Make Art

December 5, 2014

I got one picture for last night. Because I didn’t do much but cut little pieces out and write sci fi. This is how far I got by the end of the night…

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Top left is trash (kept until I figure out if I threw any tiny pieces in there by accident. I do it all the time, unfortunately.). Top right is what I’ve actually achieved (which yes, doesn’t look like shit at the moment; thank you for reminding me.). Bottom is what I still have left to do. Two pairs of scissors, the phone, wine, TV remote, and pajamas. Really, it was not a bad night, except it started with a soccer parent meeting (aargh. asshole coach. stupid people. grrr.) and I didn’t get to go to the gym and I was really really tired. I’m hiking tomorrow morning, so I’d really better put myself to bed early. If I’m smart. And we’ve already proved I’m not, at least when it comes to sleep.

I did cut more tonight at my stitching meeting. Nice conversation. Those things keep me sane. School? Not so much. I was supposed to enter some art shows this week, and only managed one. So little free time. So little time for anything. People wonder how I get anything done. I wonder too. I do crazy stuff like listen to lectures while I’m writing, write while I’m exercising, grade while I’m watching. I rarely do Just One Thing at a Time. Except for the art. The art is big enough and strong enough to fill up the whole mind, to make sure the bits that wander off into depressoid land don’t have a chance. They can’t get out. All the exits are blocked by artmaking activities. It’s all art.

Sometimes I wonder why I got bit so hard by the art bug. I have two kids who are creatively minded, one who draws/paints really well, but doesn’t get obsessed by it. I don’t remember being her age and making art. I know I did, but I don’t remember what it felt like. I know what it feels like now. I remember what it felt like when the kids were little and I didn’t have time. It felt like grinding your teeth. It felt like that migraine caused by the Santa Ana winds blowing dry and hot in the fall. It felt like fingernails on a chalkboard. It was just wrong. But I don’t remember when it got like that. I had this conversation with the boychild, who is leaning towards a major (I didn’t even ask…because it doesn’t matter), and I explained how I wasn’t allowed to just major in art when I went to college, that I had to have another major. That it was assumed that art would not sustain. And I guess it’s true that financially it does not sustain, but it is the One Thing that I have done most of my life consistently and purely and truly. It is the core of who I am. How I am. I could not stop, as I have seen some friends and acquaintances do, and just go to work and come home and watch TV and sleep in on Sundays and go to the park. I would rather be in a fluorescently lit room with bad wallpaper and containers of fabric: tracing, drawing, cutting, sewing. That is where I need to be. I’m scared of getting old and not having that. I’ve seen that. The old artists who aren’t well enough to draw or paint any more. Maybe they don’t even remember how. I don’t want to be like that. I can’t imagine being that empty.

So art. Yes. Fills.

I had this quote sitting around for a while: “Don’t go into art for fame or fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it. Being an artist is a combination of talent and obsession.” John Baldessari

And Neil Gaiman’s speech…

about Make Good Art. Love Gaiman. Do not love this book though…

MakeGoodArt

Really. You should look at it…until it gives you a headache. Because it will. It’s the speech…but the design is torturous.

Anyway. Make art. Hopefully it will get good. (Make Art was the title of my original blog, started 10 years ago.)


Awkward Foreign Accent

October 16, 2014

I’ve been having bad dreams, careening around steep mountain roads in a minivan, I’m not driving, mom is and sometimes other people are, and they’re fishtailing around corners, sometimes fully spinning around before regaining control and continuing at an incredibly fast rate down the hill. My stomach’s in my throat for most of it and then I wake up…and I eventually fall asleep again and I’m right back in the same place, starting over again at the top of the hill, someone else driving, holding onto the oh-shit handles and not screaming, because there isn’t enough air. That was Tuesday night.

Last night, it was lights in the eyes; I kept waking up thinking someone was flashing lights in my eyes. You know that crazy jump of your heart when you wake up terrified? It was that about five times. Scared the cat once.

I didn’t start ironing until late, and I knew I’d have to be up really early this morning for girlchild’s doctor’s appointment, so I told myself I was going to bed before midnight. It was pointless, because then I tossed and turned for at least an hour before finally falling fitfully asleep. My sleep app says my sleep was only 79% effective last night. I’m not sure which is worse…only sleeping 4 hours or sleeping crappy for longer? I’m not sure I got 4 hours last night.

I worked on the man’s head…

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It was pretty easy to put together. The gender symbols throughout this piece…I purposely picked a fabric with computer code jargon on it for the male and typeset letters for the woman.

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Think of that what you will.

The tree was a pain in the butt. First of all, I needed two of the ironing sheets to get the full width, but the other one kept falling off the ironing board.

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Then I realized I had fucked up on the cutting…the top two branches were supposed to be different fabrics, but they aren’t (I left that mistake). The continuation of the top right branch, though…totally wrong fabric, so I had to recut that one. Same with below…there’s a piece of branch on top in the middle that is the same as the one below, but the ones on either side are different (like they’re supposed to be), so I had to recut that one.

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There she is in all her glory.

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See that’s why I do them. Because now it looks cool. Now I need to do all the things that grow off of it and hang off it. Not a small amount.

I only have about a third of my voice this morning. That wouldn’t be a huge problem, except I am a teacher. I did wonder yesterday, because I ran a lab about gas exchange (blowing carbon dioxide into an indicator to make it change color…they were very excited) and my voice was necessary, so I overused it, and now it’s barely here. I think I can do today. They’re doing research. I do have to talk in the beginning. Ugh.

A kid wore this to school the other day…find the typo.

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Amazing. Yeah, I notice shit like that. All the time. In emails from the district office (bad practice in a school district). In emails from political locals. In books. Everywhere. TV ads seem to be better edited. Maybe you get better editors when you spend more money. Apparently there’s something wrong with me because I notice those things.

I blew off grading yesterday evening to finish my book…Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

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I think it’s official. I’m done with Scott Card. We read this for book club for November, because Thanksgiving. And Columbus. Get it? Sort of. I know. I’ve read most of the Ender’s Game series, which I liked at first, but got bogged down with in Xenocide. His writing…it took me a while to figure out what the issue is. He’s deep into histories and politics and details of all that, but relationships? They’re dealt with in like one sentence. “Tagiri decided she liked Hassan and they got married and had children” and all of a sudden, 30 years have passed and we’re on to the next stage. It’s very separate from human emotions, which is strange, because he doesn’t leave those out…but there’s just very little feeling in all of it. Even when the two main characters meet after a bunch of years, there is a brief moment, and then we’re on to explaining the rest of the story. It’s an interesting story, sure, but it’s dry, and I had a hard time with the long middle of it. But he’s planning a series, and the next one is about Noah’s flood (he did actually have a theory about that in this book). I bet he’s Asperger’s. I found this quote from one of his books…one I’ve actually read, I think: “He would always speak the language of the heart with an awkward foreign accent.” That’s it. He doesn’t know how to write about it. I think. Good topic for book club discussion (if I remember in three weeks).

Anyway. I know I haven’t posted any book reviews in a while. I’m still reading; I’m just not writing about them as much. I don’t know why. OK, have to get out of here. Need a title. Dammit.


Crazy It Is…

October 2, 2014

No real pictures today. And this will be a speedy post. Already managing school stuff without a full cup of tea in my brain (trouble). But spent a goodly amount of time last night with friends discussing vivisection and 120-year-old science and beliefs and the terrors of online dating for old ladies like me…

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My book club read The Island of Dr. Moreau this month in honor of Halloween. I had never read H.G. Wells before. It’s difficult to admit that I, as an artist, had a hard time visualizing the characters in a book, but this one did it to me, and this cover Does Not Help at all. I love my geek book club…such wacky discussions from so many directions, from gene splicing to zombies to chemical dependencies and corporate structure. I go for the smart discussions, because I don’t get that very many other places. Thank god the book was short, but it’s interesting that (1) such a short book brought up so many things to talk about and (2) I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure how she felt about it. I did rate it well on Goodreads, but only because it made me think (and look up about 400 words on Dictionary.com). I have been reading a lot lately, but not posting about them here. Not sure why. Time.

