Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Painted Bra Art Project, creating for a cause, and art as a way of saying goodbye.

It began with a bra.

Actually, let me begin at the beginning... it goes much further back than that.

Last year, I was contacted by Anna Smith Braden of Huntsville, Alabama, asking if I would like to participate in the first year of the "Painted Bra Art Project" charity event to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. I like to think that a huge part of my job, as an artist, is making the world a more beautiful, innovative, and better place, so of course I agreed... plus, painting on underwear sounded awesome. Last  year my bra was entitled "Love your mountains", and was purchased by Lee Ann Harrison (thanks again, Lee Ann!). All proceeds are donated to the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

There are a bunch of cool aspects about this project-- I had the pleasure of making connections with artists from around the world, it forced me out of my creative comfort zone, and I was able to be involved in an amazing and worthy charity that has a special place in my heart. My favorite thing about the project, however, is that each artist gets to dedicate their "bra-sterpiece" to a strong woman, or women, they know who have fought the brave fight with breast cancer. I dedicated my bra to my Aunt Barb.

"Love your mountains" was also dedicated to my Aunt Barb in 2011. Unfortunately, she passed away several months ago after a very long and valiant fight with cancer, although to my knowledge she never complained about her situation or the unfairness of it. My aunt was one of the kindest and most warm-heartedly genuine people I've ever known; she had a way not only with people, but with animals, and her true love was horses-- they say you can easily judge the character of a person by how they treat those that can do nothing for them. She ran a horse boarding stable in Southern Wisconsin for many years, and was one of the reasons that I developed such a love for horses (many of you probably aren't aware, but I grew up riding and also did gymkhana and barrel racing with my Quarter Horse, Romeo, in my younger days). I wanted to create a special bra that spoke to the love my aunt had for horses, and had also nurtured in myself and my cousins since a very young age.

In the past several months, I've been experimenting with mixed media and combining elements of paper onto canvas along with acrylics, and I decided to continue in this vein with my "bra-sterpiece". I wanted it to have a bit of a 3-dimensional, almost "pop-up book" effect. Along with the theme of horses, I wanted to incorporate a Western setting, as I relocated to Denver, Colorado last year, and many of my recent paintings are colorful and mountainous landscapes.

For several hours I reverted back to childhood and sketched, doodled, colored and cut out the shapes of horses on paper. It was wonderful. I believe this was the first time I've drawn equines since I was in 8th grade, when most of my life, thoughts and every breath revolved around riding.

I was jealous of her assets.

I wanted my bra to have a solid base, like a sculpture, and not be "floppy", so I fashioned a beautiful lady out of cardboard and bubblewrap, and then gesso-ed over the bra to make it stiff and easier to work with.

After the gesso dried, I painted both the bra and a long, thin piece of canvas to a deep green. I hadn't originally planned on using canvas, but the paper was creating a very pointy "Madonna" effect that was not desirable (in my opinion), and the canvas ended up being much more pliable. One of the great things I love about working with mixed media is the ability to substitute different materials for others that might work better, even in a crunch and on a whim.

I hot-glued and glued and glued some more, and several glue sticks later, every stallion, mare, gelding, colt and filly was attached just where I wanted them-- running through a green meadow underneath a mountain skyline, and with big puffy clouds overhead. There was just one thing missing-- birds soaring in the sky, so I attached a few swooping sparrows in the clouds overhead on wires.

..and here is "Breast of the West" in it's entirety-- upcycled bra, paper, canvas, paint, glue and wire. Dedicated to my aunt, Barb Keyes, long-time fighter of breast cancer, genuine horse-lover, and really, truly amazing and strong woman. I hope this is what heaven looks like for her.

Once again, I can't express my appreciation for The Painted Bra Art Project and Anna Smith Braden, its founder, enough. It's a fantastic project for an amazing cause, and it allows artists to GET INVOLVED and help make that change we keep talking about needing in the world. For me, it also gave me a chance to say goodbye to my aunt and to reflect on the memories I had with her, especially as a young child at their horse boarding stable. It was just something that I needed to do.

The Painted Bra Art Project event will be held on October 26th in Huntsville, Alabama, which is when the online auction and live bidding begins as well. "Bra-sterpieces" can be submitted until October 14th... so artists GO: pick up a brassiere, host a bra-painting party, or simply pour yourself a glass of wine and go nuts at home with your paper, paints, sparkles, wire, ribbons, clay, metal bits and Be-dazzler. You can find more information at Do it, I swear... you'll feel great. It's good to get out of your box.

