Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Experiments in Juxtaposition

Pretty much every week I visit my local consignment shop for coffee, gossip, and whatever old paper items I can find that catch my fancy.  Recently I picked up a small tabloid magazine from 1952 entitled Eye.  For $1 I couldn't resist the cheesecake photos of starlets, and stories about murder, deep sea fishing and bull fighting.  After paging though the magazine, I began pulling out photos and combining them with other imagery I have clipped of classic painting, from textbooks and so on.  This was my first try.

Here is a detail from a Memling painting combined with a desert scene from a glossy magazine spread, a 1950s bathing beauty and an image of a man with a shark.  In this case I also added some colored pencil to the black and white painting detail, and I used blue acrylic on the sky.  I keep looking for ways to unify the combined imagery, whether through scale, design, color, or a combination of all three.

The most recent experiment combines a man in prayer, Memling again, combined with a 1950s photo of the Texas state fair and a Marilyn Monroe look-alike starlet from the tabloid.  I'm not sure what to make of them, but the contrast between the images appeals to me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Noticed: Collage Journals by Peter Jacobs

One of the pleasures of blogging is the way it connects the writer to other people with similar interests, but who live in different places, who have their own special skills and viewpoints.  I have found too many interesting artists who maintain blogs to be able to follow as much as I'd like.  Recently I followed a link in someone's post to a collage artist named Peter Jacobs.  What grabbed my attention was the way Jacobs uses the daily newspaper to make series of collage/journals.  These collages are both interesting visually, but they also are a record of news events and trends.  Jacobs manages to be inventive with this mundane source material every day, an achievement that humbles me. Click on his highlighted name and you'll see a couple years worth of his work.

How many of us have been at an art show of some sort and hear a passer-by comment that he or she could do just as well, and marveled at the hubris of the statement.  If you could do it, why in heavens name don't you?  I didn't think I could do as well as Jacobs, but I did try news collages two days this past week.  My first reaction is that he must have a much larger paper with which to work, but in truth most of my problem was just in how to select images and text, and then how to arrange them in an interesting ways, rather than not having enough from which to choose.

This was my first attempt, and I didn't have too much difficulty with choosing material.  Pretty much everything in our local paper on Monday was about the Packers win over the Chicago Bears.  With so many unemployed here in Janesville after GM pulled out, home foreclosures, tight school and municipal budgets, having happy news is probably necessary for mental health.

Today's effort was less successful.  The text suggests some of our local issues, and President Obama's picture grouped with another Packer image, and some protesters in Tunisia anchored the piece.  I was interested in the way the football player's arms echo the arms of the African protesters.  The collage took way too long for how it turned out.  It might be interesting to try a longer series - say a month, or several a month for a year.  But I think that this sort of collage technique probably is not one that I will use too often.  Still, it was interesting to give it a go. It might be interesting to try with a new magazine that would have more color source material with which to work.

I be interested to hear from anyone else that has tried collage journals.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All I Can Do

12x24 inches, acrylic on paper, mounted on canvas

This is all I can do - or maybe want to do - on the design contest featuring scientist/explorer/socialite Roy Chapman Andrews.  Since I started I have learned all sorts of things about the explorer, about the Gobi desert, about searching for dinosaur fossils.  I have also learned more about working with acrylic, and the difficulties of adding text effectively, mounting paper on canvas, and using PDF format.   My brain is a little fried, in fact.  I have ideas for other approaches, but want to step away and work on something else - maybe some collage. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hibernation Sketching

Dang, it has been cold here.  Car door frozen shut, crunchy underfoot, nose-hair freezing cold.  So yesterday I stayed in all day working on the Roy Chapman Andrews piece, reading and doing sketches of Jeff Bridges from a recent American Masters program on PBS that we videotaped. 

I have a new sketch book that I use for doodling, practicing zentangles, and messing around.  I liked the close-up shots of Bridges, directors and other actors, all dramatically lit.  This was the first in the series of quick-draws, and probably my least favorite.  Its a modified contour drawing, completed in the time that the pause button holds on the VCR (yes, old technology).  It forces me to work FAST.  I'm not sure how long the picture holds before the screen reverts to whatever is on the TV, but it can't be more than three or four minutes.  I added the textured background later. 

I realized as I watched the program that I have seen most of Jeff Bridges' movies, and many of them are favorites.  The top sketch here is from The Fisher King, not really a favorite, but I couldn't resist the expression.  I knew Bridges was a musician, but I didn't know he paints and does pottery.  In the bottom pose he was quickly drawing something with white paint (or maybe soap) on a clear screen.  He was clearly enjoying himself.

