Category Archives: Art

Photo Essay of A Few Pieces from the Chicago Institute of Art

Ray and I are in Chicago visiting our friend Shireen Baker and also spending as much time as possible enjoying the art and architecture of this fabulous city.

Here are a few photos of some of the highlights from the Chicago Institute of Art.  Suffice it to say, we are both exceedingly happy to be here on an art vacation, and also getting a chance to spend time with our friend.  Hooray!

img_5185 img_5214 img_5218 img_5226 img_5294 img_5300 img_5306 img_5315 img_5402 img_5409

Breaking Out of My Comfort Zone

Last night I went to my Still Life class at Barnsdall Art Center. Daughter Liz and I are taking this class together, but, unfortunately, my trips to Texas have meant that I have missed several. (Not counting last week when we played hooky and went to dinner instead.) Ray is taking a ceramics class at the same time a few classrooms down.

The truth is that none of us were enthusiastic about going last night. It’s tough to drive across town in traffic to get to a class at 6:30. Plus, I have missed so much that I have little idea what I am doing and I had no idea before the first class since I have never once in all of my life taken anything related to painting. This is virgin territory for me and I had concluded that maybe I needed to just accept this is not for me.

Not to mention that my instructor has a penchant for talking to us while we paint about all the various conspiracy theories he has discovered throughout history. This seems like an odd obsession for an artist (aren’t artists less concerned about conspiracies as a rule and out living a more free-wielding life?)

Anyway, Ray, Liz and I all half-heartedly made the trek and went to our classes. After all it was next to the last one for this term. (And only my third.) I apologized to the instructor for being gone. “I thought Texas had swallowed you,” he said. (I omitted the dinner hooky date last week.)

The gist is this. We all ended up after a great evening. Ray arrived to find that several pieces of his had been fired in the kiln and looked impressive; Liz and I discovered that the instructor was off his conspiracy talk (well, except for maybe 10 minutes) and instead was more than willing to offer advice when asked. (I basically said, “I’ve forgotten everything. Now how do I start?”)

Liz’s painting came out really well. (Sorry, no photo.) I wouldn’t say mine is a masterpiece, but I can say that I understood more of what our instructor wants us to do.

Over the evening he said to me:

“Long strokes and then twist the brush.”

“Leave hunks of color and enjoy the contrast between the colors on the canvas.”

“If you make a mistake, leave it. Sometimes that’s what gives the painting character.”

I did all of that. I focused. I ignored my discomfort at not knowing what I was doing. I felt happy that I put some colors on the canvas that I thought were pretty together (I enjoyed the contrasts).

Alas, this is what I learned once again about myself:

Go anyway. Do it anyway. Don’t listen to that nagging voice that says, “Why go? You suck, remember?”

Every once in a while I am reminded that when I protest the most not to do something, most of the time I need to go do it. Usually it’s just that I’m afraid I’ll feel stupid and make a fool of myself.

Funny, I never feel that way about dancing and my children assure me I look stupid and am definitely embarrassing them. The difference is that I love dancing so I don’t care.

I might be starting to love painting.

I definitely like it a lot more than I would have ever guessed.

I hope you are all out doing something right now that is officially out of your comfort zone. If not, then plan something. I can tell you that you will feel uncomfortable and you might hate it, but at least you can say you gave it a try. Oh, and it is possible you might actually like it.

Talk tomorrow.

Here’s my painting. I know. Not museum quality. But look at those colors!


Repost: “Seeing” as a Kid

We had dark red linoleum in our kitchen at 902 East 9th Street where I grew up. The pattern had little bricks with gray jagged mortar lines and the bricks were slightly raised, as they would have been if they had been real bricks. The color was almost burgundy, and my parents had that linoleum installed after we’d lived in the house for a while. It was part of a minimum kitchen redo, along with painting the cabinets and replacing the old wallpaper with sheet rock.

I liked that linoleum. It made the room look a little more rustic than it should have for a Dutch Colonial, but I didn’t care. The color had a richness that made me happy. I didn’t know then what I know now: that color and texture and pattern are important to me. At that time, I just knew that I liked it.

Flash forward fifty years.

I live in a color-rich home surrounded with shapes and textures and patterns that make me feel happy. The more saturated the color, the better I like it. Now I know that what I see has a real impact on how I experience life. I feel enriched by my visual experience.

I see now that I knew intuitively as a child what suited me. No one said, “Look how nice that dark floor looks in contrast to the light baseboard.” Or, “Isn’t that color combination lovely.” No, I noted those things without having the words. That awareness was just part of my basic nature.

It is not a surprise that I married a man whose whole life is about the visual experience.

Now I have the words to describe how I see.

I’m so glad.

brick linoleum

One of Those Days

This has been one of those days. Up by 6 am to meet a student at 6:30 down in my den for 6 hours of work to finish her Senior Honors Thesis for her Bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies. I have learned a lot about the history and current status of reproductive rights for women over the past month, I can tell you. The thesis is done and it is exceptionally strong. She has over 40 citings and tons of interesting information about the ongoing fight for women’s reproductive rights since the political upsurge of the Moral Majority and the Religious Right. What I learned was both fascinating and disturbing.

After that first student left at 12:15, my second student arrived at 1 pm. We worked for 2 hours on one of her final papers for her Master’s in Clinical Psychology. That is always fun and interesting since I have so much interest (and a Master’s) in Psychology. So, though my day was long, I enjoyed working on this paper.

