Malvern Elementary School. He enjoyed many hobbies such as soccer and playing video games. He was also a proud big brother to Ethan.

He is survived by his parents Gus N. Raney and Christina Raney; brother Nathan Berrios; grandparents Ruby Berrios and Martin Hernandez, Domingo and Yolanda Berrios Sr.; aunts and uncles: Jessie Berrios, Paul Berrios, Domingo Berrios, Jr., Cynthia Berrios and Esmerelda Berrios; cousins: Jesse Berrios, Jr., Savanah Berrios, Paul Berrios, Jr. and Meranda Berrios. He is also survived by many friends and classmates at Malvern Elementary.

Services will be held 2:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2002, at Belew Funeral Home Chapel with Pastor James Haynes officiating. Interment will follow at Ridgeview Cemetery in Allen. Visitation with the family will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.

A memorial fund has been established at Bank Texas in Dezmond’s name, sponsored by Malvern Elementary School.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

return of winter

After several weeks of warm albeit often cloudy weather we're having a cold spell. The thermometer isn't expected to reach 50 degrees today and tonight we may experience freezing temperatures. We've had to turn the furnace on again. "They" say North Texas has never had a freeze during the month of April (March 20 is supposed to be the latest). Of course "never" really only means as far back as they've been keeping track of these things, which in this area would be about 1900. There's no telling what things were like before then. Still, that's a long time. My mom brought in the one tomato plant in a pot that has tomatoes on it and she is covering the tenderest plants outside with plastic grocery bags weighed down by bricks.

Here's a collage I made for another challenge called Inspire Me Thursday. The theme this week was "change of scenery." I took myself and my notebook into our little sunroom yesterday morning. The cooler temperatures had already arrived, but the room was sunny and comfortably warm. I relaxed in a rocking chair and drew the base of this page, "Beware the Caffeine Dealer." Later I cut and glued my collage in the same space. I was so happy with the feeling of the room I may have to make it a permanent semi-occasional workspace. The light was wonderful!

I used a graphite pencil and a plastic template to draw a square border and a bunch of circles. Then I used a felt-tip marker to embellish the border. I got the idea to cover my drawing with a thin layer of yellow paint. You can still see the pencil marks although they're muted a bit, and the border embellishment ran into the water-soluble paint, creating some nice blurred and mixed up tones.

Friday, April 06, 2007

new project

I decided that participating in some challenges from other bloggers might be a good way to spark my creativity. I found Studio Friday from tine sparkles which is a weekly challenge related to your personal workspace. The topic this week is "Greed."

Here's my take on Greed. I love the miniature art of stamps and matchbox covers. I think it stems from a childhood phase of stamp collecting. I have kraft envelopes full of stamps that I've been acquiring for many many years and a while back I started acquiring matchbox art. I love looking through my collection which I usually do on the pretense that I'm going to use some stamps in a collage. (Stamps are copyright free, after all.) Then I decide the stamps are too pretty to be taken out of their "natural" environment (my desk drawer). Lately I've managed to use a few stamps in projects and it hasn't hurt, so I hope to continue the trend.

Here's the third and last page I did with my "little princess" pic. This time I covered the stark black and white Asian written characters with a thin coat of white gesso, which softened them but still let them show through. It also added some substance to the page I used a few pieces of fabric in addition to the paper cutouts to add a different kind of texture. I was really happy with the fabric bits although the scan doesn't reproduce the texture very well.

After doing 3 pages with this image I ran out of ideas for it. That was one of the things that prompted me to start looking for some challenges from other bloggers. I sometimes do better when I have a deadline!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reign O'er Me

Here's another page using the same "little princess" image posted in yesterday's blog. I finally found my rubber stamps and had to start stamping. I found my stamp pads a month or so back, but for some reason the stamps weren't packed with them. They were in the one box I hadn't expected, of course. We were having a tremendous rain which we badly needed and I ended up stamping hearts for raindrops.

We have a lot to do at work this week so I have to sit at the computer for long periods. I have been searching for some new podcasts to enliven the drudgery and last night came across Anton Peck's ARTCAST. It's a podcast about using Photoshop as a painting tool. He reveals a side of Photoshop I didn't realize was there. This is great for me because I Know Photoshop. I work with it every day, but what I do is photo-related not drawing-related. I've tried to do things in Illustrator, but I just can't get the hang of the program and always quit in disgust. Anton's demonstration was a bit slow, but I think that's a good thing if you haven't seen Photoshop used this way. He comments on his site that some folks are calling him the "new Bob Ross" which gave me a chuckle because I don't remember hearing Bob ever say "what the hell". (There's no other profanity, by the way.) His soft-spoken narration is easy to listen to, and I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

birthday celebrations

I'm going to have to start calling Wednesday "Slump Day." Because Sunday is my Monday, and Thursday is my Friday, Wednesday can't really be "Hump Day" for me. That's reserved for Tuesday. I seem to get rolling pretty well for 3 days and then Wednesday I run out of steam for awhile.

Today I'm slumping. Maybe it's "abstainer's regret" for the homemade birthday cake I passed on at work yesterday. It's a good thing I didn't know it was homemade when it was offered or I'm sure I would have stuffed my face with a nice thick slice of sugar-saturated texture with cream cheese frosting, causing that blissful state known among most office workers as "cake stupor."

