Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Job

Okay---I got a job. It's not my ideal job. In fact, it's not even a really good job---it's not a job I want! Still, it is a job and it's income. I could be very (VERY) negative about the whole situation and complain/whine/bitch about it....but I won't. I've chosen to be optimistic, realistic and even a little cheerful about the whole thing. Why? Because it's temporary. This job doesn't define me or declare my future in any way. It's just a paycheck for a few months. Believe me---it's just a few months! I am already counting the weeks until I get to go back for my 4th residency at the Vermont Studio Center.....

Until then?

Setting up my Ad Hoc Studio (blog post to come!) and.....working.

How about you? Ever have a job you disliked but did it anyway for whatever reason and whatever span of time? Tell me, comrade!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Asking for a Sign

So, one of the great benefits of moving to a new place is to gain a new perspective, right? You can look at where you've been and who you've been with a clearer eye. When you've landed in a new place, your strengths and weaknesses also come into clearer focus, given that you no longer have your tried and true signifiers to back you up. To say that this move to California has been a reality check is a big understatement.

I had very optimistic, healthy expectations for a new place: new job, new landscape, new adventures, new friends, new things to learn. I've found that not much of those hopes have been particularly easy to attain, however! I've gotten a rude awakening, in many respects.

I've had a difficult time finding a job, and the job I did land isn't spectacular by any means. Turns out that my job skills aren't all that marketable. Turns out that in this job market, I am not that hireable!

I joined a great cycling club, thinking I am a good cyclist. On a weekly basis, I go out on rides with folks in their 50's and 60's sporting heads of pure white hair---and they smoke my ass! Turns out I am not as strong or fast as I thought I was. Also, I found out that my beloved bike doesn't measure up to the roadies, either. (To hell with that though---I LOVE SHEILA.)

I think my suprised disappointments are all the more glaring for being in a new place. There's a greater divide between the positives and negatives, it seems.

This image is all too perfect for my impression of life in California, as I've encountered it!

I think I would be having a lot more fun if I came across a sign like this that would set me up for a job I'd be REALLY good at: wielding a chainsaw against a zombie hoard! (Funny thing, the job I finally got has me at a store where I'll be selling chainsaws...)

So true....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ants in my ($100) Pants

Well, I finally got a job interview and spent several hours scouring all the local thrift stores for a good interview outfit. The big stumbling block was pants....I couldn't find any good pants! Truth be told, I am not a woman who wears office clothes. I am a jeans + hiking boots + sweater kind of lady. It was hard to bring myself to try on dress pants, much less hold out any hope that I'd find a pair I'd like.

And why thrift stores, do you ask? I'm sure I've described my inherent frugality before....haven't I? I always shop at thrift stores. ALWAYS. Reasoning: Good clothes, good fabrics, interesting styles, low prices. I've done this as long as I've been an adult. About 20 years. (But who's counting...) It's ingrained in my shopping-psyche to never pay more than $10 for any item of clothing. (The glaring exceptions to this rule are cycling gear and the aforementioned hiking boots.)

Enter the dilemna of dress pants. Nope---couldn't find a good pair at a thrift store. While I found a lot of pants in good condition, not one pair looked or felt good on me. Yes----finally went out to a department store. I spent about 15 minutes in Macy's looking at clothes and realized that a) the arrangement of clothes for display rather than shopping ease (as in a thrift store!) frustrated me and b) I wouldn't be able to bring myself to buy anything there.

Enter REI. I realized that I could buy dress pants if they weren't, you know, dress pants. I understood myself enough to realized that I wanted good looking pants that I'd wear that had other uses! Enter, Mistral Women's Pants, size 6. They fit! They moved well! I could sit in them! They didn't make my ass look like a rotting watermelon! Actually, they manage to make my ass look like a ripe peach. Yum!

Here's what the tag says:
"Soft-shell pants for mild to cool conditions: Water resistant nylon/spandex blend is windproof to 23 miles mph and stands up to rugged use."
"Sleek cut and mobile design: Articulated knees, 4-way stretch and center gusset make movement easy."
"Leg zips: Slide easily over footwear."

(And get this!)
"Perfect for touring castles in the morning and summiting foothills that afternoon."

So----if I get this office job, I can expect to put my shoes on first in the morning, then pants. I can splash cups of coffee in my lap and it'll just drain off. I can wrestle my co-workers on the office floor, because these pants are rugged and will take some carpet-burn. Also, if the windows are blown out by big winds, I can sit there placidly, warm and dry and snug in my expensive pants.

But seriously....
I got them for the job interview.

Did it yesterday.

Who knows if they helped my job-seeker mojo or not?

I'll keep you updated.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stretching Myself

Part of my new California life is improving my health and fitness. I'm doing big rides with the local cycling club (ass-kicking!) and I've joined the local Bikram Yoga Studio. I have always loved yoga, but have never made it a steady practice. Bikram is also known as hot yoga, or hot Hatha yoga. It's a very specific series of 26 postures performed over 90 minutes in a 105 degree room. This type of yoga was designed and perfected by Bikram Choudhury in the 70's. His requirements for it's performance, teaching, and environment are extremely specific.

This chart above is the series---all of which are surprisingly strenuous! This is a body and mind opening practice, but I wouldn't call it meditative, per se. More than anything, it requires great concentration and stamina.

Honestly? It's the one thing that is helping me keep my chin up during my frustrating, demoralizing job search...

I'm finding the classes at my studio that are the least populated----just easier for me to concentrate, introvert and agoraphobic that I am, haha! One brings a yoga mat, towel and water and wears as little as possible, because you sweat profusely during the 90 minute session and you need full stretching capability---no fabric constraints. Getting dizzy and/or nauseus is par for the course. When this happens, you sit on your mat for as long as it takes for you to regain your equilibrium, then you join in again. Some days it happens a lot, some days, not at all.
The poses are the same every session, but the body's ability to do them and reaction to them are different. It's fascinating to me that within these specific, set parameters, there can be so much variation. It also helps that the studio I go to has a big pool of teachers---so far, I've had a new teacher every session. Every one imparts some new jewel of information.

Regardless of my unusually high natural flexibility, there are poses I can't quite do yet, like this one, called Padangustasana. You wouldn't believe the balance this takes! Immense concentration. To see a great layout of all the poses, check out this page. Bikram yoga and job searching.

One of these feels positive, constructive, and enriching....and the other does not.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sculpture Dedication

Fromage and I went to the dedication of a new piece of public sculpture in Santa Rosa, "Cyclisk," a 5-story tall obelisk made entirely of recycled bicycle parts. Brilliant! It wasn't a huge crowd...inteterestingly enough, the folks there seemed to be a representation of the fringe bicycling society in the area. This fellow showed up, a sculptor named Todd Barricklow, who created this amazing bike naed the Two Penny. When riding, he sits 13 feet above the ground. Fromage and I were most impressed!

Fromage and I, sunny day in California....

The Cyclisk, a detail to show you it's makeup. How ingenious is this?! Love it.

Even more clever is the fact that it is solid, but not opaque, given it's composition. If you stand in its shadow, you get this wonderful view anytime of day. The sculpture graces this rather industrial road in SR...diners, used car lots, discount furniture places and tattoo parlors....and the shiny Nissan dealership, who sponsored the financial funding for the sculpture. The dealership owner spoke at the dedication and I was impressed by what he had to say. Also, the mayor arrived and said a few words! I appreciated the fact that she was rather honest about SR, in that it was a 'city in transition,' and that this sculpture was part of it's improvement and renewal towards a better city.


Two months here and I still haven't been able to find a job. Talk about stressful! With my myriad, mosaic-like work history, you'd think I could get a job just about anywhere, doing anything. The days of walking into a place and impressing them with your personal demeanor are over, however. All job applications are online. It's your very impressive resume, or you are SOL. Maybe that's been my downfall.... Like I said, stressful. Let me add 'scary,' too.

On a positive note, I've joined the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and have been getting my ass whupped in some 40 mile group rides....18 riders in the pack at one time! New experiences abound! I also joined a local, informal knitting group. When in a new place and without the structured socialization of work or school.....join as many groups as you can.

Wish me luck in my job search. I NEED IT.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Tree of Life

A long hiatus in posting---setting up a new life will keep a blogger busy, for sure! Sorry for the long quiet. So many big changes have kept me reeling---and just trying to keep up.

We've landed! We've now been in California for 6 weeks (as of yesterday). We are still climatizing to a new place, new landscape, new everything. Fromage is really enjoying school---excellent, since that is the reason we're here. His concerns that he'd be the only over-20-something in class was unfounded. Turns out most, if not all, of his fellow students in his department are in similar life/age circumstances as he is.

Moi---I'd hoped to land a job right away, but my eclectic job skills keep me looking a little harder. Photo Archivist, anyone? Plant handler? Flower basket assembler? Orchid rustler? Many good skills, just not a place to put them yet. As my wise friend Shannon told me; "Don't fight it! Understand that there is a flow to it all!" She advised me to relax into the new life and not to push it as was good to hear.

I have made one good friend here. Okay, yeah, it's a PLANT...but you knew I'd say that, right? In the photo above, the GIANT grapefruit tree in our wee lawn. This is the reason I named our place "Grapefruit Cottage," as this behemoth has great presence here. Why is it my friend? Every time I go out and do some yard work, the tree drops some fruit for me. I'd say it was just a coincidence....but it's happened too many times for that. The tree likes me.

Just look at all this fruit! I can't keep up with eating it, of course...not that I've tried. Still, it's really, really good grapefruit. (And a few lemons in this collection---the neighbor's tree drops them over the fence...maybe it likes me, too?)

When I walk by the grapefruit tree, I make sure to knock on it's trunk. Just a little rap. Did you know this is the origin of 'knock on wood?' It was believed that gods/spirits lived in certain trees, and to knock on the tree was to invoke the good luck or protection of the entity that lived there. (Can't hurt, right?) Besides---it's such a big, beautiful tree....

Our home in California---Grapefruit Cottage! Setting up California life: so far, so good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

3,135.2 Miles

After returning from another wonderful month at the Vermont Studio Center (a.k.a. 'Art Camp') I joined forces with Fromage to pack up our house---the next adventure: moving to California! Above is my studio....the dismantling...

We did all of this in just 8 days----packed, stored, tossed, gave away, left... We built this house and lived there for 6 years. Leaving it was difficult.

The studio, gone... Such a strange feeling to walk through my own, empty, echoing house!

We left on 8/9/ auspicious set of numbers, I was hoping. We bought this Xterra as the car for our 'new life.' A good choice, for sure! It was a real treat to drive the Alcan in a car that we knew (90% sure) that it wouldn't break down. We took our belongings for an entire year in that 4'x4' Uhaul...not even full! As we were packing, Fromage kept advising me; "Extended camping trip!"

On the road. Since we've arrived in CA, I keep having nightmares about towing a Uhaul around...go figure.

After Whitehorse, YT, we came upon a herd of wood bison 30+ strong! Some of those beasts were so big as to seem prehistoric! I've driven the Alcan 6 times and I've never gotten to see these guys.

All cars pulled over and let these dudes have the road for as long as they needed it...

The Watson Lake Sign Forest---there was a letter box hidden here and we were excited to find it, but upon following the clues it became obvious that the growth of the sign forest had taken out the letterbox. I think the forest is about 50 times bigger than I remember it being last time I was here...2000?

Chetwynd, BC, home of the best dang chainsaw carvings I have EVER seen! It was good to get some art exposure in on this long roadtrip. It took us 7 days to drive from Fairbanks, AK to Santa Rosa, CA. 350-600 miles a day.

Our next in Cache Creek, BC at a very cozy campground---with a pool! Talk about roughing it, right??

Fromage and I, the morning of the last day of our trip.
And now?

Setting up the new life:

House /home hunting,

Job hunting,

Finding a few old friends who live around here (successful x3!),

and figuring out where everything is.

Big city (for us) and lots of traffic and people crawing everywhere. A big change from our old life...

Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's all over but the shouting...

Art camp is over. I'm now 4,000 miles away (again) and get to remember and reflect on everything. I can get enormously nostalgic, wistful and sad about leaving VSC... but this time around, I don't think I can indulge! Fromage and I are moving---this week!---and all mental/emotional efforts must be directed towards logistics.

That said, I will miss VSC, my studio, new friends, fun and freedom there hugely. I am always in love with that place...

My third residency for my MFA program, this is the group for our final critique. 5 great people with me in July! Cathy, James, Scott, Liz, Barbara and pictured here---Monica, Susan and Ken, included. ("Looooooooowwww-rez! High Def!")

I finished 9 paintings this month. 7 oil bar on paper (sealed ground), and 2 chalk/charcoal and gesso/acrylic on paper (ditto). All 30"x40" with one 30"x20". I have a few uber-faves already, but time will tell which ones are truly the cream that rise to the top.

I also got to go to Montreal for a few hours with aforementioned MFA peeps. A wonderful city! Too short a time to do a lot of exploring. We were there for an art museum jaunt, and I saw some wonderfully inspiring stuff. This place is one of my favorite memories.

Detail from one of the 2 black and white paintings I did. They were a nice rest from the super-saturated colors of the oil bar paintings. I was a little surprised at how much attention and appreciation these garnered. Folks really seemed to enjoy them.

I also got in some adventures with my Vermont 'boxing partner. A wonderful time!

A sad farewell day, yesterday. (Was it really just yesterday?) This is Jason Swift (Dr. Swift, to you!) and Harlan Mack at the Schultz Sculpture Studio building.

James Lockhart and Scott Ketchum, both my fellow MFA'ers, great artists and wonderfully funny guys.

Everyone leaving... A wonderful month with fellow artists and new friends! I always leave a residency feeling changed and inspired.

Too bad my art making will be limited for a bit, or I'd put this inspiration to good use. Right now, a new project: moving 3,000 miles south with Fromage for a one-year adventure in California!

