Thursday, December 30, 2010

National CYT Blog Features My Work

The National CYT (Christian Youth Theater) Blog featured my sets work again.  Go to find December 22, and there it is!  Awesome!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Salute to Old Age

This Christmas I took a picture of my mother with our cat, Calypso, on her lap. The contrast of her beautiful, wrinkly old hands and the silky young cat are striking, as well as the contrast between lights and darks.  But more than the visual contrasts, it makes me think of youth and old age, and how thankful I am for my aging parents.  We had a lovely Christmas together.  It was made all the sweeter because I don't know how many more Christmases we will have with them.  These are the hands that loved and cared for me all my life.  These are the hands that gave me a beautiful childhood.  These are the hands that gave me a home filled with solid Christian values.  Now it's my turn.  Now I will use my hands for them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Metal Embossing, Peony Final

As I promised in my Metal Embossing post, here is the finished piece.  Scroll down to the one entitled 'Metal Embossing' to see how I did this before adding color.

I chose a nice neutral brown, two reds, an opalescent pink and two greens for the color.  These are liquid acrylics - very heavily pigmented.

Because the gesso is super absorbent, I worked one small area at a time, the size of, say, half a peony.

With the inks, I would paint or pour them on, one or two colors at a time, and work them into the crevices with a rag.  I wanted to go for an antiqued, old look, so I rubbed the paint off in
varying degrees.  Some spots I left more pigmented, and some I rubbed harder.  In most of the highly embossed places, I rubbed hard enough so that the shine of the metal glistened through.
The second picture shows  detail so you can see how I treated the outside edges.  Some I rubbed down to the gesso, letting the white peek through.  In some parts I layered colors and rubbed one or the other off to varying degrees to get that ancient look.  I've always liked pinks and greens together, they give me a nice, peaceful feeling.

By the way, the complex leaves surrounding the flowers are rose geraniums.  If you aren't familiar with them, seek them out.  The flowers are insignificant, but the leaves smell like fresh roses.  I use them in bouquets always.  They're also great when you toss a couple leaves into your iced tea glass - how can iced tea not be good when it smells like roses?  They're also a wonderful flavor enhancer for homemade apple jelly.  Just imagine light pink sweet rose-scented apple jelly on your toast.  Oh, heaven!  And of course my signature is down by all those rich, textured browns.  Let me know what you think.  AND... merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Impressionist Art Colony - Exploring!

When we were in New England this November we went to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. 
 Outside the museum was this - structure - which beckoned us over before we even entered the museum.  It begged us to explore and play.  This is my son looking at it.  Here's a little video -
It was built by a man named Patrick Dougherty, who travels worldwide building these artistic structures from the materials at hand.  It really was remarkable, and overlooked pretty much the whole of the museum property, and the unbelievably beautiful and fast-moving Lieutenant River.
 When we first came into the museum parking lot, there was a from what I understand rare and very beautiful crab apple tree. We took full advantage of it and Noah and I had a dandy crabapple fight. :)  Here's the tree:
It was so beautiful.  And the day was perfect, too - can you imagine Connecticut the week before Thanksgiving in the 50s and sunny?!  Great traveling for us thin-blooded Texans!  The pic below shows me with the last of my ammunition.  (of course, a squished one turned up in my hair later, so I guess Noah won!)
You can see the Lieutenant River in the background.  One of the things that made this place special is the fact that Childe Hassam resided there for some time.  His Impressionist art influenced the other artists, as you can see if you check out their works.
Below is the entrance to the museum, uh, as you can see it says 'Museum Entrance...' and, Yours Truly in paint jeans.  Oh, yeah... how could I forget?  ALL of my jeans are paint jeans! 

Below is a picture of the museum building.  Can you believe I somehow didn't get a shot of the house?  Oh, brother!  I know why - they maintain a garden between museum and house that was beautiful even in its dormancy.  Because I'm a gardener, it distracted me!  To this day, they maintain the gardens in the same way that they were maintained in its artistic heyday, same plants, same layout.  It was pretty easy to figure that out just by looking at the artists' paintings!

