I am primarily a painter and paper doll maker and friendly multi-tasker/ troublemaker in Upstate New York.I've been keeping this little blog since 2004, I think. And there is hopefully a value in reading these words, looking at these pictures, clearly I find joy in writing 'em up and sending 'em out, even if I don't always have the time. I try to blog every once in a while but mostly I try to write a real letter every day (this year that is), draw and paint, sew, and instigate other people's creative endeavors. Leave me a comment (I'm more likely to communicate directly than in the comments), ask me a question, do your best to share what you have to say, OK? Thanks
a few days late...or when babies decide to arrive...and the creativity of maternity
I have been having fun when asked "when are you due?" in the supermarket. I simply smile and say, "three days ago" and watch as everyone tensed or otherwise freaked.
I'm feeling great and have no idea when this little one will arrive. We expect the baby will change everything (in such a magic way) so I've been spending the past few days reading, relaxing, and tweaking the nursery. It's not perfect but it is ready-- didn't cost much and has several advantages-- quiet, calm, and quirky.
We are ready, or at least we think we are. With no previous parenting experience but almost 20 years together, we have taken steps to prepare ourselves but we haven't taken all those parent-to-be classes or excessively obsessed over trying to become perfect parents. Perfect is a bad idea around babies anyway, sets 'em up for false expectations of this wonky world. We'd like to be good parents. Like the one's we know and the ones we have.
For us both, good parenting includes not losing crucial parts of who we are-- i.e. I'll be an artist/ creative troublemaker still, my husband will continue to do the good work of fighting hunger. It's just that we'll create and be kind with kid in tow. Hopefully this baby will learn to make and help, to explore and connect, to be fully a citizen in this world.
When, of course, baby decides to enter this world. Maybe tonight, tomorrow, or two weeks from now... nobody knows but I am pretty darn sure that this baby will be born at the right time.
I really wish I could find that paper now but the core ideas (how conflicted we are about looking at pregnany women) seem still relevant. I'm much happier to look at Alice Neel's almost moms and Demi Moore retaining her glamour, than I am at the strangely distanced Freud subjects.
A lot has changed, of course, since that paper in 1992 or so and I've been trying (at least) to pay attention to such fascinating trends as :
A few months ago, my friend Jess was two weeks late, very big and very eager to have her baby (she did, he's awesome). I doodled this thinking of her (in no way a portrait). Aesthetic thanks to Alice Neel, many thanks to Jess for inspiration on how one can be a wonderful mom and a fabulous (in her case) curator at the same time...
Well kids, I have been silent on this blog for months because my life has changed. Happily. Hastily. Heartily. Healthily (I think that's a word).
I'm pregnant. Today is middle around the 23rd week and bambino/a (we're not going to learn gender until kiddo is born) is over a pound apparently.
I've been sketching all along, of course, and since this blog started as an art and life reflection and connection space it is fitting to share some of my drawings.
From the 8 week point when it was all starting to amaze...
to the new way I see African art (with all of those bellies and boobs)...
to the joy of it all sinking in...
to the appreciation, finally, for the 8 years of trying that will (in a few months) result in the biggest, best creative & collaborative & just plain magic project of our lives...
A brand new life. Wow. Will try to share more in this forum, but I'm not making any promises really (except of course to the baby in my belly and the amazing man who will help raise it). Thanks again for stopping by.
Maybe my rudder is bust. I've been wading around in my creative muddle puddle only inching towards any good works. Coupla paper dolls here, a few silly sewing projects there, and even some small paintings but nothing that feels whole.
Luckily, I have almost everyone of my sketchbooks from when I started really drawing (around age 14) to now (just a few years shy of triple that). Looking through these books makes some sense of the indecision that marks these slumps, these down-in-the-dumps moments. My books hold evidence of many previous muddles and their resolutions. The books are full of indecisions and revelations, a fascination with the way people stand, sit and stare out windows in public spaces, and drawings of feet and trees. My sketchbooks are not my life, but they are compasses in my life. Maybe they're the rudders?
I see that direction-giving sketchbook function in this little video that Danny Gregory made for his Illustrated Life book. For a someone (Danny) who has done so much to share his own sketchbook and drawing stories to flip through all of those magic books is just awesome. I put it here so I can watch it about fifteen million times.
