Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Virus on Computer - May Be Off-Line for a While

We have contracted a virus on one of our PCs, and I will have to curtail Internet and house network use while I battle it. So if you don't see ANYTHING from me for several days - including comments on your blogs or answers to home e-mail - it's because I'm not on-line...

See you when it's over.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tree of Happiness Award and Creative Every Day Challenge 2009

First, Linda at Vulture Peak Muse gave me the Tree of Happiness Award. The image that comes with it is almost too cute for me (grin) but I will wear it all the same.

I'm supposed to pass it on to three others who spread happiness by sharing (on their blogs) what makes them happy. And then I'm supposed to list, meme style, six things that make me happy.

I'm passing this award on to DebD of Deb on the Run. And to The Cunning Runt of Little Bang Theory. And to The Pagan Sphinx. I am awarding them in particular because I have a feeling I can guess some of their lists - they show their happiness on their blogs, after all, but I'm also going to challenge them to make at least half of the list be things that they haven't told us about. So three things (out of the six) that make you happy, but you haven't ever told us. But, please, feel no pressure to accept or to do the meme.

I'll do the meme, with my own added challenge, at the end of this post.

But first I want to also mention that I am joining the Creative Every Day Challenge for 2009, posted by Leah over at her artist's website Creative Every Day. There will be a Mr Linky post weekly over there, so we can all compare notes and encourage each other, and Leah has added monthly themes to act as voluntary inspiration. The first theme (January 2009) will be "Play." I can get into that.

Art Every Day Month, in November, also sponsored by Leah, was such a growth experience for me - a real boost of productivity, which has remained, in part, afterward.

My list of six happymakers:

First, the three that are top of my list - no surprises here...
1. My family, particularly Dearest, Oldest, Daughter and Youngest.
2. Painting.
3. Beauty - in almost any form, but particularly in the human form, in the sky, in trees, and in things humans create.

I wondered that God did not make this first short list - I think I would have mentioned Him (Her?) if someone had asked me this years ago. But I find now that God is in a unique place where happiness is concerned. It's more like God is whom I'm happy AT, when other things make me happy. I have a mental/spiritual gesture of reaching my hand up and putting it in His hand, like I were about four years old. It's something I do when I'm confused, hurt, bothered, afraid - but it's also something I do when I'm full of glee or joy of any kind. I have lain in bed some nights, after Dearest and I have been passionate but now she is asleep, and I have simply glowed there in the dark with deep, inexpressible joy and gratitude, and it's all AT God.

And for the three I've never shared on-line (that last unnumbered item actually qualifies...)... actually I'm going further and reaching for three things I haven't noticed or admitted to myself, even.
4. The shape of the leaves of Scarlet Oak. I smile whenever I see them on the ground in the fall. Other leaf shapes do this - some even more (aspen, ginkgo) but this one isn't one I"ve consciously realized before. It's those wide spread lobes in the middle of the sides. I don't know why it gets to me - but it really does. Nice image here, from a Brooklyn site.
5. Mauve colored clouds. I noticed two days ago that I love mauve colored clouds on a stormy afternoon, when other clouds are slate grey. I have, for most of my life, loathed the color mauve...
6. Letting go and just letting things take their own course. This has been hard for me to do, but I find I love it so much that it's getting easier, and will no doubt creep into more and more parts of my life, to the relief of everyone around me. It's having an effect at home, at work, in my art, and even in my dreams.

Now go ye and be happy, too - and try to find someone big to be happy AT. It's fun.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Glee 1 - Finished?

I may have finished Glee 1. Click on the image for a closer view. At the very least this is as far as I imagined the first draft. I can perhaps tinker some more, but I risk damaging as much as I improve, at this point. There comes a time with water colors, especially with hot press paper, when you have to leave well enough alone, and just accept what you've done, or you lose the freshness, and you might damage the surface so some area looks quite out of place with the rest. I'm not totally happy with the girl on the left, for instance, but attempts to do more have already put me in danger of losing the whole thing. So I may have to be content with her as she is.

Acrylics allow nearly endless reworking, though, and I will be getting into them more. That might be good - or it might not. I expect some changes to my approach to painting, and a new understanding of "finished."

So now that you can see what I was aiming for with Glee 1, does this painting work for you? Do you get it? This image has been in my head for three or four months - I'm glad to have it outside finally.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coming Home - Finished?

With encouragement from Linda, and a desire to see this image to some satisfying landing place, I continued much of today. First I had to consider what needed to go from the version (above) which I posted a few days ago. My dissatisfaction with the brown bird was first, and he was the first thing painted out. Then I had to acknowledge that I did not like the shapes, the colors, or the movement in the lower part of the painting - particularly the lower left.

So I ended up painting out large portions, and then redrawing them. I actually went further with the bird than this, which is still wrong and too flat. I had wanted a quiet painting, with someone at the door. Instead the person left, and that made it quiet enough that I wanted the bird to be singing in flight. I also realized the houses were more than incidental, and they need to occupy more of the painting, resolving many of my issues with the trees.

