Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Busy girl; random thoughts on painting prep and more

I've been busy, and as a result have been a very bad blogger.  
'Gulliver' - installation at SUNY New Paltz
I may be retired, but somehow I seem to fill up my calendar ridiculously fast.  Between teaching my weekly after school class (I currently have just three students), and enjoying the magnificent autumn, and prepping for four (yes, four; I'm insane) workshop presentations at my state conference next month, and working on sewing projects and beading projects, attending meetings for this and that, and prepping and freezing the remnants of our garden, and attending my 40th college reunion, and subbing a couple of days ago for the gal who replaced me, it's a wonder I have any time to do anything else, but, on top of it all, today I attended my first Beginner's Yiddish class (and I think I'm in WAY over my head), and somehow I still find time to eat too much, sleep (not enough), read, watch trashy reality TV, exercise (once in a while, anyhow), and figure out how to use my new laptop.

Below, a few views of SUNY New Paltz, my alma mater, 40 years after graduating
Wow.  I'm tired just re-reading what I wrote in the run-on sentence/paragraph above.   If you didn't quit reading after the exhausting first paragraph, I actually do have some things to share.
 Above and below, views from the Tang Museum at Skidmore College.  That's me above wearing stripes.  The cups in the pool made awesome sounds as they bumped into each other.  And the work below?  Look at all those matches!  Cool, or what?!?

Anyhooo  - A couple of days ago I subbed in my former classroom.  She warned me ahead of  time that her schedule is so crazy that she was afraid that after I subbed once I would never return.  And yes, the day was pretty zany, but I had a great time and will be happy to come back.  My former students treat me like a celebrity when they see I'm in the room, even after 2 years.  But when I came home, I felt half dead.  My voice was shot, and so were my feet.  Luckily, we had reservations at the local dinner-and-a-movie place, where we saw The Judge (excellent) and had a nice dinner while we watched, that I did not have to cook. 

But about subbing - I'm prepping a workshop for the NAEA conference in New Orleans this spring, called Designing Your Program to Say Yes to the Mess (or something like that).  My subbing day definitley helped remind me of certain points I will be sure to make.
  • First is what I call 'curriculum choreography'.  Sequence your day and year to make it easier for you to manage the materials of a multiple art classes/grade levels/projects.  For example, while it may SEEM to make sense to have everyone painting on the same day (after all, the brushes and paints are already out), it's really a BAD idea.  Your drying rack will be full with no place to put the wet work after a few classes.  So mix up your day with some grade levels painting and others using dry media that don't require the drying space.  Same thing goes for sculptural work.  If everyone is building something 3-D at the same time, where will you put them?  Mix it up!
  • Second, remember that not everyone who paints needs to use a brush that needs to be washed. Paint with old sponge bits, Q-tips, cardboard scraps, cotton balls, and other things that can be tossed in the trash.  Or, if everyone needs to use a brush, put just one color or color family on each table, with brushes that stay with them.  Limit the color choices for the kids to use, or rotate them to different tables.  Brush washing only has to be done when all classes using the paint are done.  And then, make sure the kids wipe the excess paint off the brush and put them into a soaking bucket.
  • Maintain a sense of humor.  Spills happen.  But, when the kindergarten students were using liquid watercolors to paint over their crayon pumpkin drawings, I should have thought to put the cups of paint into little trays (I like those little flat black dishes from TV dinners) on each table.  Then, when the paint got knocked over, as it did on 3 tables out of 5, the paint would have gone into the tray, instead of all over the table, and none would have been wasted.  Duh!  I guess I was a little rusty and forgot to do this!
Please note - I do realize my day of subbing was not 'typical'.  Most people do not leave plans for a sub that include four totally different painting projects, each using completely different paints, plus one collage project incorporating sequins and jewels.  But my sub knows me, and knows that I'm  willing and capable, and much prefer this to showing videos all day.  (Yuck.)  At the end of the day, the drying artwork was organized, the paintbrushes were clean (not by me; some early finishing 5th graders volunteered and did exactly what I asked), the tables were clean, and I think the art teacher was satisfied and appreciative.
At the Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs NY

Wow.  I'm tired out from reading what I've written, so I'll show you a few fall photos, and sign off.  In a day or two, I'll be able to share two fun projects done by my DragonWing Art students!  In the meantime, this is enough, I hope, to convince you I'm still blogging. 
 Above and the two pics below are the Betar Walkway/Bikeway along the Hudson River, just a few miles from my home.  The river is just to the left of me in these three photos.  That's hubs in the green jacket.  He evidently doesn't realize that I've stopped to take pictures (which I think I do about every 20 steps).

And a little 'wildlife' along the walkway...

Friday, October 10, 2014

The comment surprise!

It used to be common to find lots of comments on my blog (or on other blogs), especially in the days after a new post was written.  Nowadays, not so much.  I can look at my blog stats and know that I still have plenty of visitors, but many people no longer take the time to leave a comment.    I think there's a few reasons.
First, many people (but not me) do their blog reading on their phones.  Leaving a comment = a pain in the neck.
Second, there's the fact that people seem to like things to happen instantly.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever you use - these things are so much more instant than taking the time to read through a sometimes long blog post, and then write a thoughtful response, and finally to copy the 'captcha' letters/numbers in order to post your comment.  Too much effort?
Sometimes the visitors to a blog have just hopped there by way of a Pinterest pin and do not even read the post.
But sometimes, a blog comment can really pay off.   Perhaps you'll get involved in an interesting discussion.  Perhaps you'll learn something new.  Perhaps you'll get a new idea.  Or, perhaps... just perhaps... you'll win a prize.  That's what happened to me recently!
Ironically, when I left a comment back in September on Art Room Blog, it was because I had something to say.  I knew there was a contest, but honestly, I think I would have left the comment anyhow, because, well, that's just me.  But last week the blogger contacted me and told me I had won a prize.  You can see in the photo above exactly what I won!!!  This blog hosts a contest EVERY MONTH.  That means if you leave a comment on the contest, the odds of winning sooner or later are pretty good.  This month she's giving away a set of awesome-looking pan pastels.  But you have to actually SAY something in your comment.  Each month she asks a question. - This month's question asks "What is your focus when writing lesson plans?"  (Follow the link; she goes into more detail than that in her question.) 

Meanwhile, maybe you are wondering what I'm going to do with my $50 gift card to Jerry's Artarama?  Well, it's already been spent, and I'm beyond excited waiting for the day my package shows up.  Because I decided to make an investment in something that will be useful to me for a LONG time.  
I added a little of my own money to the gift card, and have ordered this 18" paper cutter!! Hallelujah!  

I have always liked big paper - but sometimes I do need to cut it (for example, cutting 18"x24" paper into an 18" squares, or cutting strips for a project, or whatever).  Since I retired two years ago, having access to the paper cutter is the thing I have missed most (besides the kids).  Sometimes, when I need to cut a lot of paper for a workshop I'm teaching, or my private students, I have driven the 30 miles to my old classroom to 'borrow' the cutter for an hour.  But obviously, this is a distraction to the teacher in the classroom, and it makes a simple project into a whole day effort.  Putting the stuff I want to cut into the car, driving the 30 miles, lugging the giant paper through a crowded parking lot, down hallways and up stairs, trying to find a place to work in a busy crowded classroom, and then repeating the whole process in reverse.  UGH.  Sometimes, I have tried cutting the paper using a sewing tool, my rotary cutter (the singularly most dangerous piece of equipment that I own).  But the paper always slips, and I end up wasting more than I cut, plus I am waiting for the day that this evil tool decides to slice off the top of one of my fingers and I have to rush to the ER cradling the missing part of my finger.  It terrifies me.

So the package has shipped, and in a few days, on my doorstep, I will have my VERY OWN 18" paper cutter!  I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Darter at Art Room Blog.  And while I don't want to appear greedy, I'm sure you will see me writing more comments in the future! 

I'm sure that some of you readers have stuck with me to the end of this post hoping that I am offering a prize drawing too, but... not this time.  But stick with me, readers, because I've done it before and it will certainly happen again!  Until then, happy commenting! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sock rug and artsy necklace

