Friday, January 30, 2009

Arthur Szyk and "Andersen's Fairy Tales"

This was another book that I studied real hard when I was a little kid because the drawings were so elaborate and scary. Although we had the 1968 Encyclopedia Britannica in the house, there was nothing in it about monsters or ghosts. I looked. And unfortunately I was born before every little kid got to study dinosaurs in school and become an expert paleontologist. I knew the names of the dinosaurs of course, but monsters....those were the exotic creatures I really wanted to learn more about.

This illustration is for the story, "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf." I can't quite recall the story but I think this little girl decided she'd rather step on the loaf of bread to cross a puddle rather than ruin her shoes. I'm not sure why pride is considered a deadly sin but pride is what caused this kid to sink into the puddle permanently attached to that loaf of bread, to be carried down, down, down, to be surrounded by lots of monsters in a black, cold cesspool......I think forever. When you're a kid, what's not to like in a story like that? And even better, an illustration like this to look at?

Personally, I think she was just being smart but I'm sure there's a moral message in the story somewhere. And apparently the moral had no effect on me since I think of this story with a weird sort of fondness.

And then there is this one. That pink faced devil still just gives me the creeps.

This illustration for "The Snow Queen" shows three demons holding a mirror that when it reflected anything that was good, would make it look bad and if it reflected anything horrible, would make it look even worse. Sort of like what you find in  a modern day fitting room, you know?

Arthur Szyk did have some illustrations in the book that were really pretty but even the pretty ones had a certain sense of ugly or weird in them. Which I liked.

Dick said one time he wouldn't want to work in a place where everyone was happy. And when I draw, I have to make sure I don't make everything pretty (...because I can really get carried away with that. An art director once told me that I could make anything look pretty and it wasn't meant as a compliment. Ha ha ha.). When things are all calm and happy, or things are all pretty and sweet, you have to have some sort of an edge to make it interesting...although  I think Arthur Szyk used the opposite proportions of pretty and ugly than what I do. :-) But he did make me notice that ugliness or exaggeration or caricature is something really dynamic and will make a character come alive. Also, that a little bit of ugly can make the pretty really stand out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Golden Book of Fairy Tales

This is another book that had a big influence on me when I was a little girl. I found the book again in my 30s and was just as smitten with the art. The artist is Adrienne Segur and I think from her, I learned how important the eyes are in the expression of a character.

The one thing I remember from this book was that there was a lot of crying, made more so because of the really large eyes.

Lots and lots of tears. Even the animals had large, soulful eyes (the swan in the above illustration has a falling tear too). Personal journeys were long and hard but eventually rewarded at the end with the life that was meant to be.

People and animals worked together and sometimes the animals became people and sometimes the people became animals. I had such a crush on this drawing of Kipp the falcon boy when I was little. :-)

This one illustration is so beautiful. I love how the little girl in the center has a glow around her. I also appreciate the accurate depiction of wild flowers around her and the accidental insect or bird that manage to get themselves into such scenes. As always, click on the image to see a larger version.

Some of the illustrations in the book are in full color and others are done just in pencil. I think the paintings started out like the detailed pencil drawings but then a watercolor wash was applied over each area that needed color. 

The book was originally published in France in 1956 but was republished in the U.S. a year or so later as "The Golden Book of Fairy Tales." However, it was republished again in its original large size in 1999 and is still available.  :-)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Parsley" by Ludwig Bemelmans

Most people are familiar with Ludwig Bemelmans because of his Madeline series of books. My sister Laurie and I were more smitten by his book Parsley (not that we didn't love Madeline too).

Parsley is the story of an old twisted tree and stag who both lived together in a forest. The two had grown old together having survived many lumbermen and hunters who had entered their forest.

But one day a hunter spied the old stag and was just about to shoot it when the tree pushed the hunter down the mountain with the result that the hunter would "hunt no more." But before the hunter fell over the cliff, the tree grabbed his binoculars (supposedly the hunter was based on Ernest Hemingway).

Parsley was a very old stag. The reason he didn't see the hunter was because his eyesight was not as good as it used to be. But now that he had those binoculars always available, all Parsley had to do was look through them to see if any hunters entered the forest to cause him or his family harm. And you know the rest, everybody lived safely and happily ever after.

