Jin Chan

I woke up this morning to find that the energy had shifted. While I really felt this full moon – tiredness, unexplained sadness, weird dreams, the works! – I felt that today everything would be different. I also felt a powerful need to tidy up my space, to get rid of stuff. Remember the monster made out of clothes that was in my bedroom underneath my beautiful new painting by Sarah Rimboch? I slayed it this morning, then decided that maybe the old tattered papasan chair I dragged here from Galveston needed to go too. It was a gift from my favorite redhead, and so I texted her about my need to clean, the full moon, and other important matters. She said she’d been feeling the same, plus also inspired to feed the Jin Chan. The Jin Chan is a powerful Feng Shui symbol – the Money Toad. She has a statue of it from the Witchery. Apparently it’s very auspicious if the Jin Chan manifests itself in your life around the Full Moon. It means you will get good news and money.

So I decided to paint the Jin Chan over Facebook Live in order to manifest it for everyone watching. John came on and said he wasn’t aware of the symbolism, but that last night a frog was in the gallery and Ryan called him and asked him to take it outside. John has a pond full of frogs. But there has never been one in the gallery before. We took this as a very good omen.

As to my own Jin Chan, I placed it by the door, so money can come into the gallery. And I am really happy with my tidy bedroom with its happy art – sans papasan chair.

Also, I’m having some really good ideas about promoting Storms of Malhado and getting ready to celebrate it properly on September 8th.

White Rose

Highlights of the day: Being interviewed and my work being featured on this Australian blog. Also, I think I’ve made a new friend in the author of the blog.

Today’s painting : a white rose John gave me along with my goodie bag for last night’s virtual White Linen party.

Other fun stuff: Here’s the “making of” video for my Bathing Beauties contest submission. You can see that Bogdan and I had lots of fun! And paint ended up everywhere!

And now that the Bathing Beauties contest is behind us, you may wonder what’s next? I’ve been thinking of this all day, and having a little bit of that type of blues one gets when an important milestone has passed. The answer, in a way, came from the Bathing Beauties contest itself. I remembered during the contest, that back when I’d applied, I thought Storms of Malhado would be published on September 8th, on the anniversary of the Great Storm. By publishing it early I’ve won five months of readers, reviews, and other adventures. But what if I were to make a really huge deal out of the September 8th launch date? I’m so much better at hosting online events now. I could organize various online release parties around that date! It could be fun and something to look forward to!

From Bathing Beauties to White Linen

Today was the day of the Bathing Beauties Contest! I woke up to people sending me good wishes and even a snapshot of an article from the Houston Chronicle about the Beach Revue. Watching it online was for sure different than being on the Seawall – sigh! – but I’m glad the Galveston Historical Foundation had the contest anyway, and glad I participated.

You can now see the little video Buburuza Productions made for me, and which I submitted to the contest, on YouTube. It did not win, but it was well received and extremely fun to make, and I’m really grateful to all the wonderful people who supported me. If you want to take a peek at the winner, check out @_sunshinecharlotte_ on Instagram. You can see her video there, which I really love! She owns an old house on the Island, has a cute cat, and we became friends on social media, so I hope I will get to meet her one day when this stupid pandemic is over.

Also, I really enjoyed some of the historical pictures that were included in today’s Beach Revue. One of them inspired today’s painting. And I learned some interesting things: Did you know that women wearing bathing dresses such as mine circa 1900 would wear bathing stockings and bathing shoes to the beach, including in the water? That detail has to make it into my next novel.

After the Beach Revue, tonight held another fun online event, the epic yearly White Linen party hosted by my mentors. I only wish we could have had it in person, but we sure had a lot of fun online! Earlier in the day I drove to John’s to pick up my bottle of champagne and snack pack for the occasion – also a beautiful white rose.

I also picked up my new painting by Sarah Rimboch, from her Latrice series. You can see it below, on the right hand side, next to MoNique Leroux’ big blue and gold painting I bought last year. On the left in the golden frame is a painting by Thaddaeus Arvie. I have to say that Sarah’s painting has a big personality and really changes my experience of walking into that room. It has gold on it too and shines in beautiful ways when the lights are low. I really love it and am happy I bought it.

As to the big pink monster… I’ve no idea what that is or what it’s hiding. But the new painting does make me want to tidy up the room. Maybe.

