It has been a long time since I have done any calligraphy practice. I just downloaded some classes, and am starting out by filling some warmup pages. In January I’ll be back at the desk with an oblique pen and some sparkly new inks from Fox and Quills, LA, CA, USA. Until then, happy new year, everyone.
Creative expression- a giant wood pile we converted to a sunny 9.5×10.5′ “patio”, two folding adirondack chairs I found on the street and painted, a flying model Spitfire I got from a gardening client, and my new blue blockers.
There is a strange thing I am experiencing with acrylic paint.
Early in the day on Wednesday September 22 I brushed a glaze of gloss medium and phthalocyanine blue onto an old canvas, and also did some collage with a different bottle of gloss medium.
That afternoon I was using Liquitex chromium oxide green that I had earlier transferred to a jar, and thinned with medium and a bit of local spring water (w/ iron and who knows what else!). The paint in the jar was creamy consistency, but when I put my wet brush in it, the paint on the brush came away clotted, like miniature cottage cheese curds.
I put that aside, put a bit of fresh tube chrome green in a clean dish, and used a clean brush with distilled water- the same thing. I tried a clean, dry brush, other paints, other brands, so far, everything immediately turns to clots.
I am trying to paint without brushes –or painting the clumps out with a stiff brush, as in painting on bare wood which I did last night. In the case of the gold paint suddenly skinning over – no. After a few minutes exposed to air, mixing turned it to a strange solid mass without any sticking power.
So far Palette knives seem ok.
So, What? Extreme heat this summer? dehydration? sunspots? ash from the fires? redwood pollen? Three outer planets retrograde in Capricorn . . ? activated the polymers and caused them to clump, and/or quickly skinning over.
I had seen a similar reaction once when I accidentally put rubbing alcohol in paint. I have a lot of (mostly) old paint, never had this happen before, except thickening through evaporation, often resolved by thinning w/ medium. Old paint just dries up.
I had used windex on a sheet of glass nearby last week, and am feeling some kind of residue on my hands today. So, cleaning all brushes, palettes, rags, glass working surface with clean water.
Meanwhile, cottage cheese might be a fine texture/technique, worth playing with, until I get this sorted, and/or, go shopping.
California is aflame- we went camping but had to head north because Yosemite was booked and the forests were being evacuated. After a smoky and daunting Monday and night at 9600+ feet- -Pacific Coast Trailhead parking at Sonora Pass- -we came home Tuesday, to awake Wednesday September 9 to Mars Stationing in Aries, and a red-orange sky that lasted all day.
“Sinister!” “Apocalyptic!” shouted the headlines– Dorcas posted an interesting article about the scattering of blue light by the amount of ash in the air. There was little smoke at this altitude (600 feet, about) and for me, it was “Beautiful!” “Fascinating!” and that sort of thing. I only wish I’d spent more time out in it, maybe get a blue tan?
more experiments with color- my special simple meatballs and zebra farfalle. the original vodka cream sauce was much more orange, but then I added a can of diced tomatoes. The peas make it, tho.
After months of everything being closed–and getting so much done because of it–a camping trip. We headed up Highway 50 to the American River, looking for an area we had been to before, but couldn’t find it. We pulled into a parking lot at Big Meadow Trailhead as it was getting dark. The campground nearby was closed to traffic, and we weren’t really set up for a hike-in, especially with rain on the horizon. In the morning we took a 6+mile round-trip hike to Round Lake. It started to rain as we returned to the van, –so we spent another night.
Amazing things happened when people kept telling us about LAKES we should visit, and we ended up at three different areas: beautiful Burnside lake, which we hiked halfway around- and I think? hiked this meadow.
Then we drove to Blue Lakes campground, where they had just opened six days before, and according to the Ranger “the bears don’t know we’re here yet”; and we filled all our water containers with clear sweet mountain water.
The next day we drove to South Tahoe to try out a brewery that had outdoor dining, excellent burgers, and couple of tasty beers. We then drove the Blue Lakes backroad to Forestdale Creek, which turns out to be the area the guy at the campground had recommended– we spent the night, and took two longs lovely hikes.
We also had an adventure when Art drove the Westy into a gutter, and a feller came over to share his extensive expertise which resulted in spinning one of my tires bald on slippery granite river rocks before we finally got the van dislodged and parked .
Remember when there were gigs? On a fifth Thursday, we used to be the Polka Cowboys.
