December 2011

Goodbye, 2011!

Another year down, another few paintings, another couple books.

It has been a good year. There were some worrisome bits, Kevin was out of work for awhile there, but we’re ending the year in better shape than when we began, he loves his new job, and they provide health benefits to domestic partners. I can look at what I accomplished in 2011, and believe that I did not waste the time allotted to me. (Sure, I would have liked to get more paintings done, but that’s a more or less permanent condition.) I wrapped Digger and the weird anxiety that attends all enormous projects slid off my shoulders—thank god that’s over, now if I die everybody won’t be left hanging, whew, I require pie, goddamnit.

For all my readers, I continue to be terribly grateful (and a bit bemused) that you’re all sticking around and provide such constant enthusiasm and unwavering faith. For 2012, I hope that you get many things accomplished, eat many delightful meals, have many moments that make you glad to be alive, and are well and truly loved.

Have one of the last paintings of 2011!

Mixed media on collage paper, 9 x 12.

There are various phrases that jangle insistently in my head and make a weird little space around themselves. They go away for awhile, and then show up again. I sort of assume that some day I will find myself in a strange dreamworld—possibly that’s what happens when you die, I don’t know, or I will accidentally fall into a fairy mound while chasing an interesting bird—and these phrases will turn out to be critically important to my survival. (The alternative is that I’m mildly insane.)

One of the most persistent of these is “Antelope women are not to be trusted.”

Anyway, prints available, as always, and original for sale, drop a line if interested!


Owl Mask

Owl Mask

I’ve got a styrofoam head on order, but in the meantime, the bobcat head will continue her internet modeling career.

Lessons learned from this one: Never paint anything white.

Horrible awful color, lousy coverage, brush strokes stand out in sharp relief, needs to be touched up ten times over. We Will Not Be Doing That Again.

Lesson #2: Liquid Leaf does a gloriously strong metallic that covers in a single coat, looks nicely metallic, and adheres to leather beautifully. It also produces fumes so toxic that I believe I am measurably stupider after having used it. I could hear my brain cells exploding, like distant popcorn.

I think the smell has mostly dissipated and wearing the mask is the no longer the equivalent of huffing paint thinner, but in the future, I’ll stick to the Luminere brand if at all possible, although it doesn’t cover half so well.

I had a lot of fun with this design, which is based loosely on an antique carnivale mask. I like the shape here, but I may have to try doing a more realistic one, with actual feathers ‘n stuff, just to see how that comes out.

I am going to have to start selling these just to make up the price of leather, but I feel weird about it, since I am so desperately new to this sorta thing and have no notion of pricing whatsoever—the price of a GOOD mask is exorbitant, and this is just me screwin’ around.  So, errr…somebody make me an offer? (Lyssandra, you get right of first refusal if you want it, since you kept asking. *grin*)

Beard Not Included

Gonna have to figure out how to photograph these…

It's a...tigery thing. With bits.


…and if anyone has any tips, I’d be very grateful! (Other than “Use a decent camera, idiot.”) Kevin is obviously being very patient, but…well…y’know.

I made the shape curve in along the side of the head a little too tight on this one, I think, but otherwise I’m pretty pleased. We’ll see how the next one comes out. (For my next trick, something that isn’t red and black!)

White Jackalope III

The end of the year has apparently kicked off a mad desire to paint more vaguely-voluptuous white animals on collaged paper backgrounds.


6 x 12, mixed media on collaged papers sealed to board. I really like how the intensely patterned black and white fleur-de-lys paper works there. The pages are scraps from Dr. Spock. (Kevin had an old copy lying around and tossed it at me to Make Into Art. If you peer closely through the paint, you can find references to headaches, blind children, and prunes.*)

Anyway, original for sale, prints available, etc, although I’m hoping to scrape a couple together for upcoming shows…


*Mentioning baby’s first prunes to someone who has changed diapers, it turns out, is not unlike setting off bottle-rockets next to someone with severe PTSD. Kevin goes a little grey around the lips even now. I am told that he’s seen…things.

Rivet-Bird Mask

He was in a hair band in the Eighties.

Red ink, black paint, and a combination of Quinacridone gold and Van Dyke Brown for the cere. (Thanks again, Dragonlaady!) Whatever material is dying the brads stains the red leather immediately around it, but I actually don’t mind that at all, given my love for rust and mottling.

I’m actually pretty pleased with how this one came out. I’m tempted to make a follow-up with a second frill, possibly with some long swoopy bits, and definitely with a separated beak. (Although I might have to wait on some stiffer leather for the swoopies.) But I also just got in a roll of really really lightweight leather—3.5 oz—and I wanna fool with that a bit—possibly layered over the heavier split leather.

It’s got an elastic strap in back, which is currently holding it on our lovely model, a taxidermy form for a bobcat. (Let’s give the bobcat head a big hand! It’s her first modelling gig on the internet!)

In Progress…

Rivetted bird...thingy.

This is my next mask, in progress. The design is actually based on a mask my mother made when I was quite young–she made these gorgeous felt bird masks for Halloween one year, one of which I kept. It’s based (very loosely) on a monkey-eating eagle. I had to stylize it down even farther for this, but I think it’s a neat look. (Those little bolts are actually papercrafting brads–they’re not terribly structural, but they’re neat lookin’, and glue will hopefully do the rest.)

