Friday, December 30, 2011

IF: Highlight

Prompted by this weeks Illustration Friday theme of Highlight, I thought I would look back over the year and pick the illustration that was na extra special to me. What I found was that I really did not produce very much last year, kind of depressing. For whatever reason, I am in the famine side of freelancing and so was looking for other avenues- i.e. galleries - so put a lot of effort into larger pieces or should I say piece, yup, one piece.
It's something like 25" x 40 and it is impressive and of my daughter at the double arches at Moab and if I can figure out how to finish it, it is destined for juried art shows, etc, but right now it is more of a pile of fabric on my work table and a huge blockage to more work. Or was- until about the start of the winter, when I was working on it and my daughter walked by and said- "you have been working on that for what like a year?" I responded "No!", than realized she was right.
Now looking over my portfolio for 2011, I realize at what sacrifice a big piece like that demands. The illustration above was probably my last small work and it was a joy- recreating the famous Japans print was fun and the girl is based on one of Daughter #2's stances, and was a highlight.
I also looked at my post for this blog last year- half what I did in 2010 and my movie blog, which I really thoroughly enjoy- dusty.
Well I think the dry spell in the freelance work is key. I had a food allergy that left my feeling crappy and a little depressed till we figured that out, much better now. Change of life's season always makes me less productive ( see Christmas post) , pressure of $$$ for Daughter #1 college coming up made me debate getting a really job and then the teaching opportunity came up, which is probably the world's best compromise between having to work out of the studio and still having time in it, but it takes some balancing that is for sure!
But I think it comes to what I always struggle with as an artist and I don't know if this universal or it is just one more thing that makes me kind of "odd". I feel like I need to get permission to do this, that someone needs to tell me to "go ahead," or to make sure everyone else and anything else is taken care of first and then whatever time is left over is fine to do Art.
Daughter #1 did track in Middle School. She ran the 800, which they start "mob style", just a big clump of kids at the starting line and then the gun goes off and they run. Problem was she was too nice and lost about 5 seconds of her time because she would let everyone else around get going before she did. Believe me, her coach and we teased her for that, " Oh no, you go, really, you go first..."
Well for whatever reason the thing that did NOT go first in 2011 was my art and my writing. Which is so silly because it is something that gives me such joy. I have come to a conclusion in this end of the year reflection- that really apart from my kids and my husband ( who is pretty low maintenance- it is kind of an understanding we have- each wanting time to do "our thing") and my commitments to my kids at school and our Youth group which we are the leaders- it's my Art.
I don't know if more commissions will come in 2012, if a first draft of my novel will be completed, if I will see my work in print again, if they will hang in gallery or perish the thought someone buys something. But I do know that if I don't raise the priority of being in that studio and my hands on the keyboard writing, my sanity might be in questions at the end of 2012.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Change of Season...

Due to only having a day to think about our family's Christmas festivities, the school Christmas program went really well, the kids were so cute in their pretty dresses and a few of the boys even had fancy suit coats, but Friday found me sitting on my bed, laptop in hand, searching the web for some last minute ideas for our Christmas menu.

In the end, I went back to our family's simple favorites-I did make breakfast burritos, having just learned from Molina, my fellow teacher and Navajo, how to make homemade tortillas, then  we did our family favorite- Fondue for Christmas Eve dinner- the oil kind with cubed raw steak, shrimp and mushrooms to fry and a cheese fondue with cubed bread and asparagus spears to dip with all kinds of yummy dips. 

We also uncorked and dispersed Jon's wild plum rum to friends and enjoyed it ourselves Christmas Eve. Our old homestead has a long hedge of wild plums and thanks to one of the wonderful blogs I read from England, where I found this recipe for what they call Damsons - I put the idea of plum rum in Jon's head and he ran with it! Yum- this is our second batch and we made sure to make more of it for ourselves then last year because everyone wanted it!

I also divided and conquered, assigning cooking duties to other members of the family members even though I could hear the objections of all my grandmothers  in my head. Yes the kitchen was a little messy- but I got to sit down and enjoy the day which was beautiful and warm and I just kept loading and running the dishwasher and wiping down counters.

Christmas morning- I had planned to make sausage, fried potatoes and eggs, but a friend gave us the most yummy bread birdies, sweet roll knots, with one end clipped to look like tail feather and the other complete with an almond beak- and we still had daughter #2's cheese ball and I had everything to make my mom's Tipsy Dogs...
1 cup Bourbon
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar

simmer sauce until it reduces slightly and then add quartered good hot dogs or those mini sausage links for about 30 minutes.
My kids wanted to eat everything off a plate with toothpicks in little cups while playing with their Christmas toys!

