Monday, August 30, 2010

Travels With Don

We drove to Phoenix earlier this month. This surprises some people because, once you get past the Texas Hill Country and hit Interstate 10, the trip is assumed to be dull, boring desert, so everyone else flies. Not so for us. First of all, there will be intermittant yelps of "Stop the car, I need to take a picture!" I thought this problem could be solved by making Susan drive but that trick just results in "Grab my camera! Take a picture! Hurry!" To her dismay, this always results in pictures that are blurry, have sunlight reflections on them or are images of my hairy legs and lap.

We love this drive. Over a 10-hour drive the landscape changes from Hill Country to ridges to mesas topped with wind turbines to flat desert and then to mountains with desert.  The road winds back and forth and sometimes we can see it stretch for miles ahead of us with only a few cars visible. We never fail to wonder aloud to each other how we cannot possibly imagine people traveling across this land on horseback or walking alongside wagons, for weeks and weeks. But somehow they did.

The cattle (above) were a surprise to me. I only know what Longhorns (below) look like. These guys look strange, sort of like Longhorns who took too many steroids. They weren't happy having Susan take their picture and I didn't like the thin fence they were behind so we got out of there fast.

In Tucson we decided to take a "scenic" back road up to Phoenix, State Highway 77 and then 79. Highway 77 was a disappointment. People! Do we really need to have that many mini-malls? That many fingernail places? That many Subway sandwich shops. Just as we thought we'd be out of "civilization" and into scenic desert, the road would curve around and there would be another mini-mall and a cluster of houses. It's depressing to think of the people who, years before, thought they were moving "out of town"  but now find themselves living next to a Sonic drive-in.

Once we hit Highway 79 we were in the isolated desert. We made a quick stop in the middle of nowhere to see the Tom Mix memorial (photos above and below). Tom Mix was the definitive cowboy back in the early movie days (yes, before my time) and a big screen idol.  He was driving on this highway when he died in 1940.  We hadn't seen a car ahead of us or behind us for the last 15 miles and were at the memorial for only a few minutes when a car pulled in.  The very friendly guy, his wife and 14-year old daughter had been driving all over the US for their summer vacation - from Maine, where they lived, to Mt Rushmore, down to Florida, over to Texas and now on to Arizona and Utah before they headed back to Maine.

Susan asked the girl what she thought was the best part of her trip, thinking she'd get an answer about Disneyworld but the the girl told her it was the Dakota Badlands. That surprised Susan but even more surprising was that the girl wasn't even holding a cellphone in her hands as she talked to us. Amazing!

We knew Tom Mix had died in a car accident at this spot but we didn't know the details. The guy gave us an additional piece of information: "A large polished aluminum suitcase containing a large sum of money, traveler's checks and jewels, which he had placed on the package shelf behind him flew forward and struck Mix in the back of the head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck." Susan helpfully pointed out to me the fact that my aluminum case was probably just like his, minus the money and jewels.

Small item of trivia that Susan wants to be sure you investigate for yourself.
We drove through Florence, AZ, where there is a large state prison complex, but before you get to Florence, off to the east, is the St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. She found this by scanning Google Earth and it looks very interesting and worth finding out if we could tour the grounds. If you know how we can do that, let us know. But on to the main point: While trying to find information about the Monastery she did some research on Florence and found this trivia bit:
For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 582.5 males.
Does that include the prisoners? The men at the monastery? The demographic data doesn't seem to include the prisoners since it also mentions median income levels, but sure seems like not very many women in that town.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seth's Influence

One of my favorite people, and an artist I have tremendous respect, for is Seth Apter. If Seth does it, it has to be good. So, if Seth has a Bisley, I have to have a Bisley. So now I do. Go here to find out all about Seth and where to get more information, including his thoughts about Bisley.

After an all-day running around excursion to Container Store twice, Costco, the Post Office, Michaels, and Ikea we were exhausted. Ikea is about 45 minutes away and once you get in there, getting out under 2 hours is impossible, especially when someone (I won't name her) insists on sitting in EVERY chair on the display floor, "just to see if I might like it". Ok, let's name her Goldilocks. At least we could take a coffee break in their cafe.

