Thursday, March 29, 2007

This is completely horrifying

The 35 symptoms of perimenopause, which can hit between the ages of 35 and 45.

And that's just periमेनोपौसे! Holy shit.
ओके, सो - शीत!

ई अद्देद थिस हिंदी थिंग तो मय ब्लोग ऎंड नोव इत वों'त स्टोप त्य्पिंग इन हिंदी। ई रेपात: Holy shit.

AAAAHHHH! The Hindi won't release - oh. OK, now it's stopped. I added this Hindi thing to my blog? And it doesn't actually shut off? So half the time I'll be typing merrily away and then I'll look up and think SHIT! HINDI! SHIT!

And that is my day, little children. Off to go brood over whether or not a spring chicken such as myself could possibly be perimenopausal.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is it me, or does she look like Whitney Houston?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

This one's for Jude

This is outside Denver, believe it or not. "Red soil's for pansies," Colorado says to northeastern California. "We have fuschia soil."

So I've been messing around with Picture Manager again, amping up the contrast, the hue, the saturation, and basically making Iowa look like eight kinds of hell.

I toned it down a little, too, upping the contast while lowering the saturation. And playing with hue wildly (although not in the shot below).

I love the blues in this one.

It's changing the hue, and then bumping up the contrast and saturation, that will make your photographs look like an album cover - or a very bad graphic novel.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

And now for some good news.

I don't know about you, but this fills me to the brim with girlish glee. (Scroll down past the stuff about vibrator parties and book clubs.) (Or not; as usual, Eden writes a killer post.)

Yes, you read right: Eden and Alice are teaming up to write a book! Send all your good juju to the fine people in New York City who will be receiving their proposal this week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ah spring...

The vernal equinox packs a punch, doesn't it? The weather itself hardly matters - every writer I know is newly energized, deep in the work of creation.

I am, too. I'm doing a lot of painting, a lot of reaching into the Pere story and finding out what's there. And what I'm finding is that everything has to do with my dad and my stepdad. Not just the story itself; I knew that going in -- but the reason I'm avoiding writing it.

This all started in Iowa, of course. One night, we stayed up late coming to terms with the hard work we are each avoiding in our stories. Mine is about writing the truth of what happened when I was a kid. There's nothing scandalous or illegal there, but there is a lot of pain, and over the last 7 years I've been able to put that aside and enjoy being an adult. Because being an adult means I'm no longer a child, and no longer under anyone's emotional thumb. What can I say? It's been a nice vacation.

Writing Pere, however, means that I have to go be 11 again. This is not good news.

Last night, Heidi asked me what my big dragon was. What, she asked, was stopping me? What was my huge fear? This is, more or less, what I said to her:

I have a huge fear of not finishing, after sending my last book through 6 freaking drafts and not ever getting to the point where I could call it done.

It's not even that it has to be right; it has to be recognizable as a novel. In that Act 3 is more than 4 pages long. So it's really hard to trust that this not-writing writing practice is actually part of the plan. It's hard to trust that letting myself steep in the story is the right thing to do.

The big dragon is definitely not finishing - and sitting on my ass doing nothing while I don't finish. Which, you know, looks a lot like steeping. I don't want to settle. And I do want the book to be a good book, but mostly I just want to make sure it's a satisfying read - which means the Black Moment has to be truly black, and there needs to be emotional justice, and it has to have some twists that people aren't expecting. That's what I mean by "finished," and I guess that's also what I mean by getting it right.

When I talk about getting it right, I see my stepfather holding my novel in his hand, like he's about to drop it on the floor, and rolling his eyes. Like, "You couldn't do any better than this?"

That's the dragon.

I know this is good news in the breakthrough sort of way - like, now that I know what the dragon looks like, I can fight him better, or hug him (because he's surely got his own dragon), or do whatever I have to do to disarm him.

But it also kind of sucks big donkey dick to find that no matter how far I've come, to truly put this behind me, I have to go back there and relive it.

Damn it. It's so easy floating along being charming and funny and light, and then this stuff comes up and you either deal with it or it sinks you, and no amount of charming and funny can save you.

So anyway, I'm signing up for some shiatsu massage at a local zen center. Shiatsu apparently cleans out your chi. That's good, because I think my chi is about as nasty as the shake machine at your local inner-city McDonald's.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vacay, Part Two

OK, so after leaving Heidi's, I winged it to Denver for three days with my best friend Carrie, her fabulous husband, and The Cutest Boy In The World: her 1-year-old son, Evan.

You have to admit, the kid earns his name.
See? Adorable. How could you not want to nibble those cheeks?

