Tuesday, January 27, 2009

somebody has to do it

I have an excuse about posting a picture of a mess - la Bellette Rouge made me do it. It's her fault, not mine, so go on over to her place to complain about the mess littering the top of my page today.

How did she make you do it, you may be thinking. It's like this:

The Rules:

1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag 4 people to do the same.

This is what my work table looks like when I'm painting silk. Well, to tell a closer approximation of the truth this is what it looked like one night after I'd finished working on one of the very big silk paintings that had to be laid out on stretchers held up by cardboard boxes or whatever I could find. It may have been this one but I'm no longer sure:

The thing is that silk painting is kind of a messy production and the fact we live in a townhouse apartment means I don't have a room where I can close the door and just leave the stuff going crazy by itself in there once I get worn out, bored, need to let it dry, have to go to sleep so I can get up for work, would rather read a book, watch a movie, check out a video game or spend some 'quality' time with my husband.

You know, if I think about it, I probably wouldn't know what to do with a studio if I had one. There are some rare times during the creative process when I'm best left alone but once something is underway a marching band could come through and I'd stop and listen if I wasn't working to finish a section that had to be done fast.

I'm always a bit paranoid of silk dyes getting into contact with the landlord's nice carpet so the entire area beneath and around the piece in progress gets covered by a plastic drop cloth with newspaper on top in order to soak up an accidental spill (or if I get a bit too wacky with the spray bottles). I mix colors before starting a piece because time is of the essence when you know the edges will always dry first and the whole idea is to keep the colors moving until you want them to dry. I bought so many bottles of applesauce for babies at the grocery store I think the clerk was itching to advise a new grandmother that babies need more than that to thrive. Hey, it was the cheapest stuff and I needed the jars.

There are brushes, salt, test silk for color, water, a favorite plant, grandmother pins and needles and a photo of a Sufi saint working on a painting of the names of God hanging over the table. We moved from that space two years ago when it was sold out from under us but the new one is very similar. The work goes on.

Now it's my turn to choose 4 victims.. ooops, I mean charming and talented friends to continue this meme. Are you ready:

Utah Savage?

Tag, we're it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

balancing act

Steve - I was charmed and gratified to read your very well written comment. All in all I believe we need to pay attention to the lessons of our lives and if we do we'll find our adventures. Little things mean a lot and I've never done anything too out of the way nor would I claim to have done. When I lived in Europe I knew of other young people who, thinking they were protected somehow, went off a little too far where their small riches were a temptation for those with nothing. Some were never seen again and I'd never have put my parents through the agony.

It's been a delight for me to post my paintings and other bits up here. It's nice to know people like them but since I've never been much of a fan of my own work it's extra nice to hear your educated opinions. The Adventure's Ink drawings wouldn't have happened without the blog environment and the only b&w I'd ever done was 'baby days' long ago. I love deco and being very familiar with the artists you named feel very flattered at the comparison. When I have a story in mind the drawings are done within a few days. Somehow I'm sure Valleton and Beardsley took longer and much more care, as did Blake and Tenniel.

I lived in Europe for several years after highschool. I had a job in London for a while but traveled as much as I could to places with galleries and old churches (where I made brass rubbings). I attended various art schools and modeled for classes since the tuition costs were more than my budget allowed. Would you believe one way airfare from Toronto to London cost $1500 in 1965? There weren't many tourists back then.

An epiphany happened during the time I spent in Paris when I made daily pilgrimages to the Louvre when the Mona Lisa was just another small canvas hanging on a wall among hundreds of other paintings. One afternoon I found myself all alone in a large underground gallery dumbfounded by the Michelangelo slave sculptures. I'd already marveled at the Pieta, which had been completed before he was 25, but the Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave bowled me over. I don't know if you're familiar with them but they are extraordinary and I spent hours trying to absorb their meaning. I learned that living isn't about what we produce but about becoming. I need to paint because the process engenders more internal images than I can possibly capture but I see that as a gift and not an ego enhancement. Perhaps you know what I mean.

It wasn't so hard finding jobs and, since I'm somewhat antisocial, work provided a reason for spending time with people. Knowing I could pay my own way meant I could afford the supplies but didn't have to sell the results. That's not to say I didn't fall for my own hype a few times along the way. I'd get excited when a series was underway and start to think I could sell them and then be able to stay home and paint more. Sometimes it worked and I did meet some nice gallery owners but usually I ended up weighted down with professionally framed and glassed paintings nobody wanted to buy. They're easier to carry in a portfolio and I hate talking about them to potential buyers. I remember a two week series of phone calls from a young woman that went like this:

'What's behind that bush?'
'What do you think is behind the bush?'
'You painted it so you should know what's behind it.'
'I put the bush there because it was the only thing that fit.'
'That's not a very good reason.'

