Nathaniel’s Blog “Gone West” August 20th, 2018

 While scouring my art studio for clean paper I found one of my old journals which I thought I’d lost.  It’s a fairly recent one with only a few entries in it.  I remember buying it just after I headed out to California to meet with some movie producers down in Los Angeles.  It had been many years since I’d last been down there so I bought some art supplies to do some preliminary sketches to be turned into paintings later on.  The journal had originally been intended so I could make some mental notes and impression, but it wound up being a travel diary after I made an unexpected stop in Monterey and wound up visiting my first aquarium…


*Note:   Yes I know it sounds weird but most places like this have daytime business hours.  I was lucky to catch this one with extended evening hours.  Furthermore, not everywhere I’ve gone has been close to the water.  A pity really because I really enjoy walking along the sea, or traveling on a ship. 
I need to do that some more.  Anyway, here goes…


Travel Journal, May 16th, 2009…Well, everything is set. The producers were happy and so am I.  Soon my bank account will be as well. Negotiations for the rights to my first two novels are set and all is well. I’ve come back north to stay with some old friends, the Cloudfoots. As the name implies, they were of native American ancestry dating back to way before my time even.  


I met Jason Cloudfoot some years back over in Connecticut, when his niece disappeared around Christmas. After helping find her, Jason and I became fast friends and I visited whenever I could. Over the years he’s told me some wonderful tales of Seneca lore, while I’ve shared many of my own personal stories and adventure with him. He’s one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever met. One of those rare people who figured out right away I wasn’t all that I appeared to be… but that’s a story for another time.


I got to know his children and helped keep an eye on them they were growing up and they too know all about me and what I am.  Now they have families of their own and have moved out this way and are currently living up near Santa Cruz. When they heard I was going to be down in Los Angeles, they insisted I swing up north and come to stay with them for a few days.  


When I gave them a date they asked me to meet them here in Monterey, because they were taking their own children to the aquarium located here. Apparently, this place keeps long hours and occasionally have sleep-overs for children who wish to spend the night surrounded by the mysterious beings from the depths.  


I agreed to meet them and I’m so glad I did. I’ve never been to an aquarium like this before. To me, an aquarium is a big twenty to thirty gallon tank in someone’s living room, filled with gold-fish or whatever.

 
I had no idea what a treat I was in for.  This place was magical. I’ve practically filled my sketch pad with pencil drawings of creatures and settings I’d never dreamed existed. Oh, I’ve seen photos in magazines, but to actually be here is another thing entirely.


For one thing, each exhibit room has it’s own background sounds. There’s a jellyfish exhibit that is nice and dark (perfect for someone like me) with the most ethereal music playing in the back ground. It was so soothing and relaxing I almost didn’t want to leave that room.  The types of fish varied more widely than I ever suspected.  

Then there were the sea otters, playful furry beings who are so gosh-darned cute as well. They are also very large, much bigger than I originally expected. Some are the size of a large dog, as in 60-70 pounds big.  Yet they were so graceful under the water.

There was a particularly interesting blue room with a circular ceiling. Inside the ceiling was a series of glass windows all interconnected, with silver sardines racing about in one huge continuous circle.  It was both dizzying and breathtaking.  
I even got to see my first real live octopus.  My timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Like me, the creature is usually very shy during the daytime hours.  But tonight, he was more lively and I got to see him to great advantage.  I made several sketches of him for future use.

A part of me could have stayed in this wondrous place for days or weeks. Alas, time was getting on and the children decided they wanted to be home instead of staying for the sleepover. Too much excitement for them they said. Personally I think they were a little intimidated by all that was around them and I couldn’t blame them. Everything here inspires both wonder and awe. I could set up my easel and spend night after night painting these wonderful creatures.  This place is truly magical…

Alas, I haven’t been back there since duty has called me away to other places.  But I hope to get back there soon.  Jason is no longer with us, but his children know me (and what I am) yet always ask me to come and visit them again.  Which I will do shortly.  There are other sights and places I wish to visit, like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and a supposed “Concrete Boat”.  Jason’s son always laughs when he mentions it, perhaps it’s the incredulous tone in my voice.  A concrete boat?  That is something I have to see for myself.  I’m planning on going to see them next month.  I’ll write more about that adventure when I get there.


For now, I’m going to set up my easel and try and make up my mind which of my sketches to work from first.  I’ll either do several pieces or use the various creatures to create one large painting.  We shall see, it’s so hard to say.  They are all so beautiful and colorful.  My palette will get a hell of a workout over the next few weeks.

The Artist – August 2009 Part IX

 I/we made our way over to the plastic covered figure and carefully unwrapped it. Somewhere behind us Brian took in a deep breath, followed by the words, “Oh my God… it’s… it’s going to be one of your best pieces.”

