#90 – CHICKS IN A BOX

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Happy Easter!  Since I’m doing birds, is there any bird more associated with Easter than the spring chick?

The cardboard box refers to the countless schools around the world that participate in the phenomenon of watching eggs hatch.  I just love the excitement of little kids when the eggs come into the classroom.  They are taught about what is inside and they learn they must wait 21 days for something to emerge.  And thus begins the count.  Each day you peak in at the eggs, they look the same day after day…and then one day there are tiny holes, the eggs rock back and forth, occasionally a peep sound comes from inside the egg.  You know today is the day and yet hours go by as you patiently watch a little bird fight to free itself from its shell.  Not much schoolwork takes place on this day because the excitement cannot be contained, all focus is on watching and waiting.

True to its word, 21 Days later, the chicks are born. An enigma kids can not really understand, yet have the pleasure of observing.

The mystery of life.

Oh, and then there is the following week when you get to hold them, they are fuzzy, they poop on the floor and all the kids giggle….It’s just awesome to witness the eyes of babes.

When I was in college, I bought my mom this little stuffed animal chick that chirped when you placed it in your hand.  No big deal, it was Easter, it was cute, so what.  As a college kid months go by before you return home again.  Upon my return I found this little chicky by my mothers bedside – how cute.  Years went by and I found this little chick by my mothers bedside.

I began to realize that the cutesy little stuffed animal chick had taken on more than a holiday token.  Upon closer attention, I realized a photo of my sister and I in summer camp ten years before also graced the same nightstand.  This was a little shrine.  When my mother went to sleep and when she woke, these were the little things she glanced at.

Now that I am a mom, I have little items around the house too.  There are two thumbnail sized monsters my son put in my shower.  Each time I see them I think of him clogging up my shower creating a swimming pool and I gush with love for him.  I have a miniature school bus in my  windowsill.   Each time I glance at that, I can envision my daughters smiley face as she sings “Here comes the bus” Instead of “Here Comes the Sun” from George Harrison of the Beatles.  Watching her sing as the bus pulled away was one of those moments when you get outside of yourself for a moment and just see the absolute divine beauty in your life.  A tiny school bus figurine can bring me there in my head.

So I think of my moms little Easter chick sitting on her nightstand.  Dusty and nonfunctional with age and as a mother I now know, that this little chick probably makes her think of me.  So when I think of the little spring chicks now, I understand just how much I am loved.

We don’t need silly little icons to remember one another, but over time, things get left around or behind and memories get associated with them. My mother doesn’t need the beat up chick that I’m pretty sure my little ones have gotten hold of and ruined by now anyway. Nor do I need little monster toys or a school bus.

As parents we are the vessels for these memories and for love. Nothing more is needed.

There is beauty in that.

#90 - Chicks ina box

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#89 – “HOPE” IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS – THE ROBIN

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What better for Easter weekend then a little reminder of spring.  With the coming of the robin comes the thawing of the earth.  For if a robin can find a worm, the earth must be teeming with life. After freezing in my man-cave for many a month, the phrase that comes to mind is HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL.

Looney Tunes Image :  Road RunnerMy number one visual of the American Robin is a road runner.  I think of the Looney Tune bird racing across my yard.  Darting here and there.  Boy are those robins quick!  And I am forever amazed at how many worms they get!

While hunting around for interesting tidbits on robins, I came across a webpage devoted to robins through the poetry of Emily Dickinson.  As a child in New England we were all forced to read Dickinson.  Force me to do anything and I will resist!  But now, 20 years later, sitting in my chair sipping coffee, gazing out into my little yard, Emily Dickinson’s words have found new meaning.  She paints with words.  I never saw it until now, but every sentence conjures up such beautiful images for me.  I thought I’d share two favorites:

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“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops — at all –

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

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The Robin is a Gabriel
In humble circumstances –
His Dress denotes him socially,
Of Transport’s Working Classes –
He has the punctuality
Of the New England Farmer –
The same oblique integrity,
A Vista vastly warmer –

A small but sturdy Residence
A self denying Household,
The Guests of Perspicacity
Are all that cross his Threshold –
As covert as a Fugitive,
Cajoling Consternation
By Ditties to the Enemy
And Sylvan Punctuation –

Mmm. Letting that soak in.  As a painter, I love the wrens, the nuthatches, the robins, but they are brown, black, blah…. (not really-but you get my point) I understand fully their feathers are perfection.  Evolutionarily speaking, their feathers help them blend into their environ effortlessly.  But as the artist, we want them to stand out.  We want to call attention to them through our work, but their very essence is not to stand out.