Besides being drawn to a story of nature triumphing over people's evil (Laurie and I will still side with the animal's point of view on things every time), we were both in love with all the detail in this book. I haven't seen the actual book since I was a little girl but I remember that each page with the text on it would have a border of some specific flower, usually with some bugs and things crawling in there somewhere too. Laurie and I loved that sort of detail. Here's what's going on behind the stag in the above illustration. To a little kid, it was a lot of fun to search for all this hidden stuff.

I found a republished softcover version of the book in the 80s and bought it for my sister. We were astonished at our memories because the illustrations were incredibly moire-ed and the detail? I think the illustrations used in this particular book must have been reproduced from an old "Woman's Day" magazine (or something similar) because there was no detail. I didn't think my perception of art was that off when I was little but I didn't think to question it because of my experiences with the Kirchner painting. 

I recently found a Bemelmans Parsley painting on a gallery site and am happy to discover that his painting is just as beautiful to me now as what I remember from when I was a little girl. I am relieved to know that the reprint I picked up was not what the original looked like.

My sister and I both grew up to become illustrators and to live with lots and lots of animals. Happily and safely ever after. And with much detail. The end. :-)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kirchner's "Winter Landscape by Moonlight," 1919

Several weeks ago when I wrote about the Detroit Art Institute, it reminded me of a painting I first saw when I was a little kid (probably age 10 or so). We were on a field trip and there was one painting in particular which made an impression on me. The guide explained the thought behind Expressionism and commented on the mountains and the trees, etc. My young and untrained eyes did not see trees. I had no idea what I was looking at. It was all abstract to me. But I think I saw a mountain because I did recognize the painting when I saw it several years later.

I was in art school in Minneapolis when the Minneapolis Institute of Arts had an exhibition of German Expressionism. I had the opportunity to revisit the painting I had not seen since I was a little kid. My thoughts this time? That I was unimpressed with pink evergreens. I thought the artist could have pushed his color exploration further. Ha ha ha.

I was thinking of past influences of mine and did a search for this painting on the internet. I look at the painting now and my thoughts about it are so different, only took 40 years for it to really connect with me. 

One thing I always have to keep in mind in my illustration work is to keep things simple. I go through this every time when I design, put everything in and then start taking things out. One way to simplify a design is to edit your color choices. This painting is a perfect example of expert use of analogous color (colors that follow each other around the color wheel). The colors used are yellow, orange, pink, purple and blue. If the one missing color from the color wheel was added, green, it would ruin the painting. 

Another thing I keep in mind when illustrating is the direction lines that lead your eye around a design. The control of movement in this painting is brilliant. Those pink trees take you down the slope starting from the upper right corner and then swoop you across the snow and then back up to the other side to the mountain peaks where you're kept up by the yellow clouds that carry you back (they almost look like steps) to the upper right corner, avoiding the ouchiness of landing on those mountain tops. Then it's quickly back down the slope again (once you get to the safety of that tall pink tree) and when you're carried to the other side, you return to the upper right at a slower and gentler speed. In the middle of the painting is a little protected and calm area surrounded by the dark trees. I adore this painting. I wish this painting could live with me. :-) 

That's what I see in it now and who knows, years from now (when I might not be working as an illustrator), most likely something entirely different. :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How my cats got to see the Queen of England

One day I was on the phone with my friend Bonnie (some time in the 1980s when I lived in San Francisco). We had been talking for a while, about who knows what, not that we did not have the chance to talk to each other during the day since we worked with each other (!!!!). Bonnie was my best friend. And there's a lot of talking you have to do when you have a best friend, sometimes the 8-9 hours of a work day is not enough. I was in my early 20s and Bonnie was probably in her early 60s. 

While we were talking, I heard the sound of a helicopter, a noise I had never heard in my neighborhood. I told Bonnie to hang on and excused myself to check out what was going on outside my bay window which faced Geary Street (one of the major streets in San Francisco that runs east to west, from the financial district near the bay to the ocean). There was absolutely no traffic, and there were men with rifles on the apartment buildings across the street, and since I knew the Queen of England (and Prince Philip) were in the city that week, I told Bonnie something was up and I would call her later.

It was kind of interesting to have a view from above street level while the Queen and everyone who travels with the Queen drove through the city. I saw one solo motorcycle appear in the distance and then pass in front of my apartment building to disappear beyond a hill toward the ocean. Then another one appeared. Just the single motorcycle on the major street travelling from the horizon line in the east to the horizon line in the west. And then the entourage of the Queen appeared. Lots and lots of vehicles. 