These two are from my husband's favorite, The Big Lebowski.  I remember being put off the first time I saw it, but a second viewing of the Dude had me gasping with laughter.  You have to admire that scene in the cosmic bowling alley, with Lebowski headed down the starry lane between the shapely legs of dancers, headed for the ultimate strike.
The Big Lebowki has its points, but I vote for Bridges as Rooster Cogburn in the recent Coen brothers version of True Grit.  In this scene the girl Mattie is assuring Cogburn that she is eager and ready to join him when he heads out into Indian Territory after the man who shot her father, and Bridges stares at her in drunken disbelief, legs akimbo, belly poking out of his undershirt.  I loved the movie, and maybe that shows in this quick sketch.

My last sketch from the television screen was of Bridges in his Oscar winning role of the washed up country singer in Crazy Heart.  I don't seem capable of economy of line, but I sort of like the combination of sketchy scribbly lines and the textured background that I added after the figure was done. 

I enjoyed the fast and furious sketching that working from a paused video recorder afforded, enjoyed watching the show again, and liked the spontaneous results  achieved from working this way.  It sure beat freezing out there in wonderful Wisconsin winter.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Exploring, and Getting Lost

I'm still plugging away at this acrylic painting that is supposed to exemplify the spirit of exploration, optimism, and so on in connection with Roy Chapman Andrews.  I liked the idea of the camel train, but am far more familiar with cows than camels, and it showed.  So taking a deep breath, I sent them to the background and added an illustration of one of the dinosaurs Andrews and his expedition in the Gobi desert uncovered in the 1920s. 

Reading about Andrews is really interesting and fun, and I learned that the dinosaur eggs he found are in the Logan museum in Beloit.  I'm going to have to check that out, but not until two things happen.  First it has to warm up.  It is COLD this week, and staying inside reading and painting appeals to me way more than heading out in the winter weather.  Second, I need to resolve problems with this painting.  I may have gotten a little too much input from art friends yesterday.   I sought suggestion about ways to make this a more powerful statement, and tie all the disparate elements together.  Then in general conversation with a former art teacher, the point came up that the directions for the contest had to do with the spirit of adventure, not necessarily an illustration of Roy Andrews' life.  Well fine, I'm sticking with what I started.  But there is that niggling little voice in the middle of my brain whispering - this isn't what they want...

I shall forge ahead anyway.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exploring With Roy

I've spent the last week or so in the company of a Beloit boy who made good, the explorer, naturalist, intelligence agent, author, and probable inspiration for Indiana Jones, Roy Chapman Andrews. An art friend sent me a link for a design contest called Explore With Roy, and on a whim I decided I'd give it a go.  I started by heading to the library and finding what it had on Andrews, and came home with a good stack of books with photos.  That led to all sorts of reading, sketching (who knew how hard camels are to draw?) and planning.  I lost a good two days when I made the mistake of starting Andrews 1951 collection of stories about his exploration of the Gobi desert entitled Heart of Asia.  This man was quite a character. Anyway, the original plan was to do a watercolor, but then I decided that I wanted to try acrylic on paper instead.  I find acrylic to be a more forgiving medium.

It's not done.  I want the figure to pop more, and I have other ideas for the background.  Every step has been a personal exploration, since I have never done anything like this before.  Do I want to add dinosaur bones?  A quote? Modify the distance with hills?  What colors?  I find myself dreaming about what to do next. 

To be continued.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Having Faith. or Not

5x7 inches, paper collage

I'm not sure where this image came from.  The blonde on the stairs  was a page from a small paperback tabloid from 1953, and there are lots more '50s style cheesecake photos from which to choose later on.  The image of Adams and Eve was from a discarded library book, and the bobcat and chipmunk were in an old elementary school science text.  I just started layering and arranging and this was what emerged.  

Last night just before bed I opened an email from the reporter who wrote about me and my artwork, saying that the article would be in today's newspaper.  This did not make falling asleep easy.  All I could do was remind myself that it was done and out of my hands.  This morning I retrieved the Gazette off the snowy step and took a deep breath.  There it was, on the front page.  The good news?  The photos turned out fine, and the article made more sense than I remember making in the interview.  There was nothing that would annoy other artists in town (I hope).  In short, there was nothing over which to lose sleep, and I have been hearing from friends all day.  Looks like I needed to have a little more faith.

