My One-of-a-Kind Feather Tree


Christmas is my favorite holiday for a lot of reasons. One of those is that it is also my birthday. As a kid, then later as an adult, the thing I loved most about the season was quiet, peaceful nights lying on the couch, staring at the pretty lights.

My beau collects antique “feather trees”. They’re old-school decorations that remind me of scraggly Charlie Brown Christmas trees. I can appreciate them, but my biggest hangup is that they have tiny, clip-on candles instead of my precious, season-defining lights.

One of our antique "feather trees"

One of our antique “feather trees”

It’s cute (or whatever) but THE CHRISTMAS-BIRTHDAY-BOY NEEDS LIGHTS. Sure, I could just buy a tree and hook it up, but that seems too easy or normal. So I started brainstorming how to work my love of holiday lights into our home. A wreath or something? Random lights around doorways & such? Ahhh, but I wanted a lit tree of some sort… What kind of awesome, nontraditional tree could I come up with?

Micah has his feather trees… wait… feathers… feathers… FEATHERS! I can make my own version, a play on words, of a feather tree, using actual feathers. WITH LIGHTS.

So I chose my color story. Dramatic and beautiful. Black, teal, a little green, some silver. Did you know you can buy feathers in bulk, dyed almost any color imaginable? I went online and ordered 423 feathers:

100 black ostrich
100 black rooster tail
100 sea-blue rooster tail
50 peacock “swords”
25 sea-blue pheasant
25 silver-grey rooster tail
23 peacock eyes

The feathers arrived within a few days. Now, I was winging this whole thing. The entire idea and process were experimental. I’d never seen a tree like this & wasn’t exactly sure how to make it work, or if it even would. For the hell of it, I decided to live-post the process on Instagram, while kicking a few teaser links over to Twitter, Facebook & Tumblr.

I started with this southern-twang video: http://instagram.com/p/v4jJRbrMO2/?modal=true  and then posted pics along the way.

[Click on the first image for a gallery with captions.]

 

I absolutely love my feather tree. It’s unique, fabulous, and has those lights that make me happy & feel like “Christmas”. It could have been a spectacular fail—and with folks watching the disaster real time. Meh. I’m a risk taker, and beautiful things never come to pass unless we see our visions to the end. <<< That’s like a moral or something.

If you need me on a snowy winter evening between now and my birthday, I’ll probably be over here blissfully gazing at the lights of my own version of a fabulous feather tree. And if you run in to that Charlie Brown kid, maybe refer him to this post for some inspiration?

(And now, having posted these photos here, I can go delete most of them from my Instagram feed. It’s looking pretty messy, and that just will not do! If you’re on Instagram, I’d love to connect. User: TheLucasHargis)

Pain, Patience and OWWW CRAP OWWW


Today was the (quasi)final tattoo session for my Phreak Show character sleeve.

Here’s how things looked going into the session:

This project has taken precisely one year, 12 sessions, 36-ish hours in the chair, $#### (plus a trade of a mounted human skull fragment).

Out of the dozen sessions, this one, the background, was by far the worst. The needles pierced & chewed the entire length of my arm. The sheer amount of skin area made it rough. Pain. From wrist to shoulder. Front, back, sides. If my poor, fragile skin didn’t have ink yet, it got some.

Some owww-shit-owww sections got hit today. Hard.

You know that sliver of skin between your elbow bones? The one that twangs and hurts like mad when you bang it against a sadist object? The “funny bone” it’s called… Yeah. Not even close to funny. Like ridiculously not funny. When the artist was inking it, a nerve zinged all the way to my hand and made my pinkie & ring finger involuntarily twitch & jerk. This was weird. Painful & weird.

Another spot of excruciating pain: the underside of my arm, near my armpit. WOWZER. That amount of pain should be illegal. Prophetically, that’s where Niko the Prince of Torture is located. Haha, Nico. Ha. Ha.

At one point, after 2 hours of suckfest pain, my whole body was shaking. I tried to stop it, but it was doing that thing like when you’re shivering from the cold and can’t stop. I’m pretty sure my body was protesting, as loudly as it knew how, for me to stop traumatizing it in such an evil manner.

Joe, my tat artist, ripped the needles through my skin. “You sick of me yet?”

“Can’t.talk,” I squeezed through my chattering teeth. “Too.busy.screaming.inside.”

He laughed. I cried. (Almost). I tried to ascend to my happy place & soldiered on. Like a trooper and whatnot. I’d come too far to quit partway through the final tattoo. Even though it hurt like infiinte hell. <—possible exaggeration. Eventually, Joe stopped hammering my tender, Irish flesh. I shook off the grog & stood on quaking legs to check out his handiwork.

One final-final session is scheduled for May just to make sure everything looks crisp & ~finished~ after a few months. Perfection, ya know? That last-pass edit of compulsive tweaking. But it’s close enough to call this the final draft.

