Monsters and Spacemen

First off… as promised, here’s a copy of the comic strip that ran in the Missoulian‘s Comix Issue:

If you’d like to see the rest of the comics, here is a link to the full issue online. I heard from an editor of the Missoulian that the Hip Replacement Strip was one of people’s favorites. Given that many of the comics bent toward doom and gloom, thanks to the theme of “Missoula in the Future,” that’s less of a surprise. But still gratifying! And I loved having my strip next to that of Theo Ellsworth, whose super-creative illustrations are the bee’s knees.


In other news, it’s time to get furry, drooly and unintelligibly excited, because here comes the…

And who doesn’t love Monters?! [sic]
From the ZACC website… “Originally conceived by nine year-old Asa Smetanka, this show is a collaboration between children and adult artists, working together to create monster art based on monsters dreamed up by the children. Kindergarten classes from three Missoula County public schools will create original monster and assigned local adult artists will  interpret the child’s monster using his/her own unique style and medium. The results will be displayed in a September 9th, 2016, art show, featuring both the original child-drawn monsters and the artists.

“This project’s purpose is to bring more art into the public schools! In an effort to foster that, a minimum 50% of the earnings from this show will go towards bringing MCPS (Missoula County Public School) kids to the ZACC for art classes.”

So cool. As one of this year’s adult artists, this is my match, a monster in need of a friend:


“Here are some facts about Monster 79: My monster likes to play with other monsters, feels like playing in the dirt, eats earrings, and thinks about playing in garbage.”

Oh fer cryin’ out loud. That is freakin’ adorable. How can I ever create a worthy pal to this rainbow rocket of teeth? My work is cut out for me.

By the way, it’s not too late to get in on the action, if you’re a Missoulian! Here’s a link to the art call. Have fun!


On the side, I’m taking a “Drawing for Fun” class from Bob Phinney at the Lifelong Learning Center. He makes us draw something every day, so I’ve sketched landscapes, Little League games, still lifes (which I then eat), and diners in the GFS deli. (That last spot is a great place to practice drawing from memory, wherein you look at your subject for one moment, then blink and let the after-image burn into your eyelids, then rapidly sketch as much as you can remember. Because nobody likes it if you sit in the corner with a sketch pad and stare at people.)

A lot of the class concerns perspective drawing, something that generally comes easily to me. I finally realize why: as a kindergartener, I learned the 3D drawing principles of foreshortening, shading, contour, surface, size, overlapping, and density… from, god help us, TV. It was a PBS show called The Secret City, starring a dude in a fake spacesuit, who called himself Commander Mark. Anybody remember it?

I sent away for the special kit with a cube eraser, some pencils, and a little guidebook. I think it was seven dollars. As a result, though I did not draw many monsters, I drew an awful lot of robots. It was a solid investment: despite not having formal art instruction until taking a couple post-bac classes at the University of Montana, I was on firm ground as a renderer.

The gaps, of course, were design and content. Pretty big gaps that I could spend my whole life trying to fill! That is the curse and the beauty of a good vocation. The more you learn, the more unknown spaces open up before you in every direction.


Finally, the latest sign work, a logo on the exterior of the new Drum Coffee on South Ave:

8 drum coffee complete

This is one cool coffee shop. They have a turntable and were spinning classic R&B and Prince while they brewed. The in-house bakers make delicious brioche and other pastries. The staff is awesome and took great care of me on the beautiful spring day when I was painting. This assignment was a new challenge, as it was on rather textured siding, eight to ten feet up. I decided to give myself a break and have Staples make me a giant printout to use as a template.

2 drum pattern
Is this cheating?

I cut out the shapes bit by bit and traced them onto the siding with a pencil. I washed the wall, then used Sherwin Williams Resilience paint in Toque White to fill everything in. Here are the results from below:

7 drum complete
Although at this point, “Coffee” still needs its second coat of paint.

Next challenge: delicate, two-toned logos on curved oak barrels for the North of Broadway shops… and, of course, a certain monster. Stay tuned!


Art Activism show + It’s electric!

As I hinted a few posts ago, one of my paintings was accepted into an art show. The opening is this week, so here are the details… I am happy to invite you to the Art Activism group exhibition at the ZACC!

Some of the pieces at the show...
Some of the pieces you’ll find at the show… (courtesy ZACC website)
Just a tiny little slice of the piece.
…and a tiny little slice of mine, as a teaser.

From their website:

“Join the Zootown Arts Community Center for the Art Activism Group Art Show that will be kicking off the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.  Artworks take on a number of political, cultural, social, and environmental issues that are pertinent to the conversation today.  Enjoy an evening of thought-provoking art, ideas, and conversation– oh and wine!  

“Please join us in welcoming these moving and relevant artworks to the gallery during the grand opening February 12, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. If you are unable to attend the show the artworks will be on display in the Main Gallery for the month of February. Please stop by during our open hours, 11am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday.”

The ZACC is just north of the railroad tracks, at 235 North 1st St West in Missoula. This will also be a great year to check out a few films in the coming weeks, support local filmmakers, and indie movie theaters like the Roxy, the Wilma, and the Silver. J. and I haven’t made it out yet, but this will be the year we start.

