Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Its Nutcracker time Once Again: 12/7/11

Rehearsal at the Waverly in Woodstock Illinois Photo by Dan Swinson ©2011
Claire, photo Dan Swinson ©2011
I am trying so hard to savor each moment of my 2011 Nutcracker Experience.  It will be a bitter sweet one I'm afraid.  Colin and Claire have one more year before they move on.  They will go separate ways.  My twins will begin to have their own lives, apart.  I don't want to dwell on that.  It is hard enough knowing they will soon be seniors.  I want so much for each of them.  I want their dreams to be fulfilled.  I want them to be the best they can be and I hope they will always stay in touch. I hope they will want to come home on the holidays or that I and their Dad can go to them on the holidays.  I hope.....

So how is this years Nutty shaping up?   As I said, I am trying hard to savor each moment, smile with each trip I make to the Opera House because something was forgotten, rejoice when I have ballet shoes to sew, take the home Christmas decorating in stride even though I have Christmas this year, shrug when I spend umpteen dollars on carry out meals through rehearsals and performances, make no comments about how many small loads of dance apparel I have to wash each night for the next two weeks, revel in each performance that I have tickets for (I have five performances that I am seeing and 3 that I am ushering), be a proud Mom no matter what happens in each performance, be a kind Mom when first time Nutcracker parents are trying to figure out scheduling and the tricks of the trade (so to speak), and finally, soak up the compliments with humility from other parents and friends.  I want to remember everything.  I want to be a part of Colin's and Claire's triumphs.  I just hope I deserve all these precious moments because they will be over all too soon.  Merde my dear Colin and Claire. 

Love MOM

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So much to be thankful for: 11/22/11

So its the eve of my second favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  Reflection time for me is always right around this time of year.  I've had one of those years that as a mother, realized some of my worst nightmares.  My daughter Kaitie has had two close calls as of this writing.  The first was the accident on June 4th that totalled her car and realized an ADHD diagnosis.  I had a hard time coming to terms with just how close she came to being seriously injured or worse.  After spending some quality time with God, I resolved to be a better mother to her, to be more patient (something I have never been able to do), to love her unconditionally and accept her for who she is, not what I want her to be.  That accident was every mother's or parent's worse nightmare. Continuing, just when I thought life was good, God sent me another wake up call.  Kaitie was rushed to the hospital last week.  She had developed a serious kidney infection (started most likely as a UTI) which went septic.  We spent two days on pins and needles as the health care team tried to figure out an antibiotic scheme that worked.  I tried so hard to be strong for her but I did finally break down in front of her, my family, the nurses, and her boyfriend.  I could not believe we were facing this.  How could this happen and get to this point?  I have always been able to catch her illnesses before we had to resort to emergency care.  You know, step throats, ear infections, and even a UTI when she was very young.  How could I have missed this...  I really guilted myself out and for the last week have been pretty subdued.  How can one protect this young adult?  Is it even possible.  Well she is home now, back to school and work, and even though she is still on the antibiotic regiment, she is herself again.  I know God would not give me more than I can handle but really...two close calls in such a short time span?  I am grateful that I finally had enough sense to get her into the hospital, too much longer and it would not have been good.

So what else am I thankful for.  Well there just happens to be this wonderful man in my life.  And then there are my twins, my gloriously talented twins.  There is my home and my wonderful greyhounds.  My health, my friends, being gainfully employed (both of us), my art, and of course the Nutcracker (which is just around the corner). Lest I forget my God who keeps me grounded in reality.
I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving.  I for one know just how blessed I am to have my family around me on this holiday....  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Surfacing Again: 10/30/11

I simply have not been able to put together contiguous thoughts nor meaningful ones for the past 3 months.  So do you ever question why you started a blog in the first place, do you wonder if your words are worth reading, who really cares, do your talents make people want to come back and revisit your work/writings...  I am in one of those periods I guess.  I have never really been good at keeping this resource up to date.  My priorities switch so often.  Perhaps its a touch of my ADHD (really).  So when I am feeling like this I try to go back to the real reason I started writing using this venue...yep...for my children who are almost young adults.  I hope truly that they find this little gem one day and really peruse through the stories and artwork...maybe they won't judge me so harshly.  Gosh this sounds like a pity fest.  The funny thing is, I'm really OK, just a little befuddled at times. 

Skulls for the Passionate Frida
Most of my August was spent ordering, organizing, and preparing for my part of the Passionate Frida Workshop.  I honestly don't know how I got through that.  For four nights, I spent my time with the dancers from this ballet making props which included 24 skulls, over 200 paper flowers, decorating maracas, and teaching (not only the art part but the history of Mexico from early 1900's through Fridas death in 1954).  It was so important to me that the girls and guys understood the essence of Frida, and that essence is in Mexico herself.  I hope the kids learned something.  In these pictures by Dan Swinson you can see two of my props.  The folding screen contains a mural that was copied from one of Diego Rivera's works.  Mrs. Svalander wanted her Diego to be working on a mural.  And below is the cubist painting that I copied again from one of Diego's originals.  This was used during the scene when Diego was painting a portrait of Christina, Frida's sister.  I have to say this experience was very rewarding.  It pushed me as an artists, to go where I have never gone before.  By completely immersing myself in the life o
Frida, I was able to almost understand her passions, Diego, her art, and Mexico.  Then when the ballet premiered, it felt almost surreal.  The dancers were absolutely incredible.  Because I studied Frida's life for the workshop, I could follow in depth the symbolism used in this work.  It was a once in a life time opportunity.
Since Frida, I have been preoccupied with preparing mixed media classes for the Studio School of Art.  I also took an on-line workshop with the Fabulous Katie Kendrick which was relaxing and freeing.  Because Frida was so much on my mind, during Katie's class, I started a collage which is all about Frida.  I started it in September and it is still waiting for me to finish :)  My ADHD has gotten the better of me and I am now working on several projects at once getting no where.  I have two workshops coming up.....  Oh and its Nutcracker Season.  Colin and Claire are in the thick of it...They still do not have a license and I'm still driving... 
I'm going to leave my entry at that...I read some of my back logged favorite blogs today.  So glad to see beautiful art...                  k

