Friday, July 31, 2009

A botched camping trip

Hello everyone! Matthias, Pono the dog, and I have been away for a few days. We decided to escape the hot desert and head north on highway 395 towards Mammoth, California. Our original plan was to drive to Convict Lake and hike up with our tent and sleeping bags, where we could camp and flyfish some of the higher mountain lakes. We got a wilderness permit, fishing licenses, food, etc. Everything seemed to be lining up. However, when we got to Convict Lake, a thunderstorm was building right where we were planning to hike. Not that we weren't equipped for rain. No, the problem was Mr. Pono. Pono is terrified of thunder. I mean TERRIFIED. When we had our gear ready, we had to bribe the dog to get him out of the van. Once we started to hike, things seemed okay with Pono, especially when he saw that cool mountain lake. (Which he immediately had to wade into and cool off in.) The problem started when we were about a mile in. The thunder would roll, Pono's ears would go back, the tail would tuck itself in, and he would try to drag Matthias off to hide underneath the nearest tree. Pono weighs about 70 pounds, and when he decides he doesn't want to go somewhere, not even Matthias can out pull him. We thought we would wait and see if the storm would dissipate, but after half an hour, it seemed like a futile plan. Sadly, we turned around to hike back to the van. Pono had to be coerced out from under his tree, and once on the trail, he dragged me all the way back to the van.

We thought maybe we could get an early start the next day, and try again, but it rained on and off all night, and when we woke up, we could see that the day would be a repeat of the one before, in terms of scary thunder. We then decided to drive north a little more, where the sky was clear, and try a day hike. We thought with a shorter hike, we could get in and out with the dog before the thunder ruined any chances. Once again, the gear was packed, the sunscreen was applied, and we started off down the trail. This time we barely made it 200 feet, when Pono decided that the big, bad thunder was lurking behind the next bend. He stopped walking and would go no further. Our plans were once again stymied. We both felt sorry for the dog, but at the same time, we were beginning to feel a little angry with him. It is a long drive from Joshua Tree up to the Mammoth area, and we had been hoping for a high mountain adventure. Unfortunately, you can't sit a dog down and explain to him that thunder is not going to eat him up. Nor can you reason with him. We ended up driving to another close by lake (June Lake) where we proceeded to throw sticks into the water for Pono to retrieve. He didn't seem to mind being out of the van, as long as there was a lake right next to where the van was parked. Fun for the dog, but not fun for the humans, who were hoping to get away from crowds and road noise.

We did camp another two nights in the area. It was nice to get away from the desert heat for a while. Unfortunately, we have reached the conclusion that if we want to hike up to a high mountain lake in the summer, we will most likely have to leave our sweet, sensitive dog at home. It is a very sad discovery for us.

In other news, I have sold my first giclee reproduction on ebay! I have just listed this hand altered giclee for auction. I worked over this new giclee with pastel, changing the composition a little, so it is now one of a kind. Click here, if you want to see the listing. I am now including my last name, Swenson, in the title, so you should be able to search for the new listing that way. (or just use the link here.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Debilitating Fear

For over a year now, I have been wanting to list some of my older art on ebay. I have been curious to see what would happen. Would anyone find it? Would anyone bid on it? Would I sell it? What would really happen??? Strangely, I kept putting it off. I mean, I put it off for a whole year!!! More than a year, even. Finally, I was sitting at the table, thinking about goals and things I wanted to do, and the ebay plan came back to me. I asked myself, "why haven't you done this yet, Karine?" When I thought about it, I realized I was afraid. I worried that no one would buy my art. I worried that no one would bid on it. I worried that having it sell for next to nothing might make me feel bad about my art. There was this endless list of things I was afraid of!!!! That list was preventing me from trying out a new selling venue.

I am sure there are others out there who can relate to this kind of fear. It stops you dead in your tracks. How often does an artist put their art out in the world, only to be rejected in some way? Maybe we enter our art in a juried show, and get rejected. Maybe we show it to someone, and they do or say something that really hurts our feelings. We might take our art to a potential gallery or client, only to hear them say they are not interested. All of these kinds of things can cause us to "shut down" creatively. I have often felt as though everyone hates my art, except me, so what's the point? Why keep painting? Can any of you relate to this?

Part of being an artist is learning how to overcome these rejections. I don't know if an artist ever becomes completely immune to things that happen with our art. I do know that as I get older and as I paint more, I learn not to take rejections so personally. There are all sorts of reasons why my art gets the big "NO" stamp from someone. Maybe this person just found out they were overdrawn in their checking account. Maybe this judge only likes paintings of small kittens. Indeed, there are reasons for rejection that have nothing to do with me or my art. Having said that, I know there are also reasons that have everything to do with me or my art. I do not yet consider myself a master painter. I know there is PLENTY of room for improvement in my work. I also know that there are many people who don't like the kind of art I create. (Which is primarily abstract or figurative.) You know what? It doesn't matter. There are people who will love my art, despite its imperfections and because of my style. I know there are people like that!!! I have met them. I have sold them my art. I have connected with them, because of my art. And when it's all said and done, THAT is worth painting for.