Yes, I cut out pieces of fabric last night…for about an hour…interrupted by the girlchild’s food poisoning. Fun week. Really. I could use a break. But more pictures of cut-out pieces just depressed me last night…mostly because progress is really slow (of course, it helps if you get home before 10 PM). And right now, I’m trying to type this with a cranky old bitch of a cat pawing at me, purring, desperately wanting (a) my tea and (b) my full attention. So she sits on the mouse. Sigh. Hey! I’m also considering a modern-dance class for beginners (it doesn’t outright say Total Klutzes Like You, but it should). I know, crazy. But crazy seems to be my middle name these days…whether it’s trying to do way too much at one time, get all this art done, go on hikes, or just make it through the day…crazy it is.


Preparing for Hell in a Handbasket

September 9, 2014

I’m trying to stay on schedule with the new quilt. I know for a fact that at some point, the schedule will go to hell in a handbasket. Some major thing will happen that will completely suck up all my time and I will fall behind, so the better I am NOW about trying to make up time, the better off I will be later. So I traced Wonder Under for about two hours last night while helping the girlchild fill out the Common App for college…aargh…I feel like I should be able to copy all the pertinent info over from the boychild’s app, like the exact date of my divorce. I looked it up last year, and since it’s significantly different from the separation date, which is seared in my memory, I can never remember the year. It didn’t matter by then. They asked for stuff I don’t remember having to look up last year, like the address of the school in Wales I attended for a year. So the ex was on speaker phone while watching the Chargers lose (as always), girlchild was on the computer, swearing at the app, and I was tracing Wonder Under.

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It kinda looked like this, except she was sitting over there. The light table is not a small thing. But I absolutely love it. It’s so incredibly convenient for what I do, so much easier than what I was doing before.

I got over 200 pieces done, so I’m now in the mid-300s. That’s good progress. If I can do that every night (questionable?), I’ll be done Friday night. Then cutting out the pieces? Maybe another three nights? Hard to say. I do actually have teacher duties and art events this week, so I might have to adjust.

I try to fill in as much of the space in between pieces as possible.

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The girlchild has a much different college-choosing process than her brother. I don’t actually know what his thought process was…I just know he eventually had a list. She had a list from all the mail she got, locations she wanted, a bunch of internet searches, and other random info. Then she talked to a college counselor, and got some more names (but also got kinda pissed off, because the counselor gave her a chunk of schools she really didn’t want, like religiously affiliated schools), and then last night, she finally did this…

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Yes, there are like 21 schools on those post-its, but she knows she needs to get down to about half those. Some she just needs to research a bit more, like the UC schools…I suggested she pick two, but she’s having a hard time deciding which two. She has a couple uber-reacher schools…she probably doesn’t have a chance of getting in, but she really would like to try. So we’ll see. The plus is that she’s not leaving it until the last minute, like some relative of hers who is now at college (cough cough, her brother, cough). Needless to say, the stress levels around here are somewhat charged.

To counteract those stressful thoughts, I present this…

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My GISHWHES diploma…I do love their sense of humor. If you can’t read it, “In recognition of the personal sacrifices and dedication demonstrated by shocking the world with public art, kind deeds and generally being an unapologetic weirdo.” I think that’s my life philosophy. I probably need to work a bit more on the kind deeds. I think I will print this out and hang it next to my credential at school. I did not choose to hang my credential at school. It was done for me, by the way. I get kinda tired of explaining why I teach science when I have so much painting/literature experience (and really, I was never much of a painter).

