Around the start of the new year, Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services asked me to design a postcard featuring a quote from author Annie Dillard. The intention was to start the year off by inspiring Free Expressions's vast network of aspiring and established writers to make 2015 their best year yet, filled with stories, fables, and fiction. After the first postcard went out, the lovely women at Free Expressions had a genius idea to keep their clients engaged and motivated: each month, they would mail out a postcard featuring an inspirational quote from a beloved author. The back of each card offers writing tips and encouragements, and a random handful of the postcards gift their receivers with free literary services.
I have had a blast these first four months coming up with beautiful ways to represent the wise words of Vera Nazarian, Pablo Neruda, Ray Bradbury, and Annie Dillard--it is like a monthly assignment to get creative juices flowing. These postcards are fun experiments. I get to play.
Past and Future Travels of Here Right Now is a collection of 300 pen-and-ink drawings I started in April 2010 and completed in April 2011. To see the full collection and to purchase works from the project, please visit 300drawings.com.
After I graduated college, I was a newlywed woman with an art degree. In the epic post-university scattering of 2009, my community fragmented out across the country. Dave and I wound up in Florida--a state where we knew no one, with foreign streets and monolith clouds and a country between us and the familiar.
The first several months in Florida were a new experience in loneliness. My life had been spent in a large network of dear friends, each supporting and fulfilling different needs and affections; I was a woman created of community, now expecting one other human to satisfy my need for society. It was an unfair, impossible task for me to place on my new husband, particularly on introverted Dave who was deep in his own worries of providing for me despite a heartbreaking career change.
My days were spent exploring the alien city on my bicycle, and at night I created little gifts to mail to faraway friends, crafted needless trinkets for our home, and made art that simultaneously felt wonderfully self-important and utterly insignificant--which, overall, is mostly how I viewed my life.
One evening, I drew two little landscapes that demanded fondness--the style was as foreign to me as the Florida landscape, and the pieces felt like a new adventure. I instantly ran to the store, purchased a stack of cardstock (150 sheets) and a paper cutter, chopped the paper in half, and decided that I would create 300 of these grayscale drawings. I considered myself to be a serial abandoner of large projects, and it was with a deep distrust in my own ability to complete anything truly time-consuming that I committed to the work. I will make five drawings every day, and it will only take a little longer than two months to finish.
It took me one year.
A lot of things happened in that year. I got a job at a local health food store, which plunged me into a community of misfit toys and outdoor wanderers. Dave and I stumbled onto Felicitous, which turned out to be a stumbling of gargantuan significance. We moved into a house on the Hillsborough River. We moved out of the house on the Hillsborough River. Dave lost his job. We traveled to Colorado, Massachusetts, Key West, and Palestine. We went out on boats into the ocean. The ocean filled with oil. We used a ragtag menagerie of free or borrowed vehicles that constantly broke down, only to be replaced with another free or borrowed vehicle. And as I worked through all the changes that were rapidly veering into our still-newlywed relationship, the landscape served as an ideal subject for coping with it all. Everything appeared in the work.
In the late afternoon of December 31st, Dave and I eagerly hopped in the car to take one final drive to a familiar location. It was our last time together as a young, childless couple--a fact that we had been counting down all day, cheerily stating "this is our last lunch together." We were on our way to pick up Twelve and Fourteen from their foster home and bring them permanently into our family.
Last year Dave and I sat on our roof, counted down to midnight, and imagined what the next year would hold for us. One year later we lit sparklers on the roof as a family of four, gasping as the neighborhood skies sparkled with fireworks. It was the best way possible to ring in the New Year.
Our teen room is occupied, our home is filled, and our family is here. The girls are absolutely amazing, strong, smart young women. Twelve is super sassy and hilarious--she loves to do impressions and crazy voices, play-acting a whole host of characters. Fourteen is so caring and has a real knack for taking care of animals; she has been working with StarFox on learning new tricks, and her love for all our little furries fills the house with giggles.
I generally like to keep my personal life out of the public internet's big red eyes, but I couldn't hold in the excitement. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE FAMILY.
My mom tried extremely hard to instill in her children a good habit of cleanliness and knowledge of how to keep a proper home. Her weekly chore list of "clean the bathroom mirror", "shine the faucets", and "use the vacuum hose to clean the corners of each room" was certainly intended to raise up responsible adults with a flair for tidiness.
Dave and I have lived in this house for over a year, and I don't think I had ever cleaned the bathroom mirror, shined the faucets, or used the vacuum hose to clean the corners of each room a single time.
