Saturday, October 31, 2009

It Senses Fear

Happy Halloween. Today we will be talking about one of the scariest things in the world - The Computer. Keep one thing in mind, it is not easy to scare me. I am the mother of teenagers, after all.
My kids have been able to make a computer obey their will since they were in pre-school. This is because they have never been afraid of them, or anything electronic, especially if it has buttons. Yes, I just said that my children are very good at pushing buttons. What child isn't, even when they become adults. Okay, especially when they become adults.
Back to computers. I have been very inconsistent when it comes to getting results from computers. I think it is because computers can sense fear. When I was growing up, the only time I saw computers was in movies where they were impersonal number crunching machines until they saw their opportunity to take over the world and end life as we know it. By the time personal computers began to breed and proliferate, I had decided I would never really need one and could avoid close contact. I didn't even use a calculator, just in case it could spread evil computer spores (I think those are called bytes). I got very good at figuring math problems in my head.
Then I met, fell in love with and married an electrical engineer who is also a self professed computer geek (the best looking one I've ever seen). He has never been afraid of computers. In fact, they tremble when he approaches them. He eats them for lunch. He says computers are stupid, they only do what people tell them to do. I want to believe him, but I would rather be afraid of computers than people. I am just sure that if I push the wrong button, everything will go poof and disappear. Uh, that has actually happened to me. The vanished items have not yet extended beyond my computer, but you never know.
Like I said, computers can sense fear. Mike can sit down in front of a computer, say "Let there be light", push a few buttons and the computer will obey. I can sit down, trying not to let it see me tremble, say "Please", push the same buttons, and it will not give me what I ask for. I swear there are times when I hear an evil little chuckle coming from the speakers.
So I have decided that each year I will declare another victory over my computer fear. I will learn how to do another task on the computer, and have it be second nature so it is the computer that is filled with fear and trembling. I am almost there with the blog. The text is not a problem, but I am not yet intuitive with adding photos and setting up the slide show on my art blog. I promise, by the time Christmas is here, I will be adding photos of my artwork with more than a "HO, HO, HO". I will be able to raise my arms, throw back my head and let out a triumphant and deep-throated "BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA".
Happy Halloween everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow Day

It has been snowing for 2 days. The snow is 2 feet deep outside my back door, deeper where it has drifted. I have not had to drive anywhere for over 36 hours. I don't have any kids living at home, and Mike has been out of town. It has been fun listening to the kids in the neighborhood celebrating two snow days in a row, sliding, building snowmen, snow forts and snowball fights. I have been able to handle all my work and meetings with phone calls and emails. I didn't want to take the car out of the driveway for more reasons than the condition of the road.
When I drove Mike to the airport early yesterday morning, the snow had started accumulating on top of ice on the roads and driveway. I was relieved to make it home without being or hitting one of the cars that was sliding off the roads. I felt the car slide a little as I pulled into the driveway. A few hours later when I took Sam out for a walk, I couldn't help but notice that my car had slid out into the road.
Not good.
I wondered how many cars and snowplows had made their way around my car while sliding around in the ever deeper snow. I pulled the car back into the driveway which, by the way, has a bit of a slope. I took Sam on a walk, even though it was more like he was tunneling since the snow was deeper than he is tall. When I got back in about 30 minutes, the car had slid back out into the road. I have still not recovered enough strength to shovel deep snow off the entire driveway, so I cleared paths for the tires down to the pavement. I figured the car wouldn't slide if the tires were in direct contact with the concrete, instead of sitting on packed ice. As I pulled the car in again, the back tires hit ice and slid. The car is now sitting sideways in the driveway with its back end in the plant bed next to the drive. I turned the tires parallel to the street, so it can't slide out anymore. I decided I did not want to move that car until the after-storm melting was well under way. I don't remember this type of activity being a part of past snow days.
I have enjoyed these days. I have taken Sam out several times to search for cleared areas so he doesn't have to get buried alive in order to relieve himself. I took pictures of the snow. I took dinner to my neighbor. Best of all I spent most of my time next to a nice fire, with a cup of hot chocolate, working on paintings. I have been able to try some new techniques, and finish the paintings without feeling rushed. I have been planning and working on these for months, and trying to get the final work just right. But there is something about being surrounded by the calm stillness of new snow that helps me let go of trying so hard to get it all right. I have been able to sit back and look at my work with new eyes. Then see where to do more, and let the rest just be.
It helped me finish my paintings as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie Moment Part 1

There are those moments, you know the ones. When you look back, even if it was only 5 minutes ago, it is as though it could not have been better even if there had been an award winning script writer, set designers, casting agents, photographers, producer and a director. I was just watching the dvd of the 1999 London stage production of "Oklahoma". Loved it. It not only brought back great memories of London (not hard to do, I have so many of them) but also one of my movie moments.
I was a senior at Davis High School, the only high school with a Dart for a mascot, but that's another story. I was a new student there, just moved to town, trying to find my place. I tried out for the school musical, and got the part of Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma". I had no idea how great the theater department was at Davis, but quickly became very impressed. Our director, Sjob had a way of knowing how to bring the best people in who could get the best out of the student cast. I soon decided I had the best part in the musical, and I loved every part of being in it. I got to know everyone in the cast and crew, had a great time at the rehearsals, loved becoming Aunt Eller. All the cowboys were guys on the football team who took dancing lessons because the coach knew it would improve their coordination. Dancing football cowboys, instant friends, a great character part. What's not to love?
The technical, costume run through was on my birthday. I didn't have plans for my 18th, thought no one I knew would want to do anything after school with such a long rehearsal to get through. There is a scene where Aunt Eller is encouraging the farmers and the cowmen to be friends, but they keep getting into fights. At one point, I pull out a gun and fire it into the air to stop a fight, then point it at one of the farmers and tell him to sing about getting along. The cue is "Dum-diddy-um-dum-dum", then everyone is supposed to sing,"oh, the farmer and the cowmen should be friends" with scared looks on their faces. But at this point in the run through, they didn't look scared, they looked excited. Then they all, all 40 cast and crew and all the orchestra started singing, "Happy Birthday to You". Curly and Laura brought in a table with a huge birthday cake on it. I was stunned. Sjob, everyone in the musical, my family had all arranged to use the run through to surprise me on my birthday.
For a geeky new girl turning 18, it doesn't get better than that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Turn Around . . .

