Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Armadillo Dees
Originally uploaded by jeffclow.
I saw this picture and thought it was cool. Someone took the picture while the armadillo was in their backyard. I've never seen an one, and it seems strange that they are even around. There is so little wildlife around in the city, that sometimes even a squirrel seems like a novelty.

Biodiesel Fuels

I’ve been finding out about biodiesel fuel for cars. Apparently, there are regular pumping stations in my area, where you could get 100%, 80%, or 20% biodiesel, mixed with different amounts of regular diesel. I didn’t know that was available already. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, and you can mix it with regular diesel at any percentage. It is clean burning, and around here, costs $3.00 a gallon, compared with $2.65 for gasoline. The only problem is that it only works for diesel engines. I don’t know if you can convert a gasoline engine to a diesel. You probably can, but it would be expensive.
The gas prices seem to be increasing every week now, and I’ve read that they are going to keep going up, due to the storm on the eastern coast. The government is releasing some oil reserves to make gas cheaper, but it won’t affect prices for a while. Part of me is glad, because I want people to reduce their dependence on cars, and increasing prices seem to be the only way. But, now that I have a car, I want the prices to get cheaper too. That’s why I wish I could afford to either convert my engine to a diesel, or that I could have a hybrid car.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Women's Accepted Emotions

I saw this article about women’s emotions in Hollywood. It was about how most actresses never show any more emotion than a few tears, or a basic pout to pass for anger. This seems true for society in general. From what I’ve seen, the expectation to be beautiful or pleasant overrides everything else. If women don’t have a certain expression on their face, people, mostly men, act offended. I’ve heard from other people that they’ve had total strangers come up and tell them to smile. That’s happened to me as well, and it is always irritating. It’s as if they can’t tolerate an emotion that isn’t happiness, and it’s specific to women. I can’t imagine a man going up to another man and telling him to smile. In fact, it seems almost effeminate for a man to be really visibly happy, while walking around on the street. But women have to keep their faces’ appearance in mind, even when displaying emotion, or especially, while not engaging in something. I think that these people feel compelled to tell a woman to smile, because they feel uncomfortable with realizing she actually has emotions, and it isn’t her sole purpose to be a hostess.

I’ve seen other things along this line, in magazines mostly. One article was about how to look sexy while lying in bed. It advised women to be aware of their body’s position, to look the most alluring. The positions would seem uncomfortable and unnecessary, unless posing for a picture. Another piece of advice was not to sleep with your face touching the pillow, because it causes wrinkles. Then it recommended that women wear tape on their wrinkles while sleeping, so they can’t frown and make the wrinkles deeper. Basically, a person could go insane trying to follow all this advice. The degree of self-consciousness seems almost pathological. You have to spend all your time positioning your body, keeping your face smiling, and essentially never being comfortable, because that would cause wrinkles or look non-sexy. Of course, not all women do this to that extreme. Except with dieting, clothing, make-up, anti-aging creams, implants, surgery, and so on, so some degree of extreme self-consciousness is affecting women. Basically, all this neuroticism is done to live up to the expectation that women’s goal of beauty should override everything else in their life.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Retro Flowers

I painted this in acrylics. I was thinking about the designs that remind me of the sixties and seventies, with bright colors and graphically simple. I guess it fits, but I can see how I could go further, with more complexity of the design, not of the actual flowers. I like those psychedelic paintings, since they have so much character, and are creative. I think this is almost a rough draft, because I think I didn’t really capture what I wanted.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Musings on Poverty

I am reading ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’. It's about a young girl growing up in the slums of Brooklyn around the early 1900's. It’s interesting because it describes the way people lived at that time, and the things they used. Some of the objects they use are strange, like paper collars, which the father wears. They are like a fake white shirt made from linen paper that he wears under his tuxedo jacket, and buys a new one daily. I guess then he doesn’t need a shirt, and doesn’t have to pay for its cleaning. The people seem to be a lot poorer, judging by our poverty standards. They can barely buy any stale bread, and need to save by the penny, instead of the dollar, in order to buy some land. Buying the land is a future investment, that they want in order to change their status as landless, working poor. Part of it, the poverty levels, could be that inflation makes everything seem cheaper then, so people survived on what seems like less. But, I think the standards were lower, since even poor people have a TV now, and more material possessions in general. The poor back then barely can afford a white shirt or decent food. Plus, a lot of the way they do things is foreign to our times. One thing is that they know all the shopkeepers, and go to them to establish credit, so they can buy food before a paycheck arrives. In fact, they know everyone in the neighborhood. But they probably seem well off to third world inhabitants now, since they have food and access to water.

