Friday, February 3, 2023

YOUR VOICE ON PAPER


Beginnings of Spring, Valentine's Day just around the corner. 

Where did January go? I want to reach back and catch it and savor the chilly air, the blue skies, and the sleepy feeling of being inside because of the hard rain, but Time won't let me. It's February and the bulbs start to appear, Spring winds blow against the house and remind me of The Wizard of Oz, and it's time to send thoughts of love to friends and family.




I sit down to make some postcards for Valentine's Day. I bring out stickers, tapes, and search for examples of handwriting. I come across some letters from my mother and sisters. They were well-schooled in the Palmer Method of writing, that simple, elegant style that was taught in public schools from the early 20th century through the 1950s.


Practice page from the Palmer Method booklet

Along with other culture wars lately, handwriting and loss of cursive instruction is lamented by many. Though cursive is still taught in many classrooms, the amount of time for practicing the skill has made way for keyboard instruction, another useful but different skill in our digital age.

Is there value in writing (or printing) for our minds to develop? Research by Professor Audrey van der Meer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology suggests that handwriting can benefit brain development because of the coordination of visual and motor skills. Writing something by hand activates memory and learning better than using a digital pen or keyboard. These hand-eye coordination skills are so rudimentary that we don't often stop to think of their importance in our own continuing development and creativity.

I keep a basket full of cards and letters I've received. I keep them for the sentiments expressed but also because of their handwriting examples. The basket reminds me of a story a lettering instructor told our class about walking in the financial district of London. He saw stacks and stacks of paper sitting on the curbs ready for the dustbin. He looked through them and discovered the stacks contained pages and pages of Spencerian notation made by bookkeepers and clerks (think of Bob Cratchit shivering over accounts at his desk in a Christmas Carol) during the 19th century. Someday we may look in wonder at the examples of our handwriting in the same manner as the teacher did of the Spencerian samples. Students in that era spent hours practicing Spencerian just as students toiled while learning the Palmer Method, which was supplanted by the Zaner-Bloser Method, and the D'Nealian Method in classrooms. Today, many schools use the Getty-Dubay Method, based on the Italic script font,  which easily moves from printing to cursive, and is far more legible.




Did you learn cursive with any of these methods? Did you learn to print instead? When was the last time you wrote or received a letter? How often do you jot a note to yourself with paper and pencil or pen? Even in adulthood, we need to continue these simple, hand-eye practices. How often do we lose something because we aren't paying attention to its importance?

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Read more about the importance of handwriting here:

https://neurosciencenews.com/hand-writing-smart-kids-17113/

Check out Getty-Dubay handwriting here:

https://handwritingsuccess.com


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Tyre D. Nichols might have had a successful photography career. Instead, his life was cut short. See examples of his work here:

https://thiscaliforniakid2.wixsite.com/tnicholsphotography/fashion 

Friday, January 27, 2023

POETRY IN THE SUN


 Resolutions just slip away, don't they?

On January first I decided to read a poem a day. I like reading poems because of their lyricism, the intense visual images they create, and their emotional intimacy. I realized long ago that I can't read an entire book of poetry all at once. Each poem needs to be savored. One a day. Easy resolution to keep, right?

That resolution lasted a couple of weeks during the surprising quiet time after the holiday rush that allows me to reflect, recharge, and resolve.

It's almost the end of January and I forgot all about reading a poem a day. I turned to some of my own poems to see what ideas they inspired and to remind me how difficult it is to write a poem. Poetry writers have told me that they rework a poem over and over to get the right word choices and the right sense they want to convey. 

I don't spend that kind of time writing poetry, but I like to write down phrases that come up and tuck them away to see if they will carry me further.

Here are two:

Spider webs cover a hill/ Dew covers each strand

Where will these two phrases take me? I like the idea of large and small: The spider webs covering a hill and dew covering the strands of each web. Is there more meaning to be found?