We had an incredibly long staff meeting yesterday. The new school year has brought us Monday Minimum Days, presumably for collaboration with co-workers, although that hasn’t happened yet. But once a month, instead of collaborating, we start a staff meeting at 2:45 PM, the worst possible time in the world for my brain, which turns into mush between about 2 and 5 PM, and then it potentially can go on until 4:45. Shoot me now. I know how my brain works, though, so I draw. My last principal, I avoided drawing, because if your eyes were not wide open and trained upon him, you would be chastised the next day for your lack of attention, so if you consider the eyeball-straining scene from The Clockwork Orange

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That’s kinda how it felt. Anyway, this new guy seems better…so I drew. One of my co-workers requested a cat. I glared at her. She glared back and said, “I know you know how to draw them. I’ve seen you do it.” True that. But I wasn’t in the mood for just a cat…

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Just so you know, because some people feel confused by this, drawing just occupies the part of my brain that otherwise causes trouble by falling asleep or spacing out. It actually allows me to concentrate BETTER on what you’re saying. I’ve always had a hard time convincing other people that I know how my brain works, but I do.

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It started with a hand on fire. Anyway. I may need to draw during collaboration days as well, based on what’s been happening in my department, which has two new teachers, both female, who may shake things up a bit (not a problem, personally).

Because of the heat here, when I’m working on stuff in my office or at the light table, I am followed by the living creatures who inhabit my house. They like to lie underfoot.

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This is better than where she was before, which was about where I was standing. I persuaded her to move over so I could actually use the light table.

Or under ironing boards so they can’t be moved.

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Eh. I do not rule my house. Pets do.

I’ve been under some reading stress lately too, which conflicts with my ability to get art done. Apparently every single book I had on hold at the library will be coming in within the same two-week time period, even though some have been on hold for over 6 months, as I was number 723 on a list of 5,000.

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I actually already finished two that came, one that was almost 800 pages. And I’m sending back the audio book, because I don’t concentrate well on those. I did not mean to get the audio version (whoops), so I re-requested it as a real book, with pages and all. I’m perfectly OK with waiting longer for that book at the moment, because I’m going to have a hard time getting through all these. Only two are book club books. And you can’t renew these, because 700 people after you have holds on them as well, so if I go over the due date, this explains my increasing fines with the library system. Pay for college? Pay my library fines? Hard decision to make.

Anyway, last but not least, here is a link to a blogpost I wrote for FIG, the women’s art group I’m in, about the installation at Art Produce opening this weekend: The Fence/La Barda exhibit

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And a picture of the flying junk-mail birds I helped install.

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And now I need to go to school and try to figure out a way to deal with Google docs without using Google Classroom, because they still haven’t figured out how to fix that. Sigh. Nothing is ever easy. Yes, I could have them all SHARE their files with me, but apparently Classroom has a really easy, efficient way to do that, and I’m not allowed to have easy or efficient at the moment. So I’m winging it. Ha ha. Birds. Winging it. OK. Need more caffeine.


Book Review: Traveling Left of Center

August 10, 2014

I recently read a collection of short stories by Nancy Christie titled Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, through NetGalley.

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I enjoyed Christie’s writing style, although many of the stories found me wondering about the characters in them, as they made remarkably bad or just plain scary decisions. Christie says her characters cannot or will not get control over their own lives, and so the outcomes of their actions are often not what they expect. One story that sticks in my mind was Alice in Wonderland, about a woman who travels through books while her real life weighs her down. Watching for Billy was another story where you worried about the main character, often yelling out in your head, NO! Don’t be that nice person! Which is of course an interesting comment on society itself…we begin the story feeling sorry for Agnes and supporting her actions, all the while telling our paranoid selves that this will not turn out well. Still Life is a dream I myself have had, usually right before the alarm clock goes off.

That’s the beauty of these stories: they feed our paranoias, our fears, but also our dreams. Many of the characters resonated with me. I liked that each story was fully fleshed out, even in so few words. Often short stories leave more questions than answers and I feel unfulfilled by them, but this was not true of Christie’s stories. There was only one where I was left thinking, “Wait a minute. How does that work?” The creepy part of the mind is definitely at work here, but in a good way. I enjoyed reading these.

 

The publisher would like you to know that the book itself publishes Sept 9, but that the eBook of “Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories” is currently discounted for the prepublication price of $4.99 or less until September 9th (when it will go back up to the retail price of $5.99). If you preorder, it will be automatically delivered to your eReader on the publication date (September 9th). The prepublication discount is currently active on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/q3vqvqr) Apple iBookstore (http://tinyurl.com/q3rjbkw), Barnes & Noble (http://tinyurl.com/moozc5y), Kobo (http://tinyurl.com/nt8vyyd) and other online bookstores.

