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I’ve been a bundle of nerves lately. I am due to give my first ever conference presentation in 3 short weeks at a major conference in the US. Public speaking is still (even after teaching and several presentations to the department) about my least favorite thing to do on earth, and there are likely to be a lot of really really smart people who know an awful lot about my field (much more than me!) in my audience and I’m bricking it a bit, truth be told. I’m sure it’ll be fine; it’s only 15 minutes of my life, so even if it’s terrible, it’ll be over relatively quickly, right? As my mother always says, it’ll probably be horrible, but in a completely different way than I’m expecting, so why bother worrying? And afterwards I get to go see my family, who I haven’t seen in over a year, which I am really looking forward to. But for now, the presentation is kind of looming over me like a big scary cloud. I’ve also noticed people pinning pumpkin recipes on Pinterest lately. Stop it, people! Autumn can’t be right around the corner! That means my PhD thesis submission date and viva are looming as well! :-/

Inspired by the looming dread that will hover over me for the entirety of the rest of this year, I’m sure, I did a little drawing/watercolor the other day. It reminded me of a poem I wrote (don’t laugh!) back in my oh-so-gothic undergrad years, as a sort of dark twist on Emily Dickinson’s Hope is the thing with feathers poem. I’m an Eeyore, I am! 😉

hope is the thing with feathers all right…
——————————————————

oh em,
you said once
“hope is the thing with feathers”
and i agree;
but the song it sings isn’t sweet

it’s a dirge, a death knell

and it doesn’t perch
all cute and perky with dewy eyes

it hovers and lurks
circling high in a sick sweaty sky
waiting
just waiting
for something to die.

copyright 2000ish? by GothicGenevieve’sTorturedSoul

Dread

Dread

Vintage Vote poster by Obey

Vintage Vote poster by Obey

I’ve only done one other ‘political’ post before (about Aberdonian politics) which proved popular actually, but it isn’t what this blog was created for, so I want to keep it to a minimum.  However, I feel strongly about the upcoming US election and felt I wanted to say something about it before people go to the polls.

Just to give some context to where I’m coming from, I had a very multi-national upbringing.  My father is Hungarian, my mother American, my half-sister grew up in Germany, as did I for the first eight years of my life.  I have family members through marriage from Iran and Turkey and now Scotland, where I now live with my Scottish husband.  When we moved back to the US when I was just about 9 years old, I was really confused about my national identity.  I’d been taught some things about my American roots and spoke English (with a slight German accent apparently!), but having lived in Germany from infancy, I didn’t really feel American, although to be honest, I never quite felt German either.  When I was fresh off the boat in the US, going to school for the first time in the US school system, it felt odd and I felt like an outsider.  But I threw myself into it.  I remember memorizing the Pledge of Allegiance with my mom with enthusiasm, wanting so badly to fit in with my American classmates.  We moved to California (after brief stints in South Dakota and Colorado) after that, where I discovered that America is the melting pot it is purported to be.  Most of the kids I went to school with were first generation Americans, or had moved from other countries themselves.  I didn’t feel so odd anymore, so many of us were immigrants.  I once asked my dad if he felt like he stuck out – as I do here – every time he speaks with his accent.  He said no, because so many people in California have accents, it’s the norm.  As time went on, my identity as an American grew, but so did my identity as a citizen of the world.  We are all just people.  Boundaries are manmade and false.

That said, I love the US, and I’ve tried to defend it from some ignorant British anti-Americanism that I’ve come across since moving over here.  Being an expat once more in the UK has taught me to appreciate the little differences between cultures and geography.  There are things about the UK that are superior to the US (e.g., universal healthcare, better work/life balance, dairy products – seriously, people, the dairy in the UK is amazing…) , and there are things that the US does better (e.g., customer service, mixer taps, non-dry-crappy-cake, laundry equipment, Halloween…).  Sorry US & UK, but that’s the way it is. The grass is greener on both sides of the fence, but only in patches.  And although I no longer live in the US, and don’t have any immediate plans to return to live, my parents and other family members from my mom’s side are all still in the US, as are many friends.  I care what happens to them.

I’ll just admit right off the bat that I’m a firm Obama-supporter, and voted for him with my absentee ballot a few weeks ago.  If that makes you feel uncomfortable, read on.  I’m not the rabid liberal type – in fact, I used to be quite a lot more conservative than I am now – and my purpose with this post is not to try and convert you to my cause.  With one day to go before the polls open, most people’s minds will be made up really.  I’m appealing for restraint and sanity, to remember that we’re all Americans, that we’re all just people, and we’re all in it together.

