Lost my dog; love, Caroline…

Crate

Well, this isn’t a drawing at all. It would be quite impressive if it were, or if I could convince you it were — but somehow I don’t see good odds for that.

As it is, it’s not particularly impressive (or finished, for that matter), but it’s worlds better than having my worldly possessions (or at least the artistic chapter thereof) spread about helter-skelter on a damp carpet. Yes, damp — I may set aside another day to complain about that, but for now suffice to say that it’s damp and it’s totally not my fault.

I picked up (and by “picked up” I mean “found while searching for other things on Craigslist and ultimately went to Des Moines to purchase”) some ancient wooden milk crates that frankly look like tiny treasure chests, and now I’m working on making them respectable. They’re the slightly-irregular cheap kind, as opposed to the strapping young pretty ones that could still potentially crate milk if they really wanted to, so I’ve had to take great care. Well, take great care or shave big chunks of milk crate off here and there — which is to say, there are several big chunks missing from my milk crates now.

I had to snip out some of the wire caging in the middle so various objects (pencils and paper here, seven seasons of Buffy and some music CDs in another) would fit decently, then I had to wrap everything in three-dollar Walmart duct tape so there weren’t hideous rusty sharp bits sticking out all over. Duct-tape-wrapping, by the way, is a skill that takes a few (equally hideous-looking) tries to perfect. The second crate looks worlds better. Except for the fact that it’s returning to the earth as we speak; I swear it wasn’t quite this crumbly when I bought it.

I still need to cannibalize some cardboard from the back of a notepad or something to make proper dividers for the pencils — my shamefully large collection of tiny pencil nubbins (most of which, perhaps not surprisingly, are for the color black) has its own cheap plastic hotel cup to keep it from spilling everywhere, but the others still need a little more structure lest they slip through the grating. I should probably also get something to replace the flattened-out 15-cent paper folder that’s serving as the bottom of the crate, and the ship-in-a-bottle-style disassembled and reassembled granola-bar box that’s making the “floor” of the pencil side higher than the paper side.

WAIT WAIT WAIT THIS MEANS I STILL HAVE GRANOLA BARS. I just dumped them out in a basket so I could use the box.

Time for a midnight snack.

(and no, my name’s not Caroline and I have no dog — but The Milkman by Carol Foskett Cordsen is adorable and you should read it)

Romping with the bumble beezes….

Fly

I don’t even know where my regular-sized sketch pads and blank paper are, this blurry little guy will have to do for now. I found a Blue-eyed Darner lying on the sidewalk on my way home the other day, upside-down but with legs wiggling weakly. I didn’t see much hope for it, but I brought it home anyhow so I could watch it for a while and its final moments wouldn’t involve being smashed under someone’s bicycle wheel.

I actually took a photo of him on this same paper, but it didn’t turn out fabulously — it was a gloomy day and I didn’t want to pester him much. So I decided to draw this today, though it’s going off memory and thus woefully inaccurate (I started out with one wing size and switched to another halfway through, and I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ve given up on drawing insects’ legs properly; even knowing how they bend and where they’re attached I can’t seem to make them stick out in the right directions). It started to rain so I left him on a maple sapling, high up but under cover. When I looked out a bit later he was gone, and I choose not to speculate as to what happened to him.

I can’t recall whether I mentioned the yellowjacket nest on the patio yet. It certainly makes getting in and out of the building from the back exciting, especially when you’re holding a piece of fruit or can of soda. I’ve never had one (of these) approach me aggressively or mob my food yet, but some childhood traumas involving abandoned pear and apple trees have left me about as wary as I am with small “friendly” dogs.

On a somewhat more upbeat and less invertebrate note, it’s been good weather for outdoor entertainment, between rain showers at least. I went to Guardians of the Galaxy (oh, don’t get me started on Gamora) yesterday at the drive-in, and today an outdoor production of Much Ado about Nothing today at … the playground. What can I say, it’s one of those towns where you can watch Shakespeare on a jungle gym for free. Much Ado is pretty well suited to this, I’d say, since Joss Whedon managed to film the whole thing at his (admittedly good-sized) house. No forests or oceans or weird donkey heads required here.There *was* a saxophone player, though.

