Sunday, December 31
Saturday, December 30
from cold dead branches
green shoots spring fragile blossoms
We took a family visit to a local cultural mecca today, The Barnes Foundation. This was instigated by my lovely mother-in-law Darian who got the notion, made the reservations and swept us all along in her organizational train. And very glad to be swept along in it we were! After gawking at the art for a while the boys and I went outside and explored the deserted winter garden together. We were astonished by how verdant and even blossomy parts of it were. The formal part of the garden is slightly sunken, so out of the wind I guess, and is angled to catch the southern sun...hence spring in mid-winter! Or perhaps it should be be chalked up to global warming?
Thursday, December 28
Wednesday, December 27
HAPPY JOLLY MERRY BLESSED
Whatever your holiday, I hope it was a good one! We are just back from visiting relatives and friends in Connecticut and Boston. Exhausting but fun. Today is recovery day: phone calls, grocery shopping, unpacking, laundry and (just a little) blogging!
Friday, December 22
STUDIO RITUALS AND WISHES
is the theme of this week's Studio Friday. Share some studio rituals and If you could make one or two changes to your studio by magic, what would they be? Since these were my ideas (I had meant them as seperate proposals but oh well) I had better participate on time for once!
The photo above illustrates my most consistant ritual: I always make myself a cup of tea to take into the studio with me. Then I put on a CD of music, lay out my palette and (eventually) get going. Sometimes I get busy and forget to drink the tea, but I always make it!
If I was granted a couple of studio related wishes, I would ask first for more space, maybe 25% more in all directions. I don't need a huge loft but my studio is tiny and crowded. I have to carefully squeeze past my set-ups and skirt piles of paintings and sometimes there are big crashes when I forget to hold my breath and take baby steps. Second thing I'd ask for is more light. My windows face north, and are deep under a craftsman style roof overhang. We are talking gloomy! Plus the window is only scant feet away from an enormous, dense, pine tree. This effectively blocks whatever light might have made it under the overhang. Argh! I am actually very grateful for my studio, it is after all, a room of my own which is the main thing, but the Studio fairy should feel free to help me out here anytime her little heart desires...!
I have been wondering how to blog about this, without seeming like a Brag Queen. I can't think of any way other than just to come out with it. My friend David Wiesner has a gorgeous new picture book out, and he used my son P as the model for the main character! I wanted to mention it when an illustration starring one of P's beautiful blue eyes was featured in the New York Times Book Review and it made the Ten Best illustrated books of the year. I was tempted to mention it when David was interviewed on NPR. And now apparently the book was recently reviewed in Time Magazine, with a beautiful spread from the book featuring my son's face (and other sweet faces we know and love!) Sorry for bragging, but my seams finally burst! Whew, ok, now I'll just go away and be quiet for a bit...but really maternal pride aside, it is a gorgeous book. Summer at the shore combined with David's own inimitable fantasy world. David is a genius. If you are looking for holiday gifts, get thee to a bookery and see what you think.
Thursday, December 21
I really regret buying Henry this toy. It happened on a day when I'd brought him with me to the Pretty Good But Somewhat Expensive art supply store which happens to be just next door to the Crowded With Junk And Pricey Too thrift shop. Location is the main reason I frequent these places, as they are very close to my house. Right by the front door of the thrift shop is the kid's toy section and Henry made a bee-line for this thing, an old strap-onto-the-crib toy. I tried to interest him in something smaller, lighter, less babyish but he knew what he wanted and since I wanted to get out of there without a Henry-sized meltdown out came the wallet. Now I think it might have been easier to deal with the one-time tantrum! This thing is big heavy ponderous, eats "D" batteries like popcorn, and is tempermental so needs constant adjusting. However, when it works it has lights, action, music, water and bubbles: if only it vibrated and smelled like balsamic vinegar I think it would hit all the Henry sensory highlights!
When it is not working here is its substitute. No lights or music but water and bubbles (when shaken) and perhaps a faint pickling aroma to Henry's sensitive, appreciative nose.
