Tuesday, November 26, 2013
It has been over ten years since I've made the traditional Thanksgiving trek to Grandma's house. (In fact, it's been over eight years since I've even seen her, which is a crying shame.)
It's so odd to have let so much time pass like this -- for a long time we would go twice a year. Once in the summer, and again for Thanksgiving.
Travel was something we trained for early in my household. Adventures were very important to my parents. I went on my first campout when I was probably far too young to do so, famously getting lost in my own sleeping bag AND getting violently ill all over my father. That's the stuff of memories, folks.
My parents' parents lived an hour away from each other in central Oklahoma, and driving there from Colorado became a well-worn routine. We became masters of road trips. Early on we would pack a rubbery plastic basket filled of toys and books -- always a new comic book or two stuffed in there somewhere, readable only after the journey began. We'd leave before dawn with a thermos of coffee for the grown-ups and little dry breadstick things for the children to tide them over until real breakfast (perhaps Cheerios in a park somewhere).
Later the baskets turned into little tote-bags that Mom made herself, and later still our car-gear was carried in whatever bag we carried around in civilian life. Musical tastes diverged, Walkmans turned into CD players -- there were a few years when every single car occupant was on headphones -- including the driver. A newly liscensed driver (me!) lessened the burden on Mom, and the trip became a bit faster. The homemade auto-bingo games became longer, then we started playing them "best two out of three". Road maps were pored over, and a lifelong love of maps and vacations and adventures with mileage counts was kindled. Wrong turns were rerouted. Cellphones arrived, but lost service outside of the major cities. Routes became modified, new restaurants were tried, but many of the long-standing traditions remained.
Tomorrow I'm going to re-take that journey, and see how much of the old route's landmarks still stand.
I have mentioned before that Thanksgiving was the special gathering holiday in my family, and is a dear favorite of mine largely because of that. This year's gathering will be smaller than they have been in the past, but hopefully will be none the worse for that. Mom and I have taken it upon ourselves to cook for Grandma this year, to pay her back for all those many meals she cooked for us.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
This is about all I'm going to show you of what I'm working on right now.
The primary text is the book on the top of this stack -- the actual story highlighted in red -- everything else is reference. Lots and lots of delicious, glorious reference.
There's a thing called a "non-disclosure agreement" in creative work -- it exists during the speculative period often right up through production. It is NOT, I hasten to add, in play here. There are much more practical reasons this juicy monster needs to be kept under wraps for the present. But it's something I'm keeping in mind here as I quietly reveal that I AM working on something, please don't forget about me internet, but that I want to keep details hush hush until the Big Reveal. (Which, hopefully, will be around late December.)
Keeping secrets is hard to do when you're so used to documenting your process publicly in a place like this. Particularly if it's something like this, which is fairly time-consuming and leaves little time for other, shareable pictures.
And I like sharing pictures.
But it's a busy get-to-work time, so that's what it must be at present. You'll just have to bear with me.
In the meantime, you might consider my fish considering this tiny snail.
We have five little snails that have accidentally set up residence in our fishtank -- possibly stowaways on the new plant? It's hard to say. They sure are cute though.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
A few weeks ago I went over to a friend's house to basically hold him hostage to drawing. He studied graphic design in school, and gets the odd gig here and there, but by and large seems to have set that aside for a much more noble cause: raising his children.
He was lamenting his lack of drawing time on Facebook not long ago, and I (as I always do) claimed that there's nothing easier than sitting down to do a spot of messy drawing. All you need is the gumption.
With two kids and no real routine he's rather low on gumption, but I have gumption to spare in the sit-and-draw department, and sometimes it just helps to have a buddy. So I went over there to see if we could do that when his kids were around. And the verdict is: no, not really. I got a lot out of it, but my friend was mostly still in Dad mode.
I also dislike being automatically forced upon children in a situation like that. "This is our friend Maggie!" is the joyful suggestion, and while girl child was all for this, boy child was a little less eager. And I completely understand -- I don't like being asked to take to someone immediately either, I'd rather make up my own mind. And it's harder for children who can't pick and choose who comes into the house.
So I think it will be better for everyone if we simply meet at a coffee shop for these little drawing-buddy-sessions, which is the plan.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Back in June I was informed that I was one of the recipients of the Regional Arts & Culture Council's Professional Development grant.
You can use such a thing for many things, but I have used it to print up objects for this year's big promotional packet. Which has meant a lot of quiet work behind the scenes, getting everything ready.
Redesigning business cards, logos and so forth.
Printing samples and preparing artwork for smaller materials: postcards, greeting cards.
And of course: addressing great big envelopes to publishers.
It's no exaggeration to say that there is no way I could have produced all this printed material all at once without RACC's financial assistance. To put this in perspective: the huge box of blank envelopes I got to contain my packets (and many future packets) was roughly the equivalent half my weekly housecleaning earnings.
It's been a tremendous help for me, and having this financial burden lifted from my shoulders has opened up other opportunities for me. (Like being able to get my ticket to the big illustration conference next summer!)
Thank you, RACC, for being amazing and supporting artists.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This weekend we took a trip out to Mountain View Orchards, which is off the fruit loop in the Hood River area.
I have picked apples before, but this was a first for Anthony. And I have to admit he really put the "picking" in apple picking this year, blissfully drifting from tree to tree and bringing me different apples he thought looked pretty, or smelled good, or any reason at all.
One by one my bag became covered in the things he found. Eventually he visited the bins out front -- where there are slicers and sampling is highly encouraged -- and decided that spitzenburg apples were the ones we really needed to focus on.
