Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hook, line and ..

There is a strange convergence of sorts going on in my blogosphere. A bit of something-something in the air.

Here in Florida and
Here with the Other Wendee and
Here (listen to the the song - really pretty) and
Even Here on the FridgeDoor

(I dunno. Really unrelated, I guess, and yet somehow, in my brain, it comes together.)

How the world tries to get the best of us.. In the unrelenting din, we’re tempted to lose our way, lose faith in ourselves and in the people and things that mean the most to us. We forget to listen and let their sweet words into our hearts; forget to acknowledge the blessings that we have; forget to give thanks for the clean slate we get, each day…

The traffic, the bills, the weather, the work.
The people, the people, the people.
The stupid kitchen.
The maddening commute.

I was tired and hungry and cranky. Don’t you hate when the argument rages on; both sides in your head:
Stay? Go?
Be selfish? Have faith?
What the heck was I thinking?

I figured I’d sit at Starbucks, get a cuppa decaf and enjoy whatever music they had on - - go brood in someone else’s music and atmosphere for a while. I noticed that they had a Mitch Albom book on display, the tagline just staring at me:

What if you had one more day with someone you’d lost?

I thought, “Oh, well. Gee.”

Being a sentimental sort (you figured I was otherwise?), I picked it up and started reading the dust jacket.

Then I sat down, started reading.

And read.

And read s’more.

I felt sheepishly guilty about getting to read a significant portion of it there in the shop for free and finally had to get up and pay for it, because I could see I’d end up leaving with it. After writing most of this post, I go to the book website and find that they noted: The book was chosen from hundreds of candidates to be the first ever featured by Starbucks in its stores nationwide. Well, okay, yeah. Somebody did their homework, and did it well; Nice work.

The book: For One More Day by Mitch Albom (you know, author of Tuesdays with Morrie).

It’s a short book, a very quick read.
It distracted me, quieted the noise.

And I remembered some things that I really hadn’t been doing much of lately:

Be grateful.

So you and you and all of you:
Extra hugs. Keep the faith out there.

Obligatory Halloween post-script:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hanabata days

The weeks are long. Even with one ‘extra’ hour of sleep thanks to the time change, the weekends are just too short.

We drove up to Santa Barbara - - a little earlier in the day than we normally do. Traffic cooperated all the way up, so it was a nice drive up, and the day was bright and beaming, the ocean endlessly blue. The Channel Islands off in the distance were as clear as I’ve ever seen. It all helps to give me a bit more hope, a bit more peace. We so need the weekends to recharge and buoy our energies and hopes, to prepare to do battle during the week that awaits.

The drive up was a bit melancholy for me. I’d heard that a high school classmate of mine was killed in a small plane crash along with her husband and kids. I can’t help but stop and take stock, realize that we need to try to live our lives on our own terms, but also balance that drive with acceptance and a sense of peace with what we do have. I think of other classmates that we’ve lost, all too soon, and the silent struggles that I know my friends are going through, the strength that people are asking and expecting, the reservoirs that sometimes run so low. These may not have been people that I’d been in close contact with since graduation, or even in school, but I remember the smiles, the youthful spirit, and the promise of a future that we all boldly shared.

At graduation, our principal proclaimed our class ‘piquant’.
We all went, silently in unison: “Huh?”.
After Grad night, we all had to consult our college-bound dictionaries:

1. agreeably pungent or sharp in taste or flavor; pleasantly biting or tart: a piquant aspic.
2. agreeably stimulating, interesting, or attractive: a piquant glance.
3. of an interestingly provocative or lively character: a piquant wit.
4. Archaic. sharp or stinging, esp. to the feelings.

I think they were trying to tell us that we really were a feisty bunch, a real pain in the #$&%, but that they still liked us. At least, that was my take on trying to put a positive spin on it. It was certainly more descriptive than being a ‘together’ or ‘discerning’ class. I think ‘piquant’ was actually quite appropriate.

