Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fond Farewell To Christmas 2009

Amaryllis - Mixed Media Collage - 8x10

As I sit here sipping the last of the eggnog and eating the remaining few cookies, I'm pausing to reflect upon what I think of as one of the best Christmases ever.

Early in October, while eating crabs with our grown kids, the subject of Christmas came up. We all agreed that it's a time of stress and pressure and it doesn't need to be. We agreed to forgo lavish gift giving and decided to limit our gifts to each other to "stocking stuffers" and just relish the time that we spend together.
And the idea worked beautifully. We spent the holiday eating, and playing games, and eating, and laughing, and eating, and playing with the new dog, Emmett, and did I mention eating?

And when it came time to open the stockings, we discovered that we didn't miss the larger gifts at all. And we weren't worried over whether or not the recipient loved our gift. Some of the gifts were useful, some were silly and others were edible (surprise!).

But for me, the highlight of the Christmas celebration came on Christmas Eve day when my boys decided they wanted to make gingerbread men.

We went out together and bought all the ingredients. I found a recipe that I had used many, many Christmases ago, and I let them loose in the kitchen.

My boys, who fought with each other all the time growing up, worked very well together on this project even when they disagreed with methods. They currently live a couple hours apart from each other and don't see each other on a regular basis so I know they enjoyed this time together. And there was laughter. So much laughter.

As the gingerbread men started to take shape there was more interest in the project by other family members and soon my daughter-in-law joined them in the kitchen to help with the decorating and Emmett came in sniffing the air. I will admit that some of the gingerbread guys (well OK most of them) became a little "R" rated and I had to do a lot of careful editing to bring you a "G" rated version of their masterpieces.

OK, that one cookie at the top is not a gingerbread man but a map of the United States depicting the Trail of Tears. (Don't ask.) I have to admit that all the gingerbread, no matter what its shape or rating, was delicious.

As a parting shot, I leave you with a picture of my sons and me. It was like pulling teeth to get them to pose with me. After about a half dozen attempts and much frustration the best we could come up with was the photo below. It makes me laugh every time I look at it because it proves that it is possible to smile while gritting your teeth.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Irises In A Vase - Mixed Media Collage - 5x7

I took some time out from my busy holiday schedule to put the finishing touches on this second little iris collage. This time, instead of using a Japanese lace paper in the background, I chose to use two layers of Mizutama (raindrop paper) in the foreground as the vase. I'm fascinated with Japanese lace papers. I love their delicacy, transparency and variety. I also love the challenge of finding them. Just when I think I've found a reliable supplier, they'll stop carrying my favorites and I have to scout around online for another supplier. And during the hunt I often discover new varieties of lace paper so it's always an adventure.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Man In My Life - Emmett

I do believe that I have never received so many comments on one blog post as I did on my October 2, 2009 post titled, "Spencer." This was my tribute to our chocolate Lab who had passed away the day before. There's something about a beloved dog that almost everyone relates with.

I wasn't prepared for the blue funk that I sunk into after Spencer's passing. And I realized that it had been more than 20 years since I'd been dogless. It wasn't natural. So after two months had gone by my husband and I started to explore the nearby animal shelters in hope of finding the perfect pet. On December 15th we struck gold when we visited the Humane Society of Wicomico County located in Salisbury, Maryland; which is about a one-hour drive from our home.

We were immediately impressed with the shelter and how well run it was. We were also imipressed with the staff's knowledge of each animal and their interaction with them.
We had looked at a couple of different dogs and were not sure about them. One of the staff caught onto the fact that we were particularly interested in Labrador Retrievers and she said that there was one there that we hadn't seen yet and it was a particular favorite of hers. She described him as being calm and rather laid back. So we took a look at "Russell" who was approximately 17 months old. He was a pure-bred black Lab and seemed much calmer than the other dogs we'd seen. This surprised us when we learned that he'd had two previous owners. Supposedly the only reason he'd been given up was because they simply didn't have the time for him.

My husband just loved this dog, but I had some reservations because Russell just wouldn't look us in the eye or acknowledge us in anyway. A staffer assured us that this happened a lot with "pound puppies" and that their personalities changed once they got into a new home.

So I agreed to giving him a try as long as we could call him Emmett. I have always wanted to name a dog Emmett, after my grandfather, and this was the first real opportunity. While we went through all the paperwork, Emmett laid at our feet in the lobby waiting for us to be finished. He watched everything going on in the lobby with great interest. There were people and dogs in and out as well as a couple of cats roaming free. He reacted very casually to all the activity and I was impressed with his composure.

We walked him to our car and he leaped in with great enthusiasm and calmly made the one-hour trip back home with us. When we arrived home, my husband walked him around the yard and then brought him into the house. The minute Emmett stepped into the house it was as if a light went on. Suddenly there was the most alive expression in his eyes and he gleefully ran to each one of us in turn as if thanking us before exploring his new home. At that moment I knew we'd made the right choice.

