In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Artful Sunday...

One of my favorite things to do (only topped by going to the beach) is to go to art festivals. Today we had beautiful weather for the Fine Arts Festival in downtown Bradenton on historical Wares Creek put on by ArtCenter Manatee. It was sunny and in the mid 70s. Perfect day to be outside while visiting booth after booth of gorgeous art. I wish I could show you photos of some of the beautiful art we saw today, but I can't. 

More and more artists have signs posted in their booths announcing that no photos are allowed. I used to love blogging about the art I saw and made sure I added links to the artist's website. I've always thought it was a win win for both the artist and me. I had something interesting to share with my readers and perhaps someone reading would click over to the artist's website and buy something from them. 

Most artists have websites where they display their art, so what is the problem with a photo of their work appearing in a blog? I just don't get the paranoia. If someone is going to steal and copy their art work, it can be done from their own websites.  Even if they have a block on to prevent the use of the right clicking copy tool, anyone can merely take a screen capture to snag their photos. Enough about the paranoia and egos of artists... back to the topic of the festival...

One thing I noticed today is the use of copper seems to be a trend. Booth after booth of art of various mediums seemed to find a way to include some use of copper in their work- jewelry, paintings, sculptures and collages. I understand the love of copper- I have it all over my house. We have copper counter tops, copper ceiling tiles (that I made myself) and I often use copper in my own art work. Usually when something becomes trendy I no longer want it, but I don't see me giving up my love of copper anytime soon. 

Here's an overview of the art festival

The festival was set up along side the banks of the historic Wares Creek. What a beautiful sight right in the middle of town. 

The best part of the festival? A sugar cone with two big scoops of strawberry and cheesecake gelato- OMG! Absolutely orgasmic! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Seem To Be....

... a piss poor juggler and not able to do even two things at once. I've been taking a six week online course at Sketchbook Skool and haven't blogged even once since it started. I haven't been tweeting as much as usual either, well other than the night the FBI moved in on the crazies who were holed up at the Oregon wildlife preserve. There was a life feed of the armed thugs phone calls with the equally crazy Gavin Seim, KrisAnne Hall and Michele Fiore. I tweeted up a storm that night! 

Anyway, the course at SBS has come to an end so perhaps I'll be better about updating this blog. Or maybe I'll sign up for another course. Here was my final sketch for the course- the palm tree in my front yard, enlarged and printed out in six 8" by 11" sections. Haven't decided how I'll put it together and display it...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Creating 2016 My Way

I'm so glad December is over. It was an emotionally exhausting month for me and I hated every single day of it. But it's over... When I got up on the morning of January 1st it was like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I'm ready to participate in life once again. 

I'm starting this year just like I did last year- with an online class at Sketchbook Skool. It's going to be even more fun this year because a couple of my Twitter friends, Jane and Mary, are joining me in the Expressing Class. If any of you reading this decide to take this class with us, give me a holler so I can look for you in class. Don't worry if you aren't a great sketcher as I am only mediocre at best. But if I only did things I was good at all I'd do is sit on the beach, watch TV, eat and sculpt. That's extent of my skills. 

The classes I took last year were Beginning, Storytelling and Playing. I was a bit intimidated as I started the first class but soon was having too much fun. There were some very talented artists in the class but many were inexperienced people just like me who just wanted to learn and do something new. I had only used acrylic paints before so watercolor was a brand new medium for me. 

Although the instructors will tell you all you need for the class is a sketchbook and pen, it's a lot more fun if you have some of the other supplies they teach you to use. I would recommend having:

Sketchbook- I love the wire bound Strathmore Watercolor 140 lb. Visual Journal. The Dick Blick prices are much cheaper than Michael's. I do so much erasing and layers of water colors that the 140 holds up the best for me.

Mechanical pencil- I use a cheap Papermate .7 that I picked up at Target.

Eraser- Some of artists teaching at Sketchbook Skool recommend always sketching with a pen. That didn't work for me as I was so afraid of screwing up that I was paralyzed and afraid to start. I'm much bolder with a pencil and the knowledge that I could erase if I didn't like what I sketched. 

Basic set of watercolors- I use a 24 color set of Sakura Koi Watercolors

Brushes- I use the same brushes I already had for acrylics. I recently invested in some Ninji water brushes that I really like.

Gouache- I use a cheap 24 set of Reeves

Waterproof pens- I like the Sakura Micron and Copic pens. I find I use the black and sepia the most. 

