Saturday, June 30, 2012

Garden of Delights: "Welcome" (Swirl, Swirl, Swirl)

I really don't know who took this picture. It's from a while back: it could have been me (I take a lot of snaps, I wouldn't necessarily recall), or it could have been Louise or June. We all kind of take the same type of pictures (probably not a coincidence), so I really just dunno.

Hey, did I mention that, besides the Willow House, I had another major outdoor undertaking this spring? I should have, but I was so busy doing the actual busyness that the bloggy matters slipped to the back burner. (Now though, summer is upon us and outdoor projects are almost unbearable, so we retreat indoors and ponder and muse and write.) Yeah, anyway, our backyard had always been a shameful affair. When we first bought the house back in the early oughts, it was just a neglected little patch of grass. I tried to spruce it up with a few banana treess, but the results were less than convincing.

Things got worse after Katrina. All vegetation died. It became a trash heap of flood-ruined appliances and construction debris. We did eventually clear the junk, planted some more grass and and some little baby bamboo (a variety I recall as being called "Giant Panda", though the the internet doesn't seem to believe this exists; it supposed to get enormous, but at least for the first while it didn't seem particularly happy about its new home and wasn't making a big effort on vertical growth). That was that was about it. After the giant task of reviving our house, we just ran out of steam. (I also blame the redneck strains of my genetic heritage. If I owned a rusty old Chevette, I probably would have parked it on cinder blocks back there.) And so things remained for several years.

But finally this spring, we got a bee in our bonnet, got some guys to pour us a lovely little cement patio (all dark-stained and stamped and sealed and fancy). Then I went full-steam manic on fencing it the yard in and filling every available inch with of a lovely assortment of plants.  (And that laggardly bamboo finally decided to get a move on and has, thus far, pushed up to about twenty feet, approximately half of its ultimate height.) We bought some fancy Ikea furniture, strung up some outdoor "bistro" lights, and voila! If I may say, the results are quite lovely. (And will continue to get lovelier as the little plantings grow and fill in.)

And so, some photos seem in order. Here's the first, of the little "Welcome" sign that June painted to greet folks. And there will be more snaps to come (many by Louise who has been a busy little shutterbug back there.) Stay tuned.

Friday, June 29, 2012

From the Doodle-Ma-Tron: Mr. Smiley

Now this guy I definitely like. Look at that smile, he's got a good soul. And he seems pleasingly eccentric, unconcerned with unruly sweeps of hair and quirky attire. And I'm having fun with the style. It pleases me that the Doodle-Ma-Tron, a digital tool, can produce such gestural, such "analog"-ish results, loose fluid lines and rough textures that could easily have been created by pens and brushes on paper.1

1 Both dogmatic techno-luddites and naive gizmo-futurists tend to get my dander up. Yes, I make my living digging in the bits-and-bytes mines, building the digital future for the rest of y'all; certainly I feel a strong curiosity about what lies over the future-horizon (how can one not?); and like most folks, I enjoy a shiny new toy. But at the end of the day, tools are tools, media are media. New, old, they each have their merits and limitations. Let's not sweat it too much: bleeding edge or wildly archaic, use what you like, have some fun, and make some cool stuff. (Arbitrary and unsolicited rant now complete.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

From the Doodle-Ma-Tron: Tough Guy

Yeah, he's definitely looks pretty tough. And the style's definitely rough. I'm not sure how much I'm liking the style, but oh well: process, baby, process! Can't make good without making some ugly along the way. Stylistic considerations aside, there's definitely some personality there, definitely a story: old-school gangster movie-style hit man? Though perhaps I'm unfairly stereotyping him. Maybe he gets up each morning, works an honest job, goes home each evening, and sitting in at his kitchen table, writes sentimental poetry late into the evening. Dunno.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Morning or Maybe Afternoon Coffee ('Cause It Was Several Days Ago and I Didn't Get Around to Posting It Then and Now I Can't Remember)

This one amuses me. I don't remember its country of origin: I forgot to check the little imprint on the bottom, though it's giving me an English-y vibe. I particularly like the double handles, really far more handle then one needs, but such things are hardly dictated by practicality. I somehow imagine a matron in some BBC Jane Austen production daintily sipping from it. (Though would she really use both handles? Strikes me as potentially indelicate. Hmm...)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Photo by June: "NAPOLEON"

