The DYAO Painted Violin Project, Denver


My first violin, Scheherazade, from season 2011-12

Some of you might remember that several years ago, in late 2011-2012 I was asked to donate a painted violin to the annual Denver Young Artists Orchestra for their annual fundraising event. Visit here to learn more about it –  or and also my own WordPress Archives.

Every year a number of artists are invited to paint an old, retired violin, three-dimensionally of course, in whatever style, media and mood they desire, giving it a specific theme and title. The newest group of violins are introduced to the  public in the fall of each year with a lovely gallery opening, then they tour local Denver fine art galleries for several months on display and for sale, ending the season with a final gala event to honor them in April of the following year. As you might imagine, the finished violins are diverse and spectacular to see. It is quite an honor in the local Denver art community to be chosen to paint a violin, and I am especially proud to have been asked to paint one for the second time in the coming season of 2015-2016. I am included in a smaller group than in past years, of just 12 violins.

I have been working on my second violin for several months, and I cannot allow you to have even a peek, but I can tell you that it is something I am very proud of and for which I developed huge affection. This violin came to me from the violin committee almost a year ago, and she has been sitting here in my studio patiently (well not always patiently – some days she fidgets and almost speaks to me) awaiting her new identity. She came to me old and weathered – she has a history, and she looked like it with a beautiful, naturally weathered patina and the promise of a story to tell. I valued her long musical career and her time worn pride, and I decided not to obliterate that with any technique that would cover up her elegance and dignity. From the first time I saw her, I visualized one, and only one, way of adorning her. It seemed so appropriate and fitting – I tried as hard as I could to spark my imagination into a Plan B, even a second or third alternative, but I could not imagine anything else. So she and I completely agreed upon her new identity and it turned out very well.

In late September or early October she will be revealed. Coincidentally, or not of course, this particular violin had a past that coincided with my own at several junctures – in locations that are meaningful to my family and hers. That alone is rather goose-bumpy and pleasantly chilling; are there really any such things as coincidences?

The art Buddha was with me on this, for sure, and the Karma was right.


Year Long Canvas, 11/24/2014

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Year Long Canvas as of 11/24/2014, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” – Rumi

Please check my archives if you have no earthly idea what this Year Long Canvas is – painting this canvas is an ongoing project and carries with it quite a story. As you can see, she is back to being horizontally oriented again but you can like her in whatever direction you prefer. If you see a landscape here you are not alone; with nothing else at all done to her, or with a few small tweaks, the landscape idea could become more obvious right now, but it is still too far away from completion for me to settle on a landscape. Call me crazy but I have recently also seen the possibility for people in this composition – not large people, but groups of small people congregating as if waiting for something…in a horizontal row extending from one side to  the other, just along the upper side of the dark stripe that is the new change for this week. They would not be very tall, they would be colorfully dressed and have no distinctive faces. Just waiting.

I always thought that I wanted this painting to be an entirely abstract expression, with nothing recognizable, but I am even rethinking that now. My mind is an open book.

I am definitely learning to better trust myself after all the months of work; to trust my decisions and my judgment, as was one of the original goals for the project, but the other thing that has resulted from doing this, to tell you that truth, is that I have become quite a bit more open-minded about my own work. I accept my own opinions of my own work, which I suppose is one facet of trusting myself after all.

I love painting although I seldom understand it thoroughly. It might come as a surprise for many of you to know that almost every artist does not necessarily like his own work all the time. Many times I have painted a canvas that is not of my own taste. Even within my own paintings I see areas that are not always to my own liking, but sometimes I leave them there anyway, without my own approval. They bother me, they go against my grain and I know that sounds odd, doesn’t it? Well it’s  a strange exercise in intentional imperfection, which I do believe it a useful experience in art. It wakes you up.

The art Buddha understands why I do that, I do believe. He is still smiling and has a twinkle in his eye about this subject.



