Monthly Archives: September 2010

Rabbit Looks at Graffiti

Graffiti. It seems to be everywhere these days. Most of it reminds me of angry male dogs peeing on trees to mark their territory, mad dogs that are not real bright dogs either.  A lot of this stuff is not well executed or well thought out– nor is it art. Often, it intentionally destroys or defaces something: street murals executed by an entire neighborhood usually last about 24 hours before the hounds hit it with their poorly aimed spray paint urination.

Graffiti has been around a long time, seen in things like, "Kilroy was here" and random phone numbers in bathrooms saying "call Susie for a good time", or my old fave; "time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana" are all familiar to anyone who ever used a gas station bathroom or traveled on the New York subway system.

 Graffiti, the need to deface property by scratching or painting stuff onto it can be found all the way back to Pompeii. Because Pompeii was conveniently frozen in time by a volcano,( frozen or would that be fried?)  no one had a chance to tear the stuff down or write over it so we know it existed.

Graffiti hit the big time on boxcars in the USA several years back. Monster big canvases for artists who used spraycans to execute their work, usally graphics of names, or "tags". A "tag" which is the artist writing their name is known as a "handstyle." the tag is the 'artists' signature move and tags often contain messages, gang sign and affiliation and letters or initials.

A "throw up or "bombing" is painted fast with just a few colors, style is given up for speed.  A "piece" is  an artist's statement and ups the likelihood of being busted, part of the thrill? The style started with letters and has evolved to include stencils, portraiture and sophisticated stuff–especially when you consider it's usually being done in a short time, with a spray can in the dark.

There are turf wars and beefs between "artists" which can include throwing up a "block buster" or "roller". Gallons of cheap paint are rolled on in block letters to cover a wall with two contrasting colors, often just to block someone else from using the wall. And in extreme cases, one artist will hit another's piece with a "throw up" to cover it. The world of the graffiti artist is arcane and tied to the world of the street in a lot of cases. There is hidden subtext that the ordinary mortal won't ever ge, which is part of its clubby charm to the those in the genre.

So here's the thing. I have a "beef" with the twits who come along with their skinny cans of black and red paint and just spray like tomcats, because they can and all they are doing really is marking their territory with their asses.

I do however, respect the crews/artists who do the stunningly beautiful and well thought out stuff I run into occaisonally. I have found amazing graffiti in strange places: a tiny town in Montana and, a back alley in Olympia–which was executed by an astonishing artist who has gone on to fame and fortune who shall remain nameless. But let me tell you, his spray paintings of the major food groups in Olympia alleyways is the stuff of legend. Behind our apartment building we had a beautiful graffiti piece of  a stack of pancakes on a blue plate, 10 feet tall. Now that was art.

Today, I was roaming around in downtown Tacoma. An odd city that one; it has the Hilltop neighborhood full of Crips, Bloods, gangs, crime, violence, you name it–and then a couple of miles away you'll find blocks of gigantic piles of mansions and very upscale old houses, it looks like someone uprooted Pasadena's nicest neighborhood and tossed it on the hills above Commencement Bay.

Cocktail

Tacoma was dying on the vine until a few years ago. It had the Port, which kept it barely alive, a couple of universities and hospitals and a rapidly dying core fully of seedy bars and scary homeless people. I'm not sure what happened, but when I started taking a metal smithing class and wandering around in Tacoma I was astonished. This city is in the throes of reinventing itself and it is awesome to watch.

IMG_1095

But I digress, what Tacoma has that is really cool and apparently keeps it in a non-stop fight with the city fathers and mothers, is the Graffiti Garages. Three big parking garages with some of the best urban taggers and artists around splattering stuff all over the walls. Beautiful, colorful, intricate and sophisticated stuff.  I did discover while trying to photograph and edit it, that all spray painted graffiti has soft edges, try sharpening that up Adobe users, ha ha! And of course the tomcats and their tiny cans have been littering the place with their idiot attempts at their names. Can they even spell? I wonder.

