Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Garden Kitty The First

I went to a fancy garden in Federal Way and met a fancy garden kitty.

The garden is called 'Powells Wood Garden.'

The garden kitty ushered us around the well manicured grounds.

It felt like I had escaped for a moment in Alice in  Wonderland and the little orange kitty was going to lead us to a magical land.

But gardens are pretty magical on their own.

And so are cats.

And I am not the only one who thinks cats are magical.

Sailors, for instance, thought that cats could predict upcoming weather. Often there would be a little feline friend aboard working ships. The cat could curl up in a tired sailors lap as he looked at the endless sea and dreamed about his loved ones back on land. A sailor and a ship cat were bound to become friends, and a friend was bound to give good advice. Sailors believed that a cat that sneezed was predicting a thunderstorm, perhaps because the felines mighty sneeze resembled a miniature version of a thunder clap. A cat that groomed it's fur the opposite way it grew was predicting great icy bombardments from the sky in the form of either snow or hail. Sailors in general thought cats were good luck, especially a black cat. 

Cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt. Cats were associated with witches as familiars. Cats are thought to have the ability to see ghosts. Cats crossing your path is suppose to indicate luck, or lack there of. The world all around believes that cats are magical!


Monday, August 28, 2017

She Sells Seashells

When Marla was a young girl, she heard the tongue twister "she sell seashells down by the seashore" and was utterly inspired! Ever since, she wanted to be the titular 'she' of the tongue twister.

She learned about shells. She read books. She collected and examined. She kept shelled creatures as pets.

She traveled the world and collected shells. She wandered seashores. She dove into the water and searched on the ocean floor. She traded shiny coins for antique shells siting on the windowsills of widows.

When she had enough sells, she created a world of shells. She found an abandoned house right on the seashore. She coated glued shells onto every surface. She made furniture out of shells. She made sculptures of wild animals out of shells. She embroidered shells into blankets and vintage sundresses.
Every morning, Marla would open her doors wide. She turned on old records where strangers with warbling voices sung wistfully about the sea. People came to the seashore for the ocean, but they always stopped in to her shell world. They plucked shells from the ceilings and walls and paid her with money or stories or homemade pie. They rummaged through treasure troves of tiny shell sculptures and chose the figure that best represented their own heart. From her shell world, they brought home shell chairs to put in their ordinary kitchen back home, so they could remember how extraordinary the sea is and everything around the sea. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: The Lake and the Lost Girl

What is up with mystery books always having 'Girl' in the title? First I thought it was 'Gone Girl' that started this trend. That book, which is very good, was also wildly successful. It makes sense that other mystery writers (or more likely their publishers) would want to capitalize on that success by subtly (not so subtly?) referencing 'Gone Girl.' But then I realized, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' came before 'Gone Girl.' So maybe 'Gone Girl' was referencing 'the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.' Since those two novels, there have been a whole heap of other 'girl' mystery books: 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins, 'The Girl in the Ice' by Robert Byrndza, 'The Girl in the Blue Coat' By Monica Hesse, and 'All the Missing Girls' by Megan Miranda, just to name a few! The book I recently read 'The Lake and the Lost Girl' by Jacquelyn Vincenta jumps right upon the girl-trend train with it's title. This one definitely felt like the publisher made the author name her book this. It just doesn't go with the feeling of the rest of the book.

This book takes place in two eras: in the thirties and in the nineties. In the thirties, a beautiful young poet named Mary Stone Walker goes missing. Some think she was murdered while others think she made a new life for herself somewhere else and went on to keep writing. The characters from the nineties story line are Lydia Carroll and her husband Frank Carroll. The couple are connected to the young poet because of one Franks obsession with the poet. Both Frank and Lydia are fans of Walker's work, but Frank takes it to a whole new level. Lydia becomes worried about her husbands obsession as it is turning him into a bitter man disconnected with reality. She feels her only salvation for her marriage is to truly discover what happened to Mary Stone Walker.

This book was a good read! I was definitely wondering what happened to the poet and on the edge of my seat to find out. One thing that was frustrating about this book was having to read about the awful husbands. Mary Stone Walkers husband is just awful and abusive. Lydia's husband is awful too. Men are allowed to get away with different levels of awfulness depending on the era that they live. Both men treat their wife's in reprehensible ways, but in very different manners because of the social norms. If Frank was born is the thirties he would have probably treated Lydia the same way that Walkers husband treated her. But Frank Carroll is abusive in a different manner, a more insidious manner.