After intermission a tiny little girl came over to try to use the equipment, observed the Watch’s lively discussion for a moment, then wandered over to the line of lawn chairs and sat down to enjoy this perplexing playground production. A little boy actually managed to use the slide right before the play started. Naturally, most of the performers ended up using the slide as well, since there are a lot of “balcony” scenes and it’s hard to climb down a ladder in a party dress. …It really has been an interesting weekend so far.

You should never shut yourself up in a wardrobe….

blog…But moving into a new place without internet is very nearly the same thing, as it turns out. I used my internet connection for virtually nothing other than staying in touch, but on the other hand I used virtually nothing else for staying in touch. I may have to become a hermit, which will be inconvenient but affordable.

The public library, bless it, is the one place I can always get a work-and-social-updates fix without feeling obligated to buy overpriced pastry, but (as I know all too well) it will be closing soon so we can haul its contents back into its fantabulous renovated quarters. It will, as just noted, be fantabulous; but not until mid-September. I’ll have to muddle through till then unless I decide to shell out enough to pay for interwebs … it’s really more a matter of principle I suppose, since I’m just so used to having it for free.

Speaking of the new digs and things I miss (or will miss) from the library, today’s drawing is courtesy of of a bit of nostalgia from our old library building combined with some novelty from my new residence. First off, I’m not used to having a spare room. I’m used to having some spare room, on the floor, between the piles of junk (which were mostly actually books and clean drawing paper and things so NOT REALLY JUNK, OKAY?), but not an entire room that I don’t use for any particular day-to-day task. Since it feels odd to say, I’ve taken to calling it Spare Oom, in the manner of Mr. Tumnus. 

The second part of this involves a small mysterious closet in the old library (spoiler: It was actually the book drop — except when it was a magical portal, of course), that had at one point borne the whimsical but appropriate label, “To Narnia.” Thus, in the manner of workplace argot, the drop closet became the Narnia closet, or simply Narnia, to many of us, even after the hand-printed sign had long since departed. It only seemed fitting to pay a small, rather obscure homage to it with my own Spare Oom … particularly as I keep getting confused by the warren of doors and hallways and will benefit from some signage.

There’s not much else to say at the moment, I suppose, at least none that will interest a stranger. The gecko survived the move, thanks largely to the help of a friend who hosted his ginormous aquarium in her home while the gecko subsisted grumpily in a small plastic storage tub. (He also live briefly and — shh — secretly in the bottom drawer of the hotel room I stayed in between residences, as it was much larger and gave him some room to stretch his little lizard legs.) As various other items of furniture didn’t fare so fabulously in storage, I had at least some measure of peace knowing that his glass palace was unharmed.

I feel like I have to explain to people that I come from the north part of town when I go walking around my new neighborhood. “We don’t have animals there, you see,” I picture myself saying. It’s not true, and it is. We have sparrows, and crows, and somewhat incongruous barn swallows, and once in a while you see a squirrel.There was a resident rabbit that somehow managed to be a juvenile every year; so, clearly not the same rabbit, but always just one, perhaps inheriting the territory. (I know rather little about cottontails, I’ll admit.)

There are trees down here, trees plural, not just the last sad basswood clinging to survival as the carpenter ants work steadily toward its rotting heart, arching over the streets in a canopy of shade, and the squirrels need hardly touch the ground. There are rabbits everywhere. A squirrel lay down — LAY DOWN — in the middle of the sidewalk and blocked my path, staring at me with mild curiosity. Down a bit further, where I lived until the age of nine (across from the meadow — oh, the lovely flooded meadow, but that’s another day’s story), robins stare at me with naked disbelief as I, this two-legged wingless wannabe, tramp behind sleepy houses through their personal worm-farms. They do not fly away until I’ve nearly trampled them.

I’m less enchanted with the dogs, of course. In my pet-free building there are four of them, as far as I can tell from the barking. I passed eight on my way to a cafe on Main Street and back — five barking madly, two off-leash, one well-behaved and under control. I’m not a great fan of dogs on a good day, and while I tolerate them, I’ve been bitten enough as a child to scoff at “she’s friendly, don’t worry!” We shall have to see, I think, about the dogs.

Countin’ those ties on the railroad tracks….

