￼ There are several things that are certain in life at our house.
And if I sit down at my desk and open a keyboard or a tin of watercolor paint (it has to be watercolor paint), Jim-Bob will crawl into my arms within five minutes to offer his assistance and advice. He is now demanding full credit on all paintings, arguing that he has become an indispensable part of the creative process.
We thought we were starting with Lady Jane Grey (yes I watch too many historical dramas) and Gentleman Jim. Well, 5 minutes after we got home, we decided our swaggering orange tabby was more of a confirmed country boy and started calling him Jim-Bob.
We still thought Jane was very ladylike as she hung back under the coffee table and curled up in cardboard boxes in the sun.
That night one of the house mice made the mistake of venturing out from behind a cupboard to steal a piece of Katy’s kibble.
A ball of grey shot across the living room and kitchen, and the mouse scampered back to his hiding place. Little Jane was on the hunt however, and she was ready to tear apart our kitchen to get to it.
She didn’t get it, but she was in the mood for a hunt.
Everything was fair game. Bits of string, hands under blankets, feathers. Nothing was safe.
She spotted Katy-the-Wonder-Dog’s thumping tail and crouched for the attack, but then decided she didn’t really want to hunt anymore.
When the light is right or she just feels like it, however, Lady Jane becomes a fuzzy poltergeist. A one-woman weapon of mass distractedness. She’s a calamity.
Which is how I suggested a better name for her might be Calamity Jane.
I wish I could say it wouldn’t help her fit into her new life at Casa Chaos better.
Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting. I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.
In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.
Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning.
That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?
I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.
I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.
One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.
We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.
The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.
Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.
We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.
We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.
It took them less than an hour to convert.
Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).
There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.