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Artist’s Sketchbook: How to make art out of junk

Creating an artistic masterpiece can be as easy as playing with a hunk of junk. Since I get so much joy out of my own recycled creations, I am passing my secrets along to you.

How to Make Art out of Junk

Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski
Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski

Obtain junk. Visit your local salvage yard, such as Gerson’s Used Building Materials, or scout for random debris in washes, alleys, riverbeds and on the side of Ajo Way.

Scrape and hose.
Get a paint scraper, sand paper, metal files, scouring pads or whatever else you want to use to scrape off rust, dust and caked-on mystery substances. Hose down for good measure.

Allow to percolate. Throw the debris in random areas around your yard, making the place a virtual minefield for your pets, guests and your own bare feet. This allows the junk to dry in the blazing sun and, if it’s metal, soak up enough heat to leave searing burns if you dare touch it at high noon.

Leave the junk there for days, weeks or months until you are so sick of tripping over and looking at it that you either transform it into something or throw it in the ever-growing slush pile. Caution: pack rats love the slush pile.

Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Coddle and paint. Coddling is a highly technical artist term that refers to kicking, denting, snipping, wiring, welding and otherwise getting the item into some type of shape that works to the piece you envisioned during the percolation stage. You know what painting is.

Mark at some ridiculous price.
The final step in your piece’s transformation is to mark it way up. Folks are not going to pay $5 for a lump of twisted metal. If you mark that same lump to $500, however, they will realize it is art and willingly shell out the cash to own such a masterpiece.

While I generally keep my prices reasonable, I will mark up items for this example. Busted PVC pipe: $379.50; Snazzy Totem Pole: $999.99; Dark Theater Shrine: $8,056. I’ll also let the slush pile go for $1.2 million.

BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Snazzy totem pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Snazzy Totem Pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Decaying fire place grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Decaying fireplace grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Dark Theater Shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

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Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

Have you ever transformed junk into art?

Have you ever transformed art into junk?

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Ryn: Junk mail horror

A simple trek to the mailbox is often not so simple. Some days it seems you need a wheelbarrow to keep up with all the junk mail.

One of my frivolous fantasies is to collect all my junk mail for a month, shove it in a big package filled with dog doo and then mail it back to the folks who sent it to me in the first place.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

I’ve yet to follow through.

Instead I do what I normally do, and sort out the 8 percent valid mail from the 92 percent junk. I then heap the junk mail into the makeshift recycling pile on the side of my fridge until it falls over and scares my dogs.

You’d think with all the hoopla about saving the environment some type of regulation, law or ban on junk mail would have already been passed.

Four of the biggest offenders are:

• Tucson Shopper. This little newspaper-like item gets merrily stuffed in my mailbox about once a week or so. It contains ads for businesses I’ll never need and coupons for items I’ll never want.

At least it’s printed on newsprint, an ideal medium to wash the mirrors and windows.

• Those coupons that come stuffed in an envelope. Unless you were chomping at the bit for personalized Mickey Mouse checks, a five-room steam carpet cleaning or a set of cheesy dishcloths, the coupons are rarely worth saving.

• Catalogs. Catalogs. And more catalogs. These especially stink because they are printed on slick paper that doesn’t even work to wash the mirrors and windows. I will also receive doubles, triples or even quadruples of identical catalogs, just in case I missed the first one.

Some catalogs are from stores from which I’ve ordered online, while others are for old matronly clothes and orthopedic shoes. Maybe they think I live with my grandmother.

And I still don’t know how I got on Frederick’s of Hollywood’s mailing list.

• Bradford Exchange. This joint specializes in limited edition commemorative plates, girly-girl, dressed-up dolls and, as I ordered, items like a “hand-carved” tomahawk made out of plastic even though it looked like wood in the photo.

“Actual size of item larger than pictured” is one of the company’s key phrases. But the folks don’t tell you the item is much more hideous, as well.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Once you order even a single ugly item and they have your address, you will receive junk mail from them every other day encouraging you to order more ugly items. I don’t even open it any more.

