The Freaking Queen

 

 

I’ve started watching “The Crown” on Netflix and I’m smitten.

 

When I first saw “Brideshead Revisited” in the 1980s, I realized I was an Anglophile. Still am. I’ve tried to escape it, but we are what we are, friends. I fell hard for that series then and I’m now falling for “The Crown.”

 

None of it’s perfect. Flaws abound. There is truth and there is fiction. There is laughter and there are tears. There is hope and there is abandonment. As long as there is entertainment, I will watch.

 

On this date in 1940, the future Queen Elizabeth II gave her very first address to Britain on the BBC’s Children’s Hour radio program. She was 14 years old. As good a reason as any to think of that fabulous gal.

 

And for the interwebz police, I give you this. The painting shown above is indeed based on a photo. It is based on a photo I staged myself, of myself, and not on anything else. Put that in your fucking e-hat and smoke it. Clearly – the interwebz police and I have a history. Word.

And So I Begin. Again.

 

 

Yesterday I painted. Those who didn’t just meet me know this is kind of a thing. I’ve tried to pick up my brushes, but the hurt from losing my mentor’s guidance has been bigger than I anticipated. And that hurt is still there. Along with confusion, doubt and a host of other feelings and emotions that don’t do a damned thing to serve me.

 

So what changed? Well, I was talking with my love-bug of a cousin and she told me about some folk art made by another family member. And then she sent photos of the pieces and I just about flipped. Those little gewgaws are so cool. And I never even knew they existed. I guess I was inspired, not only by the folk art, but also by my dear cousin.

 

I won’t lie. When I placed myself before that canvas, I felt stuck. I didn’t know what to do and I drew a blank for a few minutes. And then I thought about something Mister told me the other night. He said that if I had gone through some sort of degree program in art, I would have graduated already and (probably) declared myself an artist. Then he told me that I don’t need to keep studying with someone, that I’m already an artist and I already know how to paint. Y’all – if my mentor called tomorrow and said he was back in business, I’d be his first customer. I will always value guidance and instruction. And I will always benefit from those things. But in the meantime, Mister may be right. I am an artist. I know how to paint. With that in mind, I put paint to canvas and did my best.

 

Today is the first day of Autumn. A new season. A new beginning. I hope I’m starting anew, again. I hope it sticks. I hope that I, like this new season, am reborn. I hope. And then I hope some more.

 

When this painting is finished, it will be my first without my mentor’s approval. That’s a big deal, for a lot of reasons. It’s bittersweet, to be sure. And it’s good. Like I told my painting buddy Nicole – we’re creators. It’s what we do. With or without a gentle, guiding voice over our shoulders.

Vignettes

 

 

While I’ve been missing – from this blog and from myself – shit is still going down. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s absolutely useless. And some of it, well, you can’t always tell.

 

 

There’s a store I occasionally visit for home improvement purposes, and said store sits smack in the middle of the ghetto. Now – I’ve tried other locations of this particular store, locations in prettier locales, and not one of them has provided the same level of expertise and professionalism as the ghetto location. So I keep going back. In the daytime. Anyhoo – a couple of weeks ago, I was at the ghetto store and heard music coming from an open window of an apartment across the parking lot. I always take note of this apartment, as its windows are covered with various photos of the Madonna. On this particular warm day, the windows were open. Beneath the strains of laughter coming from inside, I heard Christmas music. And it was blasting. The whole scene made me smile.

 

 

Mister and I have recently wrapped up a turn on the Whole 30 diet. We were “compliant” the entire time and we did a good job of adhering to the rules of the danged thang. After re-introducing various foods, drink and substances, I can tell you that I learned eating avocado by itself doesn’t sit well with me. And my body (my head, that is) prefers beer over wine. Though I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I’ll be getting both in the future. And when we cracked open this bottle of Bordeaux, well, we were smitten kittens.

