Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In The Spirit of Giving

Last weekend I was reminded about a book everyone loves. I think I’m the only one who didn’t instantly love this book.

It started when for some unexplained reason, my kids decided to do a major purging of possessions. It could have been prompted by some noise I made about redoing their rooms if only I could enter them without tripping and breaking my neck. I was expecting their charitable offerings to be the usual couple of bags of outgrown clothes and toys. Instead, they shoved box after box into the hallway as if the items were crawling with bugs. They were finally ready to let go of everything they hadn’t played with in years.

In the upheaval, a book surfaced that I hadn’t looked at since my kids were very young – The Quiltmaker’s Gift. In this award-winning book, a greedy king is persuaded to give away every last one of his earthly possessions as he learns the value of a gracious heart. When I first read it I had some trouble warming up to it, and here’s why: It made my baby cry. Not cry in a “wasn’t that sweet” sort of way, but bawl in a “my spirit is completely crushed” sort of way.

When I asked my then four year old what was wrong, he choked between sobs, “but you have to have at least ONE toy!” I thought he had a point.

I agree it’s a gorgeous book with a great sentiment, and I believe in the philosophy of the story. I think my kids’ willingness to donate is a good indication that they’ve grown up believing in it, too. I just had to agree with my son that giving to the point of being destitute is over-reaching a little bit. I was surprised to have to explain to my kids that being generous doesn’t mean you should deny yourself basic comforts.

Now when I saw the book on the table, I asked my son if it was one of the items he planned to donate.

“No,” he said. “I was just reading it.”

I asked him if reading it was what prompted him to clean out his room.

He said, “Nah. I gave the stuff away before I found the book.”

If he’s willing to give it another chance, I guess I am, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No, You Were Not Framed

Somebody’s in trouble again.

Little by little, seven month old Luna enjoys more roaming privileges as she learns the rules of the house. She’s got an ample supply of chew toys. Sticking to chewing only on those toys is her ticket to freedom. I can identify each toy by the sounds made when she’s chomping on it.

The other day as I worked on a painting, I noticed things were a little too quiet.

We don’t exactly have a lot of priceless items. Our furnishings are one level above dorm room quality. I hope to have grown-up furniture someday - after puppy rearing, of course.

Until recently we had a big denim sofa in our family room. I had hoped it would fade and weather as nicely as a favorite pair of jeans. Instead, it turned the color of low tide and started ripping in random places. I tried to make it shabby chic by patching it with funky fabric swatches. It looked like some kind of weird 60’s tribute. Eventually, it was nothing but shabby. We finally replaced it with something grown-up – a big, soft sectional sofa the color of lichen. How I love that couch.

It’s obvious where this is going. It couldn’t have been the big grey chair that I had to cover with a blanket because it’s already torn. It couldn’t have been the blue striped chair that drives me crazy because the cushion won’t stay put. It couldn’t have been a ten dollar throw pillow. Of course not.

I found Luna gleefully tearing the piping off the corner of one of my beloved lichen-colored cushions (ignoring the cardinal rule of the house: NO eating on the couch). I tearfully stitched it up, but it’s scarred. As for Luna, she can only hope for time off for good behavior.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Crinkly or Smooth?

I like to experiment with painting on different surfaces to create various textures. The illustrations above have a similar subject and style, but one I painted on crumpled tissue paper and the other on heavy watercolor paper. I can’t decide which I surface I like better. I guess it would depend on the mood and setting of the story.

One of my favorite picture book illustrators is Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug). I like the way he uses a combination of painted patterns and layers of paper to reproduce the rich textures of the natural world.

Another favorite of mine, Georg Hallensleben (Fox, And If the Moon Could Talk, by Kate Banks) uses thick, broad brushstrokes to create depth and lushness in his illustrations.

David Kirk’s illustrations in his Little Miss Spider books have a very different texture. At first glance I wouldn’t have guessed his paintings were oil on canvas. They have a sleek, shiny finish typical of airbrushed art. I don’t think the roly-poly Little Miss Spider would have been quite so friendly looking if she were more rough and ragged.

A work of art might have an actual texture as a result of the materials used, or a visual texture that is an illusion made by the way the art is rendered. Either way, texture can convey more than just surface characteristics.

