Weeks Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen: One of the Least Funny Jokes I Know

QUESTION: What do you call it when you get so far behind photographing and posting self-portrait drawings, you can’t see your studio floor?

ANSWER: Perilously close to your Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition

Welcome to one of the least funny jokes I know. For real. My life has become frowny-face fodder for even the most dedicated hoarder. Physical space, mental space, emotional space: they’re all stacked to the ceiling with odds and ends, ups and downs. I suppose I should expect no less scant weeks from a major end/beginning. but that doesn’t stop me wishing for a clear spot… at least something big enough to stand in for a brief, golden, peaceful moment.

studio_mess

In other words, I’m in deep: so much so that saying I’m seriously overwhelmed is seriously underestimating the situation. Days gallop along with me clinging desperately to the reins wondering what just flew past my peripheral vision. Gee… I hope that wasn’t important….

None of this is a surprise, of course: not really. Oh sure, safe in the soft nurturing arms of my first graduate year, I conjured fuzzy, perfectionist dreams of a totally organized second year. I would plan everything, and, moreover I would stick to that plan with gum-in-your-hair-before-a-wedding tenacity. Not for me the procrastinator panic I saw from the previous class. Hahahhaha, oh no. I would be together.

Yeah.

Even in the midst of my wildest flights of unjustified superiority complex, some rational, realist part of me knew neat and organized was not how my final semester would go down. For better or worse, I am a deadline driven artist, at least when it comes to finishing things to the point of exhibition. So, really, I was always going to be one of the goggle-eyed, high-strung, OH-MY-GOD-WHAT-THE-FUUUUUUUUU-DID-I-GET-MYSELF-INTO panickers.

Now I’m plunk in the midst of the crazy, and the title of this post says it all. Life is rather massively unfunny at the moment. It isn’t funny or fun or fundamentally healthy or anything else you can think of that starts with the sixth, twenty-first and fourteenth letters of the English alphabet (except perhaps fungus… the situation is kinda fungus-y). Hopefully the chaos proves worth it in a few weeks. Whatever else happens, I am at least managing to make daily drawings (as evidenced by my studio floor). The rest I’ll forgive myself… for now.

 

Week Ten: Code Quash

So, in addition to restarting DrawDown this week, I made looooonnngg overdue updates to my website www.dlzartner.com. This included adding new artwork—you know… stuff that’s not old enough be in preschool— and also restructuring the code to make things more user-friendly, flexible and responsive. I’m totally being all productive and crap. 🙂

Yes… productive, but there’s a dark side. As is often the case with Del-sponsored project undertakings (particularly the ones that involve hand coding), what I think will take a cheery few hours ends up brutally cannibalizing days or even weeks. Gah! And I haven’t even ironed out out all the kinks and wibbles yet! Nonetheless, the site is live because I felt it important to get things going instead of holding out for perfect perfectionistic perfectness. Huh… there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. 😛

Anyhoo, if you happen to visit dlzartner.com in the next few weeks, please let me know about any bugs you end up swatting on your browser and/or device o’ choice. There is a comment form under the contact tab. I will correct reported issues as soon as my glowery, demanding-panda schedule allows.

All that said, you may be wondering what this has to do with you, a person who is presumably here for daily drawings rather than coding updates. I just wanted to give you a heads up in case you wondered why the blog suddenly looks completely different. It used to be styled to match my website, but, when I went live with dlzartner.com, The Next Generation, things over here went a little kabloopy. I made a stab at fixing the issue, but my WordPress customizing skills are rusty, and it will be awhile before I have time to polish them up. Therefore, DrawDown will have to make due with a generic theme for now. Sorry about that. You deserve better, kind reader. If it’s any consolation, I picked the version that seemed the least likely to stab people in the eyeballs with gaudiness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

218.2

20150317

Pastel on Watercolor Toned Paper
6″ x 6″

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Several people asked me what I would be doing to celebrate, perhaps because my nondescript European-descent pallor could be some level of Irish. It’s not, and I did not… do anything that is. Well, I snarfed a shamrock shaped cookie from WaWa, but I suspect hardcore members of Team St. Patty’s would not accept that as a celebration. Otherwise, I did the same thing I do EVERY night… try to take over the studio!

