I write this with a heavy heart. My husband passed away last Friday morning. It’s been almost a week, and I’m still in a mild state of shock. There is much to process, which I realize will take some time. I’m so glad the kids came to spend time with him. I’m glad, in the end, that he didn’t have to suffer for too long. He was able to talk with me daily, right up to the last, about the good life we’ve had and how happy we’ve been these past few years, just enjoying each other and the simple pleasures of life — spending time with the kids, little road trips, our pets, good food, just being together.
I wanted to write this because of something very special I want to share with you. Some of you may already have seen this on Facebook. Not long before Jim got his cancer diagnosis, he had reached out to our local arts center, The Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts, with an offer to donate a number of my large scale color field paintings for their permanent collection, and perhaps to make some available to the public for sale to benefit the center. They happily accepted our offer, and we delivered the paintings some time in June. Now there is to be an exhibition of them, titled “A Window in Time” which opens today. Jim was so excited about this show, and had so hoped he would be able to be there at the opening reception. Sadly, it was not to be. Here is the press release.
After a little time catching up on some rest and dispensing with life’s details, I know I’ll be back in the studio. I have missed painting. And I know from experience that it will be therapeutic.
This is a quick post to update you on what’s happening in my world. Right after I wrote the last post, just a month or so ago, my husband Jim was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. This is a cancer that seemingly comes out of nowhere, because the symptoms are things that normally wouldn’t be red flags. It probably goes without saying that our life is turned upside down in every way imaginable right now. He had surgery to place a stent in his bile duct, but no further surgery is being planned at this time. He has begun chemo, and will start radiation this week as well. He will have chemo twice a week and radiation five days a week for five weeks. We are told by the doctors that the tumor might possibly shrink enough to consider surgery later on. That is the hope that we’re clinging to at this point.
In the meantime, art is completely eclipsed by the things we are having to process. I honestly think just throwing some paint around would keep me healthier — at least saner. But I haven’t reached the point of trying that yet. There just hasn’t been time. Maybe I will find a way sometime soon. In the meantime, I’m baking bread with my son, who is here for 10 days.
We have had lots of family here to be with their dad and granddad, and art happened while the little kids were here. Our granddaughter Piper and her little brother River wanted to do something for their granddad. So they painted two of my 16 x 20 inch canvases with tints of blue and white, and glued bottle caps onto them, mosaic style. River drew a shark, and his bottle cap interpretation was rather free-form. Piper decided on a map of the US – minus Alaska and Hawaii – and hers turned out pretty true to the original design. You will notice there is a hot glue gun involved in this project. Note: no children were harmed in the making of these works of art. They had adult assistance at all times. You may also notice a bottle of beer on the table. No, the kids don’t drink beer.
Two of our great-grandchildren were here too. We met the youngest one for the very first time. Family came from as far away as Alaska just to hang out with Jim. It has been a bittersweet time. We miss the kids already. And their moms and dads.
If you’re on Facebook and would like to get regular updates about Jim and his progress, I have started a group and call it Jim’s Army. Feel free to join us. I will update this blog as often as I can as well.
And if I throw some paint, you’ll be the first to know, I promise.
Spring was just beautiful here in our part of the world. It stayed cool even at night, right up until two weeks ago. And then, after a few days of running the A/C, we had another bonus cool night, and were able to have the windows open.
If you know me, you know that this usually means lots of time outside puttering in the flower beds and getting a small vegetable garden planted. In between, I’ve spent quite a bit of time fussing with those new 8×8-inch panels, trying to resolve a few of them that didn’t want to cooperate. No new collages, though. I miss doing them. But now that the panels are ready for the gallery, I can take a break to play in the studio, making gelli prints and some collage.
Here’s a shot of my flower bed, and a few flower closeups:
Those irises are finished now, but then came the amaryllises:
And the Dutch irises:
And of course, the peonies.
And here are a few of the new paintings. All are acrylics with texture on cradled panel, 8x8x2 inches. I finished 12 of these and shipped them to the gallery this week. Now on to the next thing.
It’s been a slow start getting back into the studio after family obligations kept me away for several days. My young student has gone from weekly to every other week, which is good, because we have a good two-hour session each time. That’s enough for her to get some good solid help and encouragement. In between times she will no doubt keep drawing, the way she always has. This past Saturday she left here very proud of what she had done.
Progress in the studio includes working on 12 new panels – such glorious fun – and the occasional collage session just to break up the blocked times. Yes, I’m blocked, or stuck, on some of the panels. They are giving me fits. Can’t afford to dwell on them for too long. It only makes matters worse. Here they are in progress as of today.
I consider 7 of these finished and ready for signing. The other 5, not so much. When I’m sure of them all, I’ll show individual photos.
And a couple of new collages . . .
Happy arting to all!
This post is to answer a reader’s questions about how I approach teaching drawing to kids. Perhaps it’s of interest to all my readers. So here goes.
I take an open approach, with the structure tailored to age-appropriate activities. Young preschool-age children greatly benefit from just having plenty of materials in front of them so that they can explore making marks and putting down colors. Washable markers are great for this age group, and watercolors are fantastic for them, because they are easy cleanup as well. It’s OK to mix it up. Pencil, marker, and paint all in the same work of art.
Provide protective clothing — an old t-shirt maybe, plenty of space at a table, and let them go. For watercolors, they need larger brushes than those that are included with a kids’ watercolor set — perhaps choices of brushes. A few small brushes (about an inch wide) from the paint aisle in the hardware store work great for spreading lots of color. Another good choice would be a couple of small sponge brushes. White construction paper is cheap and great for painting with watercolors. Show them how to keep their brushes clean, by rinsing and blotting the brush on a folded paper towel when changing colors. This is a skill even little ones can learn.
Preschool kids will draw and paint a complete work of art that only they can interpret. It’s best just to be encouraging and appreciate what they’ve done without critiquing. Even though it might not seem they are learning anything, they are. They’re learning how to express themselves, how to make their own marks, and are reinforcing eye-hand coordination. They’re seeing how colors mixed together make a different color. And most importantly, they are receiving encouragement from you to keep exploring and learning.
It’s not until 9 or 10 that kids become concerned about drawing objects realistically. Before that age, they have already developed their own symbols for things. In the last post I mistakenly stated my current student’s age as 8, but she is 9 and her 10th birthday is very soon. I’m seeing her already struggling with looking at things as they are and simultaneously attempting to just resort to her own idea of how she thinks they should look. This is a crucial time for kids learning to draw. I want to keep the experience a positive one, while helping her see things as they really are. I give her some warm-ups and then a longer session in which she draws from an object or a still life. After the focused session, we go back to a less structured time for a little while, when she gets to draw things from memory and create something just for fun.
Since taking on a student again, I have gone back to the principles contained in two books that I used to own, but had long ago donated to the public library. Now I guess I need to get them again. I highly recommend these, if you want to brush up on your drawing skills, or teach a young person to draw: