Friday, June 28, 2013

The Same, Yet Different

I have a new job!

Sort of.

It's the same job, but at a different location and on different days. One big bonus is that Hubby and I now have weekends off together for the first time since the late 1990's! That's how we managed that last-minute getaway for our anniversary. I found out about my new schedule on Monday, had my last day at my old job on Tuesday, started my new job on Wednesday, and ended up with an unplanned weekend off. The first of many. Woo hoo!

It's surprising how different everything feels in my new job. Different, and tiring. Though it's the same work, I'm finding that it requires a lot more thought at the new location. I have to pause every time I answer the phone and remember that I'm not longer at "West Branch". Yesterday, my whole morning was thrown off-kilter when I was asked for a hole-punch and I didn't know where to find it. OK, it wasn't just the hole-punch, but that was the first raindrop in what became a virtual storm of questions I didn't have the answers for. Exhausting.

The upside is that I'm learning a lot, and it looks like I'm going to have the opportunity to learn much more. I'm sure I'll find that exciting when I'm not so stinking tired!

In the mean time, things here at Elusive Onions may be a bit topsy-turvy and higgledy-piggledy as I adjust to my new schedule and my new location. I hope you'll stick around while I adapt. I have so much I want to share with you. After I've had a nap. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Me Me on the Beach

Hubby and I were able to plan a last minute get-away for our anniversary weekend. I'm rather short on outfit photos as a result. The closest is this one of me on the beach:

I hope to be back next Monday with an actual outfit to share. Until then, a few more beach pictures courtesy of my wonderful Hubby.

Linking up with Patti and all the lovely women over at Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday. Head on over and see what they're wearing. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Working Skirt?

Back in March some friends and I took part in a writing contest. We were to write a fictional piece about work. Sadly, none of us were selected as finalists. I wasn't surprised that I didn't make the cut, as I didn't actually finish my piece. Road to hell. Good intentions. Yada Yada. 

We went to hear the six finalists read their pieces a few weeks ago. There were four prose pieces and two poetry. I've come to the conclusion that I'm never going understand poetry. I wasn't even sure that the poems were about work. I've also concluded that fictionalization of job dissatisfaction is the way to go when writing about work. 

For this bohemian event, I took a chance and wore my 20-year-old, gypsy-like skirt. The skirt remains in my closet because it is an integral component of my Baba Babushka costume. Choosing my real-life wardrobe from the Tickle Trunk may not have been the wisest idea.

The elastic in the waistband had lost it's stretch, and the 20-year-old drawstring didn't have the staying power it once did. Also, I had forgotten how much this skirt needs a slip until I saw my refection in a shop window. Oops. Still, I like how the skirt looks with the boots and the denim jacket. And, as I was seated at the event, I spent minimal time hoiking up my skirt. With a little care and attention I managed to stay decently covered (except for the lack of a slip) all evening. 

I'm linking up with Patti of Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday. There you'll find inspiration to tickle any imagination. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Introduction to Art: Week 2 ~ Sexy Bananas!

In week two of my Introduction to Art course we tackled the Fantastic art movement of the early 20th century. We started with a general overview of the genre, its history, discussions of Dadaism and Surrealism, and then we moved on to specific artists. 

This genre is rather bizarre, and I often find myself wondering why an item is considered art.  "I don't get it" is my most frequent response to artwork from this era. Thankfully, we started gently with Rousseau and Chagall. I quite enjoyed their colourful paintings of items I could identify. The examples used in the video lectures were generally cheerful and playful. My kind of art. 

Then we moved on to De Chirico. The paintings we discussed were colourful, and they included items that I could identify, but the mood changed. His work was dark, sombre and desolate.  Odd combinations of objects added to the overall strangeness of the paintings. I found them somewhat disturbing. Still, considering the time and place of their creation, I understood De Chirico's intent. Or at least I thought I did. 

Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure) - Giorgio de Chirico
The Melancholy of Departure by Georgio de Chirico
Image "borrowed" from
I was happily following the lecture, feeling like I might actually be "getting" art for the first time in my life. Then we got to "The Melancholy of Departure". My illusions of comprehension crumbled when the narrator shared this delightful analysis:
This painting was created after De Chirico moved from Paris to Italy in order to serve in World War one. The melancholy of his emotional state is conveyed through this artwork. Implictily sexual, the juxtaposition of the bananas in the foreground, and the miniscule train the background, once again show the bizarre imagination of De Chirico...The bananas in the foreground are the focal point of this painting, capturing our immediate attention.
Ummmmm. Implicitly sexual? Really? I didn't find anything about the painting sexual - implicit or otherwise. And the bananas are the focal point? I hadn't noticed the bananas until the narrator mentioned them. So much for understanding art!

There was much discussion in the forums amongst us beginners. Few of us thought the bananas were all that sexy. Odd in that particular environment? Definitely. Lonely? Yep. Strange? For sure. Sexy? I don't get it.  To me, it felt like a painting of an abandoned city; a place struck by disaster; a place where people fled in terror leaving everything, including the bananas, frozen in time for later explorers to discover. It was sad and desolate, but not sexual. I was beginning to think that "art" was synonymous for "ridiculous hoax".

Our assignment for this unit was to "choose an Independent, Dada, or Surrealist artist that inspires you and utilize his style or concept as sources of inspiration to create your personal Fantastic artwork...Think about what Fantasy means to you and how you can express yourself through Fantastic Art.  Have fun with this artwork while you examine your own dreams and subconscious thoughts.

I had originally wanted to do a "sexy banana" parody. I clipped symbolically phallic images (cigars, hot dogs, neck ties) from magazines. (I found the phallic symbols in men's magazines and parenting magazines. Insert your opinion here.) My thought was to create an abandoned-looking industrial building with a "sexy banana" image in each window. I envisioned a combination of original work and collage. 

Sadly, my artistic skills are limited, so my imagined artwork never came to be. It was probably just as well. I wasn't sure my parody would be understood or appreciated, and I didn't want my mark to suffer because of my attitude.

Instead, as the assignment directions suggested, I chose to examine and illustrate a dream. I was careful when selecting my dream. My art work would be evaluated by randomly-selected classmates, and given the huge variety of students taking the class, I wanted something that wasn't too controversial. (Actually, I rarely have controversial, or even memorable, dreams.)

Fortunately, a recent dream had been so bizarre that I woke laughing. It seemed like a safe bet for my project. In the dream, I lived in Neil Gaiman's  bathtub for a year in order to scrape baked-on cheese from a bicycle. I kid you not. I'd like to say you can't make this shit up, but obviously I can, or at least my sub-conscious can. I'm sure this dream could lead to all kinds of interesting analysis, but I'm convinced it was a result of bedtime reading materials combined with ill-timed snacks.

The project was more challenging and time-consuming than I thought. Through it I discovered that I don't clearly visualize my end product. I have ideas, but nothing firm. I also came to see that I often don't have the technique or the skill to carry out the ideas I do have. My work is very much a process. The assignment piece evolved over time, and I didn't know what the end result was going to be until I was done.  Overall it was a rewarding, though sometimes frustrating and nerve-wracking experience. 

Writing the artist statement, on the other hand, was pure fun. Because I regularly couldn't see what the artist intended in the pieces we studied, I felt that I could be pretty free in the meaning I assigned to my work. Seriously, if De Chirico's bananas were sexy, my crumpled, stained calendar could represent the passage of a year. 

Here's what I submitted for my assignment:

Like many of the artists of the Fantastic art genre, I chose to explore dream in the creation of my work.  In this particular dream, a year was spent in Neil Gaiman’s bathtub scraping cheese from a bicycle.

Although my piece contains none of the abstract and biomorphic shapes Jean Arp employed in his art, I was inspired by his use of chance and collage in his work. 
The elements of my collage are mounted on 8”1/4 x 11”3/4 drawing paper. The background is composed of tea-stained pages torn from a day planner that were then dry brushed with watercolour paint. The remaining elements were cut from a variety of magazines.