"Breast of the West" can be found on The Painted Bra Art Project's Facebook page HERE.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On doing a Kickstarter campaign and being totally blown away the support

Yesterday, I launched a Kickstarter campaign. If you haven't heard of or participated in a Kickstarter project before, let me explain-- it's basically a way for creatives to "fundraise" for a really cool and exciting new project if they don't have the funds to spend up front. In return, everyone who contributes to the campaign gets to choose from a variety of really cool and exciting rewards, varying (in my case) from $1-$500. 

One of the original pieces for sale through the Kickstarter
campaign- "Wide open spaces - Centennial, WY"; 20" x 16"
Originally $425 + shipping, now $200 through Kickstarter.

For three weeks, leaving on October 9th, I'm going to be traveling across the pond on a European painting project, basically sketching, photographing and compiling information for a new series I'm working on. I'm going to be focusing on creating mixed media and acrylic artworks of different cemeteries throughout France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria. I'm going to be bus-ing, and train-ing, and backpack-ing through Europe with my sketchpad. The subject matter is a little darker than what I normally focus on, but the colors-- they're going to be bright and lively, as they usually are in my work. I want to focus on finding beauty in every place, and every thing-- even places that are usually considered a bit depressing and morbid. Why? Because I'm trying to do that with my life now, and personally as an artist, I paint the way I feel. Oscar Wilde says that "life imitates art far more than art imitates life", but I find that the two are highly dependent on each other. My art reflects my experiences, and since I started dedicating myself to my art full-time just a month ago, I feel like the world is full of beauty, and every second and every thing should be treasured. I'm so excited for this trip, and I can't wait to get started on this series.

"Hike beneath Byer's Peak - man & dog", original acrylic
painting on stretched canvas. 40" x 30", originally $1175 + shipping,
now $500 through Kickstarter.

I already purchased the plain ticket for my flights with miles from my former life as a flight attendant, so basically what I'm trying to raise money for is bus fare, train fare, lodging costs and of course, ART SUPPLIES. What you get in return varies from hand-drawn postcards, small sketches from my travels, signed giclee prints, and very-reduced prices on a few select original pieces and commissioned works. I'm on my 2nd day, and I've already raised nearly 1/3 of the $1500 that I set my project at. I've got to tell you, the support has been amazing.

"Untitled tree" originaly acrylic painting; 20" x 16"
Available through Kickstarter only for $200, originally $325 + shipping.

Thank you SO much to everyone who has already participated in the project and/or shared the word. You are amazing... and I MEAN that. You are amazing!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

On being an artist, all of the time, and the risks and rewards of giving up your security blanket

This week (on Wednesday, to be exact- 76 hours and 2 minutes ago, if you want to be picky) , I ended my year-long stint as an Admissions Counselor for an un-named online university, in order to save my sanity, not despise every second of my work week, and become a full-time artist. I gave up my 401K, my steady paycheck, and my access to company email, but I saved my sanity, rescued my soul from the depths of despair, and my ears no longer hurt from wearing a headset all day (I also won't have the quintessential "headset" mark on my hair-do).

More importantly, it gave me the kick in the pants I needed to force me into taking my art career seriously, not as an afterthought, but as my life. Even more essential, it freed up the time to allow me to create art that is thoughtful and experimental and heartfelt, instead of rushed into the 2 free hours I sometimes had in the evenings after I dragged myself home from my "day job", my ego bruised from being screamed and sworn at by "potential students" all morning, and feeling frazzled from having my boss' hot breath on my neck all afternoon.

Yeah, it's scary. It's really #*$@ing scary. But I had reached Desperation Point, where living as a droid, without hopes, dreams or goals, just searching for the next enrollment, was even more terrifying. Maybe I'm a wishful thinker, but I believe there needs to be time in life for laughter, joy, drinking a glass of wine in the early afternoon, enjoying a really rainy day by lounging on the couch under a threadbare blanket watching Seinfeld episodes and napping intermittantly, trying something new that ends up being stupid but really fun, planting a garden, eating a peach slowly, reading a good book, reading a mediocre book that teaches you something, going for a run, laying in the park, petting a friendly dog with a happy face, doing anything with anyone you care about, whether it's getting lunch or making an over-due phone call or having them over for a Sunday afternoon to watch "Sweet Home Alabama" for the 105th time. Those are things that are important, I think- not Sweet Home Alabama, that movie sucks- but the things that mean something when you realize your time in this world is much too short and can be yanked at any second.

