Wednesday, July 29, 2009

some stories bear revisiting

A summer cold is making its way through this house. Nasty little bug making everyone miserable and cranky. Especially bad when it's so bright hot outside.
So there's cold meds, and Twilight Zone marathons and books.

The painting for the World Fantasy Convention cover is going well. There's that. I'm calling it a painting--it has elements of dimension as well.

I've been reading Poe, a sort of refresher to help me prepare for the convention. I've always had a great appreciation for Auguste Dupin and his ratiocination.
(Yes, I know, the 'monkey' did it.)

I enjoyed reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue again. Though a lot of the text was comfortingly familiar, (perfect reading for a summer cold, oddly enough) I was struck by his bit on perception. It seems to be a lot about 'stepping back,' a subject we've discussed often enough here. I think it applies to creativity as well as mysteries:

[Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star by glances--to view it in a sidelong way. by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the star distinctly--is to have the best appreciation of its lustre--a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but in the former, there is the more refined capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought; and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or too direct.]

I see a great deal of value in this passage, as applies to ideas and observation, academic and personal. It seems worth thinking on and talking about here. Do you have experience with this concept? I remember doing the star thing as a kid, but it seems Poe meant us to apply this vision to more than star gazing. When is it better to view something from off -center, not to analyze, but to appreciate the whole? Is this what Poe was referring to?

ah. Nyquil is kicking in.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to Palm Springs

It's 10pm, very nearly, and 102 degrees outside. Earlier today, it was 115. There was nothing to be done about it but to float and think.
On the positive side, good ideas can be found just this way.

So. This was Monday.

Hope yours was good.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

finding the voice

I could rant for days. But I won't. I do in my head, quite often. We all do, don't we? In traffic, at the television, at the news, at ridiculous products we see. At the colossal evil of transaction sorting, e.g. Bank of America.
I used to rant here, on this blog. When it was new, I wrote veritable essays. Even researched them. On the one hand, they were pretty good---a couple even got picked up by local magazines. On the other hand, ranting and researching took up an awful lot of time and energy.

But that's not why I stopped. Well, that's part of it. I asked more experienced bloggers, (i.e. the NGaiman) who told me that eventually the essays and rants would shape themselves to fit me better and I'd find my own voice.

The other reason I stopped ranting is because I started to understand that human experience can be very generic. In other words, I'm not special. I don't have anything to say that hasn't been experienced and explained before. Those hundreds of irritating cliches endure for a reason. The reason is that they fit.
We don't really get those little revelations until we've lived them, or until they're explained in terms that resonate, that ring our mental bells.

I stopped ordering and polishing and began to simply relay my discoveries as they happened. I never intended my blog to be exclusively for artists. I meant it to be for human beings like me, trying to figure out what the hell we're doing and why.

I don't know why I'm compelled to do this any more than I know why I'm compelled to make art. What I do know is that I'm compelled.

You are too. I read it in your comments, sometimes between the words. That said, let's talk about 'the voice.'

I may have decided that there isn't one voice. For instance, one of the most important lessons I've learned in the nearly twenty years I've been a professional artist is this:

Show up. Every day. Do the work.

Now, you've heard this from other sources. I was fortunate to hear it personally from both Ray Bradbury and Gene Wolfe. I won't go into this here (no worries---you'll hear it again---I cannot preach this sermon enough.) I relay this message at every lecture on every topic at every conference I participate in. It seems most effective to tell you outright that I know this to be true.
The secret to being a successful creator is to show up consistantly.

There---I said it again.

But other lessons will have to be spoken in the language of the art, because that works better for me. At times it seems best to allow Poppet to speak for me.

What are your thoughts on using fiction or other art forms (the truth hidden in the lie) to communicate personal revelations?
It seems to me that some subjects are more appropriately dealt with through this filter---that speaking openly of profound experiences somehow diminishes them.

Do you know when to speak outright and when to apply the filter? If so, how? And, is one voice more effective than the other?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

October State of Mind

Don't say I didn't warn you.
Today the mercury climbed to 117 outside my back door. But I opened a little Halloween section in the Etsy shop and have begun to put things in it.

Right. I'm a grownup and can't stay in October all the time. Still, an October filter makes the desert bearable, even in July, and sometimes, even a little creepy. perfecto

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Night and Light

Got a bit of photography done today. It was 115 by our thermometer, didn't even bother to look up the official. It was hellishly hot outside, so a darkened cave of a room wasn't a terrible place to be. Screw it. I don't care how hot and blinding it is outside, I'm going to October in my head and staying there until December.

Spencer and I collaborated on this spooky little night light. Sweet, eh? I enjoyed getting a little lost in the painting, pulling colors from an October sort of palette, layers, upon layers that became almost like graffiti.

