"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


This was our Christmas card. Hadn't done any real artwork in quite a while, so it felt good to get back into drawing. The picture is done in Sharpies and watercolor pencil.

Also, I had been trying to come up with a cartouche-type signature for a long time, but could never get the R to work well in the designs. Then, as per usual, at around 3:00 am, as I lay wide awake, it hit me. Turn the R around. I tried it, and really liked the way it looked. Only thing I think I will change, is to square off the ends of the enclosing triangle, so it doesn't look quite so much like a Caution sign. LOL

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who Dusts?

Sorry, it’s been a while, I know. Summer was a busy one, but, I’m back now, and I have a question.

From my personal library I am re-reading a very excellent art book called Art Making & Studio Spaces by Lynne Perrella. It is a showcase of 31 artists and the places they work their individual styles of magic. Eye-candy to the max. Loads of ideas. But...

Each of these studios is crammed with stuff—supplies, books, baskets of fabric or paint tubes, collections of figurines, seed pods, chunks of wood, toys, personal shrines, artwork of their own and by other artists, ephemera...just about anything an artist needs for work or inspiration. In almost all of them there is not one inch of table, shelf, or cupboard space that is not covered with something. And in every studio there was not one speck of dust. Nary one spider web clinging to a corner of the ceiling...nadda.

Now, I realize that in a photo shoot for a book you would clean your studio to within an inch of its life, and they probably had a set decorator or stylist to help arrange things in more photogenic ways...but what about the rest of the time? These places would be dust magnets. Who is going to go around and dust bits of dried grasses, tiny Simpson figurines, or shelves full of Day of the Dead statues? Really. It’s a duster’s nightmare.

And no spider webs? Come on. Not one? Spiders would love these places. Hideouts galore. Maybe they were there and camera shy...but the webs should have shown up somewhere. An artist studio without one spider seems a bit too sterile for me somehow.

And don’t get me started on flooring. Carpet...in a studio? Seriously? Even if your art form is sewing or quilting, I know from experience that pins love to hide in carpet, and are only found by me stepping on them. In one studio it looked like, under a table with drips of paint dried to its edge, was what looked like pristine beige carpet. So, where did all those paint drips go? Does this person go to all the trouble of putting a big drop cloth under the table when she works, and then pulls it away the rest of the time? Seems like a lot of work. Why not just have a paint-friendly floor in the first place? It’s a studio, after all. The floor is meant to get grubby and paint-spattered.

So, that’s my question. When the camera crew is gone, and life goes back to normal for these artists....who dusts?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Don't Work, You're Retired.

Someone said that to me recently. It sounded as if I had been consigned to an old farts home...pushed out of life’s loop. That I spend my days sitting in a rocker knitting socks for charity. It implied that once you retire, you cease to work...at anything. You’re just waiting around for the “big one” to hit and take you out. The junk mail from hearing aid companies, assisted living facilities, long term health insurance, and funeral/cremation plans, doesn’t help.

Or, maybe it implies that I now spend my days either sitting in a club house after a round of golf, cruising the country in an enormous, gas-gussling motorcoach, becoming a “Snowbird” and heading to Arizona for the winter, or taking long cruises on luxury liners—okay, so I’ve done that once, because I wanted to go through the Panama Canal, which was awesome.

I don’t work? Right, I don’t work 9-5 at a desk with a little brass placard that reads, “Sharon Robb-Chism, Escrow Assistant” I had one that read just that, once. Among other titles, in other years: Office Manager, Shipping/Receiving Clerk, Sales Assistant, etc. And yeah, I don’t have to deal with insane escrow deadlines, loudmouthed construction workers, rude delivery men, and bitchy teenagers whining about how they hate the clothes being picked out for them and paid for by their mothers, for the new school term.

So, if I had a desk, what titles would that placard have on it now? Gosh, let me think.

Housekeeper (I admit, not my most dedicated work, but I don’t live in a pig pen either), cook (I am good at this), laundry lady, home accountant, yard & BIG garden maintenance lady, landscape manual laborer, home nurse—human and animal, animal feeder, spa maintenance lady, stable hand, stall mucker, horse groomer and trainer (of our own horses), jewelry designer, personal jewelry web-site updater, artist—published, writer—published, photographer—published, reenactor—pirate and medieval, equestrian gamer, costumer—for human and horse, internet forum moderator (not too arduous, this, but still), and last but most importantly, loving and supportive wife.

I don’t need a placard, I need a billboard.

