Okay, the gravel-like stuff is shoveled and most of the brush is collected… as much as I think I’m going to be able to do until that damned wood is taken care of, anyway. I’m much more relaxed now. I took a good break after shoveling the gravely stuff, had a drink, and am feeling a little better. The internet still seems to hate me, but I’ll eventually get through.
Which reminds me. There’s a feature of Apple’s new Music Service that I really appreciate, considering my internet-related woes, the least of which is now that it’s not broadband… This morning, Apple added nearly 4,000 songs to its online catalogue of music. Because I opted in, I received an email with some of the featured new music, including Michelle Branch, Alanis Morisette, and Cher. And I don’t have Cher’s latest album yet. Mostly because I won’t pay more than $10 for an album, and I hadn’t seen it used anywhere. Except now there it was, available for download from Apple, for just $9.99. So after (patiently) previewing the bulk of the songs on the album, I clicked ‘Buy Album’ and ‘Yes’ when it asked me if I really want to but the album. And it started downloading and I went down for some breakfast. And after breakfast and an hour or two of heavy lifting in preparation for gathering ‘brush’, I checked on it, and it had disconnected after only one song had been downloaded. But it had a pop-up message letting me know that to try again, I just needed to go to Advanced… Check for purchased music, and it would try again. So I fought to get online for a while, and did that, and it started downloading again. Hooray for intelligent software that doesn’t steal my money just because my ISP hates me!
So, yeah. I just got off the phone with Heath, and I may have convinced him to come up and do hard labor by telling him I’d pay for him to see The Matrix Reloaded at least once, probably on Wednesday night. This is all conditional stuff. Like, he doesn’t want to come up and help me work if dad is here, and I can’t work if Angela won’t help by running the store while we work, and Heath won’t be able to go to the midnight Matrix if he hasn’t finished his homework & shown that he has no tests the next day, and I don’t know how we’re going to arrange transportation back and forth and back and forth to Phoenix, to get him up here to help out and me down there to see The Matrix movie…. but I think it can all be worked out. Especially with the help of these friendly monkeys! Who doesn’t love monkeys?
Man, I just love it when I blow my nose and it comes out black from the dust of the dirt and gravel I’ve been shoveling and breathing! Woo hoo!
Okay, so the whole time I’ve been writing this, including the ten minutes I was talking to Heath, I haven’t been able to secure a working internet connection. So I guess I’ll have to keep writing. It’s almost time to go downstairs to see about helping with supper. Have I mentioned that they sup around 16:30MST most days, and if they haven’t eaten by 17:00MST, a lot of complaining comes on? Does this seem early to the rest of you? My friends in Spain don’t sup until …well… let’s just say that at the corresponding time of my day, I’m usually in bed by then. But how about a happy medium, people? Not too early, not too late? I suppose my grandparents think my eating breakfast at 8 or 8:30MST is awfully late…
But just to get a modicum of work done on any one of my personal projects, I need to spend several hours on them at night, plus there’s time I like to spend relaxing, reading websites & posting & stuff, and then I’m up until almost midnight every night. I certainly can’t face a full day and a half of work on less than a full night’s sleep (without the Modafinil I can’t seem to get). I would be a mess. I’d probably be in a much worse mood, too. Especially when I risk serious injury and infection just trying to collect ‘brush’. The shoveling I don’t mind, and the brush collection itself is only problematic because of the junk and mess I have to climb over to get to and from where the brush has fallen. I’m here to do the hard work my grandfather can’t do. I’m not here to get torn to pieces trying. I’m not here to step on rusty nails or trip over unidentifiable rusty machinery that happens to stand in piles practically circling the trees (and the rest of the property, for that matter).
I think this place is starting to get to me, the way it got to my dad. Except I think it got to him forty years ago. It’s usually nice up here. Slow. Easy-going. There’s hard work, but much of it can be done without risking life and limb. It’s just sometimes that things are a little too fast-paced. Or feel that way because one has to keep switching between jobs… And sometimes grandfather’s desire for so many different things to be done just gets to be too much.
