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Archive for January, 2010

Finally, third time around, new baking powder (thanks to Tom‘s suggestion), and a little tweaking of the recipe and these are the most delicious Banana Pancakes you’ve ever seen.

Also, when I ground my coffee beans this morning, I threw in some whole cloves and allspice and a little cinnamon, and WOW. I know it’s noon and I’m still in jammies and just now finishing my breakfast, but it’s so worth it to be slow-moving when this is what I get to enjoy.

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I swear this is not an indicator of my actual creative/artistic abilities. Promise. It is however a red flag for my loved ones that my crazy is about to take me over…

Positively speaking I’m resourceful and tenacious.

I’ll just go ahead and let the photos speak their piece and see if you can’t figure out what happened here.

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It’s like Where’s Waldo, except with a MacBook. Betcha can’t find it.

Give up? Ok, ok, it’s the tall red-head. Nice, huh?

According to Casey, these were just released today and he’d already ordered mine so it arrived this morning. Most Excellent. Now my laptop won’t feel so out of place among its ancestors.

Go, buy yourself a new BookBook. It’s rad.

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So, I’m wondering if I should post some pictures of people I’ve drawn to give you all a little confidence in sending me your photos…thoughts? I mean, sure, you run the risk of receiving balloon-head pictographs in the style of every 4-year-old you’ve ever known, but what’s life without a little risk, am I right?

Ok, I’ll photograph a few of my things, stick ’em up here as kind of a good-faith sharing of what I can do while I await your good-faith sharing of your photographs. Deal? Yes. Ok good.

Meanwhile, it’s 1:15 in the afternoon and I’m still in jammies. I didn’t feel great when I woke up. Hadn’t slept well, and my neck and eyeballs ached. Obviously I want to shower, but we’re still waiting for the plumber guy to come back today and replace the weak thermo-coupling so that our water can heat up sufficiently. Yesterday the death-trap situation was remedied quickly but at nearly twice the originally quoted price. But they didn’t have the correct part to fix the thermo-couple (coupling? coupler? WTF is the right word there?). So, we have lukewarm water (because if the pilot is up too high—which is to say, hot enough to take a decent shower—it trips a sensor and shuts down), but we’re not currently going to die in our sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is, as you may suspect, an awesome state of affairs.

I’m trying hard to train myself to write everyday. Whether writing on here, or playing around with one of my story ideas, or whatever, my brain needs the daily exercise because when I don’t, every synapse in there rebels and I’m left thinking about………….

See. That right there. That happens when I’m not daily challenging my brain to organize thoughts, connect them, say them better, make them funny or meaningful to something larger. I go blank. I couldn’t think of anything funny or even ordinary or ANYTHING AT ALL to describe this globulous mental atrophy. (And, I know. Globulous is entirely the wrong word, but that’s the sound of word that I want right there and if I was daily working out my brain, I’d be agile enough to find the word that sounds like that that means what I want it to mean. But I’m leaving the wrong word there because it sounds gross and gross is what I’m going for.)

This reminds me of Benjamin Franklin. He complains of exactly this suffering in part one of his autobiography, which I’m reading for my American Lit. class. I have wanted to read it anyway, so I’m happy to do it now. So far, this is the best writing I’ve encountered in all the colonial and pre-colonial American literature we’ve read. Old Franklin is a funny, ironic, and intelligent guy. And he’s bent on improving himself in every activity he pursues. So it’s cool to be reading him now; it’s like inspiration for me to continue on in diligence the things I’m trying to improve: writing, art, life, et al. Go read Ben Franklin; he’ll make you want to be a better citizen.

I’m at a loss as to wrapping this up today…it’s that mental atrophy taking over. This will get better. I will get better. Send me pictures so I can draw you.

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Let Me Make You Art

I have this ART idea that’s been hovering around my head for awhile in a sort of darting and flitting way, and today it kind of landed for real—for a couple minutes anyway. Long enough for me to take the essence of the thing and perhaps do something with it.

I like to draw people. Portraits, specifically. I can do full figures, but still need a great deal of practice on them for proportion and all that to confidently say, “I can do good figure drawings.” So, to back up, I like to draw people’s faces and I’m pretty good at it. I like pencil and charcoal best.