Yeah, I’m retired, but not work? Get real. I work my ass off every single day at one or more of the above. Mostly more, especially during the summer. Would I give all that up for a nice 9-5 desk job? Not on your life. I’d still have to do half the stuff on that list and hold down a day job. Which is what I was doing before I retired, and had all this time to sit around in my rocker and read junk mail implying that my body already has one foot in the grave. NOT! However, I am ready for another cruise on a luxury liner. Maybe the Med this time, or Australia?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Here is a great shot of me, and my friend Jill, in our pirate personas of Ransom and Red-Handed Jill. We're just about to touch the slow matches to the fuse on the cannons (called guns on board a ship). We are on the deck of the Aldebaran, making ready to fire on the shore battery at The Northern California Pirate Festival. We had SO much fun. Can you tell?

The picture was taken from shore by a friend with a great camera. His pirate name is Crunchy. :=)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Still Playing After All These Years

My husband and I just got back from spending four days playing pirates at the HUGE Northern California Pirate Festival...or as us insiders know it, NorCal. Held every year over Father’s Day weekend in Vallejo, CA, it is an event we look forward to every year. We get to hang out with all our pirate buddies, dress up and act silly, listen to music, dance, eat good food, and best of all, be part of the crew of the schooner Aldebaran, and fire cannons! So, at an age when I’m expecting my first Social Security check, I am still playing—and loving every minute of it.

Playing—it’s not just for kids. Playing is good for you. Playing keeps you sane, gets you away from the doom and gloom of the news headlines, gets you away from your job worries, keeps you interested in things, keeps you from becoming the stogy old fart everyone avoids like the plague. I never want to get to a point in my life where I no longer want to throw on a costume and go play...at whatever.

Trying new things. I never want to get to a place in my life where I am afraid to try new things. As part of the crew of the Aldebaran we get to help sail her to the event site. When Captain Hayden, midway through the sail from Richmond to Vallejo, asked if anyone wanted to take the helm and see how it felt to steer a 72’ schooner, I jumped at the chance. For fifteen minutes I got the experience of a lifetime, feeling how truly alive a ship is, how to keep her pointed in the correct direction—nothing like driving a car—and getting just a hint of the thrill and also the responsibility of being at the helm of a ship. It was scary and exciting, and I loved it!

I’m lucky, in that at age 62, I am still physically fit, still active, and the only health issue I have to deal with is a mildly annoying hyoidal hernia—which I gave to myself by each winter lugging in heavy boxes of fire wood for the wood stove for twenty years. I still ride my horse, do barn chores, and work in a large garden all Spring through Fall. All that helps keep me moving and limber. For now, when I ask my body to do something, it pretty much answers, “Right.” I know my limits, and I tend to push them, but not to the point of stupidity. So far, that plan works for me.

So, pirate or Steam Punk, Medieval or barbarian, or just fooling around on Halloween, I’m there, still playing dress-up, still learning new things, and best of all, still playing. If I’m lucky, eventually I’ll drop dead in the middle of, “Oh wow, that was so much fun, I can’t wait to—”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Process

I noticed that on a lot of blogs by artists, they post pictures of the process they go through in order to create a piece, whether painting, drawing, collage, sewing, or...jewelry. So, I thought maybe I should do the same, and talk a little about how I work. Not riveting stuff, but since I like to see how people go through the creative process, I thought others might like to see mine.

I try to do a lot of recycling in my pieces. I haunt junk shops, antique stores, and garage sales—why let all that great old stuff go to waste? When I do this, I have a price ceiling...I won’t pay more than $20 for anything...whether it’s a bag of parts, or a complete piece that I can take apart and turn into many pieces. Usually I end up spending anywhere from $1 to $10 average. Many of my friends pick up things for me, or if they are thinking of sending old stuff to the Goodwill, they let me look it over first. That’s always fun.

When I start a piece, I have a vague idea of what I want, and then I start pulling out beads, bits, charms, old pendants, buttons, etc. and play around with them. It’s usually the color that grabs me, and I go from there. An arrangement will finally satisfy me, and then I put the whole thing together. Next, I take it for a test run. I wear it, making sure everything stays where it’s supposed to, and that it drapes/hangs nicely, and is comfortable—nothing poking anywhere. If that all checks out, then it’s done, and I put it up on my Etsy shop. If no one seems interested after a certain length of time, I may take the piece apart and make something else.

So, that’s it. Here are the elements I used in the necklace pictured.

Red sections from an old necklace (ca. 1960s, I think) that I took apart. It has purple, light purple, and red sections. I used only the red, so have lots of other sections left over to use on something else. That old necklace was long, and I have made other pieces from it already. Since it was given to me by a friend, it didn’t cost me a dime.

