Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kandinsky!!

In order to help me get back in the flow of blogging, I thought that I would take a few moments to celebrate the birthday of one of my very favorite artists, Wassily Kandinsky.  His name may be a little strange, but his art was...well, stranger.  And wonderful!  When I was in New York City in 2009 I saw a few of his paintings at the MOMA and nearly cried!!  They're beautiful! (I often have that reaction when seeing in person the work of an artist I've studied - during that same visit I saw Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and was like a giddy school girl!) 

I love the way that Kandinsky uses color, shapes, and line to create so much movement and excitement in his paintings.  I won't give you an art history lecture, I'll just include in here some of my favorites of his paintings for you to enjoy!!

If you'd like to see more of his work, check out this website (link here) - you can also click on the images above to see their source and find out more!

Happy Birthday, Kandinsky!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weeks 23-25: The End

This post has been sitting in my "posts" list for weeks now, and I just keep putting off posting it - I think I'm in denial!  But I'm going to do it....NOW!

It's over, my friends!  How sad is that??  I can't believe that it's already been SIX MONTHS!!!  Weird.  The last few weeks of my residency were incredibly busy with moving my studio home, teaching, working, being sick, going out of town, etc.  It's been a little stressful, to be honest!  I wanted to go out with a bang, but things didn't go exactly the way I planned.  

I started working from home a few weeks before the end of my residency, since my studio-mate got really booked up with photo shoots.  It ended up working fairly well, actually! I was able to get quite a bit done and see that it would work.  I knew I'd need more storage, though, and I was able to work on that the last couple of weeks.  I'll write more about that in another post.

I was thinking a lot about the end of the residency, reflecting back on what went well and what didn't.  It got me thinking about job interviews, where you're often asked the question, "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" I think most people are usually wondering how honest they should be about the second part.  I think we're often very aware of our weaknesses, but do we want to tell them to someone who could potentially offer us a job??  I think we all want to say, "I care too much," or, "I work so hard I forget to stop and take breaks."  I mean, come on, no one's gonna believe that...  

Margie, the director at Two Twelve and amazing woman who gave me this awesome opportunity, told me that she likes how open I am on my blog, so I thought I'd share with you my honest answers to the above two questions.  It's a chance for me to do some self-reflection as well as to own up to my weaknesses in the hope that I can work on making them strengths (2 Corinthians 12:10).

What are my greatest strengths?

Hmmm....this is tougher than I thought...

OK, so I'm generally a very organized person.  I think this could possibly go in the "weaknesses" category, too, because I have a hard time getting going on a project if I'm not organized.  But, when I am organized, I can really get a lot of work done!  Also, I am great at researching and love a good brainstorming session.  I can crank out ideas like crazy when my thinking cap isn't pinching.  I can also take an idea and create something real from it, whether it's a work of art or a shelving unit for craft supplies (the latter will be featured in a future post). 

I keep thinking of strengths I have that are unrelated to my residency, like, "I make really good soups," and, "I procrastinate like a BOSS."  Well, that last one is a good segue into the weaknesses part actually...

What are my greatest weaknesses?

The biggest one?  I put things off.  Yes, I know that's basically the same as procrastination, which I listed as a strength, but I feel like there's a slight difference.  With procrastination, I picture someone doing other things in order to avoid doing The Thing They Should Be Doing.  With "putting things off," it's more just not doing The Thing.  OK, maybe they're the same.  My point is, I'm very good at just not doing something.  (I'm also very good at not doing anything, but that's a subject for a different post.)  Doesn't matter what it is, whether it's working on art, responding to an email, going to bed, writing a blog post - I'm just really good at putting those things off.  98% of the time, the things I put off aren't critically important to others - it's just my own stuff, and let's face it, I'm just being lazy.  

Good news, though.  I at least acknowledge the problem, and that's the first step to recovery, right?  Well, I'm working on it!  I'm writing this post, aren't I?

(Side note - I can hear the marching band practicing "Gloria" a few blocks away as I write this - I love autumn!) (P.S. that side note was not me putting off finishing this post, for the record. P.P.S Altering the Batman pic so it said "putting it off" may have been...)  :)  

I could list other weaknesses, such as being easily distracted (like Dug the Dog, if my sister Elizabeth has anything to say about it), or not trusting my talents enough, but I think my self-reflection energy is waning.  (And if I go much longer, I'll put off posting this again...!)