On July 17 I got notice to vacate my studio garage. It was such a shock, so unexpected, especially since I had just made headway cleaning up the mess after the dog-crap-and-snarling people had moved out, and able to get into the swollen-concrete-impeded door for the first time since late January.
I IMMEDIATELY went over to load up all the paint, brushes, tools, small canvases, and tchotchke that would safely fit in my truck, and headed out to Canyon, to tuck into the Roofing House as best I could.
I called Joanie and asked if I could take her up on her offer of a place to store my tables and frames, tools and glass- yes- so Art and I caravanned to Howe and loaded up as much as we could, and then to Richmond to unload my precious cargo to–Joanie’s Concrete Patio! Oh dear.
I had hallucinated a space in her giant garage where I had stored my camping gear and toys after Steve’s death–but it is full of another malingerer’s massive mouldering pile of god-knows-what . . A realization came that the lovely dark knotty-pine room was not really Available, either. Over a few visits I was able to tuck one table, easel, the frames, canvases and framing tools indoors, but I felt all at sea.
The day after Jude called I had a meltdown and a literal physical collapse on Art’s kitchen floor over a mis-communication about our relationship. I suddenly was unable to stand up or breath correctly- a complete existential panic that I had nowhere to be, that these little slivers of space I carve out in my life were all an illusion–and fading fast.
We worked things out, better than ever, but for a couple of weeks I was losing my mind- hell, it was half of August and September . . . except for the Lakes.
And then, the helpful words of a “mentor”, teacher, about, uh, Framing? and having a Studio? Why? and what For? made me really look at What The Hell Am I Doing . . . threw it ALL up into the proverbial air. For reassessment purposes only.
So, really, am I BEING AN ARTIST, or just Doin Stuff, and what difference does it make, except–what to do with all the physical Product, weird format frames and glass that are not fitting together, my actual Clean worktable outside by the trash bins. I am seriously addressing what all this stuff is really for, and why I have it- It’s so uncertain, but sorta fun.
When I had the shop, I gathered things with a hunger I no longer have room for, and don’t really know what the future holds. I am doing so many tiny bits in sketchbooks and corners and scraps of wood.
So what to do, but just keep on keepin on.
Throughout spring and summer I have been doing a lot of work on the Roofing House, while unable to get into Howe- scraping plaster off the plywood interior, I scrape, dust, then patch with Zinsser 1-2-3 in short rectangular brush strokes , sand, touch up with paint patches of color, purple sky, blue sky, pink sky, as I go along.
With Art’s help, moving out about 2 dozen motors, machinery, dozens of cans of dead house paint, spray paint, tubes of caulk and construction adhesive and the like–and there is more–oily, filthy, nasty stuff, much of which went to hazardous waste recycling. Recall we had leveled the supports after the Incident of the Falling Tree.
We reconfigured some of the shelving to make a long tall work bench, and have developed a fantasy of installing the 58″ square sectioned french window we bought for the house-that-became-a-deck. It would be nice to have some natural light, and a reading chair back there–maybe next year.
I have started taking advantage of three empty filing cabinets that aren’t going anywhere soon, and plan to keep one that has cool half-deep drawers.
Stuff in, stuff out. It keeps shifting and getting a bit clearer, and is so special to have all my things right at hand, nobody chewing on my brushes and peeing on my art while I am gone. I can see down the tracks and up the path, and no one knows I’m here.
Somewhere in here I lost my faux enthusiasm for things I did twice weekly in the Before Times. Playing music for beer and french fries, struggling to herd cats and possums and hippies without a paddle, etc. I knew right away the RELIEF!!! of not having to Stop whatever I was doing, Stage myself in Berkeley, Pack and Haul equipment up and down stairs and around the corner to play for two hours to an empty venue for a half-cheeseburger, half-pitcher of beer, and $3 in tips. Well, it was a good run, mostly fun until the backstabbing started. What a relief, yes, three months in, to say I am done, and DONE.
Tara and I have been working on new material since shortly after the shut-down-in-place began, me taking the lead vocal on several of her tunes, almost out of my range. My voice is getting stronger and clearer, and I have managed to maintain calluses on my fingertips. Since his arm injury from the Serenellini at the last Polka Cowboys gig, Art has taken up electric guitar with a vengeance.
