Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Love Affair With Mini Birdhouses

Raw wood and a copper
roof transformed into a
hanging decoration
When I started painting birdhouses, I started small, with what I call a mini-birdhouse. I didn't have the confidence to have enough "to say," I felt, with a larger one. It didn't take me long, after trying a larger birdhouse to, as they say, "Find my voice," and for awhile I didn't bother with small ones again.
When starting with a plain birdhouse,
its not what it is but what you can do
with it!
   However, as I did more and more, I found a wide variety of designs making it easier to work experimentally on small birdhouses that cost $1 than one costing from $5  to $10. Believe me, there were many mistakes made. 
   Hours spent checking out the competition made me realize that you could do so much more, with any size, than just putting a color on the sides and roof, adding a flea bitten painted flower and calling it quits. It was their small size that encouraged me ... and I am finding that it is again, here in the desert! One of the prime movers is that I found a whole bunch of unpainted mini-birdhouses and it is so hot you don't even want to think about going outdoors.

   Though, they are quite plain, with out much or any design, the challenge is what you can do with them! And, I love an artistic challenge.

  Take the birdhouse at above. I bought several and was intrigued with some abstract modern art I had recently seen and was convinced that I could do the same thing, the abstract part, as an artist on a birdhouse as I saw done with a canvas. While birdhouses or anything 3-dimensional is a challenge, I felt up to the task. What I came up with captured the spirit of the canvases I had seen yet also created a kind of 21st Century birdhouse.
   As you can see, they are all the same wooden birdhouses transformed by the addition of feet and some pretty wild colors. They remain mini-birdhouses but in the right setting, could make a true accent and color statement.
Here is the basic sketch I did of four birdhouses
painted with the same pattern but with colors
that matched their season ... hence my
Four Seasons Birdhouses
Here is the finished product, THE FOUR SEASONS

  As a college Journalism and Advertising major, our director insisted that we make mini sketches. He would have us draw small boxes on plain paper (the boxes similar in shape to the ad or paper feature) and then with a simplified palette sketch in the major photo, headlines, captions and body copy. He told us that it would help us create a flow, something that would guide the viewer through the article or ad. Once we hit upon a design we felt would do that, we would then, back in the 60's, begin the long laborious task of drawing an ad by hand that almost looked like it had been printed. We labored hours each week, trust me.
Have some fun. The mini, copper roofed
 birdhouse begged for something different.
It sold so I guess someone else thought
so too!
   I continue this even today. It is soooo much easier to make designs and their corrections on a piece of paper, usually scraps from chopping up scrap printer paper, pages from my Dilbert Calendar, anything that allows me to sketch out designs and get the placement right. If you notice from the sketches I do the front, back and side(s) leaving nothing to chance. The design is then sketched by hand onto the birdhouse after a decision is made to leave the wood alone and stain later or if there is to be a base color. A word of caution. DON'T be too heavy handed with the pencil. There are always some marks left behind that will need to be erased before you either varnish it or, as I do, antique it. Once there is a coat of anything on top, that mark will never, ever go away.
This is also the time to be experimental.
While I no longer have this birdhouse
it remains the most viewed item on my
Etsy store. That led me to try another
version ... this time round!
   Since a mini birdhouse will be much cheaper, even, cheaper after certain holidays), the only true real expense is your time. Your wooden "canvas" is cheap and it will require little paint. The true downside is because they are small they take as much time to create as a larger birdhouse. It was this that led me to do several at a time. Once a coat of paint in on, there isn't the time or space for it to dry. Do two sides, let dry and have another ready to work on.
The original design had a grid going all
around with small hearts and flowers at
the intersections. A slip started a 
Rosemaling "S" and I went with it.

