Day 31

One whole month! Woohoo! Today’s piece is a watercolor of a photograph of Istanbul. We crossed a bridge, and just like that we’d gone from Europe to Asia. Our tour bus smashed into a sedan (not his fault; the driver of the tiny car thought it would be a great idea to swoop into a small spot behind the bus while it was still in the process of parallel parking), so while they worked out the paperwork, we hung out in a small park and took pictures.

I distinctly recall a few things about that stop, and these were: a lady in a full-on leopard-print catsuit (thanks for marring my nice memories with your horrible outfit, woman), some fisherman who thought we were all obnoxious, and a woman who didn’t speak a single word of English who got me to take a photo with her for no apparent reason.

As I mentioned, I do have the crescent moon and star tattoo, so I suppose it’s possible she saw that. But why she signaled to me out of a crowd of hundreds and motioning, explained she wanted to take a picture with me, is beyond me. Her daughter appeared somewhat mortified, but also posed. She didn’t even want to see the photo on the camera afterwards. Perhaps she wanted to make sure I remembered my stop there so that I would grab this photo and spend five hours making it into a pretty rad watercolor. A Turkish art-psychic. Hmm.

I’m heading out to Newark to help my mom through a surgery this week, but the art project will continue. Whether or not I will be able to load photos on to the computer my father so frequently “fixes” into a non-functioning state remains to be seen. Hence, please excuse any poor quality images this coming week. I’ll update them with better ones later when I return home to my familiar editing tools if necessary.

Day 30

In general, Rob and I are peaceful with critters great and small. We have a standing agreement with spiders that if we don’t kill them, they won’t bite our faces off. Hence, hubby removes these and other invaders from the home safely. We’ve even saved a few from Chester the terrible..

… Chester doesn’t think he’s much of a menace, clearly.

But when it comes to pigeons, our “heal the world” mentality changes. I long ago developed what I consider a genius plan to rid our neighborhoods of these poison-pooping stoop-bunnies which I call “Squab Meats* The Streets”. Squab, as you may know, is a fancy term for pigeon you eat in restaurants. The “meats the streets” part refers to the crux of the plan, which is feeding the homeless with captured pigeons. If it’s good enough for rich people, it’s good enough for the destitute. It would even create jobs!

While these things do irritate me and literally crap all over our porch, I do feel bad for them out in the cold. I see them clustered together on poles and wires and think “why don’t they find some nice exhaust vent at an apartment complex or something?”, and then I realize they have tiny, tiny brains, and I feel more sorry for them. So today I immortalized a flight of pigeons in watercolor. They do make a fun composition. I suppose I can hold off on writing up my full proposal for project “Squab Meats the Streets” for a little while longer.

* P.S. I know you’re thinking it should be “meets” and not “meats” but I selected that homonym to express the idea of feeding pigeons to people, and not just say, introducing them to the homeless as a new means of inexpensive communication or companionship. 😀 See? Just another Californian with creative ideas to help solve this budget crisis.

Day 29

For the record- this painting and I are not on speaking terms. I started this around noon and “finished” around 9:30. I’ll let the many photos and my text messages tell the tale.

Me to Jen: “This painting is f%@*ing torturing me with its horribleness.”

Jen to me: “I like the blue space and the colored spots, I think maybe the problem is the green and yellow sections.”

“It’s like an injured tortoise from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“I thought you got my picture text.”

“Tortoise had a bad acid trip and ran into a mine field.”

“Umm…”

“I’m working on it. THIS SUCKS SO MUCH UGH.”

Jen to me: “So did you get that painting wrangled?”

Me to Jen: “Well I do not approve of its dangerous drug using lifestyle, so we’ve parted ways.”

“So you finished it?”

“Yes, but I still somehow feel like vomiting on it would have been an improvement.”

Day 28

I ended up trapped in line at a grocery store today, waxing philosophical with a random nice lady about what we’d do with ourselves if we had more time. I told her I hoped to go back to school for my master’s degree if I could raise enough in grants and scholarships- which at this point feels essentially the same as saying “if I can trick that leprechaun into showing me where he hid his gold”.