My post title, Crinkly or Smooth?, made me think of potato chips. Why do people prefer one over the other, if the ingredients are exactly the same? Or if they’re like me, does it just depend on their mood?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It Takes Some Backbone to Be an Invertebrate

After yesterday’s post about totally inappropriate Halloween costumes, I still have my mind on playing dress-up. I started thinking about my all-time favorite homemade Halloween costumes. A couple of years ago I was challenged when my kids announced they wanted to be jellyfish for Halloween. Maybe a couple thousand hours of watching SpongeBob had something to do with their choice.

This sounded like a design disaster waiting to happen. But a trip to the dollar store brought success! Out of hula hoops, plastic mixing bowls, and cheap shower curtain liners, two giant sea creatures emerged. We couldn’t predict how their gelatinous goodness would be enhanced under the glow of the streetlights, or how those filmy tentacles would undulate like floating strands as the kids made their way down the street. Little goblins from all over the block screamed, “Jellyfish!” from behind their mass-produced masks. Everyone loved them, except for one little girl who was just miffed that her beauty queen ensemble was being upstaged.

Last year my husband and I got a last-minute invite to a Halloween party. The jellyfish were still stashed on a shelf in the garage. We dusted them off and were good to go. We even won first place in the costume contest. Not bad for a couple of bucks worth of plastic.

Halloween is a little over a month away. There’s still time to break out the cardboard and duct tape and dare to be something unwieldy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You're Not Going to Granny's Like That

I can’t show the rest of this picture because this is supposed to be a family-friendly blog. Ironically, it’s a picture of a costume that is intended for children. My daughter and I found this little number in the party store hanging next to the Tinkerbells and the Hanna Montanas. It’s supposed to be Little Red Riding Hood. It said so right on the big sign next to it. The thing is, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cover up two of the letters in the word 'Hood’ and snap a cell phone picture. Okay, we were only misbehaving a little, and we’re trying to make a point here, people!

Besides our newly editorialized title, I also cropped out the rest of the costume itself – the part that the party store deemed appropriate for small children – so I’ll describe it. Little Missy here is sporting a mini-skirt, tights, cherry red platform heels, and is striking a guess-what-I’ve-got-in-the-picnic-basket pose. The costume doesn’t come any larger than a girl’s size 14 – a size my 14 year old outgrew years ago.

Do we really want our eleven year old daughters ringing doorbells - and begging for candy - in a get-up like that? By the way, Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t our only choice. With a little white-out we could have similarly renamed Honey Bee, Red Hot, Hop Diva, Hollywood Starlet…


Fall is officially here. Like other parts of the country, we’re experiencing a chill in the air, but it isn’t likely to last. Before it starts to cool off in Southern California, we usually get a couple of months of scorching heat, Santa Ana winds, and wildfires. Sometimes we catch a whiff of a fire on one of our walks. Most are quickly contained, but not all.

When I was growing up in Virginia, people burned piles of leaves in the fall. Whenever I catch the scent of a wildfire, I feel a strange mix of nostalgia and dread.

Some months ago the website Children Come First posted a First Lines Contest with the opening line “He smelled something burning…” The first thing I thought of was our experience with wildfires. After I saw this posting, I read that editors really hate it when the first sentence of a story begins with something burning, so I began to wonder about their choice.

Shortly after I submitted my entry, I read that editors also really hate it when a story begins with someone waking up. Too bad, since the first sentence to my submission read,

He smelled something burning when he woke up.

Editor pet peeves notwithstanding, they posted my entry. I wanted to describe a wildfire from a child’s perspective, based on an actual event. Some stories just begin that way.

The rest of my extra-short story (a 200 word limit is tough!) can be found here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Okay, I'll Play

I’ve been tagged several times now and it’s starting to sting! I figure I better hurry up and play. The rules say you’re supposed to tag eight more people, but I’m cheating and only tagging five, ‘cause I don’t know anyone else who hasn’t played already. Blog referees, don’t go crying foul or anything – I’m just not that popular, okay! I’ll tag Robyn, LW, Green Girl, Sara, and Suzie.
Now for the questions:

