Over the weekend, while my daughter and husband played Minecraft, I was painting a cat in a fez. It’s fun to paint cats in hats.
I painted the background first, then the fez, then finally the cat itself, which I envisioned as a Russian Blue. I was painting it grey. Zanimal, age 10, came up for a snack and regarded my painting critically,
“What would you say is the focal point of this painting?”
“The cat, of course.”
“So…” she said.
“I think it should be a lighter colored cat, so it would stand out better. Then your eye would be drawn to it more.”
“It’s wearing a red hat,” I said.
“Still… it should be lighter.”
“That’s nice,” I said. “When you do your cat painting, you can make your cat a light colored cat.”
She went back downstairs. I put away my grey paints. I squirted a big glob of black onto my pallet.
And now it is a sweet, black cat painting. Yes, I am petty. But I am satisfied with my black cat.
When I go to the Red Cross and give blood regularly (you’re welcome, hundreds of people whose lives I’ve saved!) they are like super nice.
Sometimes, they give you cookies– not just a few cookies, I mean, like 120 cookies that you can put out at your Holiday Market Party. And that’s nice. It is. It’s really, really nice. But, I don’t know. I mean, I know I’m being nice when I give blood. I know I’m being a good person with that and all. They say “thank you” a lot. They are swell people, and that should be enough. I mean, it is. It’s enough to do a good deed. It’s just… it could be more fun.
Improvements for the American Red Cross
Instead of calling me and saying “the need is great,” what if the Red Cross sent me a telegram with a red skull and crossbones indicating that it was time for me to come?
Instead of driving myself there, what if a hearse pulled by three black horses came to my front door, driven by a large white man who never spoke, only motioned with his strangely stiff hand for me to get in?
What if it weren’t in a nondescript building, but in a gothic mansion in a part of town that you never realized was there, because it was always enshrouded in fog?
What if the people who greeted me were dressed all in black, eighteenth century evening garb?
What if there was a basket at the door where you had to leave your cross necklaces and garlic candies?
What if the questions were asked in a Transylvanian (or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvanian [just as weird]) accent, with seductively raised eyebrows at key points?
What if there were bats in the belfry?
What is a belfry?
I like vampires. I do hope the American Red Cross considers my questions to them. Also, a serious suggestion: When I am done giving blood, while I am sitting there drinking my juice for fifteen minutes, ask me to schedule my next appointment before I go. The Red Cross could be like the dentist. Also, another serious suggestion: Will yougive blood? Because they VANT YOUR BLUD! Or, you know, they probably want to “save someone’s life” or some such junk.
*Members of Artsy Fartsy Coloring AND Colouring (a Facebook Group) get a PDF copy of Morbid Mandalas for free, just for being in the group! To join us, hop into the horse drawn hearse that just pulled up to your front door. Make sure and bring your coloring AND colouring supplies! Once you get to Facebook Town, you might be staying there for a wee bit longer than you intended…
**Donators to my Patreon get a creepy postcard from me each month! Try it out. It’s fuuuuuun. (Imagine Bela Lugosi saying that.) Fuuuuuuun. Eeeet’s fuuuuuun.
Have you contacted the FCC to tell them how important you think net neutrality is? Please do! John Oliver’s handy “gofccyourself” shortcut is still active and makes it very easy!
1. Click gofccyourself.com
This redirects you to the FCC’s misleadingly named “Restoring Internet Freedom” proceedings page.
2. Click “+Express”
3. Check that “Proceeding(s)” is pre-populated with 17-108. If not, type 17-108 and click enter
4. Under the “Name(s) of Filer(s)” field, add your name, then click enter
5. Add your address
6. Under “Brief Comments” — comment away!
Here’s a basic template:
“Dear FCC Chairman Ajit Pai,
I support the existing Net Neutrality rules, which classify internet service providers under the Title II provision of the Telecommunications Act. Please DO NOT roll back these regulations. Thanks!”
7. Click “Continue to review screen,” check your submission, click submit
When you think about creativity, as an abstract thing, I always used to think it was something akin to absolute freedom. The freer one was, the more creative one could be.
As I have aged and grown as a person and as an artist, I’ve found that creativity is often enhanced by limitations. Limiting your art creates barriers that need to be overcome, thus making it possible and even non-negotiable to learn new skills and achieve higher levels of creativity. Parameters make you look at smaller and smaller things. The more you give attention to small things, the better you are paying attention, and the better your art becomes.