Wednesday, December 20
Tuesday, December 19
A HOLIDAY TRADITION
in our house is the cutting of paper snowflakes. Also traditional is the mother's lament several hours later "Why are there still little bits of white paper all over this house?" A rhetorical question, true, but sometimes you just can't beat tradition!
Monday, December 18
Sunday, December 17
OUR CHRISTMAS TREE
seems especially beautiful this year. Just got and decorated it today.The blurry yellowish thing in the bottom right is a beeswax angel ornament I made 8 or 9 years ago. I had ordered a kit where you melt wax and pour it into molds. Some of the wax I colored red and some I left natural honey yellow. When I look at those ornaments now I marvel at my (long past) energy and verve and optimism. What was I thinking? Fragile wax castings in a house with three little boys? But the few ornaments which are left, are so lovely and still have a faint sweet fragrance...like a memory of a long-ago summer in the middle of winter.
Saturday, December 16
This is a little painting I did last year of a snowman built by my son P. It is 4 x 6 inches, postcard size! It has been in a few shows but still "lives at home". Maybe a snowman painting seems too seasonal for collectors, but is too expensive for seasonal decorators? Anyway, we have had just one short-lived snow flurry to date, but of course, at some point the white stuff will arrive. Probably AFTER the imminent holidays: we often have a white Valentine's day.
For some fun virtual snowflake making for a good cause, click here:
Friday, December 15
Thursday, December 14
I am working on my holiday spirit. No, I didn't bake my special gingerbread cookies yet, this fellow is from Trader Joe's. I am working up to it, making haste slowly as the saying goes. I am slowly assembling my "army" of flour and sugar and butter and spice, finding the cookie cutters and the old stained recipe cards. I need to excavate the tins from the basement and wash and dry them. Lots of little steps.
Here is really the hold up: we have a meeting with our school district tomorrow morning to discuss Henry's individualized educational plan (his IEP.) Please send out some good thoughts for us if you would! It is an important meeting and until it is over, I don't think I am going to be able to get my happy holiday game on. However, in the meantime I have hired this guy as my proxy. On close inspection he is even a little cracked: perfect!
Wednesday, December 13
CALLING ALL CARS
We have a shelf where the boys display their latest Lego creations for a while after building them. I have noticed that they dutifully follow the directions for the spaceship or Harry Potter scene or whatever is on the Lego box, but after a short time they dismantle the prefab item to make their own designs. Heh heh heh, excellent (cackles, rubs hands together)! Their own creations get pride of place on the Lego shelf. Other toys get slipped into the mix sometimes too. I think it is charming how the boys' imaginations have no trouble in reconciling all manner of toys and things in different scale too. For instance, a simple wooden car and a sophisticated Lego spacecraft can be in the same race!
Tuesday, December 12
Monday, December 11
CHEEKY NUDE WITH JEWELS
This statue sporting several ropes of mardi gras beads was made by my friend Diane Strauss. It greets visitors at the entrance to her home and has been there for years. I have seen it many times but when I was visiting last week the light caught the beads in such a way that I instinctively reached for my camera. Funny when you see familiar things in a new light isn't it?
Saturday, December 9
CHRISTMAS CAROL CHALLENGE
Paula over at Momma Pajama tagged me for this "name your five favorite christmas carols" game. It was really hard to choose, as all the holiday music sounds pretty good to me. The ones I like best are all religious and pretty doleful sounding, oddly enough. But the sadder they sound the happier they make me: wierd huh? In no particular order:
1) Good King Wenceslaus (I mean, how often do you get to use the word "thither" these days?)
2) O Come O Come Emmanuel (especially played on bagpipes: talk about chills!)
3) I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (from the Messiah by Handel)
4) The Friendly Beasts (my son P's kindergarten teacher the wonderful Mrs. Stern taught us this one)
5) Angels We Have Heard on High (that long drawn out Gloria...such fun!)
OK, and I'll add the one secular carol I find myself singing most often in the shower and car:
I'll Be Home For Christmas (if only in my dreams)
I am changing the rules slightly to include all Holiday Season songs, not just Christmas songs, so I can tag friends of (possibly) other religious denominations. I am tagging: Susan, Shelley, Amy, Ned, Eileen, Kerri and Keith!
Friday, December 8
Thursday, December 7
Wednesday, December 6
I have not yet gotten into full holiday preparation mode. Young H took matters into his own hands yesterday. He unearthed a box of Christmas decorations and began decorating the house. I was amazed at what a treat it was to have someone else take the lead in this, even if occasional parental assistance was necessary due to H's small size and childish hand coordination. I sat there having warm thoughts on this particular form of child labor!
But the baking is another matter. That is my sole province, although boys get to help cut out and decorate the cookies. It is funny how our society acts as one organism to put the pressure on its individual members. Yesterday was a day of errands and it seemed that every place I went the lady on the checkout line would ask me cheerfully "Got your Holiday baking done yet?" It happened so many times that I began to wonder if someone had pinned a note to my coat that said "Ask Me About My Holiday Baking!"
That I am not quite in the mood yet, I think you can tell by the threatening, gaping maw of the cinnamon jar!
Monday, December 4
detail of an unfinished painting Gerbera Daisy and Peaches
This week Studio Friday asks us to show some of our favorite color combinations. Of course, there are many combinations that I love and use frequently. One that I seem to be currently fixated on is this combination of turquoise and reddish-orange. I have large sheets of museum board in various shades of greenish blue and I'm doing a number of paintings with this as the dominant background color punctuated with reddish-orange and yellow-orange. A kind friend coincidentally sent me a copy of her current favorite book The Anthropology of Turquoise so maybe there is just something in the air?
Sunday, December 3
Came home from my art opening in NYC last night (many thanks to friends Nancy T and Alex T who bravely drove in with me!) to find this gorgeous bouquet waiting for me. My husband had just returned from a business trip to Arizona. He was away installing one of his famous conference tables at a very fancy spa/resort in the desert. I was disappointed that because of scheduling conflicts I could not go with him. So because I had missed seeing the red rocks, and he had missed my opening in the city, he got me these desert and red rock-colored roses! The exquisite flowers with the post-it note is very "Paul" : aesthetic but practical!
One opening down yesterday, one to go today.
Friday, December 1
Last Sunday the water of the Schuylkill River was like glass. And although it was a gorgeous day, we only saw one rower sculling along the mirror-like surface of the water: a lone water bug!
This photo represents the calm before the storm that will be this weekend for me. I am in two concurrent exhibitions and so have two art openings, or receptions, I must attend. The first is tomorrow in New York City (information here) and the next is on Sunday in Philadelphia (information on that one here) Most artists have mixed feelings about opening receptions and I am no exception. On the one hand, it is an excellent thing that one's work is deemed worthy of participatation in a given show or gallery. A blessing! Plenty of incredibly talented people struggle with finding gallery representation and I am well aware of how lucky I am. But on the other hand, openings are a mixed bag.
Sometimes an opening can be wonderfully fun: a joyous celebration where friends stop by and your connections are strengthened, the work receives positive attention, you meet interesting new artists and appreciative patrons, and the atmosphere is energizing and inspiring! But, sometimes the reverse is true and it is like a dismal cocktail party: a semi-empty room, no sales, no interest, no fun! Time..stands...still. Worse than ninth grade math class where I practically developed a wall-eye from keeping one eye always on the clock. But there is no way of knowing ahead of time what kind of party it is going to be! You just have to go and see. It helps to remember what Woody Allen once said: 80% of success is just showing up. If any of you readers are local for either of these receptions, please show up too! My last show opening was of the lively party variety. One of the fun things that happened was a person I knew only through her terrific blog came to the show and introduced herself. The word made flesh as it were, and what fun it was!
Thursday, November 30
CUP TWO TIMES
I brought this unfinished painting to my art group (critique group) the other night. It was well received with a few comments I thought were pretty accurate. I decided to check a few details by propping the painting up right in back of the set-up, and was struck by how interesting it looked. To me anyway!
I had to dump the actual tea after a bit as it had gone all moldy and unappealing, but as I'd finished painting it I did not refill the cup. Anyone who knows my painting will recognize this cup as I paint it time and time again. For whatever reason it is a shape and color that suits me to a t(ea).
Wednesday, November 29
A few weeks ago the farm we have seasonal shares in, hosted its annual autumn feast and bonfire. I always wonder why they don't have musicians or jugglers or some other entertainment...until they light the bonfire. Before whose primeval power we are all transfixed and amazed. Every time.
Break out from inside,
and your power is strong. Break in from outside,
and your power is weak.
Tuesday, November 28
After decades of sampling many different types of sketchbook I have recently decided that this is my favorite kind. The paper is just right, not too smooth nor too rough, and has the exact degree of absorbancy I prefer: it stands up to pencil, and Sharpie ink sinks into it very very slightly, not too much. I like that it is a spiral type sketchbook because it can be opened up and laid flat or folded back. (plus those square cut holes are visually delightful!) But unlike most spirals it has a closing device, an elastic strap, to keep it bound and stable when not in use. It comes in several different sizes all of which I like. This is the smallest, 6 by 4 inches, and I keep it in my purse for sketching emergencies: you never know when you'll be gripped by the urge to draw! The big problem is that I use these books up so quickly and I cannot bear to ever throw a sketchbook away. My justification is that I might want to refer to them later (but I almost never do.) Essentially they are like "scales" for a musician I suppose. Except much less ephemeral: they are piling up!
Monday, November 27
Sunday, November 26
Saturday, November 25
My youngest nephew takes a break from the intense socializing of a family gathering, in his father's arms. Littlest H is not at all shy...just giving himself a momentary time out. I feel this way at parties sometimes myself! Guess that speaks volume about my emotional immaturity.
Thursday, November 23
Wednesday, November 22
The autumn sun crept in the window at a new angle and hit this vase of past-their-prime nasturtiums. For a few breathtaking minutes they took on an otherworldly brilliance and clarity beyond anything I have ever seen. Every vein in leaf and blossom stood out in sharp relief, filled with glowing light. A short time later the beam of light moved on, and they were again their mundane form, a simple glass vase of slightly decayed garden flowers. I was glad I happened to be walking by at the right moment.
And this reminds me that I had better dump this bouquet on the compost pile: relatives coming tomorrow for Thanksgiving and unless they come at the exact right time they are going to wonder about my penchant for decorating with semi-dead flowers!
Tuesday, November 21
Youngest son H was giving me a fabulous demonstration of ninja-esque stick twirling and throwing. Of course as soon as I got out my camera he dropped it. Made a good candid shot though.
When my children run up and tell me they want to show me something, I (usually) drop what I am doing and go see. I understand how dear and fleeting these moments are, maybe because of having one child with autism. If ONLY Henry would run up and tell me he wants to show me something! Probably not ever going to happen because a) he can't talk and b) he has no great interest in pleasing me or showing off his prowess. These are issues which make it hard to get him to learn new things if you think about the reasons you learned things as a child. "Look Mom!" was a powerful incentive.
Monday, November 20
Visited my friend Carol's new loft today. A gorgeous space, previously used by a painter, and I was filled with a wave of studio envy. Good thing I love Carol and don't begrudge her this excellent find. She is slowly moving in and making it her own with her bits and pieces. This tiny, dusty madonna and child sculpture is awaiting a clean-up and placement. It wasn't until I looked at the wee faces in photo shop that I realized they have dark skin, eyes and hair, very unusual for a central european style sculpture. And that color combination of aqua and cocoa brown is so hot these days! Despite being dusty she is a very up-to-the-minute madonna.
Note: This photo was chosen as a "Favorite" from the Macroday challenge: Religion.
Saturday, November 18
draught horse and pony
graze nose to nose in the field
friends of long standing
a damp morning mist rises,
hooves sink gently into sod
This haiku is written in renga form: two stanzas, one having the 5-7-5 sound unit and the other, a 7-7 sound unit. Traditionally renga are co-written by two people, but I did not do that, the poem being complete in my mind. See more renga at One Deep Breath.