But with the passing of the royal traffic, some of the transients and bums got a little fed up with having to stay in one place for more than ten minutes and tried to stroll across the street....oh this was so not going to happen. They were politely repositioned and told they'd  have to wait until the Queen passed. There were police at every intersection to insure good behavior. 

At some point the Queen actually did pass in front of my apartment building but I didn't get to see her because I was looking out the part of the bay window that faced west, the direction she was heading. The cats were sitting on the other side of the bay window facing east and therefore faced the Queen of England when she was approaching. And it was hard to get a good look  of anything because the secret service men were draped all over the vehicle. But eventually the Queen of England and Prince Philip passed by and probably Nancy and Ronald Reagan too.  I couldn't get a good look at them but the cats did. 

When that was all over and the bums were released to wander wherever they wanted to wander, I went back to the telephone and called Bonnie. We continued our conversation for a while and then I heard the sound of the helicopter again. Bonnie asked what was going on this time. I said the Queen and her entourage were probably circling the block looking for parking (parking is impossible in San Francisco, probably even more difficult if you're traveling with your own ambulance!!!!!).

Here are the two cats (Bert and his mother Natalie) that got to see the Queen of England (and the Reagans too). But not me. :-/

The following week or so, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands came to visit San Francisco. There was not that much fuss made about her. I hope those two didn't get on the phone and compare their experiences since San Francisco had the best time fussing over and entertaining the Queen of England but Queen Beatrix? Her arrival was announced with a picture and two sentences in the Classified Ads section of the newspaper.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stella (the bird) art

And then there is this one...

Hanging in a hallway and not in a place where I think to look every day.

Because, as everyone knows by now, Stella is bad. BAD. A hallway is a perfect place to hang her portrait because when you see it, you don't linger, you get through that hallway as fast as possible. Make your decision. Turn right. Turn left. Just do it NOW before you hit the wall.

Stella was just a couple years old when I painted her portrait but even then, I knew she had the personality of a contra fighter.

There is absolutely no reason to be so attached to such an "infestation of evil," but there you go.

Bert (the cat) art

This is a papier mache bowl I made that is covered with little portraits of Bert. The faces were based on an ink drawing I had done, which was then transferred to a linoleum block, carved out and then printed. 

Before I pasted each portrait of Bert onto the bowl, I ran a needle with some black thread through the paper so that when it was pasted, the thread would look like whiskers. Really messy, uncontrollable whiskers. I suppose I could have groomed them a little better but the craziness didn't bug me that much so I left them as is.

This is a side view of the bowl. The black glass buttons were attached to the bowl and then I coiled yellow paper around them to further secure them.

A similar ink drawing was used to make this larger linoleum block print of Bert. No thread whiskers this time. 

And this is the very first mosaic thing I ever made. So much fun. The woman holding the cat is a playing card from the turn of the century (the previous one, not this one!).

These three pieces are hanging together in an area I see nearly every day so I can remember a really good friend who happened to be a cat. :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

And yet another celebrity story...

I returned from lunch at work one day to find several men shaking hands outside my cubicle. Huh? Turns out these guys thought they had lost their manly handshakes because of having to work full-time at a desk and were surveying who had the manliest grip in the department. That sounded like fun so I joined right in. I had recently bought my house and had been busy with all the work that needs to be done when you move into a house so my hands were dry, rough, calloused, strong and extra-grippy. I am proud to say I won the contest of having the most manly hands in the department. >:-)

That day was also the day that Betty White had been invited to give a talk where I worked. She had been invited by someone at work who was very involved with the Humane Society and Betty, being the celebrity spokesperson for the Humane Society, agreed to come talk to us. After the hand-shaking contest, I ran over to the room where she was going to talk because I didn't want to be late.

She is such a nice lady. She is exactly the way she appears on TV. Nice, nice, nice and wicked funny. I remember her talking about how wonderful pets are, all of them except........turtles. She said she owned one once and all it did was try to escape, throwing itself down the stairs, whatever it took. The twins were probably just a couple years old when I heard her talk about her turtle experience so it was too late to heed her message but it turned out to be sooooo true. But not when it referred to my other turtle, Lucy (who has since passed away). Lucy definitely had a sense of adventure and was truly drawn to being around people and other animals. That turtle was no loner and was appreciative of sneaking into an air conditioned room when it got too hot in the summer. Living in the wild? To Lucy (Lucy was named before he was accurately identified as being a boy), that was something he had done once and did not want to do again. Modern life had too many benefits. 

