Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
None of these are my pumpkins, but collectively they are the creative works of folks in Tecumseh, Saline, and Manchester (which are all cities in Michigan).

A couple years ago I went out and bought some fake pumpkins. One of my pumpkins is carved as the face of Jerry Garcia. My other pumpkin is Frank Zappa. So, every year I just have to find them and make sure that the fake candles that one puts in fake pumpkins still work.

Yes, I know, I'm lazy or whatever... but I carved a lot of real Jerrys and Franks before I finally threw in the towel and bought the fake ones.

Anyway, apparently a large pumpkin eating a small pumpkin is the new new thing : )
I've seen several of them when I went out wandering around with my camera.

So, if you haven't carved your pumpkin yet, well, get to it. The best thing for hollowing out a real pumpkin is to use is a metal canning lid - not the screw on part, but the flat metal circle. It's sharper than a spoon. If you've never canned or saved a canning lid, then the lid off any tin can is just as good, although probably a little sharper. The thinner you make the side you're going to carve - the easier it's going to be to carve... although don't make it too thin.

Now, for those of you not content with the standard children's pumpkin knife - because in all likelihood - you are well beyond any age that would qualify you as a child - the best way to slice complicated lines and shapes into your pumpkin (and this is only for the adults) is to use a fillet knife. (At least I think it's called a fillet knife... hopefully with the number of things involving knife blades that I just typed into google I didn't just land myself on an FBI watchlist... ) Anyway, it has a thin blade and it's good for carving small, awkward, or intricate shapes into your pumpkin. I used one to carve my fake pumpkins.

Safe carving! And don't stab yourself!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween. So, this is one of my haphazard Halloween posts... an ode, I suppose, to Halloween candy.

Now, were you under the age of 16 and over the age of 3 and you were to stop by my house tomorrow - this is the standard fare. Sorry, but that bag of mounds and those "fun size" heath bars, yeah, I bought those for me. Because, you know, I'm 32 and I bet if I knocked on my neighbor's door they'd kind of be like "uh, yeah, just go buy some candy." So, yeah, I did.

Of course, I've already tested the tootsie rolls, the smarties, the nerds, and the dots.

So, have a safe, fun, and sweet Halloween!
And then go brush your teeth.

Hopefully no one puts pennies or religious pamphlets in your plastic pumpkin ; )

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Picture Story: pumpkin harvest

I used to work in a particular location. It was 33 miles from home, and driving there meant passing through several farm fields. One of those farms was a pumpkin farm. So, every fall, there would be a field of pumpkins. I think one time when I was a teenager my mother tried to grow pumpkins which was probably when I first learned that they kind of form on a long vine, as opposed to say the way that strawberries or tomatoes grow off a stalk. I don't think we actually got a pumpkin out of the experience, but well, that's why there are farms. Sometimes just leave it to the professionals.

By the time the pumpkins have matured - the leaves are pretty much dead and crispy. Which one can see, even if they are driving by at 55mph. I say this in the event that anyone wonders whether or not this is what a pumpkin patch really looks like because that's why it looks that way in my picture.

I drew the picture as a graphic for my yearly family Christmas gift calendar. Obviously this was the Halloween picture. I saw some picture of a scarecrow somewhere and thought it'd be cool to draw a scarecrow... and typing that I kind of laugh. I've been on etsy too long where apparently everyone has lost their frigging mind and mistakes the notion of inspiration for the dreaded copying. You know, because if I was going to draw a Halloween picture, clearly whoever listed one on etsy did it first, not that Halloween has been celebrated since (apparently, thanks Wikipedia) the Romans.

Author's note: I've decided to purge myself of all notions that I should hold back on the sarcasm.
If you've been on etsy long enough and ever visited the forums, you may be familiar with the notion that every fifteen minutes someone discovers that someone is "copying me!!!!!!" As if no arts or crafts had ever existed before 2005 when etsy went live on the internet, and obviously, whoever listed whatever it is on there was doing it first, even if it was like shrinky dinks or something. You know, nevermind that if you've ever taken an art history class they start you off with those cave paintings in France from before people were officially noting time in terms of days and months... no, time began in 2005 when etsy launched. There there, drink your Kool-Aid.

