Thursday, April 28, 2011


I got the hat stuff that I needed to get done done today. Still more to do, but it had to wait. When I was done, I turned back to Pinocchio.

The energy that went into making this piece has taken a step back. I was reluctant to work on it—how could I be true to the energy that went into creating it if I wasn't feeling it? I gave it a shot, anyway. I think it was a good move. My head was a little clearer and I was able to bring the graphic designer in me to the table. Turns out that she has some insights. So I let her work and judge. She made good visual choices, made sense of some of the chaos, and definitely helped me with flow.

Here were some of the issues I faced this evening: I couldn't get the viewer's eyes up to the right hand corner—it seemed like I just kept getting caught up in all the color. The fairy on the left—I hated her, I think she might be evil. I wanted to remove her head, so I did. Then I gave her the suggestion of a head to soften her attitude. The upper left corner (top of the hat) was also a hard place to get out of, so I just made some design choices that I felt made sense. Now Pinocchio has some kind of beacon-bell-radar thingie. I guess he uses it for communicating his ideas since he doesn't seem to have a mouth. And then there was just a lot of tidying up of bits and pieces. Big struggle—the words. I'm not sure what I'm doing there. That may be the one area where I have to go back after some thought. I'm good with everything else though, for now

Again, I'd love to see some comments posted below. Many of you were nice enough to send me personal e-mails last time. I'd love to be able to keep the comments with the work.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not exactly watercolors

A few years ago, when we were in Portugal, we were doing some touristy stuff—visiting a castle (São George)in Portugal with my Mother-in-law. You could call it a gimmick, but I loved it—there was a guy doing "watercolors" of scenes of Lisbon in espresso coffee. I loved the idea. They were hardly expensive, so I shelled out the Euros to own these. I just found them here in the house. I don't even care that he was probably just making the scenes up in his mind—he had been there, he knew what it was about. I guess he would also do some sketches with red wine, but somehow those didn't interest me as much. I've always liked sketching while sitting in cafés, so the idea of using materials at hand really appeals to me.

Now I have to decide where they belong. I mean, they should be hung, right?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Earlier today I left off with this. I just thought that little figure on the left looked like she was trying to be too sweet, so I taught her a lesson. That'll teach her. Actually, she just seemed so useless. I contemplated getting rid of her, but changed my mind. The solution wasn't great, but it forced me to rethink the problem.

Later, when I got to go back to the studio, I couldn't stand the look of her. I tried toning her down several times. Eventually I took another shot at her. This seems to be the start of a fix to my problem, and I'm relieved that she's taking a step back again.

Listening selection for tonight was Marlena Dietrich.

And I guess Pinocchio's got his strings, though they're all loose. He's got lots of strings all over the place—the poor guy's all tangled up.

It seems that there's still lots of work to go on this. I'm not sure if the type should be darker. I just don't know. I may have to leave it for a bit and pick it up again, which I'd prefer not to do.

Oh Pinocchio! I need your help to finish this.

"Reservations"-Six. Todays Work.

Here's a picture of "Reservations" after a little work on it today. At this point, the changes happen so slowly that it might not even be worth looking at to most. Still, it's enough of a change for me that I want to post.

But really, I have to get back to finishing hats tomorrow night.


I saw Wall•E this weekend. It was sweet. I hadn't realized that it was going to be a love story, and I suppose that's what touches us the most. Here's a link to a review.

Work in progress

As I struggle with my latest work of art, I find myself looking back on the last one to see how it progressed. It was quick, that's for sure. I thought I'd put in a visual time line of the five-or-so days of work.

Spring really is here

It's spring, and the landscape is covered in a kind of green fog. It was really obvious as we drove back from Maine. Naked trees last so long. Clothed trees stick around, too. It's these few weeks where everything is soft and fluffy and putting on it's best show that make me wish I could hit the pause button. If there's no fog where you are, I'm sorry.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I'm a little late in getting this post out. We went to Maine for the weekend and had some packing to do, so anything I wanted to say about this piece after just having worked on it has faded a bit. I'm going to post anyway, though it may be brief... or not.

Creating this piece hasn't been as easy as "How Much Time Have You Got?"—that one kind of just spilled out onto my surface. This one is a lot of pulling and pushing. Sometimes I think it's going one way, but then it doesn't seem to make sense, so I pull it another way—back and forth like that, that's how it seems to be with me.