Frogs chirping as we walk by/  Their sudden silence the opposite of a motion-detector light.

I think I will leave that one alone.




While taking a letterpress class, I needed a short poem to express my ideas about cats. Trying to devise a poem and design a small book proved challenging in the amount of time I had. I also set myself up for difficulty by deciding to cut out silhouettes of cats within the book pages. Here is the draft of "Do You Know Cats?"



And each page of the completed book:



Do you know cats?
If you do, you know
the lightness of 
existence.

Do you know cats?
If you do, you know
curiosity, judgment,
and fear.




Do you know cats?
If you do, you know
a world of
concentration &
awareness.

What have I 
learned from cats?
I know to take
the time to be quiet.
I know to look
carefully.
I know to touch as
lightly as I can.

What I have learned from our numerous cats.

This post is in honor of Blackie, Chaucer, Bosworth, Winthrop, Kabuki, Jellica, and our last cat, Tangier Buzzer Baby, who passed away in January.

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Two thoughtful posts about changing your attitude:

From Sarah of Frog Hollow Farm about community:

https://mailchi.mp/froghollow/newsletter-nov21-1556141?e=84fbcec38c

Pics and Posts by Chandra Lynn who shares a poem by Ullie-Kaye here:https://iamchandralynn.com/2023/01/25/wednesdaywisdom-some-days-and-sunflowers/



Friday, January 20, 2023

JUST TOO GOOD TO USE


Examples of eco-printing on paper

Are you a saver like me? I don't mean just saving money. Do you have the impulse to save something that you like too much? Maybe a sweater or a pair of shoes?

Do you ever buy a piece of clothing, hang it in your closet, consider wearing it, only to hang it back up after you decide it's too good to wear for whatever occasion you are preparing for? I have a couple of such items in my closet. They may get worn eventually or my shape will change, so they no longer fit. But they sure looked good in my closet. I wonder about the logic of my thinking. Why did I buy it in the first place if I just wanted to save it?

This savings attitude affects my use of art supplies and projects too. Recently, I purchased two composition rulers designed by Nico Ng. They arrived in such a beautiful package that each time I went to open the envelopes containing the rulers, I set them aside. But what a treat to look at.


Lettering on the packaging for
composition rulers
by Nico Ng & Lindsay Bugbee 

The composition rulers are good lettering tools. You can make curved banners with lettering to fit the curves, which is not an easy process otherwise. I finally opened the envelopes to remove the rulers and I am now experimenting with different ways to design with the rulers.

I have friends who have stacks of fabric ready for use with the "perfect project." Anyone with a love of color, texture or patterns will likely find themselves squirreling away pieces of fabric for another day.

After taking a technique class in eco-printing, which creates naturally dyed papers using leaves and flowers, I ended up with a wonderful stack of papers that I can use for either book arts or mixed media pieces. The eco-printing process involves layering natural objects between sheets of paper, simmering them in a bath of water, vinegar, and rusty elements, and letting them dry. Both sides of the paper pick up the imprints of the natural objects with extraordinary and beautiful detail. 




Every time I think to use the paper, I ruffle through the stack and discover once again how beautiful they are. Which side to choose? Where do I cut the paper without losing the interesting textures and patterns created by the natural elements? 



 Finally, I dug out my two cardboard corners and laid them in various positions on one of the papers. This method helped me find designs that stood out and could be used for the endpapers of books, for book covers, or for framing as a print.



Possible designs found on one sheet of paper


Like magic, I could finally cut through the paper as long as I didn't look on the other side!


