Making Lemonade

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Old Woman #1, 2019, oil on paper, 5 x 5″

Some time ago, someone gave me sheets and sheets of fabulous d’Arches watercolour paper. This is seriously expensive paper: deckled edges, cold pressed texture, and thick. It has to be at least a 250-pound paper. Bond paper, the kind you use in your printer, weighs about five pounds per ream (500 sheets). This paper is 56 x 72 centimetres. If paper weight is measured is the same with all papers, 500 sheets of this paper would weight 250 pounds or more. The paper does not buckle or wrinkle when you get it wet.

And did I mention, that it is very expensive?

The thing is, I don’t like it. I don’t like how it takes water mediums. And I don’t like its rough texture. It’s been kicking around for ages. I’ve moved it from one studio to another and used very little of it. It occurred to me, recently, that if I gave it a good coat of gesso I could practice oil painting on it.

Years ago I painted in oils—when I was a kid really—and I didn’t have much of a clue on how to use oils. It seemed like a good time to learn.

The gessoed paper works well for this purpose.

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Old Woman, #2, 2019, oil on paper, 10 x 8″

I’m continuing with a foliage motif in my egg-tempera paintings, but on this paper, I decided to do portraits of old women. Above you have portraits of two colourful ladies whose photos I found on Pinterest.

It’s Complicated

Leaf Thing smFor the past few weeks, I’ve been making changes. Changes in my environment. No, I’m not moving house. I’ll leave the rooms where they are, but anything inside those rooms is in danger of being gone, or in another room entirely.

A few weeks ago I painted the walls in the little room I call an office most of the time, my study when I’m being pretentious. The walls are now a lovely deep grey.

Then in the middle of last week, I noticed that the hardwood floors in the living-room were taking a beating from my dog, Caro’s, nails. Down I went on my hands and knees and scrubbed the whole floor, moving each piece of the furniture at least once, so I could get every corner. I then used a renewing product to make the floor look better.

Nice!

But the dog’s nails will abrade the hardwood all over again if I leave it as is. No problem. I moved the area rug from the family room downstairs, gave it a shampoo, and carried the 10′ x 12′ carpet upstairs to roll out on the living-room floor. More moving of furniture.

So why did I do all that? Does my little office look so much better after I shifted all the furniture again this morning?

The simple answer, my gloating answer is, because I can.

Whaaat?

Yes, because I’m old, and I can. If you’re under fifty, you probably don’t get that, but believe me, carrying a slightly damp 10′ x 12′ carpet up twelve steps to unroll in another room isn’t so easy when you’re almost seventy.

This will sound like a digression, but there is a link. Here goes.

In mid-April, I read a report in American Scientific with the headline “Implicit Bias toward Race and Sexuality have Decreased”

I’m all about good news and I was delighted to read that bias against race and sexual difference are on the wane. But as I continued to read I saw that while people may more tolerant toward others of differing race and sexuality, they have become more biased against the old. Well yuck!

I had already noticed bias against the old. Heck, I do it myself, often barely restraining a heavy sigh when some elderly person ahead of me at the grocery store counts out their coins for a loaf of bread and three bananas.

Now I’m the old one, working hard to prove that I’m still relevant.

You see how complicated things get?

If you’re lucky you’ll get old, and even if you have always been in the right group, the admired group, a time will come when you’re not.

The above painting is in it’s beginning stage. I’ll continue by adding darker and lighter greys. Colour might happen and I think I might call it: “It’s Complicated.”

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

With Grace
With Grace, 2005, encaustic on panel, about 18″ x 32″

Yes, that happened this weekend, and lo, the birthday came with an excellent realization.

A year ago, in January, I retired from my day job. I think I may have mentioned this before, and also that it was my—umm third retirement. I kept trying, but it just wouldn’t stick. I wanted to spend all my time writing and painting, but when push came to shove, I always took another job. Part of this is because I like feeling useful, and part of it was that I enjoyed the indications from my employers that I was good at what I did. You can work long and hard in the creative fields, and often you don’t know if you’re doing good work or not, especially when you aren’t noticed by the movers and shakers in the field.

I’ve been a whole year without a day job, now. I thought after all that time I was prepared but a new thing hit me hard. I had a very strong sense that I was irrelevant as an artist and a writer. Older people are often overlooked. Not complaining, but it’s true…well maybe I’m complaining a little.

