Friday, June 28, 2013

More Mystery Muse-ings

Remember I posted ages ago about being a Mystery Muse? I said then that I'd share with you some of the things I created for the project, but then Time slipped away and I didn't. Big sorries! So here I am with a very belated post about more Mystery Muse-ings.

You'll recall that the theme that my particular 'muse-ee' had chosen for this year's Mystery Muse project was 'wonder.' (If you're already confused, check out my earlier post at THIS LINK to read the particulars and to see the first secret gift I sent to her, 'k?).

For my second secret gift to my muse-ee, I started with a blank wooden picture frame that I found at Michael's Crafts. The frame already had a hole cut into it, and in the hole was a clear plastic disk held in place by two metal tabs. The whole thing was just the right size for a Christmas tree decoration. (You can get an idea of the scale in the photo above. What you're seeing is the backside of the piece with the plastic disk removed.)

The first thing I did was paint the front of the frame with a couple of coats of craft paint. I completely painted the little wooden beads adorning the frame's decorative wire handle, too. In this case I chose white because I had some little colorful additions in mind that I wanted to stand out.

While the paint was drying, I thought about my design. I have a hard time decorating heart shapes for some reason. I knew I wanted to do a black-and-white doodle, and the only thing that came to me was a paisley shape, so I lightly penciled in something that looked kind of like a fern (I almost wrote 'unfurling fiddlehead fern frond,' but stopped myself!). Then with a fine Sharpie marker, I inked in my design. I even added a checkerboard edge and some embellishments to the wooden beads on the handle.

I thought of a sentiment to insert in the frame, typed it on the computer, chose a font, centered it, and sized it to fit in the frame. To be safe, I printed it in a few different sizes, then centered the hole of the ornament over each to get the best fit. I traced the outline of the hole, cut out the verse, and framed it.

Finally, I cut a length of fabric ribbon, fashioned it into a little bow, sewed a little button to it, then daubed glue to the center of the bow and affixed it to the ornament, holding it in place with a clothespin while it dried.

And here it is. I hope she likes it. :)

(P.S. ~ She still doesn't know it's from ME. *giggle*)


Friday, June 21, 2013

My New Old Routine

The past couple of months have been spent happily enjoying my new old routine: Drawing. Drawing daily. Drawing almost all day long, in fact.

Yes, yes; it's always been my routine, really, but not daily, and not like THIS. At least not since I was little.

For a long time I've been trying to somehow get back to how drawing made me feel as a child. Back then I was always drawing -- drawing during Saturday morning cartoons, drawing before Lights Out at night and before breakfast in the morning, and most especially when I was supposed to be doing something else, like cleaning my room or completing my homework. It was FUN. There was stuff to learn. And there was color....

As a kid my big goal was to eventually draw so well that my creations looked perfect, like photographs. Over the years I learned lots during all that practice. It was fascinating stuff. Hard work, but fun, too. And over the years I got pretty good (I think). Things were looking 'photograph-like.' 

People seemed impressed. I was routinely asked, "How long did it take you to draw that??" And I would hear, "You're such a good artist!" Wow -- I was a bonafide artist! And I was an artist because I could draw like a photograph.


But pretty soon drawing was no longer fun; it was boring. And there was something missing. I know now that I was what was missing. There was nothing of 'me' in my work.

I'll admit that I only came to this conclusion a few years ago. (About time, too; I was only half a hundred years old, after all....) I was going through a highly uncreative period then where I pretty much began using my studio as a spare room in which to store boxes. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Drawing wasn't fun, it was dull, it was work. No -- it was a J.O.B. :(

I'll change the subject for a moment and say thank goodness for Fest. I didn't join it all those years ago because I wanted to sell my art. No. I knew that I had no acting, singing, juggling, fire-eating, lute-playing, morris-dancing, slack-rope-walking, or pulling-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat abilities, so my art was my Only Way In. Fest gave me my family. It gave me an audience, and an opportunity for feedback. My friends and customers there listened and offered their suggestions and support. They kept me drawing when I wasn't sure I wanted to draw any longer. Plus, I knew I couldn't just 'quit' Fest; I loved it. So that meant hanging in there when I didn't feel like it.