Week… um… Nine?: ReBoot-y

I’m back, baby! I’m rebooting this booty-filled blog, and I’m declaring it Week Nine even though technically I suppose it’s week 9+52. Let’s just kick that little bit of arithmetic into the broader category of mathematics, though, and then I can happily ignore it like I’ve done for pretty much every other aspect of the subject since dropping Pre-Calc in 10th grade.

Ahhh, if only I could get away that. Alas, you might have noticed that, although the dates on the previous post and the following one are March 13 and March 14 respectively, there is indeed a wee little problem in that the years don’t match. Whoops. And 12 months is a bit much to explain away using nothing but academic bias. It’s too bad, really. I like the idea of Deus ex Math-china. 😛 (Ba DUM Dum! That nerdy-ass pun is why I need to cut back on the late-night sugar.)

So… anywaaaayy… what the golly heck happened?

If you read any of the blog posts from the last few weeks of DrawDown 2014, it’s obvious I was struggling. I don’t think I realized how much at the time. In fact, it’s only going back now and re-reading the ramblings of past-Del that I see the pattern. I was wallowing in an awkward halfway place: Six months into my graduate program, I had figured some things out, but I was still caught massively off balance between what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually could (I’m still wrestling with that, but at least I’m a bit more comfortable in my artistic skin). Moreover, my social life was in strange flux. I was starting to make real Philadelphia connections, but the closeness many non-Philly friends was slipping. That was more difficult and more draining than I wanted to admit.

Bottom line: I felt overwhelmed, and, as a consequence, things unravelled a little. I don’t mean I balled myself up in a corner with a tendril of drool waggling on my chin. It’s just that anything not falling squarely into the category of OH-MY-CRISPY-CRAP-I-HAVE -TO-DO-THIS-RIGHT-NOWWWWWW sorta got elbowed aside. DrawDown is really important to me, so it shouldn’t have been on the receiving end of my pointy-pointy arm joints, but somehow it was.

Since letting the blog lapse, I have thought several times about starting up again. Like I said, I feel this project has the potential to be quite meaningful, and I very much want to see it through. However, the timing never seemed right. When summer 2014 rolled around, I was busy moving studios. Fall rushed in with an absurdly heavy load of classes and teaching responsibilities, and the beginning of the current semester carried with it an out-of-the-blue, knock-me-flat bout of melancholy.

Excuses, excuses, right? There is always a reason not to do something or to put it off juuuuust one more day. Any of us who has tried to go against the grain of our inner comfort seeker knows this all too well. Whether it’s starting a gym routine or eating your Brussels sprouts** or, heck, disciplining yourself to fold the damn laundry rather than leaving piled on a chair until so much cat hair accumulates you have to wash it again: we Scarlett O’Hara the heck out of difficult or cumbersome tasks. “Tomorrow is another day,” after all.

And so it has been for me for the better part of 12 months. But, as my one-year slackerversary approached, I again began thinking in earnest about DrawDown, and I decided to take another stab (before today becomes tomorrow). In the interest of honesty, it may not be the wisest decision. Although I’m not as in-between as I was last year, I am arguably more overwhelmed. In just seven weeks (*huff huff*), I graduate from my Master of Fine Arts Program, but an absolutely ridiculous amount of work stands between now and then. However, there’s simply no perfect time, and at least I feel motivated. Besides, there’s a chance this regular daily task will help structure my crazy crazy studio practice. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

If you are returning to DrawDown after your own busy year, welcome back. I hope you had mighty adventures, and thanks for giving me another chance (I will do my best to earn it). If you’re new to the site, you have my gratitude for checking it out. It’s worth it (I hope) to take a look at the project pages to familIarize yourself with the reasoning behind this blog. I suggest starting with Drawdown: Inspiration. By the way, I appreciate reader thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment or to message me via the contact page on my website www.dlzartner.com.

–Del

**This is totally an aside, but while writing this post I kept getting that angry red spelling squiggle under my typed version of Brussels sprouts. What’s “my version?” Well, it turns out I’ve been saying the phrase wrong my entire life (I would admit I’ve been writing it wrong too, but I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to scribe the words before). I always thought it was “brussel sprouts” rather than “Brussels sprouts”. This misconception is one of the few failings I can legitimately blame on my mother, who is otherwise wonderful. She HATES the vegetable no matter however it’s spelled, and I inherited her prejudice even though, until last year, I had never actually nommed it myself. Living in perpetual sprouts ignorance, I simply had no occasion to notice my error.