So here is the final version. The bird is actually much redder (deep orange, actually) on his breast and the lower wing - not sure why the red and orange in the rest of the painting is fine, but the bird looks so faded in this photo. He really pops out of the original. I allowed more light and orange into the left and lower portions of the painting, and that has made a big difference.

I'll still live with it a while, and I may change a few minor things before I take it off the board, but it's mostly finished.

This resolves most of the issues. And, more importantly, I found some of the vocabulary I'm looking for. I'm on my way.

I'm really looking forward to what painting is like in 2009.


I started to open a clementine before dinner and realized for the hundredth time how beautiful this fruit is. So I took it upstairs and used a corner of Virgil as the Summer as a background. As I opened the fruit I took more shots.

This second shot is untouched by the software - just as the camera took it - but that seemed to miss how the fruit seemed to all five senses. The shot was too pale, too bleached out. Tangerines are so vivid, to me, almost lurid or sexual in their sweet potency and in the parting of the sections.

So I played with the intensity and hue of the shots, after uploading them. The fruit itself was long gone at that point, followed by dinner and a game of Scattergories with all but Youngest, and one episode from the Shaun the Sheep, Off the Baa (anything by Nick Park's crew is going to be fun). But looking at these pictures, especially as I augmented the orange so they fit my memory of the taste and smell of a clementine, I could almost believe it was still on my table, luring me with its scent.

Then I tried going further, pushing the colors around the wheel using the software. I liked this image, for the cool light and dark of the sections, the pattern inside the peel, and the contrast to the acid green and rust in the background.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Painting Resumes - 2009

I did manage to paint a little bit on during Christmas Eve, and even a few minutes at the end of the day on Christmas. But not much. I completed it as a watercolor, though, and was not happy with it. The bottom is too choppy, some areas are too dark, I repent certain color choices and shapes, etc.

So I got out the acrylics and changed things. That was interesting. I'm not sure I like the results, but it was different. I prefer the brightness of the watercolors - acrylics are more matte and dull in comparison, I believe that can be helped with mediums, which can add some shine or translucency, but I needed the opaque capabilities of the acrylics, in particular. I still feel like portions of the painting are too raw, and the colors don't all play well together.

I feel I did help resolve some things in this version, but I still can't promise not to just cut this one up for parts. I think there are several promising little compositions within this one - the most obvious being this one... But I'll put it away and think about it again later. Comments are welcome at this point.

Then I got out the line drawing for the Mount Greylock painting, and opened the photograph the Cunning Runt sent me. He posted it earlier on his blog - here - and I commented that I'd like to paint it, which led him to send me a larger version. So here is my first pass - watercolor only, and a literal interpretation. I may go on to do some other passes at this, taking more license, and getting more into the composition isolated from the content - but I can't commit the artist child to anything that serious. If it happens, it happens.

I have had two other dialogues which have set the stage for painting into 2009. One was an e-mail exchange with Linda of Vulture Peak Muse, in which I finally answered the question a college painting professor asked me: "What do you want to paint." It just came out in the e-mail conversation and only after I typed it did I realize it was the answer to that question. "I want to paint the inside of my heart." I do not know what this means - but I do know it's true.

The other conversation has been in a series of comments on a Piet Mondrian post over at The Pagan Sphinx. During the course of those comments (I quote some excerpts below) I discovered that several artists produce abstracts that sing or speak, to me, and I want to see if I can produce anything that does the same thing.

Excerpts from my comments, and I added some illustrations - see the entire conversation and post here >>>>>>>>

"I was just thinking, after my e-mail, that what isn't obvious about Mondrian is how emotional the completely abstract final works are. He was always painting something interior, I think - or his emotional response to something. In some cases it may have just been his own response to the bars and colored zones on the canvas, but these are ALL about his feelings. The final piece you posted caused me a sharp intake of breath and then laughter because there is no bar bridging the center of the canvas! The intake was a visceral reaction to the piece, the laughter was when I realized what an abstract language it really is, and that I have no idea what it might mean! It's like hearing a recording of something in a foreign language and understanding none of the words, and not even getting the emotional content, but being able to tell there's lots of emotion there. Am I making any sense?"

I can see what you mean about it being easier to see the emotions when there is some evidence of the artist's movements, like in a Pollock, or a deKooning. But I can hear emotions just in spacing and lines and colors and shapes - even if they seem dispassionately rendered. That's what I'm hearing in Mondrian's works, I think, though I can't make out the words. Am I making any sense? I don't see/hear it in all abstract work, but I sure do in many Mondrians, and I do in Diebenkorn, as well. Not Albers, though. Ordinary objects do this to me, as well, but then it's usually just noise. Sometimes it's pleasant noise, but it's accidental and not words. I recall a stand of cypress trees in VA that I could hardly be dragged away from because they sang - it was the way they were spaced, and I think it was mostly accidental, though part of whay I couldn't tear myself ways was that I kept looking to see if I could see human intention. Like the word "love" that seems to emerge in the tarnish on a copper roof - is it really a word? I'd keep looking to see if I could detect the hand of someone, so I could know if someone WROTE a word there, or if I was, indeed, just seeing pictures in clouds, so to speak. I did that with those cypresses. Then again, sometimes I see an arrangement of objects by certain very talented people I know, and I hear the words or the music clearly, and they seem to, as well. And it's not just about being pleasing or not - the tolerance points are stretched or played with in ways that vibrate and push at the mind and make words..."