My books are also the archive of all of those public lectures I drag myself to in an attempt to keep learning and avoid stagnation. Last week I listened to Thrity Umrigar talk about her writing (growing up in India, being a journalist in Ohio for years, and putting politics into her stories). She held the room in attention as she spoke eloquently, humorously, and smartly about her work.
I didn't quite catch a resemblance but had some fun drawing her as I recorded her words, but I need to read them I think. More about Thrity Umrigar is here .
that's all I have to report kids, I am now back to muddling through this puddle, to making something that needs to be made. All can be revised and recycled, after all, and maybe it's the risky-living vividness of all those old sketches and all of those smart people talking that can move me along... Rachael
Some pages in my summer sketchbook seem to speak about the talk, talk, talk of empty communication and the possibilities of what we can (and can't) know from looking. Smudgy, swirling, and sometimes unsaid communication, I guess...
I'd picked up a pack of stickers for scrap booking when I was in Pittsburgh trolling yard sales with my friend. These stickers- or rather the remains of the stickers- quickly became my own little symbol of empty communication. All those efforts to speak but no real listening, maybe. I'm still happily using the stickers for empty word balloons, for resists and for abstract shapes. Word balloons and though balloons and balloon balloons are something comic book lovers won't ever stop thinking about as is clear in this from Comics Comics mag. The trick is finding ways to subtly sneak in an oblique reference to a conversation gone awry. But then, who knows what they communicate and what they don't. As with that shadowy figure on the right, another little watercolor study of someone coming or going.
During that same trip, I painted plenty of strangers. I wasn't that chatty, but pretty happy to watch that city and all of it's inhabitants. Voyeurism is a special privilege of travelers. Fiction, too. I thought this biker dude sitting in the coffee shop was writing a letter. Maybe to his long lost daughter, apologizing for being so distant for so many years due to his rough time in the Vietnam War. That was all conjecture.
When the sketch was done and I talked to him a little, he had a crossword puzzle book on his table. He was pleased to have been drawn though and he thought I 'caught him'. We talked and I guess if I had never taken a moment to draw him, we never world have.
That's all, thanks for looking & listening... Rachael
Paul Auster stood in front of the room and read. We listened.
Tonight there was a lecture, a talk about translation by Paul Auster. I was prepared to be a little bored by a famous author talk talking about how one word in one language is a different meaning in English. Only he didn't do that. He read just enough chunks from his latest novel, the one that isn't out yet , to have us all entranced. Here's what I caught: several different characters related but distinct lists of resonant objects, attitudes of indifference in The Best Years of Our Lives , Happy Days , a painter lapsing from her medication and deciding to retrain herself from the figure again, Greenwood Cemetery where 600,000 dead people live, men who don't talk (and the reasons maybe they can't), and creatives who open their veins and bleed in public.
So, while I did not get to the lecture last night, stopping by the university on my way home so that I could listen to a writer spin words and images into the room was a good idea. I am glad also, I had a pencil in my pocket.
Blessed be the Irrational! (excitement about a lecture by Dan Ariely at RIT 9.29.10)
Ah yes! Chaos! I'm still working on that...but before I clean it all up, I might as well pull out and appreciate a little of the irrational, the ridiculous, and the illogical. I used to draw from that place; observed form mixed with a lot of distortions and diversions. As in this old sketch from a very old sketchbook (I'm thinking 1991 or 2)...
I'm thinking of the irrational because Dan Ariely is coming to Rochester tomorrow as part of the Carolyn Werner Gannett lecture series at Rochester Institute of Technology. I love these lectures because basically I can count on a fascinating hour, someone to listen to and draw, and at least a few ideas that stick to my ribs...
clearing chaos (or why cleaning your studio helps everything)
There is no spanish moss in my studio. No weeds in my refrigerator. But there are colonies of clutter all over my world.
