Friday, September 5, 2014

New Knee, New Toad, New Art

 Sonja and a bag of frozen peas, giving my surgical knee comfort 

Another month without a blog post, but this time I have a huge reason why:  I had a total knee replacement in late July.  That's the reason we moved to Tucson for the summer, and now most of what I needed to accomplish here has happened, and I'm just about ready to move on.

I spent three nights in the hospital and then two weeks in a rehab facility where I got PT, OT and speech therapy nearly every day.  (I didn't know I needed speech therapy, but I'd been living with chronic pain for years, and that took a toll on my memory and information processing skills.)  I've been back home in my motorhome for three weeks today.

I wish I could say it's been a steady recovery, but realistically there are steps forward and backward.  Fortunately more steps forward than backward.  

The trike I've coveted ever since I left Oregon in the Guppy in 2011!  Now mine!

I've been exercising using my new folding adult tricycle that I bought on sale at Camping World.  I can ride it a couple of times around the RV park, during the cooler parts of the morning or evening.  I'm also doing a lot of exercise in the RV park's pool, where I can flex and extend my knee easily in the water. 

The pool at South 40 RV Ranch in Tucson

I bought a Geo Tracker last fall to use as my tow car, but I have never felt very comfortable in it, so last week I bought a 2006 Chevrolet HHR which I will use as my toad instead.  I have too much arthritis to be comfortable in a really basic car.

My new toad, "Blue"

I am getting to where some days I can do some artwork again.  Here is the last painting I did before my surgery:

 Rain Dance, 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on canvas

And here is a work-in-progress that I've been doing since I got home:

Awesome Wonder, 24 x 36 inches, currently an acrylic painting, 
but it will become mixed-media
That's pretty much all the news for now.  I'm going to be heading back to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in a few weeks and will spend the fall and part of the winter there.  I have two art shows coming up in TorC, and it will be fun to get back to where I have more of a social life.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Week Until I Become More Bionic!

 View from the door of the Beluga

A month has passed since my last blog entry, and almost everything I've done since then has been focused on my upcoming total knee replacement, which is scheduled for a week from tomorrow.  

When we moved to Tucson for the summer so I could get medical treatment, I had these ideas about joining arts organizations and maybe joining a collective studio and all that.  But it wasn't realistic.  Pretty much, I can't walk anymore.  So I can get out and do stuff if there's a scooter or wheelchair available, but otherwise, not so much.

 One morning when I had the pool completely to myself!

So I've mostly sat at home, but I have no complaints.  There is a nice swimming pool and hot tub here at the South Forty RV Ranch, and I can hobble enough to get into the pool, which is nice and refreshing at the end of a hot day.  We're close to lots of good restaurants and grocery stores and everything else we might need.  Steve has friends and relatives here, so we've had a built-in social life.

And, it's temporary.  Once I have my surgery and have completed my PT, I'll be able to get out again, in ways that have been beyond my abilities for several years now.  

In the meantime, I'm working on some larger acrylic paintings for a solo art show in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  I'll be at RioBravoFineArt Gallery in December 2014 and January 2015.  My show is called "Faces of God," and it's a fun exploration of spiritual beliefs and ideas.  Here are some of my pieces so far:

 God As Explained By a Four-Year-Old, 24 x 30", acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

 Love, Sweet Love.  24 x 30", acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

Chosen and Unchosen, 18 x 36", acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

That's pretty much all that's going on with me from now until my surgery.  I'll be in the hospital for about four days and then at a rehab for twice-daily physical therapy for about a week.  I'll probably be back home, continuing PT on my own, when I post again in a few weeks.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Surgery Scheduled! Yay!

 View from our door at South Forty RV Ranch in Tucson, AZ

Some of you who have been following my blog for a few years know I've had some knee problems.  

In 2011, I went out four-wheeling with some friends at the Monticello Box and felt a painful crunch in my left knee while getting out of the back seat of a Geo Tracker.  Afterwards, I had arthroscopic surgery to deal with the most immediately problems, but it didn't really solve the underlying issue of my knee being worn out.  