Gold metal leaves that I inherited from my husband’s mother after she passed away. She had a ton of craft stuff, and Robert’s sisters were kind enough to share it with me. I’ve used these leaves on lots of things, and will be sad when they are finally gone.

“Gold” covered copper wire. I am still learning how to work with wire, which has a mind of its own. The links for this necklace were made with 1” pieces of wire, a black bead added, then twisted in an S-curve. I like making my own links, because I can add any type of bead/chip I want, to match the rest of the elements.

Misc. beads and small metal leaves. These are all over-the-counter bits, purchased at either Michael’s, JoAnn’s or Craft Warehouse. So are the jump rings, clasp, and head-pins.

The pictures are of the work in progress, and then the finished piece. I wear a lot of black, so I’m thinking this little gem I will keep for myself. But since I am getting rather addicted to making chain and bead links, another one will be in the works soon. Who knows, I may like the next one better and give this one up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Commissioned Necklace

This is a commissioned necklace I just completed. It is very similar to a bracelet I did, and then enlarged into a necklace at the request of a customer. She wore it, and a friend of hers admired it and wanted one "just like that one." Well, I can't do exact replicas of a piece, because I use found elements. However, I did have enough of the frosted flower beads in another color, and pretty much the last of my glass leaf dangles, to do one more necklace. And so, here it is. It will go to its new home tomorrow.

After two such pieces, I'm really getting the hang of making wire link chain. Next time, I want to make something using gold wire instead of silver.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How I Spend Some of My Weekends

Just a picture of me, in a costume again—big surprise, I know. This one taken at the Hocktide Emprise Equestrian Games on May 7-9. This is the only picture of me, other than another taken with my husband, since it's hard to take photos of yourself, especially when you're on a horse. I wrote a more detailed piece about this event in my other blog, Equine Madness (See link in sidebar).

My husband and I had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get back into the horse games again. The picture is of me in my 35 year old leather vest (it belonged to an old boyfriend)—the shirt, and boots are part of my pirate gear, but work well for this, and the pants are my black riding pants. I left the shirt un-tucked since it hid my butt. When I tried tucking it in, it looked like I had a wrinkled bubble butt—which I don't!

I was waiting to ground crew the Courser Challenge for the A list riders, who went first. Then they would ground crew for us B listers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playing Dress Up

I have spent a good part of my life dressed in a costume of one sort or another. Apparently I never outgrew that whole “Let’s play dress-up” thing.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a kid, I dressed as a beatnik, wearing my dad’s yellow V-necked sweater, his roadster hat, my own black tights, and lots of green eye shadow. For a party I went to in Junior High, I got bold, and went as Cleopatra...a white sheet wrapped around me, lots of fake gold jewelry, and more green eye shadow.

When my maternal grandmother came to baby-sit, she’d play the Nutcracker Suite on the stereo, and my sisters and I would put on all the frilly petticoats we owned and dance like ballerinas. She always clapped her hands and said we looked beautiful.

When I went to my first dance in Junior High, she helped me rig a rhinestone necklace in my hair so that it looked like a tiara. I thought I looked like a princess. However, the boys must have thought I looked like a dork, because I never got asked to dance.

During my high school years I dressed like a hippie. Or, at least as much as I could, since back then schools had dress codes. If your skirt was an inch too short, you got sent home. Since I was an art major, I hung with all the other outcasts, and we dressed as radical as we could get away with...lots of beads, painted clothing, and skintight jeans.

Already long in love with jewelry, I wanted my ears pierced in the worst way. Locked in a battle of wills with my dad, who thought girls with pierced ears were...well, not nice...I eventually wore him down about a week before my eighteenth birthday. When it took my other sisters less than no time to get him to cave, I was pretty miffed!

In the early 1980s I joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) a worldwide medieval reenactment group. The possibilities to play dress up were limitless. I dove into the whole costume thing with both feet. I sewed T-tunics, bodices, Elizabethan court dresses, Italian Renaissance dresses, head pieces, a Spanish Surcoat, you name it. Then I got my horse, and equestrian costumes entered the game. For about ten years, on any given weekend, I was dressed in a costume. It became so natural, that I didn’t even think of them as costumes any longer, but just another wardrobe selection from my closet.

In 1991, when my husband and I moved to Oregon, we dropped out of the SCA, too busy trying to resettle and get our life reorganized. And we were broke, so playing in any kind of venue was out of the question.

