Friday, April 17, 2015

Spreading the Love

I've written before about how incredibly talented and amazing all of my Juniors in Fine Art 3 are, and I wish beyond wish that I could share their incredible works with you, but I can't.

You'll just have to trust me, they're outstanding.

Anywho, I've got one student in particular who is having a fantastic year and I've entered her in almost every competition/art show we partake in.  In February she was in three shows three weekends in a row!  It got to the point where I was worried her parents were starting to think I was being a big, creepy weirdo looking for reasons to hang out with the three of them every weekend.

Anyway, this week was the opening for yet another show she got into, *ahem*, her second museum show this year, and when I reminded her of it in class on Tuesday, she said, "Oh, that reminds me..."

She handed me these two books:

And said, "I was at the MoMA this weekend, and I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me this year in class and in all of the shows, so I got you these books!"

The sweetest, no?

This is Dali by Catherine Ingram and illustrated by Andrew Rae is a fantastically concise and interesting biography of Dali filled with the most fantastic imagery:

And Andy Warhol by Isabel Kuhl is a complete, concise bio of Warhol.  I love how the book is broken up- check out this awesomely simple table of contents:

Anyway, it was just the kindest little thing and I had to share.  Not that I need gifts from my kids to know they appreciate what I do, but I push and push and push them, and even though some days they don't like me at all, it's nice to know that deep down they love me, too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mastering This Masters Thing, Part 2: I'm Just a Girl

When my professor first recommended that maybe I switch gears for my Senior Thesis work, I wasn't totally convinced.

Initially I wanted to paint portraits of the fictional women represented in some of my favorite songs written by female musicians.  The idea behind it was that these women could be anyone- you, or a friend, or your mom- anyone.

When my professor recommended that rather than fictional women, I paint myself represented in my favorite songs, I was stumped.  My ego was a little bruised, admittedly, that she didn't totally love my first idea, but I was also really intimidated.  I'd done my share of self portraits undergrad, but was never totally thrilled with them. 

I had already started my third piece, "I'm Just a Girl" inspired by pretty much the most bad-ass rock song about being treated differently because you're "just a girl."

This was my starting image:

I took it in our "office."  Please disregard Indy's thousands of diplomas and dead animal parts.  He's such a smart weirdo!

By the time my professor mentioned the idea of changing my focus to self portraits, I'd already had the majority of this one painted; here are the in-progress photos:

When I stopped for the night, I wasn't really happy with it.  Even my professor said something like, "You're messing with the proportions and angles of your face- don't do that."  I didn't realize I even was doing that, but she was right.

I took a few days off to work on something else, and when I finally mustered up the courage to work on it again, I was much happier with the changes:

Side-by-side you can see how much it changed:

Once I realized I was able to actually make these paintings look like me, and it wasn't as scary or hard as I thought it would be, I was hooked.  I decided that from now on my series would be self portraits, and rather than just choosing songs with female characters in them, if I was going to make self-portraits, I wanted the songs to represent ideas I believed in.  At the risk of sounding like a hipster bra-burner, I decided to work with songs that represent feminist ideals and concepts. "I'm Just a Girl" was the perfect starting point. 

Then I started really researching some of my favorite female singer/songwriters and the meaning behind the lyrics of my favorite songs...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Folding a Fitted Sheet

So something happened Saturday that I never thought would, and I'm hoping you don't read this and feel like I'm knocking us women back 50 years by saying it, but I finally learned how to fold a fitted bed sheet!

If you look up "How to Fold a Fitted Sheet" on Google Images, you will be bombarded with some hilarious memes:

 A few months ago I found one on my instagram feed that read something like this:

1. Grab two corners of the sheet on the long side.
2. Bring them together, and fold the sheet in half.
3. Fold in half again.
4. Get frustrated, roll it into a ball.
5. Go outside, light your house on fire, and watch it burn.

