Sunday, March 22, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

I will be just plain gone from cyberspace for about 3 weeks. Not even e-mail, I think. No blog posts, no blogs, no comments. The CD Cover mailing project will have to wait - I will finish that up later. Probably no painting.

I got the go ahead on a big hairy wonderful project at work, involving a lot of travel for the next few weeks and nights and weekends of work. Very tight schedule at the start. I've been pushing for this for nearly a year and I got a green light Friday. Happy panic.

So I love you all, I will not forget about you, I will be back, but I won't have PC time for anything but work for the next three weeks...

Gotta go to bed now - getting up at 4:00 AM to catch a plane.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Painting Large Again - and Asheville

Tonight was life drawing night, but I was too tangled up inside about my day job to go. Then I talked to Dearest for an hour and was better. Too late to go, by then... So I took Daughter to dance and worked some more in the car on my laptop while I waited. That also helped me to feel less overwhelmed.

Then I got home around 8:30 and painted this in two hours (it was white paper with some pencil lines when I started). Watercolor, 18 x 24. Fast, for me. Not done, but a long way from the start. This felt really good to do. I haven't painted large in weeks.

This weekend we left the guys at home and went to visit UNC, Asheville. Here are some photos. A scene on the street of Asheville (Catholic basilica downtown). OK, so it's more about the tree - what do you expect? A shop where Daughter bought a yellow beret (on her list for a while, but we hadn't seen berets anywhere until this hippy town) and Dearest let me twist her arm to try on a dress which I later persuaded her to buy. And the last photo is of my girls, seen from inside a shop they had just left - with huge amaryllis in the window.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oooog. Wiped Out

We had a wonderful whirlwind overnight trip with Daughter to Asheville, NC to look at the college of her choice. I want to go back to school and go there. Can I do it over again?

It's about four and half hours drive, and I did it in the rain yesterday to get there, and then back again in the rain today after meetings and tour... I am wiped.

And tomorrow I leave at 6:00 AM to drive four and a half hours to Columbia, SC... Spartanburg SC on Thursday... I'll get a day without travel in Columbia on Wednesday. Shame about the location. I like some people in Columbia, very much. There is a wonderful zoo and garden there. There's a good SC state museum there. I think that's it - the rest I would gladly never see again.

Hopefully it's not raining during my drive tomorrow.

This will not be a good week for art, I'm thinking. But I did at least post progress on that painting from Life Drawing. This is as far as I've gotten with preliminary watercolor. It's slow going - I don't know what I'm doing, which is the fun and frightening part all at once.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

CD Covers - The Drawing - C'est Tout

I am writing in the tres official capacity as auditor and judge of the drawing of names for Etienne's CD Covers. I will describe the proceedings so all may know the results were fair.

First, Etienne wrote the names of anyone who had requested a CD Cover on comments since the posting of the final eight images. These were numbered for convenience and calculating the odds. Oui, we post the probability of being drawn on each successive reach of Etienne's hand.

Odds for each successive placement:

1st place 0.0588235
2nd place 0.0625000
3rd place 0.0666667
4th place 0.0714286
5th place 0.0769231

You can see your bon chance increases with each drawing. Etienne gleefully pointed out the appearance of his favorite repeating decimal on 4th place (regrettably rounded by the calculator), where a multiple of seven worked the magique. No doubt Lisa's cheri, the Man of Math, will perceive deeper meaning in all of this - upon me it is mostly lost. Etienne says that grenouilles, being unable to see their own digits, never acquired a desire to count. To this I merely shrug.

Here you can see a dramatization of the first drawing done before the first grand shake-up. It was confirmed that there were no slips lurking in the shadows of the edge of the beret. Etienne did each real selection blind, scrambling the slips further with his fingers with his eyes closed, and reshaking and reconfirming no loss under the edge between each draw. I made sure there was no peeking. Etienne's long Italian lashes were firmly down upon the Magyar bags beneath his eyes.

Here are the slips, pulled in order but unopened. The suspense was like the aroma of fresh baked baguettes, pervading everything. Etienne prolonged this moment. He told me he was pondering the possibilities, and who might have been selected. Then came the moment of truth, and we unfolded the slips.

Here is the photographic evidence of the drawing. The number to the right, off the slip, indicates the rank in the contest, and the order of choosing. The number on the slip was merely written for counting and calculation of odds. So the following blog personalities may now announce their preferences in e-mail to Etienne (instructions below).

1 - Summer (Phoenix Berries)
2 - Alex (A Markhov)
3 - Genie Sea (Reality Insanity)
4 - The Gypsy (Fadwa's Inspirational Blog)
5 - Odd Chick (Passions of an Odd Chick)

Etienne noted that two of these may be hand delivered, but that is balanced by the one which must travel all the way to Dubai... That will be Etienne's first art sent outside America. Oui. It is time to infect another continent.