Many of our old intersections back in the day were labeled with these tile inset "street signs". And many of them are still around. And they're still lovely. Nice catch by "June-ior". (And I like Lulu's pre-teen chucks in the background. I will emphasize that though her shoes are identical in style to my de rigeur footwear, I had nothing to do with the choice. Black low-tops simply remain a perennial fashion favorite, a classic, and are pervasive amongst her 'tween-y schoolmates — as are many trappings of re-filtered re-interpreted jumbled up 70s-80s-90s skater-rock-punk-whatnot.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

From the Doodle-Ma-Tron: Man in Red Beret and Blue Pants (and Sort of Baby Poop Green Shirt1)

Doodling, for me, has almost always been an "I wonder where the hell this is going" type of exercise. Some people undoubtedly plan these things, and of course professional illustrators often must plan their doodles, aim towards some particular goal. But I — perhaps mercifully — ain't no pro and just get to randomly percolate whims to my heart's content. (I do occasionally aim at a specific target — usually a companion illustration for some post of mine  — and that generally works out okay: my notion, my idea how it should look, and I get to decide when it's good enough. The few times I've done semi-commissioned stuff for other folks, I've found it surprisingly hard, a whole 'nother skill entire beyond just being able to just whip up some plausible likeness.) Anyhoo, doodle-percolation of the day (actually of late-ish last night, a recent pattern): Mr. Beret.

I started with a totally different picture in mind — black and white, a blend of crisp illustrative lines and under-shades of brushy gray contouring; maybe a sort of retro-thirties-through-fifties tough guy in a zoot suit. Something like that. Within three brush strokes, that idea was gone (though it'll pop up again soon), and this guy started showing up — obviously nothing like the original notion. And the style was surprise too: the loosey-goosey painterly thing is not my usual gig. (Not that I'm complaining. It's fun getting out of one's stylistic home town, seeing what curiousities lie over the horizon.) I don't know who he is, but I'm pretty sure he's a real deal, that most of us have met him or someone a lot like him at some point or other. He seems to be a decent guy, and I feel generally affectionate towards him (though I suspect he's a close talker and prone to cornering over-polite people at social events). Hello, Mr. Beret. Welcome to the world. Have a nice day.

1 That color undoubtedly has some other name, but I've reared a couple infants, and I'm sticking with "baby poop". ("Sticking" may have been a poor choice of words there.)

My Morning Coffee: White with Gold and Red

Yet another from the inherited embryo-collection (and yet another "favorite"). English. I like it for many reasons. I like all those gold curlicues that almost literally say "fancy". And I really like the vivid red punctuation points, subtly raised, a really magic deep red, tinged with orange, the kind of red, back in the day, probably required serious effort to get the fixings for and make. (To be clear, I have no idea what I'm talking about.) And I like that it's big, that it comfortably fits a nice whopping double (or even triple) espresso, a big pretty cup that promises my inner caffeine junkie an imminent generous delicious fix. Mmm, big fancy delicious fix...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Five Minute Man1

So the game tonight was to see what I could come up with in five-ish minutes on the Doodle-Ma-Tron. (It's late. I'm sleepy.) The answer, apparently, is this guy. He's definitely got some issues; I can't say what they are exactly, but I wish him all the best and hope he may find peace in his future. Good night.

1 Not to cast aspersions, but I suspect this is a double entendre.

Happy Summer Solstice, Y'all1

Love me some summer solstice.2 Who doesn't like a good longest day of the year (except those nasty vampires), plenty of sunshine and pagan rituals and such. Good times. I'm also a fan of the equinoxes, and I'll even grant a grudging admiration for the winter solsticeI don't much care for long dreary nights, but any major event in the sun's annual orbit is worthy of respect. (And at least the days start getting longer from there — though conversely, they start getting shorter from here. Doh!) Enjoy your prancing around Stonehenge or whatever it is you do to mark the occasion.

1 Oops, I'm a day late. (Actually 14 hours and 58 minutes late). I fell asleep last night while writing this post. (Prior to proof-reading, I wrote "feel assleep". I need coffee.) Oh, well. You  get what you get and you don't get upset.

