Monday, October 24, 2016

Art at home ain't enough: Ignoring the Inner Curmudgeon

Inti with mural, Wynwood Walls
I already visit museums when I can, but am lax about attending other arts-related functions.  Last week was a good reminder: attend events! Go to lectures, even if your inner curmudgeon pfffs at the description: "The writeup is probably better than the talk itself. And that'll be great: disappointment AND misused babysitter time! Irritating in advance." 

On Thursday I checked out a Penny Stamps lecture on Wynwood Walls, one of the largest, devoted sections of murals in the country, occupying what was once yet another expanse of industrial wasteland. Ahhhhmaaaazing! The narrative of its creation, and the thriving community it gave birth to, was an easy feel-good to myself as an audience member (woohoo, creativity saves the day!), but the message extended far deeper, as in: public art can change you. It can change your life and the way you view the world. It's not a brand new message by any means, nor did it show pie charts with crunched up data, but the delivery was strong.*

Plus we got to see slides of the work of globally renowned street artists, listen to Tristan Eaton extol the virtues of spray paint (the most malleable and democratic of art supplies!; and responsible for his artistic success), hear a jet-lagged French artist Kashink explain her decisions to: depict only male figures (we are too trained to "perfect" female figures, and she neither wanted to rebel from or add to that tradition), to ink on a thin mustache daily for the past several years, and why funtivism wins out over activism.  Such a blast to be transported outside your life for a couple hours. And like all the best events,****

a Tristan Eaton/Kamea Hadar collaboration, from the former's website 

(NOT from Wynwood Walls)

Wynwood Walls -- "Street Art Heaven"
"Florida on my mind #Orlando" -- @Kashink1 on Instagram

detail of one of eL Seed's "calligraffiti" murals...
"Perception," 2016, photo courtesy Ahram online 

...which actually spans 50 buildings across a slum in Cairo
Fascinating coverage from New York Times, The Telegraph, or in the own artist's words (including Ted talk); Pilerats underscored the mural would have been a jail worthy offence if  the prohibitive Egyption government had detected the mural's creation.
*Though Widewalls cites studies linking increased property values with more public sculpture/murals/etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

...Starts with a "B"

    Something's Up.


What's up?

 I'll show you.

Or Bahwlllllllll, to be more precise. Dogs know they're magic. Babies know they're magic. My 18 m.o. daughter gathers them from room to room, and gives them rides in her cart. She spots them everywhere. Linoleum print to a baby's obsession. In black, 20 copies. Brown and blue editions still drying in the basement.

Color Variations

Rich brown won out over pale shade
Happy Saturday, All.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Your Birthday was Gross; Separately, Puppy Prints!

Vinology lowered their lights drastically at 6 PM on the nose, and the music developed a heavier, echoey beat, but on the booth side of the restaurant, the two filled tables are doing nothing to add to the hip, safely dangerous feel. There's me, who's drinking but wearing my knotted up scarf against the chill; and the family next door celebrating one of their two young adolescent's birthdays. The kids are mostly game, though McDonald's was mentioned wistfully. The mother started with brief  "how you were born"/ wonder of life anecdotes. The kids are mostly grossed out and no less confused for her forthright manner.

The girl, accusingly: "The baby PEED inside of you," as in: you allowed this to happen and you are, by extension, gross.

Mom: Well, no, not exactly, when you are pregnant, you are feeding the baby inside of you, and there is hardly any waste, because the baby is using everything to grow, to develop~~

Girl: ****

Boy, helpfully, to girl: You peed from your mouth.

Girl: No.

So, on that note, I'm out of the house, and Javier's putting Oyo* to bed this evening. Given her current habits, she will likely sing over him tunelessly while he reads to her, attempt to climb over him to the reverse side of the glider chair, as if she would flip into some grand new world; and then whisper-coo "Daddy Daddy Daddy" at him from the crib in an obvious attempt at re-engagement. But, uh, I'm away from that. I guess this is what happens, right?