At one time my cohort expected me to make some sort of bang in the art world. I, expected to make a bang in the art world. Now it all seemed to be too late.

This realization hit me hard and I spent the whole year feeling as though I didn’t matter anymore. This sense left me feeling down at times, but it also had a positive results. I stopped worrying so much about making the “right” kind of art. Instead, I’m making the kind of art that interests me. What a lovely gift that is!

In this year, I also made a new friend with whom I can discuss writing. You have no idea how good that is. And all through this year, below the surface, something else grew. I began to see possibilities again. Retirement isn’t the end after all. There are things I can still achieve! Whoo Hoo!

This new realization, this new belief is the most wonderful gift I received this birthday. The material gifts, dinner out, and birthday cake were sweet too!

 

Taking Stock

Last year at about this time I talked about setting goals. I tried not to call them New Years resolutions, but we all know that was what I was making. It’s exciting to start anew at the beginning of the year and plan to be better, but more often than not our resolutions become a kind of tyranny of ‘shoulds’ and if we fail even once to comply with our self imposed rules we mentally shout at ourselves until in a complete failure of confidence we give up. After which we call ourselves dispicable names until next year.

So this year, no goals, no New Years resolutions. There are some things I’d like to get better at–there always are–but I won’t mention them here or anywhere else either.

Instead, this year I’ve decided to take stock of what I did accomplish in 2018.

Paintings:

 

In 2017 and early 2018 I had a terrible time painting. I felt as though I did nothing but repeat myself, and everything was boring and lacklustre. In the summer I had the privaledge of visiting the studio of Lorenzo Dupuis,  I love his egg-tempera paintings and I began riff off his work. (Steal like an Artist, eh?) And just like that I was back and excited to work. In 2018 I paintinged more than ten paintings in oil, acrylic or egg-tempera. This is a small number compared to my usual output, but I’m so delighted to be back.

Sketches

 

I filled up a Moleskine sketchbook and part of another sketchbook with drawings. In totally this amounted to more than seventy analog drawings in 2018. There were many more digital drawings.

Digital Drawing/Painting

I’m not going to post my digital work because my last two post featured digital artwork, and surprise, I can’t remember which works happened in 2018 and which works came before. Note to self: Include dates in file names.

Writing

There were times in 2018 when I was pretty discouraged about my writing.  I’ve been writing fiction for over ten years, and during those ten years I have submitted work to various publishers. I’ve had some near misses, but to date nothing has been published. Yes, we live in the age of self-publishing but when you no longer have the day job the expense of edits was more than I could manage. Ten years is a long time write and have no readers. This depressed me no end.

Nonetheless, I rewrote and revised my 75,000 word young adult fantasy novel, The Spell, as well I wrote and revised a Boomerlit novella (35,000 words) I called Hannah’s Hearing, and I’m in the midst of  a major revision of my time travel novel The Chronos Project.

It turned out I couldn’t stop writing, drawing or painting even if I had no gallery exhibition in the works or a publisher for my stories.  Why is that?

I suspect there are many answers, but one of them for me is that as long as I’m learning and creating, I’m alive. More alive than at any other time. I live in a vivid world of my own making, and I swear to you that the ‘process’ of painting is a form of deep meditation. Time disappears and scratchy everyday problems fade away. How could you not pursue that?

This was my first year of retirement from my day job. Surprise, surprise, retirement calls for a bigger psychological adjustment than expected. Also, two close family members died, both in their fifties. My husband got a promotion and a pay raise. My grandchildren and children are wonderful. It was the worst of time and the best of times, as is every year.

So, at the beginning of this New Year, I’m super proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2018.

Take a look at what you’ve accomplished. I bet you did a heap of great things in 2018 that you forgot about. We tend look at our failings more than the positives in our lives. That might be something worth changing. Hmmm….

So, This Happened

Why am I so Tired

My first real comic. I’ve wanted to learn to make comics and cartoons for a long time, but the amount of knowledge I don’t have is overwhelming.

Finding myself without a blog topic—AGAIN—I decided to give it a try, knowledge or not. In this case the story is one that happened to me about a week ago.

Heart Attack!

Honestly, I don’t often think I have a catastrophic health issue, but hey, age makes these things likelier. I’d been feeling so tired for a number of days. Along with the tiredness I had dizzyiness and a feeling of heaviness in my chest—a feeling as though I wasn’t getting enough air.