12 days later it seems as though he's always been a part of the family. Our boys came home for Christmas and immediately liked Emmett and vice versa. I'm happy to report that Emmett is extremely well behaved. He hasn't made the first "mistake" in our home and is very laid-back while inside but full of energy when he's running free in our fenced yard. And he loves long walks, too.

This is Emmett at the Wash-N-Wag, which is a nearby self-wash dog wash. We hadn't even had him 24 hours when I took him there (he smelled from the shelter) and he was terrified, but it turned into a great bonding experience.

Here he is back at home with his complimentary Christmas bandana from the Wash-N-Wag.

And here he is with his "daddy" holding him so you can see his pretty brown eyes.

It was a very Merry Christmas for us!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow on the Dunes

The Blizzard of 2009 only left about 4 inches of snow in southern Delaware, but it also gave me this beautiful view of snow on the dunes at sunset. That's the Harbor of Refuge lighthouse in the background.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Small Blue Irises - Mixed Media Collage - 5x7

I just love it when a piece seems to "paint itself," and you artists out there know what I mean. It's a piece that comes together with almost no effort and turns out as well or even better than you imagined it.

I've used irises as a subject matter many times before, but never created any as small as these. I used a piece of scrapbooking paper that I found at Michaels as my background. I frequently make "keepsake" collages using wedding invitations as the subject and then trying to match the bride's colors in the collage and I have found that scrapbooking papers to be excellent in these projects. So I have lots of scraps of this lying around.

Over the background paper I layered a delicate piece of Uminami, which is a Japanese lace paper in the shape of arches. You can just barely make out the fine little arch-shaped fibers.

The leaves and stems are from a gold marbled paper called "Forest" by Black Ink. Almost all of my favorite art papers are made by Black Ink and I particularly love their marbled collection.

The iris blossoms are from origami paper. I chose this paper for its color, but was delighted to see that the finished look resembles cloisonne. I was also delighted that I was able to cut all the pieces using scissors. I had expected to have to use an exacto knife and was relieved that that wasn't the case. All my life I've been a klutz with knives and I have the scars and one damaged finger to prove it!

Oh, wait, the dragonfly! I certainly didn't cut that out with scissors! That was punched from gold metallic crinkle paper... another favorite of mine.

Lastly I added my own personal embellishments with Sharpie markers, gold acrylic wash and gold fabric paint.

I find that I like the delicate, almost Asian look, of the piece. I also like the way it makes me think of spring. I sound pretty pleased with myself, don't I? Every once in a great while artists make something that truly makes themselves happy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Norfolk, Virginia's Best Kept Secret

Last Wednesday I enjoyed a rare treat when I visited the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. I had only recently heard of this museum and was surprised to find a very pleasing collection of artwork. Evidently few others have heard of this place because, as you can see from the following photos, I nearly had the place to myself. It reminded me of mid-week afternoons when I was a young woman in my 20's working in D.C. and I'd sneak away during lunch to visit the National Gallery of Art and have it all to myself. Those days are certainly long gone; these days there's always a crowd at the NGA, but I was able to get that same feeling back last week at the Chrysler.

The museum was founded by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., who lived from 1909 to 1988. He was the son of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation and collected art nearly throughout his entire life. The exhibits ranged from artifacts from ancient cultures as well as paintings and statuary from every era. However; the Chrysler is best known for its collection of glassware with pieces dating from the Byzantine era all the way to current glass sculpture. It's a phenomenally beautiful collection.

The statue pictured above is Anna Hyatt Huntington's The Torch Bearers and it graces the circular drive at the front of the museum.

I got the red carpet treatment the day I visited.

The spacious main lobby which can be rented for events.

Pandora, by American sculptor, Chauncey Bradley Ives, lives at the bottom of the circular stairs at the end of the children's gallery.

This is the American Sculpture gallery. As you can see, I had the room to myself.

This is Puck by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer. I love that he has a bug in the palm of his hand.

This piece of cameo glass is called Dragon Bowl and was created by the English glass designers, Thomas Webb & Sons in the 1800's.

Unfortunately, I screwed up and forgot to get the name and creator of this lovely piece also located in the Cameo Glass gallery.

I was tickled to find this room of impressionist painters. You can probably make out the Degas and the Cassatt among others in this photo.

On this wall is a Childe Hassam and what at first appeared to me to be a portrait by John Singer Sargent. Upon closer inspection I discovered that it was painted by Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran who was Sargent's teacher. Go figure.

