Saturday, February 23, 2013

Introductions and Stamp Making

week 08 card

I realize it’s Saturday, which is typically when I post the second card of the week; however, this week has been a little crazy, so I’m posting both of them today. The first card for Week Eight is “introductions”. Although the card has a photo of a man, you don’t have to limit yourself to the introduction of a person.

Other types of introductions include those written by authors, intended to be read before beginning the rest of the book, article, manual, etc.; or the introduction of an event, new technology, the latest toy, and on and on…. There really is no end to the possibilities for this one. In some ways that can be exciting – you can do just about anything! – and in some ways quite overwhelming (I tend to prefer clear boundaries, hence the deck of cards).

week 08 card

The second prompt for Week Eight is “make a stamp”. This is similar to the red deck prompt in Week Two, which was “hand-carved stamp,” except this time your challenge is to find something around the house and use it as a stamp. For the example on my card, I took one of the plastic rolls that was emptied in my ATG and inked one side with red Staz-On ink (this particular ink works great on plastic, metal, etc.). I also used this kind of stamp with paint on my first art journal page:

color wash over ledger paper

The page doesn’t look like this at all anymore (this was the background), but you can still see the circles made from the plastic “stamp”. Great image!

Knowing both prompts at once may alter how you approach this week’s project; don’t resist it, just go with it, and perhaps in the future you’ll want to wait until Saturday to being working. I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to try something different once in a while. Inspiration will find you, but only if you’re working!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

“Perfect” (2003) Simple Plan

Hey dad look at me
Think back and talk to me
Did I grow up according to plan?
And do you think I'm wasting my time doing things I wanna do?
But it hurts when you disapprove all along
And now I try hard to make it

I just want to make you proud
I'm never gonna be good enough for you
I can't pretend that I'm alright
And you can't change me

'Cuz we lost it all
Nothing lasts forever
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and
We can't go back
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect

I try not to think
About the pain I feel inside
Did you know you used to be my hero?
All the days you spent with me
Now seem so far away
And it feels like you don't care anymore

And now I try hard to make it
I just want to make you proud
I'm never gonna be good enough for you
I can't stand another fight….and nothing's alright

'Cuz we lost it all
Nothing lasts forever
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and
We can't go back
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect

Nothing's gonna change the things that you said
Nothing's gonna make this right again
Please don't turn your back
I can't believe it's hard
Just to talk to you
But you don't understand

'Cuz we lost it all
Nothing lasts forever
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect
Now it's just too late and
We can't go back
I'm sorry
I can't be perfect

thinking boy

Have you ever felt pressured to be “perfect”? As if such a thing exists, right? Really it’s just another word like “normal” that was created to give us a baseline, an idea against which to measure ourselves. As long as sin exists in this world, there will never be a “perfect” person.

So why are we so hard on ourselves? On our friends, family, children? Why do we expect so much from others when deep down we know even our best day, we couldn’t live up to that expectation either? I don’t have the answers friends. I don’t think there are any. But maybe we can aim for a solution anyway.

Take a few minutes right now and think about two of your most significant and meaningful relationships; not ones from the past, ones that you’ve lost or let slide, but two that are present and active in your life right now. Can you name them? Now think about your expectations for those two people. Are they realistic? Do they push them to grow, to become better people, to find and live out positive changes? Is there anything about them that might hurt that person, or you?

We aren’t perfect, will never be perfect, and therefore shouldn’t expect anyone else to be perfect. It’s up to each one of us individually to encourage and grow each other. If you’re sitting there thinking “Well other people have unrealistic expectations of me, too,” then push it out of your head. That may be true, but it shouldn’t stop you from changing your own expectations of them; instead, it should make you even more determined to be the one to change. After all, we should be the change we want to see in the world, to lead by example. You’ll be amazed at how many of your loved ones will follow when you start walking the right path.

