Sunday, April 29, 2007


Our first entry.

Another Illustration

This weekend I continued to illustrate for Matt's magazine, which should post the latest issue on the first of May. My previous archivist turned into Dagonet, so here's the new one. Matt drew the head. I added the rest.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


That's how far I've gotten on my novel. I have to say, I'm pretty excited.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Andy Warhol

Yesterday, Nick said to me, "Tomorrow we're going to frame an original Andy Warhol."

This was not good news. I do not like framing art that is famous and irreplaceable. It makes me edgy. When I'm edgy, I'm more likely to make mistakes. When I make mistakes, I get edgier. I am sure you can see the downward spiral this can potentially initiate.

This morning when we finished assembling the frame and Nick went to get the piece, he told me the sparkley areas were painted with genuine diamond dust. When he pulled the covering off, this is what I saw. Except sized 40"x40."

The good news about the saga of the Andy Warhol piece is nothing that went wrong was my fault, (or caused any damage to the piece or the frame). The bad news - a lot went wrong.

It was a terrible day of bad luck, and by the time Nick left the room carrying the piece, I was feeling too shell-shocked to do much other than absently start joining some nearby frames. When the happy customer left, all oblivious to the stress his piece had put us through, Nick came back to the work room and said, "I'm going to go sit in my office and calm down for a while."

It occurred to me as he walked off that no art is worth the kind of anxiety the two of us dealt with this morning, no matter who made it or how much precious material is sprinkled on top. But when you've got an important client, a gigantic, expensive portrait of Santa, and a deadline, it's hard to keep everything in perspective.

Fortunately, the week is over. Unfortunately, I think a little chunk of diamond somehow managed to work its way into my eye.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Early Work Week Observations

Today and yesterday were long days of joining for me. I had easily three times as many frames to deal with this week than usual.

However, far from being overwhelmed, I'm pleased. I like joining. It allows a whole portion of the mind to remain wholly unoccupied while the rest of the mind obsesses over making four pieces of wood look most convincingly like one.

The unoccupied portion of the brain does various things to pass the time. It is particularly fond of observing entertaining things - like the two girls who passed by my window at some point today. One was jogging, the other was walking. Both looked pretty much exactly the same from my vantage point. The jogging girl wore black shorts and a pink shirt. The walking girl wore a pink skirt and a black shirt. They both listened to ipods. As the jogging girl passed the walking girl, they made a very interesting study in color and movement. I was pleased, although the walking girl looked rather irritated about the whole thing.

Also, when joining frames, I think a lot about frames. I think about how annoying it is that the fancy shmansy frames that come with "inspected by this or that real person" stickers are always the most warped or crookedly cut and thus most difficult to join.

I also think about our customers. Yesterday, I recognized one frame as belonging to a woman who was extremely rude to me when she placed her order. My first thought when I unpacked and recognized hers was, "I should do a shitty job on this frame because this woman was mean to me for absolutely no reason."

Then, I thought, "No. No, Robin. You should do an extra good job on this frame. Because that woman was so rude, she obviously has an empty and unfulfilling life. While you, you have a wonderful life and are a happy person, which is why you are not rude."

So, with this thought in mind, I got to work. But the frame wouldn't join well. There wasn't anything wrong with it. The cuts were straight. The molding wasn't warped. It just... didn't fit together very well. There was nothing I could do about it. I tried. I really did, and the finished frame looks fine. But I didn't get to step back and look at it with that completed feeling and the thought "perfect" at the end. Instead, I had to think, "good enough," which isn't nearly as satisfactory.

My conclusion - there are forces in this world that are far more vindictive than I am.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Artistic Endeavors

Yesterday I helped Matt work on adding a blog to his online humor magazine. While we were working, he mentioned I could have my own blog as part of his site, and also could help him draw some images for his page.

The results of this conversation are below. Brian and I have undertaken a humorous blog to compliment his site. I had to draw a portrait of us for the occasion.

Matt also needed a fellow named Dagonet.

And let's not forget the columnist, Ned the Goat. He's just been to AZ.

So, that's mostly what I've done with my day. I also cooked some, cleaned some, wrote some, and made some beginning efforts at turning the basement into a studio.

Unfortunately, I have to spend my whole day working tomorrow. Sheesh. Why can't someone just pay me to goof around?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Richard William III

This morning, I saw a different squirrel in our yard (a transgression our current monarch will usually not suffer). This afternoon, Richard William was back, thusly adorned.

He also appears to have groomed thoroughly. His coat is looking significantly less patchy today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Life Lessons

Today I discovered it is a bad idea to consecutively sleep poorly, get out of bed relatively early, drink two cups of very strong black coffee but eat nothing, and then go clean the gallery. After an hour of dusting things, pushing a vacuum cleaner around, and running back and forth to the dumpster, (all with the knowledge that I need to finish before Nick arrives at nine) I feel a sensation potentially comparable to what a squirrel might experience on speed.

In that vein, Richard William III is shedding. I must say, it's most unbecoming.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Beautiful Day

It's warm and the sun is out. This morning I joined frames like a regular framing guru - except for that one time when I drilled the hole in crooked and the nail left a nearly imperceptible pucker on the outside of the frame that I couldn't deal with, so I had to pull the whole thing apart - and that other time when I got black putty on a natural wood frame and it wouldn't come off with anything less than that toxic adhesive relief stuff.

So maybe not a guru. Something as fast as a guru but not as graceful, perhaps. The point is, I was done by noon so Nick let me come home when he got back from lunch at 1:30.

The only problem is I get paid by the hour... So when I'm speedy I shoot myself in the foot... But anyway, it was really nice to have the afternoon off.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bittersweet E-Mail

Dear Robin,

I wanted to let you know that unfortunately we're not going to be able to admit you to the NWP this year. I wish we could, but only one of our accepted applicants turned down our offer to join the NWP and we can't responsibly admit any more students into our program this year. While we know this is disappointing news, you should know that you were among a very few applicants we wish we could have admitted. Again, I'm sorry it didn't work out this year and I hope you will keep us in mind in the future. Regardless, I wish you much luck with your writing career.


Robin Hemley, Director
Nonfiction Writing Program
University of Iowa

So, there it is. No in the nicest possible way is still no...

Maybe next year.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Close Encounters of the Museum Glass Kind

Since naming my nemesis, I have been lucky. The museum glass has remained some little distance from me - off to the side of the room I work in, quietly wrapped in brown paper and mostly leaving me alone. In return, I do not surreptitiously chip its corners as I walk past.

However, last week we had an encounter. It was Nick's fault. He let somebody order two huge frames with museum glass. Nick did the cutting (thank god) but after that he left me to finish up alone, escaping from the work room with the encouraging words, "Okay, I gotta get out of here before this glass makes me totally neurotic." This coming from my boss, who has been framing for 20 years and is really, really good at it.

Naturally, that set me totally at ease.

But, about half an hour later, I had the piece all finished - backing, wire and all. How, you ask? Not by cleaning the glass. Oh no. No no. My secret - I never touched it. I never sprayed windex on it. I never so much as breathed on it. Its power lies in refusing to become clean, but if it never comes into contact with one single particle of matter that can make it dirty, it has no potency. It does not need to become clean because it already is clean. I will use this against it whenever I can. Muahaha.

However, I'm pretty sure my heart rate was about twice what it normally is during that whole experience. Fortunately, Nick took pity on me when he returned from lunch and did the second piece himself.

But it's not over. I have already seen in next week's orders that one piece will require museum glass.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Thing I Don't Like About Raccoons...

... is that there is one living in the ceiling of our porch. This would be fine except it also has a latrine up there, and likes to chew beams at odd hours.

Also, it's been snowing all day. There is a photo on Brian's blog.

In better news, I'm 9% done with my novel. This is kind of exciting.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Today I did laundry and I didn't misplace a single sock for any length of time.

