Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I asked the girls to pose with the blackberries, some of which we ate last night. My youngest really takes after her father. We may not get another photo of her making a "normal" face until she's twenty years old.



Here is one of my patches of sunflowers.

first tomato

This'un here is the first little tomato I seen growin'. And it aint even on a plant I planted! This darn thing is a tomato that come up in my old compost pile. Go figure.


Monday, June 29, 2009



Here's a photo of some recent stuff I've worked on. Top right: a small watercolor, with pen-and-ink, of a tree at Hounz Lane Park.  I did the watercolor portion on lunch break, and the pen portion that evening.


Bottom right is a sumi ink drawing I started on lunch break a last week. It is also a creek-side tree at Hounz Lane Park. After I got home, I used a couple of ink pens to add some detail and shading.  I don't much care for this drawing, in part because the tree resembles a giant hairy wrist or ankle, with the roots a foot or hand sinking into the bank – although this strange appearance has something to do with what attracted me to it in the first place. The roots were weird and elegant.


The giraffe is a proof-print of the linoleum block I am carving. It will end up being a three-color reduction print. There will be more photos of that later.  I am going to hunt around for something nicer to print on than regular printer paper, at least for some of the prints.

Illuminated footprints




"My husband told me there are places you can go (although he could not remember where any of these places are located) where some sort of phosphorescence actually creates a "luminescence" in beach sand -- not just the ocean water itself. He said you could walk along the beach at night and leave glowing footprints. I would love to know where such conditions exist.    [ Top ]
 -- Andrea C.

"Your husband is right -- the sand will light up sometimes because tiny organisms have been washed ashore by the waves. When I have seen this phenomenon, it is mainly in your footprints, but it can also happen in a ring around where you step. I believe the footprint-glow is from the organisms (most commonly dinoflagellates, but also copepods and small jellies), which had been resting peacefully in the damp sand, getting squished. The ring of light, though, seems to happen as you compress the sand, and the disturbance stimulates them. In my experience a footprint in the sand raises the sand around it and "dries it out" a little bit.

"Even though this isn't really happening *in* the water, the organisms originated there, so you are more likely to see it in the damp sand near the ocean's edge, or following a receding tide. It would also be enhanced when bioluminescent organisms are abundant in the ocean itself.

"Enjoy the show! "



I don't remember when it was I saw this, but it was as an adult. Perhaps it was the last time I was at the ocean, in South Carolina, or it might have been an earlier trip to Florida. I think it was the South Carolina trip.


The beach was dark. I noticed that the sand around where I stepped grew distinctly lighter, and when my foot was removed it darkened again.  I spent some time trying to figure out if the effect was caused by my foot compressing the sand and pushing moisture out of it, affecting how well it reflected light from distant sources (both ambient light from the sky and distant lights from streetlights and hotels.)  After messing with it for a while, I tentatively concluded that it was some form of bioluminescence.


It is a strange and beautiful world.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

New house drawing

This is my newest walnut ink drawing; it was commissioned by a co-worker. I'm very pleased with how it came out, although my photographs of it are somewhat lacking. The top two are close-ups for detail. The guy who requested it asked that the little jockey be visible, as the house's owners were very fond of him.

First sumi ink drawing, part 2


…and here is Jill's, which she described as, "that's a house that can walk and it's a robot, and that's all the stuff that you need to wear, and that's a house for the steam, and that's all the steam popping. There's more smoke, and more smoke, and more smoke, and more smoke, and more smoke, and more smoke, and more smoke."


I am a rather proud father of these artists.

First sumi ink drawings, part 1

Here are my daughters' first sumi ink drawings, done last week with ink and brush. They were coloring at the dining room table, and I had out my sketchbook and ink. They expressed curiosity about what I was doing, and I asked them if they wanted to try it.


This one is Erin's: it's a scarecrow on a post inside his house, with big gray storm clouds coming.


Monday, June 15, 2009

 Last night I had a dream that my friend Aaron won the Daytona 500. It was very exciting and we were all very proud of him.
Congratulations, Aaron!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

refurbished ink

Yesterday I decided to clean up my jars of walnut ink. After I made the ink a year-and-a-half ago, I never added any preservative.  They have since molded, and the mold formed blobs of gunk inside the ink.  Yes, disgusting, I know.  The ink has still been usable, but as the supply of ink within the jar has dwindled, the gunk has become more and more in-the-way.  So yesterday I gathered the jars of ink I could find (I was surprised by how few I had; I think I've used up more of the ink than I realized. A lot of it gets wasted.)  I re-strained it into a new jar, and added a couple of tablespoons of denatured alcohol.


I haven't used it since. I hope the alcohol has no effect on the ink's application.


I still have walnuts in the garage.  Sometime soon, when I have an opportunity to make a mess without bothering my family with it, I'll have to make some more ink.


Kim has been complaining about a strange smell in the garage, one that I don't notice (the garage, to me, smells like gasoline, paint solvents, and grass clippings).  I wonder if she's smelling my rotten walnuts?


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More time

While discussing time with Brooke and David over the weekend, I realize I have another time-quasi-picture in my head for the decades of the last hundred years or so.


When I think of the years of the past decade and the 20th Century, I vaguely see them in my head as a series of stepping-stone-like tiles, sloping downward and backward from the present. They are grouped in tens, by decade. The 60s have President Johnson hanging over them spectrally. The 40s are warmer-hued and darker.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Take me to the river

Well, I received some very nice, and interesting, comments regarding my previous couple of blog posts.


Regarding Kevin's comments about the circularity of I-264: I agree totally. Now that I live near the Gene Snyder, I-265 is the focus of my frustration for the same reason.  Whenever someone asks me for directions, I have to tell them, "OK, get off 71 onto the Gene Snyder going either west or south…whichever it is, you're headed towards the right…"


One thing that I became aware of when I lived in Laramie was my use of landmarks when I navigated.  These landmarks could be things actually seen, or they could be things that are real but which are unseen and exist as constructs on a mental map.


While driving in Laramie, I realized that I had lost the major navigational "beacons" of my mental map: the interstates and, most significantly, the Ohio River.  While driving in Louisville, everything ultimately relates navigationally to the river.


In Laramie, the mountain ranges became the guiding stars, which was usually easier because except on the darkest nights one can see them from pretty much anywhere.  It was hard to get turned around and be facing the wrong direction when I could just crane my neck around to see where the Snowy Range was.


One can only take the need for navigational aids in Laramie so far, though. If you get lost and drive in a straight line, it won't be long before you come to an honest-to-God edge of town. Once you spot antelope, you know you've missed your turn.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Counterclockwisey Loosey, or, why everyone but me is weird and stupid.

Everyone’s heard “lefty loosey, righty tighty,” right? It rarely makes sense to me. I know what people are saying when they say it, but when I point out that it doesn’t make any sense and in some contexts it’s confusing, people usually tell me that I just see the world in a weird way. Or do I just see the world more clearly, I wonder?

Exhibit A: This beautiful rendering of a jar lid (thanks to the talented boys and girls down in the graphics department!) depicts, via informative arrows, “lefty loosey.” But why is it turning left, I ask? If it is rotating, then exactly half of the lid is turning towards the left; half it turning towards the right; half is turning towards you, and half away from you. It seems just as accurate, to me, to say, “righty loosey,” or “downy loosey,” or “away-from-me-loosey.”

This, of course, seems especially true when the object is horizontal. If the object is rotating on a vertical plane, it makes more sense to say that it is rotating in the direction that the top is moving, since we all seem to have a prejudice (whether it’s biological, cultural, or simply derived from our usual vantage points, I don’t know) to identify with the top. However, I think the concept of lefty-loosey-righty-tighty is encountered much less frequently on the vertical than the horizontal planes.

In fact, we usually see things at an angle, as the jar lid in Exhibit B. In this case, it makes more sense to me to place emphasis on the portion of the object that is nearest, which would make it “lefty-tighty,” as emphasized by my extra-scribbly arrow.

Oh well. I know I can’t change the world. But maybe I can find a little understanding.

