i'm back.  and i finished an entire show's worth of work.  it was good.  i'm different now.  these days, i enjoy giving time to projects that aren't mine.  i want to hold the hands of the children of my friends.  i want to paint the things i haven't pictured, and don't know of yet.  it is a time of unknowns, of crossing uncomfortable distances.  it is a time of bravery, and friendship, comradery.  it is a time of healing.  and community.  
it's time to embrace the chaos, and become its friend.


may i place you on hold?

i'm getting ready for a collaborative show with my good old friend kj.  for me, that means work upon work, priming, cutting, sanding, sketching, drawing, painting, repainting, assessing, discussing. it means adding sequins, rhinestones, gold and silver where necessary.  it means learning the grim sad stories of dead rock 'n' rollers, and avoiding their eyes, drawn by your hand, watching you walk around the room.  it means driving up to bellingham to look at those portraits side by side, some by you and some by she, maybe listen to hall&oates radio and add a few details here an there, gossiping all the while.  but mostly, it means that the one a day project gets put on the back burner.  the hiatus, it's worth it. i promise, it will be worth it. i swear.


the daily grind

hanging signs, hand-lettered

having a blind cat of 18+ years means many things.  namely, it means patience, with a side of concern.  today, it meant cleaning up pee and poop in the usual spots, in my usual manner: wipe, rinse, spray, repeat.  it also meant sitting on a bench outside in the sun, waiting and watching, trying not to count the minutes while max explored the sidewalk out front.  it means leading him with my voice, with pats on the ground or surfaces, leading him to the soil or the gravel, where he can sniff around and pee like a man, like he wants to, outdoors and on his terms.  it means occasionally getting up to run defense, between him and the road, the cars, or the customers, while he wanders around not really knowing where.  today, it means your neighbor andrea finds max standing there blankly in the middle of the street, and picks him up like a good Samaritan to put him back in safety of the fenced enclosure.  sometimes it means running defense  between him and pato, the territorial duck who comes a'running and flapping beak first toward any cat in his backyard.  on a daily basis, what it means for me is slowing down for long enough to give max what he needs, like fully supervised time outside, lap time, belly rubs, and a carefully concocted meal.  it means trying my hardest to read his signals, to interpret his quiet subtle version of cat language, so i don't piss him off too often, so i don't confuse or disorient him, so i can guide him gingerly to the places he wants to go.  it means not flinching or cringing every time he bumps his nose into a wall.  having a blind cat, well, somehow it changes everything.

since max has gone completely blind, all of these little things happen on a daily basis.  they're new chores, new mental clutter to add to my already long list.  as his caretaker, his momma, i feel it is my duty to see him through this phase of his life without complaint. it's hard sometimes, but i keep doing it, if for no other reason than the hope that someone will have the patience to do the same for me when i grow old and clumsy.  i guess that's what love is for, providing us with the patience and willingness to see each other through the roughest spots, and to show each other the beauty hidden in the darkest corners.


falling off (the wagon): part 4

miraculously, we found a mechanic that would take us.  we had the van towed, puppies inside.  in the cab of the towtruck on I-5 north, i kept looking back worriedly, the van at an angle, the puppies at an angle too.  i couldn't see them, and wondered how it was, their first towtruck ride ever.  so many firsts, every day full of firsts, firsts for them, and firsts for me too.   

we arrived. at a remote gravel lot with an unmarked building in north olympia, the towtruck pulled in.  once at the shop, we couldn't be in the van, neither could the dogs.  we had lots of time to kill.  so we set out with the puppies for a walk on a busy and fast road, what we later found out was the "deadliest highway in kitsap county".  

the road was desolate and dangerous.  nothing for miles.  i was stressed, unnerved by the noise and commotion, longing for the peaceful and slow bend in my road, the road home.   the puppies flinched at each loud motor screaming past.  we passed three crosses, casualties of speed and metal machines.  i felt hopeless.  

soon, we came upon a gas station. with a schwag deli! and a coffee cart!  and outdoor tables!  "hallelujah!  this is an oasis!"  i thought aloud.  we settled comfortably into some chairs.  i bought a round of scratch tickets, for good measure.  

we spent all day there, all damn day, scratching the silvery wax off of paper tickets, figuring it might just be our lucky day after all, if we invested our winnings, or picked just the right penny to scratch with.  we scratched and scratched, until five hours had passed, until we had spent forty dollars on coffee pizza and scratch tickets, until it seemed like our van might just be ready for us.


falling off (the wagon): part 3


 we stayed up late that night while grandma told us stories, mostly ones we hadn't heard yet, about her father the world book salesman and her mother's decision to divorce back when nobody did that kind of thing.  she told us how it all went down, all the gritty details.  in that room on the second story of the sequoia house, while the light went down and until it was black outside, we talked and talked.  and somehow, it seemed fated that our car, grandpa's van, would break down there of all places, and that we would finally take the time out of our crazy lives to get to know our grandma even better.  somehow, it seemed necessary.  she had just turned 87, after all.

