Thursday, July 31, 2008

. . . endured scorn, humiliation

as only a mother can, from her child. I told my daughter yesterday that I had purchased my first Itunes for my Ipod. All the other songs on my Ipod had been downloaded from my computer. I was proud of myself that I had figured out how to do it all by myself. She said, "And what did you pay $.99 for?" I hesitated. . . I knew what was coming. . . reluctantly I gave out what I thought would be the least objectionable artist, Dusty Springfield. "DUSTY SPRINGFIELD?? What songs?" "Well, one was 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." "Oh, for god's sake, Dusty Springfield. What else?"

Okay, now, this was getting to be kind of fun. . . how loud could I make her groan. "Well, Andy Williams's 'It's My Happy Heart.' " Complete silence for a beat or two. "Oh, I don't believe it. Anything but Andy Williams." For some reason Andy Williams was proof positive of my total lack of musical judgment. "What else, Mom?" I'm thinking, let's cut to the chase, let's give out the really big one, the one I know she'll freak over. " 'I Am Woman' by Helen Reddy." Hysterial laughter from the other end of the phone line. "Has Matt seen your playlist?" No, Matt has not seen my playlist, and at this rate, no one younger than 50 will ever get a look at it. "Matt bags on my playlist, I wonder what he'd say about yours." I don't want to know. "Mom, do you have anything on that Ipod that was created after, oh, say, 1985?" "Well, I think I have one John Mayer song." "That's a start. You should try. . . " (and here she listed several artists that she thought I would enjoy, but I have already forgotten them.) What Stef doesn't know yet, but will when she reads this, is that I also downloaded "Afternoon Delight". Yeah, that one. What a catchy little tune, don't you think?

My kids grew up listening to my music . . . on the car radio, but mostly on Saturday mornings when I cleaned the house. I would put an album on the stereo or in the tape deck, and sing and dance while I dusted and vacuumed. They were trying to sleep until noon. It was a small house with naturally good acoustics. I played mostly Motown, which is still my favorite. But I still believe that the best rock songs were created absolutely prior to 1985, and possibly prior to 1975. And I still think Dusty Springfield's "Tupelo Honey" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" are as good as it gets.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

. . . expressed my amazement

Dan Quayle? A contestant on Dancing with the Stars? Puhleeze. (Sometimes I just have nothing to add to the discussions, so this is a very short blog post.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

. . . gathered the neighbors

Cropped and enlarged segment of photograph of something unidentifiable but cool

Since I have moved my center of operation of my furniture painting assignments from my newly-painted and beautiful back porch and deck to the garage at the front of the house, I have had a steady stream of neighbors dropping by to see what I'm doing. Yesterday I purchased two cheap plastic stacking chairs for the front of the house. Now the neighbors and I no longer have to sit on the concrete driveway to chat and wait for paint to dry. Kids come by often, too, on their bikes or big wheel trikes. I used to work with a young father who lived on a corner lot in a big development. He told me that he could tell "cul-de-sac kids" from other kids. He was nervous when his kids had friends over who lived on cul-de-sacs. . . he claimed they had no concept of staying safely out of the street. I guess I kind of understand that. Most of the kids on this street know that the entrance to the cul-de-sac is as far as they can safely travel. There isn't a lot of traffic on our street. . . mostly it's the people who live here and are aware that kids are everywhere in the summertime.

The weather people warned us that Monday would be the hottest and most uncomfortable day of the year so far. . . temperatures in the mid- to high-90s and the heat index of 107 degrees. But it was cloudy and rainy all day, only got to the mid-80s. We here in Kansas are feeling the last bits left of Hurricane Dolly; it's supposed to storm again this afternoon. So we'll probably have temperatures in the 100s and unrelenting sunshine. I hate those summer days when its so hot that even the blue sky looks white and the light is just so flat.

Today I plan to do something artistic to the red painted bureau. . . I am going to experiment with mixing glaze with a dark brown paint, hopefully making it a bit less opaque, and doing something painterly over the top of the red. You know how you can put a coat of medium over a part of your painting and then experiment over the top of it, and if you don't like what happens, you can just basically wipe it off before it dries and you're back to where you started? I wish there was something like that for furniture (there probably is, but I just don't know about it) but I don't want to waste my expensive art media on this furniture. I will try the technique on a small area and if I don't like it, I will just paint over it again. But sometimes you can't get the full effect until the whole object is painted. Just another small arc in the learning curve.

Monday, July 28, 2008

. . . changed my mind

Digital collage using scans of used paper towels and garden photos

Yesterday my husband helped me hang the doors back on the black ornate sideboard . . . it's almost done. I just have to sand down the hardware so that it has a brushed silver tone, reattach all the door handles, and finish off a coat of polyurethane. It looks amazing, but I don't want to show a picture of it until it's completely done.

I finished painting another chest in antique white. I looked at it from all angles, gave another coat or two of paint; sanded the shit out of it; sanded down the edges; repainted the edges. Nothing could make that thing look any more than it is. . . a thrift-store find. So I changed directions. . . now it's on its way to becoming a Chinese red thrift-store find. It already looks better.

On HGTV this weekend I saw David Bromstead redo an "eclectic" dining room in turquoise, salmon and black. He painted an estate sale sideboard bright turquoise. I didn't care much for the entire room, but I noticed his assistants painting that thing. . . they didn't even take the doors off. (By the way, Jennifer from Olathe is a finalist on HGTV's Next Design Star, the only reality show I like. Take a minute to vote for her, if you like. She's so full of energy and cheer.)

I am still trying to figure out how to produce a glossy finish without leaving brush strokes. I've used every kind of roller imagineable, as well as good brushes and I've sanded between coats. One young man at the hardware store enthusiasctically told me his version of how to do it, and when he finished, he grinned and said, "I just love to paint." Me, too. . .