And she immediately proceeded to tell me about all of her family members who are talented artistically, which was a laundry list of her grandkids and nieces and nephews- particularly a 4 year old who is really just brilliant with fingerpaints.

Now before I proceed with my mini-rant, which will be Part One of my Art Public Service Announcement series, I’d like to point out emphatically that I am always delighted to hear about people who are into art. It’s great that families and friends support them and talk about their skills and pursuits- hell, that’s where pretty much anyone that’s reading this came from- okay? I love hearing about it and I’m always polite and interested when I do. So I’m not coming down on people who do this. It’s great. However..

This is, on a small scale, part of the great social problem of belittling art as a skilled, professional pursuit. It doesn’t make sense when applied to the same situation in any other field. For example, if you met someone and he told you he was an Electrical Engineer, I doubt that your immediate response would be “Oh, right. My son made a battery out of a potato in science class.” Because when you do this, you’re essentially saying, “Oh that? Pshaw. I know forty people that do that. Anyone can do that. Children are equally talented. In fact, I am probably going to make a piece of art when I wipe my ass after coffee in the bathroom later.”

Okay, so maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but that’s how it FEELS. For the record- making art is hard. It’s tiresome. It’s a struggle. And in general it takes a lot of time and practice and frustration to get to the point that you’re doing anything good or worthwhile. And even then, the entire art world is filled with some of the snobbiest snobs in the history of snobbery, so it’s not like we’re even immediately accepted among our own kind.

Just because it’s damn hard to make a living doing it doesn’t mean it isn’t important. On the contrary, people who tirelessly follow that pursuit should be applauded and praised for their foolhardy dedication, but they aren’t. They’re looked down upon as layabouts and hippies who don’t want to get real jobs- unless they get super famous and people are forced to respect them.

So, the next time someone who is trying to make a real go of art as a livelihood tells you about it, do all of us a favor and don’t immediately jump to comparisons with barely potty-trained family members. Thank you. Now you know.

/end rant

Day 27

It feels like the last week of high school at work, except that the excitement of embarking upon new adventures has been replaced with the fear of financial failure. No actual work is really getting done for the most part. Some people are sending each other “keep in touch” messages while others are thinking about how they’ll never see any of us again and how they could care less.

Modest Mouse’s “Third Planet” keeps playing in my head…“everything that keeps me together is falling apart/ I got this thing that I consider my only art of fucking people over”.

That’s how sales feels sometimes. Like the art of f-ing people over. I know if I stayed in sales forever I would eventually lose it. I’d have a nervous breakdown or combust spontaneously or develop mental divergence like TJ Washington from Seven Monkeys. “Are you also divergent, friend?”

The President gave the State of the Union address tonight. And as I listened I felt solidly jaded; I remember how I started to feel that way as a teenager and I told myself not to let it happen, not to let it take over, to make sure I wasn’t like that as an adult.

I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I applied for the only muralist job I’ve ever seen posted and haven’t heard back. I still don’t know if I’ll get the bonus they’ve carrot-dangled at us since we got the pink slip news two months ago. I don’t know what will happen when I run out of extensions on my student loan forbearances.

But I guess the scary part is that I do know what I’ll do- I’ll get another job like I always do. And if nothing else, I’ll suppose I’ll also be making art.

Today’s piece is a watercolor/drawing of a photo I took in Berkeley. I love Berkeley’s oddness and industrialism- it always inspires me. I loved going to Berkeley a long time ago, when what I saw on the horizon was smog and not doom. When I loved punk music and read the thousand fliers wallpapered to the telephone poles with excitement and felt like I’d find a way to carve out my spot in the world instead of the world carving me out instead. Maybe I’ll find that bright spot again one of these days.

Day 26

I’d like to pretend that each painting begins with some magical spark of divine inspiration; that each good painting idea falls upon my shoulders in some gorgeous ray of sunlight- a gift from God, the touch of a muse to my otherwise dullard noggin. But it’s not true at all. Often times I have no idea where an idea comes from or why I’m using it, as was the case today.

I walked into the studio, grabbed a small canvas I tried to print a linocut on that only took the border, thumbed through my tattered Capote book until I found a line that caught me (which never takes long), ripped it out, affixed it with medium, cut some yarn and wrapped it around the snippet in heavy gel, stamped it with today’s date, dripped wax on it and painted it red.

All quickly, while the dye in my hair set. It took hours to dry and then I discovered I’d left the damn camera on so I had to emergency charge it to get this post up. So I don’t know where the inspiration for this piece came from or why it happened. I usually don’t do creepy pieces. *Shrug*

So what happens with the actual inspired ideas I do get? Some of them get abandoned midway through when I realize they suck or shouldn’t be executed in my medium, some are forgotten before they’re written down, some live with me for years before I make them- literally, years. Sometimes I have a feeling I want to turn into an image but I don’t have the image to go with it. Sometimes it’s a song. Sometimes it’s the way rust runs down deteriorating buildings, or bolts painted red a thousand times or colors left over on my extra sensitive retinas when I close my eyes… it isn’t always easy to make it into something.  At least it’s always a surprise what tomorrow will bring, right?

Day 25

I was chatting with my friend Jennan about this project today and I told her it was eventually going to come down to picking inspirational topics out of a hat. I even thought of doing a discussion topic on the facebook fan page and asking for suggestions, but then I thought of how we used to take improv classes and the slips of paper from the audience would always have crazy shit like “humping a lawnmower” on them, so then I figured I’d hold off on that idea for now.

When I sat down in the studio this evening, my idea slate was as blank as the canvas. I’d been clicking around on Etsy most of the day at work, and I love so much of the great stuff on there. Etsy itself has kind of a cute/indie/hipster aesthetic and I remembered these cool paintings I’d seen recently by BenBen and I thought, “Hey. Why can’t I make something whimsical and rad like that?” so I started out and after a few minutes, I’d ‘erected’ this….

… which was far from cute. Rather, it looked exactly like a tiny city built of band-aid clad penises. Or the tentacled appendage of a Technicolor alien. Or stepped-on fruit stripe gum. But mainly tiny penises. Soooo I decided to try to make it into something else…

And eventually I ended up with this. I don’t love it, but it’s certainly better than a poke in the eye. HAHA! Yes. I’m a child. Feast your eyes on THIS! Hahahaaaa. Clearly it’s getting late.

Day 24

I know today is Sunday, but it sure felt like a workday. It was one of those non-stop days. Make breakfast, return video, plan meals, buy groceries, put them away, do dishes, clean kitchen, make lunch, buy packing materials, wrap painting to ship tomorrow, fold laundry, work on a crappy painting, bake a lemon cake, work on a crappy painting some more, make dinner… I like the photograph I took and altered of the glass of absinthe & bottle much more than the painting, so today is another photo. Now I understand why the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest.

Rob and I have clean bedding to relax into and a pretty bottle of Beaujolais and some lemon cake to sink into for the rest of the evening, all 1.5 hours of it, and that’s my plan. Back to the drawing board tomorrow, folks! 🙂

Day 23

Feeling reinvigorated about paintings after the success of using photos as a basis for my cityscapes, I headed out today to finally print off some of the amazing photographs mom took when she and I went on a cruise in Europe this past fall. It was a fabulous time and I’m so blessed that mom took me with her. She has a great eye for compositions and took extra care to snap some shots of cities and night scenes for me to paint.

One of the most interesting cities we visited was Istanbul. I think I found it so fascinating because it’s a place that encompasses opposites. The city presides over the borders of two continents, it welcomes a multitude of people and faiths, it is both ancient and new at the same time.

As our ship pulled up, we were serenaded by a band and dancers playing traditional Turkish folk music on the pier, a couple hundred yards or so in front of the Museum of Modern Art. Several minutes later, invisible men sang Ramadan prayers through the PA systems of gorgeous, sculpted minarets surveying the great quilt of architecture covering the hills between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Red flags with a white crescent moon and single star waved welcome to us as I leaned over the bough; my unintentionally matching tattoo on my bosom and I waved back. It was surreal and amazing.

When I was 13, my mom took me to a tattoo parlor. This fact shocks most people that know my mom- she’s pretty straight-laced in general. But she shared that she had wanted a tattoo so badly as a teenager that she ended up getting it done in a living room (it looked pretty good actually, and it was a clean situation so no worries). Her mom found out when an article about underage tattoos appeared in the newspaper shortly thereafter- with a photo of my mom getting her ink done on some dude’s couch in it.

Mom didn’t want me to do the same thing. Knowing I carried her willful genes, she took me in that day (back when you could get a tattoo at age 16 as long as a parent was present, yes I said 13 up there, thanks for fibbing to the dude with the giant snake in the lobby, mom!), probably expecting I would freak out when I heard the sound of the needle, but I didn’t. I picked a small crescent moon and single star for the left side of my chest. I didn’t know it was the same symbol as the Turkish flag then (thanks, California’s public school system!) and little did I know I’d be enjoying an unforgettable time with my mom in that country 14 years later.

So today I worked from one of the harbor photos of Istanbul. I’ve done a few really successful San Francisco inspired cityscapes in the same manner before, but it’s been awhile and I almost forgot how frustrating they are. My eyeballs get lost in all the lines and I get to the point that I have to break off and quit looking at the photo and go from there to make it work. I hated this one right up until the last few minutes or so, and then I liked it a lot. Whew. Thank goodness. I have a glass of Lindeman’s Lambic Framboise getting warm over here.

Day 22

It’s official- I hate exercise and exercise hates me. I did my Wii workout again today. I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to so much that I did the dishes and a load of laundry first. It made me think about how day-to-day life as an adult is essentially task-you-don’t-want-to-do after task-you-don’t-want-to-do except that you have the freedom to prioritize those things you don’t want to do and select the order in which you begrudgingly complete them.

At any rate, the workout went like it usually does. I sweated profusely and a few minutes into it I started to feel like I might puke. Eventually, the half hour of suck was almost over. The screen said “Let’s cool down!” and then had me RUN TRACK. While I suppose quantum theory dictates that it’s possible there is a universe in which running equates to cool down exercises, it certainly doesn’t mean that here. Or at least I thought it didn’t. But I obviously know very little about exercising, so maybe the Wii is right.

What I also found appalling was that this torturous event only burned off about 200 calories. That’s like… a cookie. It should say that at the end, “Congratulations! You burnt off a COOKIE! Yep, that’s right. Great job. Bet you’ll think twice about shoving some chocolate down your gullet next time, right?”

So after that debacle, I was free to work on some art. I had felt blah all day. I really didn’t want to do anything except recover from the workout enough to put dinner together. So I looked through my photos and pulled out this blurry one from a rainy evening at Fisherman’s Wharf a couple of years ago when we were visiting San Francisco with Rob’s dad.

I drew in the outlines with charcoal, blocked the sky in with blue and skipped the brush over the bottom for some cobblestone texture. Next were the dark spots with nice thick black, then the yellow of the lights in the trees, then that familiar sodium orange on the buildings, then the white headlights reflecting on the wet ground and making the trolley tracks. Once it got to the point of frustration and I had the basics all down, I stopped staring at the photograph and started adding bits of color and black to balance out the composition. I ignored the car bodies entirely. That’s the great thing about making a painting. I can edit at will. I get excited when I realize that I really do have complete freedom when it comes to making my own art.

I rocked out to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs station on Pandora Internet Radio (that kicks ass now that I have trained it not to play so much White Stripes), and eventually out came this slightly abstracted nightscape. Which, oddly enough, also kicks ass. This is an 8×10” original acrylic painting on canvas finished with some charcoal and matte fixative. Hope you’re enjoying your own “night out on the town”!