Arts & crafts, and my sad, embarrassing history with Photoshop.

I do strange things for fun.

In the last few days, when I haven’t been grading or planning for work, I’ve been playing with Photoshop, creating Beware the Hawk tee shirts for my Zazzle store, and then posting the link to my middle-of-the-night artwork to my Facebook page. 

Beware the Hawk

and texting myself, pretending to be one of my characters.

Bad graphic design is how I cheat on writing. I’ve been playing around with Photoshop ever since I got my hands on a copy in college. I still remember trying to figure out layers on random low-res photos of mournful-looking fairies I’d downloaded from the internet.* I may or may not have Photoshopped my own face into that ethereal crowd. Can’t recall whether I did or not.  Unfortunately, my college computer suffered a horrible death and we can ever know for sure. At any rate there is no evidence.

Making tee shirts gives me something creative to do when I’m mired in not-very-creative work. Also, fiddling around with Photoshop doesn’t suck the soul out of me like writing occasionally does. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing. My life feels complete when I’m writing well and often. But I can get very, very involved in it. It can be draining. And sometimes I need to do something else creative for a while; something that doesn’t matter to me so much. Something that I’m not really committed to. Like tee shirts with photos of my couch on them.

I should clarify something, though. I’m not actually trying to sell you folks anything. My posting tee shirt designs is less about trying to make money and more about showing off.

I am basically still a preschooler. These tee shirt designs are my macaroni arts and crafts projects, and I am holding them out as I smile gap-toothedly up at you, intoning the word “seeeeeeeeee?” And when I tire of that, I will bound off to play in the dirt.

It’s the new Play-Doh sculpture.

And that sort of attention-seeking is what the internet is all about.

Also, you never know; someone might want to buy a tee shirt with a photo of my couch on it. If so, who am I to withhold such an item?

*I went through a very unfortunate pixie-and-fairy phase in college, closely followed by a much more unfortunate vampires-and-goth phase. Luckily the two phases flew by in an eight-month blur of candles, heavy eyeliner and bad wardrobe choices.

’90s nostalgia, or, when good people make bad purchases.

I’m sort of annoyed with myself about this. Last night, I spent money I don’t have on this dress.

Why? Because it wasn’t too expensive and the site offered free shipping, sure. But mostly because it recalled the mid-’90s. It looks like a costume from “My So-Called Life,” or something that the lead singer of the Cranberries would have worn.

That’s ridiculous, because I didn’t even like “My So-Called Life” or the Cranberries in the ’90s. In fact, I didn’t really enjoy the mid-’90s at all.

I was in high school, and I was so very, very bad at high school. I was awkward,  I was sheltered, and I was just becoming aware that there was a world outside my own small life.

That world was both terrifying and intriguing. It was like Shakespeare’s Green World, a land of fairies, magic and danger  As a teen, I had no idea how to get out of my own world and into that one, and I was keenly aware that I was missing out. Things were happening out there. Things I would have enjoyed.

In short, I felt the way our poor neutered cat does when we don’t let him outside.

Yet I’m always drawn back to that era. I love the music. I love the flat hairstyles. I love the slouchy hobo-chic clothes. I love the ugly, ugly shoes. I remember, in 1993,  looking at an ad in Vogue Magazine. Featured was an anorexic-looking model wearing a shapeless gray dress and unlaced combat boots. Her only accessory was a plastic barrette, which was sliding out of her limp bob toward the floor. And my 15-year-old self thought, “That is so classic. It will never go out of style.”

Dear God. I just bought a dress that recalls that ad.

Chris Rock had a theory about this. He said that we all have a soft spot for the music (or fashion, or whatever) that emerged when we were first getting laid. That exact explanation doesn’t apply to me. I spent my high school years doing homework, chores, working at a vacuum shop and attending CCD. Still, Rock is onto something. Maybe people are always nostalgic for the era when they first became aware of the world.

Maybe when people try to bring back the fashions and music of their youth , they’re actually looking for a do-over of sorts. Maybe they are trying  – as adults – to get a taste of an era they couldn’t quite grasp when they were teenagers.

Maybe, on some level, I believe that this dress is my do-over.

It’s still ridiculous. I have no idea where I’m going to wear the thing. But maybe I’ll at least get some sweet combat boots to wear with it. I always wanted a pair of those.