Elaine is here is because her daughter, Mary, asked me if Elaine could stay with me "temporarily." Mary was my daughter's best friend through high school. Mary is a piece of work. She knows I'm a pushover for this kind of thing. Why, you might ask, doesn't Mary ask her own mother to stay with her? The answer is simple. Elaine is stark raving mad. Nobody knows if Elaine's mental illness is the result of nature or nurture. The back story is that she left her husband and kids in the 60s, moved into a commune in the Haight Ashbury, and took every drug known to man. Eventually, I get Elaine to move out. She moves one block away. She lives in a ground floor apartment on Sanchez Street. The last known sighting of Elaine is of her dancing naked in front of her window.
July 3rd was the anniversary of the health crisis that marked the beginning of the end of my mother’s life. On the morning of July 3, 2018, I woke up from a long luxurious dream about Mom. I dreamt that I took her on a short hike so that she could enjoy nature, even with her mobility issues. We drove to the top of a mountain, and I gently guided her down. It was the kind of dream that I savored for awhile after I woke up. It was only later in the day of July 3 that I realized that the dream happened on the anniversary of Mom’s stroke and fall. Maybe she was thanking me for helping her through the last six months of her life and for showing her a few things of beauty along the way.
On the other hand, “they” say that every character in a dream is some aspect of the dreamer. If this is so, the message is that I need to be gentle with myself when I take myself into nature. I am not the spry young hiker with great reflexes that I was even a decade ago, and my wounded knee is a reminder that I can still hike, but I need to be careful and slow down.
The watercolor that accompanies this post is of a photograph of Mom and me in 1977. I was excited that the 30x30 Direct Watercolor Challenge was over, and I could do a preliminary sketch with a pencil. I thought my results would be so much better. However, I saw that the direct watercolor system (using only watercolor and a brush---no drawing) lent itself to a looser look, so after my preliminary pencil sketch, I returned to my brushes alone. Discovering my inner watercolorist through this thirty day challenge has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to doing more. In fact, my dining room table has become my semi-permanent watercolor station.
So Supreme Court Justice Kennedy resigned; plus a couple of other hideous things passed in the Supreme Court. Basically, we’re screwed. Sometimes I have this cockeyed optimist view that things can turn around, that this is the last gasp of the order of old worn out power mad rich white men before world consciousness morphs into the compassionate state that I think it should be in. The cautious optimist says, “Yeah, right.” The pragmatist says that nothing’s going to improve unless ordinary people like me do something, anything. Off I go to another march this Saturday. Sigh. In the meantime, back in Nancyland, I’ve been doing the thirty direct watercolors in thirty days. Direct watercolor means only watercolor, no pencil sketches, no lines. It’s been an amazing experience. By the way, I hate the word “amazing.” It’s really overused. It’s like “journey.” On Dancing with the Stars everyone talks about their amazing journey. Yes, I watch DWTS. I can stop anytime. But seriously, this direct watercolor challenge has taught me a lot that I can apply to my drawing, and it’s inspiring me to do more watercolors after the 30 days are over. Of course, Nancyland is not without its problems. The old couch was supposed to be taken away today. They couldn’t do it. It got stuck in one of many doors in the hallway. They managed to get it back into my condo, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK is coming to take it tomorrow. I told them to bring a saw. The schedule tomorrow is: 1-800-GOT-JUNK between 9 and 11. Stitch removal at Kaiser at 11:40. New furniture arriving between 2 and 4. Not a lot of margin for error. In the meantime, Archie is making progress learning to take his pills in food (so I don’t have to cram them down his throat). He’ll eat it if I furiously rub the spot on his back at the base of his tail, and say in a high-pitched voice, “Please eat the cheese. Please eat the cheese. Please eat the cheese.”
