topiary cats

topiary cats

Monday, April 23, 2018


Competition was this past weekend...again. We were there Saturday and Sunday.
Everyone did a great job, it's very difficult to do what they do.  I'm proud of Daya and I'm proud of the whole team.

There are some very notable differences between our studio and some others that were there.....while we do compete, our studio isn't about getting trophies (even though we get a ton of them). It isn't the Studio of Egotistical Awards.  I love the studio so much.... it is run by people who care about people and dance as an art.  The teachers also are very careful to not have the kids dancing in inappropriate costumes/songs/choreography, which we see a LOT at competition.  Even our kids have commented about other studios' numbers being really inappropriate! I have seen some nauseating things at competition. And a lot of it is cheesy and silly to be honest.

What isn't cheesy or silly is the stage experience and the judges' critiques, which are important.
And it is fun for the kids, so it is worth going to, once or twice a year.

The parents aren't insane either.... we are of course supportive and proud of our kids, but I don't think any of us qualifies for Obnoxious Dance Mom.  Thank goodness. I wouldn't have Daya in a studio like that anyhow.

And we saw some really obnoxious people, and there was some extremely not-cool behavior towards us from other studios- backstage and in the stuff/waiting/changing area.

These moms come in with huge trunks that open into portable wardrobes.  I call them wardrobe forts.
They bring changing tents. (we used jackets and a couple of moms holding a bedsheet)

These dance moms are mean, entitled, snobbish, and their entire identity is their daughter's dancing.  A group of them literally started setting up at our studio's table as if we weren't even there.  Their kids are mean backstage too. One mom had a jacket with...I forgot the kid's name so I'll invent a name... TANYA'S MOM in big letters on the back.  I'm not kidding.

I told Daya I need a jacket that says DAYA'S MOM in huge letters so I, too, can be a good dance mom.  She was appalled, rightly so.

If I ever did something like that I think Daya would move out.

Invading Studio's
Wardrobe Fort in a Trunk

Well anyhow, two dances were invited to compete in August for an invitation-only event for highest scoring numbers only.  Daya was in both those dances.  I'm not sure yet if we are going, still waiting for everything to be figured out.

Daya and Ms Victoria

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Things that Take Time

I'm still going through the sadness of loss, and there is nothing for it but time.
I still just need time and space. There isn't anything to talk about, and I don't want to talk.
There isn't anything to do either, except to know things have been much worse and keep doing the things that I do. My dreams are usually bad now, but hopefully that will pass too, in time.  I'm taking it slow, allowing, and giving it space.

I have my next Topiary Cats series.  It is a very good one.  My easel is all set up, I even have the ideal paper ready to go, I just haven't been able to start yet.  I could keep doing these forever probably, or as long as the ideas keep coming. And they don't seem to be stopping.

Stefan Baumann has been hugely inspirational to me. I listen to him a lot. He is good for me.
I have a lot of growing to do, and I'm so slowed down artistically by circumstance but at least I'm working, I never gave it up.

I also took almost all the paintings off my walls and retired them. By that I mean I literally took over 100 paintings off my walls.  The bare walls looked strange.  This past weekend I put the stack of new work up that has been sitting on my drawing table.  But there is still a lot of empty space on my walls, and that is ok, I'll just put new work up there to fill it.

Today I also decided to get back to figure drawing.  Drawing New York has regular sessions, and l'll start going.  They are a good group- I have been out with them a couple of times before.  Plein air is great but I feel unbalanced without figure work.  I miss it terribly.  It has always been a goal of mine to get back to it once Daya was old enough.  And I have a lot of time while she is in dance.  Plus I need to get out and do something around other people. I need to force that into my life.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Topiary Cats: The Gravity Towers

I started this series at the end of December. There are two of them I was unsure of and was going to re-work a bit, but then I decided to leave them as they are. Originally I wanted to name the series Jenga Towers, and I submitted a use form to Hasbro, but the first response was a corporate runaround so I decided not to bother.

All are 8x10 pastel on Richeson sanded paper.