AMiner

Well, I can’t promise more than a doodle next week, since I’ll be unpacking my worldly possessions into a new building. Naturally, art supplies are going to be pretty high on the list of things to keep handy (right up there with books and food), but things *do* have a way of going awry when you’d much rather they didn’t.

This is an aardvark who also appears to be a miner of some sort. He was drawn with the same pencil, sketch book, and eraser I used to draw my November critters (including his forerunner of sorts, Scooter the pseudo-aardvark from Four Legs Good ). The reason for the latter is simple: Those were the art supplies sitting next to my monitor. My monitor is on the floor. My computer is on the floor. My keyboard is on the floor. I am on the floor. Welcome to the final stages of the Small Move (the Big Move being the title reserved for my workplace’s move out of, then back into, its first-old-then-renovated library quarters, which is taking place around the same time as my personal change of address).

The reason for the former — which I assume you’ve forgotten after that whole paragraph, so rather than making you go back and re-read it I’ll just remind you that it’s the aardvark-miner part — is still fairly simple, but a bit less reasonable. Basically, I needed to have something I could just turn out little sketches of in a semi-reliable fashion when I got tired of what I was really working on. Since my huge unabridged dictionary is literally the ONLY book that has been spared in these last phases of the move, it seemed like a good place to start. I decided to take the first mammal (“animal” was my first choice, but I needed a way to politely dismiss various inconveniently tiny and ambiguous living beings that might otherwise count) I found for each letter, discover something about that animal that I *did not know before,* and draw a picture based on that new piece of knowledge.

I … really didn’t know how that would wind up going. Would I end up drawing the actual animals, or something based on them? Cartoony or realistic? I decided to just get on with it and look up aardvarks, since everyone knows (though I did still check the dictionary, hoping beyond hope) that’s the first mammal you’re going to get for A. I feel like there was probably a Hawaiian bird or two before that, but rules are rules….

But what interesting fact could I actually find about aardvarks? I knew the name meant “earth-pig,” knew various things about the crazy tongues, suspected they were edible … but I’d never really looked at the scientific name. That’s some crazy stuff right there. Orycteropus? Is that like some kind of nightmarish land-octopus? I could’ve stopped right there, but knowing that “-pus” means foot, I couldn’t help doing some digging (heh, heh) to see what the rest meant. Dictionary said it meant some variation of “burrowing foot,” via a Greek word that meant “miner.” A miner-aardvark sounded cooler than an aardvarktopus (or at least a lot less terrifying), so here we are. They’re omnivorous, so I like to think there’s a nice hearty termite-and-potato pasty in that lunchbox.

No, something better than magic….

bookwyrm

Not a moth! But you’re used to that by now. This was just a sketch I made on a whim, lying in the hallway with some rather terrible lighting. Why not just move over to somewhere with better lighting that wasn’t, you know, a hallway, you ask? Well, that’s where the radio was and a good song was on … a good song I *own*, mind you, and could have played on at least two different devices that were not located in the hallway, but such is the mysterious draw of a playlist you don’t control.

Anyhow, if you haven’t noticed, this is a bookwyrm. That’s in no way an original idea — how could it be? — but I feel the need to point out that I did come up with it independently, at least. Hey, they can’t all be original ideas. The books I’ve been reading lately certainly haven’t been. That’s my fault for sticking so close to one genre and decade-hopping, though; one’s bound to find influences, homages, and (like the bookwyrm) decent ideas that just happened to spring up on two separate thought-islands without ever seeing each other. The better an idea, the more likely it is to have been done already. Then, people copy terrible ideas too (see: movies).

As I type this a song has come on that reminds me of a particularly unforgivable pun-drawing I made recently (the kind that hasn’t been done before for a good reason) involving Lorde and ball pythons. Look, I can’t help that there’s a morph called Queen Bee, okay?

I may need help for this art-pun addiction. It’s getting a bit out-of-control. I even changed that on-the-fly from “out-of-hand,” because snakes don’t have hands, even though that has NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING. Speaking of snakes though, as I was drawing the face of this dragon I suddenly recalled all the hours I spent long ago, looking at a library-book of snakes because I’d decided that snake-scales worked the best for dragons but I’d never seen a proper snake up close. I didn’t want little round boa constrictor scales (and not just because they’re a pain to draw), I wanted something from the the faster, sleeker specimens.