Spitzenburg apples are an "antique" apple -- certainly a variety I have never heard of. Apparently they were a favorite apple of Thomas Jefferson. They are now a favorite of ours. There is a box full of them on the floor behind me as I type this, waiting to become cakes, applesauce and of course just to be eaten outright.
I spent most of my time enjoying the orchard artist style -- by sitting at the picnic table and drawing up a storm.
It was so peaceful out there. We'd both come off of an incredbily stressful week so it was good to get out there. Some friends met us out there later and a good time was had by all.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
US vs. THEM. If you aren't with us, not only are you against us, but you must be bent on destroying everything we hold dear. Because you are one of THEM.
I have been thinking about variations on this theme a great deal lately. Specifically when I talk to people who are actively weeding their social media feeds of anyone who makes them upset. It's that uncertain balance between viewing the social media network as "enjoyable entertainment" and "real human connections". Among the people I know these tend to be issues of religion (or anti-religion) and politics.
So people remove the dissent. A news item surfaces, a person takes a side, and people unfriend, unfollow, hide and block. And the remover then talks about the removee to their many connections. The connections that disagree unfriend, unfollow, hide and block. The remover gets frothy hurrahs from the more extreme connections that do agree. And over a time a certain tone emerges.
And that tone is pretty loud. And intolerant.
And that's a shame, because I had thought the point of the internet was the ability to be connected to lots of people and lots of new ideas. It seems like instead there's a lot of focus on the self and not a lot of focus on all the billions of people around.
Occasionally people do confront an opinion with another, but often these devolve into unfortunate brawls.
I think as this is why the internet becomes a crazy cesspool of hate. Unchecked, an opinion can become a very dangerous thing indeed, because humans only have the one brain inside their heads. And that one brain's opinion can only come from the experience that brain knows and has dealt with. And adventures do not necessarily comprehend the experiences of the other 7 billion human brains on the planet, who have all had very different adventures. This is where discussion and story-telling is supposed to come in.
But instead the tendency is to remove those discussions and stories, partly because they tend to get vitriolic, and partly because it takes away from our "enjoyable entertainment".
Come to think of it, I don't think I would necessarily consider socializing in the real world "entertainment". Going for a cup of coffee with a friend, walking with someone to the park, having a big pot-luck get together somewhere. A PTA meeting. A game night. A long session at the bar after work. These things may be pleasant, therapeutic, enjoyable -- but I wouldn't refer to them as "entertainment". Entertainment is a television show, a movie, an opera, a concert, a board game. And you don't go get beers with a television show. You don't expect a movie to dog sit for you over the weekend when you suddenly have to be out of town. All you demand of these things is that they hold your attention, so that later when you pile into a friend's living room you can talk about it. I want a distinction between "entertainment" and "social situations"
And I guess the main problem here is social networks online are both. There's ads, there's businesses vying for your attention, and there's your friends who are starting to stop generating their own ideas but are instead parroting others' with that handy dandy "share" button. (I'm doing it too! I need to stop.) And a person weeds out the hurtful ones, because they'd rather have their feeds filled with comfortable, non-threatening things -- things that make you happy rather than things that make you sad.
And maybe this is where the vitriol comes from. When we don't even KNOW anyone who shares the views of the "opposing side", then it is easier to vilify that side as out of touch, self-absorbed and narrow-minded.
To allow the "opposing side" to stay in our feeds -- and allow the dissent, the angry-making opinions, the hurtful slander -- it takes the saccharine, easy-to-swallow passivity out of the social networking experience. And that might do us a world of good, in all honestly. I spend an embarrassing amount of time scrolling downward through my update feeds, hoping to find something interesting from my closer friends. (It's an impossible feast, and that's what makes it so addictive.)
In an ideal world, this allowing of dissent would bring the tone back down to a respectable level, as I would hope people would begin to resent the hurtful noise they experienced, and would endeavor to send out less hurtful noise themselves. (Constructive noise, dissenting noise, by all means. It's the outright slander I'm objecting to.)
I don't know if this will actually happen -- and would have to emerge gradually -- but it's a comforting idea. As it stands I've noticed that some people are gently starting to take people to task on their declarations. There's genuine skill in asking questions of an Extreme Declaration and not simply getting removed from the circle. But I think we all ought to start trying. Learning to gently ask questions -- developing it as a habit -- could encourage others to do the same, and make this dream of mine grow. This dream of calm, civil discussion.
Because I'm worried about the alternative.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Leaves in a parking lot near the west hills. There are a bunch of ornamental maples over there that seem to change color before anything else in the city. I went over there to drop off a wool blazer to get it re-lined, and was treated to this lovely sight.
I left my window open for the rest of the morning, elated as I was in the beautiful, crisp autumn morning. Unfortunately I also left it open during a downpour while I was indoors, and when I came back I had a very damp seat indeed. Fortunately I also had a yoga mat.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
I've been feeing weirdly homesick this summer. As autumn slowly unfolds I find myself thinking not about the glorious mists and apple picking of Oregon (though I really should be), but instead thinking about scrub oak and golden aspen leaves. Of snicker-doodles made by my Mom after school, of ice on brown cottonwood leaves. Of creeping around in the hills when I was younger, fancying myself a real wild woman.
It's a strange place to be, as Colorado is on everyone's mind right now, because of the flooding and devastation going on.
I've spoken before about natural disasters that strike your homeland. This was a little less of a slowly-building dread kind of scenario that the fire was. This has been swift and violent. I merely touched base with my vital people to make sure they were safe, and then backed off completely and let the stories surge in.