The Miniaturist’s Challenge

When my family and friends were conscripted to help install the artwork for my master’s thesis exhibition, they could not help but note that it would have been a kindness on my part to specialize in something a little more manageable, say, postage stamp illustration. Hanging murals of up to nine by thirty feet in dimensions is admittedly more unwieldy than mounting a bunch of tidy little framed life-sized insect portraits or installing a series of elfin sculptures made from shirt buttons and walnut shells. Alas, though I did segue into much more portable forms in later years, it was not soon enough for my loved ones’ sakes.

My verbosity is a similar burden on my circle of acquaintance, as I am not famous for knowing when to shut up any more than I am known for limiting my opinion to those who have actually asked for it. But just as I have learned to appreciate and work at smaller and less physically demanding visual media along with my enjoyment of massive and messy kinds of art, I have a fondness for smaller and less epic essays and poems, too, and have been known to craft these with similar avidity. While scale in no way guarantees quality or lack thereof in any medium I know, it is sometimes a relief to me as much as to my friendly audiences when I get my kicks by producing petite expressions of my inventive urges.Graphite drawing + text: Movements in Miniature

How Quickly We Learn

Even when we’re young we pick up clues pretty swiftly regarding what sort of behavior and attitude is expected of us in our interactions with others. As a child, I learned ever so quickly that I am not the boss of anyone else and practically everyone else is the boss of me, and not much has ever changed in that department. Whether happily or unfortunately, depending entirely on your point of view, I also figured out as speedily as most kids do that as long as I behaved in the expected manner when anyone was watching I could get away with a fair amount of far more self-indulgent–if not subversive–ways. Sure does simplify my life!graphite drawingShow of Proper Respect

The Mistress in her jewelry and finery and furs

Thinks everyone should bow and kiss the ground—that’s also hers—

And genuflect before her grand tiara and her mace,

So that is what we tend to do—at least do to her face.digital illustration from a graphite drawingAll frivolous jocularity on the topic aside, however, getting trained by our elders and betters, in particular our mothers, is both more complicated and more happily meaningful for those of us who are blessed with great moms. Me, I’ve got two. The mother who gave birth to me and raised me from my days as an only mildly subversive little sprout into the silly but exceedingly happy big kid you see before you today is worthy of recognition as one of the great teachers not only for giving me a framework on which to hang my sense of right and wrong and general grasp of manners but also the education and freedom and knowledge of being unconditionally loved that enabled me to choose how to build on those foundations as I grew. My second Mom, brought to me courtesy of (her son) my beloved husband, gets credit for instilling the same curiosity and drive in her children and, in turn, for reinforcing in me through her example what it means to be a lively and lovely person who is good company, an active part of the household and community at every turn, and a tireless learner and adventurer who earns her place in those settings with remarkable grace. Whether I can live up to the standards set by either of my Moms remains to be seen, but they certainly give me the tools that should make it possible if anything can.

If it can’t, I guess I’ll have to fall back on my naturally ridiculous ways and just pretend to be better than I am for as long as I can keep up the front. Those of you who are looking for reliably good, sound company, go see Mom W and Mom S. And also my sisters and my sister-in-law, great mothers to their children, and all of those other mothers, who by birth, adoption, random acquisition and teaching, raise better people, who in turn make the world a better place altogether. All of whom I thank profusely not only on Mother’s Day but every day for being such great examples even for those of us who are a little too childish to be motherly examples ourselves. Go ahead, you can say it right in front of me. I’ve learned that much, at least!

Hand Me That Pencil!

Time to take a few moments here and there to commune with my inner art-monster again. The busyness that takes over at the end of every semester always makes it a challenge to get much done beyond the basic chores and projects that simply get us through the day, and I don’t like to get too far away from regular art-making, so I feel a teensy bit itchy just now. I need to get my hands on some paper and pencils or pens and make something in addition to the photos and digital collages that have been my mainstay lately.

And it will happen. Always does. Patience and urgency, laziness and obsession are all in a little wrestling match inside me most of the time, and each wins occasionally. What really matters in the end is, I suppose that eventually I win. So yes, I’ll be drawing again soon.

