"Judy, Judy, Judy" - mixed media on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame, or can be leaned upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
Packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering up
And chickening out and pissing about
Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge
-from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 31
Ah, the halfway point. Day fifteen. Have you enjoyed this wild ride of a month so far? In the beginning of this thirty day marathon, I was facing a full calendar (including some travel), and had given myself permission to be less than perfect in completing the challenge. And that was before a hurricane. So now I am going to go HOG WILD and get out of Dodge for a few days, drop my paintbrushes and take an intermission. And how perfectly perfect that Monty Python and the Holy Grail actually has an intermission in the middle of the movie.
Yesterday, our garage began filling up with one of the bright silver linings in hurricane Irma: plywood. Everywhere are piles of wood, all being sentenced to the dump. My intrepid husband, who cycles every morning in the dark, has been grabbing the best bits for me. Better than flowers and chocolate. They will be dry and ready for paint when I return.
So this piece of art, a more grownup girl in her seriously fancy gown, brings up a piece of movie trivia. Did you know Cary Grant never actually said "Judy, Judy, Judy" at first - it was an impersonator who said it originally, which was then attributed to Grant, who later said it just so people would get off his back about it. Art (an impersonator) imitating life (Grant) imitating art.
Feel free to get some popcorn over the next five days, along with some jelly beans and a chocolate bar, a large slushy and a soft pretzel. I'll flicker the lights when it's time to come back.
"I Never Did Mind the Little Things." - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
LAUNCELOT: We were in the nick of time, you were in great peril.
GALAHAD: I don't think I was.
LAUNCELOT: Yes you were, you were in terrible peril.
GALAHAD: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
LAUNCELOT: No, it's too perilous.
GALAHAD: Look, I'm a knight, I'm supposed to get as much peril as I can.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 11
It is post-storm de-programming time. You know, when it's time to stop watching the weather channel and CNN 24/7, to reduce the number of times you peer outside and check the sky, to stop hoarding food and water like its the apocalypse and to begin planning actual fun in your schedule. It is also a time when I re-examine events in my head, sorting out what I could do better next time.
Of course, there are at least a dozen preparatory steps I could improve on, including keeping a list of things to do in the event of a hurricane! Ha! But what I learned most from this experience is to be my own barometer of peril. It is very easy to get overly anxious because others think I should, or to become too lax following the advice of another faction. I spent a lot of time questioning my own feelings and actions this past week after listening to others. Next time, I will spend more time listing to my own instincts, which generally don't have me get upset, just prepared. Taking action makes for calm nerves.
The title of this piece comes from a movie I watched long ago. I can't remember the name of the movie, just that there was a lot of Nina Simone music throughout (she is one of my favorites) and this one line..."I Never Did Mind the Little Things" which struck me as something to aspire to for the rest of my life. I am still working on it, twenty years later. After yesterday's studio debacle, it was delightful to be in the throes of abstraction, pushing and pulling until resolution appeared and the piece announced its completion. And this time I am not wearing a puddle of gesso. :)
Breathe" - acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas, 16" x 20" x 2". Ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
HEAD KNIGHT: Firstly, you must find... another shrubbery! [dramatic chord]
ARTHUR: Not another shrubbery!
HEAD KNIGHT: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must place it here beside this shrubbery, only slightly higher so you get a two-level effect with a little path running down the middle.
RANDOM: A path! A path! Nee!
HEAD KNIGHT: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... with... a herring! [dramatic chord]
ARTHUR: We shall do no such thing!
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 31
It was one of those days. Eight hours (yep, EIGHT) in the studio and the painting was not fit for man nor beast. So I took a break and made a cup of coffee. Except I forgot to put coffee in it and didn't notice until I took a sip of, well, hot water. ACK! Clearly my mojo was off. Time for a break. A little Facebook check-in, and a message from a wise friend telling me to breathe. So took a few deep breaths, went back into the studio and did what any sane person would do - I started all over again.
Trying to paint when you're not in the zone is like cutting down a mighty tree with a herring. You can work at it all day long and have nothing but something super smelly in your hands. And perhaps a big bucket of frustration next to your chair. But there is always something to be learned, even in failure. The painting I worked on all day was an epic failure. A real stinker-oo. A nose-pincher.