1. What are your nicknames? They need too much explanation, but my brothers sometimes call me Thunder.
2. What game show and/or reality show would you like to be on? None! They’re meant to make you look like an idiot, and I don’t need help for that. I am good at Wheel of Fortune, though.
3. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? Heathers, maybe? I can’t remember. 4. What is your favorite scent? Fresh cut limes
5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? Buy a house with a bigger yard, so I wouldn’t have to play fetch with the dog in the living room.
6. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to? Lots, but Paris is top on the list.
7. Do you trust easily? I’m pretty suspicious when someone tells me over the phone, “I’m not trying to sell you anything, Ma’am…”
8. Do you think before you act, or act before you think? I think about some dumb little things way too much before acting, but not everything.
9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? There is a new rash of graffiti in our neighborhood that doesn’t bode well for our community – that’s one thing that’s been bugging me.
10. Do you have a good body image? It depends on what angle I'm looking at.
11. What is your favorite fruit? Strawberries, mangoes, raspberries…I can’t pick a favorite, but now I want a smoothie.
12. What websites do you visit daily? Verla Kay's
13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Coffee, blogging, and I’m waiting for Lost to come back on.
14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? Carrie, Brenda, Kim – I’ll bet they are great to hang out with on a girl’s night out. I’m thinking there might be pie-eating involved, and maybe margaritas.
15. What's the last song that got stuck in your head? The Name Game, using Obama’s name ‘cause that’s the birthday card I got for my daughter. Then Carrie used it in her post and it got stuck in my head all over again.
16. What's your favorite item of clothing? A 1950’s red cocktail dress that belonged to my mother.
17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? They’re okay when they’re imbedded in chocolate.
18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? Assuming no one was screaming “Oh, no, I just dropped $100!” I’d pocket it and do an internal happy dance.
19. What items could you not go without during the day? Coffee, body lotion, a toothbrush. I’m not that attached to gadgets, but when my kids get home and take over my laptop I get a little bristly.
20. What should you be doing right now? It’s the weekend, so buying groceries or making lunch, but my husband volunteered to go to MacDonald’s.

How to play: If you've been tagged, post your own answers to the questions on your blog. Tag eight other people, and add links to the blogs of the person who tagged you and the people you tagged.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green With Envy

Last weekend I went with the kids to a large botanical garden. I grew up on the east coast and moved to the desert-by-the-sea that is Southern California, so I gravitate towards things that are green and leafy. I even get a little moony in the produce aisle at Food 4 Less.

A large display in the middle of the gardens drew lots of attention. At first glance, it was a lush green carpet surrounding a mini jungle-like setting. Upon closer inspection we saw that the green carpet was actually a floating blanket of tiny plants. The green floating blanket and the jungle island in the middle were made up entirely of carnivorous plants. It reminded me so much of a chapter from a very popular book that I blurted this right out, totally spoiling it for my kids who are still a bit too young to read the book. Bad Mom! Maybe they’ll forget. At this point my daughter exclaims, “I want to touch it!” And just then we read this sign:

And of course after reading the sign, both kids exclaimed, “I still want to touch it!” So we moved on to the next display. In contrast to the dark and slightly creepy flesh-eating swamp, this was a colorful explosion of lush tropical paradise. The amazing thing about this display is that it looked EXACTLY like my OWN back yard:

Yeah, right. Maybe my next back yard. I can dream. Here, sadly, is my latest casualty:

It used to be a hibiscus. Now it’s bye-bye-biscus. I think I need to be spending a little less time at the computer and a little more time in the yard, before the plants back there start growing downright hostile.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Color??

My son informed me that his sixth grade class has been paired up with writing buddies from the first grade classes. The older kids will help the little guys with their writing assignments two Mondays per month.

Being a pretty enthusiastic student and good sport, my son volunteered to take two first graders into his charge. They had their first meeting, a get acquainted session, last Monday. One of the questions they were supposed to ask the first graders was what they want to be when they grow up.

The first little boy replied that he wants to be a fireman when he grows up - a noble and popular choice.

My son then asked the second little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up. And the boy replied,

“A crayon.”

That totally made my day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Frantic in France

Yesterday I got a surprise in the mail - my prize package from Rebecca Ramsey’s Wonders of the World Blog Party! I’m diving into French cookies, French chocolates, and best of all - her delightful book, French by Heart.

I thought about the last time I went to France. We were lucky and crazy enough to take our kids to Paris when my daughter was six and my son was almost three. Of course we had to visit the Louvre and pay our respects to Mona. It was very crowded that day and security was being thorough about checking belongings.

After a long wait with two wiggly kids, we maneuvered through the swarming lobby up a small flight of stairs to inspect a map on the wall. My daughter was the first to point out a rather important detail:

Baby brother was nowhere to be found.

