Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out, Crimson Spot!... Grimm's Blocks, Continued

How's about an update? I got a nice, over-sized box from McClain's today, which as you may suspect is the woodblock that I determined would take too long to carve before a fairytale deadline. So, since I don't have any singing birds or gouge-wielding gnomes, and since I am employing details from the larger design within the three smaller blocks, this means this block will probably find itself propped up in a lonely corner and pointedly ignored for most of the Summer. Poor shina plywood, custom cut and everything. 

The carving has gone pretty well*, so even with the need to print quite soon and frame quite soon, I think I may just be in good shape.

*I have yet to even skin my knuckles! GOODness. Gold star for the clumsy one! Maybe this is only because they're smaller blocks. If it's a larger one, I have a tendency to throw myself into it an unnecessary fashion. And then one wonders why one's shoulder or elbow hurts. Woodblock elbow: less sporty than tennis elbow, but still carries a certain cache. In, umm, very limited circles. And even then, the next person over is all, "Yeah, well at least you don't havestained glass shards underneath your skin." Psssh. Can you tell I'm crabby? Even my imagined tangents are irritable. 

ANYhoo. I spoke with several fine folk last weekend, as I paced and tried to puzzle out the new direction. My sister offered a suggestion, which while it didn't quite work, was still encouraging and helped me to carry it a bit further in my head. Mom offered the following: "Well. Simpler is better. It's sometimes harder to keep it simple." She slipped in variations of this about three times throughout the conversation, which I totally agree + it's not my forte + she clearly recognizes that. At least she didn't return to her position about my relying too much on words in designs -- which again, NOT that I disagree with her -- but it's just highly unlikely that I'll be able to wean myself from text with image. So. That said, good to listen to your Momma.

Mom has been cute about this project in that I checked additional Grimm's fairy tales out from the library when I was home, to make sure I read through all of the nine selected for the exhibit. This was the first thing she told me after I returned to my home here:

"I still have that book! And did you look on the inside cover? The library got that book before you were born!  I wondered if you had realized that! The first date stamp was a few months before!"

"Oh! How funny!" I didn't really know what to say after that, though it made her pretty happy.

"I think I'll just keep it out for awhile. Maybe I'll read a few of them."

Sure, fine, be my guest.

Next phone call: "Your sister renewed that book for me. I still haven't read any of the tales."

"Mom, don't feel obligated to read them because of this application. And if you want, I can just photocopy The White Snake and send it your way."

"Oh, that's okay. I think I have my old copy in the attic. Nancy who lived across the street from my house, we would both get books for Christmas and we'd sit together and read them by the Christmas tree! I think it's up there somewhere."

So sweet, and so comforting to think of her as a little girl, with her Christmas books. And to think that that Grimm's volume is probably still in the attic, most likely with some very old crayon scribbles in it.

Bowdlerized** versions, most likely. Which, honestly, I fall back and forth on this matter: intelligent children don't profit from receiving pablum texts ad. And, as Shirley Jackson would say, children are savages anyway (her lesser known book Life Among the Savages is a priceless tale of parenting~~). Violent tendencies are in all of us.

And yet...every time I review The White Snake and he kills his horse to feed some raven babies he just met, I'm outraged on several fronts. The brutality of slaying his horse, plus the weird decision-making that led to it... And actually this tale was flat-out ghastly to me in the way that Grimm's are usually: all the class depictions, how to get what's desired (or in positive light, the lower class character uses his wits to defy the established marry someone who tried to kill them repeatedly...oh, also less positive)... "I CAN NOT CONVEY HOW MUCH I HATE THIS STORY. I. HATE. IT." My hairdresser told me, after I ran through a synopsis.  

**Hey hey! Check out wikipedia -- the term originated from Thomas Bowdler, who created "The Family Shakespeare."

Well, crabby and meandering. Here are some snaps:

Three designs transferred in one hot day! Eau de Lacquer Thinner, anyone?

Okay and remember how the past several designs have transferred horribly?? BOOM! These came through fabulously. Fist pumping in the carport.

There's another design, the middle one, which I'll post later. It's the closest to simple and I think it's going to be really cool.

Blurry, but still textured.

Doom is Mood backwards.
Happy Friday, Folks! One last day of being my current age and then we have a birthday. Yeah, that could be another reason for the crabbiness~~ But the past year has brought lots of good changes, a long with several challenges. A life to savor, things to anticipate, it could be worse...

Monday, May 28, 2012

There's a New Design in Town. And It Has Utensils.

