Friday, May 01, 2015

Tomie dePaola helps celebrate Family Literacy in Concord, New Hampshire!


I am SO glad that New Hampshire has a statewide Humanities Council!


Last Saturday we drove to the Concord Auditorium to hear beloved children's book writer and illustrator Tomie de Paola talk about his 60 years in the business.   He spoke conversationally with interviewer Rebecca Rule and then answered questions. I was surprised and grateful to know that TD Bank was the primary sponsor with further support by the Rowley Agency.  We also discovered another independent bookstore in town, Gibsons.  (they supplied books to buy and get autographed.  I understand that Mr. DePaola stayed for TWO HOURS signing books.  Pretty generous for someone who described himself as 80 and a half!


We were asked not to take flash photos... which meant I only captured the aura of this saintly gnome.  (He's not actually wearing vestments.  But he claims that when you are an artist you MUST wear scarves.  His was of nearly Whovian length.    You can see a dozen professional (i.e. GOOD) photos on the NHHC website here.     The identifiable image at right is his publicity photo from the SCBWI.  Isn't he devilishly darling?

One little girl asked if he had children.  He noted he had been married for about five minutes to a French woman, and had never  had children.  Then he asked the girl if she would like to be HIS daughter.  She paused and ultimately said "No."  I'm thinking I might have said yes.  Or at least asked to be an honorary niece.
 I wish my phone camera had been able to capture the full charm of the childhood(?) drawing of a cat.

 You are most likely familiar with his first big hit, Strega Nona.  He's written and illustrated more than 200 books, many of which are retellings of folk tales or lives of lesser known Saints. Since I left the world of children's books, he also wrote a series of books about his childhood living at 26 Fairmount Street in Meriden, Connecticut.

Who knew that minor adventures, mishaps and major life changes, charmingly told, could be so enjoyable.  Think of the kindness of Beverly Cleary's family tales and the sense of "a different place; different time" of the Little House Books.

The customs from the Italian (paternal) and Irish (maternal) sides of the clan are recognized as noteworthy, but depicted as just the way things were.

He talked at some length about how he KNEW he wanted to draw and illustrate from the age of four.  AND how supportive his entire family was. He had twin Aunts who were professional photographers in New York City, and one of his Dad's cousins was a famous singer of the era, so the arts were a part of the atmosphere.  He repeated his Aunt's advice which really resonated with me:

PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.  and DON'T COPY
He then told most of the story in The Art Lesson which included a teacher who didn't understand the art prodigy (at first) but who became a life long friend.
We had no patience for standing in line for autographs (I've gotten his autograph before, and my grown son has a signed copy of Strega Nona), but we did want to find the independent bookstore.  While I was there, I took pictures of the titles they hadn't taken to the auditorium.



He also talked about the support he gets from his editor, Nancy.  I had no idea that he would  have qualms about his drawings or story telling given his experience, success and crowds of adoring fans.  I, too, am grateful that Nancy Paulsen helps him keep keeping on.  (And envy that she gets to do so!)
You might think that because his illustrations (and fine art paintings) are so simple, he didn't have "real" training.  But he did.  He went to the Pratt Institute, and then spent almost 20 years teaching at various schools in New England and California.  It wasn't until then that he devoted full time to books and illustrations.
To my admittedly amateur eye, when you look at his work critically, the composition, design, color and "mood" meet all of the highest criteria.


 
  " I try to be as clear and simple as I can be in my illustrations so that the child can tell what is going on 
and what the emotions are. "
Of course, I've been a "fan" for years.  But what struck me more than anything else that afternoon was what a NICE HUMAN BEING Mr. DePaola is.  And I can be critical, judgmental and snarky (you probably know that if you read much of my blog!).   
After a reference to the many many books of bible stories, lives of the saints and so forth, the interviewer asked him at one point to identify what was important to him. He said that although one might expect it to be religion or God, is was actually Faith.  And Family.  And (of course) Love.  All I can say is that we would all be better off is we were as loving and lovable as Mr. DePaola.

Thank you for the lovely afternoon.
 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wednesday Morning's Adventure

Per my weekly routine, I went to the Nashua Artist's Breakfast Club on Wednesday, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but members of the Chelmsford Art Society preparing still life set-ups using vegetables instead of bowls, pots, crystal or whatever. Peggy J is a stalwart and energetic member of CAS and has already been to Trader Joes and purchased an ample supply of vegetables (well, two cabbages) and flowers and greenery.
Turns out she's a pro at delegating, too.  
Mark F (at right above) tackled the Green Cabbage with a pair of scissors.  The hole was a wee bit shallow, but foliage would soon cover that.
Paula M (who confessed to years as a flower arranger for a garden club) bravely attacked the red cabbage with a lettuce knife, made a hole big enough for a free water cup from the B&N cafe, and went to town.



 Turns out Joe had taken flower arranging (in Japan, even!!) and knew that the foliage "should" be about 1 1/2 times as tall as the "vase."  This helped minimizing the random, conflicting and very vocal advise given to Paula.
 She had her own ideas about color and composition and was selective about who she listened to!

 Peter K, above at left, who spends what time  he can in Hawaii (a floral paradise if there ever was one), was fairly quiet, and perhaps had his doubts-- if I read his facial expression correctly.  Since he's always kind, though, he didn't get in anybody's way.
After the "vases" were made and one arrangement done, Peggy cleaned up the fringey fronds.  I had been enjoying the aroma of a feathery dill and modernistic eucalyptus.  I don't think the cafe staff even had to get out their mops!


A job well done!  Head over to   CAS' Facebook page  to see some of the results.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring Fever Observations

 Last Thursday it was a beautiful day and I took the long way home.  It wasn't totally sunny or really very warm, but it was "nice."
One of the "long ways home" involves going by one of the Kimball's Farms in the areas.  This one in Haverhill is better known for animals and its corn maze than it is for amusements and ice cream.
To my surprise there were FIVE bison in that area... perhaps two larger than the rest and one smaller.  Couldn't tell if there were more than one generation.  But they were PLAYING! Galloping around, charging each other, chasing each other, and occasionally plopping down on the ground and rolling around getting a dirt bath.  I especially thought the one who gored a hay bale and then shook the hay all over herself was funny.

The goats were relatively calm.  Maybe it's only kids that are crazy.

The alpacas around the corner from us were sniffing the same stuff the bison were. They'd look at me, look at each other, chew some grass and then flop over for a dirt bath.

My version of spring fever is only a mild restlessness.  Certainly I'm not head butting anyone, nor am I taking dirt baths.  But there is a sense of urgency and desire to DO something.

We'll see.

In the meantime, my computer has the grippe and is very slow in "regular" mode.  In "safe" mode it goes fast, but my image editing and uploading programs don't seem to work. I hope it gets straightened out soon.
PS:  Most of computer problems seem to have healed themselves.... But elaborate photo-editing will have to wait until I fix the Adobe Photoshop Licensing Error Glitch.  Thank goodness somebody has posted a step by step fix!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring is Sproinging!!! FINALLY

I must admit, today was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  It was mostly sunny, almost 70 degrees and the breeze was at a minimum.

So I planned to take my not-entirely-positively anticipated "stroll for health" and longevity.  Instead of heading directly for the driveway, I headed for the garden island in the middle of our lawn.  And what should appear before my wonderous eyes but SPROUTS!!

Then I had to turn around and look at the flower beds adjacent the porch and there were MORE SPROUTS!

I wish I'd kept a record of what was where.  (I only found a 2013 Fall entry in my no called Garden Journal).  I expect that the bulbs I planted were mostly more of the same:  Grape Hyacinths (muscari), and possibly regular Hyacinths.  There should also be Iris, Day Lilies, Allium, Hollyhocks, Foxglove and Poppies, but I don't expect them to show up for a while.

Plus, note that really dark hole around the sprouts in the lower right hand corner of the image above?  I believe that is a whole dug by (you pick:) a skunk, squirrel or chipmunk. There's another similar hole to the upper right of the image in the upper left.  GRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  Any suggestions on how to prevent them from eating what I'm planting are most welcome.  (I'd rather they ate the bird seed!)
 I guess they had a long hard winter, too... and are HUNGRY.

Since they seemed to pop up over night, I'm excited to see how much they shoot up tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring search for inspiration

This year in New Hampshire, winter threatened to never leave.
So last month (March), after discovering optimistic bargain bouquets of daffodils at Trader Joe's, and  while the snow was still two feet deep on the ground, we took a drive out to Marlborough, MA to browse the Paradise City arts and crafts show.  I've been getting their catalogs since our arrival in New England and wanted to see for myself.  The $13 admission price got you relatively accomodating parking, live music, a pleasant indoor climate (compared to the arctic temperatures of the Big E in Springfield last winter!), and 175 juried artists.

I knew from the brochure that these were professional artists and craftspeople.  I also expected the work and the prices to be relatively "high end."  I was not disappointed.  (I didn't even look at the multitude of artisan jewelers! This wasn't your homegrown church bazaar (with no offense intended to "church lady crafters.)

