Hi. I'm a painter, a writer and a mother of three teenage sons, one with a severe disability. This is a journal: riotously disorganized, full of art, food, children and everyday domestic events. Unless you are a friend or family member you may not be interested, but you are welcome to look. Artists who are parents may find some common ground here, as well as parents of children with special needs. For art only, see my site: nancybeamiller.blogspot.com
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
THE SPIRIT OF DELIGHT
comes in small ways wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Like having your grandmother read you a book. (Yet) another photograph from our recent Thanksgiving celebration.
Sunday, November 26
scent of pies baking:
bold spice tickling nose and throat
teasing the tongue
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
A collage of today's holiday ephemera.
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!
Sunday, November 5
child plays with the wind
stick in hand - eyes sharp for the
Saturday, November 4
left to right: Alexandra Tyng, Nancy Bea Miller, Carla Tudor, Eliza Auth
is the theme of this week's Studio Friday. I was interested to see the different ways other artists have found support and friendship. Maybe it is especially important to women, but we seem to seek out help and encouragement from other like-minded people. If I think about it, I realize I am in several different "groups" many of which overlap and intersect.
This is a photo of the group of artist friends I have most day-to-day contact with. My friend Carla's husband took it in her garden, as a publicity shot for a show we were having together. He also took some more straightforward shots, and I don't think any newspapers used this one! But in its whimsical and fun nature, I think it was the most true to the spirit of our group. Incidentally, we called the show "Joining Forces". If we were a rock band, that would be our name! (And as I can't read music or play any instrument I'd also be the one off to the side doing the harmony and shaking a tambourine.)
I hope nobody takes all this as bragging. Nothing is farther from my intention. I feel very humbly lucky to have found, and helped create, this caring support network. I wish everyone could be in a group like this. But like Michelle Shocked says, "If you want the best jam, you gotta make your own!" As well as encouraging each other artistically, we often go to openings and museums together. We all have each other in an e-mail list, as well. Just this week we e-mailed each other about 1) Our next group show (scheduled for March 2007 ) 2) Alex and Eliza's current exhibits 3) Carla's getting invited to do a solo show at a respected area college 4) a couple of exhibit opportunities we wanted everyone to be aware of 5) general art world information (i.e. gossip!) Other weeks we might be scheduling a get-together, or mailing round an interesting article we thought the others would like. There is such strength (and fun!) in numbers!
Other artist's thought on inter-connection can be seen here.
Friday, November 3
through the leaves of our Japanese maple tree. When we were house-hunting I saw this magnificent tree and immediately had a vision of my boys climbing in its branches. A vision which has certainly come to pass. (But please don't ask me to pick your lottery ticket numbers!)
We have several dramatically beautiful trees in our neighborhood. This giant oak teems with wildlife of every kind, in every season. I think this is a hawk, maybe a red-tailed hawk? I enjoy tree-gazing at this towering oak, but have fortunately seen no visions of my boys up in its lofty branches! We'll leave that to the squirrels and hawks.
Wednesday, November 1
These parents came to H's school Hallowe'en costume parade and demonstrated their spirit by dressing appropriately. I felt quite the drab sparrow in my blue jeans and light brown fleece, standing next to these gorgeous birds of paradise! Maybe next year I'll be more with the program.
I've always liked the color orange, despite its take-over by fast-food restaurants and consequent loss of esteem. Somebody famous once said something along these lines "Orange is red made more human by the presence of yellow."
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