Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Return of the Blog, cat loss and love, and loving Maya

I've been mourning my cats. Every time I came to blog and saw Possum's beautiful face I'd get so sad and wouldn't be up for continuing. With the passage of time it's getting easier but I still miss them very much. Am trying to figure out whether to get new cats or not as we want to move and having pets makes it way harder to rent. I love the freedom of not having pets but I miss all the loving, fun, and warmth that comes from having them. Sigh.

So, enough about pets. I wanted to blog about my friend Maya Gonzalez who visited recently with her hubby Matt. Together they run Reflection Press and Maya's Etsy businesses http://www.etsy.com/shop/mayachristinaprints and her jewelry and prints site http://www.etsy.com/shop/mayagonzalezhttp://www.etsy.com/shop/mayagonzalez. Maya also illustrates wonderful children's picture books mostly for Children's Book Press who published most of my books. Maya is probably the most authentic person I know in terms of being true to her own values and way of being. I love how outrageously she dresses, her gentle way of being true to herself, and what a wonderful artist she is. They came for the CA Library Assoc. conference where Maya presented a workshop based on their Claiming Face curriculum. I was teaching an acrylic, collage, and mixed media class so in the time we managed to spend together it was kinda feverish arts and crafts play and show and tell. We traded jewelry (I haven't managed to take pics of her jewelry that I got yet, but you can see her wearing some of my needle-felted flower pins in the poorly taken pics below, taken with a not so great cell phone).

The 2 flowers on the left on Maya's headdress are my needle-felted brooches and the embarassingly messy studio shows some of my old paintings (a family portrait and guardian angel), Ashley Wolff's Miss Bindergarten doll (Ashley is another awesome picture book artist) and a print of one of my favorite pictures from "My Colors, My World" written and illustrated by Maya.

I also want to blog a little about Children's Book Press who need support. They were the first publisher to publish multicultural children's picture books and have been instrumental in anti-racist education over the past 35 years. Like many non-profits they have been hard hit by the economy and are struggling to weather the economic storm. Here's a letter from the publisher and a link to donate any amount of money to keep wonderful books in print and publish new ones.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Losing Possum/Life without Cats

When I first got Possum  from the SPCA, he was only a few months old. He was one of those gorgeous tuxedo cats with long white whiskers and while all the other kitties were madly scrambling about he just sat there looking at me calmly. I had wanted a buddy for Guido, and Possum looked like he'd be a good match. So, I took him home. At the time his name was Eggbert (cruel) and he'd already been adopted once and returned so I knew that I couldn't do that to him again. I called him KrishnaPossum for his calm demeanor. I kept him in a separate room so that Guido would get used to the smell of him and told Guido repeatedly that I wasn't much interested in this new kitty but that he was for him and whenever Guido wasn't watching I'd sneak in and love up that little creature. They became best friends in an intense homoerotic love-fest sleeping with their paws around each other, grooming each other, taking turns chasing each other from one end of the apartment to the other and then turning right around and reversing chaser and chasee. When it came time for Possum to get neutered, no-one warned me that he would smell alien and evil to Guido and Guido kept hissing at him and trying to bite Possums tender regions. I had to keep them in separate rooms and the trauma changed Possum's personality. His nickname became "no sudden moves" and we dropped the Krishna and he became just Possum. It took Possum a long time to realize he was safe and relax more and toward the end of his life he became really mellow and friendly with strangers. While Guido adored Possum, he wasn't so crazy about my adoring Possum and would get really huffy when I pet him. I definitely favored Guido and felt incredibly guilty about this, compensating whenever I could. When Guy came into my life, things got easier and Possum kinda became Guy's cat while also still being mine. At first Guido was really jealous of Guy but he came to love him too.

The cats suffered 3 moves, from San Francisco to Washington State, Washington to Illinois, and then back to California and to Sacramento. Each move was absolute misery and they let us know it the whole way. By the time we moved here Guido was 19 or 20 and Possum 18 or 19. Guido started failing and then died a few months ago. Possum missed him a lot and we gave him all the attention he could ever want but then he started to fade too. We took him to the vet early this morning as he was obviously in distress and put him to sleep. Our cats gave us so much love, laughter, fun, affection, and beauty.  It's insane how much loss hurts and I can't imagine life without them. Winters were always especially wonderful snuggling with them under the covers. What can I say? My heart is breaking. R.I.P. Possum. Later we will bury you in the yard beside Guido.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teaching teaching and fabulous course starting October 3rd

