Tom Sawyer without the straw hat, as created by Lois Beyer
You may already know about my doll-collecting mania. You may have already called the mental health people to come take care of the problem, and they just haven’t arrived at my door yet with the white coat that has the extra long sleeves. But you may not know that my mother is a doll-maker and has something to do with my doll-collecting hoarding disorder.
In the early 1990’s my mother and I put our money together and bought a kiln while we were visiting my sister’s family out in California. It wasn’t the most expensive model, but it wasn’t the cheapest, either. We both had enough experience with ceramics that we didn’t want to buy a burning box that was merely going to blow our porcelain projects to kingdom come. Mother had doll-making friends in Texas who taught her about firing greenware and glazing and porcelain paint and all the other arcane stuff you have to know to make expensive hand-made dolls. Now, honestly, at the start we could’ve made some money at it selling to seriously ill doll collectors and other kooks, but we were not willing to part with our early art, and by the time we were ready to do more than just have an expensive hobby, everyone who would’ve paid money for the product was making their own. So dreams of commercial success were supplanted by the hobbyist’s mania that made more and more charming little things to occasionally display at the county fair.
The two dolls I have left to share on my blog from that era were both crafted by my mother. She lovingly fired the porcelain body parts, painted the faces by hand, and created the wardrobe on her Singer sewing machine. I made some dolls too, but never with the wondrous craft and care that made my mother’s dolls beyond compare.
Tom Sawyer was originally a boy doll who was supposed to be able to hold a model train in his hands. My mother had the pattern for the little engineer’s uniform and hat that she would use on another doll instead. He is named after the Tom Sawyer clothing pattern that my mother bought and sewed together to dress him in. He has a cloth and stuffing body underneath his clothes together with porcelain head, hands, and bare feet.
The other doll I have left to brag unctuously about is a doll named Nicole after the niece my wife and I have whom this doll bares a striking resemblance to. She displays a beautiful little girl’s sun dress with quilted accent colors that my mother sewed from scratch with the help of a pattern she was truly fond of and used more than once.
These dolls were gifts to my wife and I, presented shortly after my mother bought out my share of the kiln when she retired and moved back to the frosty land of the Iowegians. I haven’t kept them as thoroughly dusted and cobweb-free as they deserve because I have been a somewhat lazy and slovenly son… but I do love them almost as much as (and sometimes more depending on recent behavior) my own children. (After all, porcelain kids rarely make a mess, overspend allowances, or hog the television too much.)
I have been a picture-maker since childhood, drawing skeletons in the margins of my textbooks. I used to use pencils, crayons, and colored pencils. I don’t know why I said “used to” because I still use them… just not crayons so much any more. In fact, I have tried, despite being a living antique my own self, to adapt to modern technology. Computers and digital photography have made the picture-making thing easier in many ways, though my goofy old brain still has so many fossilized pathways to navigate to get anywhere new that it takes gobs of time to get it down.
Having rampant hoarding disorder and being a collecting maniac proves useful, because I have stockpiles of junk and stuff to make pictures out of. The only thing I have to get better at is my photographic light awareness. I have spent too much money on different light bulbs and lighting equipment. But practice makes perfect Paffoonies.
It doesn’t hurt that I constantly paint and make arty-stuff to take pictures of either. Here is my effort to use puff paints to add snow to Toonerville structures.
And I need to work on my background awareness too. But being at home alone while important things are going on elsewhere has giving me one thing that I don’t often have. Lots of time to work on stuff like this. Scary how the mind of an artist often works, ain’t it?
This is actually a writer’s literary site meant to promote novels, and one day possibly earn money from writing instead of simply filling my closets with prose and old manuscripts (along with the wife’s many, many shoes). But since I am also an amateur artist of the irradiated subspecies known as “cartoonist”, I also have many visuals to share. I think in pictures as often as I think in words. So one of the features of this blog is that I tag artwork with a made-up word I coined myself. It allows the curious (or those immune to nightmares) to get an almost instant idea of how afflicted I am with cartoon-ism.
Yes, I tested it out. If you do a picture search on Google using the words “Beyer Paffooney” you get a free gallery of my artwork, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You might even find my picture of Clint Eastwood… but beware, he shoots first if you try to “make his day”. If you are brave… or foolish enough to try it, it should come up something like this;
So, there you have it. A cheap and easy 200-word post from a bad idea that’s still out there working.
Sometimes, when you have been writing up a storm, you have to linger for a moment and rest in the storm’s eye. That’s what today’s post is. It includes a goofy metaphor that is basically all wet. It has a picture of my hoarding disorder collection of Monster High dolls… and some of my countless videos… I’m a movie collector and hoarder too. And there is not a lot of research or hard new thinking in this post. It is basically a random warble to fill a daily post, since I have posted every day now for a year and nine months. At 60 and in poor health, I probably don’t have a lot of time left to get the words out. But I have a lot of words still inside me. You may have to put up with a few days of babbling here and there. But I promise, the babbling will be quirky and excessively goofy, so it won’t be totally boring. Running in place doesn’t get you anywhere, but it is still good exercise.
My middle child, Henry, is sixteen and anxious to learn how to drive. And like all young drivers, he has yet to get into his first accident, is awkward behind the wheel, and is determined to be the best driver the world has ever seen. So, we gave him a driver’s instruction course, which he completed by July 15th, though he hasn’t taken the wheel yet in a driver’s ed car. And I had to come to terms with the idea that, even though I shelled out more than 300 dollars to have someone else teach him to drive, I was still going to be the one riding in the passenger’s seat and cringing every time the car lurches towards oncoming traffic and hideous, painful death.
