It’s All in the Mustache…Beard…Eyebrows…Toupee…

I’m neutral about facial hair. Well, on males, at least (sorry, Tante Anna!). My spouse had a short goatee when we got together, and while I thought it handsome on him I not only didn’t mourn its demise when he shaved it but realized afterward that it was light-colored enough that some people were apparently not only unaware he’d removed his beard but that he’d had one in the first place. Guess he didn’t go around kissing and nuzzling just anybody.digital illustrationI’m now so used to his being clean-shaven that I imagine it’d seem outright weird to readjust if he opted to grow a beard again, or a mustache. On the other hand, it is intriguing to see the major resurgence of popularity that all sorts of hair-raising acts are undergoing these days. It’s a great time, in my opinion, that it’s not only quite common to see people in the same place dressed in pants or skirts of all different lengths and heels of widely varying heights but also hairstyles ranging right from shaved heads (men’s and women’s) to dreads or super-‘fros (black, white and brown people’s). Curly or straight, short or not, natural-colored or wildly dyed, it can be anything that suits the heart or the head of the wearer. I like that.

digital illustrationWhat’s probably the most entertaining aspect of all this to me is seeing so many guys of a twenty-ish vintage looking so distinctly like those photos that can be unearthed of my great-great grandfathers and their brethren. I suppose that shouldn’t be entirely shocking in an era where baby names have also trended back to that generation’s. Can the bustle (you’ll pardon the pun) be far behind? Not to worry…I probably won’t be able to see what anyone’s wearing through the thicket of beards by then, anyway.

 

Enter Two Figures, Stage Right, Smoking

It’s weird, downright bizarre, to watch vintage film and plays and see hospital scenes where the doctors and nurses and orderlies are all puffing madly on their unfiltered cigarettes while earnestly counseling and tending their patients to make them all as healthy as they, their caregivers, are. To see those marvelously odd advertisements of yore with the top athletes of the day touting the energizing and strengthening effects their favorite brands of smokes give them. I watch such things with the same sort of astonishment I feel on observing the freakish footnotes of science as the pendulum swings back and forth with abandon, belying the idea that scientific discoveries lead to indisputable fact, or that even more outlandish concept, that once something is accepted as fact it would change how we behave.digital collageBecause what’s sincerely weird and bizarre, odd and freakish is that there are still millions of people, even many who will say outright that they believe smoking has been proven to be a health hazard, who smoke cigars, cigarettes and pipes, use snuff, or chew tobacco. I get the older folk who’ve been smoking since well before it was generally considered a given that it was a bad idea and likely to shorten or worsen one’s lifespan, knowing what a deeply addicting ‘treat’ tobacco is. A friend who was both a smoker and an alcoholic long ago swore that giving up drinking was absolute child’s play compared to kicking the nicotine habit. It’s those who, growing up in generations that predicated their smoking views on the premise of its outsized dangers, still choose to start smoking, that mystify me utterly. But then, I am amazed and flummoxed and otherwise mystified by anyone wanting to ride motorcycles without helmets, imbibe hallucinogens, run with the bulls, free dive competitively, juggle chainsaws, charm cobras, or any of that other adrenaline-junkie stuff.photoThen again, millions of people are bound to be equally agog that I would risk my health eating the way that I do, waste my time being an artist and writer, or be so stupid as to like any number of the things I enjoy and admire. Perhaps one day there will be a play or movie of my life, made for the sheer entertainment of people who like being shocked by my great idiocy and strangeness and find it hard to believe I survived to the great old age of fifty-two (or, hopefully, much more) with my inexplicable bundle of psychoses masquerading as the stuff that charmed me. I bow to you and take my leave, friends. I know that I shall die, but we can only guess which of us will get there first.

Snowflakes & Shadows

photoEvery one of us is said to be, like a snowflake, incomparable and magically, perfectly unique. The parade we saw this summer passing below our balcony was a dazzling reminder of this truth: hundreds of marchers, players, riders, movers, shakers and dancers were in the four-hour parade that wound through the city streets, and hundreds of thousands lined the route, and even the groups dressed in matching costumes or uniforms were groups of wonderfully individual characters.photo montageOur privileged hotel perch, though, highlighted the even greater beauty of the masses. The acute angle of the early sun gave sharp and shapely shadows to everyone in the crowd, and every single one of those shadows was the same color–grey. The shadows, like the people, were of an infinitely varied range in shape and movement and each attached only to him who cast it, but every shadow darkened the area near its maker in just the same way as everybody else’s. We may be unlike each other in nearly endless ways, but in some ways we are still all truly alike. It was lovely to see our differences and our commonalities literally on parade.digital artwork from a photo

