Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Tidings From our Home

Like it is for so many other families at this time of year, our world has been a whirlwind of activity lately as we prepare for Christmas.

A couple weeks back our oldest fell down while playing at school and got broke.

Ouch! Our youngest just lost his first tooth, but I'll leave that one to your imagination.

For some reason the urge to make cookie plates has taken hold on me. This only happens once every three or four years, so I go with it.


In another five years I'll get the urge to send out Christmas cards, but by then we won't have anyone left to send to, I'm sure. Sadly, my family members have slowly dropped me from their lists and at this point we get more cards from businesses than from relatives. I hope they know that my lack of Yuletide greetings doesn't mean I love them any less (any friends and relatives reading this?).

The little lamb (of God) cookies from the plates.


For those of you who are also not highly experienced in the culinary arts, don't turn the oven temperature up when the meringues are inside it. You get not good results. This bag is ours. I've already eaten the worst ones.


For my snowmen I didn't have enough marshmallows, so I cut them in half and the hats ended up looking more like cardinal hats in all those paintings of the saints in the art I teach. So here are the St. Jerome snowmen that went to fourth grade (where we studied St. Jerome and his translation of the Latin Vulgate early in history this year).


Kindergarten had a party that involved decorating cookies.


Fourth grade ate snowmen ;-). Ha, ha! Actually, I subbed for the teacher and made the kids take all wrapped goodies home, including the snowmen. There were plenty of unwrapped treats, trust me!

Kindergarten also had a play, so I've made some costumes. (All this and teaching too!)


We've had prayer time for a dear family who are still separated after much red tape. I've thought a lot about homecoming, reunion and faithfulness to our tasks lately and how these relate to the coming of The King of Kings. Please pray for our friends when you remember them.

We've had lots of snow. And just as much melting. Will it ever stay? I love the snow, although I don't care for driving in it. I am, however, growing accustomed to my husband's vehicle (not front-wheel drive, like what I've always driven), and the kids loved the donut I did the other day in a parking lot. It was not intentional (honest!), but it was the very first thing my son told my husband about when we returned from Christmas shopping...


I always enjoy the music of the season. Favorite songs this year include "I Wonder as I Wander," "Gabriel's Message," "The Wexford Carol," "He Is Born, The Divine Christ Child," and "Snow" by Loreena McKennit. My son loves "Feliz Navidad", my daughter likes "We Three Kings" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and my hubby likes it all. What are your favorite songs of the season? I'd love to hear from you.

Art I have been working on (necklaces for nieces):






Art I have not been working on:
This is a charcoal rendering of an earlier angel. I keep toying with the idea of adding some pastel colors to the charcoal--we'll see how brave I am over break.

The ubiquitous (in our house) snowflakes that help keep my hands busy.

I am keeping this one. Several years ago I started a book that I keep my favorite ones in, so I need to find it and add.

The house is a mess and I am feeling blessed to go to every other relative's home for celebrations this year. To have to have everything clean by tomorrow would send me over the edge right now. The one thing that keeps us all together in this time, however, is also the most important. No matter how busy we are in our family, we all remember that without Christ we have nothing in the end. If you have never encountered Jesus, I urge you to find out about Him. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Alpha and Omega, Who is coming back at the right time. Don't put off getting to know Him because only the Father knows when our time is up--it could be tomorrow, it could be years. Each year we celebrate the Advent season by adding figures to a nativity calender I made when the oldest child was little. We try to read some of the Christmas story along with the daily updates, and it always leads us back to Jesus and His birth, which is what we celebrate. We give gifts to honor the gift Jesus Christ gives to each person who will accept it: reconciliation with God the Father and everlasting life. The banner on our nativity displays John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Don't miss the gift.


Well, I do have to go tidy some things and finish a horse I am painting for someone for tomorrow. No matter what you are doing, I hope you will take a moment to meditate on why you celebrate this season and pray for loved ones. And with that, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! --L

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter sunset



In His hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
-Psalm 95:3



A snap of our area from the woods behind my husband's family home.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Snowflakes



It's that time of year again: snow season! And in honor of the foot of snow that we've had in the last few days (which, alas, will be gone in the next couple with wind and warming temperatures), I give you photos of some snowflakes I made last year.

There are two basic ways I fold my paper, both of which start with folding whatever sheet you are using down into quarters (two half folds). After that you can fold the folded edges together once to make a triangle (which will give you the four-pointed flake shown; if you want an eight-pointed flake, fold in half again, but because of the bulk the paper can be very difficult to cut, especially for children). Or you can fold it into thirds by bringing the top folded edge to the middle and the lower folded edge up to new top edge (which will give you the six-pointed flakes shown). From there just make sure you do not completely cut through either folded edge (meaning take out nips and such, but make sure at least some part of the folded edge remains or you will end up with pieces!).

