TV during COVID

watching tv in covid

We have been glued to the TV since the COVID-19 crisis started. To be honest, we binge watch. You do, too. Don’t lie.

While I am by no means an Anglophile, I have become a huge fan of British series on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I am starting to compare them with their American counterparts, trying to figure out why the British series are so compelling and some of ours so meh. Yeah, yeah, meh to me. I never claimed to speak for anyone else.

I am a woman of a certain age so I am biased, but I am thrilled that the young and older women actors are so—- normal. They look like us. Or at least those of us who aren’t Barbie sizes with looong straight or wavy hair or years of botox and fillers and facelifts and liposuction.

And their male counterparts are human as well- they have double chins and fleshy waistlines, bags under their eyes and not beautiful hair or not much or any hair. Their skin has – oh my god- warts and moles and back up- so do the women!!!!

The music is not upbeat and always incessantly there. Occasionally there isn’t any music at all and the camera takes its time. How refreshing! You are sitting there enjoying dialog, well written stories, and facial expressions, and seeing slices of life that happen to be part of a drama. Dull perhaps to younger folks but anyone with older children and grandchildren can identify.

They also seem refreshingly slower. Very few explosions, gunshots, bleeding bodies. Can I say entertainment that is not written for teens? Sorry teens. Plots seem real-life based. Actors don’t seem to screech at each other as much. The f word is there sometimes, but not overwhelming. Maybe I am being too complimentary to foreign TV. Of course, there is a place for the series that is based on cartoons and on car chases that last forever. But I could drive to Starbucks and return with my cappuccino and the chase would still be on.

I admit I put on closed captioning because I cannot understand the British / Scottish / Irish dialect sometime. Well much of the time. Well our hearing isn’t what it used to be. So we watch, then try to read the closed captioning before the scene changes. Then we hit the pause button so we can read the closed captioning.

I once turned on an audio function by mistake that had a voice describing the scene. Weird. “He exits the car, closes the door and makes his way across the yard where birds are singing and the victim is hanging clothes.” Yada. Yada.

Tonight I watched 2 episodes of a car show with my husband. I have trouble bonding with mechanical equipment though. It’s like purgatory, but then again he suffers through some of my period dramas (period meaning eras in time not related to female cycles though some of them have the same hyper emotional levels).

It’s a compromise. I cook, he cleans up. We watch the news until we want to scream and then it’s a toss-up between watching Netflix or Amazon Prime.

One thing that is interesting is that we both fast forward the explicit bedroom scenes. Although I think there should be a special cinematography award for best scenes that avoid pertinent body parts while dragging on five minutes of moaning.

I just re-read this blog and wonder if it needs an adult rating. Should I worry about my grandkids? Nah- they are totally absorbed in their social media cocoons.

So Here I am Sitting in

View from my hot tub

Written after our wedding anniversary on January 30

So here I am sitting in the hot tub with light fluffy snowflakes falling on me and my large billed hat. It’s about 9 o’clock and I am not feeling guilty about sleeping in because I have decided not to feel guilty about a lot of things. We live in the woods but there are lots of houses across the marsh. If any distant neighbors have nothing better to do than watch older people going into their hot tub on the deck, they are to be pitied.

Yesterday we met up with some friends to celebrate our anniversary. I am all excited. I am actually in a restaurant! So I harangued him about doing a blog because of his incredible experience in the world of sports journalism. He stared at me with a blank face the whole time I was ranting out my feelings about having a passion of writing which I wish I had, etc. And that he should write a blog himself. I will have to call him today to apologize. And I will send him this little writing.

Anyway after 56 years, my husband and I have our routines even though he won’t be able to go back to work until after his second COVID-19 shot kicks in.

It has been OK for me until now this living through COVID-19. I do miss seeing people and doing normal things. I work at home anyway and don’t have obsessive compulsion issues about how and when I paint.

But lately my brain has gone into overtime even after I fall asleep reading a book. I jerk myself awake. Every little issue is magnified. I watch the clock with the time passing and me still awake, which of course makes me more anxious.

