Truth is Truer in Narnia or Finding Transcendence in Art

 

I love good art not because it reminds me of reality, but because it gives me hope that there is something beyond the reality I see.

I love Picasso’s Dora Maar au Chat because it reminds me that even what seems broken can be beautiful. I love Van Gogh’s Starry Night, because his stars are the essence of stars the way I imagined them to be almost alive when I was a child – something magical and unearthly. I love C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia because reading them is like lifting the murky gray of our world and shining a light on it. Truth seems truer in Narnia the way the Technicolor version of a movie is more vivid than the real thing. I love Patty Griffin’s song, Making Pies, because the ordinary is the beauty within it.

Stripping away the facade of reality allows me to see the truths beneath the surface – truths I have grown incapable of seeing in the familiar, often harsh, face of world around me. I am blinded by my hurts, my fears, my prejudices, and my cynicism.

I catch glimpses of this transcendence in life and in nature, but usually only if I am looking, and most often when something has become its least ordinary self – a part of itself I have not yet become inured to. The sun at high noon in a cloudless sky is so common that it will rarely evoke any comment or reaction, but an extravagant sunset with cloud strokes patching the sky in yellows and golds and purples and reds? When I see that, I believe that God took up a brush and palette and painted the sky Himself – just to ravage me with beauty – the way a lover hopes his gift will bring his beloved to tears.

A young man walking across a street will not impress, but seeing a young man take the arm of a blind stranger after exchanging a few words, and then watching them cross together? Suddenly, I have seen beyond the ordinary to something beautiful – something that I hoped existed all along, but in which I hardly dared believe.

Too many of us, myself included, usually experience this hope only when something is so startlingly breathtaking we cannot help but notice, and then, we are like children greedily snatching candy from a curmudgeonly schoolmarm, as if God only dispenses these moments in his most expansive moods.

Art and hope have this in common: they both help you to see and believe in the beauty that is too often hidden in the real world. Good art is an exercise in hope – it reminds you how to use it. I also believe that they both begin with imagination.

So what is this hope, and can I immerse myself in it instead of only stealing these flashes of ecstasy and existing in mediocrity the rest of the time?

And here is where the imagination comes in. If I am hopeless, it is because I have stopped imagining a world or a circumstance where things can be better. The hopeless lack imagination.

In the Bible, the word “hope” is often interchanged in various versions with the word “wait.” If I give up hope because I do not have or see something now, I very much misunderstand the idea of hope, because why would you need to hope for something you already have? Romans 8: 24 says, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

But there is one more component, and probably the most difficult one: belief aka faith. Waiting and imagining will eventually send you spiraling down in to despair if you do not also have belief, because the longer you have to wait, the less your imagination will be able to sustain you. Ask any adult. And let me be clear – what we are believing for as Christians is not in this world. If we are only living based on the circumstances of the moment and not as if there is something transcendent, then we are living as any secular person.

Have you ever read what is commonly known as The Faith Chapter in the Bible? Hebrews 11 begins: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It goes on to commend those who have lived extraordinary lives of faith. Verse 10 says of Abraham: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Verse 13 says: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” Verses 38-40 are so powerful: “…the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

I ask you not to skim these verses as we are so often tempted to do when we believe we know them already or we don’t think we care what they say. Go back now. Reread them. Note the phrases:

  1. “still living by faith when they died” – interpretation: they had not received their promise yet and they died. If you give up while you’re still breathing, you’re not gonna make the Faith Chapter.
  2. “world was not worthy of them” – interpretation: when you are tempted to think you must have done something to deserve your hard life or maybe that God is not doing his job, think of these people who wandered in deserts and lived in caves and in holes in the ground and remember that the world was not worthy of them. Don’t give up hope. The world won’t be worthy of you, either, whether it knows it or not.
  3. “since God had planned something better for us” – interpretation: something beyond this world: “…the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…” because we are “…foreigners and strangers on earth.”

In Mere Christianity, Bk. III, Chapter 10 (unsurprisingly, the chapter titled “Hope”), C.S. Lewis says this: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Thank God.

