Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Make the Cupcakes Cry

A quick post, with the return to the workweek. Finally returned to more sketching over the long weekend -- there's hope yet that I'll finish the year back on track with respect to my larger woodblock project!

A peek into what will be two two-page spreads.

Fear is contagious.

Cake-Eating Maelstrom

That is all! Busy as this latest one is, I am excited for it! A few more designs sketched and then I can order more wood blocks...I am craving a bit of carving at this point.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That's Weird, You Seem Interesting.

And lo, yesterday was the Day to Give Thanks. Today is the day to either A.) get up early, lured in by electronics at drastically! reduced! prices! or B.) the Day to Listen, according to StoryCorps. I love the StoryCorps mission. What's better than personal storytelling or discussing shared history, with the process formalized and preserved for posterity? It makes me so happy that there are such organizations -- and that their work fans out across the country. Check out more of their podcasts here.

All that said, today's listening activities mostly consisted of snorting over Aziz Ansari stand-up, while spending a fruitless afternoon sketching. That and overhearing random snippets from one cafe table over (dubious math category: "On average your friends have more friends than you do"///completely random category: "Every time a 'girl' is in a song, we just change it to squirrel. If a squirrel walks in with an itty bitty waist. I kissed a squirrel and I liked it.")

Speaking of stories, I have recently encountered a spate of people who don't read. Or, even worse, those who actually *hate* reading. In theory, I know they're out there. They must be out there. We all know publishing houses have been taking a bath. The newspaper industry is undergoing a slow evisceration. That as Amazon flourishes, local bookstores have dimmed their lights.* What with all the TV watching, game playing, obsessive internet perusal** and whatever else out there, the prospect of sinking into solid hours of reading an actual BOOK book is almost inevitably less appealing. Which is not to say that the non-readers are a newly developed branch of the population. I remember the horror of once hearing a neighbor who suggested to my parents that they could de-clutter by getting rid of all the books in the living room. I can understand that some people are more into art than others, or into being creative, or have a better handle on math or sciences, so this really shouldn't fall beyond my grasp. And yet...reading is such an intrinsic, essential part of my life, that to encounter the opposite feeling brings me up short.

*Vast simplification. I know, I know, vast simplification.

 **Hello, duh, that's clearly reading as well. But, I would say, it's the super-fast ADD reading. 

To wit: last week, I had a conversation which I later realized was exactly parallel to an exchange I had with a janitor at Borders many, many years ago. The guy was unfailingly sweet, pleasant; though between his Spanish and my English, our conversation remained sparse. One day, he said something to me about God, which I nervously side-stepped. I don't even remember what it was at this point. I remember thinking: Here we go

He touched the gold cross dangling at his collar. "But. You're Christian."

"Um, well, no, I'm not actively religious." I edged away from our shared counter.

He furrowed his brow. "But. You believe in God." He leaned toward me. He willed faith in my direction.

"Oh, um. Well, I think there's something--" I swiveled one foot another step away.

"But you're so nice! You must believe in God!" He was utterly confounded. 

"I, well I *am*--"

"You're so good! You're a nice! good! person!"

He looked utterly crestfallen. I found myself smiling apologetically. He gazed at me with aggrieved sadness. Were the flames of hellfire already flickering about me? Had my good person card been fully revoked? Good assumptions had to be replaced by something. But the idea that someone likeable to him could fall outside of his belief system was so jarring, that he kept trying to reframe it in ways that would guide me to utter something acceptable... Seemingly out of nowhere, this stranger was disappointed and I felt oddly guilty for having messed with his world view. Even though coming to know a person's goodness could be independent of faith is a good piece of knowledge to have.

But the point is this: simply swap out "nice" and "good" for interesting/engaging/worthwhile and faith for reading, and you've pretty much got the updated version, with me as the confounded janitor. It's always disconcerting to round the corner and run into an unfamiliar version of yourself. But it's a good reminder that zealotry/rigid thinking/snobbery can rear their ugly heads anywhere...As well, we are lucky that life gives us those corners to round; and in the best case scenario, we pay proper attention.

And on a related literacy/reading/creative writing note! 826 Michigan executive director Amanda Uhle spoke about surprises, learning and being 8 years old, at TedX Detroit 2012.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pretenders to the Royal Dance Throne, Art to Feed the Spirit

Not to jump the gun, but I think 2012 was a good year for me. No dearth of trials or heartaches, but somehow the call to remain open was easier to balance with the need to open one's hands, see off disappointments, people or other passing phases. I did less printmaking, which felt wrong; but finally switched jobs after a strange year of (mostly) working from home; donated the moribund car in favor of a newer old car which pretty promptly developed the loudest vehicular version of a smoker's hack, after the exhaust line broke by the catalytic converter; made a "Nutritive Triptych" for a Grimm's exhibit; adventured in New Orleans with Compatriot; poured over behind-the-scenes work of childhood creative idol Jim Henson; got my virgin passport stamped for its very first time, in order to work in Shanghai for a full month...

