Archive for March, 2010

Three or four months ago, I started thinking about a blog redesign – Little Black Journal is now over two years old, and has been in need of a little refresh for awhile now.  For any of you readers that follow me via Google Reader and haven’t been to the site in awhile, this is LBJ, circa yesterday:

As I was laid up on the couch last night with a mild case of the cold flu, motivation took the place of procrastination, and I spent several hours tracking down a decent template, tweaking the heck out of the one that came closest to my ideal, redesigning my header, and testing it all out on the beta site that my uber-techy husband set up for me.  And now…Voila!  I’m pretty happy with the direction I’m moving in – the new site seems cleaner, fresher, and allows for larger photos than my old layout could support.  The header is also a great place for me to ‘showcase’ some of latest artwork and will be updated periodically.  Also, FYI, I have started linking my photos to my Flickr page, so if you want a larger-format photo, just click on the image in the body of my blog.

I’m still fiddling around with a couple of minor things – fonts, text color, margins, etc., but I’m gettin’ there.  Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment if something seems funky – I am by no means a web designer or graphic guru, so feedback is always welcome (I just spent a couple minutes opening my blog on 5 different web browsers and it looks different on every single one – I feel your pain, J!).

It’s an improvement, though, no?

My encaustic workshop wrapped up on Monday, and I’m just getting around to taking photos of my work and processing my thoughts on the whole experience.  I had some anxiety about being able to make it through four straight eight-hour days of art-making, but once I got into the swing of things, I caught myself checking the clock regularly in hopes of actually slowing down time.   I was totally bummed when Monday evening rolled around, and my short-lived experience as a full-time artist was over.  But my bummed-ness was offset by the fact that I was walking away with a pretty cool collection of work and a renewed passion for art-making.  Below are a few of the highlights…

This is one of my favorite pieces, made with wax, thread, and tissue paper printed with one of my images of Paris:

This pattern was woven with thread, then cast in a mixture of clear and white wax.  As the class progressed, I became known as the girl with all the white wax – a lot of my work was fairly muted, and I was one of the few that allowed the color of the wood panel underneath to really show through.  I loved the color and grain of the birch veneer, and so I figured, why hide it?

More white and clear, set over a tissue transfer of one of my sketches:

I brought a couple of the ‘seed pod’ sketches that I used for my food art back out for these two pieces:

One of the things I liked most about the class was the opportunity to experiment with different media.  My instructors brought all kinds of new ideas on how to achieve unusual effects with every-day materials.  This is what happens when wax is coated with shellac, then heated with a torch – lovely:

And this is shellac sprayed with India ink.  This charred effect comes from some kind of chemical reaction between the two elements – no fire necessary.  I love it – I never knew painting could feel so much like a chemistry class!:

I am vowing not to let this new-found interest fizzle like so many of my other artistic intrigues, so hopefully I’ll be posting more encaustic work in the future.  Aaaaagh!  So many possibilities, so little time…

My super-intense, super-awesome encaustic workshop ended on Monday (stay tuned for more on that later), and then it was back to work on Tuesday, where I was thrown into the flurry of working toward a Friday deadline.  And so by the time 6:00 rolled around today, I was beat.  Thankfully, Shane, in his infinite wisdom, knew that I would be in dire need of a beer and some chill time, so when I made it out of the office, he had already staked out a table for us at Six Arms and ordered me a pint of Ruby (their tasty raspberry ale).  Aaaaahhhh, hallelujah for weekends!  We had a fabulous evening together, toasting to Friday at our favorite old hang-out, and then sharing a demi-pichet (half-pitcher) of Beaujolais and a plate of steak frites at Cafe Presse.  Yep, it just don’t get much better than this:

The funky, eclectic vibe of Six Arms:

This lovely man:

And a glass of wine over candlelight:

Cheers and bon nuit.  Happy weekend!