Author's note: I actually like Kool-Aid, Soarin' Strawberry Lemonade is really good ; )

Anyway, so I think this illustration was done in 2009 for my 2010 calendar. Yes, the October graphic for Halloween. So, it's a scarecrow in a pumpkin patch - because pumpkins are easier to draw that corn fields. They just are.

Amusingly, from a technical standpoint, this was a difficult illustration to execute because it was one of my early experiments in coloring over print outs like for almost the whole graphic (as opposed to doing just like one bird that takes up like 2 square inches on a page). Let's just say that there was a lot of selecting and blocking and layer fills and styles that happened in photoshop which is technical stuff that isn't that interesting.

So, the ghost clouds - at least I think of them as ghost clouds - are something that have been in my Halloween pictures for several years. Sitting here right now at the computer I don't exactly remember when I got the idea... just that I used to draw a lot of pictures with weird clouds when I hit my big prismacolor illustration phase when I was about 16. I liked making magenta colored clouds with holes in them... all I know is that from 2006 on - most of the Halloween pictures have ghost clouds.

And, of course, the sky is violet. Violet is a Halloween theme color, and well, it's my favorite color. I was reading some interview blurb in People or Time or Us or one of those magazines where they ask like 20 questions of some celebrity and of course, they answer. The one I'm thinking of was Jewel and she was asked what her favorite color was, and she said she didn't have one... and I found that amusing. Violet is my favorite color, but I like all colors and quite frankly have never had a limited color palette in anything.

So, yes, the sky is violet, that was inherent somehow. I cannot actually imagine making it black or navy blue or gray or slate or any color other than violet. And I suppose, decisions like that aren't something I even consider until years after the fact.

Anyway, I was pleased with the way the image turned out.

I hope everyone has a Happy and Fun Halloween! And even if you don't officially celebrate it, just have some candy on the 31st :D

I've been enjoying some of the candy that I bought to hand out to the trick-or-treaters who visit the neighborhood. Don't worry, I bought a lot of candy. As per the usual I'll be dressing up to hand it out. And probably enjoying a fine horror movie as I do.

I finally had a moment to sit down and relax and watch some television yesterday and caught up on a couple episodes of "American Horror Story." I was intrigued when I saw the ad for the show... and kind of annoyed to see it was on Wednesday night - which is in competition with like "Revenge" or "CSI" or some other show... anyway, it's content is a little risque - I think it has one of those tv MA ratings, but I'm 32 and a life long fan of horror movies, Hunter S. Thompson, and Pink Floyd, so it isn't exactly shocking to me. Anyway, I seem to be hooked - it's a really interesting show.

I'm hoping to be able to fine "Grimm" either on onDemand or hulu... because, of course, it's on on Friday night at the same time as Supernatural and Fringe. *shakes fist at networks* Seriously, people, there is nothing airing on Tuesday or Saturday.

Oh, October, the time when it's acceptable to enjoy horror movies and scary tv shows. If only the month was longer...

the long rambling post...

I am a lot of things, many of which can be described with the use of adjectives, but all things are not constant all of the time. I mean, I'm female, I'm a certain height, I'm Caucasian (really, spell check, it's a proper noun?), and I'm alive. But beyond that, everything else is relative. And when I'm dead it doesn't really matter.

I was ill. It wasn't a cold or a stomach virus (nor was it like VD or something). It's just one of those things you kinda don't share with the entire world. I'm not entirely sure I'm fine, but well, one can only defer life for so long.

I'm tired, and I'm tired of being tired... so I suppose I want things to change and have to figure out how to make that happen. I want to stop coming home from work and spending hours in front of the computer and in the end having a feeling like I wonder where the last 3 hours went and wondering why I didn't get anything done.

I want a feeling of accomplishment. I want to feel like I don't have to bite my tongue or not say things because I might offend someone. I want to feel like being me is fine. And for a long time now I haven't felt that way.

I was never someone who wanted to be the center of attention, and I'm still not. I just want to be happy making the things I make, and if people happen to like those things - then that's cool... and for a long time I didn't have an outlet for that, and then a few years ago someone told me about Etsy.