Over the years I have sworn mentally that I would just get up and go paint if I could not fall asleep, but I never have. Or get up and move to another bedroom if something involving snoring keeps me awake. I have also sworn feebly to give up a cocktail late in the evening knowing the liquor is a stimulant. But last night my daughter and granddaughter came over and we had a rousing hysterically funny charades-like game and she brought some elderflower liqueur. So my recipe is two parts lime infused gin to one part elderflower liquor with a splash of jalapeño juice which is another story. Maybe that is why the game was so funny.

So last night I decided to leave my husband asleep and venture upstairs to my studio to finish changes on the commission and to splash some paint on something I am playing with. I was happily satisfied and by 1 o’clock I decided to go to bed and promptly fell asleep and woke up at eight. We will see if this regimen continues. If my circadian rhythm has really changed I may as well adapt to it.

A Long Walk with a Friend

A long walk - featuring Riding the Waves

Sometimes it takes a long walk with a friend on a cold, post-Christmas Day to talk out your thoughts and perhaps come to some conclusions about where you are going or where you might want to stop going.

I was trying to figure out why I have been at a bit of an impasse in terms of my art. What I mean is that for years I have gone from one subject or approach to the next as a grand evolution.

I did illustrations.
I did commercial work.
I did watercolors which were mostly landscapes and a few people.
I did my series on music, dance, coffee coffee shops on and on.
And I loved it.

But for the past few years I can’t really say that I have latched onto anything new or experimental or even a brand new subject matter. I would love to get political, but I cannot allow myself to do that. So anyway here I am walking on the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg trying to analyze how I can continue to paint without being redundant.

I am working. I have some commissions. I find that I resort to the old way of doing things because I know that is why I have been hired in the first place. That is the unsatisfying part of it is for me or I think I would be able to express myself better. Now I am thinking it is not that I dislike the subjects I have painted, but it is that I believe I have to change my approach to those subjects.

I know I would love to be more abstract, more enthusiastic in my brush work. Painting with more instinct than deliberation. But for some reason I have not allowed myself to do that.

Here we are in hopefully the final few months of our self-imposed quarantines and avoiding the people and the groups we have formally enjoyed. Maybe now is the time to do exactly that. To finish up with our obligation. The question is how do I really do it.

The dancers and dancing might be a way to start. The unfortunate thing about them is that especially in formal dance, there are certain prescribed postures and forms. When a couple is doing a waltz, there are certain prescribed steps.

Maybe I need to stop thinking about rules; both in the subject matter and my approach to painting Maybe the mere act of losing edges, changing color away from reality. I don’t know.

If I do that who knows what kind of success I might have. And that is what I tell people; to keep pushing their envelopes.

Easy to say, hard to do.

The easy part is to wake up, do morning rituals, have coffee, check texts and emails. What is hard is to walk into the studio and to start to work.

How I Sabotage Myself

The Coffee Was Suspect

Myself Sabotage - My second cup of coffee

Recently I had a cup of coffee at home that wasn’t the best.

I thought as I was driving to Manteo, NC that I would stop and pick up a better cup of coffee. I went through a drive-through, ordered, and because I was giving myself a break from being health-conscious, ordered an additional bagel with cream cheese.

I went to eat my breakfast in their parking area and found that they had added too much sugar to my coffee. It was too sweet and I couldn’t drink it. Because I felt it was probably my own fault for not enunciating properly into the voicebox, I went through again and ordered another coffee.

I explained my being dumb about my first coffee order and the young woman at the drive-through window gave me a delicious doughnut (which I of course ate) in addition to my new coffee order.

In retrospect this breakfast wasn’t all that good. Taking the time to fix my own coffee at home would have saved me half a day’s worth of calories and lots of guilt.

