Monday, January 31, 2011

January is Over (So Far I’m One for One)

I started a new art journal on January 1st.  This new year I planned on creating a calendar each month to help with my quest of journaling everyday.  Shortly after creating my January calendar, I happened upon Kate from The Kathryn Wheel.  She is an amazing artist from the UK.  Her work is so inspiring to me.  As is happens, she posts a calendar challenge.  Each month, calendars that have been created are posted to her site using a linky thing so others can view all the posted artwork.  I excitedly threw my hat in the ring for this challenge.

Full on art journaling everyday did not happen (like that was a surprise), but keeping up with the calendar in the journal was a small way of journaling when I didn’t have time for a complete page. 

Here is this month’s calendar.  I love the calendars on Kate’s page and I plan on trying one like that in the near future.  January’s calendar was created using fluid acrylics, poster paint markers, and watercolor crayons (to grunge it up a bit).  Paint drips were used to create the calendar boxes.
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I can’t believe January is over!  I’m off to start working on February!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good Dog (Kind Of)

rigby 009Rigby is going to be one year old next month. Having a puppy in the house again has been fun but exhausting.

She is a very good thief; stealing things that don’t belong to her and running away with them. There was a period of time when anything she stole was destroyed.
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Out of seven throw rugs around the house, only 2 remain. Other than every once in awhile she seems to have moved on from this poor behavior and channeled it elsewhere.

Rigby only has an on and off switch. There is no idle. Most of the time she is on the move…

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rigby 029 playing with her toys

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rolling around,

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trying to herd anything that moves, and generally being blurry which is very difficult to photograph.

The rest of the (much,much less) time she is out. I do not mean that she gets sleepy and finds a good spot to take a nap. Instead, wherevershe happens to be overcome with sleep, she flops to the ground and is out.

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Whether it be while sitting on the stairs looking out the window…

Picture 013Or after a long walk and before the leash even gets removed from her collar.

She is still such a long a lanky puppy and doesn’t seem to have any awareness of her body. So the flopping often ends up hitting someone or something nearby. Sleep, however, is my favorite way to spend time with her. She is very cuddly and so, so quiet.

Overall Rigby minds very well. She knows her basic commands and obeys them most of the time. If she is distracted by the wind, a bird, or even her tail…well then she doesn’t. All of her crazy behavior is somewhat endearing because she really is a cute, good dog. She’s still just a rotten puppy.

However, the last few weeks a new bad habit has surfaced. Let’s just say the backyard is beginning to look like the moon. Rigby has been supplied with many, many toys to keep her busy and out of trouble. But this seems to have backfired as she has become very protective of them and wishes to hide them in holes in the backyard. There are little holes and gigantic holes everywhere!
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rigby 026This is her newest crater. Doesn’t she look proud?

I have tried everything to stop this digging. I keep telling myself that she will grow out of it and once she does the backyard will get reseeded and all will be fine. But every time I come home and see a new hole I get a little frustrated. Hopefully it is just another puppy stage. Fingers crossed!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drawing Blind!

Carla Sonheim’s class “Silly the Third” has been so much fun.  Each day there is a new worksheet to play with.  We are two-thirds of the way through the class and I’ve enjoyed all of the activities.  I think however that the “Blind Contour” has been my favorite.

The Blind Contour is a very basic drawing technique used to teach the brain to slow down and really look at the object being drawn.  So often we think we know what an object looks like and when we over think it, the picture comes out much different than the actual object.  Instead, Blind Contour is an exercise where you draw something without ever looking at your paper.  You work slowly, following the lines of the object with your eyes and allow your eyes to tell your brain where the drawing tool should go.  The writing tool never comes off the paper.  Essentially the drawing is one continuous line.  It’s very scary at first; just imagining what the drawing will look like, eyes darting off the object towards the paper, the logical side of the brain trying to take over.

Even though these drawings end up a little lopsided and obscure, there is something very right about them.  Lines that are difficult for me to perfect end up looking correct in a Blind Contour because I really look at the object rather than trying to draw my perception of it.

”Silly” reminded me how much I like this technique.  To me, it’s very relaxing and I so enjoy the way the drawings turn out.