After my second student had gone, I sat down to work on my report on the Online Classes for the upcoming SCN board meeting. This is my first Board report since I took the job so some of the charts were a bit confusing. Still, once I focused, it all became very clear. I finally got everything compiled and sent off. That was a great feeling since I had a deadline looming on that one.

This evening, Ray and I headed off to the Barnsdall Art Center where we met daughter Liz. Ray went to his ceramics class and Liz and I headed over to our Still Life class. We painted a fruit bowl with two oranges, a grapefruit as well as a bottle of wine. I appreciate that this type of painting (oil, this time) is tricky. I had fun, but I certainly understand I need to know more and practice a whole lot more!

Now I am ready to go upstairs and jump right into bed. This was a productive day filled with people and activities that I love, but enough is enough. Now it’s time to just sink down into bed and relax.

I’ll check back in with you folks tomorrow. Until then, have a good night.


First Painting Class Ever at the Barnsdall Art Center

Liz, Ray and I went to our art classes tonight at the Barnsdall Art Center in Hollywood. Ray is back in ceramics class and Liz and I are taking acrylic painting. This is quite a stretch for me since I have never painted anything in my life beyond elementary school art class where I don’t recall excelling.

Tonight our teacher did a demonstration of drawing a still life with charcoal and then filling in the drawing with paint. We learned how to look for contracts between light and shadows and not to try to be too perfect. “Hold your paintbrush like you’re eating a chicken wing, not like your writing with a pencil,” our teacher said. He also told us to relax, appreciate mistakes as adding sometime unique to the painting, and to understand that art is not about the finished project but rather about enjoying the process. Besides the chicken wing comment, I could have been talking to my writing students.

I enjoyed being completely absorbed in this process since I can tell you I had only the vaguest idea of what I was doing. Our teacher covered so much that I started to feel slightly overwhelmed with information, but then he said, “Don’t worry. We’ll be going back over this for the next several weeks. You’ll get it over time.”

Liz and I only had black, white and a brick color paint tonight so she did a painting with those colors and I did a black, white and gray painting of the still life we were looking at. We both burst out laughing several times looking at our own and each other’s painting, but our teacher didn’t seem to think ours were so bad they were worthy of scorn. Instead he was supportive and pointed out what looked right in each. A very generous man.

I was very tired when I arrived so I was happy to have the demonstration. Then when attempting to apply the information about light and shadow and color contrast to my own painting, I had no time or inclination to think of another thing. What a treat that was!

We will be going weekly for 8 more weeks. Next week we will have color to work with. I am looking forward to that.

Here is a photo of Liz and my first efforts in this class. This was a still life of an orange and several lemons on two plates. Of course, you knew that from looking at the paintings…


I hope you’ve had a good evening tonight with at least one good laugh.

I’ll look forward to checking back in with you tomorrow.

Here’s to trying brand new things and applying zero pressure to oneself related to the outcome.

That might actually be called the definition of fun.

Repost: Great Quotes on Writing from Brenda Ueland

I have been reading several books in preparation for my presentation at Story Circle Network’s “Stories of the Heart” memoir conference coming up in Austin in a couple of weeks. One is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. This is considered by many to be one of the very best books on writing ever written. I thought I would share a few of the insights of Ms. Ueland tonight for anyone who longs for a creative endeavor. Much of this advice could be useful for just about anybody. Just replace writing with living.

Savor and enjoy:

“I learned…that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another. ”

“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his *true* self and not from the self he thinks he *should* be. ”

“No writing is a waste of time – no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good.”

“Yes, I hate orthodox criticism. I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them where they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.

…I hate it because of all the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages, that it snuffs out every year. It is a murderer of talent. And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first ones to get killed off. It is the brutal egotists that survive.”

“I found that many gifted people are so afraid of writing a poor story that they cannot summon the nerve to write a single sentence for months. The thing to say to such people is: “See how *bad* a story you can write. See how dull you can be. Go ahead. That would be fun and interesting. I will give you ten dollars if you can write something thoroughly dull from beginning to end!” And of course, no one can. ”

“Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.”

Is it any wonder that Carl Sandburg described Ueland’s book as, “The best book ever written on how to write?”

I think not!


Last Stained Glass Class at Barnsdall Art Center Tonight

Liz and I have enjoyed meeting every Tuesday night from 6:30 – 9:30 at the Barnsdall Art Center in Hollywood to learn about stained glass. The teachers, a sweet couple who buzzed around helping everyone, were kind, supportive and helpful. I’ve never done one thing with stained glass – have hardly done anything in an art class before except my recent forays into pottery at Barnsdall – and I felt as if I emerged from the class with some decent skills. The classes lasted 10 weeks so there was time to practice different types of processes. Also, the atmosphere was relaxed with different types of music playing each time, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Norah Jones depending on the night. A completely pleasant way to spend an evening with my daughter, chatting occasionally, but more often totally focused on the work. I can’t recommend Barnsdall enough. The classes are affordable, the teachers accessible and the overall experience excellent.

Here are the latest projects, which were started and finished tonight. Feeling happy about that.

Washed and in My Kitchen


Last Week’s Tree and Tonight’s Tree


Liz’s Praying Mantis and My Tree

I guess you can tell that Liz is my daughter…