Back Again With the Year Long Canvas, 10/22/2014


photos courtesy of and

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder – Scroll down to see YLC

Yes I have been out of the loop for a while, preoccupied and otherwise engaged. Just involved in life itself, nothing major. Enjoying fall and weekends in the mountains. Was up in Boulder on Saturday night to attend a concert, and so we wandered the legendary Pearl Street Mall. (Had some fun with a faux bronze statue guy who came to life right before my eyes. If you are familiar with that crazy scene in Boulder you are laughing right now).

The multicolored confetti of leaves was flying around, families were out in the balmy night air having fun together and watching the street buskers perform. Had a great dinner at the Boulderado Hotel. Went to a rousing Patti Griffin concert where no one in the audience was timid about speaking up and interacting with Patti and her band. Someone then commented sarcastically on that by also yelling,  “Well welcome to Boulder, Patti….” and she agreed, but she was fine with it. Boulder is just different – people there are not easily defined but if I had to try I would begin by saying that they are quite proud of themselves to be living there, considering it a lifetime achievement or something. Bucket list item #3 – live in Boulder. Become an authentic  Boulderite. You see people in Boulder don’t see themselves as subordinate to anyone. Well why should they? I have loved Boulder since I was a student of fine art there in the 60’s at a time when the campus scene was PARTY and the art professors were deliciously weird and cutting edge. The Young People’s Socialist League was active and the Viet Nam war protesting was just getting started. I was there to paint; I did my share of partying too.

Being back there again, and still painting, in the company of a person with whom I shared many of those Boulder years is always rather surreal to me. This Saturday evening was especially magical. We actually talked a lot about my YLC – the year long canvas. I have been neglecting her. In the wise words of my friend, “The Year Long Canvas is a zen lesson in sustained patience and restraint,” or something to that affect. Delayed gratification should also be mentioned; I am a person who enjoys actually finishing a painting. We decided that the assignment of one year (March, 2015) needs to be loosened a bit, to allow my tolerance and focus a little wiggle room. Maybe more than a year, maybe less. My esteemed instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, who offered me this assignment, most certainly would have many additional comments and opinions about this process I am experiencing since I last saw him. Once in a while I run into him and we talk, which is enlightening and meaningful to me. As I explained in one of my earlier posts, he believes that every painting you will ever do as an artist is already inside of you, waiting for the right time and place in your life to be set free from its “cage” – and cage is my own word, not his. You just need to uncover it by stripping away all the unnecessary layers. That is a fascinating concept. A lot of thought is required to get your mind around it. Please visit

Today when I worked on the YLC I went a bit crazy. I gathered all of my confidence in order to believe that I was always going to be able to make a great painting out of it and I was fearless. I am sure many of you will be disappointed with this step, but I am NOT FINISHED. That is the entire point. It needs to get weird before it can get better again. It needs to evolve, and after seeing it sitting around here the way it was for so long I began to yearn for a new language and a fresh message. These new strokes are either the beginning of the end, or even the end of its beginning, whichever way you prefer to interpret it. Have a look, and zoom in for details:

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Year Long Canvas, mid-October 2014, not yet titled, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

The Surprise of the Familiar with the YLC


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Before – Almost the very beginning of the YLC, and the NOW version

My esteemed art instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, said a startling thing one afternoon as we all gathered around to hear his thoughts. He said something so obvious that it took my breath away. Without quoting his exact words, but close, he said that every painting that you will ever do is already inside of you. You just need to find it, to get to it, and reveal it to the world. Sort of the same idea as when Michelangelo said that when he sculpted he was just chipping away the outside marble to find the angel inside. If you believe all that, as I most assuredly do, then creating is a search, digging deep to find the essence.

One of the most effective exercises you can perform, as an artist or writer or general creator of things is to walk away from your current work in progress and leave it alone for a while. Forget about it. Take a vaca. Dwell on other things. Stop the momentum and rest. Whether this is done in frustration from being “stuck” or just because you are getting weary and your miserable self needs refreshing, it is almost always a beneficial thing to do. Don’t do it when you are “in flow” and hot on the trail of something big, of course. Do it when things get a little rough around the edges and you are feeling battle fatigue, and your search for the essence is difficult.

