Martha Berry’s backyard

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In 1998, I almost became a foreign exchange student. I use the word “almost” because real exchange students generally spend an entire year in a foreign country, attending school and speaking the language of the locals. But when I traveled to Germany fifteen years ago with some other students from Model High School, my experience was somewhat different. The trip only lasted three weeks. And I wasn’t officially a “student,” you see. I just sat around in various classrooms, doodling on pieces of paper and wondering what the people around me were saying. (I can speak German, but I’m not exactly fluent.)

For two weeks, I lived with a wonderful family in Heidelberg. (Or was it Weinheim? I can’t remember now.) The family spoke excellent English and took very good care of me. When I wasn’t using up the oxygen at school, they took me to museums, carnivals, restaurants, and castles. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Since then, we’ve kept in touch.

Wolfgang and Regine, my “German parents,” came to Georgia last week to visit my parents and me. It was their first stop in a long, meandering vacation all over Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. (Their sons, Jochen and Matthias, stayed behind in Germany. They’ve visited before, though. Jochen came here in October, actually. I introduced him to Steak n Shake and all its glorious American cholesterol.)

I’m not a morning person, but I got up early this past Saturday so I could spend the whole day with my German friends. I drove to my parents’ house, half-asleep and barely functioning, and drank coffee with Wolfgang, Regine, and my parents. Then all five of us squeezed into my dad’s car.

If you’re entertaining visitors from another country, you don’t want to bore them to death with Wal-Mart or a neighborhood yard sale. You want to show them a landmark you’re proud of, something grand and noteworthy. So we went to Martha Berry’s house and took a guided tour. It was an incredible place, especially the library, and the gardens outside were mind-bogglingly beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into a Pinterest photo. And the tour guide was witty and charming.

Afterward, we rambled all over the Berry College campus, admiring the elegant stone buildings and almost running over the teenage girls who had flocked there to be photographed in their prom dresses.

From there, we went to my apartment in the backwoods of Chattooga County, so Wolfgang and Regine could see where I live now. Then we headed back to Rome and ate at the Homestead Restaurant (one of the best restaurants on earth) just as a thunderstorm rolled in. After we left the Homestead and went back home, the five of us sat in my parents’ living room for a long time, laughing and telling stories, while the lightning flashed outside and the electricity threatened to sputter out. Around midnight, Wolfgang and Regine told us goodbye and went back to their hotel. I was thrilled to spend the day with them, but I was sad to watch them drive away in the rain.

The next morning, they caught a plane to Florida. They’re in Miami now, I believe.

I apologize if I’ve bored you senseless with all these tedious little details. I’m mainly doing it for my own benefit, so I can remember everything later. I want to preserve this past Saturday, to hold onto it forever, the same way you might press a four-leaf clover between the pages of a book so that you can pull it out and look at it again later.

(I wish I could say I took these photos, but I didn’t. My mother did.)

My novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. It’s a dystopian science fiction story about a boy, a cybernetic raccoon, and a large insect from another planet. You can click here to download it.

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The Angry Bird family

Every year, a new generation of the Angry Bird family arrives on my front porch and spends the whole spring with me. Whenever I come and go from my apartment, Mr. and Mrs. Angry Bird swoop down at me, whizzing past my head and screeching at me, desperate to defend the nest they’ve built above my front door.

I say it’s a “new generation” every spring, but it might actually be the same couple, year after year. I don’t know. If it’s the same two birds, they’re awfully dumb. It seems like they would remember that a big, fat, hairy man keeps waddling back and forth under their nest, sending them into fits of terror several times a day.

But I really shouldn’t make fun of them. I’m dumb too. Every year, I’m startled to see them building a new nest … and I’m startled when they attack me every time I set foot on my porch, as if I’m some intruder who doesn’t belong there. It seems like I would expect it by now.

This year, things are different. I noticed them assembling their new nest recently, piecing together straw, gobs of mud, and cigarette butts so they will have a place to rest when they’re not attacking me. Rather than shaking my head and shrugging helplessly, I grabbed a broom and started poking at it, tearing the stupid thing apart. (I wouldn’t feel right about shooting them or poisoning them. I don’t want them to die. I just want them to go somewhere else and take their drama with them.)

This afternoon, as I walked outside to get some exercise, the birds were on the porch, hopping around and talking to each other in shrill tones, trying to figure out what had happened to their nest-in-progress. In a way, I felt sad for them. But I mostly felt frustrated.

I think I have a long battle ahead of me.

 

My novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. Please check it out. You can click here to download it.

Late night sketching

My headache went away, so I grabbed a piece of paper and started drawing again. This is a sketch of Myla Laurel. She’s an amazing photographer/blogger who lives in Dubai. This is only a work in progress. I’m going to wait and see what my friend Emma says before I really, truly, officially declare the picture “finished.”

I’m thinking about adding the silhouette of a palm tree in the background, on the right side of the composition, since Myla lives in an exotic part of the world. Not sure yet. I also want to draw my friends Ananya and G.E. Gallas, but I probably need to take a break from all this and sit still for a little while. I need to recharge. I love to draw, but there’s something extremely unhealthy (and draining) about finishing one picture and then staying up all night doing another. I’ve watched the same “Doctor Who” episode about four times tonight. It’s the one I mentioned earlier, with the Russian submarine and the ice warrior. It’s a good one, but it’s getting old.

It’s time to get some sleep now.

(PS – my novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. You can click here to download it.)

The check list syndrome

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My psyche is beginning to feel clogged again. That’s the best way to describe the state I’m in right now. I’ve drawn a few pictures I’m happy with and I have some more ideas in mind. But now I’ve reached a point where I’m getting jittery and uncomfortable. This always happens when I pick up the pencil and start drawing again after being away from it for a little while. As soon as I start on one picture, an idea pops into my head for a second picture. And then a third. And then a fourth. The whole time, I’m hastily struggling to complete the first one. It’s like I’m running down a railroad track, desperately chasing a train that’s pulling out of the station.

At some point, I stop enjoying the process. Instead, I become anxious and frustrated about the whole thing. And I don’t feel like I can fully relax until I draw ALL the pictures that are lined up inside my brain. That’s when I start writing check lists. Not only do I write check lists, I chant them silently in my head, especially at work. Over the last few days, I’ve been walking around in the mill, telling myself, “OK, I want to draw that picture of Cassidy next … then Ananya … and then G.E. Gallas. And then I’m going to stop and rest for a while.”

Lately, you see, I’ve been drawing portraits of different people I’ve met on the internet, especially here on WordPress. Not long ago, I drew Piyush Mishra, a blogger who lives in India. I also drew Elena Levon, a Russian lady who dances all over the globe, enjoying one adventure after another.

Anyway, I plan to draw a girl named Cassidy next. And then I want to draw Ananya, one of my new Indian friends. And then G.E. Gallas, an artist/writer/blogger. Then I’ll step back from drawing for a while and take a mini-vacation.

SEE??!!! I just did it again!!!! I can’t stop this stupid chanting!!!!

 

(PS — The picture above is a colored pencil drawing I did in 2010. It’s called “The Rat Race.” It’s the third piece in the “Clockwork” series. It seems appropriate for this post. You can see the rest of them on my Facebook page, Colored Pencil Art by Matthew Curry. And please click here to check out my e-book, Under the Electric Sun. Thank you for taking a look!)

“Great Day,” by Paul McCartney

I heard this song in a credit card commercial tonight. A warm, sentimental feeling washed over me. It was like running into an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time. I bought the CD, “Flaming Pie,” when it was released in 1997. One song on the CD, “The World Tonight,” got plenty of exposure on the radio, but then the album faded into obscurity. That’s the way it seemed to me, anyway.

