A New Way of Seeing

The Daily Life Text

Wow, am I cranky. Peeps, I am so cranky I can hardly believe it. I think I would be lying if I said I don’t know why, so I’ll just try to talk you through it.

1. I am scheduled to do a half-marathon on trail October 2. That’s this weekend, and I have been looking forward to it for a long time now.

2. I have been plagued by injury.

3. Now we are less than a week before the race, and although I know I won’t have a problem completing the race, I’m now in a position where I don’t feel like I can log in anymore miles because I’m terrified of hurting myself before the race. (This is because the last injury was two weeks ago, when I pulled a heretofore-unknown muscle in my pelvis during a routine speed workout.)

4. Therefore, although I’ve been undertaking normal activities, and some not so normal, like tottering around in 3.5-inch heels to and from dinner and a Baptism and walking around Manhattan in a pair of not-smart sandals that obviously hve lost their cushioning, I have not been working out, and my body is PISSED.

5. Therefore, I am pissed. But still cautious about hurting myself before the race.

This is a ridiculous, self-fulfilling prophecy. So I am ignoring it, and trying to alleviate The Cranky.

Today I want to talk to you about art. This past weekend we had some friends in town from Chicago, and we visited both the Neue Galerie and The Met, and the following day we walked over the Hudson River on the Walkway and then went to the FDR Presidential Home and Library. Then we had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, from which Jim’s father graduated.  If that seems like a lot of culture, it was, but it was also full of art in all its aspects: natural, historical, visual, and culinary.

I did not have my camera with me, and my Blackberry has decided it Does Not Want to Take Photos anymore, so I had to rely on others for those. (This, incidentally, is another reason for The Cranky.) But this is a good opportunity for me to share with you my latest endeavor, which is to be a better recorder of life through not only words and type, but also visual arts.

Some of you may remember that I took some art lessons awhile back. This is me and my art instructor, Jan Cianflone:

We are on her porch, the last day of my art lesson, just before I went to Whidbey. Towards the end our lessons took place en plein air.

Jan ran me through several different media. We started with pencil and charcoal and spherical objects. Here’s a photo of some eggs:

And here’s the chiaroscuro charcoal I did of those same eggs:

We also did some gesture drawings, which I really enjoyed, from magazine pages. Fashion magazines are good for these, since the models tend to be lanky and long and the shoots tend to be of exaggerated poses. I wish I still had the actual page this came from. This is a 3-minute gesture drawing.

From there we moved into pencil washes. I really enjoyed working with the more suggestive lines of these, as opposed to the more definitive lines of plain pencil.

and then we moved into pen-and-ink, which I really loved, but only in this one case, because, as it turns out, you can’t mix color as well in these big markers as you can in something like watercolor. Although, I did love the broad stroke of the pens…

We did some drawing from life of my favorite hairy subject. (I call this the Grandma-Moses Sprocket.)

And from there, I was on my own. It was a remarkable six weeks, and although I’m still experimenting and learning, here are some of the results:

The Whidbey dock. I’m not happy with this drawing. I love the loose evocation of the trees at the top of the drawing, but I’ve really done a hack job on the dock, which looks cartoony and stiff. I know a lot of this is me learning my own style, but it’s definitely frustrating to see something like this.

I drew it from life, but, for comparison, at an obviously different time of day, here’s a photo.

Later on in the week, I did this drawing, which is of a house that sits on the lagoon near where we had our afternoon classes. I got really lost in the grasses near the bottom of the drawing and just didn’t have the energies or the know-how or the artistic balls to try and complete the suggestion of river that ran along the lawn of the house.

On my way home from Whidbey, I tried to do a marker-and-ink drawing of an airplane at its gate. When I looked up again, the airplane had disappeared. Sigh.

Here’s my most recent drawing:

Personally, it’s my favorite. For comparison, here’s the photo:

I want to get to a point where I can suggest things better and allow the viewer to make their own interpretations. But i guess a girl has to start someplace.

There are many more drawings I want to do. I still haven’t covered my beloved city, or the lovely impressionistic photos of Seattle I took at night, when the iPad camera will only suggest light and glimmer. I think those will be next.

Ultimately, I hope the drawing will inform my writing. It’s only just now occurred to me, actually, that the protagonist in the novel I’m writing for my thesis is an artist. Lately, she and I haven’t been communicating very well, and my adviser has suggested that I spend the day in her shoes, so I’m doubly glad that I took lessons with Jan.

It’s always nice to have another way of seeing things.

