review: Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from around the world for creating art in multiple mediums and style (with 450 portraits from the artists of Julia Kay’s portrait party) by Julia L. Kay

Author Julia Kay challenged herself to do a three-year project in which she made a self-portrait every day. At the close of those three years (in 2010), she started JKPP: Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, which she defines as “an international collaborative project in which artists all over the world make portraits of each other.” She created a flickr group (which now includes around 1000 members) and participants began making portraits of one another and the discussion and interaction became quite lively (this project started on flickr at a time when it was much easier to form communities there and in the years since, changes to the site have made it more difficult in my experience). Between 2010 and the creation of this book, artists from over 50 countries created and shared over 50,000 portraits, highlights of which are included here. Chapters arrange the portraits by media, by style, and by theme, and each portrait includes the title (first name and country of the subject), artist, media (physical and digital techniques are both included), original size, and a brief statement from the artist about the piece. The portraits are reproduced here in varying sizes, from just a couple inches square to an entire page (~9×7″). In some cases, a variety of portraits based on the same photograph are included, offering half a dozen or so interpretations. A separate chapter features a few portraits created by each of 15 artists with a paragraph or two of information each shared about their own style and process. The final chapter discusses things to think about and choices to make when creating portraits. A directory of artists, general index, and index of subjects are included.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


yard progress

Friday morning I picked up four fruit trees that I had ordered through the Isabella Conservation District‘s annual tree sale:
– Methley plum
– Blake’s Pride pear
– Harrow Sweet pear
– Canadian Harmony peach

I was super excited to get these – the conservation district offers them at a really affordable price, and this means we’ll have that much more fresh fruit to enjoy (I hope!). They also only sell varieties that should do well in this climate. The trees spent the day and night in our garage – for bareroot trees a cool place out of the sun is usually a safe space to keep them if you only need to do so for a short time before planting.

Saturday morning we got out bright and early and started digging holes! We are also having some repairs to the outside of our home done, and the masons were out on the scaffolding working on the chimney while we were out planting. It’s nice to be getting so many things accomplished!

First off, we started with this Harrow Sweet Pear tree:

Harrow Sweet Pear Tree

Harrow Sweet Pears are supposed to be more productive than some other varieties, and the fruit should be slightly sweeter than, say, a Bartlett. The skin is less tasty than some other varieties, but I have an aversion to the texture of pear peel anyway, so I’ll for sure be peeling them regardless. This variety is supposed to be resistant to fire blight as well. It stores well and is recommended for baking, cooking, canning and freezing, so I’m excited about it!

Then we planted a Blake’s Pride Pear not too far away (so they can easily pollinate):

Blake's Pride Pear Tree

This pear is also supposed to be productive and is recommended for fresh eating, canning, and baking. It’s also resistant to fire blight and should ripen in September, about a month before the Harrow Sweet Pears. It is known for being juicy and having a smooth, buttery texture.

A little bit further toward the front of the yard, we planted this Canadian Harmony Peach tree:

Canadian Harmony Peach Tree

This peach should produce in mid to late August and is supposed to have a pleasing texture. The fruit are known to be on the larger side and should keep well. It is recommended for cooking, baking, canning, and freezing.

Finally, we planted this Methley Plum tree out front:

Methley Plum Tree

This fruit should ripen even earlier, somewhere from May to July. It is juicy, mildly sweet, and is good for fresh eating as well as making jelly. It should also be a good producer, though it will probably be a few growing seasons before we get a solid crop. The label that came on it says Italian Prune, but I’m not sure what the difference is between that and a Methley Plum. Anyone know more about this?

Sunday we tackled another big project: cutting back the lilacs. I had thought to do this last year but then wimped out. Both of these shrubs had been left to grow to enormous size – easily 20′ or more, and had a ton of dead limbs and a lot of insect damage. Here’s the bigger one last year near the end of May:

Lilac toward the back of the property

As you can see, there was quite a number of suckers and new growth underneath, but those bits didn’t get much if any sunshine so they didn’t really have a chance. I decided that the big limbs would have to go in the interest of encouraging the plant to be a manageable-sized shrub again.

Lilac toward the front of the property

This one, which is closer to the front of the yard, is smaller, but was still gigantically tall. It had an even higher percentage of not-good limbs.

The city is coming through to chip brush during this week and next, so we figured it was time to just rip the band-aid off and cut these down (since we knew it would generate quite a bit of chip-able material). It’s so difficult to do this sort of thing just when new green leaves are appearing, but it had to be done! If nothing else I wanted to get rid of the dead wood home that was hosting so many destructive insects.

Cut to a few hours later after lots of work with the bow saw and sawzall:

Lilacs cut back so they can become shrubs again


Lilacs cut back so they can become shrubs again


Fruits of our labor: lots of branches to be chipped

Lots of work! We were definitely feeling our muscles after that! It’s a good ache, though, knowing that we accomplished a lot. We also noticed on Sunday that there were already tiny buds emerging on three of the fruit trees we planted just the day before (the plum came just as one trunk – no limbs – so it did not)! All the water we gave them combined with the glorious sun on Saturday must have agreed with them. The Burning Bush and apple trees are also budding and leafing out. Yay! We also noticed that there are Grape Hyacinth ALL OVER and that we have some tulips that are almost ready to bloom (more pics on flickr). I’m excited to be finding things that are already established.

I also noticed this growing by the garage:

Probably a weed?

It’s so robust I assume it must be a weed – anyone recognize it?

The last bit of yard work we did was to hang up two new mason bee houses (a steal at Aldi!):

Mason bee house

Mason bee house

They’re so cute! I don’t know that I love the cord that they came with for hanging, but for now it’s easy so I’ll go with it. Hopefully they will provide homes for some pollinators!


Earth Stories: SAQA art quilt exhibit

I recently drove down to Lansing to see an art exhibit called Earth Stories, which features art created by members of the Studio Art Quilt Association. Artists were asked to pick a project that was important to them and then create an art quilt that would embody the goals of the project. The pieces in this show were then selected by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, an artist, writer, and curator known for her work with African American quilts.

SAQA art quilt exhibit :earth stories
One of my favorites was this piece, Alternative vs Fossil Fuels, by Cynthia St. Charles.

SAQA art quilt exhibit :earth stories
There is a fairly large installation of wind turbines in the county south of where we live and they are something to behold. This quilt effectively conveys the enormity of these machines, and the quilting pattern she used very much feels like wind. This piece is also very detailed and there is a lot to notice the longer you look at it.

SAQA art quilt exhibit :earth stories
One of the coolest (for me) features of this exhibit is that each artist provided a notebook detailing the creative process that went into making their piece. Both as a quilter and a person interested in art, it is fascinating to look into someone else’s process and see how they came to create the work on display.

There are a bunch of other quilts from this show that drew my eye and you can check out more photos on my flickr. I made it to see this exhibit just before it left to go to its next location. I had just a couple of hours to spend here but I could have spent weeks! If you have a chance to see it, I recommend it!


on forgiveness and drawing lines

[please do not cross the line]

Please do not cross the line by rhinoneal

There have been so many stories in the news lately about people making choices, being faced with the consequences of their actions, and then being forgiven without having shown much if any remorse and/or suffering actual punitive consequences. On the surface, this forgiveness seems fine and maybe even noble. But there’s something about these particular stories that keeps bugging me: the ease with which we forgive and forget when the circumstances make it convenient to do so.

Just this week in my small town, a college football player took a plea deal after being charged with three felonies. And just like that, he’s back on the team. Because OF COURSE he is, because football=money and we all know that’s much more important than a person actually taking real consequences for their choices. It’s so disappointing to see my alma mater make this kind of choice. I expect better of them than I do of the NFL, for example (though I’d love to see the NFL improve on its laughably poor handling of its latest debacle).

It seems that we are especially willing to forget when the crime/poor choice was a man doing harm to a woman or any form of misogyny.

For instance, most of us remember that Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rhianna. He pled guilty and was given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist (this brings up another element of these stories – we all seem to take it for granted that, if you’re a rich guy, there’s no way you’ll be held to the same standard of consequences as someone who isn’t), and now it’s like, oh, whatever, never mind, that was awhile ago, now he’s fine. Websites that I usually respect, like the AV Club, still review his new album as if nothing ever happened. I’m not in favor of never giving anyone a second chance, but I don’t think we have to do it automatically, and I think that forgiving people for awful, criminal acts just because time has passed is really shitty. Where was his apology and amends for what he did? I don’t think it ever happened. I’m sure the AV Club wants to have a wide range of reviews, but it would be easier for me to respect them if they chose not to review works from artists who are known misogynists.

Those are just a couple of examples out of many. It’s so tiring to see this happening over and over. I don’t think it’s probably even possible to participate in contemporary culture without separating artists from their art at least a little bit, BUT I don’t think we have to completely look away from these things, either. If you love a Woody Allen movie, at least be aware of the almost-unbelievable things he’s done in his personal life and the way his actions have affected the people in his life. There’s more awesome art than you can shake a stick at being created by good people who aren’t guilty of misogyny/violence/predatory acts/etc., so why not choose to fill your life with that? Or at least more of it? If I hear a song/see a piece of art that I like, I’m likely to try to find out more about the creator(s). At least then I’ll KNOW who I’m listening to or appreciating, and I can determine whether or not that affects my appreciation for the thing they made. As ever, problematic military toy G.I. Joe’s PSA writers had it at least a little bit right when they said, “Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.”

This all leads me to a thing that is happening right now in my profession. Two women who called out a man for sexual harassment and predation are now being sued by that man. We work in a female-dominated profession, but that doesn’t stop one of the relatively few men in that profession from doing horrible things (and, worse, AT THE SAME TIME being lauded as an industry leader). And then trying to intimidate those who called him out into silence with a ludicrous lawsuit. People get away with a lot of terrible behavior – was the CMU football player’s arrest the first time he did something criminal? Had Chris Brown ever abused a woman before he was caught? I don’t know the answers, but it sure seems possible. We look away from things that are difficult to deal with, and in doing so, we enable the perpetrators to keep on doing those things and, probably, to escalate. We should all be holding one another accountable, which sometimes means doing the difficult thing. Those with less power especially need to support each other and call others out on their behavior.

As someone who works with/for the public, I try to have empathy for everyone. The person who comes in the door with a terrible attitude and shouts profanities at me because the computer isn’t cooperating is probably just having a really shit day. I don’t take it personally and I look forward to future visits when they won’t be in such a bad mood, because it usually is truly just a bad moment for them (and we all have those). I imagine that the football player at CMU was motivated by wanting more – it seems plausible that he gets his room and board covered by a scholarship but might not have much in the way of running-around money, which would totally suck when all his friends are going out to a party or for food or whatever. However, he still made the choice to commit a crime, and his possible desperation does not justify that. It’s a little more difficult for me to find empathy for a man who beats or harasses a woman, but I still try to understand where that person is coming from and hope that they get the help they need along with the punitive consequences for their actions.

I wish I had some solutions to these problems that would really make a difference in our society. Rather than feel hopeless, though, I’ll choose to continue to make good choices in my own life, to try my best to call things out when I see them, and to support those like #teamharpy.



hulk smash

30/365Today I am in a massive state of #hulksmash technology rage. I can just feel my blood pressure being way higher than it should, so writing this is my effort to diffuse it and maybe even formulate a plan for solving the problem.

A few days ago, Flickr changed something that made it impossible for me to upload any photos from my phone to their service. This is, I believe, because my phone is running a seriously old version of the Android OS (2.2.2 AKA Froyo). That is because shortly after we bought our phones, Virgin Mobile decided to never update the OS again, not that they told us that this would happen or was even a possibility. *shakes fist* It was the best phone Virgin Mobile offered at the time, so apparently we should have known that they would abandon it (and us) and not give a crap about it.

I am a Flickr pro user and have been for years. I understand that for a company to keep updating its apps to support older versions of mobile OSes is annoying and time consuming. But it’s really, really frustrating for a loyal, paying, customer like me to suddenly discover that without warning I can’t even access their official app on my phone, and that all the third party apps out there won’t allow uploads to Flickr, either. Flickr has slammed the door on my phone and apparently That Is All.

Being in a transition-y time with moving, I’m not in a position to be able to use my standard setup for downloading and editing photos with my DSLR (it’s complicated, but to sum up: I use Lightroom on my Macbook and the photo library is stored on my PC’s hard drive [where it can easily be backed up onto my external]. We don’t currently have a good enough wifi signal, apparently, for that connection to stay stable long enough for me to edit and then upload photos, even with the PC hard-wired and the laptop right next to it and only six feet from the router. And I don’t want to fuck up my Lightroom library by moving or fragmenting it.), so I’m relying on the phone for any photos I want or need to take.

Given the lack of support we’ve gotten from Virgin Mobile regarding our phone model, we have been planning to move to another company anyway, but figured we’d get as much life out of our current phones as we could. Given that we paid for them out of pocket and they are now apparently virtually worthless, whatever we do next is going to cost us. Which of course we can TOTALLY afford while we’re in the midst of selling our house and moving and etc. (Haha. Wait, not actually funny.) (Did I mention that my PC hard drive and external drive both crapped out and had to be replaced? How about that my 3DS died and, because I cannot stay sane without Animal Crossing amidst all this other stress, had to be replaced?) I’ve read that you can hack the OS on the Triumph, but that it’s pretty damn easy to brick it while doing so. I haven’t got any experience hacking phones yet, and having no phone at all is not an option, so I’m reluctant to risk killing it altogether.

I haven’t found any good overviews of no-contract options from reputable sources yet – has anyone seen any? (I’m not falling for the new so-called no-contract plans from the major carriers that end up costing you just as much or more than their contract plans.) Any and all suggestions for this stupid situation will be appreciated.

image courtesy of Jeff Adams



I participated in a swap on the Knitting for Blythe group on Rav recently, and the person to whom I sent goodies posted pics. She loves the items I made, and I’m so happy she does!

Love these sweaters!

I had noticed that she had a Petite as well as Neo Blythe, so I made matching sets of sweaters and dresses. I love the corduroy skirt her Petite is wearing with the sweater!

Lovely knit sun dresses.


Thanks for being a great swap recipient, Cupcake Snowflake!



front garden spectacular!

Okay, I totally lied in the title. There’s absolutely nothing spectacular going on right now – everything is dormant and just recently free of snow cover. I’m just happy to be able to see plants again! No matter that many of them are still at least partially covered by last fall’s leaves.

Here you can see that there’s just the teensiest bit of snow lingering. (Also that Brodie is looking out the front door, something he really misses during the winter.)

front garden

Here we have Sage:


And Lamb’s Ears ‘Helene von Stein’:

Lamb's Ears 'Helene Von Stein'

And something unidentified coming up. I believe that this is probably chickweed, which seems to adore the front garden. Here’s hoping it’s not, though.

something coming up

And something else I haven’t identified (did someone tell me this was some kind of wild strawberry?), which is all over the place:

something not sure what

This is some kind of bulb I planted last year – need to look at the garden plan and see what it might be.

something coming up

And three little Juniper ‘Blue Star’ plants that I rescued from the big box garden center last year.

Juniper 'Blue Star'

And that’s it for now. It’s still far too early for me to disturb the earth or get rid of the leaves – don’t want to put anything at risk since we’ll no doubt have plenty more frosts before it’s really spring.

More pics on flickr.


Brodie in the guest room

After we pulled the carpet out of the guest room, Brodie was a little reluctant to come in (probably due more to all the racket and fuss we were making in there than anything else, since he’s fine with hardwoods in other rooms of our house). K called him in and made him feel welcome, though.

Brodie was scared to come in at first but made himself at home quickly

After he settled in, we of course wanted to rile him up, so K instructed him to go get his toy, which he did. This AnneArchy wap toy is a little big for Brodie, but he LOVES carrying around the house, gnawing on it, and playing tug with it.


Besides tug, he also likes to have you try to keep it away from him and then let him jump and grab it when you’re ready.

Karl and Brodie play tug with his wap

Here you can see K teasing him with it – shaking it RIGHT ABOVE his head, and yet he knows that he has to sit (his version of saying “please”) until we say “okay”.

Karl and Brodie play tug with his wap

And then once he got it he was so worn out he was content just to hang out with it.

Brodie was scared to come in at first but made himself at home quickly

And they all lived happily ever after, except the wap, which was covered in slobber. The end.

More pics on Flickr.



I wanted to make a little pet of some sort for Dahlia and Willow, so the other night I just started knitting and improvised this little guy:

Cupcake Beastie

Isn’t he cute? I’m calling him the Cupcake Beastie, since the yarn from which he is made is in a colorway called Cupcake. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to embroider a face or what, but then I realized I had some buttons that match perfectly and you really can’t go wrong with creepy button eyes. I sort of feel like nothing else is needed for the face.

Dahlia with her new Cupcake Beastie

I’m especially pleased with how his ears turned out. I had no idea if my idea would work or not, but I just went for it and it turned out perfectly! I love that one of his ears flops over a little. I’ll definitely be improvising some more to see what other wee beasties I can come up with.

Dahlia with her new Cupcake Beastie

More pics on Flickr

Project details on Rav (free login required)