I also used to think of learning as a steady process, sort of like climbing a mountain, step by step. But, again, with some age and experience, I have found that learning is more like painfully walking up a mountainside, slipping down a little, and then, suddenly, flying up a thousand feet, with no real explanation of why. And then, when you expect to fly up the next mountain, when you think it will be easy, you suddenly forget how to fly, and you are stepping tiny steps and sliding again- but after a while of climbing, you realize this mountain started at 10,000 feet, where as the last mountain started at 7,000 feet. You didn’t perceive the altitude change. You were so into the climb. So, really, you’re actually doing quite well.
Without any suggestions or instructions from other people, without any audience input, so to speak, I think I would spend a lot of time walking around the base of the mountain, growing not at all as an artist or as a person. No art happens in a vacuum. It is my whole life and your whole life, it is everything around us, everything contributes. Creativity is a compilation of all things. But it needs parameters. It thrives on rules.
You might know already (or you might not know) that you can subscribe to receive two copies of each new book I put out for $25 a month at Patreon. If you already buy all of my books, it is a genuinely good deal. It is also a genuinely good deal for me, because it is a subscription service, and it gives me a steady income. I LOVE my Patreon patrons. And now, because I want to give Patreon members something more, and because I realize the value of your input and suggestions, I am offering yet another benefit to my Patreon subscribers. If you subscribe to my Patreon now, you can tell me what book to make!
I mean, a whole book. Not just a drawing. Tell me what the topic of my next book will be, and I will make it.
“Get two copies of each book book mailed to you the second it comes out! When you start this subscription, you immediately get two copies of the most recent book. Applies to all books by Shoshanah Marohn or published under my new pen name, Shana Lee. (Due to the prohibitive cost of international postage, this reward is for U.S. residents only.)
You will also also receive a monthly, colorable pen and ink postcard note from me.
THIS JUST IN: Sign up now, before December 21, 2017, and you can (seriously this is crazy but I just decided to do this) decide what my next book will be about. Not just a drawing, a whole book!
1. It has to be legal.
2. No copyright infringements.
3. It has to be nothing to which I am morally opposed. (example: Swear word coloring books. I am morally opposed to them on the grounds that they are bad art.)
4. It must be fewer than fifty pages. (Not counting blank pages, of course.)
5. The book will go into my cue in the order it was received. The order I create the books will be the order in which I received your Patreon memberships. (Look at how many people are subscribed to this, that is the number of books before yours.)
Email me email@example.com if you have questions.”
If you would like to tell me what to do, and thus exponentially benefit my art and make everyone who colors and reads my books happy, please click here.
We got new sheep on Sunday. Two lambs, a black and a white one, and then an old sheep named Sofi. Sofi was Melissa’s pet. All three of these sheep are adorable and very sheep like. They don’t have horns or anything, like our other ones. The new ones are Corriedales. Zanimal wanted to take care of the new sheep, so I didn’t feed them today. I just looked at them over the fence, and decided they looked fine.
After Zanimal got home from school, she immediately went out to feed the new sheep some hay and corn. And then came back with a strange and horrified look on her face.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, but… there’s some pigs or something dead in the pasture? I don’t really know what they are.”
“Maybe they are half eaten pumpkins?” I said.
“Then why do they have hooves?”
We went out to investigate. And, inside the small pasture where we are keeping Sofi and the two lambs, there were… ugh. Weird looking dead things. Looking up close, I decided they were deformed, hairless lambs that Sofi must have birthed. Sofi watched from a distance. So did Zanimal. The pink things had hoofs, and tails, and they had no hair, but they were just the right shape for lambs, except they had some deformity in the face. It was like their jaw bones were soft as pudding.
Both were clearly dead.
Looking at them, I could so easily see how people in old times believed in witches and strange, terrifying things in the night. And terrifying things in the day the day. I was queasy and I asked if Zanimal was okay.
“Yeah, I just want to go play Minecraft now,” she said.
So, I found a container with a lid. I put them into it. I carried it across the yard, and I started to dig a hole.
It takes an incredibly long time to dig a hole. It’s a pet peeve of mine in movies, how little time it seems to take people to dig a hole. Digging a hole to bury something (or someone) is difficult and time consuming. Sometimes, the ground is so hard that you just can’t dig a hole at all. I would like to see a murder mystery show where the entire program, the person is just desperately trying to dig a hole and failing at it. But I digress…
I dug the hole and them put them into it. I apologized to them.