Artist Blocks

Sky Blooms

Moon Pool

Glass Tower

Falling Dust

"What Should We Do?"
(Return of the Venus Fly Cats)

Ice Float

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Rigger Mortis

I forced myself to go out painting today.
Which was a good thing, it is better to get out.  And if I'm going to force myself to go out, why not paint?

I'm ANGRY today. It hit me this morning.
I know it is a normal part of processing but it still really stinks.


I went to Central Park.

Today I took a Colour Shaper with me to remove paint.  Some people use Q-tips, I never liked them because I kill the Q-tip too quickly and you can really only use it once anyhow. Too much garbage. But a Colour Shaper....miracle thing.  Why didn't I start bringing one out with me years ago.  I have with pastels, but never oil. This is another instance in which I am just really, really slow.

So I painted an 8x10 and it was cold but not severely cold.
It is a boring painting color-wise...I almost did the whole scene from the ground but then I thought the branches were really cool so I just did that.

My rigger got a workout and I'm afraid my painting is suffering from a bit of "rigger mortis".  Oh well.

Plein air is really, really, REALLY difficult and I go out and do it, I'm out there working, so I don't get down on myself about this stuff, not too much anyhow. I learn with every painting. So many people who want to do it don't because they are too afraid. It's true that it is overwhelming, hard, stressful, and scary but that's what makes it special.

The light on the trees was really wonderful.

Corner of 5th and 65th. 
I cut off the last word...
I'm glad we have a building that says this.

This is the colour shaper I used today-  has a good edge and good points, which are important.
Pictured with Stabby, my proportional divider.  Stabby is so sharp it is a bit dangerous, I always have to be careful.  Getting stabbed is NOT fun. Trust me.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Views from 30

Daya came to the office which was a good coincidence since there was an event on 30 for girls and making video games.  So she went and had a nice time.  She also made a really adorable game with a fat purple cat named eggplant.

We both went to yoga after work.

The New Years ball is right outside the window.
It changes colors.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Grey Spring

April has started with snow, rain, and dreary gray.
Branwen left early and Daya is now stuck at home with ELA homework and SHSAT prep.

SHSAT is the specialized high school SAT which is required for entry into the specialized high schools in NYC- there are 9 of them and she will apply to 2. Laguardia for dance and the math one.
So Daya has to start preparation now for the test in November.  She could probably take it today and do fine but she wants to do better than fine, so she needs to study.

Sometimes the right decisions are the hardest decisions. Even when it knocks all the wind out of you, even when it throws you right back to square one.  An adjustment that will take time to process.  Sometimes being the best isn't good enough after all.

Spring Break isn't very much fun.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Spring Breaking

This week is Spring Break for Daya, and Branwen is Spring Breaking with us.
I'm immensely thankful for her company right now as these are hard days and it is good for Daya to have someone to be with.

We dyed Easter Eggs and also the counter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Only Took 23 Years

Today marks the End of an Era.
A 23-year long era, to be exact.

I got a cutting mat.


Now when I need to cut something I won't have to go hunting for a pad of paper to cut on the cardboard backing. And find one that hasn't been completely sliced up, that is a challenge in my studio.

It took 20+ years for me to get this basic necessity.

It wasn't even intentional- I was at DaVinci getting some panels, and you have to go downstairs for that which I never do, and there they were - cutting mats! And I remembered I should have one so I got it.

DaVinci gives me a 10% discount with my Pratt Alumni card. :)

There are assorted oddments downstairs as well, including papier mache spiders.
And cats.  Note how the cat is showing it's butt in typical feline style.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bad Week

I'm having a very bad week where everything is hard and stupid.

Also, I'm doing a painting that was supposed be a quick study and it's not.
It is a very difficult painting and it is kicking my ass.

Monday evening I came home from work and went straight to the easel, and with the quick exception of making dinner for Daya, I stayed there for 4 1/2 hours straight until my eyes went blurry and my head was screwed up.

And the painting looks awful because of Drawing Issues.

Seriously, Drawing Issues are just the worst.
They erode the spirit.

Drawing is hard and art is stupid.

But tonight I remembered that I have a proportional divider and ought to actually use it.

So maybe there is hope.