Many thanks to Laura at for the blog award. Please take a moment and check out her blog. Also Seth at is getting ready to start another series of artists interveiws, including me. Check out his great blog if you haven't already.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

. . . compiled texture shots

Digital collage created from personal photographs

While I have been concentrating lately on painting furniture instead of art, I have also, during the breaks and while waiting for paint to dry, been compiling shots of textures to use in my playing around with digital collages. Once I recognized the variety of textures there were right in my house and yard, I have gradually been building up this supply. I know there are free photos available in various places; in fact, I referenced at least one flickr site in a previous blog posting. But I like the idea that what I'm using is completely my own creation. So I take pictures of or scan items like the driveway cracks (most often not a positive thing); the wicker woven placemants; the holes in a stainless steel cooking implement; a pleated lampshade. You get the picture. (Ha, an unintentional pun.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

. . . haunted Home Depot

digital collage using my own photographs
Since this furniture painting gig has started, I have been to Home Depot, Lowe's, and Ace Hardware stores about once a day, sometimes more than that. I switch off between the stores so that no one store gets too used to seeing me around, although Home Depot is closest and I end up there most often. It's not my favorite. Mostly I get good advice, although sometimes one store's advice will be directly opposite of what another store's already told me. There is a learning curve here, but then isn't there always when you're starting something new and different.
So yesterday it was very hot and humid. It rained for a while early in the morning and when the sun came out, it was stifling. But I wanted to finish that black sideboard and start on another chest, so I'm out on the driveway sanding away. The sweat was actually dripping off me onto the pieces I was sanding. Gross. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I don't sweat like that often. . . I mean, you know you are dirty when you step into the shower and the water that runs off you is brown, and to be honest, I don't enjoy being hot and sweaty.
The hardware on the drawers of the sideboard are held in by four screws on two handles on two doors: 16 screws. They have proven to be impossible to unscrew. Regular screwdrivers are too large; the tip of one of my knives snapped right off; the sewing machine screwdriver was the right size, but I couldn't budge the screws at all. I kept thinking "righty tighty lefty loosy" to make sure I was turning the screws in the proper direction, all to no avail. One of my many character flaws is that I am single-minded: I wanted to get this project done and move on to the next one. So, sweat-stained, covered with sawdust, and wearing my nasty old khaki paint-stained cargo shorts and tiny splotched T-shirt, my hair uncombed, wringing wet and tucked under a pink John Deere ballcap, I hopped in the car and went to Home Depot. Not a pretty picture. But I'm thinking, who do I need to impress? No one.
As I drive to Home Depot, I'm also thinking that my mother would throw a fit if she saw me going anywhere looking like I did. When I was a kid, I was not allowed to go downtown in shorts. I had to put on a skirt. And this was a downtown that covered maybe a two-block area. We had to get dressed up to go shopping in Topeka or Emporia. Sunday church was a fashion event. Everything we wore was always ironed crisply, mostly by us girls. I remember one time when we were in high school, my sister was sunbathing in the back yard. A car pulled up to the curb and she went to talk to the occupants in her swimsuit. I don't think there were boys in the car, just girls. But she got in into a whole pile of trouble for that. (One of the few times she got in trouble and I didn't.) To this day, I don't think I have ever seen my mom looking as nasty as I did yesterday. Surely she must sometimes. . . I know she still cleans her own house and works in the yard. Oh, sure, as the standards of appearance have relaxed, she has too, to some extent. She may wear a nice pair of slacks or even ironed jeans sometimes. But I know she puts on make-up and jewelry to go to her Thursday morning coffee with the girls at the local restaurant. It's really no wonder that my sisters and I were fashion fanatics, is it? (The operative word here is "were" for me anyway.) Maybe I should raise the level of sloppiness a bit. . . And I still don't have the screws removed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

. . . related childish romances

Digital collage using my own photographs and backgrounds.

Last week, neighbor kid Grayson (age 4) told neighbor kid Stella (also age 4) that he loved her and was going to marry her. Stella's mom and I looked at each other in amazement and then Stella's mom gave a wry little sad kind of smile and said, "Oh, you are?" The next day Grayson came over to play with Stella and my Betsy, very proud, and showed us the ring he had brought for Stella, a fake David Yurman-like ring that I'm sure he either took from or was given to him by his mom. It was lovely for a four-year-old. How cute? Minutes later, he was ratting Stella out, reporting to us that Stella had hit Betsy (as it happens, totally by accident, no injuries, no hard feelings.)

Yesterday my daughter Stephanie was reporting on Betsy's last day of swimming lessons. Betsy is 3 1/2, will be four in late November. She told me that Betsy had learned a lot, loved the water, and she could see the improvement. Then she told me that she had seen Chase (age 4) and Betsy kissing in the pool. And not just little pecks on the cheeks, she said, but full-out smacks on the lips. Stef said she hoped Betsy would not grow up to be the "pool slut". . . (and didn't we all know them?) Stef asked Betsy if they had been kissing, and Betsy just nonchalantly said that they had, no big deal for her. I suggested that Stef relate the story to Betsy's Uncle Matt. . . who threatens to take out anyone who messes with Betsy, or alternatively, to teach Betsy how to do it herself. Keep your mitts off Betsy.

