Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Road to Sheetrock

Friday night Hubby comes home and tells me I have to hang sheetrock the next morning. Oh joy. Hubby is in the process of rehabbing his mom's old farmhouse...again. This time it's the living room and her bedroom.

She wanted new hardwood floors and once the old carpeting was ripped out she thought new windows would be nice. Oh, and a new hearth, and crown molding, and while you're at it.... Sigh.

The living room got demolished down to the studs. Hubby and his brothers finished the demo last weekend. During the week Hubby replaced the windows, repaired the exterior wood siding, replaced rotten studs, rewired electrical outlets, and insulated the exterior walls by himself.

The next step was to hang new sheetrock but he couldn't do that alone. All three of his big, strapping brothers suddenly and mysteriously had other plans for the weekend. That left me. Oh, my joy was immense.

I've been going to bed about 6:00 am and getting up around the crack of noon. Hubby told me I had to be in the truck ready to leave at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and that was too late as far as he was concerned. We have an hour and a half drive to get to the farm and daylight was a-wastin'. The late hour was a concession to me.

I'm not a morning person, especially not after just two hours of sleep, and knowing I'm going to have to spend the day hanging sheetrock. I step out the door Saturday morning to find Cheezburger the Porch Cat has had a successful night hunting. He left us a dead baby mole and a skullless (sic?) mouse. The face is still there but the top of the head is missing. The little mouse brain is still in place and shining bright pink in the morning sun. Barf. How did Cheezburger manage that I wonder?

I stagger out to the truck and hunker down in a rather foul mood. The black cloud of seething resentment is visible over my head. My brain had not yet began to function. I need caffeine. Hubby knows not to speak to me or I'll rip him a new one. He brought Pepsi out of self preservation.

We drive in silence for about 15 minutes. We pass a church sign that reads, "Pray for the harvest, but continue to hoe." My brain couldn't quite comprehend what that was supposed to mean, either at face value or in a biblical sense. The Pepsi had not yet kicked in. After a few minutes it registered.

Then I smirked.

Pook! My little devil horns pop out. I break the long silence.

"I *so* want to steal me an "E".

Hubby smirks.

"You are so bad."

Bwahahahaha. He knew exactly what I was talking about. We have lived together waaaaay to long.

A few more miles down the road, there was a dead coon splattered on the center line. Five feet away was a mangled deer. I wondered if the deer was on his way to sniff the dead coon when he got hit, or the coon was en route to sniff the dead deer. It was odd. Of course I had to ponder on that a while.

There were so many dead critters on the road we started keeping count. Final tally: 5 deer, 3 coons, 2 possums, 1 skunk, 2 armadillos, 3 cats, 1 dog, 1 chicken, and a goat. Yep, a goat. Have no idea where he came from. Somebody is gonna be really mad when they figure out they've lost a goat.

A few more miles down the road was a little man walking along pulling a little utility cart thingy loaded with his belongings. Hubby said he had seen the guy walking through Our Town a few days earlier. Dude must be walking cross country. Sign on the back of the cart: "REVOLT - Fight for Jesus." Wasn't Jesus a pacifist??? Oh, the irony.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Trifecta of Nothingness

Big sigh. I'm still stuck in arty mode so my wordy mode is on the wan. I've been doing illustrated journal entries on the mundane happenings in my life and I've got a post every day for those. I guess my life was always mundane and I just didn't realize it.

I've been thinking about margins lately. Some of these arty types run their artwork to the edge of the page in their little journal books. EEK! That goes against all that is good and sacred in my wee little perfectionistic OCD heart. There *must* be a margin! It's written in stone somewhere! We were trained to have margins on writing paper by the insidious notebook paper manufacturers. You will respect the little red line!

I pondered on that a while because it bugged me, really it did. There's no margin on the page. Nowhere is it written in stone. So why is it that I think there needs to be a margin? What kind of margins have I put up in life for myself? Where have I drawn those lines in the sand that I will not cross? What things in life have I missed because they were too close to the edge and I felt the need to respect the margin?

Dang, it's these kinds of questions that keep me up at night. The introspection, the endless questions, the existential crises. Crap, why has a one-inch bit of paper given me such grief?

Must ponder on this some more.

And the gratuitous "Awwwww" picture:

This photo was titled, "Halloween Kitties". Hummm....Almondine looks more like a Playboy Bunny with those ears. And she's topless too! Future career???