we slept in the van that night, surprisingly well, with the dogs snuggled into us under the blankets, not as crowded as i would have thought.  and in the morning, so early it was, 5 o'clock maybe, we awoke to the sound of grandma, shuffling by in her walker, anxious for a trip to Ihop and a real, hot breakfast for a change.  Those cold scrambled eggs they served at the sequoia house weren't from a shell, after all.  they were powdered, and just plain nasty.

grandma kept a surprisingly quick pace on the mile or so walk along that busy busy road to ihop.  once there, we snuggled into a booth, drank coffee and ate as much pancake and eggs as we could.  james thumbed through a phone book, and we all silently hoped for a mechanic with an opening that afternoon.


falling off (the wagon): part 2



our car was broken.  but breaking down so close to grandma was ironically convenient. with the help of some screwdrivers and a culinary knife bought from cash&carry, we were able to limp the van to her apartment complex.  driving there, every light seemed to turn red before us as the thermostat rose higher and higher.  finally, the gauge had peaked about as far as it could go, with the telltale smell of smoke before self-combustion.  finally, we made it.  we rolled up on the sequoia house, an assisted living apartment complex, right next to the hospital where grandpa gordie died. a large sequoia tree marked the entrance,  looking strangely impotent surrounded by asphalt and the white columns of the convalescent center.

at last we found grandma mickie, an oasis of love and comfort amidst the turmoil of a broken down engine.  she insisted we eat, so we followed her down the burgundy carpeted halls, she chugging determinedly forward with her walker, to a cafeteria filled with all of the old folks.  we sat at a circular table for a feast of shit on a shingle, just a triangle of squishy wheat bread with a little turkey and gravy, that plus a dixie cup of broccoli salad and a big cup of jello salad.  it was all cold, and barely palatable, but i didn't complain.  because i was going to eat what everybody else ate.  a crazy old lady asked for seconds of jello, and i gave her ours.  i was terrified, but strangely at ease.  so this is where the old people go, i thought to myself, overwhelmed, not sure what to think about the glaring reality of it all.


falling off (the wagon), part 1

hey folks, it's me.  i know, you haven't seen me in a while.  and maybe it's true: i've fallen off the wagon.  but i've still got a leg up on the damn thing.  i mean, i did make some paintings.  good ones.  but in a flurry of business, i hung them in a show and forgot to photograph them.  so for now, you'll just have to close your eyes, and imagine what they're like.   

let me explain further.

last week i went out of town, off the grid.  it was the four year anniversary of my momma's passing, and every year since i make a pilgrimage to the place where we spread her ashes, a cozy fishing cabin on a remote lake at the base of mt. st. helens.  there, i slow down, do what feels natural...breathe the cold mountain air,  watch the reflections in the lake, take walks, snap photos with real film in my heavy old camera, float around in the canoe.  there, i work on the place a little, work against nature's pull, rake the fallen winter's branches, hammer in a few shingles.  there, i work on paintings with the ghost of my mom, work until the light goes down and i can't tell one color from the next, just shades of brown.  at night, its blacker than coal, you can't see in front of you.   at night, james and i play card games by candlelight, sipping whiskey and laughing at the dogs, sleeping belly up.  when i go to the cabin, i reflect and reset, i slow down, my rhythm quieting to match circadian, the pulse of the trees. the forest soothes the ache and loneliness at those times i miss my mom the most, and for that reason now i know why she wanted her ashes spread there, of all places.

four days and three nights we spent, barely able to tear ourselves away from our hectic lives and animal feeding schedules to get there, not to mention daily maintenance on max the blind cat, who can't seem for the life of him to find the correct toilet to use, me trailing him daily with paper towels and a squirt bottle.  but we did it anyways, knowing it was risky: we made a break.  and on day four of our respite at the cabin, we were done, rested, reset and ready to head home. we headed up I-5, to Olympia to have an afternoon visit with grandma mickie.  It was, after all, her 87th birthday, and we had an envelope with 87 dollar bills to give her, one for each year of her life, just like she'd done for all the grandkids for as long as she could.

just off the exit was when it happened.  billowing smoke.  after about an hour of doing laps with the dogs in the cash and carry parking lot, james came out from beneath the van.  the water pump was shot.


the permanence of pattern

last week the paramedics came for dana.  i was really worried so i ran down the street to see what was the matter.  i couldn't really get a straight story, lots of theories as to what may have happened, a seizure or a panic attack, he fell down or bit his tongue or something about diabetes.  i waited around on the edge of the bulkhead, waited until he was wheeled out by the paramedics on a stretcher.  he looked a little confused, and worse for the wear, but i made an i love you sign with my hand and blew him a kiss as they wheeled him into the ambulance.  when he saw me, he smiled, as he always does. as surly as he is, he's always got a smile for me. dana calls me the twirp.  it's my favorite nickname.

