065:365 The “A”

065:365 The "A"

Today a drawing based (roughly) on a photograph of something that has long made me feel like I’m arriving home. Before I could read, I knew that my name began with A and that it looked like this sign. On the way home from long trips, we often drove by this sign because it is very close to where I grew up. We’d exit US-23 by the “A,” and arrive home in about 5 minutes.


Of course those weren’t the only times we drove past there. Going to the old Kroger’s on Washteanaw, and other places, I’d plead with my mother to take me the way that passed the “A.”

It inspired this Flickr photo set a few years ago, when I made my first attempt at a 365. If you had not been to Ann Arbor since the 1980’s you wouldn’t recognize Arborland anymore, instead of a real mall, it is now an ugly strip-mall. The old tile mosaic of Jack and the Beanstalk from the entrance has been transplanted into Kerrytown.

There were other signs, either recently or soon-to-be dismantled or modified due to a zoning ordinance that limits the size, distance, and composition of signs along major thoroughfares. The Arby’s sign will probably have to be taken down since it is too big and flashy, and the sign for Big Ten Party Store (now Morgan and York) lost its neon when the owners changed the name. Big George’s used to have neon too, I think, but since they moved a few doors down and expanded, it has been taken down.

On the one hand, I understand that Ann Arbor wants to be a high class town, and too much neon might make us look like Las Vegas, but the Arborland sign is emblematic, visible from nearly a mile up and down US-23, and about the same distance up and down Washtenaw. It lets us know we are home, in the home of the “A.”

062:365 Icy Dream of Spring

062:365 Icy Dream of Spring

Today, as long shadows get shorter and days get longer, I am worn out and ready for the ice to melt, but simultaneously grateful for the demarcation of the seasons on my life.

Living in Los Angeles, I had no sense of time and things seemed surreal. I appreciate, after spending just over a year there, that there was a change of seasons, but living through it just one time, it felt like there was no change. Maybe the milder changes of Madrid and the Bay Area were a little more to my liking than this harsh beautiful midwestern winter, but still, the snow and ice are beautiful in their way.

This is a study of how simple shapes can create an atmosphere. By changing the width of the dark stripes, a sense of space is created, delineated both vertically and horizontally by the performance of color. The peachy color in the middle evokes the reflection of sun on an icy lake and the dark stripes shadows cast by waves.

It isn’t realistic, but it gives some sense of space and atmosphere.

The first time I saw a Rothko in person, big blobs of not quite geometric color on an unprimed canvas, I wasn’t impressed. But the grad-student who taught our Art History Seminar at SAIC made us sit in front of one at the Art Institute of Chicago for a good 20 minutes. She made us look first and then told us things about the way the colors interacted with each other, how they faded out onto the canvas and created the illusion of space by their contrast or similarity, by the diffusion of color into ground. She was so enthralled, it was hard not to look at the picture plane in a different way.

This drawing didn’t start out with anything in mind about Rothko or mid-twentieth-century abstraction. I made it thinking about a scarf I’m knitting in two colors, with broadening stripes so one color resolves out from the other. When I photographed it, I realized that if I flipped the drawing upside down, for some reason it created a sense of receding space, but the way I drew it just looked like stripes. So, here you have it, upside-down from how I drew it, but nonetheless properly oriented for what it signifies.

Funny how a change in perspective can be the key to an epiphany.

047:365 Fever

047:365 Fever

My head is stuffed up, and though I don’t have a fever, it seemed an appropriate title for mindset at the moment.  Weird dreams and restless sleep lead to nebulous thought patterns, and this cool color family blend with a few bright accents here and there.

The sunset today was strange.  I was driving or I would have taken a photo.  To the west, the sun was a huge whitish yellow blob in a field of snowy mist, and behind us, to the east, the clouds were purple, pink, and yellow with bright blue sky.  It was impressive, and though I’m a native Ann Arborite, I have never seen anything quite like it, with such clear boundaries between good and bad weather accentuated by sunset.

043:365 a house from memory

043:365 a house

A drawing of a place some of you will recognize, and some won’t. From memory. Cleaner than in reality, but also fuzzier. Memory can play tricks.

I used to try to draw the cars on the CTA from memory. Then I’d go back the next morning and notice I forgot a nut here, or a bolt there, but the proportions were right. After awhile, we visual artists have a sense of space, though we may be lazy about using it; defining it.

We aren’t unique though. People take all sorts of things that they know for granted. That the roads won’t move between tonight and tomorrow, and going to work will be the same. That their shoes will be where they left them.

Then there are more nebulous things that we can’t put down on paper in the form of drawings, maps, or things. Things like how we feel about ourselves and one another. Those change all the time, and though sometimes we remember what it was like to be 3 years old, or 8, or 20, we are not that person anymore, and we feel create in our heads a fuzzy, cleaned up image of how it was. Or perhaps a stylized dark image. Or whatever image we have of ourselves in the past and the future.

Making clear nebulous emotional and spiritual markers for ourselves is as important as knowing how to get to work, or where we left our shoes, or what our child hood home looks like. But setting boundaries is risky. What if someone else defines the boundary of a relationship differently? How do we negotiate the price of it? What if that negotiation leads to loss?

So it goes. Every shoe wears out, every road needs repair, every house needs maintenance. Life, love, and being are work. So be it.

029:365 Amidst the Mists

029:365 Amidst the Mists

The fog today was inspiring. I used to love East Asian watercolors and Japanese Ukiyo-E prints that showed distance with faded colors.  This morning’s weather looked a lot like that.  Trees appeared as dark tears in the world while buildings emerged suddenly, foreboding behemoths.

The anger and discomfort of the last few days is fading, and quotidian things take over.  Chop wood and carry water, a ghost once told me.  He was right.  Though the abyss still looms large now and again, observing changes in the world around me and doing things like cooking dinner bring me moments of joy and love to leap across it.

I started the second more square rag rug, though the first isn’t finished, because there are things afoot here, and our forays into flooring have led to more intensive plans than plopping down some pad and vinyl.  If we end up with a loud floor, I guess my beautiful sun rug will be go up for sale, and it already represents more time than most people would like to pay for.