   I also discovered using the same design but different color ways, that in the process of hand marking and hand painting each birdhouse will be subtley different. On the glance they appear to look alike, it is only on closer inspection that you will notice the differences.
   For me, the changes usually are for the better. At that point you have to design to go back and change the others or to leave well enough alone.
Not fond of green, I felt that I should give
it a try. Here I used brown and green
just like a tree.
   I can't begin to tell you how in the process of either drawing or painting a birdhouse one day you might slip and find that you like that "mistake" better. I think if happens for me, about every time. Really. It is at that moment you have to make a decision.
 Using color is another big advantage, especially with acrylics. You can play with them here on a small surface and either paint over it or throw the mess away if you don't like it. You don't feel you are out much. Never ever think of a reject as a loss either. It taught you a lesson that you would never have learned if you hadn't tried it. We have have projects that we feel are, ugh, bad, awful, there I said it,  can be loved by someone else. I sure many great artists have had the same experiences. So try it out then see the reaction!
   However, if you sell your items you might give your "reject" a try out before sending it to file 13. One of the things that has surprised me more than anything else is how colors and designs I end up not liking can oftentimes be liked by someone else. I guess, when you look all around, if we all liked the same things, our world would be pretty boring.
Choose from a variety of shapes
   That is what drives me to not only to be creative with the design and paint, it is the little things that you can add to the surface, somewhere that makes each one unique in its own right.
   One of the things I like is the inventiveness of mini-birdhouse makers. They seem to offer an endless variety of things to paint giving us even more reason to try them out.
   Finally, I know that painters look down their noses at crafters ... all you have to do is look into their eyes when you say you paint, birdhouses, and you will know what I mean. But, as I pointed out visiting the La Quinta Art Festival this year, more and more canvas art is becoming 3-dimensional. Artists use several painted canvases joined together, looking for depth. We are seeing more collages that are becoming more acceptable as I watched more than a few patrons lugging their find out to the car. There was one that I really really liked and will probably remember as the one "that got away." It seems that people want their canvas world to be like more like their real world, 3D. Witness the sudden growth of 3D glasses, and artists are understanding these new requirements and are stepping up to fill the void. Will you?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Tale of Two Mini Lighthouse Birdhouses

One of two lighthouse birdhouses
   Yesterday it was 112º here in Palm Springs, CA. The weather lady says it will continue to climb until it reaches 119º on Tuesday. Needless to say there will not be a great deal of outdoor activity other than walking the dog at 5 am and hugging the shadows as you sneak out to the pool enjoying its slightly cooler temperatures ... for at least a few more days. Once summer really hits you might as well bring your bar of soap and shampoo when going to the pool. The water is THAT warm! However, the HOA frowns on such actions so its just easier to stay indoors ... well, until the dog has to pee. Even she waits until her eyeballs turn yellow! She has turned expert in finding the shadows while tippy toeing to the shade.
   One of the things I've done is to convert the second small bedroom into a studio. There with my radio playing audio books or the iPad playing movies from Amazon Prime, I can paint to my hearts content. In the process of creating a birdhouse as a birthday gift, I dragged out a few of the too many mini birdhouses I own and between coats on the big birdhouse put a base coat on the small ones. Here is the tale of two of them ... $1 purchases at Michaels that at some time I thought were cute. Now, not so much.
First coat - Cobalt blue base color