I've gotten off-track, but it doesn't matter. What I wanted to express was the feeling of freedom I'm experiencing right now because I'm living for myself and my work, not for corporate America, the rat race, the gerbil spinning tirelessly in its wheel to make another dollar and buy another pair of shoes. That's not to say I haven't been awaiting this day for months, years even, and planning and saving, twirling around in sweaty sheets all night concocting a business plan (I really do that, which is why I often reference it- I'm a horrible person to share a bed with). I'm not pretending it's going to be easy in any regard, but I've always placed a higher value on experiences than tangible things. Maybe I'll have to start making my own wine out of spoiled fruits and also invite a friend over to share the experiment with me.

Do you read Tom Robbins? If you don't, read Tom Robbins. He is one of my favorite authors of all time (coming in a close second to Jane Hamilton from Rochester, WI. Do you read Jane Hamilton? If you don't, read Jane Hamilton.). His work is very strange and inappropriate, his characters are often pitifully oblivious and sometimes uncongenial, but they are unconditionally and unconventionally free. I came across this quote in his book "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas":

“There's no such thing as security in this life sweetheart, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you'll be. The person who strives for security will never be free. The person who believes she's found security will never reach paradise. What she mistakes for security is purgatory. You know what purgatory is, Gwendolyn? It's the waiting room, it's the lobby. Not only does she have the wrong libretto, she's stuck in the lobby where she can't see the show.”

Damn, that's good. Really true though, don't you think? Security is over-rated and underwhelming. Don't sell yourself short-- you are talented enough and amazing enough to be doing something that MEANS something to you. Even if I don't like you, you deserve that. You're a person.

Now, I'm not telling you to run out and quit your job if your boss is a micro-manager or the people you work with remind you of The Klumps, or you simply don't feel "fulfilled". You also don't have to do something you love-- I'm sure the guy who cleans the sewers at my parents' farm doesn't love his job-- but it needs to be something you can live with and something that allows you to sleep at night. Whether that's because you're living your passion, or know you're helping people, or taking care of your family, whatever. Whatever you do, whatever it is, there have to be enough good moments. To think of spending your life waiting around for them, to me-- that is terrifying.

The Klumps

If you don't know my work, my website is, and my facebook is I'm a travel artist and a sarcastic adventurer who often says things she shouldn't.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On cool art in small towns, abandoned ski resorts, and the perks of being a roadie

For those of you who know me personally (and let's be realistic... why are you reading my blog if you're not my mother or my best friends trying to keep tabs on me- you know who you are), you are aware that my boyfriend is a fantastic musician. His name is John Statz (; he likes to travel, drink beers,  and go on fun adventures, which I also like to do. He tours often, and is occasionally offered a random gig that gives him (and therefore myself) an excuse to check out some new and seemingly exotic places. A few weekends ago, this was La Veta, Colorado.

La Veta is located in Southern Colorado in the Cuchara Valley, about a three hour's drive from Denver, but it would be worth it to drive 27 hours from Brooklyn for a weekend in this place. La Veta is ef-fing amazing. It has beers, art, hiking, natural wonderments, and according to the locals, one of the best golf courses in the country, and also lots of lesbians. If you like any of those things, you'll enjoy it. If you like all of those things, you might never leave.

Driving to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, about 
an hour outside of La Veta.

John played a couple of patio gigs at the La Veta Inn, a cute little B&B that is artist-themed and has a desert ambiance. Each room has it's own featured artist, some of them really amazing-- ours was a wildlife photographer with such offerings as "Fawn in Grass" and "Egret over Water"-- not necessarily my taste, but I find myself to be less than traditional. The food is delicious, the drinks are cheap, and all of the employees seem to have a vested interest in their jobs and the inn itself. The bartender was very proud of his home-made apple and cherry martini recipes (which they steep right at the bar). I was more than happy to taste them several times over.

The La Veta Inn. If you stay in La Veta, you should stay here.
the beds are comfortable, the food is good, and the staff is awesome. 
One drunk local offered to try jumping from bar table
to bar table on a bicycle. I wish we would have taken him
up on his offer.

There are about 800 people living permanently in La Veta, half of which seem to have have born there and stayed, and the other half seem to have visited once and never left. There are lots of galleries and studios, a couple of inns, a library in a house, and a wine bar that is only open from 4:00-9:00. Also, as famously advertised by the Cuchara Chamber of Commerce, La Veta is home to Ricky Tim's Art Quilt Studio. I can personally attest to this, as we stayed right next to it. 

The La Veta Library. Never have I seen a more 
inviting place to read to book.

The Whitmore Gallery: Work by Jill Whitmore & Peggy Zehring. I love the texture
in this piece.. the paint must have been layered 3 inches thick.

