1 Apr

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In the Garden or In a Book

28 Apr

illustration from The Children of Green Knowe by Peter Boston, Lucy’s son

The weather has been absolute perfection. I can’t make myself work at the computer though I am behind on all kinds of things. I just want to be outside digging and dreaming up garden art.

Recent inspiration – I am rereading all the Green Knowe books. These were my favorite books as a child.

The sun had not yet pierced the haze of morning. The water was like a looking glass with a faint mist of breath drying off it. The children felt it so bewitching that without even a discussion they turned downstream, drifting silently along, willing to become part of the river if they could. Along the edge of the water ran a ribbon of miniature cliff, the top undulating like the cliffs of Dover, the vertical sides pierced with holes the size of a golf ball. Sometimes the cliff was high enough to show seams of gravel or strata of different soils. Above it willow herb and loosestrife and giant dock heavy with seed rose against the sky, and reflected themselves in the water with an effect like skeleton writing. The canoe seemed to hover between two skies.
The River at Green Knowe, Lucy M. Boston

Lucy Maria Boston merges the natural world, a child’s point of view and wonder of discovery, British history, and the slightly magical/supernatural in a way that touches me deeply. She lived in the 1000 year old house that inspired this series of six middle grade novels. She was an avid gardener and a quilter and she didn’t publish her first book until she was 60 years old, which gives me hope!

It’s magic realism in a similar style to Edward Eager‘s Half-Magic and Seven-Day Magic (oh, I loved loved loved those books too).

I also just finished reading The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern. More magic realism with a surrealist, steampunk flavor. She is a painter as well as a writer and it shows in her descriptions of the amazing installations and acts of a very unusual circus of the the Victorian age.

The Bull puppets had their debut last weekend at Animalia and looked great. But 90% of my life is currently just about OA emails and OM fundraising. Blech.

New Poem

16 Apr

appleI went to a wonderful fire ceremony last month for the spring equinox and started a poem about it soon after. Been working on it in the early mornings here and there. I think it’s done.

It’s been a while since I had a poem insist on being written.


The Edge of Spring

A bowl of soft violet sky

curves over an ancient pasture

furred with winterdead grass.

At the eastern rim Mama Quechua rises

through a fringe of black branches.

An old love song rings in the cold air

thrumming from tiny frog throats.

At the center an amber fire glows,

illuminating a mandala of stone

and a patchwork of people.

They stand bundled up and smiling,

hot faces, cold backs, at the edge of spring.

We had 80 degree weather Sunday and then it snowed and was miserably cold and windy yesterday, so winter has not fully released us yet. But the trees are carrying on with their procession of spring colors. Right now it’s redbud, apple and dogwood. And many of them are wearing a thin veil of tiny bright green leaves.


8 Apr

teen art bridgeC’s Odyssey of the Mind team came in 2nd at the state tourney. Very proud of my team (I am assistant coach). Now we have to do a LOT of fundraising to get them to the world tournament in Iowa – because I didn’t have enough to do already!

Had a great great great teen art class last week. Took them to one of my favorite spots in Asheville, a derelict bridge where nature is taking back the urban landscape. Full of strong straight lines for perspective practice, graffiti, a burbling creek and early spring growth. A little slice of urban sketching heaven for me and the 6 teenagers.

I had planned several exercizes but they got into the first one so much I didn’t stop them. Even the “non-artists” felt successful and enjoyed it (one of my main goals).

I was so happy there – watching them work, experience, learn. And I drew as well. I remembered the deep lessons of the simple act of observing what you see and putting it on paper:

Everything can be seen only in relation to everything else
There are no real edges
The tension between complexity and simplicity is a place to practice free will
Learn to see what is there vs. what you think is there

Grateful for these opportunities.

Secret of Kells

23 Mar

oak_spiralFinally saw this movie last night (it’s available on Netflix). The art is exquisite, the story mythic, layered, the music hauntingly beautiful. I loved it. Reminds me of Miyazaki’s work, it’s that good.

It tells the story of Brendan, a boy who lives in an irish abbey of monks in the dark ages, learning the skills and magic of manuscript illumination against the well-meaning will of his uncle, the abbott. It addresses the role of art in the face of evil, as well as the power and mystery of nature as a source for spirit.

Last week in my Fairy Art class, since it was St. Patty’s Day, I read them a leprachaun story and taught them some things about illuminated manuscripts. We illuminated our intials, incorporating an animal symbol. The kids enjoyed it and each had thoughtful reasons for which animal she chose.

Preparing for it, I remembered this movie, which had been highly recommended to me years ago.

Doomspiration! To tell stories like this, tying history, religion, myth, humor, beauty, nature all together. This is my white whale. This is what Heart of the Beast and Paperhand do that thrills me. It was made by Cartoon Saloon (now in my links), an irish animation studio, and directed by Tomm Moore. They are releasing a new film this year called Song of the Sea.

After seeing it, despite a day-long headache, I was inspired to start sketching some ideas for the Woody Guthrie shadow show I’ve been tentatively planning with a friend. But it is coming out more film-ic than puppet. Wonder why…

White Whale

22 Mar

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but
unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with
thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s
sake I spit my last breath at thee!

Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

Came across this article today Write your White Whale.  His first question grabbed me:

Which idea, of all those swimming inside your brain, are you compelled to pursue the way Ahab was driven to hunt Moby Dick?
Here’s how you know: you’re scared to death of it.

Something I think about in the middle of the night. Glad to be asking the question at least.

I got a (mostly) satisfiying prototype made for the bull head. This is a project for a show called Animalia. It’s a surreal fairy tale with circus arts performers and will be performed at an outdoor amphitheater in late April. Two friends and I are making two very large bull puppets, to be manned by two puppeteers each.

photo 7I tried foam (inspired by my Odyssey of the Mind kids’ endeavors) but a 3′ x 4′ block seemed too heavy for one puppeteer to manuver.  I tried a basketry structure (with reeds and then with wire) but don’t have the skills for that yet, nor the time to learn them before April.  So I called on my old friend cardboard and the work started to flow.

This is card stock. Next step is to make this again, small scale in corrugated plastic. This is the stuff that political yard signs are made of and I now know they sell it at Home Depot in small and large sheets. Once I get the hang of using it and perfect my pattern, it’s time to blow it up big.



Rite of Spring

21 Mar

stravinsky 1952Great teen art class yesterday. We looked at album art from the last 60 years, discussed design styles by decade and the signifiers of genre. I made up a couple of quizes using Pinterest boards, where they had to guess the genre or year an album cover was designed.

We talked about the 5 purposes of design (descriptive, utilitarian, emotive, decorative, narrative). I got that from my neighbor Steve Aimone’s excellent book Design: Lively Basics for Artists and Craftspeople.

Then they paired up and each had a chance to be the musician client and the designer, creating ideas and sketches for a new album. They really got into it.

I try to coordinate the music I play while they work, with the theme of the class. There were way too many choices this time.

One of the album covers I showed them today, as an example of a decorative purpose for design, was this one by Stravinsky. Being the first day of spring I decided to play his amazing piece The Rite of Spring. The bassoon at the beginning is so evocative, and those drums with brass later are primal. Paul Rosenfeld, in 1920, wrote of it “pounding with the rhythm of engines, whirls and spirals like screws and fly-wheels, grinds and shrieks like laboring metal”

Genius. Also played Hotel California for a little variety 😉

At some point I want to share some of my lesson plans online. I get my best ideas from other art teachers doing that. Incredible Art  is a good source, and Pinterest is amazing. Thank you awesome art teachers out there for helping me inspire these kiddos!

Seems easier for me to write about teaching than art making.