Friday, June 29, 2007

For Your Visual Pleasure

I'm bleeding (that's not the visual pleasure part) and one can neither paint nor mat paintings when bleeding. It's no big deal, really, just the glass equivalent of a paper cut, but it's on my right thumb, and while I can type while bleeding and holding a paper towel to my right thumb (talent, yes, I know), I can do little else.

So I've assembled a short photographic jaunt for you to enjoy. Have a lovely weekend, all; I'll be back next week with some exciting art news.

(Please note, some of these photos were shot with a digital camera, others with a 35mm Pentax K1000 that had an embarrassingly dusty lens, and I haven't got the time to clean them up in Photoshop, so forgive me.)

Winslow AZ

If you're driving through Winslow, Arizona, isn't it a requirement to get out and stand on a corner, even if you're not looking for any girls in flatbed Fords? For that matter, I didn't see any Fords in Winslow. Only Chevys. Odd, that.

Rancho San Rafael

Rancho San Rafel, a beautiful park in Reno, Nevada. If you ever visit, stop at the Wilbur D. May Museum. They have a shrunken head. Wilbur D. May was one of those pith-helmet-wearing safari-hunting explorers, and in the museum created from his possessions, yes, you read correctly, there is a shrunken head. Worth seeing.

Nevada Desert

This is the landscape of my childhood (well, from 9 to 18). I like cities, some of them quite a bit, but I carry this wide open space with me. Unfortunately, it's getting ever more crowded, but such is the way of the world.

Nevada Sunset

These are the sunsets I grew up with. I think I took this picture way back then, too.


This is near Graeagle, California, which I had to look up to make sure I was spelling it correctly. Of all the photographs I have ever taken, this is my favorite. It's on some things in my CafePress shop, so if you like it, check out the shop.

Castle in Salzburg

This is for you, Catharina! I went on a trip to Salzburg, Austria, with my class while I was an exchange student in Germany. This photo stands out for me, because I still remember, 16 years later, that at the exact second I pushed the shutter, bells started ringing all around me. Beatiful, melodious bells.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Close to Home

Keep your fingers crossed for the people who live at my favorite place on earth. My thoughts are with those who have lost their homes or who might and the firefighters; may everyone stay safe.

Bristlecone Pine Lake Tahoe 2001 (2)

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, October 2001

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Dream in Ink

What is the world coming to? First I steal my own posts; now I'm stealing back my comments. But iHanna had an thought-provoking post on journal-keeping, and I wrote a long comment, and I have the pictures to go with it already, and voila! A blog post!


This is a composite photo of the shelf on which I kept my journals before the renovations. Now, unfortunately, I've had to pack them away to make room for art supplies, but someday I hope to bring them out again. They are my life, literally, on paper, and therefore, deserve a little place of honor, I think.

I’ve kept a journal since I was seven -- the first one was a Nancy Drew diary complete with lock and about three one-sentence entries. (One of those entries is about going to see Return of the Jedi with my dad. I was very excited. I wrote two sentences.). You can see that journal on the right, the thick ivory-ish book seventh down in the stack. I never throw my journals away. My biographers might need them. Or the great-grandchildren, anyway.

I've had tiny journals and huge journals (see the one on the far left?), fuzzy journals and leather journals, spiral bound and other-bound. Most of the journals from my teenage years are pink. The fourth (black with white polka dots) and seventh (blue shiny) journals from the left are the two I kept as an exchange student in Germany. That's when I started buying journals with cool designs and interesting textures. That's about when I started calling them journals instead of diaries, too. In college, I bought the funkiest journals I could find. On my road trip in 2002, I stopped in Oxford, Mississippi and bought a plain red journal with a magnetic closure, at Square Books. I think it cost $12. I filled that journal in four weeks. And I liked that journal so much that I detoured through Oxford again on the way back to the East Coast so I could go buy another one. I'm not kidding. In Philadelphia, I started looking for journals I could keep in my purse, journals that could take a lot of abuse. That's how I eventually started using Moleskines (well, okay, so, I read that Neil Gaiman uses them and that prompted me to try one). Moleskines, as journals go, are almost boring, but oh-so-sturdy and practical, and there is also something indefinably magical about them, which may be why they have such loyal fans. They feel like a writer's journal. As opposed to what, I don't know. Because they feel like artist's journals, too.