Within 90 minutes of La Veda is the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which I was pretty excited about. I had never been there but had heard tales of vast sand, which were all true-- there was a lot of sand.

The concept of the great sand dunes is awesome... lots of sand, swirling around year after year after year, creating huge drifts that you can climb. People treat the dunes as if it were a great miserable beach without water, wearing swimsuits and trying to dig sandcastles and sun themselves without scalding their skin off. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that the fun thing about going to the beach is the splashing around. As we were entering the sandy area, a little barefoot girl came stumbling out, crying that her feet her hot. As we are not completely unfeeling people, we directed her to a pool of ground-water that some kids had dug up in an attempt to make a sandcastle, but we did laugh a bit. Little did I know I would be whistling a different tune later as the 120-degree sand came pouring in over the tops of my boat shoes. It was about 500 degrees outside with the sun beating down upon my pale Norwegian skin, and the sand was extremely hard to walk in, so I immediately became quite surly and unmanageable.

These boys were fighting about who was doing most of the digging
as we started our trek across the sand, and were still arguing when
we stumbled out, sweating and parched, an hour later.

Beginning the great ascent up the dunes. 

Here they are, in all of their glory. Man, that's a lot of sand.

If you're going to face the dunes in the heat of the day, a trip to Zapata Falls afterwards is absolutely necessary, because your shirt will be sticking to your back with your own sweat and blood. No matter how healthy your relationship, you will be ready to turn on your lover or best friend and fight over the last sip of warm water in the bottle.

If you like places that are beautiful but creep you out a bit, check out the Cuchara Ski Resort on the opposite side of La Veta. Apparently it's been open and closed numerous times over the last fifteen years (always by Texans), and was supposed to re-open again in 2011, but the place was entirely deserted and showed no signs of any work being done recently. I think there may have been vagrants living in the abandoned buildings as well, as there was what appeared to be underwear hung out to dry on a limb by the river.

Getting a beer at the lodge. Just kidding.

If you're thinking about taking a trip to La Veta, just do it. The art scene is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the locals are friendly. Also, you can go golfing and hang out with lesbians.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On gay stallions, becoming a method painter, and that damned Lani Woods who makes it look so easy to be cool

In January of this past year, I was presented with an a-typical commissioned request. I was asked to create a "gay stallion of a painting".

If you're familiar with my work, you know I am primarily a travel and landscape artist, and it's been some time since I've painted figures in compromising sexual positions. During my undergraduate art career, I did a series of paintings that focused on the demise of relationships and were rather sick. I was in a pretty explosive relationship then and I hated the idea of love, plus I was vying with all of my art classmates to be the most innovative and $*#)-ed up creative in the art program at a small Lutheran college in Southern Wisconsin. I am now dating someone that I actually like and I am not a hipster, so I rarely paint like that anymore.

I have no idea what I titled this painting, because four years 
ago, I kept horrible records of my work. It was done in 2008
as part of a series in my undergraduate which was designed to 
prove that I am much more haunted than I seem.
I think it may have been called "The Catalyst".

When I was presented with the aforementioned non-traditional commission, I almost said "give me mountains or a cityscape, please" and headed for the hills, but I'd seen a recent post on Facebook from one of my favorite contemporary artists, Lani Woods, about a similar situation she was approached with (although I doubt hers was of a sexual nature). She was asked to work on a commissioned piece that was completely different from anything she had ever completed before, and though she balked at first, she decided to open her mind to new ideas and take on the challenge, gung-ho, which is so totally like her. It was awhile ago now, but I'm sure she said a bunch of other inspirational things, because she usually does. Through her Facebook page (, she motivates me daily with her beautiful work and her adventurous spirit, and so I thought to myself, "dammit, Lani-- I can paint this gay stallion". Also, I just can't keep letting her show me up. Her pieces are more colorful than mine, she is involved in more philanthropy than I am, she has a hairless cat, and she posts way cooler Instagrams than I do.

Therefore, I took the reins of the Gay Stallion, and I rode it through February, March, April, and May. I created lovers, a cityscape, and a rope on a chair. I immersed myself in the erotic side of gay culture, I hung photos of strapping gentlemen around my studio; I was the artist version of Daniel Day Lewis, full-throttle method actor. I learned what a "puppy cut" is, and I googled things like "man with nice butt bending over", "leather dog collar" and "strong-jawed man", often using my boyfriend's computer and probably disconcerting him from time to time, although he never approached me about it. I bombarded my Denver gays with painting updates and when we had parties at my apartment, we took our glasses of boxed wine into the studio to gaze upon the glory of The Stallion, and also realize its shortcomings and pick apart its faults. It became a forefront in my thoughts at all times, and many nights I twirled around in sweaty sheets over its failures and successes.

This piece has been my Everest.

Here it is, during it's grueling 5-month transformation: 

The outline of the original Gay Stallion. I had no idea 
what the $(#* I was doing. Yes, those are dick lamps.

 Here, as you can see, I've begun to add some shading
and the different "stallions" start taking shape. The customer 
requested that I change the face of the fella in front (which was 
strange, I admit) and make the lamps look less disgusting. 
He was so right.

Here we see that "different" does not necessarily mean 
"better". I've changed the face a bit, but look at those 
heavily-lidded eyes, duck lips, and that fat neanderthal jawline.
This is Frankenstein's flamboyant step-brother. Re-do.

Nope. Just... nope.

This is where I stopped for a bit. I thought, why can't I get that goddamned face right? I've painted people before, hell, I've SEEN people before with my own eyes, and nobody has duck lips like that, especially seductive gay stallions in paintings. I put the piece aside for a month, and I worked on a couple of others. I painted a spontaneous and colorful commissioned piece of The Badlands in a couple of hours, but I struggled for a good fifteen over just this stupid face, gesso-ing over it and trying to re-create it in a more attractive manner, and then starting all over again when I was not successful.

Then I got an email from the customer. He said what I should have realized all along-- this is a piece that belongs to both of us, but I'm the artist. He commissioned a piece from me, specifically, because he loves the freedom and the color and the spontaneity in my work, and this is about both his specific request and my artistic license. I took a weekend trip to San Francisco with two of my dearest friends in the world. We drank wine, shopped, walked up and down hills in cute clothes and saw the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the de Young Museum. I was re-inspired. The night I flew back into Denver, I sat down and re-painted that son-of-a-bitch.

 My style is not laborious. It is fresh and spontaneous and come-what-may, and thank you to the soon-to-be-owner of the piece for making me realize that is exactly what love and passion is, as well. They are not calculated or theoretical or even all that attractive sometimes, but what he desired in this piece was simply the expression of intense passion that exists in any relationship, gay or straight. I let my lines flow freely and I worried less about the end result than the process, allowing the brush to take its own path, the paints to drip freely, and connecting the figures as a symbolic gesture both of being a strong individual and also existing as part of a couple.

He loved it.

He wanted just a couple of things changed. We had discussed previously having a ring on the left raised hand of the guy in front, but he wasn't sure he wanted to do that because gay marriage is not yet legal in all 50 states. In the end, he decided that he liked the ring because he wanted it to symbolize not only raw animal (stallion?) passion and lust, but the deepest meaning of love and commitment, and how those emotions compliment and collide.

He also wanted the bare-assed gentleman to be wearing underwear (black or red). I chose black.

This was a study for me. This was a lesson in figures and faces and homoerotic fantasies. It was a contemplation in hard work, utilizing new ideas with old techniques, and the importance of passion in creating a piece of art and also in life. Since I was very young, I knew I loved to make art. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that I was a legitimate artist. More recently than that, I recognized that art had become a way of life for me, not only as a hobby, but also as a way to make a living, and even more so in the way I eat and breathe, the way I ponder a smudge on a wall or consider the way light falls across a person's face. Finishing this piece made me realize that anything in life is possible- and even if I'm not always successful in my efforts, it never hurts to try.

I love author Tom Robbins, and in re-reading his novel Jitterbug Perfume for perhaps the fifth time, I came across a passage I high-lighted on a previous read, because it just made sense. It makes even more sense to me now:

"The gods have a great sense of humor, don't they? If you lack the iron and the fizz to take control of your own life, if you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don't be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked... The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought."

Dammit, I'm still not as inspirational as that Lani Woods. Love that girl.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alleged paranormal activity, and the importance of hydration at high elevations

One of my favorite things about living in Colorado (other than the fact that it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the world-- and I have been around the block, folks) is that there are so many intriguing things to do within an hour or two of Denver.

This weekend, we did the Estes Park tourist thing. We ate and drank, we hiked, and we tried to get spooked.

Ever heard of the Stanley Hotel? Stephen King got his inspiration for The Shining there, in the famous room 217, and Jim Carrey checked out of the same room at 3am while filming Dumb & Dumber, for reasons he wouldn't state. It has a pretty cool historical background (which John likes) and also is supposed to be seriously haunted (which really tickles my fancy).

The Stanley Hotel- making guests soil themselves with fear since 1907. 
A bit menacing...
is it not?