Today---one task among so many---car shopping for a good rig to get us down the Alcan. Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Halfway Point

I'm at the mid-point of my third residency. Art made, friends made, and more to come. Gotta admit I'm a little tired out by the constant activity and busyness, however! I can admit I am homesick for my little house in the woods and my Fromage.

Above, the bed I made in my studio to nap in the afternoons. A quick fix, then back to work.

Breakfast with my art posse here. I've made friends with several fellow low-residency MFA students---fine artists, all.

A shot of my current pallette---all oilbars, all the time! No tools required---it's like painting with big oil crayons. I prep the paper with acrylic matte medium or a thinned gesso. It's not perfectly archival, but it's enough of a gesture in that direction to satisfy my guilt complex about the whole thing.

A painting in progress. I tentatively titled this one, "It All Comes to Fruition." This is a grand departure from the gold leaf/acrylic/fine ink illustration paintings I do in my home studio. Mostly, this VSC work is due to feeling free to do anything I want without the expectations of having to show it...ever. (Although, a few of these are really wonderful, if I say so myself, and I'd like to get them out on view someday.) Above, oilbar on paper. 30"x44". (Unfinished!) Most of my paintings are this size, and I'd like to go even larger. I've done six finished paintings so far. I never run out of ideas. Always a good thing.

In the evenings, it's all a matter of relaxing and cooling off. A group of us often go sit in the river in lawn chairs, sip a beer or glass of wine and watch the sunset and tell stories. This is Jason (PhD!) most recently of New Hampshire. He's a theory and conceptual sculptor who works with wood, felt, sewing and paint, among other things.

This is James, from just down the road. My local contact, as it were. He's also a sculptor---paper mache, primarily.

Our usual haunt. This is the Gihon River which flows right by VSC and is shallow and cool and perfect! We get a good scare once and awhile if a crawdad creeps over our bare feet. Usually, a duck and ducklings are hanging out nearby and we get to listen to the local frog inhabitants groan and chirp from the weeds at the shoreline.

Sunsets have been beautiful here. Each day ends with a lovely cool summer evening. It's a quiet crowd this month, for the most part---serious artists and writers intent on making work, not mahem! Some of the poets get a little rowdy with their favorite drinking game of "Stump" which involves a beer in one hand and a hammer in the other. (I played a round, it's not too dangerous...)

Two more weeks to go!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

An evening view of the Red Mill. Vermont has been stuck in the east coast heatwave this last week. For an Alaskan woman, it's the tropics! In all honesty, it's wearing me out. I need some cool nights to compose myself. My studio and dorm room have been alternately stuffy and sweltering! Hopefully cooler weather is on the way and I can better concentrate on my painting.

An excerpt of a recent 40"x30" painting tentatively titled, "Winter Protectes the Hibernators." Pictured above is one of the Hibernators---in coldsleep, reduced to only it's spiritual mask. I made this painting to channel winter and all it's lovely coolness! I amuse myself greatly, sometimes.

I'm working solely in oilbars on heavy Stonehenge watercolor paper prepped with acrylic gel medium to seal it. Who knows if this has any archival qualities at all.... What I do know is that these materials make me happy right now, and I have no lack of ideas and inspiration when I'm working with them. Gotta go with what you know---you know?

Another critter from a painting that I'll call, "The Truce." It's a rather romantic painting at it's heart which, strangely enough, no one else seems to see. If all artworks are autobiographical, that means that I've just painted myself as a nubile, red-fleshed bunny headed woman with horns. I think it means I like me quite a lot, because this character kicks ass! So entertaining...

So far, reactions to the four paintings I've completed have been rather desultory. I don't need accolades and acclaim to keep working, but a few choice compliments are always enjoyed. I haven't gotten around to many of the other studios to see my fellow resident's work. The slide show this week promises to be very revealing!

Now---to cool off and get back to the studio.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Short on words, long on jet lag

A good opening for my exhibit this past Friday night. Nice folks who showed genuine interest in my paintings. It was remarkably anti-climactic, considering the amount of stress and preparation I put myself through in these last few weeks!

The gallery with visitors. No sales as of yet, but it'll be up for the whole month, so there's time and luck for that.

The day after the opening I flew on to Vermont to do another residency at the Vermont Studio Center. I've already met nifty people and once again, have an interesting room and a good studio. Jet lag is kicking my butt tonight, given that 7 hr. overnight flight with the seat that wouldn't recline, so no art for me just yet. I went in after dinner and fondled my art supplies, arranged my oil sticks by color, that sort of thing. It really was the best I was capable of! Now---time to get a real night's sleep, I hope.
More soon on how the residency and my work here develops!