I feel like I learned a lot about myself over the course of this residency, which is helping me as I work to decide what direction to take my life next.  (Ending up in France for any period of time would certainly be nice...!)  And most importantly, I also got such an amazing start to the children's book!!  I could never have achieved so much without all of that concentrated time and space in which to do it!  I feel like I can finish it now and I won't falter the way I have in the past.  

I'll keep blogging here, as well as on my other blog, and will keep you up-to-date on all of my artistic doings!  Look for a post on my mad woodworking skillz coming soon!

In the mean time, I'm back to substitute teaching (joy?), teaching at Two Twelve (joy!!) and the Saline Senior Center (also joy!!), and continuing my creative efforts!  Be sure to check out my Etsy shop for some of my fall fun and creative craftiness! (I clearly need to add awesome alliteration to my list of strengths!)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Week 22: Art Camps

This week I taught a couple of art camps at the school where I used to be the art teacher.  It was strange to be back there teaching again, but it ended up being a lot of fun!  The camps were a part of their larger camp offerings, and it just so happened that this week was the Harry Potter themed week - perfect!  (I'm a not-so-closet Harry Potter junky...)

My morning camp was a drawing camp for kids ages 6-9, where I teach them drawing basics.  Along with the regular instruction, we also have fun with some drawing games.  We played a game called "On your mark, get set, draw!" where I tell them something to draw and a time limit.  For example, I'll tell them to draw an owl in a tree in 50 seconds, and they go for it.  Then I'll tell them to draw a pirate ship in 60 seconds, and they have to try to incorporate that somehow with the first thing I told them to draw.  After telling them 7 or 8 things, they have to tell a story about how those things work together.  It's a lot of fun!  

Another drawing game I play with them is a "Parts of a Sentence" game.  I have little slips of paper that are red, orange, yellow, and green.  On the reds are adjectives, the oranges are nouns (animal or person), yellows are verbs, and greens are nouns (place or object).  They pull one of each, put them in rainbow order, and have to draw whatever is on their papers.  For example they might pull, "a sleepy giraffe skateboarding in a pool," or "a grumpy ballerina jumping rope at the mall."  This is a favorite game because of the absurdity of the sentences themselves, and then the fun of drawing them out!

In the afternoon I taught a Comic Book camp for 9-12 year olds.  It was fun to do character development with them, and I learned that I have a skill for it!  I had a list of things for them to consider for their character, and found that I could rattle off stuff off the top of my head and create some really awesome (crazy?) characters.  The kids struggled with it some, and I kept telling them that they were over thinking it.  The quicker we came up with things, the easier it became!  

The kids had a lot of fun coming up with their characters and drawing out their silly story lines.  It was interesting how secretive some of them became about them, though.  I had to insist that I be able to see their work so I could give them feedback! They didn't want anyone to steal their ideas, and I had to assure them that we were working in a safe space and that no one would steal their work!  

Teaching full-time reminded me how exhausting it can be!  I may have taken a nap or two...or three...this week.  But teaching also reminds me that I can learn a lot when I work with kids!    

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Week 21: Back to Work/Wedding Time

Last week was finally back to work as usual.  Sort of.  I met up with Kat, my studio-mate, and we synced our schedules and worked out who would be in the studio when.  Then I was able to get some work done!  It was great to be back in the studio and sketching outside of it as well.  

Being on this side of vacation has made me realize just how little time I have left in my residency.  I feel like I'm mourning its loss, and it's not over yet!  It's just been such a miraculous blessing to be able to focus on creating art for the last five months!  Unfortunately, there have been some big distractions (camps, the Celtic Festival, etc) that have kept me from the studio and taken away from the time I have.  I'm grateful to have a few more weeks, and know how hard I'll have to work to prepare myself for whatever comes next.  I have no idea what that will be, by the way.  Any ideas, anyone???  I think that, unfortunately, it will come down to substitute teaching again while I work on finishing up the book and trying to get it published. (A process I haven't really begun to think about...yikes! If you know anything about that process and want to enlighten me I'd be glad of your help!)

Last weekend I headed to Grand Rapids where I was a bridesmaid in my friend Cori's wedding.  It was a busy but fun weekend!  Friday night was the rehearsal at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), where the ceremony and reception would be held, and then yummy pizza at Big O's.  Saturday started in the early afternoon with make-up and preparations at the museum, and then photos in front of the museum and by the Grand River.  (My poor feet...stupid high heels!) 

The ceremony started at 6 and was really nice!  It was HOT out in the sun and my toes fell asleep in my tall yellow heels, but no one passed out!  (We were genuinely worried about that...the pastor told us during rehearsal that if someone started to get dizzy and signaled him, he'd throw in an extra prayer so we could sneak off and sit down rather than pass out...!)