I am now in the midst of a four-day intensive encaustic workshop at a local art school.  Eight hours a day of slopping wax on pieces of plywood, melting it with my new blow torch, layering on sheets of tissue paper, coatings of shellac, or whatever other random materials my experimental instructors have on hand, and generally just making a lovely mess of things.  It’s all a bit overwhelming, and my inability to really control this new medium can be frustrating, but I love it.  It’s been awhile since I’ve really been immersed in an art project, and it feels good.  Here’s a small sneak peak of things…

After what felt like a long work week, we declared Saturday a day of relaxation and indulgence.  There are few things I love more than having the freedom to spend a Saturday any which way we please.  And so indulgence number one came in the form of a latte and a pain au chocolat from Cafe Besalu – a small bakery/cafe in Ballard known for their deliciously buttery breakfast treats.  I truly believe chocolate croissants are one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind, and this one had to have been picked out especially for me from the Big Guy himself.  So light and flaky, rich and buttery, perfectly…perfect.  Yum.

Post-pastries, we hopped back in the car, and before Shane had even pulled away from the curb, I was thinking about how nice it would be to head home, get back into my pajamas, and spend the day cozied up on the couch.  My husband, however, had other plans, and decided that since our breakfast mission had been completed, he was ready for lunch and wanted to swing by Safeco Field to check out ‘Mobile Food Chowdown’ – a one-day-only gathering of Seattle’s and Portland’s best food carts.  In his defense, he had run 8 miles earlier that morning, so I obliged, thinking I could maybe make room in my stomach for a good taco or a small slice of pizza.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the scene, the lines were already unbearably long for several of the carts, but Shane scored a tasty little burger from Skillet, and I waited in line for 45 minutes for an order of fries from Portland’s ‘Potato Champion’.  Yummy, but hardly worth the wait.  Ah, well, it was still a good day to be outside, and I love Pioneer Square on a clear, crisp day.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home, reading and watching movies, basking in the laziness that was bound to follow such a decadent morning.  Then evening came, and wouldn’t you know it, Nancy, La V, and I had dinner reservations at Lark, which meant: more eating!  Yay!  We ordered plates of creamy cheeses, roasted duck leg, bacon-glazed kale, and ricotta gnudi, and ate ’till we could eat no more.  There was a point in the evening – I think it was as I was dipping my spoon into the dark chocolate mousse, served with white chocolate sorbet – when I thought, “Hmmmm…will I regret this when I’m pulling out my swimsuit for our vacation to Mexico next month?”  Then I tasted the cashew butter that had been spread on the plate right next to the chocolate, and I thought, “Nah.  Totally worth it.”  It was a perfect three-hour meal, full of good food that was only made better by the company of my lovely friends.

And so Saturday Splurge-Fest came to a close.  And once again, all was right with the world.

A few more pretty little drawing/collages, and now I’m ready to move on to something else.  These have been fun, and it’s nice to have a group of pieces that comprise a sort of ‘series’, but they’re feeling a little cute-sy (case in point: see butterfly below), so for the next few sketches, look for something messier, free-er, and more abstract – might be time to time to pull out the fat sticks of charcoal and crack open my globby tubes of paint.

dragonfly (2010.03.04):

pomegranate (2010.03.07):

papillon (2010.03.09):

cardoon (2010.03.12):

This book was one of those ‘should-reads’ I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a few years – a significant, widely-known piece of literature that I somehow missed in the course of all my high school and college English classes.  And so I set aside Anne of Green Gables (yes, I picked these old classics up during a nostalgic impulse), assumed my most literary attitude, and gave 1984 a go.  The fact that I was reading out of some kind of self-imposed obligation, rather than desire, made me fear that I might not enjoy the book all that much.  But it was actually quite fascinating.  A little slow at times, and certainly darker than what I usually read, but I found the characters and the underlying commentary on socialism/communism/totalitarianism and the role of government really, really interesting.  The book, which was published in 1949, takes place in the then-future year of 1984, a time when the government (the ‘Party’) knows all and rules all, via constant surveillance of all its members, incessant broadcasting of Party propaganda, and relentless fear mongering used to justify never-ending wars.  People are constantly warned that ‘Big Brother is Watching You.’  Creepy.  But – wait…  Fast-forward to 2010, and do we not now live in a nation where a large percentage of the population carries GPS-linked phones and laptops?  Add to that the constant onslaught of advertising and filtered news that we face every day in the form of radio, TV, the Internet, and poster-plastered buses, and the premise of 1984 is not so unimaginable.  I’m certainly not leading a revolution, and I’m thankful for the freedoms that I often take for granted, but the parallels here between the fiction and reality are certainly interesting.  Food for thought…

For years now, I have struggled to find an exercise regime that is both challenging and achievable.  I am a stellar goal-setter, but my follow-through has always been lacking.  However, I think I’ve finally settled into a routine that works for me – run and some kind of weight-training two times a week, and one hour of yoga or pilates at least once a week.  I’ve been on this kick for six months now, and I’m feeling good.  So good, in fact, that I decided I need to step it up just one more notch.  My legs and core are getting the work-out they deserve, but when it comes to arms, I’m all noodle-y.  I’m that girl that gets on one of the lifting machines, sets it to the absolute lowest weight possible, does about four-and-a-half reps while making that squinty ‘this-is-so-hard’ face, wipes my brow, and then heads over to the balance ball or that fantastic obliques/twisty machine.  I get a bit of an arm work out when I do yoga, but spending 10 or 15 minutes in downward-facing dog isn’t cutting it.  I’m still feelin’ weak.  And so, in some act of ambitious insanity, I have decided to do the 100 push-up challenge.  The deal is: follow the schedule for six weeks, and at the end of the training, you should be able to do 100 consecutive push-ups.  Shane is doing it, as well as a couple of different friends of ours, and so I hopped on the bandwagon in hopes of turning my spaghetti arms into lean, mean push-up machines.  Tonight was my first night, and I struggled through my sets of twos and threes, but I did it, with the added challenge of having a husband that likes to watch and critique my push-up form (so you all know I’m not getting away with my usual wimpy knees-down push-ups).  Should I mention that I felt like I strained myself just flexing for this photo?  Seriously, this will be interesting…

After our tour de Santa Barbara, we headed north to San Luis Obispo on Friday afternoon to meet up with Amanda and Josh, who were also getting into town that evening.  While we waited for them to get in, Shane and I took a quick spin through the Cal Poly campus for a stroll down memory lane.  Wandering through the architecture building was a total blast from the past – I poked my head into the studio where I spent what felt like every waking hour of my last year at school, and when I saw the desks strewn with cool models and crazy sketches, I felt a little pang of longing for old times.  Then I stood on the same little balcony from which I remember making hundreds of stressed-out late-night calls to Shane, and saw the grungy old couch which I napped on when I was working in the studio until 4 a.m. and couldn’t trust myself to head home and make it back for my 8 a.m. class, and I was thankful that those days are behind me.

Amanda and Josh arrived that evening, and once we were all checked into our hotel room, we headed toward downtown to hit up Firestone’s for dinner – their tri-tip sandwich was a protein staple in my college diet, and I’ve been craving this meaty goodness ever since I left.  Deeeee-lish.  When we left the bar, it was pouring rain, so we decided to just head back to the hotel to hang out and veg.  Even though Amanda and I hadn’t seen each other since June, it never takes us more than 15 minutes to feel like we’ve never been apart, and it felt good to have a low-key night together, just talking and laughing.  I’ve missed her.

Saturday morning, I had only one mission: coffee at my favorite cafe in downtown SLO.  Shane and I were up bright and early-ish to hit up Linnea’s Cafe.  I was happy to find that the place was relatively unchanged – still cozy, still serving good coffee, and still inhabited by the same intriguing man that has sat at the same table every day for years now, hunched over his journal, in which he writes/draws symbols unlike any language I’ve ever seen before (I’m betting all of my old Cal Poly peeps know exactly who I’m talking about).

After coffee and a short stroll through downtown, the skies cleared and the sun came out, and we were all beach-bound, intent on grabbing lunch at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach.  Their clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl was another staple in my college diet (the term ‘Freshman Fifteen’ exists for a reason), and again, I was not disappointed.  However, I was slightly disappointed when we left the restaurant to walk on the beach, only to find that all beach access was closed for the day, due to the coast-wide tsunami warnings.  Bummer.  But we got over it quickly enough, ’cause we had a wedding to get to.

The wedding was fabulous.  The bride was my old friend Jenny, whom I’ve known since high school, when we used to type messages to each other on our calculators in high school math class.  We were roommates during our freshman year at Cal Poly, and though we haven’t seen each other since Shane I got married almost four years ago, I was thrilled to be a part of her special day, which was so wonderfully ‘Jenny-ish’.  Francine, another one of my best friends from high school, was also there, and our little reunion was so much fun.  When I say, ‘We all go waaaay back together’, I really mean it, and it was fun to reminisce.

