Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pear-Shaped Girl Issue #11- This is a True Story

Issue #11 in which Pear-Shaped Girl confides a family secret to Apple.
Please click here to go to the story.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Saw Wayne Newton at Casino Rama on March 20, 2008

I saw Wayne Newton this past week. I made a vow to myself when Johnny Cash died that if I had the opportunity to see a legendary performer I would go and check them out before they die. Wayne Newton falls in that category for me and so I have a deep sense of satisfaction that I saw the man perform.

I called ahead to see if cameras, perchance, were allowed. They said no. I was going to take it anyway but if they would have confiscated my camera I would have been very sad. So instead I opted to take a sketch book and a pen and see what I could do. What happened was I got into the body of Wayne. These are all very fast gesture drawings, about 30 seconds each, some longer, maybe a minute or two if I was lucky. He kept repeating certain stances and I could feel them as I was drawing. The bend at the hip, the wide-legged stance, the bobbing head. Very interesting. I feel like I understand him as a performer better for having drawn him. I am going to make this a regular thing. Hopefully my sketches will improve as I go along but it's a very intriguing way to remember an event.

Here are his backup singers. What was strange is they sat through most of the show. Don't know why. I wonder if they were sitting so the focus would always be on Wayne? He did feature many members of his band and his singers as in this solo artist, only with the Wayne Newton family for two weeks he said. She had a very powerful voice. The other singer was with him for 5 years and the other said she'd been singing backup since she was 15.
She was definitely in her 40's at least.

There were several instruments lined up on stage for him to use when he got to that part of the show. An exquisite white guitar. It was so beautiful. I don't know much about instruments but I really wanted to play that guitar. There were two others, an electric and another acoustic, and two banjos. He also picked up an electric fiddle and played it, a genuine surprise to me that he could play a fiddle and equally impressive was his piano playing with large screen closeups of his giant pinky ring. He did an impression of Liberace which the 70+ majority crowd really appreciated. As did I.

He played a variety of music, coming onstage to the strains of 2001 A Space Odyssey, poignant give Arthur C Clarke had just died, then it changed to Viva Las Vegas and quickly into CC Rider. A rock'n'roll medley. Medleys. Who thinks the medley is a good thing? My husband and I were trying to guess pre-show what he'd be wearing. I thought something gold. He said black tux. He was right. It had a really really high cut on the vest. Seemed odd to me. And he was puffy up top, like he'd tip over. A funny shape and hard to sketch.

After the medley he sang Mack The Knife. I was thrilled! First an Elvis song, then that classic. Other songs were Johnny B. Good where the only audience member who was under 20 got up and danced in the aisle. Yes, that's one person dancing. Wayne loosened his bowtie, to the delightful squeal of the ladies cause he was ready to rock. He played Spanish Eyes during this segment on that fantastic white guitar.

Speaking of the audience, several older women rushed the stage throughout the show handing Wayne really old records for him to sign. He took them graciously and signed them after the show. One woman gave him flowers and throughout the show there were whoops and hollers and whistles whenever Wayne said he'd " see them in their room after the show" or "I hope you're next to my room here at the hotel", with many ladies offering to come up to his room and see him. Oh, the sexual tension was thick my friends. Thick. Bodes well for sex after 70 let me tell you.

He finished with his classic, Danke Shoen. I had strains of "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" going through my head for a week prior to the event. He never sang it. I'm kind of glad. I don't like that song much. He did perform The Impossible Dream, seated, lyrics in hand, voice failing, shouting more than singing, with the backup vocalists drowning him out. He said he was doing it as a favour to an audience member and it was unrehearsed. Hmmm. He read the notes for one stanza then was up on his feet belting is out as best he could. I think his story was a fib.

Other things of note: this guy His job was to sit stage left, in the dark and roll and unroll Wayne's mic cord. He doesn't use a headset and he doesn't use a cordless. The mic cord is real prop for a singer like him. He twirls the mic with it. He waves the cord around. Can't get that flair with a cordless. It also adds to that "old time performer" thing.

Here's a sketch done pre-show.There's a lady with a fancy shawl, part of the orchestra he had, and a camera. They were taping the event. He told us we might be caught on tape, though we were definitely too far back for that to happen to us. As an aside, the setup at Casino Rama is very good. I don't think there's a bad seat to be had there. The seats could be roomier, but the view is great. Speaking of the venue here's a compilation sketch of the ushers. Most of the ushers seemed to be over 65, with a minority in their 30's perhaps? They all wore sparkly vests, white shirts, black pants and bow ties. They had to seat many elderly people with canes and walkers and find room for wheelchairs. Lots of those wheelchair ladies had the sparkliest clothes. I remember one woman with a black satin cap full of white rhinestones. I fear that will be me if I am lucky enough to get that old and see an ancient Green Day perform.