At Ikea Goldilocks spotted the just-right set of drawers she needed -- they are about 24"x17" and that's perfect for half-sheets of large paper. So we bought 2 of them because you never know when you'll need more drawer space to dump stuff in so you can't ever find it again. They are RA which means they come in 7,364 parts with 962 pieces of hardware. That's my opinion but Goldilocks is a pro at assembly, which she attributes to years of sewing with patterns, so both were assembled and in place in under an hour!  At which point we decided we liked them so much that I went back the next day and got another one.

What are we doing right now? I'm rearranging my jewelry "studio" area and putting a lot of things away because my focus for the next 4 months will be ceramics. More about my paradigm shift to come.

Goldilocks is making quilts for some little boys, one in progress ("Pinwheel", shown below.

Marcy has sent us tons of information of Colorado in case we could ever possibly sell our house and move there.

We have been very busy lately. As the expression goes, "No rest for the wicked."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sumptuous Sumi with Jill Berry

I know nothing about sumi ink so this class was a revelation to me, not to mention a complete change of pace -- no metal, no fire, no hammering of stuff.  Jill is a real easy-going teacher so it didn't bother me that I had no idea whatsoever how to use the ink. I sat next to Carol and Mabel Dean, one of Susan's favorite teachers, was in front of us, and Marcy, a goodwill ambassador for the pleasures of living in Colorado, was in the back row. You can see all of us in Jill's slide show.

Shown here are my feeble attempts to use sumptuous sumi ink as we worked through Jill's directed exercises.  At the end of class we had the opportunity to do some creative work but by then my brain was fried. Marcy (at the back, in a bright Hawaiian shirt in Jill's slide show) made some interesting looking landscapes (laid out at the top of her table).

Sumi ink has great potential in my clay work because of its composition. Actually, I don't know what its composition is but it has to be radically different from acrylic paint. Only time will tell.  For the record, yesterday I put my hands on clay for the first time since April. One Dude has been created ...

The top picture is sumi ink and walnut ink with salt sprinkled on it. The second picture is a detail showing the salt still on it. The third picture (above) is gel medium, walnut ink and sumi ink that was blown with a straw. The fourth picture (below) is sumi ink and walnut ink (which I obviously really like) that were painted as a response to listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Skull, Wings and Rusty Things with Richard Salley

Yes, you are correct, I have taken this class before. But I always learn something new from Richard so I signed up again. My piece is above and the piece I made before (at AdornMe) is here

Below are some photos of what my fellow classmates produced. The large photo is of Mike McMillan's piece. Mike and Erin are very interesting, creative people and we get a kick out of talking to them about diving because that is something we really miss doing.  Mike is, of course, infringing on my Alpha Dog territory but I let him get away with it because he wears a kilt. All the time.

If any of the above pieces are yours, please let me know, I'll add your name.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creating Containers and Hollow Forms with Susan Lenart Kazmer

Susan Lenart Kazmer is so energetic and enthusiastic in her teaching that you can't help but have a great time in her classes.  She also sells some terrific stuff online and at Michaels. If you click here you'll be able to eventually get to the video of her introducing the new stuff.  Trust me, she is abnormally calm and subdued in that video, in real life she has 10 times more energy than I ever had.  Above is what I made, below is the piece Janis made.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Caught In A Trap with Richard Salley

In Richard Salley's Caught In A Trap class at ArtUnraveled we learned how to make a setting stone look like it was pierced through the metal, or, as Susan puts it, look as if it was shot through like a bullet. I really enjoy being in Richard's classes because he's easy-going, helpful, always coming up with new class themes that are creative and different, and best of all, I get to play with fire and power tools.  Take at look at his website to see what I mean -- keep looking at the image for more than a few seconds.

That's my piece above, below is a picture of a piece made by a fellow student, Ellen Alsever. The piece on the right might have been made by her mother but maybe not; anyway, I did take a picture.
Late edit: It is Ellen's mother, Cathy Keith, whose piece is on the right.

This final picture is of the two pieces Janis made.

I am very fortunate to have a lot of creative people in class with me to help me along the way. Which way that is I'm not sure of, but at least I'm moving.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Wadaheckerdiez with Lisa Renner

More pictures from Lisa's class at ArtUnraveled. The picture above shows Lisa setting up for the class. One reason for taking her class is that she furnishes an incredible amount of supplies so you don't have to pack/ship/carry so much in. An additional benefit is that as she's talking about a technique everyone is trying it out on the same base material so there is more chance for successful implementation.