Incidentally, when I finally did try Brussels sprouts, I thought they tasted fine. I mean, don’t get me wrong… they’re no Hershey’s Chocolate Eggs, but they weren’t nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. What’s next… am I’m going to discover that reading in dim light is actually good for your eyes or that walking around a wintertime house without socks won’t cause you to catch your death? The possibilities are endless!

P.S. “Perpetual Sprouts Ignorance” would be an amazing band name. If only I had an iota of musical talent!

/stumble

It’s spring break, and I maaaay have taken the “break” part a little too literally. I’ve been drawing daily, but you might have noticed the distinct lack of posts. Somehow photographing and correcting and uploading just seemed a lot like… well… work. Hey, it began innocently. I just enjoyed one wee little slackery day. But then one day became two, two became… what… seventeen? It’s a cycle of slippage familiar to anyone who has ever embarked on a health plan or started a journal, and DrawDown happens to be both. The problem (or the solution depending on your point of view) is it’s a public both. I can’t really hide my stumble. /waves… hi there. Um… sorry I’ve been lame.

Anyhoo, now that we’ve tipped past the halfway point of spring break,  I’m coming out of the delirium and back into my natural state of not-enough-done panic. There’s no real point in beating myself in the brain with a guilt-hide whip, of course. The only way forward is forward, the hills are alive, use the force, yadda yadda. Nonetheless, I’m still going to put baby in the corner for a day (all the cliched film references are belong to me). That wench deserves some alone time to think about what she’s done. Meanwhile, physical me will haul post-break ass to the studio to photograph five days of drawings.

Week Five: Slipping

This is a story about slipping.

Considering last week’s musings on artists and the sympathy card, what I’m about to write may fall a tad to the ironic side of the line. However, I want to be honest about what’s on my mind grapes, so here goes….

A few weeks ago, I almost died.

No… really.

I was walking home from the subway late one night. It’s been a snowy winter in Philadelphia, and the sidewalks were patchy. As I came around the corner onto my home street, my foot glanced across a spot of black ice. My legs skidded one way and my upper body flopped the other. Frantically, I wheeled my arms in hopes of preventing gravity from winning this round, but it was futile. I began to go down. As my head fell, I had a flash realization that “down” might be for more than the count, because my temple was on a high speed collision course with the jagged corner of the raised concrete stairway next to me. Hitting it would certainly have knocked me out, leaving me to freeze or be found according to the whims of after-midnight foot traffic. There was even a chance it would do more: striking just right to flip the ol’ permanent cutoff switch.

Obviously, since I’m writing this blog post, and I’m neither ghost nor zombie (brainssss), the worst-case scenario did not play out. I managed to pull myself out of the slip before hitting the step. How? I have no rutting idea, since falling seemed like a sure thing. Panic-fueled adrenaline? Latent superpowers? Deus ex machina? Your guess is as good as mine. When I close my eyes, though, I still see that concrete corner barreling closer.

/shudder

Since the near-death almost-splat, I have been experiencing another kind of slip in my life. It’s not as dramatic as life-threatening hijinks, but you may have noticed it nonetheless. I’ve been been slipping on this project. It’s not that I’ve fallen flat. I mean, one month into DrawDown, I’ve made more than thirty drawings, shared genuinely felt words, gotten exercise and eaten a few more than usual of those weird green things that taste all healthy and crap. I’ve even managed to lose some pounds. Keep that up for eleven more months, and I’m a happy panda.

So what’s the problem? It’s the ominous glaze on the heretofore clear DrawDown path. In the last two weeks, drawing posts have been late, writing posts have been melancholy and my weight has been a nervous jack russell terrier vibrating up and down in the way little dogs do before whizzing on the carpet.

And this ominousness carries over to the rest of my life. For the first time since starting graduate school, I find myself looking for excuses to skip the studio. Watch the entire first season of The Carrie Diaries on Netflix? Clearly, that is a crucial duty trumping all others (seriously… I can’t believe I did that). When I do manage to work, I find myself fidgeting more than artmaking.

I also seem compelled to make abrupt justifications to people. MFAs are an observant bunch, so surely some have noticed I’ve been the kind of there that’s not the last couple weeks. I can’t imagine they care, but I nonetheless feel guilty and driven to leak unsolicited explanations. “I-don’t-know-what’s-wrong-with-me,” I blurt. “I just have no motivation.” And, yes, that’s true, but why am I telling everybody, their brother, their Great Aunt Maud and now you?