My sister's gonna kill me for that comment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Arty Stuff

I've been obsessing this week on arty stuff. I figured blogging endlessly about arty stuff would run off the few intrepid readers, so I saved it all up for one big summary post.

I was looking at some other people's arty stuff on-line and I saw a painting this lady had done of aspen leaves. It had lots of bright colors and she used bright blue and bright orange for the bark of the tree. I've been trying to draw things too realistically lately and wouldn't have given myself permission to use bright blue for a tree. I decided I would draw and paint me some blue trees dammit.

When I sit on my front porch, the view of my neighbor's house is framed beautifully by the two little live oaks in our front yard. It's a scene I've been meaning to sketch, so I thought I would draw it and make the trees blue. When I got the rough sketch down I decided the little house was too boring if the trees were blue. It needed some whimsy. So I made it into a little hobbit house with curved walls, round windows, and a thatched roof...and a Hobbit Accord in the driveway.

I got it all inked and was very proud of the result.

But I'm not a painter. I didn't want to mess up this perfectly charming drawing with a lot of messy paint. And it would be messy if I painted it, trust. So I scanned the drawing then printed it on watercolor paper using my laser printer. I painted on the copy instead of the original then re-inked the whole thing. It came out a little coloring book looking, but I think it's OK for my second watercolor ever.

The challenge this week for the sketch group was "Extreme Close-up." Folks were supposed to guess what the drawing was. Here's my entry, can you guess what it is?

I was originally planning on doing this drawing with colored pencils. My heart wasn't in it so I abandoned it and started a fresh sketch using a ballpoint pen. I *love* doing pen and ink drawings. I guess technically ballpoint isn't pen and ink, but I don't know what else to call it.

Anyway, I retrieved the first sketch (I was going to throw it away) and decided to use it for watercolor pencil practice. I scribbled on the colors and swooshed them with water and it was kind of meh. Added more pencil, swished some more water, and it was still meh.

Finally broke out the liquid watercolors and went after it with a brush. I finally got enough color on it and it came to life. Not half bad for my third attempt at watercolor.

Me no likey watercolors. They do things I don't understand. The color doesn't stay put and the paper crinkles up and wah, wah, wah. I didn't like watercolors as a kid, and I still don't like them much now. But, I'm trying to expand my horizons. So I keep practicing.

One of the guys in the sketch group kept insisting the extreme close-up was a hook for airships. LOL! I thought that was an imaginative guess if nothing else. So I drew him a hook for airships. Painted it with watercolors for the practice. This would be watercolor #4.

I purchased a cheap little journal for $3.00 two weeks ago and have been writing all my deepest, darkest secrets in it. For such a cheap journal it has amazingly nice paper in it. It seemed a shame to just write words and only words in there. I thought I would give a go to the "illustrated journal" concept that a lot of the folks in the sketch group do. My entry for today:

I *hate* doing laundry. I got the whites washed, but they're still in there wet. Sigh. It's now 2:20 a.m. and I won't have clean, dry drawers for tomorrow. Sigh.

This evening at dusk I was standing out on my front porch and the neighborhood church chimes began to ring. It was a magical moment. You could almost hear the world stop for just a moment to listen. How cool.

I pondered if there was a way to adequately capture the sound and magic of the chimes in some arty way. If there is, I'm too dull to figure it out. I decided to try to capture the chilly lavender sunset framed by the blackness of the neighbor's house and trees. Maybe with that painting I could remember the magic of the chimes. Watercolor #5.

All of these drawings have been uploaded to my Flickr account that I had to open when I joined the "Everyday Matters" sketch group. On Flickr you can click to embiggen each drawing in a really, really big way to see details. You can also see the comments made by the sketch group members on each of my doodles. If you wanna go look at all that, here is a link to my photostream (aka home page) on Flickr:

Specklin on Flickr

I had to use the nickname Specklin 'cuz Speck was already taken. Phooey.

And that was my week - chock full o' arty goodness.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Had a Secret...

I had a secret...but not any more.

A long time ago I posted a long, drawn out rant about what I would do if I were President. I prefaced that rant with the statement that I was the most apolitical person in the U.S. Then for some odd reason I started drawing and posting political cartoons. Did anybody catch that? Anybody wonder about it?

Well, there's a story behind that and I'm fixin' to give you the long-winded version.

