Inktober, and goodbye to sweet, funny Debbie Sarow

For the last week or so I’ve been really sick and not making art, so I was grateful to Inktober for making it easy to get five words into one image so I can play catch-up a little easier.

Not sure what I caught, but two other people in my house caught it, too. They don’t have fibromyalgia, though, so they’re well over it. I’m going on day 10 and still coughing. Chronic illnesses drag out “regular” illnesses. If you’re used to getting over a cold in a week, with fibro you can extend that to two weeks, and then add on a recovery week where you’re not symptomatic but you just can’t move. It’s…..tiring. Weak, Scorch, Drain, and Swollen are words that all go to being sick.

Goodbye, Debbie, I’ll miss you

Breakable goes to what happened to my heart today, when I found out that Debbie had died. Debbie Sarow is – was – the owner of Mercer Street Books, my favorite bookstore in Seattle. It’s a tiny little thing, tucked into a long, narrow space right down the block from the Pagliacci’s, but when you stepped inside you were suddenly in a warm, welcoming, book-filled slice of heaven. Deliciously high wooden shelves line every wall and form three long aisles down the center, there is art everywhere (just look up!), and well-loved plants are perched on every available surface. I could live there quite comfortably.

Greg and Jason and I went in today, to sell back books, like we have a few dozen times before over the last eight years. Debbie always remembers us, and she and I would talk and talk. The routine was always us dragging in bags of books, then walking off to get dinner, then coming back to find she’d sorted through everything and had our credit ready. Then we walked around the store for an hour or so, shopped until we’d burned through our fresh credit, and headed out. Half the time Greg would be waiting by the door, our transaction complete, while Debbie and I finished our conversation. One time there was no one else in the store and he had to wait half an hour for she and I to be done (thankfully he had lots to read).

I didn’t know Debbie socially outside the store, so I will admit I was surprised at my own reaction to finding out she’d passed away. We came in to see someone else manning her desk, which was odd. Debbie was always there. I’d never been in the store when she wasn’t. The new person was helping another customer, so my eyes fell to the table next to the desk, where enticing new arrivals are usually set. Instead, there are pictures of Debbie, and a notice explaining her passing. Greg had gone to park the car, and Jason was standing, politely waiting for the clerk to be ready to help us. I felt disbelief, so sharp – this was so impossible – how could she have died? And then I burst into tears. I stepped behind Jason and hid my head against his jacket, and just cried.

For years I’ve known that I get so much out of the small exchanges that happen with the people I interact with every week in our neighborhood. It’s a vitally important part of my life, and its deterioration here is a big reason we’re moving.  Debbie was one of my favorite people. She was a link to the city, a link to books, to intelligent conversation, to a relaxed comfortableness that I just can’t find in hyper-busy, overcrowded Seattle anymore. She had a hilarious, dry sense of humor, and we cracked each other up. Bonding over laughter is my favorite kind, and we’d often said we should go get coffee. I wish we had! She was just a lovely person. I’m going to miss her very much. I’m so sorry for her family and friends, who had the chance to know her so much better than I did. Their pain must be very great.

When we left, I noticed Debbie’s hat and coat, still there. I loved her coats, she had great taste in clothes.

Goodbye Debbie! I’ll miss you. Much love, wherever you are. ❤

Inktober Day 13 – “guarded”

I thought it was kind of funny that the one part of the reference photo I didn’t even attempt was my own tattooed arm! Haha! It was such a small drawing (see my thumb for reference), and I didn’t know how to even start it. But don’t take that to mean I don’t love my sleeve, I do! But how do I draw that? No idea.

The other night Jason asked me what my current Inktober prompt was, and I told him it was “guarded”.

“I don’t know what to draw,” I said. “Maybe one of the guards who stand outside Buckingham Palace?”

He took out of his phone, and I thought he was going to look up a photo of a palace guardsman. Instead, he pointed the phone at me. “You should draw this,” he said. “The way Finnegan is always laying on you. He’s guarding you!”

Sure enough, he does look like he’s guarding me all the time. He’s such a good baby. I call him my “soul-mate dog”. He takes care of me. While I’m sure he doesn’t understand what fibromyalgia is, it seems clear he understands that I’m not as strong or energetic as other people in the household, and he watches over me a lot. If I’m upset, he comes directly to my side and comforts me. Anytime I’m on the couch, Finn jumps up with me, and curls up like he is now, against my legs.

Finn is my third corgi, and my first Cardigan. While there are other differences, an easy way to spot the difference between Cardis and Pems is that Cardigans are the corgis with tails, while Pembrokes are the corgis without tails. With both my Pembrokes, I felt that missing a tail meant they were missing a lot of emotive capability, and that idea seems well borne out by Finnegan’s wide range of expressions in the swish of his mighty Cardigan tail. That tail can telegraph excitement, contentment, playfulness, questioning, exasperation, pensiveness, and total ecstatic joy (like when we get home from the store and he knows we have pizza), among others.

