Painting feature in The Ekphrastic Review

Purple Night City by Meghan Tutolo

So pumped to hear my mixed media painting, “Purple Night City,” has landed in The Ekphrastic Review alongside this dope poem by Mark Ward: “College Roommate”

I’m always looking for ways to combine my words and art, so this was inspiring. And honor!

I always refer to my cities as other worlds and they do feel that way to me… perhaps I just haven’t tapped into the words part of that yet. (:

Have you ever written anything inspired by art? It’s a great exercise… I’m thinking about hitting up a museum soon to get some inspiration.

mt

2019, the year of the blog

376 W - Wilkinsburg Exit Meghan Tutolo

Ok, I doubt it. Let’s be real here… I’m always saying I’ll blog more. But what if I really did?

I have this website with my name, an active calendar, a bio in need of an update… and this years-long confessional dating back to when I was still complaining about post-grad life—as if! Why wouldn’t I blog more? Hell, if you know me on social media, you know I’m about as likely to overshare as a Gushers fruit snack—let’s just say I’m an open book. Long-term, I have always wished for a way to tie my writing world into my art world more seamlessly.

I am totally at a spot where I need to decide what my next direction is. Since I love lists, let’s make a damn list about why I’m hesitant to incorporate more of my blog into my art life (or vice versa):

1. I’m not a billboard. The last thing I want to happen is for y’all to think I’m just trying to sell my shit. What if you don’t take me seriously anymore? Of course it’s a way to talk about all the creative things I’m getting into, but I don’t want to become some slick-talking car salesperson.

2. Can I still be a human? I doubt it’s in good taste to be REAL TALK in a space where I’m also linking to my sticker collection on Etsy, you know? I just don’t play phony. How can I be real and be a brand or a business? The truth is I don’t have time to be me and then be some brand. I am my brand. But somehow, I know this will only make things more difficult for me and probably halt progress on the business front. I mean, not everyone who is interested in Pittsburgh souvenirs is going to care about my seasonal depression.

3. What the hell is she, anyway? I do too many things. I’m active in the art community and the writing community. I started the REWIND Reading Series, which I’m super pumped about. I like to take photos with my old instant cameras. Scooting/motorcycling is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m trying to learn stained glass work here soon. I’m obsessed with my smooshy faced cats. And you know, I don’t like to censor my politics, brainstorming about how to do more with art as activism. A blog can either bring all these things together in one spot or confuse the f out of someone.

What do you think? Has anyone else gone through something similar? How do you move through stuck times? Pray? Flip a coin? Pull petals off a flower?

Halp!

All going but gone

Cheswick, PA (2018) - © Meghan Tutolo

There aren’t too many things in this world that last.

See: high school friendships, fashion trends (though they are bound to cycle back), ska music, your favorite cologne, all seasons of The Office available on Netflix. No matter how much you love something, no matter how tightly you squeeze to it… longevity is an illusion.

But we know this, don’t we?

In fact, transience is a truth that is smacked into us from the moment we can want, need, desire things. Days end. Snacks are eaten up. Markers run dry. Toys break. The sun sets and you must go inside. The End couldn’t be a surprise, shouldn’t be. Yet, the anticipation of an end never made it any less devastating. When we were small, we would cry and whine and stomp… and hell, those were socially acceptable things as a kid. Besides, if we were convincing enough in our pout, the tides could turn. Our parents—those minor gods—could grant us more time and more things to prolong these ends.

Still, we came back for more. It didn’t stop us from going back outside or hoping or wishing, getting excited about every last thing we could do. Hope. Possibility. I don’t know what changes, why we can’t live there forever. Was it just that we just needed to accumulate more losses? Or maybe we were more buoyant then.

I write a lot about loss. I can’t help it. It’s the truth that defines me most. The why is another post, really, but the short of it is that I can’t compute. My brain cycles over it… over and over. It’s like that mechanism in me is broken. Move on. Let go. What? And up until recently, I mostly scoffed at the tender fears of others, that empty ache to remain guarded. I couldn’t understand ones need to shut people out, to shut down the world, hide in stuffy apartments without the lights on. You could count on me for handing out the advice TicTacs:

“What are you afraid of, anyhow?”

“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re alone now.”

“Rejection? We’ve all been there.”

“You’re just jaded. I mean, how will you ever be happy if you can’t take the risk?”

It was less judge-y and more “I don’t understand.” Because I didn’t. (I don’t?) I’ve been wounded, waded in chaos, really, but I still willed myself into the day and into people the way a hungry cat might smash itself into your leg, purring: half-hungry, half-doting. It didn’t mean I wasn’t sad or self-loathing, but that I was unhappy with my situation (a.k.a. The Never Enoughs) and so I needed more. I needed (need) more to toss into my bottomless pit. Of course, now I realize that this isn’t how everyone processes unhappiness and grief. Likewise, this can’t go on forever, right?

Admittedly, I’ve been struggling with reconnecting. It feels almost beyond my control.

My question is, though, what if the only way to process loss effectively is to avoid it altogether? And what if this style of coping isn’t a choice, but a mechanism, physiologically speaking? What if, over the years, our body learns without us?

It makes sense that, at some point, the body would take over. It does that, the body—it acts and reacts to its own tune, at times, reminding us we are not in control. For instance, maybe you don’t think you’re nervous, but then your hands shake, your breath quickens, your heart knocks in your ears like a marching band drum line. Likewise, the body has been known to do things in its best interest, to protect itself from common stressors and provocateurs. Hello, survival. But who says it must inform its host—for lack of a better term—on a conscious level?

At some point our body is all: “F you, dude. If you can’t take care of me, I’ll take care of me.”

You know the body—that cocoon we abuse endlessly with chemicals and gluttony and sleeplessness and… need I go on?

No wonder we’re 30 with budding armor: afraid to take risks, afraid to connect, afraid to love. And maybe those protective brain juices have convinced us subconsciously that we don’t want these things, that we’re fine. Why try? You know the hurt that follows. The body doesn’t let us.

Raise your hand if you’ve been the hapless victim of some half-assed solace like this:

“The only constant in life is change itself.”

Ugh. Gross. (Besides, Heraclitus of Ephesus was kind of an asshole.)

But the point is… shit doesn’t work. We know this. We’ve known it. But it still cuts. And you can cry or stomp or sing or whiskey it away, but it’s there, loss—as big as an anvil swinging above from a clothesline.

This thought comes to me, because yesterday, as I sat in my car at a red light, my eyes tried to leak on me. Perfect. A cry triggered by some trite line in a song that I hear often—nonsense, really. But it reminded me of someone I lost, a pain I should be immune to by now. And so I realize again (and again and again) that grief might be the thing that goes on forever.

How cruel is the world when everything leaves, but the pain of what is gone.

What to do when you can’t do

Rando typewriter flow

 

You write about not being able to do.

I just spent the last hour trying to find a medium for this rabid, though undeveloped and unsettling outrage. First, I got out a pencil and paper. Then, I opened a Word doc and began a new poem. Frustrated and unable to write that way, I decided to look at one I’d written the other day. No dice. I moved to another folder entitled “Non-fiction,” and opened a few documents to edit.

The state of things (things that I haven’t gotten a chance to dive into all the way yet)—but when should I? Now at 3 A.M.?

These days, I haven’t figured out yet how to balance day-to-day living, productivity and sanity with the research and discussion needed to know to stay on top of politics.

This is why when there are moments of goodness, I grab onto them. Even if it’s just the crisp colors of sunset over the Mon. Even if it’s just my cat waking me up with his purr and whisker-tickle technique. I don’t know. I’m hanging on. Because, like it has felt all along since the beginning of this presidency, it isn’t about me. It’s bigger. How does one exist and not exist at the same time?

“Buy Some Happiness” – Sweet Pittsburgh Sticker Feature in City Paper

laptopweb.jpg

 

Two days ago late, late at night (like morning, of course), I happened to be on the internet Googling and doing a little research on my products. As I Googled, I came up with this City Paper article for back to school season, pimping out my PGH Fun sticker! Get out of town! More than my Pittsburgh vinyl sticker and a shoutout to my shop,  the article The City Paper curated stickers from a bunch of dope local Pittsburgh artists and makers. How cool is that?

Emily McGaughey’s Pierogi Dude, Yeah Yehlsa’s Go Away Heart, Zenspire’s Zentangle Pizza and Commonwealth Press’s Parking Chair... and more.

