Monday, April 27, 2015

Busy Days Ahead

"Minuet No. 9 - Weathering the Storm"
I'm taking about a week to relax and recharge after Much Ado About Nothing wrapped up its run this past Sunday. I have 12 teaching days remaining in this school year; summer break is right around the corner! My next big project is a show in August so in a few days, I'll turn my attention to paint and canvas. Of course, there's many other side projects ongoing so I'm sure I'll post some glimpses of those as well. While I'm gathering my strength, my wits, and my master plans, I give you another "Minuet" to enjoy. This one is one of my favorites...

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Minuet and Much Ado

I love the storybook feel of this "Minuet" and as you'll see in future postings, it inspired a few more of mini collages that look like they might belong in a children's book. As I said, I originally thought I'd go abstract with this project but illustration fever has got hold of me and won't let go.

Last night I watched one of the casts (there's three in total because there's so many students) perform Much Ado About Nothing and they were awesome! Have to confess I got teary-eyed. My part in all this was to coach students individually or in small groups to refine their performance: improving enunciation, volume, body language, vocal acting, and emotional connection to (and presentation of) their characters. I loved seeing all that work melded into the play as a whole. I pushed them so hard, working some scenes over and over, and it was thrilling to see that ultimately, my guidance and encouragement "stuck" in their heads. There were moments where I wondered whether or not I was being heard. However, fueled by adrenaline and the hunger for applause, the students rose to the occasion. And on the 451st anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth no less! The bard would have been proud!

Tonight, the youngest cast performs (4th and 5th graders.) As you might imagine, they've been having the roughest time of it (Shakespeare's tough!) and oh! if we could have just another week! Alas! That's not going to happen so I'll be in the front row on book (following along with the script), ready to add some gentle prompting if someone gets stuck. I'll be happy when this is all over but give me a restful summer and I'll be ready to charge back in...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Almost in the Home Stretch

"Minuet No. 7 - Bouquet"
I am almost finished with theater coaching for this year! Just one more dress rehearsal day at the theater to survive! This week, I've been cloistered backstage with the students not currently onstage; there are three casts so when one cast is practicing, there are about 30 students behind the scenes that need minding and that require constant "shushing." I've been keeping them busy with Shakespeare-related art and writing projects but after four months of this, they are getting squirmy. I think we'll all be very happy when this is over.

After this week, I return to my usual Thursday/Friday schedule until the first week of June and then...I'M FREE! I opted to postpone my next foot surgery until next summer so I intend on spending every free moment creating for my shows in August and October. I spent the entirety of last summer trapped on the couch with an open wound in my foot that didn't close until the third week in October. I just couldn't bear going through all that again so soon. I need some quality breathing room between school years!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 15 and 16

Gearing up for the beginning of theater week tomorrow by winding down this weekend in my Snippets's hoping I survive four 6-hour days at the theater surrounded by nearly 50 middle school kids bouncing off the walls in Shakespearean costumes.

And here's the prepped spread for the next two weeks:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


"Minuet No. 6 - Portal"
Oh, how I wish I had my own personal portal so I could whisk myself off from wherever I am to wherever or whenever I wish to be! If I had such a thing, I'm sure it would look exactly like this...

And a note to new followers: I strive to post twice a week and if I'm feeling industrious, sometimes I post thrice. Be forewarned that I occasionally drop out of sight for periods of time. These planned or unplanned absences are typically due to health difficulties and/or a crazy work/studio schedule. However, I've been blogging for nine years come May 2015 and I always return to this space. Thank you to all who join me for the ride!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Minuets in the Meantime
"Minuet No. 5 - Command Center"
I'm planning a couple of new blog post series after I get through the next two weeks of theater madness. Once work settles back into its more typical routine, I'll have more time and energy. In the meantime, I'll be posting peeks at the usual: the Snippets journal and more of my work in my little Minuet collage book. This is a great project for small amounts of time where my focus is less than at its peak. Originally, I thought I'd go ultra-abstract but I returned to the representational after the first entry. I'm just playing around here, pushing scraps in different directions and into different combinations until a little story reveals itself. The calligraphic swipes of watercolor in the background provide an anchor to the collages so they aren't simply floating in white space. I try to inject a bit of humor and whimsy into the mix as well because that's definitely a running thread throughout my work. This particular Minuet might be interpreted as snapshot of my brain. (I'm going to overlook the fact that my "command center" is actually unplugged; I think maybe my subconscious took over on this one.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Challenging Parkinson's One Tune at a Time

I spent the majority of my mid-teens through mid-twenties in radio broadcasting, both as a civilian and as an airman in the USAF. Music was a cornerstone of my life and then, my interest faded. After spending years listening to music and keeping up with the Billboard charts, I spent an equal number of years never listening to music. However, here in my forties, and finding myself beset with an odd collection of health challenges - in particular Young Onset Parkinson's - I am rediscovering the power of music. Many chronic health issues respond to formal or informal music therapy. Whether soothing or uplifting in cadence, music can soften the rough edges of daily living and counter and/or ease some mental and physical obstacles.