Thank God that these are still little kids . . . in ten years or so, there might be something to worry about.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

. . . sanded, cleaned, sanded

Isn't this just a beautiful piece of wood? It is one of two doors on the front of a rather large cabinet that "the boss" dropped off last week. If the rest of the piece was as gorgeous as the doors, I would rebel at painting it. Unfortunately, it's rather rough other places and just can't be fixed any other way than painting it. There's a piece that is attached to the back of the cabinet that has a matching carved element in the center of it. Above the two doors are two drawers with nice hardware that I will try to reclaim. Brainstorming with "the boss" yesterday when he dropped by even more stuff to paint, we decided to try to find a way to paint away the bad spots and unify the piece, while letting the grain of the wood show through. He thought about Minwax stain, but decided that probably wouldn't work. He thought perhaps a flat black color would be good, maybe with the edges roughed up to give it the look of age. Maybe I will try to dilute some black latex with water and apply washes. Anybody know if this will work? It's a good thing that I don't need or want anything in the way of furniture, or I'd be lusting after this piece. I will show the finished product.

There is something almost calming about sanding, especially when the finish isn't that tough to begin with. I sometimes can't stop until the piece is completely free of the old varnish. It's kind of instant gratification. I bought a new little "mouse" sander to replace the one I dropped too many times. I wanted to get an little orbital sander, but it was out of stock. When I was first married, we were the recipients of many pieces of family "heirlooms" (read junk that no one else wanted) and we used to refinish furniture the hard way, with toxic stripper and hand sanding. This little mouse is clever and easy to use and the deglosser I found takes care of the little nooks and crannies that the mouse can't get into.

The shop is set to open on September 1. "The boss" wants to feature the painted furniture. I have been looking in shelter magazines and catalogs for inspiration. I can't believe how popular the painted pieces are and how nice they all look. I hope that the store will be wildly successful, even though I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. "The boss" is a pretty hip old guy (oh, okay, just a few years older than me, so he's really not all that old) with tons of retail furniture and design experience. Plus he loves my art, so obviously he has class and style.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

. . . felt human again

What luxury it is to go to the hairdresser. . . or whatever they're called these days. "Do you have time for a scalp massage?" Do you have to ask? Of course. Three or four times a year, I indulge myself and spend a couple of hours chatting with Bobbie, who shares my interest in gardening; reading all the celebrity magazines that I never buy to find out what Angelina Jolie's youngest daughter is doing to prepare for her twin siblings and how her potty training is coming along; checking out the latest stylists and their young assistants for how many different shades of orange and purple are in their hair styles this week; and generally just taking it easier than usual while Bobbie works wonders with my hair.

So I hand Bobbie the little pieces of foil while she meticulously parts and paints my tresses, wraps them up and layers them on my thick head of hair until tin is sticking out in all directions. Then she turns me loose while the potion works its magic. I usually go outside and sit in the tiny seating area provided right on the sidewalk. Several years ago I was sitting there and some guy jumped out of a car in the street, ran up to the salon, peered through the window in the door, turned around, grabbed my purse from beside my feet, and ran back to the car and made his getaway with his female accomplice. He didn't get any money, but they went on several shopping sprees at Dillards and Nordstroms, as well as several grocery stores on the Missouri side (where liquor is available and it's not on the Kansas side.) About $10,000 and months later, after many headaches, police reports, letters from creditors demanding recompense, etc., things were straightened out again, and I still sit out there, but now without my purse. Yesterday a gentleman was walking past on the other side of the street, apparently coming home from work with his lunch bucket, hard hat and cellphone. He looked at me as though he couldn't believe his eyes. . . he even turned around to get a better view. I guess the halo of foil was a distraction.

The picture above is another paper towel that I used to clean up paint. It could easily be cropped in half, upper part and lower. I wish my paintings could be as exurberant and random as these little pieces of trash.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

. . . painted random bits

and pieces of things I had laying around the studio. It was way too hot to work outside on the furniture painting, which is at this point really sanding, and I don't want to do that in the house. Besides, I dropped my little "mouse" sander and it broke, and instead of vibrating rapidly, it just kind of sits there and shivers. There were people in my house working and I had to stay out of their way, so I went down to the studio. This picture is just one of the odds and ends I had around, leftover paint on brushes used for other purposes, applied to paper with various texturizing tools. Completely random and I think kind of interesting.

Today I finally have my hair done again. It's been a long time and it's grown way too long for an old lady. I have been going to Bobbie for a long time. . . 12 years maybe. She was voted the best hair stylist in the KC area by some magazine a couple of years ago, and now I have to schedule my appointments way in advance. Good for Bobbie. . . she's wonderful. And she knows that I don't mess around with hair much so she cuts it so I can "style" it, if that's the word, with minimal fuss and bother.

Monday, July 21, 2008

. . . freshened the deck

Here is a shot of the uncovered portion of the back deck, with the floor and the railing newly painted. I would like to find a way to keep the leaves off it permanently, but short of cutting down the tree, I don't think there's a way. That big hedge tree provides a lot of shade, but when the hedge balls fall off, it sounds like bombs hitting the house.

Here's the portion of the deck that's covered, right outside the back door that leads into the family room. The other side entrance steps down to a small brick patio, a rose arbor, and a flower border. It looks so fresh and clean and pretty that I don't really want to put anything back on it. When I took these pictures, the deck was still sticky in spots, even after a day and a half. I'm guessing that's because it reached about 100 degrees here yesterday, and will today, also. But I can't leave the stuff in the yard, like the picture below. . .