You'll have to forgive the quality of the image. I took the photo by a window, so there's a bit of a reflection coming in on the left side. I'll try to get a better one next time.

Okay, so what do we have going on since the last time? Well, the designer in me is starting to get more involved, so I'm looking for flow. Catholic-school-boy in the hat was just a little too eye-catching, so I'm toning him down a bit.

I spent a lot of time working on the axe. I'm still not quite sure why he's carrying it, but there it is. So I was working—I made a blade, painted over some of the words, made a wooden handle—and the more axe-like I tried to make it, the less it made sense. Nothing in this image is real, why should I believe that the axe would be? At that point I decided to just cover it. And what did I choose? Flowers. What the heck kind of axe is that?

And numbers—again with the numbers—they're not quite right. One of them will go, or change. But I like words and pictures, or maybe I like pictures (almost always of people) and symbols, so that's why you see them—my work needs to have them.

I like the squiggly lines I added to Pinocchio's chest last time. They look like my chest feels when I get anxious. I'm not sure that I'll do anything to change them. Maybe I'll just look at them for a while, and maybe they'll let me tone them down soon.

On another note, this weekend my grandmother wandered off for the first time. She left her house in the middle of the night and went walking, confused (maybe that's her up there in the corner at the end of the path). She's okay—not hurt, but it's obvious that decisions need to be made. Tomorrow it will be eleven years since my grandfather died. He was a bit of an artist himself, and I loved him dearly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Reservations" Step Four

I went to the studio and just stared for a while—I wasn't sure what I was doing there. I picked up some magazines that were laying about and tore some pictures out of them. It all seemed to move so slowly.

And I'm not sure about my working title anymore. It's going to take some thought.

This is a difficult collage for me because the potential meanings are limitless. When doing a search about Pinocchio, Wikipedia told me that his shirt was made from a flower-patterned paper and that his hat was made out of bread. Hmmmmn, that doesn't really do me any good. But I also learned that he may have been a misunderstood character, that his nose didn't just grow when he told a lie, but also when he was stricken with anxiety.

Pinocchio means something to me—I'm not sure what. He's made of wood, so he's not really in tune with his senses. He's a puppet, so he's not really in control, and he's not real, though he has dreams of becoming real.

Back to the work tonight. I was doing more visual design stuff than storytelling. Somethings were standing out too much. Others were just unimportant. I took some chances. We'll see how I feel about it tomorrow. As the piece progresses now, the changes may become harder and harder to see, so hopefully my audience won't get bored with my postings.

While I'm at it...

Seeing the cartoon made me remember the strings. And remembering the strings made me think of the Disney version of the cartoon and the song.

And of course, it wouldn't be complete without the lyrics. I never knew what that Russian doll was saying.

I've got no strings,
To hold me down,
To make me fret,
or make me frown.
I had strings,
But now I'm free,
There are no strings on me.

Hi-ho the me-ri-o,
That's the only way to go.

I want the world to know,
Nothing ever worries me.

I've got no strings,
So I have fun,
I'm not tied up to anyone.

They've got strings,
But you can see,
There are no strings on me.

*Dutch Puppet*
You have no strings,
Your arms is free,
To love me by the Zuider Zee.

Ya, ya, ya,
If you would woo,
I'd bust my strings for you.

*French Puppet*
You've got no strings,
Comme çi comme ça,
Your savoire-faire is ooh la la!

I've got strings,
But entre nous,
I'd cut my strings for you.

*Russian Puppet*
Down where the Volga flows,
There's a Russian rendezvous.

Where me and Ivan go,
But I'd rather go with you, hey!

There are no strings on me!

Who knew that Diana Ross and the Supremes also recorded a version?!

Pinocchio, a revival in interest

A good friend of mine saw the very beginnings of my Pinocchio piece and brought me this cartoon today. See? I am totally on top of the new Pinocchio trends. Just wait, he's going to start popping up everywhere.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Reservations" Step Three

This evening I got four hours of uninterrupted studio time. That was four hours of me making scribbles and marks non-stop. At first it seemed like the whole thing was a waste of time, that it was all crap and that I was trying too hard. And there was that inner voice that kept saying it—You're trying too hard to make something. I kept working anyway. I kind of knew that I wouldn't be ready to leave until it felt right. I just kept going.