If you haven’t been tempted by the links above (already), please go back and hit them up. These cool Pittsburgh-based businesses/artists and those like them are what make this city tick. So make sure you add them to your bookmarks for the upcoming holiday season. They make excellent stocking stuffers and sweet surprises in your holiday greeting cards.

Cool Pittsburgh Sticker "PGH" Design by 1flychicken creations

JUST WHAT does one do with so many cool stickers, anyhow? Vinyl, weatherproof decals are perfect for laptops, water bottles, helmets, car bumpers, guitar cases, notebooks… just about anything you can stick ’em too.

I just ordered a boat load of new stickers and the beginning of a new project, so watch out for those. And thank you to Lisa Cunningham of Pittsburgh City Paper for the feature.

!!!

mt

Sweet-and-sassy Mother’s Day Cards

Funny, floral printable Mother's Day cards // by 1flychicken creations

Save the sweetness for dessert and give mom something better… laughter!

If you know me at all, you know I’m super obsessed with making cards. Besides painting, it sort of all started with card making. I love shopping for the perfect gift (and sometimes making the perfect gift), but I LOVE sending mail. I used to almost always make every one of my cards by hand. Just ask my pen pals! I still make them, but these days, I’m really focused on growing my collection of 1flychicken creations printable greeting cards so that everyone can pass on the fun!

This week, I’ve added three new printable Mother’s Day cards to the shop. They are super sassy and all with their own unique flower illustration. Inspired by fun and funky retro colors and a modern color block style, I drew these flower designs to be a pretty contrast to the jokes on the front. Sass comes naturally for me… especially when I grew up watching a lot of Golden Girls, you know?

Hope you love these as much as I loved making them.

Local in Pittsburgh? Hit me up for a printed version and stop by my 1FLY YART SALE this weekend!

CLICK on each to visit its Etsy listing:

Card #1: Thanks, mom.
Card #2: Not Shady Pines, ma.
Card #3: A little sibling rivalry never hurt anyone…

Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations
Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations
Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations

My first AWP at 12,000 writers deep

I can’t believe I’m here.

During my years of undergrad and graduate school, AWP—Association of Writers & Writing Programs—was the definition of cool, was the thing the cool students did. Yes, even in grad and undergrad there is cool. It’s not a concept reserved solely for the untouchables at the middle-school lunch table or the hunky highschool football team. On the other hand, the very lack of cool is a disease, uncool. It follows you. It’s on you. You wear it like a bad style. In adulthood, cool exists with a different name: elitist, bougie, yuppie, pretentious, hipster, etc.

You think I’m being dramatic, don’t you? Sensitive? Maybe. But it’s there and it’s been instilled in me, drawn-out and awkward as the “growing out” phase of a bad haircut. Cool is now ironic. It’s not for those of us that grew up in an age where sweaters, cat shirts, stretchy pants, thunder thighs and glasses were considered severely uncool. I was never cool, and so I can never be.

“I just never want to be the type to take myself too seriously, you know? I hate that,” I explained to Laura during one of my anti-academic rants.

“You just don’t like pretentiousness,” she clarified.

“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to be that movie. The one you hear all the hype about, and then you go to see it, and it sucks.”

Who knows? Maybe the movie wouldn’t suck so bad if expectations weren’t so high. All that hype.

I’ll admit that most of my adulthood accomplishments and sense of self has come from a heavy dose of “fake it ’til you make it”—a (clichéd) mantra I learned early. I mean, let’s face it: self-deprecation is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone. We can’t all be Alanis with her $10 words. We can’t all turn our insecurities and hyperawareness into some moody and attractive Canadian twenty-something with a record deal.

Ok, so this appears to have nothing to do with AWP at all… but I swear it does!

Just as I learned in school early on (again and again), doing something cool doesn’t necessarily make one cool. Sure, I wore men’s JNCO Jeans and Airwalks and memorized all the words to Puff Daddy’s album, No Way Out. (Clearly the definition of cool. Ha!) But even this didn’t affect my position on the highschool popularity chart. Likewise, attending AWP didn’t suddenly transform me into some poised, self-assured and impervious academic writer. Instead, it made me feel small and unimportant and squash-able: a feeling I wasn’t ready for, to be honest. But maybe that is the lesson too, a reminder of the lesson.

You can’t just put on the JNCO Jeans. You have to be the kind of person that wears the JNCO Jeans, you know?