About five years ago we fell into a Golden Age of Piracy re-enactors group. Wow, no costume rules, no royalty, nothing but crazy fun people and lots of rum. A whole new way to play dress up. Out came the sewing machine, and I made new shirts, vests, pantaloons, and frock coats. I modified hats into tricorns, and we bought fairly inexpensive knee boots. Hell, we even bought real swords. Our pirate friends are some of the best people we know, and we still play at events like the Northern California Pirate festival, where we are members of Tales of the Seven Seas, and are also part of the crew of the schooner Aldebaran.

Then I discovered Steampunk. Now there is a grand way to play dress up, with even less rules than the pirates. We did Airship Pirates, went to a Bad Fairies Ball, and attended two Abney Park concerts dressed in our best Steampunk gear. It’s still one of my favorites —think Jules Verne meets Queen Victoria, and throw in a time machine.

But I still had all those great SCA costumes packed away, calling my name. A year ago we attended a local Renaissance/Fantasy/Pirate Faire — dressed as pirates— and hooked up with the leader of an equestrian group called Company of the Warhorse, who was also a knight in the SCA. Through him, we fell into the SCA again. At the time, we no longer had horses (long story—see Equine Madness and the Art of Staying Young). Didn’t matter. Within about four months, we had new horses, and a fun new group of people to play dress up with.

Reality check. Thirty year old costumes don’t always fit the way they did back then. Alas. To make matters worse, pirate costumes finished off my old sewing machine. Here we are doing the horse games again, and needing new clothes, saddle cloths, simple bardings, new hats...you get the idea. I see a new sewing machine in my future, and the renewed art of trolling the fabric stores looking for material that is “period correct.”

So, here I am, ready to receive my first Social Security check next month, and still playing dress up. Still wearing hats, lots of jewelry, crazy T-shirts, a frock coat I wear when it’s cold, and sometimes my pirate knee boots. At events, it’s anything goes — pirate, to Italian Renaissance, to mounted warrior. The only thing left out these days, is the green eye shadow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Blog

I have started a new blog just for my horse activities. It became way too tedious to write this stuff out in my art journals, as my handwriting sucks, and it is a pain in the butt to print out and paste in pictures, when here I can simply upload them. Also, I thought it would be nice to keep it separate from this blog, so I don't bore to death my non-horsey friends.

If you are interested in checking it out, here ya go. There is also a link in my list of favorite blogs.

Equine Madness

Bracelet to Necklace

This piece was originally a bracelet. I took it, along with two necklaces, to my writer's group meeting, for a "show and tell." One of the ladies liked the design of the bracelet, but wanted it as a choker instead. I didn't have enough of the frosted petal beads to make a whole new piece, but did have enough to add length to the bracelet. So, I took it home, reworked it, and voila...the finished choker. Better still, the lady loved it. That made me smile and feel good to be me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nature's "Smilie Face."

The weather might still be crappy, but it's hard not to smile when you have these bright little bits of sunshine blooming all around the yard.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Signs of Spring/Summer

For most people the first signs of the coming warmer days are groups of happily blooming daffodils, Easter candy in the stores, and for those of us out in the country, the soft, subtle colors of wildflowers. If, like me, you have horses, it’s also the flying hair of a shedding winter coat. However, for me personally, there is one sure sign that the gray days are passing. My local Fred Myer store pulls out dozens of racks of flip flops. They are the first thing you see when you enter the store. Yup, there’s your sign.

When I was a kid, raised by parents born in the depression era, and with W.W.II still a vivid memory, we all called this new form of footwear Jap Flaps. That’s not politically correct these days, and rightly so, but that’s what all the kids called them back then. They were cheap, and the rubber bit between your toes a bit rough at first, so you always got a blister, which eventually became a callous. They came in a few fun colors, but nothing like what you can buy now.

Oh lordy, now it is a veritable cornucopia of choices—stripes, dots, checks, tattoo designs, happy faces, and even the logos of the two big Oregon college teams. And that’s just the foot part. The thong part is even better. You can still get basic plain rubber (which is what I get to wear while doing yard and garden work, ‘cause I can hose them off when they get dirty), but oh my, the choices here are mind boggling. In my latest cruise of the racks, I saw the thong part adorned with fake flowers, sequins, rhinestones, and bead dangles. Some were made of soft suade-like material in every color of the rainbow. Then there are the fancy ones. Wider straps in an East Indian pattern of paisley picked out in silver or gold thread. Western themed ones in black leather and silver conchos. I even saw some with brass bits for that Steampunk look.

Every year I pick out a few new pairs, usually waiting until they have the “Buy one pair, get one pair free” sale. I live in flip flops all summer, and am pretty hard on them, especially the garden work pair. What I love most about “flops” is you can just slip you feet into a pair and are good to go. And since they make all those fancy ones, you can wear them pretty much anywhere—always making sure your pedicure is neat and tidy. Don’t want to turn someone off their food.