dana is the grandaddy of the art community in edison.  he opened the edison eye, edison's first known gallery and the locale for many a raging art party in the seventies and eighties.  he has been known for his slick business sense and wry humor.  nowadays, dana loves to play cards at the casino, and when he rolls his little brown sedan through town on the way to get there, he might roll down his window too and tell ya he's goin to work.  he must be good at what he does, because he's still ahead.

dana wears an occasional eye patch.  these days, he is often seen trailed by his trusty black dog jake, who was given a death sentence by the vet years ago, but much like dana, has persevered.  in the morning, dana can be found tooting on his pipe, wearing three colors of plaid pajamas and slippers.  i love dana, he is a fixture of this town, as integral to the landscape here as the bend in the road.  so when the ambulence came for him, i was pretty worried.  

it's not the first time.  years ago, brandin told me that dana had died.  i didn't know him as well then, but still, i was pretty upset.  i went across the street to announce to andrew,  andrew, dana has passed away.  andrew was pretty upset too.  turns out, it was just a rumor.  false alarm.  just some small town bullshit drama, i suppose.

dana is home now, and recuperating.  every summer, depending on how he's feeling, he will host a few shows in his gallery.  this year's invitational is called "The Permanence of Pattern: What Is on Top?". 

as dana puts it: "The title springs from a book I've been reading, "What Is a Number?" by Robert Tubbs. A complex book. The title, fused by mystery and colour, should produce a substantial art show. Perhaps more than that.

The chalkboard drawings above will be tiled in a group as part of a larger piece for this show.


small miracles

this evening we got a call from toni-ann.  Theres a baby duck! it was in my house and now it might be under the deck, do you want to come rescue a baby duck?  yes, of course.  another recruit.  me and james hop right to it.  i guess we're the go-to people in edison for all your animal rescue needs.  

we go running down the street,  across town, around the flutter inn and along the slough we walk with a salmon net in hand, trying to track the little bugger down.  more elusive than you think, that baby duck is; we can't seem to find it under any porch or bush.  every cat seems suspect, i eye them suspiciously.  every dark corner is a hiding spot, a possibility.  we ask john and mike, have you seen the baby duckling?  they point.  there it is, james says, and i see it: the tiniest of things,  brown like the mud, tearing ass down the middle of the slough.  we follow it closely with our eyes, but soon lose track of it under a dock.

 after waiting a few minutes for it to reappear, we give up, decide to go home, to let nature take its course.  will the baby duck die without our intervention?  maybe.  we'll never know.  sometimes it's hard to make that call, but really, nature does what she wants around here where she's left to be herself.  yes, she'll do what she wants, with that duckling and with us too.  sometimes it's the miracle of life she gives us, and sometimes its the hard lesson of death.  one thing i've learned is that i have very little control.  and it's all a miracle, every bit of it.  it's all beautiful, really, it's just a matter of how you look at it. 


more important things

i haven't felt much like writing lately.  or painting.   i've been waiting until the last minute to do it.  and then just slogging my way through it.  that's just the way it is sometimes, and sometimes you can't fight it.  call it procrastination, call it avoidance, call it adrenal exhaustion....call it what you will.  a few weeks back into this one-a-day thing, now i remember why i was so excited to be done with it, once and for all.  

i started a cleanse last weekend, thinking of all the things that needed spring cleaning, little ol' me might need it the very most. no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no meat....no booze. that's an awful lot of no's.  i thought that maybe it would up my motivation and energy, but so far i feel like it's only kicked up a bunch of dust and made me miss all of my favorite vices.  they were, after all, something i looked forward to.  every day.

there are plenty of things i do feel like doing, things that i am excited about...like spacing out, weeding the garden, picking the twining morning glory off of branches.    i like to walk in the school field, watching the pups run, holding james hand and watching the clouds play on the hills in the distance.  

and i always have time and energy to  fill the bird feeders.  i could sit and watch them birdies eat forever.  yes, i love it so much it even distracts me, like a buzzing cell phone, distracts me from almost every other thing i'm doing. 

and lately, i anxiously await the birth of baby birds around the premises as their mamas sit long and hard on those eggs.  i love to listen to the new baby robins, two of them, gently testing out their voices, squawking above my bedroom door in the morning. 

i love to watch the flowers bloom around me.  i stare at the colors long and hard, trying to burn those blossoms into my retinas for when i want to paint a picture full of life, long after the flowers have all fallen.  spring has hit the valley fast and hard this year, like a freight train, and i'm standing at the edge of the track marveling at it's force and velocity.

needless to say, i get distracted from my work.  but all of these other things take precedence sometimes.  sometimes, work must wait. for more important things.


playing catch-up

(as a pair)



it's not that i haven't been working...i have.  but i just can't seem to get myself to sit in front of the computer when it's sunny.  so here are the last five days worth of one-a-days.  now that it's raining, that rug in the backyard grass and the vulnerable little seedlings won't need me as much, and maybe one of these days, i can spit out some wisdom.  until then, i'll be trying desperately to squeeze everything  i can in to one short day.