Forward in Time

I envision the year as circular, like a clock. The new year begins at the 12 o'clock position.  However, when I think of the progression of months and seasons, things run counter-clockwise. January is at 11 o'clock, February is at 10 o'clock, and so on.  Summer is always at the bottom of the year. Winter is aways the top of the year.


On the wall of one of the rooms at church, there is a huge felt banner laying out the church year like a clock.  Each Sunday is a dot around the edge, and there is a big felt arrow, like a minute hand, that can be moved by one of the kids each week to tick away the Sundays and to show the progression towards and through the holy seasons of Advent and Easter. Something about this big calendar bothered me right off the bat, and after many months I finally figured out that it seemed to me to be going backward, since it ran clockwise.


I often run into confusion when people talk about "moving something up a day" or "back a day" in a schedule. In my head, schedules form a timeline. Usually, when I'm picturing my involvement in some event, I identify with some spot on the timeline: The day on which I have an appointment, or the day I have off from work, or the hour of the day during which I take my lunch break.  This spot on the timeline is the "me" spot.


When something is moving forward, that means it is progressing towards "me."  That means if it is an event that happens after the point on the timeline that I'm interested in, "moving it up" means shifting backward in time, in my direction.  If the event is chronologically before the "me" spot, then "moving it forward" means pushing it to a later time towards "me."  Obviously, this is confusing, since moving something forward in time can mean going backward or forward on the timeline in my head, depending on where I see myself as standing on the timeline.


Things are a little different when I think of days of the week.  Usually, days in this context spread out before me like a somewhat abstract, nebulous tunnel, with each day labeled with its name.  I am moving forward through this, so if we're talking about "moving something forward" in this context, it always means pushing it back in time, in the direction that I am headed.  I have to consciously change my thinking about it if I'm discussing it with someone and I realize we're probably thinking of it differently.


Weeks have a color, by the way.  They are a light cool gray.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Proud trophy recipient

A day of painting en plein air

On Sunday I participated in the Artebella 100 Paint-Out, sponsored by the Louisville Visual Arts Association. There was a registration fee of $50 (a little less for LVAA members) to participate.

At 7:00 a.m. I showed up at the Water Tower with my carload of paint and painting gear. I had my blank canvas stamped, and headed out to paint.

The location I selected was at Champions Park, formerly River Road Country Club. I set up my easel at the edge of one of the former fairways, the morning sun to my back. I started in the shade, but I was in the sun after a couple of hours. This prompted me to move a little. Sunburn was a secondary concern; I was mostly trying to avoid being dazzled by the bright light. Looking at a white palette and a white canvas in sunshine can make color selection and mixing a challenge. In addition, it’s been my experience that getting the brightness of colors right for indoor viewing is very hard when painting in sunlight. A painting that looks great outside can look much too dark viewed indoors. A landscape that I painted and which Ed and Loraine now have suffers from that.

I ended up having to move several times to get out of the sunshine, but I knew going in that this would likely be the case.

Champions Park is a very doggy place between 8 and 11:00 on Sunday mornings. At least 50 dogs, taken to the park by their owners, came running up to check me out. A few different times I had four or five dogs around me, chasing one another, sniffing my paint tubes, and barking at my easel (two different dog owners informed me that “strange structures” upset their dogs. “He’s afraid of ladders, and your easel is like a ladder,” said one.)

I tolerated this pretty well, I think, although after one peed on my backpack I kept a large stick handy and was prepared to use violence to enforce (human) social norms, if necessary.

It was a beautiful day for painting. I worked as quickly as I could. All paintings and drawings were due back no later than 3:00, and I made it back around 2:30.

There were about 70 contestants registered, more than expected. There was a large range of skill levels and subjects, in pastels, watercolor, oils, and acrylics.

Along with many of the other participants, I set up some of my artwork in the parking lot as we awaited judging. I sold a couple of small walnut ink drawings, and had many nice conversations with other participants and people who had come to watch. The experience made me much more interested in participating in an art fair sometime in the future.

I ended up with an honorable mention (a ribbon and a $25 check), which was nice.

I’d only had a little more than four hours of sleep the night before, so I was worried that I might end up feeling pretty bad before the day was over, but I felt pretty good.