Then I was without insurance for several years, so I've been limping by (literally) just trying not to be in too much pain, and my activities have become fewer.  I mean, I still get out and have some fun, but I almost always pay for it, even if it's something as basic as going shopping at just one store.  I hurt worse afterwards.   It's very limiting.

One of a series of modern icons.  This one celebrates devotion to the family pet, and it's called Holy Cookie Puss.

Fortunately, as an Arizona resident, I was recently able to get onto AHCCCS, the state Medicaid program that was expanded to cover more people as part of the Affordable Health Care Act implementation.  So I was able to see a Physician's Assistant at my primary clinic, and she referred me to an orthopedic surgeon in Tucson.

Steve and I moved into Tucson a few weeks ago so I could pursue treatment here.  I saw my surgeon last week and he immediately scheduled me for a total knee replacement on July 28th.  

A handmade book that, when complete, will have some interactive and pop-up elements

I am really thrilled.  I had this same surgery on my right knee in 2008 and it was truly life-changing.  It restored my ability to walk long distances, hike, bike, etc.  In fact, once I started to feel better physically after the surgery, I was able to also take initiative to make my entire life more happy.  I attribute my becoming a full-time RVer (and happily divorced!) to that knee surgery a few years back.  And I'm hoping for really positive consequences again this time.  

Steve came into Tucson for a visit before we moved here and checked out a lot of RV parks.  The one that seemed to make the most sense for us is South Forty RV Ranch up in the NW part of Tucson.  It's more expensive than what we usually pay for an RV park, but, hey, it's in the city and it's temporary.  In late September or early October, I'll be recuperated enough to head back to New Mexico, where I'll have some more solo art shows this fall and winter.

South Forty has a pool and other nice amenities.  We've been swimming many nights just after dark, when the air is cooler.  Our daytime temps have been over 100, so that cool-down in the pool at night feels great.

 An altar about freedom from drudgery.  When it's complete, the guy on top will be holding a fishing pole with a key hanging down in front of the workers.  Did you notice her hair is on fire and so are his pants?
Now I have a little over five weeks until surgery, and I'm hoping to utilize that time to get a lot of artwork done for my art shows.  I'm working on all sorts of mixed-media these days...altered books, papier-mache, altars, and more two-dimensional mixed-media stuff such as pseudo-religious icons.  My December solo show, "Faces of God" at Rio Bravo Fine Arts Gallery in Truth or Consequences, is challenging me to explore new media, new ideas,  and skills that I am acquiring on the fly.  

We're also enjoying being in a city!  We went to see "Maleficent" at the cheap showing yesterday morning.  Steve went into the mall first and got a wheel chair, then came out and got me in the parking lot.  What a difference that made!  I would've been exhausted afterwards if I'd had to walk the several blocks from disabled parking to our seats in the theater.  We've been trying a few restaurants.  Steve has friends and relatives here, so we're doing more social things.  I'm gonna have fun right up until the anesthesiologist puts that mask on my face.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Overachieving Chameleon"--A Papier-mâché Sculpture

To me, papier-mâché is a fun, nostalgic craft medium as well as a challenge to master now that I'm a "professional" artist who sells some work now and again.  I'd like to be able to do it consistently well.  So I took on a fairly big papier-mâché project for practice and to participate in a ladder-themed show at Grapes Gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  

Initially I wasn't planning to make anything for this show, because I was busy with other work.  But then when I went to TorC last month to hang my solo show at January's Gallery, I got inspired by what the other half-dozen or so local artists had done with ladders of all sizes, shapes, colors, etc.  Fun stuff!  And I was assured that I could still add a piece, because they plan to keep the ladders installed for several more months.   

So I took two small, unadorned wood ladders home from Grapes and got going.  Ya'll know how much I love to make mandalas, so my first thought was, how can I make beautiful mandalas on these nice little ladders?  Then, an idea hit me of a chameleon who is changing his skin to match a mandala.  Yikes.  Weird but fun.  

 This is how it starts...
Because some of my FaceBook friends have asked about papier-mâché, this blog post is sort of a sculpture play-by-play.  (Hoping one of my not-to-distant future blog posts will be about travel...but I'm kind of stuck here for a while.)

When I got the chameleon idea, I figured I would have him climbing the ladders somehow, and that I'd make him out of papier-mâché, because I figured some sort of clay figure would be awfully heavy to mount, plus I don't have ready access to a kiln these days.  And papier-mâché is fun!  At least, that's the way I remember it being in the past.

I wired the two ladders together to make a sort of corner lattice, and I created the chameleon by making a rough figure (called an armature) that I could use as a base, using newspaper, wire, and masking tape.  I'd already cut up the entire Sunday paper from Tucson into 1-inch wide strips, and I started dipping these in liquid laundry starch and then draping them over the armature.  I could make a layer and then I needed to stop and let it dry completely (which doesn't take long in desert heat, let me tell you).  

 Some chameleon sketches and ideas
For days, the chameleon did not look anything like a lizard.  He looked almost entirely like a large gray rodent.  It was a bad case of reptile dysfunction.  

After a while, I decided to round out the chameleon's shape and features using another papier-mâché method.  I had a bag of paper pulp called Celluclay which I mixed with warm water to create a clay-like paper mush.  It was easier to sculpt and mold than the newspaper strips, but it also was kind of granular and hard to smooth out.  When I use paper pulp again, I'll want to have a Dremel or small sander handy to smooth the surface before painting.  

 Here you can see the Celluclay being used to round out the figure's shape.  Also note the roll of galvanized electric fence wire to the right, which I used for making this sculpture.  Those of my readers who have followed me since I became a full-time RVer in 2011 may remember when this same roll of wire saved my bacon after the back bumper of my Toyote Dolphin fell off on I-10, somewhere just this side of Biloxi.  This wire was one of my all-time best garage sale purchases.
This time, I didn't have that sort of tool, so I just sanded like heck with wet black XX fine sandpaper and gessoed, and sanded and gessoed, and so on.  It was still pretty bumpy when I started painting it.  It was not going to get any smoother on my watch.

That's the beauty of being an Outsider primitive naive crafter or whatever the heck anybody wants to call me.  It's finished when it feels like it to me.

While working with the Celluclay, I ran into another problem, besides overall ugliness of the project so far.  I'd envisioned the lizard crawling up the lattice one way, but that way was making the whole thing unbalanced.  So I had to cut the chameleon off the ladder and rewire him to the other side.  Consequently the sculpture turned out to be less compact than I'd figured, and it also needed a base, which I made from a piece of a styrofoam cooler, once Sonja was done using it.

I listened when my friend Lise said, "It's all in the tail."

Next up was some base coat paint, a pistachio mint green followed by extreme glitter green for the chameleon, saffron yellow for the ladders, and pine green for the base. 

Then the really fun part began.  I found that the sculpture had three main planes and I used these as the bases of where to put the mandalas.  I used the same colors and patterns in all of the mandalas, so that the whole sculpture--both chameleon figure and the ladder and base that he was supposedly trying to match--all had a uniform look.  A mixed-up, patchwork, crazy but uniform look. 

It was very fun to do this piece, and I'm glad to say that it did finally turn out much as I had hoped when I first saw it in my mind's eye.  There were numerous times I was ready to chuck it in the dumpster, but then I would remember that there was a lot to be learned from this project, even if it turned out yuckier than lizard poop.  

On another topic, which I brought up in my last blog post, I did get on the Arizona state insurance plan, and I am very happy about this.  I still need to stay put for a few weeks or maybe a month while paperwork gets handled, but I'll be seeing a new primary care doctor soon and hopefully getting referred to an orthopedic for knee care.  