Stitched

week 07 card

Although sewing is a lost art in our culture today, it was once a much practiced and necessary component. I’m sure you’ve heard the old proverb “A stitch in time saves nine”. It means a little effort now prevents more work later. Those who first spoke it were literally referring to stitches, knowing it’s best when you first tear something to take a few minutes and repair it. Otherwise it will only tear more, costing you more time and the need for more stitches later.

It’s a timeless truth that  procrastination often requires more work in the long run. I find it ironic that this (and other proverbs with similar messages) have endured, and yet we seem to be getting lazier as a race. I include myself in this, of course, as some of my best work has been produced at “the last minute”.

[Rabbit Trail] That reminds me of this paper I wrote in University, I believe it was during my second year (which was actually my first Senior year, but that’s a different trail altogether). The class was called Paradise Lost and was supposed to be a Senior “capstone” course, focusing on John Milton’s epic poem of the same name. (By the way, an epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem [tells a story], ordinarily concerning a serious subject and containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation.) We spent three months reading and discussing it – and I honestly don’t remember any of it!

I do remember writing the main paper for the course, which I uncreatively titled “Milton’s Paradise”, which was due on a Wednesday morning at 11. The reason I remember the day and time is because I wrote the entire thing that very morning – 15 pages in about 2.5 hours – and got a B+. As I said, some of my best work has been done at the last minute. Not the course of action I would advise for anyone else, but for me, sometimes it paid off to waste some stitches!

Just for fun, here’s how the paper started:  “The ideas of the earthly paradise held by Milton and his contemporaries reflected several centuries of acceptance, rejection, and interpretation of earlier myths, theologies, and literature. In Paradise Lost, Milton sought to understand the beginnings of man and his world – the development of knowledge, religion, government, marriage, and family – and to relate these beginnings to later history.” [End Rabbit Trail]

I imagine one of these days I’ll go back and read that paper again, probably find several much needed edits and change it, and maybe even re-read the poem since I have a feeling I never actually read it the first time around. But not today. If you’ve managed to stay behind me while we traveled that trail, we’re back to the second week seven prompt “stitched”. I believe we left off with an old proverb and some irony. I love irony. Too many Rabbit Trails today!! Must resist.

I also mentioned that sewing is a lost art. That’s not to say it’s never done anymore, just that it’s not as necessary or commonly used as it used to be. We now have fancy machines – and I don’t mean the ones we have in our craft rooms – that can put together an entire outfit in less than five minutes.

Personally, I haven’t yet begun to explore sewing. I have two machines, both were given to me, that are in working order. One of them is a “Jean Machine” capable of sewing through denim. A jean quilt would be awesome – I love weight when I sleep! I also have four drawers (in a cardboard dresser) FULL of fabric:

fabric pile 1    fabric pile 2

These are a few of the piles (organized by color, of course). I could make a lot of really fun things with all of the colors and patterns I have. Two sets of fabric came altogether, with instructions, to make some pretty awesome quilts. I just need to get started! I know how the machines work, in theory, I just haven’t gotten my craft room organized enough that I feel able to start this new adventure. Story of my life, to be honest – always waiting for something more before I can do this or start that. What a waste of stitches!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Idle Hands

No doubt you’ve heard (and probably quoted) the old adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools” in one form or another. Though I can’t remember a specific instance, I’m sure I’ve said it to at least one of my students or the child of a friend. So I did some “research” (meaning I typed it into Google) and found this:

“‘Idleness is the root of mischief.’ This maxim has been traced back to [Geoffry] Chaucer's 'Tale of Melibee' (c. 1386). [It was] first attested in the United States in 'Collections' (1808). The proverb is found in varying forms:  ‘Satan has some mischief for idle hands to do’; ‘The devil finds work (or mischief) for idle hands to do.’ From ‘Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings’ by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).” [italics mine]

Upon further “research” I found some information regarding The Tale of Melibee here. It was the second tale in Chaucer’s collection The Canterbury Tales, the only one that Chaucer did not write himself. In fact, it was a translation based on a story that was a translation based on another story. For that reason alone I would think it worth reading, although you apparently can’t find it in some contemporary versions of the collection (that link explains everything).