The only junk mail with some redeeming qualities comes from animal organizations.

Not only is it a beneficial cause, but it usually comes with polar bear or toucan return address stickers, which you can keep even if you don’t send them money.

Half the time the stickers say “Mr. Ryn Gargulinski,” but we can always blot out the “Mr.” part with a Sharpie marker.

While I pride myself in often finding uses for even the most seemingly useless stuff, I’ve yet to find a use for junk mail.

It’s not durable enough for yard art, not fetching enough for wallpaper and not absorbent enough to line the rat cage.

The only option is to keep piling it up into that ever-growing recycling pile. Or perhaps finally following through on my fantasy and marking it “Return to Sender.”

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who wishes she had a nickel for every piece of junk mail she has ever received so she could retire and move to France. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Listen to her webcast at 4 p.m. Fridays at www.Party934.com. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com

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Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Have you found a creative use for junk mail?

Which junk mail irks you the most?

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Summer getaway: Murder, immigrants and a grouchy old man beckon to Arivaca

Forget Paris or Milan, you can take a summer trek that is much cheaper, closer and perhaps even more thrilling for the whole family if you drive about 60 miles southwest of Tucson down to Arivaca.

Loyal TC.com reader RadMax recently embarked upon such a trip, bringing back photos he had to stealthily snap from his cell phone. It seems Arivaca has secrets some folks don’t want you to know.

Digging up secrets - and bones/PCSD photo
Digging up secrets and bones/PCSD photo

With some research and rumors, I may not have unearthed these secrets, but I did come up with a host of entertaining activities you and your clan can enjoy.

The site City-Data.com says Arivaca is stocked with about 57,000 residents. Too many people told me that is incredibly incorrect, so I found another source, Zip-Codes.com, which puts the people count at about 900.

Arivaca also has a pocket of really talented artists and other fun stuff. “It has a general store, gas station, a great coffee house that has the best coffee in Arizona, an art gallery the size of a large outhouse, two bars and that is it,” one source reported.

You can also find some other treasures if you dig around long enough.

Old man hangout/RadMax photo
Old man hangout/RadMax photo

Arivaca fun activities:

Anger the old man. RadMax reported there is a grouchy old man in the town’s feed store who likes to get even grouchier when approached by those pesky outsiders (i.e. most of us). Since pissing him off may not be such a challenge, you can instead keep count of how many times he uses the Lord’s name in vain. If you cannot find this particular grouchy old man, you may run across several others on which you can try the same games.

Search for the MoonDance Saloon.* This saloon, which was featured in a Snappy or Crappy, is rumored to be in or near Arivaca but no one can seem to find it. RadMax even asked the grouchy old man, who vehemently denied its existence while using the Lord’s name in vain at least twice. This quest could turn into a summer-long funfest.

The mysterious MoonDance/submitted photo
The mysterious MoonDance/submitted photo

Visit the fire pit of bones.* Arivaca couple Kenneth Alliman, 49, and Rebecca Lou Loften, 52, were reported missing in early June. Soon after, human remains were found in a fire pit on their property in the 3700 block of North Trico Road. They had opened their home to a Texas man who has since been arrested for allegedly killing his sister in 2003.

Pay homage to the dead dad and his daughter. In another recent crime, 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, were both shot to death during a home invasion in the 36000 block of Mesquite Road. Three folks, associated with the group Minutemen American Defense, were arrested for the slaying.

Photo RadMax took for Lefty
Photo RadMax took for Lefty

Leave water for the illegals. The group No More Deaths constantly scatters a bunch of water jugs in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge along paths illegals are known to take. Five of the members have already been arrested for littering, but a recent press release from the group promised they’d be at it again the morning of July 9 (that’s today!).

If you’re unable to make the July 9 littering event, you can always look for the paths on your own to refill the jugs. Better yet, hang around to get autographs from the immigrants who engage in the daring and death-defying feat of attempting to cross the barren desert in 107-degree heat.