 The garages were empty on this Sunday and I strolled through the first two, reeking somewhat of pee towards the back. Ah the homeless winos from Saturday night, gotta love 'em Sunday morning, but even so, the work was great and I hope hope hope the city fathers and mothers back off and appreciate the fact that this brightens and adds hipitude to an other wise really drab area on antique row. 

Graffiitt22

I'm guessing graffiti has now entered terminal hipness. The third garage was full of shirtless teen boys in pants way too tight and too short, apparently for a fashion shoot based on the cameras and sycophants accompanying the hipsters.

I have put a graffiti photo album in Running Rabbit: Art and Madness for your edification. Check it out, I'm jealous of their use of color but I promise I won't come and spray paint your house while you're asleep.

Rabbit Reports: Goodwill and Guns

Schlepping around my local Goodwill in an upscale end of town where we have very few gangstas, and those are mostly wannabes, I was interested to hear the following nuggets while I perused the salt shake collection. "Oh child, since the Incident he carrying alla time. You know, sawed off shotgun, AK47, two pistols", this overheard from a loud large lady wearing a bluetooth headset and too many braids. I would have loved to know what the hell she was driving so I could call the cops.

Creepy

Creepy Goodwillclown with a Robert Simmons Pottery dog which I acquired. Not the clown, just the dog!
 

I mean really, this lady's relative is rolling around Olympia, Washington, a medium-sized town with a carload of GUNS! And she is so Joe Cool over it. I'm sorry sweetie, in my little old lady world, you don't have to worry about pulling up at a stop sign and getting your head blown off if you smile wrong.

I know I'm not paranoid because I didn't follow her and I didn't call the cops. I'm just hoping her moronic family will follow the self-cleaning oven rule and just shoot each other. What makes this so chilling is this was the MOTHER of the tribe talking about many large guns like they were bags of clothes from the mall!

So here's the thing, am I an apathetic slob because I listened in to her broadcast phone convo and didn't do anything? Am I out of touch for minding my own biz?

I'm not sure what I think from a moral standpoint except that I must be both shallow and focused because I spotted 3 crystal saltshakers I needed for a project in the next row and completely forgot about the harpy two aisles over.

And I thought clown dolls in Goodwill were the creepiest entertainment!

Dance!

Duke 
Drying my hair and getting dressed this morning. Computer is playing a list of oldies on my really good 'old speakers' with some heft, some bass and some serious presence. The Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler comes on.

 Flashback. 9th grade. In the girls locker room at lunchtime. A small red record player, one of those portable ones that buckles closed like a little suitcase is on one of the benches playing a 45 rpm record. The Duke of Earl sung by Gene Chandler. A group of black girls is dancing to it, we all join in, copying their moves rocking between the lockers. Dirty dancing in the dressing room, back then you couldn't do those kinds of moves in public,  God forbid! But it made so much more sense to dance to rock and roll That Way instead of the white upright uptight way we practiced at heavily chaperoned dances. I've never forgotten that moment and that song, both inextricably linked in a moment of pure animal joy.

Rabbit is Resistant

Beggar

I am feeling so downed by the endless gray skies. It feels like its been raining forever. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years and I know the gray is coming. I just didn't except it so early. I have come to count on indian summer into October to carry me through the first two gray months. Most peculiarly this year it has rained and rained and rained. We don't usually get endless drenching rains, here in Washington we get sullen skies and the expectation of rain. Last week it was hot and wet which is really odd, but now the weather has degraded to first-of-fall chill. I actually had the heater on yesterday, both in the house and the studio.  
 

You would think it would drive happily straight into the studio but no, its making me want to curl up with a book and a blanket and bad movies on teevee. I am having to absolutely flog myself to get to work on a huge pile of projects. The scariest one is the Christmas tree for the Christmas Forest which is a huge fundraiser for Providence St Peter Hospital folks. I got tapped very late to take on a tree which is sponsored by another Christmas Forest virgin, they don't know anymore than I do. Yes, I can certainly decorate a Christmas tree but this one is going to get auctioned to the highest bidder. Some of the trees go for thousands and thousands of dollars and the terror is mine will be woefully short of the mark.