Summer has blurred into Fall, with plenty of gorgeous, refreshing days. The Moppet is tossing out various new word surprises every couple of days, though some are only discernible to Javier and myself. Yes! has been added to Yeah, 'ouse has appeared for buildings, a few key people have their own lovingly-but-consistently garbled names (Sadie reads as Adezede in her brain somehow); she is still on a mission to grab as many balls as she can.

I am down to three blocks left to carve for the Cakeasaurus picture book, woohoo!

Separately, I found time to do my first pet commission (linocut):

I'm pretty excited about this new design, both its finished state, as well as the potential it represents for future work (view Etsy listing here). I was dismayed to encounter a bit of printing difficulty on a mechanical level, though I have leads on some different routes to take for other larger soft linoleum cuts. Hmmm and hmm. It had been so long since I tried to print anything other than my usual shina plywood on the wheeled press, that it didn't even occur to me that something significantly softer would need such different attention. SO very much easier to carve, but much harder on my hands and wrists to print. Minor aging complaints...

*the one year old, whose name expires in March 2017. never use ages for nicknames! Should be obvious, yet this is the third time I have done it (prior instance: two adorable sisters, separated by one year in age)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Goodbye Summer, Hello BookFest.

Fall is upon us and we are re-entering the school groove. There is nothing of school about me, specifically, but as the partner of a youth theater director, whose schedule will now exponentially ramp up, late nights proliferate, and Saturdays be claimed by football, I feel it settling in about me with a certain sense of...dread? Doom? Anxiety? Surely not, we are: up! for the challenge, gazing lovingly and expectantly upon our growth opportunities! Perhaps the caffeine just needs to kick in.

Anyhow, Javier needs to leave earlier than normal today and is getting his shower out of the way so he can give me a little time to myself before driving into Detroit. Estimated shower times are difficult to discern for someone like Javier, as they may include him taking a shower and they may include his sudden reappearance to announce things like, "BREAKING NEWS: HUMA ABEDIN IS SEPARATING FROM HER HUSBAND" before he closes the bathroom door once more. And as you know, something is always breaking, whether news, or furniture; spirits or tree branches. Dizzying existence washes over us. But this morning, nothing especially noteworthy, the shower pressure sounds impressive from one room away; and I am listening to the Moppet throw progressively larger and heavier toys outside her play area in a ploy for our return.

On Saturday evening, we returned from a week-long road trip to visit my parents and sister in Pennsylvania -- a long overdue collective reunion with Oyo. It was heartening to see them all get to know each other again, though we have skyped sporadically (dodgy internet connections and hyper-mobile toddler permitting). Oyo excitedly christened my Dad "Dada!" but refrained from settling on a name for my Mom. At meals, Mom would intone, "I'm Grandmom. Grannnnd....Mommmmm. Who am I? Grandmom!...Oh, it's okay, it doesn't matter...Grandmom!"  Oyo continued to refer to my sister generically, but also continued to be snuggly and trusting with her, so all was well. The visit was short and the trek was long; and when the baby slept she slept very well, and when she would not, it was horrid. Or something to that effect.

*** {Minutes, hours, most of a day}*** Well, if this was gaining any steam earlier, I'm not feeling it now. This is my problem with the idea of getting all kinds of things done after the baby goes to bed, though I know this is when a lot of productive parents must take care of things. My will seems to dissipate once I turn on the fake crickets of the sound machine each evening. I just haven't ironed this out for myself yet.  

ANYhow, what I most definitely AM building toward is BookFest on September 11th, in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown. I'm really geeked to be a first time exhibitor in this robust event -- excited to be among our local booksellers, writers, printmakers and book artists (including John Gutoskey and his new A2 Print Studio, Ephemeral Books, Fineburg Art Studio, Sloe Gin Fizz).