Of course this is the basic principle behind the Year Long Canvas project which I am only 6 months into at his point. It is a forced exercise in walking away and calming things down so that you can walk back into it and “see it again for the first time.” That “seeing” is supposed to reveal what should be done next. Sometimes an instantaneous action comes to me – other times it takes a bit of study to discover what action would be an enhancement – because of course enhancing the painting is what I am supposed to do. I don’t want to do something to it that bombs it right back into the artistic stone ages. This painting that has become such a weird part of my life. This painting that I sort of love at times, like right now, but that I may hate on some other day. This painting that haunts my thoughts. This part of me, slowly being uncovered from deep inside.

The final version of the YLC is absolutely inside me waiting to be revealed. My challenge is to coincide the finding of it with the end of its year. That seems a bit forced to me – what if I find its final version long before that day comes? Maybe the one year birthday of this painting will happen sooner, as much a contradiction as that is. Will I have the courage to refuse to go on, taking control of its destiny and making the decision to stop? Is that Good Karma or Bad? What would the art Buddha say?

The Year Long Canvas #14 – Progress, Endurance and a Big Spill

“There’s a little black spot on the sun today

That’s my soul up there

It’s the same old thing as yesterday

That’s my soul up there

There’s a black cat caught in a high treetop

That’s my soul up there

There’s a flagpole rag and the wind won’t stop

That’s my soul up there.”


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YEAR LONG CANVAS – very beginning, last week and today’s small progress

Well hello again – the YLC canvas and I welcome you back. In the previous post I listed some of my background info and news, and since I am putting together a brand new portfolio I had all that information gathered together so it was convenient and easy to do a blog around it. The painting I posted with that blog entry WAS NOT the YLC, as I hope you realized from its title….and its composition. That post was a delay and denial tactic. The YLC has sat untouched.

So we are due for an update on the old YLC and this period of time has  been tough – I knew those times would get here…. I have not been able to concentrate much on the YLC for the past few days. I have been concerned about some issues that are so near and dear to me that my mind is preoccupied. Nothing life threatening, just annoying small stuff that usually I can shake off, but this week not so much for some reason. Even the horrific news about Iraq has me rattled. As if I could do anything to change it. The result is that the YLC has not enjoyed a single new stroke or even a fond glance for about 2 weeks. But I have gotten a lot of other tasks done. Stuff that requires absolutely no intelligence, actually, but has to get done. One of which was to change the printer ink, when I spilled red ink all over me, instantly looking as if I had been brutally stabbed in my thigh, stomach and hand…and it will not scrub off. So what an interesting weekend that will make when I get out and around.

After the stabbing however I did make a few offerings to the YLC and the art Buddha. Nothing major – uninspired things you might not even notice, nevertheless I can honestly claim that I changed her. That is all I have to do, you know, is keep changing her.

Just for fun I have pictured the canvas as she was when I started on her months ago, then the second photo is how she looked before I worked on her today, and the third photo is the newest version of the canvas as she is this very minute. Maybe you will see the changes. If not, don’t worry about it. It’s pretty uneventful.

Have a lovely weekend!


Year Long Canvas #13 – The Knowing That Comes With Darkness


YLC #13 copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott, not yet titled

Another quote from Rumi, 13th century poet and scholar – Everyone does this in different ways. Knowing that conscious decisions and personal memory are much too small a place to live, every human being streams in at night into the loving nowhere, or during the day, in some absorbing work.

For those of you who have been following this saga – thank you. I wish I could provide you with startling changes on a weekly basis but that seems too ambitious. It is a gradual, relatively slow, often not-so-eventful journey that YLC and I share. She is far more patient than I. She has everything to gain and nothing to lose.  I, however, agonize over each and every change and although I often say that the canvas tells me what to do, sometimes she is maddeningly silent.

But today, no question about it, she screamed at me for drama.

The purple sun that many people took an instant “shine” to (pardon the humor) and that I was so in love with 2 weeks ago, now leaves me cold – a shocking thing for a sun to have to admit. So I have made changes to that upper left corner of the composition….and the sun is obliterated. No more sun flares, no more daily rising in the east and no more celebratory, spectacular western sun setting to garner applause and clinking of wine glasses in that corner of the composition. Maybe I over-reacted – but maybe not. I just cannot mourn every single thing that disappears. I believe that even the art Buddha would agree.

