Happy July

July marks the second anniversary of the Star Girls’ appearance. In July 2016, I decided life was too short to spend it in the work environment I was in, so I made an escape plan and quit my job. In the year after that, I was in an intensive interview process about once every three weeks and on airplanes every other month. With nothing to show for it in the end except cracks in my teeth from stress grinding. (That season of my life had it all: Weeping, wailing AND gnashing of teeth.) Which is just as well, because in July 2017 my sweet father-in-law passed suddenly from complications of vascular dementia. One week we were trying to facilitate a “bucket list” trip for him to visit my brother-in-law and family in Pakistan; less than a month later, we were holding his funeral. We spent the next year tending to my mother-in-law and figuring out next steps, as it was obvious that my opportunities were not in Texas but we needed to stay put until she was more independent. These higher priorities stuck us in a living situation that was irritating going on dangerous. We spent June-Sept 2018 with no AC. In Texas. With an active construction zone behind our building. Finally, after a year of looking, we found a new place and moved last September. Things have been normal (ish?) for a year, and here we are. July again. And, knock on wood, no crisis this year. Exhale.

All this to say, I NEEDED the Star Girls. My reality wasn’t great, and it was really nice to just turn it off and draw some imaginary friends for a while.

The Star Girls never really caught on with my “audience”, which was too bad. I really like them and had hoped that they’d inspire for others what they’d inspired in me, but I suppose inspiration is in the eye of the beholder.

The above Star Girl is my favorite. I could never part with her. She’s not the most sophisticated piece of art - I was definitely still learning when I painted her. But in my mind I was calling out to someone, anyone in the universe, and her image popped into my head. And really, who’s to say that she’s not there, that she hasn’t been there all along. That she’s not still there. Maybe the light of God takes many forms, and maybe God knows who needs what, and when, and how. Maybe what saves us, too, is in the eye of the beholder. The important thing is that we are inspired, that we look toward the light when it comes, and that we are saved from ourselves.

On the blog this month, I wrote about prank calls. If you were a teenage boy between 1989 and 1993, you may have answered the phone to your own personal soap opera, riddle or mysterious monologue. If so, I hope it was as entertaining for you as it was for us, even if you didn’t know what was happening or why you should have to tell a mysterious and oddly-voiced “stranger” whether or not you liked Stephanie.

Last night I had dinner with one of my “pine curtain” friends. We laughed about a whole “thing” we once made up about a guy we vaguely disliked, that he lived in a hobbit-like forest with hobbit people. His hobbit-ish saga played out in passed notes through most of 1988 and part of ‘89. (This was not a judgment on his looks. Hobbit-y is as hobbit-y does.) To this day, when one of us mentions his name, we both go “Hobbit!” He’s probably someone’s grandpa now.

I can only speak for myself, but I find it funny and a little frustrating that back then, we were just weird and now, in the right light, we could be EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony awards). So many people who are succeeding creatively seem to have minds similar to ours and are also pretty weird. (I worked with a bunch of ‘em in my journalism years so I can honestly say some are even weirder than me.) I’m really fortunate that most of my “pine curtain friends” are still in my life and just a phone call away. I’m childfree by choice and joke that my friends’ kids will have to care for me when I’m old, but maybe the better plan is to reunite the squad and go snatch some EGOTs for ourselves, so we can afford the best nursing homes that the year 2070 has to offer.

I’ve been experimenting with different mixed-media techniques in hopes of giving my art some more depth. This means that I’m taking a little longer between Pine Curtain works now but I think that’s ultimately a good thing.

Here are some thumbnails of things I’m considering for my next pieces.

I’m inspired by summer nights in East Texas, particularly before we had jobs or summer classes and time ran together in such a magical way. In my mind I see fireflies and the dark shapes of pine trees. I think of toilet-papering houses, cruising with the windows down and swimming after dark. Of having my first vodka sour at what seemed like a “party house” but was really just a guy whose dad worked nights and was allowed to have some friends over. Anyway, we will see what comes from it.

I am off Facebook for the summer and maybe forever. It just became too overwhelming and from a creative point of view, I felt pressured to “perform” my art and rush through it a little more than I was comfortable with. Please follow me on Instagram @stephaniekhattak or email me if you’d like to say hi.

Quote of the month:

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby