Monday, March 24, 2008

Odyssey of the Mind

This year I became aware of Odyssey of the Mind, an international program that teaches kids creative problem solving. It's all about thinking outside the box. I attended the regional tournament of my grandson who was in the first level of Odyssey.

The problem for this group of K-2 students was to create a situation where a character keeps waking up in a different time and/or place from where it fell asleep. Their explanation for waking up in different places was all about falling asleep while reading a book and the dream state that ensued, depending on the book they were reading. Their solution was someone falling asleep on a cardboard bed, the bed turning into a giant clock and the "dream people" coming to life. The longer I think about it, the better I like it.

The props, costumes and ideas have to come from the kids and not the parents. As I hovered over a 7 year old boy being forced to learn to sew in order to meet the requirements, him stretching to reach the sewing machine pedal and holding his banana "costume" taut as he sewed a yellow tube, I loved the Odyssey coaches for advancing this level of creativity and giving kids the chance to own a solution to a problem, to stretch their minds and abilities to levels they would never approach otherwise. I loved that after he sewed his yellow tube, he asked, "So, how do they make shirts?"

Regardless how his team does in the competition, he learned more than he will realize for many years. I want to applaud every child who dares to color outside the lines.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oh, Leslie

We were watching 60 minutes and I kept commenting on Leslie Stahl's lipstick so much that I wondered if I was the only one who thought she had adopted the idea of "coloring outside the lines" as her own. Lo and behold, I found this great photo (click on "photo" to see it) and someone who shared my sentiments to a T. He wrote "At the risk of sounding a little too “Jerry Seinfeld” I’m going to start by asking, “Am I the only one who notices the fact that Leslie Stahl, venerable reporter with CBS News best known for her long-standing gig with 60 Minutes, doesn’t seem to know how to apply her own lipstick?
OK, in her defense, I’d have to guess that Leslie doesn’t actually apply her own make-up before going on camera for 60 Minutes. It’s not absolutely certain but she no doubt has a professional make-up artist doing that for her, albeit only with her direction."

Keep in mind, I really like Leslie. I just can't believe no one is paying attention to her lipstick. Who are these makeup and fashion consultants anyway? Wake up out there! Leslie is talented and a great role model for the 40-somethings who can look forward and see that there is life after 40. She's not a bad model for us 60-somethings either. She just needs to lose the orange lipstick and color inside the lines.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is bigger better?

"Oh, I love them," she said, as she pulled up her t-shirt right there in the nail salon. "And they only cost $4700. Look how small the incision is." And with that statement, she pulled her t-shirt higher to reveal a small slit in her armpit.

Here we were in a strip mall nail salon and this young woman was showing everyone her "new" breasts. They were just another accessory, it seemed. The fascinating part was her excitement -- a single mom, no boyfriend -- "these" were just for her. Although, as my sister pointed out, maybe now she'll have a boyfriend since she's a full D+size -- if the lack of these D beauties were affecting her self-esteem, that is.

What is it with women and their breasts? Are we so connected to image and others' opinions of breasts that it does that much to change our image of ourselves? What exactly is it that breasts mean? Some will say that sagging breasts equal aging, yet, this young woman was not close to aging. Her main achievement with these new ones was that she "loved" being able to wear a shirt without a bra and still look good. That is worth $4700? There were, however, a few rules:
1. She had to sleep in a sports bra for a year.
2. There could be no sucking on them for 6 months for fear of an infection.
3. She had to sleep with some type of a strap around her chest for a month to "settle" them in.
4. And without even requiring it, she would definitely "Admire them daily:)

For her, it was definitely worth it. During the one hour+ that we shared the space in a strip mall nail salon, she uttered the phrase "I love them" no fewer than 6 times.