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Recap 8-15-11

4 AM  7-10-11, all ready to leave
I don't even know where to begin.  My summer has been one of hurry up and wait, stress, little art, and proud momma moments.  Busy = something had to give, sadly, it was my blog.  Having been away for 2 months, I was surprised to see this new lay out in BloggerIt took 10 minutes to get reacquainted.  I can't decide if I like just yet.  Anyway, my emotions ran the gamut this summer and I often found it difficult to put anything down in words.  The blog got pushed aside.  After Swan Lake, it was all about getting Colin ready for his four week workshop with the American Ballet Theater.  I spent most of June making lists, buying supplies, emailing back and fourth to the program coordinator, etc...  Meanwhile both Colin and Claire were taking classes (a summer intensive) at their year round ballet school.  They also took drivers ed and so I was in the car on and off all day during June and the beginning of July.  My oldest was registering for our local college and that was an ordeal in itself.  And then, the magic day for Colin was here, July 10th, he and his father headed to Texas and the adventure was on.  Colin took classes at the ABT program in Austin Texas at University of TexasI really was not all that weepy when he left, it really hit me though later that evening when I did not hear him on his XBOX 360.  I looked forward each day to his phone call, his Facebook updates, his voice, his pictures.  I mad sure to send him a daily picture of his Mandy dog ( our female greyhound, he adores her) and made sure to send him a weekly snack package. Claire, on the other hand kept me busy with ballet classes, the gym, and the pool. My oldest, Kaitie, well its been a long hall with her.  After her huge car accident, we sought professional help and she was diagnosed with ADHD.  Talk about a whirl wind of doctor appointment.  I am still trying to get her meds dosage correct.  At the college, I set her up with special needs accommodations but that was no easy ordeal.  I started the process and July and I am still gathering paper work. At the end of July, Claire had her showcase performance.  This was the culmination of 6 weeks of work.  No photos, of course, but let me say, she was a bright star up there on stage.  Her smile, her presence, was the best I have seen it.  This summer she was accepted into the JSSB company course and because it is so rigorous, she improved her technique and learned some partnering skills.  Mrs. Svalander brought in guys specifically to work with the company dancers.  As one might suspect, guys are few and far between at the local ballet schools around us, well around most local ballet schools across the country, but Mrs Svalander managed to gather up enough young men to work with our girls.  What a perk.

Claire in Summer Show Case
On with the ABT.  I don't have many photos.  Colin, being Colin, took none.  There will be some shots though, by a professional photographer, however they are not posted yet.  On August 4th, my husband and I went down to Texas to pick him up and see his final performance.  The ABT accomplished much with these extremely talented young dancers.  To get a show ready in just four weeks.....  Colin grew so much during this time in Austin.  Not so much physically ( his height is the same), as emotionally.  He had the opportunity to dance with other male dancers that were as talented (and then some) as Colin.  To me, that was huge.  When I saw the guys on stage together, it made me so proud that Colin was a part of it all and he danced so beautifully.  I cried of course. I have to hand it to the ABT program.  For Colin it was so worth it. Even though he had a full tuition scholarship, Marc and I still had to cough up room and board and food.  Not to mention the air flights and transportation costs associated with getting around Austin...  What the heck though, this is Colin's dream.  This is a company Colin would die for (to get into it).  So we roll with the punches...  I think that Colin has made some life long friends.  WIth social media, he won't loose touch.  

My version of a Day of the Dead Skull
Meanwhile, we are preparing for the next show...No, not nutcracker, although auditions are coming up very soon.  Mrs. Svalander was invited to stage a new ballet about Frida Khalo.  This is for/in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month (October).  The performance is October 1st.  Yours truly is helping out with the props.  And that is where is where I am as far as my art.  I had all these great plans for finishing actually collages.  Where the heck has the time gone?  And the sad thing is that I knew this would does every year, every extended break (Christmas, Spring break).... I just can't seem to budget my time at all anymore.  I did manage to get an application in for the Raue Center galleries this coming year but that is about ll.  So as September fast approaches, I have a list a mile long that are "must get done" now items.  Sigh......

P.S.  I have a new internet friend that I just had to mention.  Her name is Susie and not only is she a marvelous mixed media artist but she totally relates to all my blurbs about my ballet mom life because she too is a ballet mom.  It hink that is so cool.  The internet brings so many people together.  Susie, thanks again for your email.  Here is Susie's blog link...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Swan Lake Reflections: 6-20-11

This past week I spent some time recovering from Swan Lake rehearsals and performances.  I did the hurry up and wait routine about 3 times per day during the tech rehearsal week and then went to 4 performances of Swan Lake on the (the 10th, 11th and 12th).  No art has been done for the past two weeks but I a beginning to get the itch again, gratefully.  Colin and Claire have had a down week this past week as well so I spent much of my time with them.  My 18 year old, who is really going on 30, was rarely home at all so I was grateful to spend some quality time with my 16 year old twins.  Claire and I did some shopping, her favorite past time, Colin and I did some movies, we all sat down to dinner together which is a rarity and I did a lot of home cooking.  We also hit our health club 4 of the 5 weekdays which is a perk as well.  