"I can't speak it, usually, though a few of my pieces come close, and one or two say a word or two (Sunny Hillside has some parts that speak quietly - I think it's why it's been in my office at work longer than any other piece - I've swapped the other frame three times since then) - but I can hear it when a master speaks it."

"I looked at the painting again and I got all worked up all over again. I'm not sure emotions is the right word, exactly... Maybe I should say that he FELT these - they're not just mathematical. It sends shivers up my spine to see things like the exact widths of the three vertical sections, and the way the horizontals all correspond across the gap, but the left hand, shorter bars are so much fatter (up and down) than the ones on the right... And that gap, with nothing bridging it. It's like a precipice, and it gives me a pleasant kind of vertigo to see it. He's speaking a language or making a music of the tensions in shapes."

"If it weren't for the odds being so stacked (so MANY Mondrians, for instance, speak to me - and several other artists do this, too) I'd think I were imagining it. But I know I'm not. I'm just tuned in to some frequency most people don't pick up. Or they just see it, while I see AND hear it. Or something like that."

"Robert Motherwell does it, too. In the National Gallery in DC there is a large Motherwell, visible from a number of places in the huge space. I wandered around the spaces, dragging my youngest with me, gaping at it while it sang and sang and sang. Morris Louis does it, too."

"Henry Moore almost does it. I have looked at dozens of his pieces, and they seem ABOUT to say something, but then they don't quite. When I had first found his work, in my late teens, and I had not yet found any of the others I now love, I kept coming back over and over to his work, trying to get it to fully satisfy me, and it never could quite. I still love much of his work... but actually I find, in general, that sculpture doesn't lift me the way paintings do."

The Best Parts of Christmas

Are when I can relax and just enjoy the unusual sights and sounds. Decorating the tree mid morning on Christmas Eve (the latest we've ever put it up, I think) I was able to enjoy everyone else enjoying putting ornaments on. Then I enjoyed putting some on. Then I enjoyed watching the cats' reaction to the whole thing. Especially when Tamlin settled in for his nap on the back of the couch as usual, as if nothing were different...

A Grenouille Cristmas - 7 et fin

Eh, bien, now we begin the second day of Noel, and the quiet week that leads to New Year. At Mother's house I am on the Finnish Christmas season table cloth; perhaps I am the only grenouille ever to sit on the dining room table. Etienne et moi think of these lines running off into the distance behind me, and into the new year. Time and seasons. Oui. Round and round, onward.

And we are wishing you a tres joli 2009. May we all meet here again for Noel.

And Etienne wishes a very special Bon Anniversaire de Mariage to his dear Maman et Papa. 49 years. It is a long time, non? It is a good time, oui? And many more!

Au revoir (but I will perhaps be flapping my wide lips and waving my tres long tongue throughout the year),


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas and Artful Presents

My stocking was full of art supplies, including another of my favorite Cotman #12 watercolor brush. Also two dunnies, which I will keep unopened (that's part of the fun, for me - thinking about opening them and not doing it).

And Dearest and Mother gave me some inspiring books.

I meant to be painting this evening, but I'm tired out by the day and stuffed with good food and desserts, and I'm going to talk about these three wonderful books which will add to my winter nights, and possibly energize me a bit now so I can pick up a brush...

The first is a book recommended by Jul in Munich - Paul Klee's Diaries. This is a book full of diary entries that the artist kept during his life, and many of them help to understand his unique approach to his artwork. His art was dreamy and interior, as is some of mine, and I think this will inspire me the way the Hundertwasser book did last winter. So it's besidemy bed, for some before bedtime reading, to ponder as I fall asleep.

The next is Unpainted Pictures about Emil Nolde. I wrote a bit about him before, and this book is a lovely series of color plates of his incredible watercolors. I want to learn more about his color use, his way of reaching these pieces, and his inspiration. This book is also beside my bed.

The most surprising book of the day was from Mother, and she apparently picked it up for me months ago. It's 1000 Masterpieces of European Painting : from 1300 to 1850 (art and Architecture). This is a fat juicy paperback, loaded with beautiful images of paintings by hundreds of artists, in alphabetical order by artist. It's ALSO by my bed.

I also received some beautiful things, handmade and otherwise, and some great CDs and even an LP - but I'll post about them later. There were also some very interesting edibles, relishes, mustard, olives...

I like it when my Christmas gifts keep on delivering magic for weeks afterward - and these look like they'll do that.

Thanks to everyone! And I hope everyone reading this had a heart warming day, and will get to rest tomorrow.