But, despite their jolly cuteness, flip flops can be hazardous to your health. I had one of my few near-death experiences while wearing a brand new pair. Here is the equation: New flip flops + wet deck steps = hydroplaning body flying off deck. It happened so fast it took me a minute to figure out how I ended up on my butt in the pea gravel of the terrace. I also thought my right arm was broken, since I couldn’t move it or feel it. Fortunately, all I ended up with were a lot of very colorful bruises in some very interesting places. Lesson learned.

By the time November rolls around, and it becomes too cold to wear them, I have a pile of battered flip flops—their soles worn thin, the straps faded, and the rubber with a permanent indent of my foot. They are the sign of a full, fun summer soon to be drowned out by months of rain.

I haven’t picked out my pairs for this year. They haven’t put them on sale yet. But I saw a new design that I must have. Decorating the sole of this one is a red skull on a black background. The annoying thing is, they only put that design on the man’s sizes. So, next time I’m in "Freddy’s", I’ll search for the smallest size they come in and see if they fit. If not, oh well, there are dozens and dozens of other designs to choose from, which will get me through the summer just fine.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The Sketchbook Challenge theme for March was "Spilling Over." March for me was so busy, I didn't have time to spill anything. So, no journal entries got made, other than here. Since I did commit to this challenge, I have promised myself to be more diligent in April.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was born and grew up in Southern California, where there are three seasons—hot, hotter, hottest. That’s a slight exaggeration, because we did get rain occasionally, or episodes of three to four days of Santa Anna Winds, which drove everyone crazy, especially firemen. I loved fall, because I knew it meant there would be four months of cooler weather with little or no smog. When it did rain, I would curl up on the couch with a good book and enjoy the sound of it pelting the roof of the house. If it were a summer rain, I’d open all the windows so I could enjoy the scent of rain-washed plants and trees. Wouldn’t it be grand, I thought, if I lived in a place where it rained a lot. Where I could curl up on the couch, with a fire going in a fireplace (I had never lived in a house that had one), and lounge around in sweaters, sweatpants, and socks.

Be very careful what you wish for.

In 1991 my husband and I moved to Southern Oregon. In March. It was raining. At first I thought it was kinda fun. That feeling lasted about a week. I had three horses that were used to nice, warm, cozy stalls bedded in pine shavings, and hanging out with the other horses at the stable where we kept them. They suddenly found themselves transported to a gloomy place in the middle of a forest, where they had open pipe corrals, no roof over their heads, and within a day, were standing in mud, not pine shavings. Yes, they all had water-repellant blankets on, but the faces that greeted me every morning were not happy ones.

My husband stayed working in California for several months, driving up every other weekend, so I was left on my own to deal with...everything. While painting the walls of the house and getting our things settled in, I also attempted to shovel mud out of the horse pens. That was a lost cause. Since we had a wood stove, I slogged around the property looking for anything that might burn. Yeah, right. It had been raining for months. Every stick of wood on the place was soaked. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that dealing with rain on a daily basis was a big pain in the butt.

Jump twenty years. I still think dealing with rain for months and months is a big pain in the butt. Forget the nice cozy couch by the fire, forget the lounging around in sweatpants and sweaters, or hanging out reading a good book. That scenario works for me for about two or three days, then I’m climbing the walls. I now detest fall, because it is the early warning sign that six months of rain are just around the corner. Six months of gloom, fog, rain, snow, hail, and more rain.

It starts in November, and continues until May. By January, I have turned into the monster grouch, longing for sunny beaches and drinks with cute little umbrellas in them. I start begging my husband to buy tickets to Aruba. He just rolls his eyes. It doesn’t help that he loves winter weather and doesn’t quite understand my mania. A few years ago I discovered I suffer from LDS, or Light Depravation Syndrome. That was actually a relief, since there were times I thought I was going crazy. At least now I understand why.

When winter arrives, I still cringe. I still rant, complain, bitch and shake my fist at the heavens. Every morning when I slog through six inches of water, where the path to the barn has become a tributary to the creek, I grumble. At least our current horses have a nice covered barn and cozy stalls. But the turn out areas still become mud the consistency of cooked oatmeal, and the ground way too slippery to ride on. When we do want to ride, we have to trailer the horses to one of the two local fairgrounds where they have large covered arenas.

At one point my husband wanted us to eventually retire to the Oregon coast, specifically Coos Bay, where we keep our boat. Since I had dragged him to Oregon, where many of my family members had already immigrated to from Southern California, I figured it was his turn to pick the place we moved to next. If he wanted to live on the coast, well (cringe), okay. Never mind that it rains twice as much there as it does in Southern Oregon. Never mind that everything there has moss growing on its north side, or that storms roll in with 75-80 mph winds, or that it’s a major tsunami zone. Yeah, never mind all that, I’ll be fine...really.

He has abandoned that plan. I suspect it’s because he didn’t want to come visit me in whatever institution I ended up in.

In twelve year he’s due to retire. He has twelve years to find a place that isn’t insufferably hot in the summer, and doesn’t rain all winter. He’s a smart guy. He’ll figure it out. I want to enjoy the fall season again, without thinking of it as the prelude to six months of gloom, fog, rain, snow, hail, and more rain. That, and I have no desire to be institutionalized.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Equine Madness II — Mind vs Body

Remember the days when your brain could tell your body to do something, and your body would snap to it, saying, “Right! Got it. No worries!” I do. Back when I was in my late thirties, riding usually four to five days a week, and working with a riding coach once a week, my body was constantly in a low-level state of soreness — in a good way. It told me I had worked, used muscles, and my body had done, or tried valiantly to do, anything my little brain had asked. That state of being, my body totally in tune with my brain, made it possible to be in tune with the mind and body of the animal under me. Well, okay, maybe not all the time. But those times when my gelding, Tristan, seemed to know what I wanted before I asked, and we seemed to be sharing one body, are the most sublime moments I’ve ever had on a horse. You can’t describe the feeling to anyone. Seriously, you could use a thousand words, and it wouldn’t come close to describing that measure of connectedness to another creature. It rocks your world.

Jump two decades, add a ten year hiatus from riding, a new horse, and you have a totally different story. And, lest you get the wrong impression, I’m still in pretty good shape for my age. I’m not overweight, have no health issues, and work outdoors in a large garden. But that’s not riding. Riding is balance, sensitivity, and the constant search for that illusive connectedness. When you haven’t done it for a long time, and you start again, things get frustrating. Your brain, reaching back to previous experiences, starts yelling at your body, “Do this...no, no, you idiot, this, this!” Your body, asked to use muscles it hasn’t twitched in years, whines back, “Huh?...Whah? Oh, move these legs where? Are you sure?” Body procrastination.

In the meantime, my poor horse, Delight, is wondering what the heck is going on up there. And I must admit, our first ride did not start off auspiciously. After a few turns around the round pen, me flopping like a beached flounder, my saddle went sideways and I ended up on the ground. Delight stood there looking at me like I was a total imbecile, falling (pun intended) for the old “bloating like the Goodyear blimp when she tightens the girth” trick. Okay, lesson learned.

We’ve had many rides since then, and I have started working with two different coaches when I can, but I’m still waiting for my body to catch up to my brain. May take a while. My brain remembers how things should feel, where legs, seat, hands should be. Body...not so much. It’s coming back, slowly, and when we’re out of the winter weather, which makes riding hard because the ground is so slippery, things will improve quicker as I put in more saddle time.

But even with the riding I have done so far, the change in my body is already clear. My upper body strength is improving (all that stall cleaning, wheelbarrow pushing, horse grooming), my leg strength is better, and answering “the call” a bit quicker (currently that may be wishful thinking on my brain's part), and I’m starting to feel the first inklings of that constant, low-level state of soreness, which tells me this old body is still willing to work.

Actually, this old body is pretty damned happy. I still have a LONG way to go. My balance is still precarious. I still get frustrated when I know where a leg, hand, or my balance should be, and I can’t quite get there. Or worse, get it there for a nanosecond, but can’t hold it. Delight is still waiting for me to catch up, and gets understandably annoyed when she tries to give me what she thinks I’m asking for, when I’m actually asking for something else but giving mixed signals. I admire that she tries.

Come summer things will improve faster. Better weather means more riding time at home, going to events, and getting out on the trail. Soon my brain will snap to my body, “Do this, this, and this, and then this!” And my body will answer, ‘Right! Brilliant. Great idea!”

Delight will be thinking, “Gawd, it’s about time. I was beginning to worry you’d never catch up.”

(Note on the picture. It's a sketch I did in a journal, and the red text is bleeding through from the back side of the page. But I thought the drawing fit the subject, so posted it anyway, faults and all. The handwritten title slightly cut off reads, "Self-Portrait With Manure Fork")

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Studio Dreams

Like all artists, I dream of the perfect studio. You know, one of those romantic, airy, high-ceilinged lofts, with plenty of space for all your artistic endeavors. Tall windows would face north, naturally, for that special North Light so important to getting colors just right. The floors would be wood, stained with decades of use (maybe the building had been an old factory in its previous life). There would be tables of different sizes and heights, one for wet painting, one for dry work. A separate station for working jewelry, with all supplies handy. An easel for larger works, oh, and a sewing station for doing costumes and refashioning pre-bought clothing. Well, you get the idea. A space for everything, and everything in its space. Oh, and just downstairs would be a coffee house, where I could nip down for a nice cup of hot Chai Tea (Sorry, I don’t do coffee).