I also acted on an issue that had been bothering me for several weeks.  A local animal rescue group is sponsoring a fund raiser January 22, and has been soliciting art for the one day event.  The original application was due before Christmas, and because the organization required a $50 entry fee and a piece of art for their silent auction I decided not to participate.  There were other issues.  I don't have display boards because I don't usually do art fairs. I rely instead on selling to individuals and through a local gallery.  Right now I don't have enough framed work to make much of a showing, and my emphasis is not on animal art.  Then there is the issue of a very sluggish local art market, especially for framed pieces.  Sales have been slow for professionals and nonprofessionals alike, and I didn't like the idea of spending a whole day at a table and being lucky to get back the entry fee, much less come out ahead financially.  But then I got a telephone call asking me to reconsider, and an email.  Obviously these folks needed more local artist participation.  But my original concern remained, and I just could  commit to the event.   Still, I wanted to help, so I donated a couple framed pieces that need a new home.  I hope that will help the group (and hungry critters)  and salve my conscience.  It'll make a little more room in the closet anyway.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Morning Musings

Work in progress - pear collage

The weather here in southern Wisconsin has been typical winter fare, snowy, overcast,  chilly.  Luckily for us the snow has been manageable, the cold not too severe.  Still, these are days I am happiest inside, working on art projects, reading, watching movies.  Ah, retirement! This pear collage is coming along, though I still want to smooth out the color transitions, add some shadows, and perhaps some sparks of complimentary color to make the image pop more.  I keep getting distracted by my sketchbooks (I've been doodling like crazy), and by art catalogs, both the kind with materials (wouldn't more sketchbooks and Micron pens be nice?) and the ones advertising workshops.  I keep dreaming about spending a week painting with someone whose work I admire, in a place that fires my imagination. Would the expenditure  be worth the time and cash spent?  Can I convince my husband to come along and keep me company? Then there is a local contest, design a logo for a series of adventure activities in a neighboring city.  Do I want to invest time in that?

I had an interesting experience last week.  A reporter and photographer from the local newspaper came over and interviewed me for an upcoming series on local artists.  As you might imagine, I had ambivalent feelings.  I was flattered, and I think the publicity could not hurt my chances of selling one or two paintings or collages locally.  On the other hand, I wonder how interesting what I do is to the casual reader.  I worry that I might have said something that could alienate other local artists (I hope not), or at least be misinterpreted.  I worry about how I will look (think drivers license photo). I enjoyed talking to both the reporter and the photographer, though the latter surprised me when he asked if I made a living selling my art.  I couldn't help laughing, and told him that no, I couldn't begin to pay my bills with what I sell, that I thought of myself as non-professional.  I paint and make collages because it interests me, because it is what I always wanted more time to do, because I like associating with creative people. 

I've been thinking about that.  I have paintings in a local gallery, and regularly put my work in shows sponsored by our local art league and by the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association.  WRAP is a program run by the UW Extension, and has as its goal the education and promotion of nonprofessional artists in Wisconsin.  That term, nonprofessional, is open to individual interpretation.  My take on it is the a nonprofessional makes art for the love of it, and does not make a living selling, or teaching, art.  A nonprofessional might sell some work and rise cash for materials or classes, but doesn't depend upon that income.  I was startled the other day to see a press release for a WRAP show that used the word hobby in its description of the participants, and found my attitude bristling.  I don't think of myself as a hobby painter, though the dictionary definition of the word fits: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation, not as a main occupation.  Still, the connotation of the word doesn't reflect how seriously I take my art.  I put a whole lot more heart into painting than I do doll collecting, which is a hobby for me.  The word amateur seems more acceptable, though the definition is similar: a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons, or a person who admires something; devotee.  That suggests something closer to what I do.  

As a national dialog this week suggests, words matter, and they can shape attitudes in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nonfiction Titles I Enjoyed in 2010

Seems like a long reading road in 2010.  My nonfiction reading tends to related to art, and that personal interest is reflected in this year's nonfiction list.