I've been caught up in the world of teaching, both university and kid's book classes. Am preparing samples for upcoming classes on Enjoying acrylics, collage, and mixed media. Very excited about it but swamped right now. Will post more info and pics as soon as able. Meanwhile, here's a flyer for the upcoming course. Please forward this link to anyone you know who might be interested. It should be a delightful and empowering experience.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old Art, New Art and Awesome Picture Book Editors

Good bloggers blog frequently and briefly, bad bloggers blog irregularly and blog long. Guess which one I am? Sigh. My husband used to say"most people have too much time in their life - you have too much life in your time" and it's true. I love my life but I tend to cram too much in. I'm grateful that I'm grateful everyday for having meaning and purpose and art and love and that I'm in Northern California, a place that makes my spirit sing.

Last Saturday some of my students and I went to a SCBWI (society of children's book authors and illustrators) illustration conference in San Francisco. We went down on the Friday and I stayed with some friends who I hadn't seen for 7 years while I was off doing my PhD and then teaching in Illinois.  Jane and Jerome are art lovers and have loved me and I them for decades now. A LONG time ago Jane was my vocational guidance counselor and helped me go to school to get my BFA. While I lived in SF they came to every exhibition and major event in my life (wedding, birthdays etc.), they came to my fundraiser to help pay for my MFA and my fundraiser to help pay for my PhD and over the years they collected my art. When I visited them I saw pieces that I had completely forgotten I'd done and said "No wonder you still love me, your house is full of me." One of my favorite pieces was actually a gift. For Jane and Jerome's 40th or 50th wedding anniversary (they're not young but they are young) they paid to rent one of those ceramic places and invited their nearest and dearest to come to paint ceramic pieces for them. Of course I did 2 big plates as a "relational piece" - a kind of diptych where if they were getting on well they faced each other and if they weren't they turned away. I had completely forgotten about this but they hadn't. It was such a joy to see them and be in their beautiful home and near their beautiful energy. Here's some of the art.

Jane and I in the doorway of her house early in the morning (normally Jane is a very snappy dresser but here she looks like someone in a Paul Bowles book).

and now for the lovely Christy Ottaviano, children's book editor extraordinaire. Can you tell I'm having a really bad hair day? I thought I had a pic of Dana Goldberg - beautiful Children's Book Press editor - but somehow I don't. Most editors are young, female, ridiculously hard working and very gifted these days. Oh to be young beautiful and talented again. Guess I'm still talented but the rest is tough.

Final pic is of a new painting. After it was finished I noticed that the back leg is a bit long but I still love it cos it tells me what I need to hear right now and I was so happy painting it.
Inherent in "do less" is "be" more. Looking at my own art I see how many themes continue but my style of making art has shifted from working primarily with pattern to working more with texture and line. Am so grateful that art is a place of refuge, joy, and transformation for me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Life, Art, Kid's Books and Other Wonders

Life continues to be full of wonder and joy. Reading (actually listening to CDs of) The Children's Book by A.S. Byat. It has stories within stories within stories about Victorian/Edwardian England, the Fabians, Socialists and Anarchists of the time, English bohemian life, Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Emma Goldman, Grimm's fairy tales, bohemian life in Munich (yes Munich), puppetry, the origins of English children's books, writing children's books, Lalique and so much more woven in with stories about class, morality and so much more. Here's a link if you want to find out more. It's a wonderful read but not for the faint of heart. It is not a warm and fuzzy book and could have used one last edit as it's quite epic and could be a wee bit shorter (22 CDs).

Unfortunately, if you don't live in Midtown or East Sac, Sacramento is pretty much a car town with massive freeways to get from one part of it's flat sprawl to another. So, listening to books on CDs make this driving much more pleasant. Despite the freeways and ubiquitous malls, I like living here because of all the trees, the beautiful American River which is very accessible, and some lovely parks (Upper Sunrise and Ancil Hoffman are my faves and they are right on the American River). There are also some very lovely people here and it is truly diverse. Although it gets really hot in summer and quite chilly in winter, unlike San Francisco it acknowledges that fact and the homes have AC and central heat. Also unlike Illinois, the weather is not so extreme that it feels Biblical or like it wants to kill you (just kidding but wow that weather was hard to take).