In the years since, I’ve found our piquant class to be unusually caring, in our own distinct and separate ways. We keep touch through emails, normally passing along, unfortunately, sad news, as was the case this past week. I was on campus last year and ran into the College Guidance secretary, Mrs. Y. It took a while for her to place me and my class and classmates. She commented that while we were in school and in the years since, she’s had the impression that our class was really, really close. I said, “Oh?”. We always seemed to be at odds with one another. Mrs. Y said that, yes, there was that. But, she also observed that if one of our classmates was down or needed support, even while we were in high school, that the class would converge and rally around each other, very fiercely protective - - something she said was pretty clear and also unusual. She was heartened to hear that time had softened the sharper edges, and that the feeling of support and affection remains strong and grows, still. Some people are still a bit distant, standoffish, and I shrug. The memories and ties that have remained strong, they go far, far back; and I am thankful for them.

Yeah, Hanabata days.

So I sit, while J drives us up the coast, closing my eyes and enjoying the warmth of the sun, driving along the long stretch of open blue ocean. I sigh to myself: I don’t remember agreeing to letting life get so damn grown up.

So, I miss you guys; whatever part you played, it’s all very much a part of me, layers that give depth and texture to my life. I remember things that surprise me. Who spoke at Graduation? Did Elke get to say, “Tough times don’t last. But, tough people do.”? See? The things that stay with you.

So, you. Yes, you. And you, too, if you can imagine:
Think of the days we spent cutting mangos during the summer for mango chutney,
being at Bellows on any one of those perfect, suntanned days,
listening to Chris Campbell’s cockroach haiku,
that first bite into a fresh, hot malasada,
ah, the smell of ginger, pikake, and maile.
Got that set in your mind? Yeah. :)
I send you that kind of aloha and wish you that kind gentle sweetness for your days ahead. Hugs for the little ones and, boy, I hope to see you in June*.

xox & aloha,

* For the record, Marla and I, we want to call dibs for working in the beer tent.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just a pinch


Have a great weekend out there.
xox, w

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Piglet, 2

Piglet slid up to Pooh from behind,
“Pooh,” he whispered.
“Yes Piglet?”
“Oh nothing,“ said Piglet, taking Pooh by his paw, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
-A. A. Milne

Piglet, 1

Piglet had got up early that morning to pick himself a bunch of violets; and when he had picked them and put them in a pot in the middle of his house, it suddenly came over him that nobody had ever picked Eeyore a bunch of violets, and the more he thought of this, the more he thought how sad it was to be an Animal who had never had a bunch of violets picked for him. So he hurried out again, saying to himself, “Eeyore, Violets,” and then “Violets, Eeyore,” in case he forgot, because it was that sort of day, and he picked a large bunch and trotted along, smelling them, and feeling very happy, until he came to the place where Eeyore was.

“Oh, Eeyore,” began Piglet a little nervously, because Eeyore was busy.

Eeyore put out a paw and waved him away.

“Tomorrow,” said Eeyore. “Or the next day".

- A.A. Milne

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Every photo tells a story ...

Not because of the pretty frame.
Not because of the inscription, "with love".
Not because it adds a refined touch to the rest of the mess.
Not because of the beautiful blue water, the crisp white sail, or the little yellow flowers.

And not because it keeps watch over me while I'm typing away...

... but, because I have this photo, too:

ilyb + you know the rest

Engineering sketching

In the design process, drawing is the act of thought. - Richard MacCormac

This just goes to show you that some engineering/techno-geekiness remains, no matter how hard you might try to gloss it over.. with berets*, with funky designer eyeglasses, black turtlenecks [snicker], or paint-/bondo-stained fingers, or...

I thought, "Ooooo, this is just too cool." :)

* Yeah, the day I break down and wear a design-y beret, oooooh boy...

Mechanical Engineers:
The world does revolve around us:
We choose the coordinate system!