Like most maxims/proverbs/adages/clich├ęs, it has lasted for centuries because it states a simple truth about human nature that will never change. In this case, referring to the necessity of constant forward motion. I find it very apropos (very appropriate to a particular situation) as an elementary Special Education teacher. When a child’s hands are idle, mischief is never out of reach! Which makes Fridays in our classroom particularly stressful some weeks [smile]

As many of you know, I work in the Resource Room at a local elementary school. Taking some time on Friday afternoons to cook something simple and delicious has become part of our routine; we only have four students from 12:30-2:00, as compared to our normal group of fourteen who come and go (most kids are served M-Th for one or two half hour blocks). These particular students are in greater need of some independent living skills than extra academic work, so we’ve been working on basic recipes. This past Friday, our resident supervisor of the cooking process was out sick, so we decided to try a Valentine’s Day-themed art project. Here are the hands at work:

gabe s hands workingparker d hands workingscott b hands workingshannon f hands working

I must say they did remarkably well for students with fine motor difficulty and short attention spans. The idea was to make a “mixed media canvas” using a cardboard base, Valentine themed scrapbook paper and embellishments, and some good old fashioned Elmer’s School Glue. I cut the paper into 6x6 inch squares and had them tear strips and/or pieces to collage the background. They used paint brushes to apply the glue and embellishments. It was my goal to have this take an hour; they finished up after about 50 minutes, and each one was as unique as its creator (these children happen to be in grades two, four, and five):

gabe valentine wall hangingparker valentine wall hangingscott valentine wall hangingshannon valentine wall hanging

My instructions were simply to choose three or four of their favorite papers to layer on the background, tearing them (no scissors necessary) and gluing them down. They were given some embellishments, and the rest was up to them! I am so proud of their creativity and determination, and I know whomever they gift these to will receive them with big smiles and hugs. I look forward to future projects, and will try to share more photos of the great work they encourage.

For those of you with children, this might be a fun way to make an extra special gift for someone you love – it’s quick, easy, and allows for a great deal of individual creative expression. The possibilities for materials are cheap, easy to access, and endless! (I cut up an old box for the bases, and some paper I didn’t particularly like for the decoration! They can be any size or shape. Tearing paper is a good release of energy and helpful for kids who struggle to use scissors.)

Two Birds With a Patchwork Stone?

week 07 card

Well it’s time for week seven already; not sure how that happened! I haven’t done my page/project for week six yet but I will post photos as soon as each step is finished. I admit, the last two prompts were difficult even on their own! “Behind the Fence” and “Date Night” is an odd combo, and I want to do something worthy of the creative challenge. A few times in the past week I considered adding to one of the first pages I made for my first art journal:

spray and stencil    07 five-0 reasons 2

This was it’s progression – from a basic green background (using Dylusions Cut Grass ink spray I got from Paper Pals) and a some painted bubble wrap texture on the top and a tree on the bottom (its orientation was landscape originally), to a pair of trees (and a portrait orientation) which I disliked even more, to a gesso covered background with a house, a fence, a yard, and a two faceless people (haha) in swimwear. I made them that way because of the page it goes with:

06 five-0 reasons 1 (0105 1)

This page is on the left in my journal, the people on the right. It says “Five-0 Reasons to Love Me….” with a surfboard for two reasons I think the new Hawaii Five-0 rocks (and Alex O’Loughlin is hot!); and I would like to have my wedding on a beach some place warm (preferably Hawaii, but I’m flexible). Eventually I’ll put a list of 50 reasons to love me, but I’m still trying to decide how I want that part to look. So really, the fence is already there, and date night would go along with the existing concept. But two things. First of all, the fence was an afterthought of decoration and background layering, not an integral part of the page.