I didn't realize how much junk I had on the deck until it was all gathered out in the yard. I will do some judicious editing to determine what comes back up and what gets pitched and what gets sent to "the boss's" store for resale. I wish the guys had put the screens back up . . .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

. . . had overnight visitors

Both babies spent the night with Nana and Papa. Both babies stayed up way past their bedtimes and woke up early, one at 6:00 am and the other at 7:30. Nana and Papa were sorry to see the babies leave a little while ago, but both plan naps this afternoon. Last night we played and sort of took a bath in the kiddie pool, watched as they and the neighbor kids rode their Barbie Jeeps, miniature 4-wheelers, and John Deere tractors; took a real bath; read stories and stories and stories; had ice cream bars and drinks of pop; watched the Berenstein Bears until late. Just did all the things that they don't usually get to do, but I'm just trying to fulfill my role as grandmother. It is blistering hot this morning, and only going to get worse. I'm glad all my deck furniture and painting equipment is still out in the back yard; that will keep my husband from trying to mow the lawn. Not the ideal conditions for him to be exerting a lot of effort. I'm even too hot and tired to go for a drive to take pictures. . . I wanted to go look for interesting old architectural details, but I'll wait. All the family will be back tonight for supper, so I must now go and look into that nap thing. Golf is on TV, that is so boring I will be asleep in no time at all. No work, no art, today.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

. . . set the table

Here is the pretty little table with a first coat of lacquer. I am a lousy spray painter if neatness counts. But I doing pretty well until I switched to a new can of paint. There was something wrong wrong wrong with it. It dripped all over the top, dammit. . . ergo the sanded spots. I hope sanding them out will work. I'm thinking maybe I should switch to brushing on the paint. The top had a lot of glue on it left over from the laminated layer, and it took a lot to get that all sanded off. I think I will stickk to just one color and skip the decorations for a while. . . it's quicker and to me, more elegant.

And here's the thing . . . it's already sold. One of my neighbors was over visiting while I was working on it, and she called "the boss" and bought it on the spot. There were a bunch of kids over, too. . . you can see their artwork on the driveway rendered in chalk. The chalk kept them busy for a while, but they are all intrigued by the painting and want to try their hand at it. I'm thinking about hauling a bunch of old wooden boxes up from the basement and letting them have at it. . . they might turn out kind of cool, who knows?

And just to keep you real artists interested. . . here is a picture of my painted door knob sitting on a brick. . . rather artistically inspired, don't you think?

Friday, July 18, 2008

. . . painted more furniture

Above is the small chest that I mostly finished yesterday. It's kind of "beach cottage", maybe a nautical theme, as it turns out. . . and I even reattached the hinges. . .

Here are the wooden balls that I will paint with blue dots and attach to the doors of the blue beach cottage chest.

And here is the plant stand that is almost finished, too. After I put the deglosser on this piece and took off all the dirt, it almost looked too good to paint. Coincidentally, while I hand-painted this thing white in the front of the house, in the garage, the guys in the back of the house were spray painting white on the house. I probably could have asked them to blast this thing with their power-sprayer, and they could have had it done in about thirty seconds. But that would have been cheating. . . wouldn't it?

I sanded off the edges and today will apply a wash to age it just a bit more. Then it's done.

My friend dropped by two more pieces yesterday, as well as a couple of magazine/catalogs for inspiration. The new pieces are massive and will take a while to complete. One is an unbelievably beautiful sideboard with carved details on the drawers and doors; the other is an old oak dresser. But my next project is the round table with the beautiful pedestal base and cool feet. I think "the boss" wants that a glossy black. So I better figure out how to do that.

One of the catalogs he brought was from Pottery Barn. There are pieces in that catalog that have a "sandrift gray finish" -- looks kind of gray-green. The description indicates that such a finish is achieved by layering "eggplant, taupe and blue washes, then sanding and glazing for depth and luster." Who would have thought that particular combination of washes would end up gray-green? Not me. I will have to try it out just for shits and giggles. Another finish is "antique honey." It kind of looks like a golden (but not metallic) opaque layer antiqued with dark stain. Espresso, black, ivory, antiqued red. . . all good painted furniture colors if you're a Pottery Barn fan. And probably a lot easier to accomplish than all the fussy little details. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

. . . made some discoveries

My neighbor, Morgan, age 8, wants me to paint the inside to look like a cheetah. Her brother Grayson, age 4, wants me to paint it "slime green."

Here is the small wooden cabinet I worked on yesterday. I am happy to say that all went well; it was not a frustrating experience at all. I took the drawer out, and the doors and all the hardware off. Of course that means I'll have to put it all back on again, too. This is the blank canvas for future embellishment.

I had to move my center of operations from the back porch to the garage because of the deck painters. I took a picture of the drawer and the doors, but as I was cropping that picture, I found this wonderful crop of the garage floor. Okay, yeah, it's tweaked a bit, but it doesn't it look a bit like Jamali's background from the picture yesterday? Who knew the nasty garage floor could be so cool?

In the top picture, just visible behind the blue cabinet, is a wonderful table with a marvelous base and interesting feet. The top was veneer and the veneer was removed because of damage. Otherwise the table is really in pretty great shape. I have discovered something called "liquid sandpaper" or "deglosser" that is supposed to soften up the finish on a piece so that it will accept a new coat of paint. It works beautifully and is reasonably priced. A long time ago, I experimented with making my own paper by using multiple layers of crinkled tissue paper and glue, painting the tissue paper between layers when it was dry. The result was heavy paper that looked like leather. I think I'm going to try that technique on the top of this table, finishing it off with some heavy-duty sealer. Any advice?

I had to go buy paint for the deck and railings yesterday. I went to Sherwin Williams because that's where we had bought the house paint before. As I was waiting, I browsed for color inspiration. I noticed that many of their paints used the term "acrylic" instead of the term "latex." I asked the man who waited on me what was the difference. He said they were the same, but he looked at me like I was a crazed lunatic. But that could have been because he had the buggiest eyes I have ever seen . . . he looked like he was glaring at me, but I don't think he was. Anyway, does anyone know if there is a difference? Can you use "acrylic" house paint in art?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

. . . browsed a magazine

(Top photo) Every once in a while, I will buy a "Florida Design" magazine ( when I'm flush and need some inspiration. The homes in that magazine are quite over the top. . . I can just picture my blog-friend Martha Marshall living in one of those palaces or better yet, moving to one soon. Floridians must have a fine appreciation for abstact art, because I can always find a room or three dozen that feature amazing contemporary art. The ads are almost more fun that the editorial content. Volume 18#2 that I just purchased has a full-page ad for the artist Jamali. The art above is from that ad. It's called "Whirling Dervish", and is pigmentation on cork. I have never seen Jamali anywhere else but in this magazine, but he must be fairly successful, don't you think, since according to the ad he has two galleries in Florida and two in New York City. Plus a full-page ad in a glossy design magazine is certainly not in my budget.

My first impression of this painting was "I love it." My second and third, too. Then I looked closely. . . the background looked familiar. Ah, yes, that's it. . . the surface on which I have painted for a couple of years looks amazingly like this. Except my background is pink. And I haven't yet put the dervishes on it. But isn't that just a great example of recyclable art? It also reminded me of one of Karen Jacobs's blog posts where she decided to have her picture taken in front of the splattered place where she works on her art. Please don't misunderstand this post. I'm betting Jamali didn't just pick up his painting surface and decide to put feature it in his Florida Design ad. But it certainly brought my attention to an additional source of random art.

(Bottom 2 photos) Then on the other side of the art spectrum . . . way way over on the other side. . . perhaps so far over it's really not on the spectrum at all. . .here are a couple of pictures of the small chest I worked on yesterday. Not completed yet, but set aside for a while. I want to go on record here as saying that I am not a furniture refinisher. Don't know anything about it, but am learning as I go along. I can't even begin to tell you how frustrating it was to do this chest. . . and it took all day. . . and I had to finish it and get it off the porch because today (finally) people are here to clean and paint the deck and railings. I am proud of myself because (a) I got it done and (b) I didn't say f. .k it all and do a crappy job, even when at 6:30 p.m. the white layer of paint peeled off the surface of one of the drawers, along with two of the diamonds. I just started again. . . This is beginning to be more like a job. . . I know when I finish what I have to do, I will be ready to go to the studio and actually paint something other than furniture.

Blogger was giving me trouble loading photos. . . was it just me?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

. . . revived a POS

As promised here are some pictures of the P(iece) O(f) S(hit) bookshelf that I was asked to repaint. I think it's an improvement. I should have taken some "before" shots, so that you all might see the difference.

I wanted to try the black-and-white checks, but I didn't want to stencil it, so I used the square end of a sponge make-up wedge to paint them on top. It wasn't quite random, but pretty close.
You may notice a slit of light coming through the back. . . the top piece of the back is warped and has come loose from the shelf in places. I wasn't hired to repair the stuff so I left it the way it was. The owner can decide whether to remove or repair it, or just leave it as is.

I painted black stripes down both sides, with added pinstripes of white that are not visible in this picture. Subtle.

So much for the Chinese red/mid-Century modern (you can tell from the legs)/country French bastardized bookshelf. And I just noted that you could all see my filthy rug that needs to be replaced, too. What a treat for you all. Let's just say this is not my proudest moment as an artist, and leave it at that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

. . . made a discovery

messing around with Photoshop. It's the photocopy filter -- I supposed everyone already knew about this, but I think it's beyond cool. I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with this new-found knowledge, but it's ready to be utilized when the need arises. Maybe carving a stamp? a stencil? I have so much trouble with that kind of stuff -- can't ever figure out what needs to be cut away and what needs to stay. It's the negative space thing, I guess. Can't wrap my mind around it without a lot of concentration, which is in short supply. Maybe this would help: just cut away everything that's not black. . . or white. . . ?
The furniture store friend dropped by with four pieces yesterday: a small table with a pedestal; a plant stand; a small chest with a drawer and doors; and a mid-century modern looking bookshelf. I opted to start on the bookshelf. . . it was already painted that old industrial strength grayish-green. I figured I couldn't screw that up too much. I cleaned it, sanded it, and gave it two coats of primer. Now it's a blank canvas waiting for me. I keep trying to picture that thing where it might be of use in a house to help me decide how to proceed. The furniture store guy basically just told me to do what I do and not to worry. . . I think he wants it sort of "artsy" as opposed to "cutesy". Good thing. . . I can do cutesy, but I don't like it. Pictures tomorrow, I promise, no matter how it turns out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

. . . walked the trail

There is something called the Streamway Park trail in our county. It is a hiking, walking, bike-riding paved pathway that meaders from the Kansas River in the north to the county line in the south, I think. . . that's the theory, anyway, although I haven't been on it any further south than this area I'm showing you today. It's a wonderful idea . . . the path winds through parks, along streams and creeks; part of it was close to where we used to live, part of it went through the neighborhood my daughter used to live in; and part of it is where I go to photograph trains, with little luck so far. There are houses nearby in some places, but usually you can't see signs of civilization when you're on the path.
The area I was in last week has either been allowed to revert to the natural grasses that grow on the prairie, or has never been disturbed. The native plants that grow, which I guess would be weeds in a planned and landscaped yard, look fabulous and lush this year with all the rain we've had. I took this picture and adjusted it, increasing the saturation and pushing the boundaries for color.
When I see areas that have not been disturbed by 21st Century progress, like some of these areas, I wonder about the native Americans who made their homes on this prairie. . . or the pioneer families that set out from "civilization" to settle here and parts west. I don't think I would have been a very good pioneer or native woman. I'm glad I live in a time when modern conveniences make life a lot easier. I can't imagine having to devote my entire life to keeping a prairie sod hut free of dirt, raising kids, and cooking everything from scratch, let alone growing or hunting the food and preparing it, living in the elements and living with the constant threat of losing my life to some random occurence like a tornado or a snakebite.
Perhaps some day, 100 years in the future, my great-granddaughter will communicate in a way that we can't even conceive of today about how she's glad she wasn't a woman in the 2000s. I wish I could live long enough to experience all those changes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

. . . were gainfully employed

Mackenzie-Childs bombe chest; must go to right home and be put in the right place; bun feet...too cool

Well, lunch yesterday was all about me painting some furniture for a friend who is opening a store soon. He wants to offer affordable and unique gently-used furniture to the discerning public.

