Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hanging my soul on the wall

One of the great pleasures of moving is hanging art. Memories and soul comfort merge as our empty walls start to fill with color and line. Here are three favorites already up: more to come in future posts.

"Thistle" by T. V. Pigenot
We purchased "Thistle," a limited edition print, with two other couples for someone's wedding ... except one wife didn't like it. We were stuck with the $100 piece as newlyweds. We framed it and enjoy it to this day, though we would never have earmarked 1/8 of W's monthly salary for it. That's right; W made $800 at his first full-time job at a college. I made about half that teaching piano from home, which helped us survive.

"helleborus orientalus", 2004

My first-ever watercolor emerged under the expert eye of a British painter. She guided our night-school group through the selection, sketching, and painting of plants at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. She taught us to buy the best quality brushes and paint we could "because you'll hardly fall in love with art using inferior materials." I still travel with myWinsor & Newton paintbox.

When we arrived in the UK, I figured no one knew who I was. I'd wanted to learn painting so I introduced myself an artist. Strangers accepted that at face value and I signed up for art courses. This first painting makes me smile with fond memories of intense, focused hours, playing with pencil, paint, and brushes on exquisite paper. The hellebore painting marked the first time I'd brought flowers to life in watercolor.

I studied with other top artists. (Who doesn't want "Cambridge professor" on their resume?) I learned willow weaving with Mary Butcher, the first non-royal female admitted into The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers (a guild established in 1569), bending blue and green and pink willow stems into shapes. I sketched tin cans and old shoes under an outstanding pencil artist. I even persevered through an eight-week figure drawing course that shocked, taught, and settled my heart. Humans are beautiful, though figure drawing was not about the math formulas on perspective that I'd expected when I signed up. (However, I'd promised God that whatever he brought my way, I would do. Opening that classroom door in all innocence, obedience was a stretch. I learned about compassion, human adaptability, and art, and was thankful when the course ended.)

I wasn't very good. But the pleasure remains alive every time I see what I made.

"Red Tree" by Casey Klahn
Red Tree by Casey Klahn inspires me. Casey, a Northwest University alum, found his voice in pastel, creating unexpected landscapes and ideas through unconventional color. I bought this little piece at his exhibition at the school: my favorite duty as chair of the university art committee was recruiting artists for art shows.

In what ways has visual art shaped your soul or expanded your appreciation of Creator God and his world?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dreams of a flu-ridden plant lover

A decade or more ago, I was in bed with the flu. I could hardly move for a week. My brain was fuzzy.

The view outside my window was spectacular where the forest waved its leaves in the wind. Closer to home, the balcony sat empty and neglected. Once my brain started to churn (before my body could get me out of trouble), I dreamed up a plant and bench combo for each end of the bedroom deck. I wanted seating, with side openings that would fit easy-to-find planters.

My design was simple. I sketched it on a piece of paper, crawled out of bed to measure the balcony and a Costco garbage pail (the easiest planter I could think of), calculated the length and width of the planter and its parts, figured out where the screws would go ... and went back to sleep. I was happily surprised by the drawing when I work up.

The first day I was well enough to drive, I headed for Home Depot. Their lumberyard kindly cut the pressure-treated wood to length. The wood was so heavy and I so weak that I could hardly drag it upstairs to the balcony.

I fastened all the screws from the inside, so none were visible from the outside. By the time my husband came home from work that day, the 2'X6' planters were done and set in place. (My birthday wish a few years before had been a complete toolkit. I love that power drill!)

I positioned the braces for the seat inside the middle support frame. By lifting up the seat, I could stash away my watering can, fertilizer, and garden supplies.

The planters may have been roughly finished. They weren't the prettiest things I've ever seen. My husband was surprised when I showed him the planters - finished. He was appalled at the sturdiness and weight of the wood (2X4 and 2X8s) perched two stories above ground. And he painted preservative on the cut ends of wood. Good man!

With flowers trailing over the sides, the benches lasted over 10 years, 5 upstairs and 5 on the front porch. They became weatherworn but never rotted.