   After reopening my ETSY store, one of the items that seemed to get constant views was another simple, small cobalt birdhouse with hearts and flowers long gone but still in their collective memory. Since it was gone, all I had were photos of it. Not wanting an ordinary lighthouse painted birdhouse and knowing people loved looking at the older, colorful birdhouse, I decided to try to create a round version on not one but two mini lighthouse birdhouses. One would feature flowers, the other swans, designs that were on the other birdhouse not divided into two!
Adding the red using a liner to create the hearts outline and
then a round to fill them in. Red added to top and bottom
   I have to admit cobalt blue is a very favorite color. I have a cobalt glass collection and am always on the lookout at the thrift stores for additional pieces.    Friends here know me for my love of red. I guess a red dining room, a glowing red Mazda and red accents throughout the condo would give a clue. So its red and blue.
   Between coats on one birdhouse I added colors to the other mini birdhouses as I waited for paint to dry. I have discovered that the DecoArt Traditions Extender makes painting so much easier without diluting the opaque color of the paint. When you are painting such small items, you are often reduced to using a liner brush to get even the simplest design painted. The extender is a godsend in helping with that process.
Side view of Floral Lighthouse
   It was at this point that I had to decide. There just wasn't enough room on a round birdhouse to recreate the elements used in a square one so ... since I had two birdhouses, I decided to take the floral elements and use them on one birdhouse and take the swans and use them on the other.
Floral Lighthouse back
   Decisions, decisions. Taking a pencil I drew on one creating a nice balance from front to back and working out the views front, back and sides. I should point out small may be better but it is not better on a small birdhouse. After getting too wrapped up in getting a color on all sides of one lighthouse and then finding I was smearing it, learned to do one side, put it down and then work on the other. Acrylic's dry fast, especially here in the desert, hence the extender, but not that fast. So it
really does pay to work on two (or more) at a time to avoid the inevitable smearing. As you can see your space and margin of error are pretty limited so you learn to do one thing and then move on to the other project.
   For me it is a constant design process. You are often so absorbed in what you are trying to do you actually don't hear or are in some ways even know where you are. It is a constant series of decisions and concentration of what you are doing and what you want to achieve. Very often a mistake will lead to another design decision that you realize is even better than the one you were trying to achieve. Serendipity I guess!
Swans Lighthouse back
   When I started doing this craft painting for sale on my ETSY store I did a series of birdhouses in sets of three. Everyone thought I was crazy but I worked hard on my designs and realized soon enough that even the same design that was hand drawn and hand painted there were differences. Even more amazing, they all sold! As I worked my way down the "line," by the time I finished the last one, the first one was dry and ready for the next step. While I didn't use the same design here I did use the same colors which made it easier most of the time. The extender made the drying time a little slower and I wished I had had three lighthouses. No matter, there were three other styles waiting.
Swans Lighthouse front
  In many ways craft painting is harder than painting on a canvas. A canvas is two dimensions ... width and height. However, after attending several of the world class art exhibits here in the desert, even that old rule seems to be changing. Multi-media canvases with many additional items besides paint are being created and many of them stand a canvas as we have always known it on its ears!
   When crafting on usually a wooden or maybe ceramic surface, you have the front, back, top, bottoms and sides to worry about. ALL sides are seen and getting them all balanced takes time.
   One of the things these birdhouses has shown me that despite the use of the same colors, there is easily an infinite variety of designs that can also be used with the same colors. That may be a concept that I might want to try. Using the same colors on a variety of items and designs. It certainly would make the painting process easier. As it is now, I have far too many paints and choices. You almost spend as much time trying to decide as actually painting!
   They are finally  finished and posted on my ETSY store.