As I said before, the foilage was really breathtaking.
 My last shot for you is one of my favorites - my son facing the Lieutenant River in an Adirondack chair. Great way to end our museum tour.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Woodlands Waterfall

By the way, this pic that I'm using as my header temporarily, Woodlands Waterfall, looks pretty terrible online.  The colors are really, really off and I'm pretty sure I'm going to leave it up only for a couple days.  Believe me when I say that it IS really pretty in person.  I did it with colored inks on YUPO.  YUPO is a polyurethane paper (basically plastic) that is absolutely non-absorbant.  I added a lot of pearlescents into the water, so it fairly glows.
 If you view this in person, it looks so much better. I kept the brushstrokes big and loose to give it a painterly feeling and did a lot of direct painting on the 'paper' to let the colors mix there instead of in my pallet.  There are a lot of rich neutrals in the rocks and shadows that just don't come out in a photograph.  Close to our home there's a waterfall over by The Woodlands Waterway that we enjoy climbing around.  We had kids climbing all over the rocks and I took a bunch of shots only with my phone, but that was all I needed to spark the idea.  I'd actually like to do an entire series of Woodlands waterfalls as we've got a bunch of 'em.  Time, time, time!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Metal Embossing

I brought home three cherished peonies from the store the other day, an extravagant purchase, but I NEEDED them!  In each state we have lived in, I planted a row of peonies, and have left a peony trail behind me.  Here in Texas the climate is too warm for them, so I can't grow them anymore. Lucky people in a number of states are benefiting from my labors!  Peonies are my favorite flowers and have an unbeatable, heady fragrance.  So, because I had these lovelies, I just had to draw them.  Decided to try it on metal.
Here it is with my etching finished - as you can see, it's pretty thin and floppy.

This shows a close up of a little section so you can see the detail a little better.  Because the metal is so reflective (and because I'm not great with cameras) it's kind of hard to show what I want, but you get the idea.  Peonies are so multi-petaled, that I wanted it to be complex, and metals really beg to be heavily etched to show off their reflective qualities.
My next step was to gesso it to a board because the metal needs support.  I used a LOT of gesso and laid it thickly on both board and metal, filling in all the indentations to preserve the etching.  It'll probably take three years to dry.

Here it is sitting on my workspace drying.  I haven't measured it but it's probably 11x14 or so.

My next step will be to paint it; I think I'm going to paint it in some pastel tones.  I'll take some pics of that and post it very soon.

Let me know what you think of it so far, and if you've had any experiences with metals.  I do these every year (on a smaller scale) with my art students.  The younger the student, the smaller the piece.  They invariable LOVE it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Thankful Nod

Tomorrow morning we're going to go down to the Veteran's Memorial Cemetery.  It will be my second funeral in two weeks and my third funeral at that cemetery in the past couple years.  My love and prayers to the families of those two very special young men who gave their lives for us all.  May we live well as thanks to them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Slip to Eternity

This weekend one of my friends died.  He was a very special man who played trombone in our church orchestra.  He was always there.  For the past few years, his playing wasn't all that great, but that didn't matter.  What mattered was that he was there - right where he belonged, completing our orchestra.  He was fun, kind and generous, steadfast, honorable, quick-witted and dependable.  He was Sydney.  I loved him and I miss him.
I had another friend die some time ago and wrote this poem for him.  It seems a fitting tribute to Sydney as well.  It's called 'Slip to Eternity.'

Can't sleep tonight.
Hot tears noiselessly flood my eyes,
    and cascade to my pillow,
as I, lost in thought,
    silently mourn another death.

The comfort of sleep eludes,
and he who lies beside me
    is also silent -
    but not from slumber -
'tis the silence of deep reflection.

We think of our lives -
    half over if we live long;
of my parents,
    of his mom -
and his dad, gone a year now.
I remember a young friend
    and her son, seven summers old
taken from us.

Sleep still far from our eyes,
    we talk.

He speaks of a place far better.
No more pain, or night, or tears;
    a glorious Hope for those who believe.
Far better off,
    it is there they await us.

But we are left here to mourn
    our loss (but their gain!)
So shall we?
To think on death
    makes me feel more alive; I realize the gift!
And what shall I do,
    but live it!  Live!
To proclaim my God! To serve Him!
To love, to feel, to enjoy,
    to share, to laugh, to cry.
To show the face of Jesus.
To touch, and make a difference.

We tread these mortal paths but a short time -
    we must press on
    before our slip to eternity.