I sold both planters last weekend @$25 for both because we're redoing our patio entry. They need a good powerwash and some fresh spring plants.

A planter, open last winter

The gardener who bought them was thrilled. "These are just what I was looking for! I have several places in my garden where these benches will be fantastic." Judging by the interest on CL, others would agree. I took pictures as we were packing them into the woman's pickup. "Goodbye, benches! Happy life elsewhere."

Oh the things one dreams into being when one is ill!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring chicks

Our granddaughter has learned to walk around the house to see what's new. Here's her surprise for the week:

Easter "chicks" on the moss tray. Molbaks had some miniature furniture for the terrarium. I snagged an Adirondack chair and table, a lamp, and a bicycle.

I pulled some young Moroccan mint from our sidewalk outside to upgrade the "lawn", added a palm tree to lean the bike against, and left the stones in place for a stream.

I can't wait to see Kinsey's face :-) when she notices the new landscape on the LR coffee table.

LR before... Winter
Here's the LR before and after. We swapped to cream slipcovers. The moss tray on a Saudi Arabia embroidered cloth replaces an African elephant on a board from a Chinese storage chest.
LR after - almost Spring

Sketching with a fountain pen

Sitting in a meeting yesterday, I sketched the speaker across the room. Palm behind her.

When I was done, I wet my finger and smeared the shadows in. She was far away, so I couldn't catch the details.

This morning, waiting for my friend at a coffee shop, I sketched the man at the next table. He read the paper, sat for a half hour, and left. I found eye shadow in my purse and filled in his skintone.

When I got home, I brushed on color (W&N artist colors).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rainy day wonders

Last fall, I headed out to drizzle and came home in rain. 
Red on red
 As we walked, I stuffed my pockets with beauty.

Sunday, I watched one-year-old Kinsey pick up fallen leaves
until her hands were full.
On the road to adulthood, it seems we forget to look around
to treasure the simple pleasures of God's abundance.

Even the leaves were dancing this morning.
Moss tray

Now my office moss tray is bursting with color.
Granddaughter Kinsey stops picking things up when her hands are full.
Her Oma stops collecting when her coat pocket won't zip shut.
**Oh God, thank you for beauty in the rain.**

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gone wall-crazy

When we moved into the house 18 years ago, 
our bathroom needed detailing. 
The fixtures were current, the mood neutral.
The walls were a plain golden white or "French brie,"
according to the descriptive label on the paint can.

The Schumacher motiv that started
it all: reinterpreted at 3' tall

Within a week, in the confluence of ideas that is typical for artists, 
I saw a wallpaper ad by Schumacher 
and the dotted photos in Barbara Milo Ohrbach's book, "Simply Flowers." 

I suddenly knew what I wanted on the walls.
I bought a few metallic gold markers and went to work.

Ohrbach's inspiration

 Each time I went near the bathroom, I would "dot" the walls.
 I estimate that it took 50-60 hours to complete.

  Some bouquets were simple.


Some were more complex.


The one beside the toilet grew into a 5' monster,
which I dislike to this day.
I remember walking outside to eye the concrete planter
for a model to contain the ebullient cabbage roses and vines.


I found a terra cotta uplight among our building supplies.
W painted it to match the room
before I dotted flowers on it
and "X"'d a ribbon on its edge.

Though I've thought about changing the decor on the walls,
the flowers have stayed.
It feels classic and timeless.


Peeking out from behind bathrobes white towels,
or twirling around the door and over the 3-way mirror,
the wall design is neither garish nor loud.
The subtle gold on yellow-white walls is soothing.
Spa-like, even.

The view keeps the eye moving and interested,
even after nearly two decades.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Apartment Therapy weekend challenge

Apartment Therapy does a "January Cure" guaranteed to whip the house into better shape. One of the weekend assignments was more pleasant than washing floors or cupboard doors.

The task? Buy fresh flowers, arrange them. and enjoy.

I headed to Trader Joes, picked up 3 miscellaneous assortments
@$3.99 each. (Eat your heart out, New Yorkers!)