I just dragged it out and listened to it in the car a few months ago, actually. A couple of the songs have lost their flavor, but most of them hold up very well. “Young Boy” is still excellent. “Heaven on a Sunday” continues to push my emotional buttons as well. “Souvenir” almost makes me cry.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I always felt like this CD was overlooked and underrated. That’s why I was delighted to hear “Great Day” again. I’m glad someone remembers it besides me … and Paul McCartney.

 

(My novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Amazon. The main character is a cybernetic raccoon named Tristan. The story takes place in the future, in a high-tech underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. You can click here to download it.)

Finished product

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Here’s the finished drawing of Piyush Mishra. I added more detail to his hair (as my friend Emma suggested) and made the whole picture darker and bolder. Tomorrow, I’ll start on a picture of my other Indian friend, Ananya. It will be a more complicated drawing, so it might take longer. And then, hopefully, I’ll draw G.E. Gallas. (I do portraits as a hobby, not as a business. If I see someone I want to draw, I’ll draw them. If I turned it into a business, it would stress me out. And then I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore. And then my soul would wither away.)

Here’s the drawing I’m currently wrestling with…

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This is a drawing of Piyush, a blogger here on WordPress. He’s been kind enough to click “like” on almost all of my posts since I started The Chia Pet Circus. I’m not finished with this drawing yet. I still plan to do some erasing, re-drawing, darkening, adjusting, and general fiddling. I might even toss it in my desk drawer and start all over again.

I made it a point to work more slowly on this drawing. I took my time “building” his head, his shoulders, his arm, and his hand before I started worrying about the little details like his eyes and his lips. Not only that, I gave myself permission to NOT finish it tonight. That way, I can come back to the picture tomorrow (when my brain is functioning better and I have more energy) and work on it some more. I will post the final product later.

Book promotions, the Internet, and India

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been busy promoting the daylights out of my novel over the last few days, buzzing from one social networking site to another like a bee going from flower to flower to flower.

There’s one site called LinkedIn. I’ve always been aware of it, but I’ve never paid much attention to it. Last night I discovered that it’s like Facebook … without all the “duck face” pictures. I’ve also been trying to make sense of Twitter. So far, I haven’t. I’m not trashing Twitter at all. I’m sure it’s a fantastic site, but it’s going to take some time for me to get comfortable there.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately.

I’m planning to do a couple of portraits this week. Since I’ve been on WordPress, I’ve met some incredible people in other parts of the world. A couple of them live in India — and lately I’ve become fascinated with that country. I love the culture, the people, and the scenery. This week, hopefully, I will draw my friends Piyush and Ananya and post them on here. (I hope that’s OK with both of you … ?)

Apology

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This evening, I was looking through my WordPress dashboard, clicking and exploring, when I came across several comments I had never seen before. Obviously, I had never replied to them either. In a way, it was exciting — like finding a twenty-dollar bill in a coat pocket. At the same time, I also felt like a jerk for not replying sooner.

If you’ve posted a comment on my page and I haven’t responded, I wasn’t ignoring you on purpose. I’m sorry about that.

The picture above is Gordon, one of the characters in my novel, “Under the Electric Sun,” now available on Amazon. 

A work in progress — Elena Levon portrait attempt

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I’ve spent most of the evening working on this portrait, but I think I’ll probably just scrap it and start over again. In a way I like it, but in a way I loathe it. This is supposed to be a picture of Elena Levon, a Russian model I discovered here on WordPress. (She was kind enough to click “like” on one of my older posts. When I went to her page and saw her, I immediately wanted to draw her.)

Oh well. I need to turn my brain off and relax for the rest of the night. There’s a voice in my head, a cruel voice that never shuts up, telling me I have to be productive in one way or another ALL the time. Even today, on the third day of my three-day Easter weekend, I’ve stressed myself out with this portrait. I need to let myself rest.

So I’m going to retire to the couch now and watch “The Bells of Saint John” again. (That’s the latest episode of Doctor Who.) Here’s a question to Doctor Who fans: did they change the Tardis set since the Christmas episode? In “The Snowmen,” it seems like there was a stairway in front of the door, leading down to the console. And now it’s not there. Or maybe it’s all in my head…