Today, after Daughter #1 makes crepes,  I told the family we are observing Boxing Day- and purging of a lot of out grown clothes, unwanted items and recycling- which we will box up, take over to Durango, with a boyfriend in tow and  drop off at the thrift stores and recycling center  and then it is off to the movies where I think everyone is splitting up, and then down to downtown to wander a great old mining town main street, find a good place for dinner, browse a book, magazine store and then end it with a trip to the coffee shop. Nice way to end the holiday!

And then I don't know about you...but come Tuesday and two weeks of school break, I am devoting it to my studio- which now resemble more of a large junk room- everyone discovered a long time ago my large work table makes a mighty fine gift wrapping station!

Hope you all had a wonderful time with your family this Holiday Season! This year felt like such a transition year with a kid going off to college, a boyfriend part of our family mix, me teaching again and not home when the kids are done with school. I'd trade it all back, to be home with my two sweet little girls, didn't seem like enough time.

 It is like a really big chapter of our life is closing and a new on is starting- which mean we need to think about what is important and what needs to change. We still have Daughter #2 at home and  with Grandpa, who lives in another house on the homestead and is 86, we can't make any drastic changes quite yet, but my thoughts more and more often go to dreaming of moving- possible to Santa Fe or back over to Durango where we went to college or traveling- I am starting to look at Artist Residency programs on the East Coast and Europe, short ones and long term ones. I keep telling Jon he has to figure out how to do this lawyer thing over the internet so he can come with me and do some of the writing he always talks about.

His thoughts have gone to apples, saving what is left of the orchard on our property and helping to replant some of the heirloom varieties that are dying out in Southwest Colorado, once a thriving fruit producer about the turn of the twentieth century. It is just plain weird to start to think past kids- since for two decades they seemed to be our only thought- making a nest to raise our babies- which I think we made a pretty good nest and have two pretty awesome girls to show for it, but they are thinking about flying away and I got to think about what I'll be doing next!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting ready for Christmas...

Since this Christmas falls on a Sunday, the powers that be decided the holiday break for school should start actually on the 26th, I teach in the neighboring district to where my girls go ( which decide to let the kiddos out after Wednesday half day). My district is a four day week anyway so the kids are finishing out the week and not getting out until Friday- literally one day before Christmas Eve.

After Santa Claus himself, this time of year has to be the busiest to the lowly Art and Music teacher! Here is my list and I have checked in more than twice!!

1. Make Christmas ornaments for 37 children including.... handmade beads to go into the bead and wire star for the older class.
2. Glue together about 80 popsicle stick frames hoping will get 37 usable ones to make frames ( which is a good thing, since made the mistake of stacking them together too soon, did not account for kindergartners love of glue...lots and lots of glue.)

3. make sure I have taken photo of 37 children, need to still get pics on thumb drive and go to Walmart at a time when no one else wants to be there in order to get prints made a picture kiosk.
4. Practice - Little Drummer Boy with drums for the little guys, Jingle Bells with chimes, wood and bells with the big guys, Must be Santa, 12 Days of Christmas, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas and practice playing Silent Night as it is sung in Navajo- yup Navajo.
5. Wear old clothes for the "Day of Glue!!!" where above mentioned frames will be covered in glue and colored sand. ( which for some reason the school has a ton of, literally, I could do sand and glue projects all year and not run out? Hum, Art supply of Christmas pasts?

6. Make gift bags and tags for 37 children- teach older kids how to cut out a snowflake- realize there is no way for the little guys to do it so go to plan B- coloring Christmas scenes and character on bag- pretty cute!
7. Practice, Practice Practice songs- did I mention accompanying on the piano to Silent Night in Navajo.
8. Try to figure out if the convention hall where program will be even has a piano and if not what my plan B will be- got a key board that might work if power cord or right size batteries can be tracked down and the machine can be powered up..... maybe should think of a plan C!
9. After getting pics made, construct the picture frames.... do I make sample to test the projects in my

9. Find one more easy, kindergarten -first grade level ornament to have the kiddos make- which probably means one more trip to................Walmart!
10. did I mention playing Silent Night in Navajo, I don't understand Navajo.

As I write this Jon come in and asks " Did we settle on a Christmas Dinner...... fondue, turkey, elk stew?"
I give him a look and say....."Ask me after Thursday."

Would I trade the glue fingers, sand covered art room, pounding little drummer and bell players, sugar high little darlings for a Martha Stewart Christmas this year....nay, but..Ask me after Thursday!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

IF: Sink

How many polar bears does it take to sink an iceberg?
( yeah...I like polar bears!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

IF: Separated

Like all little ones (most of the time), they know to stay close to their mamma so they don't get separated!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Santa Fe by Snow

Had to be in Santa Fe this weekend for a karate conference. Since we were free until the afternoon, we hurried to the Square for breakfast at Pascals, our favorite restaurant where usually we have to wait upwards of a half hour. But because of a snow storm, a few inches at the most, which would be nothing in Colorado, but here people are not use to it, one happy result is we got one of the best booths in the tiny restaurant with no wait.
My two eggs, home fries and homemade English muffin with raspberry jam was as yummy as ever- fresh off the truck, literally!
Our tummy warm and full, we meandered down the snow covered sidewalks and window shopped.