Some of the drawings from “Silly”…
5381548151_6bce944c8c_bThe car, window, and computer keyboard are blind Contour.  My left hand and the tulips are Contour  Drawing which is like Blind Contour other than you can look at the paper every-so-often and adjust the writing tool as needed.  The computer keyboard kills me!
5381551595_349038bd68_bMy (very round) foot is Blind Contour.  The Coffee cup is not only Blind Contour, but also done with my non-dominant (left) hand.  The books and elephant statue I brought home from Zambezi are done in Contour.5381536413_ba7ab24e08_bBoth the orchid and pots are Blind Contour. 

Fun! Fun! Fun!  I need to remember to do this more often.   Next time you are in a meeting or waiting for an appointment draw something nearby using this technique.  You’ll be amazed!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Where is Your Imagination?

I’ll tell you where…lost inside a Wii (or Kinect or Play Station or etc.) The obsession with video games is detrimental to our kids’ imagination and creativity.

I took a poll yesterday and 21 out 24 of my 7 year olds have a video game system of some kind. That’s very interesting to me working at socio-economically challenged school such as mine. Over 80% of my school is on free or reduced lunch. I have to send my own books home with my kids and BEG and bribe them to read, since video games seem to be valued quite a bit more in their homes.

A day doesn’t go by without a mention of what level of Sonic someone is on or how excited they are about the new game their parents just bought them. Most creative writing assignments include at least one sentence about a video game. Every year I do a writing lesson using metaphors, which is a difficult concept for second graders. The kids write a poem to their mom for Mother’s Day. The lesson has the students make a list of their most favorite things. Then we write a poem comparing their mom to their favorite things. It is taken from a very cute book called You Are to Me. Every year several of our moms are compared to an Xbox or a DS. Don’t get my wrong. I like a good game of “Just Dance” as much as the next person. However, the addiction that some kids have to these games seems to be damaging them academically.

I’m sure every generation has a vice that the previous one shakes their fist at but, but before video games kids had to create their own fun. They had to use their imagination to go to far away places and pretend to be different characters. Nowadays make-believe is created for kids. All they have to do is stare (relentlessly) at the screen. That’s not good in so many ways.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Good Advice?

I have finally come up with a New Year’s resolution…kind of. I don’t really like resolutions since they are usually broken before the end of the month. Anyhow, my resolution is to stop giving advice.

You see, I’m a “fixer”. Not in the international spy or assassin way, although that would be cool, but rather in the teacher way. I like to help people solve their problems. Not by telling them what to do, well sometimes I like that too, but by talking about the problem and helping them lay out their options. I’m not going to do that anymore. Of course, I will be there if friends want to talk and still be supportive, but from now on, I will just listen without putting in my two cents.

This is not coming from a cold place in my heart or because my advice wasn’t taken, actually nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I want to concentrate on my own problems and change the things I want to change in my own life without getting caught up in doing that for other people. I am notorious for taking on issues that don’t really concern me out of my need to help others. More often than not, that has bitten me in the butt and/or taken a lot of my time that really should have been focused elsewhere. I don’t think that is healthy.

Just this afternoon, I got a text from a friend. After some discussion, a minor problem was mentioned. As I started to text back my advice I stopped myself. This person wasn’t having a life crisis, no one was in danger, so my response was a simple, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I can not tell you how freeing that was. This person was just fine without me trying to help and I didn’t spend my own time involved in a problem that was not mine. That’s when I decided that “butting out” was to be my New Years resolution. Wish me luck!


This picture has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It Still Wouldn’t Hurt To Change Our Rhetoric

After this past weekend’s shooting in Arizona, there have been so many editorials about how the conservatives’ violent rhetoric led to this tragedy. Those being blamed have shot back and thus, the political finger pointing continues.

It’s a bit of a stretch to blame the violent tone of much of the bipartisan debate. If that were the case, Sarah Palin would have the entire Tea Party “movement” out there with actual rifles lining up the liberals in their “crosshairs”. You don’t know how it pains me NOT to place this blame on Palin. In fact, most of us are probably guilty of this type of speech at one time or another…”If he’s late again, I’m going to kill him!”

With that being said, what is the reason that angry, violent speech has become part of the political debate. Some of the things that have been said or written take on such a vicious tone…

"We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition." Gregg Harper, Mississippi Third

"People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out," –Sharon Angle, Nevada Senate Candidate

"Barack Obama is the worst president in history. ... Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place." – Ben Quayle, Arizona Third

These statements did not lead to a shooting rampage however they did lead to more violent rhetoric. It seems to continue on and on. There isn’t any need for it. In fact, it comes across as uninspired, uneducated, and downright foolish. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years the nation is becoming immune to it. It’s not to say that there aren’t those in government who speak intelligently and don’t resort to malicious words towards their opponents. Regrettably, the media doesn’t usually cover such individuals.

