Monday, December 10, 2018

Not Making This Up

Lillian and her mother came back from the store in gales of laughter. They couldn't even tell me what they were shrieking about -- Lil just called up a photo on her phone and showed me. I looked at it and gasped, "Where is THAT from?" (I figured it was some trash from Tumblr.)

"SaveMart!" Lillian cried, and then dissolved into another fit of giggles.

What on earth could they possibly have been thinking? Wait, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Diploma

I snapped this picture about 12 years ago, and I was ecstatic to have captured this species of bird -- the rufous-sided towhee is a very secretive bird -- on camera.

I've seen them down in the woods by the river; when I hear their call, I search for a glimpse of them. Not often successfully, either.

This year, I saw a bird scuffling around in my euonymus bush, saw a flash of orange-ish feathers about the color of a robin's breast. A robin? In a densely leaved shrub? That made no sense.

This past week, the mystery bird made his appearance right by our pool, scratching around among the river rocks and fallen leaves. It was a towhee!

You saw a bird, what's the big deal?

The big deal is that when we moved here, twenty years ago, our back yard was dying grass. A feeble fig tree and a twig-like little persimmon starved in the far corner. The patio off the kitchen was unusable because of the summer sun that baked the cement as soon as it was dawn. All along the east fence, there was a rock-hard hill of clay soil so inhospitable it wouldn't even grow weeds.

Earlier that year, I'd read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, and was full of ideas for terraforming barren ground. Our back yard was going to change.

We put the pool in, and then I began planting. Over the next twenty years, we had a myriad of shrubs and plants that came and went; the pampas grass, a perennial morning glory, and beautiful breath-of-heaven went nuts and tried to take over the world. But the real foundation came when we planted podocarpus gracilior (Fern Pine) on the south side off the kitchen patio, and a hopseed, a eucalyptus, and a lemon tree on the eastern side of the patio. Then a nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), the euonymus, and a few years later, another podocarpus.

What was a desert is now a woodland, and the summer sun comes through the 'forest' canopy only in little sparkles. Under that canopy, a monstera deliciosa thrives beside a large-leafed philodendron. White-crowned sparrows return each year at fall equinox to scratch and feed in the undergrowth; goldfinches pack the feeders; scrub jays patrol the branches to scream if they see a cat.

But this year, a towhee.

For me, that's a lifetime achievement award.

Friday, November 02, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

How many times have I said I'm not going to do this to myself again?

Oh, well, here I am, Day 2, with 2515 words in my count already. Not done for the day, either. I can't say how many words I will type tonight, but my goodness, NaNoWriMo is already doing what I wanted it to do.

I got a late start yesterday, what with it being a holy day of obligation, and then having some outdoors work to do, as well as a landslide of laundry that miraculously appeared in the laundry room, and roasting two chickens and prepping another two for the freezer (I buy cheap whole chickens and then cut them into wings, breasts, and leg quarters). By the time dinner was done, I was ready to write.

Until the football game came on, which I was sure would be a lame-ass ridiculous display of ineptitude that I could ignore. Wait, what? The Lame 49'ers quarterback, CJ Beathard was out with an injury? Garappolo is out for the season, so that left ... whaaat? The former practice squad kid, Nick Mullens to take over as QB? Preposterous!

Then the kid marched his team down the field for a touchdown.

Okay, put the computer away, got to watch the new kid on the block. So much for 2000 words the first day.

When I sat down with my computer this morning, all set to write, I had a strange reaction: my hands began to shake like I was hyper-caffeinated. I couldn't type fast enough. Sure they were rough, un-thought-out words, but they were WORDS, and they were MINE, and no one can ever take them away from me, except me, if I decide to delete them.

I stopped trying to make up shit to write, and just listened to what the characters were saying and doing, and transcribed as fast as I could.

My, that sure does feel fine.

At least today.

And the kid did good.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Completed Oil Painting!

This sucker is finally done, after ... whaaaat? Nearly 20 years? Oh, surely it couldn't be that long.

But wait, the reference photo for it was on 35mm film. Well, maybe it was only 17 years ago.

I did a couple faint-hearted attempts at it; I knew the basic structure was the road and the palmettos. But every time I started working on it, I began to hate it. Recently I had an urge to smell solvents and linseed oil, so I pulled it down off the wall (dust-covered) and cleaned it up, and decided to mess with it as an abstract.

I kept the palmetto silhouettes, and began with a sky of ultramarine blue. Loved it. When I got to the road and the cadmium red light and cadmium red medium, I felt like I had hit one out of the park, or flung a perfect spiral football pass for a touchdown.