But everything is still stupid.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Horse Kisses & Too Much Pink

I have been pretty desperate to go out painting, but our weather has been awful and uncooperative. But Saturday was great! FINALLY!

While I was walking into Central Park to find a suitable spot, a horse leaned over and kissed me! He got my arm from shoulder to elbow. I guess horses like plein air painters.

So I found a nice spot- a large rock, actually, and across the way there was a painter selling paintings. I thought that was interesting and different from what I normally do.

Children also like plein air painters as it turns out. I don't mind except when they jump around my tripod...that made me quite nervous. I was windproof but not childproof....

There were 2 completely different light schemes flipping back and forth. One was cool with dark background foliage, the other was warm with light background foliage. I had to choose, and I went with light/warm for the practical reason that it was out longer and more often.

Anyhow, here's my painting done standing on a big rock for almost three hours. It is TOO PINK. I don't know why I made it pink, because the park was not pink. I was thinking "needs more red" but pink? When I was done I almost went back in and changed it because I really, really do not like the pink but I suddenly realized I was really cold and really tired.

So it stayed pink.

And I have learned a lesson and also found a few things I need to research and work on. This is also the first time I have ever put people in a plein air.

6x8 oil

Monday, March 19, 2018


Yesterday Daya competed 4 dances with her team,,,,,, they were SO AMAZING!!
All dances placed in the top 10, platinum awards and a scholarship to a dance thing that is a bit ridiculous and no one will go to.

But I'm so proud of her!  It's very, very difficult work she is doing.  Daya was extremely nervous before her acro duet but she killed it on stage...then broke down a bit after.  Maybe that's just how she copes, she did that last year for an acro dance she was nervous about.

She recovered nicely though and I was so happy to see her socializing and interacting with her team. 
I had a nice time as well.

The next competition is in one month.

Practice pics before going on stage:


Awards (I did not take these pictures)



Monday, March 12, 2018


I took Pebbles to the Vet on Saturday because she is snorty, having snort-spasms, and she smells like death. It has been going on for a long time and she is fine otherwise, and I knew it was her teeth.

When I was checking in at the office the lady checking out said to me, "I like your cat. I'll pay $100 of her vet bill."

When we were done with the exam and checking out it turns out she paid $250 of my vet expenses.

I did not ask or indicate that I needed help.... it was a stranger just wanting to do a kindness, and it touched me very deeply...especially with everything that has been happening lately with Daya...and those expenses. The gesture goes way beyond the money.

Pebbles went back Monday for a throat check and dental work. Everything is fine and they removed 7 teeth, including one fang.

Since I cannot call her Snorty anymore I re-named her UniFang.

She is doing very well and is very happy.
I paid $678...after the $250.
Goodbye tax return, sad I never really got to know you.....

Thursday, March 08, 2018


I haven't written about something because I haven't wanted to, I have been too exhausted, and too in the middle of it.

Daya wrote an essay about it for school, and she doesn't seem shy about mentioning it anymore but it isn't all about her, though it centers with her.  She's the one who experiences it, and I'm the one who has to deal with the massive weight of it, and bear the brunt of it.

In summary, the mental health issues that run in my family have emerged in Daya.  She acts like my mother.  I'm all too familiar with it. 

It isn't her fault, it's just genetics. It has been getting progressively worse for the last year and a half-- and I do mean really bad.  There is nothing happening in Daya's life that one might say would be causing it. No events have happened, no past trauma (loss yes, but not trauma), and things-while not ideal, could be a lot worse.  She has had a lot of stability. She has dance, although the drape of depression and anxiety has ruined her relationships there which is very hard.  Daya has managed to remain functional at an extremely high level in academics and dance but we reached point critical. Tweens and teens in general aren't the most stable people, but there is a point where it isn't normal age stuff.

It isn't my fault either.  I'm not a bad parent; I really do not think I am. I have my own issues but my mother's stuff is different from mine. I don't struggle with anxiety in an abnormal way. It's genetics. And it sucks. It hit me hard when I was around Daya's age too, so I understand it.  And I have been on the lookout for it in her.  Growing up with someone who was increasingly unstable certainly taught me what to look out for. It's too familiar. And I have already seen what happens without treatment.