These basic supplies will fill all your needs for the SBS classes and they will last a long time. Here's to creating 2016 in our own individual way- hope I see you all in class! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Two Old Atheists Walked Into A Mosque...

... and nothing awful happened. 

When I got up last Saturday morning, visiting a Muslim mosque was the farthest thing from my mind. Later that morning when I was reading my Twitter timeline I noticed a tweet from a Bradenton Herald reporter (Jessica De Leon) about the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton (ISSB) hosting a food and art festival at their mosque. I love food and art, plus I'm curious about Muslim culture. it seemed like the perfect distraction from my self pity party I've been wallowing in lately. So I got dressed, grabbed my camera and ROM, and off we went to the local mosque. 

I've read old online articles that claim there was a connection between past members of this mosque and the terrorists responsible for 9/11. I don't know if it's true, though I do know there was a connection between SW Florida and the 9/11 murderers. They had received flight training in Venice, FL.  Whether they had ties to this local mosque, I don't know. But I do know that I don't hold any Christian churches that Dylan Root or Robert Dear Jr. attended responsible for their horrible acts of violence against innocent people. 

I had no idea what to expect from from either the local Muslims or the general public. Since the slaughter in San Bernardino by two Muslim terrorists, there's been a backlash of fear and hatred toward Muslims... all Muslims. Trump has a large support base in this area and I wondered if they would be there protesting. 

As we approached the entrance to the mosque, I noticed a police car with the lights flashing and immediately assumed the worse. 

I was relieved and surprised to discover that the police were there only to direct traffic to the overflow parking area across the street from the mosque. I was amazed at the size of the crowd, but still curious as to what the mood would be inside the mosque.  As we made our way to the mosque I noticed many of those attending were just like ROM and me- old and white. 

Just outside the mosque was a large tent where the food vendors were set up and large tables where people could sit and eat. We unwisely decided to tour the mosque before eating. By the time we made our way back there most of the food was gone, obviously the turnout had been much larger than the vendors expected. 

The outside of mosque was beautiful with the copper (or is it gold?) dome in the rear. 

Inside the mosque there was an open courtyard with vendors set up selling their wares and an information booth giving out brochures and free Qur'ans. I passed on the Qur'an but stuck some of the brochures in my bag to read later. The woman running the information booth pointed out the Imam and urged us to talk to him if we had any questions. I'm more of an observer than a questioner so I didn't talk to him. I was surprised with how young he was. He looked to be in his twenties, and appeared to be very relaxed and approachable as he talked and laughed with people. 

I didn't take many pictures because I didn't know what the policy was for photographing inside a mosque and I seemed to be the only one with a camera. I've been taken to task by a few artists when I've tried to take photos in galleries and shows. You just never know what is going to piss someone off. So I just sneaked in some quick shots here and there. 

There were several clothing and hijabs (head coverings) sellers, a henna artist, women selling sweet desserts, a fine art artist selling prints of her paintings and other booths that I can't remember.  

I noticed there were two different entrances to the main prayer rooms- one for women and one for men, so I assume the sexes pray separately. But that's merely an assumption on my part. On this day the entrance to the men's room was open and all were invited to step inside after removing one's shoes- even women. 

It was very quiet and serene. The shadows of palm trees outside the windows danced on the walls creating accidental art. 

So what did I learn from my afternoon at the mosque? I noticed that most of the Muslims at the festival were young families. I saw very few older Muslims. One thing that surprised was how involved the men seemed to be with their children. I assumed that would be considered women's work. But I saw several men with small kids in tow with no mother in sight as they mingled and socialized. There was one man carrying a baby around in his arms the entire time we were there. 

And the women? I will never understand why any woman would choose to wear all those clothes in the Florida heat and humidity. Most of the women were dressed in several layers of clothes- long sleeves and either long dresses or long loose fitting long culotte style pants. And the head coverings- has to be stifling and sweaty. I don't know how they tolerate all those clothes in our tropical type weather. Although I'll never understand not dressing appropriately for the weather, it doesn't bother me that they choose to dress that way. It did bother me when I saw a couple women who covered their entire faces. I'm always uncomfortable when peoples' faces are covered by masks, hoods or whatever. I get a creepy sinister feeling when someone is completely covered and I can't read their facial cues. 