Mackenzie-Childs bombe chest; ooh, love black & white stripes and checks.

He said I would have total artistic freedom. I could paint whatever I wanted to on whatever pieces I wanted to. I would also assist him in setting up an internet presence for his store, through a blog or a website, or whatever I could come up with. And in exchange, he would feature my art, any of it, in any way I wanted. He would also set up an area in his store for me to paint, as opposed to having the furniture in my basement.

Mackenzie-Childs mirror; again with the black and white.

The only limitations: keep it affordable so that both he and I could make a profit. Well, there are other limitations, too, really: I have never painted furniture before, although I have painted on wood. I have never even liked painted furniture, although I do think the pieces above are kick-ass. But they are very very expensive. There's a reason they are expensive, too. But, WTF, I'm going for it. Artistic and personal freedom, experimenting, somewhere to go when I feel like it, some extra $$, it's worth a shot. I wonder how the blue church bus would look on a desk; or the red tow truck on a chair; or the rusted trash bins on a table?

Friday, July 11, 2008

. . . just kept trying

Here's a really bad picture of the three panels that I've been working on for way too long for what they are. Now that I have the first layers on all three, I'm going to try to figure out what I can do to make them more interesting. I think I'll try Martha Marshall's trick of working on them in Photoshop for ideas.
My horoscope tells me that I will have a 5-star day. "You say what you think and you mean what you say. Others might have difficulty grasping how very sure you are of yourself and your needs. Tonight: Getting wiser by the second." I don't set much store in horoscopes, which is a good thing, because this doesn't describe me at all. I do hope, however, that I will get wiser by the second tonight. Look forward to it.
I read that blogs showing pictures of kids are magnets for pervs who want to perform unspeakable acts upon them. Naturally I see this the day after Betsy and Joey are on my blog. The internet is a wonderful thing, but this aspect (and some others) of it is sick.
I have a lunch meeting today with someone who may provide new sources of marketing my art, so I hope all goes well. According to my horoscope, I will be dynamite.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

. . . featured the babies

I took almost 100 pictures of the grandkids on the 4th of July, just before they left for their visit to Columbus, Ohio "for a million weeks" according to Betsy, to visit their other Papa and Nana. Betsy had a pen or pencil in her hand in a lot of shots. I wish I could say she was drawing, but she likes to pretend that she's writing. . . notes, secrets, bills, statements, important correspondence, books, stories. . . making her mark.

And little Joey. . . isn't he just a babe? A slobbering babe? Poor little fellow, his molars are breaking through and he has a hard time with that. When you think about what these little ones go through during their first couple of years, with growth spurts and shots and learning to walk and falling down all the time and running into things and getting teeth and trying to learn to talk. . . no wonder they cry sometimes. I'd cry, too. I'd be frustrated beyond my tolerance.

I hope they come back sooner than a million weeks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

. . . celebrated an anniversary

On July 9, 1971, A Friday evening, two ridiculously young, idealistic and fundamentally dumb kids stood up before a priest, their families and friends and vowed to love, honor and cherish forever and forever, not having any idea how long forever could be. And they said it wouldn't last. . . ha, ha, ha (that's the last laugh.)

Our wedding was nice enough but bore no actual resemblence to the extravaganzas that pass for today's weddings. I bought my gown on sale for $100 at a local department store; my mom made my two sisters' bridemaid dresses (out of navy blue calico -- it was sort of a hippy wedding), we wore flowers in our hair, and we had cake, punch and mints (provided by my dad, the baker) in the church basement. No sit-down dinners for 500 of our closest friends; no DJ, no dancing, no music at all. The honeymoon was short -- a weekend, because I had to be back at work on Monday. I don't think my parents knew that my husband didn't have a job at that particular time, but he was playing baseball and he had to be back for a game, too. I remember it being very hot and humid, and I remember being embarrassed upon returning to my parents' house to pick up some wedding presents on the way back to our house, because now they knew for a fact that I had done "it."

One of the promises I extracted from my husband before we got married was that he return to school, and he kept his promise. I worked for an insurance company and went to Washburn University at night; he worked in an orphanage for a while, taking care of a bunch of grade school kids that became part of our family; then he worked at a tire factory on the late shift, and then he managed a gas station, all the while going to school at KU full-time. It was actually fun . . . all our friends were as broke as we were, so we all helped each other out when needed.

Since that day, we have added two kids to the family, then a son-in-law; and now two grandbabies. We moved countless times; we lived in horrible places and wonderful places; we survived our teenage kids and their college years. We mourned the deaths of both of our fathers. We fought (I broke a window once when I threw a shoe at my husband, back in the day -- it didn't hit him) and we made up and renegotiated and readjusted and we mellowed out. And today we have been married for 37 years. Amazing. I remember thinking right before we got married that everything would be fine, we could actually live happily on love and very little money, as long as we were together. I think we have been better together than we would have been separately. But the living on love part. . . not so much. It helps to have another means of support.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

