Comfortably Dumb

--Edward Hopper, "High Noon"

–Edward Hopper, “High Noon”

Suicide.  It’s been over six months since I’ve had this urge to google it.  Six months ago, I put that urge away. . .put it in a strongbox and swallowed the key.

This is the last time you haunt the house of my brain .  Here’s your hat . ..don’t let the unlocked door hit you on the way out.

And  here, I hesitate to say,  it is six months later and he’s back, Jack. That asshole with the hobnail shoes, exhausted, nauseous, spent. Stomping around in the kitchen again. . .rummaging through the produce drawer, looking for palpable courage.

The long hallway with all the family photos: every last one of those faces emaciated, expressionless.   You want to save them. . . load them all into boats, bound for anywhere

but here, where the hurt is.

I mean it is one kind of unholy to go there yourself, but you look into that sea of faces. . .so far from shore.  Hands and arms aching all the way to umbilicus that keeps you tethered to heavy heavy heavy.

Holden Caulfield in a Coast Guard boat, waving a white flag.  Enough already.  Uncle.

Uncle uncle uncle.

The Zen of Sewing. . .and Bonding with this Amazing and Inspiring Author. . .

So in an effort to keep my brain busy lest it be left to its own obsessive and defeatist tendencies . . . I’m throwing myself into a new book and a couple of sewing projects this week.

The book is bringing me to tears, a little bit, in a good way though. . .

Elyn R. Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: Hyperion 2007

From Goodreads.com:

“Saks would later attend Yale Law School where one night, during her first term, she had a breakdown that left her singing on the roof of the law school library at midnight. She was taken to the emergency room, force-fed antipsychotic medication, and tied hand-and-foot to the cold metal of a hospital bed. She spent the next five months in a psychiatric ward.

So began Saks’s long war with her own internal demons and the equally powerful forces of stigma. Today she is a chaired professor of law who researches and writes about the rights of the mentally ill. She is married to a wonderful man.

In The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks discusses frankly and movingly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, and the voices in her head insisting she do terrible things, as well as the many obstacles she overcame to become the woman she is today. It is destined to become a classic in the genre.”

And the sewing is just good quiet time. . .silencing those sounds that just keep hammering over and over like a timpani inside my head. . and the rhythms of  “I miss you. . .I miss you. . .”

So back to this fabric for now:

. . .And that repetitive sound the needle makes while I’m sewing.  . . the mindfulness and meditation made that much easier. . .you just keep your eye on the straight seam, peripherally on the edge so that everything flows to the left of it. . .the operative mantra of silence. . .and the comfort of knowing that’s all you need to worry about for now.

Words & music by Paul Simon:
Rene and Georgette Magritte

With their dog after the war

Returned to their hotel suite

And they unlocked the door

Easily losing their evening clothes

They danced by the light of the moon

To the penguins, the moonglows

The orioles, and the five satins

The deep forbidden music

They’d been longing for

Rene and georgette magritte

With their dog after the war

Here is Your Handbook for Heartbreak: A Springback Survival Guide for Single Girls When Ice-Cream is Not Enough

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But you know, the most perplexing part of this is, it  I could barely tolerate him upon our first meeting.  And then as fate would have it, the moment I rearranged my thoughts about that, he began to back away.

All of a sudden it was me working to keep him instead of him trying to woo me and win me over.  I mean as if I couldn’t do a thing for myself anymore.  I spent all my free time looking for  ways to make sure he was happy and confident in knowing how much I loved him.  And now I”ve done that, he’s moved on to the next conquest.

Why did he try so hard at the beginning just to let me go like this?

Last week I found myself listening as a friend let go those words in the sauna at the girl’s gym, her eyes rimmed in crimson, tears making rivulets that dripped on her terry cloth dress and neck; meanwhile, as I groped to find the right response, I felt my own sense of longing and loss grabbing at the hem of my heart.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago I had found myself saying such things as well. And in the throes of that full-throated aftershock of agony and insecurity, it also occurred to me

how ill-equipped we mortals be in the face of heartbreak.

It would seem that biology prepares us in oh so many ways to fall in love, but sadly does nothing whatsoever to help us fall out of it.

And so in light of science and lack of knowledge about the actual anatomy and physiology that supports such insanity, here I humbly offer this virtual handbook for heartbreak, something I’ve been trying to do for myself for quite some time as well.

To begin, I thought I would start with a to-do list for you, (but also for her in my groping, I am pretty sure I only said something to make it worse, not better) something printable and easy to carry around in your purse.  Because coping with the loss of love can be exhausting.  Especially when it seems all you can do is obsess  over and over to the point of neglecting the most basic need for sustenance and sleep.

