Monthly Archives: July 2016

Timeout for Art: Painted Collage

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chairs, artwork 009"porcelain" (detail)

When I first started combining collage and painted surfaces, I used the grid as a simple means of pulling all of the elements together into a cohesive image. The grid is static, solid and geometric. That makes it a good base for ideas that lean toward the organic, ethereal and unpredictable.

This piece started with paint poured onto a non porous surface (I used a shower curtain). I spread the paint around with brushes and pallet knives, deliberately leaving marks in the surface and creating various thicknesses. When it was completely dry, I cut it into small rectangles using a sturdy template and kitchen shears.

I glued the rectangles onto a canvas-covered panel with polymer medium, letting the adhesive ooze up, in places, between the tiles. When that was dry, I embellished the surface. First, I applied thin layers of paint to enhance the color already there. Next, I rubbed the surface with powdered graphite, to give it a metallic sheen. Finally, I glazed the piece with matte finish liquid polymer – tinted slightly – by pouring it over the surface and allowing it to fill in the cracks and crevices.

The finished size is 24″ x 30″; the title is “Porcelain.”

 

Annoyances

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Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I seem to be unable to think of anything nice to say. I have a list of annoyances, though, ready to go!

  • Houseflies. I can’t remember the last time houseflies were a problem for me. I don’t have small children, running in and out, holding doors open or leaving them ajar. I  don’t put anything in my trash that would attract flies. We recycle here on Beaver Island, so all food containers are cleaned and compressed, ready to be sorted into the correct bin. I compost food scraps, and the bin that holds them is way over on the other side of the garden.  This is summer, but beyond that, it doesn’t even really seem like fly weather. If there is such a thing. And yet, for the last couple days, I’ve had several large buzzing flies in the house. I had to find the flyswatter, then re-learn how to  swat the little varmints. I spent one evening madly chasing flies from one window to the next, without ever managing to kill a single one!
  • Pasta. Or, more specifically, the wrong pasta. I thought I’d ordered farfelle, the little boy-ties that look so cute in pasta salad. Pasta salads are good to have around for a packed lunch; they are also good items to bring to a pot luck, picnic, or funeral luncheon. When my order arrived, I instead had six boxes of farfelline, which are tiny little bow-ties, each about the size of a grain of rice. It would work as a replacement for rice in a chicken soup occasionally, but six boxes is way to much to have on hand for that!
  • Flowers. Mostly sweet peas and day lilies. Not the flowers themselves. I love the flowers, and the foliage is nice, too. What is annoying me this year (and, I admit, I’ve never been bothered in previous years) is their constant need for dead-heading. Yesterday, while removing dozens of spent blooms from the orange day lilies by the kitchen door, I found myself thinking, “What a needy flower!” The sweet peas are even worse. If the old blossoms are not removed, they’ll go to seed, forming cute little pea pods that will eventually explode, sending seeds all over the flower bed.
  • The hole by the back door. I believe Darla is the culprit here, though the hole is more the size of Rosa Parks: about eight inches in diameter. I haven’t caught either of them digging, but the hole gets deeper every day. Not bigger around, but deeper. Yet there is never any dirt around it, to fill it back in. As of yesterday, it was close to a foot deep. Right now I’m just annoyed at the hole, and possibly at whichever dog is working on it. If I twist an ankle, I’ll be very annoyed with myself for not getting the shovel and filling it in!
  • While I’m on that tack, I am already annoyed with myself. Again, two days have passed with only a fraction of my long list of tasks completed. Back to work today. Which is yet another annoyance!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #7

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Odin

The exercise today comes from Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich:

Choose a fantasy figure…and convince us of his physical reality by using mundane details.

After what seemed like many hours of lying, sleepless, on the soft mattress, the big man rolled onto his side. As he pulled off the heavy quilt, he carefully tucked it around his sleeping wife, so that she would not be awakened by his absence. He sat up, then, and gingerly let his bare feet rest on the icy cold floor. The fire must’ve gone out; a good thing he was awake then.

The room was black as pitch. From the small table beside the bed, he felt for his eyeglasses, pocket watch and notebook. No matter how long he’d been at this work, he always felt the need to have his notes nearby. He found, by feel, the sheepskin scuffs, dragged them out from under the bed with his toes, and slid them onto his feet. In one hundred infinitesimal movements, so that no sound or shifting of weight would disturb the sleeper beside him, he slowly rose from the bed.

Perhaps such care was not necessary. Her sleep was rarely restless, even in this tortuous time of the year. Still, he was a thoughtful man. She worked too hard (she said the same of him!) and he worried about her. He made his way quietly across the room and retrieved his flannel robe from a rustic hook on the door. Great caution, again, was used in turning the knob and pulling the door open. He silently moved through the passage, gently closed the door behind him, and stepped softly down the hall.