Last year I taught third grade art, which at our school means Greek and Roman history. We used a sheet of motifs from this time period as a reference source for many of our art projects, including our snowflakes. Mine were made as samples, using those Greek motifs.



















Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Angels



I frequently joke about how space-challenged I am: if a measurement is over 11x17 inches I just have a hard time picturing what the dimension is. This defect is from years of working in in-house graphics departments that had small budgets and small press runs. At the same time, however, I find that I am equally challenged by anything under about 5x6 inches. With that introduction, let me share the beginnings of a recent 4x4 chunky book project.



















The theme for the book was (still is--I've now mailed them and wait for the book to return assembled and bound) angels, which is a favorite subject for me. I've made several fabric angels, and love looking at the many Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque paintings that include angels of all kinds. I've been teaching the fourth grade class about lines, shapes and patterns recently, so my first thought was to combine a Byzantine-inspired angel with a patterned border and the text--all done in rich colors resembling Pietro Lorenzetti's frescoes in San Francesco with lots of gold. But I couldn't get the elements to come together the way I wanted, so the next idea was to focus on the angel, but it kept looking like an Annunciation, which wasn't my verse. I finally sketched a copy of a lovely angel head by Pietro da Cortona (hmm, is there a Pietro theme emerging here?). Being rather pleased with the sketch, I began to flesh it out, which is how my 4x4 project ended up 20x20 inches. Oops!


Photographing it didn't help, so I finally re-drew it much smaller and simpler, photocopied the outlines and then proceeded with the hand-coloring, etc. I was pleased with the result, although I am also chunky-challenged so my pages aren't very dimensional. Oh well--at least it's the right size! Here's a photo of the large angel. I have since redone the wings to look both more bird-like and more like the lovely wings on so many Renaissance angels. I really like the colorful wings on so many of the angels from that time period. Fra Angelico and many of the Northern artists(here and here) really went crazy with the colors. And don't miss van Eyck's angels from the Ghent Altarpiece, which I have heard are the only angels in Northen Renaissance art without wings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random Adventures

Random Adventure Number 1:

I went to the library last night (in a desperate search for a book that I thought I had accidentally donated, but that's a whole different adventure--it turned up safely under a bed...) and passed a car travelling without its lights on. In the spirit of living dangerously, I flashed my lights. Ha! Yes, I did! And I am still here to tell about it. They did not turn around. They did not chase me down. They did not kill all the occupants in my car. Instead, they turned their lights on and continued on their merry way. I am beginning to suspect that they weren't even gang members.

Which all goes to prove urban legends are alive and well.






Random Adventure Number 2:

Not being a lover of creative culinary endeavors (other than as the audience, and even then it's highly improved by a participation experience!), it sometimes takes me a while to use up mostly shelf-stable ingredients. Last year we had a breakfast surprise when I discovered the baking powder had lost its vitality. Tonight I've discovered that my vanilla extract has reverted to the form of its main ingredient. Unfortunately this discovery came at the expense of my favorite chocolate pudding cake. Hic. Truthfully, no baking disaster could ever rival my sister's cookies from her own recipe (granted, she was young when it happened--as opposed to her being old now? Hmm, I hope she doesn't read this...). She added all the yummy stuff, but just left out all the raising agents, which made for the hardest cookies you've ever tried. My mother was going to throw them all away when I came home to visit from college. Well, who could let an opportunity like that slip by? I took them back to the dorm and distributed them to everyone who was *lucky* enough to get the word that someone had home-baked goodies. Rotten, I know, but my roommate and I never had to share any care packages again. Anyway, I guess I'd better put vanilla on the grocery list. Hic.




Random Adventure Number 3:

I made a hendiadys today. I picked up a biographical sort of book on Edward Gorey at the library not long ago (no, not during yesterday's adventure), which has been intriguing. I loaned my Amphigorey to a friend and need to get it back so I can post more words. But in the meantime I joined *bold* and *sweet* (I think that was the word--I found a very long grey hair on my head the other day, too. I had to have my mom pull one out while we were in Wyoming. I wonder how that feels--pulling your daughter's grey hair out?) to make a nice and intriguing hendiadys (ha ha).

Another unusual word I re-visited recently was cockalorum, as in high cockalorum. I can't remember why I knew it as a youngster, but hadn't thought of it in such a long time until I read an article about an artist recently, who was in the habit of pronouncing things to be high cockalorum. No, I can't remember who the artist was. (That grey hair was quite long; it had obviously been growing for quite some time and taking little pieces of my memory with it, said she who had always had an elephantine memory before children.) Cockalorum, if you're not familiar with the delightful word, is a reference to a self-important and boastful person or boastful talk. I'll have to dig up the artist now.