We tried everything.  Daya has been in therapy since kindergarten, because we needed to deal with father stuff the right way.  I also wanted to establish a support system for her when she got older, and make getting help when needed a normal thing. Someone to talk to who is not me.  Children need that. She sees a functional neurologist who is awesome but she needs something immediate and stronger.  I am resistant to medicating children but sometimes it is more dangerous to do nothing.

It took me a long time to find someone to prescribe for her who would let her stay with her current therapist and also takes insurance.  It took a while. Too long.  Too much stress.  But I finally found someone and it was the right thing to do.

I cannot begin to say how awful this has been- how stressful and terrible and hurtful and consuming.  It has taken an enormous toll on me, and while I tentatively think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we're not 100% there yet.

Daya has been much better the last couple of weeks which is a relief for both of us.  She still has occasional flare-ups and triggers- and her social situation at dance seems to trigger it- and it's likely she will still need a dosage increase.  I remain distrustful of her mood...when will it shift?  I can't think of the word for it,  how to say this properly, but I am constantly wary because I do not trust it.

She has put in SO MUCH WORK over the years- both in dance and academically- and I think medical intervention came just before she lost it all.

When Daya has a flare-up it really messes me up. If you have kids you know that your well-being is never really separate from theirs.  And I hate to see her suffer.... it's exactly like she has a mental auto-immune disorder, but instead of her body physically attacking itself, her mind attacks itself. 

It takes a gradual toll, little by little, until you have no resistance anymore and what is the daily normal is completely rearranged.  And when you no longer have resistance dealing with this behavior hurts a lot.  I have no resistance so I get messed up pretty much immediately from it now.

I'm so sad that she has messed up her relationships at the dance studio, because it is an awesome place.  I'm sad that the situation I put in place as a social haven for her has failed, and it is because of these issues. I believe she can repair them but it will require action on her part, which at this time she is too scared/unwilling to do.

I'm hoping time will help smooth things out.  I'm not planning on moving her out of her dance studio for several reasons, and I'm hoping next year will be better- especially if she is feeling better inside.
I'm hoping her time with Alvin Ailey will bring her new friends and positive energy.
I'm hoping the worst is over.

Monday, March 05, 2018


Daya was accepted into the Alvin Ailey summer intensive! She will dance with them and perform over 5 weeks this summer.  This will be good prep for high school auditions which happen in the Fall.

Branwen sent an amazing gorgeous bouquet of roses.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Some of my ESO guildies are also artists, and one of them posted a weekly challenge...a wave.
Since I finished painting 6 of 7 in my new Topiary Cats series, and I'm in planning stages for the last one, and also because I needed a little break, I painted a wave this morning.

It's 9x12 on Mi Tientes...I figured I'd continue my adventures in smooth paper and learning to like it...and I'm happy to say when I remember to check and use the SMOOTH side of Mi Tientes I like it just fine.  The textured side is a definite NO.

All Unisons.  Maybe an hour and a half.

The ref is from when Rob and I went to Jones beach over the summer.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Daya got a label maker. Apparently she has wanted one for a while.  She bought it with her own money.

FORESIGHT:  I told her she cannot label anything in my room. Everything else is ok.

We can see the importance of having a label maker here in this picture of the First Label:


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Daya Can Dance, I Cannot Paint

Daya had a dance performance yesterday.  Her studio does an annual Autism fundraiser.  It was a beautiful show.

It was raining quite a lot and I didn't take my camera, which does a much better job than my phone.

Today was such a strange blah kind of day.
Carey and I both felt brain-dead but we also wanted to paint.  So when I got home from the show, we had a paint date.

I even wrote a poem for it:

Dishes are clean
Laundry is not
It's time to paint
So I don't care.

We both thought it was a very good poem.

So Carey and I both showed up and the easel and we tried very hard for quite a while and neither of us could paint.  We both forgot how.

Two hours in I gave up, apologized to the paper, and wiped it clean.
Carey was smarter and gave up on her lost cause a bit sooner.

We both agreed that at least we tried, and if we have to forget how to paint and fail, it's better to have company.