   Here is the working list of items used in this birdhouse:
  •    Birdhouse - Michael's, $1.00@
  •    Paint: 
    • Birdhouse base - Folk Art Cobalt Blue
    • Roof / base - DecoArt Traditions Naphthol Red
    • Tulips / Swans / Accents - Traditions Opaque White (and one coat usually works too!)
    • Leaves - Folk Art Hauser Green Light
    • Leaves - Old Delta Dark Forest Green   
    • Top - DecoArt Dazzling Metallic Gold
    • Small Flowers / Stamens - DecoArt Americana Cad Yellow
    • Painted accents - Folk Art Pumpkin
    • Shadows - Liquid Shadow
    • Lines: Sharpie Ultra Fine Orange
  •    DecoArt Satin Finish
If you are interested, these are available on my Etsy.com store. Check it out at KrugsStudio.etsy.com.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hearts & Flowers: Creating a new mini-birdhouse

Hearts & Flowers Mini-birdhouse
   After a few days of amazing weather when it was hard to concentrate, the heat is on in Palm Springs. All day long now my phone beeps that we are under "An Excessive Heat Advisory." Well, after all, this is the desert. So, while I was getting my gift birdhouse ready, for once I am ready for a birthday a month away, I also started working on a series of small birdhouses.
   I have too many and truth be told they are more difficult to work on than a much larger one. Don't let that $1.00 cost trick you. It takes as much time on one of those little devils as the $5.00 + versions. When you're craft painting, from my experience, bigger IS better.
  So as the big one dried, I put on the base coat of 5 small birdhouses. Of course they were different colors ... cobalt blue, sand, granite grey that was distressed and one, painted on a whim, pink.
    I had already painted a small round birdhouse with a Naphthol Red roof. The bottom was still raw wood. What color, what color? Suddenly I looked at the pinks and picked one that was almost a rose color rather than bubblegum and thought it went well with the red. I would distress it anyway so pink it was.
     The next step was, well, now what? I was tired of hearts and tulips and hit upon making the front and back a wide vase full of calla lilies. I sketched them in and realized it was perfect. The white lilies stood out from the pink but not too much. Since just about all of my pieces have a heart on them, somewhere, I dug into the packet of metallic hearts I got in Hong Kong. There were hearts with the heart center punched out leaving a heart shaped hole. The parts punched out were in the same packet and placing a few at the base realized their shiny shape complemented the flowers and so it was chasing tiny hearts with tweezers as I tried to get them in place on top of the SuperGlue.
Adding details helps
   After the flowers were in place and painted in, a "V" design went around the base and the tiny hearts were glued at the tips. Its a feat not gluing your fingers together or to the birdhouse!
   One idea was to create faux tiles on the roof. I have tried and liked adding a design on the roof, something that goes along with the theme of the design below. I tried calla lilies draped hanging down from the peak. I liked it and felt it worked with the vases of flowers below.
   The final touch was adding screw hole plugs to the base, as feet painted gold that lifts the birdhouse a bit from the floor.  Finally I added a deep burgundy to the base, darker than the roof.
   Design wise its a departure for me. No Pennsylvania Dutch flourishes, no Rosemaling swirling "C" or "S" shapes. Just a simple vase with a few calla lilies, front and back.
   The majority of the painting was with either a liner brush for the small details or a small round brush to fill in the areas after they were defined with the liner. If you make a mistake, let it dry and go over it again.
Gold feet, shiny red hearts
compliment the vase and lilies
   To tone down and get all colors to "agree" with each other, I used a burnt umber wash. It adds a bit of family heirloom look even if its brand new and the colors aren't too garish allowing it to be used as a decoration in just about any indoor setting.
   Adding all the items together, the cost is minimal. However, as we all know, the value of the time it takes to create an item is many, MANY times the value of the materials used.
   I hope you like it. It started out as an albatross to me as I don't like pink. Yet, that said, pink and rose pink items have sold in my Etsy store and that may have been the incentive to add yet another one to see what kind of a response it gets.

   Here is the working list of items used in this birdhouse:

  •    Birdhouse - Michael's, $1.00
  •    Paint: 
    • Birdhouse base - Old Delta Pink Quartz
    • Roof - DecoArt Traditions Naphthol Red
    • Calla Lilies - Traditions Opaque White (and one coat usually works too!)
    • Leaves - Folk Art Hauser Green Light
    • Leaves - Old Delta Dark Forest Green   
    • Perch and feet - DecoArt Dazzling Metallic Gold
    • Vases - DecoArt Dazzling Metallic Festive Red
    • Stamens - DecoArt Americana Cad Yellow
    • Shadows - Liquid Shadow
  •    Chinese reflective hearts
  •    Screw hole plug feet (4)
  •    DecoArt Satin Finish
If you are interested, this will be offered on my Etsy.com store. Check it out at KrugsStudio.etsy.com.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Under The Gun: Creating A Fabulous Birdhouse