After her talk we all got to meet her and when we shook hands, for some reason she gave me a strange expression. I was fresh from the manly handshaking contest and I must have used that grip on her and was not aware of it. I hurriedly told her, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I have the manliest grip in my department." That did not make things any better. I am reminded of something Allyson wrote..."Most people don't know this but I make a great second impression." So, Yeezus (as my Norwegian relatives would say), I hope I have the chance to make a second impression one day. Betty is a really cool person. And proof, she didn't get away from me as fast as possible but surprisingly lingered a minute to autograph a photo of my cat Bert for me:

This is one of my favorite photos of Bert. It was early morning and he was facing the sunrise, spending some time staring or thinking about who knows what. He was such a sweet little guy. And those peonies, that's what they looked like before they became the focus of the twins when they are freshly released into the yard in spring. That cherry tree? Gone. Succumbed in the flood of '93. It just kept raining and raining and raining and since the unfortunate tree was full of cherries, the whole tree came down when the weight of the permanently wet tree became too much. That really spooked Lucy one morning when I let him out into the yard the morning after the tree fell. He walked up to the downed tree and stared at it, and then looked up to where it used to be, and then down again at the prostrate tree, realizing something was really, really wrong and then made a 180 to get back to the safety of the house as fast as possible.

Not sure how to end this thing but to say that Betty White is right about everything except for one single boy turtle who went by the name Lucy. :-) 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another celebrity story...

In the late 70s, in my early 20s, I lived in San Francisco, south of Market Street, in a warehouse zoned for commercial use. I lived there illegally (because of the zoning) with maybe 10 other artists. There was a lot of this going on in the area (this was before the Moscone Center was built). Nobody really knew who lived where unless there was an earthquake, and then we would all come out and compare our "Huh? What just happened there?"s and see who was new to the area. There were musicians, dancers, painters, etc. and we all created living spaces in the places where we worked. 

Sound romantic? HA! It was horrible. HORRIBLE. It was freezing cold (San Francisco is cold, COLD and when your floors are concrete, it is really cold. When I worked in my studio space I had to use a space heater on my hands so they wouldn't cramp up from the cold.). The place looked like a warehouse because it was a warehouse, complete with crud constantly falling from the ceiling because before we moved in, the space was used to manufacture something called Sta-Crete.

 I remember some book came out around that time about "loft living" and when we eventually all moved out, people actually came to look at the place in hopes of duplicating that "loft living" lifestyle. They were horrified. No stairs to get upstairs, you had to use a ladder. We had to install the plumbing and that looked awful. We built our own bedrooms. That was bad enough with the bad framing and drywall but the bedroom floors were covered in a bright red carpet that had been thrown out of a hotel that was being remodeled (one of the artists worked there at night). We were all very poor. But in your early 20s, that kind of thing is tolerated because you know, at that age, you are going to live forever.

Most of the artists living in the warehouse were still in art school but had outside jobs that paid practically nothing. I bring all this up just to set the tone of this celebrity story I'm going to tell. We were really poor. At least I felt that way. My boyfriend, who lived there with me, had a night job cleaning up a natural foods organic restaurant (oh yeah, that could sound romantic too but this place was SO natural and organic, when they made apple pie, they would throw everything in, including the seeds). This restaurant was maybe a 45 minute walk from where we lived. And to walk to this restaurant, you had to walk through the most dangerous part of the city-the Tenderloin.

One night Nik called from his night job because he was bored and wanted some company. Could I come up and talk to him while he worked? Well, why sure, why not. It was maybe midnight or worse and I had no money for a cab (not that we ever took cabs anyway) and there really wasn't a bus that would take me there so I had to walk. And I had to walk through the Tenderloin, at midnight or worse. 

Nik told me the only thing crazy people are afraid of are other crazy people. I kept that in mind when I preplanned my walk through the Tenderloin. This is what I did... I put on a couple outfits. Let me repeat that, I put on a couple outfits. On my final layer I wore a blue and grey plaid coat from the 50s and on one shoulder I either pinned or clipped a little plastic parakeet toy. When I entered the Tenderloin area, I started talking to this parakeet and laughing at all the jokes it was "telling" me.  I made it through the area with NO problem and when I finally got to Geary Street, which is a street with a lot of lights and restaurants and traffic, I could feel safe. But I still continued with my crazy talk with the parakeet on my shoulder. I guess I was probably getting into it at that point. Anyway, while walking down Geary Street a man approached me from the opposite direction. He had white hair and he was dressed in gray and black. We passed  each other. He looked kind of familiar for some reason.