Second, and more important, I don’t want to use a pre-determined idea as my response to this week’s prompts; the intention behind this project of drawing two cards a week for 52 weeks (or one year) was to help me achieve my goal of making art every day. So I still have nothing for week six, but I’m thinking on it.

Back to week seven, which starts today:  collage background from scraps. This is a fun one; in fact, I already have one almost finished, but I made it a few weeks ago so I’ll be making a new one with some different colors. I find the act of layering a background with smaller pieces of paper very relaxing, almost meditative, so perhaps it will free my subconscious from the dreaded (dare I say it) “artist’s block” and help me finish last week’s as well (hence the “two birds” title).

While we’re on the subject of layering backgrounds with scraps, I find myself wondering how many of you reading this made some sort of resolution/goal or perhaps even edict (a proclamation having the force of law – very intense, very pertinent) to use up your scraps of paper you’ve been hoarding.

This would be a great project to get that ball rolling! Especially if you can find a way to use this prompt for something other than a small art journal page (like say about twenty ATCs for trade night next week? They would all be unique, make great backgrounds, even for a later trade….)

It would also be a great exercise to let go of your control a little and just randomly grab, say, [insert number here, preferably an even one, if not don’t tell me] pieces of paper – and use no more, no less – to fit together. A collage based on reckless abandon…. hmm. Very intimidating, very daring, very….creative?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Date Night

week 06 card

Have you ever had to answer the question “What’s your ideal date?” (or maybe some variation)? According to my good friend Mr. Webster, ideal means “existing as an archetypal idea”. To help you out, I also looked up archetypal, which means (in the easiest way to explain it) “a perfect example”. When you put all of that together, the question becomes “What is your idea of the perfect example of a date?” If you’ve honestly experienced one, I’d love to hear about it!

Of course, “perfect” isn’t something that exists literally; it’s just a standard against which we measure things. Same with “normal”. (I don’t think anyone would bother to ask your idea of a “normal date” though, so we won’t follow that rabbit trail this time.) Which brings us back to where we started:  date night.

This is a term I’ve most often heard when referring to a married couple getting a chance to spend time together without their children. It can be other things as well, such as “girl’s night” or “guy’s night”, or a chance for a parent to take a child out for something special – “date night with daddy”, etc.

Since I’m daring to “explore” this year in new and exciting ways (that was said with extreme sarcasm and I’m laughing about it, on the inside), it’s my goal to attempt thinking “outside the box” for this week’s project. I don’t mind this kind of activity, although I do love boxes, especially square ones. This week is particularly challenging, which makes it even better – how can I create an art journal page about “behind the fence” and “date night” (separately, and then combine them!)?

That remains to be seen. Two more days to finish things up, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised! Both with whatever twisted perception of reality I decide on, and whatever creative inspiration you find for yourself. Don’t be afraid to try something new this week! Happy crafting!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Welcome to the World Little Angel

happy birthday 020713

I would like you to meet the newest member of my extended family, Troy Thomas. He was born just over three hours ago, weighing in at 7lbs 10 oz, 20.5 inches long. His mommy is a very special friend of mine, whom I have adopted as my little sister – which makes him nephew number #6!

I don’t know when I’ll be able to meet him, but I already know he will be a precious and much-loved part of my life no matter what. With everything that’s happened I must say that I am very proud of my little sister and I look forward to watching this special blessing grow.

The cycle of life, the simple fact that miracles happen every day, all around us, always causes me to step back and take a few deep breaths, just letting the sheer magnitude of God’s awesomeness wash over me. I can’t imagine loving anyone even a fraction of how much He loves us; these new little gifts are such a warm, soft, gentle reminder that we are special and beloved. Could it be possible that one day I will get to have my own precious angels?

I’ve spent some time the past week thinking about this month’s one little word intention “explore beliefs,” and one thing that keeps coming back is my belief that I will find someone to be my life partner and father of my children. Some days I think about him a lot, wishing he were here so I could tell him about something that happened, or ask his opinion or advice. Sometimes I think I just need a hug (I tend to go weeks at a time without any touch); other times I just feel so….lonely. And there are days when, no matter how much I fight it, I just can’t bring myself to believe it will really happen. Life seems to get in the way, mess things up.