I love to be in a gaze, staring at nothing really, but as I tune in, I realize the earth is moving.  from under the dead brown leaves come tons of little birds, who just a moment before I couldn’t see.  Then I am reminded, that us humans, if we choose the undertaking, are the earth’s observers.  We are here to consciously observe.  Such a very difficult job, when our brains can do so many things at once, but this is what birds do for me.  They slow down my thoughts and they force me to observe that there is a whole world out there that has nothing to do with human interaction.  This gives me solace.

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#88 – AMERICAN GOLDFINCH

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When I think of the American Goldfinch I instantly think of Coreopsis and when I think of Coreopsis I think of my other friends the grasshopper and the praying mantis.  All one big happy family in my yard.

At my last house, I filled my front yard with Coreopsis or what a friend of mine calls tick seed.  It is a very wild and unruly plant.  I pretty much used it because for every one plant, you get 5 plants the next year.  This made my front yard quite affordable.

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But there wound up being another reason  -the amazing amount of wildlife attracted to my flowerbeds right in the center of town.  I found this photo too, to give you an idea of how “city like” my old front yard could be.

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I thought this was hilarious.  I opened my door and there seemed to be delivery men approaching…

So let’s just say the front yard could be rather boisterous and bustling…

After 4-5 years I had created a 20 foot border of Coreopsis, lavender, Ghalardia, daylillies, pretty much anything people were giving away.  I’d call it a wildflower garden….  Wild being the definitive term.

What I remember so fondly was sitting out front with my little ones as they would catch over twenty grasshoppers at a time.  Then they would count the praying mantises, sometimes ten, sometimes fifteen!  Lot’s of snails on our old granite wall too.

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But the best, was the goldfinches.  If you stayed really quiet and really still they would come and eat the seed heads off the Coreopsis right in front of you.  The birds were light enough to actually perch at the tops of the flowering plants.

We were in the center of this crazy village yet in our own little cocoon with the birds and the bees.  Yep the bees were there too.

I know many of my friends wondered how I could live with my front steps being a town-bus stop.  Coffee cups left out on my wall.  Sometimes worse.  For the most part I didn’t notice.  I found myself surrounded by so much nature.  I had a large lilac hedge and very old Japanese Quince bushes that the Baltimore Orioles adored.  Life was pretty good.

Of course my kids got a little older and wanted to bike ride and play. At that point our little house in the center of town needed to go to another young kid-less couple who loved the idea of walking to the little shops in the village.

We are off the main road now.  In a quiet place. Perfect for bike riding and playing, yet still close enough to walk into town. And I have inherited some new amazing gardens from the previous homeowner… All  is good.

But when I think of my old house, I will always think of the Coreopsis and all the great treasures hiding in it.

One other funny little story.  We had an aunt who came to visit at our old house.  She disappeared for some time and then came running into the house.  She was telling me I had to look at my front yard.  She was sure I had some pet store birds loose in my garden.  That cracked me up, I knew exactly what she was talking about.  Most pet stores have beautiful finches for sale. I laughed and told her, these are the wild kind.

The Beautiful American Goldfinch.

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#87 – THE SEAGULL – Long Walk Off a Short Pier

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This is a Herring Gull to be specific.  I hunted the internet to figure out which one is the one I have seen in the North East my entire life.  For this bird portrait, I loosely interpreted the Narragansett Pier with its great sea wall.

So here is the funny story:  When I was a kid, my mom would take us to Gosman’s Dock in Montauk Harbor Long Island.  Back then, it was a lot more rustic than it is today.  My memory was lots of grey docks where you could buy fish and chips and enjoy the harbor.  Well, back then, all the kids would feed the seagulls.  So there’d be a dock full of kids throwing french fries in the air and the fantastic seagulls would swarm the sky and catch the french fries mid-air (now a days someone would call the cops on you for creating such a scene! Ahh…such simpler uneducated times!) 

I mention this because for years, whenever I saw a seagull close up, there’d always be one or two with red on their bills.  Quite honestly, I deduced that since I eye-witnessed the mass consumption of french fries by seagulls that this must be ketchup on their bills.  It wasn’t until I moved to Rhode Island and saw seagulls daily, that I realized those are the specific markings of the Herring Gull!  Oh so silly.  But really, if you were to trace these birds back to the Darwin Era, I’d bet there’d be ketchup in their history :)

I lived inland for most of my life, only in the past ten years have I had the delight of living by the sea.  Another reason I knew I moved to the right place was because instead of having a rooster weather vane propped on top of my roof, I proudly displayed a large real life seagull.  My last house here in RI was smack dab in the center of this little village.  It was rather loud with a coffee shop next door and cars circling out front due to a large rotary in front of the house.  But, we were younger and living in town was fun. So I want you to envision a busy coffee shop, 18-wheelers dropping off supplies in front of my house, cars whizzing by in three directions due to the rotary….and there at the tippity-top of the point of my roof was this giant seagull proudly displaying himself as if the mast of a ship.  I loved it.  I thought to myself, most of the world doesn’t get to enjoy the company of these big gray and white birds.  They are a sign of the sea.  Man am I lucky.   Ten years later, I still feel the same way, so lucky to live where I live.  I love it.