Monday, October 23, 2006

A fall hike

The days are supposed to be getting shorter, yet they seem endlessly full of work, commuting, stress. We got out to Mt Baldy, to enjoy the fresh air, the endlessly blue sky, the blankets of golden fallen leaves, gurgling streams.

I moved as each sunny spot I'd chosen shifted. I sat for a while and watched a wasp sun itself, clean off its legs and antennae. It would flex its wings, back and forth, as if it were a jet fighter being put through a final checkout by mechanics. It was much less organic and fluid in its motion; more mechanical than one would expect. The wasp would flit back and forth, checking its footing on the branch it had settled on, then return to its cleaning, flexing its wings up and down.

This continued for quite a while.

Ladybugs scurried back and forth, hopping over worn out strands of glistening cobwebs. The wasp continued, without distraction, seeming to enjoy its sunbath.

J got back, found me and called over, "Watch'ya doin'?"...

"... Oh, just watching this wasp ..."

Another small respite.

More photos and sketches here.


Another early morning dealing with unannounced construction guys. The details aren’t worth relaying anymore. Suffice to say, the kitchen reconstruction lingers endlessly on. Long story -> short: I went off to paint for a few hours with Karen.

We wandered (see Descanso) and settled on a spot with great views in every direction in the middle of the rose garden. It was a glorious, sunny, cloudless day, and the gardens were lush with vibrant color.

We drew and painted (smeared paint around), and caught up with each other. As the sun dropped lower and lower, the sunlight bathed the trees, the leaves and blooms with a warm, golden glow. The shadows grew longer and longer, and took on an even more lazy purple tint.

Here are my sketches and a few postcard paintings:

I started with some watercolor postcards. I want to play with the media more, to better control the intensity of the pigment and to start working on larger paper. I went back over these with w/c pencils later to work in darker colors.

I’ve been doing this modified contour-drawing thing - - if you quilt, it’s roughly in the spirit of continuous-line quilting. I’ve been playing with it for a little while, trying to get different textures to read. I think it’s starting to make a little more sense in this drawing; yet another gnarly tree!


This is the last sketch I did. The watercolors frustrated me a bit, and I wanted to be able to more clearly and succinctly depict some of the textures and work in some darker values to show more dramatic contrast.

Here's the updated Descanso 10-2006 flickr photos

It was a great afternoon, such a perfect escape from the insanity, even if for just a few hours. We should all remember to get out, enjoy the sunshine and all the beauty that Fall has to offer.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Uncanny skills

Think you can distinguish between fake and genuine smiles? Hmm!
Take the test to see!

Me? Got 18 of 20. Guess you can't hide too much from me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

fANSI dims

Some days, separate scraps of paper cross paths, and the relationships between them become crystal clear. So then, how’s about this?

don't ask

It’s as if separate thoughts that have been gestating fitfully finally take form and emerge, clear and purposeful. You may have felt unsure, uncertain; but the truth is, really, always inside of us.

Just go out there and do what you have to do. - Martina Navratilova

It’s been a tough week; think I’ll call it early. You guys have a great weekend out there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Carnations for breakfast

I’m finally trying to do more painting, bit by bit. I got these carnations (you thought they were daffodils, huh?) last week, intending to paint them, and now they’re starting to wither a bit. I’d sit and have breakfast with them, and think, “Gee, couldn’t have picked flowers with fewer petals, huh? Maybe something a little easier to paint?” [sigh]
The flowers are about spent, and I figured I’d better just sit down and paint. The paintings, like the flowers, look much more charming from across the room. You could get the same effect by squinting at your screen. Or stepping back about five feet (besides, you shouldn't be sitting so close to your moniter, to begin with ;) )

These are sketches #2 and #3. Like anything else, it all works better when you’ve kept up practice, or at least have warmed up. We say it to ourselves over and over, and yet are amazed when we actually experience and see it in our work. Watching my students sketch incessantly during class, I realize how much drawing we did in school. I miss being that practiced and know that my wrist and elbow aren't as loose and confident as they could or should be. Yet, I also can tell that my style has evolved, and I'm happier with where it is today, than back in school.