The kitchen, unlike the bedroom, was not equipped with black out blinds and heavy curtains. It was as light as midday. He opened the heavy watch and looked at the time. One AM! It had been less than two hours, then, that he’d been laying there trying to sleep. Even if he could count it as rest, it was hardly enough. He looked, next, at the thermometer. Inside, barely fifty degrees; outside, just below zero. He pulled on his robe.

He turned the damper on the stovepipe to the vertical position, then opened the cast iron door of the coal stove. Good embers, still. He pulled on gloves and fed the fire from the lidded metal container in the corner of the room. It would warm up quickly. He put the kettle on to heat; a cup of tea might relax him. Then, he pulled out the chair, sat down, and opened up the notebook.

It would be easy, this time of year, to get lazy. There was plenty of time…or so it seemed. This infernal brightness that made sleep nearly impossible (he knew it was daylight, behind those heavy curtains!) also made winter seem very far away. It would be several months before the letters started coming in. If he waited for the letters, though, he”d never be ready in time! Only six months until Christmas Eve…

Monday…the Possibilities are Endless!

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My “weekend” begins after work on Sunday and ends Tuesday night in a mad scramble to get food prepared for a weeks-worth of packed lunches, laundry finished and complete whatever projects I had started on Monday.

This week, I started with a nice dinner with friends. I followed that by reading in bed until midnight, cozy under a warm comforter while rain, thunder and lightning continued outside. I slept in this morning until I woke up naturally (7:45!), and I’m now enjoying my second cup of coffee, having not yet moved far from this computer desk.

I have big plans for this day, though. There is a list of “must-do”s and a longer list of “should”s. I keep my “want-to” list in my head these days, where I can indulge if a moment or an hour opens up. It’s sad to note the things – so necessary to my healthy body, mind and soul – that I have let migrate to the realm of guilty pleasures.

The Must-Do List includes:

  • write this daily blog.
  • do the dishes: a collection of bowls, spoons,coffee cups and one pan, that have been waiting in the sink for a couple days now.
  • call Central Drug Store to renew prescriptions.
  • call my daughter, Jen, to make sure she is on track for getting the next Beacon organized and ready to be proofed before going to the printer.
  • follow up on an Email to correct the spelling of a couple names in one submission.
  • update the database with the latest subscriptions, so those checks can be deposited.
  • go to the bank for Beacon business, and to deposit my check from the hardware store.
  • drop off four small collages for the Museum Week art show.
  • two hours to clean at Aunt Katie’s house, upstairs and down today.
  • fold the clothes that have been waiting in the dryer since yesterday, before they settle into wrinkles.
  • talk to the mechanic about when I can get the car in for needed maintenance and repairs.

It’s not a bad list, barring complications. If, for instance, Jen tells me we don’t have enough material to fill the pages of the next issue, I’ll have to push other things aside to turn notes into articles immediately. If she has small areas to fill, I may have to gather more photos or news tidbits. If the clothes in the dryer have wrinkled…if there are unforeseen complications at Aunt Katie’s…if the mechanic needs the car today…but let me assume all will go well.

The Should-Do List is next. It includes things that, Lord knows, need to be done, but that – due to time constraints, necessity and reality – have been relegated to the secondary list. Things like sweep, clean the bathroom, wash the sheets and clean the windows. And other things, like get into the studio and finish the work that is underway, and promised for the Meet the Artists event the first week of August. Mowing the lawn is out, because of last night’s rain(blessed relief!). Hanging sheets on the line and taking the big dog for a walk will hinge on weather, time, and the mosquitoes.

The Want-To List is already suffering as I look over the “Must”s and “Should”s. I have already missed the yoga class, held Monday mornings at the Community Center, just as I have every other Monday this summer. It’s doubtful I’ll find time to watch the Netflix movie that has been waiting for me, in its red envelope by the TV set, for more than a week. I probably won’t – if I manage to make it into the studio – have time to work on the large painting that has been looking at me so imploringly whenever I go in there. I can’t see where I could find the time to pull the masses of now-fading wildflowers that have taken over the garden area. I won’t have time, I guarantee it, to rearrange my kitchen to accommodate the new maple counter top my cousin Bob made for me. I’ll get in the shower before I leave the house, but the relaxing bath – with the bubbles and book and glass of wine that I’ve been looking forward to – will have to wait.

Ah, well…tomorrow is another day.