This weekend felt like a microcosm* of the year...nonstop, art filled, people filled...Left-turning from anticipations, but still, one hopes, back on track. Caveat about my lack of direction aside~~By Saturday night I needed to blow off some steam. Happily, Comp has become a dance buddy over the past year and she was easily lured out. We negotiated times and pocket availability; Comp's license mysteriously disappeared, leading to a resigned turning away from the Blind Pig, heightened angst and extra miles on the highway. I couldn't help recalling the night I LOST my CREDIT CARD in New Orleans. New Orleans! Den of Iniquity! New Orleans: there's no way in hell you're getting your cc back!...But no, a day later and a return to the dive-bar-with-posh-cocktails, and there it was propped up against the side of the cash register, like there were still honest people left in the world.
In a similar fashion, the license on Saturday magically reappeared, long after we had given up on the idea of a dance outing. Which made it that much better: bonus fun, snatched from the grinding jaws of misspent time. Inside, the Bang crowd was bustling with characters; we were united as revelers and witnesses to the frivolity, dubious fashion choices and even more dubious momentarily impassioned dance floor flailings. But mostly we just danced, dodged half full pitchers of beer; and ironically worn prom gowns, which seemed a sway away from slamming onto the grimy floor. We wondered over a guy wearing a ten gallon hat on the dance floor. "That would be So! Hot!" I protested. "Bald spot!" Comp decided. Ahhh, now that made more sense, at least. Though I feel for the male self consciousness over hair: seriously, we don't get as hung up on that as you think we do. Though if you keep asking me if I ever grow my hair out, that kind of puts the kibosh on it. We danced along, with the odd preemptive elbow jab. "Ooooo, pouty date!" I craned my neck. We were momentarily at the dancing edge, near a small standing group. There was, indeed, a pretty blond, emanating affronted displeasure. Impressive. We pouted at each other. This is what we do. We are ridiculously amusing to each other.

Drink breaks. More dancing, more random guys in tutus and tennis shoes. We never had any intention of learning about the pouting, but we discovered that cowboy had a full head of hair after various dancers adopted the hat. At one point cowboy gestured to me from the stage; I shook my head, but he leaned toward me to say, "Gorgeous hair!" which was lovely to hear, as I have recently run across guys who are less than enamored of the shortness. Later we wound up mouthing Led Zeppelin lyrics to each other; nice crowd feeling. More dancing, less space, more elbows. Flattened golden crowns littered the floor. A young wispy woman bounded down from the stage and leaned in earnestly: "I just want to tell you guys that you are SO. CUTE. I mean, SO. CUTE!!" And then she hugged us both. Hah! Ohh, the assumptions fly all ways. But if we must be cute, then cute we shall be. Heh.

The late night shortened Sunday morning; shortly after rising, I was off to the second day of the Art Open House at Jeanne Joesten's. For both Friday night and Sunday day, the consensus was a nicely increased crowd, steady traffic in the check out room; and as always the day afforded us all the opportunity to reconnect. It's a pretty special group and a special event -- happily in its tenth year! I love meeting new artists and new art appreciators. Nice work if you can get it! 

Artist Karin Wagner Coron modelling zipper necklace by Marie Krull
Emily Nuber of Spotless soaps, nibbling, while Marie adjusts said necklace. Lots of tasty treats.

Dynese McClumpha trivet which followed me home.
Pizazz from Hilary Robinson

Coron pastels in background, Darcy Bowden plates and cards in front
A couple of my prints, cards from watercolorist Angelis Jackowski
Tiles by host Jeanne Joesten

Lovely framed floral watercolor, also by Angelis
Linda Colman, necklace. Her purchases confound the staff of Stadium Hardware.
Spotless! soaps.
A really lovely day. Not pictured: sea salt caramels by John Goodman, biscotti by Barbara Kinzer...And if any of the above appeals, many of us will also be doing a show at Hilary Robinson on Sunday, December 9th. More details to come...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tinkering, Audio Passers-by, Open House

Hello, My People.