The guests all went into the museum for drinks and mingling while family photos were taken, and then the wedding party went through the basement and up to the second floor for the big entrance.  We came down the long, zig-zag staircase into the main entrance area, where the tables were set up.  We found out later from one of the bridesmaid's spouses that those seated just below the staircase could see up the bridesmaids' dresses as we walked down the glass-sided stairs!!!!!  Humiliation number one of the evening...

Number two for me came later when there was dancing.  They did the traditional dances - bride/groom, bride/father of bride, etc - and then they invited the wedding party onto the dance floor.  I sadly didn't escape fast enough, and was forced out into the middle of the room.  One of the groomsmen asked if significant others should be out there, too, and the DJ said yes.  I despise that DJ...

I'm never really bothered by being single, but at weddings sometimes one's single status feels like it's on display as much as the new bride and groom's happiness is.  Part of the problem for me this time was that the wedding was on the other side of the state, so asking a date would have been complicated, and then being in the wedding party and making said date sit at a table with people he didn't know seemed slightly cruel.  The other part of the problem was that I only really knew the bride & groom and a few members of the bridal party, so I felt fairly isolated.

So, there I was, on the dance floor, the only single one, with the wedding party and their spouses/fiances/boyfriends, etc. all around me.  A song came on, one of those horrible ones that starts out all slow, and the couples all paired off and started dancing.  Tears sprang to my eyes as every single guest stared at us and I tried to think of the most graceful way to flee while holding my dress down so they didn't get a second free show.  Thankfully the maid of honor, Taylor, and her boyfriend came and started breaking it down right by me until the song picked up and everyone started dancing.  The bride also went out of her way to come and dance with me, and I was very grateful for the way they went out of their way to help me feel less...solo.  

I ended up having a lot of fun, and enjoyed being able to hang out at an art museum after hours!  We weren't allowed to wander through the whole museum, but it was still cool.  It was also wonderful to see my dear friend get married and see how happy she and her new hubby are!!  What a blessing to be a part of their big day.

I also got to spend time with a very good friend from when I lived in Grand Rapids with whom I stayed Friday and Saturday nights.  I went to church there on Sunday and saw many more wonderful friends from my years there - friends are such a blessing! 

This week I'm teaching a couple of camps at the school where I used to be the art teacher, and they are reminding me of how many naps I used to take when I was teaching art full-time...!!!  It's been fun, though, and I'll share some of our experiences later this week.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week 20: Vacation!

Last week I went with some of my family on our annual trip "Up North" in Michigan to my favorite place, Ludington.  Ludington is on the west coast of Michigan, right on Lake Michigan, and is a really fun and beautiful town.  My family has been vacationing there since I was around seven years old, and it's a tradition that we love to keep!

My maternal grandfather spent his teen years in Ludington while his father worked for the CCCs helping to build the beautiful beach house at Ludington State Park.  As a result, when he was grown with kids of his own, my grandpa took my mom and her siblings to Ludington for a few visits, and my mom and her sister took up the tradition as adults as well.  We rent a cabin north of Ludington on Hamlin Lake, which is connected to Lake Michigan by the Au Sable River.  It's heaven on earth there, my friends!

I spent the week sleeping, sitting on the front porch reading, laying on the beach reading, laying in the hammock reading, hiking (too hard to read and hike), swimming in the pool with my nieces and nephew (also a difficult place to read), eating ice cream, playing games (charades, Yahtzee!, Cabby, Golf - the card game), kayaking, sitting by a campfire, eating s'mores, playing shuffleboard, walking out to the Ludington Lighthouse, watching sunsets...  Heaven.  Here are some photos from the week:

Kayaking with my nieces & nephew & sis
My favorite flavor ice cream at House of
Flavors (best ice cream place) - Eskimo Kisses 
On a sunset beat ride with my Aunt, Uncle, and Fam
(pictured with my nieces)
My lone peanut - on my last leg playing Cabby!
Big waves!! (...Come at a cost...high winds...) 
My nephew hiding from the wind with me on the beach
Changing of the flags from yellow to red....
A bit of a crazy day at the beach!
Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park
More ice cream...
"What?" :D
Carved on a tree on one of the State Park trails
Our favorite tree on the trails -
perfect sitting spot for a rest!
View on the State Park trails - gorgeous!!
S'mores + campfire + ghost stories = magical!
(My uncle's friend tells the best ghost stories!!!)
Hanging in my sister's hammock and
comfortable with my favorite view!
The view from the front porch
of our cabin
My uncle and cousin got some lanterns
that we released one night - it was pretty!
Swimmin' in the pool
(doesn't it look so refreshing?!) 
Sunset on Lake Michigan near the lighthouse

Can you tell why this is my favorite week of the year??  It relaxes me and brings me great peace.  It renews me!  I feel ready for what comes next after spending time there.  Sigh.  I miss it already!