2 In truth, I probably wouldn't even have realized that today was the summer solstice except that I'm currently deeply enamored with this previously mentioned charming little iPhone app, Sol: Sun Clock, which simply (and beautifully) visualizes one's progress through the daily solar cycle: morning, solar noon,  afternoon, the evening "golden hour",3 sunset, the various gradations of dusk (civil, nautical, astronomical — I never knew dusk had so many flavors), night, solar midnight, more night, the various gradations of pre-dawn, sunrise, the morning "golden hour", rinse, repeat... (The app figures out the exact durations and timings of these things for your particular spot in the world.) And it also blips by relevant little tidbits of information: length of day and night, time of sunrise and sunset, and — the blip that prompted this post — the time from or until the nearest solstice or equinox. (As I write this, I'm informed that it's 3 hours and 42 minutes after the exact summer solstice. (Well it was when I actually wrote that sentence last night, before falling asleep. (Eesh, this is getting into some temporally complicated territory.))) The app has essentially no practical purpose, at least not in my life, but I find myself checking it regularly just for the pleasure of seeing where I'm at in this age-old loopty-loop: modern technology reconnect with the eternal cycles of nature: funny business.

3 The morning and evening "golden hours" aren't, apparently, "official" slices of the daily cycle, just generally recognized swaths of the day that occur roughly 10 degrees (give or take) after sunrise and before sunset, the time when the sun's light comes crosswise through the sky, shimmering that luminous golden glow (hence the name) and alighting the world in radiant beauty. The golden hours are ace times for snapping photos. They infuse even humdrum nothingness with a profound and luminous glow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mr. Stripey

I suppose it's unfair to call him Mr. Stripey since he himself is only subtly stripey, and once could argue that, if anything, he's more polka-dotty. But he's clearly living in a stripey world (or at least standing in front of a stripey backdrop.) As always, I have no idea what his deal is. He's looking pretty pleased with something other. (My aunt worries that the characters I draw often look sad and this is an indicator of some darkness in my soul. Plausible, though perhaps it's just that I don't actually have that much illustrative finesse and by rote tend to draws eyebrows turned up-ish and mouths turned down-ish. Either way, this guy is definitely bucking that trend.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A-to-Z Debs

Though the debutante thing is an easily mockable holdover from a bygone era, I confess, I still  greatly enjoy this annual Living section deb-a-thon. (I suspect those of you from more with-the-times parts of the country are thinking, Really? This still happens? Indeed it does.) Justifiable or otherwise, we do tend to stick to our old ways down here, and though I would never subject my own daughters to such shenanigans (not that we have the option; we happily occupy non-debbing social swaths), the armchair sociologist in me finds the whole thing fascinating. (Side note: The gals were excited to see their swim coach — third row, first column —  in the listing. The inside of this section has a deb-by-deb presentation, each with a punny title and a few grafs of formulaic exposition, and June cut out the relevant blurb to prove to her doubting friend that her coach really was in the paper.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

From My Doodle-Ma-Tron: Man in Madras Musing on a Moth

The drawing has been getting short shrift lately, but we're here to lengthen that shrift right now. (Ouch.) Look, here's a drawing. A few points to note.
  1. "From My Doodle-Ma-Tron": Yeah, we used to have the series, "From My Sketchbook", but this doodling occurs on my iPad, but saying "From My iPad" would annoy me, too brand-centric. So, "Doodle-Ma-Tron". So shall it be.
  2. As is generally the case, I have no idea where the notion for this drawing came from. It just sort of happened, and lo! there was a man staring at a moth.
  3. Yeah, it's probably not really a moth — the colors ain't right — far more likely that it's a butterfly, but that would have ruined the title's alliteration, and I decided that in this case, alliteration trumps accuracy.
  4. "Musing on" — is that the phrase I want here? I think so. I suppose staring intently, with pursed lips, at a subject of observation could be deemed "musing on". I'm running with it. Your mileage may vary.
So there it is. Back to doodle-land. Yay!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Morning Coffee: German Geometry

So we are, apparently, taking a tour of "Demitasses from Around the World!" Today's stop: Germany.
This is another from the embryonic set of demitasses inherited from my family that led to my current abundant collection. It's always been a favorite (though I seem to say that about all of them). I love the striking minimalist contrast of the cobalt blue and white and the simple repetitive pattern, devoid of any representation. (Though it's from a completely different part of the world, it reminds me of some of the patterns seen in Islamic tiles.) And the cup isn't round: it's a twelve-sided polygon, a... um... Google, help me out here... a dodecagon! Lovely, non? (Or I suppose I should say "Lovely, nein?", though I have no idea if that Frenchy ending-a-question-with-a-negative-that's-the-opposite-of-the-expected-answer is actually an idiom in German.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Photo by Lulu: Bamboo Leaves

June and I aren't the only photo bugs in the family. Louise has been snapping some fine pics of late. Love the light filtering through the layers of green.