Tomorrow I start teaching a course for general education majors on art education. Am really looking forward to it. It's a blended course (half online, half in-person), which will be interesting. Research says it's a very effective way to teach but I'm unsure because of the lessened amount of time for hands-on in-class art making. The woman who designed the course is lovely and all the different campuses profs teaching this course will be collaborating on creating a best practices approach to blended teaching. Will let you know how it goes. I'm excited about it but have to learn Wimba today.

I've been busy creating curriculum materials for teaching art to seniors (yay seniors), making a brochure for my TAP seniors program, and teaching a children's picture book intensive (yesterday) which was an absolute delight. I love my students and am grateful that I get such bright ones. Three of my students (who had recently taken my course) actually completed their stories  and they are good, two finished their publisher's cover letter, one new student began thumbnails and saw how much text she could edit out with pictures, and one got a really good start on a delightful story about learning sign language. Those endorphins were flowing. Will leave you with this wonderful and inspirational video that I found via the lovely Jacqueline about what else - the value of art. Here's the YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpunQZ4cUyI and here's the video

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Victorian style Tree of Life and Family Tree Silhouettes

Thursday was the last class in the recent Transformational Arts Practice series. We had lots of fun making transformational art including self-portraits and guardian angels, fears and inner monsters collages, totem protective animals, and for the last one we made either a tree of life or a family tree. To see more amazing silhouette work, visit Hugh D'Andrade's website. Very inspirational. Here's a peek.

I'll be starting a new series of four classes exploring different ideas, materials, and techniques starting Friday September 3 10-12AM at University Art in Sacramento. If you know anyone in the Sacramento area who might be interested in learning how to access their creativity as a tool for transformation or to just have more joy in their lives, please have them contact me at miraguy AT gmail.com.

Janet included herself as a child in hers. She had never made art or taken an art class before this and did brilliantly. She is going to collage family photos into the black circles and add leaves which will really make it come alive.

Karen decided to do a kind of story tree about the drama that was going on in one of her trees where there were constant animal fights and goings on. She was fascinated by octopii from the totem animals project and decided to integrate one into her tree as a kind of spirit mirroring the roots. We were running out of time so she went abstract with her foliage which makes it even wilder.

I had always thought of my family tree as being really stumpy because of the Holocaust, but I see the ways that we have regenerated those branches. I only included those nearest and dearest because of time and size constraints. I made the trunk really solid to represent those that came before and the strength of my ancestry even tho I don't know who they were ( I wrote about this in Honoring our Ancestors when I made a family tree of spirit/inspirational and blood ancestors). The squirrels represent play and the hummingbirds small miracles. Pomegranites represent fertility and are often associated with Jewish lore. I love this way of intuitive art making, allowing symbols to emerge and then clarifying through a process of questioning - e.g. why did I make such a thick trunk and what might it represent? etc.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Art therapy group pictures

I've been participating in some of Majica Phillips' Midtown Art Therapy groups for a while now. She provides a wonderful space for people to come and make art and then process it. Because art making is a right brained activity, we discover things that may not be so obvious on a conscious level or develop strategies for dealing with things that may be troubling for us. Mostly we play with materials and make art in ways that are incredibly self-nurturing. One of the bi-products of the group is an expanding of community as we tend to get pretty close. The groups/classes have also provided a deepening of my own art making practice, and the ideas that I work with in the Transformational Arts Practice courses. It's really a joy. Here are some pictures of our art. The goal is not to make "good art" but to create with as little thought and self-criticism/self-censoring, as possible - very different from my "normal" art making process. Wonder if anyone can guess which ones are mine? Click on images to enlarge.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Special Projects and Community Based Art

Have finally updated my website page on Special Projects and Community Based Art. I created it to be a resource for others and also to provide information on some of the services I offer educators. Below are some of the images (the information and basic directions are on the website page as it's a LOT of information. There is a good reason why I procrastinated putting this page together). Following the images, I have provided links to some of the picture books I mentioned. I have become an affiliate in hopes of earning a little extra income (yes Capitalism can be sad for creatives). I also have a ton of children's book recommendations on this page including categories and annotations. Click on the images below to enlarge.

visual culture puppet shows

community gardens


immigrant cartoon narratives

picture books

Honoring Our Ancestors
My Diary from Here to There
Where Fireflies Dance
What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?
A Shelter in Our Car  
Birthday in the Barrio
A Movie in My Pillow