We talk, we cry.
    We pray, we sleep.
Not restless, not hopeless,
    but the deep slumber of God's promised rest.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Skeleton in My Closet

This is the story of an unwelcome skeleton who just keeps popping up unexpectedly.  Here I am with him in the backstage workroom as we prepare for our show.  We've got him wired to the bridge which will be used in the romantic Music Man scene.  I made a barbershop quartet moustache and Jim stuck it on - someone else put a red light - a beating heart, inside his ribs.
We named him Horatio, and he's made it now to each one of our shows since his debut in Peter Pan.
Peter Pan was my first show. I'll never forget the huge rock we did of papier mache in my driveway.  Good grief - it probably took 15 gallons of papier mache and attracted flies from all of the continental U.S. and Central America!  If you DIDN'T have flies at that time, you can thank me!

This was Marooner's Rock, to which the evil Captain Hook chained his victims.  It seemed fitting that a skeleton be manacled and hanging there.

I arranged it and then left town for some reason, missing that particular show and his debut.  When I came back for the next show, everyone was in an uproar wondering who put the skeleton there!  (hoo, boy!)  To my surprise, I found out that the director did NOT want a skeleton in a children's show and he was summarily removed. Sorry!
So, we put him away, and kept him in a box in our workroom.  I made sure to keep him hidden, because a skeleton is just too tempting.

Ever since, he's just had to come out for each ensuing production.  We get him out for tech week only, so that he's not in a show that guests would see.  If I remember correctly, he did make it into Annie, laying on one of the orphan's beds, and unseen from the audience's point of view.  Quite a surprise to the actors. :)

Here's Horatio at Music Man tech week. At one point, Rachel lovingly stroked his skull while she was delivering lines - it was hilarious! We were honored to put him out with a friend's hat who was back from Afghanistan.  Thanks, Jeff, may God be with you every day that you are away from us.

The lanterns were a lucky nab - October is not the time of year you want to be looking for garden lanterns!  You may note the starry backdrop?  That's our 'starry night' curtain - made out of many panels of black loose-weave cloth, with many, MANY strings of little white Christmas lights safety-pinned onto them.  This was largely a project of a handful of CYT students - way to go, guys!
And just so you know, Horatio is safely tucked into his box, awaiting the next big show!  People, if you have any memories of Horatio popping up, give me a comment.  Some of them have been pretty funny.

Music Man Library Sets

Well, I previously posted what it took to paint the library shelves (check out my right margin going down), so thought you might like to see what they looked like during Music Man.  Here are a couple shots:

This one's a close-up.  I had my kids put any titles they wanted on the books, as long as the titles didn't offend my moral sensibilities :)  We got some crazy ones, too.  I put down a bunch of my favorite book titles, and also included "Cindy Johnson's Awesome Sets Class," as one.  Everyone's favorite was the Pokemon Authority, complete with picture logo, right next to The Holy Bible.  The logo was pretty easy to see. I'm SURE that the Pokemon book wasn't around during that era!  We pretty much counted on the audience NOT being able to read the book names!  We did find that the cast got a kick out of them while they were onstage acting.

This shot is from one of the dance scenes, which turned out to be awesome.  We built the tables and benches  EXTREMELY STURDY knowing that there would be a lot of dancing on them (heavy to move). You can see one of the two pillars here, which helped give the scene some height.

Here's a good shot of our very solid and beautiful desk which got built twice.  The man who built it had it delivered, but we never found it!  Weird.  The only thing we can think of is that someone drove by and liked it, and helped themselves!  Time grew short and it never turned up - so... he built another one!  THANKS, STEVE - twice!

Nice shot.  A lot of painting went into our two tables.  We built the two, and left one naked because we lent it out to someone before our show.  I taught my kids how to do a nice wood texture on the other one.
Step 1 - All-over base coat
Step 2 - Dry brush (using one of my customized, scissor-cut goofy old brushes) on a darker brown for the wood grain
Step 3 - Black antiquing lowlights either with a plastic Walmart bag or another dry brush.
Okay, here's the embarrassing part - I set aside enough paint to do the lent-out table once it came back, which would be a couple days before the first show.  Somehow, one of my students, or maybe myself (couldn't be!) ended up using it for something else!  So... since I'm too cheap to actually buy more paint - we had to paint that one twice, so that both tables would match!  I like to think I'm an organized person... I'm sure no one else has THAT problem!