Monthly Archives: January 2010

12-String Stew

12-String Stew(128Kbps)

I did the attached recording after buying my first 12-string guitar a couple years ago. I wrote the rhythm part in about 10 minutes, recorded it, then improvised on top of that—all in one take. I call it 12-String Stew, partly for lack of a better name, but also, because I got ideas for a few songs from that experiment. Essentially, it was a reverse amalgamation. That may be a made up term, but that is a fairly concise way to explain it.

Since it was a first take and is not edited, it is a bit rough and is far from mistake-free. I am sharing it so that you can get a sense for my writing style until I can record and post more polished work.


“Color of Gray”

 In art school, I took a literature class where we studied art-related fiction e.g., Girl With a Pearl Earring. One of our assignments was to write our own art piece. I came up with a story based on a fictionalized account of my own experiences. It is a tale of an insular artist discovering and dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Considering the readers’ responses, i.e., my classmates, I suspect this story is definitely worth holding onto, and quite possibly, marketable. Now, I have given myself the directive to find the appropriate markets for it. That may be more challenging than writing the story itself.

Here is an excerpt from my story, “Color of Gray”: 

It is very funny the things one thinks of when faced with adversity, mortality. I use the term “funny” quite loosely. Anyone can muse about this superficially, but really, you don’t know until. . . .

I sat on the hard surface of the bed in the emergency room, swinging my legs impatiently. Up, down, right, left, clockwise and counter. From the moment I stepped into the waiting room until I was admitted, I was confident my grotesque appearance was due to an allergic reaction to insomnia medication. The sleepless nights while battling my creative energy were really not as traumatic, considering. Never mind I was on the lowest dosage, and my response was atypical. I was healthy, a vegetarian, and a yoga practitioner. Could it be the paints, the turpenoid, the varnish?

I tried to lie back on the bed. The choking feeling I had become too familiar with during the past two weeks came on full force. I struggled with my newly swollen extremities to sit up once again. Where did my comfort level go? I viewed my faint reflection in the glass wall separating the room from the Ivan Albright-inspired scene of the E.R. A thinly diluted watercolor portrait I did not recognize. The model for my hours of study and practice looked back at me. Where did I go? I was hideous.

The doctor, a tall drink of water with spiky, heavily gelled hair and post-adolescent acne, came in. He looked serious. Does he practice that face in the mirror? “Mass in your chest . . . ten centimeters . . . compressing . . . might be cancer.” What? I haven’t brushed my teeth since this morning. I hope my breath doesn’t smell.

I felt like I was hit with a log. Cancer is something that happens to other people. Not a thoughtful, bright, young person as myself. My God, I will not make it to forty. Overwhelmed at the realization, I fell back onto the bed. The braided cord twisting slowly around my neck was the least of my troubles. As the doctor, no, medical student, came towards me and held my hand, I was reminded of Noah Wylie. He was so damn young. Get your psuedo-sympathetic, taken-from-the-book bedside manner away from me. You have your whole life ahead of you to dry the backs of your ears. My life is behind me. I really did want to do a silverpoint drawing someday.

How will I sleep? If I can make it through the night, I will be able to handle the prognosis the next day. It was a hospital for Christ’s sake; there were plenty of pills to choose from to send me blissfully into oblivion. I became acutely aware of the pain the upper half of my body was in. Three heads long from the top of the head to the navel. That is what I learned in basic anatomy. I knew more about the human structure than the average person. I did not understand what was happening to me, though.

I never conceived myself vomiting green bile. Too much morphine, or not enough. Sap green with a touch of Indian red. Not a lot, the pigment is very transparent. Hmm. Maybe a splash of indigo blue to cool the mixture in places. Make it more interesting to the eye. The colors should sing and dance on the canvas. My head lolled to the right on my pillow. I didn’t have the strength to resist looking at the x-ray of my torso. The gray mass was suspended behind my ribcage. Why is it so difficult to render that part of the body? I wish I practiced that more. The tumor—like a lump of clay. I bet I could mold it into something interesting, beautiful even. Instead of killing me, it would feed me.

I had no idea what day it was. The on-duty nurse pulled my straight, waist-length hair into a loose ponytail. Such a perfunctory action to her was such a welcomed gesture of kindness to me. My hair had not been washed since the morning of the day I came here. Will it fall out?

I had the luxury of free time. If I didn’t have to work, I could paint eight hours every day. I could work out more, clean my apartment, or see more plays. I was left there in bed, watching television. The drama playing out in the little, black box was a welcome escape. I wished I had my sketchbook. It would not matter, as I could barely lift my arms to scratch my face.

The tubes, lines, and wires were finally removed. I was unfettered. I had the freedom to haul my engorged form to the washroom. I stopped at the mirror. What a horrific composition. My face was crimson, bloated, with dried mucus on my philtrum; my soul was black. I could call it “The Four Humours at Play.”

