Sunday, April 10, 2011

Working with seniors, trip to LA, birthday joy, teaching

San Francisco, LA, Orange County, Rocklin - these are some of the California hot spots I've been since my last post.

Me in LA wearing my cold weather hat (I became a wacky hat fan after illustrating Uncle Nacho's Hat - really, each book has a story that happened after it). I love the "so bad it's good" architecture and embellishments of this house. Anytime someone expresses heart, creativity, and individuality, I pretty much love it.

While there, I became a trained Alzheimer's Association Memories in the Making Art Facilitator for my Transformational Arts Practice work bringing art into senior care facilities where I work with independent, assisted, and memory care seniors. I LOVE it. Talk about getting onboard the love boat. One of my favorites is a woman, who I'll call B. She's a really extraordinary artist but is terrified of starting so we have this little ritual where I ask her if she'd like me to help her get started. She always nods her head and says yes enthusiastically, so I then ask if I can put my hand on top of hers, which she says yes to as well. I then guide her hand to make the very first mark and then I let go and say "there you are, let's see where this takes you" and she ALWAYS does amazing stuff - mostly abstract but with the occasional recognizable element like a wave or a tree. Her work is incredibly elegant and it inspires all of us in the group. Doing this work brings out my tenderness, joy, and amazement at the human spirit. I have people who have never done art before find this magical sweet spot and it is such a joy, or they just laugh at what they've done and that's wonderful too. I am so trained at training people that this is just awesome (literally) for me to be just in that place of tenderness and being present in the process while teaching those who want a few techniques. I love everyone I work with, including the grumpy ones, and this is also a source of joy and amazement for me to have this complete lack of judgement and just be in that place of unconditional love. I think part of the reason I am so drawn to this work is that I never had grandparents and my parents died young so being with seniors is really healing for me on some really profound level. Making picture books, teaching kids and adults literacy arts and all about pic books have also been incredibly profound on my healing journey. As the saying goes "it's never too late to have a happy childhood." I still haven't made my permissions release form to post seniors work but as you read on you'll understand.

I stayed with Antonio and his fab wife Olga. We visited Chinatown. Antonio doesn't realize the money sign is pointing to him. A good omen I hope. We all know how hard it is for artists to make a living.

 Some of Antonio's art.
 Another beautiful Antonio piece. It's about 4' across.

Not too flattering of either of us, with some mice that I needle felted (one for him and one for me, the mice look good at least). I took a  pic of Olga but can't find it right now. 
Antonio and I became friends at Mills College where we were both doing MFAs. His wife Olga is a public defender and she told me that prosecuting kids on a misdemeanor charge (for doing stuff that most of us did as kids) costs taxpayers something like $40K per trial. If the prosecutor is successful the kid goes into the dehumanizing juvenile system which will certainly not make them better adjusted, happier, less likely to commit crimes again human beings. Sigh and no wonder our economy is messed up. The courts are packed.

This was a beautiful young German woman I met traveling on the train. I think her name was Sabine. I worried about her vulnerability dressing like this in a big city like LA.

In San Francisco I celebrated my birthday with a fabulous group of people and we had a ridiculous amount of ultra loving fun.

Me trying on some of Maya's outrageous earings and pulling hair back to show them (they don't go with the heart, but Maya's convinced I can wear BIG earrings if I cut my hair short but I think I'm too small to pull them off).

Maya brought her husband Matt and her daughter Zai (Zai and I fell in love), Ashley Wolff brought her fabulous hubbie Sabin Russell who used to write for the Chronicle and now is writing about dark matter for Berkeley Laboratories (fascinating stuff), my beautiful friend Jane came briefly, Krista Lohr came as did my former assistant Anna Bonner, talented future children's book author and illustrator Indelisa Carillo and new friend Roxanne Davis, my friend Mitch who was the best man at my wedding and who I love dearly, and of course my husband Guy. I did a needle felting demo and let everyone have a go. We also did a show and tell of current projects, which was also lots of fun. Ashley (picture book author/illustrator extraordinaire) showed (and gifted me with) her latest book Compost Stew and it was just the most wonderful night.

 Really unflattering pic of hubby Guy and BMF Mitch

From back to front, Krista Lohr (if you see beautiful signs and built stuff at Rainbow Grocery, that's Krista's work - she's a fantastic artist and one of their maintenance people), Roxanne Davis author, check out her terrific book  We're Here Because We're Here: Growing up in Mid-20th Century Los Angeles , and Anna Bonner also a wonderful artist (and engineer - go figure).

Indelisa Carillon and Sabin Russel (I just discovered Sabin's blog and it is awesome, especially for anyone interested in science, politics, and life). For some reason it was a bit slow to load but well worth the wait)

Anna Bonner, me wearing birthday gift handmaid wild hat from Maya Gonzalez (picture book author/illustrator extraordinaire)

Gift from Maya. Fabulous scratchboard art

Maya looking funny fierce, Zai and Mathew

Zai looking intensely at her sundae, wondering wether to blog about it on her post it note.

Zai needle felting intently

Me and Zai bonding. I loved how she snuggled into me letting me know 
that she liked me (trust me it was very mutual)

Zai with her needle felted art piece

REALLY unflattering pic of Guy, and me (not too bad), at our old haunt 
the Atlas Café

In Rocklin I attended Spring Spirit, the California North Central Society of Children's book Writers and Illustrators conference. Many of my former students came which was really fun and I can't wait till they get published. Dominic Catalano was my favorite speaker tho I liked Christ Webster too. As our region's illustrator co-coordinator (try saying that fast 5 times) I got to hang out with the other volunteers and celebs at a wonderful dinner party, I also got to drive Dominic to the airport and hear his ideas on the conference and my students work (which he felt was some of the strongest work). He raved about my other half of the illustrator co-coordinator Kris Aro McLeod whose work is beautiful. She and I have some wonderful things lined up for the coming year that I will be blogging about after I learn to write much shorter posts. Problem is I get too involved in the post and over 3 hrs later here I am.

It's 2.30 (I started blogging before 11) Here's what's left of my day:
• Promote my upcoming classes at
• Prepare for senior center TAP art project by deciding on what project to do and make samples for it
• Prepare for working with adoptive and future adoptive or foster care moms at Lilliput Services on Tuesday where I'll be working with beautiful therapist Shelley Balla-Hawkins on teaching visual journaling (I need to start my own journal sample on the same paper and decide on very first project - too many to choose from)
• Prepare for teaching The Art of Children's Picture Books at the Crocker Art Museum, also on Tuesday - see if this link works too 
Oh and shower and cook and am actually having my first date in ages with Guy (He bought us tix for Sarah Silverman at he Mondavi center for my birthday)
Life is full and good (apart from having to do promotional stuff for my classes) - that is so Jewish having that little qualifier at the end (and so is the syntax of that last bit about being Jewish - it should be - having a qualifier at the end is very Jewish). As Martha Weston used to say "Rewind" - so I'll end with life is full and good! Am I being meta here?