Thursday, May 31, 2007

Self Absorption

I think I understand now why people act so self absorbed when they’re working on a big project because I’m doing it myself. John and I were joking around yesterday and I told him that I thought my best feature was my nose. When I asked him was his was, he said: “My children.” Oh, oh. I could have come up with my friends/family, but no, I was thinking about my nose…yes, it was all about moi.
Self-absorption may be a survival mechanism though. When you have to stay focused, you almost feel that if you give something else any real attention, you’ll get off track.On Monday night I was so deeply absorbed in working on my book that I had this weird out of body experience. I was watching myself working and it actually seemed as if someone else was doing the writing, not me. Obviously there will be life after the book, but right now it’s hard to picture it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Reward

Ronna Mogelon’s Artist Trading Card Quarterly arrived today, but I disciplined myself to finish everything I’d assigned myself to do before looking at it, which meant it was 11:30 p.m. before I could indulge in some guilt-free reading. Then I made myself an English muffin with apricot jam and a cup of tea, and settled down on the living room couch with Lily to read ATC Quarterly straight through
This issue Ronna ran a piece I’d written called "Fun with Photoshop." It’s always cool to be part of a publication you’re partial to, but since I could basically remember what I’d said, I didn’t read it until I’d looked at everything else. Frankly, it was a lot more interesting reading about the Danish woman who has been keeping a daily ATC journal since 1998, grazing through the profiles and admiring all the fab bird art that appears in the centerfold.
I couldn’t help coming away from this experience wanting to play more. I love the colored pencil work Ronna often shares on her blog, and I’d like to break out my Prismacolors and make some new ATCs. Can I get it together to do this for our next ATC meeting? I sure hope so.

Other than grocery shopping and a quick run to Staples, I haven’t been anywhere for the last ten days. But this enforced solitude is paying off because I’m making good progress on my book. I wonder if my friends will still be talking to me when I finally manage to surface? I know I’ve been ignoring everyone (including John), but it seems to be the only way I can get this book done.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Medium is the Message

Is your medium your message? Hummm. Don’t know whether or not I really understand the concept. But I did meet Marshall McLuhan once (sort of).
I was taking a Religion and Film course while I was at university, and this particular day, Winter’s Light—yet another depressing Bergman film—was on the agenda. My boyfriend at the time and I showed up late as usual and squeezed in beside an elderly man at the back. I say “elderly” but I have to laugh because he was probably the age I am now.
It didn’t take long before I was snuffling into my Kleenex. I cried through most of the movies on the course because they were full of despair and provided me with the perfect opportunity to vent about everything real or imagined that was bothering me at the time…mainly the boyfriend. (We saw Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up fourteen times, so that should give you some idea of what kind of relationship we had).
Anyhow, about halfway through the movie, my boyfriend leaned over and nudged me. “You’re sitting beside Marshall McLuhan,” he whispered loudly. Wow! Really? I didn’t want to be rude and rubberneck, so I rolled my eyes around as far as I could to the left without turning my head. And there was Marshall McLuhan…eyes rolled around as far as they would go to his right looking back at me. Then he winked and we both burst out laughing.
I was too intimated to speak to him, but if this happened now I’d ask him a few questions, such as, “How does despair relate to spirituality?” or “What does your book really mean anyway?” One good thing about getting older (at least in my case) is that I’m more interested in finding out answers to my questions than worrying about whether or not I sound like an idiot when I’m asking them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More About Photoshop

I’ve been doing more thinking about my obsession with Photoshop, and wondering if I should just give up using traditional art materials and concentrate on the digital instead. It’s a natural fit for me in a way because I’ve always been more interested in ideas than techniques and materials. And I even like the flatness of the printed image. It’s like producing your own page in an art book.
Still, I can’t do everything I’d like to with pixels. If I could create something tactile and dimensional though, I’d do it in a New York minute.Will someone will ever invent a program to do this? I sure hope so, and soon too.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Here I am sitting in a room crammed with art supplies—most of which I know how to use and have some facility with—and I’m just not using them. Why is this?
Aside from drawing in my journal, I haven’t been doing any hands-on artwork for several weeks now. True, I have a lot of other things on the go right now, but when I do have some free time, I head straight to the digital? Why is this?
I’ve been thinking about it today, and decided that when it comes to expressing my creativity, I’m more of a mental person than a physical one. I don’t mean I’m crazed or demented…okay, maybe a little, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. No, by mental I mean it’s the thinking/experimental part of creativity, which engages me most. That’s why I enjoy Photoshop so much. It helps me to take my vision of what could be as far as it can go. To be honest, I don’t usually know where that is. I do recognize the right place when I get there though.
Working in Photoshop isn’t any faster than using traditional methods…not for me anyway. What I do like is being able to do multiple versions of an idea, working away until I get what I’m after. Obviously there’s a lot more flexibility with the digital because starting again from scratch is easier. I’ve been playing with mandalas lately, and when I finished this one just before dinner, I didn’t like it. But no matter, I learned a couple of new things during the process, and I can always go back and work on it again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Way We Work