Each night before I fell asleep I put together some thoughts on my children's performances.  It is funny how it works but with each passing year I can see such great improvement in their technique and in their performance.  Thanks to the magic of professional videos, I can relive all those memories.  This particular performance found both Colin and Claire in solos. I am so proud of both of them!  Claire, recovering from mono, lit up the stage.  Regardless of how tired she was, you would never know she was ailing.  Her personality just totally came through.  Colin was absolutely incredible.  He was pure grace and power.  I was able to watch him perform as prince (he was the understudy) and I have to give him kudos.  His range of emotions were right there.  You could see just how in love he was with his Odette yet he was totally conflicted at the same time.  Bravo are destined for the big stage.  Enjoy the little slide show will see what I mean :)

Mrs Svalander, our studio's artistic director, invited some friends to attend the last performance.  These friends were former professional dancers from about 40 years ago.  They made sure to tell Colin how talented he was which just about sent him into tears.  I really don't think he wants to admit how talented he is.  I think that is a defense mechanism for him.  These ladies, some in their 60s and 70s, we never met before but you just sort of knew that they were former dances (with Stone and Camryn in Chicago) because of they way they moved.  I was also moved my their comments.  I mean really choked up.  I am always amazed at the range of emotions this performing art brings out in me.  The ballet is something extraordinary and I do hope, dear readers, you take the time to see one at least once. 


And so, here we are at another week.  Colin and Claire have started Mrs. Svalander's summer intensive which basically preoccupies ~8 hours a day (with lunch and dinner breaks) 3 days per week, and about 5 hours the other days (except Sunday).  Colin leaves for Austin Texas on July 10th to participate in the American Ballet Theaters summer intensive.  I do hope he posts daily on Facebook (feel free to friend him if you want to follow his exploits, Colin Ellis).  My husband and I will attend his final performances down in Austin.  I am so excited for him.  Claire will have a final summer intensive performance too and I do hope she is given some beautiful solo moments.  She is ready for them :)   I need to put my artist cap back on.  But that may have to wait for a while long...I have to gather all Colin's stuff, and there is a lot of it, to pack and send down before he leaves, and also pack him up for the actual trip.  Never a dull moment.  

Least I forget, all these photos are © Dan Swinson, whose talent is awesome.  Thank you Dan for allowing your faithful followers to use some of these photos :)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Swan Lake

Swan Lake 2010:  Photo by Dan Swinson
This photo is from last years production of one of the most beloved ballets, Swan Lake.  And this is what I have been up to all this week.  Tonight begins the marathon weekend of performances.  Coin and Claire are totally pumped and you can feel the adrenaline in the air.  So as alluded earlier, this week has been about getting the kids to and from rehearsals and waiting...  I am too involved with the excitement of it all so I have not been able to concentrate on much else.  I wonder if other parents of children who dance or perform on stage feel the same way as I do.  I can't buy tickets for just one show, I have to buy tickets for 4 shows.  I have long ago come to the conclusion that Colin and Claire will be 18 all too soon so I am going to enjoy every minute as a ballet Mom and a very proud one at that.  The house work will always be there, so will my art, so will the wash!!!  But my children have always come first no matter what the cost.  We've sacrificed a lot through the years so they could have the best training available and it is paying off in a big way.  Colin has chosen dance as his career path and will be studying at a summer intensive with the American Ballet Theater in July, Claire wants to go to college to pursue her dancing.  I'm smiling ear to ear.  So as I sit here and type this, I am eagerly awaiting the first performance tonight.  As soon as Mr. Swinson has some photos available I will post them.  He is a fantabulous photographer and has a knack for capturing dancers in their finest moments.  


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Breathing 6-8-11

"Transformation"  completed 6-3-11
 I have been meaning to summarized my last week.  I really had good intentions to write on the weekend.  But as it always seems with me, time just gets away.  I'm back on a path again, not exactly the one I was on before this past week, but at least its a path.  My oldest has recovered from the shock of her car crash and is asking for a car that I say, fat chance.  We just found out her $16,000 car has $12,000 worth of damage. So now we wait for our insurance agency to decide if they total it or fix it.  My Claire has been cleared for dance.  Thank God.  Up until yesterday, I had a tight grip on her making sure she got plenty of rest, fluid, sustenance, etc... We allowed her to mark her part but no more than that.  Last night was the first rehearsal that she actually danced and she brought tears to my eyes.  She will remain fatigued for some time but as long as she knows when to rest, all is good.  My son had the opportunity to dance the prince part in Swan Lake last night (rehearsal).  He is the prince Sigfried understudy. So I was invited to watch him perform his actual part as well as the understudy Prince Sigfried.  I have seen his Benno (best friend of the prince) and have always been amazed at his athleticism, but his boy actually acted the part.  Its one thing to dance well, its another thing to embody the part.  And this he did.  I was in awe.  My 16 year old son, looked so love smitten. I wish I had pictures.  I can't wait to see the actual performances this weekend.  Right now, this is what is keeping me in the game :)  I'm  thinking that Mr. Dan Swinson will have some pictures of rehearsals up soon. 

Another bright spot these past couple of days was the completion of "Transformation."  Because this piece is so textured, I was at a loss at how to seal it (since it will not b3e under glass).  I settled on my go to sealer, Dorlands Wax.  Worked like a charm.  I was able to finish and seal by Thursday of last week.  The wax cured for 24 hours and then I buffed the finish.  Voila, I was ready to let her go on Friday.  I wanted the recipient, Mrs. Hirsch, to open it while I was standing there.  Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw the joy this piece brought to her.  She was almost speechless but not quite.  The hugs and the smiles spoke a thousand words.  I think I will offer prints of this one if ever I get time to get my ETSY shop up and running once again. 

Swan Lake is this Weekend.   The Black Swan photo below is by Mr. Dan Swinson and is of one of our beautiful dancers.  If you live in my area and want something completely cultural to do this weekend, head on over to the Opera House.  This is a fantastic ballet and danced so beautifully by The Judith Svalander Dance Theater.  Both my Colin and Claire have big parts :)  I am a proud Mom for sure.  My studio time will be non existent until after Swan Lake.                  
Presented by:

Judith Svalander Dance Theatre
June 10, 11 & 12, 2011
Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM
Sunday at 2:00 PM
Tickets: $23.00 Adults & $16.00 Students

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Transformation Nearing Completion and thoughts on Motherhood.

