Pumpkin with a molded face.

I started making pumpkins with painted clay faces back in 1991. In several of those twenty-some years, I made as many as six for friends and colleagues. I thought faces on inanimate objects would be an interesting way to make a photo illustration. My first was an apple with a surprised look as it fell from a tree. Pumpkins were a natural follow-up; I made them at Halloween for clients and for the bar at the restaurant I cooked for. Then Photoshop happened. Continuing to try to use the illustration idea in a world suddenly filled with easy digital perfection seemed silly, but the idea of a realistic pumpkin was still a lot of fun. The pumpkins rot away, leaving their painted clay faces. I think the impermanence of the piece adds to the fun. This is my return after several years of being too busy and I thought to take a few snapshots during the process. Not many. I hate taking pictures. But making the pumpkins is a lot of fun. I think I’ll enter this one in the Library’s pumpkin carving contest.

The process is straightforward: I push modeling clay onto a pumpkin and sculpt it into the shape I want. The clay gets finished with acrylic paint. Pretty simple. The faces have evolved, of course. I paint the eyes and teeth naturally for no reason other than I think they look good that way. They get finished with acrylic gloss medium. Everything else is painted with orange that’s mixed to match the pumpkin.

Edit added Nov 3:

It was a good fight, and we won! A tad worse for the battle, but folks usually poke and prod. Totally expected, though always a bit disheartening.

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Line drawing of Bob the Builder done by me and my granddaughter.

“Let’s draw Bob the Builder,” she said. We draw a lot, but I always think it’s not enough. I grab pens and paper and we lay on the floor.

“How’s this?” I say after drawing his head.

“It needs legs.”

“Okay. You draw ’em.”

So she did. She usually crawls over onto my picture anyway. You can look at kid’s drawings, but watching them work, and getting to hear any patter that takes place is wonderful. The dark balls at the end of the legs? “I need to give him toes,” she said as she colored them in. “There you go.”

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coloring page

Black and white drawing of child leaving the local donut shop.

This took way too long; not so sure about completing a coloring book. Eye surgery was part of the delay, but still, a simple drawing shouldn’t take months. When my granddaughter saw it, she asked, “Is that me? Why am I all white?” I guess I need to print a few and let her color it.

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different way of saying

A coiled garden hose on the side of a building.

My just-turned-three granddaughter and I were walking down the alley. She looked over at the side of the VFW and said, “They have a very nice water rope.” Well, yes, I guess they do.

I asked her mom if she’d ever heard the phrase; it sounded pretty unique to me. She hadn’t, but added that Hailey has seen and held fire hoses. Maybe a hose is a fireman’s tool? Regardless, I like water rope. It has a bit of poetry to it. Or science.

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a music video

Man do I hate taking pictures.

I’ve enjoyed my granddaughter’s one man band for several days now. It just started this week: she turned on the electronic rhythm, picked up a plastic maraca and harmonica, and started playing. Last week she just danced. It’s a pretty cool development. I don’t think she’s ever seen anything similar. Maybe there was Goofy as a one-man-band in Mickey’s Circus. The concert happened spontaneously several times and I finally thought to grab the iPad and capture a few seconds.

My problem is that I’d rather watch her than take pictures. Especially moving pictures that require I step even further out of the moment. You see, I can tell that for a three-year-old this is pretty cute; after all, I’ve watched it all week. But this video really pains me. I think she may have stopped because I shifted in my chair. Then I stopped shooting. When she stood and looked at me – right at me – she said, “How do you like my music?”

It was a wonderful moment. Missed by the camera. My finger was touching the button as she started to speak. I can’t see the video without being annoyed with it. And really, that filming process and the result kept me from fully enjoying the concert and aftermath. Damn, I hate cameras. Maybe it will be different once everyone is seeing life through their phone, and they’re always on.

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thinking about social media

A flock of twitter birdsI’m on twitter as @drs18; I’ve been using the service since 2007. I use facebook, too, but after the vitriol of the 2012 election, I use it only to gather information (from “liked” pages) and see pictures my daughter posts of my granddaughter. Twitter is more tolerable and crafting a stream that’s helpful or interesting is easy enough. I confess to following people and topics on Medium, too. Occasionally I get flashes of insight into value.