First, it seems only appropriate to acknowledge Memorial Day. I'm not walking through a cemetery or playing taps with my bugle. I love the country I was born to and live in; and certainly hope that my life somehow improves other people's lives. But I have never experienced a call to serve my country in such a deep way that I would find myself in a war torn landscape, knowing I could be maimed or killed. I don't know what that is. I am grateful to those who have felt this call, and have sacrificed themselves in this way.

One of my favorite metaphors about loss that I have ever encountered is from Laurie Anderson's "World Without End" -- it begins in an obvious fashion, but ends profoundly:

"When my father died we put him in the ground. 
When my father died it was like a whole library Had burned down."

All those past gems of knowledge and future experiences, nullified. So. I guess that's what I tend to think of, on a day like this. The families and loved ones, who have/and are experiencing this. The servicemen and women who have been lost.

The Design that Wasn't

Really no good segue way here, so I'll just get on with it. Remember that Grimm's Call to Artists? That I was so excited about?...I know, it's been awhile. It's not that I haven't done anything, but I have yet to find my new groove in the evenings, with the new job. Soooo many things have gone by the wayside (hopefully only temporarily). Recent text from dear friend:

Hey you alive? Or just not talking to me :p

That kind of says it all. Yes, alive. Yes, talking to you, just wiped out.

So. I have made slow progress on the White Snake design (What? You don't have this obscure tale memorized? Read a version here).

I got a little over-ambitious. But RAWTHER focused on it. Apparently, part of me was focusing on a more classic approach to it, even as another part wanted to do more of a sideways take. No matter to the latter: I was soon caught up in making repetitive leaf patterns and snake scales.

Behold, some snaps:

So, as you can see, there was a fair amount for me to obsess over. Not edgy, too classic, too large! But noooo, it will be so cool, once it is carved and hanging, with a bit of hand-coloring! A good testament to a weird classic! Scales all over too busy, not enough apples, too many apples. Overly busy, said Ginger, lacking a central focus. And snakes have scales all over, not just in patches. What's the deal with his super long arm, anyway? Hmm, hmmm, hmm. I stalked back and forth past my dining room table, drawing and erasing repeatedly. I periodically worried over the amount of carving (design size 30"x 16"), then set that aside. Finally ordered the woodblock Sunday before last.

And then, this past Friday, reality belatedly hit. Riding along from dinner at One-Eyed Betty's (burger *great*, maple-bacon doughnuts a sad, yeasty undercooked disappointment: stick with Washtenaw Dairy maple glazed, and serve up your own side of bacon.) and a showing of "Dark Shadows" (also lackluster, though as with any Burton flick, visually fun). Compatriot drove, I stared out the window and suddenly realized that if I didn't get the woodblock for another week (as predicted), I'd have 2 1/2 weeks tops to carve and print a design that I'd normally allow myself a couple months for. Seriously, after all the work so far, would I REALLY not have something to submit? Did. Not. Compute. But! But! But! No...truly not realistic.

"But would this be a design you'd carve even if it wouldn't be for this exhibit?"

A fair question from Comp, though one I didn't want to touch. Yes! No! Definitely Yes! ...Arrrrrgh. So, this Memorial weekend brought lots of agonized creative hustling on my part. Lots of gear shifting and examining from new angles, etc. etc. But! After two solid days of wearing my pencils down to nubbins, it seems I (potentially) have a different solution. Three of them, to be exact. ooOOo, a *triptych*, how fancy! Still lots of work, but I have the blocks already. So we shall see. I'll (hopefully) keep you updated.

Off to fumigate myself with lacquer thinner and transfer the first design...

Best to Everyone, on this Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

****An Only Goat is a Lonely Goat

Ahhhh, transition! Rocky patches have (almost inevitably) surfaced, but today was a good day. Like most of us, part of me is all about fast forwarding to the next comfort point, but I also know the shake up is a good thing. How else to develop a more exciting life?*

Not that every little thing has jumped the rails. Some things continue apace: my car is still issuing its deathly rattle. Another random batch of house things are on the fritz, with the most prominent case being my multi-bulbed dining room light. A couple weeks ago, I was startled by a sharp POP from the general area. It took a few minutes to figure out one of the bulbs had not just gone dark, but burst from its glass shade, oh-so-conveniently leaving the threaded metal screw part of the bulb embedded in the shade base. *Super!* Since then, two more bulbs have gone out. Wiring? Seems like wiring, right? I have yet to call anyone, as both my house and car have been money hungry lately. Great. Well I guess I'll have to get my drawing in before it gets dark. Clearly, I'm a bull-by-the-horns kind of gal, domestically speaking.