If you enjoy short stories about people who aren’t perfect, but with a creepy tinge to them, because there is no way to read this book without getting a little creeped out, then you should enjoy this collection.


Book Review: Bloodlight

August 8, 2014

I recently read a NetGalley book for the purposes of review, Bloodlight: The Apocalypse of Robert Goldner, by Harambee K. Grey-Sun.

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I so wanted to like this book. The cover is nice. It starts out telling the story of a boy almost 17 years old who wrestles at school and is kind of a nerd and sort of has a girlfriend, but doesn’t really fit in, and then he starts having these hallucinations and seizures. At that point, the author has asked us to understand the book not as a YA novel (which is good, because it doesn’t do well as that), but as some sort of metaphysical event, which feeds into a strange ending that reads like an X-Files episode gone bad, and not bad in that everyone dies, but bad as in Jumped the Shark bad.

On the one hand, when Grey-Sun is writing descriptions of the brain phases that the main character, Robert Goldner, goes through, his descriptions are beautiful and poetic. In fact, if he just wrote an entire book describing say how an artist views the world or a long LSD trip, he might be getting somewhere, but the story itself is beyond any sort of belief, even for someone who loves sci fi and fantasy and a wide variety of pretty out-there fiction. And the dialogue is awful. It’s so stilted, it’s hard to read it without wincing.

I wavered back and forth between a 1 and a 2 on Goodreads, and stuck with the 2, just because I was really entranced by his descriptions of the epileptic attacks, or whatever they finally were. I had to work hard to make myself finish the book. I was hoping for sense, some clarity. Sigh. No such luck.


Rethinking…

August 5, 2014

Triggers: places where I have no definitive purpose. I had to limp the car in to the car guy, stopping every 3-4 blocks to get it to stop overheating, girlchild following me, turning the engine off at every signal. She had an early appointment and was tired and cranky, so she didn’t want to go back home. She needed makeup for her senior photo today, and though I had tried getting it last month when I was in a store I visit approximately once every 13.5 months, she didn’t answer the text in time, so of course it was my fault she didn’t think of it until 9 PM last night. So she argued I could drop her at her appointment, go to the mall (aaargh, shoot me now), buy it, and come back in time to pick her up.

Sigh. I hadn’t eaten. I thought I was going back home. But I pick my arguments these days, and sometimes it’s just easier to go along with her.

So to the mall I went. And realized Walmart and Target are here, so I might as well get school supplies off my list (your friendly neighborhood public school teacher just spent $150 of her own money on your kids…one woman thanked me for my service when she asked why I was buying so many folders.). Because that’s not depressing. Half the mall stores aren’t even open until 10 though, so I’m typing this on my phone in Panera (better than Cold Stone for breakfast), where Wyatt cheerily and spacily took my order (oh my lord, you dear sweet boy…who hired you?). But I still have 25 minutes until Macys fucking opens and the muzak and early morning mall people are driving me nuts. And I just realized the kid who told me I could keep the plate that he did his cell model on must have stolen it from Panera. Ok, probably not. I don’t want to accuse someone of stealing just because it looks exactly like this plate in front of me that had over 500 calories on it that I will have to burn off later.

And you know what? The mall, by myself, is a fucking trigger. It makes me sad. It makes me depressed. Sitting around and watching mall people in the mall doing mall things, all being mall-like, I shouldn’t be there. If I go in knowing exactly what I need, like a target strike, and get the fuck back out quickly? I’m fine. Or with other people, I’m OK. Mostly. Depending on the purpose and the people. But this really fucked my mood for the day. I was doing OK yesterday. Not great. Just OK. Bearable. Not drowning in anything. Today. Today is different. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow does not include the mall.

At comic book club, we decided we didn’t like the book…Pretty Deadly, Vol 1. The art was nice, but the story was just not present. Or coherent. Sigh.