We are both hoping we remember how to paint again very soon.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Maya Papaya

When you have a deadline you knew about for many months it is inadvisable to leave it for the last 2 days..... 

This is a wedding gift for a friend/coworker.

8x10 pastel on Uart 600

Monday, February 05, 2018

Jet Pack Cat

Daya decided Isis is a jet pack.
She even let Daya hold her and run around in circles.
Although extremely tolerant, Isis has a terrible tendency to smack other creatures in the face, so as long as you don't let her do that, you can do pretty much anything and she'll let you.

I have pulled a true Superstar Artist Boss Move.
My coworkler is getting married and I have been planning on doing a painting.

I have known about the deadline for six months.
So of course I waited to start in the final three days and it is a LOT of work.

I did get about 2 1/2 hours in before literally almost falling asleep at the easel...why I was so wiped out by 10pm is a mystery- it's a good start but needs a lot of work and I'm stressing.

Why did I wait so long?
Well, partially it's another painting's fault.

I am working on another series of Topiary Cats...started the end of December and I'm 5 paintings in.  This latest one took way longer than anticipated, I d\on't even know why.  Maybe because I have been really stressed about some pretty serious  Daya-things lately which finally have some resolution....or rather a start to resolution.......

Anyhow the 5th painting gave me a hell of a hard time for no particular reason and I couldn't start another until it was finished.  (Mental thing.  I needed to clear it out of my mind.)  So I was stuck and hung up but I plowed through it on Sunday night and got it done FINALLY.

So why I waited for the last three days.... yeah, I'm blaming another painting.
Hopefully I'll get the series done this month or early next month.  Still a few more to do.

Thursday, February 01, 2018


I have been feeling a little burned out on my blog, but I also know I'll regret taking a bunch of time off from it.  I always regret when I do that.

There is some change coming, my company was sold yesterday...well, 55% of it was.
So no matter what, I have some job transition coming up, but nothing immediately.

It's been a really long time since I had any kind of Major Life Change and that's just fine with me.  I went through too much at the same time back when Daya was born, so I like to think I did it all at once and got it over with.  And while I'm carrying so much weight with Daya I really need the stability.

I would like for the stability to continue. It likely will for this year. But after that we will see. Hopefully there will be a place for me when everything settles down. That would be ideal.

This is the time to really practice positive mind, and it isn't easy.  It's a constant thing. Sometimes it is forced.

As my yoga teacher says, "This, or something better."

There isn't anything I can do right now, there isn't anything more I can know.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Shirt, Macy's & Monsters in the Subway

Yesterday Daya had to come into Manhattan after school for an appointment in the evening.  She was to come to my office. As soon as school was out I got a notification of a power outage in the subway and all the trains were down. 3 lines down and one line rerouted.

Which would make it hard to get to Manhattan by train.
I told Daya about it but she went to the station anyhow and got on the train, which she said was moving.  Not only was it moving but it was also going to Manhattan.

It was not until later I discovered the actual reason for the train moving:

So Daya arrived to the office with no difficulty.  We were talking about homework I think and I suddenly realized she was wearing MY SHIRT.  I thought something wasn't right in the morning but I couldn't place it.....I said "Didn't you know it's not yours?" 

She replied "Yes I knew it wasn't mine but I didn't know whose it was."

There are only two of that shouldn't be too hard...........


We had time to kill after work and before the appointment so we went to ride the wooden escalators at Macy's.  They are old and loud and wonderful.


We found a set of cool utensils (we did not get them):


I made Daya pose for a picture by the holiday train.  The last time she was up there was the year we went to see Santa at Macy's...I have to look up how old she was... 7 maybe? experience I'm glad she had as it is classic but it also took about 5 hours.


On the way home Daya told me she figured something out about three weeks ago.

There is an emergency call button on some of the trains, depending on the model.
The label looks like this:

When she was three years old she thought it was a monster.
Look at the black negative space.  It kind of does look like a monster.

THREE WEEKS AGO she said she finally saw the person pressing the button for the first time and realized it isn't supposed to be a picture of a monster.

For the past NINE YEARS she has been avoiding sitting next to this sticker!
(straight A honors student and all that...)

I think she might still be a little bit scared of it.