A Grenouille Christmas - 6

Joyeux Noel! Haid joule ja head uut aastat! Frohe Weihnachten! Hauskaa Joulua! Christmas Alegre! Crăciun fericit şi un an nou fericit! Feliz Navidad! Kellemes Karacsonyt! Boas Festas! Natale Allegra! Merry Christmas!

Tres bien! Voila, c'est ici!

May everyone find a tree the right size or shape for their heart's desire, and may they find that desire met beneath it, around it, or within their own heart before this day is done. May you eat well and enjoy good company. May you drink well and clearly recall the joy of this day for many years to come. And may you feel the blessing of God, in whatever form reaches you.

Au revoir,


** The Noel wishes above are from: France, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Romania, Spain/Latin America, Hungary, Brazil, Italy, America/England

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!

I had to move the couch for the tree - a new idea about where to put it - and under the couch we found about 7 long lost catnip toys. The cats went berzerk, tossing them high in the air with their mouths and catching them with their claws, and running around like wild animals with the toys clenched in their teeth. Anything with fur on it is automatically theirs, like the pair of red ear muffs that Lina loves to carry around in her mouth.

I just did a quick special Christmas grocery trip to the posh grocery store. I came back with flowers for the girls and sushi for the boys (and a small bottle of sake). I got fancy cold cuts, some particularly for daughter and some specially for youngest. I got adorable lemon petit fours in a lovely little display. I bought bread and large shells for tonight's dinner (my stuffed shells) - and mushrooms for half of them. I bought a bottle of double chocolate stout and put it in the fridge for some upcoming 9-ball evening with Alex. I bought acorn squash to bake in the oven with little meatloaves in the hollows. Cream was hard to find - it was largely displaced by many brands and flavors of eggnog. I had a good time - it was ridiculously crowded, but everyone seemed in good cheer.

It's a little after noon and I already have a glass of red wine in my hand. A simple red table wine called Red Ink - fitting for the season. Ahhh.

Joyeux Noel, as Grenouille would say. Will say - just watch him.

A Grenouille Christmas - 5

This ornament, painted by Etienne years ago for Mother and her late husband, after whom Etienne's youngest is named, has two angels in the mode of Flemish painters of the sixteenth century. These angels were, pardonnez moi, from a painting of the end, not a nativity, though one imagines angels making all sorts of music as the heavenly host in the visit to the shepherds. Surely horns are de riguer at both.

Beginnings and ends. At Noel we recall these things. Some churches spend much time on Advent, the waiting, and several Sundays before that they consider the end of all things - of the world, of us, of our loved ones. We tie off the circle of the year and start anew with the birth of a babe who we all know, unless we are reading the story for the very first time, will also be taken from his friends too soon. There will be a resurrection, but first there is a loss and a time of grieving.

And so this post is for those who are without someone who would have made this Noel brighter. Our hearts are especially tender to you, mon amis. If we live long enough, we will all miss someone at Christmas. We are all with you, en esprit, hoping you are with other loved ones who can share your Noel, give joy to the season, and also share the memories of special hearts no longer here.

Au revoir,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Brush in My Hand

Grenouille may have more to say, but I've got to check out for a bit. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are upon us, and if I get a brush in my hand I'll be pretty surprised. Haven't had one in it the last two dyas, either. No time, no energy.

Merry Christmas, to those of you who celebrate it. I'm not totally Grinchy this time - some of this is actually enjoyable for the first time in years. I might be coming out the back side of the fits I've been throwing for several Christmases now. Maybe we've finally trimmed it down enough, and maybe my family is sheltering me from it enough... But I'll be watching to prevent any backsliding into too much again.

We drove about town to look at lights last night, and to get Dearest out of the house for the first time since her surgery. It was fun. And then we watched She Loves Me - a Christmas tradition in this house. That was good too.

I'm hungry. I want a sandwich. I'm going to go indulge myself and then go to bed. Dreams filled with tuna? Turkey and Swiss? So fun to decide...

A Grenouille Christmas - 4

This fierce soldier stands on Mother's hearth (on the other side is a fat Santa). This nutcracker reminds me of Clara's story and the ballet with music by Tchaikovsky. If I were in that story, since grenouilles are not fond of rats, I might prefer to sit up on my friend's chapeau.

That story turns dark several times - when the nutcracker is broken by Clara's careless brother, and when the rats attack. But all is tres bien in the end.

And that is the Noel wish of this post, which is for those who are not well, or are recovering from an illness, or a surgery. May the teeth of my friend, grip your troubles and crush them so they do not return. May you have the gift of love and friendship in your time of need and during your recovery. May you mend and improve and your days brighten.

Au revoir,


Monday, December 22, 2008

A Grenouille Christmas - 3

Here we have the ceramic tree in the dining room. This has been Etienne's favorite Noel decoration at Mother's house for a long time, perhaps due to his sweet tooth for color? The bright lights, some of them in the shape of birds, might even be an influence on his paintings? Who can say?

Etienne recalls that perhaps Mother made this ornament, in a ceramics class?

This post is for those who find this time of year dark and wish for more light. May these colorful lights, and the thoughts and well wishes of friends and family brighten this time, until we are well past the solstice, and days are again getting longer. Then it will soon be time for sitting once more beside the pond, hearing fountains play, and catching the most succulent little flies - the kind that are even better served with a little buerre blanc or just huile d'olive and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc...

No wonder Grenouilles usually sleep through the winter.

Au revoir,


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Virgil Tangelo as the Summer

Today we had more medical tumbling, as we had a sore throat to go check at early morning Sunday pediatric hours, and the possibility of another emergency room visit, with Dearest having swelling in her leg and foot. The morning seemed like we were going back into the medical machine.

But the Peds visit was almost a pleasure with the common sense and good humor and intelligence of the physician, one of the best in Durham, NC - Dr. Clark. And we averted the emergency room visit with ice and elevation of the leg... Dearest's Mother rushed over to be another adult in the house as daughter and I were at the doctor, and oldest had a solo in the church choir. Everything worked out OK, swelling is under control, and sore throat appears not to be strep (though the culture will tell for sure tomorrow).

By 2:00 all was OK, and the sun had finally come out - the first I've realy seen of it in over a week. Incredible. I took a short walk and did some painting. Now I'm baking an orange chicken recipe I'm making up - we'll see. It already smells good. I'm planning to put a dollop (it's much less than a schtickle) of ricotta cheese on each chicken thigh for the last 20 minutes - we'll see how that goes.

Yesterday or the night before, I've lost track, I did the wet-on-wet playing you see above. I wanted to play with some red. Today it became a portrait of Virgil Tangelo as the Summer. This is about 10x14 inches, on an Arches Hot Press watercolor block. They're my play between the more serious pieces on the boards. I think this image of Virgil is also influenced by the sun god images on Mayan calendar stones. But of course he still has his Oxford shirt on... Click for a larger version.

I also worked more yesterday on Glee 1 and Coming Home but neither changed enough for me to want to bother to photograph them. I got busy helping Grenouille with his Christmas posts in the late afternoon and didn't post myself, at all.

Many thanks to friends, neighbors, and family as we got through this last difficult week. It would have been a lot harder without you.

A Grenouille Christmas - 2

In this photo we see how pervasive Christmas can be at this time of year, getting into everything (even if you are not Christian). At Mother's house the decorations are here and there, with special places they have been for years. Voila, here are several in the glass and silver cabinet in the dining room. The bell was painted by the Romanian aunt, Tante Cornelia, another artist in the family. (Everyone should have a Romanian aunt - it is tres tres festive.)

And so this posting is particuler for those who are not celebrating Christmas. Even those of us who do make Noel can sometimes wish it were already January... This month is overwhelming. Then we would wish, perhaps, like this Nicholas figure, to escape to a quiet cabinet in a quiet room. We beg your patience and wish you as much love and happiness as December can hold.

Au revoir,


Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Grenouille Christmas - 1

Tres Bien! On the recent trip in the black leather satchel, mentioned in the previous appendix de moi, Etienne et moi took some additional photos for Noel. We would like to share these tableaux from the house of the dear Mother-in-law, as a Christmas wish for you. May your holiday be tres joli!

In this first picture we see the two snow persons made by Mother. They have graced the foot of the tree in her house for almost as long as her children can remember, and one of those children is the cheri of Etienne (so they are no longer young, eh?)

So this posting is particuler for those in love - may Noel bring you closer together. Look how the snowlady is almost looking bashful, and what a kissable little mouth - perhaps you have a mouth to go kiss?

Au revoir,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some Improvement - Quarantine Down

We are doing better so far - some mending of the knee (though a bad episode with side effects of the pain killer - no more oxycodone, and Dearest is not sure she wants to try the substitute, hydrocodone, though I got it for her just in case.,.), Youngest is eating closer to normal, though both he and I have uncomfortable stomachs, even three days after this one, and the quarantine is down so I can get back into my paintings.

So I did spend a few hours of the day with a brush in my hand, and it felt great. I finished Ursas Major and Minor ("full marks" as they say in England, to Alex who spoke up about the unfinished bottoms of the trees - not that I took his advice (I intend to never take advice about my individual paintings) I had already arrived at the same conclusion - but I was quite pleased someone spoke up about it. That's an invitation to more of you to do the same. Things like, "That bit in the upper left doesn't really work," or "The blue is turned up too high," or "Nice faces, but the nose on that one looks more like a milk bottle." It won't do any good, but I'll enjoy the remarks, and sometimes it might go like Alex's remarks and be what happens. Oh, and I had to move a star in the Big Dipper's handle (the Big Dipper is in Ursa Major, so I couldn't resist). The only star I usually see in the Little Dipper (which is in Ursa Minor) is Polaris. It's the cub's eye.

