Friday, September 23, 2022


Leaves (watercolor) by Martha Slavin

Brrr, it's cold out there and inside too. On my birthday at the beginning of September, we had a record 111 degrees, now it's in the high 70s with rain during the week. After the unexpectedly high heat wave, the crisp fall air is tantalizing. The wind blusters through the trees, the leaves rustle down the street, the shadows stretch a little longer every day, and acorns drop. With the change in the weather, we turn off our fans, close the windows, pull out a couple of blankets, and look for recipes for hearty soups.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. We get a hint of what is to come, yet know that we will have a late version of Summer again in October or November, with warm, hazy weather. Since we are inside more, it's a good time to work on Autumn-themed projects. Pumpkins and squash offer great painting material as well as fun crafting ideas. My mom collected autumn leaves, pressed them between the pages of books, and included them in letters to me. I still have some of her leaves as well as leaves I collected in Tokyo while we were living there. That is why I am drawn to leaves as an object for projects.

stenciling with pan pastels

On one of my workroom shelves rest pan pastels whose colors are luscious. I feel guilty letting them sit on the shelf. The colors are soft and easy to spread with a sponge and seem perfect for Autumn projects. They are a great tool for stenciling. I have a small stack of paper leaves that I use with the pastels.

To make cards, here's what I do: I wash some 140# watercolor paper with Aureolin, one of my favorite yellows. Once dry, I place one of the leaf stencils on the paper and rub pastel over the edges of the stencil. I pick up the leaf and repeat stenciling with different autumn colors. Then I use a piece of card stock from which I have cut a 2-inch square. I lay this in various places on the stenciled sheet until I find a good design. I mark the corners of the square with a pencil and then use an Exacto knife to cut out the design. I glue the design to another piece of cardstock or any heavy paper. Card made.

watercolor paper with stenciled leaves

Finding a good 2" square design

My pastel leaves

Finished with my cards, I sit down and pick up a book to read. Remembering that it is Banned Book Week, I pick up a Toni Morrison novel to read again. Reading her lyrical writing makes me want to practice writing by imitating her style. I find that good writers, like Morrison and Margaret Renkl, give me a chance to absorb another person's command of language, just like the work of well-known artists can inspire me.

In this year alone, over 2500 books have been banned or are under investigation at libraries across the nation. There is a difference between selecting books that are age-appropriate in the classroom and banning books from library shelves. Most of these banned books include stories about people who may be different, whether by skin color, sexual orientation, sexuality, or just being new. Here are just a small portion of those banned books from this year. If you haven't read one, please do.

Khaled, Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Mariko Tamaki, This One Summer

Ashley Hope Perez, Out of Darkness

Judy Blume, Forever

Jerry Craft, New Kid

Michael Hall, Red: A Crayon's Story

I looked at lists of banned books going back to 1960 I was astonished at some of the titles that I read on the list, including the Great Gatsby, 1984, The Catcher in the Rye, and Clockwork Orange, all considered classics now. In my search, I discovered PEN America,  a group that celebrates free expression, the value of a free press, and the rights of writers.

Check out some of the other banned books for this year:


  1. These leaf-themed cards are so pretty!

  2. From Cheryl by email: Always a delight. You expressed some of my feelings too. Love your pastel leaf cards.

    1. Thanks, Cheryl, for your comments. I'm planning to have some of the cards made up soon.

  3. From Jane on FB: Your leaves are gorgeous!! Those pastels are magical!!

    1. Thank you, Jane. They really glow. It also helps that I took photos of them in very low light.

  4. From Shiera on FB: You bring such peace to this chaotic world

  5. From GR on FB: I love Fall too. It's the visuals and the smells. When we had dogs, I loved to watch them crash at high speeds into the leaf piles I made in our court. As for banning any books it brings back too many stories of Hitler and Stalin and "dangerous thinking" du jour.

    1. Autumn is so full of play. Your dogs must have had such a good time in the leaves. And you are right, banning books brings up too many memories of the actions of Hitler and Stalin in trying to prevent people from thinking critically.

  6. From MP by email: What an exquisite watercolor of leaves! I am also influenced by a writer's style. I once wrote down sentences by author's I loved and copied the cadence in the sentences. It could have been a restraint but instead it was liberating. I'm horrified by the banning of books and by the attack on librarians in some states. Autumn is my favorite season as well. High Holy Day services make it special as well. So enjoy your blog.

  7. Thanks for sharing the process. getting cold here, a bit wet. I pick up leaves daily and flatted them. I used to sent them to my mother bc Florida didn't have the New England leaves

    1. Thanks, CB, for your story about picking up leaves and sending to your mom. Shows your kindness and connection to her.


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