Holly’s 10th Birthday

I was in the middle of a Zoom photo shoot with an international photographer, who was trying to teach me how to shoot pictures of myself riding an imaginary horse, when there was a knock on my door. I went downstairs wearing my silver fox over a tiny nightie, and a face mask of course, and there was a lady delivering a birthday cake for my dog – a gift from my top collectors. In case y’all had any doubts that I’m living my best life.

Later in the evening we had a Zoom Party for the birthday dog. She spent most of it sitting pretty, staring at the cake on the table, hoping for another piece. Although dogs don’t really love Zoom, I hope she could feel that attention was being paid to her. Though I doubt she cared for anything besides that cake.

Tomorrow is the Bathing Beauties contest! I’m so excited! Y’all please watch it live at 1pm CST at BeachRevue.com and root for me!

Edwardian Dress

With the Beach Revue around the corner, I felt inspired to paint the intricate top of an Edwardian dress I saw on Instagram. I also got some good news from the Island: A few copies of Storms of Malhado have arrived and are now available for sale at Tippy-Toes, the most charming little store, housed in the beautiful historic Trueheart-Adriance Building. Because a historical novel set on Galveston Island belongs in a historic building on the Island, n’est-ce pas?

Meanwhile, here in Houston, I’m planning my dog’s Zoom birthday party and continuing to edit The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard. We’re reaching the part of summer I really love, where the crepe myrtles are beautiful and pink, insects buzz loudly in the trees in the evenings, and I’m enjoying long swims at sunset. It’s all quite wonderful, but I do miss the Island breeze.

Haunting Mansion

Today I spied on Instagram that my historical expert paid a visit to the League House – the Galveston mansion, currently on the market, that inspired the house in Storms of Malhado. I was befallen by Island nostalgia, and it stayed with me throughout the day. The League House did not so much inspire as haunt me, my visit there on a cold winter’s day memorable both through the majesty and beauty of the house as well as through its spookiness. It was cold inside, and large African sculptures decorated vast rooms where, for all the eclectic decor something vital seemed to be missing – a person, perhaps, who would lovingly restore the mansion to its former glory. Birds looked at me from frames in the walls. They scared me a little. I don’t know why. My friend and I went up to the third floor, the place where Josephine would have lived. I think some of the rooms were empty up there, but later, my friend Robert Kuhn, the talented singer-songwriter would stay there on occasion. He referred to the League House as “the mansion,” which I always liked.

Cava in the Rain

In which my friend came by to pick up her watercolor commission and we wore our masks inside like good civic-minded citizens, then decided to sit outside at a safe distance from each other and drink cava. It was drizzling just a little bit, but it was still nice to be outside and nice to be together yet at a safe distance, to drink some bubbly and laugh. I was still buzzed when doing my Facebook Live show, but it was funny, and at the end two people wanted the cava watercolor. My friend who actually drank the cava with me was the one who got it.

There have been some good writing-related incidents as well. The collector who purchased Mary Star of the Sea wrote to say she really enjoyed Lost Path to Solitude. There was a chapter in particular she really liked, and last night I went back and reread it. It was interesting to remember all that, the feelings I experienced while writing that book, as well as the things that were going on in my life at the time. Also, I found that I too, really love that chapter. I might have forgotten that for a moment, and it was nice to remember.

I also did more editing on Glory Days, and made this little Instagram post using a quote I find funny. It wasn’t a very popular post, possibly because it uses the word “whore” – not a word I usually like. In fact, the only context in which I find it relevant is in referring to someone who trades sex for money, and even then I prefer “prostitute” or “sex worker.” But, as a luxury prostitute in 1888, Aimée sometimes refers to herself as a whore. She also likes calling herself a courtesan, which is charming. In any case, she does not internalize the judgement some bestow on her chosen profession, and she’s a fun girl with a good sense of humor. I find that the quote represents her well.

Anniversary

Today was a special day. It marked two years since my Escapist solo show, The Platform, and fifteen years since my Ph.D. dissertation defense in Binghamton, NY. I still can’t believe I pulled that one off! I was not your most passionate Ph.D. student, to say the least. But my chair supported me because I didn’t give up and actually did all the work, emailed him each and every day for months – while I was teaching a full course load – bugged him about what to do next, and did absolutely all the things he suggested, including learning factor analysis (which is not something my mind lends itself to easily). Anyway, after years of suffering, my dissertation defense was a huge success. I felt confident that day, something that had never happened to me before in the presence of my committee members.