Whatever it takes to keep me entertained and happy, don’t you know.graphite drawing

The Fine Art of being Meaningless

When I was teaching, I hated grades and grading. Even more than when I was a student. I understand the desire, even the need, for being able to assess and evaluate and compare and all of that sort of thing, but my idealism would much prefer to believe in a world where people do the very best they can at whatever they are doing and that, all by itself, is grand enough. I know plenty of practical reasons why this fluffy fantasy can’t work 99% of the time in reality but it certainly never affected my intense dislike of the whole quantitative approach, most especially when it had to be applied–as empirically and evenly as possible, of course–by yours truly in some areas that are arguably quite subjective.

So I set up criteria as clearly as I could and identified particulars of skill, technique, fact, synthetic application of knowledge and so forth that I considered worthy of the study, and took what measures I could to insure that all students got equal access to those resources and had the opportunity to learn, incorporate, express and otherwise use them. And I gave out grades. It was my job.

But in that aforementioned reality, my own version of which I quite happily embrace post-teacherhood, I am not bound by any requirement to make or evaluate anything on the basis of comparison with anything remotely real, not even the stuff of other people’s invention and making. And I must say that I do appreciate my freedom. Sometimes there’s simply nothing more satisfying than writing or drawing or otherwise making decidedly unreal, if not impossible, things for the pure fun of it. Maybe it just appeals to the rebellious kid in me. Maybe it tickles my fantastic fancy. Who knows but what a miraculous accident could happen one day and I might invent a magnificently useful Thingummy of some sort.

But that’s not the reason to make these things anyhow, now, is it? What is most pleasing of all about the creation of any object of ridiculous and pointless nothingness is the act itself. It’s a fine thing to make artwork of any kind just because one can, to enjoy the creative process without regard to the outcome’s being anything but entertaining for me, myself and I. Yes, that’s what I like. No grading, no evaluations, no need to worry about whether it’s beautiful or meaningful, let alone realistic, because this is my own reality, my own personal little world.

And you’re welcome in it, as long as you know the only rule is that there are no rules, and the only value assessment I’m after on the occasion is whether I had a good time and got some valuable yet enjoyable practice in the process of creating my little graphite universe or my textual treasury of the moment. Well, there is a second rule: you, too, should feel free to visit my place of creativity without being required to grade anything, including your own experience of the stuff, and free as well to leave without being expected to like or dislike anything. Though I sure do like it when anyone is moved by my selfless acts of ridiculousness and leaving my meaningless soul exposed in public to do the same, without fear of recrimination or evaluation, and with the infinitely happy sense that such silliness is not only permitted but encouraged in this neck of the woods. Have fun, y’all. I am.

graphite drawing

A Machine for Making Nonsense

He Cracked a Wicked Little Smile . . .

 

graphite drawing

. . . as he was hatching his plots . . .

Quack Quack, Etc.

There’s nothing adverse

That I throw in the sauce

As I start to rehearse

The demise of the Boss

But as I descend

To the end of the day

It’s more tough to pretend

To be lightsome and gay

When I feel in my marrow

The building of rages

Brought on by the narrow-

Ness by which he gauges

My quest for perfection

In service to him

Whose extreme predilection

For being quite grim

As you guess is a needle

To nag and annoy

Like the high nasal wheedle

Of a self-centered boy

Until something explodes

In the back of my brain

At some one of his goads

And I go quite insane

So I must kill him gladly

By end of the day

And go off quacking madly

As I’m carted away

Drawing Conclusions

Much of what I share on this blog is likely to be my artwork (drawings, paintings, photography, digital images, mixed media work, and so forth) and writing. Here’s a sample of my graphite drawing, from what my fans know as my ‘fish and pencils’ period. As in so much of my work, the fish and pencils, both individually and in conjunction, became thematic merely because they interested me and kept me entertained as objects themselves, as subjects to be drawn or rendered, and as a bonus, as agent-provocateurs by the mere eccentricity of their coinciding in images. That, in fact, is thematic in my life as well: the falling-into or happening-upon that leads me to link previously unrelated thoughts and items and creates the flicker of initial interest that takes me down yet another tangential path.