15 Illustrations: The Damsels in Distress Cakewalk

I am working with Inktense pencils, Micron ink pens, and Canson Illustration 11×14″ 150lb art pad to create 15 illustrations (that is how many pieces of paper are in the art pad) of my current family life and inspirations.

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This work is narrative in content and uses color in a monochromatic way accentuating one part of each drawing. These fun and quirky illustrations are a reflection of the current joy and activities I have been experiencing.

“The Damsels in Distress Cakewalk” is a piece based on an event that happened a couple of months ago. Our friend Mr. C invited us – The Damsels in Distress – to be one of the opening bands for Chris Staples who was stopping through Springfield on his “Golden Age” album release tour on a Monday evening Labor Day.

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We were sitting in the kitchen and talking about what our set list would be when M asked me, “what would get you out on a Monday night to see a band play?” I immediately said that I would go somewhere if there was free food and if there was a chance for me to win a prize. And then I said, “like a cakewalk.” Then we both looked at each other and nodded vigorously. We would do a cakewalk! So, I made up some flyers.

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We taped numbers on the floor and had a volunteer roll dice after each song. Whoever was standing on the number that was rolled won a cake from HyVee or coffee from the Coffee Ethic or the Mudhouse. It was a fun time. I drew this picture of what it looked like when I imagined it, and used Inktense pencils Iris Blue and Mauve blended together.

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Some of my favorite parts of this drawing are the people walking in a circle,

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this guy’s stubble and this girl’s crown,

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this girl’s braids, this guy’s party blower, and this girl’s Lularoe bicycle dress,

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The Damsels in Distress playing the guitar and accordion,

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our baby and friend who carried her during our show (thanks Gallery Gal!),

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the fun party decorations,

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and all of the delicious looking cakes!

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Tea

The Damsels in Distress spent time with our friend and drummer Chris Hickey to write, perform, and record the instrumental album Tea.

We first put together Tea as a set for performance during the opening for L.K.’s Wildwood Art Exhibit. Previously Chris had told us that classic story about an acolyte, a tea cup, and a zen master. Well, that got us all started. Percolating on a few phrases, we eventually found fuller tunes during several rehearsals in July. We ran through the set in August and thought we were finished.

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However, thinking back we all wished we had recorded that night. We later decided it would be best to record the set as a themed album– just for the record. We set the evenings of a September weekend aside, played through the tunes, and here we are.

This album was recorded differently for us. We used multiple microphones on the amps and drums and tracked everything simultaneously. Once we had the multiple takes recorded, we transferred our favorites -mistakes and all- to a laptop. In late December, we mixed the raw recordings in Garageband and here we really are.

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Tea. It’s had time to steep. It’s a strong brew. We like it and hope you do too. You can listen to the album on The Damsels in Distress band camp page.

Valentine’s Day With The Damsels In Distress

The Damsels in Distress were asked to record at the KUAR studio for a music performance and interview for KUAR Arts & Letters Valentine’s Day show. You can read about what it was like recording on the KUAR Recording Studio post. This a special episode “Valentine’s Day With The Damsels in Distress” aired on KUAR with KUAR Arts and Letters.

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Here is a transcription of the radio show.

J. BRADLEY MINNICK = JB
LAUREN =L
MICAH = M

JB: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day on Arts and Letters, we are talking with Lauren and Micah Sukany of the Damsels in Distress. Their music is fun, post-modern, and quirky-cool.

Song – “We’re Gettin Married”

JB: Artists, song writers, children’s story writers, puppeteers, and performers husband and wife team The Damsels in Distress, Lauren and Micah Sukany – Welcome!

L: Thank you!

M: Thanks! Hi.

JB: So many of your songs deal with the not unsubstantial dilemma of marriage, getting married – as in “We’re Gettin’ Married” from The Family Album, “I Do” from This is Art, and “Mr. and Mrs.” from Spinning Plates – could you talk about the interstices of making art and music as husband and wife.

L: It’s like nothing else. I think I hear other people talk about their marriages and they – there is this sense of kind of having time away from maybe their significant other. But as a married couple working together on our own creative ideas, we’re compelled to come together at the end of the day to work on one of our one hundred projects that we have in mind. So, I think as, you know, being married and being band mates and that’s really how we fell in love, that’s how we experienced our entire courtship.

JB: What was your courtship like?

M: Our courtship was the band. That’s pretty much what we did. That was great because a lot of first fights are about inconsequential matters, and so were ours, but they felt much more important because they were creative inconsequential matters.

Song – “(Our) Songs”

M: So, we learned how to argue pretty effectively right off the bat.

L: Right, and like when couples boss each other around like, “Go get me this or that” it would be band mate stuff, so.

M: So, when we would play a show, like in Little Rock, and we needed to get back to Springfield and pack up like at one in the morning, we knew what the other person was like after a really long day – exhausted and cranky.

L: Early on.

M: Early on.

L: Yeah.

M: So, we knew what we were getting into when we married.

Song – “(Our) Songs”

JB: You write your song, “We’re Gettin’ Married” – “a February morning. It’s going to be cold for sure. But we don’t mind about the climb. Cause we’re going to get married.” What’s the climb been like?

L: The climb has been…

M: Good.

L: Ya, it’s – I just think there’s something about getting married at 24 that as you mature through your 20s and you’re going through other things you know, while you’re going through the marriage – I think that is what is most difficult. Just self development and learning responsibility and not say, “Oh, I’m going to blame the other person” because I have to be responsible now. But just learning how to be a responsible person, learning how to deal with problems.

Song – “I Do”

L: You know I think that is the general climb in that sense.