Crow's little niece, Beatrice, has a question for the day: How do you have Capitalism without capital?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

six degrees of speculation

Nunly and Spartacus both invited me to the 'six things' party that was buzzing around recently which had the probably unintended effect of turning me to public introspection. I believe that's a contradiction in terms but here goes:

1. Sometimes I go through long periods when I have the urge to be creative but inspiration refuses to cooperate. This is a painting from one of those periods - neither here nor there, coming and going, anxious. When stuck creatively, I usually just turn to reading or think of something else to make:

2. Most of the novels, but not all, get returned to Powell's where the generous buyers give me enough credit to fund the collection of science, sociology and history books I keep. I read books about enlightenment hoping I'll find a quick and easy map to the destination. It's not to be found in a book and I despair of my laziness and sloth when it comes to following written instructions of any kind.

3. I become compulsive about silly things. Some years ago a company designed paper towels with cows on them and I'd root through all the rolls at the grocery store to find the ones with blue cows. The design was soon obsolete but I still remember them with fondness.

4. Once I was an intrepid adventurer, never bothering about running off without any particular destination other than knowing it was far from where I'd been. Now I prefer to stay home where I'm most comfortable learning how to astral project.

5. I would sooner have a root canal than walk into a gallery with a portfolio of my artwork. I would prefer to tear the paintings into little pieces rather than talk to the owner or director about why my stuff deserves to be shown in public.

6. and finally, in case you wondered how I look now that I've arrived at my 63rd year on this hard-ass planet, if Utah Savage can do it and Pagan Sphinx can do it then so can I.. but that's not to say I won't replace it with a stick figure drawing tomorrow:

Crow here. What can I say? I have some strange friends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

do you know a Crow?

Crow here. I know you'll find this hard to credit (oops, sorry, no talk about economics this time, purely unintended Freudian slip.. credit, hahaha). Okay, start over. Deep breath. I'm a bit upset because I just heard there are some people who don't like crows. Not you, my dear readers and friends of susan, but apparently there are those in this world who think my species is a menace. Pshaw!

I had a long weepy talk with my friend, Joshua Klein, who agreed to stop by to tell you what he's learned about my proud heritage. Just in case you overhear anyone trash talking my relatives, you'll have some answers they won't anticipate.

You know and I know there are Crows even smarter than those. Peace out!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

sexy bookworm?

I can't do a post without a picture and since I'm not sure if doing this qualifies me for for the 'Proud Bookworm Award', I'll post a picture of another of the little silk bags. At least it qualifies in the 'sexy' category.

I've been challenged by he who shall not be named to pick up a nearby book, open it to page 46 and type out the fifth sentence found there along with several more that follow. Well, that sounds easy enough, since I usually have several books near at hand, but which one to choose?

My literary friend, la Belette Rouge, had advised me to get a copy of 'Crow and Weasel' by Barry Lopez next time I went to Powell's. I was there today so it's sitting next to me now but it's a short book and one I haven't read yet. I'd hate to spoil the fun of a first read by opening it to page 46 without reading the first 45.

'Dakini's Warm Breath' by Jillian Simmer-Brown is close by too but somehow a paragraph about prepatriarchal Dravidian cultures and the resurgence of the spiritual influence of the Vedas doesn't seem an apt choice either.

Oh, here's an interesting one and a favorite too.. Paul Auster's 'New York Trilogy':

'Quinn did all his writing with a pen, using a typewriter only for final drafts, and he was always on the lookout for good spiral notebooks.'

It's a good book but the right spot on page 46 has no conversation and, like Alice, I do like a book with good conversation - especially if I'm going to quote from it.

Ahah! Found one right underneath the mostly empty Christmas card box that was too pretty to throw out yet and on top of the catalog that has a jacket that will be well out of season by the time I look at it again. I save a lot of money that way.

"The gun shoots heart attacks."

"Myocardial infarctions," she says, tapping a finger on the cause-of-death line on the autopsy report. "MI's. And the CI setting, that's for cerebral infarctions. Heart attack and stroke, the two leading killers of bad monkeys..." She smiles. "So what else have you got?"

He pushes forward the second pile, which consists of just two sheets, printouts from a newspaper microfilm reader. It's a story from the San Francisco Examiner, with the questioning headline ANGEL OF DEATH HANGS UP WINGS?

'Bad Monkeys'
by Matt Ruff

Now I get to choose 5 bloggers to post their choice of sentence #5 and a few more that follow on page 46 of something with covers. Books on tape are only cool if you're driving a long distance.