Going back to the Arizona shootings, I will leave it to Jon Stewart to add an additional reason to leave out the violence in the political arena…

I do think that its important for us to watch our rhetoric, I do think that its a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with our enemies if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid mad men and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak. It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Helpful Tip

On Saturday, I went to the movies and, as usual, got a a piece of popcorn stuck in my teeth.  Actually it was stuck in my gums, between my teeth, like a sliver.  For the last five days I have flossed and brushed and flossed and brushed to no avail.  Over the last day or so, it’s caused me some pain and I could tell that my gums were irritated (as was I). 

I decided to call the dentist in the morning to make an appointment to have them take care of it with all their expensive fancy tools.  As a last ditch effort I did a search on Bing to see if there was anything else I could try that would save me a trip to the dentist. 

The first site I visited was a forum and a solution was requested for my exact problem. (You gotta love that internet!)  The first couple responses recommended to use floss, a toothbrush, or a toothpick; all which I had tried.  A bit further down there was a reply by a practicing dentist.  This is what it said…

All the previous answers are bunk! Try this...take a piece of floss about 6 inches long. Then, tie a knot in the floss near the mid-way spot on the floss. Next, pop the floss between the teeth. Now, pull the knot back and forth between the teeth where the kernel is stuck. Whalla! It will hurt a little and probably even bleed, but the corn kernel will come out.

I tell you what…that was one of the very best tips I have every read.  It worked!  Just a little pain and then a sigh of relief when the pestering kernel was removed by the knot in the floss.  This 30 second search saved me from a night of swollen gums and the cost of a visit to the dentist.  Definitely a tip worth remembering!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is That Snow?!?!

The city where I live, just north of Los Angeles, has had snow three times since I have been alive – 1973 (the year I was born), 1988, and 1989.  The newspaper reported that we also got snow in 2007, but I don’t remember that so it must have been very little.  So January 2, 2011 goes on my record book as the first snow we’ve had in over 20 years.  Yes, we got snow!

Rain was predicted for the day.  Although it was cloudy this morning, we didn’t see any rain until about 12:30 PM when I left to pick up a friend at  the Los Angeles Airport.  Driving over the hill on the freeway the rain seemed to be a little flakier than usual, but as the thought of snow popped in my head, I drove down the hill into the Valley where the rain was falling.  Traffic in LA is bad enough on a delightfully sunny day, so when we have any type of weather, it often comes to a stand still.  My ride down was fairly quick, other than the rain, but the ride back into town was very slow moving so by the time we arrived back into town, about two and a half hours had passed since I had left.  As we drove over the hill it took us a minute to realize what we were seeing.
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That’s snow you guys!

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Driving Into My Neighborhood
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snow 022 My house
snow 024 The View From the Front Porch
snow 046The Backyard
snow 048Rigby’s first snow…she seemed to enjoy it! snow 049Footprints
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It continued to snow into the evening and actually started to accumulate over time.  This is the backyard a couple hours later.  
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My trees (especially the poor palms) are drooping with the weight.  But as I write this, the precipitation has stopped and the temperature has gone up a tiny bit.  It sounds as if it is raining, but it’s really the water melting off the trees, fences, and roofs.  We probably won’t have much left when morning comes. 

Granted, I know that those of you who live where there is actually winter weather on a regular basis are probably laughing at these pictures and asking, “You call that snow?!?!”  I lived in New England for 8 years so I have seen my share of snowy weather, but I have been back in Southern California for 11 years now and this is the first snow I’ve seen since then.  I’m basking in the excitement of it!  I love winter!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting Off 2011 With Some Silly

Just signed up for a Carla Sonheim class that starts at the end of the week.  Carla authored this super fun book…
DrawingLabwhich is a great tool to get those creative juices flowing.

So when I heard about the class I had to sign up. 


Upon signing up, download silly activity worksheets everyday for an entire month.  I’m going to try it out for my own art endeavors, but I also hope to bring some of the ideas into my classroom.  Since school isn’t really about fun these days, I think this class might allow me to infuse some art into the day in a quick way.  I can’t wait to start!

Check out Carla’s blog.  It’s all about the fun!