I think the creepiest thing about the Stanley is a slight state of dis-repair. It's a beautiful hotel that is a bit older, and the rooms are nothing luxurious-- but ours DID have a closet, and this is important because it is reputed that the ghost of Lord Dunraven, who was one of the founders of Estes Park (and also a former Scottish pimp), likes to grope the asses of ladies who venture into the closet. Naturally, both myself and our friend Martha (who lives in Estes Park and knows all the hot spots) had to try this out after spending our evening at the bar, and also sipping some whiskey on the rocks in our room. I didn't feel anybody grabbing my caboose, but I did experience a pretty hefty sense of claustrophia from being shut into a tiny hotel closet, with a few sets of clean sheets and a small rotating fan.

The stairs leading up to the second floor of the Stanley Hotel is filled
with numerous creepy portraits and mirrors upon mirrors. Apparently
Lord Dunraven is also known to chill here, when not molesting hotel 
guests in confined spaces.

The Stanley really capitalizes on The Shining, and the fact that the Stephen King novel was inspired by his stay there. They play the movie 24/7 on one of the hotel channels, and if you've just re-read the book, your boyfriend has fallen asleep, and you've just spent 5 minutes in the closet waiting to be groped by Lord Dunraven, it WILL make you toss and turn all night and also think that you hear a tap-tap-tapping on your window.

Other than my over-active imagination and the fact that I fell asleep watching The Shining, and then had to switch to Seinfeld in the middle of the night to quell my fears, we didn't have any supernatural experiences. John did, however, snap this rather ghost-like photo of me going down one of the Stanley staircases, which just so happen to be known as "supernatural vortexes".

Redrum. Don't see it? Let me blow it up for you.

I'm sure some hooligan climbed up there and wrote it, or 
maybe it was a gimmick added by the hotel, but still, creepy. 
I picture Danny wiggling his little finger and saying it in his throaty
frog voice... barf.

On Saturday, Martha, good soul that she is to put up with us for the entire weekend and show us the Estes ropes, drove us up to Rocky Mountain National Park in the freezing rain and sleet. Like a real local, she took us around hair-pin turns with severe drop-offs at a moderate speed. At a certain point, Trail Ridge Road (which leads over the Great Divide) was closed due to weather, but that didn't stop us, because we are true adventurers. We parked and continued on foot.

Here I am, uncertain about hiking up a mountain road
in fog and hail balls, but not wanting to be the lame ass who
doesn't want to do fun things and have new experiences.
So, I put on a brave face.

The entire atmosphere was very strange... first of all, we were one of very few groups of people daring to hike in these elements, and one of the only other couples we passed were apparent hooligans who squatted on the side of the road and eyed us in an eerie manner. Also, they had weird hair. Secondly, the fog was so dense that you could look over the side of the road to a normally sheer drop-off, and see nothing but swirling whiteness, with occasionally a hint of another world out there. For some strange reason, it reminded me of a Lisa Frank folder I had in middle school, of dolphins splashing in a filmy ocean with a hazy picture of the earth in the background. I tried to Google an image of this folder to provide the appropriate visual aid, but apparently Ms. Frank is only producing kitten pieces now. What a shame that she has limited herself as an artist.

I've never wanted to kick kittens before. 

Here we are, rocking that sh*t.

...and here is me showing that even though it's been shorts weather
in Denver for months, you don't need to shave your legs yet in the mountains.

Now, something that is very important to remember while hiking and vacationing at high altitudes, is that hydration is very important.

Have you ever heard that while hiking and vacationing at high altitudes, HYDRATION IS VERY IMPORTANT?

Well, it is. And I found this out the hard way.. for the second time, I got altitude poisoning, and it feels like death. I experienced one of the worse headaches I've had in my entire life (it felt like Lord Dunraven was hammering a spike into my skull), and also vomited in an exorcism-like manner. You know how it goes, you just start puking and you can't stop, as if you're releasing a demon. And no, drinking $2 Dale's Pale Ales at Cooper's and several glasses of wine at the Stanley bar do not count as "hydrating". Apparently I am not very intelligent when it comes to learning from my own mistakes. Hopefully third time's a charm. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On urban gardening 15 stories up, and how best to prepare for the zombie apocalypse

Do you have someone in your life who is obsessed with preparing for the zombie apocalypse? Do they constantly talk about what you will do, what you will eat, and what the best plan of action is to survive? If you live in a 15-story high rise, do they discuss the proper protocol for creating an "escape zipline" to the nearest building? Perhaps over a nice dinner and wine, you will discuss whether or not zombies are smart enough to utilize a zipline... are they able to use the "hand over hand" method? During the zombie apocolypse, is it wrong to forage through the empty apartments of your former neighbors for leftover Chef Boyardee and canned peas? If so, can you take their cute clothing and maybe designer shoes as well? Also, what is the zombie threshhold for climbing 15 flights of stairs at a reasonably high altitude?