Note: these equine companions live in a paddock only a short distance from Henry's house in the children's village at Camphill Special School. There are sheep in the next-door field, and nubian goats just across the way. All part of the education. The children are assisted to help with the animal's upkeep. Probably for many kids with special needs, including Henry, it's the first time they have ever had the chance to take care of another living being, an opportunity for them to give care instead of only receiving it.
Friday, November 17
P and his friends did some very energetic and far-ranging trick-or-treating a few weeks ago on Halloween. P ended up with just over 14 POUNDS of candy! Of course, much of that is still around, stashed under his bed. What's a Mom to do when she gets that "I need a little pick-me-up" feeling? This Mom goes into the boy's room and makes the beds, and then gives herself a little chocolate reward from the sugar stash. Evil, deeply evil.
Thursday, November 16
Today the Thursday Theme is Love. When I looked through my files I was struck by how rarely do I shoot photos of people kissing or embracing. Somehow those seem like private moments that my camera lens should not be poking into. Or maybe I am just not fast enough! But I have many many shots of other kinds of love, like this one. To me this teacher and pupil photo exemplifies agape, the term used by the early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love they believed all people should have for each other. I took this at a Catholic School for the Visually Impaired. I know nun school teachers get a bad rap in general, but maybe this place was the exception to the rule. I visited twice, and you never saw a happier school environment, with cheerful, affectionate, respectful relationships obvious between the pupils and teachers. I spent a long time in this classroom where the children were getting help learning to read and write using various assistive devices.
Wednesday, November 15
china doll at the Mercer Museum, where we went for a family jaunt this past weekend. A wonderful place, with something for everyone. I lingered in the doll exhibit, while Paul and the boys gloated over antique farm machinery and six panel cast iron stoves. Hate to promulgate sexist stereotypes but sometimes that's how it goes!
Tuesday, November 14
H just started taking lessons a couple of weeks ago. Paul and I are amazed at how quickly he has caught on. I attempted to play the instrument, when he first got it, and all I could produce was a faint breathy whistle. Just don't have The Lip, I suppose. But H got his lip going (got his lip on?) pretty fast. Anyway, it is Hot-Cross-Buns-Land around here lately, and very merry it is, too! Now I am just waiting for Salt Peanuts a la Dizzy Gillespie.
Monday, November 13
One of H's little friends is very very picky about what he will eat. He is perfectly sweet and polite about it but his food preferences are strong, and his range is very narrow. We have finally determined that when he eats over our house for lunch, he gets a peanut butter sandwich (smooth p.b.and no jelly) on white bread, and a glass of plain milk. No carrot sticks, no apple slices or grapes, no begging me to put chocolate syrup in the milk. This is all he wants, and he is very happy with it. There is something to be said for minimalist taste!
Sunday, November 12
This week's Studio Friday theme is STUDIO INDULGENCES: what can't you live without in your studio? Of course, indulgences are not necessary, but they make life sweeter and more interesting. My one big indulgence is art books. I can't resist them. Whenever I have had a successful show I treat myself by getting a book or two. There is never any shortage of books I am pining for, so I just choose one or two (deciding which to buy is the hard part) and sink into them the way another type of person might sink into a perfumed bubble bath. Ah the bliss!
Saturday, November 11
at my sweet Henry. A number of people have commented on the fact that Henry is not appearing much on the Cookshop lately. They all wonder if something is up. I am really touched. First, I appreciate the caring, and also I am still amazed that anyone other than my mother is paying such close attention to these blog posts! Thanks to everyone who wrote in, spoke to me, or even just wondered.
Of course, something IS up. Only a week or so before the start of the school year we made the decision to send Henry to Camphill Special School at Beaver Run. It is a boarding school, with the schedule such that he comes home every other weekend, and all holidays and summer. In fact, he has off longer than most school kids for the holidays. That is because Beaver Run is the only school of its particular kind in the whole country, and people send their kids to it from all over. A child in Henry's school house comes all the way from Kodiak Island, Alaska! So they have to give enough time at holidays for traveling and re-grouping. We are lucky to live only 45 minutes away from the school.
