Monday, April 27, 2009

Oh, this bookcase & I should be friends

I just saw this at the Green Chair Press blog:

Oh, the farmer & the cowman should be friends by Ron Arad
h: 351 cm x w: 570 cm x d: 40 cm / h: 138.2" x w: 224.4" x d: 15.7"

Part of an exhibit of work by Ron Arad at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in London. From the press release:
Perhaps the pivotal point of the exhibition Oh, the farmer & the cowman should be friends is an extraordinary, imposing shelving unit in the shape of the United States of America, colonizing almost an entire wall of the gallery. Constructed jigsaw-like from individual ╩╗states' of stainless and Corten steel, it has a powerful, commanding presence, both playful and provocative.
More info on the artist here and this incredible work of art here.

I'm not sure I understand the title of the piece, but I would gladly be friends with this bookcase. It's like it was designed just for me (oh, how I wish). I have enough books to fill it, too, even if the walls of my house aren't high enough to hold it. A girl can still dream. In fact, while I'm dreaming, I'll dream of a house big enough to hold the whole world (at this scale, anyway).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Reads

Through Jeannine of The Other Side of Somewhere, I discovered Goodreads last year, and have slowly been adding the books I have read to my "shelves." If you are already on Goodreads or sign up, go ahead and add me as a friend, because I am always looking for suggestions on what to read next.

Here's my latest read, a book I couldn't recommend more. I had read Octavia Butler's Parable series (also excellent, although I have reread the first many times, but can barely remember the second) and the Xenogenesis series (amazing trilogy - perhaps more interesting for sci-fi fans, but something I would not discourage anyone from reading), but strangely only discovered Kindred this week.

Kindred is the story of a 26-year-old black woman who is abruptly yanked from 1976 Los Angeles to 1800s Maryland to save the life of her ancestor - a white slaveowner. She is repeatedly sucked back into this world, where she must live as a slave, and make choices that she finds appalling, in order to ensure her own future existence.


My review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book. Not happy, but satisfying in the end, and powerful all the way through. Dana's jarring experiences, and the disorientation suffered by Dana and the reader both, as Dana is yanked through time to the 1800s, prove to be highly effective in communicating the inhumanity of slavery, and by extension, all forms of tyranny. Simultaneously, the author manages to convey the humanity of both the enslaver and the enslaved. Should be on everyone's must-read list.

View all my reviews.

After reading such a profoundly serious novel, I wanted to balance it out with a bit of lightheartedness, so I am now reading Tom Robbins's* Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beautiful Things, Beautiful World

To be surrounded by beautiful things has much influence on the human creature; to make beautiful things has more.

It's Etsy Day! Spread the word!

If you'd like to surround yourself with beautiful things, there is no better place to start than Etsy, where you can find an incredible range of talented people making amazing things in a huge diversity of styles. Here are some things from my favorites:

Shop on Etsy, and your purchases can help artists and craftspeople from all over the world heal the global economy back up, one beautiful creation at a time.

And if you like to make beautiful things, you can sell them on Etsy and share your work with the world. Here's more information.

Etsy has changed my life in so many wonderful ways that I cannot quite put them into words, but I can say without reservation that I would not be making the art I do today without Etsy. If you'd like to browse my own artwork, here's a selection of my maps and illustrations:

Happy Shopping, Happy Making, Happy Travels


Happy Etsy Day!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

They Make Me Want to Shout

Windows are exciting things around here. This morning, I walked in the studio and saw this:

Those curtains are ivory, not pink, although I'm not sure if they're naturally ivory or just really old. Anyway, I was all like, "Whoa! What giant humoungous massive pink thing is hovering outside my window and taking over the world? My loooooooord." *

I knew the flowers - I think they're azaleas, but I'm from the desert, what do I know? - were starting to bloom, but the past few days were sort of dress rehearsal. This morning, they jumped up and shouted.

And so I just wanted to thank them publicly for their hard work in making the world a better place. Thank you, flowers, thank you.

And if you ever come to my house and wonder why we let the bushes on our property get so overgrown and out of control, this photograph will be my answer.

* I never said "My lord" like that until I moved to the South. I don't think people here actually say that, but it just seems fitting. I have had people tell me, "Bless your heart," though. Which seemed so sweet and nice at the time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Great Big Sunshiny Break in the Fog

I feel like I've hit a roadblock the past few weeks. Like, I was walking along this fantastic, scenic road, and suddenly, I hit a wall of fog, and now I can't see where I'm going.

