Monday, April 29, 2019

Apple Painting Lesson

Recently, I had an interview for an art teacher position at Upward Bound in Utah. I asked the internet for a lesson plan, and Mr. Matt Christenson supplied. Thank you, Matt! Here is my painting:

I used these materials:
  • 1 spray bottle
  • 3 brushes (1.5 inch boar hair student brush, .3 cm mink hair square brush, 1 cm acrylic chisel edged brush)
  • 1 flat metal palette knife
  • 1 gallon ziplock bag for my palette
  • 1 plastic picnic plate
  • 2 old socks
  • 1 glass jam jar
  • acrylic paints: cadmium red hue, cadmium orange hue, cadmium yellow hue, dark cobalt blue, titanium white, vivid lime green
  • Strathmore mixed media vellum finish paper notebook
  • 4 sturdy rubber bands
  • 1 apple
  • Ultramarine blue pastel crayon

A word about brushes: wipe them on the old sock in the direction of the brush – metal to tip, away from the handle – pretty thoroughly before cleaning them in water. Before you use them, put your brush in clean water (a drop of soap in the cup of water won't hurt) and then gently fold the cloth over the paintbrush, and wipe it slightly dry. This will give you just enough humidity to keep the acrylic happy, and just enough dryness to keep it from running. Never leave them for more than a couple (2) minutes dry while you are using them.

Step one: make a wash with 1 part ultramarine (or cobalt) and a hint of the red, 6 parts water. Mark off a rectangle on your paper, leaving a centimeter border on all sides. Secure pages to the rest of the notebook with rubber bands, to avoid too much buckling. With your boar hair brush, fill in the page with broad, linear strokes, letting the color pool and play. Let dry flat for a couple of hours.

Step two: cut the apple in thirds, arrange them on a plate or other surface. With your pastel, begin drawing.

Step three: with your .3 cm brush, go over the lines you liked with your blue acrylic paint.

Step four: mix blue and red to make a dark magenta, and, with your chisel edge, touch paint along the edges of your apple. Don't brush. Then mix a quarter teaspoon white, a nail clipping of vivid lime green, a hint of orange, and begin drawing your edging brush from the dark outer rim toward the center core. Don't forget to mist your palette every 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the air's humidity level.

Step five: work outward from the center. Consider every plane. Try to use only the original colors on your palette.

For a fantastic apple painting, here's something from (I kid you not) Linda Apple!

 Apple from Linda Apple

This lesson teaches value scales, unmediated artistic trust in your eyes, materials use, and understanding color interactions (how a blue background changes our perception of the colors we use).

Have fun! Point us to your results in the comments, if you like :)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Saga of the Beginning Violinist

The first part of Emile's nightly violin lesson is the easiest, though least fruitful: asking him to go get his violin to start the lesson. It's easy, because I only have to repeat the request a few dozen times, without any further work on my part. It's fruitless for the same reason – at least until the moment when I hit the sticking point, and he finally goes to get the instrument.

I tune it.

Then comes the struggle to get him to stand straight, hold the violin correctly. He has a tendency to want to melt. Getting his bow arm not to flap out behind him like a chicken wing is a struggle, as well, because it bugs him to have his elbow touched. As a violinist myself, I can sympathize; I hate having my bow arm touched while I'm playing. He's fairly good about correcting his pitch when I point it out, though “up” and “down” and “flat” and “sharp” are still fuzzy terms for him. 

The real trouble comes in getting him to repeat a section, play it differently. He wants to charge on. If he repeats, he wants only to repeat from the beginning, never midway. One of the adults in the Suzuki class was the same way, so I guess it isn't only little kids who are stubborn and resistant about such things. 

Get him to read the music sheet, count the beats, be attentive to sound quality, stand up straight, play staccato when that's what's written, hold a note for five beats, keep his elbows in line …. It's a lot, and I know it. 

The real meltdown comes when I ask him to play a new piece, and he doesn't want to. Then, oh boy, better hope that fiddle doesn't get crushed in the melodramatic flop. “Don't let the violin go bridge down, ever!” “No, the bow isn't a cane.” “The bow can only be an epee if it doesn't touch anything.” “Don't put the bow between your toes!” Reminders of things that seem obvious.

Two old pieces, and one new, every night. It seems unreasonable to him. It can take as much as ten minutes to scrape him back up off the floor. And if I get to play one piece along with him, I'm happy. 

In spite of the drama, he's improving. His sound is good, and he's making real music. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

VA Fails

My father was in the Air Force for the Vietnam War, stationed in Juno, Alaska. He was a very handsome man, with a huge smile. I always adored the silver edging on his teeth, a testament to a hard life as a farm boy who'd had no childhood to speak of.

Two years ago, he needed hip surgery on both hips. He was told he couldn't get it until he got all his imperfect teeth pulled out. 

He was left with four.

