Follow Me to See Art

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This adventurous kitty is the new mascot for a local public art walking tour for families and children. His nickname is T-CAT, short for Traverse City Art Trek. He will appear on the soon-to-be available map and brochure from the visitor’s center this summer!

The Traverse City Art Trek is a stroller-friendly walking tour that covers just a few city blocks and passes by shops and historic buildings, then crosses over the scenic Boardman River, and loops back to the waterfront. Participants will encounter works by local artists and learn a little bit about the city as well.

Cat wearing a backpack. Carol Parker Mittal

Follow me to find art around my city! 

If you’re not familiar with Traverse City, we are a popular destination, making the Best of lists for beaches, natural beauty, wine, and livability, just to name a few!

It’s been fun working with this all-volunteer committee to make this a reality. It’s my first time doing illustration work for anyone other than myself, and I’m proud to contribute. If the TCAT has a successful launch, we will proceed with plans to expand the tour outside of the downtown area, and include bike paths and other locales in the city.

 

 

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Words Matter

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Thanks to Google translate, I now know how to spell “meow” in both Arabic and Persian, the two languages most spoken in the seven countries included in the current U.S. ban on refugees. And, while I know that words matter, (and I like to use words, sometimes too many words, ask my husband,) I’m just going to let my picture do the talking for me this time.Protest cat. #pussygrabsback #nomuslimban

As an aside, I was so interested in this idea of language, that I looked up a few statistics and found out that there are more world-wide native speakers of Spanish than of English, for example. English is the 4th most spoken language, followed by Arabic. (source)

 

 

Snow Business Like Snow Business

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Attempting to break out of my artistic doldrums, I suited up and braved the cold weather to try some snow sculpture.

Snow Cat

This cat is about three feet tall, with eyes and nose of stone, and whiskers of white pine.

The day was sunny for the first time in a long string of dark days, so I thought the snow would be prime for sculpting. However, it was still very powdery, and not packable. I had to bring buckets of water to mix with the snow to get it to stick to itself. I had a blast (by myself!) and managed to learn a lot about making non-snowman objects out of snow.

I started by shoveling a mound, then adding buckets of half water/half snow to the pile and stirring it up before it would congeal into packable matter. After that, I made additions by wetting both surfaces to be joined. It was cold enough, despite the sun, that the slushy mixture became icy pretty quickly, but that allowed me to use a garden trowel to scrape away and carve. .

My results are blocky and a bit rough. I would have continued for much longer, refining things here and there, if my feet had not turned to ice in my boots. Plus, I had already been working for three hours and needed to move on with the more responsible parts of my day.

Melting snow catThe snow cat is thoroughly melting now because we’ve had some rain, but that is the way of temporary installations. When this one melts away, I would definitely try it again! I highly recommend snow sculpture, if you’ve got the available materials.

Recommence

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I find myself struggling with my art. I don’t know what to draw. Cats, of course, but I feel as if there should be more to it. Should I expand my subject matter? Create more complex compositions? Work larger? Draw in a series? Switch to acrylic? Build little theatrical scenes? Print and sew more fiber-related works? Work in a series? Develop a narrative? I want to do everything, and so, feeling overwhelmed, do very little.

 

Pencil drawing. Woman on Bench.

I made this drawing during a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport when I was traveling over the holiday.

The next two months will be consumed with creating costumes for a local high school production, and teaching adult art workshops. I look forward to do both of these things, but they also distract me from the work of my own art. At the same time, these experiences can also invigorate my personal practice. Maybe there something about the costuming that I want to incorporate into the personal lexicon of my art making? And, I always learn something new by teaching what I already know to others.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? I’d like to hear how other creatives work through their less productive spells.

All the Sparkly Things Remember

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The ornaments on my tree all have an origin story. Some belonged to my mother. Others were made by my husband, or by me. Many more were gifts from friends or former students. Each decoration has meaning, and evokes the giver, the event at which it was acquired, or the location of purchase or creation. The Christmas tree, then, becomes a receptacle of memory, representing the strata of my life, and that of my family.