It's not an absence of ideas. I can't walk without falling over ideas. My brain is a big old tumbler of buildings and castles and roads and names and fairy tale motifs and new worlds and seas and images. Sometimes I feel like I will explode with ideas.

Nope, not an absence of ideas at all. I just feel foggy. Can't see the road. I sit down at the drafting table, paper in front of me, and can't decide how I want this map to look. The ideas are there, but I can't bring them together into the whole.

I want each of my maps to be distinct. I don't want them to all run together. The problem is, when you do the same thing day in, day out, it's way too easy for things to run together, and if my maps start to run together for me, then the viewers are going to have the same experience.

I know in my heart of hearts that mapmaking is what I am supposed to be doing right now. It's one of the most supposed-to-be-doing things I've ever done, and it's not over; I have a long way to go. But the fog is blocking my way. What to do?

Yesterday, I found myself driving through torrential rain interspersed with hail, a storm so blinding that the cars were going five miles an hour, a phenomenon that I assure you I have never seen in Virginia. (I think this place invented blinding sheets of rain and the people who drive here invented the gas pedal. Okay, maybe not. Still.)

So, because I didn't want to die, or, worse, have to call the insurance company, I decided to get off the freeway, and sit out the storm a bit. And by the time I got to the end of the offramp - I am not kidding you - the rain was a mere sprinkle. I glanced in the rearview mirror, and couldn't see the freeway right behind me. And oddly enough, the exit - I couldn't see the sign until I was under it - was a road that leads straight to my house.

In other words, if you can't go through, sometimes the right thing to do is go around, and you find that you end up where you need to be, anyway.

What I needed today was a detour, and a burst of sunshine to clear away my mental fog, and help me find the path again.

So this morning, while browsing some great home decor sites while sipping my morning coffee (we're - or I am - planning renovations, emphasis on the planning part), I realized that many of the photos I was most drawn to were bursting with color and life and almost rollicking fun. I realize this almost every time I browse these sites, actually. And then I try to decorate with non-vibrant colors. Tsk tsk.

Anyway, I decided to try my hand at some artwork for our house.

I saw an exhibit on Fluxus when I lived in Prague, and the pieces I remember most clearly were vibrant and joyous; our instructor told us that a main motivation behind the Fluxus movement was artists (or maybe is) wanting to make their friends laugh. Now, that may or may not be every art historian's summary of Fluxus, but it's exactly that feeling that most appealed to me in those works of art.

So I wanted to paint something joyful today. Wait, that's, let me try that again. I wanted to paint something JOYFUL!!!!!! today.

These watercolors, which I am painting as a set to be hung together, have a way to go; as simple as they are, they're just at the beginning of what I hope they will become (I mean, I still can't decide what color to paint the star background. Orange? Or red?). But they are just what the art doctor ordered. Already, I feel lighter, and happy just to have a paintbrush in my hand.

Ah, yes, sometimes stepping off the path, even just for a few minutes or a day, turns out to be just the right way to go.

(And now, I think I'll take a detour to Starbucks and the library.)

One More Reason the New Windows Were Worth It

(Aside from the fact that I can open all of the windows in the house in the time it took me to open one of the old windows, and with a quarter of the effort.)

The morning light in our garden window yesterday, filtered through the neighbors' pine trees.

The morning light filtered through my grandmother's Ball jars

(which I rescued from a cardboard box in her garage that said "Old Jars." The fact that she had such a box makes me laugh, because I would too, if my old jars weren't all in the studio.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Extreme Sheep Art

My mom sent me this link.
It makes me happy that there are people in the world who take the time to do things like this, advertisement or not.

The Naming of Places is a Difficult Matter. But Also, Funny.

Naming places – without constantly repeating myself - is one of the most hardest parts of what I do (more difficult than inking a map without trailing my sleeve in the wet ink, which, I assure you, is quite difficult). From the start, I’ve wanted to come up with my own names (so even if my imaginary places might have real-world equivalents, it’s unintentional), but coming up with new and interesting names isn't easy.

But I’m in a refill-the-creative-well phase right now, in need of fresh inspiration, and so I’ve been poring over atlases and books, Google Earth, web sites, every resource I can find, to get a better understanding of place names. I might go blind (have you ever noticed how small the print is in the index of an atlas?), but I’m having a fabulous time on the way, and I haven't even left the United States, yet (researchively speaking).