Creative Block series

At least, I suspect this will turn into a series. Although, the title may use some tweaking. I have always been curious what precipitates the proverbial writer’s block, what sustains it, and then allows the artist to eventually break through that concrete wall to enlightenment. Or perhaps, to find a deeper and darker abyss on the other side.

The two oil paintings displayed above— Eine Kleine Nachtschreiben (A Little Night Writing) and Symphony in Abeyance, were created independently of each other, in different years, even. As is common when items live together, similarities are found along with their differences. I recently discovered they are connected by a common thread—in general, writer’s block.  In one, the writer leaves a blank journal in the dark, but not before taking one last draw on the glass of wine that was once inspiration, and has eventually become an escape. In the other, the musician discards glasses and crumpled up musical staff paper, seemingly in frustration and defeat.

At risk of explaining the work too much, I’ll stop there.

As an Accountant, my day job does not allow for too much creativity, yet more times than not, I am left speechless (relatively speaking) when writing e-mails or documenting procedures for a departmental manual of operations. This is not creative writing, per se, but it still requires the skill of creating something from nothing. Of course, it will not serve a purpose beyond assisting to keep the wheels turning of the corporate machine; arguably, it will not bring passion or joy to a person’s life. I guess peripherally, as it can make someone’s job easier, thus easing stress, etc. Regardless, I can still experience a writer’s block.   

This is a working title of the series, lest I limit myself to arts if I choose to cast a wider net. Perhaps it can stand as is and let the viewer connect the dots if desired. I am not blocked on the name, I just haven’t decided yet. Create is usually connected to the arts; Invent to the sciences. I believe they are not mutually exclusive, and are in fact, interchangeable. The thesaurus agrees with me.

Anyway, I’d like to explore this concept more, from painters to writers, accountants to scientists. Maybe it doesn’t need to be that specific, nor does it have to be solely about succumbing to a block. It can be about the whole journey, or parts of it. How can breaking down those walls be depicted, as an example? Will it be literal or symbolic?  

As an aside, the two paintings displayed were titled by my very creative husband. I have no problem with my songs, but when it comes to naming my paintings, I am more times than not, blocked. Is that irony?

What’s in a name?

I should probably explain my URL/signature. Because, I have not encountered anyone who is willing to pick it apart and analyze what it means. I had an art teacher who told me that I always reach for the metaphor first. Guilty. It still doesn’t stop me from doing just that; but as always, I consider how my work comes across before proceeding.

I knew pretty much from the start that I would be interested in making my vocation in several different ways. I get irascible if pigeonholed. Not really irascible, I just like that word. I do get claustrophobic, however. So that I do not digress, I’ll just explain my intent.

One, it was a business decision. The name is AmaranthiArts Studios, i.e., more than one (virtual or veritable) studio exists.

While I do market under my name, the business name will remain, and it is one I fashioned out of some things that are important to me. Many think of “Amaranth” as a grain, which is not incorrect. There are other meanings which I focused on. One is as a fictional, everlasting flower. We all want to be immortalized somehow, preferably in positive ways. What better way for an artist to do that then by creating beautiful work that can sustain and be enjoyed for generations to come? That is my goal, of course. Amaranth is also a mixture of my two favorite colors—purple and red. It chemically dyes pharmaceuticals, food and clothing, but that takes the romance out of it. More to the point, those colors have become inextricably linked to me, as anyone who knows me can attest. Surrounding myself with purple and red makes me happy.

I trust “Arts” needn’t be explained. I used the “i” just to make it flow better in pronunciation. Am-uh-ranth-ee-arts.

So there you go.

When at first you don’t succeed . . . start a blog.

In a fit of ambition, I purchased a URL with the complete intent to post images to market and sell my art, music, and fiction writing. I did this back in 2007, and just last summer, extended the subscription for another three years. All I can say is that thankfully the fee is minimal, because here is my website thus far:

Nice, huh? There are prevailing reasons why my website is not active; lack of content is not one of them, I assure you. I also have the site fully conceptualized. It’s quite slick in my mind’s eye. It really boils down to a deficit of time and money; the former due to requiring a 9-5 job as most adults do along with the normal and all-consuming responsibilities of living; the latter because in order for a rather technically-challenged individual to build a website, one must pay someone to do the task. And since I am not inclined to half-heartedly do it, I have to invest in a quality product. Other things have already laid claim to my disposable income for the foreseeable future. But really, it is a matter of deciding to make the commitment to that. Until then, this is a more economical, accessible, and less daunting means to introduce myself.

Along with other musings and observations, periodically I will be posting images of my paintings and drawings, as well as clips of my music. Of course, since it isn’t my style to just throw something out there and let vultures seize on it like so much carrion, I will explain some of my process and intent. There is a fine line that artists always tread in letting the work speak for itself versus over-explaining. One can leave the audience scratching their heads; the other risks being pedantic and telling them what to feel. 

So, without further ado . . .