*And by more exciting, I mean NEW office job over OLD office job!** Woohooo, I'm wild,WILD, I tell you! It's possible they will also teach me to use a flamethrower. But if so, they have neglected to mention it. They do, however, have pizza lunches on Thursday. Or every other Thursday. And the same dynamics of work (/dorm) kitchens the world over, judging by the signs. "Where food goes to DIE" (helpfully/menacingly pinned on the fridge. last word, underlined) and "DO NOT TURN OFF THE COFFEE POT DURING THE DAY" (in case the all-caps lacked sufficient emphasis, the letters have been bolded. A brief explanation of why one should not turn off the coffee pot follows. Circling and exclamation points have been drawn in).

**{Disclaimer: blogger disavows any notion or implication that she is less than excited about her new job and all the opportunities it contains. She is most certainly pleased, but acknowledges that collectively speaking, office jobs may not set the world on fire. Hey! flamethrower tie-in!}
Meanwhile, Outside is in need of the lawnmower, though perhaps the backyard raccoon***, who has returned after a couple years' absence, would disagree. I banged on the deck door and watched him with a penetrating, intimidating gaze. Get out of my backyard.

The raccoon raised itself and halted, eyeing me. You're no threat. I have tons of digging to do. And he wasn't lying. He has done a hell of a lot of digging. I expect this will make lawn-mowing more exciting, whenever I actually get to it.

***I know, I doubt it's the same one. This one is smaller and looks more like a red panda. Behold, exotic troublemaker, trekking from the Himalayas, to mix with suburbanite scavengers! Or not. Either way, I'm going to get hissed at when I hang out on my deck. Hmmm. 

...And on a Belated Note

When not selling at an art open house this weekend, I revisited "Paul's Boutique", "Check Your Head" and others in honor of MCA's passing. I love the humor and energy of the Beastie Boys' music and loved that all members also explored other creative outlets and causes. Terrible that Adam Yauch lost his battle with cancer and not even 50. Obviously loss to cancer at any age is wrenching, but it's also tempting to protest: but he did *so* much in the time he had, think how much more he could have done~~ Anyway, posts and coverage about him abounds, another post isn't needed from me. My friend Angel, who can be credited with introducing me to espresso and winning me over to beer (through steady, micro-brew introductions over about half a year), also convinced me that the Beastie Boys were worth a listen, despite what seemed to be stoopid frat boy anthems. I hope that they retire the group name and grow however they're meant to, in new directions...

And then the news of the beloved Maurice Sendak. Ginger sent me a link to his obit and it's everywhere on Facebook, but I haven't been able to read any of them in full. He was a giant in the world of children's illustration and storytelling, who dramatically changed the landscape of picture books. His legendary cantankerousness was balanced by sensitivity to truth of feeling and respecting children as individuals, even when he didn't like them... This interview nicely conveys Sendak's belief in the need for danger and "teeth" in children's lit. If you care to revisit any tales beyond the usual WTWTA and Night Kitchen, I suggest a trip to the following:
  • Kenny's Window**** (an early one. Kenny has a dream. And in that dream is a garden and a rooster with four legs and seven questions to puzzle out. Sendak hadn't quite hit his tell-tale style at this stage, but the story is charming and engaging.)
  • We're All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (two nursery rhymes, paired together and partially springing from Sendak's encounter with a would-be cardboard box "city" made by the impoverished on the outskirts of LA, in the 90s, if I recall correctly) 
  • Dear Milli (stunning illustrated version of a Grimm's tale, which only came to light in 1983; a woman sends her girl child into the forest to protect her from encroaching war. The child finds a house and winds up spending years with a saint, though it passes like a day. As always, he folds elements from his life into the visual interpretation of the tale: i.e. the Holocaust, beloved pet dog, etc.)
  • Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (by Charlotte Zolotow; this one is pretty straight forward -- no mashing together of pop culture and holocaust imagery here -- but pleasing in its repetition and thoughtfulness). 
These are sitting next to me as I type and will be happy companions to morning coffee...Flavorwire's tribute features a cool selection of images and quotes.

At least, from his last interview with Terry Gross you got the sense that here was someone who was ready to go; he spoke about bearing witness to the death of his partner and the deaths of his friends; he told Terry he was glad that he would die before she would, so he wouldn't have to miss her. Yes, that episode was a total tearjerker. And yes, they replayed it during fundraising.

I realize the news has already swiftly flown past, but in case you're still interested, it looks like Fresh Air has remembrances of both, here (Sendak) and here (Yauch).

And even with the later rise, its high time to go to bed. Sleep well, Everyone and make the best of the rest of your week!