Monday, March 30, 2009

How I Survived the 2009 Georgia General Assembly - Part 1: Drawing Class

This post is the first in a series in which I will share with you, dear reader, the little things that kept me from losing my marbles during the 2009 Georgia General Assembly. This is no small task mind you when you're a low-budget lobbyist whose constituency is in prison. This session, I really wanted to explore different ways to ease stress and minimize the misery that has always defined the legislative session and hopefully find ways to be happy and fulfilled even when I'm losing on a daily basis at the Gold Dome.

This first installment in the series is about the wonderful drawing class I took at Callanwolde thanks to the generosity of my wonderful Mom and Dad. Thanks guys!! I considered that it might be slightly crazy to commit to a weekly responsibility in the evenings when we work such long days - in heels, on marble - but I found myself anxiously awaiting Tuesday nights and being up to my elbows in charcoal. Taught by Marc Brotherton, those 3 hours each week were a complete escape from the politics and strategies, my buzzing blackberry and my ever-growing to-do list.

To draw, you have to actually look. You really have to look at whatever it is in front of you. Marc ran us through all sorts of exercises to help us develop our hand-charcoal coordination, starting with 15 and 30 second drawing drills and eventually doing longer studies of still lifes and live models. And my drawing abilities actually improved!

In the beginning, Marc showed us different techniques like the ones in these three drawings from my first class:

Mass gesture is broad marks used to create density and weight.

Scribble gesture uses scribble scrabble to show weight and density.

Contour line gesture shows the outline and other visible edges of an object.

In later classes we continued with the drills to practice, but also got to do some cool techniques like this charcoal paper - you color the page with the charcoal and then use your eraser to create the shapes and lighting:

In other classes we got to bring in objects from home to draw. Of course I brought my skull, a.k.a. "The Old Girl" (minus her usual Bedouin headdress, naturally):

I got to bring in my favorite water pitcher, also a gift from Mom and Dad:

In the final weeks of the class we had live models pose for us. This was the most challenging part of the class for me, but also the most rewarding. It takes such a long time to really see the body, to see skin and its variety on a single body.

One thing I really learned from this class was that drawing is all about practice. The importance of warming up and repetition cannot be underestimated, and after a certain point looking and translating onto paper came much more naturally. I also learned that I LOVE charcoal - love it - and I love India ink. Great fun, these tools.

Something I learned about myself is that the strategic part of my mind and the creative side compliment each other nicely. I often found that driving home from class I would figure out the next step or the perfect person that could help me accomplish the next day's goals that had previously been eluding me.

Thanks again to Mom and Dad for the gift of this class! And thanks Marc for being a great teacher. Stay tuned for more tales of survival in the coming days in this (hopefully) last week of the legislative session.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rain Walk with Mica

It's been raining for days in Atlanta. Thunderstorms in the spring here make for some of the most amazing blooms and light in which to photograph them. During a break in the downpour this afternoon, Mica and I went for a Rain Walk in Grant Park. Here is what we saw.

I love this spot near the gazebo where old christmas trees are recycled. Each year you can watch the tall pile of dark greens break down and fade into reds, browns, chartruse.

We had never seen a tree that bloomed what looked like hydrangea blossoms that hung down like giant pom poms.

I had to take a pom pom home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Their Hearts in Tipperary Wherever They Go- The POGUES in Atlanta

I never dreamed it would really happen. I've been told by countless boys over the many years who tried to convince me the they were bigger fans, far more knowledgeable than I, that it would never happen. I had missed my chance; I would never see The Pogues in all their glory- meaning with Shane MacGowan in the front.

Well boys, you were wrong. Never underestimate my unrelenting loyalty to the bands that are my soulmates. Not that my steadfastness brought about this strange, five-city US tour that paused in none other than my Atlanta, Georgia, but I'm still claiming it as my own. And my own doesn't begin to express what we were a part of at Monday night's show. I could almost cry.

Says Word Magazine:

Shane MacGowan is is unwell. In fact, he looks dead.

Hell, it's true. The poor man is in such bad shape and it is astonishing that he is still alive at the not-so-ripe old age of 52. I remember reading years ago about Sinead O'Connor turning him into the cops in an effort to curb his drug and alcohol use - please! - and the band has broken up with promises never to speak again countless times because of his self-destructive quest.

Apparently he has a handler, someone to watch over him and make sure he doesn't wander off and go missing- he is really and truly that broken a man. Says drummer Andrew Ranken, "He can perform when he's wasted if he wants to perform. " I've heard stories of him being rolled out in stage in a wheelchair, promptly vomiting and that was it. We made bets with the people next to us on how many songs he would make it through. The bets were just 3 and 5 songs- all made with smiles of understanding that we would happily accept whatever he could give.

They had what those in his inner circle refer to as "the cage" set up. It was a curtained in area on the side of the stage - which might be be compared to a makeshift kissing both at one of my parties - where Shane would retreat to every now and then when he needed a break.

But despite our indulgent pessimism- there he was on the stage for the entire show but for minor breaks. Shane MacGowan bold as day, bright as sun, hissing saliva as he sang having fallen from grace with God. And if you don't believe my account just listen to his scream at 55 seconds in:

THIS, was their second song. This land was always ours, was the proud land of our fathers; it belongs to us and them, not to any of the others. And their third was that sacred ballad The Broad Majestic Shannon. Shane sang of tears on our cheeks, the cross at Finnoe, and our hearts remaining in Tipperary. His plea to take his hand and dry our tears and forget our fears made me still, despite being surrounded by more than all the chaos you might expect in a sold out show of thousands of incredibly drunk men.

There was so much more that they did. The anthem that applies to Palestine and Iraq as much as it does Ireland, Thousands are Sailing was triumphant and heartbreaking: where we go we celebrate the land that makes us refugees. Lullaby of London, McGowan's equivalent to the Mahmoud Darwish's Under Siege was a blessing as it washed over us:

... May the ghosts that howled
Round the house at night
Never keep you from your sleep
May they all sleep tight
Down in hell tonight
Or where ever they may be...

...May the wind that blows from haunted graves
Never bring you misery
May the angels bright
Watch you tonight
And keep you while you sleep.

This is my dear friend Jay and I, Jameson whiskey in hand before the encore:

I felt stunned in this moment. Stunned that it really happened and I was there. How when I would tell this story I might nod my head in the way that my Uncle Michael in Ireland might while telling a story that was beyond belief. About how I never dreamed it but it really happened and I have proof. And how my heart remains with the lads that are THE POGUES.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In Like a Lion

1:43 am: Standstill traffic and pouring rain on Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta.

2:15 pm: Snow falls in large clumps from the sky covering already blooming bulbs.

3:30 pm: Snow builds and sticks as the sun starts to shine.

6:32 pm: Spectacular sunset after snowfall.