The recipe for Hope: Imagine, Believe, Wait

Or in longhand:

To live with a constant feeling of expectation for a certain thing (Isaiah 40:31), a thing which you have not yet seen or experienced (Hebrews 11:1), you must trust that God is faithful even when this world is full of suffering (Romans 8:18), and you must remain in a state of expectation that His promises are true (Psalm 27:14).

Hope: hōp/ – noun

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Im·ag·i·na·tion: iˌmajəˈnāSH(ə)n/ – noun

  1. the ability to form a picture in your mind of something that you have not seen or experienced

Be·lief: bəˈlēf/ – noun

  1. trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.

Wait: wāt/ – verb

  1. to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon

 

And a song for your parting thoughts:

Imagination

Music by Jimmy Van Heusen

Lyrics by Johnny Burke

Imagination is funny
It makes a cloudy day sunny
Makes a bee think of honey
Just as I think of you

Imagination is crazy
Your whole perspective gets hazy
Starts you asking a daisy
“What to do, what to do?”

Have you ever felt
A gentle touch and then a kiss
And then and then and then and then
Find it’s only your imagination again?
Oh, well

Imagination is silly
You go around willy-nilly
For example I go around wanting you
And yet I can’t imagine
That you want me, too

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The More You Write, The More…

Let’s finish that sentence together:

The More You Write, The More…

…ideas you get.

…excited you get about writing.

…the more intricate your story gets.

…the more your story changes.

Do you have any other ways that you could finish that sentence?

I got started yesterday on my second book in what I may end up making a series of unknown length. I had fleshed out a partial outline, and pondered how to begin. I have learned that if I am not excited about the way I have planned for the story to go, that I should wait until I have an idea that I am excited about. This means that I spend whatever time I would writing actively musing over various ways to begin.

When I finally had an idea that excited me, I started writing, and it almost immediately changed all of the outline I had written. I did not negate it, but it largely relegated it to backstory and put my story a few years further into the future than I’d thought I was going to.

I also believed I was writing the first chapter, but realized after getting it down that I had just written the prologue, which I wasn’t even sure I was going to do.

I had trouble taking my own advice about not re-working sentences as I went, and totally forgot to time my word count once I got going, so I’m on a slow start to my goals. It’ll take some time to adjust to doing things differently, but I did get my first 1,000 words written, so at least I’m off the starting line now!

It was nice to realize that I did not feel hemmed in by the outline. I was worried that it may give me too rigid a form to stay within, but I think I enjoy letting the story take me where it will enough that the outline feels like an option, but not hard line in the sand. I think it will be more difficult for me to use the outline at all! But fleshing out what is now, as I said, mostly backstory, feels like it will make my writing richer in the end. Of course, now I have to spend some time creating an outline with some forward motion! There are a few components left to use, but a lot of blanks left!

On Writing and Procrastination

I am highly qualified to write this post, because I am chief of procrastinators when it comes to writing. For example, I’m doing it right now. Sure, I’m writing this post, but I am NOT writing an outline for my new book, which is what I intended to do.

I think that most of the things that are good for us seem hard to begin – like exercising or praying or reading my Bible – I don’t usually want to do them until they are already done. Writing falls into this same kind of category for me. When it comes time to do it, I can find any reason not to. I’m not the only person with this issue. I read a book whose author said (not in these exact words) that unless you apply discipline to your writing, the dishes will suddenly seem like the most important thing in the world. This is true. Writing often gets relegated to the last spot – when everything else we could possibly do is done – and then we make up some more things to do.

I did fairly well on keeping up work on my book in 2015. In fact, I finished my book in early November. (More on this later.) However, since then, I have not written anything at all, and I’m feeling it.  So, I’m starting again. Kick-starting it is the hardest part…getting into the rhythm of writing again.  I WANT to. So, why is it so hard?

  1. Fear. Fear that I will find I have nothing to say (which never happens).
  2. Fear. Fear that it doesn’t matter (which doesn’t matter, because it matters to me).
  3. Fear. Fear that it’s too big of a job (which is only true if I QUIT in the middle).
  4. Fear. Fear that I will mess it up (which is only an issue if I won’t fix it).
  5. Fear. That is all.