This morning I watched the video that’s been floating around with Romney supporters in Ohio.  It’s pretty appalling, with some extreme ignorance on show.  But it also clearly was edited, and as we all should know by now, editing can make all the difference.  Yes, there are some morons out there supporting Romney, but perhaps this lefty media project purposely cut out the more logical-sounding Republicans.  So I had a look at the side bar to see if there was a similar project with Obama-supporters, and found this video of the same interviewer (who seems very Strong with the Force) interviewing more liberal people at Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity a couple years ago.  They sound almost as dumb.  The point being made by this interviewer is an important one that I wish more people would pay attention to.  There are a lot of people at these rallies because they just want to be a part of something, but they don’t want to do the work to actually inform themselves about any of the issues or facts that support them.  Romney’s camp has said that they don’t want to be bothered by fact checkers.  I’m not even going to dignify that with a comment, except to say that this kind of idiocy is rampant on both sides, the Republicans just seem to be a bit more blunt about this.  Many people vote based on nothing more than emotion and instinct, or a gut reaction to the candidate and the party they don’t like.  There are too many polarized red people and blue people.  Too many people taken in by spin and propaganda on both sides.  It’s not those people who are going to decide this election.  It’s the folk in the middle who are a bit more discerning.  There’re a lot of people making fun of undecided voters, but I can see how it could legitimately happen.  Someone might be fiscally conservative but believe that Romney will set women’s rights back by 50-100 years.  Or maybe vice versa, I don’t know.   Or someone who is ultimately really an Obama supporter but feels depressed and let down by their own high hopes last election, who can’t seem to get the energy up to care either way this time around.

I have one final message for my American friends ahead of this election before I shut up and let things be what they will be.  This election is incredibly important, and you can’t afford to just let this one slide and let other people decide one way or the other.  There are 2 Supreme Court justices nearing the end of their terms – the next president will likely majorly influence that branch of the government with their choice for many many years to come.  I have my own strong opinions of who is the better candidate, but that doesn’t matter just now. I just want to encourage every American to vote and express an opinion – people fought and died for that right, so make the most of it. And make sure that your opinion is based on facts.  Neither the liberal nor the conservative news agencies are telling you the whole truth.  Read and watch across the aisle, read sources from outside the US, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to face the opposition’s alien-seeming point of view. Play devil’s advocate. Try to get as good a picture of the whole truth and the global, long-term picture as you can. Try to sort the propaganda and rhetoric (and both sides are guilty of that!) from the kernels of truth hidden within, and then VOTE with your conscience. It’s the best any of us can do.

And now, commence nail biting…

I came across a simple little song the other day by Malcolm Middleton, one half of the now defunct Scottish band Arab Strap, called ‘Devil and the Angel’. (For those with sensitive ears, I should warn you there’s a little bit of swearing in this, but it’s super duper Scottish swearing, and therefore quite amusing ;))

It’s nothing fancy, but it’s about something that all artists except the super conceited can, I think, relate to. I certainly can. And that is the ever ongoing battle with self-confidence.

As I think anyone who’s been following this blog knows, I’ve got quite a few new things on the go just now, and honestly, I’m quite nervous about all of it. There are my first two art exhibitions coming up this summer, I’m attempting to finish a novel, and I start grad school in October after 9 years out of school. Self-confidence has never been my strong suit, but lately I’m struggling even more than usual.

For every artist (and indeed most people, but art is an introspective sort of field, so is particularly plagued I think) there are always two voices competing inside the mind – Middleton calls them the devil and the angel, which is apt, but I prefer to call them the Optimism and Pessimism Fairies. Now, there is a (rather interesting and entertaining) case to be made for pessimism, but in my case, it tends to be a paralytic, which is not ideal for getting anything done.

As the song above nicely demonstrates, the Pessimism Fairy whispers evil, nasty, cruel things into your ear about how you are the world’s most useless human being, in fact, that you only excel at being truly terrible at everything you put your hand to, and you might as well just give up, become a wino or jump off a cliff, and spare yourself further humiliation. The other, the Optimism Fairy, tries to buck you up and feebly pipes up in the background going, ‘Don’t listen! Lalalalaa, we can’t hear you, Pessimism Fairy! You have some talent, you have brains, you have something to offer the world, however small.’ (She’s good buds with my Muse.)