He is not, I fear, too fond of me. That's OK. I'll wear him down. If I send him Che Guevara t-shirts and indie rock for the next 20 years, I'm sure he'll come around.

Then there's Fabio - so named because he is simply fab. Here he is, hard at work. Work hard, Fabio. "Work" "hard."

And here is Carrie, zipping away from the camera. I may have to do this up large, in encaustic. Which, incidentally, she convinced me to do - and now she's trying to commission a painting. Commission my ass. I owe her.

Here's a better shot of the two of us. She's the tall blonde. I'm the squatty brunette.
See how she is? Gorgeous, inside and out. If I didn’t love her, I’d have to hate her.

We went to the deserty mountains while we were there, where everything was azure and rose and gold.

Did I mention? It was 70 degrees out; we all got tan. Then we matched the land.

Well, sort of.

Deja vu

Months ago, I got all up on my high horse and announced that I was going to start running again. Then I promptly gained 10 pounds and a really great body image. It went along these lines: I am an Amazon goddess! Minus the height. Yay ME.

Then I saw this incriminating photo.

Anyone who has struggled with their weight knows exactly what I mean. It showcased the rolls of fat in my abdomen, made my face look like a marshmallow, and made my upper arms look like canned hams.

The great body image flew out the window, and in its place are my new running shoes.

So this week I am starting again. It's hard, I will whine, my knees will go to hell, and -- most galling of all -- when I "run"? I'll be at 4.2 on the treadmill. It's a slow, slow jog, the kind I used to deride when I was running twice as fast.

Actually, it's not even jogging. It's more an ambitious shuffle. But with my cardio in the toilet, lugging 30 extra pounds on my frame, 4.2 mph gets me sweating and breathing hard, with my heart rate in the target zone. I do little pops of 4.5 to get my heart rate up even more.

(Somewhere, my Boot Camp instructor from 3 years ago has a stomach ache. Where did my 7.5 mph girl go? He asks. I reply: To the bakery.)

But I digress.

So after the first 2 weeks, all of a sudden, I'll realize I'm phoning it in, and I'll start "running" at 5.0 (12-minute miles, still quite slow). And that'll be tough for a couple weeks, and I'll still be all wheezy on the machine, but then I'll realize that my cardio has actually improved.

And so on, and so on. It's all about conditioning... and getting through the first month. And pacing yourself. And training your brain to shut up about it being so hard.

After that, it's all about orthopedics and how to avoid fucking your knees up really severely, because you know you're going to have the knees of a 70-year-old anyway.

It's just, do you want to have the knees of a 70-year-old who can hobble along without help, or a 70-year-old in a walker? That's the decision.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Can you hear me percolating?

All the fun over the last week or so piled up and made me so happy, and then somewhere in there I got on a plane and came down with the worst cold ever. Not to mention I think I spread it around the Midwest. Sorry about that, folks.

A longer post will come later. Suffice to say that my lungs are positively percolating with phlegm - but my mind's percolating with art and writing. So that's got to be good, right?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Machine Shed

We went to the Machine Shed, Heidi and Caryle and I did, and ate fried chicken and pie and shopped for John Deere goods. Half my family has been involved for years, in one way or another, with the John Deere enterprise, so you can imagine what a thrill that was. And Caryle, who I knew only through the Forums, is lovely and funny and bright, and a joy entirely.
Now it's off to Carrie's for more debauchery and, hopefully, fried food. It's good to be me.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Collage rosaries

Heidi and I made a pilgimage to Hobby Lobby and did some collaging, only instead of putting stuff on boards, I made little fetishes, kind of like rosaries, for main characters in my current work in progress. These didn't photograph as well as I thought they would, but here are a couple of the ones that are easier to explain.

Any cords, ribbons and knots you see are significant - they symbolize spells, blood magic, or rituals. The only exception is that the primary ribbons that hold/contain Pere's and Demeter's rosaries symbolize their essential nature. The collage rosaries are meant to be held, like small fetishes, with lots of tiny objects you can meditate on.

Here's a detail from Pere.

As you can see, there's a lot going on. See the pearls? That's who her mother wants her to be - and Demeter pushes and pushes her toward that. As a direct result, she decides to go all Goth, which is why the pearls and the inky black roses are tightly bound together with a leather thong.

She undergoes three main spells or rituals - one her mother casts on her to save her from percieved heartbreak, one her lover casts to try to free her from that other spell, and one she casts herself to ... well, saying would be cheating, that would spoil things. But note that there's a coin on it, and you know you have to put coins on the eyes of the dead so that they can pay the ferryman on the river Styx.