We still have the other sun however – sitting all fried-eggish behind the horizontal slats – that one I still like….but probably not for long.

So purple sun has been replaced with approaching night, if that is how you choose to interpret it. It amuses me sometimes to see a landscape behind the slatted lines, sun above, colorful hillside village below, suggestive of Mexico perhaps – Puerto Vallarta – and now night on its way, but I am not so hung up on that image that I am going to preserve it forever. If I had to make a prediction, I would say the final result of this painting will be totally non-objective and wildly abstract….because I am heading in that direction already. I am yearning for less whimsy and more drama. I will end this year with some serious art.

See the little black parts I added in a few places along the lower far right side? Very small but important. See the magenta coming over on top of the new black area? Also very important – because you cannot just add a huge black area and not integrate it into the composition. It has to work well and mesh with the other colors. See the scratch marks in the new black? I wanted a texture – not just solid dead black.

It is not even mid-summer yet, and still a long way to travel. If you have the time to go back into my archives and re-visit the first couple gestures made on the naked YLC, then you do realize we have come a long way, speaking as an evolutionary reference. This journey won’t be over until March 10th, 2015 when I can let the YLC retire so she can just hang out on some wall in peace. When that day comes I guarantee some glasses will be raised at some type of crazy-art  celebration.

As of today, I am really looking forward to that. It cannot come too fast for me.

Honored for the Second Time…Denver’s Painted Violin Fundraiser


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I am honored and excited to announce that for the second time I have been selected to participate in the Annual Painted Violin Fundraising Event for the Denver Young Artists Orchestra of Denver, Colorado. Each year the committee selects (it is not a contest – artists are invited) about 20 artists to paint, 3-dimensionally, an actual  violin that has been put out to pasture,  all 20 of which are then displayed and available for sale  at a selection of Denver art galleries in a traveling show lasting several months, ending in a gala event. The violins are sent out to artists many months in advance of when they must be completed and delivered, all painted and transformed into a masterful work of art with a theme, back to the committee. They will then be photographed for publicity and introduced to the public at the opening gallery show in the fall of the year.

The Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) was founded in 1977 and performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in the heart of Denver’s City Center, home of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. “DYAO’s mission is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community.” Excerpted from the DYAO Brochure.

My violin arrived today! It is like Christmas!

The anticipation of opening the shipping box, then the violin case, to meet my particular violin…artists are told to expect anything – including the possibility of pathetically broken pieces of an old violin screaming to be rescued and given a new life. You must be prepared to work with what you get. Some of the creations from past years are quite spectacular – you can see all previous years’ honorees by visiting and/or

My previous violin, titled Scheherazade, was displayed in the 8th Annual Painted Violin Fundraiser ( see “painted violin” or “Scheherazade” in my archives) several years ago. The circumstances of that occasion are unusual and have almost a fairy tale quality in the way they unfolded for me. I will fill you in on that in the near future because it is a story worth repeating.

This newly arrived violin has been requested for the 12th Annual Event of the 2015-2016 Season. Photographs of the 12th Annual violins will not be available until 2015, so it seems that I have another YEAR LONG PROJECT on my art agenda. (Read about my Year Long Canvas Project in my recent blogs).

The above photos of my BEFORE violin, delivered this afternoon by Fed X, were taken as I opened the box to see her for the first time. I found a gorgeously weathered and worn old, old violin, abundant with character, inside a beaten up black leather case that has tape holding the handle together. The case, lined with dingy, torn turquoise felt (my mother’s favorite color) and laced with cobwebs and sawdust-like material collected in the corners had long been home for my violin. It was love at first sight when I took her out and inspected her. She has been so lovingly used – obviously – proudly – she provided many years of heavenly music. She is not sad, but wears her history like a patina of honor. There is a compartment that opens with the pull of a tab on its lid, and inside is her resin box. Two people have printed their names on her interior felt – COMPTON and HERRMANN – mysterious violinists who obviously put her to rigorous use. And there were probably more that just the two…

I am not permitted, by painted violin rules, to show you my progress on this project. But I will let you all know from time to time what is going on, without revealing any secrets or photos. I feel so fortunate to have it ahead of me. Once again the Art Buddha is smiling on me and my work with this special, inspiring project. I can already feel it.


