Friday, September 17, 2021

"An Occasionally Happy Family" by Cliff Burke and Venturing into Pop Art.


If I weren't Lucky Louise, 
I would never have known about
Cliff Burke's wonderful middle grade novel
An Occasionally Happy Family.

But I am, and I won a free copy of
this hilarious and heart-wrenching book
in a drawing on Natalie Aguirre's

If you are interested in writing and publishing,
then you must check out Natalie's blog
which is jam-packed with excellent information.
You might get lucky and win a great book too!

I finished An Occasionally Happy Family for the second time last night,
laughing even harder than the first time I read it.
Burke teaches English in Austin, Texas, and he definitely knows teenagers.

Thirteen-year-old Theo Ripley and his fifteen-year-old sister Laura reluctantly set off
with their father on a family vacation in Big Bend Nation Park in Texas.
Not only are they visiting the least popular national park,
but they are camping in the Chihuahuan Desert in July
where the afternoon heat climbs to sweltering, dangerous temperatures.

 Big Bend National Park and the Chihuahuan Desert

Theo dreads this week in the national park
with his nature-loving father and his planning-obsessed sister.
He favors indoor comfort over wilderness
and prefers nature viewed through the window of an air-conditioned car.

And that's not the worst of it.  
Their father has a big surprise planned for them
on their first vacation together since their mother died.
Neither Theo nor Laura suspect that the surprise is their father's new girlfriend.

The undercurrent to this funny and disastrous family vacation
is what gives this novel heart and depth and makes it memorable.
This is a family that doesn't discuss love, pain, or death.
They come together as a family only at dinner
and then scatter in different directions with their phones.
Theo and Laura's mother died of cancer two years ago,
and they and their father Stanley have never dealt with this as a family.

Stanley's new girlfriend Lucrecia is a life coach,
and she has been helping him get in touch with his feelings.
When she meets Theo and Laura and tries to connect with them,
everything falls apart.

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

The book is a page-turner, and the story is moved along
by its fast, lively dialogue and short, succinct sentences.
Theo, Laura, and Stanley are realistic characters,
and the situations they land in are comical, until they are not.

As a reader I laughed out loud as the Ripley family faced scorching heat,
a threatening bear, an annoying birdwatching father and his creepy vlogging son,
middle-aged nudists, and other comical characters.

Boquillas Hot Springs, Big Bend National Park

But I also felt the pain of Theo, Laura, and Stanley as they grieved silently,
especially when when their emotions burst out and had to be confronted.

I would recommend Burke's moving debut to middle grade readers
and their teachers looking for good novels to share in their classroom.

So how does this novel tie into my friend Rain's Thursday Art Date? 
Luck again!

This week's theme is pop art,
and Burke's Theo Ripley happens to be an imaginative and talented graphic novelist.
He has written The Aliens Who Ate People and Never Got Full
and The Humans Who Fought Back by Eating the Aliens Who Ate People.
With nowhere to go in his first graphic novel trilogy,
Theo starts drawing a new book, Bob:  The Boy with Perfect Memory.

888 Auctions

When the girlfriend word dropped into his life,
Theo imagined drawing the word in "all caps
with lightening bolts flaring in every direction."

Sounds like an incipient Roy Lichtenstein to me!

Roy Lichtenstein.  
I used to see his name hanging from the ceiling in the art room in my elementary school.
Our fabulous art teacher Preston Skitt introduced Lichtenstein
and other famous artists to thousands of students over the years he taught at Sunrise.

I didn't know who Lichtenstein was, and I never stopped in my busy days
as a second and third grade teacher to find out.

And then suddenly, Whaam!  There he was hanging on a wall, 
Roy Lichtenstein, as I toured the Tate Modern in London in 2018.
He was a pop artist!

Roy Lichtenstein's Diptych Whaam!
Tate Modern, London, UK
(My own photograph was too blurry)

Pop Art? 
To me that was Andy Warhol and Campbell's Soup cans.

The Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia,
 the world's first museum devoted to the personality of the king of pop-art.