   If there is anything that I have learned, too many times the "gifts" you have spent literally hours creating too often end up being unappreciated. They are opened, looked at, put aside and then the next item is reached for and your gift forgotten. I have suspicions it becomes another white elephant gifted to the next hapless soul. There are many crafters and you feel few appreciate your work.
Starting with a raw Michael's birdhouse.
Not very Santa Fe Style I admit.
   When my sister asked pointedly for one of my fabulous birdhouses, something I have rarely given to anyone nor feel are especially, well, fabulous, I was surprised. Here I had brought things from Hong Kong as gifts so was taken by surprise. She knows I enjoy creating things so maybe she is being kind.
   She lives in the middle of nowhere New Mexico in an old adobe house and she has an eclectic collection of things ... in reality probably no different than my collection from Africa, Ethiopia, Japan, China and who knows where else.  I guess this collecting runs in the family!
The first step was finding colors that
would be used in New Mexico
   This time I really had to decide just what kind of birdhouse to create. Somehow I felt Pennsylvania Dutch or Rosemaling just didn't seem right. I Admit, I have always admired the "Santa Fe" Style, especially their use of colors, so decided those colors would be a starting point.
   The birdhouse I purchased at Michael's didn't look very New Mexican but I had a plan. The first part of that plan was the use of colors. I felt that the colors and added items would help me convert this to something "Territorial!"
The turquoise fence completed the colors.
Next faking a tile roof!
   Color was key. It had to be New Mexican, not Floridian nor even typical of California. Anyone whose ever been to Santa Fe or Old Town Albuquerque knows what I'm talking about. Color is one of the most important factors for the feel of place.
   Once those colors were in place it was a matter of adding things, giving it a bit of dimension beyond the tri-plex of flat sided birdhouses. Since this was never intended to go outside, I felt that I could add all kinds of things. After wandering both Michael's and Hobby Lobby I found things that I could add and felt would be perfect ... a wheel, chili's, small flowers in tiny pots, even a half pot!
Turquoise becomes the coordinating color
   While the color blocks looked good, it is the way you decorate that elevates this from a mere birdhouse to a kind of Santa Fe fantasy. It is deciding what to add and where to put it that makes the old grey matter work. I had seen cobalt blue used on many doors, usually against a strong rust, gold or terra cotta so decided to create doors around the perches. Using the turquoise of the fence, I felt it added a touch of color to the perches and tied all the colors together. The base was a DecoArt Americana Graphite that I purposed distressed. While it is tempting to add lots of color(s), limiting them and repeating them on your project makes it stronger. 
By adding items to break up the flat surfaces
it gains a real lifelike dimension.
   To complete the "look" I decided to give the illusion of tiles on the roofs. Paint can do some amazing things and it looks pretty good.
   Now that the colors are in place, it was time to add things. I found a small birdhouse that I glued on the tallest section and then used cream colored lines to decorate below that.
Here the contrasting wheel breaks up the flat,
straight surfaces. It echoes the rounded door.
  Next came an old wheel leaning against the fence painted like an old wagon wheel. The final touch was to add a half flower pot and then paint cactus coming out of it.
   The final step for me has always been giving the entire project an "antiquing" coat, usually a brown wash used on the edges. It tones down overly bright colors and helps tie even the brightest colors together. I also feel it gives it an old look, something that has been in the family a few generations. 
   Does it ever go the way you plan? Rarely. This time, and this is one of the first complete new items started this year, I have allowed it to develop. Looking for things I decided that it would be fun to dig in the collection of things I had adding only items that were needed like the flowers in pots on the small porch and the string of chili's that hang on the porches of many homes in New Mexico.
Its that small birdhouse, flower pot
and chili's that complete the "look!"
Antiqued and finished. 
 It was fun to create and gave me a chance to try some new ideas ... the use of colors, what and where to add things, and how to create the feeling of a style despite the items that are available.
   Of course I wanted a rounded, adobe style birdhouse but had to do with what I could find. It is the little things that give anything you do the kind of visual clue that you are looking for. It may not be fabulous, but I think I have achieved a look that she will enjoy to show. Somehow it looks New Mexican!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Reliving THE FIFTIES In Palm Springs, a Photographic Journey