Painting a Healthy Lifestyle

A few months ago, I was congratulating myself on consistent healthy eating and reaching a decent weight (except for my waistline which, let’s face it, ain’t ever going away). Tonight I climb on the scale after months of feeling no need and I am in a state of shock! Did I mention the holiday season has just begun. Add to that the winter retreat to the great indoors, coupled with more COVID isolation, and who knows where that dial will stop.

I can no longer fool myself into believing that slopping paint around canvases is an upper body workout. No, it does not result in more muscle mass and thus a heavier healthier body.

Staying at home has led us all into daily wardrobes only slightly more formal than pajamas. Designers are putting out more elastic waistbands. No need to diet when all clothing fits nicely. Wearing masks camouflages us so well no one recognizes us so who needs makeup. Turtlenecks cover what masks do not so poof no more turkey wattle.

The first step to getting healthy again is no more takeout. No more bang bang shrimp, mashed potatoes and the wonderful warm, crusty bread with pesto.

Can’t blame takeout though. I do a wonderful eating my own cooking. Must ease up on chunks of cheddar and cream cheese in a green jalapeño boat covered with bacon. Won’t even mention Luke’s homemade divinity, fudge, and brownies (It is the holiday season). It all leads to an apron that is not made of fabric.

Carbs begone!

Not waiting for any new year’s resolution.

Stay shut refrigerator door!

Going to practice Hygge the Scandinavian approach to dealing with long cold dark winter-exercising outside regardless the weather. Enjoying it. So stay tuned.

The Finale

But talk about sabotaging yourself. I just saw a young man looking through his mail at the curbside while standing in the road close to where cars are passing him. Did I mention he was smoking a cigarette? When he gets hit by a car he will be able to say it wasn’t COVID and it wasn’t lung cancer. it was sheer stupidity. UGH!!

Many Ask How They Can Loosen Up

Obviously. they are talking about how they can loosen up their art technique. Of course many of them are very uptight so they could be talking about other things. In general they want to be less realistic and more interpretive, but cannot give themselves permission to break the rules of art taught by teachers in their pasts and rewarded by judges who are sometimes smitten by realistic technique.

So why ask me?

My First Guitar (loosen up your painting)

Some History

My past training was to be a counselor; a masters degree from William and Mary which took 4 years. I was working around moving into a new home and 2 babies. But at the tail end of the program. when offered a part-time newspaper illustrator job, I jumped at it and it totally changed my career path.

Newspaper illustration is by necessity quite anchored in realism. You drew and added color to stories that, at least in the 1980’s, reflected the current world, nation, region, city as well as holidays, events and culture.

  • I did serious stories
  • mental illness,
  • the prison system,
  • relationship issues

that were interspersed with stories that could easily use a cartoon approach.

I was not a painter. That was an evolution. When I quit I went back to traditional watercolor. Even that medium has hard edges which were no longer satisfying. Defined foregrounds, focus area and background became predictable and tiresome. Since I never went to art school I didn’t know what rules I couldn’t break except, of course, the old traditional “leave the white of the paper” watercolor rule. I gradually pushed that envelop aside and created my own style. I say that with confidence because whether the work is good or not everyone insists they know it is mine.

So how do I answer that question?

I make suggestions. The most frequent suggestion being to take a painting you have worked hard on, but are not happy with and give yourself a challenge.

  • Put it aside.
  • Haul out canvas or paper and do it again but this time force yourself to change 25%.
  • Remove some edges.
  • Let the background bleed into the foreground or the most prominent shape.

You can’t ruin your painting because you are not messing with it.

  • Put it aside.
  • Do it a third time using painting number 2 as your guide and change 25% of that one.
  • Throw caution to the wind.
  • Throw on new color or create more or less contrast.
  • See how far you can kill your subject matter before you cannot “read” it anymore.
  • You will be surprised how little definition is required to read an object. Our brains fill in the blanks.
  • Look at it in a mirror or upside down. Have you made any interesting shapes? How would you feel about cropping it? No one is looking, judging.
  • At the very least you can force yourself to use bigger brushes and play with color. If color is too intimidating use black and white which will create grays. If paint is too scary use charcoal and a smudge stick or your fingers that you can dip in water. You can always tighten up afterwards.