The Year Long Canvas Project #5 – Taking Off


Canvas in progress, not yet titled, copyright 2014, Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Things are finally beginning to take shape – the composition has gained complexity, additional depth, and more color without losing its rhythm and movement. It is still recognizable from last week, but at some point it will give up its former identity and be in the witness protection program….my way of saying that it will have a whole different look, probably. That is very likely to happen with a year to go.

I am pleased with the progress this week, but already wondering about how I will add another warm color to all these cools….what intensity, what shades, what COLOR? I really don’t want the Naples yellow to be the only sunny color. Although it could. But the artist says she wants more color.

Last week the painting that resulted AFTER I stopped working on this year long canvas was pretty cool – it can be seen in the #4 post – and the same is true this week. I am working on another 24×30 canvas at the same time I work on this one and it is going to be a fine painting, I think. I am not quite ready to go public with it, and this post is supposed to give center stage to the year long canvas, so….we shall see.

Abstract art is supposed to work from any orientation – whether  you turn it upside down or rotate it sideways. As you can see, there is very little happening in the upper portion of this canvas, and that issue must be addressed soon. It’s never a good idea to get too far along and still have such a void in one large area – it makes you desperate to fill it up at some point, and then whatever you do to it looks like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the composition. Right now it is screaming for my attention…and I am not answering yet, living on the edge of a decision about what to do to it.

This entire canvas screams at me sometimes. I hear it calling for attention and yet I can’t run ahead too fast. A year is a VERY long time. You would think that the larger the canvas the easier the challenge, since you would have such a vast area in which to screw up and figure out how to fix it, time and time again as the months go by. But if you remember, my instructor told me not to add the challenge of SIZE to an already difficult assignment. So here we are at 24×30 and every single minute stroke shows up. You cannot sneak anything in there without it being noticeable. Idiotic moves will show….and the idiot has to correct them. I realize that there is no failure with this project, only learning experiences, but even so there will be days when I am not at all happy with what has happened to the canvas by my hand, on my watch.

I am going on a walk now and I am going to see if I can find the art Buddha to come along, because this abstract world is enough for now.

Year Long Canvas Project #4

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Year Long Canvas in progress  – un-named, copyright 2014 Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Ok well class on Monday was daunting – the wind was blowing hard and many students had mishaps just getting up to and through the Denver Art Students League doors, which are preceded by many steep steps. There were actually 2 people who fell and needed first aid for minor, but bleeding, cuts and bruises. The never ending parade of canvases in and out of the double doors at the top of the concrete stairs, like a fluid gallery show with legs, is entertaining on a nice day but accompanied by wind or even rain, sleet, snow or hail it becomes difficult to watch. Not only canvases but people with various movable carts full of art supplies, carrying everything they and their imaginations require for the afternoon. That’s just the logistics of it – no way to get around it. Then you settle into the room and set up your art camp.

My year long canvas and I, plus one other canvas in progress and one that is finished but needed its final critique, made it in just fine, but across the room was a woman who was one of the casualties. Blood happening, particularly on the face of anyone, is not a fun thing to see. She had hit the pavement face first. She was basically fine, needing no stitches, but cut inside both lips, a small gash on the bridge of her nose, badly bruised already plus quite shaken and needing first aid so we all made sure she got the care she needed. It took us all awhile to calm down.

My YLC (year long canvas) had just 2 colors, Paynes gray and then Naples yellow, overlapped in a diagonal swoop, as you remember from the previous blog post last week on this subject. My esteemed instructor, Homare Ikeda, took a long glance at it as I set up camp and pronounced that is was a great start, with a large smile on his face. Wow – what had seemed underwhelming to me and so effortless and simple got the thumbs up. I was encouraged. I decided to proceed with work on it while I was fresh. I added a couple areas of white. Then I worked in some larger areas of Warm gray – I call it “dove gray” – because it is neutral and also because it has faint undertones of lavender. Maybe that is an indication of things to come, maybe not.