Saturday concluded our week of Spring Cleaning, and of course, we left the best for last: the bathroom.  Bathrooms are tough to clean to begin with, but ours is rather small, so by default it becomes a one-person job.  Since I cleaned it last, it was Indy's turn, so I went into the bedroom to fold up some laundry.  All of my pillow cases and top sheets were folded and piled up and I was left staring blankly at three bunched-up fitted sheets.

I thought to myself, I could leave them that way, shove them into the closet and be done, or, I could try and actually learn how to fold them...  Something about leaving Indy to scrub the bathroom on his hands and knees while I watched Netflix down stairs seemed wrong, so I decided to youtube it.

(Sidenote: We have 4 individual sets of bed sheets.  After nearly six years of living together, I now know why:  Indy has an affinity for crappy bedsheets.  The kind that are on clearance for $15.00 at Bed Bath & Beyond.  I shouldn't really be surprised considering the man enjoys sleeping on the ground out in the woods, but it would be nice to know what it's like to sleep on anything higher than a 200 thread count.)

Anyway, the first video I looked up was this one, but the lady was like a magician- she moved way too fast:

So I searched for another, and this one came up:

It's nearly 8 minutes, which is kind of long, but it was either this or cleaning the toilet.  I went with this.  The guy is a little goofy, but he went nice and slow, and after watching it twice, I was able to fold all of my sheets no problemo!

I realize folding a fitted sheet is absolutely a first-world problem, but I'm so pumped I know how to do this now.  Unfortunately I don't find may opportunities outside of my own home to show off this skill, so I figured I'd share it here.  Hooray for more closet space!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Cleaning Surprises!

Indy and I have the *same* spring break this year!  

It was super exciting and kind of crazy finding that out when he started teaching September.  For so many other teacher couples, having the same spring break is a rarity.  It's kind of like seeing Halley's Comet.

So what did we have planned for this crazy opportunity?  Did we got o Peru as we've been hoping to do for so long?  Did we got to NOLA to make up for the New Year's trip we had to cancel?  No, and no. Turns out traveling to Africa for three and a half weeks this coming summer is costing us a not-so-small fortune, so we couldn't afford to go anywhere else this year.

What we planned instead was to catch up on some much needed Spring Cleaning.

Our townhouse got real bad over the last few weeks.  Like, embarrassingly bad.  Like, so bad, that when my sister and my nephew stopped by to pick me up a few weeks ago, I wouldn't let them inside despite how excited my nephew was to see my kitties.  It was hard, but for his own safety, I couldn't let him in.

Anyway, while taking the plunge into cleaning his night stand (a feat, let me tell you) Indy found an old, defunct digital camera with an SD card still in it.  To give you an idea of how old it was, the SD card was for 512mb.  His first instinct was to just format he card, but something made him pop it into his laptop first, and an ancient discovery was made.

Back in 2010, Indy and I took a New Year's trip to Vermont.  It was on this trip we had our first conversation about Indy quitting his graphic design job to go back to school and get his teaching degree. We talk about this trip relatively often now that he's nearly finished with his first year of teaching, but for some reason, we had never realized that the photos we took on the trip were missing!

It was all fun and good to go back and relive those memories, but even better, earlier on the card, there were photos of the very first day we got our oldest kitty, Charlie!  

 The three of us - look how cute he is!! (Charlie, not Indy.)

These were Charlie's sisters: Jill, Kelly and Sabrina (of Charlie's angels.)  Indy really wanted Sabrina, but she's not nearly as cute as Charlie, and his personality outshone hers by miles. 

Look at him in his little carrier! He can't even fit in this thing now!

He is the size of my hands!

Here he is playing with the string toy that he would eat three feet of about 6 months from when this picture was taken. ($1,000 in emergency vet bills later, he just pooped it out.)

*Sigh* too cute!  Hopefully we'll finish our Spring Cleaning and make a few more fun discoveries, although, none will probably be as adorable as this one.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Only In Dreams: Horse Spa

This week I had a crazy dream about a horse.  It was pretty much the best, except it was also really weird.

In the dream, I was riding the horse from one location to another- where? I don't remember, but I was definitely on a mission- I had somewhere to go, and I was on my way there.

Anyway, my horse could talk! This was the ultimate of horse-girl dreams, you guys.  Also, for some reason my horse had a shirt-pocket on his chest where I kept my cell phone (which totally wasn't my cell phone, because it was an old blackberry, which I've never owned.)

We got to a mid-way point and decided to take a break at this place, which just so happened to be a sort of spa for horses.  It was really cool! There were barns everywhere and kids taking riding lessons, and down the hill there was a dock on a lake where all the horses were taking turns jumping off the dock and going for a swim.

I rode down to the dock, jumped off my horse, and he dove in for a swim, but I forgot to take my blackberry out of his pocket!  At first I was kind of freaking out, because it was the only form of communication I had between the place we came from, and the place we were going, but my horse was so happy to be swimming that I didn't even care.

When the horse climbed out, I got my phone and the people at the horse spa place put it in a bag of rice for me and after a few hours, it worked!

That was my dream.  I am a weirdo.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mastering This Masters Thing, Part 1

In September of 2012 I went back to school to earn my masters.  I was super excited about it, because
I had the choice between earning a traditional Masters degree with books and reading and essays and all that stuff, *or*, taking the Studio option, where I still earn my Masters through taking more art courses and making more art.

Of course, I chose the Studio option.

The program is 33 credits broken down like this:

15 credits, or 5 classes in my concentration (painting)
9 credits, or 3 classes in any art elective
3 credits, or 1 class in "Creative Studies" (the only reading/writing class required)
3 credits, or the Advanced Seminar in Fine Arts Education I
3 credits, or the Advanced Seminar in Fine Arts Education II

I have been steadily chipping away at these classes (each of which is 6 hours long) by taking one per semester, but after three years of this, and getting a little taste of my BA +15 pay increase, I started chomping at the bit to get finished.

I'll be honest: when I first decided to go back to school, it was for the money.  Anyone who knows anything about the teaching world understands that the only real way to earn more money through teaching is to further your own education.  Often times that means earning a masters, a masters +15, even a PhD.  When I started my master's program, I was, admittedly, floating around and going through the motions, getting done whatever I needed to ensure I'd get my degree.

That is, until this year.

This year I finally found a professor at my University that helped me find whatever it was I was inside of me that I didn't even know I was looking for.  She has gotten me so excited about creating that earning my Masters has become secondary to creating works of art.

In our second meeting, she sat with me and mapped out a plan for me to graduate in the spring of 2016 as opposed to the fall of 2017 (a whole year and a half earlier than I would have had I kept doing what I was doin!).  She also got me thinking about what my Senior Seminar would be about.  You see, the last two Seminar in Fine Arts Education classes are your Senior Thesis, where through research, you develop a body of original work that becomes your Senior Masters Show the spring that you graduate.

I went home and started thinking about what kind of art I wanted to create.  I wanted to work with ideas that themes that I not only really loved, but also could develop into a series.  I made a list and these three ideas jumped out at me: Music, Portraits, Females.

I decided I would try and created a series of works which would be portraits of the fictional female characters in songs that I love.  

I started with the Gypsy from Grace Potter and the Nocturnal's "Medicine".  If you're unfamiliar with the song, listen to it.  It's a fun one, about a gypsy woman who comes "rolling into town" and basically puts all the men into a hypnotic state so they're all head-over-heels for her and she can do whatever she wants- so a townswoman decides to put an end to her troublemaking by stealing all of her gypsy gear and essentially becoming the next Gypsy Woman.

I started out with this image I found on the internet as my inspiration:

Then, I used my camera to shoot a few different versions of this and settled on this one:

I liked it, but my right hand was all weird, because it's holding the remote for my camera, so I had to reshoot it:

Next, I projected the photo of myself and my hand and projected them onto my canvas, which I had covered in black gesso.  Before this I had never worked on black gesso before, but I'm in love with it:

Next, I started painting!  After a few discussions with my professor, I decided to paint in acrylic with the intention of going over the paintings in oils later on:

And here is my final piece (pre-oils):

I was pretty happy with it!  I decided to wait to put oils on it until I had a few more paintings under my belt.  I had a few things to tweak yet, but it was "finished" for now.

Then I started my second piece based on the song "Cassiopeia" by Sara Bareilles, about the star constellation that falls in love.

Here was my original photo:

Then I added the hand to make it a little more cute:

 Here is a side-by-side of my painting pre and post hand addition:
 And here is Cassiopeia when I "finished" her:

It's okay, but not really where I want it.  When I brought it in to discuss with my professor, she said that I should have painted her with  normal flesh colors, then gone over her in blue oils to get a realistic blue tinge.  But she also said something else, that ultimately became a game changer- she said, "The Gypsy painting is better than this one, but this one looks more like you.  What if you explored these songs as self-portraits of you as opposed to other women.  When you paint other women in these roles, they become more like illustrations of the songs, and the personal connection is lost...."

And then the ball really started rolling.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Big Girl Books

In January I set the lofty goal of reading a book a month for the whole year.  Isn't it crazy what the promise of a brand new year will do to you? 

Anyway, my first choice was The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.  The description is what made me choose it:

For the narrator locked inside an ancient prison, waiting for death, life is full of magic, from the golden horses that stampede underground to the tiny men who hammer away inside the stone walls. That the enchanted place is a death row matters less to him than the people he watches from the bars of his cage: the lady, an investigator hired to help the men escape execution; the fallen priest, brought by shame to work the row; and the kindly warden, who ushers men to death.

A little grim, I know, but it seemed intriguing!  Unfortunately, I didn't "get it."  I got about 8 chapters in before I decided that it wasn't for me, and I would be moving on.  It was a tough choice, as I never like to leave a book unfinished, but in the name of meeting my book-a-month goal, I decided to go back to what usually works for getting me out of a reading slump: YA Novels.

I've always had an affinity for young adult novels.  I read them, I write them, I watch the movie versions of them (some better than others, admittedly).  I just find them exciting and emotional and usually a quick, satisfying read.  A YA novel would be the perfect way for me to get out of my slump and stick to my monthly quota!  Unfortunately, however, this book didn't do it for me, either.  On the recommendation of my good friend who has taught both 6th and 8th grade reading, and my resident YA novel connoisseur, I read Looking for Alaska by John Green.  Well, I shouldn't say "read" - I'm still currently reading it, which is to say, yes, I started it in January, and now it's April, and I'm not finished with it yet.  I'm not exactly enthralled with it, as you can see.

So, I brought in the big guns.

The dance teacher at my high school is the best recreational reader I know.  Even with a brand new baby at home, the woman always is starting/finishing a new book.  I often hit her up for recommendations, and we even joked last week that I have random book lists I jotted down during conversations strewn all over my house.  On the first day of Spring Break, I collected them to send her a photo:

I explained to her my reading slump and we decided that it was time for me to try a Big Girl Book.  No more YA novels, no more fantasy/imagination books, I need to change it up.

Dance Teacher has a taste for Historical Fiction.  She mostly recommends books that are set in a specific time period or country.  Right now, based on her suggestions, my top choices are:

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I'm about 85% finished with Looking for Alaska and I'm going to finish it, but after that I need to make a choice.  I have a kindle, but I'm kind of a cheap-o in that I don't like to read books on my Kindle unless they're under $3.00, so I plan on putting in for all of these books at my local library and seeing which one is available the soonest.

Has anyone read any of these?  Doe anyone have any other Big Girl Book recommendations?  I'm working on putting together a nice, long list so that I can return to it whenever the threat of another slump approaches.