Last weekend, I was in Utah for my mother’s memorial service. Forty one of our relatives were there. There was a lot of talk about how hard it was for mom and her siblings after their mother died. My mother was eight at the time and suddenly had the responsibilities of “the woman of the farm” thrust upon her. That was in 1932. Meanwhile, back in the world of 2018, news was coming in about horrific reports of the separation of immigrant children from their parents after attempting so-called illegal border crossings. I know a little about the pain of children’s separation from or loss of a parent because of my mother. Her emotional pain and insecurity followed her to the end of her life. I also saw the love and security of children growing up in a close extended family like mine in Utah now. I was lucky to have my mother until she was 93. She was ready to go; I was ready to let her go. It was the natural order of things. I can’t help but compare the safe and happy kids in my family with the images of other young ones caged and crying. Their fear is unimaginable to me, and their current trauma will follow them throughout their lives; the psychic wounds will be felt for future generations. The day after mom’s memorial, Sue, Liz, and I went on a hike above Sundance Resort in the Wasatch Mountains. They were hiking a little ahead of me because I like to hike at my own pace. Suddenly I went flying through the air, and fell on my knee (to the tune of seventeen stitches), my forearm, and my finger.. Later, I pondered the significance of why this happened while I was in Utah for mom’s memorial. One theory is that Great Grandfather Mattinson was present. He was a hardy soul who pushed a handcart across the country (they were pioneers with no horses). He might have come through those same mountains. On the last day of his journey, his diary reads,”Those who were able to were ordered to walk.” I picked myself up and continued walking down the mountain. It’s in my genes. I am very fortunate that there was no major physical damage. I don’t remember the fall at all, and I felt no pain. Maybe my mother caught me and softened the fall. Maybe it was my other ancestors, whose history runs deep in these mountains. I was lucky. I had family nearby to help me. I got great medical care in Utah and I’ve had good follow up care back at home. I think about everyone who doesn’t have access to health care, especially the immigrants in distress in detention centers. I do not know what I can do to help them, so for now, I will use my art.
Went to Social Drawing Group today at Mission Creek Cafe. The core group was there (Leena, Amaroq, Barney the Dog, and Myself). As a result, the conversation was juicier than usual since we've all known each other for years. The group was true to its name, and we all drew or painted or both for the entire two hours as we talked. This is what I did---watercolor with pencil and a little pen over the watercolor. No work tomorrow, so the afternoon segued into the evening. Leena and I met a traveler/photographer on the corner with some fabulous photos of Cuba from 2002 and 2004. We were on Valencia Street, Ground Zero for the Google People, so we spent a fair amount of time analyzing the Google People. They certainly are less noticeable than the dot-commers of the late 90s. I think there's more humility in this crowd. The dot-commers of the first dot-com boom arrogantly thought there was no end to the wealth. My sense is that this new group knows how vulnerable they are. The new bubblette could burst tomorrow. We ended the evening at a great Ethiopian restaurant.
I want to write a little about “the trial” during the period when the paranoia is wearing off, but the edginess hasn’t. What a strange experience. I wasn’t physically sequestered, but I was emotionally sequestered. I couldn’t talk about the trial to anyone outside the courtroom. I couldn’t talk to the other jurors about anything beyond pleasantries. I talked to the cats a little, but they didn’t really understand.
What goes on in the courtroom is a form of art, but it’s also a blood sport (without the blood). It’s a theatrical performance, but it’s also like the Indonesian shadow puppet plays: the artistic arena where society gets to act out its shadow side. The shadow is definitely present in the drama of the American courtroom. It’s also like a gladiator battle. It was sort of disturbing to me that, as time went on, I found myself gearing up for the enjoyment of watching one lawyer or another marching up to the witness for cross examination. Going for the jugular. I felt like that scene in Lawrence of Arabia where he executes a man and afterwards says, “There was something about it I didn’t like.” When questioned about what that something was, he answered, “…that I enjoyed doing it.” I’ve been doing some pencil sketches of the whole process, but here’s the finished cartoon that I submitted to Union Action. The reason for the title “The Lost Season” is that I really felt like I lost an entire season of my life. It all started on September 3, when it was still hot and summery, and it ended on October 24, a week before the time change. There was also a bit of an aftermath, but that’s another story.