 today, when we went to the river dike to walk the dogs, the grass was all mowed down.  i took it as a good sign, being that it was haircut day and all, looking for signs everywhere to help me muster up the courage to cut my hair in the first place.  it is, after all, a part of me, that hair is a timeline of my life.  but it's spring, and somehow, the new growth around me encourages me to shed the past.  the dogs reveled in the short grass path, the ability to see, how cutting the tangled tall grass makes space, makes way for new growth.  they ran joyfully hard and fast, two dogs full steam ahead, stopping every now and again to sniff the mounds of dry grass along the edges, hunting like coyotes for casualties of the mower blade, a mouse or vole carcass to swallow whole.  they are smart like that, instinctual, and we let them be wild on these walks.  for us, it's an exercise in trust.  because nature usually takes care of us, if we allow it the space to do so.  and we don't want to raise little obedient robots, after all. 

around one bend and then another we walked, until ahead, i spotted a coyote, hunting those same grass mounds as my pups.  colored grey as a sandy beach, all feral rough and fluffy, he didn't see us coming.  a rare sighting.  i froze, and then turned to make sure my boys were close.  coyotes are everywhere here, but they are elusive.  the wind must have been blowing in just the right direction, hiding our scent, so we were closer than i've ever been.  i took it as a good sign, and couldn't get the picture of that coyote out of my head as i drove up to town to get my long locks lopped.  

driving home with two cut braids in my bag, i felt lighter than i have in a while.



maybe you've noticed that the last few paintings haven't been for sale.  that's because i'm working on a series of illustrations for bellingham's subdued stringband jamboree.  who knows: these drawings might be on a poster, or maybe a ticket, a coaster, or maybe even a t-shirt.  but mostly, they're just a gift, a thank you, inspired by the enormously talented and supportive music community of this region, a community of players and listeners and venues that work really hard and give it everything they've got, for nothing more than the love of music and the joy it spreads.  there are few causes more worthy.



lately, my work has really started to remind me of my mom's.  i'm drawing animals in people costumes doing things that people do, if we were smarter we'd act more like animals and less like people, i think to myself.  i'm drawing while i'm sitting in the sunny backyard, surrounded by mourning doves, finches and hummingbirds, ducks, dogs and cats, all of my "friends" that i've somehow lured here to live here, with food water shelter and a soft voice only for them.  it's only natural that these creatures would make their way into my artwork.

 nowadays, there's a certain way that my hand wiggles to make the mouse's or bear's hair, or how i leave the highlights in the eye as two tiny dots of white, there's a finesse with the line, these certain things, that remind me of mom's illustrations.  i look at these pictures i've painted when they're done, and it feels like she drew them.  and sometimes, it feels strangely like i'm not even behind the wheel, like she's doing all the driving here.  it's a trance-like state, a deliberate intention with the work that i've never had before.  

all my life i searched for it, something to call my own, some purpose behind my pen....call it experience, call it a signature style, call it a good teacher's influence or just call it an idea that springs up amidst artists block....sometimes, it's hard to know what you want out of a piece of art that you're about to make.  sometimes, the pressure is frightening.  and sometimes, when you don't know any better, you think too long and too hard about it, and it comes out all wrong.  

nowadays, i've learned to just let the drawings draw themselves.



max the cat's blindness is getting worse.  he started bumping into things today, going into the wrong corners, looking blankly into the sky.  it may be the fault of his kidneys, or it may be diabetes.  it may be high blood pressure.  or, it just may be old man blindness.   it's hard to know.  with a cat of sixteen going on twenty, sometimes its just so hard to know....what to do, or when to jump...when to go to the vet, when to spend another thousand dollars we don't have, on antibiotics and tooth extractions, on x-rays and blood tests....it's hard to know when to turn the lights off,  or when to do nothing and let nature take its course.  as with everything in life, sometimes you have to make the hard choices, and sometimes you just sit on your hands and wait for those choices to make themselves.  which is worse?  i don't really know.

yes, animal ownership is a challenge. it tests my patience, my courage, and my intuition, daily.  sometimes it takes everything out of me.  and sometimes it fills me up.  it's unpredictable, hard to know what card you're going to draw on any given day.  for instance, yesterday, i drew the JOKER.   

yesterday, just like every other day, i took the dogs for their evening run, this time by myself.  to the wide open field at the elementary school filled with glowing dandelions wishes we walked.  i let them off leash, and instantly, sunny bolted.  this doesn't usually happen.  usually, my dogs are good boys.  feeling helpless, i run off to find him, yelling sunny, get back here. COME HERE!!  I feel like an idiot.  soon he comes a'runnin, looking like mischief.  no sooner do i turn around to find samish chowing down on something by the tennis court.  i run over to try and stop him but sunny beats me to it.  they have a royal buffet until i huff and puff over there to find them feasting on a pile of smelly barf, hidden under grass.  ugh.  i leash them up, exasperated, and cry a little, feeling beaten at the game. i guess that's parenting for you:  every mistake is a lesson learned.