Instantly I became the hysterical foreign woman in the museum lobby. So surreal was the moment, I remember it as though I’m viewing myself from outside, a woman in a red checkered dress becoming completely unglued.

My husband glimpsed a blonde wisp of hair traveling toward the door and took off like a shot. He didn’t have the chance to clue me in, so I just kept yelling for my baby. Finally a girl about nine years old with the face of an angel smiled at me and pointed toward the door.

By the time my husband caught up with him, my creative toddler had made it all the way out to the street with an enormous book from the gift shop. He had picked it up because he wanted to show us the pretty picture. We returned the book and only later wondered why we hadn’t purchased it for a souvenir.

With all the tight security by the door, I’m still amazed no one noticed a little blond boy slip out with an armload of merchandise. My son must be one of the few people on the planet who can boast that he stole something from the Louvre. There in the picture is the little culprit - returning to the scene.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Apropos of Nothing

Know what I love? Of course not. You’d have to be able to read my mind. I love it when someone blurts something out as though you could know what they were thinking right before their out-of-context utterance.

My daughter’s a champ at this. We’ll be driving along, fiddling with the AC and checking out scenery, and suddenly she’ll say something like, “What was the name of that villain again?”

So I’ll say, “You realize we weren’t just communicating telepathically or anything, right?”

My husband had an aunt who’d sit quietly, supposedly taking in delightful table conversation. At some point she might interject, apropos of absolutely nothing, “and the youngest one, how many children does she have now?”

I had an acquaintance who piped up in the middle of some talk about baseball or gas prices or hiking through Colorado with random comments like, “I believe Waffle King’s open all night!”

When I worked as a floral designer, one of my duties was to order flowers for big fancy events, a responsibility I shared with another designer. When it was her turn to order, she’d gaze up from her desk and ask, “What else is yellow?”

The part of that question I loved the most was, “What else…” As if I could know what she’d already listed. For that matter, aside from the fact that we were in a flower shop, she could’ve been talking about anything.

So I’d say, “Um…school buses? Tennis balls?” That would kick off a highly productive and entertaining game of Let’s-list-every-possible-thing-that’s-yellow, which would distract us from the task of having to order flowers for sixty sun-kissed centerpieces. That might explain why we often annoyed vendors by trying to order ten dozen yellow dahlias at the last possible minute. If only they had been able to read our minds, it would have saved a lot of trouble.

Still, I’m glad we can’t communicate telepathically. What would be the fun in that? There’d be no surprises.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tasked With a Face

I've read my habit of finding faces in random stuff might be a psychological quirk. It’s a form of apophenia, which Wikipedia says may be linked to "psychosis and creativity". Comforting! I’d feel better if that read "psychosis or creativity".
Here’s an explanation I like better - Our brain is actually hardwired to see faces, to avoid missing one hiding in the bushes and preparing to leap out and rip our own face off. I made a project of rounding up a few lurkers, which got me thinking:

How many times does this guy check the locks before leaving the house?
Maybe meditation would help. Breathe, breathe.

Do you think Freckle-face's mommy makes him wear galoshes?
And pins his homework to his sweater?

Does the zoo know Coco is missing?

Will the Scopes boys knock me down and take my lunch money?

What are Linus and Schroeder up to?

Did Ms. Birch find her plastic surgeon in the Pennysaver?

Just what did Wally here find so shocking?

Do you think Woodrow likes being tickled, even a little bit?
He might not have a sense of humor, but how about this bird:

Okay, maybe a sense of style, anyway.
Might as well face it. We're being watched.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I bet every mom has a way of dealing with leftovers. My mom would haul everything out on the counter in various sized containers and call it a smorgasbord. It didn’t matter if nothing went together. It was our version of a one-family potluck, and Mom’s night off.

Our neighbor, the little old farm lady, made soup. She threw all her farm-grown vegetables and chicken scraps in a pot of salty water and served it to her husband every day for lunch, with iced tea and saltines with melted cheese on top.

Some people make a mean casserole. Sometimes casseroles are so mean they make me cry. If you invite me to a potluck, don’t make me try the casserole. Especially if it has eggplant in it, I might have to spit it into a nearby potted plant. The exception is tuna casserole. I know it’s not glamorous, but noodles + cheese + tuna = good stuff. You can’t go wrong.