As you can see from the comic above, I aced all the heart attack tests. I was not having a heart attack. Thank goodness. The Medic decided that I was likely tired because I’d been working hard and that all those wonderful spring smells, like leaf mold, lilacs, lily-of-the-valley—blossoms of every kind, were giving my lungs a hard time. Hence, difficulty breathing and tiredness.

Yay! It’s all good.

So what do you think? Should I keep on with the cartooning? Did the story come through? Were the drawings interesting?

Reading and Writing

Fashion Week, 2017
Fashion Week, 2017 encaustic on panel 24″ x 12″

I write, here, more often about drawing, painting, or some life things, than I do about writing.

I’ve been writing fiction for just over ten years. In that time I’ve learned a great deal. For starters I learned that I hadn’t a clue about writing fiction when I wrote my first novel. I made all the mistakes you’d expect of a first timer. In the second novel I made some of those mistakes and a few more. All during this time I was reading everything I could about the art of writing fiction. I stuffed so many things into my head that I was afraid to hold my pen, for fear of doing it wrong.

One thing about writers, they write. And when they aren’t writing their preferred genre of fiction or non-fiction they’re writing about writing. There is no shortage of writerly tutelage on the internet or in book stores. I would like to say I read them all, but that’s not possible. A new blog or book on writing pops up every day.

There is a lot to know about writing fiction, just as there is a lot to know about painting figures, but at some point its necessary to quiet down all those words–often competing ‘you should’ words–you’ve read. It’s time to put them on the back burner and figure out what you think. That’s what I’m doing and I have nothing to tell people about writing that someone else hasn’t already said better.

I’m currently revising a novella entitled Hannah’s Hearing. It’s a story of an older woman who beset, as many elderly are with issues of failure, forgets to live large and enjoy life. That is until the man in the red fedora shows up in her bedroom and everything changes.

Reading

Aside from revising and drawing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. In particular I’ve been trying to read books that will expand my knowledge and help me think. A moment on social media makes you aware that thinking is often left behind.

Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, is an excellent read and very encouraging, whether you agree with all Pinker’s premises or not. Alan Jacob’s, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds wasn’t as much help as I thought it might be, but I did learn that we tend to lump people into camps or tribes. Lumping similar things and experiences is natural and useful, probably even necessary, but we’re often wrong, and in the process we create an ‘us and them’ ethos.

I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, and I’ve got Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, as well as Gregg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than it Looks lined up.

In fiction, I’ve somehow missed Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye, so I’m listening to the audio version of that while I draw.

Though I’m offering Amazon links, I want you to know your local bookstore deserves support and your library is a wonderful place. For instance I borrowed the audio book by Connelly from our local library through an app called Libby. Check it out.

What about you? What are you reading or writing?

Oh, and you’re wondering about the guy in black above? A bit of eye candy, nothing more.

Eeyore? Pollyanna?

Thoughtful 2016Worry, 2017, encaustic on canvas

It seems to me that young adults and old adult have something in common. Fearfulness. When we’re just emerging into adulthood, we have no idea how to negotiate all the pitfalls of taking care of ourselves, fending for ourselves, making a place for ourselves and being someone. It’s all flailing and floundering and fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and nobody special will like us. Ever.

In the middle years we kind of sort it out–at least a little. And if we haven’t sorted it out there is no time to do so now, because now we’re in it to the armpits and there’s not time to let fear hold us back. That career needs building and the family needs care. It’s a doing time.

Then comes later adulthood when somehow your back to not knowing quite how to get on in the world. Things swirl around and past you at such speed that you’re left standing slump-shouldered, mouth hanging open wondering what now. You have no idea how you got to this ridiculous place where it scary to go for a walk in case there is ice on the sidewalk, and you’re worried that your grand kids might think you smell funny.

These things can lead to many Eeyore moments for young adults and old adults alike.

I’m not going to suggest going all Pollyana,  but when life get shitty I would suggest finding something that makes you laugh, and then build on the things you know you are good at. There’s something you’re good at, always something, and if you push the limits on that thing you grow, and that is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. Immerse yourself in what you are good at, and when you’re feeling like you could just about handle something else, give it a try. Be optimistic. Optimism won’t kill you you know and if you lose, try again, or try something else and maybe put ice skates on when you go for a walk.