I am not sure I can even articulate what keeping a journal means to me, or how it's changed me, because it’s been such an integral part of my life. But I can tell you that when I don’t write in a journal regularly (and I’ve occasionally gone up to six months), I start to feel quite fragmented. I try hard to write morning pages, although often, it's only morning in Hawaii by the time I get around to it. I understand my own feelings better if I write them down. In fact, I often don't even know how I feel about things until I write in my journal. Writing is how I process my life, in the way they say dreaming is our mind's way of processing. My journals are dreamlike -- they ramble, they float, they can be surreal, and often, they probably would make no sense to anyone but me. But I don't know. I don't let anyone read my journals. If I did, I wouldn't write the way I do and they wouldn't work anymore.

Journal - Why

See, my minute-to-minute thoughts are very analytical, very curious, very problem-solving, and rarely directed inward. I’m a textbook INTJ, if that helps explain. I'm one of those people who’s constantly asking “Why?” and "How?" and "What?" like a little child… why is the sky blue… why is the bridge built like that... what is electricity (I made my husband explain that one in great detail)... how does the economy work... I usually have three or four tracks of thought going at the same time, most of which have nothing to do with me or my life. (Which explains the vacant stare so often seen on my face. I'm probably thinking about agriculture in Antarctica.)

My journal writing, on the other hand, is almost pure emotion. I do sometimes actually use them to keep track the events that have happened in my life...

Journal - Dad 2

... or in the world around me...

Journal - Charlie Brown

....or just as catch-all scrapbooks, when I didn't have the time or interest in keeping up a big scrapbook...

Journal - Tickets 1

Journal - Mattress

Journal - Cover 2

... or even approximate Latin translations of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." But they are usually, long, rambling explorations of my feelings, sometimes venting, sometimes exulting, sometimes pondering. Because I already know what happened, you see. So my journal is where I get in touch with myself. Sounds so cliched, but it's what I do. In fact, the emotions in the words are often so intense that, ten years later, I can step right back into events I forgot ever happened.

So you see what keeping a journal means to me. My journals are my life.

(Incidentally, I know these photos are all from my college journals, and I have no idea why that's all I shot, but like I said, the rest are in the attic now, so that's all I've got except for these.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Befores and Afters, for Real This Time

In a fit of "I-can't concentrate-until-I-get-things-organized" I cleaned the studio yesterday and had the good sense to take photos of it before I let it get all messy again. I'd still like to improve the storage setup, so more of my supplies can be tucked out of sight, and coordinate the furniture some more, but for now, you can consider these the Official Befores and Afters (more renovation pictures way back in these posts and here and here).





My new, lovingly hand-oiled oak desk and hutch. It's red oak, and, unfinished, had this dusky rose color, but unfortunately, finishing the desk meant getting rid of that color, and I had no choice, because I am always spilling things. A shame.

The funniest thing about this picture, in my opinion, is the Diet Mountain Dew, because I swear I hadn't had a Mountain Dew in ten years before this week. I'm a Diet Dr. Pepper girl myself, but when I run out, I need something carbonated, anything, as long as it doesn't have sugar. I just don't like the aftertaste of sugary sodas, which is also funny, since most people say the opposite. But at least Splenda doesn't ferment in your mouth.

The thing that is characteristic of me is that there are three beverages right next to each other. I've been known to have up to four at one time, and I will drink periodically from each one. You never know what you might have a taste for at any given second. And those beverages are also right above the computer. Also characteristic. I like living dangerously.


(That's, clockwise from the bottom left: a drawing from when I was five that my mom framed and recently gave to me (but I broke the glass), in which Cinderella apparently has a baseball glove on her right hand, which I think is just so cool; my college graduation gift from my grandmother, which really should also have glass over it; a beautiful art heart from Tinker with a golden Gypsy singing to the stars; a cool ceramic hanging that I bought from the local high school kids at a craft fair; and a 50 cent Paddington Bear print I found at a thrift store. You know, now that I think about it, maybe it was Paddington Bear who inspired my love of travel. Hmmmm.)

As you can see, we have yet to put outlet/switch/open-hole-in-the-wall covers over anything.


My work surface, complete with freshly stretched watercolor paper (which is why I had time to clean). By the time I realized the first shot I took was blurry and came back to take a second, it was getting dark, but this is usually a nicely lit place to work. It's my new drafting table, which is cheap and flimsy and handles the abuse of spilled ink and my elbows very well without complaining, too much, although every once in a while it shifts suddenly, as if there were a small earthquake, which is quite nerve-wracking when I have a freshly-dipped loaded pen in my hand. But hey, life is meant to be an adventure.

The treasure chest holds my good pen nibs. Appropriate, I'd say.