Its been a hell of a day.  As I sit hear, in tears, I can't decide i I am feeling sorry for myself, filled to the brim with frustration, or grateful for all in my life. I've been reading, almost religiously, Kelly Rae Roberts blog for several years now.  She became a mother for the first time about 7 months ago.  Her posts, naturally, are filled with the wonders of motherhood and also the the real fears that come along with being a new mom.  As a Mom, I have relived, through her words, all my children's births, their firsts milestones, their first day of school....And yet, I say to you Kelly, nothing can prepare you for when you have to start letting go.  My Claire, at 16, was diagnosed with Mono.  While of course its not the end of the world, it feels like the end of her world to her.  Swan Lake is everything to her and with performances next weekend, we are hoping and praying she can perform.  The real back breaker though, was this afternoon.  My 18 year old was in a car accident, her fault, that pretty much totaled her new car. As I raced to the scene, nothing could prepare me for the look on her face nor the flood of relief when I saw that she was not injuredI wanted to strangle her but instead I grabbed her and held her tight as we both sobbed together.  So much went through my mind.  Every little giggle or smile or coo she made as an infant, her struggles all through school, her triumphant high school graduation, her happiness when we put a down payment on a new Honda Fit (which by the way has a high safety rating and I believe in any other small car the outcome may have been different) only 2 months ago, her first car accident last month.....  Kelly Rae enjoy those precious moments.......  So now on top of illness we all have this to deal with.  I know I could have lost her, I know I have so much to be thankful for, I know...I guess I am just feeling sorry for myself.  And I'm feeling scared.  How do I let her get back into this car?  I have worried every time she goes off on her own and it seems my fears were justified.  I always said if I could just get them through high school...  Sigh, tomorrow is another day and I'll spend it one the phone but I'll survive.

After the accident happened and after dealing with the insurance company, I headed to my sanctuary.  Here is where I am at on this mixed media collage.  It is nearly done.  Not only is it a work of love, it saved me tonight from a total melt down.  The photo is from the iPhone 3Gs which isn't the best quality but I'm saving the scanner bed for the finished work. I'm probably going to do another glaze over the entire piece and add some sparkle on the dress to emphasize the magic of the moment. Her bodice is adorned with gems. The dress is 3-D because I used white tissue paper. So I am pleased where this piece led me.  I totally worked intuitively having only a picture from a magazine of a dancer that I sketched.  The rest just sort of happened.  The background though, really set the mood and after the sketch, it just happened.  There is a good chance that I will finish it tomorrow.  Then I want to seal it, wire it and scan it (not necessarily in that order).  I can't wait to give it to my twins ballet teacher.  That will make my day, my week, my year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Slowly Getting There: Progress as of 5-31-11


For my children, this past weekend was the first one of the summer.  School is out, no tests, no homework, no papers and both are sick.  My son has a nasty cold and sore throat, his twin sister seemed to have something much worse.  I took her to urgent care on Sunday.  I thought she had strep.  All symptoms pointed to it.  The doctor wanted a rapid strep test and it was negative.  So that left him with a probable mono diagnosis.  SHIT.  Swan lake is in two weeks!  Well tomorrow I will take her to her pediatrician and we will get a blood test.  I am hoping for anything but mono.  Her glands are so swollen she can barely talk.  Nasty.  Art time has been minimal.  I guess I should be use to it :(  I did get into the studio today and here is where I am at on the piece that will be a gift.  I still have more to do but for the most part, it has come together.  Being a little distracted, I have lost the enthusiasm for this work.  Need to get it back so I can finish it! I have a working title:  "Transformation"  and it suits the work. I do have some words I want to add as well.  Let me say that this photo is an iPhone one and the colors are off.  When I complete the piece, I will definitely scan it.     Its funny, as I am looking at this piece here in this post, I can focus in better on areas than still need defining etc....     Hmmmm  K

Friday, May 27, 2011

Demo finished from Spring Scape class: 5-26-11

"First Thaw"
 Just a tad bit whimsical, this mixed media and collage depicts the joy I feel whenever I think about Santa Fe in the spring. Actually the inspiration for this work is steeped in the art of Phyllis Kapp, an
internationally collected water color artist who resides in Santa Fe.  She turns 80 this year and I wanted to create a piece in her style.  While she of course is a painter, I altered these papers in southwest themed colors for use in my work.  The piece is entitled: "First Thaw."  In addition to the papers, some of which are from the Paper Packet project, I used acrylics, water soluble oil pastels, artist crayons and gel pen.  The work is  8 by 8 inches and is on canvas board.  

I did manage to work a little further on the piece below.  I have not titled it yet but I have a few ideas that I am ruminating on.  I hope to take a quick picture later today.  I probably won't get back to work on it till Monday as our weekend is shaping up to be really busy..that is nothing new :)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Gift inProgress:5-26-11

Step 1:The Papers
Step 2: Background painted
These last few days have been heaven sent.I am finished for the school year (yea, I graduated 10 pre-k children) and my own children are still in school (she said with a smile). Colin and Claire have finals right now and tomorrow is their last day.  I am taking advantage of this peace and quiet to do what I love to do...create.   since I have the luxury of time this week, I though I would share some of the steps involved in this piece as I go along.  This work is for a very special woman.  She is one of Colin and Claire's dance mentors and has just recently had a baby.  I usually don't like to share my work so early but I wanted to share the evolution of this piece because I am becoming attached to it (on many levels).  I took these photos with my iPhone 3GS so the poor quality should speak for itself. 

Having dancers in my family, well I am often inspired by their performances. Very shortly (2 weeks to be exact)Colin and Claire will be performing in Swan Lake. So it seemed appropriate to do something in that vein, especially since the new baby is a girl. The basic papers include some  adds from Dance magazine, an old Swan Lake program, and old ticket from Sleeping Beauty, and some pages from old books. The papers set the mood.  In Step 2, I glazed the papers in three acrylic using Misty Mawn's sort of style for moving the paint around.  I then used some alcohol and rinse aid while the paint was still wet.  This accounts for the streaking.  Step 3 was done today. Now you can see where I am going with this.Since we subscribe to Dance Magazine, I found a photo / pose that I liked and sketched it as best I could.  Using a Stabilio pencil to sketch and then I whetted a brush to push the graphite around to sort of shade in those darker areas (like an under painting but cheating a little). I have several more elements to sketch in and maybe do a transfer rather than sketch the final element. I can't wait to see this unfold. There is still much to do.....

Step 3: Loose Sketch of main image
On another note, the artist reception for the collage show called E/Glued,was wonderful.The show was beautifully put together and showcased the work of about 15 artists from around the area and out of state as well. I was indeed very proud to be a part of that show. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures grrrrrr. I forgot. But in my defense, I had a second artist reception to go to that same night.  I sort of was preoccupied. David Becker, renowned water colorist / artist, had a reception that was for his students. He teaches at The Studio in McHenry and has quite a following.  The show was wonderful and I am so glad I had those few moments to soak in all that talent:)  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Post Graduation: 5-23-11

Its official, Kaitie is out of high school.  I surprised myself by not crying.  That is really unusual for me but the ceremony was so large and almost impersonal.  I just could not get into it from an emotional view point.  I hope that doesn't make me a bad Mom. Kaitie ran off with her friends before I could really give her a huge hug.  I did finally get one and then I had to face a mass exodus of about 2500 plus people from the parking lot.  I mean really!  It was insane.  We celebrated briefly with cake and balloons and roses and then she was gone.  The parties are in full swing and it seems non stop.  I do remember my graduation and I too was a person in absentia for weeks on end :)  Good for you Kaitlyn!  Enjoy this time with your friends.  Soon everyone will be heading in different directions.

I finally came up for air on Sunday and got some studio time in.  I finished a piece called Vernal Pools from my Claiming Sanctuary series.  I also started a piece for an extra special Mom.  Here you see the papers I selected and these are adhered to a masonite board (cradled).  They may or may not be seen in the final work.  Next I will add more texture with coats of acrylic paint and perhaps some thicker media like molding paste or I don't know, whatever moves me.  There will be some drawing too.  Can't wait to get going on it. And finally,I will be in the Art of the Land benefit once again.  I finally finished the paper work (porcrastinated till the last minute as usual.  The Raue Gallery also send me notice that I can submit this year for a gallery show with them.  Lots cooking!  Teaching a collage class tonight too called Spring Scape.  Then I am taking a break (teaching break) till August.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Prom week: 5/2-5/6

Who was I kidding?  Did I really think that I would be able to get into the studio this past week?  At least I had a little time on Sunday to reflect on what being a mother means to me but even those few precious moments were very fuzzy due to a nasty cold that I caught this past Thursday.  I did a lot of running around for my 18 year old this past week.  This was her senior prom.  She worked last week, most nights and so details were left to me.  There was a big part of me that loved doing these things for her, you know, ordering the boutonniere, running down hair accessories for the new do, digging out the her camera and making sure it was charged, finding that perfect clutch bag (which she hated and did not take), washing her intimates, and the list went on... And then there was a small part of me that totally hated doing all this stuff.  Maybe it is because it was her last prom, maybe it was because I am finally realizing she is a young woman, or maybe it was because I never want this part of her life to end.  I am so dreading her leaving...  This is where my mothers day reflection came in.  In the fall, Kaitie will be going to our local community college.  I know she will still be living here at home but between school and her job, I will see her little.  She is making decisions on her own now, driving her own car, making her own appointments for hair, dentist etc, and has her own very active social life. bittersweet.  This high school time has just flown...just as I knew it would.  I tried to grab hold of it, tried to treasure each week, month, year...but come May 19th, Kaitie will graduate. She is anxious to leave it all behind, to start a new chapter, to move on with her life.  She is anxious to be her own person.  I just hope that I made the right decisions for her during the past 18 years and that she had internalized at least some of the age old wisdom I tried to pass on.  Being a mom to her was tough, very tough.  But there was one thing that came very easy...loving her.

Kaitie and her date

Monday, May 02, 2011


After the Paper Packets project culminated in our show, I took a deep dive.  I really needed a break from it all.  So no art since the 15th of April.  Now its time to get back at it.  I have a few ideas of where to go with my Claiming Sanctuary series (using papers from the paper packet project) and I have a new work I want to start for a very special baby named Ava.  I also just delivered 3 works to the first ever all mixed media and collage gallery show in our area.  Its about time!  That show begins May 5th and runs a month at the Old Jail House in Woodstock, Illinois.  Also I have a May 30 (or so) deadline to submit the works I want to hang for The Land Conservancy "Art of the Land" show in September.  It is really nice to be juggling these shows.  

Back to the Paper Packet artist reception.  A nice evening was had by all.  I think we stirred the pot a bit with these works and I was so proud of all the emerging artists.  I was overwhelmed when I viewed all the finished and framed pieces.  Absolutely amazing.  A few of the works sold as well and that was just icing on the cake.  I'm not sure how we will top this project.  It was a while in the making and I so appreciate all the artists sticking with the program.  I think it was a real learning experience for me in that while I have been in gallery shows, I never have been on the planning side of a show.  I can't thank Lucy enough for her support and guidance.  We learned the hard way.   There are things we will do different next time for sure.  But all in all, I think the show was a success.

Finally, on April 24th, Easter, my father-in-law turned 88.  Here are my twins helping him read a card.  Dear Jack is in the throws of Alzheimer. It has been a long road for my husband and his sister.  My husband and I feel pretty useless.  Between running our 3 teens around and all the other baggage associated with them, it has been hard to be there for Jack.  He is deteriorating quickly.  My sister-in-law is a saint.  She has been running interference between his doctors, psychiatrist, and the woman who runs the home where Jack is living.  It has been a nightmare for her.  Hopefully his meds will be figured out soon and prescribed according to his needs. 

