Archive for October 2021

Work Week

October 26, 2021

Increasingly, the work week feels like lurking predator, just waiting for me. Or maybe, I am the one floating around in choppy waves, hopelessly trying to catch some lovely blue bird (of happiness, completion or just breathing space!). It is much more elusive than it looks, and the poor squid or octopus is already stretched to limits.

Honestly, I do not know which creature I identify with as there is a bit of the pathetic in each. Even what was supposed to be the sun in this pic looks a bit like a whale that can’t quite get itself to submerge.

In any case, I hope your Monday was better than mine. Have a good week.


October 17, 2021

I am still working on a book of short stories, tentatively called Who Are You Kidding? And Other Stories of Strange Change. I have written these stories over some time, so my initial drafts of the book did not include stories of the pandemic. This didn’t bother me so much, since many of the stories are quite fantastical (surreal), and are not set in any specific era.

Yet, as the book has come closer to completion, it felt more and more wrong, given how overwhelming the pandemic has been. So, despite two great forces of resistance – my natural laziness and my “just wanting to get this done already”, I have been working over the last few weeks on stories that are set in the pandemic (and that also, I hope, fit into the theme of the book.)

And I like the new stories! So, a great relief.

Now, comes the problem of fitting everything together, and, specifically deciding which of the older stories to take out. Again, laziness and “just wanting to get this done” can be big blocks. (I had already spent a fair amount of time ordering the older groups of stories.)

Ordering stories (or poems or drawings–even hanging an art show–for that matter) is a strange activity. I tend to do it by feel. Often, I just know, or almost know, that it should be this one, and this one and, now this. This unanalytical approach seems to mostly work if I can let myself be free, yet also honest (that is, if I let myself see when it isn’t working, and try something else.) When it works well, it seems magical, for then the ordering creates a flow/reverberation between the separate stories, that somehow connects and expands each one.

Anyway, I know this all sounds like gobbledy-gook without the book. I just wanted to touch base; I do hope to have the book out soon.

In the meantime, here is a group of sketch portraits from an online drawing class (The Vigorous Figure at SVA) with Peter Hristoff.  They are quick and awkward, but sort of illustrate the idea of unplanned flow. I should note here that Peter is wonderful in terms of encouraging the models to work in certain ways, so he is very conscious of flow!  But the size of my paper, my sketches, and the actions of my charcoal are so much out of my control, that I am always very pleased when different sketches seem to come together.

Take care. 

Cars, cows, clouds….

October 11, 2021

Have a good day!

Stages of–

October 9, 2021

Here’s some of my new drawings from an online figure drawing class, The Vigorous Figure, with the wonderful Peter Hristoff. The classes focuses on drawing quickly, which, for me, at least, is super helpful as I don’t have time to become demoralized! And even though the model is very frequently changing position, a possibility of flow emerges–something good in both drawing and life.

Unfortunately, I don’t have quite the same lack of self-consciousness in writing–perhaps because it is not so new to me as drawing, or perhaps I don’t there have an encouraging teacher! But at any rate, the series of sketches above feel like a reflection of where I am with my new book of stories. I thought I was done, and was kind of tired of the work, then I looked at it again, more analytically, and decided that it needed something more, and now I am in the middle of writing/revising three new stories, each of which (at the moment) feels kind of terrible, despite what seemed like easy promise!

At any rate, I am going to persevere. (Or give up.) (Or just wail for a while!)

Have a great weekend.

Story: “Who Are You Kidding?”

October 6, 2021

Here’s a sample from the collection of stories that I have been working on.  Hope you like it!  As always, all rights reserved.


Who Are You Kidding? 

Feverish, he stumbled into a dovecote, feathered with pink-eyed coos.

He feared the birds’ sharp beaks, but slept at last, quivering and grunting. He remembered, later, one of the birds on his distended belly, pecking, yes, but gently. He remembered too when the whole hut shook. His body huddled beneath a snow of dust and down, yet also in that moment, seemed to lift. 

He could tell very soon that his shape had changed for his feet were suddenly freezing, also feet. And he was too big for the dovecot, his legs extending out the door into the field outside. His hair too had changed; his skin seemed to have inhaled much of it. 

As he ran his no-longer-hoofs over his body, he found places that felt, even in his confusion, immensely pleasurable, but vulnerable. It seemed to him as if one of the roosting birds had actually melded with him, and he was momentarily terrified by what next that bird might do. 

This is all mixed up, but it was all mixed up. He clasped the melded bird between his legs protectively–ooh, gentle–as he scooted from the dovecot. He understood that he was filthy, so, still holding between the legs (one hand a time), he pushed into the strange new stance, then lurched into the woods at the side of the field to a small brook.

But he could barely dunk where days before he had cavorted; the water was too cold, too cold!