But I'll admit that there were Festival seasons that were frustrating for me (and probably for my customers, too). Creating products for a regular audience that was trying to keep up with and understand my flux was difficult. Especially since I didn't really know who I was as an artist. Or if I even WAS an artist! Wasn't I just a copier?? No, not anymore. But if I had something to say, it was still a mystery to me.... 

So where to begin? Begin at the beginning. Take it all the way back to Square One, I told myself. I knew the basics, right?, how a face is composed, how to shade a circle so it looks like a ball, blah, blah. I couldn't forget all that I'd taught myself, all that I'd learned. But I could bend some rules, perhaps. And I could reintroduce myself to my inner child.

So I began sketching again. Only without an eraser. And without a photograph.... I learned to 'embrace the mistakes.' I drew with a pen (frightening!). I tried drawing entirely from imagination and found (unsurprisingly) that my imagination muscle SUCKED. I drew and disappointed myself. I locked my inner critic away, drew some more, and got better. I found myself in that kid situation again of learning all over from scratch.

This year at Fest I know I'll hear what I always hear: a handful of folks lamenting, "Why don't you draw eagles anymore? Where are the landscapes? I miss your old stuff!" Oh well. I've moved on. I'm no longer That Artist.

And I'm moving on even more, it seems. Things are even simpler now. And there's color, too (whoa....). I'm not 100% sure if I'm moving forward or backward, really, and I don't think I care. Because whatever it is I'm doing is interesting me and making drawing fun again. I spend whole days at it now, even on the weekends. I walk away and then hurry to return to it. I carry my sketch stuff with me. I get up in the morning and sit down to my pencils and spend long hours before it even occurs to me that I have yet to brush my teeth or make my bed. 

And those all look like good signs to me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Snow

It's here -- cottonwood season. Minnesota's 'summer winter.' :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Already!

Really? Wednesday?

Must make Time slow down somehow....

Must focus! Must pay attention to The Now.

Must take time to appreciate the roses before they're done blooming.

Must stop, look, see...!

Must appreciate the Jurassic hostas before they begin to look slug-nibbled. Must enjoy the feathery meadowsweet before it gets too leggy. Must appreciate the pristine milkweed patch before its leaves are picked for caterpillars. Must watch for Bad Bunny dining on the daisies.

Pay attention, pay attention...!

Listen to the cottonwood trees applauding in the breeze, the shouts of children splashing at the pool, the trill of a wren in the mulberry tree, the drone of a bee in the lobelia. Hear that distant lawnmower? Smell that mown grass?

Must remember that my days are full of little important things and my head is full of big important thoughts and they exist on separate planes and I'm rarely on the former and almost always on the latter and that isn't smart.

Because those thoughts aren't going anywhere.

Everything else, however, is already Halfway There.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Meadowsweet and Imagi(c)nation

So far today is all about the fragrant meadowsweet abloom in my front garden.

And it's about the sunshine, and the scent of mown grass, and cottonwood seeds riding the summer breeze like feathers from a burst pillow. And billowy clouds that one could ride the sky in like a houseboat in one's imagination. (Complete with cottony furniture, too, of course.)

But it could also be about setting up the hammock and grabbing a lifechanging chapter book from childhood for a welcome reread. (For me it was Little Women or Anne of Green Gables or Black Beauty or fill-in-a-whole-BUNCH-of-blanks. You?)

It might also be about making a pot of sun tea. And peanutbuttering a sandwich for a personal picnic in the garden.

And maybe it will be about penning a story, solving a mystery, planting magic beans, inventing a recipe.

Or writing a letter to a faraway friend. Or styling a fort out of old branches and ropes of climbing woodbine. Or a host of other imaginative adventures.

Because it's Friday. And it's summer. And my inner schoolchild is urging, "C'mon, let's GO!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

If the Sign Fits, Display It

A gift from the Faux-Mom-in-Law, who totally understands me....
A few weeks ago there was a mouse in the live trap I'd set, the one I'd baited with Skippy and put out just the night before.

When I checked it the next morning, I wasn't as surprised to find the Skippy gone as I was to discover my target inside it, nursing her newborn jellybeans.

And where another person might see a Free Snake Food Opportunity, I went in the opposite direction. I happily outfitted a maternity terrarium. For the creature I'd originally intended to trap and evict from my home. The one that had now multiplied itself. Greatly.

That should tell you a little something....