Skipping in a few stores to get warm and took the time to pick up a few unplanned Christmas presents.... 
Ahhh, it is a wonderful thing to not be looking for a gift and find the perfect one in a beautiful store!
What is also wonderful on a snowy Saturday morning, is to slipped into a great bookstore, which must be a weekly routine for this dad and daughter, who tromped in from the snow the same time we did and plopped down in the children's section...
Of course we had to bare the cold to see St. Francis Cathedral....
After a peek inside where they were getting ready for Saturday morning Mass, we went around the corner to see the Loretta Chapel in the snow...
It did not disappoint! We mosied back around to the square and over to where the Native Americans sell their handmade jewelery in the protection of the porch of the Palace of the Governors....
Across the way from where the Native Americans sell their wares is the San Juan Trading building, one of the prettiest Santa Fe...
The girls were antsy to get to the Karate conference, so we said goodbye to the Square...

But since I was driving, we did meander up Canyon Road, and took a few more picks from the car...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

IF: Round

What could be easier, rolling a few round balls of snow and stacking them on top of each other to make a snowan. Wonder when we will get enough snow here at the house to make one, let alone a snowball. Just came over the pass from Denver and the ski slopes are open, if just a few runs and daughter #1 headed up to Telluride to snowboard with friends, though down here at the bottom of the canyon it is still very brown and windy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

IF: Silent

Today's theme for Illustration Friday is "Silent", which seems appropriate since today, here in the US it is also Veteran's Day. So here is a moment of silence.........for all the brave men and women who have fought and defend us in wars. Much of Europe also celebrates with Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.
Interestingly, Armistice Day marks the official end of World War One..." Starting on the Eleventh hour, on the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month", now, today it will be celebrated on the eleventh year of the new millennium.
My grandmother was a War Mother, an organization of mothers whose son's were soldiers. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you again see the the blue stars banners on the back of cars and in store fronts. In my grandmother's time, my uncle was in Vietnam, but many of the War Mother's sons fought in World War 2, blue stars were hung in the windows of the houses. A blue star for each son fighting. A silver star for each son wounded and a gold star for each son killed. My grandmother was a Gold Star Mother.
Poppies also are the flower of remembrance both in the US and in Europe.
When I was little, every year I would sit at my grandma's house and help her make tissue paper poppies in preparation of Veteran's Day.
To make, use a cardboard template- I think my grandma's pattern might of been five points, but four is way easier and don't think it will make that much difference once the layers are crunched up. We made little poppies to wear, maybe 1 and 1/2 inch, to give to people when they made a donation, the ladies would set up downtown for the day....these are bigger, but basically trace a circle and then cut the petal divisions, pinking or scalloping the edges.
I would be in charge of stacking squares of red tissue paper, I believe it was five, she would count when she was crumpling the layers and let me know if I got it wrong. We used tissue paper, I happen to have some pretty handmade red paper.
From the back, staple through all five layers, sandwiching a stick for a stem in the center- there was a knack on the tiny poppies we were making, to get the staple in the right place, we used pipe cleaners for the stems, I recall. I am using a craft stick, so not only did I stapled it, but put a dot of glue there are well.
Flip the poppy over and one layer at a time, scrunch them up, when you get done adjust to make it look like a poppy!
Adding my own flair, I stitched in three black buttons for the center, and there you have it!
The Blue Star embroidery, I picked up at a yard sale, for like 50cents. Mabe me sad that it was discarded like that and I adopted it, as it's keeper for whoever's mother stitched it, probably by the style of it from before World War 2, I have it in my studio and I won't forget, nor let my children!

Friday, November 04, 2011

IF: Striped

This is an old illustration and the only original illustration anyone has asked to buy. I was so taken back when the husband of a friend called and asked to buy it for his wife, I gave it to him! I know- I am such a great marketer!!
The title is Harvesting Poles. The Ute Indians go up in the mountain and harvest a bunch of the long lodge pole pines, to be used for their tepees they put up during the multi tribal pow wows festivals. Sometimes when we are up in the mountains, we will find a stash of long lodge pole pines that they keep up there, much easier to just bring up just  the canvas when they are camping.
The striped blanket is actually stitched because I wanted to control the curve of their bodies under it. That did take a long time and don't know if it was worth it.
Looking at it, I would do so many things differently now- but it is definitely one of people's favorite. Of course I like it because it is my favorite subject- a guy and a girl!

Friday, October 28, 2011

IF: Scary

This is an old one, but I still like it.