As an aside, though, the frustrating thing to know is that most of this work, even the early phases, is done digitally, less by hand. I think, "Doh". The demons of doubt and insecurity, I tell you, they never quite go away.

Um, yeah. That's the sketching that I'd do for work, which I post very little of here; It's not like you've missed something.

Anyway, I had an extra piece of paper, and you know, the beach just called. There’s something to be said for letting go and not getting involved in super-detailed sketches before drawing.

I really need to do more of this.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Unjust Fella

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella,
But chiefly on the just,
Because the unjust steals the just's umbrella
- Charles Bowen

I woke to the sound of rain, the first "appreciable" rainfall of the season. There's talk of cold, thunderstorms, hail, and maybe snow on the higher peaks in Ventura County.
I guess so.
Let's hope for no flooding or landslides.

But for right now, there's a break in the rain, and the sun's out. The hills in the distance are a bit misty and hazy, but the air is crisp and clean.
As are our hopes for the day.

I was hoping to find a quote that spoke of a gentleness of rain,
“Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.” - Henry Ward Beecher

but found the one above (just/unjust fellas), and heck, I wanted to see who was really paying attention out there! ;)

I've installed the new Adobe CS2 suite and am slowly working my way through the new features. See?

Well, these particular features were existing, actually, but what fun, all the same!

Lots and lots to play with. Maybe the rain will give us reason to stay in, slow down, bundle up, snuggle, get a warm cuppa' joe, and actually get to the "play" part of it all. You guys have a great weekend out there.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


More in the "Endless hours of amusement.." category:
Do you Flickr? Have you checked out the Moo cards?
Seems like a simple idea, 'eh?
"So what's the big deal?", you're thinking, right?
Okay, go and mock up a few of your own, and tell me, really. Yeah, I see you. You're starting to think, "Oh, waitaminute... this is pretty cool...".
Go see.

I've seen a lot of printing websites promoting the idea of social calling cards (a nicety from way back when)... and there are lots of personalized stickers (and even legit personalized USPS stamps that you can print with your own images) .. but I'm thinkin'... that Moo has got a real winner here.

I mean, gee, they're just so cool.

Yeah, I know that you know what I'm thinkin':
Oh man.. I gotta get me some of those. Little FridgeDoor trading cards with The Orange PuppyLove oven mitt, Purple Magnet Bunny and Scary Jack'o'Lantern on 'em? At the very least! OMG! Trading cards, people! Just imagine the possibilities ...
Hee hee hee..

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Griffith Park

My class visited a few design studios on Monday. Because of the holiday, traffic was way lighter than I'd figured, and we were running way ahead of schedule. In L.A. Yeah, go figure. So, we hung out at Griffith Park for a little bit, in a section that none of us had been to before. A nice, unexpected break for us ... or, at least for me...

note - I'm testing how the posting from Flickr goes. Hmmm..

Another Gnarly Tree

.. this one at Descanso. Two of my sketchy-painting buddies couldn’t make the Plein Air session, and I missed them, not just because their company is always good, but also because I so enjoy seeing their work (and if you follow along closely to this blog, I trust you do, too). But, you know, these are busy, busy women! Hopefully next time, you two – I hope you’re both doing well.

And wait, how is it that I’m painting, and not working, huh? [These voices, these incessant voices. OMG, where do they come from? Do they ever stop?] Hey, sometimes, you have to do what you need to, to soothe your soul. Sometimes being artful does the trick. Sometimes, chocolate. Sometimes, a beer. And when times are tough, heck, it might take all three, and then some.

But maybe I just wanted to take some time and get in a little bit of painting.
[Yeah, that’s it]

There might have been a light shower earlier in the morning, and the skies were cloudy, threatening more rain. But the gardens were bright with blooms, and sections of the garden were decorated to celebrate a warm and vivid Fall season! We were surprised to see any flowers at all, expecting that the summer heat might have done them in. But – wow, the bountiful colors!