Hopefully I will be in the studio at least one day this week.  Prom is Friday and it is Kaitie's Senior prom.  Big day.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blog Giveaway Winner 4-12-11

Jen McBride

First I would like to thank those of you who commented on my NOVICA post...You all had a great shot at this gift certificate for 50.00.  I numbered the comments on paper and then had my husband draw one...drum roll please....  Jen McBride, you won!!!!!  So congrats and now you can spend a little more time on NOVICA's website.  Enjoy...OH and I will send you the info once I confirm your email. 

Now off to seal my fourth piece for the gallery show/opening/artist reception this Friday!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Ecological Ethics in our Global Society

Well the big day is almost here.  Our Paper packet project ( inspired by Seth Apter and Laura Lein-Svencner) will culminate in a themed show entitled above.  This Friday is the artist reception and it is hard to believe we are really doing this.  We (meaning 13 artists from The Studio) started this project back in late October.  And now all the altering is done, collages created, works matted and framed, details for the show worked out, and works are starting to arrive for hanging.  I am so proud of the ladies who committed to this project.  Anyway below is a write up that we will display as guests walk in.  And I would be remiss if I did not post my third work, Sedge Meadow III, in the continuing series- Claiming Sanctuary.  Finally, if you want to win that 50.00 gift certificate, you need to comment on the entry below this one.  I select a winner tonigh (at random). 


Sunday, April 03, 2011


Tigger and yours truly.
 Spring break has been utterly lousy.  We spent the entire week searching for a car for my 18 year old, now gainfully employed.  Car shopping is right up there with getting a cavity filled, it basically sucks.  But that is another story and rant. I was much more pleased with my shopping experience at the Novica website and that has been much more pleasant to write about.

Novica is an organization committed to helping artists and artisans in developing areas of the world, through Internet sales.  This of course is a win win situation for the artist, their family, and their community.  Preserving the time honored family traditions of handmade, unique goods, Novica has brought the world to the artists and prospective buyers.  While their are plenty of other fair trade sites, Novica seems to go one step further because the organization has eliminated middle men, putting more dollars in the artists pocket. This link provides information on the organization and how it started:

In an earlier post:, I described my perspective on Fair Trade.  What got me interested in the subject matter again was that little email from Novica.  Having discovered my blog post on paper packets, Ricky asked if I would be interested in reviewing Novica for my readers.  Before I said yes, I spent some time on the site and just fell in love with all the goods from incredible artists/artisans all around the world. I read all about the organization, asked questions, got answers and then decided that I would bookmark this site for my future gift giving needs (and I do have a few that would appreciate the uniqueness of the items of this site).  I also decided to review my purchasing experience with Novica.  During this process, Ricky invited me to make a purchase.  She gave me a gift certificate to use.  In addition, she said I could use part of the certificate for me and maybe offer a portion of it to my readers.  Great idea and so I am going to have a give away for that $50.00 gift certificate (details below).    

Having been a research scientist in my former life, I had questions.  I wanted to know if prospective buyers had to become a "member" of the site: NO.  If you do decide to fill in your personal info and become a "member" of sorts, there is no obligation to purchase.  I also wanted to know about National Geographics affliation with Novica:

         "National Geographic is an investor in Novica and has been primarily attracted to our mission of helping      preserve traditional crafts that have been disappearing in many corners of the world. Along with National Geographic, we're also funded by the World Bank, the Grassroots Business Fund, and other investors. NG doesn't actively help us find artists, we do that through our local offices in Bali, India, Thailand, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Ghana and Mexico."

While the National Geographic folks don't actually help with finding artists, Novica sends out regional employees to find new artists and to hold contests to find new talent.  Ricky stated that: "We go to open air markets, hold contests, and go to hard to get to places to find new artists. Also, within the artisan community, many hear about us and come to our offices directly through word of mouth. "  I also wanted to know what percentage of the cost of the product actually went to the artists and : "the artist sets their price and then based on logistics and regional factors there is a markup to get to the final retail price," was the answer.   Gift certificate in hand, I went shopping.  Being a bit selfish, I decided to buy a gift for myself.  This however was no easy task.  I love alpaca wool so I settled on a poncho made by Peruvian weaver Isidoro C'cahuantico.  What I enjoyed about the shopping experinece was that I could read a little bio about each artist/artisan which was like a short geography lesson of sorts.  I looked at a variety of products like home decor, jewelry, paintings, and a corporate gift store.  To digress just a little, when I was in corporate America, I would much rather have had a hand made item from this gift selection.  Our corporate gifts, no matter what they were, had the company logo on them.  I mean, who wants to look at barbeque utensils with a company logo on them.  Who really cares.  Great idea Novica.  I almost purchased a really neat frame made from paper which would have been perfect for one of my small paper packets collages but that darn poncho kept calling my name. I ordered and Novica sent me three emails detailing each step of the shipping progress of the poncho from Peru.  It only took 6 business days which just about floored me. Depending on where the item is coming from, shipping times of course will vary.  The package arrived gift wrapped (really cool tissue that will wind up in a collage) and with a post card from Machu Picchu thanking me for my purchase in Spanish. 

So am I happy.  Yep.  I wore the poncho yesterday as it is finally warm enough (40's and 50's) here in northern Illinois.  I received several compliments from sales people in Coldwater Creek and (of all places) Pac Sun.  That never happens to me.  Regardless, I love the feel of the piece.  It is reversible so I can wear the lighter brown in the spring and the darker in the fall.  Love it!

My Mandy and yours truly in my Poncho
Now for your readers, my give away is a $50.00 gift certificate from the Novica site.  Thank you Ricky for such a generous gift and I am so happy I can share it with this blog's readers.  So if you would like to win this gift certificate, just leave a comment on the blog about fair trade or anything you want.  Share the this blog link with a friend and let me know that and I'll enter you twice.  Also, if you do not have a blog, please leave your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  I will use a random number generator to select the winner.  An announcement will be made, Monday April 10th.  The gift certificate expires in early May so hopefully that will be enough time to shop. 