I'll have not-one-but-two! tables, of woodblock prints from my picture book, an expanded line of linocut cards, and - brand spanking new! as of today! - two tote bag options: "All Good Cakes are Born from Books" (cream tote) and "Lost Cake Anxiety" (black tote). Both feature Cakeasaurus on the back, scrutinizing a recipe.
front and back of "Lost Cake Anxiety"
The black one is really soft, and hangs nicely against the body; the "natural" one is more structured, with a wide gusset sewn in -- both are surprisingly roomy.
Same "Cakeasaurus Prints" image, entirely different feel
"All Good Cakes..." tote
nice side action!
For the original woodcuts the totes are based on click here (Lost Cake Anxiety) and here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Memory Now!

I took these photos a couple days ago, as I was backing out of our driveway to go erranding. The shots aren't great, but the moment held the quality of a vivid dream: a memory in the making. At first, Oyo was grave, but then she waved vigorously, moments before I got my phone in hand. Later on, I was simultaneously dismayed and satisfied by their blurry faces. Two of the most central figures in my life, clearly defined from a distance, surrounded in all directions by light and shadow, at the center of the path. And so tiny, that little being! Next to her father, letting her set the pace; and the three of us together, connected by our gaze.

inevitably twigs and stones win out
In her great memoir Hold Still, photographer Sally Mann charged photography with "impoverish[ing] your memory...sort of take[s] away all other senses"; elsewhere, she positioned her medium as untrustworthy, capable of rewriting the experience. Is it inevitable that great art is equally capable of capturing the essence of people/events in a given moment in time and of manipulation, rewriting? Photography does seem especially suited. Her sentiment certainly goes deeper than the snapshots above, but the odd sensation of...feeling nostalgic for something as it's happening? left me grasping at straws.

On the other end of the spectrum from our continual, casual documentation (/rewriting) with our phones, I hereby offer you some of my recent favorite vintage photos. I picked these up on my first visit to the glorious King's Books in Detroit. The photos were jumbled into boxes, as such items usually are, and it can feel a little depressing that their images have come to this -- did their family branches die off? Or just knowledge of them? My own family history is relatively hazy even a couple generations back, though my sister did a wonderful job researching our genealogy a few years back -- life just continues on, so full, so quickly -- how is their space to keep it all alive? But maybe it's exactly the mystery of these images that is so appealing, paired with the fact that family photography was such a special event.
The first one to suck me into the jumbled boxes:

Proper but spirited! Wry sense of humor?
Award for sweetest baby goes to...

Flouffy collars!
A rarity: name on back -- Billy Galbraith
Actually a postcard. Even if staged, I love it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ann Arbor Art Fair Stroll: Shadow Play, Barking Dogs, Anything's a Toy

Call him Vincent and buy his paintings
What to do when you'd happily pass the days as a large scale figure painter, but the market isn't aligned?  One answer: Edward Vincent Wood III's hand shadow series, a playful exercise allowing him to paint extremely realistic hands with defiantly unrealistic shadows. His love of capturing the subtleties of flesh is evident in his large- and small- scale oil paintings. His painting practice extends 16 years, though he had natural drawing aptitude from childhood. Give him a friendly welcome him to his first year at the Ann Arbor Art Fair (the Original on East Washington, near Hill Auditorium, booth A146). 

Just a few doors down, Kent Ambler returns with his fantastic woodblock prints. I still love the textural quality to his work -- he's always improvising with new tools to create different marks. I visited some favorites from last year like "Crow in the Snow" -- they still appeal. I asked for background on a newer dog portrait ("Mug Shot of a Serial Barker"): "Oh, yeah," he says, "that's a new dog I got in December. The local shelter had a photo from above, so he looked like a dachshund mix; but when I got there he was long-legged and actually a hound mix, but I took him anyway. He barks ALL the TIME, howls, too --" What's his name? Mr. Whipple Was that the name he came with? Nah, they were calling him 'Roman' or some such. (booth A154)

Elsewhere in the Original, Katie Musolff won a well deserved Award of Excellence, as her River Journal watercolors continue to fly off the booth walls

Connie Verrusio returned with her found and upcycled metal jewelry. I bought a surprisingly comfortable bangle fashioned from a carpenter's ruler, which I thought I could actually wear around Oyo. More accurately, it is a bracelet she can wear around me, as she pointed to it the moment she saw it and repeated the word "Off" until I surrendered. She is content to play with her sorting cups, with the bracelet bouncing around her arm. On North U.

enviable business card
Busking Bonus:
Guitar-yoga double play!

