Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shake and Bake. Again.

Well, there you go. We've got fires to the west of us. We're in no danger, thankfully, but we can smell and see the smoke and ash blowing in the wind. And tonight, while I was giving Orion a bath, the house got a good rattle. Aubrey came out of her room.
"You bet."
"You're going to check your email now, I guess."
"Mom, you're such a geek."
"Beachfront property. Any day now."

And, faithful as ever, a computer-generated Caltech Seismology Dept shake map was in my inbox, showing a 4.2 about 27 miles south.

The winds have been wicked all day. I took Orion to the park in the afternoon and the kids ducked and covered for blowing sand several times.

Then there were the devastating storms in Virginia this week. Now a bit of CNN ought to put me right in the mood to hide under the covers with my Poppets.

Funny how it doesn't quite work that way. Seems the more aware I become of the uncertainty and sadness the world is, the more I appreciate every good thing
here and now.

Create, live, play, learn.
But for now, sleep.

Take care out there, all of you, but don't forget the occasional joyful abandon. Find something that resonates and go hog-wild.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Eventually, Orion will discover that RockPaperScissors is a social tool, to be employed when decisions need to be made, generally about who's going for food, but occasionally for much more important delegation. For now, he likes a good round just for the fun of it. Me too. Today we discovered that it's even more fun...underwater.

Summer Hell is just around the corner. We've begun putting shades up. Every year when we put up shades I think of future Aubrey and Orion, talking about how we put up shades in the beginning, more each year, to try to cool the area around the house, before everyone began leaving the desert, before everything changed.

Clearly I read too much science fiction for my own good.

I've not quite fallen off the face of the planet, but I have been mostly invisible, holed up trying to make progress on a number of large-ish collaborative projects that all sort of reached the point of being 'in my court' at once.

Electric Velocipede, with its very Poppet cover, is now available for purchase HERE. It will premier at Wiscon, and is an all-girl issue.

Tomorrow I'll take a break from projects. I can't promise I'll not think about them. When the work is good, it's really good and I just can't help myself. But I'll try. I'll let friends and family know I'm still around. I'll catch up on Reaper and Lost and eat some cheese or something.

But I won't go out much. Because my mind is full of the work.

I'm kicking myself for not going to see Roger Waters at Coachella Music Festival last weekend. There was a giant pig (the pig) balloon and a WWII plane dropping glitter.

I'm an idiot. Pete worked the concert, hung out with the bass player from Flogging Molly.

Did I mention I'm an idiot? I heard Sia was excellent as well.

I read about the storms in Virginia. I haven't seen much news---writing and making art can be a lot like hiding sometimes. It's warm and dry and windy here, sand blowing everywhere and palm trees bending. There's a fire somewhere in the east. I haven't checked into that yet either.

So, for now, mostly just lots and lots of work, paper to my rock, scissor to my paper, rock to my scissor.

And sometimes a bit of swimming.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Warm weather buggin

Remember that thing I said about operating on the edge of failure? I'm living that one as I type this. I'm still deep into work on several projects, a couple of which are a bit beyond anything I've done before.
And stretch, and stretch and one and two....

It's a workout, difficult and satisfying.

Still, in between, the studio buzzes along. We're deep into spring now, with summer hell around the corner. Last night I listened to Pete listing reasons to move out of the desert. Among them were:

"Ow, I burned my butt on the carseat."
"Ow, I burned my hand on the shopping cart."
"Ow, I can't have a dog."
"Ow, I looked at the sky."
"Ow, my shoes are melting."
and so on.

Summers here are tough. Springs here are beautiful, with the dread of summer.
So we decided that about mid to late May we'll have a "Bug Out" sale in the honor of bees (live and dead) in the studio, summer outside and the general state of mind of your artist.
But here's the thing---when the work is good, everything is good. Summer dread or not.

Orion and I are still swimming in our rubber suits. It's another one of those mental challenges, to force oneself to jump into cold water.

The little old man was flying his kite yesterday. I met a man who picks up his son from school every day on a skateboard. He uses a pole, gondolier-style. I asked him yesterday if I could photograph them, and he said yes.

Quick note about ebay: Rebecca (Jordan's Mom) brought to my attention that spammers are contacting some of my collectors with offers of 'second chance offers.' If you get one, it's bogus. I don't do second chance offers. If something doesn't sell, it goes into the store or to a convention or a family member claims it for his/her own.

If you do get one, let me know so I can follow up. Evil, evil spammers!

Ok. I'm off to work on projects, some Poppet and some not.

Have a great Friday

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mostly about books

I've had a great week working with Larry Niven on Strange Light. It's a mental workout on many levels, and a joyful eater of notebooks, pens and hours.

In addition, I finished the cover for the May edition of Electric Velocipede, an all-female edition that can be pre-ordered here. I've read some of the stories. Definitely worth getting. And, on the cover, Poppets!

Indeed, I built a set using a much-appreciated puzzle panel and yes, I set it on fire to create this image.

Such trickery. Such fun. It felt like play, but for the deadline and other deadlines that happened to converge this week.

This seems to be happening more often. Probably not a bad thing. Likely I need to be reminded occasionally that this stuff I do is a real job. You'd think I'd get that, given the hours I work. I don't, until I have to work hours when I don't want to work. This month has been particularly grueling. Luckily I have Pete, and now Angie, to help me remember to eat, make it to my dental appointments and not walk off cliffs.

Because when I do things that feel like play, I tend to forget things I shouldn't.

Oh yes, the dental appointments. And pain aplenty. I'm looking on the bright side of this one (ouch, even) deciding I'm happy to be at the dentist now, and not then, and that this is the price I pay for living so long. Ok, one more--- Owwwww. Then, in two weeks, more.

I put a few new things into the store. Some Little Pink's (the original 2 inch ones that no one has seen for ages) and some signed(by many authors), numbered limited edition copies of Strange Attraction.

Pete pointed me to this sweet circle of Poppets on Fond of Snape.
I like seeing photos of Poppet collections. It's sort of like working with authors. The work looks different, and more magical, out of the studio and into the worlds of others.

That's about it for now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You need a brain and hands to fly a kite

Several times now, on the way to pick Orion up from school, I've seen a little old man in the street with a kite. Every time I've seen him there's been no wind at all. Maybe he's strange. Maybe he's a bit off, possibly he's insane, judging by the intensity of his effort. Yesterday, there he was again, crazy old fool.
On the other hand,I thought, maybe he's a freaking genius.
Orion and I passed him again on the way home. His kite was soaring!
He grinned with joyful abandon. Everything about him spoke of contentment.
It is what it is what it is.
Today I thought about the difference between hard work and difficult work. I tend to be a productive sort of person and it takes an effort of will sometimes to accept the fact that part of my job is thinking. I don't know exactly where it comes from, but I feel truly productive only if I see concrete results, e.g. a spotless kitchen, a finished sculpture, a deadline met. Lots of people think this way. (Luckily, everyone doesn't.) We try to do too much in a day instead of balancing things out.
My brain feels lost without my hands. My hands must validate my brain?
For me, hard work is finishing and painting 30 Ratbag figurines. Difficult work is sorting out the gearing for a kinetic piece or finding the metaphor that connects two distinct visions, or working out the studio budget for a year.
When I spend a day on difficult work, even when I make marked progress, I must actively resist the temptation to top the day off with a bit of hard work. I must recognize that thinking, doing difficult work, or making long-term decisions is as valid as work I do with my hands.
Possibly I should fly a kite. The answer is as likely there as anywhere else.
Everything is connected in one way or another.
On the above image---I thought the photo begged to be a fake movie poster. Anytime you see an image on this blog that strikes you with an idea, poster away! We had fun on the forums with LOL Poppets. B-movie poppets might be fun too. You can post them there yourself. I can link to them from here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Technicalities and Disciplines

