Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

I haven't posted in a few days. I've been working on a picture in colored pencil and I was having some trouble with it. It's kind of slow going because you are working with the small pencil point and you can't just color something. You have to build layers of color, then blend, to smooth it out, with white. I had a little trouble picking out the colors in my containers. I have them all sorted so they are easy to find. (I thought!) However, at night, I couldn't find the white, light blue, cream, or the flesh colors. So, I switched colors. Hopefully, with more layering and blending, I am going to be more satisfied with it. Maybe it is just me! I envisioned my main figure in a light blue outfit with a white scarf. But, I ended up with turquoise, green, peacock blue, and turquoise and white in her scarf. Maybe I will be more satisfied with it when it is finished.
Note that I have added a new link to an artist in my More Artists section on the sidebar. William Hessian has a blog on bearded bunnies that he creates, which reminded me of the flower pot bunnies that my students made. (See the post below with instructions and pictures).
Scroll all the way down to the bottom of my page to see my guest book, if you haven't already.
Night Lights
Acrylic on Paper
Confetti In The Dark
Acrylic on Paper

I have posted the above paintings before in my Vison postings. These are some of the things I saw last January when I got my injection of Lucentis in my eye for wet Macular Degeneration. I thought that it looked like a parade at night, or a celebration. The fireworks are actually the way that I see various outdoor lights. Appropriate for New Years Eve.

We don't usually have a big celebration. We just watch tv, maybe a movie on tv, until midnight. Then we have champagne or egg nog, and maybe a little snack and the kids throw confetti. They go out on the porch and throw "poppers" down, which make a noise like firecrackers. Safe and no fire that way! (We've had to be careful about fire due to drought conditions in recent years, although this year we are okay. )

Then, we go to bed. Well, the family does, and I watch tv, do some art work, or work on the computer.

When I was growing up in Calvert, we didn't really celebrate New Years Eve. We watched tv, drank Coca Cola, or, if it was cold, Daddy told my mother to make some hot chocolate. One year, we discovered hot Dr. Pepper with a little lemon in it and tried that when it was cold. We might have crackers with peanut butter or cheese or a marshmallow on top, which Mama put in the oven to toast. Daddy also liked to roast peanuts on a pan in the oven, or have pecans, and spend the evening cracking and eating them while we watched tv.

Daddy always wanted us in bed early so he could sleep. He would stay up to watch the news, and that was the celebration.

Night owl that I was, I would lay in the bed and wait to see the magical changes that would occur with the arrival of a new year. Would the New Year Baby come floating in from the skies and the Old Year float up to the sky, never to be seen again? Would the world come to an end? Would we all feel a difference? Above all, would I be different after midnight?

I waited, sometimes with my heart pounding, anxious to see what midnight might bring, and a little afraid that it would be something really bad and scarey.

At midnight, the deep knoll of a bell rang out across the neigborhood. Charlie, on the corner, had an old bell from a school out in their yard, and, at midnight, that bell would welcome in the new year. Somewhere in town, we could hear firecrackers popping, and, sometimes, a few left- over- from- Christmas Roman Candles would burst above the trees. Dogs in the distance began barking and howling, sending communication across town, and our own dog would join in until the fireworks were silent again.

My sister slept, my parents slept, but I was wide awake, thinking that we should be doing something.

"Daddy! Did you hear that?" I demanded. Charlie rang the bell. It's midnight! The new year!" I went into my parents' room and tried to wake them. Other people were up. We should be, too.

"Okay," my mother said sleepily, and turned over.

"Get back in bed!" Daddy said and began his earth shattering snoring again.

I couldn't sleep with all that snoring, anyway, and I had to look outside to make sure that our neighborhood was still okay. I sat up in bed, looking out the window.

The neighborhood was still there, but would it be in the morning? I looked toward the park, where there were street lights throwing a soft glow at each corner. And at the street light on the corner by Edie's house. Sometimes I could see cats stalking their prey of bugs around the street light. An occasional dog would pass by, or even a fox that wandered in from the country.

I could imagine older men and ladies out dancing, going places in cars, eating fabulous food in magnificent settings. People on trains and buses going through town, bound for somewhere. Couples were probably snuggling together somewhere. People would be going to movies or wandering along window shopping. Some would be wearing beautiful clothes to parties in beautiful homes. Champagne would flow and fireworks would explode in the air. Some people would take their children out to set off fireworks to welcome in the new year, others might be in church. There were even people who had pretty mixed drinks or egg nog with actual nog in it. So much was going on in the world, and here we were, in our beds, in the dark.

I lined up my baby dolls, covered them, and cuddled one in my arms. One of the cats would wander by and curl up beside me or walk leisurely across the window sill as I watched.

"One of these days, I'm going to grow up and I am not going to bed early! I'm going to be out there where life is happening!" I vowed in a whisper to my doll and my cat. I didn't want to wake Daddy and have him yell at me to go to sleep again.

The cooing of Mourning Doves that made their home in the park and the cemetery, began about the time the sky lightened and turned pink in the east. About time for me to go to sleep.

Yes, the world was still all there, I was still the same person as was everyone else. I hadn't seen a baby floating in the air down to earth, or an old man floating up to the sky. We had not experienced a fiery end to the earth as they had talked about in Sunday School.

The street lights on the corner turned off. Cars started to be heard around town. Mama got up and went into the kitchen to make coffee and start breakfast for Daddy. Soon Daddy would be at the table, in his underwear, ready for a big plate of food.

I remember one memorable New Years Eve, after I was grown and had returned home. My cousin, Doris, loved to go dancing, and so did I. She was a young widow and I was divorced. We decided that we were going to go out and celebrate, for a change, and dance. So, we dressed up.

I left my children with my mother, and she left her's with a neighbor. I had a big Oldsmobile 98 (great car!) and we took that. I depended on her to navigate and tell me where the dance halls were. She usually went dancing with a group of ladies. But they all had plans this New Years Eve.

We drove west to a big dance hall in an area that I was not familiar with. As the evening progressed, there were too many people there. You couldn't dance for all the people crowded together and there were no places to sit. Some were already tipsy and loud.

"Do you want to try somewhere else?" she asked.

"Sure. This is terrible!" I said. And we left.

By now, it was dark, but still a warm evening.

As I drove, mist started to form and it seemed hazy. I turned on the defroster. It wasn't inside, but outside on the windshield. Fog was rolling in, rapidly. We aren't on the coast, so I thought that was odd. I could understand rain, or cold, or even snow, but not fog this time of year.

Soon, I couldn't see the road and we were trying to remember strategies for driving in fog! I tried to guide the car by looking at the stripe beside the car, or the side of the road. Doris couldn't see either and I was depending on her to navigate.

Finally, we saw a sign that said "Bryan", or we could take another turn and go home, by way of a country road that we weren't familiar with and where we knew there would be no lights or businesses along the way.

"If we go to Bryan, we can go dancing there. Or, we can just get on Highway 6 and go home." Doris told me. She couldn't think of another good place to dance that we would be able to find.

We headed for Bryan. At least there would be lights in town and more cars on the highway. If worst came to worse, we could get a room and spend the night at a motel there.

We went creeping along, looking at the edge of the highway. We got to Bryan about midnight, which we heard about on the radio.

"I can't afford a room," I told her.

"I can't either, " she said.

"Should we try to make it home?" I asked. My hands were sweating from nervousness as I tried to drive. I was holding my breath a lot!

"If you want to try it, we might as well go home. It's past midnight, anyway. These places are more expensive and some require reservations. I just hoped that we could find a good place to dance," she advised.

We turned north to go home, driving past several dancing places, where people were leaving. We were disappointed. I thought of the few dollars I had with me, enough to buy one or two drinks, if I could find something really cheap, and a small cover charge, if there was one. I could use that money, but we had missed out on the evening that we had hoped for.

As we left the city and drove into the dark stretch of highway, the fog cleared, and we could see stars. We could also see the highway clearly and sped home.

"Well, at least we got out of the house tonight, "Doris said as she got out of the car. "See you later."

" Yep, we sure did. See you. " I said as she closed the door.

There were other times, of course, when there were dates and dancing, parties, or even sadness and lonliness.

Another year, when I was grown, and back at home, a family moved to town from another state. They invited lots of people from town to come to their house for a party. We had lots of older people in town and not many young people, so the crowd was definitely mature and sort of settled. Some had traveled around, and had lived other places, so they were not so set on gong to bed when there was a party. There was much merriment and food, along with talk about the town and its ways, during the evening.

By midnight, people were full of good food, and talked of getting their coats and going home.

"Oh, no! You're not going yet, "our host exclaimed. "We have to see the New Year in!"

So, everyone stayed.

At midnight, Charlie's bell rang from his yard, firecrackers began to pop around town, and dogs began barking.

"Y'all come out on the porch. We've got to do something to see the New Year in!' Our host and hostess ushered us all out to the wide front porch.

Suddenly, the host pulled out a pistol and aimed it into the trees. He was smiling.

"Oh my God! These strangers are going to kill us all, right here at the Methodist Parsonage!" I thought.

"What are you going to do with that gun?" one of the elderly women asked.

"You can't shoot that in town," a man announced.

"Sure. We do it all the time back home," the host said. "How else would you make noise at midnight!"

"I've never heard of such a thing, " one Sunday School teacher said in her school teacher voice.

Everyone but the host and hostess agreed with her. You didn't shoot guns in town unless you were the law. Or if there was a mad dog, a snake, or some critter that you had to protect yourself from. Men had 22s or rifles that they took out to the country when they worked cattle and their land, in case they had to shoot a wolf or coyote or a wild dog that might attack the livestock. The city policemen had pistols, the Texas Ranger had a pistol, Highway Patrolmen had pistols and other guns, but most ordinarly people kept their guns put away at home, if they had a gun. Daddy had a 22 in the closet, but he had cattle and went out into the country. Grandpa and my great-uncle had a shotgun at the store. Grandpa had used it in the days when he went hunting. One time, the store was broken into and the shotgun was stolen. The police recovered the gun but it had been sawed off. They still kept it in case they ever needed it for protection. They never used it, though.

"Someone could get hurt," her neighbor said.

"Nah," the host said as he aimed the pistol at different places above the trees that lined the sidewalk.

I just smiled, ready to run inside if bullets started flying, not wanting to appear like I was afraid. I didn't really know these people. No one did. Who knows but what they might be murderers or some kind of nuts, or even just plain careless. I was sure that fleeting thought was wrong and just a wild imagination, there in the dark. I just hoped that the policeman would not come up there and fuss at us, or give us tickets, for shooting a gun in town.

Our host aimed the pistol once again and pulled the trigger this time. There was a bang and the bullet just disappeard. It didn't appear to hit anything. We were all under cover of the porch, so, if the bullet fell back down, it didn't fall in our direction.

Okay, he had that out of his system and we could all go home now. We went back in the house, with no one hurt, except our nerves a bit. We gathered our things from the bedroom and left.

"Nice party. Thanks." People left, politely, going back to their usual quiet lives without guns.

"I hope they don't ever do that again!" I told my mother when I got back home. The party was okay, but I never heard of shooting off a gun instead of fireworks. I thought I heard that was dangerous. Those bullets can fall back down and hit someone."

I wondered if that was really a custom back in their home, which happened to be where my mother's mother was from. My mother didn't know.

Daddy was celebrating again with much snoring in the bed and she would soon join him .

I would go to bed, look at my sleeping child, and watch out the window for the new year coming in, the old year floating up to the sky, and hope that this would not be the night that they talked about in Sunday School. The lights still shone from the corner by the park, the cats still sought bugs under the light, dogs barked, spreading their message around town. Lights from trains still could be seen coming over the hill from Hearne, and there would be sounds of distant cars, trucks, and buses on the highway going through town. When the sky turned light and pink in the east, and the Mourning Doves began to coo in the park, the new day and the new year would be there, and it would be time to sleep. Just like in other years.

This would be a good night to enjoy the end of 2007, but also to reflect and look forward. A time to start a new journal, make out New Years Resolutions, after going to a good party or dance.

We always have taken down our Christmas decorations and made sure the tree was out of the house before midnight on New Year's Eve to avoid bad luck in the coming year. This year, the decorations are down. But, I put the little tree back in the window, added a string of lights to the window sill, and turned them on this afternoon. I'll be sure that they are put away before midnight, but I like to enjoy all the color of Christmas as long as possible. It's so drab and sad when all those colorful things are gone after Christmas. I can see why some people leave their things up all year, and why those little white lights have become so popular in decorating.


(Throwing a little confetti your way. Since it is e-mail confetti, it won't be so hard to clean up! And my "fireworks" are exploding above, silently.)

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Thanks for reading and sharing. Have a safe, and happy evening.
Let me know if you see something of interest.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Memory

Conitz Home
by Ellen Conitz
8" x 10"

Christmas was coming. I knew that.

I was little, maybe two or three years old, or maybe even a bit younger. We lived in the Victorian house that my great-grandfather had built about 1900, in an apartment upstairs, while great-grandpa (we just called him Grandpa) and one of his bachelor sons, "Uncle Goose", lived downstairs. After Grandpa died, we were still there until I was about 4, and "Uncle Goose" remained downstairs. Part of the downstairs was rented out to Ollie and his wife, Dell, after Grandpa was gone.

A leaded glass front door led into the entry hall, with its polished hardwood floor and paneling, and to the stairs that were in the witches peak. A desk was under the staircase, along with a wooden chair with a padded seat. A tall grandfather clock, with a ship rocking on waves, a moon, and a smiling sun, stood by the door that led into the dining room and library. Sliding pocket doors that matched the wood paneling led into the parlor that served as my mother's music room. She had her baby grand piano in that lovely room with its wide, tall windows, and wood paneling.

At Christmas time, there was debate about whether to put a large cedar tree in the landing on the stairs, where it could be seen through the windows in the witches peak, or whether to put it in the big front window in the music room. The music room could handle a big tree best. I remember trees in both places, as well as in the dining room, and a small one upstairs. I also remember debates about whether to buy new electric lights, or using candles. I do remember having candles on the tree when it was in the dining room. My mother was concerned about a possible fire, but the older folks were used to candles. They did agree that some houses had burned as a result of a tree being too dry and the candles touching the branches.

But, this particular year, there were electric lights, and the tree was in the music room.

Sometimes, when Mama practiced, she would let me play in the music room, or sit with her when she played the piano. Sometimes, she had young students in for piano lessons, and ladies came to sing with her for solos at church or in programs in town. But, often, I was a little pest, wanting attenion, and doing everything I could think of so that my mother would pay attention to me, and not to those other people or her piano. And, those times, I was urged to go out and play, or to stay upstairs, go to my grandmother's house next door, or to just sit quietly out in the hall until she was through. And, there I might sit, on the steps or on the chair, pouting, squirming, or creeping up to the keyhole to see what was happening in the other room. I hoped that Mama would feel sorry for me, and invite me back in.

In this year that I am remembering, I was sitting out on the steps in the hall a lot. I walked up and down the stairs, thinking of how I might just be able to jump over to the chandelier over the hall, and swing, Tarzan style, down the stairs and across the hall. That might be more exciting than sliding down the banister, or sitting down and bumping all the way down the stairs. Then, I returned to the lower steps, impatiently waiting for my mother.

"Why don't you try to think of what you want Santa Claus to bring you. It won't be long until Christmas,"my mother had suggested something to keep me busy. A doll was at the top of my list. I also wanted a horse, a tea set, a little table and chairs, some pretty clothes and shoes.

"How about a rocking horse? You're too little for a horse, yet,"my mother told me.

Back then, there were beautifully carved, prancing or raring up, horses, more like carousel horses than the simple wooden or plastic things of today. You could imagine that those were real horses with delicate details in their nostrils and on their manes, even their teeth and tongues. A beautiful rocking horse would be okay. I could ride that indoors and in bad weather.

Mama was busy upstairs and I walked down the staris to look at the Christmas tree, sliding the doors open as quietly as I could. It was almost Christmas and I was getting more excited.

There was the beautiful tree, with it's glass balls shining and candy canes and ornaments standing out against the green tree. But, in front of the side window, there was the most gorgeous carved wooden rocking horse imaginable. It was carved from dark wood and every detail stood out. I ran my fingers over the mane and the teeth, and put my hand inside its mouth. I walked around the horse and touched the tail and the hooves. The rockers were even finished to match the rest of the horse. It was a little bit too big for me, but that was alright. I would grow to it quickly and I could still climb up on the horse. Did I dare to actually climb up on the horse and rock on it? My heart was pounding. I did. I climbed on the horse and felt like I was racing along in the fields on my loyal steed. My hair would be blowing in the wind as we raced along, in my imagination. Across the lawn and the field, I could see the trees that lined the driveway at my grandmother's house. I could have my horse gallop across there with ease to go see what Grandma was doing. At least, I could in my imagination.

"I had better not stay on here too long," I told myself.

"Cecelia! Cecelia! You'd better get back up here!" My mother was calling.

I tip toed out of the music room and carefully slid the doors back together. I hoped that I had left the horse in the same position that I had found it. I closed the front door, so that my mother would think that I was coming in from outside, and ran up the stairs. I didn't mention a word about seeing the rocking horse.

"You haven't been in the music room, have you?" she demanded.

"No. I've been outside," I looked at my shoes.

"Good. I want you to stay out of that room. Do you hear me?" she was cutting out a dress with the material spread on the bed. Straight pins were in her mouth and the big scissors were in her hand.

"Okay," I mumbled.

After that, the sliding doors to the music room stayed closed. I still peeked in the keyhole or under the doors, from time to time, to admire my magnificent horse.

"I'm going to get a rocking horse for Christmas," I told my mother one day. "Santa Claus has already been here. It's downstairs by the Christmas tree."

"No your'e not! Not the way you've been acting!" my mother insisted.

I thought that she was just trying to hide the rocking horse from me, and, Christmas Eve night, we would go downstairs to the Christmas tree, and there would be my horse.

"Okay, there is a rocking horse down there, but it is not for you. We're keeping that for another child in town. " Daddy explained.

" I don't believe it. That's my horse!" I argued.

"Well, young lady, you can believe it or not, but that horse is for someone else. And you stay out of there!" Daddy said.

I still didn't believe them. I longed for the magical night when I would get my beautiful rocking horse, with the wonderful carved wood. I sat on the steps, staring at the sliding doors to the music room, wishing that it would hurry up and be Christmas Eve. Time just dragged by. I still wasn't allowed in the music room, even when Mama practiced, and I couldn't seem to sneak in there, either. Mama was everywhere.

Finally, Christmas Eve arrived. Daddy and all the rest of the family had to stay at the store as long as there were customers, but we waited on them to arrive and have our tree.

"Aren't they ever coming?" I kept asking impatiently.

Mama gave me a candy candle stick to keep me busy. I put it on the floor and jumped over it, repeatedly, saying, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick". And then I would jump over the candle stick as far across the room as I could. And, in between jumps, I would go to the window and see if any of the family might be driving across the railroad tracks from town.

I finally stretched out on the bed and went to sleep.

When Daddy came home, he carried me downstairs to the music room, where the family was gathered. Grandma, Grandpa, Thelma, Irvin, "Pappy", "Uncle Tom", "Toot", "Honey", and Mama. "Uncle Goose" was in the basement, listening to the radio and drinking his beer.

I sleepily took the presents that were handed to me, and just wanted to go back to sleep. I tried to open my eyes, looking for my horse.

It wasn't there. My horse was gone. Daddy collected my gifts. A little bracelet, some socks with lace, a dress with a pinafore, some shoes, a book, some scrap books of pictures that my mother had made for me, and the big thing was a rubber doll that had a bottle with it. We could put liquid in the bottle and it would run through the doll, wetting its pants.

"But, where's my horse?" I whined.

"I told you that horse was not for you. It was for another little girl. And, besides, that horse was too big for you." Daddy carried me upstairs and put me in my baby bed. I tried to cry, but I was too sleepy.

The next day, I pouted and longed for my rocking horse. I played with my doll, pouring water through it, time after time. The two diapers that came with the doll didn't last very long, so water was ending up on the floor. The doll was soon banished to outdoors, when I fed it, and, indoors, the bottle was put up.

I never knew who got that beautiful horse, but they sure must have had a wonderful Christmas. They couldn't have loved that horse any more than I did, though. I never got such a wonderful rocking horse, either.

There was a wooden Lone Ranger's horse, "Silver", at the obstretician/pediatrician's office in Marlin. Dr. Davison's office was like a cozy house, with a cukoo clock in the waiting room. There was a play room for children off the main sitting room. A wonderful room with big book shelves and toys. Of course, the thing that children had to learn to take turns with was "Silver". We worked out turns with one person riding and the other children acting as cowboys and Indians, pretending to gallop around the room and play out a cowboy story. No one wanted to get off the horse when the doctor was ready for them. There was also an interesting spinning top and a jack in the box, along with puzzles and other toys in the room. It was nice, but it didn't totally take away the fear of waiting to see the doctor.

When my sister was a baby, our parents did get her a rocking horse that was like two cut out horses, done in pretty pastel colors, with a seat in between it. It had a "seat belt" in it, so the baby could sit and rock. My friends and I would squeeze into the rocking horse, so we could ride, too.

Later, when my son was small, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to carve a rocking horse for him. Not a plain one like they had in the stores, but a beautiful, dark, wooden horse like I thought I was getting. I never tried it. I'm not so sure that I could carve such a realistic animal. It would probably have taken many trees before I could get it to look anything like a horse. Now, clay might be another matter!

I got one of those plastic jumping horses for my daughter, when she was small. It looked nice, except for the springs on the side. I thought those might be dangerous, if a child fell sideways into them. I didn't know just how dangerous that horse was! It didn't get the child, but it sure got me!

One day, I was walking down the mobile home steps, carrying a basket of laundry. The horse was beside the steps. The steps tilted and I fell across the horse. I didn't know it, but my ribs had a hairline crack. Much later, I was trying to pull an air conditioner across the floor where some men had left it. I had such pain that I couldn't get up. I thought I was going to have to call the police to help me out of bed. X-rays, later, revealed that I had a hairline fracture in my ribs, and, when I pulled on that air conditioner, they separated. The horse was fine, though!
Be sure to look at the links in my side bar, and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see my new Guest Book. You can even add a picture there if you would like to share some of your art work for others to see.
I hope that your Christmas was a truly wonderful one, and that you got the things that you dreamed that Santa would bring you. And, above all, that the children in your life got the things they hoped for. I hope that their rocking horses didn't go to someone else!
One gift that we got here was a spectacular sunset! Gorgeous colors to end Christmas Day.
Thank you for reading and for sharing. Let me know if you see something of interest.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child
Sculpture Idea
8" x 10"
Acrylic on Paper

The full moon shines on a cold winter night, like tonight, casting cool light and shadows on stone. Perhaps in a cemetery? A park? Or even floating in the night?

I thought of this piece as a rounded stone, carved just enough to hint at a mother holding a baby. Or, possibly, it could be done in clay with just a hint of blue glaze to give it the feeling of cold moonlight falling over it.

I like to do sculpture, with my hands, touching the clay and modeling it by feel. I haven't tried to carve in stone but I don't think that I would like it as much as I do the soft clay. That's funny because, before I started doing some clay heads, I hated getting my hands, and everything else, dirty. I think that it really helped me to be able to get better form into my two dimensional work.

Creating those large heads of 25 to 50 pounds of clay was an exciting project. Unfortunately, my strength has waned, and I can't do all the lifting and pounding required to work clay, and I no longer have access to a kiln. So, I have to think in terms of something smaller like papier mache, or some sort of other material. I have quite a few ideas for sculpture that I would like to complete, one of these days.

Since it is now Christmas Day, I thought that my "Madonna and Child", with a moonlit night, would be appropriate to share. On Christmas Eve, my youngest grandson and I watched the full moon rise, and he was excited to spy a planet that he had been hearing about. I'm not sure it it was Mars or Saturn as I had not heard about it.

When I painted this, I thought of the old cemetery where my son, and much of my family is buried. A beautiful park-like place near the home that I grew up in. I thought of monuments in the moonlight, over the lawn where so many now rest. A place that is still and quiet, except for the occasional rustling in the branches of ancient trees as night creatures prowl about.

We took our Mock Stained Glass Windows over to the nursing home and showed them to my aunt Christmas Eve afternoon. The sun was pouring in through the big windows in the dining room where we opened our gifts and enjoyed cookies and cold drinks. As we were holding them up to the light, I discovered that, by placing the angel over the star window, I had a completely different, and very interesting design. The rays from the star and the overlapping colors and shapes broke the angel design down even more and created more colors. That was kind of fun. My grandson didn't want to leave the windows there, so we brought them home. My aunt doesn't have a window in her room, so she wouldn't be able to enjoy the window. There isn't enough room to even hang all her Christmas cards, so I guess the windows are going to go in my own windows, or they may go in with all the other things that I am saving, created by my grandson.

Today we will have Christmas dinner with red roast and red gravy and a small ham. My daughter is cooking. She baked an orange cake and a chocolate cake for dessert last night. The orange cake still will not come out of the Bundt pan! We may have to put icing on it in the pan, and dig it out with a spoon! I thought sure that gravity would eventually take care of it, so it is still upside down on a plate. We both tried using knives to loosen the sides, but it is still stuck. I think it is a little too sticky. It seems done inside, according to the toothpick test, but, to touch it, it is really sticky.

Then the grandsons will open their gifts and we will all go back to see my aunt at the nursing home for the afternoon.

It is so different from the Christmases of the past, with a large family around. We always wanted more children around, though, since my sister and I were the children. We couldn't wait to get out and play with our friends.

My family had the dry goods store, and other men in the family had grocery stores. They stayed open as late as there were customers on the street. As the years passed, that time became earlier and earlier, so that, by supper time, the stores were closed and everyone came to our house for the Christmas tree. People came to town to buy, even in wagons, and they stayed around to socialize or to go to church the next day.

When I was growing up, the family worked at the stores on busy days. Even the kids helped out. And other people were hired to help wait on customers. We had to cashier, wait on customers, put things on the books, gift wrap, stock, put price tags on merchandise, decorate the show windows, sweep, dust, clean the restrooms, and watch for shoplifters. My favorite things were to decorate the show windows and to gift wrap. But, it was a little nerve shattering, being told to not use too much ribbon or too much tape, or paper, or string on packages. I was interested in creating a really nice looking package, but some customers just wanted their packages fast and didn't care if they had fancy ribbons or not. We made a kind of a loop out of ribbon and taped it, with a card on top. Another method was to make something that looked a bit like a man's tie, to me. And there were several strips of ribbon brought from the back side to the front, the cut in points at different lengths. Those were good for stacking on top of each other, or for mailing. And then there were bows. We didn't have to make most of them, we bought them in a big package. Or, each year, at our Christmas tree, we all saved our bows and paper to be used again at the store.

After the stores closed, a weary crew went to our house to have the family Christmas tree. It was really hard to wait for Santa, when it got to be really late. But, the store came first. Once everyone gathered, Santa made his way from the garage to the front porch with any special gifts, like bikes or wagons, or doll buggies and little tables and chairs. "Look what Santa left out here!" Daddy would tell us. "I thought I heard him!" he would add.

"I heard him, too!" others would say, trying to make us believe.

One Christmas, Santa brought my sister the pair of cowboy boots she always wanted. We were still pretty small then. My sister would not take off her cowboy boots, for days, and even slept in them, and I wouldn't move my dolls over. We shared a three quarter size bed, so it was pretty crowded in bed. And, then, the cats joined us! But, those cowboy boots. I can feel them still. They had sharp pointed toes, and were really stiff, especially in my back! She loved those boots!

We usually got things like underwear from the store, and a thread box with dollar bills in it. (No fancy wrapping for the family. But, they didn't have time to shop, they said, and so they just put the money into an empty thread box, and gave that out while presents were being passed out.) Mama, and one great-aunt always made sure that we got some nice clothes, toys, and books.

While the great-aunts were receiving things like jewelry, or furniture, or pieces to their crystal, china, or silver patterns, Daddy gave my mother gifts that just upset her. She just clenched her teeth, and held her little presents, and everyone said that he should be ashamed of himself. Of course, he laughed and thought it was so funny. He gave gifts like a Lady Gillette double edge razor and a slop jar. You may remember that happened in "All In The Family" on tv, when Archie Bunker gave Edith her own razor. Well, my dad did it years before that! His sense of humor.

The men all got things like pajamas, shirts, ties, cuff links and tie clasps-things that stayed in their boxes and were saved. Long after they died, we are still finding boxes of things that were gifts that were saved. One thought was that they would save the good things in case they should ever have to go to the hospital.

At our family Christmas tree, we would always have some sort of refreshments, cookies, cake, tuna fish sandwiches and potato chips, and, if it was cold, Mama would make hot chocolate. In later years, when you could buy it in the store, we added egg nog to the menu. One year, my great-aunt, who lived across the street, brought over some Mogan David wine in her mother's lead crystal decanter. Her sister in law had served them wind during a visit, and she wanted to do the same. The other great-aunt acted shocked. Everyone refused the wine except my uncle and I. We asked my grandmother if she wanted some wine and we thought she said she did. However, Grandma was deaf and had hardening of the arteries. When she came to the Christmas tree that night, all she wanted to do was to go home because her babies were there. She couldn't figure out that her children were grown and were there with her. My aunt had said not to give her any refreshments because it might have sugar in it, or salt, and she had read that those things were bad for people. So, she went around making sure that no one ate anything that had the bad things in it. We learned to pass the sugar and the salt under the table, so she wouldn't see us, and throw a fit. My uncle said that we should let Grandma have a little wine, so he kept my aunt busy while my great-aunt and I gave her a tiny wine glass full of wine. When my aunt discovered us, we told her that it was grape juice, and she was satisfied with that. Grandma kept wanting more of those little glasses of wine. Pretty soon, she perked up, and was talking normally, and enjoying herself. She recognized her children and was more lucid than she had been in a long time. The lack of sugar and salt had actually hurt her, and she ended up having to go to the hospital and getting IVs to put some of those things back. My aunt never would concede that people need some salt and some sugar.

Sometimes, on Christmas Day, we would drive to my mother's parents to have Chirstmas dinner with them. It didn't seem right to be away from home, and the family that I was accustomed to on Christmas. And I was eager to share with my friends what we had received for gifts on Christmas Eve.

There was a little longing for a fireplace for Santa to come down, the custom of opening presents on Christmas morning, and a big, roasted goose on a platter for Christmas dinner. Instead, we got Santa bringing gifts to our front porch, having the Christmas tree after the store closed, and turkey and red roast and red gravy for Christmas dinner.

Merry Christmas! And I hope that you are having a wonderful, memorable time with friends and family!

Be sure to look at my guest book. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find it.

If you haven't read yesterday's post, you might like to read it, including a poem by Elaine Winters.

Let me know if you see something of interest to you. Thanks for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Angel

Mock Stained Glass Window
Construction Paper and Tissue Paper
8.75" x 11.50"
(See the slide show below for steps and the post below that for instructions )
The Light Is Upon Us At Christmas
Elaine Winter (Steszewski)
Crystal blue sparkling evening stars
A full moon shining brightly in the heavens lighting our path
Bright candles in the churches all over the land
This must be Christmas!
Church choirs, children's Christmas plays, Christmas Parades
Welcoming the Savior's Birth
Welcome Jesus to the earth!
A gift from God for us forever.
I asked Elaine for permission to use her poem on my blog and she kindly agreed. As I worked to finish the Christmas angel "stained glass window", I thought that Elaine's words would go very well with my art work. Thank you, Elaine!
I thought of so many things when I first saw Elaine's poem on the Polish_Genius genealogy list.
The big Christmas tree that used to be placed in the middle of highway 6 in Calvert, for the community Christmas program, and for the enjoyment of people driving through town. The big cedar tree had to be moved back off the highway, thanks to the highway department rules and increased traffic, further into the intersection on Mitchell street. After that, people didn't come out as much as they did for the event, which included the singing of Christmas carols and a visit from Santa. The wind sometimes blew the tree over.
Nearby Hearne had a similar program, but they had an intersection downtown, off the highway. After their tree was blown over, too, they drilled a hole in the street where the tree could be secured better each year. They haven't had the tree in Calvert for years, and, more recently the buildings were outlined with white lights. That looked really nice. Like a story book town. Unfortunately, they have lost some old buildings. The park is now decorated, unlike in the past. That is another place that is like a storybook.
I thought of the Christmas programs at the Sneed Memorial Methodist Church. The Christmas tree there in the basement. Mama would play the piano, and we had a little program and refreshments. Santa would come, and, when we got older, we tried to guess who he was. It had to be someone in town, but who? The black rubber rainboots were always a giveaway that this was not Santa from the North Pole. His boots would have been fur lined for the snow up north. Mr. Ford would always bring apples or oranges from his grocery store, or, in good years, both, and everyone got one. I think I remember one Christmas that we were given the delicacies of a tangerine. I don't remember that we got presents, but I remember the fruit, and, sometimes, a candy cane, and some nuts. I remember that, one year, especially, Charles' father came to play his guitar and sing for us.
There would be a Christmas program upstairs, too, and Mama played the organ for that. "Miss Immie" (Miss Imogene), would sing and direct the choir and a program, while she was still living. And we would have to sing or recite something, perhaps read from the Bible. One year, when my sister was very small, she was coaxed into wearing a dress and singing "Away In A Manger". She was very tiny, and very shy, but she made it through that song like a little angel.
There were Christmas plays at school and at the City Hall auditorium upstairs, when we dressed in costumes. White gowns, with fabric wings lined with golden ropes of Christmas tinsel and halos fashioned of the same golden material. And, some years, our little group of Calvert girls who were taking ballet and tap dancing lessons at the country club in Hearne, were called on to put on costumes and dance. I loved the glittery sparkle, but I was so bashful that I would cry and have to be coaxed out by my friends.
I remember one Christmas, not so many years ago, when Reba and I talked about going to Midnight Mass at the Catholic Church in Bremond. We couldn't get anyone else to go with us, so we went alone. I went to pick her up and was amazed that she left a large candle burning on her piano. It looked very pretty through the big window. But, I was concerned about the safety of leaving it. She explained that she had taken precautions and it would be safe. The candle was for solidarity and the people in Poland who were going through so much and were fighting for their freedom at that time. Lech Walesa was spoken of a lot in the news. She felt that we should go to the largely Polish community and church to show our support. And, her candle in the window was in response to the request for people to light candles all over the world in support of solidarity. We weren't Catholic, and she wasn't Polish, and I didn't know at that time that my great-grandfather had come from Poland (Prussia at the time that he came over). But, we joined many others that Christmas Eve with the little that we could do for freedom and to worship as we chose. I didn't know how memorable that night would be. I had left my children at my parents' home, where we were all living, after we had our Christmas tree and presents, and everyone had gone to bed, to drive to another town and join in their Christmas Eve service. We did often stay up and watch Midnight Mass on tv, but this was different. The Mass was in Latin and Polish, so we didn't understand a lot of it, but we did enjoy the music, and just being in this different atmosphere. It was special and moving.
Then there was the Christmas , about that same time, when the old hotel, where I had grown up playing around and visiting my cousins and their grandmother there, had been converted to a hotel and dinner theatre. I was still shy, but I went to the produtions to write them up for the newspapers. They convinced me to take part in the Christmas play, "A Christmas Carol". Now, I really dreaded it because I was really bashful, but, the worst part was that I never could remember things I had to memorize. The first few lines would stay with me, but, after that, it all disappeared. But, I did like to dress up and play around with makeup. I went over and over my lines, but only the first part seemed to stick. We had a good time rehearsing, and I thought a lot about the days when we played around the hotel. I thought that I knew every nook and cranny of the place.
There was an opening play before "A Christmas Carol" started, about a Sunday School class Christmas party, and I got to play the part of the teacher. My daughter was one of the Sunday School students. She was scared stiff! But we just tried to ignore the audience and pay attention to what we were supposed to be doing on stage. I had a pretty white satin blouse and a long white satin skirt with quilted velvet squares for that part.
Then, the fun began when the director played Scrooge. He powdered his hair until it was gray and drew wrinkles on his face with an eyebrow pencil. And, when we went out on the stage, I was a little shocked at him wearing long handles! Larry was a hoot!
Everyone dressed up and got into the mood. We got together at rehearsal and made tape recordings of moaning and chains rattling. The hotel owner was Marley, dressed in Victorian finery. I can't remember who the young man was who played the ghost of Christmas to come, but he was frightening to see. Looked like death. He had a hooded robe, and you couldn't see his face. He was tall and just seemed to float.
I was the ghost of Christmas past, and couldn't really afford a costume, so I used a long white dress that I had. Then I used some remnants of blue sheer material, that were long enough to wrap around me and trail. I layered those and made a train and a veil. On top of my head, I wore a piece of blue lace. Then Larry powdered my face to make me look pale.
Larry was so good at his lines, but, then he started improvising on stage. He told me that he was going to , but to just follow him. He led me around that stage and I was so relieved that my lines fit!
It was almost over and I was about to exit off the back of the stage into the lobby. I tried to float gracefully off the stage, and, as I got into the lobby, so relieved to be off stage, someone told me to wait. One of my trains of material had caught on a nail, and I had left it behind, draped across the stage! Someone had to go get it for me, and I about collapsed into a puddle on the floor with embarassment. But, I survived, and so did everyone else. Unfortunately, the dinner theatre didn't, and the hotel was sold.
The Calvert High School band had concerts in the auditorium at Christmas, Easter, spring, and anytime we could. The choir sang for programs and, in music appreciation class, we sang.
I remember cold, clear star filled nights, looking for the Christmas star in the dark blue sky.
There were Christmas parades from the school to downtown, and I watched from Conitz Dry Goods Store, until I was old enough to march in the band with my flute. Merchants hoped that visitors to the parade would come in the stores and shop. Eventually, we would go to the Christmas parade in Hearne, too, and those merchants were also hoping for more trade. The towns were in competiton to see who could have the biggest and best parade. Floats became more numerous and complex and awards were given.
We always hoped for some snow, and nights of going caroling, followed by refreshments and hot chocolate. A picture perfect Christmas. That never happened. Snow and ice seem to only come in January or February in our area, if at all. (I do remember a little snow for Thanksgiving a couple of times.) I think that I remember going caroling one time, and then going in for refreshments at the big Foster home, where "Miss Immie", and her sisters lived.
We didn't have lighted plastic or blow up yard displays. But there were tastefully done lights, and maybe candles or bows, around town in the homes and businesses. Deep, red light glowed from the ruby glass windows at the Presbyterian Church, and from the stained glass windows in the other churches in town. Riding around to look at the Christmas lights was something that had to be done often during the Christmas season. It wasn't a matter of who had the biggest or best display, but to just take it all in and enjoy each decorated home and public place.
We heard the story of Christmas everywhere. One year, my mother bought me a beautiful book with pictures from the story of Jesus' birth. The paintings were all in delicate pastel colors, but the halos and everything that should have been gold, appeared to be painted in gold. I took my book to Sunday School to show my teacher and my class. I remember that Miss Rita told us that Mary was a young girl, about our ages, when Jesus was born. One girl asked if that was true. And everyone was shocked. The bell rang and we went upstairs to church, shaking our heads in wonder. There was more discussion from my book the next Sunday morning. I still have my book, but it is now tattered and worn.
I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, and that the weather is not too bad where you are. As they say, remember the reason for the season.
Scroll down and check out the Guest Book that I have added at the bottom of my page. You have to go all the way down to the bottom of the page to see it. Add your name, where you live, and a picture, if you would like. It's interesting to hear from everyone. And, if you are an artist, you might like to show a piece of your work in the picture area.
Merry Christmas!

Check out my Slide Show!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mock Stained Glass Windows Part II

Happy Birthday, Esther and Ashton!
Be sure to check out the link to Esther's writing under Artists and Authors in my sidebar.
I've had such a time getting my pictures to post, and had to unplug my computer due to thunderstorms at various times. Today is a sunny day, and I hope the tech things are working better today.

Ashton and I have made some examples, which I have scanned to show as steps in the process of making this project.
I have an old photo (above) that shows the Mock Stained Glass Windows displayed in one of my old art rooms. You can tell it is old. Check out the bell bottoms and "natural" blouse! That was a wonderful room for art-huge, wonderful big windows, and you could not hurt it. But, it took a lot of strength to get the windows up in hot weather, and sticks to hold them up. It was freezing in the winter with the heater almost to the ceiling, burning up under a tin roof in hot weather, no shelves etc, few art supplies, and I stayed sick from the years of dirt and grime ground into the concrete floor of the old ag shop, and the open drain in the floor. Still it could have been a great place to work. It was sad that, instead of fixing it up a bit, it was divided up into 3 classrooms. Glad I got to move to another school and didn't have to be confined in that small space. At least they kept the windows.
I have already given the steps for creating this project in the previous post, so, I'm going to add these photos as a slide show, which may make for another post.
We ran into a small problem when we were glueing our pieces of tissue paper onto the back of the windows. My glue bottle kept clogging up, so I opened it with an unbent paper clip. It still clogged with little blobs of thickened glue. I cut the hole larger, and then too much glue poured out. We didn't have waxed paper to put under our projects, so we used empty soft drink cartons, the waxey side, and parchment paper. The parchment paper rolled too much so, if I used that again, I would tape it down to a work surface.
We solved the glue problem by putting a small amount of glue onto the drink carton, then used stirring sticks, I used plastic and he used wood, to dip out the glue and apply it to the construction paper. (That is really a slow way to glue things!) Then we placed tissue paper on top.
The glue leaked through some, so we lifted the projects and let the glue dry a bit, then placed them on top of some empty aluminum soft drink cans to finish drying. In class, we could hang our projects with clothespins from string draped across the room to dry, or, we had a drying rack for larger projects. At home, we had to experiment a bit.
I tried a different design using a star and made one window with one solid sheet of tissue paper in the back, just to show how that would look. A lot of students liked to do that as it was easier and faster. Some would put strips of tissue paper rather than cutting out the individual shapes. That really didn't capture the idea of stained glass, though. We were doing these to create a project that was colorful, could be displayed, and taught a bit of how stained glass was made, and was still inexpensive. It would have been nice if we could have used real stained glass, caming, and things that go into stained glass work. But that was not possible in a class with a tiny budget.
I thought that these always came out well and added a lot of color to our room. Especially in those big ag shop windows! And, those who we gave them to really appreciated them, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Project-Mock Stained Glass Window Part I

This is another project for Lisa, for teachers, for kids, and the young at heart, or anyone who likes to make things. Have fun with this, no matter what age group you are in. If you try this, or the other project, that results in something that you would like to share, please send me a picture. I would love to add it to my blog and show what you came up with.

Before Christmas, I liked to have my students make these paper, stained glass windows. As they made them, we taped them to the windows. Almost every year, we filled the windows, allowing light to shine through, giving us a very colorful room. In one of my rooms, an old ag shop, a large building with huge windows on the north and south sides, the room was almost like a cathedral, when we had the windows filled. It was very warm and cheerful, almost breathtaking, on a sunny day. And, so sad after we took them all down when we left for the holidays. Usually, the paper was faded and the projects were filled with dust, by the time we were dismissed for Christmas. So, they ended up in the trash can. After we realized this would happen, I told students that they could make more than one. One to display, and one to keep. Some made several, just to make sure that the large windows were totally filled.
Besides filling our art room with these colorful windows, we sometimes shared them by taking them to the local nursing home and to the hospital, along with greeting cards, and little crafts we had made. The residents and patients really enjoyed having the students come to visit them and the colorful things for their rooms.

In order to share the project, my grandson and I are making examples, and I am scanning and saving the results. I do have one old photo that shows a few of the projects in our huge windows. Unfortunately, I didn't think of taking the picture when the sun was shining through the windows, but the focus was on our door decoration that year. You can see some of the "stained glass windows" in the back ground, filling the windows about half way up-as high as we could reach!

I would suggest that, if you would like to do this, and keep your project, you might use better quality paper. Construction paper does fade and become brittle easily. (Teachers use it because it is less expensive.) There are art or craft papers that would work for this. Use a heavy paper that has some body to it, and that says archival or acid free.
When teaching, I would try to find examples of stained glass windows to show students, and I would call attention to places in town where they might have stained glass windows. And we would talk about how the real windows are made. Usually, these would be in churches, but there are other buildings and homes that might also have such stained glass windows. Small stained glass projects such as boxes and light catchers for windows might be something that students could look at or may be familiar with.
In some situations, there might be budgets that allow for making actual stained glass projects. But, the cost, for most schools, is prohibitive, so we teach about them, and find ways to teach about the design, construction, and appreciation at a low cost.
Mock Stained Glass Windows
Black or dark colored construction paper (1 sheet)
colored tissue paper (assorted or pick the colors you like)
White crayon or white charcoal pencil
Elmer's or other white craft glue
Clear tape for hanging in a window
Old newspaper to protect work surface
Alternate Materials
Black or dark colored construction paper (1 sheet) or larger black acid free paper
(You could do this very large, if desired)
waxed paper
Old newspapers
Cup towels to protect iron (optional)
Crayon shavings
White charcoal pencil or white crayon
Craft or Elmer's glue
(you can use a stencil or X-Acto knife for very delicate, precise cuts, on better paper)
Clear tape for hanging project in the window


1. Fold a sheet of black paper in half, vertically. ("Hot dog" style, for younger kids!)
2. If you want to make a very neat project, with a covered back, you can use two sheets of paper, folded together, for a backing, so that they will come out the same.
3. With the paper folded, use the white charcoal pencil, or crayon, to draw your design on the black paper. Remember that the paper represents the lead caming, or the black metal that holds the different shapes together. It shouldn't be too thick. The black lines should be fairly thin which would allow more of the color to show through, and also, if you think about a true stained glass window, too much lead would make the windows far too heavy. If it's too thin, of course the "lead" will not support the glass.
Also, remember not to cut the outside edges. That represents the edges of the window, the part that will go in the window frame and hold it all together. A small piece of tape can correct an accidental cut, possibly.
The design can be free form, a picture, a design using a symbol, etc. You can make them up as you go, or use a pattern that you have drawn, or even from something like an old Christmas card. It is much easier if you follow the KISS principal of keeping it simple, especially in your first few efforts.
The above design was drawn by my 10 year old grandson, using the white charcoal pencil shown. He chose to do a design using free forms.
4. The second design I am showing is an angel surrounded by shapes, suggesting a church window. This is the one that I am doing.

5. Cut out the inside of the shapes. Be sure to leave the "lead caming" to connect your shapes!
I used a small pair of scissors but my grandson improvised so he could get the scissors in easier. He had removed the blade from a pencil sharpener and he used this to put a small slit in each shape. (Be sure you use a pad of old newspapers under your work so that you do not cut your work surface!) A stencil knife might be better, or anything to make a small hole to put the scissors into easier. However, note that cutting construction paper with a stencil knife does not leave a smooth cut. There might be some ragged edges that will still need to be trimmed.
I tried my grandson's technique and it did work, but you lack the safety of a handle by using such a small blade.
6. After the shapes are cut out, you might save the inside shapes to be used for another design. My grandson liked his designs and wants to paint them on a t-shirt!
If you do this for a class, you might save all these little bits of paper to be used for things like paper mosaics.
7. Select colors of tissue paper that you like for your design. You can use large pieces, or cut each piece to go behind the shapes in your "window". You may, for example, prefer to use only certain colors in your design, or you might like to use any bright colors, or one color combination.
8. Use glue on the back side of your "lead caming" or strips between the "glass" shapes.
9. Place the colored pieces of tissue paper on the back of your "window" to cover each opening.
Note that, sometimes, there is a right and wrong side to the tissue paper. Hold it up to the light to find out which side will allow the most color through before you glue the shape in.
10. If you cut two pieces of construction paper, place the second sheet behind the first, then glue it into place. This will cover any ragged edges and make for a more finished look on both sides of the window.
11. Place the finished "window" inside a window in your home or building. Use clear tape to secure them. (Don't press the tape too hard or you will have a job cleaning off tape later!) Lights at night will shine through them so that people outside can enjoy them and, during the day, as the sun shines, those indoors will be able to enjoy the colors and designs.
Alternate Method
Follow steps above numbers 1 through 6.
7. Use two sheets of waxed paper, the same size as your black paper.
8. Place crayon shavings on one sheet of waxed paper. You can select colors or randomly arrange them on the waxed paper.
9. Put the second sheet of waxed paper on top of the sheet with the crayon shavings.
10. Place old newspapers on your ironing board or surface where you can iron.
11. Put the two sheets of waxed paper, with crayon shavings between them, on the newspaper padding. Add more sheets of newspaper to protect your iron.
12. Iron until the crayon melts and the waxed paper sticks together.
(If you accidentally get crayon on your iron, you can remove it with sandpaper, after the iron has cooled.)
13. Remove the waxed paper from the newspaper and place the waxed paper over the cut out paper "window".
14. Use white glue on the inside of the "lead caming" or areas of the construction paper to glue the waxed paper in place.
15. If you made double cut outs, glue the second window on the back to make a neater finished back of the project.
16. Tape in a glass window to show.
I seem to be having trouble with adding pictures again. I keep getting a message that it "cannot contact blogger" and then that it is "saving" . But, the pictures won't add. I will add those in a second post like I did with the last project.
Originally, I had tried another version of creating Mock Stained Glass in which the instructions call for floating paper in trays of water with Wesson Oil to get the stained glass look. But, I didn't have the trays, and, in my experimenting, I just had a very oily mess! I don't recall what kind of paper it required, or the directions, but that might be something that others have had better luck with than I did. I know that you can marbelize paper with the oil, but, again, I didn't have the equipment for that, and I found that the projects with oil was too messy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Craft Project-Flower Pots Part 2

I started these to send to Lisa, who is substituting for art. I couldn't just tell her, so I thought that, maybe some pictures might help. I decided that the best way to get them to her was through my blog. And, maybe, they will help her and her students, and, at the same time, share what worked for me with others who might be looking for something to do with their own students or children. Adults can do these too. I found that most levels can do the same things, but just a bit differently or, perhaps, with a little different group of materials or time limits. I hope that these help.
I couldn't get my pictures to add on the first post on this project, so I'm trying again in a separate post. Instructions were in the first part. These are some examples of what we did. Remember that these were done at Easter time, but you can adapt these for a Christmas theme. I have decided that these would make some interesting wise men, or shepards, angels, or other characters.

The picture on the left shows a flower pot bunny, nestled in Easter grass, along with the plastic buckets that I used for storing my acrylic paints. I liked to sort them by red, yellow, blue, neutrals, metallics, and specialty paints. In case someone forgot to close the lids, I hoped that this would keep the paint from drying out quickly. I also used them to keep trim, scissors, pencils, crayons, oil pastels, and for use when larger water containers were needed.

The picture on the right, shows one approach in which the pots were painted brown, then details painted in.

The picture on the left shows how the pots were stacked and the top pot used as a head. This one was painted with a cartoon look.

This photo shows another variation of a character. You can also see the waxed paper under the project. The metallic colors were very popular.

These are some variations that would make nice gifts or knick knacks. Candle holders decorated in folk art motifs would be a good idea for any time of the year.

Close up view of a cartoon bunny with a holder for a votive candle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Project-Flower Pot Craft

Holiday Project
Flower Pot Craft
I was asked about craft projects that students might do for Christmas and thought I might share some of the things that worked well with my students and my children. I have a few photos to demonstrate what I am talking about.
This project is fairly easy to do and is something that might last for years to come. Kids, and adults, seem to enjoy doing them.


Assorted small clay flower pots (You can buy these at a garden center or craft store)

Strong white craft glue (I bought some from a hardware store that worked really well.)

Assorted acrylic craft paints

Small brushes (size will depend on the size of your pots)

mixing trays,

Water containers (I use clean, empty cans or plastic containers, or plastic cups)

waxed paper / newspapers to protect work area. Waxed paper keeps the bottoms from sticking to paper, if paint should drip.

Assorted trim

buttons, ribbon, wiggly eyes, lace, cotton balls, felt, rick rack, etc.

Crystal Clear Glaze or Clear Gloss Spray for finishing


I always started out with one idea, but, as we worked, our projects might easily turn out to be something totally different! Sometimes, we had "happy accidents", or things would change our schedule, so that might change a project.

Originally, we were going to make Christmas characters like Santa Claus, angels, toy soldiers, and such. I did not intend to use a pattern and insist that everyone make the same thing. I would suggest something basic, and then we all took off in our own directions. Sometimes things came out like we intended, but usually, everyone had something very different and creative.

At this particular time, we started to make Christmas things, but we ran out of time, and ended up doing this for an Easter project! So, my pictures show bunnies and spring designs, rather than Christmas. But, you can get the idea of how to put these together for any holiday, even Christmas as I originally intended. We had characters, but some people made candle holders, candle sticks, or even just decorative sculptures.

1. Allow about 5 flower pots of varying sizes, to be stacked and made into a character or object.

2. Begin with one pot, upside down for a base, then reverse the next pot, and so on up to build on the base. The top pot might also be upside down, if you want to use that one for a head.

The top photo shows how you might stack the pots for a character, or sculpture.

3. Use white craft glue on the rim of each pot in order to stick them together, stack, and let them dry. Do not put glue on the bottom, where it will rest on the paper.

4. Place newspaper on your work area to protect it, then place a square of waxed paper on top. This should help to keep your project from sticking to the newspaper, and is easier to remove than painted paper, if your paint should drip.

5. Place small amounts of acrylic paint in the wells of a mixing tray. Styrfoam trays work well for this, as well as the little plastic trays made to hold paint. I like to keep my small bottles of acrylic paint in plastic buckets. I also like to use the buckets for trim, buttons, and even for larger containers of water.

6. Determine what character that you are going to make, and assemble colors that you might need for that character. If you need help in visualizing your character, you might find a picture of Santa or the character that you want to make. You could sketch it, and use pencil to draw lines on your pots to show where you want the parts to be in your painted version.

7. Use brushes and acrylic paint to paint your character or object on the pots. I like to start with a lighter color, and begin at the top. By starting with a light color, it is easier to cover up if you change your mind or need to correct something. I also like to start at the top and work down, although some people seem to prefer starting with the bottom and moving up. Larger areas of paint could be applied with a sponge or rag.

8. Let the acrylic paint dry thoroughly. Be careful because, sometimes, paint may appear to be dry on the surface, but have little pockets of wet paint underneath. You don't want your paint to be too thick. But, it does need to cover the pots.

9. In order to get a glossy finish, that looks like ceramics, spray your project with gloss spray. This is best done outside, with lots of ventilation. Do not try to use one or two thick coats. Instead, spray several light coats, allowing your project to dry in between coats. Let your project dry before the next step.

10. Use the white craft glue to add decorations. A white cotton beard, cotton for fur, buttons, ribbon, or whatever you desire to add to complete your character. You could use something like Super Glue, but be cautious when using this. Be very careful not to get it on anything where it should not be, like in your eyes or on your fingers.

11. If you want a nice finish on the bottom, you could glue a piece of felt on the bottom pot. This will protect furniture or shelves.

12. Some variations are, of course, various holiday characters, nativity scenes, candle sticks (you might be careful if you use the gloss spray on your candle sticks. I'm not sure if that might be a fire hazard. We never actually used candles in them, but, instead, put in candles for decoration only. No flame, just a candle in a holder. They also might be handy for things on a desk, kitchen decorations or holders for items like wooden spoons, etc.

If you like a little sparkle, you could add some glitter to your project. I think that glitter can get too messy, and, over the years, it doesn't look as fresh as it did when it was new. I try to add interest with more lasting, and neater, trim or with the paint itself.

I have more images to show the steps, but I seem to be having some trouble with blogger. I didn't post for several days, although I tried. One day, we had thunderstorms so the computer was unplugged. Then, I couldn't get an image to post. Next came problems with getting on the internet. And, now, I get a message, on and off, saying that it cannot contact blogger, then it says saving, so I don't know if I have a post or not. When I tried to add an image, it seemed to not do anything. I may have to add my other images in another post.

I did want to get something out. I wanted to remind everyone to send your drawings of your hand, if you would like for me to put them in a slideshow. Don't be shy! Since I am kind of behind on my posting, you have a little more time to work on it. Mine is a lot more complicated to draw now with so many tiny wrinkles!

I remember when older people would say to a child, "Can you believe that my hand used to look like yours!" I know I couldn't believe it, when they would compare their wrinkled, gnarled hands to my tiny smooth hand, with dimples. And, now, I look at a young grandson's hand, and say the same thing! All these tiny wrinkles that cover tiny scars, not to mention bigger joints and some joints that cave in instead of curving out. Hands certainly show something about the journey through life and the person. Someone once told me that I had the hands of a sculptor. A ballet teacher said that my hands, as a child, were very expressive. (She didn't mention my dancing, though!) I did like to do sculpture, including punching the clay. But, that became a bit painful in recent years. I couldn' t lift the heavy blocks of clay, or the kiln lid anymore so I had to stop the large heads that I enjoyed doing. In fact, I had to move to lighter weight projects that didn't require as much lifting, or cleaning. Before my hands became so wrinkled, I had a star shaped scar on the back of my hand. The result of the first fire ant sting that I ever had, back in the 70s when those critters first invaded this area. I was told that I was allergic to them, and had a bad reaction to it. I was also told that it was like an immunization and they shouldn't bother me anymore. That was not true! The stings still hurt and I had a violent reaction to multiple bites, at one time.

Your hand, too, can tell a story. So, send it along. I look forward to seeing your efforts. Send it as a jpeg file to the contact address in my sidebar.

Check out the links on my sidebar. Cecilia, the singer, has some new things, just in time for Christmas. Enjoy her work!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Drawing Your Hand- Contour

Drawing Your Hand
8.5" x 11"
If you are having trouble drawing your hand, and even if you aren't, this is something that you might try. This will help your focus and your observation.
This is called a Contour drawing.
1. Place your paper on the table in front of you. You can use masking tape on the edges to prevent moving it around.
2. Shake your hand, or relax it, and drop it loosely near your paper-not on top of it. Be sure that you are in a comfortable position so that you can keep your hand still while you finish your drawing.
3. Pick a spot to begin. I started just above my wrist on the top side of my arm.
4. Place your pencil on this spot, then draw a continuous line , slowly, carefully, examining the outline of your hand.
Do Not Trace!
5. As you draw, imagine that your pencil is touching the outside edge only of your subject. That is, your hand. Move your pencil in one continuous line, and try not to lift your pencil.
6. Look at, and draw, every little lump, bump, curve, and dent that you see and continue all around one side of your hand, and end on the opposite side.
7. Do not draw any interior lines.
8. Do not add any textures or shading. This type of drawing only deals with the outside edges.
9. If your pencil or paper slips, you can reposition your pencil. Otherwise, just try to keep going all the way around.
10. If you feel confident, you can try this with a pen or marker.
In my drawing above, you may see a double line in places. I did go over mine again as the pencil was very light. I didn't think it would show up in the scan, so I darkened my line.
Also, my hand was folded over a little so that my thumb is in the interior, so it is not shown.
I used just an ordinary #2 pencil for this drawing, and 20 # copy paper. You may want to use a little better paper, if this is something that you would like to save.
I tried scanning this several times as there are some little dots on the paper that do not show up when I look at the paper. I cleaned the paper with an eraser, and cleaned my scanner glass, but they keep showing on my scans. So, just ignore the little dots. They aren't there for any purpose, but won't seem to go away.
Contour drawings can be used to draw many things. They can be the basis for working with design, or for futher, or more realistic studies. While they show outline and placement, they do not show things like form, texture, light and shadow. They can also be a quick way to put down placement and size of some part of a picture.
They really do make you look at whatever you are drawing.
I hope that you will try this out, as practice. You can try your hand in many different positions.
I firmly believe that everyone can draw. Even those with disabilities can draw although they sometimes have to improvise methods that will work for them.
Too often I hear people, even young people, say, "I can't draw." And, they make themselves belive this. But, what they actually mean is that their drawing is not what they want it to be. Or, they are not able to draw or paint realistically. They cannot see that their own style is of value. Or, even more commonly, they don't understand that it takes practice and study to get where they feel that they should be with their art. It's like anything else whether that is playing a musical instrument, writing, playing a sport, cooking, sewing, gardening, or driving. You have to be willing to learn, and practice, in order to improve or to gain that skill.
We all start out to draw the same ways. It is part of our development. Stick figures, circle eyes, lollipop trees. Some people just give up while others work on their observation skills, and seek to improve through practice and study.
I know that from drawing, I have become much more observant than I would have been if I had not drawn throughout most of my life. But, I didn't start out drawing any better than anyone else. I just stayed with it, was curious, and tried to improve. I'm still trying to learn and improve. We all change, too, as we grow older and change.
Now, I know that you too can draw, so I hope that you will try recording your hand, for my challenge. You can send me, as a jpeg file, your drawings of your hand, both realistic and contour, to include in a slide show.
Even if you think you can't draw, give it a try and see what you can do. This will give you, not only some practice in observation, and drawing, but also something that you can keep. A piece of art work that will show what your hand looks like today. I hope that you will take pride in what you do.
Try to do this by next Wednesday, for my challenge. Hope you have some fun with this, and even surprise yourself!
Happy Drawing!
Let me know if you see something that you are interested in. And thanks for sharing with others. If you haven't joined my group, or subscribed to my blog, I hope that you will consider that. There is a subscription box in the sidebar, and you can click on my group to go there and join that way.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hand Drawing-Another Year

Hand Drawing
Another Year
8.5" x 11"
This is another drawing that I did of my hand, in the past. A little different style. In this drawing, I used a #314 Berol Draughting penicil, my favorite kind to work with.
In doing a sketchbook assignment, I had my students to write their names, the date, and what time they started and stopped on a drawing. I told them to draw at least 1 hour a week, and graded their work accordingly. For some, it would be easy to draw for an hour a day, which was preferred, but not always possible, so I set the minimum time of 1 hour a week, or they could try 15 minutes a day.
This drawing is one that I showed my classes how I wanted them to identify their work.
I hope that you will find time to try the challenge I gave yesterday, to draw your own hand, then scan and send it to me. This is something that everyone should be able to do, in their own way. After all, this is something that you have been looking at for most of your life.
I'm looking forward to seeing what you can do. And, I will put those into a slide show, which is always fun to see.
Happy drawing!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Challenge-Draw Your Hand

My Hand
8.5" x 11"

If you study the work of artists through the ages, you will find that they often did self portraits, or used themselves as models when they needed to see how some part of a person looked.
Even in elementary school art, students can begin doing self portraits by looking in a mirror at home or in class. They can try to remember what they look like, or look across the table and draw each other. They can check in a mirror to make corrections in their self portraits.
You should remember what you look like because you probably spend more time looking at yourself than anyone else. But, do you look and not really see? Or remember? From brushing your teeth, to washing your face, fixing your hair or makeup, checking your clothes in a mirror, you have probably spent hours looking at yourself in a mirror during your life.
Sometimes, when people draw another person, it may look like the artist. Possibly they draw what they know, or what is within them, instead of what they actually see. We translate the strengths, the lines and shapes that we are familiar with, or feel, into our drawings, without realizing it. And, again, it is easy to put down the image that we are so familiar with , the one that we have seen in our mirrors for many years.
One thing that can be done is to draw a picture of your own hand, or your own foot. You have probably looked at those almost as much as you have at your face! Before we did portraits, I had students start with studies of their hands and their feet.
I hope that you will try this yourself! The more we practice seeing, and drawing, the more observant we become, which helps all sorts of things in our lives. So, try this challenge, and, if you come out with something interesting, scan it, or take a photo, and send it along to me. I'll make a slideshow out of them and add them to the blog. Might be a fun thing to do! I need to do a new drawing, too.
This is what you do:
1. Put a piece of paper on your work space. You can tape it down, if that will help to keep it straight.
2. Shake your "opposite hand" (the one that you don't write with!), and drop it loosely, in a relaxed position on the table in front of you, and near, but not on, the paper. You will need to keep your hand in that position until you are finished, so be sure that you are comfortable.
3. Don't trace!
4. Study your hand, then find a place to start drawing. It could be on the tip of the fingers or the thumb, at your wrist, or wherever you want to focus first.
5. Draw the outside edges first until you have drawn the outline.
6. Add details such as creases, wrinkles, and fingermails.
7. Look for the darkest areas and add shadows. Try to blend in the direction that things go such as up and over, down and around, to show form.
8. Use a tortillion or stump, or a piece of tissue to rub or smooth your shading. Some people blend with their fingers, but most people agree that this could add an oily spot from the natural oils in your skin.
In shading, some people like to use hatching or cross hatching, (diagnoal and crossed marks). To me, that is okay for a hurried sketch, but, in order to show the texture of skin, my preference is for smooth blending. I like the hatching effect for rough textures, like window screens, but not for things that are actually smooth. Unless it is used like shorthand, an indication of more work to be done later.
9. Go back and darken any areas that need to be darker.
10. To add highlights, use an eraser to remove any pencil work on that spot.
One thing to remember is to look, not only for the light source, and where the light falls or doesn't fall, but also that light appears to come forward and dark seems to recede, or go back. So, if you want something to look like it is coming forward, or closer to you, you can lighten that area. Or, if you want it to appear to go back, away from you, you can darken that area and it will appear a bit more distant.
This challenge is to do a more realistic style hand, but I have other ways to do more studies of the hand.
Not only will this work on observation of something that is very close to you-your own hand, and make you a bit more observant, but you will have a nice drawing of what your hand looks like, at this stage of your life. And a nice piece of art, as well. It's really good to do these things, and self portraits, at different stages of life. Hands are interesting, as well as faces.
You may have had older relatives who, when you were a child, would place their hands beside your's and say, "I remember when my hands were smooth like that." It would be very hard to understand that as you looked at your own smooth hand and their wrinkled, gnarled hands.
One thing I remember about my mother is her little finger as she played the organ, and then the rest of her hand. As she died, I held that little finger. It was the only warm thing left on her body.
We think of taking pictures, or having portraits of the face and the whole figure, but we don't often think of the hands of the people in our lives. We remember them working, their touch, their gestures, how they used their hands when they played, laughed, sneezed, talked, and all the things that people do in life. But we don't often think of recording those things that are so familiar in life.
At a workshop for art teachers, we were doing drawings of our hands, and I was so thrilled when they picked my drawing to go on a publication for the Regional Education Service Center! I don't think that I am that good at realism, so I was very surprised.
Anyway, when you finish, scan and send it to me at my contact address, if you would like to participate. I know that people are busy, especially at this time of year, but, perhaps, if I allow a week to do the drawing, you will be able to work it in by then.
Try to send your drawing in by next Wednesday. I'm anxious to see what you can do, and what you might like to share.
I do have more drawings, and more recent drawings of my hand, (and other things) but I happened to find this one in a stack of things I wanted to scan. I thought that teachers who might need a drawing assignment might be able to use this .
Happy drawing!
Let me know if you see something that you would be interested in purchasing. Thanks for reading and for sharing.