What is really scary for me right now is I have had so much "techy" trouble with this  blog as of late. First, some one was able to attach their own links to the end of my comments- how
un-nice is that!
Then Google wouldn't let me post on others blogs- kept telling me my username did not have permission and to use a different one.- which all meant with my now limited time, due to teaching- I have not been posting and commenting on the blogs I like to read- I have been Googling solutions to take care of all these hiccups and debating switching to Typepad or Wordpress which I do not want to do and do not have the time to learn a new system!
What I want to do, when I find a few hours before after teaching or on the days I don't is to post interesting things and comment on other's interesting blogs- #$#*$^!
So here's finger's crossed I have sorted through the problems and can start actively posting again- could you possible try posting- even if all you say is "boo"- and if you can NOT and have the time- let me know you still can't through my profile email- thank you thank you!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Going Back to Aspen...

This last weekend, I took my daughters back to Aspen, Colorado to meet up with my mom. Over forty years ago, we had lived there, before it was so posh, with the downtown lined with designer store fronts like Gucci and Dior and beautiful people with their high falotting dogs walking the streets and fighting for parking spots with their huge Suburbans and Porsches. No joke it was like "Road Rage"! I guess a parking complex on such pricey land is out of the question and would be an eye sore?
When we lived there, it looked more like this-

 taken from Wikipedia Commons- as were the downtown pictures, the rest are mine.
 We lived there in the late 60's and early 70's  when it was the "hippy" capitol of the world, or so it seemed to my father, who was the District Ranger for the Forest Service...
(this picture more from the mid 50's)
 and who's responsibility it was to keep in check the "free love" that was happening in the National Forest that surrounded the tiny mountain town at the end of the Roaring Fork Valley.
In fact, we lived right at the Aspen Ranger Station, which is situated at one of the first intersections as you come into town.
Just around the visitor entrance, where my sister, brother and I were the first to grab every publication, coloring book, poster, pencil, rule or anything else put out by Smoky the Bear or Woodsy Owl...

 There is  a sidewalk, around the corner,  which led to the house next door, still situated on NFS land...
That in the 70's was the District Rangers house....
I was five when we left, but I remember many things about living there like the curved archways, seeing my mom play solitaire at the round bear claw dining room table and the long set of stairs that went down to the basements where my dad kept his stash of antiques bottles found at clean up sites in the National Forest, i.e.- from trash heaps in abandoned mining towns up in the mountains of Colorado. Often we kids would sleep down there, on NFS cots, in smelly, leaking  NFS down sleeping bags.
After my mom and dad divorced and she took us to Loveland to live with our grandparents, I still visited Aspen and that is when I learned about another piece of equipment important to families of those who took care of the NF, a radio- before cell towers and phones, the only form of communication for those out deep in the wilderness and those at home. My stepmother explained that to me. More critical, though my father did not do as much as our friends, when your loved ones were out fighting forest fires, a dangerous but profitable part of working for the NFS.  We have friends who define what they will be able to do in a year, not by $ but by how many fires there might be.
Disappointing to see now, the back of the buildings is now a parking lot, but when I was a kid, it was a jungle, with streams, hiding places and  the horse corral, where I never passed up an opportunity to climb the thick NFS brown fence and offer the horses some of the more chose green grass on my side.

The horses were there to be used in packing equipment and manpower into the forest when needed.
Pack Strings are still used today- both my dad and my father-in-law who are involved in Backcountry Horseman, still regularly work with the NFS when they bring their pack strings in to work on a Wilderness trail,  where absolutely No motorized vehicles are allowed, so the horses are still needed.

On our trip this last weekend, my mom got to tell my daughters of how their grandpa's saddle and saddle bags were stolen and how my father track down the thief because he had the saddlebags custom made to fit his clipboard he used in his grass management.

Behind the horse corral, there were other outbuildings including a workshop, where my dad would make me simple wooden toys like a piece of 2x4 we painted and stapled a shawl onto. There was a bunkhouse for the seasonal hands and smoke jumpers perhaps, college boys who were around every summer, oh I was way to young to appreciate that.... but I still think of the time in Aspen during fire season when they are stationed around the Four Corners, with there bright red and yellow trucks and all of them wearing olive green cargo pants and heavy workbooks.

Next door to our house  in Aspen, was an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. They had been ranchers in the area, and were bought out when the rich started to move in, so they lived out their years in this little Victorian house. He always wore overalls and a felt hat and she wore dresses and aprons made out of calico, wore cat eye glasses and little white socks with her shoes, or so I remember.

One day, I do remember watching their house from our side window and not being allowed to go outside until Mr. Jenkins caught and drowned the skunks in trash cans that had taken up residence under their porch.

We also drove up Castle Canyon to enjoy the changing colors and to walk around the ghost town of Ashcroft....