Monday, April 30, 2007

Lilac and Lavender

This weekend we had beautiful weather in Boise. Since we moved here from Arizona about a year and a half ago, things have not slowed down long enough to do much in the yard except weed control and mowing.
I felt a sense of major accomplishment in AZ when I finally was able to establish an herb garden!! I think it was right after we installed the irrigation system that the herbs started to grow!....hmmmm, all they needed was a little more water? In AZ?? Go figure.
A few weekends ago, I planted a "baby" herb garden...."baby" because it is just the basics: thyme, oregano, yarrow (for color), santolina, and some germander. I also transplanted some lavender from our front yard.

Lavender is one of my favorite fragrances. The lavender bed we inherited is so fragrant.....but I haven't been tending it as I should. Other than cutting stems for vases, I haven't touched it at all. Here is a before and after of my Saturday in the lavender bed!

Another lovely plant..or tree? we aquired when we moved into the house was a long row of lilac trees. They are almost in full bloom and when they are, look beautiful as they line the outside fence. This photo shows one of the trees that is starting to "pop" with color and fragrance! Oh My!!! The fragrance is wonder.....ACHOO!...ful!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Practical Creativity

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers."
Charles H. Eliot The Happy Life, 1896
I agree with Charles on his philosophy of books. The books I've been reading lately have more photos than words . . . I've been perusing books for painting/research purposes. So, I suppose these books are my "most patient teachers", because I love looking at and learning about 18th and 19th century portrait artist and their paintings.....okay, I know a few of you just left me and clicked over to the next blog! But for those who are still here......

One of my favorites is 19th century artist John Bradley. Not a lot is known about his personal life; some books say he came from Ireland in 1826, and his profession was listed as "unknown". His first portrait of note was dated 1832. Perhaps he discovered his talent within those 6 years.

The portraits accredited to him were dated from 1832 to 1847.
No one knows if he was an itinerant portrait artist traveling from house to house or if he had a studio, but most of his work was done in the New York and New Jersey areas. To me, his style gives attention to detail, but has elements of an untrained hand (for example, the unnatural poses of his subjects).

In my research of Bradley, I've found at least three portraits of different little girls each posed with the same background. There are probably more, but that is all I've found. Each of these portraits has a little girl standing next to the same potted rose bush with the same little kitty playing somewhere in the scene. The carpet or rugs are different in each, so I can only guess that he either pre-painted his canvas with the rose pot and kitty, had them in his studio with carpet choices for the customers, or traveled with his props!

One of my portraits, the Little Lavender Girl, (my profile photo) is my interpretation of one of these John Bradley portraits. I'm working on a second portrait that is based on another one of these little girls. And yes, she will have the potted rose bush and the little kitty.
John Bradley, as well as other portrait artist of his era, had to be resourceful during the winter months. If indeed he was commissioned to paint people in their homes, travel during the winter would have been tricky. Many artists painted backgrounds, and faceless bodies onto canvases in advance and then allowed customers to choose the background for their portrait. How would you like to choose your body type without having to diet or workout?!

This "practical creativity" was essential for the self-taught artists of that time . . . they had to paint and paint quickly!, all while pleasing the customer. Although I paint for pleasure, (my own and I hope for others as well) I admire this ingenuity and practical sense of creating wonderful works of art.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mother's Day Portrait

Mother's Day is coming in May.....and I've painted a mother and child portrait. The painting is loosely based on a portrait by Ammi Phillips, portraitist from around 1811 to 1862. His original portrait of Mrs. Russell Dorr and her child Maria Esther showed the child with her eyes closed.
It looked a little too much like a mourning portrait, or at least a very sleepy baby. So, I decided to paint the child with her eyes wide open looking up at Momma! This portrait will be for sale on the American Folk Art website (please see My Links) in a few days when I place it the beautiful frame I've purchased for it and take some photos!

One Family's Story

April is the official month for Autism awareness….meaning those who are in the on-going fight to cure it or love someone who has it, want to make the whole world “aware” of the difficulties that people with autism experience.
Well, I’m a mom with two boys with autism and no, I’m not going to donate to the cause this month….I “donate” (emotionally and financially) on a daily basis anyway….and I’m not going to campaign for a cure….we as a family have been dealing with autism for 14 yrs.
Now, I’m not saying “Don’t find a cure…..I love my kids just the way they are”. I do love my boys, and yes, they will have some challenges to overcome in life. But, I still struggle with the chemical, environmental vs. genetic predisposition battle that seems to be the crux to finding that cure.
In the meantime, as any parent will do, I will accept my boys’ challenges and guide them through life’s puzzle. And autism is a puzzle. As the doctors and research describes it, there is a “Spectrum”, or a line with degrees of autism. On one end you have the child who cannot talk and rolls himself up in a ball for security and on the other you have Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s is the diagnosis my youngest boy has been given. Ben is 11 and up until last year, he has had the diagnosis of severe ADHD with emotional difficulties. Those “emotional difficulties”
along with the ADHD have made it difficult for him in a traditional school setting, so this year, along with his brother, I’m home-schooling the boys. Remember, I mentioned that I “give” on a daily basis!
Ben is a very bright child (as most kids with Asperger’s are) he has difficulty with peer relationships and tends to play with kids younger than himself….he feels more comfortable because he doesn’t always “get’ the social cues of his peers.
Ben’s “brightness” doesn’t always translate well on paper and on tests….so, with home school we don’t have to stick to the conventional ways of testing what he’s learned.

My older son, Ethan (14), is diagnosed with high-functioning autism. And being the older of the two, his road to Autism has been a bit bumpy. As our first child, and as parents without a clue, we had such difficulty with his behavior when he was younger. He would not respond to discipline and because he was so easily over-stimulated, he would have frequent meltdowns in public places.
Ethan still experiences over-stimulation, but as he has grown, he has learned some coping skills. However, some of the things that allow him to feel secure, seem strange to his peers. such as, flapping his arms and hands and repeating words to himself over and over. He has learning disabilities that require an I.E.P. and Special Ed. instruction.,. as well as weekly Speech and social interaction group (Ben will be attending one of these group too).

So, there you have a little peek into the lives of a family with autism in this month of Autism Awareness. We are slowly putting our pieces of life’s puzzle together and learning a lot about ourselves in the process.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Trying Something New

I didn't think I would be doing this today....or at all, for that matter. But, here I am "blogging" away. I'm not going to name names, but I have this friend who tries new things and "encourages" me to follow along...I'm glad she does, I'm not complaining..., I need to be stretched.
Thanks, friend.
"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"

Anne of Green Gables ~by Lucy Maud Montgomery