Phreak Show is officially  a “manuscript” and not a “book” at this point. Still, being the hopeful chap that I am, I may have already imagined myself at a signing, modeling the sleeve, readers hunting down their favorites on my arm, agreeing with the image or explaining how they pictured the characters differently.

Silly, right? Maybe narcissistic like, “Oh, hey, yeah, check out my rad tats!” Idk. Yeah. Whatevs.  I’m cool with that.

The concept, the characters, the finished story, a phenomenal agent for said story—even the sleeve itself—all started off as dreams. And those dreams, after much patience and owww-shit-owww pain, all came to pass.

And, optimistic, tatted writer-boy that I am, I know the day will come when I roll up my shirt sleeve with a smile to reveal the sleeve underneath.

“Oh yeah! I’d love to a pose for a pic with you, dear reader. But first, let’s put this temporary tat of Twiggy on you. Where do you want her?”

Whittling Down To The Beautiful


C2 - Alchemy lab - After

My partner and I run a business together: buying & selling antiques, doing shows, Ebay, repairing old pieces, creating new designs from vintage/antique components. Part of this process is the old “Buy Low, Sell High” tactic. So we hit auctions, thrift stores, Craigslist, junk shops, and antique stores. We scoop up anything with potential, flip the ready-to-go pieces as quickly as possible, and slowly work on the pieces that need TLC or creative reworking.

The needy pieces are less expensive, of course, and we always have more plans than time. (Sound familiar?) So, the easy pieces sell quickly, and the time-suck ones tend to pile up.

About 2 months ago, we decided it was time for a purge. We wanted to move to another location, get a fresh start. Opportunities arose, and as daunting as the overwhelming task seemed, we lunged at them.

Now, this meant a few things:
– Downsizing from an 8,000 sq ft building with our loft, storefront, storage & workshop to an adorable 1000 sq ft house
– Decision-making on what to let go vs. what to keep
– Re-imagining our lives with these changes in mind

Our action plan, at its root, challenged us to decide what things were most valuable and to let the rest go. Sounds simple, right? But this wasn’t just about ~things~. It also included our hopes, dreams, emotions, attachments. The decision rippled through every aspect of our lives: relationships, family, friends, finances, location, business, etc, etc…

Some choices hurt. We mourned the potential of soon-to-be-lost things. But we knew to get to our end goal, we had to be merciless.

[Roll over each pic for a caption.]

So here we are, on the other side. Feels.so.damn.good.

Yes, this is a story specific to me, but not solely. ALL you readers are insanely intelligent. You’re boss at drawing analogies, reading words someone else wrote & drawing personal significance from them. I encourage you to do that.

Maybe for you, this post is about a change or move or purge you need to make in your own life. Maybe it applies to the fear of the draft looming in front of you or the scary-ass revisions staring you in the face. Maybe it’s a bit of inspiration for redesigning your life (or just your creative space) by sifting ALL THE THINGS down to the beautiful.

It’s tough. It hurts. It’s hard work.

It’s worth it.

Feedback Leads To Lovers


IF FOUND, RETURN TO ASTROPOP - Fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord

IF FOUND, RETURN TO ASTROPOP – Fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord

Feedback comes in many forms.

From a “ZOMG! Take my money! I want to buy that right NOW!” spurred by a one-sentence pitch, to a meh or shrug or turned-up nose of disinterest, to a gushing Tweet, to comments from a CP saying, “Yeah, something’s totally broken in this section… What if you…” or “WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME CRY RIGHT NOW, LUCAS?!”. And a million shades in between.

Even silence is feedback.

Obviously, praise feels good. (Thanks, Cpt Obvious.) ((You’re welcome!)) Some readers heap it on. It’s who they are, in their nature. And thank the gods these readers swoop in to rub a little balm on the inevitable burns. Other readers are boss at finding tiny inconsistencies between something mentioned briefly on page 7 and then again in chapter 28. Some focus on big picture stuff, or characterization, or plot threads, or every.single.missing.comma, or dialogue, or a name that changes spelling partway through, or the lovey-dovey parts.

All of these amazingly varied types of feedback are helpful, needed, and appreciated.

Individually, they’re golden. Together, they help transform a manuscript into a book.

This feedback leads to lovers.

And, yes, sometimes, a feedback-giver doesn’t “get it”. Your voice, style, rhythm, a character. Your words are simply not their thang. Or they have a tough time divorcing their own style from yours and try to insert their personal quirks, voice, and preferences. And (Okay! Fine, I’ll take one for the team and say it out loud! Because a lot of times it’s something we feel like we shouldn’t say. Out of fear of sounding wounded, or thinking too highly of our own words, or because we’re big, fat, fearful chickens.) every now and then, there is the unmistakable taint of jealousy and/or bitterness.