A blank book is a giant canvas with nothing on it, and you feel that from the moment you put a word down you could be making the wrong strokes – the wrong picture – damaging the infinite possibilities that the canvas held before you began. But possibilities are only that, and if you don’t take them, the canvas will remain blank. Whatever comes from your work, it will not be nothing.  And something is better than a life of blank canvases.

So, what is the cure for this fear? Discipline. Plain and simple. When I think of that, I wonder in how many other situations discipline would be the cure for fear. I think there are many things that counteract fear…love for one. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whomever fears has not been perfected in love.” (I John 4:18) And then I remember that love is a discipline, too, so maybe it really is the only cure for fear. In this case, loving myself enough to realize that writing for me is enough of a reason to write.

A few things that I learned last year when attempting to exercise the discipline of writing:

  • Facebook is not my friend. It will not change my life to find out how big a baby swordfish is, nor to know just which of the 10 stars (most of whom I don’t know anyway) got their start in the antiquated version of American Idol that was “Star Search.” (Those are just the things I rabbit-trailed already today. It’s 5:00 AM.) Facebook is my version of “the dishes” that suddenly become so important. 90% of what I see on Facebook does not interest me anyway, but when it comes time to write, I suddenly feel I need to see every post before I can begin. So, twice last year, I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account – times when I found that I was having trouble exercising my discipline or I felt I was stuck on my story, so I was letting my mind wander instead of trying to figure it out. This worked well for me, and I will definitely implement again. I don’t think I will delete my account at this point – too many friend and family connections that are there, but temporarily deactivating, or even just signing out, is a definite.
  • Having a word count goal for every writing session. This was very helpful to me. Instead of saying, “I will write for one hour,” then twiddling my thumbs and staring out of the window. I knew I would be there until I got X number of words down. My goal was 1,000 words every time I wrote. Sometimes that only took an hour. Sometimes it was 3. In cases where I was extremely stuck on where the story was going, I gave up because I realized that I really did need to stare out of the window for a while and figure that out before I put down another word. Now, I didn’t write every day. I’m not sure that I can. I do own and run a business, and sometimes that is just all I can do in a day.

I am hoping that this year, I am able to create a more disciplined approach than I did last year:

  • I’m going to sketch out main story points before I begin my sequel so that I won’t get quite as story-stuck as I did last year. I’m sure it will still happen, but I think that will help me keep going. I tried it without doing this, now I’ll try it with and I’ll see which method works best for me. These will be very loose, as I like to follow the story where it leads. My problem has not so much been writer’s block. I could write something. But making sure it served the story when I wasn’t sure where the next step in the story went was another issue. Maybe it’s the same thing? Opinions?
  •  I’m going to be less excruciatingly deliberative over every phrasing of sentence and tone of voice. I’m going to edit it afterwards anyway. And I think the faster I get it down, the happier I will be with my progress. Everything can be changed later if it needs to be.
  • I’m going to track how many words I am usually able to get down in a time frame (though I will still have word count goals), and see if I can improve it. The more I write, the more I will have written, right? I think that’s how that works.
  • Though I know I will not be able to write every day, I am going to set an expected number of days that I will write per week. Maybe 5 days a week? I haven’t decided yet.
  • I am going to put it on my to-do list. I am a to-do list junkie and I love completing my tasks for the day. I think adding it will be a little mental trick for me to see it is a necessary activity.

If you’re wondering, “So, where’s this book you supposedly finished?” It is still in the edit phase. I wanted a few people to read it, and get back to me with their thoughts. I have gotten those thoughts from some, but have a few more to go before I do the big edit. I also wanted to let it sit and mellow for a while so that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. In the interim, I’ve had lots of ideas about a sequel or prequel or multiples of both. I’ve realized I was making a mistake not to just go ahead and begin one of them. I have a “complete one task before beginning another” mentality, but that’s not realistic for this type of project, and I KNOW it’s not good for productivity. I am actually on the verge of deciding I should wait until I have more than one book written to even begin publishing. (This will be self-publishing, by the way, so all is at my own discretion.) I think people may like it more if they know there is already a sequel waiting for them.

Do you have goals or dreams you need to apply some discipline to? Any writers out there have tips and tricks they use to keep going? I would love to hear your stories!