I'd be interested to know what's on your bookshelf zee, nunley, pagan sphinx, g-fid (if it's not packed :-) and cr.

The prize for your participation is this lovely award. Thanks randal and for the confirmation liberality.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

dreaming herself awake

she slips into another dream..

We imagine ourselves to always be the same since our physical changes from one day to the next are unnoticeable. We rarely notice that each past moment was another dreamed image and that we're only real right now.

This is another painting I posted in the early days but I like it well enough to do so again in hopes those of you who haven't seen it before will like it too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

i'm not excited

Well, damn. Crow got himself caught up in the Obama.con craze and now look at him. It's going to take me a week to get all the red paint out of his feathers but at least his beak isn't blue anymore. I might have scrubbed it a little too hard though..

He's sulking and keeps muttering about Barbara Ehrenreich's" latest news about the 'nouveau poor':

'Foreclosures in Greenwich CT! A collapsing market for cosmetic surgery! Sales of Gulfstream jets declining! Niemen Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue on the ropes! We read of desperate measures, like having to cut back the personal trainer to two hours a week. Parties have been canceled; dinner guests have been offered, gasp, baked potatoes and chili.'

Obushma is making me more than a little nervous with his plans to continue the same financial policies as our soon to be not missed current administration. If the money continues to go to the banks so they can hide it, bury it, buy other banks with it or compensate themselves with it then it's not going to be available for the people who need it.. and I'm not talking about the socialite who needs a new dyed rat bikini to wear at Cannes this spring. It's probably past time to just plain nationalize the banks and get it over with.

Worker productivity keeps rising, only to be rewarded by declining wages, elimination of health care benefits and cancellation of pensions. Meanwhile, downsizings and offshorings of American jobs are rampant, and part-time work is the new norm. We need stronger unions.

Then perhaps, there'd be room to talk about having development funds available for new green industries. It's just my opinion. Crow's not talking to me right now but if you have any ideas let us know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

good morning

If I didn't have to go to work this morning I might spend the day making another one of these.

There are things we do for love and things we do for money.

The two rarely meet.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

there is magic

I thought I'd posted this painting before but perhaps not. It's called 'Sundancer' because I've always thought it would be wonderful to paint music. Rumi painted music with words:

I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;
After that, soaring higher than angels -
What you cannot imagine,
I shall become that.

I painted this picture for my mother who died five years ago..
and posted today because the last image disturbs me.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

true story, one picture

I've had a number of strange experiences but it was the night of New Year's Day seven years ago when one of the most intense adventures took shape. I'd been doing yoga routines followed by meditation nightly for more than two years and was generally more relaxed but on this particular night as I sat in meditation, a shocking explosion of white light rocketed through my head. It was gone as fast as it came but thinking I must be very tired I went up to bed still seeing tiny light flashes as I climbed the dark stairs. I fell into a deep sleep and woke up the next morning in the emergency room of the hospital where I'd worked for eight years. My husband, who was holding my hand, looked a complete wreck.

He told me he was awakened at 3:00 am to find me shaking and struggling to breathe. His first thought was that I was having a heart attack and turning on the light he saw I was blue and either deeply unconscious or the other thing. He checked again to make sure I was breathing but couldn't wake me so, not knowing what else to do, carried me down the stairs, dialed 911 and held onto me until the firemen arrived. I have a brief memory of trying to fight off these big guys wearing black rubber suits who were trying to stick needles into me but little else. I knew I wasn't dressed for meeting strangers. Really, what's the world come to when you can't be safe in your own bed?

The doctors at the ER never did figure out what had happened and neither did my general practitioner when he read the notes a few days later and told me to call if anything else happened. Nothing like it had ever occurred before and my husband was adamant he didn't want it happening again. Neither did I but I had no memory of the event itself. Recalling the firemen having said it looked as if I'd had a seizure he did a web search when we got home and when he read the description of grand mal recognized what he'd witnessed that night.

Strangely enough, I'd spent my first two years at the university hospital working for a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating brain tumors so the next afternoon I went up to his office for an unofficial consultation. He read the ER reports then asked me how I'd feel about seeing the inside of an MRI scanner - now. Oops. Having an MRI is like being inside the sound box of a giant instrument played by a madman. Thankfully, the meditation exercises served me well by easing the claustrophobia I suffer at the idea of being trapped in an enclosed space.