I am attempting to remain neutral for as long as I can because the addition of COLOR! brings such emotional reaction. We are all sucked in with the sensuality and the strength of color. Once you allow it entry, it can take over at the expense of all else and you might get so caught up in its spell that composition takes a back seat and the painting is out of your control. I see that happen to me and many other painters. You have to control that lovely monster.

Even with the little bit of work I have done so far, as I work am asking and checking myself, always walking the multiple lines of – Is the composition  merely ok? –  is it boring and basic and just barely enough to work, lacking potential for greatness, and not impressive enough yet to be better than average? Then adding more work and asking  – are the new additions an enhancement or not? Is there any one area that is really awful, or perhaps even really excellent, but must still be sacrificed (covered up) for the sake of the democracy of the entire dynamic?  Every stroke has to play well with all the others. As I paint along, I constantly ask myself what more can be done, knowing I can’t do much more today. I have to pace myself..

Several people walk up to it and say they like it just the way it is! Already!

Since I am assigned this year long project, I need to keep working, well past the times when I want so badly to stop because it works, it is exciting, it is strong. After some thought, I walk away from it. All done for today.

I love color, pattern and texture, but this project is all about restraint. I was feeling so restrained that I was comatose. The fast and furious painting that came after my short amount of time spent working on the YLC was a reaction  –  a quick and distinctive answer to that restraint. I let loose – see photo below. It is a small canvas (12×24) so it was completed in the rest of the afternoon and left me feeling happy. I think I detect a smile on the face of the art Buddha.

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Acrylic painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2014 not yet titled


The Creative Epiphany – The Year-Long Canvas Post #3….being underwhelmed

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Gesture #1 and #2 on the Year-Long Canvas – Big F****** Deal, right?

I must say that this Year-Long Canvas Project (see my archives for more explanation) is starting off as a non-event. Knowing how far I have to go on it and anticipating all the many layers of paint ahead of me, it seems irrelevant what my first gestures on the canvas are. I am ALREADY  yawning with it, eager to pick up speed. We all knew that would happen, but so soon?

My first brushstroke was not done with a brush – one of my favorite ways to begin a painting  is with a random swipe of my squeegee over liquid paint. I chose Paynes Gray. Why not a lighter color? Because I felt like being dramatic and I love the possibilities of Paynes Gray; it has more character than jet black. I chose to swipe it in the sort of diagonal direction so that I could  take advantage of the purposeful texture already there from my background color’s application.  Then a second color, Naples Yellow, using a palette knife and spontaneously adding a fling of splatter with it which will undoubtedly not matter one dot by the end of the painting but it got a few of my wiggles out and made me feel good. Not yet a third color. And no blending just yet.

Wow that was fun….sort of. Am I going slow enough? Such a pathetically small offering to the art Buddha.

I have other irons in the fire of course – several other canvases demanding my attention – so the lazy year long canvas ( I am sure it hates that nickname) is just standing over there in the corner now. It is very difficult for it to be a non-participant in the daily hum of things. I would not want it to be a sad painting, so I consciously decide to be joyful when I work on it the next time.

I guess I am predictably engaged in this process. So easy to know me and how I will handle it. So boring in my reaction. SOOO already feeling frustration. I am sure that my instructor knew full well what he was doing in offering this challenge to me. Painting like this is like biting your tongue until it bleeds with things you want to say. It is like knowing you will have a scrumptious dinner but not until next year.

I am silently screaming…..but I was told to make just a few gestures at each meeting of the canvas and me, allowing time between sessions to ponder and think and even meditate, I assume. How long between meetings? I don’t know. Restraint is the key word. It could vary immensely from month to month. It occurs to me that I am too old for a time factor like this. I try to make the most of every single day….because at a certain age you just never know. So I have trained myself to live in the NOW, savoring the moments. And I guess that is actually the point in a project of such long duration. But still, next year seems very far off.

But I can do it. I can restrain myself. Hey – you bet I can.

Here I go, doing nothing on it for awhile.