Anna has been drawing ever since she could grip a marker in her one year old hands. She would draw on anything, with anything. She was also good at multi-tasking. She could be drawing, and I would ask her something. She'd look up and talk to me while her hands continued to draw. Then she would look down as though nothing had interrupted. There were (and still are) many moments like this with each of my children when I wonder, "How did this strange and wonderful creature end up here, a part of my life?"
Now here she is, like the others, tall and gorgeous, and finding her way through the amazing, wonderful and frightening world. I prayed for strong willed children. I wanted children who would want to know and be willing to seek answers, to learn for themselves the miraculous life that is possible for them. Yes, at times I wonder what I was thinking, and wish that, for a time, they would just be blindly obedient. But most of the time, I am in awe. And I am grateful I get to be their mother.
I wonder if she still has that mystical awareness of the powerful creation that can flow from her hands. Has she become caught up in the physical act of seeing only with her eyes, or of seeing only what she thinks she already knows about herself? Can she still recall what it is like to just let wonder and beauty appear in the space around her, just because she picks up the tools and lets them move?
I might wonder about the things I would do differently, but I would not want to return to those early years. I want to relish today with her, even as she gets ready to take off again. Anna, just for a moment, do me a favor. Turn around.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get a Day Job, and Marry Well

My daughter, Anna is visiting this week. She is a busy college student who is generously spending some of her fall break with her parents. In spite of my best efforts, she chose not to major in something that would lead to her finding a cure for cancer. She is majoring in art, which is what I got my degree in. My advice to her - "Get a day job, and marry well." She asked if that meant she had to marry someone rich. No, marry someone who will be patient, understanding and happily supportive of the visual creative process that takes so much energy, time, resources and covers every horizontal surface of your home. One advantage of this to the artist's spouse, the possibility of earning sainthood in this life. I asked her to really think about how much of the house has always been taken over because of my involvement in creating and teaching art, and how her dad has not only accepted it, but encouraged and enjoyed it (He really likes it when I use his power tools in my artwork). After a pause she said, "Wow, yeah."
As for the day job - It would be nice if every good artist could make a living creating their best, original art. Unfortunately, good artists rank even lower than good teachers as far as recognition and compensation. But good artists often (not always) make excellent teachers. The practice of visual creation helps in the practice of creation with space, time and people which is essential for effective teaching. I hope Anna will choose to be one. She would be great.
So this week, we are creating art together. She wants to pillage my studio, and I will let her since she is taking a bookbinding class, and since she is willing to let me teach her a few things. That is a rare gift to a parent from a college student. In between all this there is hiking, swimming and biking with her dad. I want her to see that I am not the only one of her parents who married well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

That's Bookmaker, Not Bookie

I am a Book Artist, sometimes called a Bookmaker. Yes, I usually get a confused or even concerned look from people when they hear me say that. " write books?" Sometimes I write the words that I then letter in the books, but I am not an author. "Oh. illustrate books?" I paint and collage the pages of the books I make, but I am not an illustrator. I make books, and sometimes I design and make a book so that the book itself is a piece of art. Most of the classes I have taught during the last 10 years have to do with making books.
Here is the great thing about books - You can use all 5 of your senses when you look at a book. You see it (Not just to read it. Some books will sell solely on the power of the cover art, especially if that includes the words "Oprah's Book Club Choice".), touch it (Admit it, there is something comforting about holding a well bound book in your hand) , there is sound made when your hands move across the covers and turn the pages (anyone who has tried reading in bed when the person next to them is a light sleeper knows this), taste it (No, I am not suggesting a literal devouring of the pages. But think of how often the combination of other senses with descriptive words such as those in "My Life In France" will cause drooling, uh, I mean salivating.), and the scent of the book can be very subtle, or strong enough to take you back to when you were curled in your dad's lap, and he would read stories from a book full of pictures you could enjoy as you thought how brilliant he was to be able to decipher the words that were still a mystery to you.
I have loved books since I first got my grubby little hands on one. I have been a book artist for almost as long. Just ask my mom how often I drew in, painted, cut and tore pages in my favorite books. Now I make books where every surface, even the thin edge of the page is covered with my painting, lettering and collage.
Some say the printed book is dying, and the future is all electronic. I agree there is a place for this Kindle thing, and someday I might own one when I can no longer carry all the books I want with me on a trip (oh wait, I've never been able to do that). But the printed book is too much a part of human history (that story would fill a whole library), too much a part of our senses. I only hope that Mark Twain's quote - "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" will always apply to books. If nothing else, it gives children who are read to several wonderful years of believing they have brilliant, omniscient parents.