John interrupted me while I was working on an article this morning to ask a question about Photoshop, and I got all surly on him.
When I’m writing, I hate losing my train of thought. John, on the other hand, thrives on the immediate…most of the time anyway. I can easily waste half an hour debating about whether or not to use the word “call” or “invite,” while John has a snack, checks the soccer scores, does some printing, makes a few notes and then pulls up a few weeds. Likewise, Robin gets a lot done in a short period of time. I think most of his plays were written in fifteen-minute increments.
But even prolific writers hate being interrupted: Enid Blyton, for example. (Remember her awful Noddy books? I used to hate getting one of them for a gift when I was a child.) Anyway, Blyton could write 10,000 words in a day. I believe she compared the process to unrolling a ball of wool. But if anyone interrupted her while she was working, she had to start all over again from the beginning.
According to Wikipedia, Blyton is the fifth most popular writer in the world (Shakespeare is sixth!) and she wrote over 3,000 books. Yowza! And I’m having trouble finishing one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blahging (I think)

I wish I could think of something witty and exciting to say. I’d even settle for vaguely interesting, but there’s precious little left in my brain tonight. Not only do I have the blahs, but I honestly think I’m Photoshoped out.
Am I boring everyone by going on about my book? No? Yes? Well it really doesn’t matter because that’s all I have to talk about. I’m stretching myself to the absolute limits of my mental capacity, and I’m fed up with thinking.
I wish I’d brought a piece of David’s birthday cake home with me on Saturday. A mega dose of chocolate would go down really well right now. Guess I’m going to have to settle for a plate of cheese and garlic stuffed olives.
Remember that scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson keeps typing, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again? That’s basically where I am at the moment…quoting lines from movies (and considering a trip to the dollar store tomorrow to even things out).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

David's Birthday

It’s a good job I don’t mention everyone I know who has a birthday at this time of year on my blog because April, May and June seem to be jam-packed with them. For example, Carmi’s was on Friday and David’s yesterday.
We celebrated David’s with Thai food, chocolate cake and presents. Oh, and we watched Earth Girls are Easy for the gazillionth time. There’s one part that makes me go nuts laughing. It’s when Julie Brown is about to groom the aliens at her beauty salon, and Geena Davis tells her to be careful. Julie says not to worry because she got her start shaving poodles. You can tell I lead an exciting life, can’t you?
I remembered to take my camera this time and took this shot, knees knocking, from David and Emma’s balcony. The Gardiner expressway seems closer in the photo than it actually appears when you’re there. Mary says she has to check the condo out because even though they're not her kids, she wants to make sure their place meets her approval. So what do you think Mary? Should the door to the balcony be welded shut permanently?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Doing Two Things at Once

When I was working as a layout artist at Sears, we had to take a time management seminar. I remember one of the questions was: What would you do first if (simultaneously) your phone was ringing, your baby was screaming, and someone was knocking at your door? I’m never good at answering questions like that, so I was the only one who chose the baby—and I didn’t even have children at the time.
Because this was the wrong answer, the seminar leader turned me into the example of what not to do. I didn’t understand his reasoning, and I can’t recall what I should have done. This was back in the days before answering machines and cell phones, so obviously something had to be done first…I think it was answer the phone, ask the person calling to hold on, and then answer the door. (Presumably the baby was just being a pest). I do remember him saying that I was obviously a person who had trouble doing two things at once. Right you are buddy, but it works for me.