. . . made some decisions

(maybe). I did spend some time down in the studio yesterday. I'm working on a triptych. . . mindless, simple, easy. . . just what I need right now. At this point it is a very simple geometric set of three that may expand to more. I will post it when all three are done. There's a lot of taping and drying time involved just to get the base coats down. When those are done, I think I may try to funk it up a bit, or not, I don't know yet. The picture above is of a bolt on a tank of some sort in the railroad yard in KCK. I love it, and all its permutations that I've been able to come up with in Picasa and Photoshop.
As to the decisions: If I tell you what they are, then I will feel like I really have to do them. And maybe they are ill-advised, I don't know. Do you ever go into your studio and look around at your "stock" and think "what the hell am I supposed to do with all of this?" I started painting because I wanted to. I didn't have any intention of selling anything. I knew my limitations. . . I knew I wasn't good at the marketing part of art. I could probably market someone else's art, but not my own. It's just not in me. I don't like to say "I can't do it." But this comes as close as anything to "I can't do it." I have always thought that I could learn to do just about anything, given enough instructions and education. Yeah, even like brain surgery, eventually.
Then there is the expense of the art supplies. I'm not sure I can justify the expense when I'm not selling anything. And I'm not selling anything because of one or a combination of the following: (a) my stuff sucks; (b) the economy sucks; (c) I'm not trying to sell anything. My husband's heart scare this weekend was an eye-opener. I know he's stressed because of (b) above; being in the car business isn't all that great right now, even when his cars are not the gas-guzzling SUVs. I think I could relieve some of that stress on him by (1) selling my art or (2) going back to work.
So I will try to market this art. For the rest of this summer, I will make every effort, make all the contacts, put myself out there, prepare for rejection, and go for it balls to the wall. I'm starting the process by writing this down for all the 10 or so people who regularly read this blog. If by the fall, say the end of September, nothing has popped, then I will look for a real job doing what I used to do. I was good at what I did, but I haven't done it for five or six years. I will have to start all over again. I have a hard time looking for jobs, too, but at least I know I'm qualified to do what I used to do. Hopefully the extra income (in either scenario) will be enough to alleviate some of my husband's stress, so I can keep him around a while longer. I want him to stick around to see his grandkids grow up. That's enough impetus for me to get myself out there.
I don't think I'll ever quit making art, even with a full-time job. It's become one of those things that I just have to do sometimes. Sometimes it's a chore, I'm uninspired, have other things that need to be done. But there's nothing like the feeling of being in the zone, everything working, loving every minute, solving the obstacles, trying new things, learning, growing, getting better every day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

. . . drifted down stream

That's what it felt like yesterday. . . just drifting, waiting for something to happen. My husband was supposed to come home from the hospital early in the morning, according to his plans. Apparently, doctors and technicians had other plans (for the weekend.) It must be difficult to find staffing for hospitals over holiday weekends. Tests were to be run, delayed, then completed. Results were to be read, delayed, then promised "tomorrow." This sort of thing continued throughout the day, with the result being that he spent another night at the hospital. In a sense, this was good news. . . I can only assume that his ailments were not considered life-threatening or there would have been some sense of urgency. Staying another night would have been a good thing, had he been able to get any rest. In any event, at least he won't be tempted to go to work today as usual. He has to come home to change clothes at least, and while he's here, I will use whatever little influence I may have to prevent that from happening. It was kind of a lonesome useless weekend and I'm ready to start a new week fresh.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

. . . worried about stress

During my lifetime, I have had two hospital stays, for the births of my two children. Had they been born more recently, I would have spent approximately two days in hospitals; back in the day, when they were born, I was required to spend three to five days for each birth. First time, hated it, wanted to go home. Second time, loved it, luxuriated in the ability to stay in bed all day.

However, my husband has spent way way way more than his share of time in hospitals, from the first year we were married to yesterday and today. Mostly he was in there for problems with his knees, which resulted from his football playing days. I have lost count of how many surgeries he's had on those knees, culminating in total knee replacements on both knees while he was in his early 50s. Even those replacements didn't work out very well, the replacements were replaced, and then replaced again.

He had been feeling rotten for several days, and after urging from me and his kids, he took himself to the closest hospital yesterday (after work, of course.) I think he figured they would check him out, give him some medicine, and send him home. Oh, no, he spent the night. . . high blood pressure, cholestrol, low blood sugar; lots of tests, medication for everything, sonograms, EKGs, a bunch of stuff I about which I wasn't informed. But I know what will make him feel better: less work, more fun, less stress, learning how to relax. Go fishing, turn off the cellphone, take more rides, eat healthier and get exercise. Go on vacation. Quit working at a soul-stealing and all-consuming job.

It is seriously going to piss me off if something happens to him before we have had all the fun we need to have.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

. . . roamed the junkyard

Some people go on vacation over the Fourth of July. . . to the beach, to the mountains; others to to family reunions or neighborhood picnics or to the lake. . . not me, nosiree. I go to the junkyard. And it's fine with me. Great inspiration for new art, so much so that I can't wait to get to the studio and get to work.

So we're in an industrial area of Kansas City, Kansas, again. We are underneath a viaduct somewhere, maybe off 10th Street, but I don't know for sure. We found streets of junkyards, all closed but one storage place for those huge trash receptacles that people rent when they are renovating buildings. The area is near the BNSF railroad yards, also pretty much deserted. I get out of the car and start shooting away. Suddenly, KABOOM. . . a little jumpy, I continue, hoping that someone was setting off firecrackers. Then, a proverbial junkyard dog starts howling and growling. Fortunately, it is fenced in, on the other side of the fence from where I am. As I wander farther away from the car, I notice that my husband is getting out of it. This is unusual. . . he usually just humors me as I take pictures and sits in the car listening to a game or sports talk radio. I turn, and there is possibly the dirtiest human I have ever encountered. As my husband and I both approach him, he asks if I am here to buy the merchandise. No, no, no, just taking pictures. I ask if it's all right, and he says it's fine. A nice guy, but a bit startling, coming basically out of nowhere. He wouldn't let me take his picture, though. The man's face was like a topographical map of the Sierra Madre mountains.