tomorrow's a new day, i tell myself, try to reassure myself.  and of course, it always is.  because today, those pups were perfect little angels, sleeping all day in the warm sun of the backyard while i worked.



the grass on the river dike is suddenly tall, up to my chest.  the false bamboo is wiggling through the dry silt on the river's edge.  the morning glory is twisting and twining it's way up up up the garden.  tractors chug along  waking up winter's mudpack.  it seems like it all happened in a flash overnight, while i wasn't looking.  i start to get that overwhelming feeling, like spring and summer all happens so fast, whizzes right by like the scenery from a car window.  i fear i need to soak it up harder this time and store it deep within me for the next long winter, the winter that comes on altogether too soon.  wearing shorts for the first time this year, walking through the tall grass, my legs feel the familiar sting of nettles, somehow comforting, like a pinch to wake you up from a long dark cold dream that wouldn't end.  the dogs are just wiggles in the grass, flickers of color hidden beneath the fronds, they run through the cut paths but can hardly be seen.  they cannot see out to where the valley opens up,  which makes them a little more nervous than usual, staying close to our feet so as not to get lost.  this is their first spring, ever.  you can tell it's overwhelming to them too.

my hair is long now, longer than it's ever been, long as that grass on the river's edge, almost to my elbows.  last time i talked to my dad, he reminded me:  it's been four years since mom passed, jessie, not three.  i guess i stopped keeping track, but my hair is a good measure.  the last time i really cut it, i cut it short... it was this time of year, about four years ago.  when your mom loses her hair, a woman's best accessory as kate describes it, you may find yourself wanting to lose your hair too, to take away the pain, to shake the vanity that we still somehow cling to until the very end.  and now, all i have is hair, long as i can grow it, my hair.  it's heavy, tangled, dirty, and hard to wash.  it's beautiful, and real, not as much ash-blond as my optimistic mother would describe it as the greyish brown of dry earth.  my dogs pull it, chew on the ends of my braids, and step on it, yanking from the roots.  james loves it, how it reminds him of the nurturing yet untamed hippie women of his childhood. that hair, it's mine, for better or worse: every cell of my being, every life experience is in there, every breath, every tear, for the last four years.  

this spring, i think it's time.  i think i'm ready for harvest.


find your voice

one of the things i like best about being an artist is that you can reinvent yourself every day if you want to.  this year, for this one-a-day project, i'm trying hard not to fall into the same ruts, working to stretch my technique and abilities, going for something different every single day.  I want to create new flavors of art that surprise even me, work that reflects not only my personality but the various influences and artists i've admired over the years.  influences are a major part of developing one's own style.  my mom used to tell me, if you like a certain piece of work, it behooves you to try and copy it, just to see how it's done.  as a student of painting in college, we were challenged to imitate the work of an old master.  my monet copy wasn't half shabby!  by examining the work closely, even if only through photos, and dissecting it with my eyes, i learned a little about the artists approach, something i could later consciously and subconsciously incorporate into my own work. because as i see it, there's no such thing as an original idea, but there's also no one with an original voice identical to yours.  so let er rip!  find your voice!  because the only thing worse than taking a risk and making a dumb mistake is making nothing at all, and the only thing worse than giving up is not trying.


digging holes

as of last week, thursdays are now "home days". james and i have committed to spending an entire day every thursday of every week bettering our barn-home and tying up loose ends.    it feels good to dedicate a day to work together towards our goals, to nest a little.  it has become increasingly necessary when almost all of our time is spent working for others.  you see, the problem was, i begin to panic inside my head if i don't feel like i'm making progress on the never-ending master list of tasks.  i look at every nagging issue, point at it, look at james and say, now why isn't that done yet?  poor james.  yeah, so i may freak out, i may go a little off the handle.  it's embarrassing.  i'm supposed to be a mature adult for god's sake!  now we certainly don't need any more panicky moments out of me, do we?  hence, the invention of thursday, home day, a new and constructive preventative measure.  so far, it's working great.

today was a day full of digging holes and planting four gigantic blueberry bushes that we had salvaged.  each hole was about four feet in diameter and had to be dug through a five inch layer of gravel.  the rain didn't deter us, it almost made the work more fun, the clean smell of water on grass, sifting rocks from the soil, getting muddy up to my elbows. I fed the eager ducks every nightcrawler i could find, dangling it in the air to catch their attention. they always come a'runnin, flapping their flippers through the puddles in a quick waddle. those ducks are smart, they know to follow us around when we dig in the garden, searching for fruits of the earth, keeping us busy company.  

afterward, we washed the earth from our hands, drank some water, admired our progress.  every day, it feels more like home.  