One of the best books written about
an era I lived in but didn't understand
While I was born in October of 1945, the tale end of "The Silent Generation," I grew up in the Boomer Generation. My generation may have been quiet (because no President of the United States came from our generation), but those of us born at the end of one generation consider themselves Boomers.
   And what a time it was too. After a decade of the Depression and a world war, Americans were ready to live again. They did too! We were busy. Life changed dramatically after the war with more changes probably in my lifetime than in all of world history. While we watched the news everyday on TV it wasn't until I read Halberstam's book about the era that I realized just how much had changed. You don't realize things when you are living it, especially as a child.
All of the homes were one story
but as you can see, many were
dramatic in vision and design
   Everything we knew and used was going to change too. Radio and movies were almost replaced by TV. They went from black and white TV's to color. Tiny TV's became huge 100" 4K, Ultra LED monsters that fill an entire wall, not unlike Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451. We didn't burn books, we digitized them. Music went from scratchy 78 r.p.m. records to 33 1/3 LP's, to cassettes to digital first on CD's then streamed live. Email replaced a handwritten letter, cars had fins and lots of color nothing like the black, white, grey and maybe a touch of red now and then today. Cars were yellow, turquoise, vermillion, blinding red, blue, green even triple color versions of black, pink and white! Rockets launched satellites, we walked on the moon, there is a space station and shuttle flights. Black bakelite AT&T phones morphed into smart phones and we can talk and see each other on them. Everything we do has been changed and possibly not for the better. Only history will say for sure. There are often unintended consequences. We can all think about that, right?
Copper Leaf Door
   Palm Springs became the get away for many Hollywood movie stars. Regular people bought as well drawn by the wonderful winters. People from all over the nation wanted a vacation home in the desert. Sitting by the pool beat shoveling snow on sidewalks. Hundreds if not thousands of "Modern" homes were built by now famous architects that stood housing design on it head. Of course no one lived in these poorly insulated homes with thin flat roofs sitting on concrete slabs with tons of windows, long before double or triple panes came along during the summer with 115º temperatures. These homes however, definitely made a statement. A testimony  to this vision is the annual "Modernism Week" where people come from all over the world to tour the many 50's homes that still remain.
One of the most famous doors in
Palm Springs.
   When the new West Elm opened here recently, I walked in stunned. I felt that I had stepped back in time ... to our home and the homes of most of our friends. When the sales lady asked what I thought, I said I felt I was in our 50's home. She laughed and said many people that day had said the same thing.
   Beside painting, a hobby I have had since I was 5, was photography. That was when I got my first camera. I photographed  when I was high school yearbook editor where about 25% of the photos were mine as well as 50% of those used were printed by me in my photo class! I took thousands of photos in the Peace Corps, Europe and many of the photos used in my graphic design business were mine.
   When a new Meet Up group formed here in Palm Springs I joined. Our first group event, this past Saturday was to photograph famous "modern" doors in the Indian Canyon area of Palm Springs.
   This was an area I had never been to before and was amazed at all the 50's homes still remaining. I can remember my first visit in 1963. We came in July, it was hotter than hell (I lived in Portland, OR at the time so anything over about 80º was HOT), the streets were deserted ... of people, of cars and it seemed maybe life itself! The few denizens you saw wore nearly nothing and looked about the color of dried up old nuts. Brown and wrinkly.
   Whole neighborhoods were built aa the same time. Even today there are neighborhood associations that have banners and march in a variety of local parades.
Stately white, Chinese lions with pink and yellow inner tubes!
 There seems to be no accent that hasn't been tried. They are all fascinating and nearly all play off a blinding white house.
Black and orange drama
in a small space!
   You can drive block after block in this area and while the houses are often white, there is color in the doorway, the door or the entry. Pink is quite popular as is orange.
  I'm not sure I would want to own one. As an architectural major in high school and knowing about construction of homes today, unless they have redone their roof, especially the insulation of it, I would guess these places are pretty warm to live in. I know that I wouldn't want to live in an original house. Last summer it reached 122º and finally working, my A/C worked hard to keep my downstairs condo at 78º.
   I want to note that photography initially was snubbed by the great painters. As time went on though, many embraced it as a way to "freeze" a scene allowing them to paint it exactly as they saw or wanted to remember it. Its no surprise that painters and photographers share many of the same attributes. Color, lighting, adding and subtracting light are much the same though one paints with light, the other with pigment. As anyone who has ever printed a photograph knows, a good print can take as much time as a painting. Ask Ansel Adams. He refined his photograph "Moonrise Over Hernandez, NM" most of his career. To see the original print and the iconic vision of today, you would see it, like a painting, evolved over his lifetime.
   Keep your camera handy. You never know when you might see the image that begs to be printed or painted!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Mundane Tasks of Life (That Get In The Way of Creativity)

Bucket of soap to wash the car. A man's chore?
   As I was washing my car this morning, before it got too hot, I reflected on where my days go. I mean, here I am a single man, living a simple, quiet life in a 1,000 sq. ft. condo and have only myself and my dog to worry about. That's it! But then, as I began to reflect about my day(s) and why "artistic" things weren't getting done, I realized that like cooking for yourself, there is a great deal of "maintenance" in our lives. Just because you're single it does not allow you to live like a pig in squalor. Well, for some of us anyway. Making a condo a home takes lots of work! Ah, let me count the ways. 
      I can just about hear every woman reading this chortling and I know what they mean too! When my first child was only about 6 months old, I made a snide comment coming home one night about there always being clothes on the sofa. The house was small and when you walked in, you were literally in the living room. Furious with me, my wife said that she was going out Saturday and I could take care of my son. I have never worked so hard. Saturday morning the day began with a new diaper. Then time to eat, then stripping him, a bath, doing laundry and before I knew it, it was time to eat again ... and do laundry, bathe and fold clothes. This was repeated at lunch, and dinner. She said she came home early that evening. I wouldn't know, we were both exhausted and already in bed! Whenever men would say their wives didn't work, they were housewives, I told them they couldn't do what their wives did each and every day. Working wives have it even worse!