There are also seashells and sex and bad choices and love, and if you were here with me, I would sit down and let you finger each bit and tell you what it means. Over wine, or maybe just some really good lemonade.

OK, so the Witch one (below) is built on a purse Heidi started to knit but then messed up and couldn't take apart or something. It's very soft mossy yarn. The red ribbon is blood magic; the leather thong in the middle of the church outline is a spell; the dragonfly charm in the center symbolizes the witch's character, and the red there is the pain she carries.

There are also leaves (both big ones and little plastic leaf-beads on moss-green ribbon) because she lives in the middle of the forest and uses a lot of natural elements in her witchcraft.

The Demeter one (below) is built on a ribbon that symbolizes Demeter's essential character: very formal, very exact and perfect, no room for mistakes. The large pearls symbolize what she wants to be (and has become), and the small pearls are what she hopes her daughter (Pere) will become. The light-green ribbon with the very simple flowers are how she wants the community to percieve Pere -as very innocent and virginal, etc etc - and the little bouquet of flowers symbolize Pere's power (goddess of spring).

The thong tie at the end of the pearls is a spell that's been cast on her by the man who's in love with her. Another spell was cast on her centuries ago, before she became pregnant with Pere - there's a huge snarled black knot connecting all Pere's stuff to Demeter's ribbon because of that spell. It misfired, and the man who cast it has been carrying a torch for her, not to mention a lot of guilt, around ever since.

The other thing about the Demeter rosary - which is probably hidden - is that the black thong that represents the old love spell is wrapped with seashells and a sea horse, symbolizing Poseidon. Demeter's been collecting these things ever since, without realizing that she's pulled toward him. Here's another shot of the Demeter rosary.

Hades (his rosary shown below) has this self-punishing thing going on (the chain; he's reluctant to be with Pere, even though he's in love with her, because he thinks he'll ruin her. So his deal is that he's trying to become worthy of her - all the self-punishing he's doing, she's at the root of it (the heart). In fact, part of his rosary is a fetish thong with all kinds of Pere-ish green things on it.
It's very simple; I'm not sure whether this means his love is pure and it's only this weird self-loathing thing he needs to deal with, or I need to get closer to him. The Magic 8 Ball in my head tells me that more will be revealed.

Hera is just the heart and soul of family love, but she also wants to stay hot for her husband (who's a lot like Bill Clinton). She's very simple but very pure of heart, and so her rosary needed to be simple and pure and lovely.

I'll see if I can get better shots and put them up.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You guys

You guys are so sweet. I will be relying on your kind comments about my paintings when C drags me off to the psych ward because I've gone mental with the encaustics.

You may have to testify in my defense. "She may be crazy but she's got a real knack with wax."

FWIW, if he's going to do that, he's going to have to wait a week - I'm jetting off to see Heidi and then Carrie, and am delightedly pairing shoes with outfits even as we speak. See youse in a week.

Monday, March 05, 2007

My Lost Weekend with Wax (or, More Painting)

I spent the entire weekend painting. All encaustic, this time; my fingernails are filthy and my hands have hot-wax burns all over them.

The floor is mysteriously clean, but the dog isn't looking so good. Huh.

This all started a few weeks back, when C and I decided to paint a nice big painting for our living room. There have been many many discussions about color. He gravitates to colors like earth tones: rich, sophisticated, go with our furniture. I gravitate toward colors that make your eyes bleed.

Common sense won out. After all, we don't want to be sued by our guests for bleeding eyes. So we went with a transparent burnt sienna for the underpainting - OK, it may look like Coke, but we like Coke.

Here's the underpainting - I had to use a metric ass-load of encaustic medium to make it transparent. Like 1 part pigmented wax to 4 or 5 parts medium.

I also dipped a brush into the pigment itself and then scumbled it over the panel before painting the transparent burnt sienna over it, and I love how it turned out. I think it could stand as a painting all on its own. Although of course, having dripped 80 different colors of wax on it, now that's sort of moot, but I'll remember it for the next painting I make.

Speaking of wax, do you know what shoes totally withstand all drips? Crocs. They make my feet look huge but they're comfortable to spend a weekend standing in.

What was I talking about? Oh right, painting. So because I cannot stop, I added layers to the painting. Many layers.

And each time, I had to fuse them, which means holding a heat gun right next to them until they get shiny, or downright melt.

That's fine when you're working small ,but when you're working on a 24x36 canvas, and you can only fuse 2 square inches at a time, it gets old. Fucking tedious, in fact.

And yet, there's nothing quite like spending your morning melting stuff.