Finally, below are a few links that I looked at on the Novica site.  The Novica Live Link describes home business opportunites,  as in direct sales.  Having done direct sales before, this was not of interest to me, nor was hosting a party because I am so busy.  BUT this is a very different sort of home party and I am sure for those who love to host home parties, these products are so different and unique that it would be hard to resist purchasing them.  The microfinance link describes opportunites for customers to buy products and make loans directly to the artisan, no middle man involved.  I mentioned the corporate gifts section above and there is a section called green gifts for those of us who are environmentally savvy.  These links are only just a small sampling of what the Novica story is all about.  When you go to the site, have your favorite beverage with you and be prepared to be wowed :) 

fair trade corporate gifts
Novica Live
green gifts

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Donation piece Done. 3-26-11

Live With Hope
I have been so busy lately, I barely know which end is up!  And believe me when I say, my ends are very easy to distinguish.  The paper packet project is nearing completion and our art show is April 15th.  One more class meeting to tie up loose ends and answer any question the artists may have and we are there.  I submitted jpegs for a collage show at a gallery in Woodstock, Illinois.  I had to update all my biographical stuff too because it looked so lame, received my application for the Art of the Land Show (an annual event now at the Starline Gallery in Harvard) and I am feverishly trying to finish three to four new collages.  In between all this I did finish a little piece for Michelle's annual Avon Walk for the Cure.  I have been lucky enough to be involved in this small way for that past 3 years.  What I normally do is compose a work just for this fund raiser but because of my commitments this year, I just am really artistically tapped.  I had this work that you see finished here, already in progress though.  It was intended for a fund raiser in Moss Norway (the now famous first ever Twitter Art Exhibit).  Well I never finished this one ( I did however complete another work which hung in the Moss Norway local library for a month). So I changed it up and voila!  I intend to matte it and frame it for the fund raiser. The work is a 5 by 7 inch mixed media and collage on 300lb watercolor paper.  I have been using Arches lately and just really love that paper.  So Michelle, I know you are on Spring Break but call me when you come home.  I just need to matte and frame (have the materials ready) and it is yours :)  

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fair Trade: My perspective

I receive a lovely email about a week ago from a fair trade organization called NOVICA:  The representative from NOVICA had read my blog post on the Paper Packet project that I am spearheading, thoght it was interesting,  and wanted to introduce me to NOVICA.  The organization is a fair trade one and it supports artists and artisans all over the world by giving them a place to sell their work (more on NOVICA in a later post).  So this lovely surprize email started me thinking about fair trade and how we as artists can reach out a bit further than our comfort zone to help other artists in our global community. 

I was first introduced to the concept of Fair Trade by a local Coffe shop called Conscious Cup:  As a matter of fact, it was one of the owners, Mike, who believed in my work and set up my very first gallery show at his shop (thanks Mike).  That was some years ago (2007).  OK so that is another story.  Anyway, this small family run business purchases coffees that are TransFair USA “Fair Trade” Certified, Certified Organic, or certified by the Rainforest Alliance or Smithsonian Institute’s Bird Friendly programs. Only TransFair assures a floor price to members of its certified cooperatives, who must abide by, among other issues, child labor standards and a democratic structure. Organic certification and Rainforest Alliance certifications focus on environmental sustainability but also require growers to meet social and employment standards. They may also buy directly from small select farms and these coffees are labeled "Estate."  Mike and the Shipley family are just passionate about this and one can taste it in their fine roasted brews.  The Shipleys not only support local artists like me but other fair trade organizations too.  They had an organization, who works with, I believe it was Mayan peoples, come and sell some of the artisans works.  The proceeds helped to furnish a kitchen in a school.  They support all sorts of fair trade products and a list of their "friends" are found on their site. With that being said, I have been a big supporter of fair trade coffee but never really thought much more about other products.

With this email from NOVICA, I started to finally realize that fair trade is so much bigger than coffee.  To further explain: as an artist, I find it very difficult to just give one of my pieces as a gift to my friends because well, fine art is a very personal thing and I would hate for someone to receive a piece and hate it...or worse, not feel any emotion at all. Of course if my friends want a commission or purchase a piece of art, that is totally different.  I don't know about you, but my close friends are very hard to buy for.  That is where supporting a fair trade organization for artists comes in.  It just seems very special to purchase a gift for a friend from an artist or an artisan who struggles in a most difficult environment. Supporting an artist who is trying to support his or her family in order to give them the most basic necessities and creature comforts that we all take for granted, well it just plain appeals to me and I know that presenting such a gift to a special friend would mean a lot.    Organizations who seek out such artists usually frequent third world areas.  I do fight with myself over this issue too though because I know that right here in America, the poorest of the poor struggle in the same manner. Everyday, people loose their homes, live out of their cars or on the street, don't have enough food to feed themselves let alone their family.... Yet I know there are other ways that I can reach out to them...volunteering through a variety of organizations, donating dollars, etc..  I do not think that our poorest are selling their handmade products on sites such as ETSY.  Don't get me wrong, I love ETSY and follow several artists and artisans.  I purchase from ETSY for myself and others, however, by purchasing fair trade, I have taken that helping hand one step further into the world. Yes, I think I like this idea very much.  I am going to take a closer look at this fair trade site called NOVICA.  And then, I write a little review for all of you.  Who know...maybe a little surprize will come along with that review.