“I’m so sorry. You just weren’t meant to live in this world.”
Then I covered them with dirt.
I reflected that, if they were just a little bit more deformed, I could have put them in a glass jar and sold them to some perverse curiosity shop, probably in San Francisco.
A petting zoo up the road lets people pay to come and watch sheep be born. Those people who own the petting zoo are insane. So much can go wrong! And when it goes wrong, it goes so, so wrong.
My friend Jane used to have sheep, before the internet. She once had a sheep born with two heads. It lived for a couple of weeks. They fed it with a bottle.
“The only problem,” she said, “was that we didn’t know which head to feed.”
An old friend, Keith, posted this on Facebook. I’m so glad there are pictures. I have thought about this trip a lot, over the years, especially whenever I went to Albuquerque. It was starting to take on a fever-dream like quality. Did it really happen? How could I drive to Albuquerque with three people in my trunk? And then sleep through the balloon launch? Because we were up too late lighting farts on fire in a fifth wheel camper?! How was that even possible ? Must have been a dream. But no, here is photographic proof! It really happened!
That car had a long history of having all my friends stuffed in the trunk. This is when it was new (me and my friends in the back, 1982-ish, Grandpa taking us out to ice cream):
Grandpa would drive us the whole way across Petaluma to Tuttle Drug, with the trunk open, and we would tap the hatch up with our hands constantly, to keep it from closing on us. We had to be vigilant especially going over bumps and railroad tracks, as it would just close on us. We all did our part except for Little Shana. We decided that Little Shana didn’t have to keep the hatch open, because she was little (thus the name), and her arms weren’t long enough. This must have been where I got the idea that you don’t have to just have two people in the EXP.
On the Albuquerque trip, we had five people, including me. One in the driver seat, one in the passenger seat, and then the three in back laid down with their feet in the trunk, their heads up by us. We must have put pillows under their heads- or maybe we stored our clothes under their heads? I don’t know how we had room for any luggage! It was a weekend trip.
The car was a Ford EXP, which looked like a Mustang, but had the engine of an Escort and only two seats. Over the maybe sixteen months that I owned and drove it, I had countless men explain to me that I did not have an EXP, that there was no such thing, that I clearly had a Mustang. Sometimes, I would be in the act of giving the man a ride home when he would explain this to me.
Ah, the good old days.
Twenty-three years ago next week, I was driving the EXP alone across the Mojave Desert, outside of Joshua Tree. I reached down to get my water bottle, accidentally drove the car briefly off the shoulder, where I hit some sand. On the sand, I lost all traction, going 65 MPH on the two-lane desert highway. It sent me into a spin, and then I rolled the car twice over, landing it upright. I was fine. The EXP was totaled- every part of it crushed together flat, except for where I had been sitting.
I was a little kid in San Francisco, and then my parents divorced and my dad remarried. I moved with my dad, my stepmother and my new older sisters to Sonoma County when I was five. I went to high school in Sebastopol. And you know how your Facebook is full of people you went to high school with? Well, mine is, too, and so my FB feed was a really weird mix of people reporting themselves safe, asking after their parents, asking after their lost pets, lamenting their lost home, posting horrific pictures, and then all of my newer, Midwesterern friends weighing in on if people should kneel during the anthem at football games. And something about Mike Pence, pictures of the fall colors in Wisconsin… Surreal.
I called my dad. He’s fine. Rumors were flying all day that Sebastopol was on fire, but as far as I can tell, it wasn’t. I video chatted with Zgjenyue (of Avoiding Sex with Frenchmen fame), and she was at her parents’ house in Sebastopol. She lives in Santa Rosa. She showed Zanimal at I all of the falling debris in Sebastopol (which is 5-10 miles west of Santa Rosa). The air looked a dingy yellow in the picture. Everything was covered in soot and ash. She posted a picture on FB of some of the stuff falling from the sky, and then I guess she thought better of it, because it wasn’t there now when I just looked, but there was just burnt up pieces of junk mail flying around. Again, It was surreal.
And then there were the actual fire pictures, which I am sure you can look up yourself. But the worst was that one of the neighborhood in Santa Rosa that was just completely gone:
and then one of my FB acquaintances had circled a spot and written, “my house.” I can’t even imagine. (Posting the picture without the circle ^^^^.)