I was more interested in the Muslim culture than the religion, but their culture seems so entwined with their religion that it's impossible to separate the two. According to the pamphlet Concept of Islam "Muslims believe that He created humankind with a simple purpose- to worship Him". Sounds like a self serving, needy and egotistic deity to me. As fallible and imperfect as humans are, most good parents strive to raise their children to be independent and self reliant so that their kids can live successful and happy lives. What kind of parent would raise their child with the sole purpose of being worshiped? I just don't understand following a belief in anything so controlling and stifling. But then, I don't understand the blind faith in any religion. I digress, this wasn't to be a blog entry to debate the existence of a god of any religion, just my impressions from our visit to the mosque.

My overall impressions of the local Muslim people were that they're friendly, enjoy good food and love their children. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Hate You, December...

 My once favorite month has become my most dreaded month of the year. It's become 31 days of gut wrenching memories, regrets and unresolved issues. Last week was the second anniversary of my son's death and this week is his birthday. It hasn't gotten easier with the passing of time. If anything, it's gotten harder. December brings so much anxiety that often I can barely breath, other days I'm paralyzed with inertia and numb. Hours can go by as I sit at my desk looking out the window, unaware of the time passing until ROM pulls in the driveway.  Late at night I turn on NetFlix and watch hours of episodes of the old series House. For a while I'm able to get caught up in the dysfunctional world of Dr. Greg House and the bizarre medical cases. 

I try not to watch real time TV because of the Christmas commercials. In my memory banks, my son's birthday is forever entwined with Christmas. Memories of him being born and coming home from the hospital for his first Christmas. How Santa always made an appearance at his birthday parties until he stopped believing. Hearing people talk about Christmas and their kids coming home is a reminder that my son is dead, and all the things I wish I had done differently. 

And then there's my birthday. He was born 12 minutes before my birthday, so of course that memory will forever be part of that day. December is a month of one frigging trigger after another. A month of white knuckling it from one moment to the next. My emotions and memories even take over my sleep with vivid dreams of my son. There is no escape... except with art. 

I spent several days totally immersed in creating my holiday card. I painted it four times before I got it the way I wanted it. (I still struggle with watercolor, but love it too much to give up.) Then the hassle of setting it up to print out on watercolor cards, getting the margins right and everything centered gave me a welcome distraction. 

They've now been printed and mailed, and I'm back to my brooding. But the month is almost half over, I can do this. There are 5 more seasons of House to fill my nights. Maybe I'll even motivate myself enough to make some fudge and cookies. Lord knows, ROM loves his holiday sweets. 

I apologize for this totally self centered, self absorbed and self indulged blog entry. For some reason I can write out the thoughts and feelings that I can't say out loud without dissolving in a puddle of ugly crying. I know it's a total downer but that's the price you have to pay for my funny stories. 

I hate you, December, but I'll survive you. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where Is That Christian Faith?

As a liberal and an atheist, I'm used to being in the minority- even within my own family. I've always lived in predominately conservative Christian areas, first in the Midwest and now in Florida. And over the years, many of my friends have been conservatives and Christians. Though we disagreed about political issues and religion, we shared many of the same values. I don't believe Jesus Christ was the son of God, but I love the values he was said to promote- love of others (altruism), turn the other cheek (forgiveness), cast not the first stone (be judgmental and pick fights on Twitter), and help those in need. And don't kill anyone. These are common values and beliefs that many people across the world share, people of all races and religions. 

As read Twitter today I couldn't help but notice the irony that I hold more of the Christian values that Jesus supposedly  taught than many of the self proclaimed Christians tweeting about the terrorism in France, Muslims and the Syrian refugee crisis. I truly believe that if the Jesus Christ I was told about in childhood Sunday School lived today he would welcome the Syrian refugees. Yes, it's possible some terrorists could sneak in as refugees. But is that our ultimate goal in life- to be safe? According to the stories about Jesus I've heard, he was quite a risk taker. Do we want to be remembered as the people who played it safe or the people who took chances in the face of danger in hopes of making the world a better place?

I have a hard time believing the Christian savoir I was taught about as a little girl would turn away the thousands of desperate innocent men, women and children fleeing the very terrorism we fear. Have we really become so fearful? I remember being told when debating Christians about the existence of God and Christ, that I had to have faith to believe. I now ask those Christians who say we must turn away all the Syrian and Muslim refugees for fear of terrorists entering our country- where is that faith you speak of? Is it possible that I believe and have more faith in the innate goodness of most people than you have in your God and Savior? 