Lots of project work going on. This is a good thing for me, pushing limits. I stretch out, working on large scale pieces. This "operating on the narrow edge of failure" is part of the curriculum for artistic growth and possibly as important to my own psyche as salt.
As I write, Orion steadily bounces a balloon against my head. Of course I could tell him to stop, but I don't. I enjoy the challenge (yes, I'm a kid with wrinkles) and, after all, I did interrupt a perfectly good game of throwing balloons at the ceiling fan to get a sudden idea down on paper.
Orion gets it. I get it. I'll be back to balloons in a minute. The older kids have agreed that "Hang On While I Jot Something Down" will be on my gravestone.
I'm fine with that.
Luckily, at this stage in my career, I've met experts in many different fields who are happy to help me in my pursuit of near failure.
I needed to create a tiny star field, so turned to the expertise of astronomical artist Joe Bergeron and used a toothbrush to create near microscopic points of light on black. The first couple of tries produced amazing results, on my glasses. I'll be picking stars out of my hair for days.
But eventually, I got what I wanted.
I'm making good use of the jigsaw panels. I didn't expect to be working on Strange Light as well as Strange Machines, but this is what happens when I hang out with brilliant author types like Larry Niven. We started this thing and now it's rolling along on its own momentum. Nothing to do but roll with it.
In between, Orion and I have tentatively begun swimming again, in our wetsuits. Just in time too. With all this project work, it provides a good balance.
Have a good Thursday.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Discipline of Getting Brain to Paper

I'm working on keeping a better notebook. I love notebooks, blank journals, sketch books, but I've never been good at sticking with one from start to finish. I tend to scribble like a mad scientist when I'm visualizing. Possibly I'm afraid to let details escape before I can capture them on paper. It's a discipline, I'm learning, to keep a good one. Bent's notebook is beautiful, archival, filled with drawings and the ultra neat notes of a serial killer.

But, I'm gaining on it. I remind myself to slow down, take time to write things out. I've pre-numbered my pages, so I won't be tempted to tear any out. And I've noticed that I'm developing a decent habit of reaching for this notebook---instead of whatever scrap of paper is nearest.

The other part is always knowing where the notebook is.

Anyway, if these things don't work, my next plan is to reach into my 'other' life, when I did keep crazy-meticulous notes, in the laboratory. I found a great place to order lab books (they have great sketch books and project books too.) The Book Factory Their site/service and books are great.

Here's a weird little bit that likely belongs in the Nuts and Bolts Forum. Bent was watching a program on one of the science channels called "Mystery Dinosaur." The paleontologist needed to make a mold of some of the fossils, and instead of building a molding box from wood or paper, he used Lego blocks. They're tight fitting, don't stick to mold rubber and can be configured into any shape he needs. Super-Maker smart!!! We ordered two big base panels (Amazon stores)and a pile of blocks. We'll use one in the studio for molds, the other will be mounted in the wall of Orion's room, so he can build 'sideways.' Let him learn a bit about gravity.


I've been really deep into working on "Strange Machines" and "Strange Light." The machine is moving along nicely---thanks to the puzzle panels! It's going to be all mechanical, no electricity.

And I have the first image for "Strange Light" partially finished.

That said, I'll get the "Strange Roads" signed copies and "Spook" Poppets in the store this weekend. Please forgive me! I've had a great week of studio and geek out, totally immersing myself into book projects.

But today is Saturday, and I promised Orion we'd check out the pool today. We may need wetsuits, or we may brave the cold or we may wait another day. The mercury will decide for us.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Strange Books, Strange Panels, Strange Folk

One of the panels for Strange Machines, and a close detail below so you can get a look at the texture.

Thanks to Holly, Jade, Heather and Jess, it's moving along. Jess's panel didn't make it-- postage from the UK was ridiculous. Still, she sent me this photo of her effort with Poppets and says she'll turn her panel into art. I count that as inspiration.

Book signing at Mission Hills:
Larry Niven! We went to lunch, where the food was terrible. Really. But the conversation was great. By the last half hour, we had the seed of a story idea for Strange Light and are continuing our discussion through emails.

ok. Here this woman walks up to Peter and does a little dance and says "Guess who I am!" She turned out to be a good friend he went to college with, but our expressions seem to ask for explanation. Otherwise you'd make crazy stuff up, or just assume we look goofy for no reason.

It was great spending time with Peter. I'll put the signed copies with "Spook" Poppets in the store tomorrow. And we've made some extra "Spook" Poppets for the people who've already ordered books.

Here I just look goofy for no reason. Sometimes my eyes look slightly crossed in photos. Probably because sometimes my eyes are slightly crossed.

This is Greg Ketter, of DreamHaven Books, publisher of Strange Birds, Strange Roads.

Off to the studio I go...