The mousepad I designed and the monthly calendar that does its collateral duty beautifully: soaking up the coffee I spill.


The magnets I unceremoniously stole from the fridge.

I've fixed the links on the last post. Have a good Wednesday, my friends.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Alison's Pocket-Sized Internet Travel Guide

Al and I are heading to Philadelphia (New Jersey, actually) for Father's Day, and we'll get to accompany my sister Olivia to her very first Phillies game, which is an honor and should be great fun. I just can't wait to see her. She's such a joyous baby.

I've been painting away, so I haven't been exploring the Internet as much as I usually do, but here's a few new lands to visit:

VisuWords: I already use and on a daily basis, but this may become my new favorite tool. Be warned, though: it requires a strong Internet connection. (Via StumbleUpon, which itself is a terrific tool of serendipity, like browsing in a never-ending bookstore. If you sign up, I'm radiogirl.)

Arts & Letters Daily: A collection of links to current articles of an assorted variety. I feel smarter just looking at this page, much less reading the articles.

My Drinking Bunnies: a fantastic stop-motion music video. (I don't know where I found this link, so I can't give credit; if it was you, my apologies.) The song is okay, but the construction and execution of the paper sets and characters are awe-inspiring and brilliant. (While you're in a stop-motion mood, there's the United Airlines dragon commercial. If you haven't seen it already, go watch it immediately. In fact, it's the kind of thing I think I should start every day watching.)

Poo-tique: my, oh, my. I can't believe I'm posting a link to a site that involves poo... but you just have to go check out this paper made of elephant dung. (Via Daily Candy.)

Enjoy and have a great weekend, my friends.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Eight Things

I’ve been tagged for “8 Random Facts About Myself.” What a tremendous compliment. Thank you, Mrs. Nesbitt

The rules are as follows (I’m cutting and pasting this part):

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own post about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

All righty, then. Eight things.

1. I collect books. This isn’t so much a random fact about me as a central part of who I am. Right now, I have more than 1,300 books, most of which I’ve read, many of which I’ve re-read more than once. There are more books, not included in that number, from my childhood, still at my mother’s house. These days, I mostly borrow books from the library, but eventually, I will start buying again.

I can’t not read – when I was about 11, I used to bring a book to read while I ate my breakfast cereal, but I had a tendency to run late, so I was forbidden to bring any more books to the breakfast table on school days. So I read the cereal box instead, ingredients list and everything. To this day, if I don’t have a book, I’ll pick up whatever’s closest, whether it's a can of air freshener or a brochure on the pancreas, wherever I am, and read it.

My intention is to someday live in a house with a library.

2. I almost always watch the credits in a movie theater, because if I worked on a movie, I’d want people to read my name.

3. In my 32 years, I’ve lived at 25 addresses in 15 cities in 4 states and 3 countries. I like moving, even though 1,300 books are heavy and require a lot of boxes.

4. I hate the sound of metal scraping on metal or porcelain – it causes me extreme physical discomfort -- which means that I cannot sharpen the knives in our household and, as much as I love a good sword-fighting scene in a movie, I usually have to plug my ears. It’s getting worse as I get older, and I have no idea how to stop it.

5. I prefer not to use a mouse. I like keyboard shortcuts because I type very quickly (even though I’ve never actually learned how to type) and I can just fit the commands into my typing. But as computers get more “user-friendly” and, therefore, complicated, it’s almost impossible not to use a mouse, so I’ve started to give in.

6. I have a fervent love for the sport of baseball but I have no interest in memorizing statistics, I don’t follow trades, and I can’t remember the players’ names. So I usually have no idea who the people are at bat, even on my own team, until they’ve been around for a while, and then just as I start to cheer for them by name, they have a weird tendency to get themselves traded. (I miss you, Bobby Abreu).

7. I have flown approximately 500,000 miles on commercial flights in my lifetime –since I was a baby, but as an adult, I flew 60,000 miles in one year alone -- but for whatever reason, I only signed up for frequent fliers’ programs in time to collect credit for about 75,000 miles. I started to develop a fear of flying in November 2001, but I still have a burning desire to get a private pilot’s license. I also clean the house from top to bottom before I fly anywhere.

8. I not only still have, but still listen to most of my mixed tapes from high school and college.

So now comes the tagging part. But – here’s random fact number nine – I’m not good at selecting people (assembling our wedding guest list was torture for me and I still regret not inviting certain people), SO I’m breaking the rules and tagging everyone. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tall Ships

I should NOT have gone out on Friday, recuperating me, into 100-degree, humid weather, to stand in the sun for three hours. But, oh, it was worth it, to see the parade of tall ships coming in for Sail Virginia in for Harborfest. The heat wiped me out, and as a result, I never got back to board the ships later in the weekend, and I regret that, but I am so glad I got to see them come in, because it was... magnificent.

My pictures cannot even begin to do them justice - my spot on the harbor was just at the point where they were furling their sails and getting a little help from the tugs -- but oh, it was magic.


The GORCH FOCK II ** 294' 3 Masted Barque ** Germany


The PRINCE WILLIAM ** 195' Square Rigger Brig ** England


The ALLIANCE ** 3 masted gaff rigged Schooner ** Yorktown Virginia


Can't identify this one. I've looked through the pictures on the web site, and I can't find it.
But it was beautiful.


I can't identify this ship either, with the red sails, but I thought this looked cool -- old and new.


Ghost Ship

(I actually tried sharpening this in Adobe Photoshop Elements, but it lost the mysterious quality, and became a picture of just a ship under a spray of water.)

I think the best part, though, about the whole thing was coming home and reading a week-old newspaper article I had set aside, to discover that Captain Horatio Sinbad, the owner of my favorite ship, the small, sweet Meka II, built it in his backyard.

One of my dreams is to build a wooden sailboat by hand and sail it around the world. Never mind that I don't know how to sail. I'll learn. And now, I know it's possible to build not just a sailboat, but a brigantine. We'll need a little bit bigger backyard, though. I don't think Al will let me knock down the garage in order to build a ship.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Cookie Incident, and Other Spine-Tingling Tales

They say that in times of crisis, you find out what you’re really made of. I prefer not to get in such situations, because I’m a wimp, and I don’t want to have to acknowledge that. It was already hard enough to decide, when I was about 15, that maybe being a spy just wasn't the best career choice for me, because it involved the possibility of getting shot (not to mention being tortured, ewwww). But danger comes out of the blue sometimes.

For instance, in Philadelphia, in 2004, on a cold December Monday, around 11 p.m., I left a friend’s apartment with a Tupperware container full of cookies. She’s from Michigan and had just hosted a fantastic “cookie party,” in which each guest brings their own homemade (or not) cookies, and everyone exchanges delicious treats, thus ensuring a varied and yummy selection of holiday cookies for everyone.

I actually thought about asking for a ride home, because it was late, but I only lived a block away. I have no idea why it even occurred to me to ask for a ride home, but the thought came and was just as quickly dismissed as silly. I lived in Old City, in a cool old apartment building, which, granted, was on a tiny alley-like street, but the area is usually packed at all hours, and my street had two popular bars on it. So, in spite of my initial, and unusual, apprehension, I wasn’t concerned about being alone. I even decided to take a shortcut through an even darker, narrower alley.

And then I did find myself alone. Almost. By myself, on a deserted city street, in the middle of the night, and, just at the mouth of my shortcut, facing a group of four burly, loitering men who stood there leering at me. It was too late to turn away and choose another direction casually, so I, perhaps foolishly, kept walking toward them. As I reached them, instead of moving aside as a group, they stepped apart from each other. I would have to walk right between them.

So what did I do? I walked right up to them – I mean right up – practically leaning against the biggest, closest one, lifted up the Tupperware, peeled off the lid and, in my brightest, most game-show-hostessy voice, said, “Hey guys! Want some cookies?!”

Instantly, those wolves turned into puppies, or little boys, really. Their faces lit up and they crowded around my Tupperware.

Then I pointed to the cookie I had been really looking forward to eating, and said, “Except that one. That one’s mine.” And the one closest to me me a strange and cold look and said, “What do you mean? I can have it, if I want it.” And I knew, as he said that, that my initial fear had not just been paranoid or overreacting, but I looked him right in the eye and said, firmly but sweetly, “No, that one’s mine.” And if it’s possible to back off without moving an inch, he did. He backed off.

They all took a cookie or two, and I put the lid back on, gently pushed my way between them, and turned down that dark alley toward my apartment. As I walked the longest quarter-block I’ve ever walked, one of them shouted, “Hey girl! Come back!” And I lifted my left arm up and waved good-bye without looking back. And walked, one foot steadily in front of the other, until I turned the corner and turned the key in the apartment building door. At which time, I ran down the hallway and pounded the button for the elevator, heart racing.

I was pretty amazed with myself, looking back, and thought the whole thing was pretty funny, as if it had happened to someone else. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself handling a situation like that in such a way. So casually, so confidently.