I understand there is an expectation that I will run out and pound on doors to get presents to put under the the but let me tell you, the sheer size of the project and the fact that I'm feeling my way down the path  is going to keep me from knocking on merchant's doors. I'm an artist not a fund raiser. The group sponsoring the tree has a mission this year of providing clean water so I'm trying really hard to figure out how to mix in the idea of water with my theme of a Green Green Tree. I am creating repurposed ornaments for the most part. A couple of hundred of them by the time I'm done. I am so hoping my colleagues at Matter will jump on board and donate some ornaments or things to put under the tree before its auctioned.  I need to get time to paint three or four small canvases or at least do a big metal piece, but the looming deadline has me out of my comfort zone.

I'm using a lot of tiny old glass single serving creamers I found in Montana a few years ago, I knew I bought those things for a reason–and with a $385 budget to pull off this whole thing, I can use all the help I can get from my stash. I am planning to fill them with glitter and a Christmas picture like tiny snow globes.

That's a start, and then there is the jewelry that is positively singing to me from down the room. Two new pieces are waiting for me: Rhiannon and Gwennlaise, just need to get my mojo up and hit it.

I know I'm depressed because I got a new printer that will let me do transfers and I haven't already done 50 of them!

And there is the painting for the city that requires 80 pounds of paperwork to compete. That whole mess is looming as well the want to get another three animal portrait piece done. This one is long owed and needs to be done.

So, enough to do and like my Ozark granny always said, "You can only unravel a complication by starting at the end of the string."  Time to find the end of the string.

Rabbit is confused–Old Barbie to new Barbie

http://barbiebarista.blogspot.com/2006/01/beach-pix.html

I cannot for the life of me figure out what my old email and password were–2006 or so, so these are elderly Barbie entries to say the least. And if you go to my profile from this blogspot by clicking on it you can read my own Rox posts which are linked too.

I think–at any rate from here you should be able to partake in the old Barbie Barista Tourista travels blog which was so much fun I have had to dig Barbie out of mothballs and launch her  new and better blog  http://barbiebaristaworld.blogspot.com/

Stay tuned because when I go, so does Barbie and that girl has attitude!Partya

Rabbit Readjusts the World

After I finished the household cleaning frenzy, I forced myself to finish the big painting (30X40 is huge) that was at the eternal 98% done. Its hard when I lose my forward momentum to go back and finish. The trip to Oregon derailed my train but, potentially the break was good because I was able to look with less passion and a colder eye at what Dog Days needed to finish it. Its drying now, finally, so it can be varnished and then hopefully get sold soon.

IMG_0007

I'm in the middle of a metalsmithing class and I am insanely happy about it. I am absolutely cranked up to try all kinds of new things. I've started making notes and drawings in my sketchbook already and phase two of the frenzy was to attack the studio and do a heavy duty rearrangement of it so I could set up a really good work area for metalsmithing. That would be work in silver, copper and brass which I am looking forward to combining with my found objects and kicking it to the next level.

Of course, with a HUGE project looming, the Christmas Forest tree and the decor of said tree I am feeling a bit stressed over all things artful.  More on the tree next time, its a pretty big deal and panic will set in very soon, but I do think the metalsmithing class will be an enormous help in the very near future with  mastery of some new tools and technicques.

So here I am schizophrenic again, painting-which I love. Necklaces and jewelry building, which I also love, metal work and glass and then photography. I picked up a new little printer for the studio. INK JET! This means I can actually do what are called "transfers" and put them on stuff. The big Epson is in the house and doing its photo duty as needed. So much to do so little time.

Full time artist means a 60 hour or more week but its all good working for me. Means I can fit naps in too (wink wink). The studio is almost re-finished with room now for a pickle pot, used to remove firescale, space to use two torches and not burn down me or the studio and a bench block is forthcoming.

 No more cleaning for awhile I hope.  Except that winter is coming and the garden will need to be dismantled soon. I'm ignoring it and hoping we get indian summer instead of the current horribly soggy depressing weather.

I think I need a nap…

Rabbit Cleans House

One of those days, when I want to be in the studio painting but when I looked around the house, I realized I could not avoid the fact that it will be soon rotting off the foundations if I don't stop and clean it. I was whipped after coming home from a trip and hitting class the same night so it slid out of control and I didn't care until today. It's my American Protestant Guilt at work, and although I'm no contender for Hoarder on teevee, I come from a long line of crap hoarders and hangers on to empty cardboard boxes. If you have these people in your family line you need to be very vigilant about what goes and what stays and why? I've noticed the hoarders always have some compelling reason for crap-clinging, they just can't see trash as trash. Could I become my sister? My mom? Quick let me throw out a few more things! 

As an artist involved in a ton of different media and trying to minimize my carbon footprint by repurposing Stuff, I tend to accrue Stuff. I also try really hard to get it organized and where it belongs ASAP and keep it there. My house is busy visually, but it pleases me. My eyes and heart get inspiration from the things I have here in my 'nest'. A lot of them move on out and into other lives with time.

DSCF3950
Mexican wooden animals and Round Things, love dustfree glass cabinets!

I purposefully chose a small house, 900 square feet, because I would have to be careful about what fit and what didn't. The rule is something comes in and something goes out. That even includes books. I love, love, love books and if I had a spare room it would be lined with bookshelves and books. Given my rule, it means I have to self-edit and my books have devolved into a few keep categories. My office has a wall of art books, my living room has a wall of travel books, food books–including cooking and reading about cooking, poetry and children's books. A basket catches all the finished books destined for trading in on other books or sharing with friends.

DSCF3953
round things, love these lit up in a 4 foot tall glass jar.

In a small house you can't just hide piles of stuff. It all shows. The upside is it takes less time to clean–even with all the stuff I have, like my collection of wind up toys, collection of rabbits, collection of carved masks, collection of Mexican animals, collections of round things, interesting saucers, and old cool metal stuff. What can I say? I was born to collect, I think I'm dealing with ADD by organizing the hell out of everything and putting my family's genetic predisposition to be scattered to work for me.

 As a working artist art is my life and my life is art. I couldn't separate the two if I wanted. I always marvel at people who say, "I'm going to paint (when…fill in the blanks)." I couldn't stop making work if I wanted to, its been a compulsion my entire life and I hope it always will be. I'm sure it makes me quirky but I like me just fine and my dear hubs puts up with my collecting of Things and Stuff.

DSCF3951
One of my yellow dog paintings keeping company with my mask collection

Today, the jumble became annoying, and my house signaled that it needed my attention so the day has been occupied with dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, washing, the myriad details that leak into one another like raindrops off a roof. I'm almost there. I can see the clean finish line, but then again, I've been dangerously thinking of metal smithing and how to derange the studio into a better set up for working in metal.

But for now, let me tender one important piece of advice from an artist who has to stay organized to succeed. Pick stuff up and put it away as soon as you are done with it. From coffee cups to clothes, paintbrushes to broken glass, if you put it back/away/deal with it, life is so much better especially when you go to look for it again.

Tomorrow really is a studio day, there is a big painting waiting for me to finish and I cannot hardly wait to get busy on it. Okay, where did I put that dustcloth….

Rabbit Rides: Back in the Work Saddle Again

Back in the saddle again. The sun is gone and I am home after my epic runaway weekend in Oregon. The studio and the Great Big Painting await me. I'm always about half afraid to go back and look at a mostly finished piece a few days later. What if it isn't as good as I think it is? Yes, that has happened along with a bout of what was I thinking!

I have about 300 photos to edit. I'm not sure whether to curse or bless digital imaging. It wears out my eyes but it sure does save on the developing in both time and control–let alone cost! I like having the control over editing my pix. Seldom is there a photo that cannot be improved by judicious cropping and balancing the color, and of course there is artistic license too.