Dandelions Are Pretty

I took some photos of these outside of my cabin (when I still lived there).  I like to play around with pictures and so most of these are not exactly as I took them, but think of them as artistic renderings.  I was really lucky to get them because it poured down rain later that day, and of course they were all beat up after that.

 

Birds

Birds are apparently my new thing when it comes to art.  The last 3 projects I’ve done have all been bird related.  Here’s the latest – the result of more sleeplessness.  🙂  (Click to enlarge.)

My Dreams Are Not Dead

My own post made me cry.  Yes, it did.  In a good way, though.  I went back to read my, “Why the title?” post and realized that I have ceased to enact it.  At least in my outward existence.  It’s like I am hiding what I love (being creative) because I am afraid of it…afraid of being hurt by it as most people are who chose to live in mediocrity instead of chasing a dream.  And that is what I have been choosing. 

I have been in the perpetual state of “overwhelmed” for 4 months, which if you know me, you know is not like me.  I’m usually pretty laid back.  For the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to evaluate what needs to change to get me out of it.  Hence the lack of posts, and then the obviously emotional one.  I have been trying to dig deep.   That’s always good, but sometimes it hurts and takes a little time to process. 

I have realized that I limit myself.  Just like I limit God.  Mostly because I limit God.  I act like I think He is not big enough to guide me somewhere that my creativity can be used, even though He is the one who gave me the heart that is bursting to do just that.  The heart that I squelch and squash down in order to make sure I am also practical and smart.  I have written before (mostly in my “Ambition” post) how my musical ambition was a hindrance to my relationship with God for a time, and how it brought me more pain than joy.  My written response to that problem was correct, I think.  However, my active response was not.  My active response was basically to pretend the dream was dead.  And then that same response moved on to any other activity that I had any desire whatsoever to do. 

The fear of going back to that place has made me willing to try to do almost anything except for the things I really love to do.  I’m pretty sure that is not how God planned for me to respond.  He wanted me to realize that the dreams were superfluous to His plan; that He did not NEED me to do them in order for me to be used in His kingdom.  I needed to stop basing my identity and my self-worth on them.  But I took it to a whole different level.  (I wanted to say “whole ‘nother” right there, but I used to get grammaticized for that – my term for grammatically corrected – when I was a kid even though Luke Skywalker said it to his aunt and uncle.)  I took it to the level of eradication.  God wanted to bring me back to a place of balance.  But I could only really pretend for so long, I think.  My dreams are not dead.  I would love to be a musician, an artist, a whatever as long as it used some of this pent-up creative energy that was the cause (I think) of my recent “overwhelm-ed-ness”. 

When I allow myself to think about finishing a song or my next art project as a reality, as something to do something with instead of something to shove under my bed or record onto my computer, my heart beats faster…my eyes light up.  (I know they do even though I can’t see them.)  I did a research study at a hospital one time where they had to monitor my blood pressure.  I had been talking to the doctor the whole time, and then we started talking about my music…he made me stop because it was making my blood pressure rise.  And this is what I have so tried to shove in a whole and pretend I don’t care about.  I have been killing the most alive part of myself.

I’m sorry for trying to kill my dreams in order to avoid risk and rejection.  This is what I was thinking about yesterday when I said that hope was the opposite of fear.  My fear would not allow me to hope for anything at all.

I don’t know where I will go with all of this.  In the past, I have always tried to forge my own way and this has always led me to desperation.  I want to be prayerful and always conscious of God’s leading.  I never want to get ahead of Him.  But I know that I am not supposed to live in this box I have put myself in, and He never intended me to, so I have faith that He will show me the way out of it. 

OK, I wrote this post last night, but I woke up this morning with a song in my head.  It is not a song that I have heard recently, nor is it a song that I particularly like.  But I decided to look up the lyrics since I could not get rid of it.  It was a 4 Non Blondes song, and what’s funny is that I would have told you I did not know what the song was about, although I would have known the song.  Amazing what your subconscious works out while you’re sleeping, apparently, because the lyrics are incredibly appropos (minus the getting high part – we’ll just say she meant high on fresh morning air).  Here they are:

25 years and my life is still
I’m trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination
I realized quickly when I knew I should
that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
for whatever that means
And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out what’s in my head
And I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take a deep breath
And I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
What’s goin’ on
And I say, hey hey hey hey
I say hey, what’s going on?
And I say, hey hey hey hey
I say hey, what’s going on?
ooh, ooh ooh…
And I try, oh my God do I try
I try all the time in this institution
And I pray, oh my God do I pray
I pray every single day for a revolution
And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out what’s in my head
And I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take a deep breath
Then I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
what’s goin’ on
And I say, hey hey hey hey
I say hey, what’s going on?
And I say, hey hey hey hey
I say hey, what’s going on…
25 years and my life is still
I’m trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination.