Being uncool and remaining uncool kept me at a distance back then. I was overweight, reactive and super insecure. I might as well have worn a sign on my head. And if I am truly the alien that I say I am and I never fit into any community, I don’t have to live up to the expectations and definitions of success defined by that community, right? So maybe I’m just afraid of not achieving those successes. What if I am not more than this? (How many years of trying does it take? Have I even tried? …this could easily turn into the Question Game.)

That is what AWP was for me. Reflective. Figuring out my place. It was a trip away with sun. It was a chance to learn more about writing, about people and life. I got to see and experience so many things and people in just a few days, and yes, this was all very overwhelming at times (see: ugly-crying alone in my hotel room like a lost pup), but it felt worth it and necessary. And while it was hard to connect to anything too much, it was still a time of connections. These moments made an impact, even if they were brief. So thank you for them.

At the end of the day, it’s not really about cool, is it? I’m sure cool would help. I will always be an alien, though—whether I came to it by fear or innately—but I cannot navigate my life or my writing career on those feelings of inadequacy. Maybe that has worked in other aspects of my life, like kicking my ass at the gym, but I cannot allow the shame of Not Enough to stifle me. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of her—the chubby four-eyed, freckled-faced president of Poetry Club— but maybe that’s ok. I

If I could wrap up that “freedom to be” like a gift, I’d give it to us all.

mt

Feeling feels in a Post-Truth World

"Sweet Submerged" by Meghan Tutolo
 
 

It’s hard to have feelings.

No, really! I’m not sure if this is new or I’m just taking notice, but why is it that everyone is always trying to shut down everyone else’s emotions (and in turn, their own)? Lately, I’ve been feeling mega-frustrated with this—almost more of a heaviness than the original emotion itself. Does anyone else feel as if they are constantly defending their feelings? And no, I don’t mean in a political way or any conspiracy-crazed way. I’m talking personal stuff: friends, family, coworkers, etc.
 
This isn’t to say I haven’t been guilty of it. Hell, we all have. It’s part of this good-intentioned consoling power we think we must have. As if one might be able to wave his or her hands hands, instill some Should Be Grateful or Bright Side or Silver Lining… all better now. You know what I’m talking about. When’s the last time you DIDN’T hear these responses:
 
“It’ll be ok.”
 
“You have nothing to worry about.”
 
“Don’t be so nervous.”
 
“Oh, here’s 19 reasons why you shouldn’t feel this way.”
 
“Calm down.”

“I think you’re overreacting.”
 
“Don’t cry.”
 
“At least, this other dumb or horrible thing isn’t the case.”
 
No wonder we, as a society, have such a hard time with expressing emotions. We are constantly told to, expected to, asked to, shamed into “getting over it” and being grateful. Maybe if we were actually just allowed to have the feelings—to feel them and express them—we could work on our shit and really truly get over it, instead of just running from it. The catch-up or rebound or whatever has been hitting hard these days. There’s no getting over.
 
You know what I’ve learned to do? Shut my mouth. And it isn’t working for me. I feel empty and disconnected… and when the time comes and the world turns a bit more slowly (I’m usually driving or riding), what has been silenced becomes a monster. It feels like an anvil to the gut.
 
When was the last time someone actually just wanted to join you? Like feel your feels with you? And that’s it? Empathy. No policing, no 14 reasons why you’re wrong to feel the way you feel and no forced gratitude. What if we could just be in it with people? No more crossing our arms and deciding when and how much someone should be feeling? Actual empathy. Actual connection.

Yeah, perhaps some people and situations call for objective reasoning, some advice, some friendly ear flicks to wake up the disillusioned… but first, just let them feel. Listen. Listen. Listen, damnit. No one is wrong for having an emotional reaction, even if you think he or she shouldn’t. You can help he or she process it, if needed. But don’t tell your friends they are wrong or lead them to that conclusion. Why? What is that doing for them or you?
 
I’m going to work on this so hard. In my own need to shut off and run, I have imposed the same on those around me. Coward, I am.
 
 
 
 

Living and running

Pittsburgh scootin'

 

This is a year for living.

That’s what I keep telling myself. Every time I walk away from a blank Word doc. Every time I decide to take a ride rather than write a letter. Every time I put off what I should be doing (i.e. scheduling car appointments, doctor appointments, vacuuming, etc.)