What did I learn? Other than some color, composition, texture and line lessons (so many lessons!) I learned sometimes a deep breath or two can re-start your mojo. And that it is ok to scrap one painting and start another. By the end of the day, the above piece appeared, fluid, intuitive, flowing and then done.
So I decided to start a third painting while I was back in flow, got a juicy background down, singing a happy little tune, reached to grab a brush and then SPLAT. Dumped a tub of gesso over the new background (and my table and the floor). Sigh. Apparently, there is a finite amount of mojo in one day.
"Nate Stayed Up Very, Very Late" - mixed media on aquabord, 11" x 14". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
ROGER: Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say `nee' at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress at this period in history.
ARTHUR: Did you say `shrubberies'?
ROGER: Yes, shrubberies are my trade -- I am a shrubber. My name is Roger the Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 29
If Roger the Shrubber lived in Florida, he would have a whole lot of business in the coming weeks and months. Everywhere are plants that need replacing. But the very good thing about Florida is: you can stick just about anything in the ground and it will grow. So, though we are all mourning the beautiful trees that Irma decided to dispatch to the wood pile, in a few years there will be gorgeous new growth all around. For example, two years ago we planted both an avocado and a mango tree. They were tiny sticks which needed to be staked in even a slight puff of wind. Now, the avocado is fifteen feet tall, and the mango tree is nearing that as well. They both survived Irma.
As we were unpacking all of our plastic-wrapped treasures and putting them in their proper places, I marveled at how a hurricane can clear out more than trees and shrubbery. It seems some of my mental cobwebs have been swept away. There is a change of perspective evolving in my thoughts that apparently took a hurricane to get started. Hmmmm. I'll tend this little twig and see how big it grows.
Now this piece is what happens when your thoughts get rolling and your dreams grow big late in the day. You stay up very, very late, wide-eyed and rabbit-like, jumping from one thing to another. Nate is full of late night malarkey. I may have to separate him from the rest of the menagerie in the studio, or else no one will get any sleep around here.
"Untangling the nets" - water-based ink and acrylic on aquabord, 6" x 6". Inquiries.
CONCORDE: Uh, I'm-I'm not quite dead, sir.
LAUNCELOT: Well, you shall not have been mortally wounded in vain!
CONCORDE: Uh, I-I think uh, I could pull through, sir.
LAUNCELOT: Oh, I see.
CONCORDE: Actually, I think I'm all right to come with you--
LAUNCELOT: No, no, sweet Concorde! Stay here! I will send help as soon as I have accomplished a daring and heroic rescue in my own particular... (sigh)
CONCORDE: Idiom, sir?
CONCORDE: No, I feel fine, actually, sir.
LAUNCELOT: Farewell, sweet Concorde!
CONCORDE: I'll-uh, I'll just stay here, then, shall I, sir? Yeah.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 27
We woke up this morning to light rain and gentle breezes. The sun is peeking through the clouds. A feeling of deep gratitude anchors me now. We didn't blow away in hurricane Irma.
The morning was spent in rain gear walking the neighborhood. The roads are blocked with trees for the most part. It looks as though, well, a hurricane came through. Today, as we untangle our nets and put things right in our world, I will let images speak for me. This is what Irma left behind...
And then a little image of hope and resilience....our backyard ducks are unscathed. :)
Florida. Our castle built in the swamp. Much of this part of the state was reclaimed from the Everglades. Irma wants to return it to the gators and otters and mosquitos. And right this moment, I would gladly give it back to them in exchange for safe passage outa here.
What do you do to pass the time in hurricane limbo? Thanks to modern technology, we can prepare well in advance, then hunker down to wait. One of the games my husband and I are enjoying right now is called "Let's Move to Nebraska." In this game (which we entirely made up, just today) we plan what it would take to move us to higher lands where there is no risk of Irma or any other watery wench messing with our homestead. Every commentary on the conditions outside now ends in "but not in Nebraska!" which causes much laughter and stress reduction. What do you think? By the end of this hurricane I just might have planned our first trip scouting out potential towns.
In the meantime, let's make lemonade in a storm, shall we? This piece was inspired by the artist Staci Swider and her article in this month's Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, in which she describes how to use the dried up paint skins in your palette to make flowers. I use a full sized metal painter's tray for my palette (it hooks nicely onto my work table) and it had thick layers of paint dried in it. I scraped them up and used gel medium and a chopstick to skewer the pieces into flower petals. What fun! (In truth, I created this piece in advance of the storm, knowing my supplies would be safely tucked away.)