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Or should that be comic-book book club. Or comic book² club. No one knows.

I did quilt a lot yesterday. I got everything done up to the breasts. I only did about 4 hours though. I wanted at least 5, but when I got home, girlchild wanted help picking her photo outfit, which turned into “what’s my favorite color”…

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(yes, that’s a snake on her head and no, that’s not what she wore for pictures, although I did double dare her), and I needed to draw something for GISHWHES, and my SIL called and I talked to my brother, because he remembers “write me a note telling me WHY,” from middle school, and then it was really late and I knew I had to get up early to deal with the car. And tomorrow is a total loss (first professional development of the year, expect nothing and you will only be surprised by whatever it is, although the over-2-hour long movie presentation planned for 1-3 PM will make me sleep…is he fucking NUTS?). And now it’s after 4 PM and I still haven’t started quilting today. FUCK.

My scheduling has deteriorated into a WTF moment. I am losing it. Deep breaths. I achieve small things each day; some days the achievements are smaller than others. They are still achievements.

I think I need to go crawl into a ball shape and put a pillow over my head, and then maybe my eye will stop twitching and faeries will come and organize the hoard, plus make a reasonable schedule of all the tasks that need to be completed before August 31, and if I’m lucky, they’ll suss out my personal life as well so I can feel more human and less like everyone’s mom. EVERYONE’S mom. Yours too. Or a sad ball of snot. That’s not your mom.

So quilting…

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And more…

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And even more…

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Not much to say, except wow. There’s a lot of quilting on this sucker.

Learning to think differently about things is not the same as positive thinking. When people tell me to be more positive, I think actually it is more useful to me to have a neutral response to things that might normally cause me to stress excessively. For example, when my credit card number was stolen, in the past, I would have freaked out and stressed and verbalized all that. Instead, I had a very neutral, calm response. Shit happens. Go through steps 1-3 and shit will go away. And I did that. And it did. So as more stressful things are popping up this week with school coming closer for me and the kids, and the thought of sending boychild off with all the stuff that goes along with that, I’m better off thinking about major stressors in a neutral way. It’s in my nature to want to be prepared, so I have a couple things in my brain for one thing that’s coming up that is causing some PTSD related to authority figures. There’s a mantra in my head from a recent stressful event…”don’t say anything until they’ve talked. don’t freak out. don’t say anything.” One friend said I wasn’t being true to my self, but I’m not sure that my self is particularly helpful in these situations. Sometimes she just needs to calm down and hear all the words…and all the NOT words, because there seems to be a lot unsaid. I spent the last few years feeling attacked for having the wrong feelings and saying the wrong things, and feeling like no one was listening to what I was saying, even though I was the only one actually communicating. But what I said was never heard. It was never considered. In multiple parts of my life, that is still the case. I feel a need to guard my self more carefully now. She needs more protection than she used to, and it’s possible that communicating what she’s thinking is not in my best interest at the moment. Maybe I just need to hold what she’s thinking carefully in my head instead of putting it out there. For now. I’d love to be able to trust someone enough to not feel that way, but I don’t.

“If we decide to think positively, that may be useful, but it is not meditation. It is just more thinking. We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

To me, all that overly positive thinking, the cliches and cute little things on Pinterest and Facebook, it’s just a mask. It’s not real. It’s hard for someone like me to read them and think, oh yeah, if I just THOUGHT hard enough (because I don’t think hard?), I would be happy. It’s magic. I’m just not doing it right. No, ma’am. You’ve spent two years being told you weren’t doing it right. I was doing. I was talking. I was thinking. I was watching. There is a change that needs to happen, and it is, slowly, like a snail traversing gravel, but it’s not about cute little maxims. It’s about changing the response. Letting the big bad stuff just roll over into the swamp behind me. Pushing forward through hanging vines and snakes without letting them grab on and trigger that fear, that fight-or-flight response, that adrenaline rush caused by stress. Or even that sad wave, so different than the fear, more of a washing over your head than an electrical charge to the heart.

OK. With all that in my head, it’s probably best that I quilt for the next 10 hours before talking again.


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