Tag Archives: encouragement

A Virtual Exposition

Well, we are packed up, folks….shipping out of France and back to the States. All fall and a touch of summer I had the incredible privilege and blessing of working in a studio in Toulouse under the coaching of Professeur Mireille Racine, retired from teaching art in a Paris university. It was sort of like having a stage, or internship, as a graying woman instead of as a college youth. I wish I could continue! But, since I can’t, I have decided to host myself a little exposition, all virtual of course, of just those artworks that were done under the influence of Prof Mireille. Most of the paintings have already been individually posted, but I like the contrast and the growth evident with them gathered together.

She asked for my goal for my art, and I told her that I wanted to loosen up, to be able to be more expressive and playful, even as I continue to develop in my basic skills. I apologize for the poor lighting of this exposition. My indoor lights were mostly sold for the move, and sunny Southwest France isn’t so sunny at the end of November.

Sort of beginning and ending.

Sort of beginning and ending.

The first is my pears painted with palette knives, a first for me. It really did make me a little looser to work with something that wasn’t a brush. She pushed me to incorporate my pear colors into my background for unity. In November Stoney and I visited Van Gogh’s museum in Amsterdam (I should probably post photos, eh?), and when I returned, Mireille pushed me to take my fall still life and overcome my intimidation of Van Gogh’s brilliant style and attempt it myself. The results rather surprised me. It was fun, and one of my last paintings.

Impressionism, take 1; and impressionism, take 2.

Impressionism, take 1; and impressionism, take 2.

My composition (or lack thereof) has been a point of repetition for Mireille. I tend to paint in bands and leave things looking too separated and linear. The landscape on the left, a Texas oak tree standing before an oncoming evening storm, was a fight for me. We did a lot of repair rework to get the light effects of French impressionism. To work the whole canvas quickly is just not my habit, but it is necessary for this sort of painting. The second landscape is a garden in Lyon, and it came noticeably more easily. I worked around the canvas as I had been coached, trying for a spiral composition. Big improvement!

Going abstract.

Going abstract.

To some extent, these are both studies, not really finished works. In fact, I began the one on the right first, trying to improve my palette knife skills. They actually have these wild cedar trees here in France, all twisted and agonizing. I started it before the Cezanne-inspired tree on the left, but didn’t really feel comfortable with it, so moved on. Mireille helped me see how to keep the visual lines clean so your eyes aren’t arrested or derailed, and its rework shows improvement. The other is clearly (to me, anyway) another iteration of the Texas oak tree. The goal was broken color that is incorporated throughout, like Cezanne, but clearly…NOT. Definitely a different feel than the impressionist version. It was fun, though difficult, and prepared me more than I knew for my pumpkins.

My favorite acrylic is still probably The View of the Sea from Sts Maries de la Mer (shown at the bottom).

We also tried to branch out some in my media as well as my technique, and so worked some in watercolor. One thing I learned is that I don’t just dislike working in watercolor because it is difficult and uncooperative with a mind of its own; I actually don’t like watercolor because I just don’t much have fun with it. I enjoy a lightness and sense of being out of time with acrylic; watercolor is labor and a fun-sucker. I don’t know why this would be for me, because it is true even when the results are to my liking. I worked some en plein air, in the studio garden.


Some other kind of tree.



A rose tree.
















A window in the countryside near me.

A window in the countryside near me.

I still prefer using my acrylics for something more like a watercolor effect. I’m still not sure I got the lighting effect right on this one, but not for lack of her trying to help me see it correctly! Still watercolor-y, but fun. I gave watercolor one last chance, though. I thought maybe if the usage was abstract enough I would quit trying to make it do what I want, and just how it turned out, no angst. I tried it with a portrait of my cat, inspired by a cat portrait on pinterest.

Cat 1 and Cat 2.

Cat 1 and Cat 2.

The first attempt was on the left, which didn’t quite do what I was looking for, but came close. So I tried again, using more water. Bad idea! Mireille gave me the confidence to try to salvage it, the cat on the right is inferior in many ways, even after her help.

So that’s my exposition. Prof Mireille pronounced my stage a success. I do think what I gleaned has been quite effective. What do you think of my progress? Is my work showing more life and vibrancy than before?



Leave a comment

Filed under Art

The Last Painting Projects of 2013

I am pretty sure I never posted my acrylic interpretation of the Swiss lake that I did in watercolor. Here she is…

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it.

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it. Mostly I learned how to make the water look more like the dense pool of color I saw while there.

I also painted a Christmas gift for my secret prayer sister here, which they call a Sonflower. She is a lovely French lady who has a real heart for Michigan, an area of the States she has visited in the past and where she has friends. I also have visited Michigan, so I chose a lighthouse I have actually been up in! (I am pretty sure I have photos here somewhere. I’ll have to see.)

first layer

first layer

A lot of my paintings I seem to work in circles. I’ll rough in some color, highlights and shadows of the background, then move to my subject and do the same. I’ll return to the background, moving around the composition, and bring up more detail and mostly finish it before focusing on my subject more completely, and then clean up the background again. For most of my projects, even landscapes, that results in these spiraling circles from out to in and back out then in again.

Not here. This painting firmly declared it would be worked in layers. I pretty much completed the background here first, and did most of my subject, the lighthouse, as well. Then I moved to midground and pretty much worked it up, too.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

This the final painting, although I added a short verse along the snow, bottom right. I enjoyed this one, too, and might even make myself a print of my photo of it for myself someday, if the photo holds up. I didn’t really shoot it for printing.

My final painting with its reference image.

My final painting with its reference image.

I found a photo from that 2009 vacation, in a rather odd spot, but for proof that I have been in this lighthouse, check here.

Lastly, I wanted a gift for the lady who had been praying for me, but I had very little time. Both of these paintings really did need to be done before Thanksgiving. So, I took my waterfall study from years earlier, cut it free from all the positioning work I had done with text playing around with it, and attached it to a canvas board. I printed the verse it had been inspired by (chosen by my Kansas friend) and attached it as well. I then painted a unifying color and texture around them. It doesn’t have the elegance of the original, but for a quickie, I think it works.

Well, actually, looking over the digital image I’ve changed my mind. *sigh* It’s amazing what looks ok when you are rushed compared to what you like when you can really examine something. C’est la vie. I don’t think I’ll even post it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art

Making Your Happy Place

Anytime I set up digs in a new place, I have to find ways to make a physical house feel like a home, a place where I and my family belong, as quickly as possible. While this, of course, happens naturally with time, it is better if you can begin to feel that sense of connectedness to a place, that “home-iness,” soon after moving in. It helps overcome the strangeness of everywhere else.

For me, it is a very visual thing. I have nooks now where my heart feels lighter just seeing them. Before these places were established, I really had no sense of comfort here, but now I have heart touchstones in my home.

Happy Place #1:

Happy daughters! happy me!

Obviously, seeing my beautiful daughters every day lights up my heart, but it doesn’t hurt that I did. not. have to build one STICK of this piece of furniture! Woohoo!

Happy Place #2:

My little workspot here enjoys prime morning light, on another piece of furniture I didn’t build. Well, mostly. The little bear is Theo bringing me a daisy. Awww….. It’s a place of my own. It needs light at night, though. I am looking for a lamp, which I will probably place on something I put on the floor to the left. I want the height to highlight, not obstruct, my Starry Night.

There you go…home! What are your home’s happy places?

1 Comment

Filed under France, home & garden

The Palpable Presence of God

Back to my awesome weekend BSF retreat…

The overall theme was “Eradicating Biblical Poverty.” We studied II Timothy together, noting how Paul mentored Timothy. It was a very encouraging study, but the breakout sessions (a first for a BSF retreat) felt most useful, leaving me with practical, immediate things I could DO. My favorite experience was at the breakout on emergency prayer. According to the speaker, the second part of an emergency prayer is to bring God in; refocus the person on the Person. She called for us to call out character traits of God that we could lift up in praise in a hypothetical situation. Words rose like graceful bubbles all throughout the room, thicker and faster…sovereign…all-knowing…compassionate, ever-present, merciful. And as the praise filled the room, the atmosphere grew thicker, and a weight of comfort and peace pressed in upon me. And then she stopped us.

“Do you feel it?” she asked. “Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit?” And I did, of course, but I was in awe. I had never had someone else publicly acknowledge the corporate, palpable Presence of God. It was so affirming and exciting to realize that all Believers in that room experienced the same thing I did! And empowering to also realize that in praising God for who He is in a crisis situation, I can usher the calming Presence of our Savior into the storm that has captured the attention of the person in crisis.

I am so grateful for that one session at retreat. That one alone I have had the opportunity to practice a number of times already. What a blessing it was!


Leave a comment

Filed under faith

The Lover of My Soul

Last weekend I got away from uber-busy life with a bunch of women from my Bible Study Fellowship leader group. I worried it was time I couldn’t spare, really, even though this would knock out another 50 Before 50. I had gotten to where I almost didn’t want to go, leaving my family I don’t see enough of, and my to-do list I make so little progress on. So, recognizing this attitude problem, I began, the week before, asking God each day to refresh me on this retreat. How He did this, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, didn’t matter, just so long as PLEASE would He refresh me? Well, the response left me breathless, and feeling just a bit like He had just been waiting in anticipation to do just that!

Arriving at the Hyatt, I unpacked and realized two things: my late night packing job had left me short a blouse, and my lipstick bag with lip balm for my already painfully chapped lips was missing. Ah well, my mind was on other things. I was desperate for a hair makeover. I had originally thought to grow out my curly graying locks for an updo for the wedding in June, but realize now what a mistake that was. Every time I walked past a mirror at work (and my department store has LOTS of mirrors), I couldn’t help feeling frumpy and droopy and old. So with the couple of hours downtime I’ve got before the retreat started, I decided to see if I could get a walk-in haircut. Surely there’s a Great Clips or something nearby? A directory showed an Aveda Institute (the school!) downtown, so I called and said a prayer. “Might you have an opening before 4?” asked at 2:10. They said they had had a cancellation of a 3:00! I can do 3! What a relief! I went walking, and lo and behold, this school was just across the street and around the corner, so I got there 20 minutes early. And what did I see next door, but a TJMaxx. Well, I had time for a quick browse. And hit PAYDIRT! in the form a of a lovely Cable and Gauge blouse for cheap! Unexpected top shortage alleviated.

I showed up at Aveda right on the dot, and the sweet girl who seated me informed me that a cut begins with a scalp massage with scented oil. Oh my! It was awesome, with refreshing peppermint, and right then I knew God was telling me He was taking care of me. The cut turned out really cute, but at the end, the girl said that as a thank you for using their services, I get a little dollop of lip gloss of my color choice. I couldn’t believe it!! It was like God overlooked NO tiny detail. And the whole experience was $18. You can believe I tipped WELL. I nearly cried, I felt so loved. God knew my needs, and me, and how to truly refresh me. I felt not only ready to receive all that He wanted to give me spiritually for the weekend, I was eagerly expectant!

And the public art in Denver is quirky and prolific. It was fun just to watch for it, no museum necessary. Take the Convention Center, for example:

Isn’t he cute? I’ll share more about the retreat itself in future, but for now, just know my prayer was answered. I am loved, and I was definitely refreshed!

1 Comment

Filed under faith, personal

It’s Working! I Can Do It!

I am so encouraged lately! I took on this job with a plan that I believed would enable children to be more artistic and enthusiastic about art, but I had never taught art in a school setting. I didn’t KNOW that it would; I just believed in it. In teaching, and with art especially, you want to see that students are actually absorbing what you teach in such a way that they can apply it elsewhere. Really, my philosophy in art ed is to equip and empower children to express themselves visually. Sometimes it may not look like I am doing that, because my lessons may use guided drawings, a required subject or method, or very rarely, tracers or templates. Some art ed philosophies support just turning children loose to explore. I want to turn children loose within certain parameters, a fenced field as it were, to explore. And I want to train them in the use of their tools of exploration. It has been my experience that children begin to grow discouraged with their art skills somewhere around 3-5th grades. My hope is to avoid as much of that as possible, and retain and feed their enthusiasm for creating and creativity within a semi-formal art program.

This week leads me to believe I AM on the right track! I guided the first and second grades through an oil pastel of a baby penguin (all neutrals and simple shapes), first observation, then drawing.

The photo we used for our drawing.

Then I turned them loose with photos of a variety of adult penguins and told them to pick one to observe and draw. I had been told that the baby penguin drawing has shown up in chalk at recess and in free times during class, which is wonderful, of course. But I get most excited when I hear our earlier lesson on horizon line is showing up in other landscape drawings for class! And this week I got to see them take off with their own skills! Every penguin was set outdoors in a suitable environment with a horizon line, and almost every penguin is uniquely identifiable. They have come SO FAR! I am proud of them, but especially excited at how excited THEY are to find that they can look at something and reproduce it in their own way!

PLEASE check out my students’ awesome penguins at Artsonia!

Oddly enough, that sense of validation came in very handy this morning at our library’s new Kid Lit Book Club for grown-ups. We were discussing Patricia Polacco, one of my many fav children’s book authors. They showed a little video she made discussing her life and home and philosophy and such, and one of her comments was about NOT inflicting formal art programs on children. I just thought to myself, “I guess it depends on the formal art program. And on the little art student.” My kids love discovering that they can make their own colors. Or in the case of primaries, that they can’t. They were excited to realize that the sky meets the ground, and they could show that in their pictures. Almost none of them feels restricted, but rather freed! We don’t make it a bunch of rules, but rather a quest of discovery. I am loving teaching art!

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Education, First/Second Grade, Teaching

They CAN draw

Most of my third through seventh graders are convinced that they can’t draw. I know that they have reached that point wherein they are no longer satisfied by the comparison between the reality they now see more clearly and their own rendition of it on paper. Yet, *I* know they CAN draw; it’s a matter of training perception and perspective. One of my goals this year has been to grow their confidence in their own drawing abilities; that THEY would see an improvement in their skills, and not just me.

Thus far, we continue to emphasize line and shape, because I consider them SO fundamental. I have little worksheets where they attempt to copy exactly some abstract lines I have created in a box into an empty box below, and they have been introduced to contour drawing, blind contour, and upside-down drawing. Most of them are able to follow these exercises pretty well! So we let Paul Cezanne introduce us to still lifes last week, and attempted some of our own in colored pencil. My conclusion? We need more bite-sized pieces still!

My model still life.

They are seeing line and perspective BETTER, but they are still frustrated with their results, and too soon! Drawing requires some degree of patience, and of faith that as you continue to draw what you really see, it WILL turn out. I have concluded that most of them don’t have the experience to trust the process (after all, this IS our first full year of formal art instruction at Faith), and become discouraged before the fruit of their labor is really evident.

SO, I am backing up and breaking it down more. I’m new at this, or no doubt this would have been obvious before I ever started! LOL! Fifth through seventh grades will make simple picture planes this week, and if the sun is shining, we will still do our shadow and shading exercises with sidewalk chalk and some worksheets. But if I can get us through that with time to spare, I want to walk through a sketch with our picture planes (a pumpkin would probably work great!), adding the shading they just learned. Third-fourth will just do the shadow/shade stuff, since they start the Mondrian-style prints this week also. I don’t plan to introduce them to picture planes.

I am praying for wisdom to best equip these wonderful, creative students with the skills and information they need to express their own unique artistic visions. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was so helpful to me in teaching my own teens, and I know these same principals can be made accessible to my younger students. I look forward to Tuesday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Education, Teaching

I can see for miles, and miles…of milestones!

FIRST: note that my 50 before 50 has another first highlighted! Yes, I enjoyed my first professional massage as a non-food reward for dropping below 180 and staying there. I felt like butter softening. And it had turned out to be a rather stressful day, too, as my oldest had the transmission go out on his car, two states away, and we were trying to work the whole issue. Ahhhh! Relief!

NEXT: I got not only my 5% award at Weight Watchers tonight, I also made my second 5 pound award! Lots of milestones. Current weight 175.8.

Now for the numbers…I only alotted myself 24 points a day, instead of 25. I feel safer that way. I ate 220 points, which included my 168 points, pretty much all my 35 weekly points, plus lots of my 34 Activity Points. I think I’m still being pretty conservative with those APs, but I actually hope to exercise a little more this next week as I further prepare for my Someday 5K. I made some poor decisions early on in the week that I feared would cost me my goal (like the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, where at least I didn’t eat all I *could*), but the last few days have been filled with better choices, so it all worked out in the end! Truly, this journey is a marathon, not a sprint, which is a good thing, as I’ve never been a good sprinter.

Leave a comment

Filed under fitness, progress

Checking in and jumping up and down

Oh Joy!

Oh Joy!

Too bad I can’t count that as Activity Points.

Woot! I have a 5 pound star! I actually lost 1.2 pounds, for a total of 6.1 pounds lost in five weeks. This is a phenomenal rate of weight loss for me: about twice my Texas Weight Watchers loss rate, and easily 4-5 times what I lose without Weight Watchers. See my joyous Snoopy dance? However, I did learn that my jeans weigh TWO WHOLE POUNDS. I weighed at home with and without, and believe you me, I will never weigh in my jeans again. I ditched them for the lightest weight pants I could find.

Points consumed for the week, which included Valentine’s Day: 208 points out of a possible weekly 210 + 33 activity points.

Also, beyond the five pound star, I also crossed my 180 pound threshold, at 179.8 pounds. This is glorious news!! And WHY is it glorious news? Because if I maintain a weight below 180 pounds next weigh-in, I get to treat myself to a FULL BODY MASSAGE!! Woo-hoo! Hallelujah! Because that will mean I have genuinely lost 10 pounds since May. I really hope Coach does a body fat test again in March, because I would love to know how many actual fat pounds are gone now.

OK, enough with the physical. I am a spiritual creature, too, and how is that going? Well, just as I suspected, taking on leadership in BSF has definitely kicked everything up a notch. I’m having a great time, and God is helping me order my time so that it is not too burdensome (at times it’s positively joyful) praying for another 15 women in my life. And I am getting SO MUCH out of the leaders’ meeting. Who knew the Books of the Law would have so much applicable learning?

Now if Spring would just spring my joy would just bubble over! This interminable winter looks to be wrapping up a bit. I have crocus blooming in my garden. 🙂


Filed under celebration, personal

Ahh…relief! And encouragement!

My Weight Watchers weigh in last night exceeded my wildest dreams: 182.6, down 2.4 pounds!! That’s a huge amount. You can check my Wednesday Weigh-ins and see for yourself; I’m not exaggerating what a victory this is.

I checked with my doctor about my foot, and she gave me a stronger anti-inflammatory and recommended water running. I guess I could do that. I vastly prefer River Running at the water park in the summer, but I could push past my prejudice of indoor pools and sub that for part of a couple of my workouts. Just until my foot gets better.

Anyway, things are looking up for me! Hey, Beth!! Yoohoo! Check out that weigh-in! God hugged me with that.


Filed under fitness