The other side

Learn how to do calligraphy or order the composition rulers:

https://thepostmansknock.com/blog/

https://www.domestika.org/en/courses/3985-intro-to-hand-lettering-for-inspirational-quotes?nbt=nb%3Aadwords%3Ag%3A17619194336%3A138662423896%3A607000805004&nb_adtype=&nb_kwd=&nb_ti=dsa-1678796949010&nb_mi=&nb_pc=&nb_pi=&nb_ppi=&nb_placement=&nb_li_ms=&nb_lp_ms=&nb_fii=66108775755&nb_ap=&nb_mt=&gclid=Cj0KCQiA8aOeBhCWARIsANRFrQE3zuLIybPOAn5dGQTwqN2ZLUubta9I7_ITHKDjJgfnx-_KAMbL0G0aAhg-EALw_wcB

Clear directions for eco-printing on paper:

https://carolannwebster.com/blog-2/eco-print-on-paper

Friday, January 13, 2023

NATURE IN ALL ITS FURY AND GRACE


 If you grew up in Southern California, you knew that January 1st, the day of the Pasadena Rose Parade, would always be a bright, sunny day. Rain didn't dare make an appearance. The sun was shining on January 1st  this year too. Soon after though, California returned to its rainy season, which we have missed for several years because of a severe drought haunting the state. Now we are on flood watch in many places as the storms continue to come one right after the other.


Blue sky over Mt. Diablo on January 1, 2023


I always thought that the Rose Parade and the sight of the blue California skies in winter encouraged people to move to our state. They didn't realize how Nature spreads itself with fury over California landscapes with earthquakes and storms that can bring 20 feet of snow in a season to the mountains along with floods, landslides, and fires. The Earth lets us know she is here.





Up our street the creeks that usually are empty most of the year rage like rivers and bring trees down with them. We spot mudslides that have coursed down the hills nearby and caused creeks to change their paths. On the street, seed pods have been flattened by the rain, and leaves have left ghost prints. Inside our house, we discover ant scouts looking for new, dry homes. We have been whipped, battered, and worried by the amount of water running down streets and creeks. We are having wild times.



This morning the sun was up and only wispy clouds moved across the sky -- a short reprieve before the next storm. The ground is spongy to walk on but I discovered new growth poking up through the wet soil -- Nature at its gentlest as the daffodils and primroses sprout out from the wet clay soil, just a teaser of Spring to come. The sun shining makes a difference.




We and our house have been spared damage from the storm. We are just wet through and through.


Friday, January 6, 2023

WINTER CALLS



The power went off for just a few minutes last Saturday. Just enough time to make all the analog devices in our house return to a blinking 12:00. Our cable went out at the same time and stayed out for two and a half days over the New Year's weekend. No Rose Parade, no Rose Bowl game, no 49ers or Warriors games to watch, no internet. What did we do before we had TV?

I looked around the room and saw a stack of books ruffling their pages at me in hopes that I would pick one up and read it. As a lifelong reader, I long ago limited myself to an hour of reading a day; otherwise, I could be so absorbed by the story that the day would slip away. This past weekend we had time to read for longer than one chapter at a time. Luckily, I had just begun The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and had already decided that this book is my Book of the Year for 2023. Contained between the covers I found a terrific epic story with great characters, lots of adventures and misdirection, and romance. What more could I ask for on a weekend of rainy days?




When I read an epic tale or a mystery, I gallop through the pages, the tension building at the end of each chapter so that I am compelled to continue to the end as quickly as possible, and then regret having finished the book as soon as I close the cover. My run through these kinds of stories is different from my reading of a book of poetry. I have a copy of Billy Collins' latest poems, Musical Tables. I enjoy his work. He is as accessible as Mary Oliver and Robert Frost are, but each poem needs time. Reading a poem is like lifting the lid on a pot of simmering beef stew and savoring the aroma or smelling the fragrance of a newly picked peach or lemon. I want to pause for a moment to relish the arousal of my senses.