I'm still enjoying staying at Hickiwan Trails RV Park, and it's a good thing we're hooked up to electricity, because we're having some 100-plus degree days right now.  The early mornings and late evenings are very pleasant and cool, though, and I spend them outside as much as possible.  We get some fun neighbors sometimes.    

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chillaxin' at the Tohono O'odham Nation

Playing cards with Janice and Misha in TorC

So in my last post, I was about to head off to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for a solo art show at January's.  

I knew my Geo Tracker needed some work.  Specifically, I wanted to get a relay replaced so that the air conditioning would work on my trip.  But then the mechanic warned me that, if it was his vehicle, he wouldn't drive it on a trip that was 1000+ miles without first replacing the CV axles.  

Well, there simply wasn't enough time to do this repair before I had to leave, so Steve drove me to Tucson where I could rent a car.  I got a very good deal through Priceline--less than $200 for about 10 days' use with unlimited mileage, and Enterprise upgraded me to a very comfortable, brand-new Chrysler 200 because it was the only car they had on the lot when I arrived.  I enjoyed driving that baby!  Great A/C, great radio, comfortable seats, and, unlike the vehicles I usually drive, this car could drive as fast as the speed limit.  

So, with a nice new car to drive, the trip to TorC was easier than I'd anticipated.  I had a great time staying with my friend Janice and trying to catch up with as many friends as possible over just a few days.  

My opening went very well, and I had so much fun!  Many of my friends came and some spent the entire evening.  When January closed the store at 9 pm, a few of us stayed a little longer for tarot readings, and it was great fun. 

I went home by way of Phoenix where I won my stupid MVD hearing.  Now I will be entitled to title and register my Tracker in Arizona, as soon as I get the judge's order that removes the restitution lien from the car.  Any day now.  That's what he said.  A couple of weeks ago.  

I really enjoyed driving the back roads from Bowie, AZ, up north to Phoenix, rather than staying on boring I-10 all the way.  The highlight of my trip home was stopping at the Apache Gold Casino Resort in San Carlos, Arizona, just five miles east of Globe.  I had a beautiful king room for $59, and I took a dip in the hot tub and watched swallows flying around as the sun set.  Really nice.  For joining the players' club, I got a free breakfast and $20 in free slots which took all of about 4.5 minutes to lose.        

Since getting back home to Why, it's gotten up into the 90s, but we're not ready to leave this area yet.  Steve has to update his insurance eligibility at this time each year--always right when it's getting too hot to want to stay here any longer--and now I seem to be on the same cycle, as I'm waiting to hear (any day now) whether I'm covered by AHCCCS, Arizona's medical assistance plan.  So we are waiting around, because we need to be at a residential or street address (rather than, say, a PO box) until our insurance matters are settled.  The State is not flexible on stuff like this.  Recently I got a form asking for more information, and, if I hadn't received it and filled it out and returned it immediately, I would have been up a creek.  So here we sit for a while.  Weeks or a month or how long, we don't know.

This is the first year I've been in Why, AZ, late enough to see the saguaros in bloom.

But the really good news is that we've moved to an RV park just down the road from our home at Coyote Howls, a primitive campground with no electrical hookups and hence not enough power to run an air conditioner.  Now we're hooked up at Hickiwan Trails RV Park on the Tohono O'odham Reservation.  I would strongly recommend this park to folks who are interested in traveling in this area, but maybe aren't set up to provide their own electricity with solar panels and/or generators.  It's inexpensive ($85 per week or $285 per month for a full hookup site, including electricity) and it's very pleasant.  It's particularly nice right now, because the snowbirds have all gone back north, and there are just a few of us stragglers still here.  

It took me a few days to turn the Beluga back into a place to live, after using it all winter as an art studio.  I packed up a lot of stuff and then we took the short drive to the new RV park, stopping for propane along the way.

This receipt tells it like it is

Now that we're settled again, Steve has taken off for his monthly visit to see friends and relatives in Tucson, and I'm here by myself for a few days, beginning work on new projects.  The pieces you see throughout this blog post are mixed-media panels that will be part of a larger installation in December.  It's going to be an art production kind of year.   