In some ways, reading the book is depressing, since it reminds me of how everything is a struggle; to find a decent job, buy a house or land, and to raise yourself above your class levels. And it is a never ending struggle, since there are always people who are being left out, and don't have even a remotely tolerable standard of living. Yet, there are other people who are just born into a rich lifestyle, and it doesn't even enter their conciousness that some people are barely managing to get enough to stay alive, much less improve their situation for their children. I think the class system and the unequal distribution of resources is one of the biggest problems facing our society, and the world, and this problem doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon, not without a huge revolt.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Into the Oblivion

I painted this in acrylics on canvas. I wanted to give the impression of looking off into a horizon that was unseen, like a future that's hidden and possibly dangerous. I mostly painted this without thinking too much about what I would do next. I find that my stuff turns out better sometimes if I just start painting and see what happens. Otherwise I may get something that looks cliched, or like I spent hours laboring over it. I think with this painting, I should have thought it out a little more. It would look better in a horizontal format, so you could see more of where the figure is standing.
It is harder for me to paint completely spontaneously, from my imagination. If I paint a still-life, I know what the end result should look like; more or less like the still-life. But it is more interesting to look at paintings from someone's imagination, even if the painting isn't that good.
The still-lifes can be extremely uninteresting. If they are good, I can admire the person's technique, but if they are boring, it feels like a waste of time, both painting it, and looking at it. One drawing I saw in a gallery makes me think of how pointless some art can be. The show in the gallery was a collection of one artist's lifetime of artwork. Anyway, the picture was a pencil drawing of a wire hanger, just the plain hanger outline, on blank white paper. There was no shadowing, no colors, nothing interesting about it. Except that it was priced at either $1000 or $4000, I can't remember which. The rest of the show was pretty much like that; modern art at it's worst, in my opinion. A giant red canvas, a blue dot on a white background, and so on. And it was all priced in the several thousand area. I really don't understand that type of art or why the prices are so inflated. That's why I prefer even a poorly done painting that someone clearly spent some time and energy on, over modern art (maybe it's postmodern, I don't know).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Finished Sweater

Fairisle Sweater
This turned out to be too small, but here it is. The fairisle part was fun to do, and the rest was mildly frustrating. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Reknitting Ugly Sweaters= Bad Idea

The pink armwarmer is one of the first lace knitting projects I tried, and the sweater is what I'm currently working on.

I decided to try unraveling thrift store sweaters as a way to get cheap yarn, but I found that most of the yarn looks too worn out. Or it is really poor quality to begin with. It’s not worth it to unravel and reknit with really degraded yarn. Even unraveling takes more time than I thought it would. It is definitely better to get good yarn if I’m going to be spending all the time knitting something. Everything related to art always seems to be so expensive. But then, most hobbies are expensive, except for reading, maybe.

I learned how to knit about a year ago, from Stitch and Bitch (which has good instructions, and has patterns for stuff I'd actually want to wear). In a way, it seems odd, because I don’t know anyone who knits, and no one I knew ever did anything like that. I just saw the book and the patterns, and I decided to see if I could figure out how to knit. It was frustrating at first, but now I’m seeing how the whole thing works. Now my main problem is when I try to change the type of yarn in a pattern, my gauge is off, so the whole thing turns out wrong. In one case, my counting of stitches was off by one, and that problem multiplied to make sweater turn out huge. Now I realize how important the gauge swatch is, even though it seems tedious.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Driving in Oregon & Bike Riding in Phoenix

I recently got my driver’s license, after learning how to drive only a few months ago. The strange part to meis, that I should have gotten it over 10 years ago. I am kind of surprised that I even have a car, since I never thought about having one. Suddenly I feel a whole different set of possibilities opening up. When I growing up, my family usually didn’t have a car, except for short periods of time where we had a rundown car. The car would usually last less than a year, and the rest of the time we just rode our bikes. It sounds nice, but it usually wasn’t. We lived in Phoenix for several years, and still had to ride our bikes in the blazing sun, where it almost always seemed to be over 100 degrees. There didn't seem to be a bus system, oddly enough. Anyway, it was like riding through hell, since the city is polluted, and you could see how the air seemed yellowish, especially in the summer. I'd almost always have a sunburn, and my eyes would water whenever I was outside. I did want a car, but I guess it was never feasible.
So now, I do have a car, and I can really see how everything is designed around it. Suddenly everything is wide open to me. The pedestrians and bicyclists are shoved to the sides of the road. In some areas of Phoenix, there aren't sidewalks or bike lanes, so you have to walk by the side of the road. I'm also familiar with people screaming or throwing stuff at you as a bike rider. I guess it's strange to own a car, since I really do have a negative opinion of them. For one thing they are one of the worst polluters, they cause urban sprawl, and they're dangerous to people and animals.
It's ironic that in order to see any of the wild areas that cars (and other factors) are destroying, you need a car to get there. Which is why I wanted to get a car, really. It opens up my area from several miles within the city, to the entire state or more. All of this may seem obvious to someone who grew up with a car, and has always been around one, which seems to be 95% of the population. I guess not having one gives me a different perspective, and makes it more exciting, since I never took it for granted that I would own a car. But I do still wish that more people rode their bikes, for short trips within the city, and maybe then they wouldn't be so eager to scream at bike riders.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Meaningful Art, or just Kitsch?

This is one of my more realistic paintings. I like to do them, so I can practice technique. But if I work on them too much, I start to feel like I'm not expressing anything meaningful. I've seen paintings where the artist has done an extremely detailed still-life of say, a table set for breakfast, and it looks really well done, but then so what. It doesn't create any dialogue, or change how I feel about the world or society. I don't feel like I understand the artist more, except that they like a nice table setting.
I guess every piece of art doesn't have to set the world on fire, maybe sometimes a picture of a table or a bowl of fruit reminds you of your childhood or moment in time during a vacation or whatever. But for me, I want to do work that makes people feel something, or think differently about themselves or the world. That is much harder to do, though, since you have to come up with an idea, then find a way to execute it that is nonconformist, or totally shocking. I don' t feel that I've done anything like that yet, but that is my goal. Pieces like this rose are a stepping stone to creating something more profound.