Monday, December 9, 2013

Five on...

If you will be in New York City during the holiday season, and you're at all inclined to visit museums, you must go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Angel Tree with the Neapolitan 18th century manger scenes nestled beneath the branches. I don't know of anything like it anywhere.  The late Loretta Hines Howard started collecting the creche figures in 1925 and donated them to the museum in 1964.

I have fond memories of my grandma, herself from Naples, setting out her manger scene at the beginning of each December, with sheep and cows nestled into cottony snow, and an angel hung on the apex of the manger, trumpeting the baby's birth.

Seems like abundant snowfall is blanketing many parts of our nation this week.  We didn't get more than a dusting yesterday, but much of NJ and PA got up to 10" of fluffy goodness.  My grandson had his first snow day!

And although we didn't have a snow day here in New York, I stayed inside and kept my sewing machine whirring with projects.  

I had two pages to finish for a Leonardo DaVinci themed, fabric book round robin.  I'm fascinated by DaVinci's study of wings, so I created a collage in Photoshop of his various sketchbook pages on the topic, printed them on fabric, and then reproduced one of the wing designs to insert into the page.  I used thick fusing material to adhere cotton fabric to the wing shape, and then embroidered the design (freeform, sewing machine) and couched some threads for the thicker design shapes. The fabric backing for the wing and the reverse side of the page is vintage cotton fabric stenciled with acrylic paint.

And while the sewing machine was out...a few weeks ago I ordered some fabric from the Tim Holtz line through JoAnn's online, wanting to make a pillow cover for my living room chair. I love the NYC-themed print. Before making the pillow case itself,  I used some of the fabric and string to create piping, then inset a zipper in the bottom, and finished up the sides, sandwiching the piping into the seams. The back of the pillow is also Tim Holtz fabric in ticking stripe. I love the way it turned out.

See the piping?

And finally, did you watch The Sound of Music?  I love the idea of live theater available to the masses, and especially for those who might never see a Broadway play otherwise. I wish theyd do one every year. (I can still remember the tv version of Cinderella from the 60's.)  While I think Carrie Underwood might not have been the best choice for Maria (I would have voted for someone like Kristen Chenoweth), Audra McDonald was absolutely astonishing. Her rendition of Climb Every Mountain left me speechless.  And the kids were delightful. Encore!

What are you doing to get ready for the holidays?  (Or if you already celebrated Hanukkah, how did it go?)

Friday, November 22, 2013

December Journal Prompts

Every December I make a holiday art journal to record my thoughts and activities.  This year, I made a calendar of journal prompts for my art journaling friends who need a little inspiration.  15 activities, one to do every other day in December.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five on Friday

I'm embarrassed to say how much I enjoyed About Time with Rachael McAdams and Bill Nighy.   Since the conceit of time travel in love stories isn't unique in plot lines, I was prepared for the possibility of a snorefest.  Instead, I was hooked from the beginning and stayed in throughout the movie. Beautifully filmed and unabashedly sincere, what I enjoyed most was seeing the loving, mature relationship between this father and son who clearly adore each other.  Don't worry about what the pundits say -- drag the guys in your life to see it. You won't be disappointed.

And one more movie in my Friday Five -- The Book Thief. If you are like me and hesitate seeing movie versions of books you love, this could be the exception.  It's faithful in all the right parts, veers in a few places that wouldn't translate well, and the acting is exactly what you'd expect from Geoffrey Rush: funny, quirky, passionate, bewildered and loving.  The cobblestoned streets and frosted windows of the little German village call to mind the beauty and horror that lived side by side, and we're reminded throughout that victims and heroes were everywhere.

Back in real life and real time...I have so many friends coming to New York City for the holidays. If you are looking to get in out of the cold for a light meal, try Buvette in the West Village.  Grab one of their small tables or a seat at the bar and breathe in the sweet, buttery smell of fresh-baked pastry.  It's one of my favorite places for lunch. The tables are small and close and they can't accommodate large groups, so this is a spot to visit with just a friend or two.

And I'm staying busy with artwork, as always -- below are some photos of pages I made for a fabric book round robin group. The theme for the book was Boticelli, and I used fabric coated with gel medium, gesso and acrylic paints to reproduce the fresco effect of the Sistine Chapel. I found some matching velvet and embroidered trims in the garment district, with the help of my friend Rosie and my dog Dewey (who loves his girl), making it another fun NYC excursion.

And before Halloween turns to Thanksgiving and Christmas, here are my three grandsons dressed in their Halloween finery. The twins are almost 3 months old already, and you can see how much big brother Liam already adores them.  Next year at this time there will be three little pumpkins running around the pumpkin patch.

Hope you're enjoying your fall!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

If Dorothy Kept a Travel Journal

If Dorothy had kept a travel journal from her trip to Oz, what would she have tucked inside? Possibly a map of her over-the-rainbow travels, and maybe a keepsake or two from her friends.  Those are the kinds of thing I would have kept.

So when tasked with creating altered book pages on a Wizard of Oz theme, that's exactly where my imagination took me.  Using a map I found online and altering it with pens, spray inks and chalk, I followed along with the events of the story and traced Dorothy's route from the fateful spot where her house pulverized the Wicked Witch of the East, through the forests and fields along the Yellow Brick Road.  Highlights of her trip (places where she met each of her three friends, the poppy field, the land of Oz, Glinda's castle and the Wicked Witch's haunted abode) are all marked so she can look back fondly and remember.

And of course she'd want to keep mementos of her Tin Man's ticking heart, Scarecrow's diploma, and that little shot of courage for Lion.  (The original book did have him taking a swig of courage rather than wearing a medal.)  Each of these trinkets tuck into a little pocket behind the map.

I created a crackle finish on the heart with a thick coating of Elmers Glue-All, sandwiched between two layers of acrylic paint.  The bottle is a painted cardboard die cut, with a label I created in Photoshop, and Scarecrow's diploma was created in MS Word.

I've always had a fondness for mapmaking, even though I'm fairly ineffective at following them. I love seeing a story laid out in front of me; it makes me feel as if I could take just one tiny step and enter an entirely different world of imagination--even if it is ruled by wicked witches and imposter wizards.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five on Friday, October 11

It's a grey, misty day outside here in Manhattan -- the kind of day that makes one think of trench coats and umbrellas, windshield wipers, slick cobblestones and peering into a cozy restaurant through a window.  I don't mind days like these now and then; it makes it easy to stay inside to read and drink coffee without feeling that I should be doing something out in the sunshine.

I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming holidays, and I realize that the single thing I love best about them is sharing the day with my family. I don't care about gifts or cards or decorating the way I used to - in fact, last year I made no cookies at all and barely decorated.  I wonder what it would be like to just do what we really wanted at the holidays?  I'd volunteer somewhere, buy gifts for the truly needy, listen to holiday music beginning at Halloween, and see my loved ones without the pressure of finding the perfect gift. Hmmm.  What would your perfect holiday be like, if there were no have-to's?

I went to see Gravity this week.  Not in 3D.  Not in iMax. And not very impressive without all those extras.  The story itself - meh - for my taste, too many perils thrown in just for the sake of suspense.  I didn't care about the characters and at first blush it felt like the special effects were there to spice up a story lacking in substance.  HOWEVER, I've heard it's all about the 3D and iMax, so I'm going to see it again and try to experience the feeling of being in outer space. Readjusted expectations, and maybe I'll enjoy it.   Seems like many others did.

I finished a YA book called The Fault in Our Stars. Do you read any YA books?  This one was about two teenagers with cancer, and I read it all in a day.  What I liked -- it realistically portrayed both the usual teenage angst and anxiety about friendships and romance and relationships with parents, while at the same time it never strayed far from the interruption of cancer's cold hand. The conversation was a little slick for me, as if each character had a witty-repartee button pressed on their dialogue, but I was easily able to excuse that since it brought each character to life in a very vivid way - like upping the color intensity in a photo edit.

It was a quieter week for me, so I've been able to do some artwork, if you're interested.

These pictures are my journal for the medieval fabric journal group. My theme is the commedia dell'arte, a theatrical troupe that performed both on streets and in palaces. The commedia characters were very well defined by their behavior, costumes and masks, and audiences everywhere enjoyed their antics.

I made a little booklet explaining the genre and describing the various characters and the performances and tucked it into a pocket inside the front cover.

The centerfold of my folio is a scene from one of the shows, freeform embroidered and edged with black and gold lace.

Masks like the one below are now made and sold throughout some parts of Italy, a glance backward to the medieval theater days.

The cover of my book shows a small part of the larger image inside, nestled behind red satin curtains.

Below are two watercolor pages for a friend's journal. She asked us each to contribute suggestions for her upcoming trip to Italy.  In Venice, I especially loved the courtyards hidden inside the winding alleys.  Hundreds of years old and surrounded by all the neighboring apartments, I could almost hear the voices of countless generations meeting here as they pumped their morning water.

My husband and I spent many happy hours in Florence sitting outside at the Piazza Della Republicca's Caffe Gilli,  a institution of culinary delight dating back to the 1700s.  People watching doesn't get any better, sipping limoncello and snacking while watching the carousel and the colorful characters passing by on the piazza.  (I especially enjoyed the naked man standing in the window for an afternoon stretch...)

And finally, I've started creating altered coffee sleeves for a swap in my Blissfully Art Journaling group. I'm loosely interpreting these sweet angel babies as a Christmas theme. Why not?

Have a great week!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finding Fall

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”


Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues; vines, leaves
the uneaten fruits crumbling
damply in the shadows.
--Mary Oliver

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. 
The morning of the first September was 
crisp and golden as an apple...”
J.K. Rowling

Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves! 
—Humbert Wolfe  

“Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable...
the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown 
along the a gusty wind, 
and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.”

Gold of a ripe oat straw, gold of a southwest moon,
Canada thistle blue and flimmering larkspur blue,
Tomatoes shining in the October sun with red hearts,
Shining five and six in a row on a wooden fence.
-Carl Sandburg

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zen Rock Doodles

“Not that she didn’t enjoy the holidays: but she always felt—and it was, perhaps, the measure of her peculiar happiness—a little relieved when they were over. Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.”
- Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver

Loving our late summer vacation at the beach in Charleston, RI . The crowds are gone but the weather is still sunny and warm. This home of friends has a front view of the ocean and a back view of the bay, so we get sunrise and sunset over two different bodies of water without leaving the house.

Beach rocks, washed and dried, are the perfect
substrate for doodles.

It's fun and relaxing to work on such a small canvas.

Vacation is meant for important things, like
searching out perfect rocks for doodling.

Enjoy your week, whatever you're doing!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Five on Friday - September 2013

As much as I love fall, the end of summer always makes me sad.  Carly Simon got it just right—

The apples are ripe and the corn is past
Everyone says summer goes by so fast
And we just got here
I can hardly believe it but it's ended
The beach is a haze and old love's a ghost…
…Could the truth be I won't really see
How much I love you
 'til it's over

On the other hand, I do love the whole season of autumn.  I love creating art that's a little haunted, like this piece I just did for an altered book themed "visual incongruities and conundrums." 

Look carefully, up and down his face. Which way is he going?
(I drew this face, pen and colored pencil, based on an image
I saw on an optical illusion site.)

I love fall movies, like You've Got Mail (which I never seem to outgrow) and
Hocus Pocus and Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and 
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. 
Got a favorite fall movie?

Do you care about Miley Cyrus and the VMAs? Cause I'm yawning about that.

Still loving The Coffee House station on Sirius. It fills my home with happiness.  That and my keurig coffee pot, which necessarily goes with the music.  Who needs Starbucks?

Wait, you wanted to see my grand babies?  Awww I don't want to bore you.  Well....if you insist...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Five on Friday

So, I've been asking my IRL (yes, that means in real life) friends what they think of the Robin Thicke Blurred Lines video. It's been called the song of the summer.   Some people find it repulsive, misogynist,  and sexist, and others think it's just fine.  What do you think?  I'll tell you in advance that it makes me squirm, and I'm trying to figure out what I'm missing about why it's ok.  And for the uninitiated, here it is.  Warning: naked girls who are way too perfect to allow you to feel good about yourself unless you are 18 -25, and possibly not even then.  Robin Thicke Blurred Lines

Andrew Dice Clay has a role in Woody Allen's new movie Blue Jasmine. I thought he was dead. Seriously.  Now I have to go see it, just for that.

Tonight we ate at a Korean restaurant where you can (if you wish) cook your own food.  It's right on our block and we'd never been there. (Eileen, Pat, and Jacquie tried it and recommended it.)  Here's a picture of Lou barbecuing his dinner. Cool how the little grill is built into the table, and there is a downdraft so no smoke rises up in your face.

I was home this week and worked on some things for my Hawaiian altered book round robin group, as well as a Field Notes round robin for my friends who meet yearly in Key Largo.

This one is for a book themed "All."  
And of course, when it comes to summer drinks, it is all about that little umbrella!

And this one is a multi-page flip book for an 
altered book with the theme of Creation Myths.  
My pages are the story of How Raven Brought
Light to the World. (And also why ravens are
always black.)  Below is the two pages with 
all the flaps closed.  

This is the first flap opened. Did you know that 
(according to Tlingit legend) ravens were once white?
This was long ago, when the heavens were all dark.

One day, raven visited the home of Gray Eagle and
saw that he was hoarding bags with sun, 
moon, stars and fresh water.

That rascally raven stole those bags and spilled
their contents out upon the earth.  And in the end, 
the smoke from the bag of fire blew onto his feathers and
darkened them, which is why ravens are always black!

And finally, the two pages below are sketches for a field
notes book for Sue.  Her fictional character is
the daughter of Dr. Livingstone, following in
her famous father's footsteps as she searches
for her destiny.  In my notes, Sue's character is
enjoying the wildlife in Zambia.

Nothing like art therapy to rejuvenate the soul!