The magazines were purchased from a library discard table. I had no control over the selection of magazines available for sale, nor did I have control over the images I would find in those magazines. Thus I had to rely on chance when looking for images to illustrate the dream.

Because  of this reliance on chance, the resulting collage is not a direct depiction of the dream. Still, the overall feeling is the same, and all the elements are represented in some way.

The bicycles, cheese and bathtubs are self explanatory.  The hand tools were selected to represent the scraping involved in removing the cheese from the bicycle. Clocks were employed to represent the passage of time and to pay homage to the work of Dali. Time is also illustrated by the stained and crumpled calendar pages in the background.

The shadowy silhouette of Morpheus rising from the bathtub in the centre of the collage serves to subtly bring Neil Gaiman into the work. This depiction of dream is an interpretation of Gaiman’s creation in the Sandman graphic novels. That the character is Dream further emphasizes that the piece was inspired by the subconscious.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

She Started It!

Jan started it with her peppers and ice, though according to her, Alison and Alyssa were first. Then Sue jumped on the navy train. And so did Paula and Lisa and Alice and Tamera. Things quickly spread out of control. Inspiration was everywhere. With all that creative energy buzzing around, I decided that I too needed to take the plunge and play the orange and navy game. 

Just prior to Jan's post, I had bought an orange and navy silk scarf at the thrift shop. Not a colour combination I would normally be attracted to, but the scarf insisted on following me home. I initially left without it, but the scarf beguiled me back to claim it the next day. 

I couldn't imagine wearing the scarf. In my mind the colour combination and the pattern were just too unusual, at least too unusual for me. 

Then I saw Jan's outfits. Her timing was perfect. I had the scarf, and by golly, I was going to find a way to make it work. It took days of pondering, and the inspiration of all the stylish women listed above, before I got up the courage to try my own orange and navy outfit. 

I actually had all the pieces of this outfit in my closet. It would have never occurred to me to put them together. Another reason I'm glad I found Patti and the inspiring women who take part in Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style

This week is Patti's 100th hosting of Visible Monday. I only wish I had found her sooner. Go check out the amazingness. The sooner the better!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Introduction to Art: Week 2 ~ Brief Update

I am having a great deal of fun with this week's "Fantasy and You" unit. My first assignment is almost done. I don't know if I enjoyed working on my collage or working on my artist statement most. I might just be the Queen of Bullshit! I'll let you know for sure once I get my grade. My title won't be secure until I know if my audience bought my story. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Introduction to Art: Week 1 ~ Allow Me to Introduce Me!

So, once again I am taking part in a project that scares the heck out of me. At least I was able to blame my friends for the whole Sketchbook Project predicament. This time I have no one but myself to blame. I got into this mess on my own.

I am taking the course "Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques" offered by Pennsylvania State University through Coursera. The following is from the catalogue description of the class:

Learn to identify and define various art movements, artists, and their artworks. Convey a personal appreciation for art concepts, techniques, and approaches through the creation and sharing of your own original artwork.

Sounds pretty harmless, until you get to the bit about creating and sharing original artwork. What. Was. I. Thinking.

I was thinking that I missed the frenzied acts of inspiration that went with creating my sketchbook. This class seemed like just the thing to ensure that I had more opportunities enjoy that process. Besides the class was billed as "an art appreciation course created for individuals without any artistic background." Sounded like a good playground for a novice like me.

Our first week's assignment was to "create an artwork that reflects you or your interests and provide a short artist statement explaining the piece and introducing yourself to the class." The artwork and the statement were to be shared with our classmates in the class forums.

Determining how to introduce myself, particularly given my limited artistic abilities, was difficult. I browsed though my classmates' assignments and hoped for some inspiration. That was a mistake. It quickly became obvious that many of my classmates didn't get that this was a class for people without any artistic background.  There were some very experienced and very talented people posting in the forums. One woman even apologized for the quality of her work, as she was away from her studio and had limited resources to work with. STUDIO!!! What beginner has A STUDIO?? Is there some definition of beginner that I'm not aware of? Aaaarrrggh! 

Once I got over my panic, I decided to just jump in. In fact, that became the theme for my piece. I knew I wanted a picture of someone about to jump from a cliff into a sea of art, and given my drawing abilities, I knew that collage was going to have to be a large part of my creation.

I quickly realized that I wasn't going to find exactly the pictures I wanted, so I sketched a frightened little guy standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. I chose a monkey pencil to create my picture, as I needed to remind myself to keep a sense of humour about the process. Nothing like a monkey pencil to keep panic at bay.

"Don't be so serious!" says Mr Monkey.

His wee monkey collar spins and his elastic legs wobble as I work. 

Then I spent the morning flipping through magazines and cutting out words that related to our first week's lectures. It was interesting to see how the vocabulary of art has spread into other disciplines. I snipped art-related words from articles on interior design, photography, technology, medicine and fashion.  I think my favourite was finding the word "line" in an ad for Juvederm. I never thought about the art involved in cosmetic treatments before. I probably never will again.

I was really pleased to find the words "plunging in" in one of the last magazines I raided. Finding a phrase that so perfectly described the theme of my artwork made me feel like I was on the right track. I cut it out for the title of my piece.

Once I had my words, I gathered my art supplies. Again, I deliberately chose to work with child-like materials. It seemed appropriate given my level of experience and ability, and I felt that the less-sophisticated supplies would indicate to my classmates that I am truly a beginner. Besides, it's what I had in the house. 

Art supplies generously supplied by Hubby when I was working on my sketchbook.
Here's what I shared with my classmates: 

I probably shouldn't have looked at other introductions in this forum before attempting mine. I am truly a beginner, and after browsing the works of my classmates I realize many of them are not. What a talented group!

My introductory artwork was created on standard-weight cartridge paper using a monkey (yep, monkey) pencil, Crayola crayons and coloured pencils, and collage. 

The thought of sharing my artwork terrifies me, but like the character in my picture, I'm ready to take the plunge into the world of art.

I chose my  materials to remind myself, and my audience, that the last time I took an art class was in elementary school. Back then crayons and coloured pencils were often our only tools, and decorated pencils were much sought after.  I hope the viewer gets a sense of the fear I'm feeling as I embark on this journey, and I want let everyone, including myself, know that I'm here to have fun!

Within minutes of posting my introduction, I had responses from my classmates. I was surprised, touched and pleased with the kind and encouraging things they had to say. I'm still a bit frightened about sharing my work, but I'm so glad I took the plunge. I may not win any gold medals for style, but I'm now confident that I can keep my head above water!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Really People!

The last time you saw my red-and-white-polka-dot skirt I had paired it with black. Black tank, black blazer, black bracelet, black shoes.  Given that Minnie Mouse is traditionally black and white and red all over, I had expected to get a few Disney-esque comments when I left the house that day. Surprisingly, if anyone noticed my similarities to Ms. Mouse, they didn't mention it. I thought had safely passed the mouse test.

This time I went a little wild with my outfit choices. White, bright blue, denim and gold were brought into the mix. Bright blue and red is a bold combo for me, but I was really pleased with how it went together. (A few days later I saw that Sally McGraw of Already Pretty had outfits featuring red and turquoise and red and cobalt on her colour pairing inspiration board on Pinterest. I felt a little less bold, but much more confident about my colour choices after that.)

I felt so good about my appearance that I tucked in my tank. When wearing this pencilish skirt previously I had left my shirt loose in a vain attempt to disguise my belly.  

Yep, I felt pretty darn good about my outfit. 

I fielded Minnie Mouse comments all day.

Really people. Minnie Mouse wishes she looked so good. Or she would if she wasn't, you know, fictional.

I'm linking up with Patti and the not-at-all-mousey crew for Visible Monday over at Not Dead Yet Style. Head on over and check it out!