It's the little things in life, truly.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Books, Bikes and Beer

So last night after dinner, Brian said to me, "I've been thinking about starting a website."

Today, I am proud to announce the launch of - Brian's vision backed by my knowledge of websites. He's all up and running now, and what will appear there in the future shall be entirely his own.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Writing Blog

I have started a new blog. In this one I will track the progress I make towards finishing a novel. There is also a link to it in my sidebar.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Bad Weather Returns

There were snow flurries today - on and off for six hours or so. All the little purple flowers in the back yard are dead, and Nick today was lamenting his tulips.

I thought winter was over. Guess not.

But at least I have a boss who cares about flowers.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Break in the Nasty Weather

Yesterday I managed to get out on my bike for a couple of hours. It was almost 60 degrees out, and mostly sunny. It felt really good.

The roadside ditches and areas between plowed fields are all turning green. There are baby cows out in the fields. I had a lovely time riding along, except that I involuntarily swallowed the biggest bug I've ever managed to catch in my mouth. It was disgusting. (I briefly considered getting off my bike and hurling.)

Also, oddly, on one particular section of the road, I was spinning along and suddenly I smelled puppy. You know that smell? There is no other way to describe it. Well, there it was permeating the air on a little empty road between empty fields. There was nothing unusual in sight. Not a bog or something that might make a peculiar smell. Also, no puppies. It was very confusing. When I turned around and passed the same area on my way back, I smelled it again. I slowed down and sniffed the air. It was puppy, through and through, and I have absolutely no explanation.

It stormed in the night and is supposed to drop into the 40's this afternoon. Grrr.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Confessions of Foolery

First of all, I would sincerely like to thank those who responded via comments and emails with kind words for my tattoo. I am particularly grateful to Judith, who was indeed my inspiration, if not quite in the way I may have construed in my last post, and who's timely comment also made my story just that much more credible so those who may have been inclined to doubt, doubted less.

Next, I would like to thank Laurel, for seeing through me but then whole-heartedly embracing the scheme and extending it via a print-out to those I can't reach from here in Iowa.

Also, thanks to friends who reminded me how well you do know me. As Liz said, "P.S. Not buying the tattoo story... I simply can't see you writing "the very vessel of my being - my body." with a straight face."

In the same vein, I would like to apologize to those of you who don't know me well enough to be acquainted with the perversity of my nature that would cause me to do something like this as an April fool's joke.

And, I would finally like to note that my big brother (with the help of my immediate family), as ever, one upped me in the end. "It turns out that I beat you to it! ...a modest geometric Polynesian band done around the middle section of my left thigh... I wasn't actually planning on showing it to (our parents), but now that we both have work done perhaps I will!"

Obviously, I learned from the best.

For anyone who is still confused, the truth is no one in the family as yet sports any permanent marks on the body from anything other than scarring. Clearly, one should be careful of anything a Stephen says on April Fool's Day.

And also, Brian doesn't have a tattoo fetish either.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


As some of you know, I've been considering a tattoo for quite some time. A number of factors have deterred me from ever actually following through with these thoughts. One was the simple fact that tattoos are a fad right now and I don't like doing anything that smacks blatantly of mainstream. The other is that I've never had enough faith in the fortitude of my own personal taste to want to permanently affix an image to my body.

But lately I've been going through a few changes in my life. With these changes comes a certain need to have faith in myself. I realized that I can express myself via a fad by interpreting it my own way, and also that I have loved art and making art for so long it seems only logical to extend this love to the very vessel of my being - my body.

Other inspiring factors - the tattoos my new friend Judith is having done on her back (and her useful knowledge of all things tatoo). Also, Brian confessed he's always had a secret tattoo fetish.

Anyway, with this new spring season, I decided to do it. I took quite a while designing and talking to people about who the best artist would be for me. And then I did it. It hurt and took a long time and all that, but I am pleased to say it looks mostly like I envisioned, and I've started to love it.

Here's a photo. I might extend the linework and add colors later, but I'm staying pretty basic for now.

Feel free to tell me what you think.