"Fly Bird", a watercolor on a play page

Day 302: Fly Bird

I have denied my hippie roots to some extent during this illness, buckling and having Rob pick up some Ibuprofen, Theraflu and Chloraseptic when the vitamin C, D and gargling with saltwater didn’t seem to be doing enough. I took Tylenol PM last night, hoping to get some solid rest so that I could force myself to work on a proposal for public art I’ve known about for a couple of weeks. The deadline was 4 pm… today. This elicited a “last minute Maries” chastising from Rob, but to be fair, I would have had it done much earlier had I not been struck down with sickness all week.

Sadly, my plan did not work, and I slept on the couch, alternating between hacking up green stuff and falling asleep. All in all, I’d had about 4 solid hours by the time Rob got up for work, at which point I conked out for another 3. When I got up, I actually felt ill enough to go to a clinic. I shelled out $65 to find out that I have viral pharyngitis, not strep, which gave me enough marginal peace of mind to get back into the office and hammer out my final proposal. By 2:30 pm, I was out the door and on my way to Elk Grove.

It was a journey out of some ridiculous sitcom episode. First, after some high-speed collating, I stood in line at Kinko’s for several minutes with a bunch of other people while the 5 employees ignored the line, angrily thinking of the Dave Chappelle PopCopy sketch. (Which is seriously hilarious. Check it out.) Then, I had to remind the Prius that we are in California and not the Midwest to get its GPS to work. Next, I made a mad dash down the freeway- that is, until I ran into a massive pile of traffic. Not commuter traffic, though- rubbernecker traffic. Some moron had apparently set the other side of the freeway on fire, and all these dumbass looky-loos had to slow down to check it out. This gave me time to discover that my papers didn’t really fit into the envelope I’d just purchased (damn it all!).

Amazingly, I made it to the location with 15 minutes to spare, and the gracious clerk happened to have an extra large envelope for me. “Good thing you made it,” he said, “we’ll probably have some late birds, and I’m going to have to tell them sorry, too bad!” I returned to the car, thrust my hands into the air and shouted, “Victory!”. And that was all the energy I could muster for the day. Besides this blog post, and little watercolor of a birdie on a page from Sartre’s “The Flies”, that is. 🙂 Have a great weekend folks, and thanks for all the well-wishes.


Back to the mental drawing board

No, I was not staring at a Krylon can when this idea occurred to me, thankyouverymuch.

Day 264: Globby (Study)

During the drive yesterday, my mind wandered off to the blank canvas I keep in my brain (as it often does) and began doodling to see if anything interesting happened. This globular thing kind of manifested itself on my mental etch-a-sketch, so today I decided to do a study on newsprint to see if the connections between the saved draft in my head and my hand were functioning properly. Turns out I need to run a diagnostic. 😉 The general idea is there, but newsprint is much more of a wuss than I recall. I couldn’t really get into layering, but I did experiment with the shape and general layout, and now I can stare at this thing on the now-stained-red/yellow/orange-studio-wall for a few days and figure out why it popped into my head in the first place and where to go with this idea next.

I’m also prepping for the City Art October show. I’ll be putting up all mini paintings. The opening is Friday, October 1st, so if you’re going to be in the area, mark your calendars! Affordable art with a side of free food and wine. Woot!

Detail shot. Watercolor + pastel + charcoal = too much for newsprint.

Happy Little Trees

Small watercolor of the scenery at the river.

Day 193: Happy Little Trees

We visited the Confluence in Auburn again today. I frolicked in the water with friends, got a little sunburned, spent an hour making a dinner that became unappealing 4 bites in, and finished this drawing I began at the river with some watercolor pencils. I left the yellow on the hills “unwatered” for texture. I am a tired lump of person, who is planning to slink over to the couch for some water and a Bond movie. If I make it another two hours without falling asleep… which is unlikely. Something about that sun, it just tuckers me out. OH, speaking of sons, Chester swam for the first time in the river today! Yay! He was so brave! (And for any of you who don’t know, Chester is our Chihuahua, not an actual son. 🙂 )

Day 77: Amalfi

I know I mentioned a sense of bemused detachment yesterday while referencing old photos.. I seem to have that same association with certain places. For example, today we went to Whole Foods. To me, arriving at Whole Foods is akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz where everything turns from black & white to color. Strangers smile and say hello to you and put their carts away in an organized manner. Employees remember your name and offer to help before you ask, and give you samples of amazing cheese so you can decide which new one to try, and hunt around in the back to find you a fresher piece of the almond cake that’s handmade by baby angels. It’s as if the sheer concentration of organic foods gives off some kind of happy chemical, which simultaneously numbs the part of the brain concerned about the total expenditure at the checkout.

I had a feeling very similar to Whole Foods Euphoria in Amalfi with my mother last summer. First you take a wonderful boat ride to this small town clinging to tree-scattered cliffs. Soft colors of sun-warmed plaster and winding cobblestone streets lead you to what are arguably the world’s most charming shops, where virtually every lemon product imaginable is available, as Amalfi boasts lemon orchards on the side of the very same cliffs. Limoncello or wine made from the grapes of Mt. Vesuvius? (The answer is obviously both). It’s an odd and special feeling, like you’ve stumbled on to the set of some European period piece during filming, and you know you probably shouldn’t be there, but it’s so damn cool so you don’t leave until someone makes you (the tour guide rounds you up for the boat). Today’s piece is a 6″x9″ watercolor and pen drawing of the Amalfi Coast.