Let alone tend to the needs of a battered and abandoned psyche.

So here it is, something to focus on after the (much needed) first crying spell passes and you start to get some perspective back:

Number one and most important of all:  Let go of the urge to make contact with someone who’s not going to appreciate it and write a love letter to yourself instead.

The fact that you were able to open your heart to him like a rose in winter speaks volumes about the way you view the world in general.  And chances are you didn’t break that mold on him either.  You are a bundle of love and cuddles no matter where you go or who you meet.  There are a bazillion creatures out there who appreciate that trait in a person, from the homeless guy you bought that sandwich for to the baby bird you scooped up off the ground and climbed that tree to put her back.

You are the embodiment of love and kindness.  And what’s not to cherish about that?

Time to pull your petals close to keep your heart safe from someone who doesn’t love himself enough to open up to you. .. so that later you’ll be able to open them again for someone who loves you just the way you are, unabashed lover of the ones who are hardest to love in the first place.  You touch a lot of lives with that stuff, Honey.  And the world will never forget you for it.

2. Now that you have written that love letter to remind yourself how precious and special you truly are, it’s time to do a bit of triage and bandage-rolling.  Time to focus on helping your heart to heal again.

Make a list of cons to avoid.

Jim Morrison's Mugshot - Florida 1970

Jim Morrison’s Mugshot – Florida 1970 (Photo credit: SongLyrics)

And do it first thing in the morning before the light of day hits the empty dent on the other side of the bed. ..and the tears begin to fall again. (Ordinarily I would suggest a pros column too, but let’s face it.  If you have read this far, it’s a good bet you have that one down ad nauseum.)   The truth is, we already spend a lot of precious reality hours fantasizing and assigning all kinds of unearned adoration to the objects of our infatuations.

 

Ask yourself the hard questions now and don’t be afraid to let the fritos fall where they may.  Among the beercans and roach clips that your once beloved left lying all over the house as well.

Is it really all that cute when he burps the words to “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” ?   Or is it cuter that  you were able to overlook it and laugh with him. .. the unconditional depth of the way you let yourself open to a dope who didn’t deserve you. .. like a magnolia or a lily of the mountains?

Get real, Girl.  And give credit where credit is due.

Continue reading

My Blue Heaven

--Tess Farnham "My Blue Heaven," mixed media on canvas, 20x24

So in the past, I have admitted to being one of those artists who grapples with intense bouts of sadness, bouts that are at times so gripping and intense you can barely hold a brush in your hand, let alone steady the thing for detail or realism.  The curves turn linear and the lines wave and bend with trembling.  You erase and erase until the frustration just leads to tears and the tearing up of preliminary sketches and grids. 

At some point in this process you finally get so exasperated, you just grab the closest implement of application and let the strokes go where they will.

This piece actually began as a much darker work with lots of primary colors for contrast; it was a piece that I cherished mostly because its importance to a friend of mine, nevertheless, a piece that I had more or less made to suit his tastes instead of mine.

As it happens, I store blank canvases in the same corner of the basement where I store finished works.  And the other night as I was flipping through to find the size I wanted, my eyes fell upon that painting. ..and I started to think of how much I wanted to take out those awful strokes of ocher and red. . . 

So instead of starting fresh, I decided to go to work there. 

After I had taken this painting upstairs, I noticed that there was a tiny ding in the wood support where it had been dropped on the basement floor.  At first discouraged by this discovery, I quickly recovered when I realized I could patch it.

With lacy mesh from an old curtain panel, its mate lost in the fog somewhere now.  A slumping and ravaged mishap in a heap on the chair beside the easel like a castoff bridal veil. 

I cut the bandages haphazardly, applying them to the corners of the canvas as reinforcement. Afterwards, I applied some gel medium and paint to anchor them.

Next came coats of color and gel medium mixed with pearlescent powders to address the areas where the piece had fallen short of my vision of a completed work. Blues and maroons, mixed and unmixed with dabs of this and that and at times patched together with leaves shakily extracted from that cast off curtain.

A couple of hours later,  I was finished.  Happy and satiated that I’d lifted myself out of this sad spell, but also had done sufficient triage to resurrect a work that had gone to a corner of my basement to die.

Process and Painting: On Bartering a Portrait to Pay the Rent

So here is a new work, one born of necessity. ..the necessity arose from having to pay rent between semesters sans a paycheck.  It started with a conversation wherein I sort of hinted at the barter and then when my landlady found herself in need of a gift for her mother, she remembered that conversation.