Monday, October 5, 2015

To Follow Or Not To Follow On Twitter... Or How To Survive Social Media...

Do you follow everyone who follows you? I know many people do and I was more apt to do automatic follow backs when I first got on Twitter. But now, not so much. There are several reasons for that, one of which is I got involved in a two year Twitter war. I was a willing and active participant and have no excuses for my contribution  to the insanity of it all. But I learned from it and moved on. 

I still speak my mind but I refuse to argue with people anymore- about anything. I don't single out and @ anyone for the purpose of disagreeing with something they tweeted. Nor do I get sucked into an argument when someone @s me for the sole purpose of arguing about something.  I just block them or unfollow and move on. Sure, it makes some angry or hurts their feelings, but come on, people! No one on Twitter should be that important to you. But back to who do you follow on Twitter...

What prompted this post was a new follow I got today. 
Before clicking that follow back button I did some investigating. I visited this person's profile and immediately saw that they had several hundred thousand followers but only followed a few hundred. This is the kind of account who follows for a few days then after you follow back they unfollow you. Their goal in following people is merely to boost their follower count, not to socialize with anyone. I also scrolled through this persons timeline and noticed they never interacted with anyone. All they tweeted were links to sites. I knew this was not someone I wanted to follow.

Other things that influence my decision whether or not to follow someone back are:

1) Their profile and name. If the word "bitch" is part of their name or profile, I'm leery. Not all, but some of the women who go out of their way to tell the world they're bitches are argumentative and aggressive with their tweets. A clever, witty name and profile is much more appealing to me. 

2) Their politics and religion. I follow many people who don't share my political and religious beliefs (or lack of), but we share common values and other interests. But if someone tweets political rants every single day, day after day, month after month and we have nothing else in common I'm probably not going to follow them. 

3) Common interests and what they share in their tweets. I love tweets with photos of the interesting things going on in their life...  a flower that's blooming in their garden, an art project they're working on, their pets... anything other than their naughty parts. I don't want to see any one's naughty parts. Trust me, in my 65+ plus years I've seen all the naughty parts I want to see. 

4) Those who hijack threads for the sake of disagreeing and arguing. Do they repeatedly inject themselves into others' conversations for the sole purpose of disagreeing with whatever is being discussed? Do they scroll time lines just to find something to fight about? Do they fight over Real Housewives celebs? (I so regret choosing Real Old Housewife as my Twitter name- I joined Twitter during my Bravo Real Housewives infatuation which is long over, thank gawd)

5) Active involvement in long standing Twitter feuds. Been there, done that. Seeing some one's ongoing feud all over your timeline every day gets so old. We all know that no one wins and the only way it ends is if one side completely disengages. Of course even after you disengage, the other side may occasionally take another swipe at you trying to draw you back in. Don't fall for it.

6) Who they follow. If they follow someone I've had a major problem with in the past and especially if they include me in tweets with that person, I'm going to unfollow and block. See number 6- don't fall for it. If someone new suddenly pops up on Twitter and immediately starts following me and a person I had problems with I strongly suspect they are up to no good. I don't believe in coincidences like that. 

7) Racists and haters. Of course no one admits to being racist, but if they are constantly retweeting links to articles and negative comments about one race, gays or an ethnic group committing crimes or behaving badly, chances are they're racist.  That goes for all races- yes, black people can be racist. And people of all religions can be haters.  

8) Boring people. If all they tweet about is their arthritis, their kids, pictures of their cleavage or other women's cleavage, ass pics or Real Housewives I'm probably not going to follow them back. A steady stream of mundane tweets about one topic gets old fast. 

9) I just don't like them. If I don't like their tweets, values, beliefs or basic personality I'm not going to follow them. Do you hang out daily with people you don't like in real life? Of course not. So why do it on Twitter? 

10) They use the c word. I know it's just a word but I hate it. Blame it on my age, being unhip or being overly sensitive. Doesn't matter the reason, the word really bothers me. I may like you as a person but if you use the c word and I see it on my timeline, I'll unfollow. 

Bottom line is everyone should only follow people they enjoy. Get rid of the rest. And that includes me- if my tweets and personality irritate or bore you, unfollow me. It's your right, your Twitter, and your life. Life is short, only allow in those you enjoy. You don't owe anyone on Twitter anything.