And which do you believe? When there is a world just full to bursting with talented people – some infinitely more talented than you – who are struggling to get anyone at all to notice them? And what is this talent that I supposedly posses worth? I paint pretty pictures that hang on a wall and at the very most make someone smile, but at the worst, just clutter up space. I can write some words, but it will never be a classic or say anything terribly profound. I can do some psych studies on mental imagery and flow that are interesting but ultimately useless, practically speaking. I don’t save lives. Oscar Wilde said it best, ‘All art is useless.’ What kind of a pointless gift is this art talent, IF that’s even what it is?

And then I swing the other way. Art = civilisation; when art dies, a civilisation crumbles. For all the people calling it arty-farty frivolous nonsense, that I should buckle down and get a REAL job as a lawyer or an engineer or a ‘real’ scientist, they would miss it if all art was suddenly taken away, if all the slightly softer edges were taken off the world and all that was left was the stark, hard stuff. As Gandhi said, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”

I think I need a third fairy, the Realism Fairy.

Aberdeen

Aberdeen

First of all, forgive me: I know I started this blog to talk about my art. And in a way I am, but this will mainly be a rare political aside. I feel there should be a warning before I begin: the opinions expressed here are solely my own, please don’t blame the artwork if you see something you don’t like in this one solitary post. But of course, the art is the artist and vice versa. Perhaps I ought to start up a separate blog where I can get on my soapbox about non-art topics, but since I plan this to be a very rare occurence, it isn’t worth it, so you will have to endure this one aside about something that has been bothering me for some time.

It’s a sad lovesong of sorts to Aberdeen. That sounds really overly dramatic, but it’s true. I know Aberdeen never makes anyone’s top 10 list of places they want to visit or live, but having come to Aberdeen 6 years ago as an outsider who had hardly heard of Aberdeen before I moved there, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, the monochromatic colour scheme gets a bit tiring when the weather matches the buildings, but the architecture around the Castlegate area, the sunken Victorian garden in the centre of town, the cobblestoned Lilliputian villages of Fittie and Old Aberdeen, the wedding cake gothic frenzy that is Marischal, and the beaches… Aberdeen does have some real selling points.

Or it did. For my American and other non-local friends, I will attempt to summarize what has been happening in Aberdeen since I moved here. It is a list of disturbing and systematic destruction of many of the things I first loved about Aberdeen by the government and those with power and money (often times, one and the same thing).

First of all, Marischal College (where I used to work in the conservation lab) was taken over by the city council for their new headquarters. Mind you, their current headquarters were…… right across the street from Marischal. Literally. In a perfectly sound, if not particularly attractive, building. But they decided that the millions they were already facing in city debt wasn’t quite enough apparently, so instead they took on another major refurbishment project to the tune of at LEAST £80 million (MTA: apparently it came in at under budget at nearer “only” 65 million or so ) – this at a time when they are shutting schools and social programmes and even considering shutting ALL of the city’s parks due to budget problems. They gutted the building entirely, leaving only the Disneyfied, polished facade standing. To be fair, the interior of the majority of the building was going to ruin, so in a way they have preserved it, but only by ripping out all of the original fixtures and putting in modern glass and concrete and all the other bland, characterless office space features.

The second tragic property deal to befall the area was when Donald Trump decided he’d make a trip to his ancestral home of Scotland to bulldoze the Balmedie beaches with their stunning dunes (housing complex and unique ecosystems – the only ones left in the WORLD) and threatening to forcibly evict people from their long-standing homesteads to create a giant golf resort. Because, you know, that’s something Scotland just does not have enough of… The dunes of Balmedie were classed as SSIs, “sites of scientific interest”, and should theoretically therefore have been protected by the government. But something odd is happening there – the government are the very people who have turned around on their own laws of environmental protection and slapped Trump on the back like old cronies, done the secret masonic handshakes with him and said, ‘Sure, go ahead and tear down those dunes! Scotland needs more golf courses!’ Apparently it was because they were dazzled by promises of economic revival through creation of over a thousand jobs for the local populace, which now looks unlikely to materialise after all. The poor residents of Balmedie who were at first threatened with compulsory purchase orders and are now I guess “just” being harassed and pressured to leave have – bless them – been fighting tooth and nail to stay put. Sadly, though, given that the Scottish government is seemingly in bed with Trump, they aren’t winning (MTA: apparently the compulsory purchase orders aren’t going to happen now, thankfully, although there are other ways to make life unpleasant for the residents…). There’s a new documentary film, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ out about this travesty of a project, which I saw yesterday afternoon.