So after having this little discussion with myself about listing art on ebay, I decided to take the risk. I decided that it was worth it. I have way too much art to allow it to simply sit in stacked in drawers, stacked up in my closet, or wrapped in bubble wrap in the spare bedroom closet. The art needs to go out into the world. More practically speaking, I need the room for all of the new art I am going to create!

I am listing art on ebay. I have already listed three pieces. They will be auctioned, with only a 99 cent minimum bid. (I am going to charge shipping, just to cover costs.) That way, the art will definitely sell, even if it isn't for much money. The point is to sell some art!!!

In case any of you fancy an opportunity to grab some nice art for a really good price, you can check out one of the listings here.

P.S. I have started with giclee reproductions, but I do intend to list original art as well. I will be sure to mention it, when I do.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer in the desert

This is a nolina in full bloom, taken at Joshua Tree National Park when my parents were visiting two weeks ago.

Just a quick post. I had some desert wildlife photos to share with you. Hope you enjoy them, and your weekend. It has been hot here (106 right now at 6 pm.) Send rain!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rattlesnake Wrangling

A long silence from me will now come to an end. What have I been doing? Well, as it turns out, I cleaned my entire house to prepare for my parents' visit. Had a delightful visit from my parents. I turned FORTY. My husband whisked me away for a magical night of dining and drama, I got a head cold, and finally, now, things are beginning to settle down to a more quiet and normal pace.

One exciting adventure that I have to share with you was a rattlesnake wrangling class with the multi-talented Mike Smiley. Some of you will remember Mike Smiley from my previous post about welding and plasma cutting. Click here, if you wish to read more. I received a phone call from Mike the week my parents arrived. He told me he likes to teach people how to deal with rattlesnakes safely. Living in the desert, you quickly learn that snakes are just part of this place, and I feel that it is good to learn about your neighbors, whether human or other. I wasn't sure if my parents would be interested in the rattlesnake class, so I told him I would come if I could. My father hates rattlesnakes, so I had my doubts.

Fortunately for me, I was able to talk my Dad into coming with me. Mom was sleeping in, since they had only flown in the night before, and it was late when we got home. When we arrived at Mike and Betty's house, there were two large plastic garbage cans with lids clamped down. When Mike kicked one of the garbage cans, the unmistakable sound of a rattling snake was heard, coming from inside.

Mike is such a patient and thorough teacher. He explained how rattlesnakes are often misunderstood, since many of us are afraid of them. Yet, rattlesnakes are important members of the food chain, since they help keep the rodent population in check. I look at rattlesnakes with an equal amount of fascination and trepidation. Mike went on to talk about how a snake sees us as giant monsters, and mostly, they just want to get away from us. When you think of the size of a rattlesnake compared to our size, that seems logical. He showed us how you can determine which way a rattler is moving when you look at the tracks it leaves in the sand. We learned that when a rattler is about to shed, its eyes are a milky blue, and it will want to hide someplace quiet until it is done. He shared all sorts of rattler trivia with us. They really are fascinating creatures.

Now, rattlesnake wrangling is something you need to know if there is a rattlesnake that has decided to camp out in your garage, or front porch, or (ulp) in your house. Basically, what you want to do is encourage the snake to take refuge in a large garbage pail, so that it can be safely removed from an area where it could cause problems or be a danger to human beings. He had three different tools for guiding and moving the snakes around. I chose to use the broom, because I figured that would be the tool I would be most likely to have if a rattler decided to come for a visit. Mike showed us the safe way to guide and move the snake, and then we all got to try, with his attentive supervision. At first, I did not think I would do it, but when all of my girlfriends bravely took a turn, I felt I had no choice! I couldn't be the chicken - the peer pressure was too much. So, with jittery hands, I took a turn.

Happily for me, by the time I took my turn, the five-foot rattler knew exactly what to do, and obligingly slithered pretty quickly into the huge black garbage pail. Wow! Once you are certain the head of the snake is at the bottom of the pail, you grab the handle of the pail and lift the can upright. Next, you want to put the lid on, clamp it down, and then you can safely transport it to the less populated areas. Cool! I am not sure you should try this until someone has showed you all the details the way Mike did for us. Maybe if you are brave, and have an extremely long handled broom. Oh, and even though I was wearing sandals, you really should have shoes if you try this. Especially if Mike Smiley isn't standing right next to you to step in when the snake becomes agitated!!!