Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As Gawd is Mah Witness...

...Ah'll Nevah Hoahd Agin!

I thought I had stuff. And yes, I have serious plans to sort through it all and make it a manageable mess. But this past weekend I traveled to the mountains of NC along with my sister, bro-in-law and nephew, to pack and move my parents.

You see, in early October my father once again came down with pneumonia, only this time it was Really Serious. (Perhaps with extra added stroke. I've never gotten anyone to say yea or nay about that.) He wound up in a horrible rehab facility for about a month (where he unfortunately had direct access to a phone, which he used to call the cops and others whenever he had too much time to imagine my mother being lost or in similar trouble). He finally came home—we breathed a sigh of relief—and a few days later my mother tripped on the rug, breaking her tailbone and ultimately winding up in a very nice rehab place where we could rarely get hold of her or vice versa.

This has taught us about the tremendous value of disability insurance, home health care, and places like Home Helpers, reputable companies that can send people out to do laundry, get groceries, clean, provide chauffeur services, etc etc. But that wouldn't be enough.

My parents were in their second retirement community. They'd chosen this one because my dad had been concerned that my mother had Alzheimer's (we don't think he's been tested, but it's pretty obvious he has serious mental issues of his own), and the new place not only had independent living, but an assisted living complex to be used when needed. Unfortunately, that place has a long waiting line and my parents needed assisted living NOW.

It didn't help that they're a minimum of 5 hours from us. (I think my sister is 8 hours away.) Though my dad is now (sometimes) saying that we've forced this decision on them, he was the one who convinced my mom that they needed to move out near my sister, an area they lived in for a few years in the 90s. That way they'd get to see her and her family, including M&D's great-grandkids.

We gave their retirement community immediate notice (90 days required! So they'll lose a bucket of bucks on the deal) and decided on the weekend before Thanksgiving to move 'em out. Since both M&D have zero energy, we told them they could sit and point at what went in which box. Dad didn't even have the wherewithal to do that, and we didn't spring Mom from her clinic until everything had been boxed up.

We lucked out visiting the rehab place one night. Dad was confused about his meds. Did he need oxygen? He didn't have any at the house. What about Mom? Sunday night at about 8:30 we were leaving when a dignified gentleman walked past us. My sister and I looked at each other. Could that be Dr. Abs, Mom & Dad's doctor? At this time of night? On a weekend? We turned around and chased him down. Sure enough it was him, come to check on Mom. He sat down with us and clarified a bunch of stuff, including arranging a final blood-oxygen check for my father. Whew! On Monday we were able to run around town and get the final medical crap we needed to bring along.

Dad didn't want to come inside to confer with him. Instead he pouted outside in the SUV and complained that it was too cold (he had the key and could turn on the heater) and that we'd taken too much time with Dr. Abs. The day we took Mom home he sat in the hallway and bellowed, "Come on! Come on!" as Mom's roomie for 3 weeks said a sweet goodbye to her. My sister elbowed Dad in the back and eventually he shut up for a while. He had to hit the restroom on the way out and as soon as the door closed, Mom turned to my sister and said of the coming ride to Tennessee, "It's going to be a long trip."

Dad has never been the most pleasant of people, but nowadays... Let's just say that while I was ferrying him around last Friday, I stopped the car twice and told him to get out. Each threat calmed him down for a few minutes. My nephew did the same thing (just once though). It didn't help that Dad kept giving us incorrect driving directions—and then got furious when we finally stopped listening to him and went by the directions we were pretty sure of.

But GOOD LORD!!!! The CRAP they had! If only the cleaning supplies: 10,000 cans of Comet cleanser, acres of laundry detergent... Books they hadn't looked at in 50 years, paperwork from the Sixties on up, furniture enough to fill a house twice the size, and all of Dad's clothing. (He's a real clothes horse.)

The transition place they'll be moving to is one room, I think. From there they'll be able to look around to see what will suit them and will likely wind up at a one-bedroom place with living room, bathroom, and maybe a kitchenette.

My bro-in-law rented a really good-sized rental truck, figuring that there'd be enough for about 2/3 of it. Need I say: every square inch was filled, plus a very large pickup and SUV. We left a few pieces of furniture and a small room's worth of cleaning supplies behind.

That smell that permeated the house was the rotten food in the fridge. At first when we were looking at all the food in the pantry, freezers, fridge, cabinets, garage, etc., we called a charity place who said they could pick it up Monday if we gave them another call. My sister suggested that my nephew might like to take some of the canned goods back home. I counseled: Check the expiration dates. (I've been burned before at M&D's.) Sure enough , the first cabinet he ran into was filled with items that had expired circa 2005.

My dad thinks expiration dates are marketing gimmicks that don't mean anything.

So the food went into the trash or stayed where it is. M&D still had a month and a half left on their lease, which includes maid service. We're letting them clean the joint up.

But after all the strained backs, aching knees and shoulders, blistered feet & etc, the lesson I took away with me was:

Having others pack your stuff can be intensely personal and embarrassing. Having someone else pack decades worth of ABSOLUTE CRAP that you've hoarded for whatever reason: because you thought you'd collect something, or because you just didn't get around to tossing it into the dump, is infinitely worse.

Therefore, as soon as the carpenter and painters clear out from the front third of MY house, which is being remodeled (eta on Phase 1: Dec 2!!!!), this reformed hoarder is going to go into Advanced Decluttering Mode. No, I'm not going to attempt a four-day marathon or hire people to help me. I figure three or four months should do a great job of clearing out the detritus, leaving a space that can be organized and clean in order to function better as studio, office, etc.