The Window Wall

I think I’m in love with my latest art project.  My insomnia contributed to it getting much further along the other morning.  It is quite possibly the most fabulous room divider I have ever seen if I do say so myself.  And I do.  I could not finish it before I left for work the day I worked on it in the middle of the night, but even not quite finished, it was hard for me to tear myself away…I just wanted to sit across the room and look at it. 

Living in a one-room Cabin creates the need for much room division.  Or at least it does for me.  This room divider is between the living area and the bedroom area.  Although the bedroom area is still completely open to the kitchen area, I don’t plan on blocking that off.  I just wanted a little separation.  My only other room dividing projects are to block off the laundry area and then something curtain like for when I have guests who like to take showers in private.  Which would be everyone.  🙂  You would think I would have worked on the shower area first, only I’ve been waiting for my landlord to put the washer and dryer in because it would affect what I was going to do.  Now it’s all in, so I can begin formulating a plan.  But that’s for another post.

This post is about my super-fabulous living room/bedroom divider.  I finished it today, so you even get to see some pictures.  I’m not just going to tantalize you with telling you how great it is.  I know you would have lost sleep over that. 

This is, obviously, the living room side.  I have not even begun or conceptualized what I will do on the bedroom side yet.  I have had the idea for a room divider made out of old multi-paned windows for a couple of years, but never had any need for a room divider before now.  Funny how I created a thing in my head that I had no need for and now I need it, and happen to have a friend who remodeled his house, took all of these great windows down and gave them to me free! 

This room divider has been quite the process.  I’ve tried different things and changed it several times.  I filled the panes with 2 variations of what is up now that I did not like so I took them back down, and you are looking at the second piece of artwork for the center.

However, in some respects it was kind of a miracle that it all came together as nicely as it did.  Initially, I was thinking I would hang it from the ceiling and then I realized that it would be ridiculously heavy.  At least for hanging it from the ceiling.  So, I decided I needed to have some kind of posts on the end to support the weight, and just happened to run across some in a consignment store.  Who would have porch posts in a consigment store that are exactly what I need?  Well, apparently, Classic Consignment, because they did.  These posts were exactly the correct amount of worn out.  I don’t say “distressed” because that is when you do it on purpose; “worn-out” means it happened naturally  🙂  It also happened to be exactly the right heighth that I needed  Well, you wouldn’t think anyone would have that and I wasn’t even looking for them and they were just there staring at me.  And they were cheap, too.

Also, when I measured it out, the three windows on the bottom row plus the two posts came within an inch of where the carpet ends and the tile begins, making it exactly long enough to divide off the entire room area and not stop in an awkward place.  What are the chances?  I had not pre-planned the length at all.

So, then came the hardware.  The hardware store had exactly the number of hinges/brackets that I needed in each type that I needed.  I mean exactly.  I cleaned them out of the particular items that I was buying.  And then the screws…I did not count the screws, because there were over 200 screws needed for the brackets I bought.  So, I just grabbed a whole heck of a lot.  Guess what?  When I got down to the end, I started worrying I did not have enough screws because they were looking a little low.  So, I counted them.  I randomly grabbed EXACTLY the right number of screws for the hinges & brackets I bought.  Did I mention that there were over 200?  Again, what are the chances?  And I am not joking.  I know you think I am probably making that up or maybe I had one extra or something.  No, I seriously mean that I had my screw to bracket ratio exactly matched up.

Then came putting it together…the only uncanny thing during this process was that when I set the artwork over the three bottom windows to attach it to them (I had already attached them to each other), when I went to measure to get it centered, and I had randomly placed it exactly centered above them.  Exactly.  I didn’t have to move it a millimeter. 

