Saturday, December 5, 2015

I'm BACK and a favor to ask!

Here I am, after a year.  And what a year it's been.

Just before my last entry, I had injured my left knee while trying to keep up with two lines of very enthusiastic people pulling a soon to me megalith at Stones Rising 2014.  I didn't know it, but I was about to embark on a year of learning exactly why the stereotypical old person is grumpy.

 The knee hurt--quite a lot--so I thought I'd twisted or sprained it, and off to the chiropractor I went.  When she and I agreed it wasn't helping, I went to my general practitioner.  When, several visits later, we determined that what we'd been trying wasn't helping, I went to an orthopedist.  The orthopedist gave me a cortisone shot and prescribed round 1 of PT.  The cortisone shot gave me hot flashes for three days and then wore off; the PT was great.  The doctor gave me lubricant shots.  They didn't work.  Finally the doc said we should do arthroscopic surgery.  He didn't have a great rep as a surgeon, so I found another one and we did the surgery...where it turned out that yes, I had a torn meniscus, but--far worse-- I had galloping arthritis in that knee.  The doctor was irritated that it had not imaged in the MRI or X-ray.  Round 2 of PT.  I join a gym and ride the bike on non-PT days.  PT doesn't work--it helps a little, but not enough to declare me healed.  By this point we are towards the end of what has been a miserable camping and festival season.  Sometimes I couldn't even stand.  I called my doc and we determined that I should get the damned knee replaced.

I can unequivocally say that that was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

 I can also say that I now understand the meaning of "out of spoons" (if  you don't know Spoon Theory, look it up.  It will explain a lot about how people with chronic pain deal with the assumptions of people who don't have chronic pain.)

 I now know why it's hard for people with chronic pain to be creative.  Dealing with pain is exhausting.

I now know who my friends are, and I have a lot of them, with loving hands who picked me up when I couldn't walk, fetched things, and helped me to my campsite when I needed it.  They were there for me when I cried out of frustration, and they understood because they knew that I'm not the kind of person who cries in public, that  I'm the kind of person who values her independence.  I have friends even at Four Quarters outside events:  neighbors at a rave which draws 4,000 kids who made me a breakfast sandwich when the EMTs had put me on the disabled list and sent me (in misery) back to bed; friends of long standing from another, much smaller, event, who gave me use of their golf cart and brought me my dinner when I couldn't stand.  

I now know that my husband of 27 years is an even more wonderful man than I knew.

Happily, I am back to work on writing and illustrating my next book, The Promethean Oracle.  Here are some examples of the latest:

 This is Ashurbanial, who was not just the ruthless last king of the Neo-Assyrian period, he was the founder of the first library, which had 30,000 volumes, many of which he hand-picked or wrote himself. 
 Eziekiel had many powerful visions, but the most famous is the "wheel within the wheel."  Well, that's "done", so I focused on the cherubims' wings.
Here is Khaemwaset, the second son of Ramses II and a scholar rather than a warrior.  His fascination with the already  ancient monuments of his ancestors led to their study and preservation:  Khaemwaset was the world's first Egyptologist.
The Minotaur, looking at you.

Unfortunately, the buildup to the surgery, and the surgery aftermath, made it impossible for me to, even with help, sell artwork at Stones Rising or any of the other major events I usually attend. This means I'm going into 2016 without the funds to pay for vending space at my spring events.

To this end I've set up a GoFundMe account: I've included gifts for those who donate special amounts too:  $50 gets you a pack of greeting cards, and $100 a 5 X 7" print, your choice. You don't have to donate anything, I'm not going to hold it against anyone.  But every little bit helps!

Thanks for listening, and enjoy the new art!  You can see more at .

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Yes, it’s been awhile, and I should be writing something else, but I thought it was about time that I updated everything.  I don’t know how people who blog regularly get anything else done.

So here’s Horus, and Horus is part of a new project, The Promethean Oracle.  This is yet again an oracle deck, but this time its focus is male energies (this does not mean women can’t use it).
I’m drawing (literally) from a range of characters:  historical, mythical, and Biblical (yes, Biblical), and limiting the origin of the subject matter to Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, and the Bible.