I always have it in my head that I’d like to draw my friends, and then when I flip through photos that I have to work from, I realize I have very few physical photos (especially current ones) of my friends and family. And working from photos online just isn’t  cutting it. I mean, ideally, I’d have a physical body in my attic from which to draw, but a decent sized and quality photo is a useable alternative.

So, here’s what I’m proposing to my friends and family: Send me photos of you and I will draw them in pencil or charcoal and send back both the photo and the drawing.

I haven’t worked out all the details yet. Like, how do I ship a charcoal drawing without it smudging and ruining it? What size photo should you send me? The bigger the better because details are clearer, but I can’t really work from small photos that have been enlarged because it’s all pixelated and makes it really hard to see clearly. So, probably for now the best thing to do is just send me the clearest and biggest photo that you’d like drawn. And as I go along with this, I’ll learn what works best and we’ll adapt accordingly. I’ll have to do some investigating about the shipping.

What do you think?

This has a few benefits for all involved, as I see it.

1. I get to draw.

1. a) You’ve got nothing to lose.

2. You get a hand drawn portrait of you, or your spouse/kid/various loved one.

3. You can hang it in your house, give it away as a gift, stow it in your basement as a memento of helping out a pal.

4. I get to pretend I’m a real artist commissioned by real people for real art.

5. It’ll only cost you the postage for the photo you mail. (For now. Depending how this little adventure goes, perhaps someday I’d charge people to do their portraits.)

6. RE: Number 5: Unless you feel compelled to include a love offering to off-set my costs in re-shipping to you, and for my supplies, and perhaps the eventual purchase of a bona-fide artist’s easel.

That last one is entirely up to you because for now, I want to draw things and I want to send the drawings off to people who want them when they are finished. I do much better in life when I have someone else’s expectation to meet. I’m less likely to hang out around my attic drawing things if I’m the only one going to see them. That probably goes against everything a REAL ARTIST would say, but truth be told, all artists are a little narcissistic and the rest of them are just fooling themselves if they believe they make art only for themselves.

But what it does for me is give me some external pressure to accomplish something that I want to do. Help me not be a slacker and get something cool (I hope you think so anyway) in return.

Also, RE: the previous post, this helps me focus on one thing that I want to do so I’m not so wayward and maudlin about it all.

Send me an email: chastity@chastitywest.com if you want to send a photo and I’ll give you my address.

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Ok. I’m going to try and get a few thoughts out here. It’s been several forevers since I’ve updated this blog with anything substantial, and that alone makes me sneer at myself and my small position in the world and I think, well, no one has yet bemoaned your lack of contribution to daily blog reading, so why start adding to it again now? And that just makes me put it off a day more, and a week, and another six months, because, really what’s the point of it all?

And for some reason, that thought invades and infiltrates every other part of my brain and life and I’ve stopped creating art. It’s embarrassing for me to call myself an artist.

Several reasons: I’ve never once been paid for something artistic I’ve created and somehow it’s been worked out in the warped places of my mind that payment for art is the only thing legitimizing the activity. If it’s validated, I can rest my conscience that I’m not throwing my life away pursing it and I’m less embarrassed to admit that I create for a living (or at least I hope to live by the creations I create) because someone else would have been willing to exchange something cold and hard for something I’ve made.

I cringe at the mere thought of this conversation:

Innocent Inquirer: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a writer/artist of sorts.”

Innocent Inquirer: “Oh yeah? That’s cool. Anything I’d be familiar with?”

Me: “Well, have you been to that one leaking toilet on the third floor of the Cathedral of Learning?”

Innocent Inquirer: “Uh…I don’t think so…”

Me: “Yeah, I figured. People tend to avoid it. I had some graffiti there once, sort of a conversation with another anonymous writer, but it’s been painted over by now. ‘Bout the only thing I’ve had public…”

Innocent Inquirer: “Oh…”

Me: “Yeah. Someday, maybe.”

Awkward Silence.

Another reason: I find it hard to legitimize the things I make or do with the title ART because it almost seems pretentious or self-gratifying…like, ok, what it is, is that I need someone else who is an ARTIST to validate what I’m doing by telling me it’s good enough to call it ART, or it at least has the potential of growing into ART even if it’s inchoate at the moment.