Music selections for this evening started out random. I tried picking up on some old favorites that are good for settling me in, but they just weren't cutting it. My painty fingers kept reaching for the dial on my ipod. I even tried the soundtrack to Titanic, thinking that the bagpipes might do the trick. I know, you're questioning my sensibility for even having it in my music library.Eventually I settled on a classic: Simon and Garfunkel Greatest Hits. I didn't expect to get much from it, maybe just a little company, but it was exactly what I needed—a little parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

I really thought I was making a lousy piece of crap, and nearly gave up and came home two or three times. Part of the issue for me was that I decided to work on a larger scale—thanks for the suggestion dear friend Paul. I'm not used to working so big, so this really involved stepping back and standing up a lot more. It's a challenge, but I'm glad I'm doing it. Even though part of me wanted to pack it up, another part of me kept reaching for it. I'm still not exactly sure what I'm saying here, but I like the word "reservations" and its various meanings.

At one point I decided that I really needed to "build" Pinocchio, so I started collaging his face with words from old newspapers. I rifled through my suitcase full of "stuff I could use to do a collage" and forced myself to just take some pieces and stick them in. Some just had nice shapes within them. Others have just been in the suitcase too long and were getting booted out by their roommates. (I still haven't found a purpose for the four five-and-dime plastic baby dolls, but their time will come, too.)

I kept fearing that I was doing too much to the piece—that there were too many elements, that I should quit before I totally trashed all the parts that I loved about it. But no, I kept going. I kept hearing my mind saying, I should go. Seven times I said that. And then there was just one stroke that made it okay—just below the chin, separating the head from the neck. At that stroke my mind said, You can go.

When I had stopped I felt breathless, like I had been running a long distance or something. I know it's not done yet, but I've left it in a place that will make me want to go back to it.

So what's it about? I guess it's a kind of self portrai—isn't all art a kind of self-reflection? My next visit with this piece won't be for a couple of days, if I'm lucky. Hopefully I won't lose the rhythm of feeling.

So there you have it. Feel free to comment on it. I appreciate the comments I got on my last piece, both publicly and privately. People were seeing things that I didn't see, and it was enlightening.

Working Title: "Reservations"

Let me start you off with a picture of where I left off last night. You see almost no traces of the original—perfect. The polka dots aren't part of the picture—it's an old shower curtain that I'm using to keep the mirror I'm working against clean. So do your best to ignore it. Okay, now that you're caught up, let's move on.

Where did all my shows go?

Those of you who know me from local high-end craft shows where I sell my hats might be wondering, Where's Denise and all her hats? Why hasn't she been doing any shows?

Things are really busy here at our house. My husband has managed to get himself involved in the very early first stages of a software start-up. He works a lot, but we're lucky—he often works from home. His office is just down the street, so even when he's there, he's not hard to reach. Still, it's a lot of work. I decided that I'd take it easy on him. He does all the setup for me at the shows—lots of moving heavy things, setting things up, taking them down. I think he needs that time to do his own things, either that or he'll get even less sleep than he does now.

He also let me off the hook. He said, "Don't worry so much about selling hats—why don't you just be creative? Be an artist. Make stuff you want to make." Generous words, indeed. So I'm taking it easy. I decided that I would keep making hats this year, but it will be because I really want to make them, not because I don't have enough of this or that to satisfy the masses. The only exception to the rule is commissions—I'll do a commission because it's a challenge.

I do have one show that I'm doing coming up. I'm doing Paradise City in Northampton on Memorial Day weekend. I haven't done that show since I was pregnant in 2008. We have the bonus of my family living in that area, so we get some extra support. Other than that, I'll do the shows in my studio building in the fall and winter (Open Studios and the Holiday Sale). Tax time next year is going to look a little ugly, but what the hell.

So there you have it. That's where I am. I should number the hats from this year and mark them "limited edition."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mistakes? Who me?

Well, I started my next collage painting. Actually, I started it a couple of weeks ago, but it was just Sharpie on an old college painting at the time. Today was the real work, the kind where I'm sorry I didn't dress more appropriately for the occasion—I have a tendency to want to wipe my hands on my pants, you see. And, well I drop things a lot, on myself. I'm clumsy—it's part of who I am.