And I worked more on Glee 1. This one has been interesting for me because I have to make up the effects of the lights, and I'm only gradually finding my way to things that work better. There is a limit to how far I can push watercolors (in the repentance department) - acrylics would be better for multiple revisions - but this Arches Hot Press paper lets me get away with a suprising amount.

For the later evening, that's been the hardest time each day for Dearest, we picked out a movie to rent. So we just watched Love Actually with our two oldest. We have been wanting them to see some of the stories in it for the last two years, but they are only just now old enough to handle some of the others, and the language. So many great moments in that movie. And some really hard ones to watch, too - especially Emma Thompson's silent scene to Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. The scene works as choreography for the hands as much as it works as a fine piece of acting by a very talented actress and a real beauty, in my book. I found her, for instance, to be so sexy and beautiful in Much Ado about Nothing where she spars as Beatrice with Kenneth Branagh, as Benedick. But this is no surprise, as I fell in love with a similar woman - brighter and more forthright than I am.

And that has been my great happiness.

Get well, Dearest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heart Mandala Award

People in this house are doing better for now - mending. I'm still praying no one else gets that stomach bug.

And in the meantime, especially since I am unable to paint right now (quarantine still on between certain rooms, and I, contagious, am exiled on the wrong side from my paintings) I have a well timed moment to reflect on the lovely award The Pagan Sphinx gave me over a week ago. Until today I've had little time to reflect on it, much less post it...

I am moved to be receiving this Heart Mandala Award, and I'll happily display it in my sidebar. I love the idea behind the award - open heart - and the beauty of the symbol for it, created by another artist I admire, Susan of Adventures Ink and Phantsythat.

As for awarding it to three other bloggers - people who, it seems to me, have their hearts open in their blogging and are sharing their inner selves to the help of others, I am greatly aided in my choice that several of my favorite open hearted bloggers have already received this award since its inception. So I didn't need to work as hard to limit it to three... You know who you are.

But the first choice for me would have been REALLY easy anyway. I'm going to first award it to my Dearest - not because she's my wife (though that's a great reason for all kinds of things) but because it's her blog that first inspired me to have one, and it's still her blog that most influences the style and openness of my own. So if I deserve the award, then she doubly deserves it for being that open hearted herself AND for being a major reason my blog follows suit. Many an introvert has been helped by reading things on Moomin Light which have not been uttered elsewhere. We're not so weird after all - it always looks more normal if someone else feels it... Many thanks. She is the main reason I am starting to make real peace with my own introversion.

And I'm awarding it to Phoenix Bearies - another lady who shares rich detail from her heart, her dreams, and her faith. It's the most heart wrenching posts, or the most gleeful, that usually move me the most, and instruct me the most. It's great fun to be reliving having our first little one through her feelings and thoughts.

And I'm awarding it to Linda, who shares her sufferings, pain, pleasures, and the spectacle of making heartfelt art on her blog Vulture Peak Muse. Her open hearted approach to her art and her blog is helping me to further open mine to my art, to my work, and to my family.

To ye awarded, please feel free to do as much or as little with this as you wish. I hate to place obligations on people. (Another thing for that list...)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our House the Last 72 Hours

I was violently ill all night, and now our youngest is doing the same. I am trying to keep all this separate from Dearest, who got home last night from knee surgery, and has to keep down meds...

Youngest son and I picked this thing up in the hospital Saturday, when he and I did an ambulance ride with him in respiratory distress with Croup. I got no sleep Saturday night, but sent Dearest home for some sleep prior to her surgery. It's a good thing, because son and I seem to have picked this up when they moved us to the Peds ward of the emergency room. We got discharged from there and Dearest never was in the Peds area.

So the last 72 hours have been pretty tough here.

Surgery went well, by the way - orthoscopic for a miniscal tear.

I actually managed to do a little painting yesterday on a brief break between things - before I got sick. I want very much to get back to it - but right now lying down looks like a better option.

Ginger Ale never tasted so good! Dearest was given cranberry juice after her surgery - the first food or drink in nearly twenty hours, and she said it was nectar of the gods. Perspective makes everything seem what it is. Sometimes I think God made us to be billions of perspectives - to make billions of experiences real.

In this house our perspectives are a bit warped at the moment - but we're feeling grateful, mostly. Things could have gone so much worse. And we have good health insurance. I'm also grateful that up to now the insurance hasn't been needed much...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coming Home - Not as I Planned

I planned to be painting this today, starting around 9:00 AM. Instead I had a real coming home, with Youngest, as he got discharged from the hospital after a respiratory distress episode last night. Croup, they say - and we need a visit to the pulmonologist in a week or so in order to know if it was just a viral fluke, or if there are some things we can do to prevent this again. He looked pretty out of it on our first ambulance ride, but today, when he perked up (steroids finally got control of the swelling and he could breathe better) he told me he had been awake the entire time and had observed a number of things about the inner workings of the ambulance. He also noticed that the stretcher had a softer, more comfortable mattress than his bed...