It was brilliant, but I left the theatre even more angry and scared than I already was by the gobsmackingly unbelieveable extent to which money and celebrity seems able to get around the law. It’s not that I’m against the golf course really (as unnecessary as I think it kind of is), just not on the dunes of Balmedie, and not if you have to bully and torment a whole neighbourhood of people out of their homes to manage it.

And then there’s UTG (Union Terrace Gardens). Ah, UTG… The issue of what will happen to the UTG has made it blatantly clear what the state of democracy is in this day and age, in this city. Union Terrace Gardens, the lovely, big sunken Victorian garden in the very heart of town was one of the things that really took my breath away when I first came to Aberdeen. I am a sucker for sunken gardens in general, but in a place like Aberdeen (which I like to lovingly call Gotham City), leeched of colour by the invariable granite of which all the buildings are built, the green centre is an incredibly necessary oasis of nature and colour. It was starting to get a little frayed around the edges and not used as much as it should have been, so a local art group came up with a plan to revitalise the area, by building an art centre into the side of the gardens. They raised all the money necessary for the building and had obtained planning permission. Suddenly, out of the blue, one of the local billionaire businessmen, Sir Ian Wood, threw a spanner in the works. He did not want an arts centre, or anything else that preserved the sunken garden, he wanted to level the whole thing to street level and build… a mall around a concrete piazza. Now, Aberdeen has… 5, yes 5! shopping centres in the city centre already. I’m not sure how much more a city really needs, especially since the existing ones don’t look all that well attended when I’ve been there… Wood pledged to donate £50 million of his own money to the project (with the rest of the £140 million to be paid by the taxpayers of Aberdeen…), and thus began a fight over what to do – the art centre or the city square (meanwhile time was running out on the funding for the art centre – it was eventually stalled long enough that the art centre lost their funding). Long story short, they held a vote of the people. 55% voted against Ian Wood’s city square project. Aaaaaand… the city council and the various groups involved in lobbying for the city square project decided they’d ignore the majority of people who said they were opposed, and do it anyway. Ah, democracy… I just came across a post on a blog I sometimes read describing a third option for how to keep the gardens but revitalise the city centre. It’s well written and worth a read, and it got me thinking, yet again, about something that’s been bothering me in general, and which I find bothers me in general about what has been happening in Aberdeen, and indeed the world.

I am not a religious person, but I am bothered more and more by people who seem to worship at the temple of money above all things; I would rather that they take up some Bible-thumping fundamentalist sect religion, quite frankly, at least it might teach them some scruples. I realise a certain amount of money is necessary to comfort and happiness – a decent living. But people seem to be running themselves ragged just to make enough to get the latest gizmos, and whatever the Joneses next door have, and those with money seem able to do anything they please, no holds barred. My soon-to-be masters/PhD thesis topic is on ‘flow’ which is about the ‘good life’ – living in such a way that you enjoy what you do intensely, something that enriches your life, the lives of others, and which is about the thing, the activity itself, not the profit to be turned from it. But I feel many people see this topic and think I’m being too idealistic, too soft, too bleeding-heart-liberal touchy-feely new-agey or something.

After all, everyone wants to be rich, right? Money is king, money is why we get up in the morning and drag ourselves to our jobs, no matter how tedious and soul-sucking they may be. So we can have the latest iPad gadget thingummy, the flashest car, designer bags and a plastic nose just like Nicole Kidman’s… That’s all that can be expected or wanted from life, right? To get so rich and bloated that all you have to do is sit on a beach lounger all day on some beach somewhere (not Balmedie though, even if the weather were warmer…), playing Angry Birds and watching your stocks in Donald Trump’s toupee company rise on the NASDAQ or whatever. Nevermind nature, it always seems to find a way to bounce back from the myriad ways we mistreat it, right? And never mind history, it’s old and boring and so 10 minutes ago. Why bother preserving, saving, making the most of what we already have when we can have a new glitzy headquarters, a golf club, or yet another mall? Because what would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have shopping, golf and gadgets, right?