I walked a little bit and then turned around to look again at the man I had just passed.

The man I had just passed had also stopped to turn around to take a good look at me.

I then recognized him. 




Divine had done a double take on me. 

Yes, that gave me validation that I had done a good job of dressing up all crazy because, Good Lord, Divine had done a double take on me!!!!!

The man I saw...

And the character he played...

If you're not familiar with Divine, he was in a lot of John Waters movies. Not familiar with John Waters? You're probably familiar with one of his movies indirectly. The character John Travolta played in the movie "Hairspray" was based on the musical "Hairspray" which was based on the original John Waters movie "Hairspray" which starred Divine as the John Travolta character.

Yes. This is the person who thought my outfit and behavior was a little out there. 

Ha ha ha.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Something pretty to look at...

This is my sister's dog Cirik on Cannon Beach in Oregon. Click on the image to see it bigger because you want to feel as good as that dog does. :-) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Collisions (not brushes) with celebrity

One Saturday or Sunday in 1973, my friend Janet and I were downtown Detroit photographing buildings for our high school photography class. At some point in the day, we decided we needed some lens paper to clean our filthy lenses. We found a camera shop that was open and went inside but there was a crowd of old men (two and three men deep) around a round table loaded with books and the only woman in the store, also standing at the edge of this table, was flirting like crazy with  these men. We were 16, the world revolved around us and at that minute, we wanted lens paper so we could be on our way. But those men would not budge, and the one woman in her severely fringey outfit who was in our way, she wouldn't budge either. We said our "excuse me's" so we could get past the woman blocking our way but that woman was totally focused on the men, not us, two impatient mean-faced teenage girls. Janet got a little mad and kind of gave the woman a kick in the shin to make her move. The woman Janet kicked was Gina Lollobrigida. Turns out she was in Detroit for a booksigning of her book of Italian  photographs that was just published. Teenagers are just so creepy.

But sometimes celebrities can be the ones who turn out to be the badly behaved ones.

It was 1968. Colorado. Snowmass or Aspen, I forget. Probably February. I was in line to get on the chairlift and there was a man who was in line to get on the chairlift too but he really, really did not want to ride up with me. He tried his best to lag behind or move up so he could sit with the snowbunny in line behind me but he ended up with 12 year old me.  He tried really, really hard but it was inevitable, we were going to ride up together. He was so mad about this that he would not look at me or even talk to me on our ride up. And me? Although he wouldn't say one word to me,  that did not stop me from talking. This man who was stuck listening to a 12 year old recite all her "interesting" homework was Eddie Albert.

I do feel sorry for him now though because everybody knew Eddie Albert was on the slopes. When he fell, everybody in the area would point at him and say-"Hey look, there's Eddie Albert." It didn't help that the guy was 80 years old for half his life too. 

But this celebrity encounter had me appalled. My family had a beach house in upper Michigan in a very remote area. You had to drive down a dirt road through an orchard, escape from a loose killer guard dog, continue down a steep hill into a forest and then into a mildly developed area around the bay. One morning my sister Colleen noticed a white Mercedes driving around in circles, obviously lost, then watched it park and watch a man walk to our door to get directions. Colleen answered the door. The man asking for directions was Vincent Price. Colleen knew he was Vincent Price and she said that he knew that he was Vincent Price but she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she knew that he was Vincent Price so she told him she had never heard of the people he was looking for and that he should continue down the dirt road and ask for directions at the next house and then closed the door. This happened in the late seventies. Vincent Price was performing as Oscar Wilde on Broadway. He was a gourmet and he collected art. Vincent Price was major cool. I was just appalled. Appalled. Although I was in the same house at the time this happened , I was still asleep when he came to the front door. After hearing the story, I vowed I would never, ever, ever be that rude to a celebrity if I ever ran into one.