it's that time of year again where i really start to think about my mom a lot.  right about now, three years ago, she went into the hospital, which is where she would spend her last days.  i remember counting every blossom of every flower in my yard in portland... all of the plants i had planted, dirt under my nails in the hot sun, turning in the year-old kitchen compost, everything we ate becoming black gold, churned into the vapid soil to make hospitable beds out of dry clay.  i remember cutting those blossoms proudly to bring to her room, anything, anything to fight the beeping and buzzing and clicking of hospital ephemera, the sterility of plastic and the smell of sanitizer.  i would bring fresh flowers from my own garden, a new bouquet every time those flowers started to begin to wilt.  it was all i could do, everything i could do, even after she went to sleep and didn't wake up again. how it all flashes back sometimes, especially this time of year.

today, i woke up sad.  it happens when i don't expect it, even three years later.  i guess that's inevitable.  james asked me:  is there anything you can think of that will make you feel better?  outside, through the window, i could see the sun peeking through the clouds.  springtime.  suddenly, i knew exactly what to do.  I pulled up my sleeves, grabbed a spade, and set to work in the soil.  life abounds in the garden.

wild world 


it's a stretch

watercolor on paper 9x12

This evening I had to have a reality check with myself.  I realized: I have to be honest about what i can and can not do on a daily basis.  I am ambitious, but i don't have superpowers.  I am ambitious, but sometimes it gets me into trouble.  By aiming too high, I set myself up for failure.  This is something i learned the last time i did my daily painting project, working, scanning, typing frantically, tears in my eyes, delirious tired.. sure, I can paint a painting every day....but just barely.  Some days, it's a miracle that i can even find the time to wipe the boogers out of my sleepy eyes.   Stacking even more responsibility onto an already full dance card leaves me with two left feet.  I do a lot to keep this ship afloat, hustle hard to keep my animals, my bandmates, my friends, my family and all of my customers satisfied.  I work a hell of a lot of miracles around here.  But I admit: I just can't do it all.  It feels good to say it aloud, to let go.  So repeat after me:  I can't do everything.   I can't paint a painting every day and, on top of it, write something meaningful every day.  It's just impossible.    So there.   Now, it's out in the open.  This time around, things are different.  I'm a little smarter.  And as i wait impatiently for today's watercolor to dry, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it.  That's just how it's gonna have to be.


to each their own

watercolor on paper, 9x12

when it comes right down to it, even after a six month break, i can still whip out a realistic watercolor by staring at an object, painting what i see.  this one came remarkably easy, like i could do it blindfolded, like i was born to paint squished beer cans.   oh, how i love painting squished beer cans.  and yeah, i guess painting a particular way every day for a year conditions you.  in the process of that year, i didn't exactly love every painting i did.  some were downright awful.  but the errors are a necessary part of the trials.  and so i don't censor my little basket of loose leaf watercolors that sits on a table in my store.  i let people see them all, thumb through them, for better or worse.  i let it all hang out, and they can decide what to make of it.

  usually, people respond in an overwhelmingly positive way.  today, a biker couple giggled over a painting of a smooshed pack of  cigs, "this one's perfect for you", said the woman clad in black leather, then finding the bic lighter painting that could possibly be paired with it.  another couple of youngsters whispered back and forth, "this is my favorite, no, this is my favorite....oh, this one could go over the bed".  it's funny, hearing the comments, hidden behind the counter, when nobody knows it's me that painted those pictures. and then there's the other side of the coin.  today, while james was working, some fella picked up a painting, showed his whole family, and remarked something to the effect of, "can you believe it?  sixty dollars for this!?! who would pay sixty dollars for this??", hastily throwing the paper back into it's basket.  now that, my friends, is more honest than a college critique or a review in the paper.  luckily, i don't really care.  to each their own.



for the love of trouble


oh, puppies.    last night they got into my yarn stash and tangled four skeins of the *expensive* yarn to holy hell.   it's hard to get mad at those cute little faces, those big sad eyes, but i do my obligatory reprimanding, theatrical stomping and a deep booming voice, shaking the yarn at them, asking sternly whooo did this?  was it youuuu?  i'm silently laughing to myself as they both hide under the bed, tails tucked, until i decide it's over.  somehow, they seem to know while they're doing something mischievous that they're in the act of being bad boys.  but they still grab at socks, every now and again, after ripping holes in many a heel.  they know it's wrong.  but it's a guilty pleasure, that stinky sock tastes so damn good!, and defines the bad boy mentality to the core:  getting into trouble is half the fun!  i know these patterns well, i've watched it unfold time and again: i've been surrounded by "bad boys" my entire life, including my father, who hides it fairly well in his work clothes, (but i know better), including my brother, who has somehow lived through and witnessed more than what could be seen in a season of Cops, including a large portion of my friends and including nearly every fella i've ever dated.  but that's part of why i love em, what i love about them.  hell, my mamma was no angel, and  neither am i.  and maybe that's why i've always been drawn to "rebels": i do deeply understand the desire to bend the rules, to break the rules, to make your own set of rules.  i don't always understand the rules in the first place, or how one small set of people can govern what is best for the "greater good" of all people.  some rules just don't apply to me, and so i ignore them.  maybe that makes me some kind of a rebel.  or maybe i'm just like my puppies.  maybe rebellion is just a part of nature, after all.


