Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birthday Book for Mom

In the second week of Sketchbook Skool we played around with making small books.  I posted the first one that was made from an 8 1/2 by 11" sheet of paper, neatly folded and cut to make 8 pages.  It was perfect for my little caterpillar story. I showed that in an earlier post.
The second kind of book Jill Weber suggested was to use an accordion style folding; it offers a different way of telling a story. I decided to make a little celebration for my mom's upcoming birthday in April.

Our birthdays were always special - never over the top in extravagant gifts or outings; when I was young, finances didn't allow that kind of expenditure. But the generosity was clear in the attention to details. From being sung awake in the morning, to a favorite meal, followed by a sumptuous cake, you knew it was YOUR day.

I won't be able to visit mom for her birthday this year so I thought I'd send the party to her!

The Drink, The Balloons, The Fanfare, The Dance

The Cake, The Jive

The Bow, and the Salutation!

Altogether Now

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Miracles Every Day

February 4 is a particular day for me to recognize miracles all around me.

It is the birthday of my dear Marcus, who turns 11 today.  And it is the birthday of my good friend, Maggie who is 61. Both of these cherished people have had close calls - they might not have been here to celebrate this day.  That they are, feels miraculous.

Marcus with Ethan and Landen
Seven years ago, Marcus was in a near drowning accident.  Medical personnel estimated that he'd been underwater for about 5 minutes.  It was the most terrifying thing I have ever  experienced, with vivid memories of that day - of the fear, and also of the great kindnesses of people I've never seen again. Marcus not only survived; he is a very special child - he has a deep sense of compassion, a sensitivity that sometimes startles me.  Where did he get that wisdom?  And then he flips back into being a normal, funny, silly, moody, energetic kid.

Maggie in Rome
On the 16th of November, a Monday morning, Maggie and I had been planning our Thanksgiving dinner.  She had a big project at school so I didn't expect to hear from her for the rest of the week.  On Friday I received a call from a friend that Maggie had been taken to the hospital late the night before.  She had suffered a stroke, probably on that Monday, with three aneurysms that were leaking into her left brain.  Since she hadn't been found for several days, there were complications and the doctors weren't sure she'd survive. She underwent several surgeries over the next week and friends and family kept vigil. Once the doctors were able to remove the sedation, she gradually began to demonstrate signs of recovery. At this point she is undergoing rehabilitation, but each week brings return of function, progress that we can only marvel at.

Over a long period of time I have come to appreciate that we are constantly surrounded by miracles if we only choose to see them.  Albert Einstein said "There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle."  I go for a walk, I look out the window, I spend time in silence - and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Peter Mayer's music.  This one feels just right for today.

How about you?  What quietly or outrageously wondrous things are you experiencing?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tiny Books

This week in Sketchbook Skool we are making tiny books.  The teacher, Jill Weber, is an illustrator with a well established career in book illustration and makes the most intriguing little books for fun.  She showed us two different small books to try: an accordion book, using a long strip of paper and just folding it into many sections; and this other little book that I tried first, where I used an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper and by folding and cutting, ended up with 8 pages to tell my story.

I chose this second one to start with. The tricky part is finding the right papers for these. You want it sturdy enough to handle the medium you will use, to be durable - and still to be able to take the folding.  I will have to play with this more.

I used a high quality office paper - but it buckled with my water colors.
And while these are meant to be done fairly quickly, I admit it took me most of my day!  But it was fun.
 I am happy to know how to make these because they would make sweet little gifts for friends and family.

Here's my little story.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sketching is Contagious

Here's another thing I learned when I started carrying around a sketchbook with me.  People like to see what you're finding so interesting that you want to draw it.  I've been journaling for a long time - there would be curiousity about that, too, but then folks would be disappointed when they saw there were no pictures on my pages. Once I started adding little drawings, I'd find that others would be inspired - "Oh, I should do something like that, too."  The fact that my drawings are less than professional might actually give them more license to give it a go.

One of the sweetest instances of this happened when one of our grandsons was staying with us for a while.  He was six.  One evening he was eating before he left to go to a t-ball practice.  I sat at the table with him to keep him company and he also set up his  stuffed animal friends around him.  I decided to sketch him.  He loved the picture and the attention.

The next evening as I was preparing dinner, he said "Don't look!"  and I stayed in the kitchen until he told me I could come out.  When he did call me, he proudly showed me his drawing. I was blown away by it.  He had captured so many elements around him - the cabinet behind him with the stemmed glasses and little figurines, the vase of spring flowers, the lamp, the spiral bound sketchbook on the table. He'd spent over half an hour laboring with the details. I had the feeling that he was claiming the space as his own - a place where he felt at home.  He continues to love to draw, to illustrate the stories that come from his imagination.