'Ferb', scowling at the camera
At any given moment there are creatures here. Some of them even intentional. Over the years I've housed, befriended, raised, and loved everything from the Normal to the Not So Much. There were the usual strays and adoptees, of course, combined with whatever the cats dragged home or my Girlz found under rocks. I nursed stuff back to health and fed motherless things without fur or feathers. I administered formula and cooked special diets and got up every two hours around the clock. I fed caterpillars, fledged butterflies, nurtured tadpoles, released froglings, and misted slugs and stickbugs and toads. I learned to like spiders.

Currently my 'zoo' isn't as densely populated as it has been in the past. It's down the mother housemouse and her brood that I mentioned earlier (thankfully). And 'Phineas' and 'Ferb,' the two tiny turtles my eldest Grandbug found and gave to me to raise over a year ago, have since matured and been returned to the pond from whence they came (sadly).

'Syntche', the stowaway corn snake
I mentioned snakes earlier. I've never thought of myself as a snake person, but I now have two and love them both (who knew they could be so interesting??). And there are stickbugs, as well, and a pair of Betafish, and James's tarantula, 'Nell.' And you already know about Boo, the rescue kitty.

And not so very long ago, it seems, there was a ferret and a cocker spaniel, and a whole herd of ratties, and a starling that whistled and talked. And soon there will be the enormous summertime job of raising milkweed caterpillars into Monarch butterflies.

*Contented sigh*....

As you may have guessed by now, I don't have Martha Stewart standards. Tumbledown's not for the faint of heart. It's a working house, plain and simple. One where a kid can feel comfortable running indoors with an earthworm in his hands and not feel as though he has to take his shoes off first. It's for people like me who aren't easily grossed-out, who aren't afraid of a little dirt (or alot), who anticipate the occasional cat hair in the Cheerios, who are more comfortable with creatures than they are with human company.

'Lily' of the molted feathers
But sometimes human company is important. I'm grateful for James, who shares my esthetics, but once in a while I entertain the notion of having you over for tea. But then I take a moment to REALLY look around me.

There's the furry chair cushion that Boo sleeps on. There's the Beta tank with its current algae bloom. And even though I swear I swept it all up yesterday, spent birdseed already crunches underfoot as I cross the hardwood floor.

There's my collection of Lily's molted feathers displayed in a vase (right next to the jar of cat whiskers and not overly far from the jar of shed snakeskin), too incredibly exotic to throw away....

Jingly cat toys share the dark recesses under my furniture with assorted hair ties, pipe cleaners, and dust bunnies so evolved they've created a union.

Art-related flotsam litters my dining room table and shares space with sciencey stuff. Books claim nearly all other horizontal surfaces. Shelves overflow.....

Passion Ivy runs amok
Surprises lurk in the unlikeliest of places: a cicada specimen, all eyes and veiny cellophane wings; a perfect snail shell, the souvenir of my visit to a nature center; a trio of tiny acorns that a grandbug gifted me; a thumb-sized moth cocoon looking for all the world like a fairy sarcophagus designed by H.R. Geiger.

Plants modeling various forms of the word 'thrive' crowd my front window like jungle cover, and on sunny days the assorted crystals that hang from them cast my living room in rainbows.

Tealight holder? Not anymore....
Things that aren't meant to be (but are now) fairyhouses are everywhere. Little letters to their occupants (written in a preschooler's hand) are tucked between chapter books and spill out alongside recipe cards and Notes to Self and articles I still mean to read and crosswords I still plan to solve. Toys fill in as paperweights, keeping the bills in check until they're paid or the toys are put back into play.

I have yet to sweep or dust or wash dishes or put away laundry. It's after noon already and I've yet to eat breakfast.... But the 'zoo' has been loved and fed, drawings created, pages studied and dog-eared, e-mails answered. I've explored ideas and revisited memories. I've made the coffee. I've cleaned terrariums.....

And you'll recall I'll have to move all those colored pencils, pads of paper, books full of ideas gleaned from magazines and mail order catalogs, all those fill-in-the-creative-blanks if I expect you to sit at my table for tea.

And I do want you to come for tea! I do....

But it occurs to me as I write this post (and agonize over it a little bit) that there's a reason why I discourage visitors. At least adult visitors (kid visitors understand, I think): Few but me could look upon this mess and see it for the heaven that it is.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bunnies and 'Bugs

I was all set to work on The Daily Blogsketch today but have been in the deepest of brain fogs. Not even a pot of Company Coffee (aka Real Coffee Percolated in a Pyrex Pot On The Stove instead of my usual lazy-ass Spoon-of-Instant) has been enough to clear it....