Wires 'n' Clouds

Yes, my fixation with our overhead wire-scape continues. Admit it, those geometries are totally cool, like the work of... um... some 20th century abstract art guy or other. Mmm, not really sure who, but somebody must have painted crissy-crossy stuff like that. (And while whichever paintings-I'm-assuming-existed were undoubtedly fine and dandy, did they also deliver electricity and other important services to our houses? I think not.) Those clouds aren't to shabby either. Lots of good stuff to see when one tilts the head skyward.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Morning Coffee: Little Japanese Wonder

Love this one, far more typical of my Japanese demitasses: small, supremely fragile, beautiful balance of colors, lovely delicate renderings of flora.

Photo by June: Palm with Giant Pine Cone-Like Thingy

Not sure what's with the blue-ish leaves. Don't recall that being reality, an artifact of the photo-ing and filter-ing 'n' such. Which one's that, a Sago Palm? Believe so. Those pine cone thingies are sort of unreal through, like they're going to crack open and an alien is going to come out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Afternoon Coffee: Green Dragon Against Orange Background, With a Little Surprise

I had a little espresso pick-me-up this afternoon ('cause it was that kind of day), and I chose myself this particular cup, not like anything else in my collection. It's Japanese — that itself is not unique; I have a number of Japanese demitasses, and they're consistently among my favorites: exceedingly delicate, lovely colors, simple balanced designs — but this one's different: the vivid rough-brushed rust-orange backing and the vibrant, almost violent dragon, with its relief texturing.

And this particular demitasse has an extra little surprise. Voila!

Yep, a portrait — the former Empress of Japan, I'm informed — only visible when the bottom of the cup is held up to the light. I owned this demitasse for years and had absolutely no idea of its secret until Ms. Mary revealed it to me. Super cool, n'est-ce pas? (And the means of rendering the portrait is also super cool: it's not painted on or any such thing. The portrait is simply rendered in relief in the porcelain itself: dark areas — the hair for example — are thicker porcelain; light areas— the face, the background — are thin porcelain. So the light just shines through in various degrees, rendering hues of darkness and light. Portrait rendered, and with such subtlety. Awesome.)

Mixel by Lulu: Stripes and Splashes and Shrieks, Oh My!

Developing a Warhol-ian streak, I'd say.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mixel by Lulu: Birds 'n' Words

I continue to outsource my bloggy-content: Another Mixel-mix by Miss Louise, still continuing the winged critter theme, but deviating from straight literal representation and now incorporating textual elements. (Which is of course quite a thing in artsy circles these days. How do these kids pick this stuff up? Pure cultural osmosis?) Either way, this daddy-o is diggin'.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Mixel by Lulu: Landscape with Butterflies

Continuing her use of that Mixel app, Louise has been whipping up all sorts of digi-collages, and of course, I'm quite digging them. (Why is it that whenever I talk about my fondness for my kids creations, I slip into beatnik-speak — "dig it", "digging it", and other variations?) More kiddie-creations to come.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Photo by June: Shadow Self-Portrait Against Tree Trunk and Grass

With one thing and another, I've been falling behind on my own creative output of late. Maybe I'll outsource this blog to the kids for a bit. ('Bout time they were good for something. That and mixing drinks.) Besides, they're getting so dang s'fisticated and artsy, I don't even know how I'm going to keep up. All that aside, I sure do dig this photo. June and I seem to be drawn to similar subjects — nature or nurture? — or coincidence? I've always enjoyed a good shadow-snap.) Sometimes, digging back through older pics, I have a hard time figuring out who took what, though I can be pretty sure about this one: that ain't my silhouette.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Memphis: "No..."

Sign painted on the circuit breaker in the back of that bar in Memphis that used to be a brothel but the name of which I can't remember at present: "No dope smoken. No cursin. No free loden." Fine advice.