Agamemnon.  A rat bastard if ever there was one.
Instead of watercolors on huge pieces of paper, these images are a more manageable size (8.5 X 11”) and are rendered in colored pencil.
I’m having a lot of fun with the imagery.  I’ve always wanted to do something with historical masks like this one (wait till you’ve seen Sargon!) and never really had the excuse. 
I’ll have to publish the proposal, now that it’s been ACCEPTED!!!

Good old Set, you know he's up to something.

This project came about as the result of me noticing that while there are oodles of Goddess based tarot and oracle decks, there is precious little depicting male archetypes or energies.  In fact, the only deck I could find was an oracle called Gods and Heroes, and that featured idealized bodybuilders.

Uh huh.

Because I don't have enough to do in my life, I prepared a pitch and sent it in to my publisher, Schiffer Publishing ( ) .  I was invited to bring the original art down, so I did, and that very day Mr. Schiffer told me I had a contract.

So off I go, diving into another project!  Stay tuned for news and special items!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yes, Virginia, My First Fanfiction was a Mary Sue

You may or may not be familiar with the word “fanfiction”.  The clever reader (which I have on good authority all of you are) might discern the roots “fan” and “fiction” and correctly infer that this is fiction based upon something of which the writer is a fan. 

Fanfiction has been wildly popular for more than three decades.  It has become so ubiquitous that college professors now give lectures and write research papers on the topic.  Some of the best pen and ink art I have ever seen graces the covers of fanzines--publications comprised of fanfiction. 

Fanfiction was in its infancy when I walked into my first Star Trek convention in 1975, and I still didn’t know what fanfiction was when I walked into my first Star Trek convention as a vendor in 1983. 

I got the crash course that first day.

The vendor coordinator hadn’t known where to put a business called “Fantasy Portraits”, so he had put me in the room with the fanzine dealers.  There I was, with my humble setup:  the aluminum easel I had borrowed from my Dad; my set of Prismacolor Pencils; and a pad of charcoal paper, surrounded by dealers sitting behind tables stacked high with thick, often ring-bound publications.  I didn’t know what to make of them, and they didn’t know what to make of me.  It was an awkward start.

Friday afternoon, the hoards came shopping:  women armed with huge canvas bags swarmed the tables, spending vast amounts of money on these publications--and completely ignoring me.  The frenzy was nearly overwhelming, and I thought I was sunk.  Fantasy Portraits would die in its infancy, all at the hands of these crazy ladies and their bulging tote bags. 

Though it’s not relevant to this story, you ought to know that the rest of the weekend was much better. 

These books were called “zines”, and that their content came in several flavors.  I learned that just because my initials were “KS”--for “Sophia Kelly”--that did not mean that I drew “K/S” (that’s zinespeak for relationships between Kirk and Spock; the “/” (you may see references to “slash” zines) is the shorthand for the relationship part.  I learned that if you could draw, you could illustrate for a zine, but there is no money in it. 

While fanfiction got its start with Star Trek, by the time I went to that convention, it had branched out to include many other TV shows and movies (referred to as “fandoms”).  There was already a considerable body of work involving characters from shows like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.  Throughout the course of the 1980s, more and more zines representing more and more shows were published, some with increasingly elaborate and colorful bindings. 
Today, fanfiction flourishes, and the fandoms it represents number as the stars, some new, like the BBC series Sherlock and some very, very old, like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Starsky and Hutch.  (No, really, I am not kidding.)

Yes, I have written fanfiction.  Much to my editor’s distress, I am not terribly prolific, but my stories are relatively popular and I have on occasion even received fan mail. 

Yet there is one ghost that haunts me, that sends me running to friends about 3/4 of the way through every story.

Her name is  Mary Sue.

Wikipedia defines a Mary Sue thusly:  A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfilment fantasy for the author or reader. It is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional. While the label "Mary Sue" itself originates from a parody of this type of character, most characters labelled "Mary Sues" by readers are not intended by authors as such. Male Mary Sues are often dubbed "Gary Stu", "Larry Stu", "Marty Stu", or similar names.

While the term is generally limited to fan-created characters, and its most common usage today occurs within the fan fiction community or in reference to fan fiction, original characters in role-playing games or literary canon are also sometimes criticized as being "Mary Sues" or "canon Sues" if they dominate the spotlight or are too unrealistic or unlikely in other ways. One example of this criticism is Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The term "Mary Sue" is from the name of a character created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story "A Trekkie's Tale"[1]:15 published in her fanzine Menagerie #2.[2] The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old"), and satirized unrealistic and adolescent wish-fantasy characters in Star Trek fan fiction. Such characters were generally original (non-canon) and female adolescents who had romantic liaisons with established canon adult characters, or in some cases were the younger relatives or protégés of those characters. By 1976 Menagerie's editors stated that they disliked such characters, saying:
Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to graduate from the academy and ever get a commission at such a tender age. Usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling. This character can also be found burrowing her way into the good graces/heart/mind of one of the Big Three [Kirk, Spock, and McCoy], if not all three at once. She saves the day by her wit and ability, and, if we are lucky, has the good grace to die at the end, being grieved by the entire ship.[3]

Today "Mary Sue" carries a connotation of wish-fulfilment and is commonly associated with self-insertion (the writing of oneself into a fictional story). True self-insertion is a literal and generally undisguised representation of the author; most characters described as "Mary Sues" are not, though they are often called "proxies"[4] for the author. The negative connotation comes from this "wish-fulfilment" implication: the "Mary Sue" is judged a poorly developed character, too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting. Such proxy characters, critics claim, exist only because authors wish to see themselves as the "special" character in question.
The term is also associated with cliché such as exotic hair and eye colors, mystical or superhuman powers, exotic pets, possessions, or origins, or an unusually tragic past, especially when these things are glaringly out of step with the consistency of the canon. These features are commonplace in "Mary Sues", though even a character who lacks them may be labelled a "Sue" by some critics. The term is more broadly associated with characters who are exceptionally and improbably lucky. The good luck may involve romance ("Mary Sue" always gets her man); adventure ("Mary Sue" always wins a fight or knows how to solve the puzzle) and popularity (the "right people" seem to gravitate towards the character). These characters have few problems while attempting to achieve their goals. "Everything goes her way" is a common criticism regarding "Mary Sues", the implication being that the character's inability to fail makes her insufficiently humanized or challenged to be interesting or sympathetic.

So there you have it:  Mary Sue.  The article goes on to state that some critics have labeled Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series as Mary Sue’s.   I tend to agree.

Yes, my friends get at least one email per story, plaintively asking, “Is my zine a Mary Sue?”.

Invariably, to my relief, they say “No, of course not.” 

But they have never read my first fanfic.

Written in 1985, my first attempt at fan fiction was to the tune of Miami Vice.  I freely admit that I had a crush on Lieutenant Castillo, played by Edward James Olmos (who makes any role cool).  My best friend and I cooked up what we thought were some pretty awesome characters (and they are, to a certain extent), and I started writing.  At the time, I thought it was pretty good.
This morning, I opened up the file for the first time in decades, and started reading.  I was prepared:  no doubt the grammar would be painful, there might well be too much exposition.  I gripped my coffee cup and plunged in.

The first scene was surprisingly good, and with the exception of an apparently chronic inability to anchor point of view, the grammar and structure of the developing tale were pretty solid.  The underlying plot (the case the detectives are investigating) had merit.  The dialogue was about 80% character appropriate, which isn’t bad, considering that this was a first attempt.  At least I’d been paying attention.  

The pacing was definitely too fast.  It was so fast it made driving on I-95 around Miami at any given time of the day look like a snail’s pace (my husband once said that he’d rather change a tire on the Schuylkill Expressway at rush hour--that is beyond hazardous--than ever drive around Miami again.  I’m pretty sure I thought this story was done, but in reality it read like a first draft.  You should see what’s happening on page FIVE.

And then the Universe delivered the coup de grace to my artistic pride: I realized,  Oh.  My.  God, the main original character was ME, right down to the insecurities about weight and being dressed appropriately.  I mean, it is one thing to envision oneself as a statuesque blonde (which I did not do) and another thing entirely to drop in a character who is obviously me, who waltzes into the squad room and seduces Martin Castillo (in his first appearance one of the other characters describes him as “Dirty Harry by way of Little Havana”--read “not easily seduced”).  That’s some special talent there!
I usually have a sense of humor about the vagaries of my youth, but this one made me literally nauseous.  I console myself with the knowledge that only about five people had ever read it--and they did so such a long time ago that it’s likely not even a  memory anymore.

I will probably take a dramamine and read through the whole thing to see if there’s anything I can salvage (thanks to Netflix I am on a Miami Vice kick right now, and am thusly inspired).  But I am humbler now, as I embark upon my first REAL book (the one that comes with a REAL publisher and a REAL contract). 

Hey, Universe:  thanks for the reality check, but next time you decide to take me down a notch, make sure I’ve had a couple of drinks first.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cider-Roasted Chicken That Almost Wasn't

 Ever been going through recipes and ended up taking a walk down memory lane?

I used to be a Cooking Light junkie.  When I still worked at Waldenbooks (when there still was Waldenbooks) I looked forward to the box of magazines that would yield the new issue, through which I would eagerly page looking for new ideas.  At that time, my husband David was still away doing Army stuff (we joked that even though he was Army Reserve, whose motto was "one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer", we only got to see him one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer) so I was in charge of getting real food into myself and Emily.

The cover of the October 2004 issue featured an extremely attractive recipe for Cider-Roasted Chicken, which I immediately decided I had to try.  Soon after purchasing the magazine I went out to the market and purchased all of the ingredients, including a small roasting chicken.  When I got home, I began my preparations:  following the directions, I carefully removed the packaging on the chicken and fished out the bag of giblets.  I then thoroughly washed the chicken and set it on a measuring cup at the very back of the kitchen sink to drain. 

At the time, we had an aging English Springer Spaniel named Teegan.  Springers are quirky by nature (one source states that if you have a ghost in your house you should obtain a spaniel because they will chase the ghost away with their goofy nature) and Teegan was no exception.  She helped raise Emily (she is in virtually every photo of Emily from babyhood on); she ate watermelon with me when I was pregnant; she loved green beans.  In the span of her lifetime she never, ever curled a lip at a child--even when they pulled her ears, lips, fur and stubby tail.

Teegan was named for a character on Doctor Who--a bossy, outspoken Australian airline hostess who questioned everything the 800-odd-year-old Doctor did and who had a habit of barking responses when she didn't like what he said.   I just liked the name:  I didn't realize that the puppy who climbed over all the other puppies to get to us was an alpha dog--which meant she was bossy--would also always be after my job, literally nipping at me, challenging me (and not in a playful way), and talking back to me if I scolded her.  When David was away, she would try to promote me to Alpha Male by taking over my side of the bed and pushing me over to his.  She was also the Wolf in Our Living Room, the Mighty Hunter, a Dog's Dog.  You could play tug of war with her for hours and her teeth would never come near you, but if she got hold of something she knew she wasn't supposed to have, she became a different dog--demonically possessive.  Before you ask, yes we worked with her--with limited success.  She was determined to be the Boss.
Teegan, sitting at David's computer--you guessed it--at the dining room table

When this all occurred, Teegan had reached the venerable age of ten years:  the only evidence of her status as a senior citizen was that she had gone utterly and completely deaf (and was really enjoying it--there were times when you could just see her looking at us waving our arms and thinking "this is GREAT!").