Coop, by Michael Perry
Perry is a Wisconsin native, and writes with both humor and compassion about growing up, living and working in the Badger State. He has been a nurse, an EMT, farmer, musician and writer. He also is a very humorous speaker. This book chronicles some of his experiences in running a small farm, and trying to get a chicken coop built. It's not all humor, so beware.
Coop  A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting

Forbidden Fruit: The History of Women and Books in Art, by Christine Inman
I enjoyed this book on every level. There are four sections: First Steps: From the Cradle of Civilization to the Middle Ages; Piety and Luxury: Women Reading in the Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries; Connecting With Books: The Nineteenth Century; Reading Becomes Art: The Twentieth Century. Each begins with an essay about women's literacy in the time period covered, followed by rich illustrations of paintings featuring women reading. Each plate also is discussed in some detail. It's about reading and it's also about art history. For me, it was very satisfying and enjoyable indeed.
Forbidden Fruit  The History of Women and Books in Art

Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks
I am a person who cannot imagine life without music. I am not musically talented, although I whistle, hum, sing, bang away at my old piano. In the past I have also attempted to play a six string guitar and mountain dulcimer, with limited success. I can make noises on both the jaw harp and note flute, although I hesitate to call that music. In high school and college I sang in large choirs, where my thin soprano would be mostly lost, but I could be in the middle of people passionately making music, could feel the music in my entire body. I no longer sing. These days I mostly listen to music that other people make. I recently splurged on a gift for myself in honor of my sixtieth birthday and bought a Bose sound dock for my studio, and now spend many happy hours there listening while I work. Music serves to at least partially turn off the analytical part of my brain, the part that is ultra-critical, the part that keeps me from taking artistic risks. I work better with music. Oddly, I also am more successful at video games when I have music playing. When I was younger I could read with music playing in the background, but in the past few years have lost my ability to concentrate on words when there is music playing.

I'm sure neurologist and author Oliver Sacks could explain all this. Sacks is an author who I enjoy, although sometimes he goes into more scientific detail than I care to read. I've learned to selectively skip ahead when the science is too technical for my interest level. So far I have enjoyed several of his nonfiction books (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings, Island of the Colorblind, An Anthropologist on Mars), all of which tell stories of people with neurological differences cause by strokes, disease, physical trauma, or genetic accident. In Musicophilia Sacks covers a wide range of topics related to music and brain function. He discusses musical hallucinations, tunes that become stuck in your brain and why that happens, perfect pitch, the relationship between music and blindness, people who cannot enjoy or appreciate music, and therapeutic applications for music. I found reading about ways that music can accelerate physical healing and be helpful for aphasic patients and people suffering from various sorts of dementia, to be gripping and thought provoking.
Musicophilia  Tales of Music and the Brain

Picture This, by Lynda Barry
Barry is well known for her comic book creations, especially Marlys and Ernie Pook. She lives just a few miles away from my town, married to a man who re-establishes prairies. She also is very generous with her time, running writing and art-related workshops, giving talks. This book has a new character, the near-sighted monkey, and she uses the character to illustrate why she thinks drawing, even doodling, is good for a person creativity, sanity, and perhaps even soul. I've been drawing Zen monkeys for a month.
Picture This

The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri
On a more serious note, The Art Spirit is a collection of essays and lectures given by the famous painter. I took so many notes that I think I'll just find an old copy and buy it to reread whenever I go into a slump.
The Art Spirit  Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Bearing on the Concept and Technique of Picture Making, the Study of Art Generally, and on Appreciation (Icon Editions)

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose
In general I don't have a compelling interest in history, but I wanted an audio book for a driving trip, and this was the only cassette tape set left at the library that interested me at all (my CD played died in the car). To my surprise, I was fascinated by the story Ambrose tells. It didn't hurt that much of it was set in places I have visited, especially Washington and Oregon. At any rate, I enjoyed his writing very much indeed.
Undaunted Courage

The Undressed Art: Why We Draw, by Peter Steinhart
In an effort to improve my drawing from direct observation, I have been attending life drawing sessions at local colleges - at least when the roads are good. I'm a chicken on icy roads, but I digress. This book was being passed hand to hand last summer in one of the weekly sessions, and I finally ordered it inter-library loan. I didn't write a review at the time, but the book is far-ranging, covering topics such as how a child's approach to drawing evolves, how the brain perceives images, what life drawing groups are like, and the role of the model in life drawing classes. I enjoyed the writing and the topic.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Favorite Fiction 2010

Taken at my sister-in-law's place in Door County a year ago.  Winter is a great time for reading, and reflecting.

As promised, here is a list of ten of my favorite fiction reads in 2010.  This year I read 80 books, far fewer than I read in 2009.  Over half were fiction, a percentage that seems to grow each year.  I blame it on the fact that the CD player in our automobile finally went home to the lord, and I couldn't listen to audio books while driving after early spring.  I did listen to a couple of cassette tapes, but there are fewer and fewer available to check out from the Hedberg Library, as they gradually purge the tape collection in favor of CDs and "play-away" technology.  It was more than that though.  We traveled lots.  I worked on art lots.  And I played Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, something that also ate into my time set aside for exercise.  