The next morning the doctor called and said he'd arranged for me to have another scan, this time an MRA, and that we should meet him in clinic immediately after it was done. Having worked closely with him I was well aware that he only gets excited by fascinating medical conditions. Remember I said he treats people with brain tumors? I remembered the code we'd use at another neurology office when we were scheduling scans for headache patients - rule out BFT - which meant Big Fat Tumor. Aargh! The MRA, for magnetic resonance angiogram, was the same as the last scan but in a different machine. I was beginning to understand the music.

As promised, the doctor met us in his clinic and, much to my dismay, was practically dancing with delight as we walked back to the consulting rooms where the computers were up and running with the strangest pictures I'd ever seen of myself. The MRA had produced a full color video image of the blood flow into the left side of my brain where a golf ball sized mass of tangled tissue throbbed with a little mind of its own. We looked more closely at the screen as the doctor and his senior resident introduced us to my AVM and its associated aneurysm. They explained that although having one was a bad thing, the good thing was that it hadn't killed me before I was 30. The extra good thing was that with modern advances in surgical treatment they'd be able to cure me.

What is this thing - an AVM? I'd spent ten years working in neurology and had never heard the term. It turns out it's a vascular abnormality where an artery is attached directly to a vein with no capillary bed in between to lower the arterial pressure. If you imagine what happens to a loose garden hose in an empty bucket when the tap is turned on you'll know that's what had been going on in my head (empty bucket is apt as well). AVM's can be anywhere but having one in your skull is an especially nasty business. I'd been born with it and over the years it had grown enough that one night a twitch had ignited a cerebral storm.

The doctors, now a group of specialists, agreed this was a time bomb that had to be defused sooner rather than later. I had an angiogram done a few days later so the feeding vessels could be identified. In order to do this the neuro-radiologist punctured the big femoral artery in my groin and threaded catheters through the maze of the arterial map, through my heart, on up through the carotid on the left side of my neck and all the way to the top of my head where the little bugger was nested. He very kindly gave me some pictures to take home for the family album. The print isn't scannable so the picture here is very like it except it's missing the bulging aneurysm behind my left eye. It kind of looks like a strange tree.

Plans were formulated that I'd be admitted to the hospital for two days worth of surgery once all the pre-op testing was complete. The neuro-radiologist would block the feeding arteries with coils and glue which would effectively starve the AVM and the following day the neurosurgeon would excise the thing. It sounded pretty straightforward to me and we were both convinced it would be fine. What else could we do and how do you tell your mother you're having minor brain surgery? The doctors joked I'd likely be smarter afterwards since I'd have better blood flow to the cultured part of my brain.. an arguable assumption but I was in no position to quibble.

An interesting thing about brain surgical procedures is that, although you can't feel anything, you're never completely unconscious while they're happening. Since the surgeons need to be sure of not damaging anything you might need later, the anesthesia has to be handled delicately. While they drilled, sawed, cut, peeled, sewed and screwed little titanium fasteners, I dreamed I was turning into a dragon. Funny how these thematic images recur and how some dreamed experiences seem more substantial than mundane reality. It must have been the drugs. My clawed feet grasped the bedrock under the hospital, huge wings unfurled and I looked out over the city, the river and the mountains in the distance. Just as I was thinking about flying away the surgery must have ended because other drugs put me fast asleep.

As you can tell from reading this everything did go well and, although the recovery was somewhat arduous, it actually went by very fast. I was back at work five weeks later and, yes, I still meditate.


Sorry about there being no drawings but it wasn't an adventure I'd planned.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

crow's friend, uncle jay

Sorry about getting in so late to wish you guys a Happy New Year but I got stuck in one of those mid-west snow storms on my way back from a visit with elderly relatives. They're still hoping things will get better but you have to admit there's nothing much sadder than senile bird brains who continue to wait for Santa in January.

I had a whole lot more fun with my old friend, Uncle Jay. Here's what he had to say about the year just past with some hints of what we have to endure in the year ahead. Stock up on cheap drinks and comestibles, dear flock, and hold on tight. I'm gonna hang out on a warm perch for a while and see if I can dig out the brandy soaked walnuts from the fruitcake susan saved for me. She's a mad woman but I love her and you guys too. If you remember to keep your wings trimmed when you fly into gales all will be well.

Friday, January 2, 2009

every story tells a picture

There's a new story up on Adventure's Ink.. the fourteenth in a series I never expected to draw and write. I've surprised myself by having drawn 56 pictures in less than a year.. a record for me since it generally takes me a month to finish a painting.

There's no master plan for what will come next but this one called armadillo arms is about Vancouver, BC. Happy New Year to all of you, new friends and old, and best wishes to Scarlet Blue who won a contest that started the storytelling.

May you live as long as you want to and want to as long as you live.