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
Sunday, December 31
HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!
For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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
THE CHIN SQUEEZE
of love. My Mom and H just a day or so ago. Can't have a family gathering without some chin squeezing, cheek pinching and exclaiming about how big the kids are! A family ritual in which I gladly partake.
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
and shine and everything fine, that's what Christmas presents are made of. The wrappings anyway. And we need more shimmery stuff. And tape and tags and boxes and...I better get going!
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
Dark clouds, streams of light,
race through the sky...wind blown
hair leaping to join
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
AMBUSHED BY LOVE
My little nephew protests a kiss, in the way of just woken up babies the world over. But I don't think you can really know what it is like to be ambushed by love until you become a parent. Hostages given to fate, indeed.
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
bottled peppers make
a world: air, water, matter
my son shakes it up
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
Look past the ruffles
see the small frail grains of gold
at the heart of it
Thursday, December 7
STATE OF THE FRUIT BASKET
A recent shot. Very pretty I think. I like the Granny Smith green next to the Clementine orange. By chance, both colors are picked up by the Carnival squash (glimpsed under the fruit.)
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!
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