So yes, I used to love Aberdeen. But whereas I once thought, naively, that all that oil money might be spent on things like a more beautiful city, with parks and art and culture, it turns out that all the rich people of Aberdeen seem to want is to shop and play golf. I painted the above painting when I started to realise that about this city. For a long time I defended Aberdeen when people maligned it as the poor third cousin of Scotland, lonely and grey and boring up at the NE corner of the island, a place no one would bother to go if they could help it. But I honestly think that as soon as I can, I am going to move somewhere else, where people value some culture and creativity a bit more…if such a thing still exists in our modern age. The oil tycoons seem to be labouring under some strange misconception that the reason people don’t come to Aberdeen is because there’s just not enough golf or shopping. We have plenty of these; what we’re lacking is a viable art scene and an environment where culture is fostered. The oil that made this city rich has not made it more beautiful or more cultured, it has made it more and more grey and uniform, in a way that has nothing to do with all the granite.

So why don’t I get more involved? Why am I this armchair activist? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past few days. I joined all the Facebook groups for the UTG campaign, I even wrote to MSPs and signed petitions. But whenever there were marches or protests or events, I didn’t bother turning up, because ultimately the pessimist in me feels it’s hopeless. I fear it will take an uprising far greater than a tame, peaceful protest to make any kind of change these days, but the pacifist in me can’t really get too eager for guillotines either. I just wish something would open the eyes and shame the people who currently are turning their backs on their principles and decency for the sake of money and make a change in the way people see things. Aberdeen could be so much more, but it’s becoming a corrupt, hopeless, even more colourless place to live. It may ‘just’ be buildings and urban development at stake here in Aberdeen for the moment, but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about the rich controlling our governments for their own means and steamrolling over democracy, and it’s the beginning signs of something by which we should all be very very frightened and angered.

P.S. If you feel you want to help with the Trump thing, one thing you could do is to donate to the ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ filmmaker’s crowd funding campaign to take the film to New York. The filmmaker Anthony Baxter apparently remortgaged his house in order to make the film, as it was mostly self-funded, so any help you can give the man to get it some publicity would be great. It’s a really powerful film I think everyone should see, even if they don’t care about the boondocks of Aberdeen specifically (MTA: The crowd-funding campaign was a success! Anthony Baxter has gone to New York, and there is a showing at the IFC Center on July 7th – if you’re in the area, please go! And spread the word!). While you’re at it, rent ‘Capitalism: A Love Story‘, Michael Moore’s latest. It’s a great film in a similar vein, important for all to see.

Yesterday was my last day at the art therapy gig where I’ve been volunteering for over a year. Partly this was because of work commitments changing, but honestly, I had, after a lot of soul-searching and struggling, finally come to the conclusion that art therapy was not the right career path for me (as much as I wanted it to be), and it had run its course for me. Saying goodbye to some of the people there that I’d gotten to know over the year was sad and I will miss them, but it was most definitely time to move on.

I took with me my folder of work that I’d done in the course of the year (the volunteers did art too). In looking over them today I discovered that I must have left some of them behind somewhere in the room, which does make me a bit sad, but one of the things that art therapy taught me as an artist is not to get too attached to your work. Yes, the point of art therapy is partly that your artwork is an extension of your thoughts and feelings and therefore deeply personal, but at the same time, the art therapy environment is one that fosters experimentation, anything-goes openness, so a lot of the work I did was just to try out media and shapes and ideas, and were not meant as masterpieces or serious ‘works of art’ and therefore less precious in the long run. I do wish I had some pictures of some of them though.

So here’s a collage I put together of the ones I do have, so I could see all the works side by side. I notice some common themes – peacocks, volcanoes, swirls and circles. I’m sure there are some deep Freudian things to be said about those – but I am definitely not a Freudian, hence my inability to be an art therapist, apparently… The heavy emphasis on psychoanalysis was a stumbling block for me that I just couldn’t get over – I take a much more person-centred and maybe an occupational therapist’s sort of view of AT. For me, the symbolism and insights have to come from the artist, not from the therapist. And for me, the process of doing is just as, if not even more important, than what the artwork says about someone’s inner psyche. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all. So yes, not meant for art therapy, apparently. But it was a good experience and I learned some things about myself and other people and art itself.