Watercolor painting of a cat ornament. Carol Parker Mittal

Do not eat. Not a real cookie.

As a cat person, I receive a lot of cat Christmas tree ornaments as gifts. This one, though, I purchased myself while celebrating a birthday dinner on a riverboat in Hannibal, Missouri. (Yes, the Hannibal that is famous as being the hometown of Mark Twain.) I liked this cat  for the whimsical arch of its back, and that it looks like a frosted gingerbread cookie. I’ve been staring at it ever since our tree went up a couple of weeks ago. This morning, I was compelled to document it.

I just want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to everyone, if that’s your thing, and, at the very least, Happy Solstice! This is as dark as it gets in the Northern Hemisphere. Be warm, safe, and thoughtful this holiday.

 

So this happened…

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A couple of weeks ago, my laptop slid backwards off the edge of the sofa and landed with a dull thwack on the hardwood floor.drawing of a broken computer screen

The resulting damage was a small crack in the screen on the bottom right. I took it to the local fix-it place, and they told me said screen could be replaced for a price that, while less than the cost of new machine, was still enough to make me cringe.

What followed was two weeks of anguish while I tried to decide the best course forward by:

A. possibly going ahead with the costly repair on a computer that is already four years old.
B. looking for the equivalent of a used machine via Craig’s list and local garage sales.
C. considering a refurbished computer that would replace my beloved, now broken laptop, thus consuming hours of time online reading technical specifications.
D. ordering a new computer to replace the old with the new.
E. skipping a decision altogether, by continuing to  hook my laptop up to my 42″ TV, which was working perfectly well, despite the fact that the initial crack had formed tributaries and was now consuming over half the surface of the screen.

I finally, but not without tears and aggravation at my clumsiness, selected “D” and ordered a new computer, upon which I now submit my entry for InktoberBroken. 

On the rocks

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Continuing to straggle along on the Inktober days, but enjoying the process, nonetheless. This one just feels like a continuation of the last drawing, which was LOST Lost in thought? Lost on the trail? Alas, the daily prompt list has moved on, so here’s my interpretation of the theme ROCK.

Pen and ink drawing of man on a rock by a stream.

“What are men to rocks and mountains?” Jane Austen from Pride and Predjudice

 

Not All Who Wander

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It’s increasingly difficult to go completely off the radar since we (nearly) all carry a GPS around in our pockets or embedded in our dashboards. Yet, there are so many metaphorical ways to be lost for which there are no concrete satellite coordinates.
Ink drawing of face in rearview mirror.

My husband and I drive a lot, heading “down state,” as it’s called here. That’s where the larger cities are, and my family, as well. For the most part, we pass through unbelievably beautiful areas, but some highway driving is just tedious no matter what. Bad weather can add a level of stress. As the passenger, I read aloud books of mutual choosing to help us both pass the time, lost in characters and places, descriptions and events beyond the windows of our time machine. Our current car novel is American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. The main character in this mysterious, fascinating story starts off without a life purpose, just going with, what seems to be, the whims of fate, also lost in his own way, spending a lot of time on the road. I based my Inktober entry for LOST on car time, oblivious to one’s actual position on the globe, and the feeling of being transported.

Sad, but not hopeless

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On Sunday nights I used to help feed feral cats who lived in managed colonies not far from my neighborhood. There were four stops, and on any given night, I might see from 5 – 30 cats who came to the feeding areas for food. There were a few cats who would get close enough for a quick scruff, but the majority of them would hang back until the food was in a dish.

Ink drawing of feral cat waiting for food.

My Inktober interpretation for SAD is based on my experiences with the colony cats. I would worry on nights when I didn’t see a regular visitor, or if a cat was clearly in distress. But, at the very least, these cats were spayed or neutered, and got a meal once a day. Occasionally, there would be a sick or injured cat, who, if it could be safely trapped, received health care. When kittens did show up, they were carefully captured, and placed in forever homes.

I dedicate this drawing to all of those scrappy cats who survive in the streets, around dumpsters, drainages, and parking lots.