I was looking for inspiration, and oh, my, have I found it. In fact, no matter how creative I might get with my imaginary places (and I do my best), there are some place names I just cannot beat, just because they’re real. In fact, I’ve decided to incorporate a number of these real places into a new project, but in the meantime, some of them are just too good to keep to myself.

I could wake up every morning in Coffee City, Texas; Coffee Creek, Montana; or Hot Coffee, Mississippi, then head over to Pancake, Texas, for breakfast.

There are quite a few Sandwiches in this country, so if you don't like one kind, you can have another. You could join me in the afternoon for Tea, South Dakota, along with a snack in Cookietown, Oklahoma or on Rock Candy Mountain in Washington.

For dinner, maybe Cheeseville and Chili, both conveniently in Wisconsin. Finish your day with delicious Pie, West Virginia, and maybe some Eggnog, Utah, with a shot of Rum Center, Lousisiana, or Rum Branch, Missouri, which you could enjoy at Drinking Cove in Maine.

Yum Yum!

(Oh, Yum Yum? That’s in Tennessee).

I found a Dilly, Wisconsin, but no Dally. Topsy in Lousiana and Missouri, but no Turvy.

I think it's marvelous that Michigan has both Inkster and Parchment.

Welcome to Poetry, Tx
Originally uploaded by p2wy
There's Poetry, in Texas, and more than one Story, in Wyoming, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Mississippi (and of course, there's Fort Story, here in Virginia).

There are many towns named Welcome, but there's also Turnback, Missouri. I don't know about you, but I think I'd take their advice. And who lives in Cranky Corner, Louisiana?

Colorado has both Chance and Last Chance, just in case you need another one. Boost your chances in any one of a few Lucks and Good Lucks. Why not? I mean, Whynot, Mississippi.

But your luck might not hold out in Swindleville, Lousisiana. Just be on your guard.

There’s more than one Okay. And Enough, Missouri, which I imagine was named by a spouse who was tired of moving around. And there’s a town in Alaska called Unalaska.

There are more body parts than... well, there's a lot of body parts. Various heads, elbows, cheeks, legs, and so on. But as far as I can tell, there's only one Monkey's Eyebrow, where, apparently, the town sign keeps getting stolen.

There are many Devil-ish towns, but also a few Angels. A few Heavens, including Cowboy Heaven and Horse Heaven (plus, you got it, Hog Heaven), and also a few Hells. My favorite is Merry Hell, Mississippi, because if you have to be in Hell, you might as well enjoy it.

And there are a lot of pessimists in this world, but I’m happy to say there must be a lot of optimists, too: there’s not just Mount Joy, Iowa, and Felicity, Ohio, but try a search for “happy” and you get a whole lot of happiness.

It goes on and on and on. Comical Turn, Idaho. Hijinks, Arizona. Spasticville, Kansas. Bugscuffle, Tennessee. Smuttynose Island, Maine. Social Circle, Georgia. There’s not just one Wahoo, but four that I can find.

Plus, there are sad names, haunted names (Woman Hollering Creek, for example, with my thanks to WhyIsTheRumGone), mysterious names and more.

And like I said, that’s just one country. But I have a map to make, so I will let you do some of your own exploring. Wishing you happy travels, as always. (And when you get tired, you can stop at Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina.)

The Guides

Disclaimer: I haven’t double-checked all of these names yet, so I do not guarantee their accuracy, although I have confirmed a few.

Here are my resources:
As for other books:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lands of Magic, and Their Stories

Lands of Magic, 8" x 10", india ink and watercolor on paper

This is my newest painting, although there are others coming on its heels. I am so happy with this one. Most of my maps are relatively large scale, in that they show the details close-up, but I am also fond of small scale maps, and the broader mysteries they suggest.

As I draw, I like to think about the borders between the lands, and how they developed. Were they peacefully decided? Or formed by natural barriers, such as mountains or rivers? Or are they contentious? Are there skirmishes or battles? Or active trade?

I like to think about the economies, as well. I imagine the inhabitants on the coast taking their boats out in the early morning to catch fish, and the farmers plowing their fields, and the witches selling a potion or two at a roadside market. I think about the education, the universities, the particular brand of magic or enchantment that is endemic to that place.