In hindsight, I seem to have gone for the smallish nonvenomous colubrids, species that probably would have made reasonable (and not particularly dangerous) pets. They do have the fiercest little faces though, with the streamlined scales and huge angry eyes. But, of course, those eyes have one little problem: they don’t look like the traditional “snake eyes,” with the little cat-pupils. They’re all round and troublesomely adorable. My preferred draconian visage wound up being a combination of several snakes and lizards, in the end, and of course I’ve far from mastered it even today. But when I just go on autopilot like this one, I’ve got the little green grass snake and his kin to thank for what appears.

Two legs at noon….

Mothra2I finally decided on the White-lined Sphinx for the color palette — it doesn’t necessarily go with the feathery antennae or teddy-bear legs, but I simply couldn’t do without those. It’s just not properly mothy to me without a lot of fluffy brownness. The Sphinx, on the other hand, contributes a little much-needed color and contrast with the namesake white lines (which I may render beige/yellow) and that bright splash of pink on the hindwings. 

In a somewhat relevant vein, I just spent about an hour explaining to someone what “fantasy” meant. Not like, the definition of the word itself, but the genre. Usually the trouble is distinguishing fantasy from sci-fi or supernatural, but this was more a case of convincing them that “fantasy” didn’t just boil down to “unicorns and Pokemon” (though I personally have nothing against either — or Rapidash). It can be awfully trying to describe a genre to someone who seems to view it as fundamentally “stupid” or “silly” … but I finally managed to get us started on brainstorming some possible fantasy scenarios. I was a bit trying in my own right, by constantly replying “Oh, like in [book title]” instead of nodding and pretending it was a new idea (as if those exist). To be fair, I consider it a compliment to compare something to a favorite fantasy book.

Speaking of favorite fantasy, I stumbled across the last Diana Wynne Jones (or rather, Diana and Ursula Jones) book the other day. The name of a deceased author on a new-book spine always catches my eye — and it happens just often enough to warrant an “always” there — though the quality does have a way of varying. I’ve heard good things about Islands of Chaldea though, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it. Wish me luck (or warn/encourage me if you’ve already read it)!

Mothra1

Sun’s comin’ up down on Main Street….

Madame Moth

Look, I’m being good and actually posting the project I’m ostensibly working on! Mostly because I put off this entry till the last minute and didn’t have time to think of anything else, but it’s something.

Side note: My little gecko’s eye is better, as far as I can tell — though, despite the abundant humidity and scratchy-things I’ve offered, he now has a little shed-mustache (more like shed-muttonchops, actually) that he’s even touchier about than the eye. Luckily it’s not anywhere that’s in a hurry to get infected or lose circulation and fall off, so I’ll just keep the shed box moist and let him take his time with this one.

Anyhow, I think I have Madame Moth’s pose down, though I’ll surely rearrange bits and pieces a few more times. I’m not sure whether I want her scarf to be a fancy scarf or a winter scarf, or something in-between. She’s got an umbrella, so unless she’s in a really weird climate I think I’ll probably be going with “fancy scarf.” Though a few days ago I probably could’ve used a scarf and an umbrella — in the midst of our annual lowland floods, it got down into the very low 50’s, a good ten degrees below average and just shy of a record. There weren’t as many “cold day in July” jokes as you’d expect, which I suppose was a mercy. I, of course, am not so merciful.

I’m not sure what colors I’ll be using, yet. The umbrella will probably be some flavor of black-and-white or black-and-brown, recalling the cryptic/disruptive coloring so often seen on the leading edges of moth and butterfly wings. The rest should probably be brown and beige tones, though my affinity for splashes of color may thwart that plan. The feathers, though already partially colored (I just can’t stand leaving it empty pencil) will need to become a lot more convincingly “feathery” before they’re done.

I think that’s all I’ve got. I’m a little (okay, maybe a lot) worn out from walking downtown, watching the holiday parade, going to work, walking around more downtown, and then walking home yesterday — all in all I wasn’t on my feet much longer than a regular workday, but there was a good bit more walking and outdoors-being. Fortunately I don’t sunburn, or I probably would have, but either way I think I got just a tad more sun than I needed. The unseasonably cool weather makes it easy to forget that it’s not *that* cool. Nevertheless, a proper night’s sleep and all is mended. Until next time!