MORNING RITUALS: Walking the Dog 
 My black Lab likes to eat early, like 4 a.m. early. Half of her gets on the bed and licks me then uses probing sharp claws to make sure I'm awake. By the time I stumble outside to feed her, wait the minute or so for her to gobble her food, its nearly impossible to go back to sleep. So ... getting myself up I put on walking shoes, clothes and we head out the door.
   I know I'm not supposed to but if we walk really early I let her walk without a leash on. I carry it as most of the time she obeys but there are days she's feeling frisky. When she won't obey the leash gets snapped back on. She doesn't seem to hold a grudge and walks alongside me stopping now and then to pee or poop.
   And the day is not done. Every 2 or 3 or 4 hours you must take her out for a short walk to, in my case, look for lizards she can catch in a heartbeat, another pee and after dinner in the evening another poop. Your dog duty is not over till bedtime. Usually when she has to go ... she has to go. Painting can wait!
   There is also the constant grooming. Dogs are simply GIANT fur balls. I could easily fill a pillow with dog hair each and every month. As I write this I swear she is molting!!!
 MORNING RITUALS: Washing up and eating
Beard or not, there is
still daily maintenance
Cleanliness is next to godliness
  My day, once back home, begins with a shave and a shower. I may be balding and older but that hair still grows on your face. Beard or not, for most men, something needs to be trimmed. There's the shower and finally at some point brushing of teeth.
   Then there's breakfast. It could be anything from cold cereal to a treat of eggs and bacon or, if I'm feeling really hungry, waffles on my handy waffle maker. Then it's putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher and cleaning up. In the desert you rinse every dirty dish as it's so dry dried food sets like rocks on dishes and silverware.

I hate to vacuum though it could
be the vacuum. A cordless next time.
Then its time to consider domestic chores. Since my dog is big and hairy, it usually is time to run the dust buster or if its been more than a day my O' Cedar robot that while not perfect does manage to find hair in places I don't care to bend over and reach. While I'm not that good, as say my German aunt, I should really swab the floor with a mop after a thorough vacuuming. I said should. Do I?
Another fun chore ... need I say more? I have two.
   I have a Shark vacuum that I hate. Yes, it cleans pretty well on my tile and fake wood floors but I think whoever designed the cord placement was a sadist. I stumble, trip and disengage the thing countless times. But, it must be done before the mop comes out. 
   Next comes the mop. I do have a Swiffer but again, who really uses that? Five swipes and the floor looks even worse. They show a smiling man using it in the ads. Come over here. Trust me, I'm not smiling. Yet I have to admit I'm amazed at just how dirty the floor does get in a day. 
   And the dust! You can dust or wash your car in the morning, by afternoon the first layer of dust appears on things. If you don't do it daily, each day it gets thicker and thicker. I guess that's the price of living in the desert.

There are a few days during the month when its time to look at and hopefully have the money to pay your bills! Never pleasant and not one of my strong suits, I pore over each one and have been known to visit the source asking (okay, demanding) why its this high! No one is surprised when their cable bill goes up ... that doesn't make it any better. I keep cutting services and the bill still inches up. There are other culprits too ... the phone company, the electric utility, bank fees. You get the picture. Everyone seems to have their hands out. Where's that nun with the ruler?

MONTHLY RITUALS:  Washing & Ironing
There is the white load, the medium
load and finally the dark load.
One of the best things I did when I moved into my own condo was get a stacking washer and dryer. After buying a new rolling laundry hamper with two baskets on Amazon, all I have to do now is roll it to the hallway, open the doors and load the washer. When finished, move up to the dryer. Easy, peezy. What I really hate doing though is the ironing. 
Look familiar? They must
have come to my place.
   OK, I'm anal. I can't imagine going out in even a polo and shorts that weren't ironed. A habit since I was in high school, it served me well in college and many years of my marriage. But doing it, doesn't make it like fun. So meanwhile, the closet fills with items that need to be ironed and finally, shamed, I get out the ironing board, iron, water and starch and grimly shoulder on watching "The Jerry Springer Show." There are people with worse lives.