Although the night of my slip on the sidewalk coincides with the start of the metaphorical slip in the rest of my life, it wasn’t the cause of it. Another ice walk was necessary to see what was. You see, I lost a friendship recently. Hmmm… that’s not exactly it. As inappropriate as it seems to use the word “residue” for human relationships (or perhaps it’s very appropriate considering), what I lost was the residue of a friendship. Residue-friend was my person before I left for Philadelphia to attend graduate school, and we continued to talk after I moved. For my first six months here, his was a familiar voice when my life was otherwise full of strange and lonely.

About the time I almost whoopsie-footed myself into concussion, the connection with residue-friend also slipped. No explanation was given for his abrupt disappearance, so I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps reasons don’t even matter, because, regardless of the whys, a valued presence is gone, leaving me as dazed and void as any blow to the head.

The thing is, I didn’t really let myself acknowledge this. In fact, the last two weeks have been a constant exercise in numbing myself: Facebook, Netflix, studio chats, drinks, dinners. It hit a crescendo yesterday when I found myself sending silly texts to various contacts in an attempt to lure the tiniest hint of human connection: anything to fill the void for a moment…. come on… come on…. give me more! Perhaps this is why it’s been so difficult to work in my studio. In there I am alone with thoughts I would rather not face.

So why am I facing them now? The other night my hike home took me on glazed sidewalks even more life-threatening than the one I near-missed on a few weeks back. For more than an hour, I hobbled along step by baby step. It was the first time I have been completely and utterly alone in ten days: no visitors, no cell phone, no internet… just me and my head. As a result, I found myself taking long-overdue stock. I saw the void and I saw at least one reason it formed. It was a sad realization, but, oddly, I also felt better. At least by acknowledging the thing, some of its crouching-in-the-back-of-the-mind power melted. It’s not that I’m magically cured, but the sense of loss doesn’t haunt me like its denial did.

It’s funny how things in life coincide, isn’t it? Physical slips and mental slips and emotional slips, but also the lines of thought in our life. This is worth realizing… worth paying attention to, because tumbles happen easier than most of us want to admit. One quick slip and our stability is gone. Grab the handrail, folks!

Week Four: Said and Heard

With my second round of critiques fast approaching, I can’t help but think about the previous round. These thoughts tie in with my recent doubts.

A week and a half ago I had my first meetings with spring semester critics in my graduate program. For those not in the Master of Fine Arts know, much of our education depends on one-on-one critiques with mentor faculty. I really didn’t want to discuss DrawDown. I mean, it’s one thing to type my thoughts to the digital masses; I don’t have to see any cringes or head shakes or what-the-fluck faces. It’s another thing entirely to wallow in my insecurities for a professor, all while 15 pairs of my own boobs hang on the wall directly behind me. But it’s hard to avoid talking about the drawings. In my small studio, they really are right there.

Surprisingly, the critics seemed to like what I have so far. They saw value in the straightforward, unapologetic representation of the body, and they found meanings and nuances I never considered. I didn’t really explain the project to them (it was too awkward); I simply let them bring their own ideas.

What’s concerning (or exciting depending on point of view) is that their ideas were mostly anything but what I intended for project. I want to be okay with that, because I believe my ownership effectively ends when I put art out into the world. I mean, I can tell people what a piece was about for me, but that doesn’t mean it will represent the same thing to them. Still, I can’t help feeling a little frustrated. It seems to happen often that what I think I’m saying with my work isn’t what people are hearing. Since art is a form of communication, that just miiiiight be a problem.

Monday, February 10, 2014

216.4

20140210

Gold Prismacolor Pencil on Paper
6″ x 6″

What is it? As I was lounging around my house like a tranquilized slug yesterday (doubt and motivation issues persist), I noticed my knee. More specifically, I noticed the line formed where my calf meets my thigh when I sit cross-legged. It’s lumpy. And bumpy. But, it’s also weirdly beautiful. I thought drawing it… focusing on an elegance and minimalism of line… would be a nice change of pace in a week that really seems to need it.

Week Three: Visits from the Doubt Fairy

Two weeks have passed since my Week Two roundup, but I’m going to call this “Week Three” anyway because:

1) it actually is the end of the third full week and

2) who’s going to stop me? After all, I fought off that ninja cell that’s been tailing me, so I’m clear to do what I want for a few days.