It’s a lot to take in, even from afar. I live in the Midwest these days. It’s hard to get information. Are the fires under control, now? I don’t know. Why were there so many fires at once?
My high school gym is a shelter for fire victims:
It’s pretty surreal to see that place where you had all of those pep rallies and mock elections- we had this crazy convention every year for class president- and now it’s full of cots! My older sisters’ high school, Casa Grande in Petaluma, is also being used as a shelter. Some of the other schools actually have burned.
For a long time now- a few years, maybe- I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind how cool it would be to send people little notes and pictures, on scraps of paper. Like, if I had infinite resources, I would mail people postcards with tiny instructions. Or a poem. Or a story that made them think about something they never considered before. Something short, and unexpected, something to take a person out of time for a moment, and make that person appreciate that moment. Appreciate this lovely magic that is being alive. Even if it were because of sadness.
There’s a weekly email I get from this man, M. Van Vleet where he tells little stories and he’s an interesting dude, in general. He’s written books. I can’t describe him. But in any case, he has sent me a few postcards. Each time, it was unexpected. I think once or twice, I entered a contest he had, and won, and the prize was just this silly postcard. One of them was a postcard of an old timey movie poster with a scantily clad lady hanging from a rope and monsters around her, I think. M. Van Vleet wrote me a short, kind message on the other side.
The joy I received from this postcard was completely disproportionate to the thing that it was. I should not have been so excited! But I was. I don’t know why, but if I could guess, I would say it was because I wasn’t expecting it. And because it was mysterious, from someone I sort of know but don’t. Because it was beautiful in a campy, nostalgic way. And maybe most of all, because I could hold it in my hand. It was a human connection that did not involve a screen like the one you are looking at now.
There’s a book I read over and over again as a teenager, that I don’t want to read again now, because I think it would spoil it. The book is, of course, Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse. Why I, as a thirteen-year-old American girl, related so much to a middle-aged man in Germany, I have no idea. I guess it is a credit to the talent of the great Hermann Hesse. I read that book over and over again. What I liked most about it was the magic. Underneath the streets was another place, where Harry didn’t belong, but he went there, anyway. The sign above the door said, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.”
It’s sort of a trick, really. Magic is for everybody. But the sign makes you feel special, like you might be the only one who will be worthy. Or maybe it makes you afraid- will they let you in?
Underneath that, in a reflection, are the words,
“FOR MADMEN ONLY!”
And with those words, Hesse took everyone who’d ever felt they didn’t belong, and he pulled them under his wing. (What kind of wing would he have had? A bat wing? A crow? Perhaps he had wings like a raven. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of tea with Hermann Hesse.)
Ever since then, I’ve been longing for the day when I am walking down the street, and I find a little door- a door that I have, curiously, never seen before, although I’ve walked this street a million times before, and over the little door is a sign, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.” I’ve been walking and looking for thirty years, and I have never seen the sign.
But I have seen other things.
I have seen other things, but rarely on the internet. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but rarely. All of the magic seems to happen in that IRL space, where our meat bodies meet. Where you hobble out to your mailbox, and you open a letter and see a familiar scrawl. A doodle. A note from the great beyond.
I have come to believe that we need to add magic to the world. Coloring Inside the Dreams was my attempt at that. I labeled it a coloring book, but it really was a love letter to the nearly lost art of creating magic. (Ironically for sale at Amazon.com.)
I’ve been wanting, for a long time, to do something not so public. Not on the internet. Just sending letters. Notes and pictures. To people like you. I want to write you a little poem, or give you some strange instructions. A dare. Or maybe a story that is from the great beyond. Ethereal. You read it, then maybe you lose it. But you remember it. A glimmer. A reflection on a sidewalk. A sign, over a little door.
MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY
But I always came up against the sad fact of money. Stamps and paper and ink. They cost money. And my time. Darn. But it does, right? That’s just how it is. Everything costs money. Although, not too expensive, actually. Just a little money.
So… I have created a doorway, now. I’ve got a Patreon account. To support magic. (What have we come to? I know. I know.) And there’s a few levels, because I know some people really do like my coloring books, so you can pay a little bit and see what lies beyond the little magic door (receive scraps of paper from me once a month, always including a pen and ink drawing and some writing), or you can pay a bit more and receive the letters plus all of my books, coloring and whatever else, whenever I print them. Two copies: one to color and one to keep. They will be mailed straight to you, no Amazon involved.
I think perhaps one person will sign up, and you will be very special.