Thank you all for indulging me. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sedge Meadow II from the series: Claiming Sancturay

Sedge Meadow II
 I finished another sedge meadow piece and finally got it scanned and entered in my art database.  This is the same size as the previous work, 8 by 8 inches, and was done on 300 lb water color paper.  The nature altered papers were further enhanced with acrylics, water soluble oil pastels, and graphite.  I have one more sedge meadow up my sleeve and then I am thinking I will move onto coastal waters.  In between my art I really need to start focusing on the details for the upcoming gallery show.  While I find this process rewarding, details drive me crazy!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sedge Meadow: From the series, Claiming Sanctuary

Sedge Meadow I (from the series: Claiming Sanctuary)
 I don't think I have been this excited about my art in quite sometime.  There is something about working with talented people, all focused on a similar goal, that just gets those creative juices flowing.  This piece, Sedge Meadow I,  is the first in a small series of works focusing on the theme "Ecological Ethics in our Global Society."  The series is entitled, Claiming Sanctuary, and it is a play on words (think about it and you will get it). The piece is 8 by 8 inches and was done on 3oo lb Arches rough watercolor paper.  In addition, I just finished my second piece in this series entiled Sedge Meadow II (not a very creative title but oh well).  And I will probably do a third sedge meadow.  I am totally rocking on these beautiful places that face such an uncertain future (unless we do something now).  

Last Thursday, the Paper Packets group met to unwrap their packets and look at their papers (unfortunately I did not get any pictures even though I had my camera with me).  What a great evening.  We all brainstormed what the the theme of our soon to be gallery show really means. Ideas poured out of everyone and I could barely keep up writing down suggestions on the dry erase board.    I do hope this will ease peoples feeling about having a theme.  Actually, I was so hoping that this would focus our artistic efforts as well as unify the show.  I think those that view our works will have some semblance of understanding why these works are so meaningful and just how truly unique they are.   After all, it is not everyday that mother Nature has such a huge hand in the process.  Once these papers are gone...that is it.  They are one of a will be the art that is produced from them.  I am so excited for all of you ladies.  I know your work will be amazing.  Our gallery show will begin April 15th (with a meet the artist opening) and then run about 4 weeks.  Still a lot of work to do but it is the kind of thing I thrive on.  This subject matter is so near and dear to my hear.  I just wish former Vice President Al Gore could make an appearance (hey why not dream big, I mean really big LOL). 

This will be the first gallery show for many of the artists participating in this project.  I want to thank Lucy at The Studio for lending us her space.  I know that your walls will be adorned with incredible work.  I hope this experience will be fun and not so scary.  You are all amazing artists!  Your work and voice should be seen and heard.  Remember, we are all in this together and I could not be more proud of you!

I have some other things cooking too.  I really have to get cracking on a collage gallery show that I was invited to participate in (once my jpegs have been looked at).  And this morning I received a lovely comment on my last blog post that I though was really exciting.  I need to look into this a bit further though and then I'll post about it. And finally, I need to do a piece for my the Pink Ribbon Angels breast cancer fund raiser.  I'm smiling could not get much better than this.

More pictures will follow soon of my papers (as I work on them) and of course, my finished piece.
Happy and peaceful Sunday to you all!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Studio Time: Paper Packets project 2-22-11

My packet right before I
brought it in.
Papers after removed from packet
More time in the studio today.  I have all this energy right now and I really am not sure why.  My poor house is a mess (which is pretty usual) and I am not any less busy but my priorities have shifted again.  I really want to complete my first piece from my personal papers that were in my packet at home by this Thursday. That is when our group meets at Lucy's Studio to unwrap their own packets. I further altered some of the papers, coated them with polymer medium, and have begun to rip and tear away.  My first pieces will have to do with preserving landscapes for future generations.  While the images will be abstract in nature, I think the title of each piece will help the viewer feel my story.  I have nothing in mind yet except for a sedge meadow that keeps coming to me, as a place of beauty, right before I fall asleep at night.  I simply can't imagine what would happen if these meadows disappeared.   How would that effect the environment? How many species would become extinct or at the very least, endangered?  What about the the water cycle and oxygen cycle? Would that tip the scales?

copied from:
papers after further altering

Ecological Ethics is the theme for our gallery show (in celebration of Earth Day).  I hope our work will convey some sense of urgency to the viewers.  If not through the actual works, then through our voices as we greet people and tell them our story.  The work will be unique in as much as the papers and other items that were used to create them, were altered by Mother Nature herself.  Once they are gone, there will be no others like them.  They are unique, just as each work is unique. I feel very strongly about this topic and I am so proud to have been able to get this project off the ground for our artists and our community.  I do plan on writing up a little summary of the work (and why each piece is so unique) to hang with the show.  Lots to do before Earth Day !!!! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Paper Packets: Drying and ready to go 2-21-11

After the storm
This past Friday, the paper packet project actually became a reality for me.  Its one thing to bundle up a bunch of papers and throw them outside to decay (if you will) but it is quite another to rescue them after almost 5 months of exposure to the elements, lay them out, and begin the creative process.  The packets that were put together by the Studio's mixed media class, were rescued from the Studio's little portico.  A few of the papers were still buried under snow (from the great snow storm of 2011) but most were accesible because there had/has been a big thaw.  On the home front, I brought in my packet which had been hanging on one of our white pines for 5 months.  By Sunday, the packet was dry enough to unfurl and then the fun began.  I felt like a kid in a toy store...looking at the contents of the packet.  Some of the papers were coffee stained and tea stained while others were stained from easter egg dye tablets.  Still others were frail and I had to handle them with care.  The pages from news papers that I included actually bled some what.  My only regret is that I did not stuff that packet with more papers. 

So much snow, Feb 2011

On Thursday of this week, the group will get together to examen their packets.  I can't wait to see the looks on their faces as they rip through the screening that held their papers.  While I wait though, I have begun to stain the papers from my packet at home in colors that have a earthy feel.  Greens, blues, browns, grays etc.. will be needed for the art that follows.  I spent most of Sunday and Monday altering and getting really messy (my favorite part).  My goal is to have at least one work done by Thursday's class.  I have had a sedge meadow in my brain for the last two days that is just waiting to become a reality on 300 lb water color paper (Arches...yummy).  The ideas for the Earth Show theme are swirling around in my brain...some more serious, others, imaginary places I would love to spend time in. 
After the thaw

Drying in the Studio