Dream on, girl.

What I have is a far cry from anything remotely like that dream. I have a room. A small room. It is the darkest, coldest room in the house, hence the mango wall color—my attempt to warm up the place and think tropical. This room is also the computer room, writing room, accounting room, costume room, floral supply/storage room, and the pirate den. The walls are lined with various storage units, and the closet—doors removed—is full of storage units and costumes.

My “studio” is a table in this room. When I do jewelry, it is cluttered with tools, wire, beads, findings, etc. When I work in my art journals, it is littered with stamps, pencils, paper, watercolor Crayons, clip art, glue sticks and rolls of double-sided tape. If I could do any sewing (currently my sewing machine is out of commission), then said table would hold my portable machine, patterns, pins, material and possibly sketches of what the finished garment might look like. And many, many times, it is littered with bits and pieces of all of the above, which is its current state—well, except for the sewing stuff.

However, I am grateful that I have my little multipurpose room. At least I can leave stuff out on the table, walk away, and come back to it later. If I had to work on the dining room table, or anywhere else in the house, I’d have to put everything away, come back later, and dig it all out again. Big pain in the butt. Also, having the computer, scanner and printer in the same room is very handy, as I use all of them in my artwork.

So, I turn on the Probe-Droid (my portable CD/radio/tape player, which looks like something out of Star Wars, hence the name), pop in some music or a book on tape, and I play away at whatever I’m working on at the time, very grateful for this small, but “all mine” space.

Do I continue to dream of that romantic loft with unlimited space and perfect light? Sure. What artist doesn’t? It’s why I still have the big, tilt-top drafting table my husband bought for me at an auction. There is no way it would fit anywhere in our house. But it stands for the dream, so I hang on to it. Hmmm, maybe I’ll set it up in the garage, which since its remodel last summer is now insulated, and has tons of bright lighting, and two large windows—even if they do face south instead of north. Yeah, then I could at least move my bigger projects out there, not worry about spilling paint on the floor, and pretend there is a coffeehouse just around the block, instead of eleven miles away in town.

Now, if I could just get my husband to park his truck out in the driveway.... Ah well, there is still the dream.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wardrobe Analysis=Morticia Picks Out My Clothes

Have you ever stood back and really looked at the wardrobe hanging in your closet? I had occasion to do so the other day, and an obvious fact became apparent. If a total stranger looked in my closet, they would think the only reason I get dressed is to attend funerals.

Most of the items hanging there are black, brown, gray, dark blue, or dark purple. A few bright spots of turquoise or green might sneak in, or maybe a hint of red, but they are overshadowed by the overpowering “noir” theme of everything else. In summer this dark palette lightens up a little with T-shirts and tank tops, but summer doesn’t last very long in the Pacific Northwest. The lights stay hibernating most of the year.

I live in sweatpants and sweatshirts. Or jeans and sweatshirts. Or cargo pants and sweatshirts. You see the trend. Occasionally I do “clean up” and wear jeans and a nice sweater. Until recently, other than the two fancy dresses I bought five years ago to wear on formal evenings while on a cruise, I owned only one dress—a loose, sleeveless summer floral my husband bought for me at the Orange Co., Calif. swap meet, the weekend of Princess Diana’s funeral. To remedy that, a few months ago I bought a nice simple day dress, in muted shades of blues and browns, with a charcoal python pattern overlaid. This sounds hideous, but is actually quite lovely. But again, colors that are subdued...funereal.

I also rarely wear prints. There are a few lurking within the darker ranks, but they are mainly black designs on white, or the reverse, or black on gray. This is probably because I am a jewelry nut, and prefer my jewelry to stand out against a plain background. But in all honesty, I have never been a big fan of prints, unless it’s a discrete one. Giant red poppies would never make it into my closet, let alone onto my body.

As a rule, I never wear white. I do own two white blouses, bought for the aforementioned cruise, which I have hardly worn since. I NEVER wear white pants. It’s a disaster. Always. Dirt will fly from all directions to land on my white pants. Also, I’m so used to wearing jeans that I have a habit of wiping my hands on the rear-pockets. Do that in white pants, and it either looks like you brushed up against something really nasty, or looks like someone has grabbed your butt and left their hand print behind...literally.