If nothing else, this election and resulting presidency (along with all its little heartbreaks and setbacks and mini strokes) has me full speed ahead. Into what? Uncertainty, mostly. But definitely art, definitely risk-taking. I’ve opened my own Etsy shop, got at least one vendor show under my belt and have been riding around in a motor scooter.s

“I’m living,” I say to myself from the inside of my spaceman-like helmet as I cross the Birmingham Bridge one day.

Behind the silvery mirror-like shield over my face, I’m grinning like a wild woman. Admittedly, I’m mostly smiling there. Or gritting my teeth (on like every turn). Or crying. I cry a lot on the scooter. Thankfully I had enough foresight to order that damn mirror-like Bubbleshield that you can’t really see through. I mean, can you just imagine looking over on your commute home to see a red-faced woman crying on her black-and-chrome scooter weaving between potholes and tar snakes on Beechwood Boulevard?

A call the scooter my mindfulness in these hectic times. I can’t do 900 things. I can’t pace or run around or make things. I am focused and alert. And because of it, sometimes the feels come rushing back, as though I’d been running from them all along.

Living or running. Living or keeping myself occupied. Living or wading out the storm, up to my ears in art and art supplies, up until the wee hours of the morning because it is finally quiet and I can chill without feeling like I’m missing something—another headline, another atrocity, another outrage.

But there’s a beauty, a sensory type of travel and place that you don’t experience in a “cage,” as riders call the call. The tears are mostly good tears, or so it seems. I can’t say I’ve had that happen too often, good tears. Those were reserved for moms at weddings, not for childless 30-somethings crossing the Oakmont Bridge at sunset.

As I sit down once more to write, I think about my scooter… about the sun that will drop soon and how I could get in a few more miles, conjure some sort of errand or excuse. And hey, in Pittsburgh, a nice day isn’t one to waste.

I hope you are all living… doing whatever it is that can keep you sane in these turbulent times. Maybe later is for overthinking and processing. For now, maybe it’s time to enjoy what is in front of you. If you spend 1-2 hours reading the news, spend 1-2 hours playing the violin, or whatever it is you people do. Don’t forget taking care of you is a way to resist in itself.

<3

mt

Filling up my meter

Image from simqueen.wordpress.com
If you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that for nearly every action or interaction—whether it’s talking to a family member, pulling weeds from the garden or observing a new piece of art—your Sim (depending on his/her personality) will react with plusses and minuses. Every moment is more like a transaction. 

I once conjured a super anal, flannel-wearing Virgo with a shaggy beard, OCD tendencies and a love of classical music. His favorite color was green and his name was Aiden. The dude was annoyed with just about everything. In particular, he hated when his mother-in-law baited him in conversation. Most oft, he was just trying to make some pancakes (another of his favorites), but she would block him from getting to the refrigerator, waving her hands like a madwoman as she discussed dollar signs and gossiped about the neighbors. Not only did he not enjoy small talk, but if the toilet or the sink was dirty when he tried to get ready for work, he’d throw a fit and clean, missing his carpool altogether. Not even the act of cleaning nor the resulting sparkling bowls were enough to make tiny blue plus signs appear! And then I’d have to spend more time on him, trying to up his mojo for the day so he would want to go to work the next day (and so on). Difficult dude. 
I know how crazy this all sounds. But bear with me. The point is… we all have our Aiden days.
 
And on days like today, I think about that point system, how we are all just action and reaction… that simple (and that complex). Depending on how we were raised, our past experiences, sensitivity and mood, some of us are predisposed to get the feels, or not. Some of us are more or less affected. While some peeps are easy to rattle, others seem brick-like and unable to be touched. There are the sad and the overjoyed, the busied and the lazy. But no matter who we are, we might find ourselves in the negative… because we had a disappointing conversation with a friend, burnt our pancakes or came home to too many dishes in the sink. Or you know, maybe it’s just that all of those things happened in one day.

Shit, I know it’s me. But I keep bumping into blahs. Just one of those days whereliving feels hard and maybe even pointless, and boy, do I know how melodramatic it sounds… but like my mouse-hand, I an trying to find the things to up my meter. 7:05 p.m. And now, after collecting final papers from students, I can go home and paint, love on my cats and A… and fill up my meter. 

What do you do when you’re having a bad day? How do you make the plusses appear over your head?

Tell me things. 

mt