The first booth that caught my eye was Dale Rogers .  He is known locally for his dog sculptures, so the cardinals were new to me. I'm glad I looked at his website because he's done more than just dogs and cardinals.  But since his works are welded Cor-Ten steel, he doesn't schlep them around that much. His studio is just down the road from us in Haverhill.
 These turned wood pieces are by Warren Vienneau. I hadn't seen ikebana style vases of wood before.  I liked the vases AND the arrangements.
 Another creation and idea that was un-thought of before was making books into purses.  As a former librarian, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this... but I also know how many books are sitting in dusty corners getting moldy for no good reason.  Whose to say that handles, clasps and braids aren't a good trade off for pages what aren't going to be read anyway?  These are by Kathleen Scranton.  She even provides a "paper cover" version of the book that the cover came from!
 Barbara Lee Seligman produced arresting mixed media pieces that included crochet work added to layers of fabric and painting.  She is an artist member of the Attleboro Art Museum and has exhibited at Wellesley.  Otherwise she seems to have a remarkably small web presence!
 Juliana Boyd's work blew me away.  I can hardly wait to get (more) needlefelting needles and start stabbing!  Her company is  Growler and Renard, named after fictitious characters from stories her father told when she was a child. The animals are bas-relief, but made of wool roving affixed to tapestry material by poking it with a fish-hooked needle.
 Wouldn't you love having this little fox keep you company?
 The woman painting dots (and her husband) was friendly and easy going.  Regrettably, I can't find her card, nor can I figure from the PC brochure, which was her booth.  If you are the artist or know her name, please let me know so I can give her credit.
 I had never seen a chess set made from spools.  I thought it was just a LOT of painting and daubing.  The artist was totally un-phased.
 And then there were goats.  And kids. By Roger Ditarando. "Weatherproof, non ferrous scrap metals."  Definitely out of my price range.  But I would love to have them frolicking on my front lawn! He does herons, bird baths and gates, too.
So the season of art fairs is coming up.  I hope to get to lots of them... and that they don't ALL have admission fees.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blues to Blooms

 
Apparently Seasonal Affective Disorder is a REAL THING for me.  And by the end of winter, snow and cloud cover, I'm definitely in a dark and dreary mood.  I was just trying to express how I felt with this doodly doodle.  As always, by the time I was through, my mood (and palette) had brightened considerably.  Very happy for SPRING!
 Even the sense of musical blues looked like it had plenty of Tchaikovsky or Gershwin by the time THAT one was done. Thanks to Trader Joes' bargain daffodils, I had several batches with which to depict Spring more overtly. Thanks especially to my Dallas friend, Lynne, who gifted me with the Ikebana style vase!






Thursday, March 19, 2015

Springing back into knitting!

You might think that with all that snow and difficulty getting out of the house I'd have been knitting up a storm during Boston's snowiest EVAH winter.  But no.  Instead I was noshing, nattering and reading novels.But now the sun is out, the days are longer and I'm feeling quite a bit more productive.  Below is the Old Shale baby blanket I finally finished for brand new Chloe.  After a good wash, pin and steam-block it will be delivered with best wishes.

Part of the reason I wanted that "boring old thing" off the needles was so I could start Zoe Mellor/s Sheep Jacket for Granddaughter #2, due late this summer.  Granddaughters deserve vituoso craft performances, and I hope this turns out to be one.  Below are the seven (7!) colors of yarn I'll be using in my first ever Fair Isle project.  I think if you are doing to do something challenging,
as well do it for a very small person because 1) they don't complain, and 2) there less of it to do!
 This is the pattern book that I got for a song at Half Price Books in Dallas . This is the first of Ms. Mellor's designs I've done and if it works well, there will be more to follow.












I also bought synthetic yarn to make ANOTHER baby blanket with a rainbow/prismatic theme.  I would prefer to have bought wool, but for the investment I wanted to make and the time I had to shop, these colors kind of grabbed me while I was at A.C. Moore's in Nashua. I understand that Liberty Wool (which is also "tough, washable and soft" might have a similarly wide assortment of Crayon Colors.

Can't wait to get started.  THIS project, while large, is relatively mindless.  I hope it goes fast!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Clump o' Doodles

  
Evenings are pretty quiet at my house.  Doodling or knitting while listening to classical music or television dramas is pretty satisfying. Sometimes there's a theme, or a subject, or just a pattern I want to incorporate.
This post includes my drawings from the first week of March:  (Not quite Spring yet, but hoping!)
The above is my interpretation of a magic cat with a magic umbrella protecting herself from magic precipitation.

 This was meant to be a sunflower, even if it sort of looks like a cross between a palm tree, carnival ride and surf board display.  You just never know.
 
I'm still fascinated by house facades; especially ones that vary a lot from whatever is "the usual." If there were an HOA, what WOULD they do?!!

 A person I respect told me that I might learn a lot from the myth of Demeter and Persephone.  I've read quite a few versions, and I'm not sure I understand where I would fit in.  Above is an image attempting to show both goddesses and their interdependence.
 This might have been more successful had I actually STACKED four cups.  But we only use mugs!  So I made this up and added a sort of Rothko background.

Below is actually the first image of this series.  The concept is a path emerging from a sere, dry, inhospitable climate.  Eventually the path finds "brighter" pastures, supportive flora, and less chaos.

And then there was the day I went driving around looking for something to sketch.  EVERYTHING WAS STILL COVERED WITH SNOW.
So this is snow and shadows with only a hint of trees and skies.
I wish I had had a gray marker.  Not all of the shadows were black!