I asked for a photograph so I could get started and she obliged with this one:

If you look closely, you might note that this drafting table doubles as a sewing table, but also perhaps something about my process which involves using the grid technique.  In this next photo, you can see the sketch done with an olive gray wash:

And here is the finished portrait:

Tess Farnham, Untitled Portrait, 16x20 acrylic on canvas

Process Diary and Some CreativeTips from Charles Bukowski via Tom Waits

Tess Farnham, acrylic on artist's panel: Lily of the Valley

Last night as I was poring through my collection of gardening catalogs, tearing at pages with white flowers mostly: roses,  irises, magnolia. . .I was thinking about the mixed media piece I wanted to finish, but also getting an itch to paint again.  So now I’ve taped more photos over the drafting board and small easel, assembled my brushes and paints. . .the prints from Chagall and Degas are permanent fixtures. Sometimes I add or subtract things, but the photo(s) in the bottom right corner is/are always changing from project to project.  Mother Nature has a way with the arrangement of color and line and I like to follow her suggestions for abstract.

This is almost a spiritual activity for me. I am particular and superstitious about these two things; the same way a little kid can be vigilant about avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, I am persistent about avoiding a naked workspace. After I finish one project and clear the easel or table, I go to the basement and take out a new canvas or wood panel. . .depending on the project, a sheet of Arches, Canson Mixed Media or Mei Teints paper. I may not touch that blank slate for days; nevertheless, I find its placement necessary. It’s my dreaming time, a time for walking past the table or easel and imagining the possibilities.

Chagall Museum Paintings, Nice, France

Image by Jon Himoff via Flickr

In the same way, I also like to have drafts of poetry or blog posts accessible. . .folded fabric and patterns. . .the spices set out for a dish I plan to cook.

Last night, I also spent some downtime reading Sylvia Plath, Rumi, and Robert Bly.

I need to rest in between projects as well. I have to crash. . .to sleep for hours and hours, I guess to incubate and charge my batteries. I think perhaps it’s part of what we do as artists, these periods of intense creating followed by quiet time. Perhaps it’s just mania followed by depression. ..I’m not sure. . ..the scariest feeling being the one when I fear the sleepiness won’t go away. ..I won’t ever write or paint again. ..or be able to stay awake.

And on this final note, I will end with an amazing clip of Tom Waits reading Charles Bukowski, two of my favorite artists, guys who are quite familiar with the reality of the outsider stance and the very real feelings that lead to it.  I hope it inspires you.  . . .

Flying Saucers, Evolution of an Abstract, and Losing My Ruby: A Couple of Unrelated Stories that Turn Out Totally OK in the End.

So in spite of everything that has happened in my life lately, including a rather embarrassing extreme close encounter with some rather unyielding asphalt last night, an experience that left this blogger somewhat bruised and disoriented if only momentarily, followed by this crazy headache left over, skinned knees and sore palms. ..sigh. ..

Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...

Image via Wikipedia

all of these atrocities giving way to a small revelation which, I should also own up to having posted on the installment plan in my Facebook status, admittedly a very lame attempt at garnering some single girl sympathy. . .AGAIN. . .after a very long string of episodes involving some very weird luck. . .

enclosed please find installment number 1:

Note to my Dansko clogs: Dear shoes with soles that squeak like the wheels on a trojan rabbit. ..and take me from home to work and vice versa going on four years. ..I love and adore your loyalty, truly I have no idea what I would do without it. . .but please TRY and remember that superpowers are for comic books. . . and that yours truly will fall on her big fat keyster . . .especially if you let go of the asphalt long enough to make my legs go airborne. . . knees and hands ouch!!!!

Installment 2:

I am thankful I did not break my noggin last night when I fell on the asphalt.  And hoping I will be able to find the stone for my ring when I go searching the street for it this morning.  🙂  Wish me luck!

And the ending:

You guys!  I found the stone!!! I just combed the corner where I fell, seeing all that dark stuff. ..thinking I’d never find it. ..and there it was in the middle, scratched. . . but found!  My neighbor had  super-glue too so it’s all fixed.  Sticky with glue on our fingers but fixed!  🙂

And IN SPITE OF ALL THAT STUFF, including the awesomeness about finding my stone. . .which I learned is a ruby, a North American unfaceted ruby. ..

(Note: these are cheap so artists can afford them and have a circulatory healing stone as well. ..)

In spite of all that stuff, I was still able to get some art making accomplished this week. . .and a new listing for my Etsy shop too.