In terms of Parkinson's, I find that a shot of upbeat music in the morning helps me get stiff muscles moving. I pop in some earbuds and in the otherwise calm predawn hours, I am often silently dancing across my living room (much to the consternation of my cats.) I start out in my chair, head bobbing and fist pumping and I progress to standing, then a slow shuffle-wiggle-shuffle and eventually, I'm doing my best 80's dance floor routine. If my balance is particularly bad, I stay near the kitchen counter so I have something to grab if I get over-enthusiastic. I'm positive it is all very silly-looking and ungraceful; I live in fear my son will somehow wake before noon and discover his mom shaking her hips to her own private rhythm. No matter. Researchers have found that regular exercise/movement seems to slow PD progression and improve patient outcomes. I'd rather chance a moment of embarrassment than turn to stone. 

This all said, here's my current favorite tune for my morning rock out. I dare you not to dance. Even a silly, awkward shuffle-wiggle-shuffle can spit in the face of health issues that are doing their best to steal your joy and your body. And while you're embarrassing yourself with abandon in your living room, remember that I'm out there too, dancing right along with you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lucky Ducks

Art-making will be slowing down to non-existent over the next two weeks as I turn my attention towards my middle school students and their upcoming performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Performance coaching is loads of fun but requires a sustained, high energy output that takes a lot out of me. By the end of school, I'm lucky if I can string three words together. Mostly, I just collapse on the couch and stare at stupid TV shows, recharging so I can jump back in again.

Thankfully, I have a backlog of old work to show so blog posts will continue during this crazy time. Today I'm posting the most recent page in my sketchbook. I'm very slowly getting back into life sketching; my interest in this journal burned passionately this past summer and then fizzled out. When I picked up my sketchbook again, I realized that I wanted to explore rendering different texture types in watercolor: smooth, soft, dull, shiny, plastic, metal. It is very challenging and that challenge keeps my attention engaged. I really do love this type of journaling and eventually, I'd like to focus on this almost exclusively. For now, it'll be a page here and there as time allows.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Snippets: Weeks 13 and 14

With the close of these two weeks, I'm 98 days into this "Snippet-of-Journaling-a-Day" project for 2015. Just 267 more days to go! This is the first 365 project that I've undertaken where I feel 100% positive about the odds of completion. My Snippets journal is super easy to keep up with and I enjoy the process. One thing I didn't expect is that the journal would get very heavy. Even though I'm only up to the first week in April, it has some heft to it. I can't wait to see how this journal looks on December 31st! (Patience, grasshopper...let's just take it one day at a time...)
This week, I managed to take a picture of the prepped spread for the next two weeks. I played a lot here with some new tools I made myself. There's a blog post coming soon about that...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Theater and Turnarounds

With one phone call this past weekend from my boss, my life became three-fold crazier with a temporary assignment to help with our school's production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. For three weeks, I'll be at school Monday through Thursday coaching students in the finer points of performance and Fridays, my regularly-scheduled teaching continues. Thankfully, spring break is dead ahead so I'll get a week off in the middle of this chaos. Good thing I adore my students.

This semester, in addition to a class on creating children's books, I'm teaching cartooning, a class I started nine years ago and one that I am continually revising and updating as my own skills improve. Each session I take students through the basics of character construction and onward into the development of simple comics. Right now, we are immersed in the practice of getting characters out of static, forward-facing positions and that means doing turnarounds.

Turnarounds feature sequential character drawings in which the subject is - yep, you guessed it - turning around. You begin drawing the character facing outward and then draw the character in a 3/4-view, profile, and so on. In the past, I had students simply imagine what that would look like with their characters but I realized I was making an already difficult assignment harder. 

This year, I had students create a 3-D model in animation clay first. This gave students something to look at so they could see how the shapes in the figure change with each shift in perspective. They were thrilled with the chance to play with clay and the level of detail was delightful. Some of their sculptures made me giggle and I'll be sad when I have to package the clay back up for next year. (Animation clay is non-hardening so it can be used over and over.) 

The following week, they all began the turnaround process. I asked for a four-position turnaround: front, 3/4s, profile and back. While this was still a challenging assignment, I think the students had a better grasp of what they needed to do and how to do it. I've included a sampling of some of their efforts here. 
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