Friday, June 29, 2012

Color Series: Orange

Originally published 5/25/11

I neglected orange for years. In my mind, it was relegated to out-of-date kitchens and highway construction zones. No matter that my favorite soft drink for years was Orange Crush, or that when offered a choice of suckers, orange was my go-to flavor—until an older friend informed me that cherry was actually the best. I always loved color, but orange fell in with brown—a necessary hue, but a last choice.

When Oldest was born, though, orange was reborn. When I wanted a change from all the blue and green outfits, orange was suddenly the perfect color. It fit him—bright, sunny, fresh, sweet-but-not-saccharine. Orange has character. It has the power to leap up and surprise you with its strength. Orange introduces itself and smiles broadly. In fact, orange introduces you to strangers.

Orange is the fact that boys are mysterious beings—sweet, grumpy, loving, tenacious arguers. Orange is a drum set, Hawaiian shirts, and Taekwon-do instead of cello, plaid shirts, and soccer. Orange is a surprise, an opening-up, a stretching. A realization that all my dearly-held, preconceived notions are pale in comparison to what could actually be. Orange is color where I didn't know I wanted it, all the good stuff I never imagined was out there.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Color Series: Green

Originally published 5/14/11

Sometimes I feel like this picture. Peaceful, alive, reaching for the light. Silent and contained, like for this brief period right now at the end of the school year, when I realize we have all, in fact, survived. That many things were good.

My students gave their spring recital last night. There was a moment when all 14 were playing, filling the little church stage, that I really couldn’t believe we were all doing this together, making music. Not perfectly, but with intent, with purpose, with seriousness and joy all mixed together.

I suppose we are green, all of us. My students are young, inexperienced, but learning. As for myself, the more I go through this life the more I realize that I still don’t know exactly how to live it—at least not the way I envisioned it when I was a teenager looking at adults in their mysterious-but-boring middle years. And here I am, knowing what I want to be about, but realizing that every day is an experiment, and that I am constantly in new territory.

Green is “I still feel new at this but I’ve learned to believe in growth and I’m going to keep sending these tender, imperfect shoots out into the world.” Green is hope.

Green is new life, tender feet, everything-old-is-made-new-again. Green is coolness and good, the backdrop to the flower, the fluttering grace on the tree. Green is all things thriving, welcoming the light.

Green is fantasy—an Emerald City, a miniature landscape carved out of jade behind glass in a museum. Green is the light, driving down a tree-lined road in summer. Green is an idea taking shape.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stepping Back

I'm finding the need to step back from this blog for a little while, in order to work on some other projects, and re-group, and even go on vacation.

Over the next few weeks, starting tomorrow, I'll be pulling last year's Color Series from the archives to share with you. I hope you enjoy them, even if they aren't new.

Later in July I'm looking forward to sharing another friend and guest-poster as part of the "My Life, My Art" series, as well as some brand-new posts.

Also, if you feel so inclined and have not done so already, I would love if you subscribed to this blog by email (see below.) It is a private list--only I see the email addresses--but it is helpful to me to know who is interested in reading this, and helpful to you to know when I post something new.

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Friday, June 22, 2012


It’s always been a favorite activity—listening to and watching the people around me. There is much to be learned, in a gleaning sort of way. And I’ve learned through the years that I’m not limited to the people immediately around me—listening to people’s stories through books and interviews—that counts, too. It has gotten to be a favorite form of education.

Some recent choice bits of people-watching:

Picture book biographies: Why would anybody ever think that you could graduate from picture books to some “higher form” of literature? The really good ones combine art and language, and sometimes music, too, to tell about the lives of amazing people. With the same rich-in-content-spare-in-words elegance as a poem. I’ve loved reading these to my kids recently:

Louie! by Will Hillenbrand, Philomel Books, 2009 (Loosely-based on the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of Madeline.)

What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, Scholastic Press, 2008

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011


The “In Practice” series on  Not geared towards kids, but an adult interested in the creative process can gain much insight listening to musicians talk about their practice space, how they work, and how they interact with their art.

Talk to me—what sorts of people-watching have you done recently?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock crushes scissors. Of course. That’s what you would expect from the rock. No discernment, nothing to consider—just a heaving of weight and mass and hard edges to smash the opposition.

Scissors cut paper. No surprise, there. The scissors have something of a delicacy to them, but again—hard edges. Discerning, yes. And precise. But also sharp and dangerous.

Paper covers rock. An open hand rests over a closed fist in triumph. Did this ever make sense to you? Paper is soft, delicate, open. Completely vulnerable to the scissors. And it is the rock’s undoing, the foil, the thing that keeps the game in balance.

So what is it about that piece of paper? What, exactly, is the power it has over that brute rock?

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Friday, June 15, 2012


I’m fascinated by the fact that when it comes to creativity you never know quite what is going to work. That cultivating it usually has something to do with the play between structure and freedom, thought and intuition, dreams and reality. That sometimes you have to buckle down and sometimes you have to let go.

I love that you often don’t know what is going to come of it, but that if you keep playing, something eventually happens.

