June 2020

Circle of Magic quartet, Tamora Pierce

I don't need to tell you that the planet Earth is currently a garbage fire. It is hectic, polarized, stressful, and ever-changing. I wake up and wonder if my friends and family are OK, when I'll be able to leave the house. I am pulled in so many directions and am finding that I only have so much bandwidth between working remotely, the pandemic, interpersonal relationships, safety... Social media has only heightened my stress and anxiety, so I have decided to take a step back from the screen in order to focus on personal and professional development as well as mindfulness. 

If we are pals, you know that I always have a book on hand. I love talking about literature in all forms, especially comics and Sci-Fi/Fantasy works. Typically I upload my current reads to Instagram, posting them into a "Jay Reads" highlight. It was a great way to share work and interact with my community, but I found it lacking, such as works being missed due to congested feeds. Although away from social media, I have made the return to the blog, to not only share my current reads, but also my mindfulness practice and artistic explorations without a character count or fear of an online attack. 

Can I recount what I've read since January? I could potentially take the time to track down my pre-pandemic library texts, Powell's purchases, works from the courses I teach, and e-versions, but I'd rather be present and focus on what's at hand. For some reason I feel the need to give this disclaimer, a way to virtually shout that I have been reading before June!

Tamora Pierce. Tammy. I've been reading and re-reading her work since I was a pre-teen, specifically the Tortall series, and have finally decided to transition to the realm of Magic. The first quartet (Tammy is fond of quartets), the Circle of Magic follows four young mages as they discover their abilities and strength as a group. Although each book is titled with one of the four's name, each character has an equal role per book. The first, Sandry's Book, took me awhile to adjust to the narrative structure, with Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar all acting as narrator simultaneously, at times changing from paragraph to paragraph versus distinct chapters. I thought that this approach detracted from character building, and perhaps it does in a sense, but I was approaching it all wrong. These characters from very different backgrounds are individuals, but they find strength in working together, and as a unit I feel that the four combined create a unified whole, a character made of four. It took me until the third of the quartet, Daja's Book, to come to that conclusion, and in shifting my mindset I have forged a deeper connection with the cast of mages. 

To be continued...



I've been teaching for 3 years, and my art practice has waned. Meetings, lessons plans, lectures, grading, commuting to and from campus--getting my footing  as a professor and navigating two school systems has outweighed other activities. Although I've never out right claimed, "I'M AN ARTIST!", I believe that some of my friends would describe me in that manner, and the act of creation makes time stand still, when I have time to sit down, unencumbered.

When I'm teaching, I typically start class with a drawing prompt of some sort, and provide an example. That was a small way to engage the students as well as myself, and kept my fingers nimble (except for days that it rains, like now, where my joints ache!). With the move to all online courses from the pandemic, and all online for the foreseeable future, I've had time to create, to reflect. I don't have to put pants on, or spend 2-hours commuting, or spin in my chair for office hours wondering if students will actually show up. I can have all of the applications open to be responsive while also having time, open time, to move the pencil, push the paint.

I keep bringing up time because that seems to be my biggest obstacle. If I'm not working on something in particular, having an hour to draw only enhances my anxiety. I've only got an hour so I better make it good! Why do I put that pressure on myself? If I do a 20-minute life drawing session, I can either keep doodling, or try to make something social media worthy in the remaining time. I guess I just answered my own question: social media. I really felt that if I didn't post something, and post something good on a regular basis, I wouldn't be an artist. People would think I've quit or fallen off the face of the planet. Well, maybe I have fallen now since I've retreated from the psychological warfare that is social media. Without pressure or constraints, my output has surprised me.

Around my birthday, May 4th, I finally caught up with my online transition--all 3 classes were fully setup and on autopilot. At the end of March, I really was on a week-by-week hustle with the courses, but once I got ahead, I was free. I faced another mental challenge--where to start? A million ideas all competing for completion. I can do them all. I am going to be at home until there's a vaccine. So, on my birthday, I sat down and painted all day. I didn't have a plan, no sketches to pull from or worries about making works based on a theme for a show, I just let myself go. In quarantine, with no loved ones around, and losing my childhood pets this year, I was feeling tender, so I painted 6-pet portraits. It's weird to say "pet," these are my friends, my loves. I'd like to talk more about them in a separate post about meditation and mindfulness.

My practice was reinvigorated that day. Sure, I did some self-portraits here and there, both digital and physical, but I found a system that allowed me to complete work in a timely matter, with a result that I don't hate. I am keeping it simple. Self-isolation has allowed quite a bit of time for reflection, and really wrestling with my inner-self, so I've put it on paper. It helps that I have a nice stack of cold-press paper that I've trimmed down to extend my supply so I'm not precious about making each one work. Some days I feel strong, beautiful and triumphant; others, I feel like Ophelia in the water, or Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and that is OK. I hope to write more about the works in an Ekphrastic manner as I nurture this blog.

Above you'll find 3-works in progress. I've tried to sketch out ideas as they come, so I can steer clear of my own self-imposed mental blocks. Along with self-portraits, I've been taking a magnifying lens to my life, including a fear that the world will run out of Hydroxychloroquine (which I take daily), or dealing with bumps and bruises without being able to go to the doctor. I smashed my hand pretty good, and my fingernail is still holding on to that reminder. Mementos of quarantine. A form of catharsis. Art therapy even, as I am trying to move forward with chronic illness and managing bipolar disorder. Maybe this work will speak to someone, someday. By the end of the year, I would like to collect the works and select writings into a book, another creative endevour that I do quite enjoy.


Along with teaching this term, I am taking an experimental media course. It is all online, but it is a way to engage with other creative individuals and build community. Our first project was to include images of transportation, an animal, and an item of sentimental value. Along with the photos, creative text was encouraged to accompany each image. 

My project was to show unity and variety, a singular polyhedron composed of multiple facets. My images, on the left, are all polaroids, tangible objects that signify a moment in time. The first, my transportation image, is my feet. I greatly enjoy walking, and during my travels I often would wander, no set course. The second image is of my childhood pal, Dancer, my horse. Many years were spent together, rodeoing, Wrangler girls, herding cattle. My best memories are on a horse, and the most painful, from passing pals to broken bones. The text is tracing paper over a won buckle and my bling belt, all the rage when I was in that world. The final photo is a stack of comics, the academic field I have built my career around. All different, yet all a part of me. 

Fire, transformation, renewal.
Pandemic, delivery, climate change. 
This first project was informed by current events. I've been under self-isolation for 3+ months, as most, due to the pandemic. I have become reliant on delivery services and ordering goods online which has unfortunately resulted in an increase in plastic. Bags, containers, wraps, bubbles... If plastic is unavoidable, I try to use it at least twice, which has been challenging. 
Coal, charcoal, burning--it makes me think of transformation, which in a broad sense envelops art, too. Making something out of nothing, re-contextualizing materials. I stripped Amazon Prime bubble mailers in order to make a mask, commenting on my own consumerism during a global pandemic. The lower portion of the mask is made of paper cranes and tissue paper flowers from interior packaging. I formed the mask to resemble a bevor and gorget (medieval armour)  to align with my own interest in medieval studies, one of my research areas.  The mas itself represents me, at this moment, while also signifying transformation, altering materials for a new purpose, as fire transforms a material into another. 
My original intention was to burn the mask, thinking that the plastic wouldn't be as flammable as the paper components, resulting in a melted object. Having the birds and flowers combust, leaving the plastic, would signify the eventual destruction of nature and wildlife due to plastic and non-biodegradable goods. Unexpectedly, it all burned, and QUICKLY. 
The takeaway, the phoenix, the renewal coming from ash, is still intact. 
My apologies to my backyard for the toxic fumes. 


Part fashion, part charcoal, part Nick Cave influence.
Stemming from the ideas of reuse and transformation, I was inspired to create a second necklace. Gathering and charring yard debris, I used burnt twigs and vines to use as weft reinforcement for a woven choker.  The yarn material used to create the choker is from second-hand scraps (from SCRAP), again, based on this notion of transforming and re-contextualizing an object/material(s). It is very messy to wear.
July 3, 2020