Imagine for a moment your kitchen sink and how high it is off the ground.  Now imagine an English Springer Spaniel--a dog whose shoulder comes roughly to your knee--next to the sink.  Tack on 10 years--that's 70 in dog years--to the dog and what you've got is the equivalent of my mother attempting the high jump.

Except my mother is not Teegan.  My mother knits; Teegan is the Mighty Hunter.  My mother wants Archway Cookies; Teegan wanted that chicken.

I still don't know how she did it.  After setting the chicken to drain, I turned away for two seconds, and when I turned back there was Teegan standing on the floor holding the chicken--the raw chicken, MY raw chicken-- by the wing. 

The following thoughts flashed through my head in the microsecond of realization that occurred before I reacted to this sight:  if Teegan gets away with the chicken she will take it under the table--from whence I won't be able to get it back without getting bitten -- and eat it.  Which will make a huge, disgusting mess.  If Teegan eats the chicken she will then likely get really sick, making an even bigger, more disgusting mess.  I must get the chicken back!

 I knew I had to keep my hands clear of her teeth:  this was a prey object, which she had hunted and caught fair and square and she was prepared to defend it.  

Lightning-fast, I reached down and grabbed the chicken by the leg, instigating what remains to this day the strangest tug-of-war in which I have ever engaged.  Predictably, Teegan did not let go of the chicken.  She dug in as best she could on the kitchen floor:  this was a battle to the death!

...ever played tug-of-war with a raw chicken?

Teegan had the advantage:  her teeth had a firm grip on the chicken and all she had to do was pull.  Meanwhile, I was forced to use my hands--including my supposedly evolutionarily advanced opposable thumbs--to try to maintain a grip on my slippery chicken leg.  And I was laughing--how could I not as I tried to hang onto a raw chicken that my dog had decided was hers?

Finally I realized that this had to end before I slipped and Teegan got away with her prize.  In a last, desperate measure, I stuck my whole arm into the chicken's empty body cavity and pulled up with all my might.

And my 40-pound Springer Spaniel came right with it, gripping that wing with barracuda-like determination.  After a moment suspended by the chicken, she realized that I wasn't giving in:  grudgingly, she let go and dropped to the floor.

Calmly, I washed the chicken very thoroughly again, patted it dry, and set it to marinade in the cider-brine described in the recipe.  It was very tender when cooked:  whether it  was the marinade, or the extra tugging, we will never know.  But here's the recipe:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Have Seen the Enemy, and It is Green and Shiny--Sometimes

I love camping.   I spend nearly the entire summer outdoors in a beautiful, rustic setting with my tent, my fire ring, and Mother Nature for company.  This makes me happy.

Sadly, into each life some rain must fall.   I don't mind rain of the watery kind (that would be silly).  I'm talking about my metaphorical rain, my nemesis...
The Evil Weed
from Wikipedia

Poison ivy.

Poison ivy is my enemy.  It is the Soviet Union to my United States, the rain on my parade, the PC to my Mac.  It is the only adversary in my life with which there is no negotiation, no compromise, for which the "last resort" is the ONLY resort. There is no detente, no shelter, no agreement to disagree.  Poison ivy laughs in the face of diplomacy; it creeps over the boundaries I try to establish with it.  I tell it that I only want a little free space and it laughs and sends out insidious little hairy tendrils to torment me. 

 My husband says that I can get poison ivy just by walking past someone who is thinking about the horrible case of poison ivy they had two years ago last July.  He is not exaggerating:  if anything he is sometimes guilty of understatement.  When I get poison ivy, I don't just get it on my hands:  I get it on my feet, even though I am wearing jeans, hiking boots and thick socks; I get it on my stomach (my STOMACH!) even though I am wearing two layers of clothing; I get it all the way up my arms even though I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt and gloves; I get it on my thighs...on my THIGHS???

My medicine cabinet has a whole department of poison ivy remedies.  Most of them were a waste of money.  The homeopathics are largely a better bet than the pharmaceuticals, but at least once a year I find myself giving in and calling the doctor to howl for steroids.  It's usually this time of year, and usually I get the incredulous nurse asking:  "Are you sure it's poison ivy??"

Yes, dammit.  I was in a ditch in an area where poison ivy grows in the summer.  The roots are there.  Dead leaves are there.  They wait for me.

I really think that all I need do is glance at those ominously shiny leaves and the itching starts.   When I've mentioned this to someone, I've had responses like, "Oh, I don't get poison ivy!"

I hate them.   

Each year, as I set up my campsite, I entertain the irrational hope that maybe this year I will finally have gotten enough poison ivy that I have become immune to it.  Every year, I am sadly disappointed:  even though I armor myself against the Evil Weed, I end up like I am now--red and itchy.  

Inevitably there is a certain amount of astonishment on the part of my friends when, in mid-March, I contract my first case of the year.  I can't tell you how many times I have explained that poison ivy doesn't just go away in the winter time, and that the leaves aren't the only part of the plant exuding  urushiol, the liquid which causes the rash.  In fact, the leaves are only the tip of the itchy iceberg.

I would like to have included more photographs but I didn't want to post things without permission.  Next time I go out to the campsite maybe I can get some identifying shots to add to this blog.

For me, camping is like the movie "Zombieland":  like the main character, I have developed a few simple rules that help keep me from getting walloped with more than one really catastrophic case of poison ivy a year.

RULE 1:  AVOID THE THREE SHINY GREEN LEAVES UNLESS YOU ARE SPRAYING THEM WITH POISON IVY KILLER.  This most obvious rule is best  remembered with the adages, "Leaves of three, let it be", and "One, two, three? Don't touch me."  

COROLLARY TO RULE 1:  THE LEAVES AREN'T ALWAYS SHINY, AND THEY AREN'T ALWAYS GREEN.  Leaves in the spring can be red:   "Red leaflets in the spring, it's a dangerous thing" (I had never heard this one, but I'm posting it in the hope that someone can benefit).  Once fully leafed the leaves are shiny green.  Then summer comes, with drought and dust, and the pretty shiny green leaves become dull, blending into the rest of the forest foliage.  This is just one of the ways that my leafy nemesis lies in wait for me.  

RULE 2:  TREAT EVERY PART--AND I MEAN EVERY PART--OF THE PLANT LIKE IT'S RADIOACTIVE.  You're pulling up shoots?  Great.  Just don't let those roots touch your skin or you will end up with the screaming itchies.  

COROLLARY TO RULE 2:  KNOW WHAT EVERY PART OF THE PLANT LOOKS LIKE--AT ANY TIME OF YEAR.  Poison ivy is universally evil.  You cannot stand before the plant and sigh, "I know there's good in there somewhere".  There isn't.  Since we have already discussed leaves, let's talk about the other parts of the Evil Weed:

from Wikipedia
1.  VINES.  Ever seen hairy vines growing up the side of a tree?  Yep,  that's poison ivy, and if you think that the leaves will give you the Hideous Rash, they've got nothing on the vines.  So if your mind is racing ahead to "ACK!  I've got to hack it off that tree in my campsite!" be aware that this is not just a stick, it's a living thing, a conduit, transporting poison ivy juice to leaves so high in the tree that you can't see them.  If you don't have a machete or long handled axe and a Tyvek suit, chopping it would be the dermatological kiss of death.  

The vines don't change appearance appreciably during the season.  They may have a few shoots at their bases, but generally they sit in place, passive/aggressively reminding you that they are RIGHT THERE.

2.  SHOOTS.  One year I set up my campsite in a new location.  A month later, I returned to find a zillion little grey shoots coming up around my camp kitchen.  In March the shoots are about 6" tall and have small red buds; if you pull them up, you will see that the roots run underground from shoot to shoot.  They're connected in a well-established network that is designed to thwart your efforts to eradicate the plant from your campsite.  It's March, and already you're fighting an uphill battle.

3.  BERRIES.  Recently my husband asked me if there was anything good about poison ivy, and the truth is that birds do in fact eat the berries.  WE, on the other hand, should NOT eat the berries. 

4.  THE "AT ANY TIME OF YEAR" PART:  here's where it gets dicey.  By now, I hope you're educated enough  to realize that this stuff won't just go away after the first frost.  So if you think you are safe leaning on those roots in January you are wrong.  And soon you will be itchy.

Likewise, the leaves don't lose their efficacy with the change of seasons.  Use extra caution when clearing your campsite of deadfall in the spring.  Oh, and watch out for your firewood:  if it had evil leaves resting on it, and you burn it, you will (as we found out last spring) experience the joy of what happens when you burn poison ivy (in my case, a trip to the emergency room because my left eye was swollen shut).  

That's all I have to say on the subject.  I hope that you take what I have said to heart, that you will take it with you when next you venture into the woods; that you pay better attention to the vegetation around you...

And then, after all that, laugh at yourself when you get poison ivy anyway.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Masks: The Adventure Continues

Because I have ADHD and a zillion ideas at once, I not only have Set in progress, but the Anubis and Thoth masks as well.

The Anubis mask is very similar to Set.  There was less of a gallon-jug armature and more foam board and screen.  I used the plaster-treated gauze to build up the primary shape.  Notice that the Anubis snout is more canid in shape and slant.

Meanwhile, Set has had his second coat of Celluclay, and I have trimmed the edges of the mask.  The edges of the mask have been finished with the plaster coated gauze.

Thoth has the head of an ibis, which has posed a very interesting conundrum in puppet/mask making.  Modeling articulation from a toy dragon my daughter got at the Renaissance Faire, I procured 1/4"heavy gauge wire and 3/8" clear plastic tubing.  The wire moves freely through the tubing and can be twisted to make the head turn. I

stuck one end of the wire into a styrofoam ball to help stabilize it once it's in the "head".

Using a quart plastic container, I fashioned a head.  The beak is made from jointed foam board, which has been stuck into the spout.  The styrofoam ball assemblage has been affixed inside.    While the first coat of papier mache was drying, I packed on the modeling for Anubis, building up the nose and cheeks.  At the very bottom of the nose is a piece of screen, intended to help with breathing.

I began coating Set with reddish brown ultra suede, which looked great except for the inevitable seams between pieces of fabric.  Because I have ADHD I could not stand to cover the whole thing and then figure out what to do about the seams:  I had to work that out first.  I ended up using acrylic gel medium to affix pieces of paper towel over the seams (like decoupage).  I Then started painting over them.  The result of this was most satisfactory.

The next projects will be making more modeling on Thoth's head and finishing Set's covering.  I expect it will talke Anubis at least two days to dry!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Set Mask Update: The Plaster is Applied

Forging ahead:

Having had dinner and taken my life into my hands while walking the dogs ('icy" does NOT begin to describe walking conditions out there!) I repaired to the basement with a bowl of water and some prepared papier mache gauze.

First I had to trim up the screen.  One of the real advantages of using this plastic screen is that you are not risking life and limb when  you work with it:  the last time I made a mask I used metal screen and bled profusely over the mask--which is, according to my costuming friends, necessary in order to ensure costume success.

I also ran an extra piece of foam board across the top of the mask to keep the ears from doing anything stupid like tilting inwards, and cut out part of the handle that had remained up to this point.

Cutting the gauze into strips, I started covering the mask.  At some point I noticed that the ears were too short, so I added length to the ears and covered over them.  I've left openings for the eyes that are large:  these will not only allow wide vision but also ventilation.

If there is an issue with vision after the plaster has dried, I will be able to cut through the plaster and screen to make the mask work.   But that will have to wait till tomorrow, when the plaster has completely dried.

You might wonder about the flat top of the mask:  no worries!  All Egyptian gods wore headdresses, and Set here will be no exception.  I might glue half a styrofoam ball to the front to help shape the "forehead" but otherwise this should be fine.  I gave some thought to opening up the top but I'm not sure how that would work.

Tomorrow:  check fit and eyes, and then another coat of plaster.