Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dogs Galore in Art & Life

This is our new Havanese puppy. We adopted him a few months ago, named him Dylan, and now of course, he is running the show. Dylan turned 1 year old at the end of June. I love taking him for walks in the morning, even though the summer heat is upon us. Dylan has a jaunty walk and a loving personality. We have enrolled in some dog obedience sessions at Petco and the trainer thinks Dylan is quite the brainy boy. He catches on quickly, especially when treats are involved. Now if only we could correctly apply all the commands we have learned at the appropriate times.
 
The biggest bugaboo about the dog is that he and the cat (Molly) have not yet made peace with each other. The dog just wants to play with the cat, but the cat hisses and sticks out her claws. Molly lives in fear of the dog and keeps high on the furniture. Yes, it's all a bit much, but my husband Tom really wanted a dog, so it makes me happy his wish has been granted before we get too much older. On Tom's side of the family, everyone owns dogs. When we all get together, as we did on the 4th of July, there are dogs galore, running around everywhere. Meeting this canine gang made Dylan giddy with delight. And when we put Dylan in the swimming pool, what do you know -- his doggy paddle was perfect! Dogs are a lot of work, but they steal your heart and so the deal is done.
 
 
 
This cloth and paper collage is one in a series I created in February. I think the poochie here resembles Dylan, although he has more white fur. So it is interesting that Dylan appeared a few months later. This collage and the one below were my entries in this year's show at the Jung Center. I called them Poochie Woochie 1 and 2. And guess what? Poochie Woochie 2 shown below sold to a couple from Mexico. My strategy in this series was to keeping it simple. Collage can easily get overly cluttered.

 
There have been a bunch of good things happening in my life as an artist. First was the use of one of my collages on the Jung Center Summer catalog. Then I entered a winter holiday greeting card into a Reader's Challenge at Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine and made the cut as a finalist, so usually when that happens, your image appears in the magazine. So I look forward to that winter issue and will keep my fingers crossed. Then learning I sold a piece at the Jung Center show was wonderful. I did not get in the Archway juried show this summer. Never mind, I have been in it twice before. There is always a mix of rejection and acceptance in any artist's life.
This second life as an artist after a career in librarianship is invigorating. Yet I constantly battle with work/life balance. DIY home and yard maintenance take way too much of my time. Other diversions such as yoga, women's circles, church groups, book group, travel, etc. also interfere with my artistic intentions. I am also taking a few art classes here and there. I am bushwhacking my way into digital collage by learning GIMP, a time-consuming process. On a good day I get to work on my art for 4 or 5 hours, but often that is not the case. Life is too short! On that note, back to the drawing board...
 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gifted by John Daniel


Gifted by John Daniel is a first novel that feels like the polished work of an old master, bringing to my mind the likes of Ivan Doig and Wallace Stegner. Daniel has previously published nonfiction and poetry, so he has certainly put in plenty of time polishing his writing skills.. Here is my review of Gifted:

“Sunrise and sunset are made of the same light, and, like gladness and sadness, you can’t have one without the other.” These words arise in the mind of Henry Fielder at the age of 16. Think he might be an old soul? Yes, oh yes.

His beloved mother dies when he is 15. Then later his father kicks the bucket when a tree falls on their house in rural western Oregon. If that plot line sounds like a formulaic YA premise, don’t go there. This novel runs deep. Henry is one of those kids who doesn’t talk much, who walks the woods in wonder. Woodland creatures who usually bolt away from humans instead step closer to Henry and they share spirit. That is his gift and those are the moments Henry lives for.

But Henry is no saint. A horrific act of violence is at the center of this book. And that violence against Henry only begets more violence. Henry strikes back at the cruel world in ways that only get him deeper into trouble. Yet often he is able to channel wisdom from the native American stories so revered by his mother and from the array of books he hungrily consumes. Henry hates school. He wishes he could just have a tutor for his favorite subject: “biologycosmologyphilosophyreligion.”

Often Henry runs away to the woods, with both positive and negative results. At one point, he commits an act of ecoterrorism that could land him in jail for several years. Like many teenagers, he drinks, smokes and discovers sex. Luckily for him, there are many caring adults surrounding him, including neighbors who become his foster parents, a gay man who lives in a commune and various church members.