So, then the only other thing I can think of worth mentioning is the corner brackets on the sides.  I have had those for several years without a use for them.  They came off of my parent’s porch.  I kept thinking they would be cool for something one day, but did not even have a plan in mind.  Well, I was going around some shops one day thinking I would get a finial or something to go on top of the posts to kind of finish it off, when I noticed some corner brackets they had at this one particular shop.  And it hit me.  I didn’t need finials.  I had those brackets that were, again, just old and worn out enough to match the style perfectly. 

I learned two things while creating this:

1) I really, REALLY need to invest in a drill.

2) Exacto-knives are my friends.

And voila!  There is my room divider! 

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Finito!

OK, sorry it’s been so long since I updated.  It’s been a while since my brain updated, too, so don’t feel left out.  I’ve been quite busy.  See, I took 5 days off one week, and then the following week, as Murphy’s Law denotes, of course, none of the people who usually require my random free-lance services seemed to need any services.  This resulted in an extra un-planned week off of work, which resulted in Connie scrambling to pay her bills.  It follows that in that state, when work is offered, you take it.  So, for that week I was down on cash, I scheduled every job that was thrown my way, with no regards for how many hours that meant I would be working in the following weeks.  I didn’t count, but it was a lot…for the next 2 weeks.  Then, this past week, I realized I had enough money again, so I didn’t book as much work, but my regular life had fallen into such disarray (shopping, errands, cleaning) by this point that I spent all of my extra time that week catching up.  Besides the fact that I also joined my boyfriend’s mom for a garage sale (meaning I had to go through everything I own, pack it, price it, etc.)  And so we come to today…I was supposed to sing on the worship team at church this morning, so I was supposed to show up at 8:30.  Well, I fell asleep at my babysitting gig last night (after the kids went to sleep as well, of course) with a scratchy throat and watery eyes.  It appears that I was not only exhausted, but getting sick.  I woke up this morning all stopped up and very tired (not at the babysitting gig…I did get up and come home when the parents arrived).  I “called in” to church…skipped out on the worship team.  I stayed home instead hoping that a day of nothing would restore my immune system.  I always get like this…I really am apparently not meant to over-work.  I don’t know how people do it.  I seriously cannot handle it mentally or physically. 

Wow, that was a really long and unnecessary explanation of where the heck I’ve been.  This blog is supposed to be about my completed art project that I have so neglected in unveiling for you.  We have these quarterly art shows here that anyone is allowed to enter a piece in, and so it was in that show this past Friday night.  These shows are not much of a sales venue.  Generally, only about 6-10 pieces out of 60-80 are sold.  So, I don’t feel bad that I’ve never sold a piece there.  It’s still fun. 

Here are a few pictures of my piece.  I was very pleased with the results…fun, yet somewhat sophisticated.  I was almost more excited about building the frame than about the artwork inside it.  But then the frame would be pointless without the art, so, by nature, it must still take second priority.  Anyway, the background of the piece is painted, but everything else on it is made out of tissue paper.

red-dress-form-smallest.jpg

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And this is so you can see a close-up of my framin’ job.

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Have I Mentioned My Cat?

His name is Leo, and he’s kind of a character.  I think he’s pretty smart for a cat…I have to have child locks on my kitchen cabinets, because he knows how to open them and likes to get in there and sleep with my pots.  I don’t like furry pots – hence the child locks.  He goes on water strike if I will not put a pitcher of water on the floor for him to drink, even if he has a full water bowl.  I made the mistake of putting the pitcher down on the floor one day while I was watering my plants, and since then, he will not drink out of anything else, except sometimes the faucet in the bathroom sink.  If I take the pitcher up, he stands in the kitchen and meows when he gets thirsty.  Leo has had many close brushes with death, the most expensive scariest being his dog fight resulting in a collapsed lung and multiple puncture wounds.  He’s also had a severe allergic reaction to his vaccinations resulting in swelling to a size much larger than his already gigantic 16 Lb. cat frame, and he’s been stepped on, resulting in a broken leg and surgery to put a pin in…and follow-up surgery to take the pin out.  You get the point.  My “free” stray cat has literally had more spent in medical expense than I have in the 8 1/2 years I’ve owned him. 