Here's an action shot of the fusing. You can't tell, but the wax under the gun has become shiny, which means it's time to move on.

Or it would be time to move on if I wasn't taking a picture at the same time, which results in stuff like this:

That's bad. Luckily, I could just melt some more wax over it and call it "texture."

This is my hand, swollen from two days of being held over a hot griddle, hot wax, or heat gun. I'm holding the scraping tool, which which you can take a perfectly good painting and scrape the hell out of it so it looks like something archeologists discovered in Pompeii.
Scraping: my favorite part. Aside from wielding a totally badass heat gun.

Let's take a little break from the Official Living-Room Art. Remember the nice gold painting with the little turquoise river that I was going to call Nancy? Well, I couldn't wait until the oil dried; I stripped off anything that felt wet and slapped a coat of wax on it.
It didn't look too good. I slapped another coat of wax on, and fused. Cue "fusing is tedious" expression. Looked even worse.
So I slapped a couple MORE coats of wax on and scraped the hell out of it, and then made part of it look like a map by fusing and burning and rubbing and scraping, and here's what I came up with.
I can't tell if I love it or hate it. C hasn't put it on the wall, so I suspect he is also on the fence. That or else he's calling the people on the psych ward.

I'm now calling it Hot Mess, because Nancy was just too tame.
I think I love it, to be frank. I think I totally dig it. The bottom part is like the Girls in the Basement, our subconscious getting it on every night while we sleep - and the top part is our conscious, the part that makes meaning out of everything - the part that makes hospital corners out of everything, trying to patch it all together into a rational whole. Which as we know only covers up all the crazy crap that we all live with every day.
I fucking LOVE that painting. I'm brilliant. Hot damn!
Oh, and here is the final Official Living Room Art painting. I love this one, too. It's much more rational. My conscious mind is happy because of all the right angles.
Next week: How to smuggle encaustic equipment into the psych ward!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fickle, fickle me

I come, I go, I post three days in a row, and then I drop off the face of the earth. SOME FRIEND, I hear you say from across the country. Yeah, well, welcome to me.

To make up for it, I've got photos of some of the paintings I've been making lately, and a bonus shot of me and my dog. Don't say I never gave you anything.

As you can see, she's very inquisitive.

Below is an encaustic panel, 6x6. The quote (Rumi) reads, "If only you will choose again, this once more, to be born." And I know it looks like I'm talking about a baby, but actually, it's a cry to the story.

I really love this one, even though it's small and I should probably hit it again with the heat gun to get rid of the scraping texture. I love the hand. C hates it. It's too literal for him, I think.

Below is just me screwing around with oil (bottom layer) and encaustic (wax, top layer). Basically I painted a bunch of circles on a smooth wood panel, then stripped most of the oil paint off with linseed oil, and slapped some hot wax on it, and then knifed the wax off.

Believe it or not, this is quite similar to my writing process. Overwrite, strip away, overwrite, strip away. The results are often the same: either coherence with layers, or one big hot mess.

In the 12x12 panel below, you will note that I have discovered how well burnt sienna, turquoise, and gold pigment go together. The gold pigment is loose, like fine soil, and I coughed it up for three days after. Heidi said I had the Black Lung, only with gold.

The one below is a bad photograph of what came out to be a really lovely encaustic work. The quote, which you can't see because of the glare from my enormous forehead, reads, "Let the beauty we love be what we do."

The large panel below (24x36) is strictly oil and gold pigment - no encaustic. It's not done, but I need to wait for, you know, ever for the oil to dry, and then I'm going to slap a bunch of wax on it and call it Nancy.

And two more.

I really do love the encaustics, even if they don't photograph well. This one has that great Czeslaw Milosz quote, layered in three or four times under successive coats of wax that I then scraped off, like looking at a wall that's been papered over with so many concert posters it's become an abstract.

The quote is: "In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." Milosz: hell of a guy.

This one was my Valentine's Day present to C. I told him the cave-painting deer that I image-transferred on were actually prehistoric schnauzers. I'm not sure he believed me.

The quote on this one is from an e e cummings poem:

i love you much(most beautiful darling)

more than anything on the earth and
i like you better than anything in the sky

sunlight and singing welcome your coming

Here's a detail of the image-transfer deer and the cream wax I spread on under them. (The white is white wax on white ground.) For the quote, I used the same font that we used on our wedding invitations seven years ago. Papyrus.

Forgot one -

This was meant to be a strict abstract, but then C noticed the dog. So we named it Coyote. It's encaustic, again using layer after layer of pigmented wax and then scraping away at it.