Monday, July 30, 2012

when was my last tetanus shot?

Today I made sculpture.

That is to say I sweated a lot, my muscles ache, I'm pretty sure I have a sliver of steel lodged in my left contact..........and I'm very happy.

Sculpting is hard work.  It is mentally and physically exhausting and it's dirty.  The salty sweat mixes with the fine particles of steel and small amounts of rust will actually form on your skin.  The rogue sparks find their way into unprotected areas and sizzle when they make contact with flesh.  It hurts.  Almost as much as my back does after hunching over the workbench all day. 

At times I'll look for reasons to not sculpt.  I'll decide it's a quality time sort of day and I'll load Blue up for an adventure.  Or I'll find myself unable to tolerate the height of the grass and I'll spend the day doing yard work.  Or I'll see the forecast high temperature in the mid 90s and decide that what I really need to do is draw in the air conditioning.

But today I needed to sculpt so I forced myself into the basement shop and worked and sweated all day.  And I loved every minute of it.  As difficult and dirty as it is, I am drawn to it and I enjoy it.  I don't think I can explain the feeling of absolutely knowing that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing...but I felt that today.

I also felt the 1/4 inch sliver of steel I had to pull out of my big toe while Blue had his swimming lesson at the YMCA tonight.  In fact, I still feel that.   

Sunday, July 29, 2012

cats have 9 lives

Dr. Linda Neely at her retirement celebration

This summer has brought many things with it but one thing I'm not thrilled about is the retirement of Dr. Linda Neely.

Dr. Neely has been a fixture at Lander for many years as she has powered through her second life.  I call it her second life because in her first life she was a public school teacher.  In her second life she has been a professor, department chair and dean and now she leaves us as Professor Emeritus.

Linda was chair of our department for my first two years at Lander and she took extra time to guide me through all the newness.  She is a walking encyclopedia and she always had time for questions and always gave thoughtful answers.  Ever the humble servant leader, she focused the spotlight of attention on her faculty and students.

Those of you who know Dr. Neely will expect (like me) that instead of finding a comfy spot on a couch, in August she will begin her third life....whatever that might be.

I hope she finds the best of luck as she moves forward.  Thanks for everything!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

more summer adventures

As G continues to recover with her bionic robot neck, I've found myself going from having hours of solitude on these summer days to having almost none.  Of course I can't complain about anything since I've had lots of hermit time during the first half of the summer, but I'm having a bit of trouble thinking about creative things lately. 

So we've ditched creative production in favor of adventures...

 Blue and I took in a minor league game in Greenville

 Blue got an inflatable bat...great for hitting sisters in the head.

 And he bonded with the Reedy Frog mascot guy.

 I've been doing a lot of driving to Sparkle City getting Violet to school.  If I take the interstate I have to deal with every single citizen of Tennessee...and if I go through town I see things like the guy in this truck.  I don't follow politics at all but this guy seems to be ticked at the president.  Ticked enough to write a message to him on the back of his truck in permanent marker.  Odd.  If you can't read it, it says "Obama, I will not comply".

 And then there was the Geek Squad guy who pulled his rather distinguished black pipe out and stood for a smoke outside Best Buy.  If you've ever wondered what  it would look like if you mixed C.S. Lewis and a computer geek....there you go.

 In the category of really bad ideas, we went roller skating.  Which in our current situation means...I, a 40 year old man, had to suit up with skates and take a 5 year old on wheels by one hand and a 3 year old on wheels by the other AND try to keep all 3 of us upright.

 Blue on skates was like watching a baby horse stand up for the first time....on ice....covered in marbles.  His feet were in constant motion - never a stable moment.  Violet was a bit more stable because of her skates.  I'm proud to say that I did not fall a single time and not so proud to say that I rolled over both childrens' fingers during the outing.

 I wasn't completely honest about not producing any creative work.  I did finish my drawing series called "The Four".  These are each 24" x 36" ink on wood panel. 

 We are taking care of our neighbors' animals this week.  I'm getting a really good look at where our eggs come from.  It doesn't get much more local than this.  If you've never had the joy of washing off the eggs, I highly recommend it.

 We get to feed Frosty apples and carrots.  The kids love to pet him while they dodge his slobber.

 And he loves to do this right after a good snack.

 Blue and I went hiking again this week.  We tried Jones Gap State Park out this time.  It's a beautiful place.

 I learned that when hiking with a 5 year old it's not always best to chose the shortest trail available.  This trail was quite steep and fairly tough.

 Blue's legs got tired pretty fast and we went through our peanut butter and jellys and waters pretty fast.

 He insisted on crossing this bridge by himself on the way back down.  A streak of independence that we are seeing more and more of as the days go by.

And here's an upside down tree face for the road.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

a sculpture caper

Last week I received this ransom note from an unknown source:

Soon after, I started getting threatening photos sent to me showing my kidnapped sculpture in various scenes...


 Playing leap frog

 Riding a pony

 Doing some landscaping

 Relaxing in the shade

 Playing with the dogs

And climbing a tree

Turns out it was Old Man McGillicuddy and he would have gotten away with it if it were not for some meddling kids. 

The sculpture had so much fun he wanted to go back.  I threatened to recycle him and he got back in his bubble wrap and shut up. 

Seriously, this is what happens when you ask someone to pick up your sculpture from a show for you.  Very clever.  Still, it saved me a tank of gas, so thanks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blue's Clews

For a while now, Blue has been making "sculpt-chures" using his 3D toys.  At first this meant that we had to leave the "sculpt-chures" out for days at a time before he could be talked into dismantling them and putting them away. 

Then he started giving them titles.

And now he's started suggesting that we buy them from him with pretend money.  Don't worry, I'm not going to tell him that people don't really buy 3D work.

Here's a few that we snagged this week for $5 of pretend money each:

 "Super-Rainbow 3000"

 "Tallest American Flag in the World"

 "The Super-Make Umbrella"

"Super Tallest Rainbow in the World Steps Upside Down Lego"

And for those of you who know how I, I did not critique them. 

Not in front of him anyway.  But check out that balance of color and activation of space.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A couple of summer projects we're working on:

That was what Georgie's neck looked like a few months ago.  Last week a high tech team of scientists and surgeons gave her a new bionic neck.  I'm trying to stop myself from making the bionic man noise in my head every time she moves.  It's tougher than you think.

Apparently if you are 5 years old and incredibly cute you can look at a woman in a neck brace and call her "robot neck" and even make up a song about her "robot neck" without making her angry. 

If you are 40 and not so cute....this is not a good idea.

Blue and I rescued this old church pew from a junk store a couple of weeks ago.  I made a few adjustments, stripped the old finish off and gave it a fresh coat of stain.  It's a beauty.  It's also very heavy...especially when your wife can't help you carry anything. my quest to remain at least 2 years behind technology, I was recently introduced to Instagram.  I think it's connected to Facebook somehow and since I abhor Facebook, I sorta missed the memo on it.  I still do not have a Facebook and hope I never will, but I am on Instagram now as dougmcabee. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

in defense of noise

On sculpture work days I get up and run before having my coffee.  I get Blue set up with whatever things he needs, let the dogs out and I head down into the basement sculpture studio.  I plug the iPod classic into the little speaker dock and punch the volume up pretty high.  The volume must be high because the next thing I do is put in earplugs.  Then I turn on a series of very loud pieces of equipment....welder, plasma torch, side grinder and die grinder.  I can make out the louder parts of songs while the welder is running but can generally hear no music at all when using the other things. 

A few weeks ago Georgie came down the steps and yelled at me for several minutes before finally getting my attention.  She laughed and told me how idiotic I was for having music on with earplugs in and using loud tools. 

I enjoy a good debate but I stood there with my earplugs out realizing just how loud the music was and I had absolutely no argument for her at all.  This, of course, got me thinking and for the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out a way to defend my subterranean noise.