find the time


yesterday started out as an epic fail.  i painted my one-a-day, but i hated it.  i drank too much coffee, and got all fried out.  i was cold, and couldn't get warm.  the fire wouldn't start.  i felt too whiny to make breakfast.  for some reason, i felt paralyzed, helpless against the weight of the world, in an over-dramatic, woah is me sort of way.  and i guess, when it all came around, it was the usual gripe, the house is dirty, i miss my mom, and life is just sooo overwhelming.  yet somehow, magically (but just like every other time), the gentle coaxing of james and his total dedication to making things better turned the ship around, and by two o'clock we had managed to get going on some very necessary household management duties. we spent the remainder of the day cleaning and sorting piles, the piles that grow when you're just too damn busy trying to make a buck to spend any time on yourself.   spinning john prine and drinking cranberry wine, we sorted and swept and sucked the corners clean until we had made a serious dent in what sometimes seems like the bain of my existence: stuff.  and still, there's more where that came from!  who needs an armless mannequin?  a revolving darkroom door?  a kid-sized mattress? or an old chaise lounge?  certainly not me. now, if i could only find the time to figure out what to do with it all.


keep trying


i get jealous easily.  my mom used to too.  i get jealous of other people's accomplishments.  maybe it's human nature, but it's kind of embarrassing.  my mom, well, she was an overachiever, and so am i.  she was extremely competitive, and not just at yahtzee or scrabble, but at life.  she wanted everything to be perfect, exactly, and didn't stop at sub-par.  she wanted perfection so badly that it could be intense at times.  she would get real catty if someone achieved something that she wanted, or if somebody was a better artist than her.  it wasn't easy for her to admit failure.  nor is it for me.  it's not one of those qualities that i love about myself, but i do think i inherited it from her, and so i embrace it as something preciously human.  mom was a tough cookie, and that disguised her vulnerability well.  so i guess it's her that's still keeping me on my toes.  having a mother that's crossed over into spirit-hood is way more powerful than a nagging phone call or a guilty conscience.

I know i can't stop in the tireless pursuit of greatness, constantly working to better my skills.  because those skills don't work themselves.  and, honestly, it's not easy to get noticed out there.  mom tried for years to get her illustrations published in children's books, sending out packets upon beautiful packets, beating her head against one brick wall after another only to get no response.  i watched from the sidelines, cheering her on.  and so i guess maybe that runs in the family too.  just last month i got another politically polite refusal letter from another artist's grant award that i didn't win.  the first couple of times i cried.  but now, i'm used to it.  i've toughened up a little.  and i guess i realized, you can't win the big prize if you don't enter the race in the first place.  and so it goes:  try, try, and try again.




Sometimes i dream of living in a simpler world.  I get fried out easily by the busyness of modern society, by the speed at which information and media proliferates.  More often than not, something on the internet finds it's way under my skin and can bug me for days. I get overwhelmed and burned out by traffic, consumer culture, and automobiles.  The buzz or flicker of a screen can really piss me off.  I want to yell STOP!  and have everything around me freeze until i say go.  but i know this idea of simplicity i have, well, it's just a matter of perspective.  

My late uncle earl used to reminisce often of his childhood at the turn of the century.  His life was anything but simple.  As a youngster, his sister fell ill from tuberculosis.  Without the aid of modern medicine, she died, leaving a lingering feeling of loneliness in Earl.  Della's son Cecil came to live with earls family, which added financial pressure during what was already a depressed time.  Earl delivered papers as a little boy to help support his family financially.  His first house had neither running water, nor electricity.  He told a story once of walking the family's cow the six long miles from Ferndale to Bellingham when the family moved.   I can hardly begin imagine that happening today.  I grew up with push button heat, a machine to wash the dishes, and a car to drive me around.   It reminds me to be thankful for what i have in this modern era, rather than resentful of what i don't have.  I know i get the privilege to choose how simple i want my life to be.