At this very moment, hurricane winds swirl around us, the lake water is rising and debris is flying. Tornado warning alerts are dinging on our phones, and we scurry in an out of our safe room between them. We still have power (for now), but the wild bronco ride has officially begun. Yeeehaaaaaw.
"The Wind's Wild Tune" (title courtesy of poet Mary W. Cox) - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Inquiries.
MINSTREL (singing): Brave Sir Robin ran away
MINSTREL (singing): Bravely ran away away
ROBIN: I didn't!
MINSTREL (singing): When danger reared its ugly head, He bravely turned his tail and fled
MINSTREL (singing): Yes Brave Sir Robin turned about
ROBIN: I didn't!
MINSTREL (singing): And gallantly he chickened out Bravely taking to his feet
ROBIN: I never did!
MINSTREL (singing): He beat a very brave retreat
ROBIN: Oh, lie
MINSTREL (singing): Bravest of the brave Sir Robin
ROBIN: I never!
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 10
Feeling quite cowardly today as Irma reaches out toward us. The winds are beginning to sing off key, the water on the lake is rolling and the skies are tempest-y. It seems 50% of our house is encased in plastic bags. Every towel is stuffed under doors and tabletops are covered with bags of things who have passed all sentimental and practical analysis and have the coveted spots away from any flooding. The appliances are stuffed with books and papers, and I am wishing there was room for two humans inside the dishwasher.
And yet....when we come out on the other side of this thing, I wonder what incredible transformations we may undergo? How can a human stand a test of bravery (or utter stupidity in this case, some might say) and not emerge somehow bigger, better and more bad-assy than ever before? I think of the hurricane in Houston, the fires raging across the Pacific Northwest, the earthquake in Mexico and wonder at the tenacity, perseverance and courage of the humans in each of these situations.
Like this little aboriginal character I painted today, I am as bundled up and covered in good mojo as a human can be. There are prayers, good wishes, thoughts and love streaming down to Florida and blanketing us in positivity and safety. And my incredible brave husband is here, unfazed by the beast, preparing like a boy scout. His philosophy begins with the thought that a blanket and a towel can solve anything. Perhaps we will build a blanket fort and wear towels like superhero capes.
Another quote from Mark Nepo jumped out at me this morning: "And regardless of our good fortune or trouble, we are always holding off the storm of the world to hear the music that runs through everything." Today, we will be listening to the wind's wild tune.
"Waiting for Irma" - mixed media on canvas paper, 16" x 20". Inquiries.
BEDEMIR: What also floats in water?
VILLAGER #1: Bread!
VILLAGER #2: Apples!
VILLAGER #3: Very small rocks!
VILLAGER #1: Cider!
VILLAGER #2: Great gravy!
VILLAGER #1: Cherries!
VILLAGER #2: Mud!
VILLAGER #3: Churches -- churches!
VILLAGER #2: Lead -- lead!
ARTHUR: A duck.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 5
While Bedemir and Arthur are contemplating what floats in water (churches? gravy? very small rocks?), we are considering what flies through the air. Coconuts, for sure (oh my - the universe just conspired to truly link this script with my actual life experience, didn't it?) and our neighbor's trees are loaded with them. Potted plants? Statuary? Paving stones? Extra roof tiles? Hoses? Plants? Trees? It's hard to decide how much of the outside to bring inside in order to avoid it flying through your roof. And you can't throw things out at this point, because all trash service has been suspended. I am eyeing the kayak leaning on a house across the pond from us and wondering if it will fly through the air as smoothly as it glides across the water.
We aren't the only ones getting ready, of course. An evening walk through the neighborhood revealed house after house boarded and shuttered. People busy clearing out their garages to make room for cars and generators. Here in Florida, 90% of folks use their garage as junk storage, so their cars are generally outside. A big, fast purge is necessary now. Fortunately, our cars are always parked inside. :) Lines at the few gas stations with any fuel left are over two hours long, with police on hand to be sure no one takes more gas than they actually need. The grocery stores are closing this evening until further notice. The entirety of south Florida is shuttering and closing down.
Here in our house, we have hurricane-impact windows, doors and solar panels. That's the good news. The bad news is that, instead of feeling shut up inside a tin can like those with metal shutters or plywood, we can see everything as it happens. I'm not sure if I'll enjoy that. I imagine the scene from the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy sees cows flying by. We will be able to watch the water rising and the coconuts flying. Of course, we will be in a safe room for the rough parts, no windows to the world, bicycle helmets on our heads and cushions all around us. But for the rest of it, we will have our eyes on the world outside.
