Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer is Over

We had a productive and creative weekend. Then today was the

first day of second grade for Orion. I took this photo in the car. The morning light performed great tricks for us, for only just moments.

We talked about how we moved forward in the car only a few yards, yet in our little Element, tooling along in space (pretend the planet isn't there) we moved much farther.

How much farther?

I'm geeky enough to wonder about it, but not enough to research it at the moment. In fact, I'm tired enough to mostly sit here and stare at the screen between sentences, while my glass of milk waits patiently. My glass of milk is moving too. I wonder how far, in the last five minutes?

This is how my brain behaves when it is very tired. The non-summer routine will establish itself in a week or so. For now though, well, you know. I've gotta say, I'm happy to be getting back to work. It's horribly hot and even humid even at this hour, but another summer is over and we are alive.

before I go---wanted to let you know that our "Strange Roads" chapbook is nominated for the World Fantasy Convention 'Best Collection' and Peter's Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel (one of the chapbook stories) is nominated for Best Novella.

In the morning, I hope your alarm performs exactly as you expect it to. (I hope mine does too.)

Happy End of Summer.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Nora (aka Ravyn) is visiting this weekend. As usual, we're trying to pack as much work as possible into a three-day weekend. But tonight, we sat out by the pool with our feet in the water.

I seem to do that a lot, you say---sit with my feet in the water. The news (and my deck thermometer) indicated the temperature was around 116. Even tonight, Nora describes the air as a convection oven. It is very much like that. Water is essential when the air is still and hot.

In the last hour, I managed to spill my drink (a nearly full white Russian) and Nora performed some excellent slapstick with her deck chair. (Please don't ask for photos--there was too little time and too much water.) But, under the stars, which still tend to shine regardless of the heat, which will still shine long after Earth is gone (and it will be) we talk about things that are important to each of us.

The big stuff. The core issues. The stuff the art is made of. (I suspect this is often why people come to see me in this desert.)

I've been working on lectures for the World Fantasy Convention. It's different from most conventions, because instead of speaking before fans, students and readers, I'll mostly be speaking before my peers. (That should bring a shudder to any human of the civilized world.)

Next July, I'll have lived twenty years as a professional artist. Twenty years of creating something nearly every day. Twenty years of learning how to. Twenty years of learning how not to.

You'd think I'd have something useful to share.

Writing notes for my lectures is similar to writing notes for this blog. in that I sometimes hesitate, thinking that you're likely eons ahead of me and have already discovered anything I might figure out and that I'll look like a schmuck for even bringing it up.

Screw that. We're all teachers. We're all students. We don't need to be afraid to share.

If have a lesson for today, it's this---that we experience things as they happen, so it's a good idea to simply record them as they are, without polish or prejudice. For later.

Because the story comes later. The art comes later. Trying to force either out of the experience will only result in waste and mess and mediocre.

Add the experience to the mix. Let it stew. Let it age, like wine, or cheese. Like an idea. Let it come when it's ready.

I have twenty years of evidence to support this concept, enough to tell me it's worth sharing with you.

I've refilled my drink and put Nora into a comfortable chair. But it's late and we're yawning and tomorrow demands we sleep soon.

Hope your friday is good.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Higher Education

Summer is actually ending. The days are getting a bit shorter and the desert nights are cooling.

As it ends, I feel a bit of nostalgia for the summer I didn't have this year. Right. I ignored it on purpose---it's on me. I think it was what I needed to do.

We always appreciate things more at goodbye.

Now we're heading into another school year. I always enjoyed the start of school---it was sort of the new year for me. Even now I feel that the new year begins as the air begins to cool. Autumn has always felt more like a beginning than an ending. It's a revival of spirit. Even more so in the desert, when in summer everything (including my brain) gets burned away.
Besides, I like the smell of pencils and crayons.

Our schools are starting the year with much less than they had last year---with less than they need to succeed. A lot of teachers will be digging deep into their resources, using imagination and creativity to make up for materials they won't have. And, as always, many will spend their own money for things they feel their students can't do without.

I'll volunteer some time to art programming and to the library for readings. I did this last year and truly enjoyed it. This year it seems even more important. I encourage any of you who can to do the same. Also to find out what else you can do for schools in your area. It's reasonable to think that many schools will have want lists available.

All of our lives we're students-- we never stop learning. I tend to believe this is largely our purpose as human beings.

We're also teachers, whether we mean to be or not. Little ones are always watching us. Scary, huh?

And other humans, and Poppets.

A love of learning is contagious. Education is essential and is the responsibility of the community, not just the teachers. Much can be accomplished if we all do a little. A bit of time, donations of money or materials can make a difference. It wouldn't be a bad idea to let teachers know that their efforts are appreciated.
Summer is ending. In many places, soon the leaves will begin to turn. Here in SoCal, fire season will begin. Wherever we are, this is as good a time as any for us to resolve to be better students and teachers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Funny thing about artists. Just one.

Last week I saw, for the first time, the 1049 film Portrait of Jennie. I'd thought to mention it mostly because the winter scenes of 1940's Central Park were so surreal and haunting, really visually stunning. I'd never heard of this movie so watched it without prejudice---Poppet style. It was the visuals that caught me first, but other aspects of the movie have held on---especially the obsession of the artist protagonist, played by Joseph Cotton. He was real to me, and when he spent the night on a snowy park bench hoping for even a glimpse of his subject, that felt real too. I know it- that calling.

This week I saw In a Dream, a documentary about artist Isiah Zagar. A totally different animal from Jennie, but again the artist and his thing.

No, I meant the other thing, the muse-thing. Still, the artist does appear nude here and there, for seemingly no particular reason. But it's about the work and the artist, both of which are truly remarkable.

The event I referred to last entry was a personal experience--Alison was here in the desert for working together. In late afternoon on Tuesday, she got a call that Logan-- who is not quite 2-- had suffered a seizure and was en route to the hospital via ambulance. ( He's fine now!) Kids are alien to this planet and all the viruses and bacteria and toxins it has to offer. So each time something new comes along they must exercise fledgling immune systems. This often manifests as fever with no other symptoms. (Just last week Orion had a fever for about 24 hours---we guessed lots of things but it went away before we could even decide whether it might be new teeth coming in.)
Some kids' fevers trigger weird switches in their brains so that sometimes, at certain temps, symptoms including convulsions and blue lips and even unconsciousness can occur.
Apparently it was this that happened. Getting from the initial phone call to that explanation from the pediatrician at the hospital two hours away was an exercise of another sort entirely, for the rest of us.

Now that we're several days removed and sort of breathing naturally again, I begin to think over the experience as I work. Where does it fit?
It was cloudy all day today and only in the nineties. What a relief! I worked outside and thought about watching my daughter hold it together for two hours that seemed like twenty. It was bravery and it was beautiful. It was a stretch, a test for her---to know that cold fear and to avoid panic. It was a part of the human curriculum and she/we lived it.
Now she is stronger, just a bit. And so am I.

I feel it as I paint, I see the experience integrate itself into this and future works. See how annoying that is? This thing---this obsession with the human curriculum, the human experience.
This glimpse of something that is
bigger inside than out.

It's what my work is made of, this question, this observation.
It's the light I stumble toward.
It's what Harlan Ellison meant when he told me I'm a monomaniac.

It's not so very different from other's things. We all have them, by different names.

It occurs to me that I've stopped wondering why my particular vision is. It matters less and less, why. It just is. It's my thing.

That we share a human curriculum of similar experiences, I believe. That within it, we each have our one thing, our major. Mine seems to be something involving things that are bigger inside than out.
(I tend to believe I'm honing in on it. I've thought this for approximately fifteen years.)

I don't give a rats ass anymore whether any of it means anything or not. It doesn't matter.

Because. If it's my thing, I couldn't stop doing it even if I wanted to. (I've tried.)

I'm a human being, and the curriculum applies.

And here's the funny part: Neither can you. Silly human.

I nearly forgot. SeaGen, Not new, but another item worth checking out. Actually there are three different projects, each different and very exciting, for creating energy from water. Also not a totally new idea, but these ideas could possibly change, well, everything.

ok. that catches us up. a little. Let me know what you think.

POT on Etsy

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pictures now, words later.

I keep forgetting that lots of people read this blog without seeing the sidebar. So---here are photos of new Halloween minis and three of the astoundingly detailed Famous Artists poppets in our Etsy Store.

Boy do I have things to tell you. Boy am I tired. Yesterday was one of those thought-provoking days---way too interesting and without sleep.

So, comfort food and bed for now.

Words tomorrow for sure.

Thanks for being here, for the great discussion on sex, and The Birds too.

Check out Sea Gen---will be talking about that tomorrow.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why I don't talk about sex.

The question gets asked occasionally. The answer is truly simple. It's the kids. Mine, specifically.
Oh, the paradigm-shifting horror of discovering anything remotely sexual about a parent.

We're a lot alike on this, we humans. And Poppets have already figured out that once a bit gets onto the internet it's there to stay.

Perhaps in the far and barely imaginable future I'll care less about embarrassing my adult kids and more about the stories for the next generation.

Of course there are stories.

But enough about me. I'm just one human in the human sea. Back to the question. Why is it that the exploits of our grandparents are often highly entertaining, that notoriety brings a certain pride? And yet mostly we pretend our parents never had sex?

What is this then---this one-generation removed filter?

Poppets want to know, and I told them you might be able to help.

silly humans!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today we had some errands to run and as often happens, were greeted by the smog that hangs over LA and surrounding areas. And, as often happens, the conversation died away and we looked as it loomed and we thought all the things we tend to think when encountering this thing we created. It is indeed our child, and it waits silently for what comes next.

It blots out the sun.

Next year will be 2010, the year the human population is supposed to reach ten billion. There's a fair chance that for human beings to carry on long-term, most of the ten billion will need to disappear. Some people believe this has happened before, but I've never seen or heard any convincing evidence of this, regardless of how many geek-out hours I've spent listening to science channels while I work.

We are evolving. We live longer. This is no accident, and may serve us well. Or not. We seem to use the time given us less productively, on the whole. Technology is growing rapidly. There are pros and cons. Are people less intelligent than previous generations? More intelligent? I don't know. I do think it's likely that primitive man was smarter than Hollywood would lead us to believe. I also think C. M. Kornbluth was a visionary. Are his marching morons upon us already?

In the grand scheme of things humanity is still in its infancy. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter one iota what you do, or what I do. Evolution will meander along its own crooked path. Why is it then, that some of us feel so compelled to help human evolution along? What is it that drives some of us to do that one thing we do and to foist that thing upon the rest of humanity? To even care about a future we personally won't be part of?

What difference does it make, why? Possibly it's because as a whole, as an organism made of the human population, it takes all kinds.
It takes all kinds. Idealists and nihilists. Writers and artists and soldiers and couch potatos. All sorts of genes, all colors and shapes and sizes and visions.

So it seems the best plan is to find which we are and to be that.

So we look at the smog, or the melting glaciers, or the change in weather, at poverty in Afghanistan and Tennesee and we think all these things. We ask, again, these big questions.
What can I do? Am I helpless to affect this situation? I certainly feel helpless. Does it matter?

We talk it over, again. Then we see an Arby's sign. Fuck yeah! Five for five. We're starving, we say. But of course we are not.

Pretty soon, the smog is at our backs and we're headed into the clear dry air of the desert. We've abandoned our monster child without a backwards glance. But the little ghost remains---accountability.