Now it's back to work!!  Six more weeks...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weeks 17, 18, & 19: The Saline Celtic Festival and after

I apologize for the unexpected leave of absence!  My life for the last few weeks has been consumed almost entirely by the Saline Celtic Festival.  So much so that it has taken me several days after the festival was over before I could even find the time or energy to blog about it!  

Despite the craziness that the Festival brings to my life, I truly love being a part of it.  This year marks my seventh as the Wee Folks Island Chair, where I plan activities for the young visitors to the festival.  Over my seven years with the festival, I have tried to keep things fresh and keep the kids (and their parents!) coming back.  I always have a few crafts and a few different athletic events, and this year I think I hit a sweet spot with the activities! In an effort to keep this post from becoming too long, I thought I'd blog about the crafting activities here and the athletic and other activities on my other blog. (Click link here)

I made this directional sign for the
Island this year and it makes me happy!

Here are the crafts that I offered on the "Island" (it's actually a peninsula, but looks like an island and you have to cross a bridge to get to it):
View of the Island's Activities with my back to the river -
all of the crafts happen in the big white tent
Shield Painting - This has been a craft we've done as long as I've been a part of the festival. We cut shields out of cardboard before the festival (we have an awesome friend to the festival who cut all of them this year over the winter!!), poke a couple of holes, and tie a string through for a handle.  Then the kids can paint designs on them, hang them to dry, and then go fight dragons!  This is a constant favorite.
Sword Painting - Similar to shield painting!  Last year was my first year doing these - I thought that the shields seemed incomplete and we needed swords!  I have multiple colors of masking tape that they can wrap around the handle, and they paint the rest.  Also very popular.
Shields, Swords, and Fairy Doors drying
Fairy Doors - This was a new project I decided to do this year.  I cut a sheet of 4' x 8' masonite (wall paneling, actually) into 4" x 6" rectangles, and got sparkly paint, puff paint, and little jewels and buttons and things for kids to attach.  They turned out really great!!

Jeweled Crowns - The crowns have also been around since I took over the Island, but I made a few changes this year.  Traditionally we've used boxwood garland for the crown, with ribbon roses wrapped around them, fabric ribbons down the back, and pony beads tied to the end of the ribbon.  When it comes down to it, all of those elements cost a lot of $$$!  So this year I used pipe cleaners for the crown, curling gift ribbon down the back, and got some awesome jewel beads from The Scrapbox in Ann Arbor (an AWESOME store!) - I still had some pony beads left from previous years, so used those, too.  The crowns turned out looking really nice, and I was able to spend the money I saved on other parts of the festival.  Plus, the kids loved the jewels!  You can see the crowns (made with boxwood garland left from past years) on my adorable nieces here:

I hope you were able to check out the athletics and other activities on my Robot Tuesdays blog!  I'm really proud of the fact that we can offer such a variety of fun and free activities for kids.  The Celtic Festival was actually voted the best Family-Friendly Festival in Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor Family magazine!  My kind co-chairs attributed some of the credit for this to my work on the Island, and I'd be happy if that was the case!  

I had an awesome opportunity this year to display some of my work at the Merchandise Tent out in the main part of the festival.  It was great to have it out there!  I also got to hang out there Friday and Saturday night (when my stuff was all done and packed up!) and watch the bands and the people.  It was lot of fun!
My paintings & photos
I found a 4-leaf clover right in front of my artwork!! :D
View from the Merchandise Tent on Friday night -
it was a beautiful evening!
I went back to the Island on Friday night to
check on things before heading home and saw
this beautiful view of the full moon through
the clouds (plus the castle entrance)!
This week has been spent catching up on sleep, sketching, cleaning (who had time in the run-up to the festival?!?), planning, and preparing for a vacation next week!  I wanted to wrap up here with a quick note on being a part of community events.  People have asked me why, if it wears me out so much, I keep doing the festival year after year.  A big part of that is that it's a creative outlet for me.  I have a lot of fun planning new activities and seeing them executed and the kids enjoying them!  Another big reason, though, is how much I love working with people in my community.  Saline is a unique small city, close to big activity, but far enough away at the same time.  The people I work with on the festival are an amazing and energetic group, who never cease to amaze me with their ideas and passion for bringing it to pass.  We've had bumps in the road over the years, and have all fought to keep the festival running (despite some hesitation on the part of the City Council in years past), and every year is better and better.  It's a rush to bring a festival of this size to fruition each year!  I encourage anyone who is able to find ways to get involved in local events, or even to come up with your own ideas and see what you can make happen!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Week 16: Nightmares

In all my years of painting, I don't recall ever having a nightmare about a painting I was working on.  I've certainly lost sleep over them, worrying about how they were going to turn out or how I could fix a problem or how I could get over the Yips.  But my art has generally stayed out of my dreams.  