I could probably find five more stories to tell.  Oh how I love to sit on the beach and watch the seagull pick pockets work in teams removing chips from people’s beach bags and how for entertainment I’d drop my toddlers in a parking lot full of seagulls and let them chase them for hours…the stories could go on…

Again, I am sure there is a good size population of humans that find this bird just as much of a nuisance as the Grackle, but to me, I simply adore seagulls.  They win a top seat in my bird aficionado stand.

#87 - THE SEAGULL - Long Walk Off a Short Pier (2)

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#86 – THE GRACKLE

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Thus begins the bird series…which may take some time because I am crazy about so many different birds!  See Post #9 -THE BIRD FEEDER for the back story.

So as a gift my husband bought me the deluxe bird feeder.  It has 5 different seed chambers, suet feeder, bells, whistles…you name it.  Best gift of my life with the exception of my Cannon Rebel (other best gift of my life).  Anyway, I just adore watching the birds that come through my yard.

When I first got the feeder, I had no idea which bird was which so I bought “my daughter” (really me) a bird field guide.

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I kept telling my husband “there is this gorgeous iridescent bird that keeps coming to the feeder.  It’s huge, It’s eyes glow, it’s the most gorgeous bird I’ve ever seen!”

So I get the guide, anxious to learn what the name of the most exotic looking bird I’ve ever seen was… It turns out it was the Common Grackle.  How mean to give the bird a name that has common in it!  These birds are abundant and widespread through most of the country and their song is compared to the sound of a rusty hinge.  Poor Common Grackle.  I still love you!

Spiritually speaking, humans lose their awareness of their surroundings by giving things names, classifications and judgements based on prior memories.  If an individual has not been taught that this creature is a nuisance, run of the mill, squaky bird, then it is not so.  If you choose to agree with that which you are taught it is so.  On a spiritual path, you must constantly ask yourself all day?  Is this so?  Is this so?  Is the human in front of me poor, uneducated, an authority, snotty, old, annoying….you name it?  Does where I work stink?  Is life passing me by? Is Wednesday really a sucky day or a lucky day? Is emptying the dishwasher really the end of the world?

As my mom would say, “Check your thoughts!”

Onto the art portion of this program…

I opted to go with two different techniques I have been working with lately.  One is the cutting out and creating templates of my subject matter and two bees-wax crayons with watercolor resist.  I’m just loving the bold graphic nature of the two.

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TMI. So now you know what kind of cereal we eat!

I love that there is an element of recycling to this project.  I am going to keep all the bird templates I create and then make one large image incorporating all of them. The feathers of this bird truly are iridescent.  This is why I thought using the green and blue crayon amongst the black watercolor paint would give it the right effect.  The paper for today’s work is 16×16 inches.

 I will try my best to tie the future bird paintings all together, but we’ll see how I feel about the birds I pick, because that will have an impact on the style of the painting I’m sure.

OK.  So keep in mind today.  That which you do not label can be explored in a new way.

Oh, and never call something common, it suggests less than. Totally not cool!

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#85 – WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?

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and that?

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and that?

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and that?

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I am creating more Pottery Peoples in pottery class! That’s what!

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The first photo is an upside down head, next a frilly turtleneck, third another head and 4th its body.  It’s a shame too.  They were very pretty symmetrical little vases until I poked and prodded indents into them!  I think they are fun to display around the house, So I’m going to make a couple more.  One of them I’m going to give a big handlebar mustache.  We’ll see what the other morphs into…

Stay tuned, I post pottery class every Tuesday!

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#84 – BEDAZZLE ME

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Does everyone have an Auntie Mame?

 Well I do.  She isn’t so much known for her exotic world travel, she is known more for her exotic creativity!

She has a picture framing business and event planning business.  Check her out.  Let’s just say she flies in, she flies out and you always wonder what she’s up to!  Simply one of the most creative people I know.

Now where was I?….Oh yeah.  This package arrived at my doorstep.  I opened it up and this is what I found:

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If you refer back to my post “I LOVE MY GLASSES” you’d hear the story about how I bedazzled my own pair of glasses.  During my last visit, Judy saw my glasses and thought she had quite a few pairs that just needed something “special”,  hence the package in the mail.  I called her this morning and told her to send me a photo of her favorite pair of glasses so I could see what she likes.  This is the photo she sent me:

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Does that sum it up for you?  She cracks me up!