Now, my father's face isn't the same. The lower lids of his eyes droop, his face is caved in some, and he is shy about going out in public. Given that he lives in the far reaches of Northern Minnesota, his Disability payments from a hard life of literally back breaking work sometimes falls short of covering his heating. He receives assistance for an insufficient amount of food. 

The man can't afford dentures, let alone the implants that would restore his face and sense of pride, and the VA says there's no money to help him.

The hip surgery was barely worth it. The hospital rammed him into the door frame on the way out of surgery, and now he is scheduling the fourth attempt at getting two functioning hips. In the meantime, his right hip feels like it's burning its way out of his body. 

He had been planning on applying for a job as a Walmart greeter, to try to help cover costs – at 74 years old.

Can his elected officials help? I can't help feeling that John McCain would have been enraged by his treatment. It brings tears to my eyes to think about it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Two Ways Air Travel Impacts the Environment, and Three Things You Can Do About It

Flying makes greenhouse gasses. Whether water vapor or just standard schmutz is the worst of them I don't know, but both of them contribute to the dirty and impermeable bubble we're creating around the planet. And sometimes they work together. As with all clouds, first you've got your little particle of dust, then you've got the humidity glomming onto it (here's a snapshot post on how clouds are formed). But what's so bad about clouds? 

Have you ever noticed that cloudy nights are often warmer? It isn't simply that heat makes clouds form – it's also that clouds trap heat from escaping at night. “A Penn State study compared regions of the United States where contrails tended to form more strongly with areas where they didn’t. The more contrail-heavy the area, the less the variation between daytime highs and nighttime lows tended to be.” (Global News)

There's some debate about the cloud effect, but none at all about the stinky emission effect. “Aviation is on track to have a 1.5 billion-ton carbon footprint by 2025. The entire 27-nation, 457-million-person European Union emits some 3.1 billion tons of CO2 yearly at this point.” (Christian Science Monitor)

What can I do?

1. Fly less. Okay, that one was obvious, but maybe the hardest for those of us with money in our pockets and an itch to see the world, or far flung family, or a business to run. But maybe we can be a bit more grounded, and sit with our current locations a bit more. Do one or two things to improve where you are instead of flying away from it all (I'm talking to myself, especially). If you're going on a family trip, consider driving. Yes, it takes longer, and is essentially torture, but at least future family will have a planet. And birds. And air. If it's for work, a constant pressure on companies by employees to allow more long distance communication, via Zoom or Skype or any of the bazillion apps that work beautifully, will help us all in the long run.

2. Ask about your plane. If it doesn't have wings that lift up like the hand on the arm of a traffic cop telling you to stop, don't buy. There are many emission reducing designs that airlines have access to, but might not use if they would rather wear out they're ancient investments, and cut corners on new tech. Don't let them get away with it. Boycott bad design.

3. Fly during the day, never at night. Scientists don't seem to be in unanimous agreement about this one. Dr Minnis of NASA, Dr Dahl (Green Medinfo), and many others say red eyes create a frozen shell where nighttime contrails form, impeding heat from escaping as it normally would.
“Planes flying between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. were responsible for 60 to 80 percent of contrails' warming effect on temperatures. That's because contrails at night trap outgoing heat radiation.” (Christian Science Monitor)

And, just to give us all the warm fuzzies, here's an excerpt from a Slate article: 
In even the most optimistic scenarios, by 2050, aviation could amount for as much as 15 percent of global emissions. (It’s now just 2 percent.) In the U.S., under a “deep decarbonization pathway,” aviation could account for as much as 50 percent of all transportation emissions by 2050. (It’s now about 10 percent.)” (

Articles to read:

“Hot Trails: To Fight Global Warming, Kiss the Red-Eye Good-Bye” by Christina Reed

“Just Plane Wrong: Global aviation is the fastest-growing cause of climate change. And the EPA might let it off the hook.” by Eric Holthaus

“Clouds Caused By Aircraft Exhaust May Warm The U.S. Climate” by Gretchen Cook-Anderson, Chris Rink, and Julia Cole

“Cloudy with a chance of contrails: NASA clears up skies with new fuel” by Josh Kenworthy

“Airplane contrails and their effect on temperatures” by Moises Velasquez-Manoff

“Empty skies after 9/11 set the stage for an unlikely climate change experiment” by Patrick Cain

“Can aircraft trails affect climate? Grounding planes after the 11 September attacks may not have caused unusual temperature effects.” by Anna Barnett

“Artificial Weather Revealed by Post 9-11 Flight Groundings” by Sayer Ji

“A blanket around the Earth” by NASA

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ginger bashing blahs

There’s always some reason humanity is a bummer. 
This time, it’s because I’m a redhead.

I’ve talked before about the heckling I used to get from kids at school - as well as from perfect strangers - because of my red hair. 