Art Fair Stroll Sans Stroller: Surprises on Main Street

Initially you're texting as you walk down Main, approaching this section as your "waking up" portion of art fair. Your friend is hiding in her house, away from the heat; you offer to buy her a leather fanny pack, but she demurs ("-only if it has a bird or a flower on it!") You mocked them, but the joke's on you. The non-fanny pack bags at KT Leather Designs feature strong, solid colors, contrasting zippers, and clean lines; the closer you look, the better they become. Especially the cleverly designed double triangle bag, if you're in the market for a go-to purse. Booth D178.

Surely you know someone who needs dinosaur pottery? I'm in a hard position with this medium: I love it, but have so little space for it. Figure out someone to buy these for. Keith Hershberger, Booth D187.

Ayyyyand, most exciting! At the other end of Main, Detroit-based Corbe is brand new to the fair, but have already snagged an Award of Excellence. Ceramic as simple and beautiful as smooth river stones. My favorite: black speckle glaze. Also on their website: United States in plates. Booth 323.

the dalmation vase wouldn't take up much room

...And with that it's time for a dip into Literati before hitting other areas. You pass through a ragged man's monologue loop at the intersection: "...Spiced meat, well we all need body parts. You're not taking mine-" and feel relieved by the more inane art fair overheards ("...Ohhhh, can't we get ONE more dragonfly thing?")

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Evidence of a Scattery Life

Yesterday evening I thought, "Okay NOW I could write a blog post." I sat on our front stoop*, enjoying the golden late evening sky, our leafy street, a Corona, and bevy of presents newly arrived in the mail. The Oyo, not-quite-asleep, was barely rustling in her darkened room. The baby monitor called out, "Baby!..Bayyyyyyybee. Wawa?" before subsiding. Logistically speaking, blogging wasn't realistic: the stoop just barely fit a chair and the disgorged boxes -- name aside, perching the laptop on my lap seemed like a recipe for disaster. Leave it to the less clumsy among us.

The view from my foldy chair showed the flip-side of 1960s nonconformity: a row of little ranch houses, identical but for siding decisions and window treatments, with varying degrees of yard tidyness. The tidiest of all yards sat across from me: the lush grass carpet was approximately three times thicker than our piebald mess; timered sprinklers shot to life, first on the verge, followed by the main expanse of yard. Oh lovely, spotless greenery! Our Neighbors of the Perfect Lawn predate my time here, but are rarely seen; they neither walk down the sidewalk, nor chat about brownouts or dear prices at Plum. The husband mows the lawn, or rakes; and returns inside. A couple years ago, they attended a neighborhood gathering, with the wife helpfully explaining to us that there are sporadic security checks at her job -- so if anyone contacts any of us, now we can say we know her. And that was about the length of her socializing. I don't remember either of their names.

Obviously, neighborliness takes many forms and everyone is entitled to be as involved or removed as desired. Opinions on the ideal neighbor differ greatly**. I remember moving onto this street and another friend, who grew up in the country, warned me against overly-friendly space-invading neighbors***. As it turned out, it seemed like a year or two passed before I even talked to anyone on the street for more than 5 minutes, lacking a child, dog or church, what seemed to be the social sealants at the time. Now, I count a few neighbors as loved ones, which is the first time in my life I can say that; though I have yet to connect over parenting, which surprises me a bit. Though to be fair, I'm not prone to insta-bonding, so the Mom endeavor of quickly sussing out potentially like-minded souls and exchanging texts is...uneven on my part. 

And then the few moments passed, Javier arrived home; and here I am at a cafe while Javier watches Oyo. We had a lovely non-characteristic July 4th weekend -- Javier arrived back from a week away on Friday night and it was a relief and a bounty to have him home again. Some of his family were also visiting from California and they a.) were great to visit with and b.) Oyo-sat so we could have a leisurely day-date on Sunday -- fabulous!