Feel free to psychoanalyse my work, btw, I’d be interested to hear what people think these say about me, even if I may have different ideas… 😉

A year of art therapy

A year of art therapy

I recently blundered rather serendipitously into (probably) doing an MSc in psychology starting next September. I found a researcher at the University of Edinburgh doing research on a topic similar to a positive psychology concept I have always found incredibly fascinating, ever since my undergraduate psych days at Berkeley: flow. I wrote to her and she said she’d be happy to supervise an MSc student on a project relating her topic and flow, so, suddenly I have the fantastic opportunity to study this topic I’ve always wanted to study! I’m still not so sure about all the public speaking involved in academia, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there 😉 .

It surprises me, from my everyday conversations with friends and family, how few people have heard of ‘flow’ before, though I think it is an incredibly important and fascinating topic that is vital to our human understanding of how to achieve happiness – especially now, when everyone is so jaded and disillusioned and despite more and more wealth and more and more progress in technology and gadgetry, people are no more happy than they were in the past, without all this wealth and convenience. It’s true that you can’t buy happiness, and you don’t get it from staring at a screen mindlessly, either. Take that, iPad and Reality TV! 😉 When I’ve explained flow to people – that it’s that sense of profound happiness and pleasure you get from doing something you’re good at, and you lose track of time and feel like you’re outside your own body – everyone suddenly knows what it is, because it’s something we’ve all experienced, at some point(s) in our lives.

The term was coined by the pioneering Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi decades ago. The ‘flow’ state happens when your skill level and the challenge level of the activity you are doing are both high. If your skill does not match the challenge level, either boredom or anxiety/frustration occur. Flow is the perfect harmony between the two. So, you see, to achieve that ‘optimal experience’ level, you have to actually be actively doing something challenging. That is the crux: joy does not come of passively sitting doing nothing, always going for the easy option, it comes of effort. It’s possibly not what people want to hear, but it’s the truth, and if you sit and think about all the times in your life when you’ve been most happy, it’s likely you’ll find it was when you were doing something slightly difficult.

For me, that happens when I’m creating: painting, writing, crocheting, cooking. I love the feeling that I am putting something into the world that wasn’t there before, that it is something that could not have happened if I had not made it happen, given my personal experiences, my hard-learned skills, my unique way of ordering paint, words, spices, whatever. For others, it happens when they are doing sports, working on a difficult problem, playing an instrument, and so on and so on. It can happen during leisure and it can happen during work hours, and it’s wonderful when it happens.

I should also add that my undergrad honors thesis was on attention in hobby activities. In the course of doing a lit search for that study, I came across a study where they taught basic meditation to a group of people in an old folks’ home. There was also a control group that did not meditate. What was fascinating about that study was that the group that learned to meditate and did so for about 15 minutes a day for a certain length of time (can’t remember now, but wasn’t all that long) actually lived significantly longer than the control group. A very powerful example of how changing consciousness can have incredible effects on health and longevity! I think stress levels play a bigger role in health than people give it credit for, and I think flow is an important state of consciousness that reduces stress powerfully, just as meditation does. So it’s definitely worth studying further, and worth trying to foster it in daily life.

So do something you love today and keep on challenging yourselves!

I am homesick. It’s part and parcel of the whole expat experience, though luckily with time it’s become less frequent. I love Scotland – witness my previous patriotic entry – but sometimes I miss being somewhere where I don’t stick out like a sore thumb every time I open my mouth, where the weather is still summery, where the words aren’t littered with unnecessary u’s, the Mexican food is good and sourdough bread is widely available and divine, the land of moist cake, mixer taps and good dryers!! (Whew. I needed that rant. 😉 ) And of course it’s where my parents are. It will always be home, even if I’m comfortably settled in the UK, which I am.

I’ve had a picture in my inspiration folder for a while now from some other time when I was pining for the fjor… I mean, Bay Area. It caught my attention because it is a picture of the Zoetrope building in San Francisco, which is my favorite building in SF, which is in North Beach, my favorite part of SF, and super duper colorful. I’ll give credit where it’s due, the reference photo is an amazing photo by Robin Godfrey.

I started painting it in acrylic on canvas a while ago, but I haven’t been happy with it and it’s stood unfinished for a long time now. So today I looked at it again, sighed wistfully and wished I was in California, and then thought, hey! Why not try out my new favorite things in the world – my watercolor pencils – instead?

So I did. And I like the result. I think I’ll scrap the acrylic painting and use the canvas for something else.