And wouldn't that be neat - to just list things and sell them? Cool, right?
Without being specific, because it's kind of pointless, etsy is the thing that seems to eat up 3 hours of my day every morning with very little return.
I can list things, I can tweet about it, I could tumblr, I could get off my lazy ass and waste copious amounts of time with random strangers "liking" things on facebook, I could theoretically join teams, I could make treasuries... I could do that stuff in every waking non-working hour... and it still wouldn't amount to anything.

So, I guess I'm just going to be me because I'm tired of being philosophically paralyzed by the notion that I shouldn't say things because I should talk to everyone like they're my grandma. And which one, btw, I had 2 of them. They were very different people.

I'm 32, and the life that I have is not the one that I want. I'm not who I want to be. Somewhere, within me there is someone who is happy and content and comes home from work every day and doesn't wonder what the hell happened to that 3 hours since I walked in the door, and I have to find a way to remove the notion that that is buried in the depths of me.

I recently took down some decorations that had been hanging around for 10 years... they were mostly clippings from magazines, pictures of famous people and rock stars. They were brittle with age in most cases, and the masking tape with which they had been attached to the wall or the door was also that yellow-orange-brown shade and brittle. It was amusing in a way to pick off a layer of old ideas and notions. And why on earth did I have a picture of Robert Smith on the back of the door? I'm really not that fond of the Cure... oh, wait, yeah, magazines aren't really rife with shots of Geddy Lee. The Beatles were definitely over-represented. I'm not a big Beatles fan, but it's always easy to find Beatles pictures or post cards.

The hardest thing to take off the back of the door was the newspaper clipping with the picture of some college-age neo-hippie named Shanti Stark lighting a candle in front of a Frank Zappa album. I think that one made it into the keep pile along with all the Beatles post cards.

I've never had heroes or role models or suffered from the notion that I would want to pattern my life after some one, but from an early age Frank Zappa was always interesting to me. He made weird music, and I probably first heard him on Dr. Demento, which I used to stay up and listen to on Sunday nights because the show was played on WIQB (back when that was still a decent station). Anyway, I either wrote my book reports about Frank Zappa or Pink Floyd. Zappa died when I was 14 years old, and that newspaper clipping was an announcement of his passing. It was on the back of my bedroom door, right by the door handle.

It's purely sentimental, I suppose. But it was the last thing to come down.

I decided it was time to redecorate the bedroom, which quite literally just means I'm going to hang different pictures on the wall because everything has pretty much been the same for 10 years, except for the things that fell down from the humidity and just never made it back up...

I don't spend a lot of time in the bedroom (not sleeping), but I guess maybe I'd like to. And I suppose changing some things out might be appropriate.

I have a lot of paintings that end up in the keep pile, and well, that's kind of a shame, because although I may be the only person who ever goes in that room - I probably ought to stop keeping my work in a pile on the desk or the floor and get it on the wall...

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and while my first few attempts at finding the right size frame may have ended in defeat (what the hell, Hobby Lobby - no love for the 9X12 unless I like the look of aged barn wood?). Well, I did find myself in a Michael's 10 minutes before the store closed on a rainy Wednesday night, and now that I've spray painted them a brownish shade of metallic silver which I believe was called "sesame" I have 4 9X12 frames and just need to figure out how to configure them on the wall... oh, plus like the other 10 picture frames I bought. I'm female, there was a half off sale in the framing department. I thought about Christmas and Birthdays and mentally said "fuck it" and there I was standing at the register with a heavy pile of frames.
Yes, relatives, it's artwork again as gifts, how could you expect anything different?

So, yeah, I have to go get those off the patio, where they are airing out, in the morning. I'd like to assume that in the span of time since I painted them and when I retrieve them that no birds have pooped on them or small animals have gnawed on them...

The one thing that I did take pause to notice while thinking about the whole bedroom decor thing was that my work has gotten progressively abstract. I don't paint pictures of things, I paint with color and shapes or lines or movement may happen to occur, but the intent is not an image of an object. I'm sure, in the realm of possibilities, that someone could draw a quick conclusion about that... or relate it to the fact that I keep sitting down with my sketchbook with the intent to draw and keep putting down a blank page, but presently I'm not so much in the moment that I think there's a meaningful conclusion to be drawn from that... just that it's an amusing observation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


By all accounts I was missing in action for most of September, or at least from my blogger account. Since I'm not a meticulous planner, I cannot say it was a planned absence, circumstances and life just kind of dictated that it occurred...