I went to the studio with a lot less energy than I had earlier in the day. You can't always get to your creative place when you want. It would have been nice to work out some of that mental energy, but it's fine. In the evening I showed up at the canvas board (yes, canvas board), anyway. Music was going to be necessary, but what to play? I decided to go with Wilco. There are some really great pieces that I like and some that make me cringe because they are noisy and hard to endure, but I think that's what I needed.

I was going to skip showing the original painting because it's just so awful, but there was a time and a place for it, and we all grow. Right? So if you're looking at this, please know that I hate the painting, too. I also get the benefit of watching it change, hopefully for the better. I didn't have my camera to take a picture of what I did today—which was a lot—but hopefully I'll get to it tomorrow before I make more marks.

Again, I'm going at this with a "no mistakes" kind of attitude. That really makes the process just as important, if not more so, than the product. I think this one has some kind of fairy tale theme since I decided to start with Pinocchio. And I have a copy of an old book of children's fairy tales that's a lot like one I had when I was a kid. I've been waiting to use it for something. The collage also has some religious aspects to it because I found one of my old Catholic-school text books. So that's where we're starting—a kind of religious fairy tale, or a fairy tale about religion, or religion as a fairy tale. Or maybe I'm making it all up, it's Pinocchio after all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What I Wore Tonight

I got to be with other artists tonight. My husband was nice enough to put the munchkin to bed and I went down to a local gallery that was having an opening. They're showing the sculptural work of a couple of friends of mine—Susan Huszar and Gwen Murphy. What better opportunity to wear a hat? But the question became, Which hat?

I decided I should try out something new—something that had never been out of the studio before. I picked up a hat that had been a little tricky for me to finish—a very sculptural piece. It was one of those that sits waiting for a while before it gets finished.

The hat was a success, and I now feel confident that I'll have no trouble selling it. Heck, if I do, I'll just keep it—it was fun to wear. The show was great. I talked to so many people that I'm a little hoarse now. There was a lot of energy in the room, and it made me feel all hopeful and looking forward to the next time.

Earlier today I had a first-time experience—I built a hat right on a clients head! Normally I'd be too self-conscious to do any such thing, but shes the right client to try it with. It was a very interesting approach, and I now have a little something to add to the list of things that I need to finish up for her.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tum, Tum, Tum

I bought my daughter a CD of Brazilian kids music yesterday. Brazilian music is just fabulous in general, and this Putamayo CD is no exception. I'm going to have to learn to sing the second song to her—the heartbeat sound is so fun. I found it on You Tube, so I thought I'd share it with you.

And here are the lyrics.

(Português) || (English)
No tempo que eu era só || When I was alone
E não tinha amor nenhum || And didn't have anyone to love
Meu coração batia mansinho: || My heart beats like this:
Tum, tum tum || Tum, tum tum

Depois veio você || And then I saw you
O meu amor número um || My number one love
E o meu coração pôs-se bater || And my heart started to beat
Tum, tum, tum, tum, tum. || Tum, tum, tum, tum, tum.

Dreams After a Nap

When I don't get enough sleep I don't dream, which is a really unhealthy state for me. but I have found that if I take an afternoon nap it's usually loaded with dreams.

I'm still a little bleary-eyed from having just woken up (a bit in a panic because I thought I had slept forever) from a 1.5-hour nap. These were some of the cool visions that I had:

First scene: I decided that what I really needed to do in life was to stand on my head from time to time. I know I've dreamed this before. What could it mean—that I need a new perspective? That I'm looking a things all wrong? Doesn't really matter. So in this dream I just get out of my car (which is parked on the side of a somewhat busy road) and take up a kind of yogic headstand, with my elbows on the ground. I reached my legs high into the sky and could feel my spine strengthening and straightening. Things felt better. (Totally a dream. A bit like the impossibility of flying.)

Second scene: I am at a party that's at a flea market. It seems that by the hour more and more vendors are coming, so this thing is getting huge. There are lots of antiques for sale, slightly used, some art pieces, too. I am in a room drawing on vellum. I'm drawing in a style that I have never drawn in before. I draw a woman and flames. A woman comes to me to look through my drawings. She wants to see if I have one for her. I ask her to tell me about herself. She says, "Well, I have this condition that's kind of hard for people to understand, but it affects my whole body." And as she's telling me this I could feel some agitation building in my own body. And I could feel my head bobbing up and down in agreement, like I knew exactly what she was going to say. And as my agitation grew, I could feel myself rising and floating uncontrollably. I found myself trying to stay in my chair by holding it with my legs, but my body just kept floating or maybe getting longer. My head was up near the ceiling. She told me that she couldn't eat food anymore and that there was nothing more the doctors could do for her. She would live though, but she had to go in for "nutrient treatment" every so many weeks. "But the good side," she said, "I don't have to cook anymore. And I don't have to cook for anyone else, either." By this time, my body was completely out of control and I found myself saying, "You see, I have this condition that affects my whole body, it's kind of hard for people to understand..." And she walked away from me.

Third scene: There's going to be a battle of superheroes in the suburbs. But they're really just C or D-level superheroes, nobody anyone would have heard about. In fact, they kind of switch sides from time to time just to add to the drama in their mediocre superhero lives. They're all kind of middle-aged, too, maybe a little out of shape. The problem is they've all decided that they want to go after this one particular member of their cast, but they're all fighting over who gets to go first. The scene changed before I could have them drawing straws.

Scene four: I've been left with too much to carry and I'm staggering my way back out of the flea-market scene. A woman stops me to smell my breath because she thinks I'm drunk.

Scene five: I'm in Portugal drinking tea with some family members out of tiny little tea cups.

Scene six: My 50+ Uncle is in one of the vendor stalls at the flea market, only he's there listening to music and making up rap songs. I look over and see my sister. She's trying to make up a really funny DJ name for him—that's just like her.

That should do it. Dreams are strange and precious places where anything can happen and will. I need more naps.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Liora: An attempt at a sketch

Drawing sinamay is so hard, but I figured I'd give it a shot, anyway. Here's a very basic sketch of what the hat should look like. The hat is made of sinamy straw, and has a mesh-like weave. It's a super-light material that likes to flow.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Liora: What she'll be wearing

Here are some photos of the mother-of-the-bride's outfit.

I spent yesterday and today dying the sinamay to the right shade of orange to match the sash. I like mixing colors, so it was a fun little experiment. I can't offer up a very good sketch of what I'm going to make because the material likes to dictate the design a bit. I have some general guidelines, though.

Now to start making the hat.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Next Commission: Liora

I've got a tricky commission coming up. Liora needs a hat because her daughter is getting married. They come from a conservative Jewish family, so Liora's hair will need to be covered. She loves hats, and the more flamboyant the better, but her daughter doesn't want her dominating all the pictures with enormous headwear.

She has come to the studio twice. Each time, we've found ourselves looking at a different hat to base hers on. Hopefully we've nailed it this time because I've set the finish deadline for May first—not a lot of wiggle room for correction.

I have to do a custom dye job on this one—the color is just too particular—but I've made a color similar to it in the past, so I'm not overly concerned.

Wish me luck.

Bouquets of Flowers

I'm itching for spring, and the words "winter mix" make my skin crawl. So I'm going back a little in time to look at the beautiful bouquets that I made from my own garden. Somehow, I don't mind cutting them if I grew them. There's also been an abundance, so they're hardly missed. And then, I get to teach my daughter the names of the flowers—very sweet.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Nobody Knows Me

I heard this song by the Weepies today and I liked it from the first few notes. The cover art for the album—love.

I find the video a little distracting, but I'll have to keep my ear out for more of their music. Sorry I couldn't figure out how to get the video to fit the layout.

Friday, April 01, 2011

No Such Thing as Mistakes (finished)

I could feel myself losing energy on the piece today. Sad, it was, and a bit of a relief, too. You can't keep throwing that much of that kind of energy into a project without losing a grip on reality.

This piece isn't much larger than a tabloid-sized piece of paper. You can see my roll of tape on the left for reference. And the largest portion of the work was done in five days, but the whole piece might be some six years old—I guess it's never to late to try again.

Since I could tell that the Muse was packing bags to go have a rest somewhere more peaceful, I decided that I had better wrap up. I hated to give it up, but I thought that, unfinished, I might come back to it carrying a different story, or worse—that I might never actually finish.

The story is still being told. Whenever I look at it I see something that I didn't intend to put there, and yet it all seems to make sense. I've enjoyed showing it to people, though it's dark—I like hearing what they have to say about it, what they see, or what they think they see.

If it wouldn't be too much trouble... I'd love to know what you see.