Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. - Rumi

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Enchantment of Being

When the weather is beautiful and warm, the air clear and clean it feels amazing to be alive.  A human woman on this planet with the capacity to grow, learn, change, be, explore, create, love.
Watercolor on watercolor paper
 December 2010

Sometimes as I go by people I send them a blessing.  Someone walking down the street with their child.  Someone homeless sleeping in a huddle on the ground.  I realize that I can choose to be pleasant or unpleasant, even when someone is telling me something I don’t like. 

I am enchanted with the beauty of the children I am surrounded by.  Each one is right now, right here.  It blows me away.  I get so tangled up in the past, the present and the future.  My mind is always going. I am trying to get it right on all fronts. The children are my teachers.  They remind me to stay centered and just be right here.

I am enchanted with art and poetry.  I love words. I love reading.
I have taken to reading a column in the New York Times entitled Modern Love.  Each piece is so well written and deep that I can’t stop reading until I have finished it. I originally thought each article was written by one author but they are submitted by different people. It has been a long time since I have been enchanted by a newspaper and the New York Times has captured my love.

I am enchanted with music.  I love to sing.  My mother says I shouldn’t (tone deaf according to her) but I do.  It speaks to me –everything but heavy metal.  I have a little repetoire of songs I sing with children.  I memorized these funny little jingles that have parts that a child can add to.  I sing on any occasion, if someone wants to sing, I want to sing – I’ll sing anywhere.  I have recently decided that I want to go a karaoke bar – and can’t believe I haven’t been. I have all kinds of music – music to go to sleep to, music to relax to, music to make me shake my booty, music that makes my heart open up and express divine love for everyone in the world.

Fall leaves in December
Nature inspires me.  When I see the ocean my heart skips beats.  Watching the whitecaps on a windy day, seeing the waves break on the shore – this vast endless body of salty healing water.  The leaves on trees that change color.  Driving down a street of trees changing colors just saturates my mind with beautiful rich golds, russets, foresty greens and orange.  Smelling the heady scent of paper white narcissus, lilac, sweet innocence of violets and roses lush, full and voluptuous. 

I am enchanted with the possibilities and prescence of beauty all around me.

Ojai Foundation - I just love this image

Monday, January 17, 2011

If and 10 grapes dancing

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”  - Khalil Gibran

Such powerful words.  When I teach art specifically, my goal is to have as many different interpretations of an idea as there are children.  Working this way is harder and requires individual instruction for each child (not a bad thing).  I strive to be open to as many different possibilities as the children can think of. 

One technique I like combines literacy and art inspired by books like IF by Sarah Perry.  Each child comes up with his or her own idea (If) and then develops drawing and painting skills in the representation of the idea. "If blueberries were jewelry", "If strawberries drove motorcycles", "If the sun was an orange".

2 Lollipops wanting to swing
sharpie and watercolor on
watercolor paper
Another technique is counting books from 1 to 10 like Counting with Wayne Thiebaud – each child chooses the number of items and what they are doing for example: 10 red strawberries dancing, next would be 9 lemons running, then 8 grapes sings, etc.  This can be done with food, animals, anything. I love the creativity of each child’s ideas.  I have discovered that when giving children open-ended questions their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are activated in his or her artistic/creative perspective. 

3 Candies dancing around
sharpie and watercolor
on watercolor paper
Children then have an opportunity to share what they know, what they think and how they figured out their idea. 
4 Singing Tomatoes
sharpie and watercolor on
watercolor paper

Artistic expression is personal and every child and person learns at a different pace.  Children benefit from having knowledge about different artists and their styles; but children highly benefit from getting to visually express their thoughts and interpretations of the world around them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clay - exploring, learning, enjoying

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” – Picasso

Hands - exploring, learning, enjoying clay (3 yo)
Children in preschool are learning how to use and be representational with different media: paint, drawing, wire, clay, collage, wood, etc.  Children in elementary school understand many of the basic concepts, some sophisticated concepts with art materials and are developmentally ready to stretch their thinking.
I think it is important to revisit media as children grow and their abilities to think of how to use the media develop.

For example: Clay.  A soft, tactile media, mushy, squishy, soft, tactile. Easy to manipulate with hands that are developing fine motor skills. Clay becomes more complex as the child gets older.
I think only limited by one’s imagination. 
Introductions to clay should be messy.  Fun.  Relaxing.  Squishing the clay is a fine motor activity – muscles in the fingers and hands get stronger.  I like to say clay is messy – not dirty; an important distinction with teachers and children.  Clay washes right out of clothes and fabric.  It isn’t dirty like something yucky on the ground. 
Using scoring tool
Once children understand the basic technique of slipping and scoring clay they can build anything according to his or her age.  For example: animals, flowers, furniture, transportation, self-portraits. 
When I work with children, I always have some clay in my hands. Making shapes, modeling possibilities for rolling, coiling or shaping the clay. It relaxes my mind and hands and the children see me engaged with the clay and it relaxes them.  We are all present and having a wonderful experience, enjoying the clay.
One of my favorite things to teach with clay is making animals.
One little digression here – Cathy Weisman Topal has written a book entitled Children, Clay and Sculpture.  It is full of ideas and practical information. 
Sea Star
Back to animals.  I don’t remember when or where  I learned it, but clay is the best media to do three dimensional animals.  First a child can choose if the animal is standing, sitting or laying down.  I love offering the choices and seeing each child think about their decision.  The thing about clay is it is easy to infer an idea with a little manipulation of the shape (a bend here or there).
Using books or photos for representation helps with the glazing or painting of the clay pieces created. 
These are a few of my favorite clay books – they give me confidence to try new things.
The Great Clay Adventure by Ellen Kong
Clay: hand building by Maurice Sapiro
Ceramics for Kids by Mary Ellis
Hand –building Techniques by Joaquim Chavarria
The Sculptor’s Eye – looking at contempory American Art by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Clay is one of my favorite media.  Actually I enjoy anything creative and open-ended.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Artists I adore

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. -- Chagall

Artists I love.

