Michaeline: DIY Art

A baby looking into the mirror, much like a famous picture of Alice kneeling on the mantlepiece looking into Wonderland.

Everyone is an artist of some kind. Art is definitely something you should try at home, kids! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

All of us blogging here are DIY artists. We write, therefore we are. I suspect a great many of our readers also recognize themselves as creators. Last week, I talked a little bit about how all of us are creating art in our daily lives – whether it be expanding bread and water into herbal iced tea and pretty crackers with cheese and cucumber slices, or taking sackcloth and sandals up a notch to a sundress with really cute sandals. Or maybe you are taking some basic fictional elements, adding a few nuggets from the news or history, and coming up with your very own, do-it-yourself story, specially tailored to fit your tastes.

Jeanne in the comments last week linked to a very interesting piece from The Atlantic about bucket list art exhibits.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/yayoi-kusamas-existential-circus/528669/

The biggest thing that struck me after reading the article was how so many of these experiences sound like something we could re-create ourselves, should we wish to go through the time and effort. The article talks about an art installation where Rirkrit Tiravanija made Thai curry at a Chelsea gallery . . . and the Museum of Modern Art. (From the MoMA blog.) https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/02/03/rirkrit-tiravanija-cooking-up-an-art-experience/ I once missed the chance to watch a man make curry for Lois McMaster Bujold. This man does this in different venues, and while I don’t think he’d call it art, it sounds like it could be.

Yayoi Kusama’s mirrors remind me of childhood dressing rooms with three mirrors providing a glimpse into infinity. An infinity of grey carpet and slightly soiled beige walls, but there I was, right in the middle, multiplied over and over again. It wasn’t as beautiful as Kusama’s work, but it left a vivid memory.

A woodcut from 1857 showing Tanabata willows covered with wishing strips and summer decorations. A light wind is blowing and making them flutter above the rooftops.

The wishing trees of Tanabata are a very old tradition in Japan, and as you can see, they make striking art that also is suitable for other artists to recreate. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees are very much like the Tanabata wishing trees of the summer season in Japan. The difference is that people don’t fold up their papers like they might for Ono’s Wish Tree, but write their wish on a piece of thick paper, and hang it up on the bamboo or willow branch for the world to see. I’ve done this many times, and it’s so interesting to see the elementary scrawl of school children wishing for games and toys, or sometimes good grades and once in a while, something even more poignant. Peace for the soul of a family dog, or Continue reading

Michaeline: What does art do for us?

A man holding a giant sprig of dill seed while flying on a griffin that is carrying some sort of prey, and there's another man-sized bird on the dill.

What does art do for us? (Detail from “The Garden of Earthly Delights” via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week I came across a transcript of a lecture that Brian Eno gave. http://speakola.com/arts/brian-eno-john-peel-lecture-2015

Eno says (well, I read between the lines of Eno’s speech and understand) that people spend a lot of time embellishing the basics of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You know, the one where the base of our need pyramid is largely physiological. Air, food, water, clothing, shelter and sometimes sexual competition.

I can see it all around me. It’s not just food – it’s avocado toast or the miracle of technology that is a tuna casserole in the middle of Nebraska. It’s not just shelter – it’s Versailles, or a tiny hermitage. (YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXpDPekGB3Q3:25 Crow’s Hermitage, by Tiny House Lover) It’s not just clothing, it’s a Bob Mackie gown, or it’s a store-bought pair of jeans that have been repurposed into a waistcoat (and bespangled with recycled buttons). And it’s not just sex, it’s rule 34 of the internet: if you can imagine it, there’s porn of it online. Anyway, I whole-heartedly concur with Eno that we spend a lot of our lives making and consuming art daily, even if we don’t consider ourselves artists.

What does art do for us? Well, Eno points out four things, and I embellish on them. Continue reading

Michaeline: Secure Your Belief Systems!

A Japanese ghost or demon in a long kimono

Dead or alive, when Grandma is happy, everyone’s happy. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Long story, and we’ve got time, don’t we?

So, I cleaned house for much of the morning. Last night, my mother-in-law said, “The Temple is coming tomorrow at 9:30.” No, not the whole thing – just the Buddhist priest, who comes a couple of times a year to . . . I’m not quite sure what the theological underpinnings are. To bless the house? To say “hi” to our deceased family members with a speedy little sutra? At any rate, he comes, he recites a prayer before our household altar, then he has a little tea and some cookies, and heads off to the next household. The most important dates are spring equinox, fall equinox and Obon, which people in my area reckon to be about August 15.

Today is July 8. The nearest date of any legendary significance is Tanabata – the star festival when the lovesick weaver and shepherd get to cross the Milky Way and have a night of joy before heading back to work. That’s officially on the seventh day of the seventh month, but time isn’t a straight forward concept in Japan. The holiday is often reckoned by the Buddhist calendar, which is moon-based and wanders through our Gregorian year like a tipsy secretary at the office picnic. That would put 7/7 (Buddhist style) on August 28, this year. But for the sake of convenience, people in my area usually celebrate it in early August.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia tells me that this celebration was originally from a “festival to plead for skills”. Huh. I ought to get me some of that action. Mark it on my calendar for August 28 . . . .

Ahem, excuse me for wandering off. Let me get back to the point: I spent the morning cleaning up the living room and tatami room for the priest, and then while I was in the shower, I started resenting the situation. You know how it is. You start to do something because it’s the Done Thing, but as soon as you get a moment to yourself, you start Continue reading

Michaeline: Start with the Windows

A view of the gardens and fountains from the music pavilion out the French doors. Many windows.

Music or books . . . who starts with the windows? And who starts with the basement? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a new month and a fresh start! I’m still playing around more on my ukulele than I am writing, but writing is always somewhere on my mind. I was goofing around on a jazz blog, and stumbled upon a post where the blogger talks about composing a song. He says:

1. Decide what kind of tune you are aiming for.
2. Choose a structure and a key.
3. Work out a chord progression on which to build. (You might prefer to start by inventing a melody, but for me that would seem like building a house by putting in the windows before laying the foundations.)

Well, I have to tell you, those three tips stopped me in my tracks. I ALWAYS start with the windows! That is to say, I’ve got a character, and I flail around for a conflict or inciting incident, and that naturally leads to another character in opposition to the first.

I figure I can stick the genre on later, and my structures feel organic – they feel like they grow straight from the character.

But then again, I wonder Continue reading

Michaeline: Imposter

A countess in a cape hiding behind a piece of cardboard that only shows her eye.

Worried about others seeing the faker? Be too fast to take that test, and just do what makes you happy. Trust in the creative process, not the outside censors and judgers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, some words by David Bowie)

I am a writer who isn’t writing.

Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.

But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?

I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.

I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.

Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision Continue reading

Michaeline: Crazy stories

Now here’s an example of structure combined with crazy — leading to an incredible body in motion. Strandbeest by Michael Frey, image via Wikimedia

We love structure and craft here on Eight Ladies – combined, we’ve spent thousands of hours on classes, and maybe tens of thousands reading about how to write, and listening to podcasts. Structure is important, and it makes a book great.

But . . . it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. There’s that big, blasted sword of Crazy that only shows up in this dimension when it wants to, and can disappear nearly as fast. It’s also only visible to certain readers, so whoever wishes to wield the sword of Crazy had better have a thick skin or numb ears: a lot of people are going to be telling the wielder that s/he is . . . well, crazy.

Crazy sometimes carries the day, though. I love Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – adored them as a teen and imprinted on them, and even read them as an adult and still loved them!

Adams had a gift for funny ideas, and was skilled at winding them up and letting them run into each other at full speed. Structure was more hit and miss – he was more like a jerry-rigger than an architect of literature. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has not just one, but multiple prologues. The climaxes seem to come regularly, but not in any particular order. And the dangling threads? Well, apparently that’s why this trilogy needed four sequels instead of the usual two.

Still – look at Adams’ impact on culture. Anyone in the English-speaking world who has Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Treats

old advertising of a lemonade drink with lemons

Oooh, oooh, lemonade! Story-time is around the corner! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Summer’s here in the northern hemisphere, and it’s a brilliant time to treat yourself!

Use that treat to provide some writing motivation, and you’ll get double the trick from your treat. Or, use it to provide pleasurable associations for your summer writing task. If you are consistent in rewarding yourself, you could establish good habits.

First: give yourself a stick blender if you don’t already have one. This can be a reward for a job well-done, or a little bribe for some sit-down time. Plus, it’ll play a major role in many of the treats I outline.

If you are a bit stuck, go cherry-picking or strawberry-picking. Let your mind wander as your body is busy with a mindless task. Enjoy the sun, and the stretch of your muscles, and allow yourself a little wonder time. Bonus: A lot of places here allow you to pick-n-eat as you go. But even if they don’t, you’ll have delicious fruit to take home. Freeze half for later. Sit down and write, then indulge with a bowl of summer fruit.

Hot? Suffering for your art while sweating over the keyboard? Continue reading