So… acceptance is nice. I admit to shouting in gladness upon learning that someone accepted my gritty, gooey painting made of oil paint, twigs, trash, seeds and moss to a show. But now that I’ve started putting things out there again, there is always the specter of rejection. I’ve taken it hard in the past: resenting a city art committee that picks anything with a moose, grizzly or eagle on it, no matter how garishly over-Photoshopped, over what I (foolishly) thought was a shoe-in. Or the time I donated a painted satellite dish to a charity silent auction, only to have it ridiculed by the stand-up comedian who provided the evening’s entertainment… ouch! The answer will not always be yes, and I have no magic shield for deflecting the arrows of No. Patience and acceptance are a few small tools. Also: art work is for life, for growth, for beauty. So do the work, and detach from results… right? Easier said than done, but it’s time to try.

My signpainting mentor (and life mentor) Jo Knox told me that artists should encourage one another, and rejoice at others’ successes. There is room for all of us, she says. Perhaps that’s another antidote for rejection: it’s another person’s turn to shine. Not one of us needs to be The Best all the time. We each just need space for one, and grace and gratitude for the rest.

Before I close, a few images from a different type of art activism: painting a wall in the new fifth-grade classroom at Home ReSource, for a program called the Zero Waste Ambassador Program (ZWAP!). Jeremy at HRS came up with a fun, comic-book logo…

…and here it is translated into a 7′ x 10′ painting using donated paint.

So, these pre-cynicism kids are going to learn about reducing waste– even eliminating it– and will help the Missoula community take action to join them. Each kid will sign the wall after taking the class, so there will be a visual representation of how many kids are ambassadors for this cause. What a privilege to be involved! It was also a lot of fun to meet the others working on the classroom: volunteer electricians, staff, interns. The whole building feels like a carpenter-artist’s studio, with a Little Free Library and a native plant garden out front, people making rainbow-colored drawers in one room, upcycling salvaged materials for sale in another, the upstairs floor made of an old bowling alley, and a guy making a sizzling, snapping Jacob’s Ladder in the back workshop. Each in our own artistic space, bouncing electric creative energy off one another, until it releases into the atmosphere… ZWAP!

The nifty, kid-height coat rack... pick your hook!
The nifty, kid-height coat rack… pick your hook!


New year, new art

It’s really cold for painting outside. But as I walk from store to store along the icy streets, shilling my window painting services, I remind myself: today, January 5, boasts the lowest average temperatures of the year. Tomorrow, the average tiptoes up a degree. We have reached bottom, at 31 degrees F, and now begin the slow ascent into light and warmth. Also, my Christmas gift from J. was a pair of handwarmers made from his comfy old flannel shirt cut into squares, sewn up and filled with rice. Pop them in the microwave for twenty seconds, and I’m good to go for at least half an hour.

And in the long, dark nights, the kitchen table is spread with watercolors, Prismacolors, and Spectracolors, paper rough and smooth and thick and thin, vials of ink and water, rags and paper napkins, four kinds of erasers (including the kind my watercolor instructor’s grandson calls “poop erasers”– the delightful, knobby, kneaded ones). I spent eight hours rehabbing my Rapidograph pens, which I had inadvisably left full of ink EIGHT YEARS AGO. Penance done: five work again, one is away for repair, and the last is in Pen Limbo, awaiting its fate. (I threaten it with replacement by a less persnickety and less expensive Copic Multiliner when it seems to radiate spiteful stubbornness.) The only way to avoid such extensive maintenance in future is by using the pens, then wiping them clean with rubbing alcohol and cheesecloth every night… a shameless trick to instill discipline. Save the pens!

So I pound the pavement by day, and paint the paper by night.

Study of gourds in watercolor with charcoal

To what do we owe this current bout of dedication? Well, I decided to give art an extra push of late. And it seems to be allowing me to do so.

Producing lots of produce.

How to make it last? It’s fizzled so many times before, water on, water off. So… let’s try going gently, slowly, without pressure. Balanced with other activites. And at least half the time I’m making art, it must be without care for results, without fear of the recycling bin. As a meditation. Hence the coloring book. Nobody (except my dear Aunt Carol) is gonna frame coloring book pages, but they count. They do!

Watercolor on gessoed corrugated cardboard, soon to be entered in the ZACC {mini} benefit show.

Art-school questions can’t be looming in my head every moment: What does this MEAN? What is the artist’s responsibility to society? What message is she conveying? Though they are not unimportant, they may scare my little draw-er into hiding. I promise to think about them. And then sketch a couple of snakes eyeballing each other, coiled into question marks.

So in 2016, my fervent hope is that this blog will feature not only writing, but new art as well. Feel free to unsubscribe if you are only in it for the vicarious epic hikes– I won’t take it personally! (And conversely, but equally without pressure: if you see anything you like, feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message. I would love to make you up some greeting cards, a print, or even send you an A.K. original!)

By the way… I swear I don’t only do still-lifes. Deer, worms, and spiders are in the mix… posting soon!

P.S. I really hope the comics store and the sexy toy store hire me. Those empty windows may not know it, but they are simply begging for adornment. The ultimate would be doing next winter’s holiday windows for the adult store… can you imagine? “Santa’s got something in his sack for everyone!” –or maybe a languorously melting snow-woman.

O shopowners of Missoula, o committees of contests and exhibitions: kindly give a gal a chance!