When I was drawing the hotdog cartoon series, Booda kept after me to shop them around for publication and she suggested the small local newspapers. I tried that and got the same response from all: We buy our cartoons through the national syndicates. Not interested, thanks.

Not deterred, I pondered a while on what I could possibly offer them that they would want but couldn't get from the national guys. I hit upon editorial cartoons with local content. There's always something worth lampooning in a small southern town. It's rife with colorful characters doing things they shouldn't oughta.

Our local newspaper has an on-line blog for breaking news. That's kinda funny since this is a small town and they have to dig up news for the daily print edition. Not a whole lot of breaking news going on.

After a while the guy in charge of the blog ran out of steam trying to keep it up. Right about the time I hit upon the local editorial cartoon idea, he posted an open call for readers to submit their own stories of happenings around town.

I sent in a story and also sent a cartoon about the decaying state of the local economy. He loved it, the editor loved it, and it was promptly published on the blog. No money in my pocket, but it got several nice comments from the few loyal deranged readers. A few more were submitted and published, all with more comment love.

Then, out of the blue, the local arts center director lady called. They, in conjunction with the local paper, were sponsoring a political cartoon contest for the general public. The cartoons would be on display in the arts center gallery for all the world to see. "Yeah, OK" I thought, "is she asking me to enter cartoons in the contest or what???" No! They wanted me to do the graphics for all the promotional material!

Woot! A commission! Once again, no money in my pocket, so maybe it's not technically a commission, but there *is* a happy ending to this. She wanted three different cartoons. One would be on the entry form and the other two would be in consecutive editions of the arts center newsletter promoting the contest. She said the entry form with my cartoon would be published in the print edition of newspaper!

Today is the day! I'm somebody! I'm somebody! Here it is....

(click to embiggen)

Yes, the formatting is way more than squished up; it's supposed to be square. Trust me the original looks soooo much better. At least you can still make out the donkey and elephant. If you squint really hard, you can see my signature down in the corner.

So that's my secret I've been keeping all this time; I was fixin' to be published. I didn't want to jinx it by saying it out loud.

I'm a published ar-teest! Woot! Woot! Woot!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Baby Wrangling

I've just returned from a 4-day visit with my sister and the triplets, aka "The Beans". I'm exhausted and smell like clabbered formula.

Let me start this by saying I am NOT a baby person. I have the same inclination to snuggle babies as I do rabid Rottweilers. About all I ever manage when around somebody's baby is a rather forced smile and a quick, "Um, cute kid." Then I cut and run as if my life depended on it. Not a baby person, never have been, probably never will be. Kids know this instinctively and take one look at me and start screaming. Joy.

So, the thought of being trapped in the same house as the triplets for four days had me on edge. I arrived at feeding time and Mamma Bean, not knowing I was not a baby person, handed me one and said, "Here, feed this kid." My sister was smirking at the horrified look on my face. Looking back, they may have planned that. Hummm.....

Lo and behold, Almondine didn't scream and gave me a big ol' grin. I managed to get most of the strained pears poked in the poor child. Only a little bit ended up in her nose and hair. She laughed at me the whole time. For the rest of the visit she was mine, tucked into my left elbow.

Nana is keeping the babies all day by herself while Mamma Bean finishes up the last semester of school. After just a month Nana already looks like she's been through WWIII. She's in a back and wrist brace. She can sing the opening and closing songs to The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, and Go, Diego, Go!.

In the afternoon Nana has "school" for the babies. I think this is more for her benefit than theirs actually. She lines them up in bouncy seats and goes through the repertoire....puppets, books, sound makers, etc. Whatever she says, whatever motions she makes, whatever sound effects she adds, she does it three times; once exclusively for each baby. I didn't make it to the end of school once. I crashed out in the big nursery chair somewhere after the third, "This is the cow [puppet], see the cow, the cow goes moo, moo, moo..."

The second day was a field trip to the ophthalmologist's office during afternoon nap time. Taking three tired, cranky babies on a long ride then having a stranger poke things in their eyes is simply lovely. I jiggled upset babies for an hour in the doctor's office. Phew!

I sang and rocked trying to keep them happy and entertained. I went through all the kiddie songs I could remember then started on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a bullfrog), and some old bluegrass tunes. I was getting the stink eye from a lady in the waiting room. I guess she didn't think Iron Butterfly was appropriate for 7-month-olds.