The novel has fun twists and reveals and overall is a enjoyable book (despite the frustration of reading about such awful men). Any fan of the mystery genre will enjoy the layers of mystery in 'The Lake and the Lost Girl.'

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Glass Museum and Glass Kings

I finally went to the Chihuly Glass Museum at the Seattle Center. 

It was a very colorful experience. 

This one looks like the sun or a flower or an alien creature or worm butts all at the same time.

The giant solarium with hanging red flowers was really cool. It looked like a nice place to go with a book if it wasn't always so crowded.

Sometimes I felt like I was in a Dr. Seuss book. The structures reminded me of illustrations of plants that Dr. Seuss would create. 

Glass is strange stuff. It is made when sand is melted at very hot temperatures. The first people to have invented glass were the Egyptians. There is so much sand in Egypt, they were surrounded by the right material for the creation of glass. Some theorize the first bits of glass created were made accidentally, a by product of metal work.
I am glad to live in a world of glass, because without glass, we would not have windows! What a sorrowful world indeed. Olden day people tried to get creative with ways to have windows while keeping out cold. They used light colored pebbles that would let a little light in even if they were not very translucent. They had shutters that they could at least open in the the summer. They used parchment or animal hide dipped in oil, so the parchment would become more translucent. People got pretty creative.
Once, a long time ago, there was a king who believed he was made out of glass. Instead of confronting his duties and displaying kingly acts of bravery, he would skulk away and hide in cupboards with the glasses and bowls, believing, like the items he hid with, he could easily break into pieces. In the dark of a cupboard, he would look down at his hand. The light streaming in from the cracks in the cupboard illuminated his skin. But he did not see a hand of flesh, he saw a hand of delicate glass.

The glass king was named Charles VI of France, and his father, the king before him, died when he was only an eleven year old boy.

Before the young king believed he was glass, he believed something else that compelled him to suddenly kill three of his knights during a hunting trip. Strong men who stood beside him with noble intentions to protect the king suddenly appeared as angry traitors in the kings rattled mind.

Maybe there was peace in his mind for a while after that. Surely everyone hoped it was just a one time thing.

But no.

He forgot his name.

His wife appeared as a stranger.

He believed he was a saint.

He ran wild in hallways, uninhibited by the expectations of kingly manners and consumed with a need to expel the energy of dread and disorientation beating in his chest.

Then, he refused to bathe. He didn't want to break. He was made of glass.

Once his kingdom called him Charles the Beloved, but soon, all he was was his own mental illness and he died as Charles the Mad.

King Charles may not have been understood, but he is not the lone human who believed he was made of glass. There are others who have believed the same thing. It is called 'The Glass Delusion.' It seems that the Glass Delusion was more common long ago, and for a while, reported cases stopped happening. But in modern days, more people have been cropping up with Glass Delusion. It's like, people believed they were strong and believed in their own realness, but the world is so restless right now, it starts to become easy to once again to believe you are glass.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Selene the Stranded

Here is a picture I made recently.

Selene was traveling via ship with her brother, a wise sailor along with a crew of other weary travelers. Everyone on the ship had heads full of dreams about the new lives they would lead when they got to their destination.

Selene was leaning against the ship, looking out to sea when a sea monster rose it's scaly head above the water. Selene was filled with utter shock and wonderment at the sight of the elegant monster. She leaned closer and reached toward the creature. Just as she was about to touch her finger tip to the top of his head, the monster slithered back into the sea. At the other side of the ship, a huge wave pelted against the wooden hull. The ship swayed and tilted and Selene lurched forward and plummeted down into the sea. She cried for help, but no one heard her. The sky above erupted in rain, the sea crashed over Selene and tugged at her as she waved her hands frantically. The sea carried her far, far away and eventually she found herself on a small rock island.

Selene spent days on the island. She was an optimistic person. She thought that surely someone would find her. But after several days of no signs of humanity, she could feel the thirst and hunger eat away at her optimism. Just at the moment that her despair was at it's greatest, a cormorant swooped from the sky and landed next to her. She kept crying, but as she cried, she began to transform. Her legs fused together and grew scales and fins. Her lungs reinvented themselves within her body. She didn't know it yet, but she was going to be okay. She would survive. She would realize what she had become, a mermaid, and she would dive into the sea.

She would spend the rest of her life as a mermaid. She wanted to transform back into a human. But she couldn't. She didn't know how she had transformed in the first place. She missed her brother. She missed the life she would have probably had as a human. But her life as a mermaid was beautiful in ways her life as a human never could have been. She experienced wonderment on a daily basis. She new the true meaning of adventure and discovery. In some ways she was so grateful for her transformation, because the transformation had guaranteed her life, even if it wasn't the life she always wanted. She wanted a husband a child. As a mermaid, she had never even met another mermaid. She wanted to read books, to climb trees, to go into homes of new friends. Instead she sang songs to the fish and sometimes when feeling brave, talked to the sailors on their ships.

She had no way to know she had become legend on land. The mermaid girl, friend to all sailor. She never lingered long with these sailors, in fear she would be captured and exploited.

Way back on land, her brother grew old, always with the guilt that he had lost his sister at sea. He could never go back to sea after that trip. He moved to the desert.

One day, when Selene's brother was an old man, he ran into a sailor friend traveling through his desert hometown. "I saw your sister." He said. "She is a mermaid!"

Selene's brother laughed, but every night after that for the rest of his life, he had dreams of his sister splashing through the sea with her long, shimmering tail fluttering behind her.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: Time Ginger by Julian Hanshaw

Tim Ginger by Julian Hanshaw was a book I picked up while rummaging the graphic novel section of the library. I was immediately drawn to the cover and also intrigued by the title as it is an interesting name for a character.

Tim Ginger is a story about a man's encounter with UFO's while as a pilot. He is so rattled and impacted by his experience, that he is moved to write a book about the experience. He wins the acclaim and admiration of those convinced that UFO's are real and their existence being covered by the government. But all of his fans that admire his bravery to write about his UFO experience does not mean his life is full of people. Tim Ginger is a very solitary man. He seems lonely, living alone in a trailer. But he was not always lonely. He once had a wife who he was madly in love with.

While Tim Ginger is on the book tour circuit, he runs into an old friend, and this reemergence of her in his life spurs on memories of his past. We learn about Tim Ginger and his wife and the deep connection they shared. Their connection began when they revealed to each other that neither one ever wanted children. It was a choice people in their life did not understand, but it was the choice best for them. One of the consequences of a childless marriage is that when your partner is gone, no part of them lives on in the form of a son or daughter. Even though the childless choice was the right one for Tim Ginger and his wife, he feels the devastation of this reality when his wife dies.

The story of Tim Ginger is about a man coping with loss and the difficultly of opening up again. Julian Hanshaw's beautiful illustration and poignant story telling techniques makes this graphic novel beautiful on many levels. I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Moth Visitor

My cats were very excited because we had a visitor....

A moth visitor!

There are few things as fascinating to a cat as a little fluttering, zig-zagging creature as your visitor.

He lived in our house for a couple of days before Mue Mue's intent interest in him made me worry for the little guy's safety.

Before let him free out doors, I observed him in a jar. It is neat to see insects up close!

I did some research and this moth is called Large Yellow Underwing, which isn't the snazziest name for a moth, but it is accurate.

I've always really liked moths. They are pretty little creatures.

Once, during my first week of college living in the dorms, I saw a huge moth emerge from the darkness outside and flutter outside the window, attracted by the glow of cheap fluorescent light. It was the biggest moth I've every seen. As big as my palm...even bigger. Other than its size, it was an average white moth. I opened the window and captured it in my hands. I excitedly showed the other people who were in the dorm with me. But they thought it was gross, so I released back outside and it went fluttering away.

When I was little, I had a couple of pet silkworms. I fed them mulberry leaves from my neighbors yard and watched them munch and spin cocoons. Eventually they emerged as moths and had to be released into the sky. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Silent Sonar Step Dance

Here is an illustration I did recently. 

The bat invites human bound souls to dance with him in the Silent Sonar Step Dance so that they can be released from their human cage and transformed into a more magnificent creature.

Myrla has long suffered as a human. In her heart she is a bird. She heard about the bat with transformative powers and sought him out one late winter afternoon.

She found him sliding on the icy lake. He was ice skating without ice skates. He was dancing by himself.

The bat saw Myrla and could tell by her hungry eyes that she longed to be free.

They danced together and Myrla was transformed.

When she woke up the next morning, she was a bird and she flew high into the air, up up up further than she thought possible! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

I love Southern Gothics. When I think of traditional Gothic novels, I think of Victorian novels such as 'Wuthering Heights', 'Great Expectations' or 'Dracula.' All of these take place in dreary Victorian England, a place full of fog, rain and soot. The atmosphere of the environment lends well to that dread of a Gothic narrative. But the South is a place of sunshine. I wouldn't imagine a place full of sunshine being such perfect settings for macabre stories. But the Southern Gothic stores I've read are some of he most delightfully unsettling and eerie works out there.

I first got interested in the genre after reading Flannery O'Connors short stories in 'Everything that Rises Must Converge.' O' Connor is a genius of creating completely unsettling works of fiction taking place in the South. I started reading 'Everything that Rises Must Converge' not knowing much about O'Connor. It was when I got to the story 'A View of the Woods' that I was jolted into recognition of what O'Connor was all about.

I've read other Southern Gothics since O'connor that have gripped my imagination and am eager to read more. When I saw Mr. Splitfoot at the library, it was described in one of the blurbs on the cover as a Southern Gothic, so this is why I decided to read it.

Mr. Splitfoot immediately grabbed my attention and transported me to the world of the book. The story encompasses many aspects of the Southern Gothic genre: decay in the south, poverty, absurd people and situations and an atmosphere of strangeness.

The story follows Ruth. Ruth grows up in a foster home, almost a part of a collection by the foster homes 'father' who only fosters those with something different about them. Ruth has a scar that goes down her entire face. The foster home is less of a home, and more of a religious cult. Ruth stays sane in this sad setting because of her strong friendship with her foster brother Nat. When Nat and Ruth are 17, they befriend a huckster and the three start a racket where Nat and Ruth speak to the dead. This leads them on a whirl wind journey where they encounter unsavory foes and learn sad truths.

The story takes place in two different time periods, the second being well after Ruth is a teenager, and follows the story of her grown niece who is recently pregnant. Ruth appears in her niece Cora's life and beckons her to accompany her on a long and meandering journey by foot. The end of the journey leads to a conclusion that Cora could never have expected!

This book was very engaging and unique. There were elements of mystery and the supernatural layered in this sad and delightful story. The characters felt rich and alive.

One of the main themes running through the book was that of outsiders. There were outsiders that tried to find ways to an inside by joining or creating cults, and by believing in the unbelievable to feel a little less alone. There were outsiders who reveled in their outsidedness by fleeing the burdens of the expected world, and by clinging to the comfort of their fellow outsider. One of the most interesting characters was Cora who was so willing to embrace her ousiderness, which in turn brought her closer to other people.

I definitely recommend this book. I can't wait to read more by Samantha Hunt!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Duck Park

There is a little park walking distance from my house that has a lake and lots of ducks. The little girl that lived in my house before I did called this place 'Duck Park' so I will continue with this tradition since the ducks are definitely the highlight of the park!

The ducks at Duck Park are all very accustomed to getting snacks from humans. Cars drive up to the park, people pile out with bags full of treats that they toss at the hungry ducks. So as soon as the ducks see someone peering at them with interest, they all start wading toward that interested person. First, a group of lady ducks swam my way and looked at with me with hopeful eyes. I had come unprepared. It was my first visit and I didn't realize the expectations that would be upon me.

After the lady ducks swam my way, some ducks further down in the lake saw some of their duck friends huddled around the shore, so they came my way also. One of the groups of ducks was a group of adolescent ducklings. One of the ducklings was quite feisty. He had a persistent friskiness I usually only attribute to cats or little, sparkly eyed dogs, but certainly not docile birds.

The little duckling swam up to the lady ducks and quacked at them with much ferocity. The lady ducks were startled at the little duck and his nerve. He was a gutsy little fellow, but also rude. He should learn to respect his elders, but alas, he respects his stomach most of all. He didn't want his stake on any treats being threatened by the presence of other ducks with an equal desire to eat. Unfortunately, lady ducks, feisty ducks, and adolescent ducklings were all left disappointed by my lack of offerings.

Little duckling proudly telling off lady ducks

While at duck park, I also spotted this very unusual duck. I looked in my bird book to find out what type of duck this is. The closest I could find was that it may be a female canvasback duck, or maybe a female redhead duck...but I don't feel very confident in either of these guesses.

Duck Park is also Dog Park, or at least in the mind of this little orange guy. Whenever I see a little dog by himself, I get anxious, wondering where his people are. Was this little guy lost and in need of assistance? No, his people were over by the shore fishing.

The lily pads are quite fabulous at Duck Park. They are huge...Dinosaur size!

Duck Park is a peaceful little sanctuary for all the hungry ducks to congregate. They can float and fly and swim and eat in the peace of still waters and greenery.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marigold Man

Here is an illustration I did of Marigold Man.

It was a hot summer day when Marigold Man posed for his portrait. The sun was blazing down, turning the distant streets blurry with heat. The more delicate flowers were wilting, their dainty petals dry and limp from the constant sun. But Marigold man could sustain composure even on the hottest day. It was the only time he would ever have a chance to get his portrait painted. Despite the great heat, he wore his absolute best outfit for the sitting, which unfortunately consisted of a thick brown shirt, tweed trousers and a heavy woolen coat. Marigold Man was not usually a gentleman taken with vanity. But he knew there were thousands of marigolds in the world. He wanted to be remembered among all these marigolds that grew every summer and perished every fall. He wanted to be remembered even when he was just dried orange petals, scattered in the dirt. So Marigold man endured the heat and stared forward with determination!

In a thousand years from now, someone will find Marigold Man's portrait lying coated with dirt where once there was a home and a garden. The person will look at the portrait and think "I wonder who this man was. I wonder what his life was like. He looks like a fine fellow! A person I could be friends with."

Marigold Man's spirit somewhere off being a ghost or reincarnated in some other body will feel a twinge of delight at the exact moment this distant stranger is looking at his portrait and wondering. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

How To: Decorate Clothing with a Potato

Potatoes are kind of magical little vegetables. They grow within the dark soil, emerging full of possibility. The diverse food options one potato can be created into is pretty impressive. But potatoes can be used for more than just food. When I was in collage, I had an awesome clock that was powered by potatoes! My potato clock rusted and I had to throw it away, but it was precious for the couple of years I used it. Potatoes can also be used as tools of decoration, which I will demonstrate in this tutorial!

In this tutorial, I am using a potato to decorate a shirt. A simple design that can be created by carving into a sliced potato is a great way to embellish a plain shirt.

A plain blue shirt, waiting for pizzazz. 

Step One: Gather supplies. You will need:
  • A marker to draw design onto potato
  • A knife
  • A cutting board
  • A carving tool
  • Pallet
  • Paint Brush
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Fabric Painting medium
  • Iron
  • Shirt
  • .....Potato!

Step Two: Design

With your sketch book in hand, brainstorm simple designs. You should avoid getting to elaborate as the purpose of the design is to add a pattern to your shirt by the repetition of a simple image. I chose a whale. I am a fan of whales, but they are also quite simple to draw and quite easy to recognize. Other ideas are a brontosaurus, a daisy, a cactus, a cat head, a tree or a turtle. 

Step Three: Prepare the potato for carving.

Cut your potato in half. With one half, draw your design onto the potato with a marker. The second half can be used for a second design, or you could cut it into chunks, sprinkle with olive oil, chili pepper and salt, pop into the oven to cook, and have a delicious treat.

Step Four: Carve your design into your potato. Carve all around the design, so the design itself is the thing that sticks out. 

Step Five: Prepare the paint.

Choose a color that you think would look good on your shirt. I chose pale purple! Mix your paint with fabric pain medium. The beauty of fabric painting medium is that you can mix this medium with any acrylic paint to create fabric pain. But you can also buy fabric paint at most craft stirs if you prefer this route. 

Step Six: Time to stamp that shirt!

Apply fabric paint onto potato design. Before stamping your shirt, test on a piece of paper. If you are happy with the result. It is time to start stamping away on your shirt. You can either be random with your stamping or purposeful. This is up to each individual shirt designer.

Step Seven: Let sit for 24 hours then apply heat with Iron

The heat sets the paint so it will not fade over time or in the washing machine.

Step Eight: Wear your new shirt!