So as I sat at the table with my cuppa and my sketchbook, nothing came to me except thoughts of my faraway grandbug. And then it occurred to me to write her a letter. And that changed to a card. And before I knew it, I'd pulled a sheet of scored linen and began a drawing on it.

And here's what I came up with -- a sketch of this year's Bad Bunny as it nibbles the dandelions in my lawn.

I hope she likes it. :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Coffee, Comments, and Change

You may have noticed: there are no longer any 'comments' capabilities on my blog. There used to be (and I've appreciated every one that I've ever received, please know!). But recently I found myself of two minds about a post I was editing, wondering if I was about to step on any toes by hitting the 'publish' button. I had an opinion, but I doubted if many would share it or understand it. And then I wondered how I'd feel if I was challenged. Would I waffle? Back down? Go into a tailspin? Do what I usually do: hide until hopefully everyone's moved on so we can change the subject?

And at about the same time, I realized just how much I check (and recheck) that dang 'comments' section to see if I've Got Mail. I'm not an attentionmonger, but no one wants to feel completely invisible. And lack of comments just made me think that all the time I was taking to write, hone, proofread, perfect was for nothing, like writing a letter and attaching it to a balloon....

I realize The Maily is completely narcissistic; except for those occasions where I sneak in a post about a Bigger Picture, every day it's all about Me, and that's not the way to write a blog and expect it to be read, at least that's what I've been told, and I tend to agree. But I'm still learning and still trying to find my groove here. And I hope that if I haven't driven you away yet, that you're willing to hang in here with me until The Maily gets its legs proper....

But my goal is not to have a crazy big blog that gets me a spot on The View. I get my 15 Minutes of Fame every season at Fest when a customer takes a moment to personally tell me how much my work has made them smile, and that's way more than enough attention and responsibility for me. This blog is for that customer. It's because we meet only once a year, and this is for the rest of that time, for keeping in touch, for making that special moment last a little longer, maybe enhancing it with a personal story or two.

Before I began The Maily, I knew it was going to be for That Customer, and I tried to put myself in their place. I picked up a favorite picture book will illustrations by a favorite artist and remember thinking, "If Tasha Tudor were alive and writing a blog, I'd be all over that! And I'd want her to write as if she was taking a moment out of her day to have coffee with me."

The idea gave me shivers. I wouldn't have wanted her to write about anything but herself and what was happening in her magickal world. What was going on outside her window? Better yet, what was going on inside her head? And when I tried to imagine what a post from Tasha would look like, I didn't see a big, long, wordy, opinionated diatribe with links and advertisements. I saw a single photo and a paragraph. A magickal moment.

I began The Maily with that format in mind, then doubted myself when everything I read about blogwriting told me I was doing it wrong. Then the 'comments' section seemed to prove to me that I was doing it wrong. And then I began rethinking the whole dang thing.

But now I'm back to Square One. I like my original idea and I don't want to change it.

So I made the decision to take away the 'comments' capabilities. (Everyone knows they can still share a word on my Facebook page if they must.) There is now nothing to be checking and rechecking. I don't have to self-edit -- how will I know if I've stepped on toes if this is essentially a one-way conversation? And -- save for the occasional bout of wordiness -- I plan to continue doing exactly as I originally imagined: write to you as if I was taking a moment out of my day to share a coffee.

Because I am.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mary!

I'm reclaiming space today, clearing out cupboards and organizing drawers and doing stuff that is about as far away from drawing as I can imagine. And not on purpose either. (Seriously, I don't know what's wrong with me; must be the weather....)

But then I took a moment this afternoon for coffee and computering and discovered that today is uber-whimsical artist Mary Engelbreit's birthday. After that there was no going back to tackling the junk drawer. Nope. It suddenly became all about the pencils....

And little blonde girls with Peter Pan collars and bows in their hair....

And checkerboards and cherries, of course.

And bowlies. :)

(And fried-egg flowers, too; how could I forget to include a fried-egg flower??)

Because suddenly it seemed really important to draw a little something as a way of saying, "Thank you for sharing your delightful imagination with us, and for being such an inspiration."

Happy birthday, Mary Engelbreit! This bowlie's for YOU.