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 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

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

Fabulous SCBWI Fresno event and tour of the Arne Nixon Center

At last a moment to blog. Got to take my children''s book writing, illustrating, and publishing students on a field trip last Saturday to Fresno (about 3 hours away) where we participated in Erin Dealey and Patricia Newman's fantastic SCBWI workshop on writing picture books. They invited participants to send the first page of their manuscripts for critique and did a brilliant job of critiquing with the perfect combination of honesty, insight, and encouragement. They crammed a tremendous amount of information in and made it a spectacular event. What a dynamic duo. We also got to experience a tour from Angelica Carpenter the Director of The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature.

The Center has one of the largest collections of children's books on the West Coast with a large collection of multicultural and Lewis Carroll books (eclectic) and everything else you can think of. I loved how passionate Angelica was in sharing the books and resources there - I felt like a kid in a candy store. They also have a whole bunch of original art from wonderful artists like Aliki and Thacker Hurd. I was over the moon with happiness being there and wished that I lived closer to take advantage of their fantastic collection.

The drive there and back was a blast and we met up with other class members who live in the Modesto area and usually commute to Sacramento for our classes. Right now four of my students drive 2 hrs to class from North and South (2 each). Fortunately they mostly car pool. We had a lovely dinner and ooh and aahed over the day and discussed what delightful things we were going to do for the last class coming up on the 21st. Will let you know. I always get sad when a course comes to an end as we tend to get very close.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Button possibilities and instructions

This one or that one? Any strong opinions?

Thank you Cypress Sun (couldn't find her name anywhere) for sending me the winning URL. Here's her etsy site where she makes lovely jewelry.
Here's the site that gave super clear directions on how to do this if you're wanting to make your own (these are 125px wide which is pretty standard). 
To post my blog button (or someone else's) you simply grab the code underneath and copy it, go into the design section of your blogger site, add a gadget choose html and paste it in and save. Voilá!
Meditation on learning how to do this - In the old days, you just kept working in an area (e.g. painting) and you got incredibly good at it over time but with tech the game keeps constantly changing and evolving, needing to learn new skills, and abandon old ones. Evidently, constantly challenging the brain helps with avoiding Alzheimers and other memory illnesses. In that case, most of us using tech should be fine.

Struggling with making a grab this button for my blog - help?

I've just spent the last frustrating 3 hours trying to make a blog button without any success. This is the button I'd like to use (even tho it's not "branded") or this one (opinions welcome).
Here's the code (I couldn't paste it in as it got very buggy). Not sure why it's breaking my name up in the img alt = field either. - Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New updated teaching dates

For anyone in Northern California interested in learning about children's picture books, writing, or art - here's the new flyer. The 8 week course features a $10 discount for returning students and SCBWI members.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Little Monsters

Here are my fears and inner monsters. See if you can figure out the symbolism. I have owned them now so that they don't own me. The one on the left is using flocking, the one on the right uses glitter glue. They were lots of fun to do. The red one still needs work (too busy but then again, that's one of my fears so maybe I should leave it). The ones underneath show the 2 different processes that I used.