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time to Hit the Road Again

A poster for my upcoming solo art show

I have this thing going on in Truth or Consequences next weekend.  It's Second Saturday Art Hop on April 12th, and I'll be showing my recent acrylic paintings and mixed-media works at January's.  If you're nearby, I hope you can come!  My artwork will be showing at January's for several months, but the opening on Saturday night will be the most fun, with live music and a tarot card reader.  

My work for this show has been very enjoyable and, in fact, it's kind of hard to stop painting and get moving.  I've been making monoprints from everyday objects--egg cartons, the wire binding on a notebook, bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, etc.--and then painting whatever I am inspired to make from the simple print.  Lots of fun!  And it's interesting how something can transform from being just a bunch of rectangles to, say, runes or cards that are perhaps predicting a fabulous future.  I really don't know how that happens.  It isn't deliberate on my part.  Sometimes I really feel like my job is just to dip the brush into the paint and move the paint around on the canvas.  What it turns out to be seems to be a process that I am involved in, but don't dictate.  

 Snapshots from Space, acrylic on stretched canvas

Well, I'm in Why, Arizona, so I have a trip to make this coming week.  I'm packing up most of my recent artwork into my Tracker and I'm heading over to TorC.  I'm not taking my motorhome, the Beluga, with me on this trip, since it's a quick one and I have a friend to stay with in New Mexico.   

Meet Me Downtown, acrylic on stretched canvas

My Tracker is maybe not turning out to be the best tow vehicle for me.  I'm not sure at this time.  This winter, I've had to make a lot of trips to Phoenix and a couple to Tucson, and I've found that the Tracker is not a comfortable vehicle for these longer trips.  So, I'm going to take my time and take two days to drive to TorC, and I hope to stay at a motel with a swimming pool.

Incubator.  Acrylic on stretched canvas.

I'll do the same on the way back home--except it will be a longer trip, because I have to go by way of Phoenix for a Motor Vehicles Division administrative hearing on April 15th.  I bought the Tracker in New Mexico, and when I got it back home to Arizona to get it titled and registered, the Arizona MVD records showed that there was a criminal restitution lien on the vehicle because a former owner had a driving while intoxicated conviction.  He was probably two or three owners back.  I have to go to this hearing to prove that I had no knowledge of the lien when I bought the car.  Boy, that should be easy!  If I'd had any idea there was this kind of glitch involved in buying the car, I would never have bought it!  I guess they just have to be sure that the buyer isn't somebody who is in collusion with the criminal defendant, trying to help him get rid of the car without having to pay the victim. 

 Runes.  Acrylic on stretched canvas.

The Tracker has also needed some repairs.  A new starter, then a timing belt.  Now a relay switch for the A/C, which I hope can get installed before I leave for my trip on Wednesday, because it's supposed to be in the 90s during my two driving days to New Mexico.  I use a shade tree mechanic who is too thirsty to work some days, so I'm not sure if this will happen.  If he's not at work on Monday morning, I'll bite the bullet and go to the bigger repair shop in Ajo.    

Two-spread from an altered book

I'm also going to go sign a will at a lawyer's office while I'm in Phoenix on the way back home.  So I'm taking three days to get back from TorC, and I will do a little sightseeing and relaxing along the way.  

Two-page altered book spread with spiral pop-up

And then when I get back, it will be almost time to head off to cooler climes for the summer.  We're thinking Prescott.  And it will be time to begin work on my next show, which will be another solo art show at the Happy Belly Deli in Truth or Consequences, coming up in November.  This one will be an all paper show, and I'm looking forward to spending the summer exploring paper crafts.  I've finally begun doing some altered books and pop-ups, which are bucket list items for me.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

RVing--It Ain't All Campfires and Kumbaya

My Last Reading.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I got to go into town for some culture recently.  By town, I mean Tucson, and by culture, I mean a Dixieland concert at the University of Arizona.  It was really great fun, the most smile-inducing, foot-tapping concert I'd been to in years.