The very few of you who stop by, since I have become stoopid sporadic and...what? It has been a nonstandard year for me, which is, in itself a ridiculous thing to say. Who reaches this age and still has faith in a "standard year" ? I'm not decrepit, loathe to call myself old, as others of my age (almost proudly) do, when they have a certain number of accomplishments...and yet, yes I have my sh*t together and do not suffer fools lightly. I will suffer fools a bit, to see if they'll say anything interesting I could write about, or spin into tales for like-minded souls. And sometimes this deliciously happens, but as likely as not, at this point, I lack the time to even write about it. Which is a bit of backhanded bragging, isn't it? OMG, I'm SO busy, I'm SO in demand. Hah. Not really. Perhaps I need to work on my time management skills.

In any case, I have some new people throwing music my way, which is always good, as I always have music on, and it's best to introduce the new. Work buddy turned me onto "Global Concepts" by Robert DeLong today (which, my Curly Girl, you'll relish as it's rather Hot Chip) and I have been compelled to listen to repeatedly. Another fine person told me about seeing Amanda Palmer in concert this week and now I can't stop listening to "Bottomfeeder. I had *no* idea how cool she was, I missed the concert and apparently she's A.) a total bad-ass and B.) she's married to Neil Gaiman of graphic novel "Sandman" (high school swoon) and "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" fame.

I think, as well, this would be the time to note that I'm oh-so-very-privileged to be swimming amongst creative people, even though I, personally, have not grown oh-so-tremendously in 2012. See also: "busy, non-standard year." To wit -- this Art Open House that I set up at this evening. There are so many things I'd love to claim for my own, from this talented group. Beauty is enhanced, once you are aware of the hands which have brought it into being.

So: back at the ground level: I'm bringing pesto vermouth dip tomorrow night and will be wandering around, all covetous. If you're local, I highly encourage you to swing by! For some reason my sweet little Apple does not wish to download attachments, so I can not share the proper online flyer. Here's a snap of roughly the same info. Stop by, drink a little wine, nibble a savory, claim a tile or painting or pastel for someone else or yourself...
Some things I have readied for the show:

More Llama repetitions! They still capture me. I really have fun with them.
This past week, it was wonderful, heady to dwell in the variations in ink.

A very few Llama, Adorned have made it to wooden planks!
Pit stop at Left Hand Brewery. Hello. You far surpass the new Fat Tire in my fridge. 
New cards, with glare. I fancy the utensil cards.
More wee cards, lazily uncropped.
Bird-Don't-Like-You Birds, on a friendly panel.
Perhaps prompted by the "glare" a couple lines back, I suddenly recalled the wonderful words of Irish poet Seamus Heaney,

"Me waiting until I was nearly fifty
To credit marvels. Like the tree-clock of tin cans
The tinkers made. So long for air to brighten,
Time to be dazzled and the heart to lighten."

Get your hands on an audio recording, to hear him, his talent, insight, and accent, if you can....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Snickers to the Right, Dumdums to the Left

Good Morning Folks.

Outside of the sweaty dancing tree episode at the Bang last Saturday night, Halloween passed relatively quietly in my tiny neck of the woods. A friend from work lent me Shaun of the Dead, so I could continue my annual viewing. About 40 trick-or-treaters knocked at my door frame or shouted through the screen door. I almost missed my first arrivals (three teenagers --  uncharacteristically early and well-costumed -- twoJellyBellies and a sleeve of Wendy's French fries); I opened my door to their retreating figures. "You don't have a door bell.* I didn't know what to do," explained the first bag of Jellybeans.  "Ohhh, right, sure." I gazed at the hole where the doorbell button used to be. Somehow I thought knocking was always an option.

*{Ginger, reading this:"OMG, I can't believe you haven't fixed that yet! It's an easy fix!" I know. I know, it's true.}

Outside of the first arrivals, there weren't too many standouts. Several costumes arbitrarily were what they were PLUS LIGHT SABER. One enthusiastic mutant ninja turtle, beat my piebald lawn with his light saber: "BAM! BAM! BAM!' A Walk Sign had the nice feature of glowing whitely as it progressed up the sidewalk. General cuteness, i.e. shy spiderman, a toddler devil in a tutu, earnest choruses of twick or tweet.

During the day itself, I wandered around downtown Ann Arbor to see what other costumed cuteness I could run across. The practice of trick or treating at retail operations still strikes me as very strange and as another mildly dispiriting indication of commerce functioning in a way that neighborhoods used to...though of course the local businesses also make up part of the community. Hmmm. It was lunchtime. Eventually I opted for fried food at the Fleetwood diner. It was during a lull for them; more workers than customers were there and they talked in the idle way you do when you have worked in a restaurant for years, judging who you can speak in front of, alternately ignoring the presence of diners and folding them into meandering discussion threads.