I wore uncomfortable pink shoes because I was very young and didn’t know better. I also drank the whole carafe of water sitting in front of me, which made me kind of resent the last handful of people who asked questions and prolonged the ordeal. But I spoke about my work knowledgeably and even with a modicum of interest. Except at the very end when I just wanted the thing to be over so I could go pee. Overall, I think there were only two moments when I felt like a deer in the headlights and I overcame my anxiety and talked my way out of those situations.

But back to my committee, I remember one time, years before my defense, during an oral exam that was extremely intimidating they said something like, “We’re afraid you’re not going to be happy waking up each day of your life to do your research.” Well, duh! I am ecstatic to wake up each day and know that I absolutely do not have to do Political Science research ever again. In fact, this is making even the pandemic so much easier to deal with. I wake up, we’re still in a pandemic, I’m facing a new day in isolation, but then I tell myself, you do not have to write your Ph.D. dissertation or even a conference paper, and that instantly cheers me up!

Years before my defense, my committee members also said, “You don’t seem to like playing with ideas.” Well, guys, 20 years after the fact, I will admit: I hate playing with ideas! I love playing with paint! I also love playing with words and imaginary people and their emotions. There are so many things I love, but contributing to the extant body of knowledge is not one of them!

So, here goes, a note of appreciation, all these years later, to my dissertation committee for giving me lots of grief, for knowing I wasn’t that into it, but pushing me to do good work anyway because they would accept nothing less. My dissertation (which I don’t own a copy of, but the library at Binghamton does) was actually pretty darn good. It had to be, because my chair said he wouldn’t sign off on it otherwise. It’s still definitely the most boring of all the books I wrote, and I highly recommend you read my novels instead, but I learned a lot in the process of making it worthy of my chair’s signature. I mostly learned that with hard work and patience you can accomplish more than you thought possible. And it was nice that my chair was proud of me in the end. He went on to be very supportive of everything I did in my career: tenure, research stays at various European universities, grant applications, and lots of complicated bureaucratic stuff I won’t bore you with. Letters of support arrived from Cornell and Oxford, the places where his own career as a Political Science superstar took him.

What’s nice though, is not just that I had such support in my academic career but that it didn’t stop when I decided to quit a tenured position in order to open my own art gallery in Houston. My chair was genuinely excited for me, and commissioned a portrait of his dog. She turned out absolutely stunning, and I packed her and shipped her to London. It was a very good moment, in which I realized I was on the right track.

But sometimes one needs more positive reinforcement to have these things truly sink in. I am approaching an important turning point in my new life and career where I am more confident in my abilities not just to make art but to run a business. Tonight I hosted an online auction via Zoom, and it was such fun and so successful! I’m amazed that even in the middle of a pandemic, I have wonderful support from my collectors and am selling so much art! So yes, my committee was entirely right. I was not a happy academic, but I’m a very happy artist and writer!

A Kiss in the Snow

Today I finished this commission piece of a kiss in the snow (from a Husky!) and am very happy that the collector loves it!

I also spent a lot of time writing because I love spending my mornings with Aimée, then did some rearranging in the gallery in preparation for tomorrow evening’s Zoom Auction! I’m getting very excited about it! I feel like it’s one of the most exclusive events I’ve ever done.

In moving things around, I found this beautiful red painting from the Arabesque series, which I’d kind of forgotten about. I also had a revelation hanging one of my Paris pieces (Midnight in Paris), and realizing that it truly does spectacular things in the light, that there’s a special richness to some of its blue notes.

Also, here’s an older picture of Dogs with Bagels next to its sequel, Lost Path to Solitude. I stumbled upon it as I was going through old pictures, and found it visually compelling and a nice complement to the Paris painting. I guess it serves as a reminder to myself that I should promote my older books too, not just my most recent one…

Laughing Horse

A mellow rainy day here in Houston, while Hurricane Hannah made landfall in South Texas. I didn’t go to farmers’ market, but my friends stopped by and brought me fresh eggs. I spent most of the day writing, as I’ve received more input for Glory Days and am aching to rework the manuscript.

My friend gave Holly a new bed, which she loves. She’s also really liking the chew toy she didn’t take to at first.

Meanwhile in Galveston this stately mansion is on the market. I once spent an eerie afternoon in there, on an unnaturally cold winter’s day, after my friend and I had gone to see a fortune teller who told me scary things, not about myself but about someone from my past. The house made quite an impression on me. Though I didn’t realize until today, looking in the pictures in the article, how it seeped into my subconscious and influenced me. The mansion in Storms of Malhado is totally inspired by this real life one, and I didn’t even know it until today.