Then I pulled out an oval crystal vase that has sentimental meaning
(gift from my "best" uncle and aunt.) I poked the flowers into a
Japanese floral frog (weighted spikes) and quenched the 
thirsty bouquet with water.

I love the mix of pinks, orange, and red berries.
The chartreuse mums contrast nicely with the deeper greens.

It's beautiful from all sides, 
whether in my living room (above) or dining room (below).

Thank God for flowers in all their glorious dress, 
for eyes to see their colors and shapes, 
and hearts to appreciate their beauty!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mossy beauty

 When the days started to turn cold last October,
I re-purposed an 13"X20" plexiglass drink tray to make a moss garden.
It invites my reflection and a closer look at nature.

Once in a while I pull out my camera phone to capture
the microcosm that lives on my desk.
Today the mosses rest, quiet and calming.

Sometimes it looks like a forest in miniature.
I see fallen logs, stream beds, undergrowth, and loam.

The moss garden needs misting each day
or it dies back.

If I leave for a few days, it looks pitiful. 
The baby tears that sowed themselves among the moss disappear
and the lush mosses turn dry and brown.

Within a few days of misting, the green and greys
spring to life and the baby tears reappear.

I wonder some times at how big and small worlds collide.
A life here, a community there, and global humanity everywhere.
The same creative thumbprint of our Creator connects us all.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creation day

The first tote - polka-dots galore!
Many artists talk about energy welling up before they paint, compose music, or sculpt. Creative tasks lie unfinished until "it's time!"

Works for me! Having cheerful people walking by the cabin helps boosted my "Do-It" mood. Glacier Camp was hosting the first day of the annual "West of 60s" camp. All those friends chatting, strolling, and visiting made me smile. (I have 4 more years before I can attend. I've been waiting 15 years for this camp. It looks like they have much more fun than any other group.)

So... I was thinking. For our daily walks to the post office, I could use a lightweight backpack tote. I bought two 1/2-yard fabric remnants that sat for a week while I figured out a work process AND waited until my art energy got high enough to tip the "GO!" bucket.
The second tote: more subtle navy and cream

The synergy happened at noon. The how-to process became suddenly clear as I hauled out the sewing machine. Within 15 minutes, I'd finished two tote bags, one from each remnant. And then, why not? I used the leftover panels to make a third, a two-print tote.

Tools of the trade: minimal! for maximum fun
When I was done, I was still on the prowl. Upstairs in the cabin, we'd ignored a "Ugly" entertainment center for several years. It's a sturdy Broyhill piece that doesn't remotely match anything else we own.

A few days before, I had a germ of an idea and bought a roll of white MacTac (sticky contact paper, for non-Canadian readers). Seemed like anything white I could create on that storage piece would at least match our white walls! We have a birch trunk in our entry and a few birches outside. White. Well, white-ish. Voila. A birch idea took shape.

"Am I done yet?" Nope. Doesn't feel complete.
The "creation day" seemed like the perfect day to camouflage the piece while I was still looking for something artsy to do.

I started by cutting somewhat-straight lengths from a 78" piece. We had a perfect razor knife (from putting up blinds) that zipped through the stick-on paper like nobody's business.

I thought I might be done after putting up the branches: I remember an art instructor saying the trick for artists was knowing when to say enough. But nope, I wasn't quite ready for "the End."

Left side
Right side
A few more snips and I had a finished product - for now. After a few gashes in the long trunks and a few leaves ...

I considered some pencil shading for realism. [I put those in but forgot to take pictures. Another big improvement.]

It felt like there was still art energy to burn off. Oh oh! I ran down to the kitchen to cook something wild and tasty before I did something silly.

What's your creative project this week?

[This is a repost from August 2012 at]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Praying in paint

Our pastor challenged us to pray 10 things for 10 minutes. One day, I journaled my prayers in watercolor:

My prayer of 10

Praise be to the Creator!
Forgive us our sins
Do the impossible, what only You can do

Make us mindful
Help us to replicate what is good
To model eye-to-eye

Bring those who need you to yourself
With hearts soft and open

Change our attitudes from darkness to light
And let us live and move in concert with You