Of course then you go back to same ole same ole. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different conclusion. But some artists are more courageous than others and some just can’t shake the critics off their shoulders. Your choice.

I take my own advice and will revise art that I no longer find exciting or satisfying. In most cases they are pieces that I subconsciously am second guessing because of the critic on my shoulder.

If I ruin it I haul out the gesso, but most times I feel I have brought it back to life.

Ramblings: Brilliant Creativity

Out in the March done with brilliant creativityI think there is a general misconception by the public that people like me, who tend to get involved in what we loosely called creative pursuits, simply plod along.  We engage in brilliant creativity.  We progress from one brilliant idea with a beginning, middle, and end,.  There is a pause and then we go to the next brilliant idea.

Well obviously every idea isn’t brilliant, but when we are in our inspiration phase, sometimes we feel that it may be creating the best work we’ve ever done. However, the pauses can be a lot more lengthy.  During this intermission, we feel not just uninspired, but scared to death that there will be no more brilliant ideas! The best we can hope for is to regurgitate the things that we’ve done before, the tried-and-true and perhaps the successful (monetarily speaking.)

I say we and I probably should not. Because this is just the way I feel.

So this was a lengthy lead into the feelings I am having right now.

I can always go back to painting the themes that people seem to recognize from me. But that is playing it safe. And you don’t learn and you don’t excel by playing it safe.

But then a painter, like myself, sits back and says,

  • All right so how do I not play it safe? 
  • What do I do differently?
  • Do I change my theme?
  • My subject matter?
  • Do I change my technique?
  • Do I get more rigid or more exuberant?
  • Do I paint larger or smaller?
  • Do I tell a story or paint a feeling?
  • Do I paint more abstractly or with more representation?
  • Is the best really yet to come?

I don’t know those answers right now, but I have to believe that the best is yet to come.

Fear not! I will continue to paint, because I can’t not paint.

And you will be the first to know if I succeed in becoming inspired again. And it may be in the realm of technique and approach.

2018 Annual Seasonal Memo

I worry about the Christmas card industry.

Everyone this year seems to be sending photos instead of cards. You know.  The ones where you have to use a magnifying glass to see faces and even then you don’t know who they are!
I do admire the efforts of writers of the traditional letter – that document complete with tiny photos urging us to enjoy vicariously their many trips and adventures.
  • “Wonderful experience seeing the glories of _________, eating fermented_______which is their culture’s traditional food.
  • Kudos to the service personnel who transported us so quickly to the hospital where the hours in the emergency room weren’t that bad!
  • And even though our luggage was lost we managed to find bargains at the airport gift shop——-“
Well that is not my thing. Not that I have a thing. Perhaps my life seems boring in comparison. Though I enjoy writing a blog every once in a while. 

So I am not grumpy.  

I do enjoy a lot of the holiday season. But in retrospect it seemed to work better when the kids were tiny.
In those days, Christmas music didn’t start overwhelming the airways until after Thanksgiving. Santa was for real. Plus you actually ENTERED a store to buy a gift or you made one (oh the horror!)
Now everyone picks out their presents online, complete with sku info, places the order and acts surprised when they open them.
Watching young people’s nascent consumerism- I think I used that word right -(nascent -just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.) is hardly uplifting. Tear open present, look at toy/gift, move to next one. Repeat. 
But at least they won’t have to return them. Although if they did Amazon makes that chore fairly easy. Who knew Santa’s elves delivered by drone? Taking over the world one delivery a time. Screw the magi- why didn’t they just bake cookies.