Fulfilling a childhood dream

The Daily Life Text

Somewhere in my parents’ photo albums there is a picture of me and my brother. I am probably about seven, and he’s about two. We’re sitting in the back seat of our Chevy Caprice, and his lips are speckled here and there with rice. We’re eating dough-covered rice bundles, and we haven’t even really left our driveway.
I remember this moment very well, because just before the photo was taken, my sibling rivalry took over and I thought it’d be cute if I, too, mashed my lips into my doughy treat and got rice all over myself, even if I knew perfectly well how to execute a non-messy bite.
It must have worked, because my parents snapped the photo, me looking smug, and my brother looking guilelessly adorable.
But I digress. We were in the car because my parents were about to drive us to Niagara Falls. My mom says I had been before, but I am pretty sure I don’t remember. (She says I was four at the time, so that would have been before my brother was born.)
Anyway, we pretty much got to the border before my parents realized that they’d left our passports at home. So we didn’t get to go. Later, as I would read more and more about Niagara Falls, and about the two towns that straddle it, and about the broken-down state of the town on the American side of the border. (I am a sucker for towns that look like they have been through Hell.) Also, Buffalo NY is on the way, and I have always wanted to see Buffalo for its architecture and its history (c.f. “towns that have been through Hell.”)

credit ancestry.com

Seven or eight years ago, we got to Rochester and thought about extending our trip to go to Niagara, but we scrapped those plans at the last minute.
GUESS WHAT? In just two short weeks I will be on my way to Niagara Falls. I had a birthday last week, and Jim decided we were going to Niagara Falls.
But first he made me work to figure out the answer to What My Present Is. [Hello? Does anyone else out there think it’s unfair to make someone WORK for their prezzie?]
He leaked clues all throughout the day. Here they are, in order. The first person who can give me the correct answers to why they relate to Niagara Falls wins a bag of candy. (Tell me in the comments. Or you can wait and I will post the answers in a few days.)

1. 64,750
2. 100 and 73
3. 4.4
4. hratt vatn
5. Embassy Suites
6. Felis Catus
7. Anne Edson Taylor
8. Cooper
9. Ongniaahra
10. We will be gone for 4-5 days

Ready? Set? GO!

the rest of my Whidbey photos, and a brain dump

The Daily Life Text

So you know when your brain goes on overload, and you realize that you’d better download the stuff before your hard drive breaks and you lose all the stuff? That’s where I am now. I’ve been out in the big city twice in as many days, and although I’m most certainly not always at my best in the city, I am almost always awake and alert (“What’s a lert?”) and, perhaps worst of all, wide open to all the sights and sounds and input, and that’s, I think, why I’m overloaded.

Then, too, it’s a quarter to five in the morning, it’s raining, the porch door is open, the temperature is in the sixties…these are all things that make me percolate, which is good, because I have an essay due every fricken week for non-fiction class, and I’d better have stuff percolating.

Okay. First of all, here are some photos from my time in Seattle and Whidbey.
I got to see Hollie Butler for the first time in almost 15 years. Who is she? She is my friend from the one summer I spent as a camp counselor in Oregon. It was the first time I was ever able to say I had an amazing summer, and mean it. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but I learned so much that summer and experienced so many different things…some day I will write about that.

Hollie and I wrote letters back and forth for a little while. I think I may have gone to see her in Seattle when I went skiing at Whistler the following year, but I haven’t seen her since then, and that would have been 1994. Wow. (Some days, I really love Facebook for reconnecting me with people like Hollie.)

On the way there I saw these buildings, which I loved for their color and their lines. I guess they go into the “I took pictures of this cos I want to draw it later” category.

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I also got to see another old friend, from my advertising days. I think she might be one of my favorite people, in part because she and her husband are wise without being old. I love this about them. When Ina and I worked together, I learned so much from her. Ina has this view from her home office window. It also goes into the aforementioned category.

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Here are some snaps from Whidbey Island itself.

These are my friends Robert and Cynthia. Cyn has been my roommate from the first semester on. We were all housemates this semester. Good fun!

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Here’s another snap I’d like to try my hand at, except the colors are kind of intimidating.

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Here’s one I did try my hand at, and that’s both material for another post and probably an essay on how taking drawing classes has made me a better writer.

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Here’s Cyn, reading her work. We do student readings at Whidbey. That absolutely makes us better writers.

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Here’s Grier’s dog, Popeye. People, do you understand how much of a difference having a dog around makes? A lot. (Also material for another essay.)

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I’ll close with this freakishly Monet-like scene, which was what we saw ever day during our afternoon classes. This one I won’t be trying to draw. Frankly, Monet already did it.

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Next post, a breakdown of the drawing lessons. Or maybe a rundown of these two days in the city, which have given me a lot to think about, all by themselves.

And oh, here’s a gratuitous Sprocket photo.

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Do you think I can squeeze in a nap before the day begins? Or should I watch some more BBC mysteries on Netflix?