I even think about things like the right-of-way access the inland countries do or don't have to the ocean. I think this comes from real-life encounters with places like the Harbor Gateway, a strip of land that connects the bulk of Los Angeles to San Pedro, which was annexed to give L.A. access to the harbor (where I used to row, in college).

And all this time, I think about the people and their cultures. Do the people wear bright clothing or do they go more for practicality? Are they proud of their history? Do they even know their history? What do they eat? What are their holidays and celebrations? What stories do they tell? How did they get to this place and why do they call it what they do? How did, for example, the name Alluria come to be? What makes them happy?

Most of the worldbuilding that goes on in my head isn't expressed directly on my maps, and that's fine. I like that they offer an interactive experience; I want viewers to be able to tell their own stories from my maps.

Still, I do plan to write some guidebooks to these lands, for the discerning traveler, in the future.

In the meantime, prints of this map will soon be up in my shop. Wishing you happy travels!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Crafting it Forward, Spreading Joy

(The nice, crisp, clear photo is Sarah's...)

I was lucky enough to sign up for Sarah Kelley's ingenious "Craft it Forward" on Facebook, in which participants sign up to receive, and in turn to offer, individual creative works.

Sarah (you may also know her as thebeadedlily) took my favorite color combination of blue and green, and turned it into this magical bangle: straightforward, yet mysterious; friendly, yet serene; simple, but unique; confident, but not brash. I felt a remarkable bond to the bracelet the minute I opened the package, and now, as I write this, I see how this bracelet has exactly the qualities I wish for myself, and if it is even possible, I love it even more. It's my new talisman.

(...and the blurry, backlit one is mine, taken with
a camera phone, but, hey, at least it's in natural light.)

And now, Sarah is offering it in her shop, so if you like, you can have one of your own.

As for Craft it Forward, it's an enchanting way to make connections through making art, and to bring out everyone's creativity, whether they are frequent crafters/artists, or not. There's no obligation that the people who are frequent artists stick to their usual media or methods, either, so it offers a fun way to explore a new direction or try a new idea.

I am Crafting it Forward on a sort of focus group of family and friends first - or will be as soon as I get the taxes done - but if that goes well, I plan to share it here on the blog, as well. There's no reason why you have to wait for me, though, if you want to start right away. Here are the rules - just copy and paste them on your own blog, and have fun!
The first five people to respond to this will get something handmade by me. There are some restrictions, though:

- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.
- What I create will be just for you.
- You'll receive it this year (2009).
- You have no clue what it's going to be. It may be a mix CD. It may be a poem I may crochet or sew or glue something. I might bake you something and mail it to you. Who knows?

And in return, all you need to do is post this text into a note of your own and make 5 things for 5 people. Respond in the comments section... first 5 people win!
(These rules are just for reference right now, but as soon as I am able to, I will post these rules officially so we can Craft it Forward together. That doesn't mean you can't leave a comment just to say hi though, because comments? They make my day.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Great Book Giveaway, Part II, Begins!

A big thank-you to everyone who signed up for the Great Book Giveaway, Part I!

The spring cleaning continues, and I am discovering powers I never knew I had.

Powers to carefully cull my enormous craft/art book library, to create space in the studio. I never thought I would willingly part with any of my books, but I have so many that I am not able to use any of them to their full potential, or even peruse them for inspiration and eye candy as often as they deserve.

It's actually almost embarrassing how many craft/art books I have. I think others may put them to better use, and thus, I offer them up for the winning. I can't say the book-giving-away is easy, but it's fun, and it makes me happy to think of these books finding new people to love them.

And thus begins the Great Book Giveaway, Part II. This batch includes three more books:

Feeling at Home by Alexandra Stoddard, a fine living genius, and a lovely person, as well. This book is mostly text, so I have only a photo of the cover to show.

Two-Hour Scrap Crafts by Anita Louise Crane. I would call the project examples a cross between Victorian and Shabby Chic, but the ideas are flexible enough to be useful inspiration for any style of decorating.

And finally, The Art of Paper Collage by Susan Pickering Rothanel.

The author's work is lovely (I especially love this ethereal rainbow collage)...

...but the book also has a gallery in the back, featuring a terrific variety of collage work from other artists.