This image and artist were completely new to me. It's called The Bath and was painted in 1868 by Swiss artist, Marc-Gabriel-Charles Gleyre. I think it was my favorite painting of the day. Because you are not permitted to use a flash and the lighting was low in the gallery, I was unable to get a good photo, so I cheated and used a photo from the museum's website.

This is a view of the lobby ceiling taken from an overlook on the second floor.

And this was taken in the vast glass galleries.

I spent 3 hours in the museum (a half hour of that was spent eating lunch and resting my feet in their beautiful cafe) and was unable to get to all the exhibits. Admission to the museum is free (it's closed on Mondays & Tuesdays), but there is a charge to their special exhibits. There was an exhibit of Egyptian Art with an admission charge of $7.00 which I chose to forgo in favor of the permanent exhibit which kept me very busy. The beautiful gift shop is also a "must see". So keep the Chrysler Art Museum in mind if you get to Norfolk; it's well worth the visit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Virginia Beach at Christmas

This week I had the opportunity to take a little break and tag along with my husband while he traveled to Virginia Beach for work. As I was driving along Pacific Avenue, I noticed this wonderful statue of King Neptune almost appearing to rise from the sea and I just had to stop and take a picture of him. As you can see, the day was cloudy and wind tossed which I thought made a perfect setting for Neptune, but the air was unusually warm for December; in the 70's, so it was a pleasure to be out and about. After I took my photo, I walked back through a line of evergreens that was edging the parking lot where I left my car and my right foot got caught on one of the tree branches which was right at ankle height and refused to give. So, down I went on all fours! The actual physical pain I endured was not nearly as excruciating as the pain to my bruised ego. I was just glad that I had put my camera back in my bag before walking back to the car; it never would have survived the fall.

That evening, my friend, Mary Beth, took me to dinner to celebrate my birthday, which was this past Sunday, and we drove back to the boardwalk to look at the Christmas lights. I had no idea that there was such a grand display or I would have brought my tripod on this trip. The following photos are slightly blurred, but I think you get the idea of what some of the light displays looked like. There were many more displays than what I've pictured here. These things were larger than life and extended for quite some distance along the boardwalk. Seeing them was a thrill!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paisley - Mixed Media Collage - 6x6

This is the last of the current "brown" series, but it has a lot more color than the previous ones. This experiment in monochromism (yes, I made that up) has given me an idea for a series of larger collages that I need to create for an upcoming show, so stay tuned!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Number Tree - Mixed Media Collage - 5x7

I had intended this piece to be monochromatic but found that it just wasn't working for me until I added the bright orange leaves. And there's no particular symbolism in the numbers. I was just tearing up pages from an antique French poetry book (the paper is of incredible quality!) and the lines of the poems were numbered. The bits of English words are obviously from some other text. When I first started using pages from books in my collages, I had a real problem with ripping up the pages. There's something about books that seems almost sacred to me. I soon discovered; however, that you do it once and it becomes easy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In The Library - Mixed Media Collage - 5x7

Something about this reminds me of an excellently appointed library with its grand globe, atlases and leather-bound books.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

High Time - Mixed Media Collage - 5x7


My husband, let's call him Bob, has some completely adorable habits; at least, I keep telling myself they are adorable. He's a larger than life kind of person and everything he does, he does with gusto. He's passionate about so many things and could never narrow his interests to just one hobby. And when he takes up a hobby, he does it in a big way. He scurries to obtain every piece of literature ever written about the new activity, subscribes to all the appropriate magazines and acquires all the pertinent catalogs. Next he procures all the necessary equipment and "costumes" that are associated with these activities.

Hunting is one of the earlier interests that he took up and thanks to Cabela's, he owns camo costumes in patterns designed for every season and every region. In our old house his camo collection consumed an entire closet. Also, thanks to Cabela's, he owns a very impressive spread of life size goose decoys. These were items that he managed to obtain very quietly and over a long period of time and he managed to spread them throughout several different storage areas so I never fully appreciated the size of this gaggle.

When we moved to our new house a year ago, a small portion of the flock came with us, but the bulk of it remained in a storage unit that we'd rented in Pennsylvania. Just recently we decided that it was time to consolidate all the "stuff" that was spread amongst three different storage units and we towed our enclosed trailer to PA to round up the birds. That's when I really had my eyes opened! We spent the entire weekend shuttling goose decoys around with the ultimate goal of storing them all in the enclosed trailer and I was beginning to think they wouldn't all fit. Finally I came right out and asked Bob just how many decoys he owned. In an almost inaudible voice he meekly answered, "200." I almost couldn't speak, which was just as well.

We finally managed to incarcerate the gaggle within the confines of the trailer and get the door shut and then we parked the trailer in yet another storage yard and came back home. When we returned to the house I discovered, to my horror, two decoys who'd managed to escape their prison sentence. So, as you can see, they've been pressed into service for the holidays.