I still have basically no argument for it.  Music is important to me and it is particularly important for me to have around while I'm working.  I rarely focus on the music while I work and when I'm zeroed in on my work I do not consciously know what's playing...but somehow it is important.  Years ago in my dad's welding shop I tried turning off the old radio and I made terrible decisions in problem solving.  From that point on, music has been a must in the studio.  But since these tools are terrible for your ears, you have to wear ear protection naturally the music must be turned up louder.  I suppose that's my argument, but I do not feel it is strong enough to take upstairs yet.  I should probably look into why music helps me but right now I have sculptures to make. 

 That same day I noticed what I thought was condensation on the speakers. 

 A closer look showed that it was not moisture but tiny particles of steel pulled out of the air by the magnets inside the speakers.    Proper ventilation is very important boys and girls.  No wonder I rust when I get wet. 

A barely related postscript:

One of the things I enjoyed about Don Miller's books is that he provided a list of artists and albums he listened to while writing.  I think there's some sort of connection to be made between the music and the inspiration but again....that's research for another day. 

But in the spirit of documenting such things, here's what has been seeping around my earplugs this summer:

 The Way We Move by Langhorne Slim

 The Whole Love by Wilco

 Underwater Sunshine by Counting Crows

and pretty much everything by Clem Snide

Friday, July 6, 2012

the declaration of goofing off

The July 4 holiday fell on a Wednesday this year which either screws up a nice long weekend or gives you a midweek vacation depending on whether you are a half empty or half full type of person.  My choice was simple:  take the whole week off.

I have the luxury of being on summer break.  While to you that sounds like a 3 month vacation, the reality of it is I have 3 months to make a year's worth of drawings and sculptures while also trying to plan for the next semester while also going to school meetings in the summer while also delivering and picking up art from exhibits while also doing enough research to keep up with contemporary art while also catching up on a to-do list that has been building for the last 9 months.  Oh and there's the 10 acres of grass to cut.

It's a busy time.  But all work and no play makes me grumpy and since I finished sculpture number 8 last week....I decided to take this week off from sculpting.  (I realize that's only a vacation from one thing on my list but it's a pretty labor intensive thing and it constitutes a vacation of sorts)  So instead of that, I did some other things...

 Spent some time with Zeke.  He's turned into an excellent dog.  They say dogs grow to look like their owners over time....and he's certainly got the head for that.

 Spent some time with Hitchcock.  Thanks to everyone who refused to buy the 4 disc set at Target.  Your negligence lowered the price to $5.  The summer of bargain hunting continues.

 We had a pretty respectable storm.  Hail, wind, the works.  The power was out for a few hours.  At the exact moment I gave up on the idea of a cooked meal and started making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich....the power came back on. 

 It was hot.  Too hot to do anything for a few days.  The little dogs were comatose most of that time. 

 Lucky for us Uncle Daniel has a pool.

 We spent the 4th with him and his crew and mom and LJ.

 His kids talked him into a fireworks purchase.

 So there was some of this.

 And Violet's response was this.  Not a fan of loud noises.

 Blue and I took a day to go waterfall hunting.  It was there I found the new sign I want for the sculpture studio at school.

 Everything was amazing to him.  Every tree was the biggest tree he'd ever seen or the biggest rock he'd ever seen.  That one was one of many "biggest" rocks on the journey.

 The waterfall is Pearson's Falls just north of Tryon, NC.  It's more of a short walk than it is a hike.  It's an easy walk on a well maintained trail. 

 Blue enjoying his water.

 He wanted his photo taken with the waterfall.

 The walk back.

 Playing in the water.

 He insisted on taking his own photos.  This is apparently what I look like from his perspective.

 After the wilderness adventure we drove up a couple of miles to Saluda, NC.

 Saluda is a little stretch of Main Stree type stores and restaurants lined up along the old railroad.  This is the starting point of the Saluda Grade (I think) and the inspiration for many bluegrass songs.  They also celebrate Coon Dog Day here.

 We stopped in Tryon on the way back just long enough to find this treasure.  Now I have another project to add to that to-do list.

 Blue enjoying the drive back to Laurens.

 And showing off his battle scars from the hike.

 A vacation from sculpture means more time to draw.  I finished the four little drawings I started at the beach.

And finished a new big one too.  This is a detail of the 2' x 3' wood panel.