That doesn't happen, now that I'm a middle aged woman. Thank goodness. But media still happens. A few years ago I started keeping a tally of how often the bad guy or gal in books and movies have red hair.

Summary? Rates are way higher than the non-fiction ginger per capita numbers.

Then I started noticing all the ginger bashing in comedy. 

Of course, there's South Park’s Kick a Ginger Day. That's not news.

Amy Schumer and her line about reasons we need Plan B, like for cases of “rape or incest or with a redhead.”  

Yamaneika Saunders on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show talking about how this was the first time a black woman had ever wanted to marry a “firecrotch.” (That term was new to me, actually.)

Yes it’s comedy, and funny, but I've had enough, thanks.

Last year, a woman asked me if I, as a red head, thought having red hair might affect a person's sense of self worth. I rolled my eyes, nodding emphatically. I can't count the number of fights on the schoolyard, the amount of shouted insults from strangers, the suggestions that I just “bleach my hair” that I got as a child.

The woman, who was a therapist, followed up: “Because a client of mine, a young man, is a handsome college student with red hair. Says he can't get any dates because of it.” 

Oh, honey.

That’s what made Stephen Colbert's monologue about the speech from Joe Kennedy III personally satisfying. Colbert treated Kennedy as gorgeous, with zero reference to his hair color. Well, except to describe him as the love child between Superman and Conan O'Brien. 

Is there a problem of anti-ginger sentiment in the United States, or am I just getting more sensitive to it with age? 

Exposure allergy?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Accidental AI SciFi Gertrude Stein

Can't stop loving this! I tried text to speech on a section I was writing, and got SciFi Beckett:
Hey Yellowbird yelled burn burn. 
Cello stopped, hands on cold metal buckle. 
Grab the lines, you idiot! Bon ben burn hollered. Cello did it. 
He made it over to the cupboard. It took him less than a second to get there. 
Push wish wish wish WHOOOSH. G forces are no joke. He pried open the cupboard, 
and found a small cylinder inside. This it? He asked. Don’t know! Yelled castor. Does it look like it’s holding gas? 
Experimentally cello Shockett shook it shook it. It was happy. There was a nozzle. Got the lights? He yelled back. Aargh! Yelled caster. 
Blanca had a flint in her pocket. Blanca always had a flint in her pocket. She was right next to the cupboard, and cello took the flint out of her pocket. 
He didn’t know how to use it. 
Oh for dust sake exclaimed Blanca. She leaned over, And struck a spark while cello let out of tiny gasp of gas ounce there was flame. 
Now what? Grab the wire next to it. 
Caster talked to him like he was stupid. Which she was he was, or at least he felt that way. Melt the wire and seal the door directed castor now if I have to say anything more to you we will crash on that planet shield. 
Cello sealed the door he couldn’t help thinking that maybe this was the last chance they had to get out of the satellite before it crashed on the planet. 
Somehow, Part of him wanted to die burning up without on a metal exit skeleton piercing and crocheting and oh dear better stop thinking about that. All right exclaimed caster 
you’d better be done cello because if we Lowndes and you didn’t do a Goodnuf job this shuttle will detach and the whole thing will be scrunched and burned on the surface. Blanca yelled back at caster, 
oh shut up! If we die it has nothing to do with the seal not being secure, and everything to do with your pilot thing. Cello tried strained against the G forces,Pulling on the cord’s that had kept him from crashing against the rear of the shovel. 
He wasn’t strong enough to pull himself forward.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Oh, those pink pussy hats...

I have just spent the last two hours trying to navigate the issue of the pink ear hats, and why they may or may not be offensive to people, on Facebook. 

I was trying to determine exactly how offensive they were or weren't, and felt bad that something that had been so fun and well intentioned was now the arbitrary symbol of white supremacy. I felt bad for all the older ladies who had been so happy to spend all their time knitting those hats, and then banding together wearing them. 

I still feel that labeling pink pussy hats as white supremacist is a little extreme. 

However, lots of other people seem genuinely offended by them, and not for my purely aesthetic reasons. The Facebook group got tired of my asking for precision – I've been in the position of having to answer the same questions over and over, on sensitive issues related to female oppression. 

So, I apologized for asking a lot of questions, acknowledging that it can be exhausting to have to explain your position over and over. 

Hopefully, I did that one thing gracefully. 

(I feel the need, right now, to go on Facebook, and look at what people have said, if they've answered me. It's that “someone is wrong on the internet, and this time it was me” thing.)

Not long after I wrote that, someone told me that I have to be careful of microaggressions. It's very interesting that this was an example of my exhibiting microaggressions.

It makes me have more sympathy with white men. I mean, some little kid, defensive part of me is feeling like I'm just supposed to shut up and disappear, and they're making too much of it, and like clearly they don't want me to be their friend, how must white men be feeling?

I'm lucky to be in a position where I can feel both ends of that exchange.