AFTERNOON  RITUALS: Grocery Shopping
Making a list and
checking it twice
I was never much of a shopper. My idea of shopping (before Amazon of course) was looking at the weekly ads, making a list and then scurrying through the store in and out as quickly as possible. Studies have shown I am not alone. I think it was when I was in Hong Kong I realized that shopping was their national sport. Prices ARE high and you are always on the hunt for a deal! Ever been to a Walmart where all 40 registers are going and you can't see the ends of the line? Visit China sometime.  Chinese are not afraid about asking if there is an additional discount. Word to you wise Americans, you would be surprised at how many "more discounts" there are here!!!
   Grocery shopping has to be the worst though. The chains are expensive, the choices are always the same. Yuck. Then about a year ago a German company named Aldi opened stores here in the desert. Fresh 'N Easy had just failed (English) and we had little hope for the Germans. After shopping there after a recent visit to Walmart and finding my bill was about half for the same items, they had a new convert. Right now avocados sell for 29¢ each at Aldi ... they are 88¢ each at Ralph's just up the street. When I went to Hong Kong last they were 25¢ here, so as a gift to my friend who treats them like gold, I brought him six! They were equivalent to $2.00 each US there. He was a very happy man!
   In the name of conservation grocery bags now cost from 5-10¢ each.  So you keep your stash in the car, wheeling the cart to your car, packaging them, then once home lug them in, put away. Is it time for that martini yet?

No matter how good for a single
person it is still a meal for one
There is nothing sadder than cooking a meal for one. Really. I can see why so many of my single friends, even couples go out to eat ... far too often for me. Yet what do you cook?
   For awhile whenever I would cook meat; pork, chicken even a steak now and then, I would cook two. Eat one and then have another for another night. When a friend from Hong Kong was here after a day of moving, he looked in the kitchen cupboard and found some Top Ramen. He showed me a quick and easy way to make a better meal by adding an egg, tomato, then scallions before adding the noodles. It was wonderful! Later I discovered you could cut up that extra chicken breast or pork chop, some scallions and add to the Top Ramen and it made a hearty soup. But what was the best is the Good Housekeeping Cookbook and recipes to make in your crockpot. OH MY! Let it cook for more than a day and you have wonderful, hearty meals. The only downside is that by day 3 or 4, you're pretty sick of that recipe. So, eat a meal and freeze the rest. The microwave is a bachelors best friend!

EVENING RITUALS: Doing the Dishes
I admire the gloves. I guess my hands
are tough enough. They still have skin.
After dinner that is prepared late afternoon or evening, there is the cleaning ritual. Leftovers saved and put in the fridge, foods used in prep put away and then loading of the dishwasher for some items and scrubbing of others that won't get clean enough. I would really like to see the dishwasher that you can simply load, crud and all on it and when the cycle was done, is sparkling clean. It has never been my or anyone I know's experience.
   Then when they are washed hours later, they still must be put away only to get dirty again. I'm beginning to consider paper everything from Smart & Final. They just might be cheaper than running a dishwasher! When the meal is done, into the trash!

EVENING  RITUALS: TV, A Good Book and finally bedtime
If you have made it this far, you can see that each day is pretty busy. I of course missed the requisite nap, but at 71 I deserve that. By around 8 pm my mind has about shut down and about all its good for is to merely watch something. If its exciting or funny like FLORENCE FOSTER JERKINS you will stay awake. To watch "Survivor" or "Dancing With The Stars" made up skullduggery, then its snooze time. I try to avoid that embarrassment by going to bed with a good book ... trusty dog following from the living room to snooze in the bedroom ... after that last walk yawning like the dead.

   With the car now washed and dry, I finally realized where the day goes ... that doesn't include all the little tasks that are part of doing the big tasks. I will just have to carve the time to get my artistic side fulfilled not just the side that feels guilt at every fluff of hair on the floor!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com