Speaking of baking

The family does want to continue some traditions- dipping dates with granddad and making kolocky cookies with grandma, but hey everyone is just too busy . Does this sound familiar?
So cookie dough sits in the frig for a while until you decide to bake it yourself rather than toss it. The bread dough ornaments sit waiting to be painted when things get less hectic – yada yada. Let’s not forget granddad’s high octane eggnog. Not for the kiddies, but it keeps grandad and grandma and some selected adults happy well into the new year. Traditions are good.
We started a new tradition this year.  We bought an artificial tree at last year’s post season sale. It is PRE-LIT! I hung our ornaments and am determined to leave them on and wrap up the tree carefully for storage after Christmas.
No more crawling on the floor on our aching knees while watering the fresh tree or finding old pine needles stuck in the carpet in April. Time for new traditions like watching the Hallmark movie ‘Christmas Kiss’ so I can spot my artwork in the dining room scenes (a little plug there!)  Those extra bread dough ornaments might be painted pink for Easter. I may actually call people by phone whom I’ve not spoken with in years!
And of course painting something totally different to remind myself that the best is yet to come. I still have a few years to catch up to Grandma Moses!
So happy, merry holidays. Take a breath, then start prepping for New Year’s Eve and Day, Superbowl Sunday, Groundhog Day, Casimir Pulaski Day, Valentine’s Day, and so forth and so on.
Long winded as ever,
Seasonal Memo with Christmas Tree

Rant on Packaging

Packaging CartoonsDear Packagers of America.

You have taken child-proofing and theft control to such an extreme that most of us – not just the older demographic- cannot open anything without the help of scissors, pliers, wrenches, and in some cases, hammers.

  • A carton of milk has a tab that can almost break a fingernail.
  • A huge impenetrable plastic square that surrounds a teeny camera chip.  I know. It’s too small so too easily stolen so let’s pollute more of our environment rather than find a better solution.
  • A pull tab on the second layer of dairy products like yogurt that cannot be gripped by average-sized fingers much less pulled off.
  • A cereal box with glue so strong you demolish the box before you get to the inside plastic packing that needs scissors to open.
  • We groan at the words “pull here” knowing that won’t work.
  • And on and on.

Is there a solution? At least for the environment, can’t hemp (in addition to CBD oil for our aches and pains) be used to make a paper product suitable for packaging? Isn’t one of the reasons W. R. Hearst fought to make marijuana (from hemp) illegal so he could print his newspapers on paper from his tree farms without competition from hemp?

Are we really stuck with plastic islands in the Pacific and non biodegradable plastic in our landfills?

Maybe not. Come on folks- rise up! Demand our grocery stores customer service open our packages. When they get tired of wasting their time maybe they will demand that our packaging become better and easier to open.

Next rant: graphic design with illegible lettering.

P.S.  On another more jolly note …  I’m so proud of my son, Tad, with his new book, “The Santa Claus War.”  If you’d like to purchase a Kindle copy, please go to Amazon.   If you like it, will you leave a review?

Artists Like to Cook Vegetables

Veggie SquashAlthough I am a good cook, I do not claim to be an expert on any food much less the undervalued vegetable. But I do have opinions and a blog. I like to cook vegetables.

Growing up in a blue-collar urban family , I was exposed to a total meat and potatoes diet which also noodles and very occasionally rice.

Most of my vegetables came out of a can.

My father demanded they be cooked for about 10 minutes on the stove so the end result was salty gray mushy peas.

He liked peas.

Having said that I must admit that my mother and grandmother made cabbage , yes a vegetable, that was to die for.

Then I was introduced to southern cooked vegetables when I married a South Carolinian and realized vegetables , partnered with cornbread without sugar, were unbelievably delicious. Corn, butter beans with little pieces of fatback, I learned to cook them all. I was lucky.

Unfortunately most folks when they go out to eat are treated to the very unappetizing steamed vegetable medley that passes for vegetables in even some of our better restaurants. You can picture it- limp zucchini , yellow squash and wilted onions in their salted water bath . Yum. I have to assume the chefs were not trained to cook vegetables anymore than I was trained to appreciate them growing up in the Del Monte can environment. ( in the interests of geographical balance. can I mention my introduction in the 70s to the southern version of pizza from a now defunct chain consisting of a generous mound of oregano on top of a block of mozzarella cheese sitting on a barely tanned bed of cooked flour? My heartburn is coming back)

Anyway, I mention restaurants because I think a lot of us get an idea of what unfamiliar recipes taste like when we first sample them prepared in a restaurant. Very few of us nowadays have an Italian or Eastern European or even Chinese grandmother bending over a hot black kitchen stove stirring a pot of ethnic wonders. (Grandfathers were doing manly things piddling in the back yard.)