I'm trying to avoid processed sugar as much as possible since diabetes runs in my family and I'd like to avoid the condition, but it's hard to do when you work in an office where there are more than 120 employees. Chances are good that it's someone's birthday every other day or at least that there's a birthday every week. The office in which I work is big on birthdays and birthday cakes. Someone tried to offset the constant birthday celebrations by having one office-wide celebration each month to honor that month's birthday people, but instead of reducing the mini-celebrations among departments, it's only given people another excuse to avoid work for 10 or 15 minutes while they chow down yet another run-of-the-mill mass-produced crisco-laden confection from Costco. I had to draw the line somewhere so unless my craving for a sugar high is unbearable I say "NO" to birthday cakes. I was sorry to miss a real homemade cake though; it's a rare treat these days.

The page from my art journal is another experiment. I copied an image I liked (the little girl) and created several pages in different color schemes to compare the results. I realized that I had a mindset that told me each page I make should be completely different from anything else I had ever done and this is my attempt to break that mindset. Each page doesn't have to start with a unique element. If you look at works by Lynne Perrella or Teesha Moore you can see that they use favorite elements over and over. You can use the same element many times with unique results.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

new blog header

I've been fooling around with my template's html. I've wanted to change my header from the default plain type to a personalized one but I could never figure out how to do it. I know only a little html and haven't had much interest in learning more. I've got enough stuff jammed into my brain as it is. But I really really wanted a new header.I downloaded the page source code of pages similar to mine and compared the code, but there was just too much code for me to figure out where people had inserted their illustrations. I thought, too, that I would probably need to have my illustration hosted somewhere so Blogger could see it. I have been bugging people to help me with what I thought must be an easy task. I'm sure I've been annoying. At last I found a way to do it! yay.

The instructions are at Beta Blogger 4 Dummies. As I suspected, you do need to have your illustration hosted somewhere, but Google is kind enough to provide 100MB of free space at Googlepages

There is also a Blogger Help Group with a discussion on customizing templates.

For anyone who wonders where I got my avatar, I cropped it from this photo of a colorful trash bin behind a vegetarian cafe in Fort Worth, Texas. It's best viewed large so you can see some of the great stickers. It's the only time I've seen this sticker posted.

Monday, April 02, 2007

vampires & oprah advice

She's a sleepy vampire; she'll be up all night.
"Sleepy Vampire" by The Supersuckers

The trouble with working an evening shift for more than twenty years is that I get lazy about getting up in the morning. In the winter it's so easy to languish beneath the warm covers until it gets fully light that it becomes a habit that's hard to break in the spring, especially when Daylight Saving Time has arrived early. Or is it that I've finally become one of "the children of the night"? (said with a Bela Lugosi accent). A night stalker in search of....oh wait, I'm a vegetarian. But I suddenly noticed there are NO MIRRORS in this house.

I clipped a paragraph from an old O magazine someone gave me and a journal page developed from it. The quote came at a good time for me. It's from Oprah's "what I know for sure" column:

I believe we discover our destinies in the smallest ways - in a fascination with words, in the thrill a child's laughter evokes, and even in a familiar song we keep humming. If you pay attention to these cues - to the times you've felt most joyous, most fully engaged, most connected with yourself and others - you'll always be guided to the next best place.

I know for sure that every person in the world has a purpose for being here - a calling. The work of your life is to discover that purpose and get on with the business of living it out.

The song I've been humming?
I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony
My Rhapsody Playlist

If the link doesn't work, you can find it at Rhapsody Music.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

altered matchbook & exodus according to lego

Here's a project idea I've been toying with. I acquired a bunch of old matchbox stickers a while back intending to use them for collage but many of them are so lovely I hate to cut them up. I got the idea to use them for their original purpose, as matchbox covers, only with some added embellishment to make the art really stand out. This was my first experiment. I painted an ordinary small matchbox, glued the sticker and some gold stars to it and smudged it with some ink from a stamp pad to "age" it a bit. I haven't been burning the candle at both ends lately, so I haven't got enough empty boxes to play with yet. When I do, things will get hot. I'll be on fire. ha.

Do you like LEGOs ? Do you love Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments" ? At last there is a website which combines the best qualities of this colorful toy and the epic movie that coincidentally were products of the same era (the movie was produced in 1956 and according to one source the toy was patented in 1958). The site is The Brick Testament. Here you can find stories of the Bible illustrated in exquisite detail by the Reverend Brendan Powell Smith, who by the way, doesn't appear to have any official religious credentials. I hope you enjoy his amazing creations as much as I did.

My mind links things in the oddest way. One year ago today there were nationwide demonstrations supporting the rights of the many immigrants from Mexico who live in the U.S. There is a similar demonstration planned for today. At the same time a local community, Farmers Branch, is attempting to prevent anyone who cannot demonstrate U.S. citizenship from being able to live within its city limits. The juxtaposition of today's demonstration with Palm Sunday and my discovery of The Brick Testament prompted me to edit some of the verses in Chapter 1 of Exodus, towit:

1:5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Lorenzo de Zavala [native Mexican & Texas statesman who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence & supported the rebellion against Mexico] were seventy souls: for de Zavala was in Texas already.
1:6 And de Zavala died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
1:7 And the children of Mexico were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
1:8 Now there arose up a new king (George Dubya Bush) over Texas & the U.S., which knew not de Zavala.
1:9 And he said unto his people, Behold the people of the children of Mexico are more and mightier than we:
1:10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, wherein there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
1:11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Dubya treasure cities, Los Angeles and Chicago.
1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Mexico.
1:13 And the Republicans made the children of Mexico to serve with rigour;
And they made their lives bitter with minimum wage, in construction, and in cleaning, and in all manner picking crops in the fields; all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with minimum wage.

Well, we all know how the first story ended for the Egyptians.

A brief history of LEGOS.