JB: You talked with me Lauren about how so few songs are written about married people.

L: Ya, well it just seems like a lot of love songs are about the longing or the pining or the forbidden love. Um, but there aren’t a lot of just these nice delicate songs of love – about lovers and marriage and um the intimacy of marriage.

JB: You write you’re “just out of step living in small town Arkansas” How does one live a fine line between routine and spontaneity?

L: I think you have to pay attention to your soul. And for us – being creative and living this very normal day to day, paying bills kind of life – I think as an artist and musician it gets really difficult sometimes.

M: She’s spontaneity. I’m trying to be in step. Her problem would be “how do you practice when you’re not writing? How do you practice when you’re not performing?” Mine is “how do I interrupt my rigorous practice schedule to write something or to do like a performance?” So, we compliment each other well in that respect.

JB: On your blog you write about a lot of processes, what are some of the processes.

M: Well, the key to the processes is really how the band started. In which I gave Lauren this demo tape of all these songs that I had written just to see what she thought of them. And then she played that tape while a tape player was playing and she sang over it.

Song – “Mr. and Mrs.”

M: That’s pretty much how it’s worked for most songs since. Is that I’ll be playing something and then she’ll complete it in the sense of that’s the melody that goes to that part or that’s the accompaniment that makes that line interesting. So much of what we do is responding to kind of like love letters. Each recording is like a little parcel of magic that we get to open at any moment. So, I can open up a little parcel when Lauren’s not home and listen to what she’s created and then add my part to it and leave it as a present for her to find.

Song – “We’re Gettin Married”

JB: Thank you to Lauren and Micah Sukany of The Damsels in Distress. You can follow their unique and imaginative website Paper Opera, which highlights their music, art, stories, and their artistic dog, Ein. Thanks to Chris Hickey for producing the program for Arts and Letters. I’m J. Bradley Minnick. Happy Valentines Day.

You can listen to this Valentine’s Day with the Damsels in Distress episode at ualrpublicradio.org/post/valentines-day-damsels-distress.

We also recorded “I Don;t Drive” at KUAR.

Song – “I Don’t Drive”

KUAR Listening Party: Daniel Black, Arkansas Author

M and I recorded for the KUAR Arts and Letters – Arkansas Authors featuring Daniel Black show called “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author.” We worked on instrumental versions of The Boy with the Broom and Campfire Song.

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Once everything was sent and mixed, we went to a small listening party with some of the people that worked on the show. M and I brought homemade caramel corn and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It was so much fun!

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You can listen to “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author” on KUAR Arts and Letters. The songs are on The Damsels in DistressSongs for KUAR Arts and Letters (2014)” album.

The Bus-y-ness of Art

“I’m busy.” There, I said it. You are probably busy too. What kind of busy is  a better question. Too busy busy? Too tired busy? You may not even know what year it is busy or pretending it is still last weekend busy.

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Wherever you are on the busy scale, there is still time…

I have been busy lately. Busy at work and with house chores, with organization and family relationships, busy with pet maintenance and meal planning, busy with fixing all of the many broken things in my house and car and life! I am also busy with my art and music projects amidst the busyness. What’s that you say? I am actually working on art and music projects while being “life busy” busy?! Yes I am! The deal is, that I just keep the art and music projects on my giant to-do list. And I do mean GIANT – it’s like never ending in my mind…

The bus-y-ness or business of art is that it just keeps going. You keep making it, keep generating ideas and writing them down, keep on keeping on – whether calm or not.

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My friend S recently said he can only paint when he feels secure. He hasn’t painted in almost 7 years. My advice was to just pull out a sketch book and draw something. Not a finished masterpiece something, just his foot or something. It’s never going to be the perfect time to make a painting or write a song. Even retired people don’t get to really retire anymore. So there is never going to be time. Add it to your to-do list, and I guarantee sketching your foot is going to look a lot better than scrubbing the bathtub on a Saturday afternoon. So, I must show that I practice what I preach, so you won’t roll your eyes while hating me.

I will share with you projects I am working on this week – these projects come after work, carpooling, dinner, and daily chores.

Romania paintings

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I have been working in my art studio on the Romania painting series for Livada orphan sponsorship. This one has been difficult to get through – emotionally. Though it feels amazing to be able to be what I think could be called an artist missionary, there has also been a lot of internal pressure on myself to make these paintings excellent. Also, I don’t know how much money they will raise for child sponsorship, and that makes me feel like “will this make a difference for the Livada orphans?” I am most likely over thinking it and psyching myself out – just need to paint!

The Last Baby Angel set design

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Then there is the set design for the Last Baby Angel play based on the novel “The Last Baby Angel” by Sam Brown. It’s the first time I have ever done set design, and am still working on the research phase. I was able to call someone in the social work field this week and they were helpful and described some details of what an addicts home looks like.

Banjo Practice

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Playing music is just something I have to keep doing. if you don’t use it, you lose it. I try to practice my banjo rolls and songs every day – whether for 15 minutes or an hour. I take one banjo lesson per week with the amazing Bill Nesbitt (who currently plays with the Clark Family Trio).

KUAR Arts & Letters

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M and I are working on recording songs for the KUAR Arts & Letters Arkansas Authors show to be recorded in early October. We are also in the process of writing a Valentines Day song for the KUAR Arts & Letters Valentines Day show (The Damsels in Distress interview) to be aired in February. The cool thing about this is that I have someone to work with (motivation) to complete the projects!

So, I know you are “life busy” too, but what can you add to your giant to-do list to make space to continue functioning as a creative person?