Yeah, that was ME shining through, maybe finding my oil painting 'voice' at last.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Labor Day Effort

For quite a few years, the Filthy Pikers have toyed with the idea of "10K for Labor Day" -- that is, writing 10,000 words over the four day Labor Day weekend. I've never managed to achieve that, but this year, I thought I'd give it another try.

In my voyage of creative discovery, I realized anew this past weekend just how much I hate deadlines and quotas. I could not find a single drop of desire to write, even though I have two interesting stories started.

However, I followed my sudden rabid urge to create. I needed to make an image to go with Charles Cicirella's poem "Modern Day Job" in the Piker Press, so I tackled a work of pastels. No, I wasn't thinking of the Hulk when I made green the focal point of the picture. (In fact, when I was done I wished I hadn't used green.) It was a lot of fun having ALL my pastels spread out on the side of my work desk, so much so that I'm going to do that again today.

Then it was time to move on. My Sony camera has more features to it than I was ever able to use (DSC-H400), but with the creative urge on, I perched on the back patio in the morning light and just played with the thing. Photo after photo, setting after setting -- it was glorious!

This is the breadfruit plant that thrives in the southeast corner of the yard, under a canopy of fern pine and hopseed. I loved the way the light was shining through this newly-unfurled leaf.

My neighbor's queen palm was blooming, and I had a good view of the fascinating golden cascade. Using the fence as a tripod, I was able to get a nice zoom-in of the blossoms.

Back to the shade and morning light! Bernie has a coleus on the shady bank, the variety is called "Camp Fire." The stems are dark red, nearly black, and the leaves catch the light beautifully. Sadly, the camera didn't want to catch the light except as a glare.

All that warm, pinky lit-from-within color was lost. How can a camera see things so much differently than my eyes? Exploring a light-blocking setting on the camera (for the first time ever) gave a somewhat better result:

From the darkness of the shadows, I moved to full sun on my potted corn plants. After giving me a few delicious ears this summer (it has been a lousy corn year everywhere in the Central Valley because of the high heat), the corn has dried. Beautiful when it's green, beautiful dried, too. When it turns white, I think of it as "ghost corn."

Back to the studio, and Photoshop. I needed a cover image to accompany Ken Dubuque's humorous essay, "Armed and Dangerous." Using some public domain clip-arty images, I was able to cut and paste together a contraption that put me in mind of the mommies who barrel along the sidewalks, shoving huge buggies before them, all the while staring at their smart phones:

The stripes were simply for graphic effect visually, but what was stupendous to me was that in fiddling with settings and tools in Photoshop, I was able to get onto the screen just what I could see in my head.

Between Photoshop and my camera, I was able to capture this antique-colored portrait of Bernie's zinnias. I've always loved how zinnias hold their shape even while their summer color begins to fade.

And finally, since our cell phone joined the ranks of Electronics That Refuse To Do What They Were Meant To Do, Bernie got me a Motorola g6 that has a pretty spiffy camera feature of its own. This is the first photo I took with it, on Monday evening:

My glass of wine! What better subject could there be, at the end of the holiday weekend? And with that tenth picture, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I did achieve 10K for Labor Day. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

My First Giclee

Joma and I were wandering around Kaiser Permanente Hospital the other day (while Dzyiadzy had a quick routine eye exam) and I noted, on the walls of the halls, some art work whose medium was called "Giclee." (Kaiser has some really, really absorbing art on its walls, displaying local artists' work.)

I was impressed with some of it, but I had no idea what "giclee" was. So I Googled it when we came home. Giclee is an art form, recognized (named?) in 1991. It involves a print of an original work, enhanced by application of other media, such as paint, pastels, pencil, ink, whatever.

HAD to try it out, so I printed out a picture of one of my corn crops in the past, one in which I had leached out much of the color to give a shady look to it. Then I added a couple yellow/orange values to it, some purple, and a bit of green. I was thrilled with the result, even though Bernie viewed it and was unable to see where I had added anything. (It's subtle, okay?)

He went on to snark about "giclee" meaning "pintura por los numeros" in Spanish, which was rather rude, but kind of funny, too.

The main drawback I see is the cost of printer cartridges, but it was fun to add my own highlights to my own photo and come up with something a bit different. I have another print waiting for me on the work desk, but tomorrow is tentatively "oils" day, and I plan to stink up the studio with solvents on multiple canvases, throw convention and decorum to the wind, and paint like a maniac.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

New variety this year -- Eight Ball zucchini, by Burpee's Seeds. Aren't they adorable? Flavor? Zucchini is zucchini, near as I can tell. But grill the slices over an open charcoal fire with red onion, pineapple, and mushrooms, and then toss them with some Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, and you've got a snack fit for any picnic or summer supper.