I've thought more on the mystery short story we talked about earlier. I also remember that it was very, very short and suspect it might be in the Damon Knight 50 Short Science Fiction Stories or a collection from the 50's/60's. I'm going to look around in my Lewis Padgett books too, though if it was his, I think I'd remember. I'll let you know if I find anything.

Another thing about the story is its connection to Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. Though the stories are very different, in both a character experiences a short burst of brilliance and clarity that is taken away, creating a great sense of loss. It's a classic theme, isn't it---gaining a glimpse of something greater?
In case you're on a feed and don't see the sidebar,
meet our Master Tinker. He's a bit Lisa and a bit Bent,
who has recently started his own blog. I shall get a link up soon but for now,
I am very, very sleepy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I started the day out well, with a swim, then some reading. I'm re-reading Stephen King's Secret Windows, which is more or less a book of essays about writing. I'm a huge fan of SK for many reasons. I don't like everything he writes and I rarely like the last quarter of any of his novels because he has a terrible habit of showing too much of the monster. He knows better---he said so in regards to Dracula, "In that book, if no other, Stoker grasped the fact that shadows always stand taller than flesh and blood." Despite sputtering over the endings I continue to buy his books and read them because the flavor is right and the truth shines through his spooky/fun filter so we get it without hurting our eyes. That's what he's good at, the truth.
Secret Windows is an excellent book to read before starting a new project or for stirring up the creative juices. I'm about to start work on art for the World Fantasy Convention and I consider this my 'mental yawn and stretch' in preparation.

I started reading it last night. I was a bad, bad girl. While reading I munched on a bowl of tater tots that were forgotten in the oven until they were mere cocoons of greasy, crunchy outside with nothing but air in the middle. Eating while reading is a nasty habit. I broke it years ago but made an exception last night because those tots were too deliciously nasty to ignore and because I trust my brother's advice on such. He told me, "It doesn't matter what you do, this time. What matters is what you do overall, the patterns you develop. If you're going to drink, or break a diet or take a risk or be an asshole, do it consciously. Make your decision, be aware of the consequences, then proceed without guilt and with joyful abandon."

My brother is an extremely intelligent human being. In comparison, I am but a gnat.

But now it's morning, I've had a vigorous swim and healthy breakfast. I'm dressed in my summer uniform--a beach skirt and tank that are interesting together if you're an artist but look sadly mismatched if you're not. My hair is pulled up into a wet knot and outside, I see palm trees swaying in the breeze, hummingbirds flitting in and around the feeders and sunlight sparkling off the water.

I'll pour a cup of coffee, tie on my apron and attempt to make something that scares even me. If I can do that here, I can do that anywhere.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Many years ago I read a classic science fiction story. I remember reading the story---I read it as I sat on the bank of a pond while my dad fished for our supper. (what? I said it was a classic)
I even remember some of the visuals in my head. But I don't remember the name of the story or the author.

I've tried to look it up, but I don't know enough to create a decent search. So, tell me if this sounds familiar:

Astronauts are traveling from one planet to another. Told from the perspective of one of them (not sure on this detail) it seems that at a certain distance from the planet they left, each of the astronauts experiences great clarity, vision and peace. Then, immediately upon entering the influence of the planet they're traveling to, all their previous fears and mental blocks return.

Does this ring a mental bell with anyone?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Little unexpected things, as thinking how much I need a new journal for sketches and finding one in the mailbox only moments after.
It was 112 degrees today.
Even now, nearly midnight, the ground is still very warm.
Time for swimming.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


We are always in motion.
Something like 67,000 miles per hour.
We forget.
Silly humans!
I was going to write here tonight, really. I have notes and everything. But we spent a long day in the studio and it was one hundred and eleven degrees today, and Orion and I are going to have a late swim before bed. I knew you'd agree that's the best idea.
I did actually take some photos. I'm having way too much fun with Mini Poppets. Spencer and I are chomping at the bit to get back to our video projects. We like Poppets that move. Obviously, given the latest work, I'm ready to make that happen. The funny thing is that I know (now) that the video projects will be better because of the delay.
Now we are having fun.
the difference a trip around the sun makes.
Orion has waited patiently and waves 'hello' to everyone.
Time for swimming.

Monday, July 06, 2009

fireworks: audio on the outside, sparks on the inside

Our fourth of July celebration turned out to be exceedingly quiet. Orion went to a fireworks show with Aubrey and her boyfriend, Matthew. Spencer and I decided to watch the show from deck chairs on our roof, yet we discovered to our surprise the neighbor's trees grown enough to partially obscure the view. It's a fair trade for the extra shade. We agreed that we'd seen enough fireworks. So we enjoyed our outdoor space, playing "Endless Summer" on the television on the deck, sitting in beach chairs with our feet in the water and drinking Smirnoff. Recluse and Hermit were we, watching other people surf.