Yes, we have cooking shows, but they are the new forms of entertainment, but are hardly tutorials.

So restaurants become our baseline. Unfortunately most restaurants fall well behind in their expertise in cooking vegetable dishes. They steam them to death or serve them raw. They don’t even know how to prepare asparagus so that you aren’t forced to eat rooty stems . Seasonings include salt.

So in our country you get your meat – bloody to hockey puck, bland to sugar high.  You get your seafood -,crispy fried to greasy fried.  You get your chicken, and of course everybody’s favorite white meat- pork with its bacon flavoring everything from entrees to ice cream. Then of course you get your fried potatoes and your favorite carb -bread.

Rarely do you ever have the opportunity to taste an incredible sautéed vegetable dish or any vegetable dish that is more than just an afterthought to bring color to the bland variety of earth=toned foods we love.

Dare I say my rant does not include salads- that traditional American diet food. Maybe more on salads another time- grass clippings as health food. That’s a joke folks.

As a result of lack of exposure I dare say most people don’t even know what a caramelized onion is much less caramelized spring cabbage. And we wonder why children can’t stand vegetables although you can blend them in a smoothie with 30 grams of sugar and hope they can’t taste them.

I love International grocery stores which stock a wonderful variety of foods that grow- many I have never even heard of –  but alas they don’t identify them or tell how to prepare them much less put out samples like Costco does with prepared foods.

At least we have the entertaining Korean woman on Youtube who is a joy to watch.  Now I am going out to stock up on Korean radishes to make her pickled radish recipe.

You ask what does this have to do with art? Nothing. But artists have to eat and I like vegetables.

Artist Sketch Rambles

Artist Sketch RamblesI keep a folder of 8×10 and smaller incomplete sketches and carry it around with me. Many times they spark something and I will often paint over them. Over and over.

When I am feeling ambitious, I organize them according to category:  women, women and the beach, women at a wine bar, women on cave walls, women in cave walls playing musical instruments. You get the picture.

I also print out photos of my paintings in progress. Sometimes I realize (too late) the best work should have been left alone.

Rethinking and painting over a work is something I do when I am second guessing what others might think. This is always wrong.

Yet many times, even I, at late middle age (I am an optimist),  paint with someone looking over my shoulder  – metaphorically speaking.   Like my husband suggesting, “It needs more red.” Or perhaps a friend commenting, “What’s that curvy line all about?”  But I’m just considering what they may remark.

Then I look at art painted by others that works for me.  I know I could critique the heck out them, but my corrections would only make the spark disappear.

The answer is to paint until I feel that any more intellectual effort will deaden it and then stop.  Then check back a few days later and any real problems will shout at me. But if I still like the painting, I will leave it alone. Art (unless you were hired to do something specifically) is for you and not the world.

Once in a blue moon, I haul out some art books to try to understand color better.  You know.  Fill in the blanks of info I never learned. because I did not go to art school.



split tertiary,

squared infinity (just joking) and it all looks so mathematical.

I look at the paintings shown as examples and frankly most are so boring. Maybe I am just too critical, but it seems to me once you have painted for years, you should have some intuitive feeling about what clicks for you.

One story sticks with me…

The widow of a famous painter (whose colors were incredible) was asked what color theory he used. She responded that he did not have one.  He just kept painting until it felt right. Bingo!

So after several hours of painting color sketches using the books’ suggested pigment combinations I put it all away. They sucked.

No real lesson here.  Just a nudge to fellow artists who struggle with color to just persist.

(Love that -just persist- SHE PERSISTED – might make me a t-shirt)

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