So that night we went out to dinner. I was 20 or 21, so we could sit at the bar while we waited for our table. At the very end of the bar was a very drunken man sitting alone and singing songs from the musical "Annie." I recognized him. Another celebrity. But he was sooooooooo drunk. Obnoxiously drunk, soon on the way to being passed out drunk. He was Bobby Van. At the time I think he had a TV show called "Make Me Laugh." I think I was probably the only one in the restaurant who knew who he was but did I say anything to him? Nope. Just 12 hours after vowing I would not be rude to a celebrity like how my sister behaved that morning, I was behaving exactly the same way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Les Fleurs Animees (The Flowers Personified)

I was going to write about these prints some time closer to spring but when I was outside this morning, looking at the ground to see if the snowdrops might be coming up soon...well, spring may be two months away but not when it comes to my thoughts. At least the days are getting longer.

These hand-colored prints from 1867 were created by J J Grandville. There are many different editions of these prints published in different languages and sizes. I just started collecting the ones from 1867 because they were the easiest ones to find. 

Each print was sold separately (to be bound in book form later) and accompanied with a story about that flower. The premise behind this collection of 52 illustrated flowers was that the flowers were tired of humans comparing all of their emotions to flowers (especially in their poetry). They wanted to see how true the human perceptions were if the flowers were allowed to become human. Interesting concept, but the translated stories are not nearly as interesting as the illustrations. 

The prints were hand-colored and some areas were coated with gum arabic to give them a sheen. In this portrait of the grapevine (which represents "intoxication"), the grape leaf outfit and the grapes she's holding have been varnished with the gum arabic.

I love the combination of the stylistic beautiful with the realistic observation of the natural (Those bugs! Love them!).

Click on the images to see them larger. Sorry about the slight fuzziness but I had to photograph them through glass. :-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thoughts and perceptions and stinkin' thinkin'

I met Olivera in front of the dog pound in San Francisco around 1980. He had just adopted a dalmatian. He was Brazilian and he had a motorcycle, a Yamaha. On our first date we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on his bike late on a Sunday night. It was misty and there was no traffic, just us speeding across the bridge together. Lights flickered in the distance in the fog. When we approached Sausalito, it twinkled like a white lit Christmas tree that was a definite fire hazard because of too many lights plugged into one socket. It was very romantic...but as it turned out, not for me and Olivera.

I found out that Olivera was not a very interesting person and soon got bored and got a little mean and started to work in words such as "independent" and "Connecticut" into the conversation because I knew he couldn't pronounce them. I gave up on Olivera but he didn't give up on me. He called for another date but I said I was busy and to call me in a year. A year would go by and he'd call to see what was going on in my life. Then he'd ask for a date and I would say no, call me in a year. This went on for years. The last time he called, he said one thing he could count on was that things were always the same when it came to me. And that time, I forget if he even asked for a date.

I don't think he meant what he said as a compliment (ha ha ha) but it was definitely true. If anyone wrote my biography, I'm sure they would be bewildered by how little happened with so much time. I'm not sure what to think of that, to tell you the truth. When you come from a family of dramatic characters, having a long period of calm is something soooo nice that it's hard to give up. Doesn't make for interesting conversation though.

But that's my own perception of myself. And I could be wrong.

Everyone has a voice in their head that causes some problems when it starts talking and won't shut up. That nagging critical voice that just keeps going once it starts. When Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talked about the creative process at her book signing last October, she talked about how she had  a really difficult time with the voice in her head while she was writing. It was relentless in making fun of her for even thinking of writing, let alone something about knitting. She finally came to terms with the voice and since she is a knitter, especially a knitter of socks, she told it to "put a sock in it." But she also said that if anyone really, really knew her deep inside, they would just hate her. And there she was in an auditorium full of fans still at full attention waiting to get their books signed. So who is right?
And then there are people who have no little voices in their head and you really wish you could send over the one that belongs to you. I read a book years ago called "Shooting the Boh." It was a true-life adventure of a woman on a rafting trip that attempted to go down an uncharted river in Borneo. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. It was fascinating. But the more I read, the more I realized that I really didn't like the person telling the story. And as I read further, realized the people that she was writing about and making sniggering comments about, had a hard time dealing with her too. It really made me laugh to read her account because even while recording the things that happened, spending time rewriting the things that happened, she never was aware of what was really happening. But then, I guess both perceptions could be right, I'd lean more to what other people thought of her however. Ha ha ha. Interesting book, insufferable person.