Here's a concert review that pretty much echoes our own experience.

With one big exception. I loved Wayne's Mack the Knife. It was worth the whole trip to me. There he was, white spotlight, black tuxedo, black hair, pink face, sparkly giant diamond pinky ring and watch, fingers snappin', shoulders hunched, head a bobbin'.... PERFECT.

Shoe Trees near Kinmount, Ontario, Canada

A Shoe tree, not to be confused with the shoe-preservation device of the same name, is a tree(or, occasionally, a powerline pole or other wooden object)that has been festooned with old shoes. Shoe trees are generally located alongside a major local thoroughfare, and may have a theme(such as high-heeled shoes).There are currently at least seventy-six such shoe trees in the United States,and an undetermined number elsewhere.
Source: Wikipedia

On our way to see Wayne Newton last week we passed by a group of shoe trees just out of Kinmount, Ontario. It was so great that we had to make a return trip so I could get some pictures. Around here where I live you see the odd pair of shoes tossed over hydro lines but nothing that I know of comes even close to this display. Two trees, and three fenceposts with shoes on them and a few on the overhead lines. I didn't have extra shoes to leave here, and the snow was up to my hips when I tried to get in for a close look. We'll be passing by here on our way to see Don Rickles at the end of May. I'll make sure to bring something to add to this display then.

See more about Kinmount here ...

These are up at the top of the tree, some tossed and some attached to the trunk.

I loved the flipper that was left in this tree. It's really held it's colour so I can't tell if it's an old addition or a new one.

Here's a few shoes climbing the trunk to get the sun.

This is the area of the trunk that is the easiest to reach from the ground. People seem to have extra running shoes more than any other type of shoe.

These are workboots and flipflops. From work to play. I can't imagine leaving workboots on a fencepost. Although it'd be great if the former owner never had to work again and left his boots here to mark that.

These were my favorites. A pair of bear slippers with the fake claws. I sometimes get this kind of novelty slipper. I always want them when I see them but once I have them, I rarely wear them. Too big and bulky. They look good on the post for the same reason. I totally understand sacrificing them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Illustration Friday: Heavy

Heavy 20 x 26 charcoal and graphite
I've been working on abstract drawings of emotional states for class
and this one feels heavy, like you're carrying a burden you can't shake loose.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Illustration Friday: Garden

14 x 22 - drawing on scratchboard

I had a dream once that I was standing in my garden. It was covered in snow. When I looked down I saw that everything in my garden was rotting. When I pulled up my crops the roots were twisted, rotted, and stunted. I looked up and on the other side of the fence my neighbour's garden was filled with lush summer goodness. Healthy plants. Beautiful soil. Sunshine. He came to the fence and said to me "If you want what I have you have dig deep and take a look at the roots."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Friendly Plastic's Slide Into Obscurity

Assorted Friendly Plastic Sticks

When I stumbled across friendly plastic in 1990 in my local craft store there was no information on how to use it.

I think this is the primary reason I am still using it.

It was a new product and everyone was trying it. The stores were pushing it and it had a big marketing machine behind it. You could buy it in non-metallic colours as pellets in plastic jars. You could buy it in 3" sticks, or 7" sticks. And you could buy it in 4" squares. Now I can only get 7" sticks.

Friendly Plastic was advertised as non-toxic. (We'll see. I am sure I have accidentally ingested 1 or 2 7" sticks in my 17 years of working with it.) Perfect for toddlers, day cares, kindergartens everywhere. It was re-usable/recyclable (still is) as you can just re-heat/melt what you made if you don't like it. So little kids could take the pellets, or the sticks, melt them, mold it with their little hands, and then melt it again. Melting was done in hot tap water. It's true. It'll melt under the tap. And it cools down like when a candle drips and the drip hardens.

It's that fast.

For adults I remember it pushed as "jewelry for your frying pan".


Many many people, got out their electric frying pans and floated a piece of plastic in it until it melted. You'd lift it from the water and model it while warm. You could emboss it, mold it/press it into molds, marble it together, lots of stuff.

There were a few years where the really bright plastic designs were all over. I call this type of friendly plastic "traditional friendly plastic".

Book from 1990

Book from 1993 -- A great example of traditional , abstract, friendly plastic work

Book from 1994

Here are my thoughts of what's contributed to drive this stuff into obscurity.

1) After the first wave of crafters who like to make things found it, they followed directions and made the traditional abstract designs, just delighting in the bright fanciful colours. They cut and pieced and molded to their hearts content. Same with the kids. They did the same. Or rather tried to. There is one big thing with this plastic that makes it much much harder to work with than they let on, especially when you do it in hot water. Once it melts it is like melted wax, but with a little more body. the metal foil layer, which is the colour on the surface, holds the stick together but just barely. It's actually very very critical to remove your plastic at the exact right time or it's flowing all over and that great colour on the surface? It's slid right off. Or the stick has bent over onto itself and you're left with a blackish gray, blue, peachy-pinky-beige, red or white blob of plastic. In those days you also had yellow. (sigh. oh how I miss yellow... and orange.) So once they wanted to make something more complicated it became much more difficult to control your shapes. It's just not an easy medium.

