15 July 2001

I really got going on my latest journal cover painting last night, and I like how it looks right now. I intend to do more with it. But I like how it looks right now, too. It's a mosaic-like painting of a leaf. My aunt Mary did a mosaic-like painting of a leaf on a journal she gave me years ago, but she's an artist, and hers is art. I was wondering if that was just a little circular loop I'd set up: she's an artist, therefore hers is art, whereas I'm a writer, therefore mine is craft. But here's the difference I think is there: I show you the leaf you wouldn't have seen unless you thought to look at a leaf as a mosaic. Aunt Mary shows you the leaf you wouldn't have seen unless you thought to look at a leaf with Aunt Mary's eyes.

Of course, other people may rate my vision higher or hers lower, as they like. But that's what I think the difference is.

They say you're not supposed to put things on the internet if you want them to remain secret, but here's my secret about painting: I really do it for the colors. If I tried to use the colors I used yesterday in a poem, unless it was a poem about paints, it would sound overblown and ridiculous: viridian hue. Alizarin crimson. French ultramarine. Alizarin crimson. Or else it would sound too technical, too clinical: phthalocyanine green. (Mostly called phthalo green, but how often do you get to say "phthalocyanine?") But when I'm painting, that's just what the colors are. Like the crackers are Triscuits, says so right on the box. The color is "Hansa yellow." Says so right on the tube.

Also, I like the way paints look when they're drying. (I once told Michelle that the real reason I'm a writer is that I like the way ink looks when it's drying.) This is a much faster, happier process now that I've switched to acrylics, though. Acrylics will dry while you're still painting somewhere else on the same canvas. Oils will dry sometime in the next two weeks, if you're lucky. There are some things for which oils are superior, but I don't think I'll ever be doing any of them again. I can't see ever switching back.

The first one of these journal covers, I did while I was in Painting class. The tornado had already destroyed our painting studio in the art building, so we were painting in a trailer. (And if you think mineral oils won't make you lightheaded, well, think again.) We shared it with the advanced painting studio, the people who were painting because that's what they did, the way I write. And so when I went in outside of class to work on the journal cover, the advanced painting studio people were there. I hid in the corner with my journal and my paints and listened to them talk. And then I went home and reread The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, and had an amazing amount of respect for Steve Brust, because he nailed it perfectly. That really is the way painters talk to each other. It was amazing.

Of course I have a lot of respect for Steve Brust anyway. The man is such a stylistic chameleon, I can't wait to see what he'll do next. He does screw up one thing for me, though. Those of you who have heard me talk about biographical criticism (Michelle, for sure, and now Susan, and perhaps some others) know that it's not my favorite -- that, in fact, I would rather see just about any form of criticism of a work than biographical. However. I met Steve Brust, and he's a small, stocky Hungarian man, living in Minnesota. His main series of books, the Vlad Taltos books, are about a rather small, stocky race of people, who cook with lots of peppers, paprika, and spices, and live amongst a race of people much, much larger than they, with blander food and more stoic demeanors. Coincidence? Oh. I think not.

However, if someone wrote a paper about how the Vlad Taltos books are "really" The Hungarian-American Experience in a Predominantly Scandinavian-American Culture, I would roll my eyes and want to talk about some other aspect of the books instead. Morganti weapons or something. Sheesh. Enough is enough.

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