Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Releasing My Inner Artist (#208)

Since I was born without a jot of it, I have a deep admiration for anyone with artistic ability. I’m not being falsely modest. My stick men were, and probably still are, unrecognizable blobs. If fridge magnets had been invented in the 50s, my parents would have been mortified at the prospect of having to display my drawings. Early on in life, I sadly accepted the fact that words would be the only medium open to me for self-expression.

I guess in a way, you folks can blame my artistic inability for the fact you’re reading this.


Anyway... I love art and admire artists. Over the last few years, I’ve begun collecting pieces of various descriptions. Most of them have been purchased at yard sales or flea markets. A handful have come from galleries or directly from the artist. They have very little in common with each other except that many depict animals and each of them spoke to me on some level. Surrounding myself with these carvings and sculptures and paintings and photographs reawakened my long-dampened dream to become an artist myself.

Many years ago, I was tremendously impressed when I read about a sculptor who was asked how he fashioned such lifelike, detailed figures from rock and wood. He said something along the lines of: “If I’m carving a horse, I just remove the pieces of wood or stone that aren’t a horse.”

Simple, eh?

Understand, that at 58 I hold few illusions about myself, my abilities, or lack of same. I didn’t buy paints or modeling clay. Been there - totally sucked - you wouldn’t have wanted the t-shirt.

Nope. I bought myself a fine, three-bladed pocket knife.

This is what it looks like:

Yes, me and that beauty are going to carve ourselves some wood. Now, I’m not fool enough to set my artistic bar overly high. I’m not going to carve a wood nymph being ravished by satyr, much as I might like to contemplate the project. Not right from the get-go, at least. I’ll need a bit of practice.

This is me sitting on the back porch steps with my first piece of raw material - a piece of wood:

Taking a leaf from the aforementioned artist’s book, I decide that what I will do is remove all the bits of wood which are NOT part of what I wish to carve.

After mulling creatively for a moment, I decided to turn this piece of wood into a stick. So, here’s me hard at work reshaping the wood into my artistic vision.

A minute later - told you it was a really good knife - voila! The finished product! A fine-looking stick.

Quite frankly, it wasn’t as difficult as it looks from the pictures.

I guess I’m epter than I thought as an artist. I just struggled for decades to find the right medium.

I’m mulling my next project now. It’s a three-inch long piece of wood about as big around as a pencil. Without hardly squinting at all, I’m pretty sure I see a toothpick in there, wanting to come out.

(All photos courtesy of Son #1)

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Renovator, The Ditherer & The Decider (#207)

There I was a couple of months ago, threatening you folks with more frequent postings and what happens?

Infrequent postings, that's what. Apparently, I fibbed.

Not on purpose, of course. My explanation/excuse is there's lots of work going on in the house. For the first time in 20-some years, much-needed repairs and decorating are transforming the place. But in the meantime, we’re living in chaos. I know, I know -- chaos describes most of the last 20-some years here. But this sort is different. This time there’s real hope for improvement on the other side of the mess. That light might not be an oncoming train at all. Could be a new fixture.

Let’s see...in the last two months I have replaced four sinks and a toilet. There’s new bathroom and kitchen floors and a new front door. The wreckroom ceiling is brand, spanking new. I replaced six light fixtures. As I write this, my living/dining room is about 1/3 hardwood floor, a beautiful, rich-looking, solid oak called “cognac.” (Which is what I want to drink a lot of after listening to a compressor and nail gun all day.)

By the way, I should mention I was using the royal “I” up there. My part in the renovations is swiping my credit card and writing cheques for the contractor. The actual work is being done by BillTheContractorGuy, assisted by Son #2.

(As longtime readers well know, I am not allowed to use power tools of any kind. I can hurt myself just fine with hand ones. Remarkably, #2 is adept with tools and eager to learn all aspects of repair and renovation, including using drills and saws and other lethal devices. DNA is weird, eh?)

Of course, my duties aren’t solely restricted to emptying my wallet. I also get to Frown Importantly while BillTheContractorGuy or a sales clerk from Home Depot are babbling about mortises or beveling or other equally incomprehensible contracting voodoo.

With apologies to George Bush, I am also The Decider. To me falls the burden of choosing flooring and fixtures and whatnot. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m the kind of Decider who prefers to have limited options. If there were only three colours, it would be darn sight easier to decorate.

Which brings me to giant warehouse stores.

I don’t much like giant warehouse stores. But apparently, nowadays, they are about the only places where contracting-type stuff is available.

Lots and lots and lots of it. Like, way more than three colours-worth.

When faced with too darn many choices, The Decider has a tendency to become The Ditherer. It’s difficult to select new light fixtures when there are many dozens to choose from. Especially when the person selecting has never, in his entire life, considered light fixtures beyond hoping they work when the switch is flipped.

Hilary offers a woman’s perspective when she’s here and something needs to be Decided. I always consider her counsel and have even been known to follow it. But she's only here for a couple of days every two weeks. So, more often than not, the burden of choice lies heavy on my shoulders alone.

Mine and the sales clerks from Home Depot.

Thank the gods many of those folks seem to know what they’re talking about! A nice lady helped me pick out the bathroom and kitchen floors and another helped with the front door. Yet another spent a half-hour giving me a crash course in hardwood flooring. She kindly paused whenever she noted my eyes glazing over, and would re-explain, using smaller words.

In any event, by the time all’s dithered and decided, I hope to have new windows, furnace and garage door too - perhaps even before winter sets in.

Unless, of course, there’s more than three kinds of windows, furnaces and garage doors.

I’ll keep you posted. Just not sure when, exactly.