And the story is, I began staring at a beautiful (and yes professional. . . yay inspiration, man!) photo of white flowers against stems and a dark sky. . .and then loading up my palette with paints. ..moving the brush around a little bit and getting down with the greens and red maroons

then mixing up some yellow white and ecru, ivory. ..

Oddly enough and much to my own surprise, I somehow ended up with a mass of lavender scribbles at the pause point:

Tess Farnham, work in progress, 8x8 Mixed media on canvas

But sadly, when I took this piece outside to see how it behaved in the daylight, I was rather disappointed at the washing out of much of this color. So after going back inside, I got to work, sort of getting lost in the memory of this beautiful shiny work of jewelry I’d seen at a fair-trade place, one incorporating pearls, amethyst and amber. I ended up collaging more lace into this and adding a few of the flowers from the photograph. And here it is now listed and ready to be adopted into a kind and loving environment:

Tess Farnham, untitled mixed media on artist's panel, 8x8.

and alas, artists gotta eat too: http://www.etsy.com/listing/86093373/original-floral-abstract-painting

Scantily Clad Insanity, Provocative Tagging and Poetry!!! Testing One, Two, Three

(this post is dedicated to my church-going friend, Nicole)

So a couple of weeks ago, I was facebook wall chatting with a friend whose initial status was questioning the integrity of people will go to great lengths of craziness. . .to gain a readership online. I can’t remember the actual conversation per se, only that I wanted to write a blog about it so here I am. . . with this experiment.

OK, I confess this is post is inspired in part by a very needy desire to increase readership  (a very large part so go ahead and shoot me already, I deserve it. . .)

but also (to continue with what I was saying before that last parenthetical). . . also a furious curiosity to see what will happen after I’ve attached the following tags/links and/or language to this artist’s blog:

nudes,

reclining nudes,

naked ladies,

burlesque

erotic poetry.

bipolar illness

You could call  it a hypothetical experiment, or some other kinda sciencey thing that indicates scholarly involvement, experiment in which a part of me finds itself feelin kinda jazzed about making waves in these otherwise calm waters (so far the seventh biggest day I’ve had around here was an artist interview that included a couple of nude paintings. . . accompanied by a buxomy shot of the budding and lovely young artist 😉  )

and the other part finds itself feelin kinda nervous. . .about what to expect in the aftermath of such a blatant attempt to draw attention to oneself.

http://grumpygardener.southernliving.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/10/13/tree2.jpg

Introductions first perhaps and check out this sclera slash aqueous matter in the baby blues up here. . .”hi, i’m tess; part-time artist/ part-time community college instructor . . .

And truth be told, I kind of had to draw the line at actual pornography as mostly I find the stuff to be boring and exploitive. . .and so as not to throw my unsaved soul completely overboard.. . .and end up getting devoured by a drunken boat at the corner of Scylla and Charybdis, I’ve decided to limit my tagging vocabulary to “art” and insanity words.

So here I am at any rate, having tied myself to the mast. .. seasick with sirens blaring loud in cyberspace. All kinds of things to worry about now and fodder for serious neurosis.

Anyway, here goes nothing.

Exhibit A, some original art with an erotic theme followed by exhibit B, a poem on the topic of a semi clad exboyfriend, one having sold himself out to find work as a model for phone-sex.

"Orchestral" 9x12 mixed media on paper, piece inspired by the poetry of Mary McCrary Ladd, --Tess Farnham, 8/2011

http://www.etsy.com/listing/80849466/mixed-media-fantasy-lavender-glitter

At any rate, I have just discovered what would happen to my experiment by posting this title in the WordPress promotional forum. 

And that is a swift reprimand about the misuse of tags. . .which is kind of embarrassing even when you are just kidding around. 

So I won’t actually be attaching any of the tags I said I would use.  And truth be told, I never did.  Even from the beginning.

In some future post, I guess maybe I will write about about PRETENDING I attached too many provocative tags, and then admit I totally chickened out in the end. 

 

exhibit b: to be continued at a later date

 

Into the Arms of Venus De Milo: Art-Inspired Music

OK first and most obvious of this genre has gotta be this one by Nat King Cole, the smoothest crooner of tunes in a suit and pencil thin tie:

(Click on the link below if you wish to go directly to youtube for Nat, but don’t forget to close the link window and come back after you’ve gone there!)