What is your experience with sketching or journaling?  Have you done any illustrated journaling? - I know a number of people who love to keep this kind of record of their trips, in particular.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sketching Your Days

I first signed up for Sketchbook Skool in the spring of 2014.  I wanted to get better at drawing. I struggle with proportion, with getting my eye to see relationships as easily as my mind does and then getting my hand to follow! The course was one still offered, entitled Beginnings. Each week for six weeks, there was  a new teacher with new lessons and styles to check out. It turned out to be a great deal for under $100! In addition to the instruction and demos from the teachers,  there is a huge community of class members who write in and show their own progress, struggles, and output.  Some are really experienced and do beautiful work.  Some are absolute beginners and are admirable for jumping in to something new and putting it out there.

I learned a quite a bit. What was even more important than learning techniques was coming to understand what a practice like sketching can do for you.

Here is one lesson from Danny Gregory: sketching something as simple as your breakfast can be meditative, can settle you in to your day.  And the funny thing - when I look at this sketch, I remember that morning clearly almost two years later!  I remember being in my daughter's apartment, waiting for grandsons to wake up.  I can see the light coming through the windows, almost hear and smell the soft spring rain.  Now my drawing wouldn't conjure that for you - you'd only see that I had a well balanced breakfast - some toast and cheese and clementine slices and coffee in my favorite Laura Keller mug. But I am there in that morning, waiting for my sweet ducks to join me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hand lettering Fun

Once again I'm participating in Sketchbook Skool.  It's the perfect time of year to jump into these classes that offer so much inspiration and technique, taught by a wonderful variety of artists. The classes go for six weeks online, each week a new set of lessons taught by a different teacher.
This past week taught by Koosje Koene, one of the founders of the school.

The lessons were on hand lettering.  We were encouraged to play with different fonts, think about lettering with composition in mind.  The final lesson was to choose a word or quote and to use hand lettering to give it meaning or impact - or just design.

I decided to use a quote from Annie Dillard's novel, The Maytrees.  I love her characters and there are several quotes from this book that have become part of my view of the world. Here is the one I chose:

And the next line is "She rolled down the dunes."

And what about you?  What are you doing for yourself this winter? What quotes do you find inspiring, challenging, fun?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oh, Paris!

This past summer, as part of my birthday trip, I visited Paris for the first time.  I wasn't sure what to expect. I've read a lot about the city, heard friends' stories, seen many movies.  Some people love it - they say it is their favorite city in the world.  Others have been less enchanted, complaining about the rudeness and lack of friendliness. My goal was to keep an open mind and see what I would experience for myself.

Maggie and I had each been sick on our trip so our energies were low.  We knew we would have to skip some of the common attractions, that we would have to choose carefully how to spend our time there.  That may have given us a taste of the city that we would otherwise have missed.  We spent a lot of time walking, with a few bus and subway rides to supplement our travels. We found ourselves ambling through neighborhoods, stopping in little shops for fruit or medicine, watching people doing ordinary things. We found most people to be very friendly and helpful - patient with our poor attempts to ask for things in French.

On  a Sunday morning we went to the Luxembourg Gardens which were within an easy walk of our apartment.  We pulled up chairs close to the pond,  and settled to watch older men sailing elaborate remote controlled boats.  Then a vendor arrived pushing a cart piled high with brightly painted wooden boats - and suddenly children began running up, handing over money to rent one, and heading eagerly to the water.  The men pulled their boats out to make room for the kids - and probably to save their own more fragile vessels from damage.

Another morning we were on our way to Notre Dame Cathedral and passed the Pantheon.  I would not have thought to visit this landmark, but it turned out to be very impressive.  I liked the spacious beauty of the architecture, the lack of fussiness.  It had been built originally as a church to honor St. Genevieve. There are murals on the walls that depict the story of her interventions on behalf of the poor.  One of the scenes showed people kneeling in petition. It was touching to see that the soles of their feet were dirty. Eventually the church was turned over to become a secular institution where important intellectuals were honored and many of them buried in the crypt - Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Emile Zola, Madame Curie, Voltaire, Alexander Dumas. In keeping with the tradition of honoring those who have dedicated their lives to upholding the values of the republic, there was an exhibit of four French citizens - two men and two women who had played important parts in the resistance during WWII.

The day before we left, July 13th, we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower.  Preparations were under way for the Bastille Day celebrations so the area was crowded.  I had not had a great appreciation for the tower in the past - it looked like a giant erector set to me.  But it is really very beautiful, with  intricate iron work - and so huge. I had read Edward Rutherford's Paris, a novel that describes the building of it, and that enhanced my appreciation. It was thrilling to be there!

As I think about my brief visit this summer, it is the experience of the neighborhoods and people that makes my heart ache for this city.  It is the recollection of the Pantheon, being flooded by  memories  of those who gave so selflessly for liberty and justice that stirs my admiration for the spirit of this city. May we be faithful to those values and that spirit as we move into the troubled days ahead.