The only time I can multitask is if I’m talking on the phone to someone I know well. (Sorry Pam, Beverly, Mum etc.) Then I usually play around in Photoshop at the same time, or I might tidy up. If the person is right in the room with me though, I have to drop everything. How can you talk to someone without looking them in the eye?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reality 101

I’ve been annoyed with myself because I’d set a deadline for the end of May to finish my book, and that obviously won’t be happening. This is usually a busy time of year for me when it comes to work, so perhaps I was deluded into thinking this was a good time to wrap things up. But is there ever a good time? I think you just have to go ahead anyway and persevere.
Yesterday morning I sat down to take a close look at everything, and I soon realized there’s a big gap between then and now. Since I started reworking my material, I’ve made a lot of changes. The biggest difference from my original draft is that I’ve added at least fourteen new pages—and there may be more.
If I’d just zipped through and left it basically as is, I think I would have been able to finish on schedule. But when you change the parameters of a project, you shouldn’t keep working to the previous ones, should you? (Duh!)
Understanding this has, well, made me understand this…not that I’m any happier about the delay. I was looking forward to having more fun and being able to play around with some new things sooner rather than later. Fortunately I’m long past the point of questioning whether or not I should have undertaken this project in the first place. Now I just want to be done.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

David took us out for lunch on Mother’s Day, and Emma bought me a book called The Mission of Art. It’s right up my ally because it’s all about metaphysics and art.
We went back to their place for tea, and then my parents dropped by to see the condo. I can’t believe my father actually leaned over the edge of their balcony. Honestly, I almost passed out. I still can’t get that picture of him out of my mind.
Pam told me today that she’s also afraid of heights, and we both agreed a view 32 stories up is best viewed from inside. Frankly I’m thinking we need some kind of harness too.

Emma hasn’t finished her bedroom yet, but David’s is looking very cool with all his glass bricks grouped in front of the window. It reminds me of a Zen rock garden, and I’m tempted to cover his floor with smooth black pebbles and give him a rake to groom them properly...David being a very Zen kind of guy.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Night at the Opera

I love listening to opera, but I’ve never actually been to one I liked.
I remember going to see Boris Godunov back in the 70s with my uncle, and he fell asleep (snoring loudly) before the first intermission. This happened immediately after he complained (loudly and in detail) about the singing. People all around us were trying to shush him up. Gosh I miss him.
Anyway, last year John and I went to Wozzeck, another lugubrious opera that I napped through myself, and our most recent foray involved Elektra, which if you remember your mythology was unrelenting gloom and doom…oh, and endlessly atonal in this case too. At one point I looked at John and it was all we could do not to burst out laughing.
Am I a Philistine? I really think I must be. I know I had way more fun watching Celine Dion singing with holographic Elvis on American Idol, and that darling Apolo Anton Ohno—a skater and ballroom dancer? Yes, just bring him on.
I put my need for melody and happy endings down to reading every depressing novel written before 1975. It probably scarred me for life and I'll never recover.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This and That

It’s been a challenge trying to get everything done lately. Not that I’m complaining. I’m working on three different freelance writing projects at the moment, and they’re all interesting ones. Still, I had to stay up until 2 a.m. on Sunday night to meet my book page quota, and so far this week I haven’t been able to get back to it. Guess it will be another busy weekend for me.
Anyone who writes for a living knows how intense the process really is. You have the idea (or the assignment). You research. You brainstorm. You interview. You do at least one outline. You start writing and gradually whittle the material down reshaping it into something that pleases you. (At least that’s the way I do it).
Once I’ve got my lead and a possible conclusion I breathe a sigh of relief. But the hard part for me is smoothing out the rough edges so my writing flows. To be honest, I think I’m more of a thinker than a writer and I really have to work to lasso those all-at-once thoughts when I put them down on paper. Anything that involves story telling or word play is easier for me, but that’s not what magazine writing is all about.
The thing I miss most when I’m working like this is doing hands on artwork and writing in my journal. To stay on track with my book I’ve been limiting myself to two social occasions per week. My parents gave John and me two tickets to the opera tomorrow night so once again I’ll be missing the monthly ATC get-together…not that I’ve had time to do anything anyway. Emma came for a visit today so I took time off to cook her dinner, and then we watched Lost and American Idol. My fave, Lakisha, was voted off tonight (sob)…am I ridiculous or what?