Stained Glass & Malachite

Being beautiful is such an ephemeral thing, to be sure. Making art that is beautiful is possibly even more so–after all, the same piece that appeals to one might hardly appeal equally to all, any more than the attractions of any one person might strike any others in precisely the same way. And our own tastes and interests and circles of friendship and acquaintance change so much over time that it’s a miracle if we even maintain contact, let alone a closeness or deep appreciation of each other and our various works and features over any period of time.digital illustrationCase in point: my playful attempts to learn the use of some digital tools for artwork, combined with the way that I tend to recycle my sketches and drawings, has altered both my perception of what I would keep, revise and/or rethink my own pieces to a pretty radical extent in the last few years. I believe that my overall style or the signature character of my art has remained fairly steady and therefore recognizable since it began to emerge some years back, but the tools and techniques with which it’s expressed have mutated enough to bring out some entirely different aspects of texture, complexity and even subject matter. The eccentric character in today’s illustration, for example, started out as a rather typical (if not stereotypical) caricature of a semi-human man who differed little in form from the sort of goofy fantasy creatures and people I’ve drawn for years just to entertain myself, but suddenly when I was playing with the sketch, coloring it in digitally as though I were a little kid with a digital coloring-book, he started to become something entirely different and new, a creation slightly unlike all that have come before him.

Now, because I am both unscientific and forgetful when I am immersed in amusing myself with art, I will probably never be able to replicate precisely the process that led to his looking like a hybrid of a stone-inlay project and a leaded window made of art glass. And though I like the effect and hope I can do something similar again if I work hard enough–especially if I want to make what in my own estimation is a sufficiently prettier character to warrant such a highfalutin treatment–it will hardly be the end of the world if he ends up being my only-ever stained glass and malachite creation. Being unusual and a little bit strange is just something we’ll have in common.

Don’t Waste Too Much Time on Reality

digital illustrationRestorative Dreaming

A pensive morning in quiet shade

Of this is inner contentment made

A sip of silence, a moment’s rest

In the garden corner I love the best

With butterflies skimming the border’s blooms

Voile curtains billowing out of rooms

A book of poems upon my lap

Read in short bursts between nap and nap

And the sound of a bicycle coming near

To bring the post of love-letters here

I’d rather recline in this reverent haze

Than waste on reality any daysdigital illustration

The Fantastic is Surprisingly Real

pen & ink drawingDefying Probabilities

The most improbable outcome

Of delirious, fanciful dreams

Is not the impossible can’t-be

That perpetually it seems—

And I can prove this conundrum,

In my personal life, is true,

For it happens that though it’s wildly unreal,

I’m actually loved by you.digital artwork from a drawing

Pretty Beautiful

Of course I’m vain. I would love to be thought of as a great beauty. Not that many people on earth could probably say with full honesty that they wouldn’t like to be thought attractive and compelling and engaging in the slick social way, no matter how sincerely they live the principles of much deeper character. But, that confession aside, I can also say that I am not so exclusively vain that I mind having others be indifferent to, or even dislike, me. Let’s just be realistic enough to say that that would be beyond impossible.

digital artwork from photos

Take a good look at MEEEE!

So I really can’t have too many qualms about making fun of myself and exaggerating my own failings and shortcomings and even pasting on ones I don’t think I actually own, if it buys me any artistic pleasure. After all, there’s a bunch of fun to be had in clowning and playing characters and being someone or something new and weird and ridiculous. There are reasons we still have art and theatre and fiction all around us. It’s amusing to make the stuff and amusing to see what others have made.

digital artwork from photos

I’m pretty fabulous no matter what you see!

I guess that makes me a cheap sort of witch or magician, maybe, when I’m making up my fictions in visual and verbal imagery. Kind of a fun vocation, when I get to play at it. Abracadabra, here I am for your amusement. Poof! Now it’s your turn.

You Inspire Me

Many people who know me think that I have two middle names. Legally, that’s correct–when I got married I took my spouse’s last name and just upgraded my original last name to being a second middle name. Most people get that I did not hyphenate but rather have four individual names. It’s hardly unusual, and even those notoriously fussy creatures known as federal agencies have figured out how to address me as a four-named person without batting a governmental eye.

But to be entirely transparent with you, I ought to add that I have a sort of unspoken additional middle name, that to which I’ve alluded here before, and it is: Lazy Pants. Okay, that’s two more middle names if we’re being truly precise.

Laziness is at the very center of my being. Believe me when I say that this is not bragging; I do realize that it’s not an enviable, admirable trait or one that should be emulated by others. But it’s my reality, and greatly affects what I do and don’t accomplish in this life of mine.

The happier news here is that I am surrounded by non-lazy people who not only know how to do fantastic things but get out there and DO them. This is pretty much a life-saver for your correspondent Miss Lazy-Pants. It means that someone more energetic and probably a lot more skilled is doing what needs to be done. Perhaps more importantly, it means that sometimes I receive the blessed necessity of a kick in the lazy pants to DO something myself, and better yet, the needed information and inspiration to help me do it better than I would have in the first place.