I’ve been playing with trying out scribbly interpretations of foliage – trying to get down shorthand gestures and outlines of the overall mass, rather than blocks of color, or individual leaves, or ... ? I’m not sure I’m at a point where any particular scribble is successful in accurately describing what kind of plant I’m drawing (I’m shooting for at least a little bit of reality), but it’s kind of fun, in a lazy, don’t-wanna-think-too-much sort of way.

I’ve started in on a Moleskine sketchbook, rather than just an un-ruled notebook. The sketchbook paper is thicker, so my hope was to do more painting work in the new book and not having to worry about the sheets curling and warping after being painted on. Alas! I’d forgotten how unfriendly the Moleskine paper can be to water-based media. Nix Moleskine Warm-up Drawing # 1. Doh!

I’ve also been carrying along some watercolor paper pads, to entice myself to play more with watercolors (both opaque and transparent). I carry around a lot of art stuff, actually, to entice myself to just do more of it. I schlep it around, but every once in a while, it’s good to have just the right thing, to settle in and play with whatever media fits my mood at that one, inspired moment. So, I finally whipped out the watercolor postcard pad and played with that a bit. It’s nice, you know, because it’s just a 3x5” card, and not a big, demanding blank sheet. I love how Karen captures the gestures of plants; it’s inspiring. So here, I’m trying to get just a little section of a larger plant grouping; so many colors, textures … You know, "Oh, just one more dab of yellow..."

And I’ve still got some of the brown cardstock with little flecks - - it’s been fun to draw on; I’ve got the gnarly tree thing down, I think. I meant to do something else other than the tree, but it was just fun. The three of us that were there commented on how great it is to look up into the leaves of a tree, to see the layers of overlapping leaves, the sky, and the sunlight. It would be great fun to do a more graphical illustration, of the leaves and overlapping shapes and colors, all on a background of sky blue. Right, so that’s what I was thinking, when I drew Gnarly Tree #2. And when I was done, I thought, “Oh great. sigh. Another gnarly tree. Gee..”

So, I was feeling inspired to capture more of what we were actually seeing and feeling and did another little postcard watercolor.

If you can’t quite make it out, it’s the sky, with not-so threatening clouds, and a bit of the tree overhead. See it now? I kind of like the idea of seeing overlapping patterns, without having to see (or draw) the whole tree. Hey, where’d those leaves come from? Does it matter? I’m having fun with this idea, so I’m thinking this is something I’m going to play with for a bit. Watch this space for more … trunkless … leaves in the sky.

My photos and the paintings from the day are here:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Paying it forward

If you're in the mood for a little bit of a read over your morning/afternoon/midnight coffee... this was interesting.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh, Look!

... chocolate ...

I am ... Milk Chocolate

A total dreamer, you spend most of your time with your head in the clouds.
You often think of the future, and you are always working toward your ideal life.
Also nostelgic, you rarely forget a meaningful moment... even those from long ago.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moment of repose

I’ve been spending a lot of time back at school; making photocopies, teaching class, sitting in on lectures and meetings, taking advantage of the resources there. I’ve done that commute so many times that I can do it on auto-pilot, and there’s quite a bit of comfort in the familiar drive there and back home. Being surrounded by so many creative people with all that energy and drive (ah, no pun intended) is exhilarating. How could it not be? Like the class last term, I find myself leaving filled with inspiration, better focus, and endless thoughts that prove to be good company during the drive home.

Well, it’s all that buzzing, creative energy, OR ... the caffeine, late in the day...

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's going around

Okay, so I have to admit, normally, these guys sort of creep me out a bit, when I see them in person. But this was well worth watching and a reminder that sometimes it's worth a pause for a second thought.

... so even if you don't feel like hugging a stranger, at least give someone you love an extra tight squeeze. Mmmmm!