However you care to count time, it’s passage has been… complex since I last filled your head with a wall of text. Heavy thoughts accompany a heavy schedule, I suppose. That said, before you let your eyeballs glaze over in anticipation of chunky, arty words like “objectification” and “subaltern gaze,” let me say I will do my best not to bore. In fact, I’m going to keep it to two BIG POINTS.

First BIG POINT: it happened again. A fellow graduate student came to my studio and asked about the bevy o’ Del drawings taped to my wall. How could you not with that many hoohaws staring you in the face? I overviewed the basic premise of the project, and she responded with one question. “What are the numbers on the drawings: 223.0 and stuff?”

“That’s my weight,” I explained (with remarkably little hesitation, I’m proud to say).

“Oh,” she replied, “So you’re dieting.”

I gave her the same spiel I gave all of you in Week Two: namely that this isn’t a diet (definitely not, judging by what I ate this week 😛 ) Rather, it’s a visual record of recovery.

But then I started to wonder. Is DrawDown just a diet? Have I simply taken Weight Watchers’ annoying little trifold food diaries— the ones they foist on you at meetings to make you feel you got your $10 or $15 worth— changed the format and spammed it to an unsuspecting populace? And, if that is all this is, is it bad?

The fat-bottom line is I don’t know. I do know the weight loss aspect of DrawDown occupies my brainpan more than any other (except perhaps for the artmaking itself). I’m not counting calories, but… dammit… I do want to be skinnier. Whenever I step outside myself enough to realize this fixation, I try to mentally counter with merry goals of health and self-acceptance. Nonetheless, in the crusty corners of my mind—where crouch the naughty desires like eating all-the-cheese and seducing unsuspecting lackeys to do my lazy bidding—  the stubborn, recurring thought is of me as an “acceptable” size (a size for which I never feel the need to apologize).

And that brings me to BIG POINT number two: the sympathy card.

In my Master of Fine Arts Drawing class this week, one of the students presented a set of photographs imagining her brother as an adult. The brother died decades ago at the tender age of fifteen in a war in her home country. My classmate introduced this work by insisting we not feel sorry for her. She said she has resisted, until now, presenting her life in her artwork precisely because she cannot bear other people’s pity. She wants to be like everyone else.

The work was powerful, but her take on the subject even more so. She wasn’t trying to say “poor me”.  She wasn’t even calling attention to atrocity and tragedy, although these were inevitable undertones. Instead, the piece was a subtle exploration of love, memory and possibility.

DrawDown is not subtle. Maybe nothing I have ever done as an artist is subtle. And while I don’t really feel like I am actively seeking pity, perhaps on some level I do want people to excuse or absolve me in case I never reach “acceptable”.

Huh… I guess there is a BIG POINT number three. Namely, I need to do some thinking about motives.

Friday, February 7, 2014

216.6

 

20140207

Oil Stick on Paper
6″ x 9″

For the second time I am a few hours late in posting a drawing. There is no sinister reason for this. I had the photo ready-to-go on my camera last night, but somehow hoovering General Tso Chicken and and blurbing upon the couch seemed like far superior activities to uploading photos. Considering the crazy, stressful week I had, perhaps they were superior. So why do I feel guilty? Oh yeah, because I marred my perfect blog with tardiness, and what worth is anything without perfect, perfectly perfected perfectionism, right?

/seppuku

I’m kidding (mostly). It does annoy me that I don’t have unblemished discipline. It annoys me that I’m stuck in the mid 216’s in the weight loss. It annoys me that I only went to the gym once since my last bloggy promise to be exercise-girl. However, I am sticking to this project despite the bumps and lumps and stumbles. I’m making a few good, healthy steps and, more importantly, I’m drawing and posting, Perhaps  that’s as perfect as anything needs to get.

For now….

Sunday, February 2, 2014

216.2

20140202

Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Bristol Board
6″ x 6″

Thanks to my dear friend Paul, I am just familiar enough with the idea of hungry ghosts to make an ignorant appropriation. It’s not his fault. He really tries to share his expertise in Eastern thought. Alas, my thick Western skull is having none of it. Instead, I turn a rich, multicultural concept into a means to talk about meeeeeee. So, here goes…. Hungry ghost periods, are, for yours truly, life streches where nothing feels fulfilled: not physically, not emotionally, not intellectually, not spiritually. And, boo, baby, have I been stuck in a doozy! My studio practice, in particular, is a cavern of needy self-doubt. Perhaps as a result, I cannot stop eating. Foooooooooddddd!