I've been diligently collecting, cluttering, and obfuscating for several years now by painting (using paints of this kind and that, paper, and mazillions of mostly cheap brushes, oh and also cleaned out yogurt cups of water or paint), drawing (in sketchbooks I go through every four or five months or so with pencils both Ebony and numero two and colored, magic markers, and just about any thing that might make a good mark), and sewing (with all of the fabric and thread and needles and pins). Within the same small space I've also been busy writing and researching (several different unrelated stories from history and fiction), paper doll making (with all of scrap papers from old paintings and scissors and little metal brads) and image and idea collecting from letters received, magazines pilfered, and anything that smells like inspiration...
I'm sure that the hoarding tendencies I've got come from my family of keepers. Like the spanish moss analogy, my creativity often covers floors, tables and chairs and keeps me from realizing what stuff I have. Not just objects, but ideas.
Last night I participated in a really lovely 'craft night' with some friends. We all brought projects to work on and well, I was the bag lady with so much stuff that it practically covered the tables and threatened to overtake my friends. In part because one of my friends, Gabrielle, is a professional expressive arts coach was there it occurred to me to self-diagnose my ridiculous cluttering and acquiring for what it probably is... a blockage that needs to be cleared.
Today, I was on a mission to clear and clarify. It feels great to throw out the tiny little pieces of randomness, recycle the paper that is not big enough to become a doll or a letter, and put a huge pile of books and workable things in boxes to donate. My goal was simply to put like- things with like- things. So now, I am happy to say, I have a clear table for the making of whatever I want tomorrow and several huge ziplocky bags full of fabrics sorted by kind and use (never again shall my cottons and knits mix!),and a clean refrigerator too.
Now, as if through magic, I have fresh energy for...
finding out more about the Goods of Conscience brand and Father Andrew's ethical fashions (and how they can translate to my own sewing and saving the world efforts)...thank you Craft magazine for putting the good Father on the cover of your latest issue!
maybe making something for this shoe show that should be pretty cool considering the fine artists involved and the history of the shoe factory turned into a warehouse packed with artists...
sitting and thinking. (That's what Dr. William Thomas said lead to all of his Eden Alternative ideas and good work...)
continuing to try to blog more and find more linkity links that are worthwhile for anyone who might be reading this (speak up you troublemakers and tell me what you wanna know...)
Alright then, thanks again for listening and saying whatcha want to say...
ps that's my Dad's picture from last week's visit to the Lamberton Conservatory...
on eldertopia and drawing dad (confirmed bleeding hearts)
I drew my dad yesterday as he drank his first ever fancy pumpkin latte and as we talked. It's one of the better drawings of my father, captures both his features and maybe a bit of personality (and if the picture is a little fuzzy it's maybe because we both share a bit of the shaky picture syndrome).
He was in town to go to a lecture with me. See my dad is an omsbudsman at a nursing home in his city. For a couple of years he's been excited about the ideas of Dr. William Thomas. Now, really, after hearing him speak, I understand why.
And besides, he thankfully doesn't keep his ideas to himself. Some places to start(as I am) learning more about these ridiculously smart ideas...
My sketchbook notes are a bit jumbled but pretty I think.
After spending the day with my father and the evening listening to a Dr. Thomas' passionate plea for more compassionate attitudes towards the elderly, I am more impassioned and excited about the possibilities for change. But then, I'm just another liberal hoping we can care more about each other, consume less, and connect more...
Cue the picture dad took in the conservatory.
thanks again for listening and thank you Dad for everything!
an almost full moon leads to Goya (not always but tonight)
Hanging up in the vast sky tonight is the most beautiful strikingly moon, a floating pockmarked glowing white mystery in the sky. Oh I'm no Sandburg and this is no harvest moon...
See, I thought it was full but actually it's only almost full. September 23rd, it'll be full. And usually we don't even look up. My picture doesn't quite do it justice, nor does this related studio scrap.
Something about the bright white basketball in the the deep navy blue ever expanding upstairs brought me straight back to 1799, to a series of etchings by a great Spanish printmaker.
I just discovered that all 80 images in Francisco De Goya's Los Caprichos series are online through the Davison Art Center at Wesleyan. . Big pictures, plate information and lots of odd details, rich compositions, and disturbances. A review like this one (by Kraig Cavanaugh from a show in San Diego a year or so ago) puts the series in context a little and the MET's good old Timeline of Art History essay tells much more of the story.
I'll do my best not to go mad staring at the moon or raving about Goya, but I just had to share. Thanks again for listening...