 

 

I have a new baby cousin! Actually, that little dude is my 2nd cousin once removed. (I’d love to tell you I understand all that stuff, but I don’t. I have to look it up – every time.) Life keeps going. As it should.

 

 

I’ve started a new painting, which may not sound like much but I assure you – it’s a big deal. After my mentor retired from teaching art, I was so depressed I didn’t even want to think about painting. (That depression added to the lowly feelings about the state of my fucked-up country was almost too much to bear.) So for me to set up my easel and put paint to canvas is a mighty step. And I know it.

 

 

I will have a piece or two in an upcoming art show in Los Angeles! It’s sweet. And nice. And I’m happy to be included. If you’re local and interested in attending the opening reception (which is free, by the way), let me know and I’ll send you the RSVP deets.

 

Other activities abound (work on the homestead, addiction to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “American Gods”) and there will surely be more to come. The depression is slowly lifting, thank the lord, and I’m feeling more and more like myself. It’s a slog sometimes. Anyone who’s been through it knows how tough it can be to live with depression. I’m just a regular gal,  with no particular gifts or tools for dealing with this. I put my flip-flops on one foot at a time. And though I get tired of hearing myself say it, I am a fan of baby steps. And distractions. And truth. And I’ll keep going, because that’s what you do. Right?

Don’t Fear the Dark

 

 

I’m trying. I really am. In the face of my country’s ugliness and shameful behavior, I’m trying to lift my own spirits and to reclaim my joy. Some days, it half works. Others…

 

There’s been a lot of loss of late in my little world. Layers, in fact. A great aunt passed away recently, and that has required processing. Processing that will continue, probably in ways I don’t yet know. Two days after hearing of her passing, I learned that my mentor was abruptly closing his studio and would be retiring earlier than previously planned. It was too much.

 

 

I spent my last night in his studio thinking of what the place has meant to me. I walked around and photographed the unlit corners that seemingly have nothing to do with the beauty produced there. The paint-splattered sink, the tins of paint thinner (“juice” as my teacher always called it), the random articles on a cluttered shelf. All of it greeted me for years, and now it’s gone.

 

 

I won’t lie. I cried several times during my final session there. I cried when I thought about my very first visit, when I decided to be brave and give painting a try. I cried when I thought about how my sweet friend Nicole came to my life simply because our easels were side-by-side one night. I cried when I thought about how my time in that sacred space changed my life forever. As I type this, I look around my home and its walls are covered with art, most of it made by me. When someone asks what I do (I hate that question), I tell them I’m an artist. And I am. Some of what I produce is real crap. It’s true. And some of what I produce is so good it makes me want to cry anew, because it is such a gift to create beauty in this world. And in every inky crevice of my heart, I am fully aware of how very “gifted” I have been on the painting front.

 

 

And then there’s my mentor himself. On that last night in the studio, I cried because I was allowed to know him. Because I was allowed to be his student and to learn from him. He is a remarkable human soul and I know what a privilege it’s been to study with him. I have learned more about painting than I ever thought possible. I have also learned – from him – about being a decent person. He is kind and patient and wise. I pray that a little bit of those parts of him have rubbed off on me. Maybe they have. Maybe not. I suppose only time will tell.

 

 

So yes – I’m processing a lot of loss right now. And it runs deep. If I could, I would probably crawl into a hole and stay there. But that isn’t how life works. If I were to choose that, then I’d become someone I don’t want to be. I cannot succumb to the loss. I know I have to adapt. All of life is change, isn’t it? It keeps evolving and turning over and over again. For me, I know that if I don’t roll with it, there won’t be much point in waking to another day. And if I know anything about myself, it is that I absolutely love being alive. So roll with it, I must.

 

For now, I plan to practice self-care while going about the business of living. And I plan to give myself some time to figure out how to move forward with painting. I also plan to wish so much love and joy for my mentor. He deserves nothing less. His life should be lived with gusto, with beauty and with art. All my tears can’t stop me from smiling while thinking that. I am so grateful to have known his teachings and to hear his voice in my mind: Don’t fear the dark.