That changed last week. We are in the process of adopting two sisters, ages 12 and 14, from our local foster care system. We have been visiting with the girls for a few months now, but this past weekend they came to our home for the first time. I spent all of last week trying to channel every bit of cleaning wisdom my mom had ever given me--I wanted the house to be absolutely spotless (because obviously 12- and 14-year-olds really care about clean houses). I even washed the windows inside and out (which, Dave pointed out, I had not done since we moved in, which explains why I had to wash them twice before they were sparkly). Did you know that the little tracks on windows get super gross and full of dead bugs if you don't clean them for a year? Ick. From now on, I promise to clean more thoroughly than my habit of "vacuuming sometimes" and "intermittent sweeping."
I haven't shown off our little home since we first moved in, so I am taking the opportunity of this unprecedented cleanliness to show off what we've done with the place in the past year (other than the kitchen--it looks nearly identical). We have made some pretty big changes as we prepare for adding more members to the family.
I am working with Free Road Entertainment to put together a number of designs for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida's Tribal Museum and Indian Village, starting with two movie posters. Free Road Entertainment created new short films for the museum that highlight the importance of passing the tribe's cultural heritage down through the generations and the infusion of traditions of the past into modern life, and it was my responsibility to capture the spirit of the films in these posters.
Crazy-working bees provide me with an abundance of beeswax to use in my encaustics, so I got back in the studio and started experimenting with some variations on my technique.
In my previous encaustic works, I did an augmented monoprint technique of melting the wax together with pigments on a heated surface into a thick puddle, laying the vellum on the wax, and pulling the piece up slowly. The stratification effect comes from removing the vellum with a sort of dipping motion--as the wax is pulled onto the paper, it begins to cool, but the dipping motion allows sections of the wax to stay heated for a longer period of time resulting in less wax hardening on the paper. For this round of prints, I expanded on that technique with multiple pressings of the same piece into the wax in an effort to achieve more advanced layering of the translucent material.
These works bring up so many nostalgic wonders for me--I think of the ghostly textures that misused dark-room chemicals left on my photographs in high school; of my grandpa's sand art that sat in the front window and mesmerized me for hours; of eroding lands and terraced hillsides and melting skies; of the art direction for the Nine Inch Nails album With Teeth (as well as my general sense of being when I am listening to Nine Inch Nails). As my eyes move across the works, some also remind me of the pathways of the bees flying through the air heading straight from bloom to hive in a direct zip or meandering through large circles of breeze to reach their home.
Camping is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Growing up in Colorado, this meant long family drives to national parks with a pop-up camper in tow or treks into the mountains for weekend backpacking adventures, with surrounding views of the Rocky Mountains.
In Florida, most camping I've found is far from those picturesque peaks --overcrowded campgrounds full of satellite-tv-equipped trailers are peppered along alligator-ridden rivers--but the Sunshine State also has a beautiful network of spoil islands. These small, vacant refuges are accessible only by boat and are free for the nightly mischief of camping.
One of my first times to the islands, my friend Rani and I canoed out with a boat full of firewood, beer, vegetables wrapped in foil for fire cooking, and the other trappings of camp life. While I was setting up the tent, Rani quickly hung up two super-cool Eno camping hammocks she had bought for the occasion.
My friend (and adorable flower child at our wedding) Riley told me that I should make a blog about my chicken coop. Riley is really smart; taking her advice is probably always a good idea. I'm taking the opportunity to cover all things backyard chicken-y.
It's been five months since I spontaneously brought three little chicks home from the feed store. Since then Starfox violently "played" with Savannah, our plucky little escape chicken, and killed him (Savannah turned out to be a rooster). They say that one of the rules of having chickens is that at least one will die a horrific death, and we had ours. It was a sad day, but I am thankful for the lesson. We have better secured the chicken area from the rest of our yard, and I am glad that, because roosters are not allowed in my city, Starfox saved me the inner turmoil over sending Savannah (Savannoh?) to chicken heaven.
Vidalia and Fern
Anyway, onto gloriously positive things: our other two chickens are still alive! Vidalia and Fernandina have gotten crazy big. They look like real chickens now and less like creepy dinosaurs, although I am now weirded out by chicken combs (they are super sketch! I guess I'll get used to them).
Vidalia and Fern are definitely best friends--they take dirt baths together, stand guard while the other is laying, and cuddle up together at night. Vidalia runs up to me when I come into chickenland and chases after me when I leave--Fern is a bit more of a scaredy-hen, but she is always a few steps behind Vidalia wherever she goes. They both like to be pet and are mostly ok with being held--Fern can be a real meanie sometimes about it, and usually at the exact moment I am trying to take a picture of a friend holding Fern she throws a fit. Camera-shy, she always tries to weasel her way behind Vidalia in pictures (I had to take so many photos to finally get one of her in the front).
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