Follow by Email

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What scares you?

As one of the Big Emotions, fear is part of all of us. Some people just hide it better than others.

I think a lot about fear. One of my fears is that people will see how many I have. Well into the double digits, for sure.

But lately what I'm thinking about is what doesn't scare me, and how it contrasts with what does. For instance, I get a little nervous when a big storm blows in, but generally nature isn't on the top of my list. (Memory flash: My dear Grandma Mahoney used to nervously sprinkle Holy Water around the house during thunderstorms.)

I'd rather be in a small room with a sharp-taloned eagle than in an elevator, for instance. I never want to put my foot in my boot and have it bit by a spider (like someone did at Camp Hailaka in fifth grade, for instance), but I'm not really afraid of spiders. Or snakes. Or seagulls, though swirling seagulls, which can become pretty aggressive around people they think might have food here on the beach, have been known to take a nip out of their human hosts. I've seen it myself.

For that matter, I see no danger in public speaking or being on camera or -- obviously -- writing publicly about personal issues (to a point), though I know people for whom all three of those fears proves gripping.

Lately, driving across bridges has come to give me the heebie-jeebies, though not on a rational level. Ditto for heights. I remember visiting the top of the World Trade Center with my friend Sue in our senior year of high school. I think about that now with all kinds of sad emotions. A small part of it is for the loss of the part of me that didn't used to be afraid of things like riding an elevator to the top of a very high building and looking out.

What my old shrink would tell you is that a particular loss in my family created a sort of mild case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Yes, really. I know, I know -- you're thinking that PTS is for war veterans and abuse victims. Me too. Yet I can't deny that something changed after that. And it was a long time ago now. So she might've had a point.

Let me finish, though, on a more interesting note. First, I will confess that one of my fears is of sounding Like Andy Rooney, and I think that's manifesting itself right here and now.
Second, I'm wondering: What scares you? What doesn't?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Food and Funnies

Last summer C and I signed up for a one-time cooking class focused on fish. it took place at our local Sur la Table, a ch-chi kitchenware specialty store. Lots of fun, and a great gift idea if you're tired of shopping for THINGS and want instead to give the gift of an EXPERIENCE. It also marked the first time I'd ever eaten catfish that didn't taste like the bottom of Shamu's tank.

OK, but never mind all that. This post is instead dedicated to some guy I've never met named David, who created what might well be the funniest-ever blog post about graphic design. I doesn't matter that you're not a graphic designer. Me neither. Just go there, you'll laugh.

Meanwhile, I'm drawing up a storm. And our beach weather prediction suggests I might later actually be drawing up a storm.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Picture from the Past

So I'm out of scanner range this week (and in range of seagulls and salt air). In the interim, I shall try to entertain you with drawings and photos from the past.
This here bullfrog was an Ann Arbor bullfrog. Dig the cheeks.

Anyway, do check back, because I'll be posting daily and show you interesting stuff.

In the meantime, here's one of my very favorite occasional features in the New York Times.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

100 Bags

Pardon the questionable crop here. I didn't have it in me to re-scan this puppy.

I have been unable to get this recent work out of my head, or off my kitchen counter for that matter. That's where I stacked more random food- and kitchen-product boxes to be pressed into service.
Here, then, is my Reubenesque alter-ego (though I'm plenty Reubenesque in real life, of course), drawing inspiration from the sandwich-bag underpinnings of the page.
First came the box.
Then came the paint.
Then came the girl.
Then came the wings.
Then came the verse, which I'll retype here. Note that the poemesque thing is longer here than in the skethcbook because I typed it on my computer first, then hand-wrote it on the page. Inevitably things change, but I like this version well enough.
Is it poetry? I don't know. You real poets hate it when things rhyme.
What the hell.
Read it with a half-cup of sincerity in your fist, but don't forget to wink. I know when I'm being overwrought.

One hundred bags
I hoist today
and take them with me on my way

A satchel holds
an unkind word
I clutch it like a wild bird

Cold envy stuffed
into a sack
the weight of which will break my back

Nor can I leave
regret unheard
a borrowed sum left unreturned

A bag for love
I didn’t feel
And one for some I couldn’t steal

A caravan
of totes to move
all of the ways I fail to prove

Myself to me
in matters of
brains, beauty, talent, judgment, love

One hundred bags
I hold them fast
the detritus of sloughed-off past
They slow my trip
they cloud my day
When can I throw them all away?

One hundred bags
Can make you drown
I pick them up, I set them down.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fate? Really?

When a black and white kitten got hit by a car right in front of me while I was out walking the dog, and the driver left her there even though she couldn't walk, some people said fate had brought her to me.

I don't know what I think about that.
As determined as I was to get her to a vet -- and believe me when I tell you I went on autopilot and became singlemindedly focused on just that -- I was not determined to have another cat.
Even today, I look at her and think how, yes, she's cute and kind of quietly sweet, but I don't feel a screaming need for her to be part of our family.

Troubled animals have a way of finding me. There was the young kestrel at work. And the pigeon with a broken leg in the park. A stray dog or two, reunited with owners.

When these creatures appear, we always try to Do the Right Thing: get them help, get them back into the wild, get them home to their mothers, animal or human. So maybe fate brings them to me.

Or maybe there are just always animals around us all the time in need of something, and some of us just notice it and feel like we have to get involved. Which, by the way, we don't, necessarily. Often mother-bird or mother-rabbit is right around the corner. With wild animals, especially, the best answer is often to let things be.

Anyway, now we have a cat recovering well from being hit by a car and wandering around in the shadows trying to avoid the big black dog and the other, older, not-amused kitteh. Maybe she's here to stay. Maybe she's on her way to somewhere else. It's hard to say.

By the way, please visit the new online cultural magazine Ohio Authority, which is publishing a new Cleveland-based project I call Sketchbook Cleveland.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Ready

This summer is turning out really, really interesting, workwise.
In July I'm starting a very cool internship (more on that later). Meanwhile, I'm doing some work for one of my favorite Cleveland non-profits, Red Dot Project, an art registry that puts Northeast Ohio artists together with opportunities to sell their work -- to businesses and individuals. Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting two Red Dot Project artists I didn't know before: Rene Culler, a fantastic glass artist and all-around lovely woman, and Bob Peck, a truly coolclevelander, who turned let a passion for graffiti art lead him into a career in abstract painting.

Meanwhile, I'm starting a new feature (begins tomorrow, I think) for Ohio Authority, an online arts and culture magazine, which will allow me to let loose on my inner explorer, with pen in hand.

I have my Fridays at the Medina Raptor Center, where in exchange for chopping dead rodents I get to be up close to some extraordinary winged creatures and the occasional groundhog.

I have a stack of great books to review, including Ivan Doig's delightful July release Work Song.

And, last but not least, the wonderful Sara Holbrook and I are putting metaphoric bricks in place for a new blog that will coincide with the release of Sara's book of poetry, "Zombies! Evacuate the School!," which, I might've mentioned two or three hundred times, I got to illustrate.

So the little pic at the top is something I did for that blog. It's me (left) and Sara (right) looking creative and happy. Do we look creative and happy? I think we are.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Artistic Spirit

Play is the heart of the artistic spirit.
This is one of the reasons we love the sketchbook, right? It's a place to play. For some people, that means we can play privately, without worry about the "performance" for the gallery or the client or even family members delving in for a peek.
If all we do as artists is work for some approving entity, we lose the sense of play at the heart of what made us love art to begin with.

For me, making art is like writing, in that some of the delight comes in discovering what I'll end up putting on the page. It's almost as if I were another person whose actions were a bit unpredictable. Of course, there are times when you want to know and control every movement, but for me the sketchbook is not that time or place.

So to the serendipity of this spread: It started with cleanup. I was consolidating the cereal and something about the artistic spirit would not let me just toss the Cheerios box. I stopped my cleaning, flattened the box and tore it to the size of about three quarters of my large sketchbook spread. I used PVA glue to attach it well, then forgot about it for a day. I didn't know how I'd use it, though lately I've seen lots of art where printed material underneath painting lends a cool texture, and I thought I'd try something like that.

Tonight, after a long day at the raptor center and doing other chores, I was itching to work. I opened my sketchbook and just stared at the spread with the Cheerios box till deciding to paint a thinned layer of gesso over the entire page, including that right-hand column where the text now lies. While the gesso dried, I stared at the parts of the box design that still showed through (which was quite a bit) and tried to let it speak to me. Landscape? Portrait? I couldn't decide. After all, the design sort of gets in the way, doesn't it?

Then I thought about using the tall, slender negative space on the right (where the text now lies) for a long, stylized painting of a woman, so I did a couple little thumbnails of such women on scrap paper. It occurred to me, though, that the slender, stylized sexy woman is done by everyone, everywhere. What I wanted was to do a Reubenesque sexy woman, so I thumbnailed that a bit. Once I'd gotten something I liked, I knew the proportions belonged back on the Cheerios-box side of the page. I penciled it in, then painted the outlines with India ink and added color here and there with acrylics.

Oh, and I put an apple in her hand for reasons I can't explain -- maybe I wanted her to be looking at something. But because I had put the apple in her hand, when I was done painting (though of course I don't paint), it was time to write. Temptation came to mind, and why not?

The page itself is whatever it is. Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. Maybe I like it (I do) and maybe I don't (sometimes this is true). What brings me back, over and over, is the miracle of how the artistic spirit works. At 5 o'clock this evening, I didn't know I was going to write a poem about temptation, and I hadn't met my sexy fat woman here. By 8 o'clock, it was all here. That's more fun than I deserve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


One of the many, many ways I feel like an oddity in this world is in my tastes in commercial products. Chances are, if I like it, no one else will. Or not enough other people will like it to keep it going.