I just got a Wacom tablet (which is now called something else), so I can draw my scratchy little black lines in Photoshop. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like being able to use a pen (with as fine or as thick a line as you want) right on your images on the computer. My artist friends have been encouraging to think of my sketchbook art as art, rather than crazy doodles that the world will never see. I’ve been experimenting with scanning images into the computer and cleaning them up a bit in Photoshop (My sketchbook pages often have nice images on them, but they also have scribbly notes about god knows what, and it’s necessary to get some of those notes off the page and often replace them with something else, such as my scratchy black lines.) This has been awkward, if not impossible when trying to use my finger as my pen on the trackpad. With the Wacom tablet, problem solved! I’ve known about these things for years, but didn’t know how cheap they were. Anyway, now I’m happy, happy, happy. I’m going to try to upload some images, so you can see how an image can be transformed from a sketchbook page, to a page without all the crazy notes all over them, and then cropped into a smaller image for a greeting card or whatever.
Blogging is kind of a self-conscious activity because it’s completely available to the public, including many people that the blogger knows, but one also doesn’t know who’s reading it. It’s like being behind a one way mirror. But “they” tell me that it’s important to do it as part of getting my art out there (even if it feels a little weird), so I’m going to carry on. It’s always been hard for me to separate the political from the personal (and the artistic), so I’m not going to worry about mixing it all together. The crisis at City College has overshadowed the month of July for me and for others who work or study there. I was fortunate to be able to go to Oregon for the first two and a half weeks after the announcement that the ACCJC is revoking our accreditation. I’ve been back for about ten days. The first couple of days, I was just glad to be home. Then reality about the work situation set in, and I’ve been passing through all kinds of different emotions. Denial. Sadness. Anger. I haven’t gotten to bargaining or acceptance yet. Sleep hasn’t been great. Sometimes I feel hit with waves of exhaustion, but I feel fortunate that I haven’t been suffering from major insomnia in spite of the fact that my work/financial future is on the line. One of the hardest things about this “crisis” is the message behind the ACCJC decision that I, as a teacher, am of no value. When I am able to get out of my own little world, I can see that this attitude of "devaluation" extends to all of the students who need City College, particularly the most vulnerable ones. Often I feel helpless, but I know that there will be actions to fight for my profession and for the students. Art helps a lot. Cats help a lot. Walking on the beach right outside my door helps too. The other day, someone said that it is possible for us to turn this thing around. That the odds are heavily stacked against us, but it is possible. Artwise, I’m looking ahead to Zinefest on Labor Day weekend. In addition to my book, I have promised to sell cat-related art, so I’m working with cat images from my sketchbook in Photoshop, and I’ll post at least one of them here. Oh, and PS. We got paid today with our new 5% permanent pay cut. The irony is that it feels like a raise. The first six months of this year, our paychecks have been small and unpredictable. There was a temporary paycut and a retroactive paycut. (I still don’t understand how a retroactive paycut can be legal). Together that has equaled an 11% paycut. On top of that, for me, an additional $134 has been deducted from every other paycheck as some additional retroactive thing that I never really figured out. Also, “they” decided that it was a good time to switch from a biweekly to a monthly pay, and to transition into the new system we’ve had to wait a month and five days between paychecks. I guess now we can at least expect to get paid on the first of the month. For the next year anyway. Meow.
Click here for more cats.
I started off 2013 right by landing in Paris on New Years Day. Paris seems to kickstart my art. I’d spent a few months of June there a few years back (before the cats, the condo, and the paycuts) and I wrote in my journal that it was like being in a giant art bath. On my most recent trip, I was there for a little over a week. It was different from my trips to Paris in the summer, when it stays light until 11PM. In the winter, it’s dark and drizzly, and I spent most of my time alone on this particular trip. I knew I’d want electronic company, so I brought my computer (a first for me), and signed up for a couple of meetup groups before and during my trip. I ended up with a meetup drawing group twice---once in an art studio for an “intuitive drawing workshop,” and once at the Louvre. When I returned to the USA, I ended up joining three more art meetup groups (in addition to the Graphic Novel group that I’ve been in for a few years). The most noteworthy is Alameda Artists, a group of highly energized and supportive artists, who have taught me, among other things, that my pages and pages of “mindless” sketching are works of art in and of themselves. This particular sketch was started at a Graphic Novel meetup at our usual hangout in San Francisco. (I was so mesmerized by my friend, Amaroq’s, double paged drawings that I kind of copied her layout—thanks, Amaroq), and did a lot of the rest of it at Alameda Artists meetups. Thanks to all of my art friends, new and old. It’s great to be an artist among artists.
This is my first blog ever. Feel free to join in the conversation about your creative process.