So over the course of the last four days I did lots of baby wrangling. I discovered at this age they are pretty sturdy and rubbery. I didn't have to be so afraid of holding them "right." Anything shy of dropping them headfirst on the floor is right. Their favorite sound is the kissy sound. Kissy sound will elicit a big smile and thus a hole in which to poke strained pears. Lots and lots of kissy sounds made this week.

Somehow I managed to skirt diaper duty for the entire time. I thought I might actually attempt a poopy diaper (would have been my first diaper ever!) this morning, but I thought better of it and let Nana do the dirty work. It was a good thing too because that monster was loaded. Ewwwww! The babies are trained to poop at exactly 11:30 a.m. each morning. I don't know how they get three babies to do that together on cue, but they do.

Anyway, I'm back home now, still smelling of clabbered formula. I survived the rabid Rottweilers...and they *are* cute kids.

I already miss their sweet little smiles.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Touch the Money

I joined an on-line sketching group called "Everyday Matters." They have a weekly challenge to draw ordinary objects around the house. Since I'm such a hermit I thought that would be right up my alley.

This week's challenge was to draw paper money. The moderator said it would be interesting to see all the different kinds of money from around the world. Hubby has a small collection of international coins and paper money so I got him to dig it out. I picked a dozen of the prettiest and most interesting bills and laid them out to start the sketch.

My brain apparently was a bit Type-A with this challenge and decided a quick sketch wasn't going to be good enough. It turned out to be a full-blown art project.

I seriously underestimated the time it would take to draw 12 monies. I could only get about two done per day before my eyeballs exploded. I have a whole new appreciation for counterfeiters.

More than once I thought I would just give up and call it done. I pulled a Herculean drawing session last night and finally finished. I'll get to that in a minute but first I want to tell you a story.

I'm still a little kid at heart and when I draw I crave instant gratification of praise and encouragement. When I finish a drawing I squeal at Hubby, "Wanna see?" He, of course, has the patience of Job so he always say yes.

After each bill was finished I would trot over with the sketchbook and lay the real dollar next to the drawing for comparison. He would coo appropriately and pat me on the fanny and say, "Very nice" because, ya know, he has the patience of Job and knows with appropriate pacification I'll cook him dinner.

So, I finish the third bill in the series (the red and yellow Philippines one) and trot it over to him.

Instead of the usually nonchalant, "Very nice", he sits up, puts on his glasses, intently studies the drawing for a minute, then runs his finger across it.

"Why did you touch it like that???"

"I thought you had glued a color photocopy to the page and I was feeling for the edge."

Wheeeee! That's some high praise there. If someone thinks you faked it, you're doing a good job. It made my day. He got chicken fried steak for dinner that night.

Here is the finished drawing with all its warts and glory. (Click to embiggen)

Some of my favorite bits are these two portraits. They are the size of a thumbprint to give you some idea of the scale. This is some eyeball-killin' work with a ballpoint pen, lemme tell ya what.

And I really liked how this temple came out. It's about the size of a thumbprint too.

For the next EDM drawing challenge I don't think I will be so ambitious. My old eyeballs just can't take it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Text Life

After the funeral the other day, Clan Speck invaded my sister-in-law's house. We took her daughters with us while she went back to her in-law's house halfway across the county.

Rachael the niece, age 12, was all meshuganah.

"I want to text my friend Brandi but my cell phone is in Mom's car!" she wailed. We shrugged our shoulders; not much could be done about it. She would just have to wait for her mom to get home.

Twenty minutes later....

"I *have* to text Brandi." This was accompanied by high drama arm flinging, eye rolling and facial contortions.

Twenty minutes later....

Shriek! "I so need to text Brandi I can't stand it." More little girl histrionics.

Ten minutes later the phone rang. It was Brandi wondering why Rachael hadn't been returning her text messages. Rachael was outside playing.

"Rachael! Brandi's on the phone! Do you want to talk to her?"



I fear our younger generation will forget how to talk to each other face to face. They will sit in the same room and have a conversation by tapping away on tiny electronics. Their larynges will shrivel and disappear from disuse and their thumb muscles will be as big as cucumbers.


My niece (the triplet's mom, not the 12-year-old) can carry on a conversation while tapping a text message on a 12-button cell phone without even looking at it. She could probably change a baby's diaper with her free hand if pressed. I have a photo of her holding and bottle feeding TWO babies in one arm and texting with the free hand.

Me, it takes all my powers of concentration and both thumbs to figure out how to punch in my own home phone number on a cell phone. Gah!!!!