I’ve not been to Arivaca, but with all these activities beckoning, I’ll put in on my list. Right after Paris and Milan.

RadMax Arivaca photo
RadMax Arivaca photo
RadMax Arivaca photo
RadMax Arivaca photo


What other fun stuff can you do in Arivaca?

What secrets do you know about the place?

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Word just in! PLEASE NOTE: Just like people mix up Michigan and Minnesota, much to my annoyance, it seems I did the same with Arivaca and Avra Valley. The pit of bones is northwest of town, not southwest. This also explains the mysterious MoonDance Saloon. It’s by the bone pit, not the grouchy old man.

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Invasion of the crispy, brown demons

Crispy, brown demons are invading my yard, and for once it’s not part of my artwork.

If I figure out how to incorporate them, however, they soon shall be.

Perhaps invasion is too strong a word. There are about a half dozen of these crispy critters, which are apparently the exoskeletons of some type of demonic looking insect.

Demonic close up/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Demonic close up/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

What first caught my eye was how the exoskeleton is left behind still clinging in precarious places, like the thin plastic tube I used for the tail of a rock rat or the side of a concrete tree border.

insect1
Demonic side view/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

I am enthralled with these little demons and, although insects in general give me the heebie-jeebies, I have come to adore these and some other Tucson bugs:

Tarantula hawk wasp/File photo
Tarantula hawk wasp/File photo

The tarantula hawk wasp. These large black bugs with bright reddish-orange wings are about the size of hummingbirds. They appear menacing and evil. They are beautiful.

• Those giant mosquito-looking things that are not mosquitoes. They are easy to smash and don’t leave green innards behind.

Moths. They are easy to cup in the hand and take back outside, which gives you the feeling that you are a worthwhile, very saintly person and leads to a good night’s sleep.

Southern Arizona is also ideal because it lacks other insects we have come to abhor, like the cockroach.

Sure, Tucson may have those giant sewer bugs that folks call roaches. These can be seen swarming under lampposts and atop manhole covers.

But I shall never again have the roach invasion that hit when I lived above a Brooklyn pizzeria. Here the world “invasion” is not too strong a word.

The roaches bred like bunnies in the large sacks of pizza flour and then worked their way upstairs. One early morning they started plopping from the ceiling like plump, crunchy raindrops.

I’ll take the crispy, brown demons any day.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

What insects to you love to hate? Hate to love?

Have you ever been invaded? What happened?

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Odd Pueblo: Snappy or crappy?

This fun Odd Pueblo feature asks the audience to rate a trend, topic or sighting of something around town: is it snappy or crappy?

The last snappy or crappy, kooky porch décor that included a ragamuffin doll, got mixed reviews. For the record, she was facing the corner at her last sighting, as if she were being punished for getting too much publicity last week.

I am already mixed on my review of this snappy or crappy.
Kids with Mohawks.

Cutest kid at the Pima County Fair/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Cutest kid at the Pima County Fair/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
When his mom made him take the sunglassess off for a photo/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Mom said take off the glasses for a photo/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

This particular child would be adorable enough to be snappy with any hairstyle, sunglasses or even a shirt that said “Have a nice day, a—ole.”

He could certainly pull it off.

He also chose the Mohawk and glasses of his own free will, as he told me when I met him and his family at the demolition derby during the Pima County Fair.

But if we expand the snappy or crappy to include two other categories, we got some crappiness on our hands. These include kids forced to follow fashions that their parents impart, a la JonBenet Ramsey, or kids who are allowed to sport any fashion they want without some parental guidance, a la adolescent followers of Britney Spears who want to dress in the same revealing clothing at the age of 10. Yuck.

What do you think?
a. Snappy. That boy is adorable and I only looked at the photo without reading any of the text.
b. Crappy. Young boys should have buzz cuts or hair with little sideburns and parted down the side like the comic strip Dondi.
c. The kid is snappy but Mohawks on children remind me of Angelina Jolie and she’s a man-stealing evil woman.
d. Snappy Mohawk on the kid, crappy on the JonBenet and Britney stuff.

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