Far from perfect

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Watercolor. Botanical illustration under the tutelage of Lara Gastinger http://www.laracallgastinger.com

If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. Matthew Fox

“Only God is perfect…”  I’m sure I’m not the only person who grew up hearing this — for me mostly from Sunday School teachers. But in my kid brain, as now, I’ve always balked at this notion, though perfectionism is a disease I fight every single day of my life. Be it in relationships, art, business, cooking, gardening — everything I attempt, I have this unattainable vision of a perfect outcome. And as for the Creator being perfect? I don’t think so. Cases in point: Jellyfish.  Now tell me that wasn’t an experiment that eventually was just tossed in utter disgust where it plopped into the ocean and multiplied!  Or,  crazed gunmen in movie theaters. Hmmm… maybe we humans are just experiments, too.

Something to chew on

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Seattle’s Gum Wall is located along Post Alley, under Park Place Market.

Nothing like getting away for a few days and coming home with a store of good memories and inspiration.  A trip to Seattle to visit a long-time girlfriend followed by my nephew’s wedding amongst a faerie tribe in Oregon surely opened my mind to art and lifestyles that are so far removed from my staid mid-Atlantic sensibilities, that it’s downright shameful. And here I’m supposedly a creative. There must be something in the water or in the sea breezes off the North Pacific, otherwise, how else could people en masse be moved to create something like Seattle’s Gum Wall!  You can read more about this amazing gum-lined alleyway, including its second-place ranking as the “germiest” of tourist attractions next to Ireland’s Blarney Stone at

http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/the-seattle-gum-wall-a-sticky-attraction.html

While some may dismiss the Gum Wall purely for its “ick” factor, this is the sort of creative spontaneity that I truly appreciate and see far too lacking in my day-to-day life and surroundings here in Virginia. That’s something I’ve got to change.  I’m sure I just need to venture to the city more often, look longer and WORK harder.

Shadows of my past

© Media General by Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic air brush, paint, Prisma colored pencil on paper

I came across this illustration the other day amongst many, many long forgotten pieces from my years as a newsroom artist. The VCU Medical College Auxillary’s antiques sale was coming up and we needed cover art for a special feature section highlighting this annual benefit event. Me being the girl in the art department, such assignments usually landed on my desk. The guys got all the air and space and truck illustrations (Everyone knows girls can’t draw trucks!). Anyway this girl was always fine with the “ladies’ pages.” But back to this illustration: We had the catalog, but the photos were iffy at best.  So I composed what I thought would be a good mix of key pieces. There was much emphasis that year, as I recall, on the Chinese influence in the show, thus the table and the porcelain vase. Then there were the usual European porcelains and a few American pieces (the clock and portrait). Sure wish now that I had taken notes on the actual items and their provenance. I’m sure the beat reporter was responsible for the “words” and captions associated with this as with any story. (Everyone knows artists can’t write — or spell!) What I distinctly remember is that I had a WHOLE DAY to do it! I developed this “square on” style because of such crazy deadlines.  I could cut out shapes from frisket and block in the piece with my airbrush very quickly. Next I would add the details by hand with paint and brush and/or Prisma colored pencils. Then hit it again with transparent gray airbrush paint using a “hand frisket” for some shadows and modeling.  I enjoyed recreating the patterns of the porcelain wares in particular. (Maybe this was foretelling of my ongoing assignment of designing fine Limoges porcelain for a current client, who must remain nameless for now.)  As for the grandfather clock, this one struck up memories of the one my father built back in the 60s. My mother painted its face and wrote his name in the center, much like I added my signature on this illustration. I saved the guy in the corner for last, which is probably why he is the weakest part of the illustration as I attempted to capture the antique style of the primitive portrait.  It didn’t work in airbrush and anyway, this guy was so creepy, with such little hands and I was running out of time. The dude reminded me then, as now, of Barnabas Collins of the old “Dark Shadows” serial.  Johnny Depp would have been much more inspiring.

Recycling plastic

© Media General. “In the Garden” by Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic air brush, watercolor, pencil on paper. Editorial illustration for gardening article.

I was searching for just the right quote to fill the void in my “recycled” watering can illustration, when I came across the 18th-century lines above. While they speak to everything I feel in my bones about two of my passions (art and gardening), one word gave me great pause:   Plastic?  Plastic spade? What, a Colonial Walmart selling crappy tools?

Indeed, I have a love/hate relationship with plastic in general. Mostly hate. I curse its existence every time I go to open any overly-protected-over-packaged-off-the-shelf product, or realize our plastic recycling bins are (once again) overflowing.  I know it’s never going away, literally — as a noun that is.

Which brings me around to my love/hate relationship with words. I often I find the English language just plain stupefying and as I stumbled today, I wonder how anyone learns it completely.  Of course, I am fully aware Mr. Mason’s now antique description is just one example of how our pliable vocabulary bends and stretches over the centuries. But his use of “plastic” made me realize how far down the definition chain this otherwise perfectly placed adjective has fallen. In the context of this quote, it is at the very bottom!

plastic  adj. — being able to create, especially within an art form; having the power to give form or formal expression: (the plastic imagination of great poets and composers.)

“Write” on! How can I hate such a great word? Plastic: reclaimed, reused, recycled!