I decided that since we were visiting Iowa where populations are shrinking and little towns like ours are dying, we might as well take advantage of nearly empty streets and lack of other drivers competing for road space. We went to Rowan to practice driving.
Of course I had forgotten how narrow the streets are in my little home town. Some of the avenues can’t sustain two cars passing in opposite directions at once. And there are more than a few junk cars, old tractors, and other wheeled things parked in the way, just begging to be hit and make a dent in our affordable insurance.
Leave it to me to be multi-tasking while teaching the boy to drive the family battleship down the narrow streets of Rowan. I wanted to take pictures to do this post. I also wanted to take my mind off the depressing realization that Donald Trump will likely be the next president, and our lives will continue to go down hill as we are treated more and more like cash-generating farm animals for billionaires, corporations, and the owners of all the debt we have accrued by selfishly spending money on life’s necessities in order to keep on living. We stopped to take a picture at the house I grew up in. It was depressing to see that the house has not been painted since I put that blue paint on it when I was a teenager. Dang! I’m sixty now. And the poor people who live there now couldn’t afford to paint it even once in the last forty-two years.
But even with all the potential distractions, we managed to practice driving and parking and driving again without any catastrophes or sudden fiery death. We did pass the same lady walking her little white dog four different times on four different streets. We only made a wide turn and nearly squished her dog one time. And we only had one incident where he accidentally pressed the gas instead of the brake while the car was in reverse instead of drive. Unfortunately, that happened on Main Street. Fortunately, the one and only car parked on Main Street was in front of us and not behind us. So we were successful. An hour and a half of driving practice with no costly accidents and no blood or death.
I have had a practically life-long fascination with trains. Where did that come from? It came from a Methodist minister who once upon a time saved my life.
Reverend Louis Aiken (in the cowboy hat) was a lover of HO model trains, as well as country music… and, of course, God.
My best friend growing up was a PK, a preacher’s kid. And as we hung out and played games and got into imaginatively horrible trouble, we invariably wound up in the basement of the parsonage where his father kept his HO train layout. I learned lessons of life in that basement in more than one way. I have to explain all of that somewhere down line. But for now, I have to limit the topic to what I learned about trains. They are a link to our past. They are everywhere. And they do far more for us than merely make us cuss while sitting and endlessly waiting at the railroad crossing.
When visiting Dows, we absolutely had to stop and take pictures at the train station.
This is, by my best guess, an SD40 locomotive parked at the restored train station in Dows, Iowa.
Spotting trains to take pictures of, gawk at, and totally make cow-eyes over has become a way of life to me. When visiting Iowa, especially Mason City, Iowa, we always have to stop at the engine on display in East Park.
When I was a kid, this old iron horse was not fenced in to protect it from kids, weather, and other destructive forces. Now, however, it is fully restored and given its own roof. This is a 2-8-2 steam engine with two little wheels in front, eight big wheels in the middle, and two little wheels at the back (not counting wheels on the coal tender). I have ridden on trains pulled by such a behemoth. I love to watch the monkey gears grind on the sides of the wheels forcing steam power into the surge down the tracks. And I can’t help being a total train nut. Of course I don’t deny being more than one kind of nut. But being a mixed nut is another post for another day.
The news recently has been painful to contemplate. Police shootings of suspects that seem on video to be indefensible, yet no charges are ever brought. Angry people taking vengeance with guns on good Dallas policemen and women because the shooters somehow convinced themselves that violence in return for violence will balance the scales of justice. Did they perhaps get that idea from orange-colored presidential candidates who have been campaigning about fighting fire with fire? The weight of the injustice and spirals of anger are crushing me… and I deal with those things through humor, but humor takes time. So what do I do while I’m trying to process all of the pain? I spend some time shining lights on things and thinking about stuff. I told you before that I bought a cheap lamp with a 300-watt bulb to use for photographing artwork. Let me show you some of the photographed and re-photographed stuff I have been working on;
The new method.
The old method.
Being all artistical and everything, I struggle a bit with being able to reproduce my artwork on this blog. Sometimes I can get a good picture, and sometimes I simply can’t. The biggest problem I have encountered is the problem of light. I can lose so much quality in the color and the detail because of bad photography that it bothers me to the point that I seriously consider whacking myself on the side of my own coconut with a brick (with the intent of knocking some color back into my eyeballs). Of course, I am smart enough to realize that probably wouldn’t work, so I haven’t actually tried it yet. Do you see the difference in the two pictures of my painting above? Do you fixate on all the yellow-gray mud in the second picture the way I do?
I found a light fixture that I could put a 300 watt bulb in, and I managed to set the whole thing up for under ten dollars. It helps a lot. It was able to put some of the color back into my work. Now, I have to clean up my studio/bedroom a bit so it doesn’t look quite so junky. I need to find that old bottle of cleaning fluid that I rubbed last time and discovered Clean Gene the Cleaning Genie. I have found that cleaning stuff up requires magic. It also makes me realize that I have just revealed one of my magician’s tricks as far as posting artwork. A magician is never supposed to reveal his secrets… Oopsie! Never mind. Pretend you didn’t read today’s post.