So we'll acknowledge this child as our own, at least on some level, and do what we can. We are bigger inside than out. We are the makers of whatever future comes.

And. Sigh. We are small creatures. My stomach is growling, again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What do these things have in common?*

A collector commissioned an edition of "Resonant Kiss" and I fell in love with the piece again and made two!

Resonant Kiss is the inspiration for Neil Gaiman's story "Good Boys Deserve Favors." It was really cool to revisit the piece and the story.
(It can be found in Fragile Things.)

"Marney and Pet" is inspired by old movies I watched while down with a cold. "Pet" is wearing red glasses.
A bit more October in these truly silly Cthulhu masks for Poppets. Though Poppets tell me that in the right light, they can be very scary to other Poppets.
I love that we've begun to slip Halloween on like a favorite old sweater.

And because Poppets also say(or said, as we watched The Birds) that
Sixties Chic is way too cool for humans, we dressed a few up from top to bottom in leopard print.
You may have noticed that I'm not making many one of a kind Poppets as of late. Not to worry. I'm busy working on other types of art for now, particularly for the World Fantasy Convention. I been trying to decide what sort of programs I'll put together. Generally I do an art tour and a lecture about things that are helpful to aspiring creatives, and some sort of hands-on workshop. WFC's attendees are generally professionals themselves, but I'm thinking even seasoned professionals like to have fun. So now I'm thinking about some things we can do that are both creative and silly---like making art on the spot from ridiculous items, with distraction. Stuff like that.
In between, working on some new paper mache for October. No more theraflu, but still plenty of green tea and vitamin C. What an awful bug this cold has been. If I sculpted the thing, I wonder what it might look like?
Question---ebay now charges a fee for "UK visibility." What? I mean, WTF? Does this mean that if I don't pay the fee, my listings are invisible to people in the UK?
sheesh. And while we're on new and innovative ways to rip people off, I've closed my Bank of America accounts because of their new policy on "transaction sorting." It's the only protest in my power at this point, so I'm exercising it.
How dumb, actually, do banks think their customers are? sigh. don't answer.
*really nothing, except they're all on this blog. If I had to make art from them on the spot, I'd be fairly hard-pressed.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

We don't create from nothing

These last couple of days I've replaced Theraflu with green tea. This is a good sign. I'm getting some of my energy back. The good thing is that I used the sick time to "put stuff in."

We don't create from nothing, after all.

The not so good thing is that I have many fresh new ideas but can't even think about starting any. That's a downside of being a professional artist. It's a real job.

To be successful at being an artist or writer, there's really no other way than to go to work every day, without fail. No matter what else, you have to show up and work. I've got that part. Sometimes I work long hours for long stretches of time because of circumstances-- like multiple deadlines. And also because it's the nature of the work--not one person has ever told me it would be easy to be a professional artist. But working long hours can become a habit.

It can be very easy to get caught up on a wheel and forget to take time to live your life. And it's hard to find time to work on personal projects. Very hard. This is where I've been for most of the summer---and very likely why the cold hit me so hard. So it's time to work hours. To focus while I'm working and quit when time is up instead of trying to finish everything on a list.

Just as with other things, it's not so much how you work this week, but how you work over all. I might push myself extra hard for several weeks or longer to get a project done. But this isn't something that works long -term. Trust me on this---you can't do it without burning yourself out. How arrogant of me to ever think I could! And I burnt out badly several times before I figured this out.

So eventually I'll have to take some time off to play, to spend time with people I love, to see something different and to create for the love of creating. Otherwise the raw materials get used up and---
We don't create from nothing, after all.

Sometimes the most creative days are the ones spent floating on the pool drinking tea and thinking.

(I said it was hard---I didn't say the job has no good points.)

Think about your schedule, look at how you spend your days. If they're out of balance, you might want to rearrange things, or take a step back and refresh your brain.

We're still having a good discussion of The Birds on the previous post if you want to join us.