You might think that maybe everyone's work will look alike.
Not a chance! Here are some samples from my classmates:
And finally, here are the three samples Lisa brought of her own work:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wadaheckerdiez with Lisa Renner

Oh yeah, I make dolls. Since I'm confident in both my masculine and feminine side (sort of) I don't need to insist they are Dudes.  Susan and I just came back from a week in Phoenix at ArtUnraveled -- more pictures to come in the future -- where I took Lisa Renner's Wadaheckerdiez class.

For now, you'll have to be satisfied with this picture of Ricky and his two best friends. Carol did the figure on the left, Janis did the one on the right. The bases will get little wagon wheels added on so that they are like a pull-toy. The video below is from the class, I'm sitting at the table with Janis, patiently (or not so) waiting for a chance to get at the drills. Carol is coming back into the class when she was startled by Susan stealing a chance to get a quick video.  People sometimes think the classes I take are just lectures or boring routines so I thought you might like to see sort of what we do.

Lisa Renner is a great instructor and the main reason I took the class. For the record, I'd take anything she taught. But I guess you can tell that because here I am in a doll class, although it did have some "guy" stuff to it, like using butane torches on shellac which can be a nice explosive touch, if you are so inclined. Or sloppy.

Sometimes it doesn't make any difference what the subject matter is, it is just art and, if you are creative enough, what you do will transfer over to any medium you choose. In my case, this figure will be a jumping-off point for some ceramic pieces this fall.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ants in My Pants

We always make a family visit in Washington DC, specifically to stay at the Sheila B&B. Usually we are the first visitors in the spring so Sheila counts on me to put the BBQ grill back in shape for the summer. She cooks us great meals while we are there and I man (yes, M-A-N) the grill, usually for salmon. This summer she and I were very surprised to find a huge colony of ants had decided to take over the grill. There was a lot of ant smacking before we got dinner started.

A special treat at Sheila's is CallieCat. Or, as she prefers, Ms. Callie. She is a funny, friendly cat but gets totally spooked at nothing for no reason at all (that we humans can figure out) and will subsequently disappear for a day or so. She also is very shy about having her picture taken.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's August and it's hot outside so maybe you'll enjoy these pictures from a very long way back in my past. How far back? Well, I now have a whole lot less hair on my head and so does my buddy, Hank. The hot tub has been history for years, consumed by carpenter ants. So I'm guessing somewhere in the early 1980's. For the record, that was a Speedo I was wearing, however, in my defense I promise you that it was never worn outside of my backyard.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Separated at Birth?

Many thanks to an incredibly talented artist and photographer who, though the magic of blogging and a mutual aversion to pink, has become a valued friend. Her sharp eye discovered this resemblance, but not only that, she had kept my Moo card!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bag Man

Yes, you've seen these pictures of my tool case before. I'm getting ready to take some classes so I wanted to be sure you could pick me out. Aside from my spiffy case, I'll probably be the only guy, or just one of two or three guys, in the class, surrounded by about 20 women. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Black-n-Red Book

Susan speaks:
This book was made in a class taught by Albie Smith. In the morning we made paste papers, in the afternoon we put the book together.  I like making paste papers and I like even better combining the technique with sgrafitto (scratch marks) and some printing. I also used both white, black and cream papers as a base. As usual, my stuff had lots of black and dark colors, which makes me happy.  The two pictures below show the front and back end pieces with the first and last page of the first and last signature. Got that?
The book has 4 signatures of 5 folded papers, the first/last page of each signature is slightly larger and is also paste paper. I made a few random blops on some of the other signature pages.
 I definitely liked Albie's design of having each signature "read" as a separate entity with the added benefit of more pages to display your art on. Pictures below show first/last pages of the other signatures.
One thing I've learned over the years is that you should not choose to deviate from the instructor's handout during the classtime. If you do, you wind up having the instructor think you don't understand it and then you waste time trying to explain what you are doing and that you do know what you are doing and that you'd rather do it your way, even though you paid to learn it their way.  And you confuse the hell out of the people at your worktable who might be looking at your work.

In this class I deviated from the handout when I did the spine stitching. Even though I am not big on matchy-matchy stuff I do like the stitching to be balanced on the inside of the signatures. I figured out a way to make this happen so I finished up the stitching of the book back in my room.  That's why my book isn't in the pictures of the class books. One of my partners in crime, Diane, made a really beautiful book -- in the class picture it's the one with the pale blue spine and diamond pattern.  Diane spent 20 years in the Air Force as a navigator so she and Don have a special bond.