"Every good painter paints what he is."
Jackson Pollock

Where do I start with something that means so much to me?

 My favorite artist of all time?

 Well there are a few... no there are many. There is no way I could limit myself to one artist.  I wish I could. 
First is Deborah Butterfield- I remember going to San Francisco and seeing an exhibit of horses by her.  They were huge and made out of many different types of material (steel, recycled materials, paint).  They were life size and majestic to look at.  Some of the horses were standing and some laying down, their presence was awesome.
Another artist that I totally love is Viola Frey.  She was a ceramacist and did clay representations of people: the colors rich and they were full of detail about her subjects – they had a kind of homey/country quality.  I liked that about them. 
 Imaginary Landscape
watercolor on watercolor paper
When I was a kid I remember having a paper folder with the art of Peter Max on it.  I loved, loved, loved the colors.  That whole 60’s thing with the kaleidoscope of colors. When I found a book of his art, I would salivate Iooking at the images.  I love Wayne Thiebaud.  His colorful, irreverent paintings of food:  the deserts, the cakes, the colors I want to eat them, touch them.  I even love the landscapes he did of the Sacramento delta.  When flying up to Sacramento if you look out the window as you approach the airport you can see what he was painting, the grid of the pastoral landscape.  It’s beyond beautiful when he adds the richness of his palette of colors.
I love pop art.  I love the bright colors.  I like all the thinking that goes into irreverent interpretations of everyday things.
I love Claes Oldenburgs giant French fries. 
Recently I discovered Emil Nolde’s watercolors.  When I look at them they make me hungry to make art, the colors are so vivid and rich that I want to watercolor. 
Another artist I discovered is Ruth Asawa.  I saw an article about her work in Art Forum.  She crochets these billowy, ethereal shapes that can hang from the ceiling.
One lady I don’t want to forget is Louise Nevelson.  I just love her monochromatic sculptures and fur eyelashes.  Oh, that reminds me I also love Judy Chicago and Georgia O’Keefe.
Is there a thread of commonality about these very favorite choices?  Art is so subjective and personal.  Each of these artists cause my heart beat a little faster and evokes an emotional connection in me.   I feel like I can relate to the work.
Work I can connect to is easier for me to introduce to children. The children sense my love for the artist and are open to creating their own interpretation of the artists work. 
It’s true that as teachers when we share our passions the children connect in a stronger way.
These artists share one thing –  me - I love them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Babies, Beauty and Beginnings

I have loved babies ever since I was a little.  When I was growing up, my dream was to have lots of babies, silly but true.  I loved playing with my dolls and probably played with them long past the age most girls do.
My love of children was present at an early age.  I babysat all the kids in my neighborhood and carried any baby that would let me. .  My sister was 8 and I was 11 when my little cousin lived with us for a year, we changed him probably 100 times a day and brushed his hair that many times. We just loved having a real live baby to play with!
There is a beauty babies have that attracts me.  I loved holding my son next to my heart when he was a sleeping.  I love the smell of new babies and puppies.  A baby is powerless and thus requires constant, consistent care/nurturing to thrive. I am good at taking care of and nurturing growth: babies, children, plants. 
The thing about babies and young children is they are always in the present moment.  They don’t have a yesterday or tomorrow, they have a right now.  They keep us focused/grounded to being present and they know when we are not because they get fussy (non verbal for pay attention to me).
Babies are and aren’t easy. I think they come into this world with their
temperment/character/disposition already established.  A mindful parent pays attention to the non verbal communication his or her baby gives them.  It’s called attunement.  Attunement is necessary for positive bonding and connecting.  This can affect the kind of relationships we have for the rest of our lives.
I love watching the facial expressions of babies.  When babies see me, they just look at me, like they are recognizing someone from a spiritual connection.  I just smile when I see them, in the grocery store, the baby siblings of my students, in the park or walking in the mall. 
It’s a lovely thing to watch a baby develop into a toddler develop into a young child and continue growing.  I used to think if I stared long enough at my son, I would see him grow.  Babies grow right in front of our eyes. This is a miracle.  A baby weighs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 pounds more or less and then they grow. 
I think people are the most amazing thing on this planet.  Our brains are the most sophisticated computer ever created.  No one says grow, but we do.  No one says get taller or walk or talk, but the brain sends the signal and it happens.
This world is filled with babies --- it’s how we all start and then grow. I guess I love people.

Two boys that used to be babies
three and nine years old

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Watercolor on watercolor paper

Today is the beginning of new year.  Today I am going to amplify my practice of gratitude beginning with these words - Today I am thankful for the sun shining in the sky.  Today I am thankful for the cool air outside my window.  Today I am thankful for all of the beautiful people in my life.