If I was someone else listening to me whine about what’s art or what isn’t especially if it’s begotten of my hands and imagination, I’d throw my hands up and yell at me to quit bitching and moaning and get back to making the fucking ART. But I’m not outside listening to me dithering and wringing my hands, so it’s just not that easy. And I really don’t know why. It should be.

Another reason: I sat on the couch all night tonight feeling a pull, an ache, to be about my art. And my brain wouldn’t get in sync with whatever part of me was crying out to create. My brain was busy wandering through a wasteland of But What Should I Do? How Will I Know Whether It’s Any Good? What If No One Likes It? What If No One Ever Sees It To Even Try And Like It?

I’m dehydrated just from typing that out. That’s how my brain feels all the time. Alternately foggy and arid and cracked.

There’s this reigning unfocusedness that I can’t seem to conquer. Often, I have to sit and just blankly stare off into an abyss of cottony nothing for solid 15 and 20 minutes at a stretch until I can relocate whatever frayed thread of thought I had been on before. What is that?

Another reason: I have nothing REAL, tangible, solid, or substantial to show for all my claiming to be an artist. What if someone asks to see my work? From the dregs of a few art classes, the best of which are ticky-tacked to my attic walls? Several unfinished short stories of questionable quality, and TWO (seriously, I’ve managed to only reach two endings, ever) “finished” short stories also of questionable quality? That’s like letting the shop teacher rifle through your underwear drawer.

That’s the whining, insecure, unaccomplished side of things.

On the other hand, I’m currently more inspired creatively than I’ve been in a long time. Probably years. The inspiration seems to be equal parts internal and external.

Internally, everything I look at or handle or interact with lately reveals to me its clandestine crafty/artistic/alternative lifestyle. And I’m seeing the potential to repurpose/rebeautify/rejuvinate/transform/etc, etc, etc…everything: paper bags, business cards I’ve collected (it’s a strange habit that I can’t kick), Christmas cards, old high school show t-shirts from marching band and musicals, blue jeans, unfashionable sweaters knitted of beautiful yarn, Casey’s weird programming swag t-shirts, a pile of my grandma’s ancient handkerchiefs, my broke-ass kitchen floor, So many common work-a-day things, even surfacely ugly things have intrinsic beauty if you hold them up to the light just right.

Ideas are not my problem, a plan for the motley bibs and bobs I’ve collected also not a problem—I can see all their afterlifes, hazy, and floating just out of reach, like so many raptured souls rising on to the Eternal Promised Land.

Writing ideas are also not a problem. I have notebooks full of scribbles and paragraphs and doodles and snippets and kernels and nuggets just languishing on shelves and in plastic bins marked “Chastity’s Writing Stuff.” My laptop (and those before it) also a purgatory of my imaginings.

People around me, acquaintances, famous people I admire and follow regularly, so many of my close and peripheral contacts are Accomplishing Life. They are realizing long-held dreams and goals, or working toward new ones, they have transitioned successfully into new phases of life, they are doing their art or running their business or enjoying their domesticity, but they are all doing it well, gracefully, making their mark, leaving something behind, making people happy, inspiring others. That’s all I want to do too. And in the midst of all this accomplishment, I think, Well, why not? Why not me? Why can’t I write novels and live by it? Why can’t I sell my art and make a little extra? Why can’t my stories, pictures, lyrics, poetry, crafts inspire others to make something, to see beauty, to live harder and better and happier?

And you know, I don’t have an answer why not.

This is all inspiring to me, makes me want to start right now and finish every idea I’ve ever had in one night. And that’s the problem—the lack of focus. I’m never single-minded in these things and I don’t know how to train myself to be that way. I get so hung up wanting to do it all that I never do it at all. It’s very frustrating and I fear I’ll live my whole life in rapt anticipation of The Day I Do Something.

And so, I write a blog post. To what? Connect with someone else who Understands? Purge my thoughts of all the negative and hope to wake up fresh tomorrow and less pessimistic? Fish for encouragement? I don’t really know why but it made me write something beginning to end, and that’s a decent place to start.

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