This giveaway I am going to leave open for two weeks, until April 22. To enter, just leave a comment below, including your email address so I can reach you if you are the winner (unless you'd prefer to send your email address to my gmail account (paintandink), in which case, please do still leave a comment). Again, sadly, my budget is such and postage of heavy objects is such that I must limit the giveaway to entrants in the U.S. But even if you live on Mars, I still love you.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Three is a Magic Number. You're Magic Too.

Today is my three-year blogging anniversary. Three years - that's like, ancient, in blogging years, isn't it?

Those three years have seen me jumping around quite a bit, from one blog to another to another. And then back to this one, the first one, in which I have brought all of my blogs together to be one strong whole. I think.

I would like to write about something meaningful and inspired to mark the occasion. But wait, that's you!

No, please don't groan. No one blogs for him- or herself. I write in my journal for myself*, but blogging is all about people.

You, readers, who have never met me in person but pop in to say hello. You, my favorite bloggers, who share yourselves on your own blogs, and in doing so, pave the way for me to give back a little bit of myself. You, my fellow artists, who have encouraged me every step of the way, and without whom, there is no way I would be doing what I am doing.

And you, all my friends, around the world, who have made me feel entirely at home in an incredible community that is both larger and more personal than I could have imagined. Some of you, I have met. Some, I haven't. But you all mean the world to me.

Thank you for making it all, well, so magical.

I look back and marvel at how I arrived at this point, and so I thought you might like a little road map of sorts:

The first blog I ever read regularly was Looka!**, which I found right after I was introduced to Wilco, sometime in 2002. I am sad to say I haven't read his blog in years, but now that I mention it, maybe it's time to visit again.

I am not quite sure how I made the leap from there, but I started reading Dooce, Neil Gaiman's Journal and Making Light all at almost the same time, and read them frequently enough to qualify as slightly obsessive, but not quite enough to be stalkerish (I hope) for two or three years.

After I married and moved to Virginia, I discovered the world of craft and art blogs, especially the amazing Violette Clarke, who has built a community of artists with her blog; Posie Gets Cozy; and Emily Martin's Inside a Black Apple.

And Emily's blog, which I started reading at the beginning of 2006, apparently not long after she started it, led me to Etsy. Without any real idea of what I would sell or how to go about it, I signed up for a shop immediately, and, although it was exactly a year before I started selling my maps, that little step was the first in this unforgettable journey into a whole new world.

And I know I've said this before (like three or four paragraphs ago, but also in previous posts), and I don't want to drive you crazy by being maudlin, but I'd like to say thank you again, not just to Emily, and not just to the bloggers I've mentioned here, but to all of the bloggers who have put up signposts or offered directions along the way. And especially to you. For making it worth it.

* Well, and for my children, grandchildren, and my biographers, but for now, those journals are for me alone.

** I'd like to point out, as a matter of pride, that I might only have been blogging for three years, but started reading blogs when people still called them weblogs.

PPS: Regarding the title of this post: I never watched Schoolhouse Rock as a kid -- so deprived! -- so I didn't even know there was a song by that title. I was thinking more along the lines of the significance of the number 3 in fairy tales, folklore and spiritual traditions.

And the winner is...

(I couldn't resist. I will never be able to resist things like this.)

After a few delays, this morning, it was finally time to choose the winner of the Great Book Giveaway, Part I, so I pulled out an old tin...

...which once held chocolate-chip cookies. Very, very good chocolate-chip cookies...

I popped the names in there, shook it up very thoroughly (they thought we were having thunderstorms here today, but really, it was me shaking the tin for the drawing), and drew out the name of the winner...

Ta-da! Congratulations, silveredfern (aka M Debello)! If you did not receive my email today, just send your mailing address to me at paintandink at gmail dot com, and I will send your books shortly! I hope they bring much joy and inspiration to your students.

Thank you for playing along, everyone! The next book giveaway is ready to go, with a collage book, a crafting book, and a book by the incredible Alexandra Stoddard, so watch this space...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Great Book Giveaway results...

... will be announced very soon! Sorry to keep you hanging, but today I am off to traipse around Hampton Roads with a friend of mine, and take photos of a Flat Stanley doll for the daughter of another friend.

Thank you all so much for your entries and comments, and keep your eyes peeled for the Great Book Giveaway, Part II. The pile of art books is growing bigger and bigger, thanks to the spring cleaning frenzy that has hit the Whittington household with unprecedented strength.