Barbfoot

 Why so many photos? If you paint or draw its wonderful to have an archive of your own work as photo reference for starters. No one will sue you for stealing their image if it belongs to you in the first place. Another piece of advice for casual photographers: invest in a hard drive that is separate from your computer and stash your pictures there. Number one pictures eat space on you hard drive and number two, if your computer crashes your photos of Aunt Stella and your cousin Fred at the forest fire will be nice and safe.

The most exciting thing I've done recently was not  a road trip it was getting back from one in time to make my first metalsmithing class. I am thrilled to the soles of my shoes. Excellent instructor and venue in Tacoma, WA. I learned so much last night and I have a lot of the tools already and use them in my current work. I've been feeling frustrated and like I'm ready for the next bump up to a new level. I've been jonesing for metal classes and Eureka! I have found them!  In October I'm going to a day of lampworking for beads, something I have been dying to do since I visited Moon Marble in Kansas a few years back.

So, saddle up rabbit we have miles to paint before we sleep.

I came south this weekend for the sunshine. Three days of being focused in the studio on painting kept me from noticing the gray days. Still warm out, but fall seems to be creeping in early. Even with a chunk of the "Dog Days" painting unfinished and the whole needing a polish it was time to fly south for a few days.

Thirty miles from home I found the sun and put the top down on the Mini Cooper. Six-and-a-half hours of wind,sunshine and IPod music later I arrived at my friend Pam's house in Medford, Oregon. Medford seems to be the servant to beautiful upscale old school Ashland, ten miles down the road. I love it here, surrounded by green mountains and with the same weather as inland northern California.

Yesterday we had a Mini mini road trip and headed over the Redwoods. Nice traveling with a local girl, we avoided freeways and wound through beautiful country including a stretch of road aptly named the narrows. It should also have "the curves" added to its moniker. What a road for motorcycles! Through Cave Point into California and past the bored Vegetable Police (what a horrible job that, "Do you have any fruits or vegetables all day long?" One has to wonder what they did to be punished that way. On past Gasquet (not gasket but gaskee, it sill amuses me) to a sharp left turn and the back end of the Jedediah Smith National Park/Reserve. Who knew a dirt road could take you deep into the Redwoods? The grove we visited was called Stout Grove, and hilariously enough it was given to the park as a memorial to a dead lumber baron. Great, 40 acres of the trees he tried to demolish stand forever in his memory.

The grove was beautiful. Mosquitoes yes, but the trees made up for the minor annoyance. We could hear the Smith river off to one side rushing through its rocky bed, but it was so quiet in the woods, only birdsong in our ears. No cars, very few people and no noisy screaming children tearing through the place at all. I do love places that are un-touristed. September is a phenomenal time to travel, everyone back in school, weather still good-today's tip. I shot about 150 photos that will have to be edited to find the ten good ones, God bless digital photography….and we headed out of the forest and down the hill to the Pacific in Crescent Beach.

Down highway 101 I saw fishing boats in the harbor and on impulse made a right into the parking lot. Bingo. Tuna boats had just arrived and were cleaning fish to the utter delight of a pack of seals who begged in the water like big tame dogs. One seal got in a fight with seagulls over the same tidbit which was fun to watch. Feral cats were hiding in the bushes scampering away at the approach of humans, and wisps of mist were rising when we left and headed north to find a beach. Del Norte county had a nice long empty beach and we wandered down to watch the sunset and the waves. Emptiest beach I ever saw, of both people and things. A few rocks, no shells and only three humans building a sand citadel down the way. Pelicans were heading south to their rookery for the night, on a sea stack down the way and we watched them dip into the waves and sail past as we basked in the buttery sunshine.

We ate our dinner of tuna salad sandwiches at a picnic table on the headland, sharing the remnants with gulls before we hit the road for a two and a half hour drive home,  capped by the sight of a big fire on Blackwell hill just a few miles away from Pam's house.

Today, thrift stores, and calling in at emporiums that might handle my jewelry down this way. Another fine day of sun and friend time before I have to head home again tomorrow morning and back to the easel and several hours of photo editing. Life is good.