Part of what I was doing in that period of time (aside from sleeping, working, driving, eating, and watching television) was working on a project: the worms. Yes, worms.

I first "made" worms when I was about 16 years old. They were part of an art project I did either for AP art or ceramics when I was in high school. I suppose they were inspired in a way by Pink Floyd; more specifically the iconography of the film "The Wall." Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands, and at the time actually seeing "The Wall" was kind of my white whale.

When I was in high school, this was back in the nubile days of 1996-97 when the internet came to people through landlines. Yes, there was a time before broadband and netflix and onDemand and, well, you know the rest...

Anyway if I really wanted to see "The Wall" I would have had to have rented it from our local version of Blockbuster... which I could have done if it was ever there on the odd chance that I happened to go to the local video store, which happened maybe 1-2 times a year. "The Wall" and "A Clockwork Orange" were never there, just that damned VCR case indicating that someone had rented it...

Yes, so anyway, I finally saw it somehow on some trip somewhere... but in the mean time, I was doing this project that involved making worms out of polymer clay.

Well, years passed, and projects came and went. And some time this last spring and summer I found myself standing in that aisle of the craft supply store where they sell the polymer clay... and well, just like riding a bicycle, I remembered the formula for mixing the colors and how I got the segment effect, and voilĂ : worms

Well, okay, so it actually takes some time to warm up the clay so that it's pliable so that colors can be mixed. But one Saturday afternoon over the course of watching "Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf" I cranked out a batch of worms. And then proceeded to cook them according to the directions on the package.

And then, while watching what was quite possibly one of the cheesiest Lifetime movies ever — "Pretend You Don't See Her" — I applied a coat of gloss varnish to my worms to give them the appearance of looking wet.

Now, some of the worms were created for a series of assemblage pieces. These were made out of a combination of illustration board, spackle, acrylic paint, varnish, and tea grounds. Yes, I said tea grounds. I wanted something that looked like dirt without actually being dirt... tea grounds, as it turns out, look like dirt. Fortunately I drink tea. So, this project incorporates some Twinings Spiced Apple Chai, Twinings African Honeybush, Mandarin & Orange Herbal Tea, and some Bigelow Raspberry Royale.
It took an afternoon of trial and error, because after laying down my spackle and then waiting for that to dry I knew I needed a coat of what would essentially serve as primer. So I had to mix up some brown-gray paint, and then paint that with a coat of umber colored acrylic... and then I needed to figure out how to get the tea to stick... some elmers glue, more umber paint, and some gloss varnish later - I had my formula. Of course, then I had to wait for that to dry too. A lot of time is spent waiting for things to dry...

Wow, that's a crappy photo!
Yes, after everything was spackled and glued and painted and sprinkled with tea and finally dry - then everything needed to go into the frames... and then the pieces needed to be photographed. From an idea-on-paper standpoint, simply photographing the piece is much harder to do well than one would hope. There were a lot of bad photos. Largely because it's hard to photograph something glossy and shiny (the worms) against a background that is dark and matte (the tea dirt) in a frame that has a shiny faux metal finish. Yes, there was some swearing and consternation and a lot of flipping thru the camera settings and trial and error and probably like 150 photos taken of 6 pieces, many of which were just terrible. Indoors, outdoors, with flash, no flash, lit... hell, I even set them up in the bathtub hoping for better light...

The other problem (particularly if you feel you take the best photos outside) is when the weather doesn't cooperate. Between just being dark and overcast it also rained, and rained, and rained, and rained. Things look wet in this picture because they were wet with rain.

The back of the old rabbit hutch is an ironically "etsy-ish" place to take photos... old white paint weathered on wood, and it faces away from the sun... plus I could just hammer a nail into it.

Yes, somehow that's the sweet spot for taking pictures, except for the relatively minor problem of the green grass reflecting on my faux metal frame...
These are my finished pieces:

The rest of the worms were divvied up between two projects.

Yes, worm earrings. Ew, yes, I know. But they're polymer clay, so they won't nibble on your ear lobe, pinky swear.
You can see them here.

And now I have to get cracking on that other worm project...