Enough excuses.  These were some titles that I found to be especially satisfying.

Annie Dunne, by Sebastian Barry
"Oh, Kelsha is a distant place, over the mountains from everywhere."  The opening line of Sebastian Barry's 2002 novel is spoken by the book's narrator, Annie Dunne.  I liked the book fine for its subtle characterizations and poetic language, but it won't be for everyone.  Fact is, not much happens, and many people will not like Annie.  In general, Annie, who is unmarried, born with a crooked back, and in her sixties, is unhappy and cantankerous, and afraid that the way of life she has known is passing away and that there is no place any more for her in her world.  She lives with her friend Sarah on a remote farm, and one summer gets to take care of her grand-niece and nephew - something that has its good and bad days.  Then it looks like Sarah might marry, and where would Annie go?  This is a quiet book, and a thoughtful one, that leads the reader to consider what is important in a person's life.

Being Dead, by Jim Crace
"For old time' sake the doctors of zoology had driven out of town that Tuesday afternoon to make a final visit to the singing salt dunes at Baritone Bay."This is a short book about the lives and deaths of Joseph and Celice, a married couple whose unsentimental lives are chronicled in prose both straightforward and poetic.  They die, they decay, and their entwined lives are considered in an unforgettable way.  Be forewarned, this is not for the squeamish reader, but the story held me.

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
"It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort."
"It" is a bomb in Sarajevo, the setting of The Cellist of Sarajevo.  The book came highly recommended to me, and because of that, plus the fact it is a short novel, I dove into it.  It took a while for me to see how the four stories of people living in the Serbian city during its siege in the 1990s were related.  By the end, though, I saw what the very different people had in common, besides their unhappy lot of living in a city at war. The novel describes some very terrible things in a quiet and dispassionate way, but the final impression I am left with isn't how horrible people can be, but rather how fine.

Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese
"After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954."Cutting for Stone came highly recommended to me by two friends whose opinions I value, and their good opinion was well justified.  I had put off reading this one because of its length, 541 pages, but I ended up savoring the story of identical twin brothers who each love the same woman, and each of whom becomes a doctor.  It's a sprawling novel that begins and ends in Ethiopia, and in the middle travels to the United States.  While I was interested in some of the historical events covered in the story and information about Ethiopian culture, the real interest for me was the story of the boys and their families.  The writing here is wonderful - flowing, observant, humane.  I was sorry to see it all end.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (re-read)
This was the first book I read in 2010, and for a while nothing lived up to it.  I didn’t write a review at the time, so my grasp of details has slipped.  But suffice it to say this is a sprawling multi-generational novel that traces the history of a family of California settlers.  Everything I read said the plot broadly follows the story of Cain and Abel, and certainly there is a great rift between the two brothers in the  story, but the novel is broader, richer than that. Steinbeck stirs together history, autobiography, legend, philosophy, and even poetry to make a book that is hard to put down (even though it weighs a ton!), and hard to forget.

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
"Those who saw him hushed."  Let the Great World Spin came highly recommended by a book friend whose taste I trust, and this one was as good as I hoped.  The novel's plot lines all come back to the day in 1974 when a French wire walker held NYC spellbound by dancing back and forth between the towers of the World Trade Center.  There are beautiful chapters about that walk, but the bulk of the novel consists of interwoven threads about New Yorkers who saw or heard about the event.  There's an Irish priest who ministers to streetwalkers, women who lost sons in the Vietnam war, a judge, and more.  Each of walks his or her own dangerous path. I was charmed by the characters and the writing, but I expect some readers will be impatient with the fragmented narrative.  Thumbs up from me.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters.
"I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old."  Our narrator was the son of a maid at the hall, and when he was allowed his first peek at the mansion he pinched a plaster acorn from a frieze on the wall.  Years later (in 1947) , after his parents are gone and he has become a country doctor, he once again visits the house to treat a sick maid, and we're off.  One one level the story is a Gothic romance, complete with a decaying but once fine mansion out in the countryside, dim and dusty rooms, steep staircases, locked nurseries, tales of ghosts, mysterious marks on both the house and the inhabitants, strange noises, insanity, death, and frustrated love.  As I read I kept flashing scenes from classic horror, The Turn of the Screw, Fall of the House of Usher, The Haunting of Hill House, even the creepy old house bits from Great Expectations.  But there is more, a sense of loss, sadness, a passing of a way of life that is historic rather than simply creepy.  The story begins rather slowly, but little by little I found myself turning the pages more quickly, reluctant to stop, and a little afraid to turn out the lights.