Here is one from Television:

And just for fun and to give attention to the non-traditional outsider types, an eighties craziness favorite as commentary on traditional religious upbringings (warning: this one is NOT for for the eyes of those who have a strong aversion to irreverent commentary on the Judeo Christian concept of hell, though this blog loves and supports folks from all walks and belief systems with love and open arms. ..but just so you know what you’re getting into here. . . NOTE: If you are someone who remembers how much fun it was to leave the arm of the record player extended to the right for repetition of a favorite tune over and over again. ..clicking on this link will take you back to smoothest crooning instead though.Just don’t forget to close the window afterward and come back for more!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxEmnxiUz8w ) :

Continue reading

Finding Inspiration through Friends, Telemann, Chopin, and Dragonball Z: Interview with New Zealand Artist Zenobia Southcombe

“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my
world. ”
Leo Buscaglia

“A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away. ”

Bil
Keane

Inspiration can come from as close as a freshly plucked garden flower or in this case flung from as far as a continent on the other side of the stratosphere.  Recently I’ve been enjoying the act of building community  and catching creative sparks from across the globe though swapping blogs and sharing stories with Auckland artist and elementary school teacher, Zenobia (Zee) Southcombe.

So here, gentle reader is your fodder for today.  Sit back, enjoy the works and join me in getting to know a little more about the many charms of my new friend, Zee!

1.      Introduce yourself…

Kia ora! My name is
Zenobia Southcombe, and I’m an artist & teacher from New Zealand. When I’m
not making art I am learning, reading, teaching, gaming, blogging, cooking,
drinking tea, eating, meeting friends or watching TV. (Sometimes I am doing
these while I am making art as well).

Just a few of Zee's charms. . . 😉

2.      What inspired you to become an artist?

From a young age I
had wanted to be an artist – not a famous artist, mind you, I couldn’t handle
that much attention, I’m way too much of an introvert for that! – but able to
make art as a ‘job’. I followed through with this throughout highschool, and
began a Bachelor of Visual Arts, but withdrew before the end of my first
semester because I am not a huge fan of post-modernism (feel free to try and
convince me otherwise!). So I went into teaching, which I absolutely LOVE,
finished my degree, began teaching, and dropped the dream for a while. One of my
students once asked me what I wanted to be when I was little. I answered
“Artist”. Hmm… so why aren’t I? Then I got started again and couldn’t
stop!

Zenobia Southcombe, "Wistful" 2011

3.      What media / material & process do you like best,
and why?

Pen & Ink! I’ve
always admired the ink & wash technique (also called sumi-e) of Zen Buddhist
art, and I’ve always loved drawing. So it was a no-brainer, really (having said
that, it took a good 20 years to drop the paintbrush and pick up the pen so
maybe not).

Zenobia Southcombe, detail from "Sun Splashes"

4.      Tell us a bit about your creative process…

Since I’m a
part-time artist, I first have to take over the dining table so I have my space.
I then put on Bach / Chopin / Telemann or Dragonball Z and get down to it. I
carry a sketchbook and a camera with me to capture the creative moments I get,
or to note down research that applies to my subject / technique /
style.

Zenobia Southcombe, "Magnus Monster"

Generally, I work
from reference photos, so sometimes I’m sitting on the computer for ages trying
to find that ‘perfect photo’. However, with the ink wash technique it’s more of
a compositional challenge.

Zenobia Southcombe, "Barnacle Geese"

5.      Where do you feel most inspired?

Mission Bay, or at
my artist friend Jane Thorne’s place. She’s awesome.

6.      What sets your work apart from others in your
field?

All my works are
originals, and I try to make it affordable for the average student, starving
artist & general public to have some original art in their lives.

I always try to
show some emotion and character in my drawings, and I really enjoy doing custom
artworks for people, be it a portrait, idea or otherwise. My work covers a range
of subject matter, that still link together with the ideas of freedom &
creativity.

Zenobia Southcombe, custom portrait

7.      If you could meet any artist, dead or alive, who would
it be?

Hmmm… a toss-up
between Monet and Turner. My two absolute favourite artists ever. Although I
would also really like to meet some of the Zen Buddhist artists.

8.      If you could ask this person any question, what would
you want to know?

Easy –
can I watch you paint?

9.      What advice do you have for emerging
artisans?

Make art that you
love. Your passion for the media, process, style and technique WILL show
through. Persevere in your dreams, and try to make friends along the
way.

Zenobia Southcombe, "Zee on the Road" ink and acrylic on paper

10.  Link love – where can we find you online?

Blog:

http://ZenobiaSouthcombe.wordpress.com

Available
Work:

http://ZenobiaSouthcombe.etsy.com

Follow
me!

Twitter:
@ZSouthcombe

Facebook.com/ZSouthcombe

The Big Idea
Profile (for the New Zealand Creative Community)

http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/profile/zenobia-southcombe/36955

Zenobia Southcombe, "My Life in Charms" ACEO, ink and watercolor