Day 36

It’s a weird feeling to drive down the streets of your hometown after a long time away. Routes I used to take every day are both familiar and odd at the same time. It’s as if I can feel the space of time, as if it’s palpable. Being here made me think of the things I used to do here. When I was upset or frustrated, I cherished my alone time in my car. I didn’t have to deal with crowds or lines or traffic or anything, it would just be me and my CD player and my sketchbook. I used to drive out to Ohlone, the community college in Fremont, and park in front of a eucalyptus tree for hours. I’d draw and write and sip coffee. I always wanted to do a nice watercolor of the trees, the way the bark falls away in strips and leaves unexpected colors in lines wrapping around the trunk like brushstrokes.

But watercolor and I have a rocky relationship. We go through phases. Sometimes it’s all movies-and-dinner and fabulous conversation, and other times  it’s walking on eggshells and constant arguments that end in walking away from each other.

Yesterday’s painting took so long that I wanted to do something faster today. I drove out to some of the giant eucalyptus trees near the sushi place at 5:30 with about 25 minutes of light left.

I did a quick charcoal sketch, then came home and picked a palette of the secondaries and abstracted it a little. I feel “meh” about it, but they can’t all be winners.

Day 35

This morning, I decided to get an early start. I began sketching this hillside photo of Istanbul at around 9:30 am. I began with the mosque and minarets. With watercolors, it’s imperative to get the shapes right from the beginning. With acrylic painting, I can just paint over a layer to change a shape’s location entirely. Well, it’s not THAT easy. I feel I should clarify this point, because during the many years Jennan and I painted murals together, we’d often get clients who would come in after several hours of work and say “Hmm, I like it so far, but could you scoot the elephant over a few inches to the left?” At which point, my nostrils would flare, Jennan would shoot me that plaintive “say something congenial before I kill our client” look,  and I’d try to explain that this was actual paint being applied by hand, and that it didn’t magically become a vinyl sticker once dry.

So with watercolors, the white areas have to stay white from the beginning. It requires forethought and planning and patience- none of which are strong areas for me. So I looked at the mostly blank page after a half hour, slightly exasperated, and put it down for awhile.

I put several more hours into it in the afternoon. I wanted to just ignore the photo and start making up colorful boxes, but each little square of building is connected to the others. After a while, it started to feel like level 9 Tetris, that point at which I can’t put the lines into neat stacks as easily, and I have a little anxiety attack in my throat and my eyes get all dry as I try not to blink so I don’t screw anything up. I kept telling myself to pick up the pace in my brain, yet somehow it was still like I was painting through a layer of molasses.

Eventually it got to the point where I could just add windows and pen lines and take the pictures. I called Rob, who told me he had spoken with the EDD. We were worried that he wouldn’t be eligible for it because he’d run out shortly before he started his last job. The friendly representative told him that he’d earned just enough income at his recent positionto be eligible again. I took a deep, long breath of relief. Knowing that we’ll both be able to receive unemployment for at least awhile is definitely going to help me sleep tonight. Also, I think this watercolor turned out kind of awesome, so there’s that too. Yay!

Day 34

I was relieved this morning to find my mom sitting up, eating jello, and chatting with a co-worker. She even felt well enough to hassle the nurse just a little, and we had her and her many bouquets of flowers home by late afternoon. Every time I think about the dual unemployment situation, I start to feel like I might throw up or cry or throw up and cry at the same time, so I’m avoiding it for the most part.

I picked out a photo from a drive through Chinatown and got started on a watercolor. Over the years, I’ve probably made 10-12 trips to Chinatown, but I’ve only really been there (outside of the car) twice. If you’ve ever tried to park there, you know what I mean. For me, the excitement of visiting San Francisco is always dampened by two things- the difficulty of finding someplace to park that won’t cost $200, and the anxiety of trying to find a clean public restroom (which is usually intensified by having to pee super bad while circling around hunting for parking). This scenario leads to lots of photos from inside of moving cars. As a passenger only, of course- doing anything other than intensely focusing while driving in San Francisco is like skiing with your eyes closed.

Chinatown is like the rest of the city, in that it’s both dazzling and dirty. Bright lanterns hover over the street,  orange banners flap beautiful calligraphy I can’t read, red roasted ducks dangle from storefronts, all distracting me from the animal fat greasing the sidewalks. I love painting it, this is the second time I have, and I will again- as soon as I get some more pictures.

Also, a huge thank you to everyone who has shared their well-wishes for my mom’s recovery and for the situation that my husband and I are in. It means a lot to us. 🙂 

Day 32

As I headed into Newark today, I made sure to drive extra careful. The tags on my car expired yesterday, and the new ones were waiting for me at my mom’s house. I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t give a highway patrolman any excuse to pull me over and fine me. So I was cruising along at 70 mph down 680 grooving to Interpol on the CD player, when I noticed some old man in a car next to me making angry faces at me. At first I thought my gas cap might be open or something, but then I realized I was probably not driving fast enough for this guy. “Welcome to the bay area”, I thought.

After a nice dinner with mom, I set to work on a watercolor of some boats in a shallow pier in Santorini, Greece. Mom took this picture while we stood in line for  two hours waiting for the funicular (basically a mechanized lift to get up the cliff face to the city on the hill). It was like standing in line for a ride at Great America or something, only instead of being surrounded by annoying pre-teens, we were surrounded by annoying tourists. To be fair, most of them were polite and conversational. Only a handful cut in line or attempted to cut in line. One old woman who pretended not to speak any English successfully edged her way in, but another woman from an English-speaking European country almost got shoved into the Mediterranean by a feisty Brit when she tried to contend there was “no law” against cutting in line.

A special shout-out to my little sis for letting me use her laptop to do this post.

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.