Monday, May 07, 2007


I’m not sure why anatomical drawings fascinate me so much. It’s certainly not the utility of it all—in other words: how the body actually works. What I like is the symbolism of the body as an intricate, completely realized idea. The externals are peeled back and you see what’s really holding everything together.
The anatomy ATCs I’ve posted recently are scans from a nineteenth century book my cousin Ann gave me a few years ago. Recently I got about ten original pages from another old book that I’m looking forward to playing with. They’re all black and white woodcuts except for a color plate of the torso that has two layers attached by a flap. You lift them up so you can see what’s going on underneath. It reminds me of a low-tech version of those plastic body kits you can buy in a science store.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Birthday/Anniversary Party

My mother turned 88 yesterday, and it was also my parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary(!) These days it’s hard to get everyone together at once, but all nineteen of us were able to make the celebration at Keith and Sherri’s, so that made it an extra-special occasion.
We all brought food, and Pam ordered a couple of scrumptious desserts from Dufflet’s. I thought of Ronna as I forced myself to eat a hefty piece of chocolate layer cake—why do I always eat too much at parties?
Keith and Sherri have renovated their basement and added a couple of amazing bathrooms. Is it weird to get so excited over bathroom fixtures? Probably, but because I lack the decorating gene myself, I love playing the voyeur. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll hire Sherri (good taste personified) and Bridget (innately funky) to make all my decorating fantasies come true.
P.S. Here’s a picture David took yesterday of my parents with their four children.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Nightmare

It’s been a long time since I had a scary dream, but the one I had last night was a doozy. It started out innocently enough. I was on the periphery of a down-and-out group meeting in the ballroom of an abandoned hotel. I wandered into another room and there was my dad sitting in an armchair. He waved at me, and I waved back.
It was night and we were really high up. (Now that I think about it, it was more like being in a space ship). There was a sudden flash of light and floating cities appeared outside the window. I went back into the ballroom and everyone looked considerably better. I started flying around above the crowd and felt great. But as soon as I started thinking about how wonderful it was to be flying, I plummeted right down to the floor.
Next thing I knew, I was tied to a bed and a man was eating my brain out with a spoon. Sounds funny, I know, but I can’t put in words just how terrifying it was. I actually started yelling and scared the daylights out of John. Because I was afraid to go back to sleep, I was a wreck this morning.
Years ago I used to teach a dream workshop at Sheridan, but I’ve never been any good at analyzing my own. I wonder what this one meant? Then again, maybe it didn’t mean anything. Maybe it was just feedback from that olive and cream cheese sandwich I ate right before I went to bed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A blast from the past

I love watching TV but I feel guilty about it so I limit how much I watch. Right now it’s 24, Dancing With the Stars, Lost and American Idol. Normally I wouldn’t be drawn to a show like Dancing with the Stars, but when Daniza mentioned it, I knew I had to check it out mainly because we always seem to like (really like) the same things. It’s your fault Daniza. Now I’m hooked.
But I always feel I should be doing something constructive when the TV is on. While I was watching Lost and American Idol tonight, I sorted through a big box of stuff that needs filing and found this business card size collage I made back in 1998 when I first started stamping. It’s one of a series, but I have no clue where the others are—probably somewhere in the giant throw room that used to be our basement.
I also found our marriage certificate. Now that was sobering. Why didn’t I put it back in its own special file after John applied for his passport last year? Again, no clue. But I was grateful I found it anyway. I’m going to see Jeanne in Texas this summer and I need a new passport myself.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Empty Nest

I wish I’d had my camera with me on Sunday so I could show you how fantastic the view is from David and Emma’s condo. You can see the CN Tower from their kitchen window and planes landing at Centre Island Airport. The condo is brand new and everything is so fresh and airy. It’s exciting to think of them in such a fabulous place…a little freaky though standing on their tiny balcony 32 stories up. My hands are sweating now just thinking about it.
John and I have spent the last couple of days reorganizing and tidying up. The house definitely feels more spacious, and of course it’s quieter now. So far we’re not feeling lonely—we’re enjoying ourselves actually—but I have to admit I’m going to miss knowing all those little details you’re only a party to when you live with people who are important to you.