But we heard the fireworks explosions and speculated on future works and even solved a couple of small technical problems, geeks that we are.

One thing that came up in our discussions is an aspect of creativity we both recognized, but didn't have a name for. Maybe you can help. It's hard to describe in the way that it's hard to explain to someone how it feels to whistle. You must first discover it by casting around, trial and error style, until your brain associates the position of mouth with sound.

I get this mental sensation when I'm close to solving a puzzle (e.g., slider puzzles in video games --as in Finding Nemo.) I've also experienced it when close to solving equations. It goes beyond 'the zone,' but that state of concentration often precedes the sensation I refer to.

Does this sound familiar?

Multiply it by several factors and it aptly describes the experience of honing in on a complex work of art---one of those where the metaphors click into place. When it happens there, it's accompanied by a rush of adrenaline. Not a good time to interrupt me.

(and no, I'm honestly not smoking anything. ;)

It is indeed difficult to define a process without terminology. So I put it to you for clarity and, well, fun! Either someone will find a name for it, or we'll just make one up.
Time for swimming. g'night

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Change comes of its own free will

ok. So now it's Friday.

Thank you to the readers who contributed to yesterday's post. I've considered your comments. At its best, this blog becomes a sort of collaboration, illuminating questions from different angles, allowing us to see more clearly. It can be difficult digging into deeper emotions and fears, yet these issues carry into the creative process, show up in the finished work.

It seems worth the effort to sort these things out. The frankness and eloquence of the comments tells me others think so too.

From them I've gathered the following: (if you haven't, you might want to read the comments---the moments will be well spent and this post will make slightly more sense.)

*Rituals are helpful. They allow us to release emotions, yet moderate them with a time frame.

*The need for these rituals has been recognized throughout history.

*We humans tend to create filters that skew objectivity and sometimes even reason.

*The one-year mourning period is significant for humans. It predates calendars-- it's about the planet we travel on.

*Joy returns on its own. Actually, I like " tends to sneak up on you." much better.


Today I considered these things while floating in clear water in a blue pool under blue skies in Palm Springs. I made a mental note that my profession often entails floating and thinking. Not everyone would count that as a positive, but on this one I'm with Bugs.
I mentally examined the work I've created this year. Some elements that are new(like very stylized skies) , others moved from background to foreground (crows.) I thought about the works in progress. I see symbolic connections in some places, others won't begin to make sense until much later, with hindsight and context.

They're time travelers, these symbols, messages to ourselves, in bottles or in backs of drawers, the handwriting familiar but the writing forgotten.

I've decided to have some sort of ritual--- I'll think of something---to mark the year's passing.
It will be something simple and quiet and...huh... oddly anticlimatic.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

There is a season, human.

Well now it's Thursday morning. Another day in what I've come to see as the 'worst year in my life'. How dramatic. We get these concepts stuck in our heads. Last July, my marriage ended catastrophically and, for all the months and weeks after, the damage spread from the blast radius and daily I watched details fall like dominoes. I've tried to be more politically correct, saying things like "it's the most challenging year of my life, so far." Bullshit. It's sucked. I don't even feel like the person I started with.
Here's my point. Humans are funny, with these notions we get. How did I decide upon a year? Is this some period of time I chose to allow myself to be miserable? Does this mean that on day 366, I'll be all better?
Or does it mean that on day 366 I'll decide to be better? The two are quite different animals.

I called Neil and asked him to clarify something he's told me several times over the years, about troubles, and work. Did he mean that these things would resolve themselves through the work? Or that I would resolve them through the work?
He says it's the latter, for sure.

Reason tells me that "things' are not going to suddenly improve on any given date, because dates and clocks were created to coordinate human activities. Reason also tells me that human beings use dates and landmarks to help themselves navigate through all the messy events that make up the human curriculum. We like birthdays and anniversaries----or did we create those just to sell cards? I'd guess we use them to measure and mark because it's our nature to measure and mark. One only needs to look at music and art and sentence structure (mostly ignored on this blog) to see this is true.

Possibly I subconsciously chose this one-year period. I've come to realize these last weeks, as the date approaches, that it has been a year of mourning, I just wasn't seeing it, no matter how plain it should have been. Maybe I didn't want to.

Possibly allowing ourselves a given time period to process events is just what it seems, a tool for coping.
On the other hand, by using this tool, did I decide to be miserable for a year? Did I pull unrelated events, like losing Gurtie, under this umbrella of "the bad year", giving it more strength? Could I have put it behind me much sooner?

All that said, the date is coming up fast and I find myself anticipating it. By logic, I could decide to make the day today. But we're not entirely logical and I do believe there's some value in these rituals we share.
This asks for a bit of research and reading.

What are your thoughts on this particular odd bit of being human?