It feels like magic, regardless of the work you put in.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Life, My Art: Jocelyn Meyer

As promised yesterday, there’s somebody I’d like you to meet—friend and guest-poster, Jocelyn Meyer:

"We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the "intolerable compliment." Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less."
C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Karen invited me to do a guest post after a wonderful conversation we had about art and faith. Back in Baltimore, Maryland I was part of a church plant called The Light that focused precisely on this. We wove the creative expressions found typically in galleries into the church experience. Though sometimes seen in opposition, I have found that my beliefs as an artist and my beliefs as a Christian fuel one another. I love Timothy Keller’s comment, “Salvation is medicine, creativity is food.” Though I don’t believe art saves the soul, I do believe creativity serves to nourish us and often directs our attention to the deepest of questions.

As a visual artist, I see God as the ultimate creator. For me, the process of creating a painting is a conversation with God. I prayerfully create my artwork, building up layers of paint symbolically and then using knives to scrape and peel the image into full existence. It is about being worked on, open and cut. It is a way for me to listen.

This stripping-away process became even more visceral when I found myself in a small Midwestern town knowing only my husband. For the first time in my life I felt like I had come to a stop. Though I was ecstatic to be newly married to an amazing person, I was no longer surrounded by my community of encouragers. In addition to helping run a gallery and church in the city, I had been a full time art teacher and was active in a number of community art organizations and small groups. I loved doing these things, and I felt particularly accomplished when I was doing them for God. And though all these things were “good” things, God had to cut them out of my life to show me that my worth came from Him alone. If I could do nothing else with my day but pray, that was enough. I struggled with this concept for a long time after moving. During this time, painting became a way to visually experience my prayer life and allow breathing room as I waited for God’s voice and direction. It also became a way to love others as I got to share the stories and experiences behind the images.

I recently had the honor of working on a commissioned artwork based on the book of Jeremiah from the Old Testament. This was the first time I photographed my work in progress and kept track of my thought process.


As you may have gathered from the images, I enjoy the interaction of storytelling and imagery. Karen and I recently completed a collaboration that I will describe as visual storytelling. I hope she will have the opportunity to share this project with her readers in the future. Until then, if you would like to see more of my work you can visit me here.

Worthy Words: Jeremiah
Acrylic on Board
48" x 24"

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Project

So I’ve had this idea simmering in my head for more than a year.

It goes back a number of years, in fact, to a daydream I liked to entertain when I was a graduate student walking through the streets of Evanston, Illinois. I loved looking at all the beautiful old houses, and I had this fantasy about someday obtaining my own beautiful old house, and filling it not only with a family but as often as possible with friends and guests—artists and musicians and writers, creators and thinkers and dreamers. I wanted to make a place where all these people could gather and talk, where they could share and inspire and challenge each other.

It turns out I do live in a beautiful old house, but not in any sort of big city or cultural center. My friends are scattered all over the place, and my husband and I don’t have people over nearly as often as we’d like to. And I’m no Gertrude Stein. But I have been blessed to know some really amazing people, and as I hear their stories and see what they are doing with their lives I still want to share their lives and their art with others.

It struck me that this blog, which is sort of a gathering-place for the things close to my heart anyway, could maybe also serve as a meeting-place. Maybe once a month, for now. I’m still working on invitations, not to mention honing my hostessing skills.

But please—meet me back here tomorrow, because I’ve got somebody I’d like you to meet.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

To Share:

• I love happening upon books like this at the library: Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art(Philomel Books, proceeds benefit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.) This is a treasure. Amazing artwork accompanies words of encouragement and wisdom woven into the personal experiences of these artists—I would suggest that this book isn’t just for children, and that you don’t even need to be an aspiring artist to gain a ton from reading it.

This blog post by Justine Musk about minimalism and creativity in a consumer culture spoke to me on a bunch of different levels.

• I heard the end of Brahms’ German Requiem on NPR recently, and realized I didn’t appreciate it nearly enough when I played it way-back-when. Because—well, just listen to it and tell me what you think.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Morning For Which I Have No Title But I Loved, Anyway

I loved that I saw two bluebirds yesterday morning, and that even though I couldn’t remember the actual fairy tale, the title “The Bluebird of Happiness” got stuck in my head and became background music for a few hours.

I loved being with all the cousins and aunts and uncles—all our extended family—and their familiarity, even though they live far away, even though we really are all older and have maybe all changed a lot. They feel close, still.

I loved seeing the newest generation of children playing together, and knowing that what one branch of the family calls “spunkiness” another branch calls “zestiness,” but we all recognize where it came from and that it’s something to celebrate.

I loved going back to a favorite place from my childhood, even now that everything is different.

I loved seeing the shipping container barn that I haven’t thought of for years, but which immediately conjured up my old Boxcar Children fantasy.

I love that in place of the old swing—maybe my grandma’s favorite place in the whole world—there was a new swing, hand-built by the son of the man who takes care of this place, in anticipation of our arrival.

I love that even though I was sure the perfect memento from the day would be a picture of the new swing standing empty, it was immediately and continuously full of great-grandchildren. Great grandchildren who smiled and talked and laughed and played.

Who scattered rose petals instead of ashes.

I love that sometimes in the hard moments one small beautiful thing will present itself and allow you to attach yourself to it so you can hold your heart steady.

I love that after the moment has passed you realize that you are in fact surrounded by relatives of that small beautiful thing—cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and great-grandchildren and many others, besides. That there is much to hold on to while you can.

That a life keeps flowing outward even when the person is no longer with you.

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