Saturday, June 13, 2009

Father's Day

Well, Father's Day pretty much sucks.

In remembrance of my Dad, here is a poem that my mother finds comforting. She saw it in the paper -- it may have been in a Dear Abby column, I'm not sure -- and she cut it out and carries it with her.

It's the Queen Mother's Funeral Poem, by David Harkins.
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Dad (and my brother) at Dad's 92nd birthday celebration.

Dad had a lot of trouble hearing, and he couldn't see much at all because of macular degeneration, but no one could tell. He walked around at his birthday party and spoke to everyone there, he laughed a lot and was just as social as ever.

I guess I shouldn't say that Father's Day sucks for me now, I guess I should take time to remember my Dad, and be grateful that I had such a great guy for a father. And also be grateful that he was around until his 92nd year, and even though he had eyesight and hearing issues, he was otherwise very healthy. And he was an intelligent, kind, loving person, right up until he left us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Silk Painting

In 1996 I was turning 30 and looking for a new creative outlet. For the previous few years I had been focusing on digital fine art, using old photographs/scanned images and a very early version of Photoshop.

A local discount art supply store sold Deka silk paints and silk by the yard, and one day when they had a good sale I decided to go for it. I had no idea how to paint on silk, but the store provided a little Deka flyer with a few instructions. The silk needed to be stretched and suspended, so I bought a plain wooden frame at a thrift store and some pushpins. The silk paints could be painted onto the fabric with brushes (which I already had) and set by ironing, so that sounded easy enough.

I was immediately entranced with the movement of the paint across the silk. When I touched the very tip of the brush to the tightly suspended silk, the brightly-colored paint just bloomed across the surface. I tried different techniques, and found that if I painted onto wet fabric, it blended differently. If I painted a second layer over already painted silk, it blended it yet another new way.

A lot of the time I was frustrated, because at first I never seemed to have the slightest idea what was going to happen, but it was fascinating. And it seemed like no matter what happened, it ended up looking beautiful. I learned to stop having any pre-concieved goals about how anything would turn out, but just let the silk do what it wanted to do, and then go with it.

And it was in that moment that silk painting and I fell in love.  The organic quality of creating art  with the silk and paint seemed to be the exact opposite of the technical aspect of taking digital images, layering and manipulating them to create art.  I feel like art is always a collaboration between the artist and the material, and it's important for the artist to be able to listen. 

Alas, eventually our love affair became difficult.  I didn't have very much money, and had trouble affording supplies.  And I quickly found out that the silk paints would not quite hold the brilliant color once they'd been set with the iron and washed.  Unfortunately, without being washed, the painted silk would feel a bit stiff.  Apparently there were silk dyes that would retain their brilliant color after being washed, but they had to be set with steam.   In the sad pre-internet (for me, at least) dark ages, I had no idea how to get those kinds of things or how any of it worked.  The discount art supply store didn't carry any of that stuff.

So, after a few years during which I experimented with wall hangings and tiny silk paintings on greeting cards and putting silk paintings in frames, my interest in painting on silk waned.  I wanted to be able to feel silky material, AND have bright colors.  I moved on to other interests, and the super deluxe adjustable silk painting frame I'd splurged on after a bigger-than-expected income tax refund got shoved to the back of a closet.

But then!  At one point last year, during the Year of Bad Things Happening All The Time, I remembered how much I liked it.  I went to the all-knowing internet and found out how silk dyes worked, how to steam-set them, and where to buy supplies.  And I found other silk painters (like this one) who were doing amazing work.  I was inspired!

In January I dragged out my old frame and brushes and took inventory.  I ordered some supplies:  new paints and pre-hemmed scarves (oh, the gloriousness of a pre-hemmed scarf!) and set up a little studio in our sun porch.  I did a LOT of research about how to steam-set these new dyes, and was rarin' to go.

This time, I knew more or less what to expect, and when I started painting my first scarf, it was just pure joy.  Below are some pictures from that happy afternoon.

Here are my materials (new and old) gathered together:

My brand-new silk dyes, ready to paint:

The silk is held tight with little hooks:

And it's my very first attempt using my new materials!  Not perfect, but joyful and wonderful.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I have a long commute to work every day, it's approximately an hour each way, which means I spend about two hours a day (five days a week) sitting in my car. So my little iPod Nano is my best friend! I've had it for several years now, and it is still working perfectly and going strong. I LOVE it.
I load up my little friend with 4 gigs of music and podcasts. I listen to Adam Carolla's podcast pretty frequently (depending on who his guest is), I have some friends here in Orlando who do podcasts, and I subscribe (in iTunes) to several NPR podcasts.

One podcast I love especially is Stuff You Should Know. It's part of the How Stuff Works website, and it is just absolutely fascinating. I really learn a lot from Chuck and Josh, two writers who do extensive research and then explain a specific topic.
The episodes usually last around 15 to 20 minutes, and can be about anything: cannibalism, animals having a sixth sense, flashmobs, urban explorers. One of my favorites was a recent episode on high fructose corn syrup. Those commercials that say it's fine in moderation are LYING.

But a podcast that I found recently has just absolutely enthralled me. I subscribe to it in iTunes and it is truly a tragedy that they only put out a new podcast once a week, and it's only around 10-15 minutes long. I could listen to this podcast for literally all of my 10 hours per week of commuting time. I want more!
It's called The Moth. It's people getting up on stage and just telling a true story of something interesting that happened to them. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, some are just... interesting. Some of the people are good at speaking in front of a group, and some are obviously nervous. Sometimes you can tell the person is trying not to cry.

The stories they tell involve unbelievable coincidences, tragic circumstances, life-changing realizations, and all are truly awesome. I love the concept of people sharing these intense, touching, emotional moments of their lives. At the end of their stories, I feel like I know them, like I have made a new friend.

This website explains more about The Moth, which is a storytelling organization. You can listen to several of the stories here (the first one listed is Ed Gavagan - Drowing on Sullivan Street, which is an amazing story).

It's inspired me to think of stories in my own life that I could share. Has my life been very interesting, up to this point?

I guess it's had its moments. :)


My favorite model. She even woke up for a minute there!