Like… I want to be an artist. I AM an artist. I paint. I draw. I create comics. I write. My paintings are becoming increasingly sculptural, and I’m thinking of pushing that, while working in mixed media. I’m very happy doing these things. I’ve sculpted in clay in the past, and have considered working in clay again. But my grandfather has these other ideas. And my father has other ideas. They like wood carving, and while I haven’t said outright that I don’t (mostly because I hadn’t done any when it came up before, and I figured I should at least try it), it isn’t something I’m very interested in. I’m not sure my mind works that way. That taking away way, rather than in a building up way. Maybe it’s something I’d need to learn, but I just don’t have it yet. My grandfather wanted to get me started on wood carving, but apparently the first step is to know what one wants to carve. That stumped me for several days. More often than not, when I start a new work, a painting, a drawing, a comic, a story, a poem, a novel, whatever… When I start a new work I usually don’t know where it’s going to go or what it’s going to look like. I just begin, and watch the painting flow out of me or the drawing take shape or the comic (or story or novel) tell its story or … whatever, but more often than not, I don’t go into a project with a vision of the finished piece. Sometimes, yes, I have an idea, like the AOL-related mural I want to make entirely out of AOL CDs. Or too much baggage, which is based on a thumbnail sketch I found when going through some old papers. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Most of the ‘planned’ works I’ve made started the same way, but on paper instead of on canvas. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I started making thumbnails and saw where the image wanted to grow, and then created the painting (or such) from whatever that exploration created. I suppose that’s part of why my paintings are abstract, and why I disagreed so many times with my correspondence course’s 2D Design Unit; I don’t approach art the way ‘normal’ people do, or the way they are trying to teach me to. Really, I’m usually not even trying to represent something that exists in the real world, and this course teaches that that is what all art should do; show the artist’s vision of something in the real world. My position tends to be that if it exists in the real world I don’t need to paint it (or draw it, or whatever), because people can just see it for themselves. Make their own impression rather than having to take mine. My work tends to be about showing the things you can’t see in the ‘real world’. Like with New Comic, where I simply used photographs to depict the world as it exists, but transitioned to drawings to depict the world that cannot be photographed. Or with my most recent paintings in which I am trying to put emotions onto the canvas. What does an emotion look like? Or worse (worse when someone asks me to explain my ‘inspiration’ for a painting, or what I was thinking), I just cobble together colors and shapes and elements and even language until I find the composition pleasing. Not because it has any real meaning to me, but because I like the way it looks. I think it’s interesting.
Where was I going? Oh yeah. I tried and tried to come up with something I wanted to carve, and I found two things. One, I didn’t particularly want to carve in the first place. Two, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to try to carve a comic strip. So, I sketched out a comic strip that I could do in relief. No dialogue, just sequential images that tell a story. And grandfather showed me the tools and described a basic technique and that was that. I began. I got about one panel done, and I started on the second, but I just didn’t like the medium. It wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, and grandfather wasn’t much help, and I carved a couple of chunks out of my fingers, and then my tool slipped again and took a chunk out of the border between the frames, and I gave up. That was weeks ago. Maybe over a month ago. The piece of wood, the wood carving tools, all of it is still sitting exactly where I walked away from it. I may go back and try again. I may even try carving in a different wood or with different instruction (maybe I can find a book that would be a better teacher than my grandfather has been so far), or certainly if/when I actually have an idea for a wood carving or the desire to carve wood. But right now, nothing. It feels like work. Hard work that I don’t enjoy doing and don’t particularly look forward to the finished result of. Which isn’t why I want to create art. Art is supposed to make me feel good, not bad. I’m supposed to enjoy it, as I do with all the other media I work in.
And wood carving isn’t it. He started me on welding recently. He wants me to create a security door and window from raw steel. He got a special attachment for his bender so I could make those curves in the steel, even. So he showed me where the scrap steel is, how to clean the rust off it with the grinder, how to wear the safety equipment, and he laid down a couple beads to show me how it’s done. And I think I seriously have a vision problem that will prevent me from acurately welding. I’ve heard it described by other people as an after-effect of corrective surgery, or of wearing contacts too long, but I get that ‘starburst’ effect from all bright lights all the time. Streetlights, lamps, reflections of the same or the sun, every bright light source has occluding beams shooting out from it in six or more (I should probably count them, eh?) directions, like a starburst. Apparently not everyone sees this way. But when I was trying to weld, all I could see was this bright green (green through the mask) star on a completely black background. When I tried to explain this to my grandfather (after he saw the crooked, too thin, too thick, and otherwise problematic welds I had been making), he actually began to get mad at me for not being able to see the cooling bead. Apparently, one ought to be able to see the ultra-hot molten metal just behind the tip, as it cools, and be able to judge how to weld from it. I tried and tried, and as far as I can tell, the place where I should be able to make that out is behind the bars of light that compose the starburst in my eye. So I told grandfather I probably just had to learn how to see it so he would walk off again, and I just stopped welding. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t touched it since. Everything is laying just about where I left it, shut off mid-weld, except that the wind has blown some stuff over.
And did I mention I never in my life desired to weld or work with metal at all? That I’ve never had an idea for a steel sculpture or any other metal thing I’ve wanted to create? That time and again I’ve thought that if I sculpted something I liked out of another material – clay or wax or something – it might be neat to make a mold from it a create a metal sculpture from that, but that my creative mind doesn’t seem to think in terms of metal, either? Not even jewelry. Not my thing. I’m not Leonardo Da Vinci, the true King of All Media. I’m a painter and a Writer. And my grandfather saw someone was selling some simply created garden-edge-things out of curved steel that would be oh-so-easy for him (or presumably for me) to make with the tools we already have, and he decided that I should figure out how to make them and start manufacturing them and selling them in the shop. Just a little bending and a little welding and voila! Except that that’s so far from what I want to be doing, to be creating hundreds of the same little metal thing… and I never wanted to work in metal in the first place… AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!
Oh, and stone carving and building ugly furniture out of ugly wood and who know how many other things that I’d never have time to do all of anyway that my grandfather seems to think I not only want to do, but could do all of while still doing all the other things around this place AND running the store five days a week.
And sometimes it gets to me.
Because this isn’t what I want to be doing. I mean, if he tells me to build furniture or carve stone or whatever, I’ll do my best. I’ve exchanged my days up here for free room and board, so whatever it is he tells me to do during the days, I need to do. But I don’t like him thinking I like it. Heck, when I was shoveling gravel earlier, I liked that. It was hard work, and it was mindless. I’m fine with that. When I’m getting that wood mess taken care of soon, I’ll be happy about that, mostly because it will have gotten rid of the bulk of the rusty nails I’m likely to run into. Plus, those things were things that needed to be done. Maintenance things. Property upkeep things. But wood carving? Or my grandfather volunteering me to build a security door because he thinks I want to make metal sculptures? (I didn’t know I’d been volunteered until I asked my dad why we were picking up the steel for the job.) These things I am reluctant to do, not because I’m lazy – I’m here to work – but because I think I’m being asked to do them for the wrong reasons.
When I first got up here I was a little excited to be able to learn all these crafts from my grandfather. I had never tried them, and I had an open mind. But then I saw how he teaches – he hands you the tools and gives maybe two sentences on the subject and walks away. Which is the first problem I had with the Drawing teacher I didn’t get along with at ASU – he wasn’t teaching drawing. He just vaguely said that a technique exists, and then expected the class to be able to do it. No examples, no descriptions of technique. Just … here … start. If that’s the best my grandfather can do to teach me wood carving and welding and stone sculpting and furniture building and whatever else, I’m better off checking a book out of the library on the subject and doing it on my own. I may sound ungrateful, but there’s not much to be grateful for, as far as his teaching goes. I guess having the materials and tools on hand…
I’m late. I’ve been at this too, too long. And I think I’m online now, so I’ll try to post it. I’ll write more later. I need to get this stuff out of my system, I think.