I have someone in my life like this. He is my boyfriend, and we live together. We watched "The Walking Dead" together (both seasons so far), although it didn't seem to have the same effect on me, as I have continued living in a normal manner. If you also suffer from living with or in close proximity to someone who is preparing for humankind as we know it to end, this post is for you.

My boyfriend, John, has determined that we are in extreme danger in the event of the zombie apocalypse, which is certainly a "when", not an "if" affair, if you broach the subject with him. I believe the reason he came to this conclusion is because he stumbled upon the "Map of the Dead", a website in which you can put in your current address, and you will find out if you are in a "danger zone". I entered our address in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. It shows a stick figure holding an automatic rifle, which is me. It's a sea of red, which signifies a "danger zone", all around me. Yikes.

 One of the best features of using "map of the dead" for your apocalypse needs is the 
ability to search for gun stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, gas stations, 
and liquor stores in your area. Prepare yourself for the demise of 
mankind at

Lest you think I am dating some sort of a freak, I don't believe that John is actually expecting the zombie apocalypse, but it certainly got him thinking about being more self-sustainable and less reliant on outside sources to survive. He heard a session on NPR in regards to "urban foraging", and it just so happens that a local organization called "Denver Urban Homesteading" offers classes on the subject. Apparently you spend two hours of your evening "walking along alleys and yards learning which weeds you can eat. Hint: many of the weeds that you see every day can be eaten!". You later reconvene with your classmates to make an "edible weed salad" that everyone enjoys.

It was John's birthday this past weekend. Naturally, this was the perfect 28th birthday gift. By the way, you can also take classes at Denver Urban Homesteading on "dairy goat-keeping in your backyard", "backyard bee-keeping", and "sharpening your own knives (and learn how to make your own!)" ( Holy crap, I can't wait to blog about this.

As part of our own self-sustainability effort, and also in an attempt to eat healthier and depend less on the local King Soopers (why do all grocery stores have such strange names? A prime example: Piggly Wiggly, a Midwestern grocery store chain in which the symbol is a piglet wearing a butcher's cap), we decided to utilize the bit of outdoors space we have and start urban gardening. Our balcony is roughly 10" x 12", I would say. It's 15 stories up.

A couple of weeks ago, John planted a few tomatoes from seeds and some herbs. Unfortunately he left for a few days on tour, and in an attempt to prove to him that I am not incompetant, I killed them by being too zealous in my watering. Today we took the opportunity of a lazy Sunday to get some more, which I will probably not be trusted to take care of.

Take a look-see at our bad-ass balcony garden. In two to four months, we will be fat, happy, and self-sufficiant, and my mouth will be stained with the berries from our new Indian Summer Red Raspberry plant.

 We will have no shortage of green beans during the zombie apocalypse.
My favorite thing: they are going to climb the trellis outside of our patio
window, and it will look like we live in a jungle.

 A wide variety of herbs will be at our beck and call to 
season the canned spaghettios we forage from the empty 
and echoing apartments of our former neighbors.

We'll have both fresh red raspberries and crisp lettuce during 
the zombie apocalypse. Don't worry, lettuce is easy to grow 
from seeds-- even for me. In the background you can see our compost 
container, which I'm afraid John is planning on urinating in.

 We will have both an abundance of fresh Roma tomatoes and an 
awesome view of downtown when s**t hits the fan.

I sit on my balcony now, surrounded by our new greenery and enjoying a Strongbow cider, while tap-tap-tapping on my antiquated computer which is missing the j, k, p, and also the 2 keys. Life is good. I hear the murmur of traffic down below and the conversation of some undoubtedly drunken hoodlums on their way back from the park. A fire engine screams by. I lean back and close my eyes in the sun, and I think to myself...

..dammit, it's going to be so much quieter during the zombie apocalypse.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On seeing red, the Great Divide, & the proper way to select a petty cab driver

I had two of my best friends visiting from Wisconsin this weekend. I love having people in from out of town, but I knew it was going to be a weekend of drinking, eating, and being merry, and I had a couple of commissioned pieces to work on and a piece for a juried exhibition that needed to be completed before the weekend. Nothing like a deadline to create a healthy panic, I always say.

 Laying down the foundation for this piece on our balcony, enjoying
a glass of wine and the Denver skyline at sunset.

I started this piece on Tuesday evening, and finished it up Wednesday morning at 7AM before I headed off to work. It's for the "Red" juried show at Tenn St. Art; all works must be 50% or more in shades of you guessed it-- red.

"Brick" - Sofia, Bulgaria; Acrylic on canvas 2012;
22" x 30"

Here it is, finished up. I worked from a photograph I took while in Sofia, Bulgaria, a couple of years ago. Piece submitted and I'll hear next week if it was accepted. Check that off of my "to do" list.

The ladies arrived on Thursday afternoon and were leaving Sunday, so we had only a few short days to fit in the ultimate Denver experience. My friend Jamie has visited me twice in Denver so far, but it was Jesse's first time in the mile-high city, and I wanted to make sure she had a fantastic time and would want to return in the near future. Therefore, it was necessary to set up a very strong foundation of fun for this first Denver trip. As the kind of person who likes to remain extremely organized, I felt that the first step in "fun" was creating a very detailed itinerary to maximize the most of our time. Some people may disagree on this approach, and that is also fine.

I work downtown on the 16th St. Mall, which affords me excellent people-watching on a daily basis, and also some of the best street dogs in the world. Biker Jim's is an excellent 'dog stand that parks its temporary shop a short jaunt from my office door, and I've had many pleasant experiences there thus far. Some days I just can't stand my sad little sack lunch of a turkey sandwich and string cheese. I've heard word on the street that Biker Jim's has an actual brick and mortar restaurant, as well, and I was barking to try it out. So we did.

Rattlesnake/pheasant dog, mac 'n cheese bites, and an Oscar
Blue's beer. Dammit, that's good.

 Biker Jim's is know for it's adventurous hot dog combinations. I usually go with the elk jalapeno, but this time I decided to really spice it up with the rattlesnake and pheasant dog. I also added a side of fried mac 'n cheese bites, and a Mama's Lil Yella Pills to top it off. Biker Jim's is at 2148 Larimer St., if you're wondering. I highly recommend it for fellow 'dog lovers.

We were disgustingly full, and I didn't even finish my entire meal, so I was pretty disappointed in myself. We then headed a few blocks down to the Great Divide brewery, to show the ladies a bit about the brewing process, and prove to them how amazing Colorado beer really is.

Oh, the possibilities!

I've tried my fair share of Great Divide beers, but had never been to the brewery before. I will say that the tour was a bit disappointing, as the brewery tours I've partaken in before have provided both a wealth of information, and generous portions of beer samples. This one was only about 10 minutes long, and there weren't any samples... but we were allowed to take our beers with us. The BEST thing is that G.D. does 3-beer flights for only 3 bucks, so you can try a taste of any (and every) beer available, if you've got the time and the tolerance. My new favorite Great Divide beer has to be "Collette" or "Hoss".

 Jamie enjoys a G.D. Wild Raspberry Ale on this fine 
Denver afternoon. 

 I will have six, please.

Somehow the afternoon and the evening got away from us, mostly to blame on the beer and the good company. Before we knew it, it was time to head home, and none of us wanted to take on the nearly 2-mile walk back to my apartment in Capitol Hill. Therefore, we decided that the best idea would be to hail a petty cab. I'm not sure how this came to fruition, as petty cab is neither the fastest nor most cost-effective method of transportation. The ride back to Cap Hill is completely uphill from downtown, so we knew we would require a petty cab driver with strong thighs and a steel heart valve. We set about the task of selecting the best cabby for the job, and eventually settled on one that we deemed to have what Jamie called "grade A loins".

We were very pleased with our choice of Declan as our petty cab driver. 
He was worth every penny.

Here he is, in all of his glory. His name was Declan, and he was a fine choice. I give him total props for biking two miles uphill, while pulling a cart with three girls that had just gorged themselves on Mellow Mushroom 'za. We were certainly not at our lightest after a day of drinking beers and stuffing our faces.

We cruised down 16th St. Mall with the wind in our hair.

The rest of the weekend was filled with hiking, more eating, more drinking, and two rattlesnake experiences, but I won't bore you with the gory details.

 Hiking up South Table Mountain to the mesa above Golden, CO, is the best way to work off a hangover.

It was an amazing weekend with two of my best friends, and I truly valued our q-time together, and also want to thank them for opening my eyes to new methods of transportation. I've been rather depressed all afternoon that the weekend is already over and I have to return to real life tomorrow.

 Horse butt! Rooster butt! Pig butt! 
Bull butt! Cow butt! Sheep butt!

I also thank them for the best gift any girl could ask for-- farm animal butt magnets. Nothing like a bull butt to hold up the wedding announcements, grocery lists and coupons on your refrigerator.