Hello, goodbye :: {something exciting}

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The mission

Last week my husband courageously made a nine hour drive alone with our two-year-old daughter to see his family, and left me alone with my long to-do list, and my thoughts, for a week.  The longest I had ever been away from her before this was six hours.  I was nervous, but mostly excited, to have Time again.

I caught up on some lagging friendships, slept in, and didn't get nearly the quantity of work done that I thought I would.  Still, when they returned to the house that hadn't been organized, the projects that hadn't been finished, and the thousands of thoughts that hadn't been cataloged, they found me in a good state.

One thing I did get to articulate, and see through to completion, was my mission statement for my running snail and rainbow project.  My mission is a lofty goal, one that I hope to achieve a small piece of with every new and existing piece in the collection so far.  Here it is:

Many, many thanks to Lindsey from Miscellaneous Media Photography for collaborating with me on this, and for taking such beautiful pictures.

I have a lot more to say, especially about imagination, but that's for another day.  Right now, the air is so crisp and beautiful outside that I want to be in it, carving my woodblock.


Noticing that time has passed

I finally broke down and got out my relief printmaking tools.  I was looking at the work I've done so far for running snail & rainbow and noticing a glaring omission in the lineup: a wood block print.  I only got to take one printmaking class in college, which is a great sadness to me, because if I had found the medium before second semester of senior year I would have most certainly taken another and another.  I want presses and rollers and cranks, buckets of chemicals and plates of metal and glass, and I want to know how to use all of them.  Even my painting professor thought that more printmaking would have been a good use of my time.

What he did not think was a good use of my time were my antics in the theatre department, dabbling in plays and entertaining the fantasy of becoming an actor.  He saw that my work in the art studio suffered horribly when I split my creative focus.  He had a point.  But aside from his point, painting was just never my medium.  I wanted it to be.  Desperately.  He was a brilliant teacher, and a brilliant artist.  His use of color made you want to live behind his eyes forever.  His world was vibrant, unexpected, beautiful.  My problem was not understanding the color theory, or what all the different little tubes of paint and gels did.  My problem was with the palette--it got so messy, and my brushes got so globby; it just wasn't how I think.  The teacher probably unfairly blamed theatre entirely for my ineptitude, when really I just couldn't organize myself the way I needed to do interpret what I was seeing.  Then one night, second semester of senior year, I was in the printmaking studio finishing up a project.  He was grading portfolios in the adjoining studio and popped his head in.  "Oh," he asserted, matter-of-factly, after having seen my woodblock prints, "you're a printmaker."

I don't know why I didn't touch my tools to a piece of wood for seven years.  Figuring that out doesn't warrant any of my energy, so suffice to say that I've started a piece, for children (or not), about the four seasons.  But I didn't want this bit of writing now to really be about that piece, since I don't want to give anything away yet.  What I really wanted to talk about was yesterday afternoon.

I've begun to wonder how people who live in more-or-less season-less climates--you know, like the tropics--keep track of how time has passed.  My entire internal clock is based upon how the light looks, the air feels and smells, and where I've spent the majority of my time.  Yesterday afternoon, on an unseasonably warm spring day, I took my daughter into the backyard, filled up her little wading pool, and brought my wood carving supplies outside.  She sat pouring water from one cup to another, and I carved my block of wood.  I was struck how similar this was to an early evening last summer, an evening when I finally figured out how to capture a moment of quietness in her waking hours.

The two early evenings have so many things in common: the out of doors, the water, the long shadows, the rarity of the occasion.  Yet they are so different.  I didn't sit there like I did last year, stunned at the advent of motherhood, blinking in the light.  I was able to do something for myself: carve out a few little bits of my woodblock.  It wasn't much, but it was everything.


The rules of drawing and when to break them

It's so difficult to discern when you should adhere to or shirk your training.  Perhaps this is where that thing called "balance" comes in to play.  I don't know much about balance these days.

The two most valuable things I have learned from drawing:
1. Draw what you see, not what you know.
2. Drawing is a plastic medium (by which every mark made is useful, but never final, and the eraser is a good friend).
There's a fascinating chapter in a book I read for an independent study once, all about the artistic developmental stages we go through as children, putting our world down on paper, with crayons, or colored pencils, or daddy's special pen.  It's about where we put the horizon line and how we plant our trees in that ground.  It's about how we translate what we experience into what we understand.  We draw what we know, as children, not what we see.  This chapter's been on my mind a lot, and I think I'll reread it soon.  It's called "Growth."

Children draw fearlessly, innocently, intuitively.  And then we go to school, learn about rules and how things work.  We lose our intuition, and our world view becomes a collective homogenous world view.  Then some of us go to art school and learn to draw what we see, to erase, to try again.  We learn different kinds of rules.  And then we go out into the world, and find that the rules we learned only sometimes help us express what we're seeing in our minds.

As with all rules, there are exceptions, and times to break them.  Knowing when is impossible.  There are invitations to be less realistic, more stylized, and more final.  Drawing with a pen or carving into a block of wood has that finality.  You have to move decisively because every mark, every cut, is permanent.

Part of a self portrait from 2005, my first relief printmaking class.

And then there's drawing what you know instead of what you see.  I guess you have to be communicating something pretty specific.  You have to know where you're coming from and what you're trying to say.  If you know all that, I think you've earned breaking the rule.