The winning bloggers should now indicate to Etienne their first and second choice in e-mail. If all goes well, and no one ahead of you in line chooses one of your first choices, then Etienne will announce who is getting which in a blog post. If someone ahead of you has chosen so that neither your first nor second choice are available, Etienne will write with that sad news and advise you which covers remain. The winners later in the list will have to wait until all above them are settled before their selections are secure.

Send also your mailing address (mail d'escargot) in the e-mail, if your CD cover will not be hand delivered.

Voila, Etienne's e-mail address is (broken in little pieces to elude the spam crawlers) "arnly" followed by the numeral for seven "7" then the tres chic symbol for e-mail (the a encircled by the curlique), followed by "yahoo" immediately succeeded by a speck plus "com". This address is also available on Etienne's gallery page, which can be reached by clicking the image in the banner at the top of this blog.

For those who did not win today, there will be three covers left at the end, and one of those may be achieved by simply asking in comment, after Etienne posts images of the three. Only one per blogger, so the five winners above may not request one of the three remaining.

Eh, bien! Greetings and congratulations to those who won. We will soon see what they choose.

au revoir,


Friday, March 13, 2009


Spent most of the evening on the main house PC battling some kind of DCOM problem - possibly a trojan or malware. It took most of the evening to get a good boot-up, so I could attach the 1/2 terabyte external I bought for backups and get a more recent dump of photos and other precious items. Next I have to see if repairs are possible or if it will require a reload...

So no time for other frivolity tonight. Before it happened I cut the boys' hair, and I started the last work on the taxes. Some fun night, mm-hmm.

Going to bed now while the PC does a Spy-bot sweep (first of several tools I will use). It's already found a win32 malware item (win32 was involved in the boot failures) - could be the culprit, could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Provence Cloth and Daffodils

Etienne's cheri loves bright table coverings from Provence. Here one is creating a perfect background for the yellow narcissus. And for moi, as well. The photo is tres jolie - you should perhaps click on it to zoom your enjoyment. And then you can better see the sweet happiness of these little yellow blooms.

The clock changes in this house have led to some deep sighs of content. It feels as if we will have all the days of March, but we may pretend that they will happen with the sunlit evenings of April. Then April will come and be as bright as usual, as well. Tres riches heures du soleil. For these people who feed on photons, this is a gift, and they are grateful. It has inspired worship, thanks, and praise from Etienne. Gloire a Dieu.

Encore - Etienne is giving away the CD Covers, here, and if you wish to get your name in the hat, leave a comment there saying so.

Au revoir,


And I (Etienne) will add that I just saw over at Liberality that she gave me the "Love Ya" Award. Many thanks to her, and I have noted it in my sidebar with a link to her blog. You should go listen to the Kate Bush song she has up on her recent post about Big Sky.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cat TV

Oui, I know you can hear the approaching soft pad of the cat coming to say I look tres ridiculous in Etienne's red beret. But how seriously can one take this when the judge is one of the pair in the photo below? Even a small child addicted to cartoons will not propell himself against the television as these two at the glass of this cat TV.

Au revoir,


PS - Etienne is giving away the CD Covers - if you wish to get your name in the beret, comment on his post, ici.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The CD Covers - Change of Rules to Make it EVEN

OK - I realized, when I tried to figure out WHEN to post the CD Covers for people to get in line, that no time I pick will be fair, really. Some can't get to the Internet in the morning, some have commitments at night. Some of you are East Coast, others West. No matter what I picked, it would end up to someone's advantage and other people's disadvantage. Even that could just be part of the chance, but I can mentally imagine calculated odds for different people and different situations, so I can't really make that kind of choice without knowing who's helped or hindered.

So I am going to remove the stress of getting here first, and make the process more naturally random. I'm going to draw the winners from a hat (my red beret, to be exact) after giving people time to request a chance in the drawing. So all you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment and say you want me to put your name in.

Then, sometime this weekend, I will make up the chances from whomever has posted to that time. I will put them in the hat and draw out five randomly. Those five, in the order I drew them out, will get to choose. So the first name I draw out will entitle its owner to choose from the remaining eight pieces. Then the second name's owner will get to choose from the remaining seven, etc.

The first choice, Lisa's, was left out of this post. Lisa chose the "Haunted Woman," as she calls her. Good title. That was CD Cover 3 as I posted them. Displayed in this post are the remaining eight. Click them for larger versions, so you can see the detail better. These are all precisely the size of a CD cover - so the images might be larger than life size on your monitor.

Once five are chosen one by one by the requesters, I will post one more time with the remaining three covers. In that case I am just going to let it be first come first serve. Right in the comment to that post you can tell me if you want one of the remaining three, and later commenters can see which are already taken from the previous comments, and can ask for one of the others, if they like one. I'll review those rules when I post the last three.