So, since I have declared this to be a year of challenges, maybe I should challenge myself to get out of the Morticia Adams mode, and pick some clothes with a bit more color. That will not include yellow, peach, or orange, which make my skin tone go pasty, and has me looking like I’m dressed for my own funeral. But I’ve developed a penchant for lime green lately, so maybe a new sweatshirt in that? And I’ve always liked red, so there is another option. More turquoise, perhaps? Maybe I’ll get really rash and buy a new dress...in pale blue? Then again, I saw this really lovely one the other day in black, with panels in the skirt of white dots on black...  Hmmm, I wonder how much it costs?

Drat, maybe there is more of Morticia in me than I care to admit.

Oh, and yes, the walls of my bedroom really are red, although they are not so bright as this flash photo makes them appear. And I don’t have closet doors, I have lovely velvet curtains, that match the curtains over the window on the opposite wall. It’s all very romantic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One More Page + Thoughts

I wanted to post one more picture of the journal page that unfolds, showing how it opens up. I'm not showing the whole thing, because what is written within is private to me, but just a way to show how I'm playing with this challenge.

My thoughts for this journal, besides taking part in the challenge, were to try experimenting with formats in such a way that it would give the pages some cohesiveness. Other journals of mine look pretty haphazard. I made cardboard templates for the main rectangle, and for the L-shaped border. That way I can quickly trace around them on the pages, or on other, decorative papers I want to use, and then glue or tape those in. I use a lot of double-sided tape! I should buy it by the case.

I'm having to do a lot of the artwork on other, heavier paper, as the paper in the spiral-bound sketchbook I bought is too thin. It doesn't hold up well, especially if I add wet medium, like watercolor Crayon or watercolor pencil. Also, since I do my personal journal writing with Sharpie pens, the ink bleeds through to the other side of the page. So, the collage work and writing are done on a base paper, then glued or taped to the journal page.

Next time I'll be more careful as to the strength of the paper before I dive into creating a new journal. But using this one is another challenge, and that's what this year is all about.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011—A Year of Challenges

After deciding to participate in the Sketchbook Challenge, I got to thinking about the word Challenge, and how I had already set for myself a few challenges in the coming year. I never make New Years Resolutions because I always break them. Challenges, however, are a different story.

So, for the first page of my journal for 2011, I used that as a theme, to give a “heads up” as to how my year will hopefully go. I’m not going to post all the pages in this journal, only the ones directly related to the Sketchbook Challenge, mainly because this isn’t going to be a special book meant only for that on-line participation. It will be my regular journal, where I record all the exciting and not so exciting goings-on in my life. Not a thrill a minute read, I assure you.

What are the other challenges I have set for myself? Well, the first is getting back into riding shape, and working with my horse so that we can become a team. Considering how out of shape we both are, this will probably take us all summer. Winter weather in Oregon doesn’t help things. By January our place has standing water everywhere, and the areas where we work the horses are mostly mud the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Many, many rainy days are a real pain in the butt. So, I get in what work I can, and pray for Spring.

Next on the list is to get more professional with my Etsy jewelry site. I make the jewelry for fun, and to give to friends as gifts. If I happen to sell a few pieces, that’s just gravy and helps pay for supplies. For the last year I’ve mainly toyed around with beads and wire and found elements. And that’s okay, but I’d like to take things up a notch, weed out the pieces that have been on the site for too long, and add new things that will be different. Not sure in which different direction I’ll go, but that’s also part of the challenge.

Writing more. I definitely need to do more writing. I have a novel waiting for the last three or four chapters, and another story idea I want to start on. My writing got put on hold for a variety of reasons, but it’s time to get back to it. The story keeps calling me, and making me feel guilty for ignoring it. I don’t do well with guilt.

To finishing landscaping the bare areas left by the construction that took place over last summer is a big challenge. There is still a path of cardboard laid down from the driveway to the front steps, which doesn’t look too attractive, but keeps mud from being tracked into the house. Hardscaping—brick retaining walls, gravel paths—need to go in before the plants, so some heavy manual labor is in my future.

Also included on the list is a major re-landscaping of my enclosed garden. I’m talking about ripping out overgrown shrubs, digging out roses that have never done well, and wrestling into submission the giant hop vine that ate part of the garden fence. Lots more manual labor.

That’s the short list. I have many more things I want to accomplish in this “Year of Challenges.” So, when I post pictures of the journal pages each month, I’ll also update you with how I’m doing with my other challenges. That is, if the hop vine doesn’t eat me, and if I can still type after all that manual labor.

The Sketchbook Challenge theme for January is “Highly Prized.”