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
Even though this was one of my favorite fiction reads for 2010, I neglected to review it immediately after I finished the book.  I know this novel polarized many readers - many disliked the dark tone of the thirteen inter-related stories, or thought Olive was unlikeable.  I was completely caught up in each separate story, and the way they told the story of Olive’s life, and of the lives of others in her small Maine town.  My heart went out to this woman whose life, like many people’s lives, is hard.  Her crustiness is a self-defense, and underneath it she has a good heart.  I loved the quiet writing in this book, the unflinching look at the joys and heartaches that make up our lives.

The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, by Robert Lewis Taylor (re-read)
I just finished a second reading of The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, as always a little afraid that I wouldn't like it as well as I remembered.  The novel begins this way: "On the day when I first learned of my father's journey, I had come back with two companions from a satisfactory afternoon in the weeds near Kay's Bell Foundry, shooting a slingshot at the new bells, which were lying out in the year and strung up on rafters."  Jaimie narrates the story, and the journey is as much his as his father's. Soon enough the shooting that happens is with guns, not slingshots.  This rambling odyssey of a story covers a year in the life of Jaimie and his father, who leave Louisville to escape debt and find fortune in California.  The adventure of crossing the country by wagon train is filled by turns with humor and horror.  The author includes an extensive bibliography of work he used for research, including many narratives of travelers on the Oregon Trail.  I had the feeling that descriptions of privation, Indian attacks, experiences with the Mormons, all had their basis in the true experiences of pioneers.  It is an interesting book, with likable characters, filled with history, adventure, and danger.  I'm not sure I'd recommend it for young readers, not only because it runs more than 500 pages, but because of the occasional gut-wrenching violence.  Travel across the prairies, mountains and deserts of America in the 1860s was not for the faint of heart.  Still, I found myself impatient each day to return to the story, anxious to see what became of the wanderers, and whether or not they ever found home. I am happy I was able to revisit this fine novel.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peek in the Red Sketchbook

 sketched at a performance of Liberace! at the Milwaukee Rep

Happy new year to all who visit here.  I am resisting the urge to write about accomplishments or lack of accomplishments in 2010, or resolutions for 2011, though I may get my list of favorite books together later this week.  I'd like to go put in some time on the treadmill at the athletic club I shell out cash for every month, and these days seldom use, but I know the folks who have solemnly sworn to get in shape will be there for at least a week, and space on the machines will be limited.  Maybe I'll just stay home and do what I like best, reading and making art.

These are a few pages from the little red Moleskine sketchbook I have been carrying around in my purse since the beginning of November.  I had a black one with a few remaining pages, but I stashed it somewhere when I was going out one day and wanted a lighter load on my shoulder.  It's in the house, hiding.  When we were in Los Angeles in November I desperately wanted to have a sketchbook, so I purchased a new red one. 

view of downtown Milwaukee from hotel window, and musicians at a concert in Beloit College

audience member at Beloit concert, and a man on the Metra train headed to Chicago

doodling based on suggestions by Lynda Barry in her newest book, Picture This

I'm not sure why I get a little panicked when I don't have something on which to draw, but I do.  Sketching isn't really anything that I plan to share, except maybe here.  Most are not any sort of plans for future paintings.  I think that sketching has always calmed me and helped me pay attention.  I doodled nonstop on assignments when I was in school, and since my grades were good I didn't get into trouble with my teachers about it.  As a teacher, I doodled furiously during staff meetings - sometimes to stay awake, other times to control my temper and tongue.  It's a lifetime habit. It helps me remember what I've been doing and seeing - a sort of visual diary with intermittent entries. I also just use these little notebooks to jot down things  - telephone numbers, people's email addresses, book titles that sound interesting, lists of things to get at the store.  I am gradually getting over the idea that everything in a bound notebook has to be precious.  It's only paper, for pity sake. 

I turned sixty last week.  The person I see in the mirror every morning looks both familiar and also disturbingly unfamiliar.  So what's with the silver hair, bifocals and interesting lines?  How did that body get to look so decidedly not-decorative?  I know that time is speeding by, and that there are a finite number of days in which to see the world, be with the people I love, read all I want to read, and make art.   Maybe I should stop this and get to it.