I could tell we were ready to go home when he began playing with his breathing to manipulate the blood oxygen meter, trying to push it up to 100. He discovered that taking a few long breaths and then takign a really big one and holding it had the best result. Just like we used to do to increase our ability to hold our breath, or to make a really long deep dive in the pool or at the lake.

So I only got a little done on this painting today (click image for a larger version), and only while pretty tired, since I've only had an hour and half of sleep since this same time last night.

But this was a good place to spend an hour this evening, especialy this time of year. Almost like I watched this sunset in late summer. Today I feel like the far right hand bird in this image. I may be tired, and the bills are still untallied, but my Youngest is OK, sleeping quietly in his room, and he and I actually had a good time today talking about all sorts of nonsense while we searched the web with my Blackberry during our long morning. Dearest came with us for the long night, but we figured we needed to divide our fatigue and someone needed to be able to drive, so she went home around 6:00 and slept a little. That meant that when Youngest became alert again it was just him and I - and I enjoyed it. He's good company.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coming Home

We're back from seeing the Christmas lights and decorations at the Biltmore House in Asheville. We came home a bit early, because youngest has a fever, but we had a great trip, and got some Christmas feeling with the carols being sung there, and all the fireplaces and soft light at the huge house.

At home I answered some e-mail and visited a few blogs I've been neglecting for a week or more, and then I looked at some art which has been under my skin for years. An image I have been grappling with for over a year, and which I've tried to let out on three or four other pieces of paper, finally came out the way I wanted this evening. I thought this time I would show the progression of the drawing, as well. Here is the simple set of random lines, from the same crowd scene I used to start Glee 1.

Here I've begun to remove some lines, and allowed the random lines to suggest the trees I need in this piece. Tall silhouettes against the sky - which we saw a lot of at the Biltmore Estate, which takes half an hour to drive out of, once you leave the house! I extended the trees to the top of the page to get the feeling I wanted. I had thought of doing foliage at the top - but that's another painting...

Here I've begun to play with the lines below the trees - what will become the foreground. All of these photos have the contrast pumped up in the camera software, so you can see the lines - they're not so dark in front of me, and I often lighten them before I start painting. I've added some small trees and the house in the foreground, which will have a figure in the doorway, with light streaming around it. I have to decide on a figure... I also added the largest bird. This painting is meant to be in twilight, and the birds are going to roost. That is one of the strongest symbols, to me, of coming home.

And finally, here I've removed most of the detail around the house - it was too cute. And I added the second house and the lamp. I added two more birds (it's the feeling of all the birds in motion, all going to bed, that means gloaming, to me). I also removed some lines that were cutting off movement I want - there will be more removed as I start to paint, I suspect.

No music played while I did this one... My right brain is getting more assertive on its own, and the left is better at getting out of the way.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning's painting time.

I'm also looking forward to spending time with Dearest in the afternoon, keeping her too busy to think too much, and helping with the last errands, before her knee surgery Monday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missing for a While...

I will be absent from the web for a bit - got a very busy few days planned (some work, mostly play). Probably won't get much painting done, either, but I will get some inspiring photos and some general feeding of the inner artist and muse, I think.

See you all in a few days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yesterday's Post - and Cedar Rock Hike

Some might have taken yesterday's post too strongly. I did have a really bad Monday evening and Tuesday morning, but that's largely my own doing because I let things like Christmas expectations (the outside world's, not my immediate family's) get to me. Even when I'm largely uninvolved, because my Dearest and my kids have taken on almost all of the holiday chores, since I don't enjoy them at all, I still feel this pressure to conform, and this guilt that I'm not involved more and not having a good time. It's like a party you feel you have to go to when the last thing you want is to stand around with a drink in your hand and talk about nothing much with a bunch of people you don't really know. I should just quietly and politely say, "No, thanks," and go about my business. But I have found that hard to do. I feel like everyone at the party is talking about what a party pooper I'm being. In point of fact, as Dearest often repeats, "People aren't thinking about you - they're thinking about themselves." Yup - that's undoubtedly true - and I still worry that they are shaking their heads behind my back, or laughing at me. Left over from elementary and middle school, when I was given plenty of reason to suppose this was actually happening (the laughing part).

So events like Monday's blow up leave me feeling stupid (stuck in junior high) and ungrateful, at the same time I'm still annoyed with what our society has made out of Christmas and the "Holidays."

And since my blow-ups don't happen in a vacuum, and other people get hurt (mostly Dearest) I wish I could just get over the whole thing.

And that's all I want to concentrate on that... and instead, I'm going to post something I wrote months ago, and which makes me wish it were still October.

One of our familiar old hikes, from years ago with much smaller kids, is Cedar Rock Park in Burlington, NC. It's a place which used to be called Road's End Farm, before it became a park. There's an old stone mill dam, a very lazy little river, and some short hikes over gently rolling hills that are returning slowly to oak forest. Down by the river there is an old farm road, and between the water and the track is a row of cypress trees. That's the tall tree in this photo. They look like evergreens, but they shed all their needles in the fall, and grow a totally new set in the spring, like tamarack (also called larch).