The story of Henry’s troubles is told in hindsight as he tries to write a memoir many years after all the drama of his adolescence. This novel hurt to read. It hurt deep. But for all that, Henry’s intuitive pull towards the wisdom of nature is wondrous to behold. Acts of communion are many.

Some readers may find the novel too dark. I like dark and yet, at times the novel was almost too dark for me. But there is pure poetry here. Those sublime moments rang true and thus, I was hooked. I will not forget Gifted. It left me itching to go for a walk in the woods. A quiet walk alone, listening deep….

The text of this review also appears on LitLovers.com and if needed, see also the discussion guide posted there.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Mashing for Five"

Mother's Day is around the corner and of course, I am thinking of my Mom, Dorothy Stanton Outlaw. We lost her in 2013. She lived to be 94. I wrote this poem in her honor years ago and gave it to her. She had it framed and hung it in her kitchen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mashing for Five

She stood at the sink with
the big pot of steaming hot potatoes
safely stowed there for mashing.
She used a common implement made of

curlicue metal attached to a worn wooden
handle, known as the potato masher.
The noise that Mom made
mashing the potatoes for dinner

was a predominant sound of
my childhood. Most nights,
some ten minutes before dinner,
we heard the mashing noise throughout

the house, a certain clackety-clack,
clackety-clack, clackety, clackety,
clackety-clack that comes back to me now
clear as a hymn or a heartbeat,

almost jazzy, our mother orchestrating
dinner, our mother so Irish and hard working,
mashing and fluffing, mashing and fluffing,
adding the milk and Blue Bonnet margarine

and giving the masher a final whack against
the rim of the pot before setting it aside
to tend to the meat and vegetables.
Only occasionally did I notice

the little sighs Mom made, those
sick-of-cooking-for-a-family-of-five sighs,
those this-must-be-my-three-thousandth-pot-
of-potatoes sighs, but I write this poem

to recognize them now, and to celebrate
the rhythm of her mashing so fondly recalled,
clackety-clack, clackety-clack,
clackety, clackety, clackety-clack......

- Keddy Ann Outlaw

The photo above shows Mom with me, her firstborn. To see her so young and happy, joyous in motherhood, is wonderful, a tonic for my spirits.

I have to tell you, despite the sighs I wrote about in the poem, mashed potatoes were one of her favorite foods up till the end... She once told me she would love to just eat a big bowl of them for dinner, especially if someone else made them, which I often did when I visited her in the last few years of her life. Love you, Mom! And I will say again what I often said to her over the phone on Mother's Day -- Mom, thank you for giving me life.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Collage Postcards

It seems March evaporated without much art to show for my efforts, but here are a few postcard collages I composed in my spare time when I wasn't suffering with a ginormous cold or working in the yard. My incentive was the National Collage Society annual Postcard show (a non-juried event for NCS members), which had a deadline of March 20th. So although I always have postcards hanging around that I made in the past, I like to make new ones for this annual event. You can only send in one, so here are the ones I considered as possible entries.....
 
BeSpoke
 
Circling In
 
Moving On
 
Stay There (using monoprinted papers)
 
        Her Domain
 
I also attempted some paper weaving using papers I hand painted, inspired by a Cloth Paper Scissors magazine Challenge. I spent more time on it than I first intended playing with the concept, only to ultimately trash the thing. But I learned some new techniques. And I have to admit, I spent a bunch of mad money on paint markers (I found that Sharpie paint pens were the easiest to use, but the color palette was limited). Oh well, that's the way the artwork crumbles sometimes... 
 
Happy Spring!
 
PS For my latest book review on LitLovers.com, click here.
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Painting the Garage Floor -- a Work in Progress

 
It is not easy to paint like Jackson Pollack! That is what I have learned fooling with paint effects on our garage floor. We painted it a plain gray using concrete paint last year shortly after the builders left. But that gray paint started chipping even after 3 rolled coats. Also, the light gray showed every speck of dirt and I found myself wanting to sweep far too often. When you have a new building, it is only natural to want to keep it looking new... Anyway, I decided to spatter paint the floor so it would not show dirt and imperfections so much.