Finn was purchased from Léo at Toreth Cardigan Corgis, and is, hands down, the happiest and most relaxed and intelligent dog I’ve ever owned. I was able to get to know Léo and visit her home a few times, and I’m in a Facebook group with other owners. My adoration of and good experience with Toreth Corgis is shared by many others! If you’re looking for a corgi pup bred for all the right reasons, I highly recommend Toreth.

In random other news, while I was painting, I was listening to this talk on “shadow work” by Craig Lambert, who has written a book on the topic.

A quote from his web page:

Shadow work includes all of the unpaid tasks we do on behalf of businesses and organizations. It has slipped into our routines stealthily; most of us do not realize how much of it we are already doing, even as we pump our own gas, scan and bag our own groceries, execute our own stock trades, and build our own unassembled furniture. But its presence is unmistakable, and its effects far-reaching.

Interesting stuff! I agree with a lot of his points, but I don’t know how we go backward. I see that problem a lot with our culture today – especially those areas of our daily shared lives that have been shaped by market forces and completely out-of-control corporate power. Yes, it’s bad, and I’m pretty exhausted talking about how bad it is, but what do we do? 

Inktober Day 12 – “whale”

It’s an unintentionally tail-less whale-ess. The prompt “whale” was assigned to today, and I’ve been hustling to get it done so I can catch up (this is my second post today). I love how I’ll picture something in my head, and then ask Google to provide me with a reference photo, and Google often obliges to a surprisingly accurate degree.

Here’s the photo reference I used:

I wasn’t trying to draw the exact photo, I was aiming for just the whale. I was thinking I’d put her in space, but then I’m just wanting to put everything in space because I seem to want to put stars around everything. Maybe it’s an artistic twee phase. I fought the impulse and went with a sunset instead. I could have done the photo and tried to put the whale’s reflection above her in the water, but I always have to weigh my skill against how long it would take me to practice and get to a reasonable ability to draw the thing, against how much time I have to finish the assignment.

I was focusing so intently on trying to get the proportions right that I realized – oops – I lost the tail off to the left of the page. Ah well! More practice.

The drops of pale silver in the water and sky is Arctic Fire by Daniel Smith, a glittery, translucent bit of magic that I like to try adding to things. I like it in the water but I biffed it a bit in the sky. No big. I’ve decided to like it.

I might need to get a convenience orange. I’m having a weirdly hard time blending a good orange. It shouldn’t be that hard. Translucent Pyrrol Orange is great but I can’t seem to lighten it to where I want. I also want a good coral. I love coral! Oh, you salmon pink of wonder and light, coral. I’ve tried to make it a few times, they were just so-so. It looks like I might need to go to the art store. GEE, THE THING I HATE MOST IN THE WORLD.

 

Inktober Day 10 – “flow”

This is a relaxing – although time-consuming – drawing. I used a calligraphy pen and my waterproof Carbon ink, and I just drew rough circles, then smaller circles, and finally stippling to fill in the gaps. It’s easy, requiring very little skill (save patience), and the pattern is remarkably beautiful.

There are lots of other things I could have jumped to from there to add depth make it look more realistic, but I didn’t have a lot of time yesterday so I stuck to the basics. I’m also not skilled at that other stuff! Which is fine, I’ll learn, but I didn’t want to experiment on this piece because it’s very time consuming to draw and if I screwed it up (e.g. I tried cross-hatching and didn’t like it), I didn’t want to start over again. I was thinking it’d be a good idea to make one of these and then scan it and copy it, so I can practice different techniques without re-rocking and re-stippling.

So to finish this one for today, I brushed on a bunch of water, and then three colors of Dr. Ph. Martin’s concentrated liquid watercolor. I was hoping it would look a bit like a stream, even without the depth, and I really do like how it turned out. I don’t look at it and see a lot of artistic skill, but it’s definitely relaxing to gaze upon, and I’m calling that a win.

I wasn’t sure if I liked these liquid watercolors at first, but now I love them – I think you just have to find the right places for them. Context is everything. I love how they look here. And so fun to work with! I was wishing my piece was bigger than postcard size so that I could just play with ink all afternoon.

But no, I’m off to an appointment, including a stop by PCC Market so that I can pick up my favorite gluten-free cookie. They’re fairly big, probably the size of my palm, and they’re $1 a cookie. I always get 6 of them, so I can eat two with tea, at night, and revel in my cookie meditation. And then I have 4 days of the week left to pine for the next time I get one (it’s a weekly appointment). Greg was with me last week, and he peered down at me, eyebrows raised, and said, “Six cookies? I thought you used to get five?”

“It’s six now. I have a system.”

He laughed. “Are you sure you need six of them?”

“I definitely need six. Besides, we’re moving, I won’t have access to these cookies anymore. You’re lucky I’m not getting 14 so I can have two every day.”

He shook his head. “We’re not moving for a few months, you can’t use that excuse yet.”

I stopped in the middle of the aisle, and pointed the cookie bag at him. “No man gets to determine the need factor in my cookie schedule,” I said.

He was smart, he yielded to my faultless logic.