This is a gift I enjoy receiving regularly from those lovely people who, as family and proximal friends, make up my immediate daily surroundings and embrace me in their great and comforting network of support. Thanks to my life of blogging I have now got the auxiliary family of encouraging people to push me out of my comfortable lazy cocoon and make me willing to tackle actual projects, motivate me to do something new and maybe different and, just possibly, even useful.

And I thank you, each and every one of you. I’d say ‘you know who you are’–but a whole lot of you don’t even know that you inspire me, let alone how deeply you inspire me. If you’re reading this and I’ve ever, ever visited and commented on your blog, you have inspired me. Even if I’ve only lurked at your blog and never come out of my shell enough to say Hello or make a remark, I have probably learned useful things that lit a friendly little fire under my lazy pants to get back to work and do something that, if not useful in a universal way by a long stretch, will prove useful in improving me as a person and as an artist.

One of my regular inspirations and motivations comes from those bloggers who focus on making art, because it’s one of those things I love to do but often have to get pushed into starting no matter how much good I know will come from getting back to work. So today’s post is brought to you in part by the good graces of you, all of you, and I thank you.

Specific thanks for this bit also go to that marvelous pencil-wielding mistress of Drawing Saudade, who daily doses us with her creatures, characters, costumes and comforts in a marvelous flowing style that made me want to play with something similar for a change from my own typical stuff, as well as return to a longtime fascination with costume design. Thanks, friend!graphite drawing

Little Mysteries and Big Adventures

graphite on paperIt’s kind of odd, when you think about it, that we readers and writers and storytellers and listeners have such an affinity for mystery and adventure stories. Life itself is so full of both that it could be argued there’s no need to entertain or challenge, frighten or amuse ourselves by inventing yet more. But besides the obvious pleasant aspect of fiction that it remains under our control in ways that real life cannot, there is much more reason that the appeal remains just as strong as it has for ages.

For starters, it gives us a forum for posing questions and answers that can’t always be simplified enough to solve any real-world conundrum puzzling us. It’s both potentially a problem-solving process and a bit of creative play that can lead to greater flexibility and insight when we do get around to solving the problems with which we’re faced. If I can metaphorically bump off the villain that has been making my life such a trial, perhaps the metaphor can be extended to show how I can cope with him or her in actuality in a more legal and humane manner. If not, at the very least (assuming the real person behind the fictional stiff is fully enough disguised so that s/he cannot sue the socks off of me and make my life miserable in new and legal ways) I got the satisfaction of offing said offender in effigy. On paper I can exert all of the cruelty my heart secretly harbors, without ever lifting a physical finger, even that uniquely expressive one, against anyone at all.graphite on paperMostly, in the fictional world it allows a vicarious thrill for both creator and reader or listener that few of us dare or have the wherewithal to experience in three dimensions. Being a very ordinary person, I have little to no likelihood of the kinds of outsized adventures and brilliant insights that would make for a good, cracking read, but I’ll happily devour such stories and envision myself in their midst when it suits me. In fiction, I can do all sorts of athletic and impressive things that there isn’t the remotest chance of my accomplishing with my feeble skills and lethargic attitude, but there’s something rather bracing in even the imagined high-speed sculling through the black waters of a swift river, the steeplechase saddled up on a magnificent pedigreed mare, or the vaulting over crevasses with rime in my eyelashes and ice axe gripped in my gloved hand, when they’re well written.graphite on paperIn fiction, I can commit the perfect crime–or solve it. I can be the heroine of the story or an innocent bystander. I can follow all of the clues, absorb all of the details of the characters’ lives and loves, interests and actions, and guess what comes next or just roll along for the ride and see where it takes me. Sometimes, admittedly, I don’t have complete mastery of the fictional world because a tale becomes so gripping that I can’t put down the book and go to sleep, turn off the television and leave the room, or avoid re-reading parts just to see if I missed any exciting details. I should note that I am also often driven to this latter end by my dyslexic reading and the way it requires frequent repetitions of phrases and paragraphs to ascertain that I’ve kept true to the thread of meaning, so perhaps it’s not exactly a universal approach to reading! That is, as you would guess, a part of my reading process that makes me very slow to finish a book or article, even if in practice I am a reasonably fast reader. A bonus of dyslexia, conversely, is that things I have read before become new to me again almost immediately because the arrangement of words and elements of the tale might become slightly different each time through.graphite on paperWhich, in turn, is a good reminder of one of the other joys of reading: each of us brings filters, viewpoints, experiences, beliefs and interests that flavor each reading, for good or ill. We are so distinct in this that the best of friends and the most like-minded people can easily love or hate quite opposite stories and versions of them. And that makes the mere act of writing or reading a story that much more of a mystery and adventure in and of itself. All the more reason to keep writing and reading and telling . . .