Sunday was our last day in Cali, and we took advantage of it by heading up the coast to see the elephant seals near San Simeon.  There is this stretch of beach that is home to hundreds of elephant seals, and driving up highway 1 to go see them is a favorite Central Coast pastime.  They were out in full force on Sunday, even closer to shore because of high tide.  The four of us spent nearly an hour just watching them lounge around in the sun, then occasionally flop across the beach to get in the water or play with one of their mates.  They are amazing animals – the males can get up to 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 8,000 pounds, and they have these horribly-ugly-but-still-kind-of-cute hooked snouts that wave around a little bit when they raise their heads in the air to bark.

After our seal-gazing, it was time to say good-bye to Amanda and Josh and head back down to Santa Barbara to catch our flight home.  One last walk on the beach when we got to SB, and then I was officially bummed to be leaving California.  What a weekend…

When Shane and I received a wedding invitation from an old friend of mine, stating that she would be getting married in San Luis Obispo at the end of February, we looked at each other and said, “Do you think we should go?” Approximately 2.5 seconds later, we both nodded our heads with an emphatic “HECK YES.” It would be a great chance to celebrate with several old and dear friends, to revisit my old stompin’ grounds (I hadn’t been back to SLO since I graduated a few years ago), and to enjoy a romantic little weekend getaway. And so we bought our tickets, packed our flip-flops and sunglasses, and we were off.

We flew into Santa Barbara and decided that we would spend Thursday night there, before joining our friends in SLO on Friday. Neither one of us had spent any time in Santa Barbara, and we were looking forward to checking out the beaches, the food, and the wine country. Our plane arrived at Santa Barbara airport at 4:15 p.m., and Shane, being the stellar planner that he is, had already picked out a place nearby where we could grab a couple of drinks and catch the 5:51 p.m. sunset. We hopped in our rental car and were off to Hendry’s Beach. The second I stepped out of the car, smelled the salt of the ocean, heard the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, and saw the sun glinting off the expanse of water, I was smitten. It was then that I realized how much I’d been missing the Central Coast. After a margarita and a sunset walk on the sand, I was ready to call up my office and let them know that I would not be returning to work anytime in the near future – I was in the midst of some serious beach lust (as in, lusting after the beach, in case that came out wrong).

We spent the rest of the evening on State Street, enjoying tacos at Lilly’s, then drinks and dessert at Pascucci and then Palazzio. From the novelty of the labio tacos (translation: lip – Shane was bolder than I in ordering this one) at Lilly’s, to the decadence of the creme brulee at Pascucci, to the richness of the wine that we shared at Palazzio, it was a perfect night.

Friday morning we took advantage of the free bikes that our hotel had for check-out and hopped on a couple of beach-cruisers to head down to the water for breakfast. There can’t be anything more Californian than riding a bike down State Street in your flip-flops, zipping past palm trees and trendy little boutiques, loving the feel of the sun on your face and that cool, coastal breeze in your hair. Heaven. After a 3-mile ride, we arrived at East Beach Grill, where I ordered a heap of wheatgerm banana pancakes (an ode to Jack Johnson), settled into my chair just inches from the sandy beach, and chowed down. Again, heaven.

After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel, packed up our things, and pointed our car north, in search of the perfect glass of Santa Barbara wine. The hills northwest of Santa Barbara are scattered with tons of wineries, big and small, and without a real agenda in hand, we decided we’d just head in the direction of Los Olivos and see what struck our fancy. We hit five wineries and tasted over 30 wines that afternoon – my favorite was the Zaca Mesa Estate Roussanne, and Shane loved the Merlot from Curtis. The landscape was absolutely beautiful, with its rolling green hills and small, rocky mountains.

Once our tongues were sufficiently coated with tannins and our teeth disturbingly purple, we decided it was time to make the rest of the trek up to San Luis Obispo. However, many of you know that no visit to California is complete without a stop at In-N-Out burger, so a pitstop in Santa Maria for some quality fast-food goodness was in order. You can see Shane eyeing me with that “Let me just eat my burger” look:

We arrived in SLO on Friday evening, but I will save our adventures there for another post – I am wiped out tonight, still recovering from the bliss of such a perfect weekend…