 I spent yesterday afternoon at the Adirondack Folk School, where I took a class called 'Weave a Sock Rug'.  Just three hours later, I walked out with this rug that I had made! 
 The instructors made it easy for us - the looms are pre-warped for class use.  We picked the loom we preferred.  The loom I selected was strung with a blue/black combo. 
 Down by my side in the photo above you can see bags with ropes made from the ribbed tops of colorful cotton socks.  The instructor purchases the pre-cut socks from a sock company, and then loops them together into ropes.   The regular weaving instructor is leaving to winter in Florida, so the woman on the right was there apprenticing with her, and will be taking over the weaving classes.  Both were terrific.
Below is what I saw on my loom as I was weaving. 
Another woman, using exactly the same color sock ropes as me, wove on a loom warped with white.  Our results looks so different from each other!
One woman, weaving on a loom strung with green and pale yellow, selected a limited color palette to go with her home decorated with terracotta and a southwestern decor.  This is her rug below.
Here, of course, is my (almost) finished rug.  I say 'almost' because I still have some more knot tying and trimming that I want to do to my fringe.
 Here's what the rug woven with the white warp looks like.
 And here's mine on my studio floor at home.  It really amazes me how the warp changes it.  Her white warp brought out the cool blues and greens, and my blue/black warp brought out the warm reds and jewel tones.  I'm quite happy with it!
 Here's a closer-up look a the nubby irregular weave. 
I like the randomness and irregularity. 
 By the way, I talked to the instructor about easy ways to do this without a big expensive loom, and she suggested hammering nails into an old picture frame and using them to warp the loom.  And of course you can make rag rugs out of just about anything, or cut across old t-shirts to form giant rings that you can link together into ropes as was done with the sock parts. I've always loved weaving with kids, and I think they would enjoy making something bigger using rags rather than yarn.  The possibilies are pretty open-ended, I think!
On the way home, with hubby out of town, I made a pit stop for some shoe shopping before a planned trip to the gym.  When I left the store at closing time, shoe bags in tow, I found a flat tire on my car.  EEK.  I knew no garage would be open, and made a panicked call for advice to hubs who was at his gate at a Washington DC airport, coming home.  He told me to just lock up the car and we'd pick it up the next day.  I thought I'd have to call a taxi, which would have been pricey since I wasn't exactly close to home, but when I ran into the shoe store as they were locking their doors (I wanted to make sure that my car wouldn't be towed), the woman I spoke to looked familiar.  Turns out that she was the mom of a girl who one of my son's friends in high school!  Small world!  She nicely offered to drive me home with my rug and my shoes.  Thank you!!!!

When I finally got home, I decided to finish a necklace that I had strung a month or so ago, and which had been sitting on the coffee table since then (much to my husband's annoyance, I'm sure; he's much neater than I am), waiting for me to put a clasp on it.  The clasp is now on, the necklace is complete, and a coordinating pair of earrings is in the works!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

my little slice of heaven

I have been a lazy blogger.   I am not ready with an art post, so to appease you, I'm going to post about my lake.  You've seen it here before, and will see it again.
view of town beach from my kayak
I've been smitten with lakes most of my life.  My first teaching job was near the shore of Lake Champlain, and it was there that, besides spending summers swimming and sunning, I also learned to windsurf and became a certified scuba diver, both activities which I enjoyed for many many years.
lake panorama, from kayak
When I first met my husband, and he told me he had this 'camp' on Loon Lake (one of many such named lakes), I was very excited, because it was at the same lake where my family vacationed many summers, and where I first swam, and where I first rowed a rowboat by myself.  Lo an behold, his property turned out to be a stone's throw from where my family used to vacation!  I can walk or swim there!
abstract ripples, as viewed from my lounge chair on dock
For many years, I poked around the shoreline in a little inflatable boat, or a canoe, until my son went to boy scout camp and came home telling us he wanted a kayak.  We bought one second-hand, and that is the kayak I have used extensively ever since.  We still have the canoe, and another kayak, and also a cute little rowboat that my husband likes to use.
 Above, a lone loon.  We have several loons currently on the lake, and it is always magical to hear them and see them.  For those of you curious about the fate of the loon with the fishing line in his mouth, the answer is simply "I don't know."  The loon expert was unable to locate and rescue him, and I haven't seen him again, but just a few days ago a neighbor told us he was still around, and had been diving and feeding.  So - fingers crossed that he is able to survive.
Loons - we awoke the other morning to their haunting calls!
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago, in my kayak, I was daydreaming and recalling a trip to Alaska many years ago, where they told us to always look for 'white golf balls' in the trees.  That's how to spot eagles!  So, while daydreaming, I casually looked up above me, and this is what I saw:
 A half hour later, I was relaxing in my kayak at the marsh at the end of the lake, when a huge shadow passed over me.  The great blue heron landed nearby, and here he is:
Anyhow, here's a few more recent pictures of 'my' lake. 
 This is my favorite time of year - autumn in the Adirondacks is beautiful!
These photos, by the way, are NOT edited.  It's really this pretty here!  I can't locate any photos, but I always loved doing elementary color-mixing art projects in the fall, because none of the colors we see are 'straight out of the bottle colors'.  We'd sponge-paint leaves, and reflections, trying to mix the varieties of gold, amber, ochre, red, burgundy, olive, mustard, tomato, and so much more, that we see all around us.
A few days ago, we hiked up nearby Stewart's Mountain, an easy climb.  Here's a couple of views of my lake from the top of the climb.
 And finally, a couple of weeks ago, before the colors started changing -