 

The 52 Lists Project # 29

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List your childhood and current dream jobs:

  • Soaker. I couldn’t swim, as a child, so I couldn’t really imagine having a job that involved swimming. Still, I loved being in the water. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to just go to work and soak? Now, I know how to swim, but don’t have the energy to stay at it for hours on end. I’d still like a job where I’d get paid for soaking!
  • Bicycle rider. Again, it was something I loved to do, so I imagined making a career of it. Not like a racer, or even a bicycle messenger, but just a rider. I’d still like that, for a job!
  • Wife. When I was a child, that was a legitimate occupation, and there was no shame in aspiring to it. Now, no thank you.
  • Mother. All little girls want to be a mother, I think. Usually without having a clue what it would really be like. Fortunately, I found it just as rewarding in real life as it was in my childish dreams. Mostly.
  • Artist.
  • Writer.
  • Schoolteacher.
  • Baker.
  • Trampoline acrobat, jump roper, ball bouncer. It evolved over the years to Chinese Checker player, then “Ms. Pac Man” expert and, currently, Scrabble and Trivia player.Basically, anything that I’ve been reasonably good at, I wanted to be given fame, notoriety and riches for doing it.

I never aspired to spend my life in the service industry. I find, however, that I’m very good at it, and it suits me quite nicely most of the time.

Birthday Saturday

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July 16th is a big day for birthdays! There are several being celebrated right here on Beaver Island. One woman that I attended high school with has a birthday today (Happy Birthday, Deb!). My sister Sheila’s first husband, Stan, was born on this day. So was my nephew, Jake (Happy Birthday to you, Jacob!). And…(drum roll here, please) twenty-three years ago today, my very first grandson was born.

When I first took Kate to the hospital, when her labor started, the doctor said she was getting close, but not ready yet. “Go watch Jurassic Park,” he told us, “that’ll scare you right into hard labor!” We didn’t do that, and I don’t quite remember how we did fill the time, but before long we were back at the hospital. That time (reminding myself over and over, “this is Flint, not Beaver Island, don’t forget to lock the doors”), I locked the keys in the car. While Kate was upstairs being admitted, I was in the parking lot waiting for the police to come to help me bust in to my car!

Eventually, though, I made it to the waiting room, and was part of the large group of supporters going in and out of Kate’s room. And, finally, there was my new grandson, Michael. All the love I’d had for him already was multiplied one hundredfold, and has continued to expand, all the years that I’ve known him. It’s growing, still.

Happy Birthday, Michael!

Rainy Day

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The rain clouds came in just around four o’clock yesterday afternoon.  I noticed the sky as I was driving back to town after a meeting at the township hall. I reached for my camera. On this island, clouds can make quite a show. The camera wasn’t where I expected it to be, on the console between the two seats, and I instead reached my entire hand into a cup of cold coffee that was resting there. I gave up the search.

At the hardware, employees and customers were watching the storm move in. By the time the ferry boat docked, it was pouring rain. It continued coming down – hard – for much of the next two hours.

I sold the last umbrella. I sold tarps and drop cloths and kits to repair tents. This is the weekend of the Beaver Island Music Festival, and many of the attendees camp out. With a start like this, I imagine campers will be pretty damp all weekend!

It was still raining when I closed the hardware, coming down steadily when I went to the grocery store and it had not yet stopped when I pulled in my own driveway. The dogs weren’t crazy about going outside in that weather, but I made them do it anyway. I unloaded the mail and a small box of groceries, my thermos, purse and lunch box. Then, finally, we were able to be inside for the night.

I started a load of wash, fed the dogs, made two telephone calls and started preparing my dinner. As I sat down at the desk, I noticed the dogs had made themselves comfortable, too.

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Timeout for Art: Begging Bowls

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I start with a ball of clay about the size of an orange. Sometimes I roll the ball in powdered clay of a darker color, to add texture and interest to the surface. I open the ball by pressing a thumb into the center of what will now be the top. Only to the first knuckle, though: it’s important to work slowly, so the clay will willingly take the shape without cracking or splitting. I turn the ball in my hands, supporting the outside wall with one hand while stretching and smoothing the inside wall with the thumb. This is thoughtful, meditative work. It is impossible to rush it. Eventually, it will become a thin-walled vessel that will easily fit in the contours of an open palm. That’s where the name “begging bowl” comes from. I like the idea that if you place one in the location of something you need (and perhaps drop a few coins in it occasionally), what you need will eventually come to you.

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What Next?

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I was starting to catch up. I was feeling pretty good about it, too. A little chagrined that it took so many weeks into summer to catch up on winter’s bills, but pleased nonetheless.

The hours at the hardware store have been expanded, to take advantage of summer’s business. That gives me some over-time. There have been a few days where I worked 10 hours. Working longer hours makes it even more difficult to find time to cover events I should be covering for the news-magazine. It’s even harder to come home and sit right down to write when I’m tired from my other job.Still, I was counting the money.