I also joined the ladies of the group for a mani/pedi, something I have never done in my life; it was a lot more fun than I would have thought. A layer of fluffiness was removed by Javier's sister-in-law giving me a snapshot of the political players involved in England leaving the EU. Afterward, I walked around feeling like I had a doll's hands, a comparison which makes no sense to anyone, because what dolls have painted fingernails? Regardless, this still pops into my head. I also come off as an addled traveler, who had been holed up in some godforsaken corner of the world prior to her maiden journey. "They had these warm stones! Which they ran along your arms, like this~~" I ran my hands along Javier's arms. Javier wore the plastic expression we use for Oyo when she wishes us to share in the wonder of a sock she has found for the umpteenth time.

"Ohh! nice!"

"And massage chairs. Though I think that's only if you get a pedi. But with different settings and everything--"

"Well, that sounds like fun. New experiences!"

"I got a different shade on my feet. I like it, though--"

"Oh they just did the tips--"

"Well, no. I was just about to say it highlights how freakishly small my toenails are~"

"Wow, they really are--"


"I don't think I've ever seen such small toenails before. This changes everything--"


Forty Minutes Later

Javier, peering downward: "You know, you're really not supposed to cut your nails shorter than a certain amount--"

"I KNOW how to cut my nails! It's the size of the nail bed! I didn't tell you so you could make a bigger deal out of it" I harrumphed and took myself elsewhere.

--> Nothing exciting for feet or toes here, but check out old slang for body parts!

So, um, in other news. I solved the riddle to life's persistent questions? And daily life is scintillating, clearly. But good. Smallish, vigorous, and changeable as a toddler. So, what else?
  • My work got accepted for a large exhibit, Spring 2017! All picture book! More on that in a couple weeks.
hahaha, no mice in story
  • Photoshop noodling continues. Simple color layers added to my conch mouse card. Next up: pigeons.
  • "If you exorcise your demons, your angels will leave, too." Agree, disagree? Song writer Joe Henry with Krista Tippett
  • Really into This is Criminal podcast these days
  • Local toy store Learning Express advertises "Bunch o Balloons: Fill 100 balloons in 60 seconds!" I plan to steer clear of such things for as long as possible.
Burbling from the nursery, time's up.

*step. It's a big step. Changing a couple letters gives a different feel, doesn't it? Queue up nice Summer jam
** ...and change with circumstance. July 4th revelers compelled to set off their own suburban firework display have never been my favorite, but now? They are nothing other than IDIOTS GONNA WAKE MY BABY.
***i.e. "You've got to shut that sh*t down" this remark was made after a surprisingly perky young woman popped up from next door to borrow a potato masher. "Well if she doesn't return it, I know where she lives, haha~" Compatriot raised her eyebrows to reiterate: trouble. Said neighbor had a name like Charity/Chastity/Serendipity and moved out within a year or so. 
**** but without ketchup, because I have a weird tomato allergy. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Plot Hatching!

Scheming babies, they're everywhere
Beware the plotting babies! It's no coincidence that this sketch came to me just as my 15 month old has started to walk, loves sitting on adult chairs, even if she can't get onto them herself...and is busy, busy, busy. Baby sock in the silverware compartment of the dishwasher, baby sock flattening in the beginning pages of a novel from the library, duckling finger puppet nestled in my shoe. She's full of vim, vinegar and mysterious plans. Sometimes we can see the wheels turning; other times, just a blur of motion.

I drew this on Monday, in a peevish fit -- I would have been plotting, myself, had I more energy. As it was, I doodled, and then distracted myself from crabbiness*, by getting sucked into Photoshop world with texts and coloring layers. I'm still really clunky with the program, but am closer to the a-little-knowldege-is-a-dangerous-thing stage. But! After I pass that stage! Golden! ----ish. 14 karat? I'm enjoying it more, definitely.