Of course none of YOU out there reading this have any kind of mess in your place. No collections getting out of hand, no places that you fear to tread because something might fall on you. Or do you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Art of the Carolinas 2011

Many of you know that one of the highlights of my year is to attend Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh. I've learned to get a hotel room so as to avoid driving on I-40 after dark (and usually at rush hour), and to have an excuse to get room service for breakfast.

I stumbled onto AotC in its very first year when I was driving aimlessly through Durham because I was bored one weekend. Now, I NEVER drive aimlessly. This was a first for me. The radio station I was listening to was doing a remote from this event called "Art of the Carolinas," and it was being held in Research Triangle Park. Gee, that was just a few minutes away. I drove over and was astounded by the event having a workshop in which famed watercolorist Tom Lynch was teaching. (As I hadn't signed up, I couldn't get in, and so just attended the trade show.)

The next year I was prepared, and signed up for a Lynch workshop. AotC holds four days worth of 3-hour and 6-hour workshops, along with having a trade floor full of the latest and greatest art supplies, ably demonstrated by renowned arteests.

One year I think I took three solid days of workshops, 8 AM - 8 PM. I swore I'd never do that again. I value my sanity!

Having gone through a gamut of subject matter over the years, this year I decided to hit two versions of flower painting technique. I started with James Sulkowski's "Dynamic Action and Design in Floral Painting." Here was a realistic approach to the subject, with a concentration in really playing up a focal target in the picture and toning everything else down. That's my painting at the top of this blog.

I finished it in 4 1/2 hours. My brain halted after telling me, "It's done." Artistic neurons refused to fire. But class was 6 hours long. I bowed to the inevitable and snuck out. (A neat trick considering I'd lugged about a hundred pounds of supplies into class in three different bags, plus easel.) The neurons were in cahoots with my feet and back, I think. If I could have sat down for a while I might have been able to drum up some artistic energy. But certain folks (dark look their way!) confiscated the few remaining "extra" chairs for their art supplies. The nearest place to set one's butt was in the hotel lobby. Buh bye!

Out in the COLD parking lot, Dan "the Art Man" Nelson was painting one of his huge, gorgeous landscapes. I asked him why he didn't do Facebook videos (real time, start to finish) any more, and he said he was doing stuff on YouTube and I should stop by there. Here's a good start. Or try this one.

First thing the next day I took a Bob Burridge course: "Abstract Florals from Loose, Colorful Spatter." Now, you may know Bob (above) (someday I've got to read the instruction manual for my newest camera, as it began to go crazy about now) from his great newsletter, the Artsy-Fartsy News. I haven't decided whether Bob is more artist or showman, but he certainly knows how to run a lively class! He eschews the realistic look with its use of tiny, exacting brushes. He said that seeing Manet's later florals made him cry in public and change his art completely. Must remember to look those florals up! Bob says that an artist must demonstrate that they have "fire in the belly" and aren't just copying nature mechanically.

At any rate, this is one of the paintings I did in his class, utilizing the spattering/general mooshing-about of paint, followed by opaque negative painting:

Bob says that a painting is never finished. Oh, is that why I never know when it's done? He says the trick is to stop at an interesting point. This point is usually at the 90% mark. He also claims that he's going to make his huge art award (CT WC society? Somewhere up there) into a rodeo belt buckle so he can show it off to all the artists he meets and give himself more credibility. Uh huh.

Let's see. Next was Joe DiGiulio, whose classes I've also taken before (like Bob). (Joe's wife, Sharon, runs AotC. I often spotted her over the weekend. Her eyes were spinning and she looked like she was about to collapse, but things seemed to be going quite smoothly.) This time I was coming through to learn how to make series of abstracts, since everyone says you're supposed to paint in series in order to get galleries to notice you. Joe says that abstracts are made up of line, shape, color, and texture. But when you do them in a series they get a fifth quality: context.

He began his demo by pausing his brush above the canvases and saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing here." A woman in the audience quipped, "Then why are we paying you money for this?" Ah, we were off! We had terrifying fun.

And as usual when I get into an abstract class with no idea of how to begin, I turn to Wonder Woman. Here's the Wondie triptych I did:

Last but not least I got to SIT DOWN for 3 hours (my feet and back were KILLING ME!!!!!!) to attend a workshop on printing giclées. "Giclée" is a fancy French term for "ink jet print." Now, the ink is supposed to be as permanent as possible (they make great stuff these days at reasonable prices), and the paper should be archival. This particular workshop was sponsored by one paper company who had the testing results to back up their claim that they were best in the world. (Canson brand "Infinity" paper, which comes in all kinds of different types, including a watercolor paper that, after being fixed after printing, you can paint on). Noted painter Dick Ensing ran this class, and if I could suggest something, it'd be that he have a projector so everyone could see what the HECK he was doing with his Photoshop print commands. He could also stand to speak up a bit. And frankly, it didn't look to me like his monitor was color-corrected, but it might have been the angle I was looking at it.

He did color corrections a LOT differently than I do. Then again, he sells a SLEW of prints every month, so who am I to question?

One lady in the class persisted in calling giclées "zhiglays," and a gentleman said something along the lines of "zheegloiz." It's "zhee-klayz." And "Arches" paper is "arsh," as long as we're correcting everyone's French accent. We all kept saying, "arrrrrsh" and getting a big kick because it was late and we were getting silly.

Anyway, that Epson printer moves close to the top of my "must buy" list. Just as soon as the Brad Pitt/packing supply/comic book/frame storage guest room gets cleaned out, I'll have a nice space for it.

So if you're an artist and want to learn more from quality teachers (there were gawd-awful ones at AotC as well, but over the years I've learned who is who), check around to see if you don't have an event like AotC in your area. If not, come to NC next year two weeks before Thanksgiving and join the crowd! Give me a buzz and we'll go next door to Bahama Breeze for dinner one night (drool!) and compare notes.