I have my own version of a casserole, and I call it a baked quesadilla. Or bake-adilla, for short. I discovered some time ago that absolutely everything tastes good with tortillas and cheese. You can just pile leftovers in between layers of flour tortillas in a casserole dish and shove it in the oven. Chicken, peppers, onions, and Monterey Jack makes it a chickie-dilla. Tomato sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella, and olives is a pizza-dilla. Ground beef, cheddar, tomatoes, and salsa is a taco-dilla. Never mind if that makes no sense in Spanish.

The possibilities are endless. I’m pretty sure I could even come up with a dessert quesadilla. If there’s ever any sweet stuff left over in our house, I just might invent it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sometimes an illustration seems to ask for a story. It reminds me of those worksheets we did in first grade that asked, what happened before? What happened after?

This story turns out okay; I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Aversion Training

Last night my daughter took Luna (aka ‘Shmelly’) upstairs for a bath. Now that Luna has reached puppy adolescence her behavior is barely tolerable, never mind her smell. Daughter figures at least one problem has an immediate remedy.

I sat at the computer listening to the usual chorus of gurgling and splashing and “LUNA, NO!”, when suddenly all hell broke loose. There was a thrashing and clanging from the bathroom, accompanied by hysterical yells from my daughter and ear-splitting howls from THE BEAST.

In our bathroom is a small, steel mailbox-style trashcan with a dome lid and a swinging door slot on a spring. Of course Luna had to poke her nose in there and discover that the GOOD STUFF – used tissues and cosmetic wipes and dental floss – was all the way at the bottom! Naturally, she managed to get the 9-inch dome with the 4-inch opening wedged around her neck. My husband and I raced upstairs to find her masquerading as a studio light, with her head as the light bulb.

Here’s where I have to admit I may be taking my newfound interest in blogging a little too far. With Luna howling, my daughter hysterical and wounded from attempts to dislodge the lid, my husband straddling the dog and attempting to pry the contraption off, and my son panicking downstairs, I said,

“Wait. Can't we get a picture first?”

In my defense, I was thinking, we’re gonna have to take this idiot to the animal emergency hospital at nine o’clock at night and probably spend $3000 having a metal dome cut off her head. Can’t I get SOMETHING out of it?

My request was denied. Luna’s neck was slathered in baby shampoo and after much wrenching and twisting she was free. Of course, she now needed bath number two, to rinse out all the soap.

As you can see from the picture, Luna is no longer quite as fascinated with the trashcan. Good dog, Luna.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Little Red Henna

If you’re a teen-aged girl and entering high school, apparently it’s a rule you can’t show up with your natural hair color. I think it must be written somewhere in the student handbook. Very popular is the tri-color guinea pig look, as is any shade of red not commonly found in nature.

The look I don’t quite get is jet black with white streaks. I know the goal is to look older, but I think this overshoots by several decades. But what do I know? I used to lie in the sun basted in baby oil, with lemon juice on my head. It’s a wonder I don’t look like a rotisserie chicken.

I think fourteen is too young to start repeatedly damaging your hair, so I conceded to letting my daughter color her hair with henna. I chose two packs of the reddest red, because I knew she’d be disappointed if the results weren’t dramatic.

The operation took more than two hours. When mixed up, henna resembles something as attractive as fresh manure. It took almost an hour to work the cow pie into every strand of her ultra-thick hair. For another hour she sat patiently on our back deck, draped in a lawn and leaf bag, waiting for the color to develop.

The only way we could figure to rinse the baked-on mess was to get her whole head in the kitchen sink. She lay sprawled on the tile counter with her head dangling under the faucet while I carefully tried to dislodge the grassy bits. Predictably, she loved the result. She’s casting a new glow.

I’m relieved her experimentation has so far been limited to her hair. One of her more creative friends just pierced her own eyebrow with a safety pin. Another is on her way to having earlobes you could pass a golf ball through. I’d rather my kids shave half their head than start using their face as a pincushion.

Of course part of the appeal is how much your parents are going to hate it. So if they ask, you didn’t hear that from me.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sunny Side Up

Ever have this kind of a day?

That's the kind of day I had yesterday.

So today I'm going to have more of this sort of day:

The sun is up. Get crackin'.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Go, Blog. Go!

Yesterday Rebecca Ramsey of Wonders Never Cease held a blog party on Wonders of the World. I was reminded of P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! because the term ‘blog party’ makes me think of ‘dog party’! In this case it was big blogs, little blogs, red blogs, blue blogs…What a blog party! I loved seeing how differently everyone thinks and expresses ideas on a common theme. And of course, it’s always great to celebrate good things.

