Keys to Happiness

Some of you have asked for additional pictures from my estate sale fix from last week, so I thought I would post these photos of the red toy piano I picked up for a song! My brother Rex reminded me that it is the same turkey red color of the old upright he and I both learned to play as kids.  Oh, the wonderful times and tunes we would beat out on that behemoth.  Our duets could get pretty raucous. Our favorite? “A Lion Sleeps Tonight!”  Rex has “Big Red” in his basement studio with a his collection of instruments, string and otherwise — each and every one he plays. Such talent I’ll never have musically, yet I still play on a baby grand I purchased at auction (cheap, of course) and had totally rebuilt (not so cheap). The day that piano was delivered to my doorstep a missing piece of my soul was restored. I’m terribly shy about performing, however, due to a freak-out screw-up at a senior recital when I was in high school. I was playing one of Bach’s two part inventions, messed up and never recovered. I can still play that piece. But my favorite playing is “by ear” and by myself.  I started playing at three according to a photo of me at my toy piano on an early Christmas morning, with a smile about as wide as the keyboard you see here.

“Little Red” © Mary Garner-Mitchell

© Mary Garner-Mitchell

Luring the Big Ones

© Mary Garner-Mitchell
Detail of cover illustration for University of Richmond alumni magazine.
Digital air brush in Photoshop

An assignment to illustrate the cover story for the University of Richmond alumni magazine allowed me to test my digital airbrush skills. The story heralded the school’s recruiting effort to “lure” star talent. Of course I was required include representation of the school’s campus, which thankfully, is indeed lakeside.  Worried that the design would be determined “by committee” I was pleasantly surprised when the first sketch was accepted ­— hook, line and sinker!

Cheating?

I have a question to pose to fellow bloggers. Are you using your own imagery and photos for which you have obtained permission — or for which you have purchased rights — for illustrating your posts?

© Media General Inc./Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic airbrush, Prisma colored pencils on paper

Quite a few of the interior design blogs in particular have me scratching my head in wonder today. What I’m seeing appears as though some bloggers are downloading photos from other sites or scanning images from shelter magazines, seldom with attribution accompanying the photo or within their post. While Facebook, Pinterest and the like have fostered chronic misuse of imagery, music and prose under the guise of “sharing,” this is truly nothing short of stealing. I’m an illustrator and married to a professional photographer, and neither of us would be exactly thrilled to see our images posted out of context from their original source, and without permission or some mutually agreed upon form of compensation. Coming from a former career in publication design, I understand “fair use.” But imagery that carries the blogger’s story line — for instance a collection of great ideas for a child’s room — is not fair use. What it is at best is cheating, as the unattributable images infer that the blogger is the author of the image and/or its content. This sort of blatant rip off of another’s creative’s work not only puts your blog in a bad light, it is an invitation to a lawsuit, particularly if you are soliciting and/or accepting advertising on your blog. Legitimate publications know better. Bloggers should, too.  And for goodness sake, when you have used another publication’s photo or some creative’s imagery, ask permission, pay if required, and by all means credit the source.

The courts haven’t caught up with online content relative to fair use and copyright (yet), but for those who want to do right by others, here is a simple primer on the unwritten rules of blogging see http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingethics/tp/Top3BloggingRules.htm

Faking it

There’s an aspect to blogging that has me struggling today. Unlike journaling, the onus on the blogger is to write and post something entertaining for her followers, and not some narcissistic ramble — to be honest, humble and most of all offer up each post with a genuine sense of sharing. The secret to this medium, I believe, is finding the balance between expression and entertainment. My strength is certainly more weighted toward visuals,  so perhaps I need to focus on images and not fret so much with words.  Arguably, “A picture is worth a thousand” of them anyway,  so today’s post offers this “creature” from my 3-D (as in sculpture, not digital) archives. In time, I promise to supply more recent works, but as this blog is also another portfolio option, please indulge me as I upload the “business side” of my work from the past several years. I promise to mix it up over the course of the next few weeks with “current events!”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell

Applying a tan out of a bottle, while safer than sunbathing, is sorta like renting a Porsche for a few days, or borrowing a friend’s jewelry to go to a swank party. You eventually have to return to your old “pasty” self! To quote Kirk Cobain, “The worst crime is faking it.” Well, maybe the exception is tanning, but for most everything else, so true! © Mary Garner-Mitchell

Estate Sale Rehab

Concrete folk art bird was once painted red like his brother. A round mound perch of cement studded with river rock plants him firmly on the porch rail. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

I’m just coming off the high of Friday’s estate sale. The rush extended through the weekend in what I like to call a “Piddle Party.”  This is when I excuse myself from the typical weekend house chores and focus on getting creative in the garden and/or in the barn with my found objects and junk. So, my new treasures didn’t disappoint as I got to work early Saturday morning cleaning and scheming without an iota of buyer’s regret!  The concrete birds are perched on the deck for now, but I’m sure will flit here and there (as much as concrete birds might) as the months go by.  The most transformed item was what was left of a twig table I had culled from the trash in the estate sale barn. Off-kilter and wobbly, its three legs were all different lengths and it was missing a couple of “teeth” along it’s top. All the stretchers were missing save one that was broken.  I went to my store of sticks and easily replaced and secured all parts.  The burled ones came from a creek bed at Nancy Hugo’s Flower Camp, in Howardsville, VA.  I knew they would eventually find a home one day, and they complete this now sound rustic table. For the tabletop, one of the slate shingles (salvaged two summers ago when our local train station was re-roofed) was an easy fit with a single cut. I won’t go into detail on other “rehabs”, except to say that all cleaned up rather nicely and seem to be happy in their new home!

Miscellaneous found objects welcome “Red” — brother to concrete folk art bird — make up an ever-changing tableaux on my porch bench. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

Surely bound for the dump, a twig table found a new home and new life. All it took was a few prized sticks, a slate shingle for a top and a little spar varnish! © Mary Garner-Mitchell

“Hello. My name is Mary, and I’m a junk-o-holic…”

The signs were everywhere, along every main and side road all over town: “Estate Sale” … and it happened to be a house I drive by every day and wonder who must live there, or if anyone is still living there.  I got my answer this morning at 8 a.m. as one of the first of the hard-core “pickers.”

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Nothing gives me a rush or makes me feel as euphoric as going to a sale like this one. These days they are far and few between, and today I drank up the clutter, dirt and dust in excess. From what I could gather the widower who owns the place has gone to assisted living and thus, the sale of a lifetime’s collection of farm and household items. The outbuildings were the most fun and a few of us diehards dug through the piles of rusty tools and wood and were handsomely rewarded. Most of what was culled was just pennies. The tramp art table, clocks, blue/green pot, zig-zag trim, baby gate (makes a great trellis) and other items not pictured came to a grand total of $2. That’s T-W-O dollars! Truly, they almost paid us to take it. I presume the lady of the house must have been a flower lover like me because one outbuilding was piled with old flower pots, soil, chemicals and garden hand tools, in various stages of long neglect. (Ahhh… sweet elixir!!) Sadly though, as I waded through mounds of junk, I couldn’t help but notice the saved and now decayed funeral arrangements, still in their metal baskets piled in a corner. When did they stop making these metal baskets? Had to be  40 years ago. Sigh…

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In the house, just a few odds and ends met my trained eye. So much was tempting, but either something I could “do” without, or just a tad too pricey for my Silas Marner sensibilities. Besides, I was really on the hunt for things I could re-purpose for the garden … containers, etc. (I even tried, with no success, to buy the piles of rocks in the yard.)  I did find one item though that is totally a stupid, must have:  A toy baby grand piano, with the sweetest decal above its keyboard,  and its xylophone “innards” are in perfect tune. Precious! I don’t know if I will keep or resell. I just may use it as a prop in a photo for a future painting, then perhaps resell.  A bargain at $28, I can probably double my money if I’m so inclined. Everything else in this photo with my new toy ranged from 50 cents to 3 dollars. Most were under a buck!

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Perhaps my Concrete Cardinals were the best find of the day. Can you believe $3.50 each? The white one was out in the yard, and I found the red one undiscovered in the basement and the sales people were amazed that they had not found it earlier. Could it have been the snakeskins decorating the cellar floor??? Anyway, I was amazed that they sold it for the same price.  Folk art-ish, art they?  I LOVE them!

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Check out the plant stand made of old machine parts and a black bucket! And the antlers are huge! More for my Stagfield collection.The real fun will be tomorrow when I start cleaning up the REAL junky stuff and making something “new.”  More photos to come! Have a happy weekend! I know I will.

Garden & Fun

Photo © Mary Garner-Mitchell

 

One of my absolute MOST mind-calming things to do, besides gardening is to spend an afternoon in the barn plundering through my found objects and turning them into something “new” and useful.  My Flower Throne was built in such a fashion from parts I had collected over several years. The shield back was an alley find from two decades back when we lived in the Fan; the round center piece is from a broken brass plant trivet; cabriole legs and miscellaneous ornaments amongst a box of treasures purchased at auction for a buck; and the framed base from old moldings that came with the barn when we purchased Stagfield. Two dismembered wire baskets form the “innards” and corral the soil and plants with the help of a scrap piece of Astroturf! I hit it with some leftover white paint and this year planted in all white verbena and New Guinea impatiens.  Somewhere I have photos from previous, more colorful years, before the original harp design in the back rotted out and had to be replaced with the trivet!  I think up these sorts of things on those nights when sleep escapes me. If I had good lighting in the barn, I’d just get up build something.  But alas, I must wait for daylight and a day when the garden or office isn’t calling!