Gomer and Tara came to Canyon last Sunday to join in a live facebook event, and luckily I was unable to bypass my three Apple devices’ security filters to broadcast. We ended up with six delightful–to me, anyway–recordings that I was able to post later. Had it been live, considering the difficulties, it would have been worse than unwatchable. My hair was clean and fluffy, the weather sublime, Art’s wacky shack a perfect backdrop–plastic window and all. I was in fine voice, and did a song of Tara’s, sans bass, that I barely knew: Twilight Moonrise. She did Love of a Good Cat. Gomer was the grip and tech advisor, and positioned my iPhone behind the Woodstock wood stove, cutting off our legs. The quality of the iPhone 4 voice recording was astonishing.
check it out- Var Mints on facebook. I won’t go, but you can.
I don’t see any venues opening anytime soon. Even then, how will people react to a SINGER? Run in horror? Come at me with torches and pitchforks? Mask-shaming on facebook? Yes, I have seen it.
I can barely picture sitting in a window box, like at Giovanni’s, as customers drift by or stand on line to pick up to-go orders. Maybe a stage way at the back of an empty 30-foot patio? There are no festivals for the foreseeable, even outdoors. The sandwich board at Caffe Chiave still says “Live Music”, but it is only a shadow of the past. The Missouri Lounge is gone.
It is a New World.
We are livin the life here in Canyon, I planted two apple trees and a bunch of pepper and cherry tomato plants, beets, onions and whatnot, wiring everything against the marauding deer. I am scrounging soil from everywhere to build up terraces over the rocky subsoil. Art built a sawbuck and uses my chainsaw to make firewood (and sawdust) of the many redwood and bay branches and random long pieces of old lumber that are scattered everywhere. It’s great to be able to get so much done, without all the pesky distractions of public life.
Art and I joined an online video chat/party with some other folks, they gather often but we only attended once, for about an hour. Some people go on and on, some not speaking at all, devolving into the same talk of cures and illnesses and other distressing foolishness I prefer not to partake of. When I go to a party, I usually hang out in the garage with the stoners– a group of 12 people is too much.
Now and then I spend two or three days in Berkeley, where it is clean civilized and quiet, mostly (avoiding the front doorknob is a challenge)-Stuff to do there, too!
I do a little garden work, though with not much enthusiasm. I am enjoying being retired, cutting back but not eliminating.
I have been visiting back and forth with Joanie and working up more of her songs. Art injured his arm just as the lockdown happened, so he has barely played his accordions since, daily practicing electric guitar on youtube.
As I have the Capricorn stellium moving into my 12th house, I am setting up my retreat, practicing hermitage in my understory studio, befriending little black scorpions that live under every wooden structure here–plus moles? voles?
prompted to draw “from my window” for a Canyon Draws facebook site, here is the view from my chair by the woodstove.
Meanwhile, starting a sign to hang down the road, thanks to radio podcasts about the history of Canyon, and random people driving through to see the hippies.
This about sums it up.
What day is it? No one knows. Oh, my computer knows–4.12.20
The shelter in place has been extended, the Plough has a go-fund-me site, and raised $30,000 to keep from going under.
I secured a slightly-used sketchbook Art had as a travel journal while on tour with Those Darn Accordions, and then abandoned. The art stores are closed, and I have not ventured out to the one possible stationers that might be open, and I do not like to shop online if there are Options. So, drawing over partial pages, then writing, writing, writing.
Parks and beaches and campgrounds are also closed, so there goes my spring camping trip.
Trying not to get caught up in the madness, making polenta and stews on the woodstove, sitting for hours with a warm cat on my lap, reading.
Moving art supplies back and forth, I am getting an idea of where things work. I am firmly established in the Roofing House, since two incidents where it was made known to locals that it is my art studio–particularly the day the tree fell while I was there, and Ian happened by with a chainsaw and cut it all away.
Art and I ventured out to Joanie’s house in Richmond for music and food and an artichoke plant, and an avocado tree, seedlings from her childhood home in Hayward. We are working up some tunes of hers with me singing lead. We also stopped at Annie’s Annuals, I got two blueberry bushes, peppers, onions, to plant in Canyon.
The novelty has worn off–we would have been at the end of this strange confinement by now, which has been extended . . . The Plough is in danger of not reopening. Caffe Chiave- most small businesses and venues are closed indefinitely. Honestly, I am ambivalent, but like, YAY! I don’t ever need to go back to the Lost Hippy Hour, or some of these gardening jobs.. Schedules! I’m done! Shopping is disturbing, people are rattled, clerks feel endangered, the protocol is curious, confusing, changes daily, and from store to store.
Just before it all closed down, Art had suggested we go to a movie. The next day, I drove by the Shattuck Theater to see the marquee blank. We have taken to watching Youtube videos of black and white movies at night, usually with buttered popcorn. Life is good.