So I had to pull our copy of Go, Dog. Go! from the shelf and read it again. It was a favorite when my kids were little. They called it A-Go, Go, Go. I love how the pink poodle keeps seeking approval on her crazy hat choices from the sporty devil-may-care dog.

It’s appropriate I thought of this story, because this little book of contrasts, with its ups and downs and overs and unders, (not to mention one-of-a-kind party hats), complements a day of enjoying diverse styles and tastes. If I had to choose another Wonder of the World to celebrate, it would be individuality.

If you’re wondering what sundriness exists out there in the blogosphere, go blog-hopping. If you haven’t enjoyed Go, Dog. Go! for a while, what are you waiting for? A-go, go, go.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This Way and That Way

Happy Birthday Rebecca Ramsey, and thanks for throwing a blog party! I had something else planned to post today, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I wonder why I do that?

I decided my Wonder of The World would be: How can something that appears to be SO disorganized be so HIGHLY efficient? No, it’s not me. I’m talking about these guys:

Guess what season it is? No, not Fall. Not School. Not Football.

It’s ANT Season! I hate ants.

So, guess what I found in my pantry this morning? Not a football.

It begins one day with a moving dot on the counter. I think, destroy it or he’ll tell his friends.

But it’s just the one, I argue with myself and leave it alone.

He tells his friends. There’s a smattering of them scouting around the sink. I wipe them up.

The kids protest. "But they’re so cute!"

Ants are not cute.

I hold them at bay for weeks, but they ooze inside in greater numbers. I might be an impeccable housekeeper. I’m not, but it wouldn’t matter if I were. They find the speck of grease that leapt out of the skillet, the fudgesicle drips, the dead spider under the couch. They march right in the door to get it.

Our longest line spanned from the front door up around the ceiling and down along baseboards to reach a muffin crumb under the breakfast nook. The thickest line was four inches wide. It skirted the door and infiltrated the pantry, laying waste to a long lost bag of Xtra Cheddar Goldfish.

I marvel at those organized yet frenzied units. From where I stand, the ants on the floor look like a busy interstate of bumper cars. Tiny, drunken bumper car drivers on a mission.

In children’s books, ants are cute. Merry, lip-smacking, bib-wearing, marching ants. They’re so round and smiling. Did I mention that ants are NOT cute?

The little devils do love a party, though, and so do I. So I’m marching back to Becky’s for some cake.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Draw Like A Child

Sometimes I practice drawing like a child, but I’m not satisfied. Once a little training and self-consciousness enter the creative process, the result isn’t the same.

Picasso is said to have claimed that as a young man he could paint like a master, but it took him a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. Matisse said that the artist must look at everything as though seeing it for the first time, like a child. Artists like Miro, Kandinsky, Klee, and Chagall seemed to have a keen ability to do this.

Here’s one of my daughter’s early drawings. She usually drew horses wearing dresses, but this is a rare study of mermaids and fish:

Who wouldn’t want to swim with them?

When children make art, their perception of the world is expressed in feelings. Art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process is healing and life-enhancing. Maybe what makes children’s art so appealing is that the enjoyment of the creative process itself is apparent in the end result.

One contemporary artist that demonstrates this quality is illustrator Gustavo Roldan. I especially love his crazy bird drawings in Una Lluvia de Pajaros (Rain of Birds). I read that author/illustrator Mo Willems likes to keep his drawings simple enough for kids to recreate, to inspire them to make up their own adventures. He even posts some of these adventures on his blog - how cool is that? But although his own drawings are child-like, you can tell that they are drawn with a practiced hand.

My husband tried to convince me to use my girl painting, above, for my profile picture. My kids vetoed the idea. I guess they’re old enough that self-consciousness has colored their appreciation for art as well. Or maybe they just thought it was an embarrassingly bad drawing. I wasn’t totally opposed to the idea - she does resemble me a little. I think I’m a little taller, though.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm Trying To Spruce Up the Place

I added a slideshow. I’m gonna call it Bob. Slideshow Bob.

There it is in the sidebar, under the word artichokes. Unless I decided to move it. Really it’s under the words My Artwork, but I like being reminded of artichokes.

Whenever I add a painting to my photo album, Bob is going to add it to my slideshow. I just think that’s nice.