I felt/heard Nathan share the same sentiments inside our shared head. “Agreed.”

“But there’s still so much to do,” I told them both, glancing over at the wall next to the sculpture. There was a bulletin board with several photos of my grandfather, at least one of them in uniform. The rest were a couple of him even younger, as well as several of him later in life. I had gathered them to try and help me capture the spark of determination in his eye, the set of his jaw, as well as the… the spirit of the man who would come out of not just one but two great wars. I wanted to capture the man he was and would become all in one shot.

But now I hesitated and looked down at my/our hands. I knew they could work the clay, but would they have ‘my’ touch?

“Of course they will,” Nathan assured me. “This is where I take a backseat. You’re in charge. Just think of your grandfather and go for it.”

As soon as I heard those words in my head, I saw my grandfather in my mind as clear as day. Clearer than I’d ever been able to remember him. Honestly, I could see every detail in his face that I wanted to capture and just knew what needed to be done. 

What happened over the next twelve hours will remain with me forever. Never had the clay felt so soothing and yielding to my touch. It and I were in harmony like never before. Had Brian not fallen asleep, letting out the occasional snore, I would never have realized how much time was passing. Nathan and I only paused briefly to allow him to take over and drink what our body needed, before going back to work. 

Every now and again, I’d start to wonder if he wasn’t helping guide my hands, but I knew better. I could sense his wonder at what his hands were helping create under my direction.  Finally, we took step back and into Brian who had been fast asleep on the couch nearby. I’d it in the studio from day one, knowing there’d be times when I would need to stay overnight from time to time. I admit it, when I get going I don’t like to let up some days.

“What the… huh?” Brian muttered then his eyes fell on the sculpt. “Oh my God! It’s… it’s perfect!” he breathed.

“You’re telling me,” Nathan murmured out of our shared mouth. I could actually feel his sense of awe which only added to my delight in this moment. I’d succeeded! But there was still more work to be done.

Walking over to the shelves I pulled out a long thin wire with wooden handles tied to each end. Then I headed back over to the piece and started stretching the wire from the head of the piece down to its base. 

“Um… what are we doing?” Nathan asked aloud. I realized this was for Brian’s sake, as he was looking as puzzled as Nathan was feeling.

“This,” I replied and pulled on the handles of the wire, which slowly sank into the clay, neatly severing the sculpture into two sections. 

“OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Nathan cried, making us take a step back. But I quickly took over and brought us back just in time to catch the back half of the piece before it fell onto the table. 

Before I could explain, Brian cut in saying, “Oh… that’s so you can remove the armature inside the statue.”

Inside our head, I heard Nathan spluttering, “The who… what… where? Wait, this was supposed to happen?”

Patiently, I explained, “You don’t get two feet of clay to stay upright all on it’s own. Take a closer look. See, there’s metal rod attached to the base that runs inside the entire sculpt.”

“Okay, yeah I see that,” Nathan responded, still sounding a bit shocked.

“Well, that has to come out before I put the piece in the kiln for one thing. For another, I have to start hollowing out the entire piece.”

“Hollowing it out?”Nathan repeated, this time aloud for Brian’s benefit.

“That’s right, like this,” I gently held the one half that had come off the main piece into one hand, while I grabbed a tool from nearby in the other. From there I proceeded to scrape out some of the interior of the piece I was holding. 

Remembering to speak out loud, I continued, “Now, I’m going to remove just enough clay so that the remaining shell is just under an inch thick all around. Then I’m going to do the same to the other half that’s still on the armature. This it to keep it from cracking when it goes into the kiln. I’m also going to poke a bunch of 1/2 in deep holes to also prevent cracking.”

Naturally, I did as I promised, allowing both Nathan and Brian to see what I meant. Then I did the same to the other half. When both were nicely hollowed out and pricked, I began scouring the edges of both halves where the wire had cut them, and then brushed the edges with a water. “Since this is a water-based clay, this will allow me to put them back together,” I explained.

“But what about the seams where the two halves meet?” came Nathan’s voice out of our mouth.

“I was wondering the same thing,” added Brian, who had been watching the entire process intently.


I’ll add more clay and smooth it all out, and then rework it into the rest of the design,” I told them. 

An hour later, the piece was whole again, without the slightest hint that it had been cleaved in two. 

“So now you put it in the kiln?” Nathan asked out loud.

“Yes, but we’re going to use a low heat to dry it out. The process is called ‘candling’. Then once the clay is really good and dry, we’ll start the firing schedule,” I replied.

“The what?” Nathan asked out loud again.

I winced inwardly. Obviously, neither of them had any clue how long this was going to take. Plus, I was starting to get worried about my physical form back at the hospital. The three of us really needed to talk things out before anything else could happen.

TO BE CONTINUED…