Well, I suppose it's to work I go now. We're doing Celtic knots and illuminated letters in fourth grade art tomorrow, so I need to look up examples. Good night. Go forth and use some words in a creative and fun manner, as opposed to a creatively fun manner, tomorrow. BTW, my kids and I recently spent some time reading Dr. Seuss in different accents. Quite fun; I would highly recommend it. As a matter of fact, "Green Eggs and Ham" lends itself very nicely to a Scottish accent and had the kids giggling for quite some time (sorry to those of you who naturally speak that way--I'm not trying to be disrespectful. You could try reading it in an Idaho-sort-of-fashion--we wouldn't be offended. And you have to admit that giggling children are much nicer than bickering children!).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Paintings that are almost like real paintings

I'll start by saying that I'm not a huge fan of working in watercolor. However, I will also freely admit that if I did it more often I would understand it better and it would probably grow on me as my watercolor work improved. Funny how that works! That said, I'm going to finally share some of my Wyoming paintings.

I'm not going to share the first one. (But keep reading--I do share others!) Aside from the fact that it is still in my mother's possession, it simply is terrible. The subject was supposed to be the beautiful red cliffs across a field of sagebrush and then some farm fields. I learned quite a bit from it, though, as I sat on my rock and wanted to rip it into a thousand tiny pieces. First I learned quite a bit about technical issues, such as the importance of the correct supplies: paper, paints, a chair! (The teacher loaned me a portable metal one, but I jumped up quick when the thunder rumbled overhead as the clouds sped over!) Second, my compassion for my struggling students grew. If you've ever seen the old version of the Grinch and how his heart grew ten sizes that day (that is the right number isn't it?)--well, that would be sort of like me. I sat on my rock having a most lovely internal conversation that ran something like: "I hate this. I can't do this." "Did you say can't? We don't say can't in art class. We ask for help." "I want to rip this painting apart!" "What a bad attitude! We don't get better if we don't try!" I'll let you supply the voices. When the teacher came to offer help I felt so stupid, but I'm happy to report that I didn't cry--lol! I know what I'm doing with the mediums I work in all the time. I just don't work much in watercolor. Third, I also saw how easy it is to repeat the same mistake, even though I could see that what I was doing was wrong. I just didn't know how to fix it, so I kept trying to fix it the same way. Fourth, the importance of values was reinforced. And I didn't give up, but persevered to the bitterest of ends (cliched, I know, but exactly how I felt!). I was so happy when the other artists were ready to go back to the conference center!

The second day of painting was a lot easier for many reasons, one being the gift of decent paper (thank you Jeannie!). What a difference good supplies can make. My subject that day was a waterfall and while I still wouldn't judge it as good, it was greatly improved. The colors are darker, the result of simply using more paint. Yes, I know--how simple was that? I have a tendency to paint lightly and have always been frustrated with how light my paintings are. Well, why didn't I think of just using more paint on my own? Hmm, who knows. I know now and that's the good part. I suppose I also loosened up quite a bit and just accepted my novice status and quit worrying about what the other artists might be thinking. One of the surprising things I discovered was how many of them felt the same way I did--like a new swimmer struggling against a current--not always knowing the best stroke, being afraid of the consequences if things didn't go exactly how I wanted and growing weary in the process. Once I let go a bit, things started to flow much easier. So here's that watercolor.

I was riding with two wonderful artists from Michigan. These ladies actually live in the same town and know each other, so it was a great blessing to be allowed to tag along in their car. They also gave me many invaluable tips. By afternoon they were ready to leave the falls, so we headed out to a beautiful field where they had spied some great fall colors earlier in the week. By then I was starting to feel warmed up, so I joined in and here's the result. Again, not ready for the gallery, but improving in quality, as well as my attitude toward the whole thing.

By the final day of painting I was starting to almost enjoy myself. (!) We all went out to a local ranch and I was so eager to get started that I didn't spend much time watching the teacher, but scouted my location pretty quickly. I opted for an easy little shed with some great autumn foliage coming down in front. In the end I didn't finish it because the wind came up and chilled us to the bone, but there's nothing quite like practice for improving! (Something I tell my art students on a regular basis.) The colors are definitely more alive, not to mention see-able because they are darker. I was actually quite pleased with some of the spots, like the door and the skull. Unfortunately the part I did not finish was the section that pulled the whole composition together: the glowing leaves that came down in front of the shed and contrasted so beautifully with the colors of the wooden siding. I still need to find out how I would work those in technically. But even unfinished I was happier than the first day and beginning to feel like I could conquer watercolor.

I was so optimistic that I came home and bought a basic watercolor set. I also bought a tube set of acrylics (as opposed to the fluid ones I've got a variety of). So, I may be optimistic about watercolor, but now I have another confession. At this point, my heart belongs to my acrylics. There, I've said it. It's out in the open. I painted an apple study one evening and was so much happier with the results. I like my little apple and have left it out for all to see and have even showed it to people outside of my family. Yes, again, it's not gallery quality yet, but it gives me hope for my figurative painting abilities.

For anyone who has stuck with my little tale long enough, I now have a treat for you. If you haven't already found it, be sure to check out the blog of James Gurney, the author and illustrator of the Dinotopia books. Witty, talented and generous with his time and instruction, I would have to say that Gurney's blog is one of my favorites. Plus he likes art history--yay! Please check it out and enjoy. Blessings to you!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Most Excellent Milestone

We spent the afternoon today helping celebrate my husband's grandparent's 69th wedding anniversary. Yes, that would be one short of 70--wow! If we make it to that milestone we will be 91 and 97 (yours truly being the younger number, thank you very much!). Hope we make it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The stars are shining



Last week I updated my Etsy store with lots of waxed stars in a variety of sizes and colors, some in sets and some individually. Stop by and look at the stars!





There's more in my store.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Acquainted With the Night
Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


Photo from Morguefile, artist fedegrafo. Beautiful!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Food for Thought

"Have no fear of perfection — you'll never reach it."
Salvator Dali (1904-1989), Spanish Surrealist painter.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Barn Sale

Since my trip to Wyoming is going to take a while to write out, I'm opting for sharing a shorter jaunt instead. Yesterday was The Barn Sale that has been advertised on a little flier hanging on my fridge for several months now. Being so freshly back and not quite into the normal routine, since what is normal changed right before I left with school just starting, I almost forgot. Luckily I spotted it amongst the stuff and loaded up my nine-year-old and headed off.

Since it was a long ways out on a road we rarely take, even just driving out to the place was an adventure for us. Once we arrived there was no mistaking we were there--cars were parked clear out onto the road. Yay! We don't have these types of events around here often (or maybe I'm just ignorant!), so we were excited!

The first booth had a beautiful box of little silk flower parts that was so colorful. They were in the shade, which made for that nicely saturated light that really pops colors. Unfortunately I didn't check the pic before moving on and didn't know it was out of focus until I downloaded it from the camera. Note to self--don't do this again! But the colors were lovely and the little flowers in the middle--mine. Oh yeah. They had a whole stack of vintage travel postcards for only 25 cents each! I managed to only buy $7 worth. At some point I want to get back to my travelling Louisa project and these were perfect, although the assistant got a bit bored once her pulled pork sample ran out.


Thanks to Junebug (509-990-4558) for allowing me to take these images and for the deal on the postcards!

















The next booth used a lot of natural flowers and grasses to accent their wares, and I'd like to thank Jennifer Henry at the Trellis for allowing me to photograph her wares. I love her casually elegant style.























This adorable little yellow cabinet was from Two Women. She also had a a ring that the assistant was salivating over, but was not rewarded with. A bit spendy to end up lost in a nine-year-old's room. We'll check St. vinny's 50% off day instead. ;-)















Across the way was another shopping find. Ribbons. Not like I need more, but I bought some anyway. I mean really, who could resist this? Maybe my husband, but not two girls with cash! This vendor from Sandpoint also had a gorgeous variety of handmade cards, journals and tag-like cards all embellished with authentic glass glitter. The colors were so sweet, like petit fours on paper. If you want to see more visit Barbara.



















So many goodies! We saw some lovely charms, an adorable doll tea set, bunches of old patterns, lovely linens. It was hard to not want to buy stuff, stuff and more stuff. But being the owner of already too much stuff, I really was thoughtful in my purchases, instead of succumbing to the greedy part of the brain (now do you suppose that's left brain or right brain? Hmmm...).


A number of the next booths showcased more outdoorsy wares, so our next stop was at a lovely little booth with the nicest displays and who sells at Etsy.















There were so many cool displays and lots of fun goodies we saw while just strolling around.



















One of my favorite booths was owned by a lady whose daughter is one of my art students (and very talented I might add!). Suzie Q's (208-765-8460) is a local store that has a great mix of vintage with a few new things here and there, along with some handmade wares.
One of the customers had a sweet little dog conveniently for sale, but this mom has a heart of stone for these types of temptations, which is good, because the assistant does not! Love this heart vase. And it would be so fun to live in one of those places where you could actually have a chandelier and stand outside on a stone patio with flowers all around. But, here in Idaho--not likely. Although I'm sure it would entertain the dog.




























In the end I made it through without too much monetary damage, but having had a bunch of fun. Just going and taking photos was a blast. On the way we followed the road out further and saw some new sights. The assistant came up with a great regional joke on the way home (saying the name of the town "Chilco" as a sneeze) and I'm sure I'm fated to hear it for the rest of her childhood until it becomes family lore. And really, that's the best part of the day.