Compost happens …

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Dual compost bins my birthday gift several years ago built by my kind and sweet husband, Chip Mitchell. I grow great dirt!

I wish I could take credit for that headline, but I can’t.  It was a bumper sticker included in a press kit I received when HGTV first came on the scene years ago. A really cool press kit, too, as I recall, with little pencils made from twigs and a pocket folder made of great corrugated paper stock in a warm, red brick color on one side, and cream on the other. I went around the newsroom trash bins collecting those that got tossed. I was always scavenging for “supplies” that others routinely pitched. Still do. But I digress…

This being Monday, and a not-so-good Monday at that, I thought this particular image of my compost bins was appropriate.  Arguing with off-shore folks at Avis rent-a-car, an unexpected ER bill (false alarm, Chip was fine), chasing a long-overdue invoice, topped off with the realization a back-up hard drive has gone to … well, “compost,”  has made this Monday one to forget.  I believe I’ll pretend I’m a cat, dig a hole and bury it.  On the upside, this extremely hot spell followed by a soaking thunderstorm last night has my compost a-cookin’ good! That’s the “done” pile on the left. Martha would be proud.

Getting down to business …

Where did the week go?  With the Fourth of July falling mid-week, I felt like yesterday was Monday, so in my head today is Tuesday and I need another three days to get the rest of my week’s work accomplished! Needless to say, I’ve neglected my near-daily blog posting, so to make up for the lost time, I’ll take this opportunity to upload some graphic design projects that I need to have “out there” for reference. No witty words for these, except that they were produced with much effort, before the real estate bubble burst and when budgets were flush. Grayson Hill and Monument Square are two luxury communities here in Richmond. I designed their respective logos, all the print collateral for both property launches and was AD for both design and creative in marketing efforts from 2005 through 2011 in partnership with Becker & Calliott Marketing. A great account for many years.

Grayson Hill sales kit. The pocket folder was inspired by 18th-century bookbinding. Floor plan inserts accompany accompany a bound identity brochure. Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, Worth Higgins & Associates; photography © Chip Mitchell

Grayson Hill Launch Invitation. Logo-bearing wax seal completes 5 x 7 card and envelop set. Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, Worth Higgins & Associates; photography © Chip Mitchell

Grayson Hill handout distributed at launch party included site plan and list of amenities. Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, Worth Higgins & Associates; photography © Chip Mitchell

Direct mail campaign; postcard to residents. Design, Mary Garner-Mitchell; Photography, Veer stock

Monument Square launch brochure, complete with floor plans. Logo and collateral design, Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, Worth Higgins & Associates; photography © Chip Mitchell

Monument Square stationery suite. Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, Worth Higgins & Asociates; photography © Chip Mitchell

Monument Square “Bling”! Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; printing, photography © Chip Mitchell

Monument Square print ad for Virginia Living Magazine, 2007. Design: Mary Garner-Mitchell; photography © Chip Mitchell

“Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” – Joseph Addison

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Objets de Barn Art” found mostly on site at Stagfield, c. 1781, Ashland, Virginia.

Relatively speaking, I suppose.

While Friday’s storms had us somewhat consumed with cleanup (we were luckier than many), a pool and a shared bottle of Prosecco underscored a couple of delightful days that I want etched my memory as they otherwise held so few demands, despite downed limbs and buckets of sweat.  Late yesterday afternoon, my friend Nancy Hugo windowsillarranging.blogspot.com/  invited us for a swim and happy Happy Hour that was the exclamation point ending to a weekend punctuated by what to me is “Summertime” – golf,  gardening, grilled suppers, oppressive heat, wind-whipping thunderstorms, good friends,  a good book, a good nap – and with Nancy and John, always good conversation. Which brings me to our discussion of “brown” and an ongoing thread that has  woven itself through my ponderings these last few days, weeks, perhaps most of my collecting life!

According to Nancy’s sources (her children and their peers), the generation just starting housekeeping eschews brown furniture – meaning the pieces handed down through at least the last three or more generations. They don’t want it and the antique and consignment shops are testament to this sad trend. It’s a real shame, for just as our parents and many in my demographic of Boomers are downsizing, this glut of apparently unappreciated, quality “brown furniture” has depressed prices to alarming levels. I have a house full of it!  I’ve noticed even the preponderance of Pottery Barn is moving over for Mod, and while I appreciate aspects of most styles and love a mix, it pains me to see what I fear might be a lack of regard for the real patina of rich walnuts, mahogany, heart pine — in other words, BROWN!

Which brings me in a round-about way to why I like rust.

How ironic that marketing guru, Seth Godin, in his blogpost today http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ notes “Shine is fresh and new and it sparkles. Shiny catches the eye and it appeals to the neophiliac, to the person in search of polish. Patina, on the other hand, can only be earned. Patina communicates trust (because the untrusted don’t last long enough to earn a patina) … “
I believe such is true of lots of things, not only in business and brands but furniture, too. Wrinkles come to mind as well! (sigh…)

So, ANYWAY, today’s photo  seems an appropriate way to illustrate my musings above and my love affair with all things old, rusty, worn, well-used, and well, brown!  “Objets”  I believe worthy of exhibit if only as “barn art” discovered  in the dirt here at Stagfield.  Why? Because they earned it.