So I set to it…   The instructions she left me were:

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This is what I came up with:

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If you can read her note, she said the round pink frames were just too darn round on her square face, so I took some polymer clay and created the cat-eye sweep for the round frames.  She’ll have to tell me whether they work or not.

At the bottom, she wrote to “Have Fun” and I did.  I even snuck a pair of mine into the mix but I forgot to photograph them because I needed them!  They wound up back on my face!

Ya know, this is an ongoing problem for us creatives or maybe just us crazies.  You go to the eyeglass store and everything is brown and black.  When I ask them if they have anything in SKY BLUE or CHARTREUSE GREEN they look at me as if my eyes are crossed…oh wait, maybe they were? :)

But seriously, I don’t live in an exotic city.  I’m out in the burbs.  There’s just not that much eccentricity.  Sometimes you just have to create it!

If you need some assistance making your frames a little funkier. Shoot me an email, I’m sure I can help!

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#83 – FLIGHT OF THE MAGPIES

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I titled this “Flight of the Magpies” because I thought it sounded a little better than flight of the grackles,crows and starlings which would probably be a little more accurate.  Every region has its blackbird.  I mostly see grackles around here.

Anyway,  I was listening to NPR last week, I tried to find the podcast and couldn’t (sorry!), but the gist of the story was this… They were conducting interviews of small towns in the mid-southern US and how the black bird migrations effected their springs every year.  You are thinking “it’s a black bird how could it really effect anyone’s life?”  Well, that’s the funny thing.  The blackbirds travel down to south America for the winter and then make their way back up north in the spring.   So?   Did I mention they travel by the thousands? Yeah.  It’s one of those wild phenomena.

Here is a clip I found on YOUTUBE ABOUT BLACKBIRD MIGRATIONS.  Wild stuff.  Well, in Rhode Island, we don’t really get that many, but we get enough that you know when they are back.

Sure enough, I was driving past one of our farms in Charlestown and at first glimpse I thought it weird the trees had leaves.  Trees don’t have leaves this time of year.  Then I noticed some leaves were hopping from one branch to the other.  Aha,  I caught it!  Just after listening to a very cool program on these little nuisances, I caught their arrival!  I’m not a farmer, so they really don’t bother me much.  Just this week, I started seeing some grackles at my bird feeder. Occasionally I see a red-winged black bird and I simply think both are gorgeous.  Their eyes glow, their feathers are an iridescent black.  They are so very cool.

So that was my random thought this morning or should I say random image.  The trees filled with blackbirds.

The point I want to make about it is AWARENESS.  I know we all rush around with a million human things that need to get accomplished, but there is so much pleasure in doing the absolute opposite.  Once in a while, if you can be aware enough to tune out of your head, you can catch a glimpse of the Earth doing its majestic thing.  Humans have nothing to do with it, its been happening for millions of years and if we look and pay attention, we can enjoy it’s unfolding.  Mother Nature.

I feel blessed to have caught another glimpse this week.

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#82 – LEMON ABSTRACT

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I truly find it difficult to think and create abstractly.  I first did a sketch this morning and it had too much detail and the flowers looked too real.  It’s just not what I was in the mood for…

Then I remembered what I used to do years ago.  I would cut and cut and cut creating shapes, collage and templates for artwork.

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Why you ask?  What I had figured out years ago, is that I’m pretty good at creating interesting shapes and assembling them very quickly.  Faster than I could sketch something.  I would create clothing for paper dolls, designs for chairs, self portraits, landscapes, you name it.  My mind could break down and create compositions via the act of cutting the objects out,way better or should I say easier than drawing them.

I think another positive to this approach is that you can move the templates around before sketching.  In doing so, I can pay a lot closer attention to the negative spaces and arrange the shapes in a more playful manner as to not create such a literal image.  I love that the lemons are rolling down the surface.  It’s fun.  I moved the lemons around horizontally and vertically until I saw what I liked. No paper wasted.

I think in the upcoming weeks I will try this approach a little more.  I want to do a bird series which could work well with this.  If I keep all of these templates I make, then I can make some really large pieces of artwork incorporating the entire compilation of pieces.

Here are a couple of other things:  First, I’m looking at the white background in the above photo and wondering why I always go so darn wild with color (orange background?)  I can’t seem to stop earlier in the process…I just go full throttle until there isn’t a speck of white on the page.  Wondering what you guys think again?  Should I try a little harder to pull back and restrain myself?  Second, This was a funny thought…If I kept going with this approach, I could be known as the recycling artist…You know, the woman diving in dumpsters and ripping apart the recycling.  I’d find that amusing, but I guess I’m already that :)

So I had another fun day exploring art mediums.  I definitely got my bright color fix for the day.  Now,I’m off to relax and think about what I might come up with for tomorrow.

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