In every case I will be happy to paint an album title on the piece and cut it to size, if you want to use it that way. Or I will be happy to mail it to you with enough border for matting and framing, if you would prefer that. All are signed the way I sign small works (just my initials). The watercolors should be behind something (CD case or glass) - one drop of water and they will be damaged. The acrylics are a lot tougher.

Please don't leave your address or e-mail for me in comments - I will post the five winners this weekend some time, and provide a way for them to contact me by e-mail. I will arrange the selecting of the pieces individually with the five after that. I'll then post the five pieces chosen, and sometime shortly after that I will post the three remaining.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in comments to this post, and I'll try to answer there.

Of course the most ridiculous result would be that I have fewer than five people request one. That would be very humbling, and probably "deserve me right," as my sister would have said when we were little (back when I needed even more humbling than I do these days).

And if you are new here, and didn't see the previous post, I am giving these away, on a lark, and in honor of the great support and comments I've gotten in the last year. That's why Lisa of That's Why got first choice, as she's the one that tripled my audience and brought such a vocal group with her.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

CD Covers - The Last Four

After seven coats of paint, all failed attempts, I finally broke through and finished all four of the remaining CD Covers in one burst.

I will post all nine soon - I'll warn you all when - and then people can comment to get in line for choosing. Meanwhile, Lisa at That's Why is welcome to review the other posts and make her choice now.

Above are all nine as they are on the board. They emerged in different orientations, as I turned it around and looked for inspiration.

It was great to finally break through the log jam and have things start to flow again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life Drawing Session 5

Tonight at life drawing was like everything else I've put my hand to for the last week. Trust me, all of these look better small and on the PC than they do in real life, but I'm going to post them all anyway. I've now had four sessions of painting where I've needed to paint over everything. Work has been two steps forward three steps back every day since Wednesday a week ago. I've been toying with the idea of NOT going into the office and NOT answering e-mail and phone calls because every hour I work seems to put me two hours further behind. I worked all weekend, Monday (when I was planning to be off, but the weather had other ideas) and then 15 hours yesterday.

Tonight in the life drawing studio everything seemed off. I couldn't draw feet. I couldn't get legs the right size. I couldn't get proportions to work. Everything felt like trying to do precision work with a blunt instrument, like I was trying to draw with a log. The model was a sweet young lady, and it was her first time to model - but she didn't inspire me at all. Partly it was her too smooth, too healthy, too perfect body, I think. I could not see bones. The lines and shadows were not interesting enough for me. But I also think she had paler skin than most of the models we've had so far, and that meant the light just bleached her out.

The paper I used for the three long poses (last three images here) seemed to fight me for every line or shadow. I couldn't figure out what to do with the white chalk. Her hair was more interesting than the rest of her, especially her part (or lack thereof) which I found fascinating.

And I have a new problem area - no longer the back or the upper torso, which I can still improve a great deal, but at least I'm beginning to "get" those. No, now it's breasts. Not the ones in profile - those have some reference, some way to know where to place them and where the shadows go. It's the breast in the middle of things - surrounded by background - that seems to have no point of reference. I know I need to look for the lines of muscle and skin that suspend the breast - but I swear the last week it just seems like they have no correct place in the middle of everything. I can't get them right. And I handle the shadows too heavily.

So I guess I will be looking carefully at breasts (what an odd thing to write) and at how other artists have handled them (an even odder thing to write).

So now I'm listening to Dropping Daylight's album Brace Yourself (title cut is great played too loud) and wishing I could get out of this ditch. I will probably switch to Van Halen shortly.

Oddly, where before this kind of doldrum would have made me drop the whole artistic thing and walk away, I just feel more determined than ever to push through and bang my head up against the wall. I daydream about drawing or painting. I itch to do it. I know the left brain is far too strong right now, possibly because of all the work, which has led to thousands and thousands of words of e-mail and documents and hours of phone calls (and some of you know how much I like to be on the phone) - and when the left brain is ascendant the shadow cast over the right brain is like a curse. But I just want to keep trying, to keep throwing the paint around. I'm getting more and more insistent, more intent.

I am also angry, though, at so many things. I am fearful of the economy and where that's going (I have firmly clamped down on any exposure to news - I get none none none - if I see or hear something newsy my eyes roll up, my head spins, and I throw up soup). I am disappointed with several projects I'm pushing. I'm frustrated with my loudmouthed left brain. I'm finding everything pretty tasteless and uninteresting. I'm bored and tired. I feel like I'm constantly putting on the brakes, holding back or going slow because people are IN MY WAY. I wish everyone would just get the f**k out of my way!!!