I have been whittling away at my long list of hardware store charges. You know, dog food, detergent, a candy bar to help get through the afternoon slump…it all adds up. The charges tend to pile up over the winter, too, when money is tight and hours are few. I’d finally be able to pay it off! I would be able to pay my winter tax bill…just in time for the summer tax bills to come out. I would pay off winter’s propane bill, before I had to turn on the heat this fall. Hurrah!

I took today off – arranged in advance – to participate in a garden tour. I scheduled myself for Monday to make up for it. Monday, my back went out, so I ended up off work that day, too. It’s not going to be such a big paycheck after all.

Sunday, coming down the hill to Fox Lake, Rosa Parks twisted her leg. She’s been hobbling around on three legs ever since. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’ll have to get her in to the vet. I’m terribly afraid that it’s that tendon in the knee, that will not repair itself and that requires surgery to fix it. My old dog, Maggie, had to have each of her knees done; Clover, after slipping on ice, had one. Now maybe Rosa Parks.

Last night, driving home late after attending a concert, I found I had no headlights. Someone waved at me, enthusiastically, from the sidewalk as I drove through town. I thought they were just appreciating the cool jazz playing on my car radio. By the time I made it out of town and away from the street lamps, I recognized the problem. I messed with a few buttons and switches to no avail.

No lights. At least the King’s Highway is fairly open, and the sky was still pretty light at 10PM. Paid Een Ogg’s Road, though, is bordered with trees. Luckily, it’s a straight road. Fox Lake Road not only has a dense canopy of trees down the entire length, but it’s narrow and very curvy, too. I found the blinkers still worked, and gave off enough light to make my [slow, strobe-y] way home. So, add the car to the list of necessary expenses.

What next?

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #6

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Today’s exercise comes from The Writer’s Devotional (365 Inspirational Exercises, Ideas, Tips & Motivations on Writing) by Amy Peters.

“Create instructions for making a sock puppet.”

To make a sock puppet, you’ll of course need a sock. Choose a large, loose sock that your hand will easily slide into. Any color or pattern will do. Make sure it doesn’t have any holes.

Next, gather together an assortment of other materials. This is not a hard and fast list. Features can be stitched on or glued in place. Use what is available to you. Some suggestions:

  • Fabric or felt scraps
  • Sturdy board, as from cereal or detergent boxes
  • Yarn in various colors
  • Scraps of  ribbon
  • Embroidery floss
  • Buttons and beads
  • Plastic googly eyes
  • Raffia, string or twine
  • Wire, steel wool
  • Artificial flowers in small sizes, pompoms, baubles, badges or pins for embellishment

Finally, you’ll need a means of putting it all together. For this, have a good pair of scissors handy, an embroidery needle and possibly some strong white glue.

Start by putting the sock on your hand. Play with it a bit. Does it take on a personality? Does it want to be a boy or a girl puppet? A dog or a bunny? Take a section and pinch it between your fingers and thumb. That’s the mouth. Practice making the puppet “talk.” Note how the mouth opens and closes, and the different expressions you can create.

Make note of the location of the mouth as you remove the sock from your hand. You may want to make a tongue of red felt, and stitch it to the back of the mouth so that it will waggle when your puppet talks. You could stitch teeth around the edges with white yarn; you could glue faux pearls in place for shiny teeth. Lips could be painted in place, or embroidered, or formed from pieces of fabric or felt.

Once the mouth is complete, location of hair, clothes and other facial features becomes easier. Eyes can be large and protruding, or simple stitched slits. A pompom could make a nose; so could a bead, or a triangle of fabric. Hair could be raffia, twine or yarn, or a wild mane of gray steel wool.

A neckerchief, bow tie or string of beads will help to define the neck. A simple hat can be made by cutting a doughnut shape – a circle with a hole in the middle – from sturdy cardboard. It can stand alone or be covered in felt, yarn or fabric. Pull a bit of the sock, at the top of the head area, through the hole to hold the hat in place. Decorate it further with artificial flowers, ribbons and bows if you wish. Scraps of fabric and yarn, and other embellishments can be added, now, to give your sock puppet more personality. Some ideas:

  • A movie star, with painted lips and cheeks, a tiara resting on top of golden curls, and gathered tulle and ribbons for the “gown.”
  • A bunny rabbit, with tall felt ears, black button eyes and a big bow tie.
  • A dog, with long droopy ears and a big tongue, with a collar around his neck.
  • A hippie, with long hair of raffia, and little glasses formed of bent wire.
  • A deputy sheriff, with a ten-gallon hat, a big steel wool mustache, a felt vest and a tin star.