Back when we started hiking this park, almost twenty years ago, there was no bridge over the little river, and you had to rock hop or wade the old ford. Now the bridge is a perfect place to drop maple seeds and watch them spin fifteen feet to the leaf covered surface. The water didn't even seem to be flowing, and dearest jokingly suggested we play Pooh Sticks, the way we do at the Linville River in the mountains. There we all lean over the edge of the bridge and drop the sticks fifty feet before we rush to the other side of the bridge (mind the traffic) to watch and wait and root for our own stick to emerge first. Here we couldn;t even tell which way the water normally flowed.

While we don;t have the bright red leaves of the mountains, here in the Piedmont of NC, we do get some really satisfying yellows, golds, russets, and browns. This last weekend the sky was a distant wistful shade of blue, with flat bottomed, slightly violet clouds, hanging motionless around the horizon. It's not the fireworks of the Blue Ridge, but I'll happily take it. And every year we are lucky enough to get these two completely separate autumns.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dies Irae - A Lost Day

Holiday Explosion Four last night. The most self destructive yet. I lost yesterday, except for the pain I created which lasted into today. This morning I rose early to a deep smoldering fury, the taste of ashes, and a mild hangover from the tequila shots I knocked back before bed - only the third hangover I've ever had. I drove to work deeply frustrated at the speed limit and the traffic - I felt I badly needed to drive 90, the growl of the engine harmonizing with my rage - but I behaved. At work I wrote e-mails shutting down several projects, and postponing others until May. I told people who came into my office to make it quick, that I had too much to do and that I was grouchy - as if they needed me to point it out.

Later I ran a staff meeting by phone and checked with the only other attendee in my office. She said I hadn't sounded different than usual (I'd worked hard at that). She's an extrovert and passionate person, full of laughter but also prone to throwing things (she finally stopped throwing her phone at the wall when they told her there would be no fourth replacement...) so I boiled over to her about this season, this month, this darkness, this rage. She could relate. We finally got to where I could laugh at it. A grim laughter, but better than wrath.

This evening I called home that I was a little better, and that I needed an evening out. I went to the big sophisticated mall and wandered the not-so-crowded spaces. The drive there in the dark, and the drive from there up Durham's most interesting (and notorious) street at night enabled me to make some peace with the dark. I wandered some other lamp lit streets, smelling the restaurant smells, hearing the quiet conversations of little knots of smokers and college students outside cafes and bars.

I came home with an extension cord for my headphones, so I can finally move freely again while painting. I tackled the last of the sky in Ursas Major and Minor and finally turned it right side up. I adjusted the sky further, after this photo, before stating the bears. Then I took a break to let the paint dry.

I had been encouraged by The Cunning Runt to borrow an image from his blog, a gorgeous photo he took of Mount Greylock - a photo that seemed to me to beg to be painted, with the contrasting light and dark tree trunk silhouettes, and the warms and cools in the freshly wintered landscape. He was kind enough to e-mail a larger version for me to use. So here is a small watercolor started (guidelines only, at this point - and the camera made the cows too dark). I may do a larger painting, later, but I want to feel this image first with a small piece. About 7 x 10.

Then I painted the bears. I'm not sure if this is done or not - I have to live with it a while. Click the image for a larger view. Feel free to comment. This image seemed almost effortless - unlike some others.

My war with Chirstmas isn't over - just this skirmish. I wish I knew if this was the last one for this year. I despise what we have made of the month of December, and I'm deeply frustrated that most of the people I know hate the mad rush and the way we jam everything into this dark season yet we can't seem to change it.

Today's word-fill-in at lunch started with the very unusual phrase "Dies Irae." That's a phrase from the Latin Mass - "Days of Anger" - describing the day of judgement at the end of time, the end of life. The day of fire and ashes from which we need to be saved - God have mercy on us. I laughed a dark and manic response and completed the puzzle.

When it was done there was one four letter word that had not been crossed off, though it was filled in without my noticing, by crossing words.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Painting - Three in One Morning

I worked on three paintings this morning - each demanding something very different. The first was this odd small work, which I think of as Cardinal Man. It might be Virgil again. He shows up a lot. This was an awful lot of fun to paint. I can't explain all the shapes - they just are. Well the fish isn't, I guess.

And I worked more on Ursas Major and Minor, which I will continue to orient as I see it, since I haven't seen it right-side-up in nearly a week. This was soothing work, and actually what I started with today. This is about all I'd be up for if I paint more tonight. I'm pretty tired out and this week will be another challenge at work.

Finally, I worked more on Glee 1. This was the hardest work of the day - figures are hard for me, especially if they are largely out of my head. But I'm fairly pleased. The drawing had this figure looking grumpy, and that is not what I wanted. So I altered the expression while painting it. This will be one of the most time consuming paintings I've done since Housecats and Weathervanes, two years ago.

This morning I took photos of these incredible frost patterns on the top of my car. The cold finally drove me inside, or I might have continued to hunt for compositions. I took about a dozen shots.