I just want to eat and sleep.

I'm plainly depressed. I've got all the usual signs. I will get over it - spring will help. Work will not stay like this for more than a few more weeks.

So I'm going to go look at some breasts, while that problem is on my mind. Renoir and Rubens would be a good place to start. They plainly understood and adored breasts and nipples, and they must have learned a thing or two about how to paint and shade them. Then I'm going to go eat a dozen sandwiches and go to bed for a week.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ayrmount and Post 500

This is my 500th post. They just pile up, don't they. Grenouille helped.

We went for a walk at Ayrmount today - our local beauty spot, with the lovely Poet's Walk that winds through the old fields, down to the Eno River, around the heavily wooded hillside, and finally past the house of such pleasing colonial proportions. The house predates the American Revolution - probably not a big deal if it were in New England, but quite old for here in North Carolina, where rot and termites were bigger problems than in northern climates, and where the War of Northern Agression saw the destruction of so many old home places.

When I went to school in New York we were taught to call it the Civil War - down here it sometimes goes by another name... Some believe slavery was passing away anyway, doomed to fail for economic reasons, but I believe the institution would have held on for decades. A grisly truth, a horrible chapter in America's story, still not over. The war was sadly inevitable and probably necessary. Jefferson knew it was coming almost a hundred years before it started, but could not, would not, do anything to change even his own position in that society. Of course the North was not guiltless, having bought and delivered most of the slaves, and the North still practices just as much bigotry as the South, but under more cover. Prejudice goes beyond race; at the pond in the photo above we discussed the odds of Prop 8 being struck down in California on Thursday. Bet you didn't think this was going to come back around to Ayrmount, did ya.

Again I painted for over an hour this evening - again I had to paint over everything. Some of these CD covers now have more layers of paint than a house that predates the American Revolution. It was still fun. Layers and layers of fun on these little pieces.



Last night there was much clacking and clicking at the windows. Today we awoke to this sight. Even fierce gusts could not dislodge the white burden from each branch. Fortunately, unlike reported situations further west, we do not have such a burden that limbs are breaking. So it is mostly pretty, the children are out of school and sledding, and traffic is interrupted. A day snatched from routine. A snow day.

The bird activity was great around the feeders, and the feathered creatures look pretty sitting up in branches with the snow. The grey and yellow birds were the most frantic, and had the largest numbers to quarrel about the feeder perches, with the largest and yellowest usually getting their way. Like some people. But the others wait patiently and there is a turn for all.

These days of quiet and snow are good for thinking. A gentle pensiveness. Memories come unbidden, of other snows, of younger children, of your own childhood. My childhood had no snow in it, of this I can assure you. If Etienne had not been keen on getting these photos with moi in the snow, I am not sure either of us would have been out here. But it is pretty, I will admit.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chair Reconstruction

Today I painted for a few hours, between other work on my day job, but nothing came of it. I had to paint over every bit of it. It was fun anyway.

But I also tackled another project that had better results. Youngest loves to work with me when we take things apart, and today was different than the usual appliance or plumbing job. Today it was Dearest's chair at our kitchen table. Virtually every joint was loose except the back. So we removed the seat (four screws) and then I gently tapped the frame into pieces. The first photo shows them all apart, and the first three back together with glue and home-made clamping.

Here is the clamp concept up close. Now before Alex can protest that he has every clamp type known to man, and a few more besides, in his basement workshop, and all I needed to do was walk next door to borrow the right tool for the job, I have to confess something. I positively delight in cooking up my own methods, tools, and processes when I make or repair things. I adore jury rigging. I once rebuilt a car muffler with steel Hi-C cans, tomato sauce cans, and coat hangers. It lasted over a year. I have a PC I rebuilt where the mother board was not a correct fit, and I handled the adjustment with a lego, which was the perfect height, had pegs in the right place to prevent movement, and was non-conductive (plastic). So using gardening wire and twisting it, using kid's building blocks on each side, until the glue began to seep back out of the joints, suited my love of primitive tools based on simple principles. You can also see in this photo Youngest's idea to label the four corner braces before we took them off. That was smart.

When we completed the three courses of gluing, the chair didn't so much as creak. Much better than the wobbly thing we started with. All the chairs around our table are mismatched - I've recovered the seats (all different) several times, cutting new foam for them, as well. Oldest and Youngest actually share an old piano bench I began to refinish (all the old finish is off... I've just taken a 20 year pause). Oldest started using it at the table many years ago, and he hates to change things, so when we needed to add another person to the table (Youngest) we just added doubled occupancy of the bench rather than replace the bench with two chairs.

I also like to reweb lawn chairs. I've even darned a few socks in my day (a favorite pair of argyles - back in the very early 80's - I haven't worn argyles in over twenty years). I like to make something good last longer.