But, as most pet-owners, I believe he is worth it.  He’s been with me through 4 moves, and lived with my brother & sister-in-law for a year.  I taught him how to use the toilet once, and, yes, he actually did it.  But only for a few weeks.  I don’t think he liked it, so he stopped, and being an indoor/outdoor cat, just started holding it until I let him outside, which was also fine with me.  I just didn’t want to deal with a litter box anymore. 

I’m bringing him up because I wanted to tell you how he decided to “help” me with my art project last week…so sweet – him taking an interest in my life.  He is actually usually pretty good about staying out of the way while I’m working, except for the time he stepped in oil paint and then continued walking through the house before I realized it and the time he started chewing on one of my smaller paint brushes, and broke it in two.  But really, he usually doesn’t take that much of an interest.  Not so with my latest project.  Apparently, my materials were intriguing to cat intellect. 

First, he was trying to sharpen his claws on the trim I bought for building my frame (as discussed in my Art Projects post).  This was, of course, dissuaded by me.  Then I had several sheets of tissue paper out, and he thought he needed one.  I gave him some newspaper to distract him, and put it across the room (although across the room is not very far in my house).  This worked for a few minutes.  Then, he decided that in addition to the pitcher on the kitchen floor, the bowl of water I had been rinsing my paint brushes in for two days was a good thing to drink out of.  Then, I had my painting laid out on the floor, and he thought he needed to get on it.  Repeatedly. 

I finally resorted to opening the linen closet, with which he has an obsession, and letting him get in there.  That worked until I got things to a point that I could pick them up off of floor.  I usually don’t let him get into the linen closet, because he likes to sleep behind the towels, and he has been mistakenly closed in there for full days more than once.   Besides the fact that I also do not like furry towels.

So, here are some pictures of my cat, further displaying his quirkiness:

As most cats do, he loves to get into boxes…mostly he likes to attack people from inside them.

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And he likes to get into boxes even if he doesn’t fit into them…I tried to tell him.

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Evidence of his obsession with the linen closet:

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He likes to sleep like this, but it looks like he has full-on rigormortis:

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And he thinks he is a person, and likes to sleep like this, using my headboard as a pillow…ok, ok, I made the bed up around him.  I couldn’t resist.  But otherwise, he really does sleep like this.

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And this is a pretty normal picture of him sleeping in the basket he usurped as his permanent bed after refusing at least 3 store-bought cat beds.  I thought he would get tired of it, but it’s been over 2 years now, and he still sleeps in it regularly.

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And that’s my cat.

Art Projects

It was pointed out to me recently that I seem to enjoy doing the crafty part of art projects more than the painting.  I started considering this, and realized it was true.  I have the most fun with my paintings when I am doing more than just using paint and a brush, like the time I put cheesecloth over the canvas before painting, and then pulled it off when the painting was done, so there is this cool criss-cross pattern on the painting.  I do project-type things a lot, I have realized…the art above my bed is a collage I made from a book of old movie posters, the art in my hallway is a garden trellis with Picasso prints mounted on wooden panels, and hanging from the trellis at various heights.  You get the point.  These are the things I really have fun doing. 

Like the time I wrapped the big bouncy ball I bought for my niece and made it look like a giant lollipop:

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Or like the time I turned this couch:

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into this one:

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Or like the time I made a glass mosaic border with salsa jars & dressing bottles and built the frame for this painting:

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Or like the time I tied these bamboo sticks together with twine to make my dried flower rack:

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Or like the time I painted this kids table & chair set for my boyfriend’s mom’s flower shop (although I discovered later that I need to research painting metal because it ended up all peeling off):

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My point is that I have decided that I should try to incorporate this type of thing into my paintings more, and I think they will be better.  That being said, I am working on a yet undisclosed project which I am super excited about.  All I will say is that it involves turning this trim (which is two different types & full lengths of trim if you can’t tell from the picture):

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into a super silver antiqued frame for a new piece I’ve been working on.  I’ll post a picture of the whole thing when I’m done.  It wouldn’t be the same to show you an unfinished work.  My duplex neighbor/handyman has been rebuilding the laundry room that we share on the back of the house…maybe he’ll have his mitre saw out so I don’t have to use my stupid plastic box mitre saw.  That would be fantastic. 

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