 Just the other day, James called me a "blue collar" artist.  It's true, he said insistently.  Who works the way you do?  And maybe it's true.  I paint by the hour, I paint commissions, I paint on the cheap, I paint by the people for the people.  I haven't exactly made it big by art world standards, or even had a major solo exhibit in a gallery, but in my own little world, i do believe i have made it.  I've made it because i don't have to clock in or answer to anyone but myself and my clients, most of whom are friends.  Its a good life.  And I believe it's the only sustainable way to make it as an artist without "striking gold", so to speak.  I mean, you do the math: in this shriveled economy, it's a hell of a lot easier to sell ten paintings at sixty bucks than one at six hundred.  And so that's how I roll.  I work like anyone else who works.  I don't need high prices to inflate my ego.  Nope.  Because painting is my job, and i'm fast, efficient, creative, and damn good at it.  Take today, for instance.  I whipped out this little ditty of a commission and then spent the remainder of the day hand-lettering a sign, in the sun with the chirping birds and the sleeping dogs, neighbors and friends stopping by to chat over the fence.  Fucking fantastic, i tell you.  Fucking fantastic.


lasting impressions

gosh, the last couple of days there has been a lot of weird energy swirling around.  sometimes, negativity surges and creates what feels like a vortex.  it's hard to get out unscathed.  

for example: last night, a fight broke out in the bar, at the door right behind my stool.  it seemed contagious, like wild fire, and soon, bystanders were throwing what seemed like unsolicited punches in undeserved and unsuspecting directions.  luckily, i wasn't hurt.  i just stayed in my seat and pretended to be invisible.  but that's not to say that it didn't affect me, or leave me feeling quite haunted.

and then today, i had some weird customers in the store.  i had a fighting couple, whining at each other like immature brats, in front of me and their kids.  and then there was the nasty lady, looking for something specific,  who seethingly remarked at our recommendation,"i don't go there, it smells like cat piss".  and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  

i try not to let that stuff bother me, let it roll off, shake it off, but i can't say that it doesn't affect me. because i'm pretty sensitive.  it leaves an impression, a lasting odor, like a skunk hit by a car and rotting in the ditch.  and most of all, it makes me wish people would just try to be nicer to each other.




sometimes it's easy to have a good day.   today was easy, and good.  i am thankful for those kind of days, the days where i don't worry, days that i breeze through.  last night, with a little wine to do the coaxing,  i gave my major soliloquy over a bag of chips in the kitchen.  i told my story to james, in a way i never really had during our ten years of being together.   i remembered me before: my teenage years, my coming of age, the fine details, the gritty details.  i remembered in ways which i hadn't in so long.   moments, so many moments i've shuffled into the closet like a pile of dirty laundry i didn't want to air out.   it feels nice to lighten the load a little,  to let some stuff out, and to enjoy the simplicity of my new life, my adult life,where my sole purpose is to live in the now, to be nice, and to enjoy the smiles of my neighbors, promises of kindness like the budding blossoms on an apple tree, as spring in the valley comes optimistically upon us all.




today in conversation, i was explaining why i started the one-a-day up again.  i compared it to exercise.  i found that when i worked out my "artist muscles" regularly by painting every day, it was easy.  i had a flow, and found that i worked faster and better than ever.  ideas kept coming, like the siphoning of a hose. but as soon as i stopped, i stopped. i took a long break, a six month break.  i hardly picked up a paintbrush, nor did i have any desire to.  trying to start again was nearly impossible, excruciating, painful, like the first day of athletic training after a long summer off.  i looked at other people's art longingly.  i was out of shape.  i had disappeared.  where had i gone?

needless to say, it feels good to be back in the saddle again.  the work is different, new.  it references all sorts of disparate influences throughout my life.  i feel more freedom to change from day to day.  i'm not so terrified by a blank canvas.  i don't need to paint it exactly how my eyes see it.  and more than ever, i see my mom coming through, clear as a bell, in the nuances i've developed, the tricks i learned as a little girl watching over her shoulder, as she carved in ivory or washed in watercolor.  no mom, i haven't forgotten.   i'm just beginning to realize, to see her influences carved into me, in the same way the ocean carves the sandstone rock walls: slowly, yet determinedly, dramatically, over time.


taking care

my best ideas come when i'm least expecting it, usually when i'm driving or drifting off to sleep or doing something so entirely consuming i can't stop a minute to make note of it.  it's hard to hang on to those ideas, they seem to drift out of sight like dandelion seeds in the wind.  but sometimes they stick around, sometimes they grow on me.  these days, i carry a calendar around as an insurance policy. each day has a set of empty lines and each idea gets marked down so i don't lose track of it.  i go back often, retrieve seeds of ideas, put them together, they develop into paintings or projects or lists that get me from here to there. it seems to work, making my somewhat hodge-podge of a professional life more productive than it's ever been.

 even still, i have my moments.  today, i found myself trying to do too many things at once, remember too many things at once.  i opened my trusty notebook while driving windy old chuckanut, struggled one-handed to find a pencil in the bottom of my bottom-less bag.  the radio was blarin and i was rockin out, singing along, in an anthemic "TAKIN CARE OF BUSINESS, EVERY DAY!"  do you ever find that when you try to do too much at once, you get nothing done at all, or worse yet, you fuck shit up because you're in a hurry?  it happens.  but as mr. ben franklin said himself: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  stop it,  i had to say to myself.  slow the fuck down.  concentrate on one thing at a time.