I can't really go into a lot of back story and details because we are "talking" with our school district about this placement. Essentially, we are in disagreement. So, I need to be discreet right now. But, it is a wonderful, beautiful place and I wish there were more places like it. Henry is doing so great! He loves it and did not even want to leave with me when I went to pick him up that first home weekend! After the stab of mother pain came a feeling of deep relief that he likes the place so much. Since he can't talk, I was wondering how we'd gauge that. But it was made clear! And now I probably need to be quiet before I start saying too much. Anyway, thank you all for asking!
Friday, November 10
I took the picture this past summer, fascinated by my first sight of someone catching and then cleaning a fish. I watched while my cousin Bruce caught this striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay, and then expertly cleaned and filleted it. I was sorry we were not staying to dinner! But the photos, while fascinating, were too gross to do anything with. So I thought. But today's PhotoFriday theme is, you guessed it, GROSS. When I saw that I knew, yeah, sure, I am ready for this one!
All that blood. But if you eat meat, this is what happens. It is honest, bloody food. Not sanitized and bloodless and flash frozen, sealed in plastic zip-loc packages. But, um, don't hand ME that butcher's knife just yet. If I had to kill all my own food I would become a vegetarian quicker than you can say "veggieburger'!
Thursday, November 9
Eager to paint as many nasturtiums as humanly possible this season I planted nasturtium seeds all over my garden. I like all the color variations, but I was hoping this year for some of those pale cream-colored ones. Or maybe that cool lemony yellow shade. Unfortunately, my local grocery store (where I buy my seeds) doesn't get into such rarified choices. You can buy a pack of mixed color climbing or a packet of mixed color non-climbing and that is it. I got both packets and planted like a crazy woman.
However, the color gods were laughing at me this year, and all the "mixed color" I got was in the different intensities of the orange shade shared by all. Some light, some dark, some stripey, some solid, but all orange. Darn it! But still, they are a lovesome sight.
Wednesday, November 8
Andy York gets a fresh horse, I mean guitar, at Farm Aid 2006
A kind and generous friend of my sister-in-law gave Paul and me tickets to this year's Farm Aid concert. We went expecting to be in the milling crowd on the far lawn, way in the back. Turned out we had seats in the third row! I had simply assumed we'd be too far away for any decent shots, so had not lugged along my good (big, heavy) camera. I was tearing my hair in frustration but I did my best with the little pokey Canon Sureshot that I always keep in my purse for photo emergencies. Like this one! Fortunately I had my sketchbook too and did many pages of concert croquis drawings, to the great interest of the people sitting around me. I would normally have felt self-conscious, but they were all so mellow and appreciative, it was that kind of crowd! A heck of a night all around. I was especially thrilled to lay eyes and ears on Willie Nelson and Neil Young.
Probably the hardest-performing band that night was John Mellencamp. They came blasting onto the stage and the energy did not let up the entire set. And it was a nice long set. Andy York kept switching guitars. Someone told me that he plays so hard that he plays them right out of tune in a few minutes, so the backstage guys are ready with a fresh one after practically every song. It was fun to see the roadies in action: handmaidens with beards and beer bellies. But quick! At first I did not even notice the lightning switches and then I became fascinated by the fluid and seamless nature of the exchanges.
Instrument switch accomplished
Tuesday, November 7
Is there any animal that displays the feeling of luxuriant comfort better than a cat? I love watching Daisy as she basks in the sun, so relaxed and suffused with the pleasure of the moment. I can feel my own blood pressure dropping in sympathy. Then my busy brain says "OK, enough of this: back to work!"
Monday, November 6
LIGHT ON THE ROSES
This morning, rushing around during the usual Monday morning frenzy, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by this sight. Light from two different sides of the house had converged in this dining table bouquet, making the blossoms appear almost otherworldly. Every now and then you have to stop and take time to shoot the roses!