I really knew very little about pop art, 
an art movement that emerged in the US and UK in the mid-to-late 1950s. 

Google summed it up well:
"The Pop in Pop Art stands for popular, and that word was at the root of the fine arts movement. The main goal of Pop Art was the representation of the everyday elements of mass culture. As a result, celebrities, cartoons, comic book characters, and bold primary colors all featured prominently in Pop Art."

I thought Warhol cans of soup would be too hard to tackle,
but I thought Lichtenstein's Pop! might be doable.

I now have a whole new appreciation for pop art.
It isn't as easy as it looks, even when you start with tracing.

My Attempt at POP!

I wasn't satisfied with my finished product, especially the dots,
so I sketched my own drawing WOW.

I immediately ran into trouble.
By the time I started the second W, I'd run out of room,
and I had already squeezed the O.
I was able to add another inch to the right side of the drawing, 
but I had to give up my exclamation point.
Overall I was pleased, especially with my dots.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The experience left me wondering how Lichtenstein created his paintings
with their industrial, machine-made appearance.

I discovered that he started with a cropped comic book reference or drawing.
He projected the image onto a pre-primed canvas and traced the lines with a pencil.
Then he filled in the image with paint.

As for his signature Benday dots, he painted each one by hand.  
In Whaam! he used an aluminum mesh as a template,
and pushed the paint through each hole with a toothbrush. 

Wow!  I could have used a stencil?
It would have saved me time and tears.

See you next week!  Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Friday, September 10, 2021

So Confusing! Expressionism and Minimalism

It's been a week full of surprises, which scrambled my plans,
so I'm back to my old tricks of pulling a late night on Thursday to finish my post.

Last week I didn't participate in my Rain's Thursday Art Date, 
when she and others shared Expressionism:
"Art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expressive
of the artist's inner feelings or ideas."  Google
I played with a few of my photos in Waterlogue and came up with three pictures.

Red Roses
(with their delicate, ephemeral blossoms evoking love)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Hungry Deer
 (life and vitality on a winter day)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Fluffy Cumulus Clouds
(make my spirits soar into the heavens)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
This week Rain's art prompt is Minimalism:
"In both music and the visual arts, Minimalism was an attempt to explore
the essential elements of an art form.
In Minimalist visual arts, the personal, gestural elements were stripped away
in order to reveal the objective, purely visual elements of painting and sculpture."

I played with Waterlogue again and came up with three examples.

Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Aurora, Colorado, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Working on the Power Line
Aurora, Colorado USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I looked through lots of my photos and realized
that I have rarely photographed anything minimalistic.

Sand Dunes and Blue Sky
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Brighton Beach Huts
Brighton, United Kingdom
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On September 4, 2018, I spent a very confusing afternoon
at the Tate Modern Museum in London in the UK.
I really don't get modern art, and minimalism has me scratching my head.

IKB 79 1959 by Yves Klein
Klein invented and trademarked the intense ultramarine blue color in this painting.
He made nearly 200 IKB (International Klein Blue) paintings, inspired by the sky on a sunny day. (Tate)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

Materials and Objects 9 by Magdalena Abakanowicz
These soft sculptures reflect Abakanowicz's interest in biological systems, 
organic matter, and regeneration.  (Tate)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

Composition B (N0.11) with Red  
by Piet Mondrian
He reduces his color to a single red rectangle
and gives the black lines more importance as compositional elements.
He off-sets the structure, reflecting his opposition to the "false ease" of symmetry. (Tate)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

Terry Contemplates Hélio Oiticica's Metaesquema 1958
His compositions of opaque, monochrome, geometric forms
were inspired by Piet Mondrian and Kashmir Malevich.
Oiticica introduced elements of instability into his paintings.
The forms appear to jostle and bump together as if they were moving.  (Tate)

This last picture has nothing to do with expressionism or minimalism.
I was lucky enough to snap it earlier in the year, and it was too cute not to share.