I went home and looked in the mirror. I wasn't the least bit unhappy with what I saw.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

One of Many

I received an email today that the illustration I submitted to be considered for inclusion in Patti Digh's book "Life is a Verb" is in the finals. I don't know exactly what this means, in that I don't if I'm in a pool of 2 or of 20, but it's still really cool to hear "you're one of the finalists." How cool would it be to be "published"

Of the ones that I submitted, this is the only one I think has a chance --

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Right or Left

I got a phone call this afternoon that a friend had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, had had surgery and was now facing weeks of chemo and radiation. She’s an artist and the tumor was on the right side of her brain. It’s unclear at this point how much of her creativity will be affected. This is not a close friend, but someone that I’ve always felt could be a close friend and someone whose work I’ve admired. The minute I hung up, I could not stop crying. It was as if a wall came down. I don’t know if I cried for her, for lost creativity or for fear of losing my own. Even now, an hour later, as I write this, I’m blinded by tears and am having a really hard time allowing myself to cry without wanting to analyze it. My left brain keeps taking over --

The good news is that her sense of humor is intact evidenced by her husband's report that she can't decide what color to dye her new fuzz that's growing in on her shaved head.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How Art Happens

Artists everywhere have sayings about using goofs or splats to their advantage, like "If you can't cover it, feature it" -- things like that. And it works. How many smudges of paint or ink have been turned into delightful illustrations we'll never know. I know that I have taken many pieces to another level only because I messed it up.

I can't say I've been working on this piece for over a year---that would be insane because it has only three words on it. But those three words have been like an albatross for over a year. And, it's something I really wanted to finish and HAD to finish, if only because of the three words --- "Never give up." Except it wasn't just three words, because people usually say "Never never never NEVER give up." It's attributed to Winston Churchill, but in my research I don't find that he actually said those words, just something like it. Nevertheless those additional three "nevers" held me up big time.

The project began with the assignment to draw Romans with serifs, transfer the quote to black paper using white transfer paper, paint the letters in white, then paint the letters in a range of colors (the underpainting of white makes the color pop more). After I completed the big Never Give Up, I let the piece reside in a drawer for a long time while I tried to figure out what to do with the other "nevers." I finally decided to make "coins" with the word "never" on them and float them at the top of the page. I made three coins using Sculpy, painted them, tried many different techniques to get the lettering to stay, then covered them with the Diamond Glaze to give them a raised look. Now all I had to do was hang them from the top. The coin part of the project took me about three months.

I swear I did three. They were all there that morning. But when I went in to work on the last step of placement, there were only two. I freaked. The first one I could blame was the cat. The coin would be perfect to bat around our hardwood floors. I got the flashlight and crawled around the house. I looked under every dusty bed, sofa, door frame, under rugs. I even went through the big trash that has been collected and emptied that day. No luck. So this morning, I looked at the two coins and my three words and tried to make them work. I wonder now if I need a coin at all. I definitely know that two coins don't work. Maybe only one is needed. I've tried it center, left and right. I'm wondering now about hanging it from a long strand and letting it sit in the lower right corner. Sort of the last word. Sooner or later I'm going to get this finished --- if for no other reason than because I can't give up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Normal Again

After I've been traveling a lot and pushing pushing pushing, and then I allow myself one real day to do what I want to do (i.e. yesterday's banner) I wake up and I feel normal again. I realize that I've allowed the bizzare to become the norm in order to survive the craziness. It feels so good to feel normal again.

Monday, March 3, 2008

This is a Banner Day!

I finished a project today that's been six weeks in the making -- it's a Happy Birthday banner for my grandchildren. I love the idea of this being dragged out every year, the edges eventually softening and the corners curling up. It's not inconceivable that it could be hung as many as three or four times a year. It's been a real feel-good project. It's especially a feel-good for me because I was able to parcel it out and complete it in the midst of an exhausting travel month. The letters were hand-stitched on airplanes, in waiting rooms and even in a lounge chair on a Cancun beach.

One interesting observation for me was that when I cut the patterns for the letters out, I did it freehand and was surprised at how easy it was. The feel for shape and proportion from my calligraphy clicked in and transferred itself right down through the scissors. It was extremely fascinating to me. And when I layed the letter on the felt, voila, it had a built up or pressurized serif. Not very many people will enjoy that.

The banner is made out of felt squares about 8". The letters are also felt and are hand-stitched with 6 strands of embroidery floss. I ended up adding a back to the squares and machine-stitching around the edges and the top casing. I threaded them all on a strand of jeweler-decoration hemp and left 5 ft. at each end to use for hanging. Below is a picture of the finished banner and a detail of one letter.