Friends love to listen to audiobooks or podcasts instead of reading a book. As a visual person, I tend to lose track of the spoken word as my mind wanders over my view. I watch as a trail of rain slides down the outside of the window in front of my computer. I glance at my neighbor walking her dog while holding on to his leash and her umbrella that sways in the wind. Today no one stops to chat with others like they usually do while their dogs touch noses and bow at each other to play. Because of the hard rain we've had this week, the hills are slipping down as they become saturated and the clay soil pushes down behind houses and onto streets. As I gaze out my window, these disparate images could be the beginnings of a story or the frame for a painting and I've lost my place in the podcast that comes through the speakers in my workroom.




I've continued to work on watercolor sketches of man-made objects. To my surprise, I'm finding that the practice is a good way to experiment with mixing colors right on the page. For me, choosing one object to paint comes closer to my abilities. I often get overwhelmed painting a landscape with many shapes and textures. Now if I can use what I've learned from this exercise on more complex images!

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If you are in the Bay Area in the next couple of months, stop by the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton to see California Watercolor Association's National Exhibition, which runs from January 7 to March 18. You will see some terrific watercolor paintings from painters from all over the country. 

https://www.californiawatercolor.org

Friday, December 30, 2022

SEEING MAGIC

 



The last week of the year provides me with a pause to do mundane things like update passwords and develop a report of the year's expenses, chores that I would normally put aside for another day. The "another day" is here. This year the cloudy skies and chilly weather gave me time to get these chores done as well as time for reflection, reading, and sitting with our ancient cat by the fire. Good times.

My sister Linda has been tagging me with Found Faces this year. She knows I look for these faces in objects that I see. There is actually a name for the occupation: Pareidolia.  I've found a few faces of my own to share to provide a moment of uplift for another day.





We spent a couple of days in Monterey in December. We toured the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Pacific Grove. The number of monarchs has increased from the previous downward spiral toward extinction, but only one tree in the reserve was covered with hanging butterflies. In the past, millions had spread themselves over the grove. We came just after a rain so the butterflies were resting and trying to dry their wings. They can't fly when wet. A few had been caught by the rain and lay on the ground. We were cautioned to be careful where we stepped. They are small and hard to see. Each photograph here makes it harder and harder to spot them.










I still have to cheat with this photo. If you can't find the butterfly either,
 I've left the circled answer below. 



Walking in the grove was a good reminder to watch our steps wherever we are.






The website, Boredpanda has examples of faces in everyday objects:
https://www.boredpanda.com/pareidolia-faces-everyday-objects/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

Take a trip to Monterey and Pacific Grove to see the Monarch butterflies:

Friday, December 23, 2022

LEGACY

by Todd Heimdahl

 

As a teacher in middle school, I always hoped that something I said or did would have a good effect on one of my students. You never know who you will touch or what your words will mean to someone. I can think of some of my own teachers, who made that kind of a difference in my life.

The other day, I received a card from Carole, the wife of one of my cousins. Enclosed with her note, she included a comic strip drawn by my cousin, Todd Heimdahl, when he was about 13. Todd went on to become a fine artist and college art instructor instead of a cartoonist. In his own work, he used pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor to make beautiful representations of the Great Plains. His work shows the emptiness, the stillness, and the beauty of the prairie. He is one of several cousins influenced by my dad, who wrote to him about becoming an artist and writer. Here is what my dad said: 

"Todd, keep drawing everything you see, people, animals, other objects, and with both your writing and drawing ability, you have a wonderful chance to develop. Don't ever let yourself become discouraged at anything, drawing or writing, because there is always an answer. You are young and you may see later that you want to do something else, but no matter what, you are sharpening your brain and talents now, and that will mean a lot to you later in life.

"Besides your drawing, keep a notebook to write down the funny happenings around home or school, the things your mother or father say, and your grandparents, uncles and aunts do and say, and others. You will set a habit for observation, and an artist and writer needs that."

As I read this letter from 1954, I could hear my dad saying those words and knew that I had been influenced by his way of life as I was growing up. I hope they will have meaning for all of you too.



two pen and ink drawings by Todd Heimdahl

The best to all of you this season!

Two good books to read: