Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Self Portraits

Hi. Have you ever done a self portrait? Maybe not in painting or drawing, or even art, but in any area of life?

This past fall I had the opportunity to teach art to 7th graders two Saturdays a month at Kipp Austin College Prep School. It was a great experience for me. I haven't taught in awhile, let alone to 7th graders. My goal each class and project was either to introduce them to a period of art history or a professional art career. The students always surprised me, the projects I felt the least prepared for were the ones that they always embraced and enjoyed the most. Interesting how that works, isn't it?

My FAVORITE project that we did were photo collage self portraits.I showed the students a variety of different artists self portraits through the ages and even some of my own that I have done through the years. I took a digital picture of each student, had it printed and then they were all given a stack of magazines to go through and the challenge " tell me something about yourself that I didn't know before." They were pretty much allowed to do anything except cut the photo of themselves out and stick it to the paper and hand it in - they had to use color, words, images... something to make it an interesting collage and something that would tell the rest of us who they saw themselves as - now or in the future. The end results were amazing. I wish I had pictures to share with you of them because that were great.

As I prepared for each lesson during the semester I would do the project myself. This mostly started out to see how long it would take and make any revisions necessary. But this project was a little different for me. It got me thinking about the value and importance of self portraits in our lives. I think what is so important about doing a self portrait of any kind is that we take few opportunities in life to just sit and look at ourselves from the outside in. To study ourselves. For those of you who are artists you know the feeling of studying the human body and loosing yourself in the form and shape of what is in front of you. I think the same thing can happen when you take a step outside of yourself figuratively and look in. You may be surprised by what you find or see.

I wanted to take the opportunity with this self portrait to tell my classes that I was pregnant. Some of the students had figured it out on their own, but the majority hadn't. I sat down myself with a stack of magazines and started tearing out things that stuck out to me. Then I sat back and looked at what I had and started assembling them and tried to figure out how they related to one another. In the end a few things surfaced about the thoughts and fears that I had/have about becoming a parent - things that had never crossed my mind before. I learned something about myself.

I hope as we start out this New Year that you will take some time to reflect on your life, on the things that you enjoy, the things that you struggle with, the things that make you who you are as a person and let yourself roll around in those thoughts for awhile. You may come out on the other side learning a thing or two.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Can someone please tell me how it got to be the middle/end of November already??? How is it that Thanksgiving is already next week and the Christmas stuff is already 40% off? Hello Friends, if anyone is out there still. I know I have been a blogger slacker this fall, so I understand if no one is attempting to keep up with me these days.

Anyway, I wanted to share something briefly today that we did on Sunday with our community group. Jon and I facilitate a group every Sunday night that is essentially a small Bible study. This past Sunday we watched a Nooma video. I won't go into a long explanation about what Nooma is - all I will say is they are a series of videos put out by a pastor named Rob Bell who is pretty awesome in my opinion. And I truely mean that in every creative sense there is. His book Velvet Elvis made me want to jump up and down and scream, in a good way. My personal opinion is he has a really fresh perspective on things that is still rooted securely to the foundations of Christianity. But again, like I said - that is my personal opinion there are alot of people who disagree with me on that.

Ok, so my point of what I wanted to share rambling is getting the best of me... this past week the video we watched was called Noise. It was about the Noise that surrounds us, the visual noise, the audible noise, the noise that we can't get away from and the noise that we run to because we are too afraid of what we might hear in the silence. I'm a big fan of silence. I need it to calm me down. I need it to think clearly and regain my footing when I let myself get wrapped up in the daily drama of life (because we all know I'm also a fan of drama sometimes...;)

One of the last statements that is posed in the video made me think alot about where we look for answers- in good times and bad. For whatever reason I felt compelled to put this "out there" to whoever maybe reading this. I don't know why but here goes. The question is this...

"Is is possible that you've been searching for God in the winds...the earthquakes and the fires...and He's waiting to speak to you in the silence?"

Have a great week back soon...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thumbs Up...

hi there. i'm sick today. and i just chased my dog around the dining room table after a pen. anyone want a dog? just kidding.

jon and i are in full bed and breakfast mode here these days. as i mentioned in my last post, my parents were just here for over a week. it was good to visit with them and get alot done around the house. the middle of this week are here expecting some more family from jon's side to come into town. fall is a great time to visit tx, especially if you aren't ready to let go of summer quite yet. you get the best of both worlds - cooler nights and warm days.

anyway, i don't have too much to share with you right now - only one tidbit of exciting news....drumroll please.....
it's a girl!! :) we had our ultrasound appointment last week and found out that we are expecting a little girl! i think we are both surprised, even though we had no preference either way, we both just thought we were having a boy. and i'm pretty sure that, that notion just came from the fact that everyone else had started to tell me that they thought i was carrying a boy. anyway, we are delighted.

everything looked good and healthy. the dr. said i was still on track for my march 15th due date. we got to see the little one moving around a little bit on the ultrasound. i have been feeling her move alot more lately. it's like having my own little alien growing inside of me :)

they were unable to get a good profile view of the baby. we did get to see her hands alot though. it was pretty amazing to watch her move her little fingers. here is my favorite picture we got from our appointment. looks like she's giving us a thumbs ups sign in there!

hope fall is finding you in good health and spirits where ever you may be. be back soon....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fall Fun

Hi there. Just thought I'd share some pictures from the past few weeks. We have been really enjoying some Texas fall weather. I love this time of year. If I can't be in the Northeast for colorful leaves, at least I am some place where the sun is always shining and the temperature is rather perfect, low 80s and chilly at night and in the mornings.

Last weekend we took a trip to Sweetberry Farms in Marble Falls, TX with our friends Brandon and Jenna for some pumpkin patch fun. I swear, when we were kids there was one type of pumpkin. Now it seems like the options are endless!

This truck was on the farm with pumpkins in the back of it. The colors and textures in it were SO cool. I couldn't resist.

We attempted the Texas shaped corn maze. There were 8 cities hidden inside that you had to try and find. After about 4 cities Jenna (a fellow pregnant person) and I decided there was no shame in giving up. So we sat outside of the maze and waited for our fearless husbands to finish it up.

Well that's all for now. We have two weeks of company coming up. I'll try to be back in the mean time with some actual creative stuff that I am working on! Take care and enjoy the time of year!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lancaster, PA

I love Lancaster, PA. Have I ever told you that? It's no Austin. But it has it's own wonderful, unique charm to it that is just different. I mean, where else can you go where your local Walmart or grocery store have horse tie ups out front? (for the Amish) There were a lot of charms I really enjoyed about that area of Pennsylvania. When I went back a few weeks ago my goal was to get to experience as many of my favorite things there as possible.

Downtown Lancaster is really growing into itself. There is a WONDERFUL variety of small, local restaurants to pick from. As well as some really great shops and art galleries. But one of my all time favorite things to do in downtown is go to "market". Central market. In Austin that is the name of a really nice, high end grocery store. In Lancaster, it is a real farmers market where you buy your meat from the butcher, your jelly from the Amish people and you take your pick of vegetable and fruit vendors. It is the oldest farmers market in the country, dating back to around 1757. You can learn more about the history here. When we lived there I would go down there really early most Saturday mornings and do the majority of our shopping. I loved every minute of it. My girls and I took a visit there while I was home, just long enough for me to remember the wonderful smells and buy myself some homemade jelly and jam.

Another new treasure that I visited on my trip was a store called Building Character. Be still my beating heart. My good friend Heidi took me there during our visit. I wish it were there when I lived there. It is an architectural salvage store. They have pieces of old houses - everything from windows, to doorknobs to keys. Everything in the store reminded me of my grandmother's house (you never know, some of it could have come from there!). It is the type of store that I always wished existed and who knew, it does! It was so cool, anyone reading this from up there - it is worth the visit.

Heidi and I also took a trip to one of my FAVORITE places to eat - Rachel's Cafe and Creperie. They are a small cafe where the wait can be really long if you go during peak times, the food takes a while to make but the crepes are to DIE for! Our plan was to have lunch there. But there as a 45 minute wait and then another estimated 45 minutes until you got your food and...well... baby couldn't wait that long. So we enjoyed lunch at another local spot and hit Rachel's on the way back for dessert...the best part. We shared a nutella and ice cream crepe. Sinful, absolutely sinful and totally worth it.

Well, I am hoping sleep will find me soon. Our dog Winston and I had one of our 2 am cereal eating sessions tonight (it is close to 3am as I write this). I got in bed and my mind just wouldn't stop whirling. Finally my stomach also started growling so I decided if I got up, ate and maybe wrote this entry that my brain would settle down long enough to go to sleep. We'll see how many more bowls of cereal I eat before that happens. Good night y'all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Out of the loop

Hi. I've been gone for awhile. My apologies to anyone out there who may check back here often. I know the feeling of clicking on the link and it coming back to the same post that was there last week and the week before. I did some traveling last week and then came home and had some wonderful company a few days later.
All excuses, I know. But at least they are good ones.

I was fortunate to be able to go home to Pennsylvania for a long weekend two weeks ago. I needed to go home. It wasn't quite fall yet up there, but close enough for me. I love Austin, but the northeast will always be "home". I needed to feel some sort of change in the season and to see some familiar faces who I have been missing.

While I was there, I visited the company that I used to work for - York Wallcoverings. It was so good to go back and see all the people that I used to see on an everyday basis. I miss them. Like any job, the people you work with are the ones to help make the every day craziness worth it. What has happened to the wallpaper industry makes me sad. I worked in it for 7 years and unfortunately all throughout that time the industry struggled to keep it's head afloat. I feel like if people could see wallpaper being made, they would realize how awesome it could really be. They would also realize that it's not just all old flowery patterns anymore, that there is some really great, sophisticated design out there. Cost, well...that's another thing.

When I left almost two years ago I didn't think enough to take some pictures of the machines that are used in printing wallpaper. Being away from them now, I realize how cool they are. I feel like I look at things differently now. The following photos are some shots I took on my visit of the Surface printing presses. Surface printing is the oldest printing that is done. These presses are well over 100 years old and are still used today in the same way as when they were originally made. All of the colors that are used on these are mixed by hand in big barrels - there is nothing electronic about this particular process. I find that inspiring.

This is my friend Luke, he's one of the pressmen who actually runs the press. There is a science to getting patterns to print just right. When I was learning about printing and "trialing" on the presses I learned alot from Luke and the other guys who have been doing this for years.

This is a pattern as it is running through the press.

Don't you just love pictures of HUGE gears....I do.

Well, that's all for now. I have lot of things to share with you. I'll be back soon!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Greatful Tuesday: The Smell of Oils

"Have you ever smelled oil paints?" she asked me? "No." I said. "Well, there is something about them that is delicious, you could just eat them."

This was part of a conversation I had over 10 years ago with my high school art teacher while standing in front of the Jamie Wyeth painting pictured above, titled Portrait of Pig.

I think it's funny the way things happen sometimes. I had recently been thinking about that conversation, as I packed up my oil paints, along with my encaustic stuff last week. I will never forget the first time I DID smell the smells that come along with painting in oils while I was in college. I instantly fell in love with the richness of the intoxicating (and probably somewhat harmful) aroma. I think it is in part because of my conversation that I had years prior with Mrs. Smith while standing in front of that huge painting. So, here I was thinking about that conversation so well etched in my mind and then I also found out that she recently retired from her teaching position at my high school and my mind went nuts with all of my memories and gratitude for her.

Most of my favorite stories of my time with Mrs. Smith actually happened outside of school hours. I grew up in a small town, my graduating high school class had only about 120 kids it in. For the most part, the kids knew the teachers and the teachers knew the kids. I happened to be lucky, Mrs. Smith lived in my neighborhood. So not only did I benefit from her during the school day, but there were a lot of extra trips that her and I took on our own. We went to Washington D.C. when the big Vermeer exhibit was there in 1996 because SHE knew what a big deal it was to have so many Vermeer paintings in the same exhibit, all in the United States (at that time, I didn't even know who Vermeer was). She got up and waited in a line that extended outside of the museum for a few hours to get a hold of the free tickets, got within 10 people of the exhibit before the said "sorry folks, we've already given out too many tickets today there will be no more..." Talk about heartbreak. We stood like little dogs with tales between our legs at the exit hoping to get a peek inside (they really limited the amount of people that they allowed in the exhibit at a time because most Vermeer paintings are very small, so they didn't want to over crowd the gallery). This sent me on a mission. When I studied abroad my jr. year of college I was DETERMINED to get to Amsterdam so that I could stand in front of a Vermeer, for the both of us. And I did.

I have been very fortunate to have had mentors during every creative stage of my life. I hope that whoever out there is reading this blog, that it will cause you to stop and think about the people who invested in you along the way and be greatful for them.