On the drawing board tonight: a bird that I see with feathers that I know.  This fellow will be part of the favorite{red} postcard set.


Send something yellow :: {new postcards}

My love of yellow began one summer when we painted our white kitchen and I set up a drafting table in the corner.  I was 17, and it was the summer before my senior year in high school.  I sat at my table, gazing at the vibrant wall in front of me, and began painting a giant orange poppy in homage to Georgia O'Keefe.  Despite the fact that my mother thought that I was painting a giant tarantula, at first, everything that came out of my fingers, at that table, in front of that yellow wall, seemed good.  This was surprising to me, and mostly to my Very Harsh Inner Critic, who usually managed to turn my best opinions to sludge.  The only thing I could think was that the yellow wall was somehow helping me.  It is, after all, the color of Creativity herself.

In honor of this color, and in celebration of nature waking to spring sunshine, I've made some postcards of my favorite yellow things: sunshine, trumpets, daffodils, birds, bees, and béarnaise sauce.  As a side note, I should mention that the recipe on the béarnaise sauce card is the one tried, tested, and perfected by yours truly and that anyone receiving such a postcard might be glad to know that it's not just a pretty face...it's a real-live, functioning recipe.

Here are the yellow cards.  Next up will be a red postcard set, and since I have fewer favorite things that are red, I might need your help, in the comments section, about what your favorite red things are.


What we do when we don't know what to do :: {new poster and postcards}

My daughter just had her second birthday earlier this week.  It's unsettling to think how much she's accomplished in a year compared to how little I have.  Now I know, helping her accomplish all of those things was an accomplishment for both of us, as parents, but nonetheless, I stand humbled and reflect in wonderment at what she's managed to do.

I was aided in my self-reflection with two horrendous earaches that lasted the better part of a fortnight which rendered me almost completely deaf.  Actually, rather than say I was deaf, I would say that my hearing was inside out, so while I could not hear Heidi squeal with glee at her birthday cake, I could very much hear my own jaws chomping down on a huge slab of it (okay, two huge slabs).  I'm afraid I got a bit dramatic about the whole deafness thing, and plunged full-force into a Beethoven-like state where all I wanted to do was feverishly work.  I guess the big difference here, aside from the (obvious) real-vs.-temporary deafness, oh, and the genius factor, is that drawing doesn't require hearing at all, where music really, well, does.  

We're also approaching a precipice of uncertainty, with unemployment popping its ghastly face up from around the next bend, so all I can think to do is draw, draw, draw.  And, really, I guess that means I have made progress in the last year -- towards doing more of what I should be doing, and relying on it more to bolster me in times of distress and doubt.  Next on the chopping block is that crippling perfectionism.

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the finished alphabet poster of musical instruments:

An A to Z of Musical Instruments -- available in four color stories.

The next thing I'll be rolling out very soon are some postcards.  They're all about the color yellow and how much I love it right now.  (But of course, we'll do the rest of the rainbow as well!)  Here's a sneak peek:

What?  Béarnaise is yellow!  I'm sure you know someone who would appreciate this postcard.


Life in a Patty

Some generalities can always be made: about women, men, seagulls, you name it.  And then there are always the exceptions to the rule.  My exception to one such Generality About Being a Woman is that I'm a horrible multi-tasker. When I was in my twenties, I deluded myself that I was one capable of multi-tasking, and now that I'm safely thirty I have admitted to myself that I am a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person.  Your twenties are for pretending who you want to be, and your thirties are for realizing who you actually are, I've decided.  Now I can congratulate myself on my newfound maturity, and, at once, painfully wave farewell to the times gone by when I had the option of doing one thing at a time.  Really, that time ended when I had a baby.  Then I was doubly reminded that that time was over when she started walking.  And then triply when she began climbing...and you see where I'm going.  (You may also draw the logical conclusion when you see what time I posted this and every other blog post).  I see other women juggling children at the grocery store, with their coupon binder, washed hair, and unstained clothes, and marvel at them.  If you are one of these women, I salute you.

Of course, in a household with an actor, an artist, and a toddler, there's never one thing going at a time.  And not only do I try to take the best care ever of my little girl, but I also try to do some things for myself (writing here, drawing there, bathing), then I have to earn some money (freelance graphic design work, helping out my photographer friend with some shoots), and still find time to put breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table.  It's at that time -- when the actor shows up for his far-to-short dinner break, and I realize I have no idea what to serve up, and the toddler starts getting cranky, and I realize that the day is almost gone and I've gotten maybe one thing done -- that's the time when I want to consolidate everything in my universe into a big life-shaped patty that I can eat one. mouthful. at. a. time.

Not possible, I know.  But I can make dinner into a patty, and that's what I'm going to do:

I'm starting a project called Life Burgers.  I'm going to take all my favorite (mostly meatless) meals, put them into veggie-burger format, freeze them, and serve them up when all else fails.  I'll be sharing the recipes here, of course, and I'd like you to weigh in, via the comments section, what you'd like to see in burger form.  First up will be a Punjabi Red Kidney Bean Stew gone life burger: kidney beans spiked with ginger, garlic, coriander and cumin, with bits of bright tomato and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve it up with a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of cilantro (you know me).  Then after that: a Southern Black-eyed Pea Life Burger with bits of bacon and ribbons of kale mixed in.  Are you getting the idea?  Stay tuned.
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