"I tell you, since you hate kids, you are in the RIGHT place," the counter woman said to an older man seated on a bar stool. "We ALWAYS have candy for the trick or treaters. And they NEVER and I mean NEVER come in here." The odor of stale frying grease hung in the air, almost as thickly as cigarette smoke once did. Band stickers plastered the aluminum walls.

"People are too cautious," added a sweet-faced fry cook. He looked to be minutes or hours above high school age.

"They just stop, look over and then the parents are like, 'Oh noooo, not THERE.' We have better candy than all the other punkass businesses downtown. Not like we spend this money just so Eric* can eat it all day." Eric grins and bobs his head.

Eric says,"You could just buy it like a day later. It's like 50% off."

"WHY would we do that?"

"It's a shame there's not a pot holiday around the same time," says Eric. Visions of multiple Bob Marleys descending chimneys and leaving behind mellow gifts unspooled through the diner. Talk inevitably turned to Ann Arbor's hobbled hashbash, how it was coopted by the Normals. I ventured to claim a KitKat on my way out.

*Fry cook, whose name I didn't catch.

Three Other Seasonal Offerings + Bonus Non-Holiday Exchange

1. One of these days I'm going to do something proper for Dia Di Los Muertos. Hasn't happened yet, though I have always loved the imagery and attendant trappings. Chelas was rumored to carry cookies for the occasion, but this did not quite happen. Hopefully next year! How cool if they could bust out with the cookies and sugar skulls, it'd be lovely. In direct contrast to my lack of initiative. Talented illustrator living in my original stomping grounds, Michele Melcher has always been devoted to Halloween and Day of the Dead. This year, she did an amazing self portrait! Initial sketch here and gorgeous complete portrait here. Dayumn.

2. If this isn't in the spirit of Halloween, I don't know what is: the work of UK illustrator Andy Fairhurst was recently brought to my attention. Many readers have probably already aware of his children superhero silhouettes, but for those of you who aren't, you're in for a treat. Perfectly captures that childhood mix of the commonplace cobbled together into something fantastical; the temporary sense of vaulted power! If you're smitten, you too, could own one, through his DeviantArt page.

3. On a recent stop at K's house to catch up and to witness the girly growth of ThreeorFour and Five*. I admired new plastic horses, sparkly doll outfits and their new found bicycle rider status. I disrupted the evening hours by drinking wine with their mother and snacking at the table when it should clearly be dinner time. Five and I discuss cursive letters; she gives me air instructions on letter technique. This flashes me back to first grade and I relate to K how Chuckie Lentz and I got into a heated disagreement about the spelling of Pennsylvania--
"--Transylvania," Five says helpfully.

"No I'm from PENNsylvania-"

"TRANsylvania," she corrects, as if I were a bit slow.

"We're in the United States and PENNsylvania is the state I'm from. TRANsylvania is another country.**"

**Region! I meant region. geez.

Five first frowns and then purses her lips with displeasure. "We have been watching a lot of commercials about that movie lately!" K notes. "We have also been learning to talk like Dracula."

"MwaHaHa," says ThreeorFour from across the table. Her delivery lacks menace. She stares mournfully at her plate. "These aren't grapes."

It's my turn to be helpful. "They are grapes. They're just smaller than the ones you usually eat." She peers at them more closely; their varietal existence somehow physically pains her. "You don't have to like them. But it's always good to try."

K, to me:"They say that kids have to try a new food eighteen times before they like it."

Three raises one closer to her mouth, ever so slowly. "See Three? That means after you try that one, you only need to eat seventeen more of those!" I gesture at the fruit plate and nod encouragingly. She looks close to tears. I am a horrible, horrible adult. 

*Clearly didn't think those through. They are now 5 and 6. Maybe I'll just temporarily freeze them, as it happens anyway right? You don't see a child for a bit, turn around a couple times and they're ramming the garage door with the family car and attempting to mislay blame. And you still think they'd maybe like some Pokemon cards.

1. Exchange between undisclosed mother and daughter.

Daughter, relating how patient her boyfriend was while she shopped for clothes: "I mean, he was really helpful."

Undisclosed mother, providing clarification: "That's because he's not a husband."

Happy November, Y'All. Finish off the candy, or squirrel it away for emergency sugar. Forgive the squirrels for ravaging your jack o' lanterns.