Then we ate supper with my daughter and her family. Heard but did not see any fireworks displays, but drove through an area that was getting ready for a huge crowd, apparently. . . cops, signs, orange cones, cordoned-off streets, the whole works. Not for me, no way. All in all, a good day. Hope yours was wonderful, too.
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Friday, July 4, 2008

. . . shot off fireworks

Happy Independence Day to everyone. Went on a very brief photo outing yesterday and found some new inspiration for another series of "heavy equipment" type paintings. This is one of them that sort of seemed to fit the fireworks theme. Instead of the previous "Blue Baptist Church Bus" series, this one is obviously red, juicy rusty red . . . an old tow truck.
As to fireworks, I love them. . . I loved them as a kid, I love them now as a grandma. I love to set them off, not watch them so much. But too bad, it's illegal to set them off. I would probably scare the shit out of the grandbabies anyway. When I was a kid, we had an apple tree in the yard. We would poke holes in the little green apples and plug them with Black Cats, then light the firecrackers with our punks and launch them across the yard (into the street, into the neighbors' yards, into oncoming traffic, etc.) Not a year went by that Frosty, the local cop, didn't come by the house to tell us to cut it out. If kids did that today they would probably be arrested and charged with a crime. One benefit of growing up in the tiny little town. In the 1950s.
Happy day off, happy long weekend, happy thankful-that-we-live-in-the-USA day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

. . . feel much better

today, thank you for asking. A little (very little) retail therapy, getting out of the house -- be damned with the quarter-tank of gas left in the car -- seemed to have done the trick. As I was heading down the highway I spotted a train sitting still under an overpass. I knew where I could go to take pictures of it, so I hurried to that spot, but the train had left. I took a few pictures of the overpass itself . . . I like the one above, looks all moody and mysterious. That Santa Fe primer and finish applied in 1958 seems to have done a halfway decent job -- unless it was originally white or red.
It doesn't take much retail therapy to make me feel better . . . a trip to the book store, where I can kill an hour or two just browsing and leave with three magazines and a bag of great coffee; a trip to another carpet and flooring place to get samples; then back home. It's all good.
I need advice on the floor. I want to put wood floors in the great room area. The kitchen, daily dining area and family room are just one open room. The kitchen area has white tile; I think I'll keep that because it's decent. The dining-family room has a lot of storage as well as a fireplace surround, mantle, and TV cabinet built in, all matching the kitchen cupboards that are either walnut or cherry, stained a medium color with a slight reddish cast. I can't decide whether to go lighter or darker with the wood floor. The darker will show dust, I know. The lighter looks pretty contemporary for this very traditional house. And matching would I think just overwhelm the space with too much of the same color. The leather couch and chair, which we owned when we moved in, are actually about the same color as the woodwork (someone who came to the house once said, "Wow, you matched your cupboards to the furniture.") and so is the dining set. But I think I'll quit worrying about it because I will have area rugs under the dining and seating areas anyway. So then I can worry about the area rugs. I think I will put something dirt-colored under the dining area. Or food-colored. Maybe a combination of tomato, Dr. Pepper, ground up potato and taco chips, chocolate and hamburger colors, with a touch of grease, oil, grass and soil. Now there's a challenge for an artist.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

. . . pouted and sulked

. . . which is what I feel like doing, but I won't. I am in a foul, black mood and I am not fit for human companionship. I can't figure out why I am feeling this way, and I know it will go away, probably sooner than later, because I am not a moody or difficult person. So in order to spare everyone from the ever-present sob stories on the internet, I will just post the above picture and leave it at that. I found this sign at the entrance of a junkyard for large trucks, semis, etc. way out in the middle of back beyond.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

. . . showed garden pictures

After I finish reading the paper and doing the crossword puzzle, I always take my coffee outside with me to see what's new overnight in the garden. This morning I was delighted to see that my daylily "Baby Betsy" was in bloom. I bought this little one when my baby Betsy was about six months old. This year the deer overlooked eating its blossoms, at least so far. While I was out there, I took a few more pictures. . .

This thing is a monster and I don't remember what it is. I must have planted it late in the season last fall, when perennials usually go on sale, and it must have made no impression on me at the time. This past spring, when I was moving the mulch and uncovering the perennials, I noticed this little thing poking out. It didn't look like a weed, so I left it alone. It is now taller than I am, with these beautiful blue blooms. I thought maybe it was a delphinium, which excited me because a very good gardener told me once that if you can grow a delphinium in Kansas, you are a good gardener. I look on the internet and I believe it is a larkspur, which is a close relative of a delphinium. I guess I must be a close relative of a good gardener.

And this is the reworked shade garden. . . well, at least part of it. I moved a lot of plants to this area, especially some that were not thriving in their original planting space. The left part in this picture shows the rocks we hauled in or dug up from our neighbor's yard. We need another row or two of these, as well as a load of good potting soil in that part of the garden. The part that is bordered by bricks was pretty level, so I made a winding path of sorts, just playing around. Directly to the right, with just a bit in the picture, is a boxwood hedge and in front of that is a small birdbath. Behind the boxwood hedge is a huge mess of lily-of-the-valley full of weeds, a dogwood tree that finally bloomed this year, and a couple of huge hostas that are so big I'm having trouble digging them up to transplant. Inspiration for the last part of the shade garden hasn't yet struck me. . .

So this is what I work on instead of art, although I did paint yesterday. I don't like it much, it's very geometical and not very spontaneous, but I can see it as a part of a set of three paintings. So I will work on the other two today. Maybe you will get to see them, maybe not.