 

I won’t, Eli. I won’t.

 

“Great News!”

 

 

This painting is a god-send. Its wisdom is getting me through these days, and its humor helps me smile. Mister and I like it so much, we used it on our holiday card this year.

 

It’s the second painting I’ve done in this style (see the first here) and I truly enjoy the process. There’s something about turning real people into cartoon characters that gets me going. I’m challenged by the work and I’m terribly entertained as well. Both of the paintings I’ve done in this style have been fun! That’s pretty cool, friends. Fun counts.

 

I’d like to start another painting along these lines, but I haven’t come up with the text. I’ve got a fantastic photo lined up, so hopefully that will inspire me to find the proper words to accompany the image.

 

Until then, I get to giggle over this work. I’m super-keen on it. And I love it. Cheers!

Little Painting. Literally.

 

 

My painting buddy, Nicole, started it. She came in with tiny canvases so small, I could barely see them. Some are 2-inch squares. Some, I believe, are 1-inch squares. Just thinking about painting on something that small gives my brain a twitch.

 

But I liked the idea of little paintings. And I wanted to give it a whirl. But I knew I don’t have the lady balls to go as tiny as Nicole’s paintings. So I got some 4 x 5-inch canvases and set off. What you see above is the first attempt. Not very exciting, granted, but a nice learning experience. We’ll see what happens when I get it in a fat frame. After all, a frame can make all the difference.

 

Kind of like life, right? How we frame things is what tends to matter sometimes. Hmm…

Nicole and Her Tiny Painting

 

 

My painting buddy Nicole has been working on a little series. And when I say “little,” I mean little. Just look at the photo above. Trust me when I tell you Nicole has perfectly lovely, ordinary-sized hands. And yet you can hardly spot the tiny canvas she’s holding! I admire the heck out of her, but I have no idea how she does it. The woman must have the patience of the Dalai Lama. I just look over at her while she’s working on those little paintings, and my head starts to ache.

 

Still – she’s inspiring. And while I certainly can’t pull off what she does, I may have to work on some small canvases my own self. I’ll keep you posted.

In Process

 

 

This little painting is something I turn to when I need a break from other works. Or when I finish something and haven’t yet decided what to start next. I’ve been dabbling with it for months on end.

 

Have you ever started reading a book, and you just can’t get into it? That’s sort of how I feel about this painting. The idea was in my mind for a few years, so starting it was good. Joyful, even. But like a book that fails to grab me, this painting is dulling my senses.

 

My friend DK once told me that if I start a book and don’t enjoy it, I should put it down immediately and start reading something else, as “life’s too short to read bad books.” She’s the most well-read person I know, so I really had to think about her advice. I’ve yet to heed it, mind you, but I’ve not forgotten it.

 

So I guess I’ll keep plugging away on this little painting, much like I plug away with books that aren’t my keg of beer. Maybe in the end I’ll be glad I finished. I certainly hope so. Otherwise, what’s the point?

New Paint Brush, Anyone?

 

 

My painting buddy Nicole showed me her janky paint brush and I about split a seam, I was laughing so hard.

 

You can’t tell in the photo above, but that poor brush’s bristles were nearly down to the nub and splayed every which way. It was a sight, I tell you.

 

Fortunately, Nicole got herself a few new brushes and she’s back in business. But I’m glad I got a pic of that janky brush. It still makes me giggle.

Dots

 

 

Much as I thought, I did indeed work on cleaning up the dots on my newest painting. My mantra during that process was “Good enough is good enough.” And sure enough, it was.

 

And then I started the next step, which is turning out pretty well. I won’t give you any more info on what’s to come, as I’m not quite sure myself. And that’s fun.

 

So far, I’m digging this work as much as the last. Fingers crossed, the joy continues.