2) FIMO clay was introduced at the exact same time. The makers of FIMO encouraged the grass roots users who adopted FIMO early on and groups sprung up to support each other and to encourage its use and to explore its possibilities. It was immediately recognized as a craft medium that could be used as art. It had the notion of "clay" going for it too, but it is PLASTIC. Not clay.

I tried FIMO, but didn't get seduced by it. The colour of friendly plastic still holds me. FIMO couldn't compete and I always wanted to make long thin arms or legs and FIMO things needed to be big and heavy and clunky to support those shapes. It just wasn't for me. But where was the support for Friendly Plastic as an art medium? Nowhere. Even though it had been introduced as a sculptural material it just never went further than that. It never got adopted and people moved on.

3) Think macrame. Think fad. Think the next new thing.

Craft sales tapered off. Stores limited their ordering. Then they stopped ordering altogether and sold off their remaining stock.

Over the years several colours have been dropped by the manufacturer, including my beloved yellow and a colour called gold cobra. It was perfect for making giraffes. Great gold snakeskin pattern on a metallic brown background. Sometimes I wonder if they'll stop making it altogether.

Oh and how can I forget this? It's plastic. Lowest of the low in the hierarchy of art materials. Plastic. Hated and despised, long time mimic of other more worthy materials. Think bakelite and how it looked like tortoise shell or ivory. Plastic. Evil foe of the environment. Plastic. Cheap, mass produced, no quality of its own.

My favorite anecdote

In 1991 I was asked to bring my samples to the National Gallery of Canada to meet with the buyer for their bookstore. I showed her my work and she made an order and seemed genuinely delighted with it. I know I was thrilled to have my work at the National Gallery. Who wouldn't be? After the business part was over we chatted briefly and she told me that she was buying my items "inspite of the medium". I understood what she was saying but it irritated me. Still does. My work looked like it did because it was made of friendly plastic not in spite of it. The material dictates the handling, no? Yes.

Last year I participated at an art show in a comic book shop. I made reproductions of two classic comic book covers using only friendly plastic. I posted my work in my blog.


Most of the crowd didn't care, didn't notice, weren't interested. They were looking for something else. Next to me was a man who was showing his own action figures. He was fascinated with my stuff. He said to me, " Your work is really unique. Don't worry about this (motioning to the room). It's hard to be a pioneer. Just keep going." You know, this guy, who was really in the same boat as I was at that show, he could have just said that to be nice but I was really touched by his words. A pioneer. Perhaps. I am searching for a way to elevate this material, to make it Art with a capital A. I'm a full time art student right now, partly to further equip myself, to give me more skills and ideas for making art. I've been slack about using FP ever since I started school which is understandable. I will return again to it. I haven't abandoned it at all. But sometimes we have to walk away from something for a while. I know my subconscious is working it through. I trust it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gulp Earrings

aka Businessman's Lunch

In honour of meeting another friendly plastic master, Liz in the UK, I've decided to start posting images of my fp works again. I've gotten away from it, which was supposed to be the focus of my blog, but since there are so few people out there doing this stuff I guess I may as well help educate the masses.

I love this design. Kind of like hoops, but not. Kind of optimistic, or not. Sort of glass half full? Or glass empty? I can never decide if the little fish is outta there or not. Sometimes I re-title this one Businessman's Lunch. Depends how I am feeling.

I love fp for the colour. I try my best to keep the bright uncompromising shiny colour. I have never found any material to equal it. The thing about friendly plastic is it mimics several mediums. People just don't know what it is. It is very similar in colour and patterning to dichroic glass. Also it has been mistaken for leather. One time for wood(?) The real surprise for folks is when they pick it up. It is light. Very light. You can make a huge pin and it weighs nothing. Same thing here. These earrings are about 1.5" across. They weigh nothing. I just calculated that they'd weigh about 1/5 of an ounce. You can see how this confounds the average person. They think they know what it is, pick it up, and then it's light as a feather. I love the look of wonder that crosses their face at that moment.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Nobody here but us

I've got photography class today so I was going through the shots that were still on my memory stick and thought I'd post this grouping. The assignment was to take pictures in the same place during the day and the night.
Landscape shots.
So I walked round the corner to the theatre and and was taken by the shape of their sign. I had never really looked at it and how it's constructed.

Then I tried to frame it into a shot, which looks good to me, and then this happened.

As I was standing there birds started flying onto the sign. They perch there drinking in the dying sun. I noticed that there was an interesting shot to be had and here it is.