Etsy listing for Plotting baby card here

*Something we should all follow babies and toddlers in doing! ...Or we may already do, without knowing. Wahhhhhhhhhhh~~ooohhowthatswings! Helpful at any age.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Linocut Level: High, Crazy Level: Low Simmer

Tom Petty has been following me all day. I have never had a use for him, though growing up it seemed most of the local stations did (to a lesser extent than Led Zep or Bon Jovi, go TRI-STATE AREA!). I get that he has a sizable catalog, but really, why do people care anymore? It probably serves me right, I suppose, as at home, I'm lazy enough to set the radio dial to a halfway acceptable station to me in the morning, instead of descending to the basement to dig up CDs, or listen to Spotify, because I'm cheap and have held off from subscribing; and then here I am choosing to do my tasks in the least efficient manner possible.

I am, ostensibly, listing my new cards on Etsy, but this bar has dodgy internet connection, at best; and the downloading has been lamentable. The nail in the task coffin is that Photoshop has crashed on me three times. And in the meantime, the music has shifted from the lovely Temper Trap and Black Keys to an extended live version of Tom Petty's "Breakdown," which briefly morphs into "Hit the road jack, don't come back no more, no more, no more." Eh. I left the house because A.) I could, what with a sweet teenage babysitter who is great with the baby, even as she goes "Oooph!" most times she lifts our densely-packed girl and B.) my short streak of high productivity seemed to smack into a wall today, so C.) why not expose my sheltered self to some local color?

And local color I'm getting, as I set myself up at a table at the tail-end of a bartender story about having to deal with a female paranoid schizophrenic who had to be removed from the premises by police, after various threats. I didn't get any of the interesting details, only Bro's reaction from the audience table: "All women are batshit crazy, I go from that average and go down." Hahaha, crazy females! He is smugly provocative. Late twenties/early thirties, but still playing boyishly defiant, in super baggy, long shorts and baseball cap; his delicate eyes protected by iridescent, wraparound shades. He faces his table of (mostly older) five men, two women. One of the latter: "So where would I rate on the scale?" I don't listen closely enough for his assessment; clearly neither participant is worried about the answer. A gay male friend of mine years ago said, in defense of an especially egregious friend -- slavering over women + stupid gay jokes -- "I mean, everyone's gotta have the loveable asshole friend, right?" But do they really? Do we? My judgment is very comfortable, lacking knowledge of the entire table. But. He says, at one point, to the other guys at the table, "I take your silence as agreement"; he points his beer bottle at the remainder of the table: "They agree with me." Call me crazy, but it's dismaying to walk into a Feminism 101 lesson, simply by dropping by the nearest microbrew. 

At a certain point, between my slow-but-hopeful downloads and the Photoshop failures,  Bro loudly amends his position: “70% OF ALL WOMEN: BATSHIT CRAZY.” Was he still entertaining to his table, or were they simply waiting him out? Does any part of him get that women experience passing dismissals regularly, in public, whether professionally or not? At all? The idea that half of a population could still be treated as a minority, as an oddity, is astonishing, even given the current popularity of such a blatant misogynist as Trump.

Back home, Oyo's snug in her crib, and I'm lured into flipping between The Shining and The Usual Suspects. My grimness scale may soon be exceeded; and I'll take myself down for some basement printing. The goat I tested yesterday is on for tonight:
in search of decorative papers
...though I did carve him with a starry night background
Thursday post script: didn't make it past the couch last night, but the super energized one napped well today, so I have 50 goats drying in the basement from this afternoon. Woohoo! Onward and upward. I have trouble believing I made 5 new card designs in under three weeks -- and this plus two larger card designs, which I may or may not pull. I usually sit on things for...quite awhile. Flurries of productivity!

Of course, I am in the final stages of the Cakeasaurus picture book...I can barely remember when I wasn't talking about maybe I needed to create something unrelated to remind myself I could? Hmmmm. In any case, have some shots from the recent flurry:

Sweet bunny in brown
with my current favorite backing paper
now in Etsy shop
Also in shop
New new new! The bear came first, followed by chipmunk and goose.