Meanwhile, in the studio, art continues to be made with the hope that it survives whatever is coming. This piece was inspired by aboriginal art with oddly-shaped figures and markings, a sort of talisman against the storm, a watcher and protector. I am pretty sure this canvas paper would float, which Arthur would approve of.
"Dancing Petunia" - mixed media on aquabord, 11" x 14". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
We're knights of the round table
We dance when e'er we're able
We do routines and parlour scenes
With footwork impecc-Able.
We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 6
Oh goodness! So much running about and hauling this and bagging that and hammering loudly and standing in line and WELL! This must be hurricane preparation! It is a dance of sorts. All about impeccable timing and grace under pressure and knowing the steps because you've practiced them again and again. Unless it's your first time dancing these steps, in which case you simply follow along as best you can, apologizing profusely as you stumble and trip and step on people's toes.
You'd think we were preparing for a big blow out of a party....stocking food and drink to feed an army, hiding away the breakables and covering things in plastic, rolling up the good rugs and hiding them from party-goers. If Irma decides to make merry here, we will eat like royalty for a month. Well, if royalty likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fig newtons dunked in beer, that is.
Along with all the frenzied activity, however, comes a whole new level of philosophical thinking and appreciation for every little thing in life. Yesterday I went through drawers of old family photos, packing them in plastic and tucking them back in like the babies who have now grown into our children. I stared at piles of books wondering which ones deserved the last few heavy duty ziplock bags (the store shelves are empty of these), cherishing the richness of the written word. Knickknacks were stuffed into closets and cupboards to prevent them from becoming projectiles in the event the roof blows off...maybe I don't need these anyway.
And it all filtered down into this one line from Mark Nepo's Seven Thousand Ways to Listen : the fragile, resilient miracle of life is unrepeatable. This week, I can feel this deep in my bones.
"The Fortune Teller" - mixed media on reclaimed wood, 7" x 13", Ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
ARTHUR: There it is! The Bridge of Death!
ROBIN: Oh, great.
KNIGHT: Look! ARTHUR: There's the old man from Scene 24!
BEDEMIR: What is he doing here?
ARTHUR: He is the keeper of the Bridge of Death. He asks each traveller five questions--
KNIGHT: Three questions.
ARTHUR: Three questions. He who answers the five questions--
KNIGHT: Three questions.
ARTHUR: Three questions may cross in safety.
ROBIN: What if you get a question wrong?
ARTHUR: Then you are cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.
- from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 35
We are jumping ahead in the movie script today, to a scene totally appropriate for hurricane forecasting. Because what if the meteorologists and computer models answer the question "Where is Irma going?" incorrectly? We are all cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril! There is nothing I can do besides preparing just in case. So why not paint a fortune teller? Maybe she can sort out the whims of Irma.
It is a bit surreal, truly. It seems we were just yesterday glued to the t.v. watching Harvey, sending good vibes to the folks in Texas and cheering for every rescue. And now...well we are trying to enjoy each day with a big ol' windy beast breathing down our necks. But there is a little silver lining to all this stockpiling and shoring up and standing in line....people are connecting. We are talking to one another, sharing advice and strategies, asking after each other's well-being and reaching out across the miles to discuss particulars. My kids each called me yesterday to express concern - and if you know young adults, they don't call often! It made me smile inside to know they are thinking about their parents and worried on our behalf. Our little ones are growing up.
All this preparation has made me examine my home for fortress qualities. We are fortunate to have many safeguards in place! But when you start planning for where to store your stuff in case the roof blows off or caves in, well, it makes you realize how much you take your roof for granted and how few truly secure places there are in a house. I should have bought stock in blue tarps and plastic bins.
I am not sure what this Fortune Teller sees in her gazing ball with respect to Hurricane Irma, but she did see a winner in yesterday's blog challenge, which asked readers to name something they thought people 100 years from now might make fun of about us. Congratulations to Carol, whose comment "Well, maybe they'll scratch their heads in perplexity over our fascination with the "Snack & Soda" aisle in the grocery store and the Kardashians" made me laugh out loud and provided a lovely respite in all this weather news. Your painting is on the way!
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation