28 June 2006

The Monsoon Season

Today was pretty good -- better than most in the last week or so. I even dealt with the IRS mess and came out feeling okay. Well, I was a bit surprised. After being on hold for most of the afternoon ("Your call is very important to us" -- ah, right), the IRS dude was friendly, helpful, and everything seems resolved. We still owe money, but in theory the letters should stop (they admitted one was a mistake) and I'm not longer afraid that I'll wake up one morning with IRS agents standing over my bed!!!

Anyway, I did get some art done, despite the IRS and the monsoon.

Monsoon??? Yes, monsoon. Or rather the beginning of the monsoon season. And yes I still live in the desert. The monsoon season is the part of summer when high pressure systems stall out over southern California and this brings up hot, humid air from the Gulf of Baja (or even the Gulf of Mexico on occassion). This humid air meets the mountains and dry air and in theory we get rain. In practical terms, Arizona usually gets more rain than we do here. And Joshua Tree, CA (about 20 miles east of here) gets more rain than we do here in Flamingo Heights. But we still get the lightning and power outages!

The first couple of years we lived hear, there were no monsoon seasons. This year, we are getting extra humidity for some reason, so we might actually get rain. So far it's only been humidity which is not fun when it's 106 degrees out. Today, we had clouds and lightning (with power interruptions), plus I could see the rain over yonder.

The above picture is the beginning of the clouds coming over the mesas and hills to the west. The funny looking tree is a Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia). There's also the dead rose bushes (in the foreground), creosote, cholla cactus, and my jujuba tree. (Not a bad photo considering it was taken with my camera phone!)

27 June 2006

A Rollercoaster Ride

I'm still hanging in here and am at least getting caught up on stuff so I can do art tomorrow. But it's not easy. I don't just wake up one morning and find that I'm over my depressiong. It's more like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. And the steps can be measured in minutes, hours, or days. Today they were measured in 2 hour chunks.

Here's the scenario. I get up and do my morning stuff (feed cats, do tai chi, water plants, eat,...) and things seem fine. Since it's going to be hot, I go in to town early to buy cat food. I get home, eat lunch, and then BLAH happens. Suddenly, my upbeat mood goes down the tube and I feel exhausted beyond belief. The question is what happened. And I don't have a clue. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was that I forgot a couple of things in the grocery store (forgot to take my shopping list), or maybe it was the position of Venus with respect to the 3 moon of Jupiter or something. So for the next couple of hours, I'm down again. Then I go get the mail and there's a small package for me. I called L.N. who sent me the present and we had a wonderful chat, so now I'm feeling better again.

What will tomorrow be like? I don't know. Probably some up's and fewer down's (hopefully).

The scary part is that I need to get back to doing art. I have missed doing it while I've been depressed, but I also know that if I do stuff while feeling like I did, that I would have just wasted time and supplies. So now I'm faced with the proposition of doing art. I know that sounds easy, and for some it is, but for me, when I have long breaks off from doing art, it's hard to get back into the rhythm of doing it. Thankfully, I have a couple cat sketches to do as a warm up and a botanical watercolor to paint which should be easier to do than a portrait.

Right now, I'll finish sketching out a balloonflower (the botanical watercolor) while listening to my new Dixie Chicks CD. I especially love the line "Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should."

26 June 2006

Almost Melted Away

I know, it's been a while since I last wrote anything. I could use the excuse that I'm too busy, or that it's been too hot, or that I've had to deal with the IRS. All these things are true, but the real reason is that I've been depressed and have not wanted to do much of anything.

Right now, I'm pulling myself up and trying to get back into the swing of things. Eventually, I'll get all the emails answered, and I'll get back to listing on eBay, and I'll get working on my newsletter, and.... Hold it -- that's why I got depressed in the first place. first I get exhausted from trying to do everything, then I get frustrated at not doing it all, and then finally I get depressed.

So, I'm going to try to do some fun, non-art stuff every day. If that means I do less art per day, then fine, because I think in the long run I'll produce more because I won't be taking whole weeks off. Besides, while I do art, I have lots of other interests. When I only do art, I feel lop-sided. If I do some other things, I feel more in balance.

And just in case anyone is curious, here's a short list of my other interests:
  • gardening -- I really need to clear off dead brush (for fire protection). Once that is done, I want to plant some fruit trees, maybe a small vegie garden, and a nice flower bed by the patio.
  • cooking -- Rather than make my supper a bowl of cereal, I'm going to try to cook balanced meals. It's hard when I'm cooking for just myself and when it's 106 degrees outside, but I do feel better when I spend the time to prepare a nice meal. And if it cools off some, I might even make some jelly or pickles.
  • quilting -- While it's hard to think about quilting when it's over 100 outside, I do have 3 large quilts and 2 smaller projects in various stages of completion. I'm not sure what I will do with them when I'm done, but since I do the piecing and quilting all by hand, it will be a long time before I really have to face that question!
  • reading -- I'm going to pick out two books -- a fiction and a non-fiction book -- and then read them. (Normally I try to read 4+ books at once and get no where.) The books I'm working on now are The Sophisticate's Primer on Relativity by P.W. Bridgman and Mysterious Cat Stories edited by John Richard Stephens and Kim Smith.
  • mathematics -- I like doing math, but I haven't done much for about 10 years now. So, I got out the old calculus book and I'm slowly relearning it. While I can justify this because I might be substitute teaching this fall, the real reason is because I like to do it. And some day I will make my way thru partial differential equations!

16 June 2006

Playing Well with Others -- Or Not

Okay, I totally admit it -- I don't play well with others!

Actually, I'm more of the opinion that it's the others who have the problems and not me. But since I have been thrown out of 4 groups online, I do accept the possiblity that I'm the problem. Afterall, how could so many wonderful and generous people get along and I don't seem to be able to??? Makes me laugh!

The latest group was an women's artist group called WWAO. It was really interesting or so I thought at first. Women artists getting together to discuss art, marketing, making art -- all from a woman's perspective. The honeymoon lasted about a month. Then the real nature of the group became apparent. Only a handful of members ever posted. Most of the posts had to do with whining about various things -- some art related and some just general whining. (Hence, my nickname of Whiny Women's Association Online!) Or the posts were links to new art work, so everyone would post how wonderful that piece was, no matter how bad it was. (All art was considered absolutely terrific and would surely sell for big bucks!)

I basically ignored most of these posts. I mean, if I actually told these people what I thought of some of their 'artwork' I would be hung! I know that my opinions would be considered harsh, so I kept them to myself in the name of group harmony. I would post to questions about techniques or websites or ideas for inspiration, and I think I had some very valuable things to contribute.

But then last fall came the 2 weeks of whining about how much a few artists were spending on promoting charity auctions. (It costs $10 plus listing fees to list a charity auction thru eBay.) One lady mentioned that she had spent over $200 in the last month on charity auctions with very few bids. For some reason, this really annoyed me. Partly because her husband is an airline pilot making $150,000+ so $200 is not a major problem to her. Partly because she's complaining that her bad reproductions of her paintings aren't selling for $50-90, which is more than my originals sell for. And partly, because this then brought out everyone else to complain about how much they spent on charity auctions. I finally sent a post and basically said that no one is forced to donate to a charity and that when one gives to a charity, it should be done with no expectations of getting anything back.

(Side note on charities and auctions: very few artists donate to charities without the idea that they will either get free publicity, further commissions, or some benefit beyond helping a charity. Some artists use charity auctions just for the publicity and will donate only 10% to the charity. Thus the charity will spend more on bookkeeping than they will receive in the donation.)

So, I get this email from one of the monitors saying how I had hurt so many people and she had received a number of complaints about my post. Thus, all my posts would need to be approved by her first before they would be sent out to the group. I personally took this as censorship and told her that I would refrain from posting. It was a bit confusing since only weeks before I had been told that this group was different because we were all free to speak our minds.

That was last fall, and I never did post anything further to the group, although I did email a few people privately. Today, I get this form letter saying I'm kicked out for not posting. The choice comes down to this -- have my posts censored or be kicked out.

Well, I can't say that I'm all that broke-up about getting thrown out. Once one eliminated all the whining posts, very few posts had anything helpful in it. Belonging to any group, has benefits and costs. This one was 50-50 as to whether the benefits outweighed the costs. My only complaints are that I'm still receiving their emails (if I'm out, then stop the posts!), and I now have to remove their logo from a number of auctions and eBay store items.

So, be warned -- I don't play well with others!

14 June 2006

It's Winds-Day

One thing about living here is that it can get a bit windy at times. And this is one of those times. It started yesterday, kept up all night, and is still windy this morning. Now this is not a gentle breeze, but 15-20 mph with gusts upto 35+ mph. It makes being outside not too enjoyable, or at least that is my excuse for not working on the sprinkler system this morning. At least it's not as bad as it gets sometimes, when my square garbage can goes scooting across the yard!

And it's windy enough on my patio that reading a book there isn't easy. The pages keep flipping plus I keep worrying about the hanging baskets falling. If I take them down and I'm not out there, there's 50% chance that the bunnies will come up on the patio and eat the plants!

So, today is an "inside", which is probably good. I need to get some work done. I have an alpaca portrait to finish, 2 oil portrait demos to do, 2 other oil portraits to do, 1 pencil portrait to start, and whatever I need to do for eBay. And this is not counting a few other commissions which I need to do, but either haven't received the photos or the money. I'm not sure how I got so far behind?!

Anyway, I'm having a couple of problems with portrait commissions right now. First, I'm nervous about doing these oil demos. I found the drawing demo I did to be more difficult than I imagined it would be. It's the starting and stopping that is the problem. Plus the feeling that I'm being watched and I need to live up to people's expectations. The second problem is that I haven't done much in oils for quite a while -- since January. And the final issue is that I'm having decent luck on eBay with my own work (not portraits) and I would like to work on more such work. I'm especially anxious to try some oil paintings on eBay, as I know works on paper sell for less.

But if I get working on them -- working a 3-4 hours per day on this backlog -- I'll get them done fairly soon, so I can do more of my own work. Actually once I get working on them, they won't seem so bad or scary. And if I don't try to finish them off all at once, then I'll still be able to work on some of my other things, like the hummingbird or other still lifes.

So, I had better get to work!

13 June 2006

Yep, Still Alive

Yes, I'm still alive. I know it's been a long time since I wrote anything but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. Unfortunately, I haven't been busy doing art. First, there was the IRS problem, then I was a poll worker for the lastest election, and lastly (and most fun of all) I was playing plumber. With regards to this last item, one of the control valves on our sprinkler system broke off, so we had to turn off the water and dig out the valve. Then we found the pipe had problems too, so we decided to replace most of the system. Lucky for me, hubby was home and helped with the digging, but that meant for an entire week, I did nothing but play in the sand.

So, I'm finally back to doing art. (I spent yesterday packing up a number of items and shipping them, so if you are wondering where your ______ is, it's in the mail!) Today, I actually got out brushes and paint and painted a ruby-throated hummingbird.

I should have done one of our local hummingbirds -- we have 3 common species here -- but I went with the ruby-throated since that's what most of the U.S. has. Besides, I have quite a number of good photos of them to work from. I must say, it was a challenge to do since they are iridescent and that's very tricky in watercolor. But he turned out fine and I hope he finds a nice home.