Which brings us to this afternoon.

In imagining worse-case scenarios, a special talent of mine, I’ve always planned that, if someone broke into my house, I would grab a phone, go upstairs, climb out on the roof, get away and call the police (or just leave by the front door, if that was easier, of course). It’s not inconceivable, and if it gets down to semantics, I prefer the word concern over paranoia. Someone was shot near my house not too long ago, and the shooter did get away for a little while (fortunately I have friends who are also good at being concerned, and one called me to warn me that I should lock the house down).

So just now, sitting at my computer, with my husband having left for work twenty minutes earlier, I heard a door open, creeeeeeeak, and then shut. I knew instantly it was not one of the cats making trouble; that was a sound only a human could make.

My blood ran cold. Quietly, I stood up, pulled the curtains aside, and looked out the window to see if my husband’s car was in the driveway (conceivably he could have forgotten something, although he always says “Honey, it’s me,” as he comes in, or calls beforehand to let me know he's coming back). But the car wasn’t there. And that sounded like the front door, anyway, on the other side of the house.

So, with a cell phone and the house phone sitting right in front of me on the desk, do you think I even tried to call 911? NO. Do you think I ran up the stairs, which are right in the office, to climb out on the roof? NO. Do you think I even tried to open one of the windows, to escape? Pshaw.

Without calling the police or taking any other safety precautions, I grabbed up the closest weapon – a pair of scissors, of course, this being my studio and all – and, anger flooding in to replace fear – started to stalk out of the room to find out who the hell thought they could just saunter into MY house without permission. I, after all, had things to do this afternoon, and I intended to deal with this intruder straightaway.

I always thought I would be a coward in such a situation. I suppose it’s reassuring to know that I’m not actually a coward, terrified as I might have been. But, perhaps more alarmingly, I am clearly lacking any sort of sense of self-preservation, which is maybe even just a little bit scarier than the idea of someone breaking in.

Fortunately, for my husband’s sake, he called, "Alison?" just as I lifted the scissors up and prepared to enter the next room.

Yep. He forgot his ID card.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

And now back...

... to regularly scheduled programming. It's terrific to be up and about... that's the best thing about catching a bug. Getting better and appreciating it.

Today, I finished a painting that I had been working on for almost exactly one year (a good part of which it was hanging on our dining room wall while I contemplated what it needed to be finished). I can't post photographs yet, because it has to go to the people who commissioned it last June, and they should be the first to see it. But I am very pleased with it. It finally looks, what's the word? Cohesive.

I am working on prints of the maps, not to mention more maps, because, you know, it's a big imaginary world out there and someone's gotta chart it (I'll let you know as soon as they're available).

In other news, Victoria magazine is coming back. This is splendid; I can add to the collection I started when I stole the four-year-old copies I found at the doctor's office. (In truth, I did ask first.) If I had known they were going to stop publishing, I would have kept all my own old copies instead of cutting them up. Nobody tells me anything (or asks my permission, for that matter).

Also, here's another fun make-your-own-art site to fool around on, wasting time or being inspired, depending on your perspective. If your family scold you for spending too much time on the computer, though, don't point your finger at me. Blame my mother; she sent me the link. Hi Mom!

And if you really want some inspiration, try this. I'm not sure how I feel about this painting, because I have an excellent sense of taste and I can taste them both, all of a sudden.

Right now, all I can think of is Mr. Carpenter scolding Emily for using too many italics. And did you know there's an anime version of Emily of New Moon?

Monday, June 04, 2007


Just a quick note to say THANK YOU to all of you for the wonderful comments about my maps. I had hoped to start the process of making prints available today, but I'm a bit under the weather, so I'm hanging out on the couch with my good friends Cold Medicine, Sugar Free Lozenge and Iced Coffee. I realize that Hot Tea would probably be a better companion at this time, but Miss Tea is sleeping in this morning (afternoon, really), and so Iced Coffee is hanging out in the meantime.

I don't have a laptop, so instead of using this time to even catch up on reading blogs, I'll be using this time to catch up on reading old magazines with scissors in hand, and turning the living room into a pile of scraps, which should entertain our neurotic, perpetually bored cats to no end. Also, it will, I hope, make the pile of magazines a little smaller, which would be great, because they just keep coming. And then I might draw a little, sleep some more, and watch some HGTV. Who knew spring colds could be so fun?

By the way, did you ever notice that "facetious" has all the vowels in order? And if you really want to be a stickler, and call "y" a vowel, then make it "facetiously."