Every had Listerine toothpaste? Tastes like Listerine. That means that after I brush my teeth, my mouth feels not just clean, but antiseptically clean. I like that. And I must be the only one, because where the local drugstore used to stock shelves and shelves of Listerine toothpaste, lately I've had to scour the dental health section just to find the last bit of the inventory.

This is such a dumb little tale, I know, but it's always been true. From the cologne I liked as a young woman (KL by Karl Lagerfeld, if you must know) to the shampoo and conditioner that would've been my lifetime favorite (Blond Expressions) to underwear that used to send me with gritted teeth into Victoria's Secret on a regular basis so I could stock up (five pairs for $20, then four pairs for $20), it all just goes away.

Brand loyalty. It doesn't pay, I tell you. It doesn't pay.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I don't paint but ...

I don't paint but I decided to paint these panels after kinda liking my random elephant drawings. Found a really great copper-colored acrylic paint for my elefante. It's not exactly coming through on scan as it does in person, but trust me -- if you have an unreasonably love of copper, as I do, the paint is delicious.

So these are two elefantes in a series that I plan to sell on my Etsy site, when I start up an Etsy site.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sneak Peek

Today I spent the afternooon with the lovely Sara Holbrook, Cleveland poet and writer, and we fiddled with our new blog. The point of the fiddling is to get the blog -- which I'll show you later -- into some kind of shape for the unveiling of THIS HERE BOOK, which Sara wrote and which I illustrated.

The poems and writing prompts are aimed at kids ages 9 through 12.

There are, I believe, about 24 Sandstrom drawings inside -- or, roughly one for each spread. Yay. I do not know why Amazon doesn't have the cover on its site yet, but if you are reading this, you are hipper than Amazon.

An interesting behind-the-scenes, illustrator-type note: I scribbled and fiddled and drew and re-drew a cover image that is not the one you see here. In the end, this simpler (and, I'll reluctantly admit, better) image from one of my inside illustrations was deemed a more inviting jacket.

Now, "Zombies!" doesn't publish till October, which we know is both 100 years away and only about 15 minutes away. But the publisher, Boyds Mills Press, is expecting to get copies soon. So Sara and I are all excited.

Anyway, this is obviously not the last you'll see or hear on the matter, but I just thought you'd enjoy a look. We're going to be doing fun things for kids and teachers on the blog, too, so, in closing: Yay.

And to Sara: Double Yay, and hugs.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

At the library

I spent part of a couple of days hanging out at the South Euclid branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, which has made its home at the former Telling Mansion since the 1950s. It's a pretty bustling place. Every computer was occupied both times I was there, and kids were wandering around in the children's section. It seemed like maybe there were a couple of business people who spent their lunch there, which I understand. The interior is so calm and beautiful. There's an atrium at the south end of the building, and it feels like a garden.

I confess that the last time I was at this particular library -- I'd gone to donate books several years ago -- I encountered a very grumpy librarian who seemed to think it was a pain in her ass that I was donating books. It left a real impression on me, and for a long time I simply returned to my old library in Cleveland Heights when I needed a library. That was kind of dumb. I mean, everyone has a bad day once in a while, right?

The other day when I was there, though, I had a nice friendly chat with the library monitor you see in the lower right. This is good news. The spell is broken. Now I can just go to my local library again! (Though I do have special affection for the Cleveland Heights library.)

This sketchbook page is, I think, an interesting failure. I like the composition a lot, but when I was inking it I decided to put in the values with watercolor, and when I was watercoloring it I got bored with how the paint wasn't taking to the page. So all the time I put into getting lines in the right places is sort of lost as the eye hunts madly for meaningful values. Ahh well. Next time.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Note to dog owners ...

When your dog suddenly and inexplicably wants to lie down and shove her face into the ground and roll around, she is bound to return home reeking like something that grew mold after fermenting after dying by the nibbles of a thousand maggots.
Do NOT let her do this.
Back AWAY from the roll site. Run very quickly in the other direction.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What works

Everyone in Cleveland knows about Nighttown, the Cleveland Heights eatery and jazz club, so I'm having trouble whipping up enthusiasm to write anything more than is already on my page. I had no trouble whipping up enthusiasm to draw the place the other day, though halfway through the thunderstorms moved in and sent me scurrying for cover. When the raindrops ceased I returned, only to find a UHaul parked smack in front of the building. Someone was moving out of one of those apartments upstairs. So I made a beeline for Utrecht, bought a bunch of new Microns and some PVA glue to replace the one I lost, and finished the drawing at home.

I make it a habit to photograph things I'm drawing anymore, for just such occasions as this. It really helps. But I'd always rather draw from life. (I know, I know -- you've heard that already, too.)

So, to reiterate: Go to Nighttown, and draw from life whenever possible.