Other goats drifted over. Although their yellow eyes widened, their slim chins nodded “of course,” as if they’d seen this many times before, goats being huge know-it-alls.

Water further slicking his new hide, he half-ran, half-tumbled down the field to the fence, which he climbed, handily (his balance already improving), then darted to the nearby farmhouse. It isn’t clear how he knew to do this. 

He head-butted the door till it opened. (Luckily, it had not been well shut.) A box of cereal sat on the kitchen counter. He tore into it with mouth and hands, devouring both cardboard and puffed grains.

Still damp, he rubbed himself on an old settee. It was an energetic if frustrating process, especially as the rubbing meant he had to let go of his new-found bird. Looking for something better to rub against, he stepped into another room that harbored a quilted bed. He was about to hurl himself against it when his eye caught a glint of gold on a nearby dressing table. 

Goats are not magpies, but they also love a shine, and the little curve of gold felt like a personal moon. He tried to pick it up, but though his nose was aquiline (goats’ are), it did not skewer the ring as he’d expected, but simply knocked it to the floor. 

An appendage scrabbled for it, and before he knew it, the ring was on that appendage! And then…


Seriously! The ring on his finger caused another immediate change, only this was a change in understanding rather than in physique. He turned to the farmer’s clothes. They were stacked on a love seat beside the dressing table, folded to be given away. 

Soon after, the farmer’s wife came home. She had been on a lonely trek, for although her farmer was not dead, she sometimes liked to think of him that way. 

He was not truly a farmer either. What he was, however, was gone. And, thankfully, she had not changed the deed of the farm (which had been in her family forever) despite the man’s entreaties. All he’d been able to take, aside from her prior belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity, had been her bank account. 

Now, she came upon a new man. She was terrified until she realized that the new man was far more frightened.

“Where’d you get that ring?“ she asked.

“Maaaa,” the new man said.  

“I aint your Ma,” she replied, though she realized, oddly, that she didn’t mind him calling her that. 

Back in the kitchen, she bent to gather the bits of cereal box and cereal. The man immediately bent to help her. And, when too dispirited to cook, she heated up a can of soup, he ate it to beat the band. (She later found that he liked just about anything out of a can.)

Okay, so he was a little strange, she thought, but it wasn’t safe for a widow (that’s what she called herself) to live alone. Besides, if her ex-husband heard about her living with another man, it would just about kill him.

Then too, there were his eyes. They looked at her in wonder; they were also striped. 

And his beard. Her husband’s face had abraded her–but this guy–she first touched the wispy hair when he’d got a smear of tomato soup in it– 

And then, and then—well, she also caught a glimpse of the new man’s bird. (He never did get the hang of underwear.) 

As for him, the wonder was genuine. Goats don’t lie down together much once they are grown, not entwined. But soon he found his limbs around her, again fevered, and his chest shuddering with doves.

Remote Drawing?

October 3, 2021

Hello World!

There are, of course, many awful things about the pandemic, but a positive aspect has been the increased facility to do things from home.  One of the most enjoyable for me has been zoom drawing classes.

I have no doubt that in person classes (especially for the young) are more effective. But I was rarely able to take in-person drawing classes pre-pandemic.

Most of these zoom classes have been with Peter Hristoff, a wonderful artist in his own right, and also a terrific teacher with School of Visual Arts. Peter is super inspiring and also very kind, and yes, he is a better teacher in person. But he manages to convey encouragement and insight even through a screen.

Right now I am taking The Vigorous Figure, which, like many of Peter’s classes, focuses on drawing very quickly (one or two minute sketches) with an eye to overcoming the stiffness and self-consciousness that may arise with fewer time constraints.

This is a very effective teaching technique for me, as it forces me to focus on line, and to get over my natural bend towards apology.  

My natural drawing method (pre-classes) is to make a lot of tentative little scratches that eventually combine into an image. These breathy little lines always seem as if they are asking permission to make whatever shapes they try for.

However, when I know I have to get an image on the page in a matter of seconds, I try (after getting frustrated) to commit to more continuous lines. In part, this is because following a line is faster. And following a line leads me to draw what I see rather than what I think I am supposed to be drawing. As result, I find both more energy and (importantly) more surprise. Commitment also carries weight, again helpful.

I am not very good at any of it, but here are two sketches,(the one above and below) from my last drawing session.  Believe me I did several that looked arguably more like the figure I was drawing, with more defined limbs, etc. But the one above (the figure) was done almost at the end of the session when I was kind of tired and trying for gesture alone (forget about musculature!) The one below is a face that I just like. (Of course, the model, who was great, has a very nice face.)

I would note that these types of exercises can be helpful in getting one’s self writing also.


PS – please don’t take my drawing as emblematic of the type of work Peter Hristoff does, promotes or his students do!  I am my quirky self and not representative of the talent there.