Lessons learned:

A) Cut the beak out, and attach that separately on the next one. Getting the good bend I wanted was impossible, and (probably because it’s really crappy leather) I couldn’t get a very clear separation on the…err…nares, I guess?

B) Brads first. Glue later. Either take the brads out and glue and reattach, or apply with a toothpick around the edges. Do not attempt to punch holes through a layer of glue. This is a mistake.

It looks pretty neat now, and with better leather, I’d be tempted to leave it, but the surface is so coarse, I’ll probably use red ink for the main mask, and black for the back ruff and the eye-pieces.

My Crude First Attempt

Well, here we go, my first stab at it.

Fits a standard human head. Or a stuffed Biting Pear, interestingly enough.

I suspect that every person who plays around with leather masks probably makes some variation on this design first. I learned a number of things, like “Punch the holes for the strap BEFORE you mold it to a form, dumbass!”

Acrylic ink—I used the FW Daler brand, which I use for everything—sinks into the leather very well and doesn’t become quite as opaque as standard acrylic–looks a bit more like a dye. I used that as a base coat, then picked up the highlights along the nose, brows, and cheekbones with fluid acrylic, and did the copper bits with Lumiere fabric paint.I may try to see it with the Krylon clear glaze, but that will require daylight and the porch, as there is nothing quite as sad as having a stray moth adhere itself to your art.

For my next trick, we’ll see if I can master the arcane art of the rivet! And perhaps whether it is possible to glue two pieces of leather together effectively. I have stuff that claims to me leather glue, but We Shall See.


So my first attempt to make a leather mask kinda failed spectacularly, mostly due to the bit where I tried to carve everything on the wrong side of the leather.

Then I decided it was scrap and started trying various tools out on it, and wound up gouging right through the leather a couple of times.

Then, because I still wanted to see how the whole “veggie tanned leather” thing works, I wet it down again and clipped it to a cheap-ass mask form, and damned it if didn’t turn the thing into a mask!

It’s still total crap with holes and random lines and squiggles and gouges, but something about being in the shape of a mask makes it…I don’t know…suddenly it’s a thing. I suspect it has something to do with it being a kind of face, and faces poke you in parts of the brain that you don’t really get control over.

Still. Crap piece of leather…mask. Insomuch as I understand magic, that’s it, right there. I’m kinda wowed.

My second attempt (on the right side, this time!) is drying on the form as we speak. I have done plenty wrong, and the lines are kinda irregular, but this one I will probably seal and paint. It’s a very simple shape—a couple of swoopy points on the outer edges and around the eyes—which if I were a certain sort of person, I would probably try to classify as a sylph or a spirit, but being me, I won’t.

Anybody got any suggestions on good things to seal a mask with, for acrylic paint? My inclination is to use clear gesso or matte medium, so if either of those make leather explode, now would be a good time to mention it.

Dead Boogeymen

So Kim Jong-Il is dead.

He’s the last of the lot. Saddam’s been dead awhile, and this year saw the end of Khaddafi and bin Laden, and even Castro went and retired.

All the boogeymen of my youth are gone now. It’s odd. I was never really that scared of any of them—they were never all that real to me—but it’s odd to think they’re actually dead. However much harm they did to very real people over the years, when you’re a kid and you grow up hearing about a vague bad guy a long ways away, they tend to become a mostly mythological figure. I think I devoted about as much mental energy to Kim Jong-Il over the years as I devoted to the Krampus, possibly less.

Still. Odd.

I’m sure we’ll get new ones—nature abhors a vacuum—but I can’t help but wonder if we’ll be going “Dictator A? Feh. You should have been around for Saddam, now there was a CIA-funded lunatic! This one couldn’t oppress his way out of a paper sack! I bet GWAR never wrote a song about HIM!”

A little too soon to see what the death of this boogeyman will mean for the people of North Korea, and I don’t know enough to hazard a guess in any particular direction, but here’s hoping things get better.

It Has Come To My Attention

I have been reading fairy tales recently. I’ll apologize now, because I’m not much of a poet, but there are things for which prose is useless, like trying to pry a nail out of a wall with a Buick, and if I can’t come up with a hammer or a screwdriver, I will make do with a butter knife.


It has come to my attention

that people like me

are generally not welcome in fairy tales.


It’s the talking birds that do it.

The minute a sparrow shows up to pipe a direful warning

it’s all over

down at the first hurdle



The body in the fifty-fathom well

will have to wait

the old woman turned into a hare

the murdered mother in the juniper tree

as I whip out my Sibley guide and look for the entry

with the fieldmark labeled capable of human speech.

For this crime

I have been accused of a failure of wonder

of having chained up my inner child and sent her

to work in the salt mines.


But the truth

(if you really want to know)

is that I have read so many fairy tales

and lived a little bit too long

to be surprised by anything that happens in

the cottages of lonely woodcutters.


I can even venture a guess

as to why the bear speaks with the voice of a maiden

(my heart goes out to her)

and why, when the animal has saved your life,

you will be required to make a harp out of its bones.


These are old familiar mysteries

as love is an old familiar mystery

the dwarf’s name

the contents of the enchanted walnut

the thing which stands behind the mill.

Fairy tales are human things

which we have chewed over

since before we could eat solid food.


But a bird!

A bird that talks!

This is outside my experience

this un-parrot-like fluency.

I have so many questions for it—

Where did you learn?

and How do you make the P’s and B’s and M’s with that small stiff beak?


and most important,

Are there more like you out there?

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