Zoetrope

Zoetrope

Please note, I will sell this painting in exchange for a loaf of fresh, chunky San Francisco sourdough. I think I’d sell my soul for that right about now… *sigh*

I painted two new little ones today. One I can show you, the other is a secret for a little while longer (sssssh!) because it was painted as a birthday present for a friend… and she’ll probably read this and see she’s getting a painting, but she doesn’t know what it’s of at least, and there’s the rub! Stay tuned and I’ll upload a picture of the other one someday soon…

So, the non-secret painting is this one, another underwater scene:

Burning H20

Burning H20

I have so much cleanup to do now… ugh. I pulled out all my beads and embellishment materials and then hardly used any of them. I really wish artists automatically got issued with butlers or something to clean up after them and squeeze their paints for them (I hate squeezing paints for some reason. All the twisting of caps and trying to eke the last bit of paint out like you do with toothpaste. I just want to paint!) Yes, a butler would be ace. “Jeeves… more magenta please! Thank you kindly, Jeeves. You are a good man…” 😉

Find me on Folksy

I have officially opened shop on Folksy! (For those in the US, it’s the UK version of Etsy. I do plan on opening up an Etsy shop soon too, this is only the beginning!)

Well, it’s maybe not quite a grand opening yet, but I’ve listed five small original paintings for sale today! Can you tell I’m super excited? I am going to go bouncing off walls going, ‘Yip, Yip, Yip!’ any minute now. Well, no, not really. But it is sort of nerve-wracking when you push the ‘List Item’ button finally and realise it’s up there for the world to see now, and there’s the possibility that someone could buy them!

There was a little hiccup with the larger paintings I meant to put up as well because the box I got for packaging turned out to be just ever so slightly too small, and I need to get the right packaging together to accurately estimate shipping costs. I am still a bit flummoxed by how to figure out shipping if someone buys more than one item, but I’ll cross that bridge IF I ever get to it, I think.

I have found an apparently good UK-based online printer that can do giclee prints for me as well, so I will be sending them a CD of my scans soon and get some test prints done, and then I’ll hopefully be able to offer some prints as well! Wow.

It was definitely strange to see my paintings up there on the front page of the art section with all the other sellers…

Anyway, that is my news for the day. Nothing may come of it, but it feels good to be doing this anyway. I’ve come a long way already since I made my New Year’s Resolution in December of last year to get my mojo back and get crackin’ with promoting my art. I’m just so grateful and glad and relieved that my resolution is actually being lived up to somewhat, instead of falling by the wayside like so many resolutions past.

I’m going through a bit of a low period and, as such, have been unable to get myself to do much of anything.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that there is a tendency for depression/psychosis and creativity to go hand-in-hand. As a profession, we apparently have a disproportionate number of suicides and drunks in our ranks (and before anyone asks, no, I am not threatening to become either, please don’t worry). It’s all part and parcel of being creative, apparently, and according to this article, evolution is to blame: being slightly depressed or otherwise disturbed makes us artsy types delightfully kooky and windswept and interesting enough to think outside the box and do new and wacky things. Or it just makes us sit still and be keenly observant of our surroundings and inner psyche. So in small doses, it is an advantage. In large doses, it’s crippling and in the case of many famous artists, it’s been devastating…

I am, unfortunately, not immune from this curse of the artistic and am somewhere in between on the depression spectrum most of the time (it’s nothing to really worry about, but it does make for some very very dry periods). Lately it’s been a bit more debilitating than other times, and try as I might, I have been unable to do anything: no writing, no painting, no cooking, no cleaning, no nada.

But guilt is a slight motivator and I did start a drawing. As I think I’ve said before, when I’m depressed, I draw. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s the lack of color, the sort of repetitive, solitary, focused nature of scribbling and working away at paper with a bit of graphite. It also takes less energy, which, when you’re feeling zapped of any get-up-and-go, is a godsend. I think the subject matter of this one kind of reflects how I’m feeling lately… tired. I would, if I could, sleep through life right about now. She isn’t what I was trying to make her at all. I had a sort of Mucha-like art nouveau type thing in mind with lots of swirls and embellishment, but I got too tired and gave up. She is how I am right now – sparse.

Sleep (WIP1)

Sleep (WIP1)

But today has been a little better than the last couple days and I’ve actually been able to do a few things, like write this, for instance.

And then I went into the kitchen and saw this strange sight from my kitchen window and it reminded me that after the rain, there are rainbows…

The Ship at the End of the Rainbow

The Ship at the End of the Rainbow

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