That’s okay, too.

Because, in the end, the writer must weigh every bit of feedback. We make decisions. We place value on each suggestion. We pop them on the scale of our vision for our story and see which way it tips. “Shit, that hurts, like mad, but I need it” or “Okay, yeah, that’s not useful” or “Hmmm…interesting…good point” and the coveted “YES OMG PERFECT SUGGESTION THIS PERSON IS BASICALLY A GENIUS”.

As long as we’re not stubborn jerks, as long as we’re open to learn and bend and stretch, each suggestion (and our resulting decision) helps our story grow stronger.

That’s the ultimate point of feedback, right? Not to have people gush for gushing’s sake, but because the story resonates. Not to stroke our egos, but to kick us in the nearsighted ass and make us see things we’re myopic about.

If our end goal is for our words to make it into the great big world, that goal begins with an idea. That idea becomes a manuscript, which becomes a book. That can be an amazing book or a sorry-excuse for one. The difference, I believe, happens through the process of seeking, receiving, weighing, and incorporating feedback.

Think about how magical this is: We can actually transform the raw material of feedback into gold.

We’re like a team of alchemists and shit.
Feedback into gold.
Books into feelings.
Strangers into lovers.

Improvement. Solidity. Marketability. Beauty. Resonance.

Those are the things which will help our stories make it beyond behind-the-scenes-readers to the great big world. And that great big world contains the same mix of disinterest, haters, and passionate lovers.

Feedback is, I truly believe, the path that leads us to those future, passionate lovers.

 

Sometimes, in addition to feedback-in-words, there’s even feedback-in-images. (Ahhhh!)

The AMAZING illustration opening this post is fan art that If Found, Return To Astropop inspired in a reader. That reader, who is also a writer and illustrator, is the phenomenal Crystal Smalls Ord. I can’t really share much of Astro with you lovelies quite yet, but I’m thrilled to be able to share Smalls’s interpretation.

(She made sure I pointed out that the image only exists because Astro & Pip’s story inspired her that much. :: blushes profusely ::)

If you dig it, let Smalls know, check out her other work, and show her some love.
Twitter: @SmallsOrd
Tumblr: http://smallsord.tumblr.com/
Deviant Art: http://csmalls.daportfolio.com/

Teaching Skull Specimen


Reginald Crane

Reginald Crane says, “Hi.”

TEACHING SPECIMEN 
Late 19th-early 20th century.
Skull with cut away and hinged sections.
Original painted details.
In a glass and wood display case. 12.5″h. 9″w.

Isn’t Reginald rad? I just won him in an auction about 10 minutes ago. I know some folks think it’s weird/creepy/macabre to own, like, a human skull. But think about it: we all have one. And, once on display, skulls live on as art.

This specimen is hand-painted and was used to teach medical students. The cranial cap is completely removable. The lower half is bifurcated lengthwise and the halves split apart. There are other sweet cutaway sections held together with springs, hooks, pins, and hinges. Inside, there is more painting detailing the major arteries and veins.

This is the 5th skull I’ve temporarily owned long enough to sell. I’d gladly keep & display them all, but, believe it or not, they are highly sought after items. Reginald’s great condition, painting, movable parts, and display case means he’ll easily double my money (and possibly triple it.) Reginald is an investment.

He’ll go up Ebay this coming Monday or Tuesday.

So weird? Maybe.
But also cool as hell.
And ~cha-ching~ collectible.

Reginald Crane says, "Bye."

Reginald Crane says, “Bye.”

Phreak Show Ink – Mantis & Lil Diva


Lil Diva & Her BFF Mantis

Mantis the Giantess & Lil Diva the Human Puppet

Weezie Williams & Lily White - BFFs

Lily White & Weezie Williams

Mantis & Lily 3

OH NO! Not only has it been 500 years since I posted (actually only like 2 weeks), but I’m also out of tat appointments for awhile.

This is a tragedy.

Still remaining:
– The name banner for Mantis & Lil Diva
– Jules a.k.a Shim the Gender Enigma
– Aaron James a.k.a. Gemini the Two-Headed Boy
– Background aether
– Touch-ups

My artist is booked forever in advance, but we’re squeezing more ink in when he gets cancelled appointments.
Which happen to fall on Saturdays…
If I’m also available…

Hopefully the phreak-sleeve will be completed & healed by summer? We’ll see if the planets align to make that happen.

In the meantime, I’m in the thick of hot and heavy edits on the manuscript.
Challenging, fun, brain-juggly (totally a word).
At this point, the hard work feels totally worth it. But then there’s the variable of feedback once the edits are submitted.

Once again, doing my part, but I guess I have to leave the outcome to celestial alignment, literary luck fairies, and the like.

UPDATE on the feedback: !!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 ALL CAPS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