 
At first I followed techniques picked up from YouTube and other online sources. I learned you were supposed to start with dark colors and then work your way up to lighter colors. The main technique seemed to be loading up a paint brush and then smacking the brush with a stout stick. That did not always produce the effects I had in mind. So I just started flinging the paint  and that helped a bit, but sometimes I had to wipe up unsightly big blobs. Flinging works best with slightly thinned paint, but could be unpredictable. After working my way through four colors (one a day and then letting it dry), I was not happy with the way the floor looked. So I dug into my printmaking tools and came up with three simple "tools" that really made a difference once I got to the white paint stage: a foam brayer with small dots, a piece of wadded up netting and some bubble wrap. Using these three inexpensive tools made all the difference. The floor started to look more unified. I am not done yet, but finally feel like I am making good progress. I want to add a bit more aquamarine. There is a much larger area of the garage floor yet to go and tackling that will be much easier now that I've got a handful of techniques together.

 
See here some other printmaking paraphernalia I might have used. But the three I chose seemed to be enough to get the job done.
 
 
And so it goes: every day a new adventure with paint and color, in both my DIY mode and art practice. More about recent artworks in my next post... February has flown by like nobody's business. We had a carport built last month, and once the garage floor is done and before the summer heat arrives, we intend to build a deck behind the garage as my potting area. Then we hope to be done with major DIY projects for awhile. Is there every really an end to such things? Probably not, but sometimes it is good to pretend so!
 
 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Whim-wham and other Delightful Words



Perhaps I have written of this before, but one of my favorite childhood memories took place in the second grade when I was given my very first dictionary. Our parents had to pay extra for them. The book was red and at the time, seemed hefty though it was but a junior dictionary. Miss Palmer, our Floral Park Bellrose (Long Island, NY) Elementary School second grade teacher, was BIG into reading and vocabulary. She had us competing to learn new words and look them up. She gave us stars and other stickers in reward for our lists of books we'd read. Wonderful!

So my love of words may have started then and was fostered all along by my parents, who were both big readers. Dad and I played Scrabble together until I got to be a sullen teenager. Getting my first library card was a true thrill. I enjoyed the company and attentions of various librarians and after a prolonged adolescence, became one myself. I still own the dictionary my parents bought me right before I headed off to college, the American College Dictionary (pictured above in its battered state). It seems incredible to me now that my little library in West University Place, Texas actually carried the multivolume set of the Oxford English Dictionary. It took up plenty of shelf space in the Reference section, and to tell you the truth, was really not used that often. But it was delightful to have on hand when etymological questions came in. Now we have Google but I still reach for dictionaries in book form because it seems quicker than wading through various web pages.

Only about a year ago, I signed up for the Merriam Webster Word of the Day emails. Just a few days ago, the word was "whimsical" and in the explanation of its origins, I found the word "whim-wham" which really made me smile. Whim-wham is a noun from the early 16th century that originally referred to an ornamental object or trinket. I've got plenty of whim-whams and I didn't even know it! And so I added that word to a small notebook I keep of favorite words. Often the words are odd or just beautiful to me in in any number of ways, including the way they sound or what they mean. Here are a few of them with brief definitions that are not in any way to be considered complete.

Alembic - anything that transforms, purifies or refines.

Bonhomie - cheerful friendliness; an atmosphere of good cheer.

Farrago - a confused mixture, hodgepodge or medley.

Glory - resplendent beauty.

Inscape - the deep meandering landscape of our interior life, as defined by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Jubilee - any occasion of rejoicing and/or festivity. Also the natural oceanic (Gulf Coast) phenomenon of an abundance of fish, crabs, shrimp swimming towards shore wherein people are able to scoop them up.

Lunation - period of time from one new moon to the next. Also the partial circles or cogs on the outer ring of an 11 circuit labyrinth.

Mazurka - a lively Polish dance in moderately quick triple rhythm (think Chopin...).

Rhapsody - an exalted expression of feeling or enthusiasm.

Yantra - a mystical or astromical design.

Perhaps no one said it better than James Michener, as seen on this dangling piece of art I used to keep in my library office: "I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." Now this "Muse of Writing" (truly a whim-wham) resides in my art room/study. She reminds me to keep this blog going, even though I often feel the months go by so quickly and updating this blog seems like just another chore. Yet there comes a time when my fingers demand to type out some review or feature. Perhaps the blog is really an outscape from my inscape, to use one of my favorite words! And so it goes, meandering on long past the days when writing it weekly was part of my job requirements. More than seven years later, here I am and do consider blogging to be a privilege in many ways. Long live the freedom and democracy of the internet!