I saw a twitter post that linked to a longer article, 7 Life-Changing Books to Read This Summer. It seemed easy enough to look into and maybe a book in the short list would be worth a bit of time. That twitter post linking to the list had 36 “shares” (36 people reposted the post as is to their own friends) and 83 likes. The actual article with the list was already a month old and had over 5000 shares. I skimmed down the page; there was a nice stock photo at the top and clean cover shots of each of the seven books. Each, too, had a two paragraph synopsis. All seemed pretty standard but one really caught my eye: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. The only link to more info was the cover image. I clicked it thinking I might buy or at least find at the library, but it went to the wrong book. Yeah, I could search amazon for the title but that glitch just galls me. Hypertext can make it so easy to refer to something. I posted a response on twitter directly to the author and the host- two people who were targeted when I hit “reply”. An hour later the author “liked” my reply. The hosting site never responded. Obviously, the author didn’t read my post or quite understand what it was saying when she “liked” the fact that there was a misdirecting link in her article. I guess that isn’t surprising when I realized over 5036 readers didn’t notice or didn’t care. Nor did the readers who read those posts.

So, was that really anyone ? Or was it a case of everyone mindlessly reposting something: “Hey this is something you might like. Something I’m intelligent enough and hip enough to care about. I didn’t actually read it. And I didn’t click on any of the links. But you might like it just on my say-so. And BTW, it says so much about me and my lifestyle…”

After several days the link was still incorrect so I went to the personal contact page for the article’s author and used the contact form to point out the link to the wrong book. Several days later I received an email from her saying thanks- the editor did it but I’ll let them know. When I checked the next day, the link was fixed. All that time, all those people, and not one was engaged enough to find or report the error. 5.1k shares of the article. 36 shares of the twitter post. All meaningless.

I read an article on Quartz yesterday. Psychology shows it’s a big mistake to base our self-worth on our professional achievements. I mean really read it. It’s very good, and it was very satisfying in that it came to me shortly after I watched a youtube talk by an old colleague. The colleague’s talk was okay, but something about it annoyed me. The Quartz article helped me formulate my own thoughts on why. The kicker is that the truly interesting Quartz article is written by Emily Esfahani Smith, the author of the book that I wanted to find after seeing it in a list and failing to find it. An intereting coincidence. I need to buy her book. And read it.

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mom, 31

Young mother in deck chair struggling to get up to grab toddler daughter.

Although I haven’t posted my daughter’s card on the year I give it to her before, here’s this year’s card. I figured I’d post it now as a way to show a picture of the best mom ever on Mother’s Day.

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colors we like

Flowers on bushes along a wall.

Walking back into my building this morning I was taken by the flowering bushes along the walk and how the color of their leaves went so well with the color of their blossoms. Actually, I’d noticed it before in wild rose blossoms and day lilies along the highway, but today the match was on my mind. Lovely Sunday morning that it is, it’s comforting to think that mother nature in her infinite wisdom chose matching colors with a clear purpose: The warm green tending towards yellow pairing beautifully with bright, burnt orange blossoms while the cool, soft green Flowers on a bush. leaves pair beautifully with pink to magenta blossoms. The truth is, sadly, that we just grew up seeing natural pairings and have developed our sense of beauty based on what we see. Color wheels, those wonderful tools used to help designers make choices, don’t exist naturally. Color wheels are an invention to help us codify the way we see, not a scheme that nature follows.

One of the great art books that I inherited from my dad is a large hardcover filled with beautiful illustrations: Goethe’s Color Theory. In it, Goethe presents a vast collection of color wheels he developed, all attempting to codify our choices in a scientific fashion. One of the most surprising to me as a child was one with magenta as a primary and red as a secondary. Red can be made from magenta with yellow. That blew away all of the Roy G Biv nonsense I’d learned, but it matches our printing primaries perfectly: Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow of CMYK fame. I was already a bit annoyed with that “indigo” addition. Indigo? Really?

So back to our flowers. We grew up seeing flowers on plants. Our sense of beauty comes very much from seeing those flowers as well as a dark, unsaturated lawn against a dark gray sky or a bright, saturated green lawn against a bright blue sky. We’ve been trained to respond to color choices based on how we may have felt about the combinations in nature. Beauty, and what we think are appropriate color pairings, are human constructs to help us determine value.

Which brings me to why I chose to mention this now. I read that Bon Appétit shot it’s May cover with an iPhone. I haven’t seen the cover yet, only an online version. The versions I’ve seen look a bit soft focused. I wonder if the Art Director for Bon Appétit’s May ’75 cover would accept the iPhone shot? Though I readily accept the advances in phone technology I wonder if our sense of what’s useful, valuable, beautiful, isn’t changing based on society’s changing view? To be clear, that isn’t a value judgment. What I value, what I think is beautiful, mostly belongs to another time.

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Cartoon of a young mother with her toddler on a tether.

This is last year’s card. I just started this year’s and thought I’d share the old one.

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Child wrapped in a scarf, with knit cap.

Ah well. Much too long without a post. Here are two photos taken on groundhog day.

Child dragging plastic toboggan.
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