A week ago the world changed- we are on lockdown, or as it is called “social distancing” a speedy upgrade from the pre- St. Patrick’s Day weekend when it was suggested people “self isolate” and bars were asked to consider closing to stop the spread of a virus.
When I heard the news on March 16 that bars and restaurants were ordered closed, and all my gigs were cancelled until April, I grabbed two orders of corned beef and cabbage (and a last beer at the bar), withdrew $300 cash, filled my gas tank and drove straight to Canyon. Art and I since ventured out once, on March 21st, to get groceries. A minor ordeal with gloves, masks, strange new practices of standing six feet apart in lines to enter or check out at the grocery store. There was an early, insane run on toilet paper ??
I also ordered a replacement pair of Crave boots online, on sale because of the color, “brunette”. Gorgeous- and they match my kerchief- required anytime one goes out in public. Spending more time here in the redwoods, or braving the wilds of Moraga Safeway, I will need good, strong boots.
On the return trip from the music festival in Nebraska– I painted a glorious full moon over the Rockies. The best part- other than the train ride itself- was two days we extended our trip to visit people who turned out to be unavailable. We goofed off in Omaha, burgers, beer, $2 movies, thrift stores, antique malls, hikes around the lake. We returned home to the famous random N. Cal power shutdown fiasco.
So quiet here in Canyon this holiday with everybody mostly gone. Art and I played the Plough happy hour gig, then back for a nonexistent party.
I have been using two or three different brushes constantly this year, particularly a 1″ flat Princeton and a #4 round Raphael travel brush, with Winsor Newton, Sennelier and Pelikan watercolors.
Lettering and random brush strokes is a thing right now. Yes, two things can be a thing. A stained chair cover spontaneously updated with sume-i ink straight and diluted, and a first iteration of the “$1,000, FINE FOR LETTERING” sign are examples.
I went haywire with some house paint and the 1″ flat in the roofing house, painting a plywood wall panel and putting together a small matching panel and another newsprint-collage-on-tiny-stretched-canvas piece. Deeply meaningful transformative story of discovery I will not subject you to, about family and creativity and home and how I became an artist at a young age. I took some shots with my iPad of the interior and small paintings, I will post them later.
taken a day apart
Back to Howe- my garage studio is getting a lot of use lately. A kind of a miracle when the owner moved away and took the dog that had chosen me as her personal project, barking furiously and frantically at my presence. In the move and subsequent upgrade of the back of the house, the electricity to the garage was disconnected- Incredibly freeing once I removed all the various electrical devices: lamps, water boiler, heater, projector, a tuner and turntable and crate of LP’s I had just moved in. All this STUFF was in the way of my practice.
First the chaos, then slowly putting things back together, leaner, not meaner. Much more room now, and a big reorganization of frames, canvases, materials. Lucky I am for the enormous south facing window, and knowing how to dress and work in the weather.
The owner left many cans of house paint for me to recycle, and I have been painting everything white- a step stool I found on the street and repaired. I painted the dingy wall, and put nails up and down the studs in a grid to hang frames on. I repaired and repainted the five frames I had built from scrap house trim for my apple illustrations– so fresh and excellent.
I am doing a lot of brush practice, and bought a Portable Palette, and a couple of new colors to add to my Winsor Newton collection. Sennelier Serpentine Genuine, M. Graham Magnesium blue, plus later I added a chrome green. Still not completely happy with this selection. Actually I am mostly using them to highlight and color passages in my written journal, but slowly, cautiously (why?) moving into sketchbook pages. I have so many! nearly empty sketchbooks to fill, and so little motivation, ideas, gumption, whatever.
Somehow became fascinated with the practice of drawing kolam- although I am using a Uniball signo white pen rather than rice flour. Here are a few.
On the day of the big “Camp” fire in Paradise, we finished the deck in Canyon. It was a spur-of-the-moment impulse a couple days earlier to abandon the idea of a building that would ruin the view from the little deck. Realizing we now have sufficient, heatable indoor space, and the on-demand water heater, bathtub and shower situated outside, it no longer made sense. Suddenly we were seeking and gathering boards from around the property, sanding them down and fitting them together somewhat at random. The smell of smoke came in early on the morning of November 8, but a little research showed a brushfire near Joaquin Miller park. Around noon a thicker wave came through, but we worked through it and finished attaching all the boards by early afternoon- The smoke got thicker, and over a week later was so bad, funneled through the delta and trapped over the bay area, that N95 masks were required.
prismacolor and black paper, from a photograph 11.18.18
Last Friday I came home to a dark digital clock- the whole electric circuit of kitchen wall outlets had gone out. I unplugged the reachable appliances, excluding the post-rat digital/gas stove which is too heavy for me to move. Flipping the breaker and GFI did not restore the power. I am, as usual, loathe to call the landlord until I exhaust all possible, personal attempts to solve the puzzle.
Likely the problem is rat/raccoon damage in the wall, or a failure or short in the digital oven controls. (It could also be a function of the apparently shoddy installation- but I don’t think that is the case.) I looked up the owners manual for the Kenmore range- almost impossible to read the tiny number on the door, which luckily turns out to be the model number. Someone mentioned that there might be a reset button on the back of the unit, so we can look at that, too.
My neighbor, from whom i got the stove- another story- loaned/gave me an electric convection oven which I installed on the small enamel table with a heavy power cord strung around the corner from the bathroom GFI.
Today I got out my electric toolbox- turns out the continuity tester I had in there (it was Steve’s) is missing one leg, so into the electronic recycling bin it goes. I pulled the 2 USB port/power outlet I installed last year which looks fine. I am again shocked at how poorly the box is installed, jammed way back into the original wall, crooked, behind the layer of sheetrock. It took some jiggling and adjusting to get the outlet mounted straight, but now it is better than I had it before.
Meanwhile, a couple of culinary fiascos, including two enormous potatoes that would not bake, after which I bought an adorable small magnet/hook/stand oven thermometer and tested the convection oven, right to 350 in ten minutes, then hovering at 300 throughout the baking of a Trader-Joe’s-mix cornbread–too sweet, but a somewhat-successful baking experiment.
Sometime last month Ann Lippe told me she and David were working to get a family of raccoons out from under her house across the street. A few days later I saw one of them heading across our front yard; then, sounds in the false ceiling over the bathroom. Mandy messaged me that Pat was hearing loud scratching coming from our wall next to their driveway, and I did hear what sounded like scraping noises around the bathroom pipes and overhead.
This had gone on for a few days when one evening (8/21/18, Steve’s 70th birthday) I heard a thump, squealing, and furious scratching- a critter had fallen between the rafters and into a space between the walls. After a few minutes I realized I was not going to be able to sleep with such screeching and scratching going on, so I high-tailed it over to the pub to tell Gary there were screaming critters trapped in the wall, and I was going to Canyon for the night.
By the time I got home from the pub things had quieted down a little–some chittering and scratching, but not insufferable. Also, there was a note Gary had put on the door earlier announcing that the plumber was coming by and water would be turned off for a couple hours at 9:30 AM the following day.
Around 10 AM on Wednesday 8/22 Gary and the fix-it guy/plumber showed up- they were unable to turn the water off at the street. We assessed the situation- I could hear chittering right next to the light switch in the bathroom, so after the guy and I crawled under the house and saw how they were getting in, through a hole they had chewed in the outside wall, and up through the old chimney hole to the porch roof, the decision was made to cut into the wallboard and pull them out. We had to move my locker away from the wall, and open doors and back window so the emerging animal could make a run for it. When he opened the wall, there was just a void- dark, quiet, no sign of crittur (Thoreau’s spelling). We shined a flashlight in to take a photograph, but our cellphones wouldn’t focus. Their contention was that there was no one there, but I kept trying until I got an image of a little face–very hard to see deep in the 20″x4″x9-foot space between the studs. So a decision was made to cut another hole at the bottom of the wall. We all stood back, again, waiting for the frothing wild beasts to come shooting out–when he pulled the cut piece away, there was the furry back of one small raccoon kit, and the face of another–TWO! little guys, quietly huddling in the bottom of the void. After peeking out and seeing- perhaps for the first time- the light of day, they were having none of it. Fix-it guy sent me to get a cardboard box- Gary put on a leather glove and tried aggressively pulling one of the kits out by the leg, which made them huddle deeper into the corner. I suggested he pick them up by the scruff, like a mother cat, or perhaps raccoon, would do, and he pulled them out and dropped them in the box, where they crouched, quietly, until he dumped them out on the deck, then gathered them back into the box and put them out in the yard. I ran with my drill and deck screws, calling Pat to open the gate to their driveway, to get a bit of screen over the hole she had chewed in the wall before the mother raccoon could come around and get the kits back under the house- She came and took one, and about an hour later the other, and posited them under Pat and Mandy’s deck, to the relief and satisfaction of all involved.