Technically, my art has continued to stay out of my dreams - it's someone else's painting that has entered my nightmares of late.

I need to back up a little, though.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a lady who had some questions about a painting she'd ordered on Etsy.  Very long story short, she brought it to my studio, told me she didn't like the way it had turned out for various reasons, and despite my protestations, convinced me to "fix it" for her.  

Next time I need to be more vehement with my "No."  

The problem, according to the owner of the painting, is that it doesn't match the rug in the room where she had hung the painting.  Also, it's too pink, it wasn't painted to the edges, and she spent a fortune getting it framed and still doesn't like it.

In the end, she emailed me photos of the rug (which is very abstract-ish), and asked me to eliminate much of the Pepto Bismol Pink (my description), paint it to the edges, get rid of the drip marks, and make it match her rug.

Let the nightmares begin.

It's been featured in my nightmares twice now, and while I don't remember much about the content, I know the painting was there, taunting me.

The problem for me is threefold:
First, I feel really weird "fixing," or painting over, someone else's painting.  The owner insisted it was ok, it belonged to her now, so I could do with it what I wanted.  Still.  Weird.
Second, the abstract floral style of the original artist is very dissimilar to anything I would do, so "fixing" it has proven tricky.  
Third, trying to make the painting match the fancy rug has meant adding colors that weren't part of the original theme, so it's become overwhelming and without a theme to tie it together.  

It taunts me.  

Also, this keeps popping into my head:

I took a break from it for a week and a half, and my goal for this coming week is to be miraculously inspired, finish the painting in a blaze of glory, and be rid of my nightmares forever.

And then never ever ever to agree to "fix" someone else's painting ever again.  Ever.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 15: Young Architects Camp

Last week I spent very little time in the studio, but a lot of time in the classroom.  For the past four or five summers I have taught a camp called Young Architects, where we spend a week designing houses and buildings, and then choose a design to build at the end of the week.  On the first day, I teach them basic architecture vocabulary, and we go on a walk around town and see what we can find from our list.  This year I had a few repeat students, so I changed up an old project and we made crazy house facades after our walk:

A lot of the week was spent on our house designs - I have them do a few different ones: One for the facade they made, one for their own dream house, one for a fictional character, and one for a character I make up. The made-up character is to give them a little bit of practice at designing for the needs of an unknown client, such as:
Name: Skip Roper

Profession: Professional Jump Roper
House needs:
-Big indoor gym for jump rope practice (including trampoline room for increasing bounciness)
-Extra rooms for friends who come for Double Dutch competitions
-Storage closets for jump ropes
-Trophy room
We also spend some time on a website called architectstudio3d.org, where you can design a house and take a virtual tour.  It's a lot of fun!  It also shows them the steps of house design and experience designing for a client.

Someone asked me if I have a background in architecture, and I had to confess that this camp approaches architecture from the point of view of an artist, not an architect.  (The camp is geared towards 8-12 year-olds, anyway, so we're not doing anything too advanced.)  I don't make them do a scale (though I had one student who did anyway!) or be too precise.  It's just an intro to the idea of designing your own home and then building a maquette (small model) to see what it would look like.  

I also worked on a design for my dream house while my students worked.  I didn't have time to work on building it, but will share it with you when I do!  It was immensely satisfying to take ideas I like and combine them into an awesome house design!!  I highly recommend it.  It felt therapeutic.  Just grab some paper (graph paper if you have it), a ruler, a pencil, and your Pinterest boards (well, if you're like me...), and start laying things out!!  Kinda feels like being a kid again.  

Anyway, here are some photos from the week:

It got a little messy! Also, their faces aren't
really tan circles...

One student's house design for Lionel Messi: 

Another student's house - the top floor is a parking garage:

He has a glass elevator on the side

Another house - we use cereal/cracker box cardboard because it's easy for small hands to cut, and if you keep the brown part on the outside it looks fairly uniform.  I used to have students paint their houses, but the cardboard doesn't always fare well...