I would like to blame autism for making me alone, pushing people away or keeping them at a distance, but it’s not the reason, not on its own. And really, it’s not about blame at all, but timing and faith, and not letting myself stop believing that God has a plan for my life that includes my own family. As much as it hurts to be alone right now, His time is always perfect and I choose to wait. The blessings I will find when that time comes are even more unimaginable than loving as I am loved.

So tonight I am going to find peace and joy in the birth of my newest little nephew and trust God to keep him and his mommy safe and secure, and that’s all I need. Bunches of hugs to you little sister, I love you so so much and I can’t wait to see you again and meet little Tadpole!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Behind the Fence

      For as long as he lives, and probably longer, he will never forget her face.
      It was Friday afternoon. The neighborhoods in this part of town were amazing. Well-kept lawns told of expensive lawnmowers and landscaping classes at Ivy League Universities; cool pastel colors in coats of fresh paint boasted of holiday bonuses and deceptively calm exterior lives; even the children’s toys scattered around the front yards seemed orderly and precisely placed. It was enough to make him wonder what the inside of the houses looked like, what these people’s lives really consisted of.

                                                                       - from A Black and White Photograph


week 06 card

So begins a short story I wrote over ten years ago, about a day in the life of a taxi driver, five of his fares, and a ghost from his past. It’s called A Black and White Photograph, and was meant to show my six roommates (five girls and a guy) how I perceived them. Of course, none of them really got it. But it was a great story.

It was the summer of 2002 and we were renting a house in Seattle. I didn’t have a job, was only friends with one of them, and was not in a good place as far as my autism went, so it was not a summer I look back on with fondness. A few good things did come from that experience – this great little story, and the beginnings of my first novel A Guest In My Life, which has since morphed into Coming Home (a work still in progress I’m afraid) being among them.

Although the last time I actually read all of it was a few years ago (it's in my "to be revised" folder), I don't think I really spend any more of the story exploring the idea of what lies behind the calm, quiet exteriors of the suburbs, as that wasn't my purpose for writing it. And yet, when I drew this card for the first week six prompt, it immediately came to mind.

So, what’s really behind the white picket fences of a “typical American neighborhood”? Do they even exist anymore? Did they ever? It's become quite a cliche in our culture, especially after "Desperate Housewives" started. I suppose it depends on where you live. To me, our country is like a giant box of puzzle pieces that all look different and unconnected, then you put them together and see this amazing picture of unity in diversity, an irony that will never cease to intrigue and inspire me. I could write a whole blog just about the mosaic of America! Maybe I will. But not today, it's too long of a rabbit trail, we may never get back.

I also thought about one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost. It’s called “Mending Wall,” and I found a great commentary at Spark Notes that also includes the poem. I would definitely recommend reading it a few times (since we all have so much free time!) and the notes that follow. They discuss boundaries, both literal and figurative, and the many layers that are always found in the provocative writings of Mr. Frost.

I honestly have no idea how I will use “behind the fence” in my art journal this week, and I must say it’s kind of exciting. I’ll continue to “explore the possibilities” as I put it in the slow cooker of my subconscious and work on some other projects. Hopefully by Saturday I’ll have something to share, along with the second week six prompt. So far I’ve really enjoyed the combinations I’ve drawn from the decks and the pages they’ve inspired. Here’s to another great week!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Explore Beliefs

2 february

February is now upon us; in fact, two more days and it will be one quarter past already! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time flies. My Great Aunt (we called her Aunt Grace, because that was her name, and she was my Grandfather’s Aunt), once told me that the older you get, the faster times goes, until you reach a certain age when it slows down again. I suppose that age is different for everyone. She lived to be one day over 101 years. I wonder when it slowed for her.

For me it seems more like an ebb and flow than a constant stream of faster. Some days seem to drag on, while others pass much too quickly.

Of course, none of this has much of anything to do with my One Little Word, other than I have moved from “explore possibilities” in January to “explore beliefs” in February; from “what if….?” to “God said….” My first prompt for this new month (well, technically my last prompt for last month) was “explore a question,” and I almost decided to explore a question of belief. Then I decided “because” was more fun for an art journal. So this next step hasn’t yet been taken.

There’s a song written and performed by the late Rich Mullins that I always think of when pondering my beliefs; it’s called Creed, and you can watch it on YouTube by clicking the title. It has some great shots from Wichita and surrounding areas, as well as from a Compassion International site where he sponsored children.

This song not only has great music (he plays the hammered dulcimer), but it also describes some basic Christian beliefs. Those aren’t what I plan to explore this month. I was thinking more along the lines of what I believe for my life and the things God has commanded as well as promised.

I’m also beginning to work on the second project of the One Little Word program, which involves making a vision board (the first was to make those little cards for each month), so I’ll be posting pictures of that process in a few days. So far I haven’t learned much, but I didn’t really take time to really explore possibilities. I’d like to change that, as well as share more with you, so be watching for more of my random ramblings, and be sure to enjoy this early Spring!

Just Because

week 05 finished (0205)

Here is my finished page for week five. The lighting sucks, as usual, so you can’t really tell that the background colors are red and blue, the “why?” is white, and the hearts are white. Like most things, it’s much more impressive in person! I explored a question (why) with an answer (because), and just slipped in the smile at the bottom. This page actually sits opposite my response to the week one prompts (Superhero Ninja Skills), which is kind of like coming full circle. Except it’s only the end of week five, out of 52. And I don’t like circles. I prefer squares. And even numbers. And tacos. Of course, that will have to be for another time.

In case you were wondering, here’s what the page looked like before I started adding this week’s prompts:

20 2 of hearts 1 (0112 4)

Not super elaborate, but I thought the hearts turned out kind of interesting. I actually made two of them because I messed up the first one experimenting with crackle paint. I painted it blue, then covered it with light brown crackle paint, but instead of letting it dry on its own I used a heat gun. No crackles. So I made another one, and painted it blue, and covered it with crackle paint – and then I let it dry for a while and I had some fun crackle action. It’s actually on a different page in my art journal.

No, I don’t know why I painted them blue if I was just going to cover them with crackle paint. But it made these sort of “heart shadows” for this page, so all is well. And now this page has a purpose (why? because) and I am ready to move on to week six and two more inspiring prompts. Stay tuned….

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Smile

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
- Dr. Seuss

week 05 card

A smile is one of the most contagious things we experience. Kind of like a yawn, but more healing. It’s something we learn very early in life – if I smile, I can get out of trouble, or get what I want (those of you with young children know exactly what I’m talking about) – but for some reason we seem to forget it as we get older.

Think about it for a minute – close your eyes and hop aboard my imagination train – what would the world be like if we passed on every smile we received? Have you seen the movie “Pay It Forward”? It would be that same concept, except absolutely free and painless! The world would literally change in a matter of days!

Ok you can hop down off the train now [smile] Another great benefit of the smile is how easily it brings about another healing experience – laughter. How many of you just laughed? I love hearing laughter, especially babies! Just thinking about it makes me smile! Too bad no one is here with me to receive it and pass it on….

Friday, February 1, 2013

Explore A Question

week 05 card

The way I see it, there are two ways of thinking about this prompt:  you can choose a specific question to explore, or you can explore what a question really is.

“A question that sometimes drives me hazy:  am I or are the others crazy?”
- Albert Einstein

625 crazy face                                    nate 1

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”    - Bruce Lee

“The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’”
- Sigmund Freud

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?”
- Ayn Rand

“If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?”
- Lily Tomlin

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is:  what are we busy about?”    – Henry David Thoreau