It got me thinking about the future.  Steve and I think maybe someday we'll want to get an apartment in Tucson.  It'll be when he's tired of moving solar panels around and fixing things and dumping Blue Boys.  For now, he still enjoys this sort of puttering around.   

 Green Thumb.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I like Tucson.  It's got good food and interesting groups of people.  There is always something going on.  Parts of the city are beautiful, with pockets of untouched desert in between developed areas.  I love some of the spaces that have been set aside for public enjoyment.  On my way home, I stopped at Ironwood Picnic Area in Tucson Mountain Park.  If I lived in Tucson, I'd want to live fairly close to this lovely spot.  

I also bought art supplies while in town.  Michael's was having a 50% off sale on their canvases, so I bought four big gallery-wrapped heavy duty canvases for less than $100 to use in a show later this year.  Such a deal!

While I was in Tucson, Roxanne was staying at Coyote Howls, taking care of Sonja.  How nice of her!  Normally when I go to town, I have to limit my visit to two nights because I leave Sonja locked up in my RV.  This time, Sonja got to go in and out and in and out and so on.  

 Roxanne registering our surprise visit to Organ Pipe.

Last weekend, before I went to Tucson, Roxanne and I took my Geo Tracker out for a Sunday afternoon drive.  We headed out Bates Well Road, on BLM land near Ajo, Arizona.  It turned out this road eventually goes to a back entrance to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  Roxanne had her federal lands pass with her, so we drove into the Monument a little ways, until the roads got really rough and we decided to turn back.  

 Being a gimp, I didn't get out of the Tracker, so I'm taking a picture of Roxanne taking a picture of an organ pipe cactus in front of an interesting rock formation

Since getting back from Tucson, I made another quick trip up to Phoenix to take care of some business.  So now I am happy that I have no more little trips to town to make for a while.  I can just hunker down and work at projects for a while.  My next commitment to go anywhere is in April, when I'll head to Truth or Consequences to hang a solo art show at January's.  This week I've completed a couple more paintings for that show.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Painting Frenzy and Risk Taking

A while ago, Ilese was camping in her Honda Element on some nearby BLM land, and we got together several times to chat and a couple of times to do artwork.  She's worked at all different kinds of artwork for many years, and she does very cool monoprints using Gelli Arts off-press gel plates.  I have been coveting these plates for a while and they will probably be my next big art supply purchase. But, in the meantime, I decided to try doing some simple monoprints with what I had around the house and then use the prints as the inspiration for painting.  

The two paintings shown above were made by first painting a canvas a solid color and then printing circles in a contrasting color with painted bubble wrap.  Really easy peasy and fun to do.  After I got a grid of circles, I started painting what else seemed to be important to bring out.  

This one was made using a sheet of paper towel that was embossed with a connected hexagonal design.  Instead of adding the print to the painted canvas, the paper towel absorbed some of the paint and left blank spaces, which I proceeded to paint.   

Then I tried printing with a heavy piece of hand tatted lace that I'd come across in a thrift shop or someplace.  I printed it four times in the above painting, then started to paint.  You can sure see my background as a mosaic artist in this piece.   

This one, based on a different paper towel pattern, is the last of five monoprint paintings that I've created over the past five days.  I was kind of on an OCD or manic frenzy.  Or, as Steve says, CDO (since it's important to put the letters in alphabetical order, dontcha know).  

These five paintings will be part of my upcoming April-May show at January's Gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  I'll be driving my car over to TorC to put up the show in early April, leaving my RV here in Arizona, since we plan to summer in northern Arizona this year, anyway.  

Remember my fantasy road sign series that I painted last summer?  Well, I decided to take a small financial risk and I've just ordered some note cards made from four of the designs.  I will try selling these on eBay and I'll probably also visit some store owners I know in New Mexico to see if they'd like to carry them, individually or as card sets.  Here are the designs I picked:

No cat pics today.  It's windy and Sonja is hiding.  Occasionally she comes out and meows at me to make it stop.