Mama and Twins
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 6, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

See you next week!  Stay happy and safe!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

IWSG: Wednesday, September 1, 2021 ~ Defining Success as a Writer


It's the first Wednesday of the month,
the day that members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and writing successes
and offer their encouragement
and support to fellow writers.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are volunteering today,
along with IWSG Founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling WomanNatalie AguirreKaren Lynn,  and C. Lee McKenzie.

I hope you have a chance to visit today's hosts and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate a visit and an encouraging comment.


Every month the IWSG announces a question that members can answer
with advice, insight, a personal experience, or a story in their IWSG posts.

Or, the question can inspire members
if they aren't sure what to write about on IWSG Day.

Remember the question is optional.
This month's featured question is: 
How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Happy September, Everyone!
I hope this month finds you happy and inspired!

I haven't felt very successful as a writer this year,
even with my generous definition of writing success.
The last twelve plus months have been challenging for Terry and me.
Every time I think I'm getting back on track with writing, life, something derails me.
But, as a perpetual optimist, I think things are improving,
and what matters most is today marks 144 days since Terry's heart
stopped in the catheterization lab and he was paddled back to life.

Better Days Are Here, I Hope!
Terry and I at East 8, Circa
Las Vegas, Nevada,USA
August 13, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

My ultimate definition of writing success is publishing my memoir.
I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing I'm writing a memoir and is wondering where it is.
It exists, but I am certainly struggling with it.

I didn't enter the IWSG Anthology contest this year.
I couldn't handle sweet romance with Terry recovering from his heart attack.
I could barely deal with my blog, which floundered too.
But, I'm moving forward with writing.

I have never defined writing success
as making a certain amount of income from my writing.
I have defined it throughout my life as doing the best writing I could,
piece by piece, whatever the purpose or genre.

I have always written for me,
and as long as I'm writing something that satisfies me, I feel successful.
That's why I haven't felt very successful this year.
I haven't been able to write like I want to, neither in quantity or quality.

I am someone who has always craved security.
I was incapable of quitting my day job to write,
so I never considered supporting myself by writing.
Before I could even think about writing,
I had to have a job and know I could support myself.
Knowing I could stand on my own two feet was my definition of success, period.

Oil Patch Days
Driller Jack Taylor and I, DNB Rig
Hodgeman County, Kansas, USA
February 1981
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

My careers as a petroleum geologist and a teacher were demanding,
and I always gave 110%.
But throughout it all, I wrote, and I felt good about what I wrote.  
I considered myself a writer.

Writing for me included a thesis, papers on a wide range of topics,
scientific reports, newspaper articles, speeches, grants, journals,
short stories, plays, and some pitiful attempts at writing poems and novels.
My biggest writing thrills were seeing my plays produced at school
and seeing my short story "Ugly Little Bastards" published in The Antigonish Review.

MacBeath, Louise. "Ugly Little Bastards." The Antigonish Review, edited by George Sanderson, 48th ed., St Francis Xavier University, 1982, pp. 75-81

After retiring, I decided that I was going to write exactly and only what I wanted to write.
For better or worse, I stumbled into blogging and have 655 published posts.
I've added blogging to my list of writing genres, and I am proud of my blog and its content.

But that's nothing compared with how proud I was when I was chosen
to be included in the 2020 IWSG anthology, Voyagers:  The Third Ghost.

"My" Anthology Arrives
Aurora, Colorado, USA
April 24, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

I feel immense satisfaction and happiness
when I hold The Antigonish Review and Voyagers,
but deep down inside I know I won't feel true success until I publish my memoir.

Writing a memoir is not easy.
It has been painful, traumatic, for me to confront my past,
and noxious bubbles are still surfacing in my muskeg.
But I have to do it, somehow capture it in the right words.
I have thousands and thousands and thousands of words.
Turning them into a cohesive, meaningful whole is my challenge.
I will get there! 

Meanwhile Terry and I have a 37th wedding anniversary to celebrate today!

Mr. and Mrs. Terry Barbour Leaving the Church
Parker, Colorado, USA
September 1, 1984
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I hope each of you has fun visiting around today.
I know I'm looking forward to reading your posts!
Happy writing to each of you in September!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

My next post will be on Friday, September 10th.