I can't post something without a picture so I found this linoleum block print my friend Janet printed on January 17, 1973 when she was sixteen. She's the one who saw the Russian "War and Peace" with me. She was also the one who kicked Gina Lollobrigida in the shin but that story will have to wait for later. This print is a self portrait of Janet (but she'd deny that). Janet, Pam and I were all artistic girls when we were in high school but Janet always felt like she could never be as "good" as Pam and me. I just had that feeling. Maybe she told me. I don't think she continued with an art career but she was good. Really good. I think she had a grown up voice in her head before she became a grown up. That kind of sucks. I'm not sure what I'm saying here...just that a little voice is probably a good thing but when it stops you from doing what you want to do, follow the advice my friend Lucy told me....tell that voice to "shut up and sit down!"

It works.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Somebody got busy with some scissors...

This is the third in a series of collages I own that were created by a Victorian girl. I'm still no closer to figuring out the decade they were made but it's been fun studying the various parts of it to see what time periods they came from.

The young girl who made this series of assemblages got more experimental in this one because this time she used something other than paper...lace. Real lace. I hope her mom never found out where she got it or what she cut it out from. Cutting up her dad's atlas is one thing but cutting up some of mom's clothes? That's a part of the story I don't want to find out.

I was wondering why the woman character wasn't glued firmly onto the paper. 

When I tipped her skirt up a bit (sorry, Ma'am), I found an additional chair (er, bench) under her.

I've been trying to google "Jas. King Mfg. of Rustic Work, New Haven, Conn.," or anything related to rustic benches in the New Haven area but I've come up with nothing. And since rustic furniture was popular during the Victorian era, it doesn't help to have a time period that spans about 60 years to try and date these things.

I've been curious about where those black and white cut paper prints come from. Like I've said before, they could have come from a Sears Roebuck catalog but would they be selling live plants? This particular piece has a print of a grapevine in the pot on the right, a hyacinth in the pot on the left and some sort of flowering tree behind the woman. I'm thinking newspaper or lady's magazine. 

There were several women's magazines available in the 1800s (The Godey's Lady's Book, Peterson's Magazine, etc.) and included in them was some advertising. Or perhaps these cut out images are from a newspaper. I don't know. And it would really help if I could actually find one of these magazines to examine. Maybe the drawings of the women were also copied from these magazines. I wish I knew because the placement of those two roses on the woman's bodice are um, a little weird. I'd be curious to see how closely this drawing was modeled after the fashion illustration in the magazine.

Perhaps it is time to consult a real historian.

When I was growing up in Michigan, my friend Janet and I got to see the first half of the Russian "War and Peace" movie that was playing at the Detroit Institute of Arts around 1970. At intermission (the film is 7-8 hours long, they were showing only the first half that night), the two of us snuck off into the museum galleries before the second part started. We weren't supposed to be there....everything was dark and vast...except for one removed room that had a few spotlights. It was the puppet room and inside there was a Remo Bufano "puppet" that looked down on us. Its head hit the ceiling, its feet touched the floor. It certainly made a memorable presence because museum ceilings aren't short! That room was so cool, unexpected and scary with all those different sized puppets staring back at us, only a few of them lit in the darkness. I love museums. Love the serious mood of an altered reality they hold within them. 

I once called the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in KC about a textile I had collected because I could not figure out where it was from. They don't do estimates but I was able to make an appt. and come in with my peculiar metal embroidered stumpworked peacock and have it looked at. I had a couple experts jump in and contribute their thoughts about the when and why and where of the textile. I'm wondering if it's time for another appointment with these Victorian pieces because it sure would help to have a Victorian expert explain it all to me.

And I do love a museum visit, especially when it's in a restricted area.    :-)

Every one of these little pieces was pasted onto a page from a book with maps in it from 1853. This is the map that this one was pasted on. In the lower left there is a guide to emblems used in the map (unfortunately cropped off by our little Victorian girl) that indicate the level of barbarism vs. civlilized state of each area on the map.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Coontina/Catina

This is the newest patron of the Coontina, or should I say Catina. A lot of fur missing from one ear, some scabs on the face, an eye that will probably be better in a couple days, and a pretty blue collar (he used to belong to someone...maybe he still does?). This is the new cat figuring out the hierarchal cat seating arrangements at the Coontina/Catina. And don't you love that smile on his face? Good times ahead for all of us.

And here's Eli literally moving down one more step on the food serving hierarchy and knowing it.

Last year at this time I was trying to trap a white 4 month old feral kitten who had an injured tail. When I set up the live trap, Eli was caught over and over and over. He never caught on to the concept that if you approach the smell of tuna in a wire contraption, a gate will fall down and lock you in. Such is the cat known as Eli. 

I was really surprised to finally capture Spawna one night (full name being Spawna Satan) and then being able to take her to the vet the next morning to have her fully checked out. Her tail had to be amputated because it could not be saved but after getting herself spayed, deflea-ed, de-wormed, given a full set of shots, a one week hospital stay to get her fever down,  she was then able to be released. Oh, that was expensive. And I only saw her once after she bolted from the house, and I mean bolt. I would have kept her as a house cat but after a month or two of recovery in my house, she remained one nasty wild animal. It was like something from Monty Python. A little white fluffy kitten who would probably kill all of us in our sleep. Nope. They have to meet you halfway. And she was definitely not going to compromise.

But you just want them to be safe or have a chance to get themselves on track again to continue with what they need to do to keep on going.

This morning I got a call from Brian, my lawn guy, who asked for a loan... and I gave it to him. If I never get the money back, I'm cool with that, but I don't think that's going to happen. He's too honest.

He was over this past week to repair a door leading to the basement that blew off in a storm a couple weeks ago (high winds, tornados, not unknown for the area where Dorothy Gale grew up). That guy sure can tell some stories. While he drilled and hammered, he told me one about getting hijacked to Cuba in 1969. He and his buddy were high on acid (Gawd) and were laughing about the possibility of getting hijacked and then decided to pick out the person who would be the hijacker on their flight. Well.........they were right. That just threw them into hysterics. The pilot had to announce that there was a gentleman who convinced him that the plane needed to be flown to Havana and that he thought they should oblige him. This was back in the time when it was a political act to hijack a plane, not a terrorist act, so nobody was harmed. Once they landed, the 747 couldn't return with all the passengers because Havana did not have a runway long enough to accommodate a plane with that much weight. So some of the passengers went back on the 747 and the rest were bused to another part of the island to a resort on a gorgeous beach (which had been built up and developed by the Russian mob) to wait for a smaller plane to be flown in that would be able to fly them out. He said those two days were absolutely fabulous and Cuba was absolutely gorgeous, especially seeing cars from the 30s being driven on the roads. 

Car-geek. :-) What man isn't?  When I lived in Minneapolis in the 70s, I had a neighbor who lived on the bottom floor who was a gay activist who would host all sorts of group meetings in his apartment. I remember one time being there for some reason when he had a group of transvestites in his apartment. What was their topic of conversation? Cars. I'm not kidding. CARS.

Seriously, what did men talk about with each other before they invented cars?

Anyway, another time Brian and some friends were digging up an old stream bed to see what sort of treasures might be buried. They dug and dug and found a big metal plate. They were excited because they thought they had found a safe. Nope. An intact Model A car, just missing the engine.

I really enjoy his stories and he's such a kind person. He took the initiative of storing his mowing equipment in my garage a while back (I never use my garage and if he hadn't told me, who knows if I would have even known). Sometimes when I'm in the backyard and he doesn't know I'm there, I will hear him behind the fence walking up the driveway on his way to the garage and if he sees a bird, he tells it "Hello, bird." I don't want to get into the circumstances of what's going on with his life, just that it's dire, and I think that's how it's always been. I don't know how long he'll be around the neighborhood or in KC but he's a good guy and I just want him to get things together and on track again. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

Obstacle race

That's what "Hindernisrennen" translates to in English. I'm not sure what's going on here but I don't think any of those little old courting dudes with their flowers will ever be able to catch those two young women (you might want to click on the image to see it bigger). 

This little postcard was done by Mela Koehler, who was part of The Wiener Werkstaette (The Vienna Workshop) which existed from 1903 to 1932 in Vienna, Austria. Other members of the workshop included Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Expressive curvilinear designs with lots of detail held together with strong shapes? I've always been drawn to that, even as an early teenager.

When I was researching my Koehler postcard, I came upon an auction site that listed other postcards done by this group. I hadn't thought of adding insects to my list. What a surprise to find these little postcards of woodcuts done by L. H. Jungnickel. Oh my, they are major peculiar.

Two beautiful moth girls...

I have no clue as to what to even guess as to what is going on here. That one bug dude sitting down with the major abs? Not sure why he needs to take a rest on his walk with the bug dude who is using a cane(!).

Smoking bug. Why not? Absolutely everybody was smoking back then. My friend Bonnie learned to smoke when she was five years old...from her grandfather(!).

Oh these are so odd. Love them.