Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Pear and a Poem

3x5 inches, watercolor and Inktense pencil on Yupo 

Though I started a good sized drawing, and have a big collage half done, this bitty thing interested me more this morning.  I had some scraps of Yupo (a plastic "paper" often used in graphics), and I decided to add some swishes of soft gel medium for texture.  Then this morning I quickly added liquid watercolor and Derwent Intense pencil just to see what would happen.  I sort of like the effect.  I wasn't going for anything too realistic, just playing around.    I'm interested in the way the juicy watercolor follows the ridges that the gel medium created. 

My Wisconsin Poets' Calendar 2010 is almost done, so I thought I'd share another selection before I switch over for 2011.  I went with the Sierra Club calendar for next year, so fewer poems and more nature for my year of turning sixty.

The View From My Dining Room Window
by Jerilyn Kaufman

In 18 inches of snow, a gray bushy-tailed squirrel
burrows for the treasure he buried on a sunlit autumn day.
His internal map tells him his goal is next to the dormant bushes,
just right of the freshly shoveled sidewalk.
With quick, jerky movements, he digs and digs
into the snow until all that is seen is his bushy tail.
In the blink of an eye, he's back on top of the bank of snow
a black walnut, hard as cement, clutched in his jaw.
A ball of snow clings to the side of his snout.
He doesn't care.  He has his treasure.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it.  I'm just remembering the ghosts of Christmases past, and sharing some memories today.  We had a lovely Christmas Eve at my brother's house last night, and this morning the back yard is dusted with fresh white snow.  Friends stopped by with homemade Christmas cookies, and life is good.  That said, I miss my mom and dad and grandparents today, and miss the excitement of childhood Christmas mornings.  The privilege of being the oldest one at the party is being nostalgic, maybe.

 Mom and Dad's first Christmas; they had been married in August of that year.  They lived in a green trailer in Grandpa's side yard.  This was 1949.

 My first Christmas, the oldest grandchild, with a bear and pile of dolls.

Santa, at Grandma's house, about 1954.  I see images of children terrified by Santa on television, but I was just happy and excited.  Actually, I think he DOES look a little scary...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Current Project

I am a little obsessed with pears lately.  This is my most recent work in progress, cleaned up for the photo, since the entire work area is generally adrift in piles of little paper snippets and torn bits.  I decided to use a canvas board support instead of  heavy watercolor paper this time, and I'm using soft gel medium as my glue.  It works well, although last night I spent most of the evening after I cleaned up picking little scabs of gel medium off my hands.  This image has quite a large area around the edges that will never show, since it will be covered with a mat, but I wanted paper right to the edge of the board.  This time I am using a combination of found paper colors and prepared papers.  There are old Post magazine pages, old sheet music, old cheese factory ledger pages, all painted with thinned down acrylic paint.  I also painted to canvas board with a combination of blue and violet, thinking I'd let little bits of the under-painting peek through to enliven the yellow/orange of the pears.  Today I need to prepare more papers for the table and background.

This is my studio. It's small, but efficient.  I can reach most of what I need without ever getting out of my chair.  In summertime it's hot, but in winter the small size makes it easy to warm with a baseboard space heater.  There isn't really enough natural light either, so I have a shop light (hidden by the sloped ceiling here), a full spectrum Ott light and a desk lamp for when I'm working after dark.  Today is the shortest day, so the lights go on a little after 4:00 in the afternoon.  Solstice tomorrow and then the light begins to return!

The low level of the sun in December makes for some dramatic lighting.  This is the poinsettia I bought from the high school FFA sale.  Last year the plant looked good right up to the point when I marched it to the compost heap, and let it make room for more summery plants.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Musings on Music

I am a person who cannot imagine life without music.  I am not musically talented, although I whistle, hum, sing, bang away at my old piano.  In the past I have also attempted to play a six string guitar and mountain dulcimer, with limited success.  I can make noises on both the jaw harp and note flute, although I hesitate to call that music.  In high school and college I sang in large choirs, where my thin soprano would be mostly lost, but I could be in the middle of people passionately making music, could feel it in my entire body.  Last year, when I attended our community's annual walk in Messiah concert, I was disappointed almost to the point of tears to realize that after years of straining my voice in the classroom, I could no longer make any sort of pleasant music with that instrument.  Out of concern for others, this year I will stay home.

So, in my dotage I mostly listen to music that other people make, and mostly on my computer or iPod.  I splurged on a gift for myself in honor of my upcoming sixtieth birthday and bought a Bose sound dock for my studio, and now spend many happy hours there listening while I work.  Music serves to at least partially turn off the analytical part of my brain, the part that is ultra-critical, the part that keeps me from taking artistic risks.  I work better with music.  Oddly, I also am more successful at video games when I have music playing.  When I was younger I could read with music playing in the background, but in the past few years have lost my ability to concentrate on words when there is music playing.

I'm sure neurologist and author Oliver Sacks could explain all this.  Sacks is an author who I almost always enjoy, although sometimes he goes into more scientific detail than I care to read. I've learned to selectively skip ahead when the science is too technical for my interest level.  So far I have enjoyed several of his nonfiction books (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings, Island of the Colorblind, An Anthropologist on Mars), all of which tell stories of people with neurological differences cause by strokes, disease, physical trauma, or genetic accident.  Without fail, Sacks' descriptions of how these people perceive the world, and how their differences are not always deficits, are instructive and entertaining. 

In Musicolphilia Sacks covers a wide range of topics related to music and brain function.  He discusses musical hallucinations, tunes that become stuck in your brain and why that happens, perfect pitch, the relationship between music and blindness, people who cannot enjoy or appreciate music, and therapeutic applications for music.  I found reading about ways that music can accelerate physical healing and be helpful for aphasic patients and people suffering from various sorts of dementia, to be gripping and thought provoking.  From the cover blurb, this seems to sum it up: Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why.

I also found a couple new composers and songs to add to my iPod.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Pears

4.5 x 6.5 inches, acrylic on watercolor paper, with touches of oil pastel

I'm still playing with acrylic paint on paper, heavily textured with acrylic gel medium.  There's also some collaged and altered paper under there, though it pretty much disappeared. The main three colors are napthol red, yellow orange azo, and ultramarine blue, and I glazed over the table and wall with burnt sienna.  I'm working with pears because I crave them lately, and the shapes are simple.  I had good success with mounting one of these pear paintings on a a 5x7 inch canvas, painted black.  I used gel medium, made sure the air bubbles were squeezed out, then put o a cover sheet and a pile of heavy books over night. In the morning the little painting is flat, mounted with a simple black border, and ready to wire.

I think I made the whole thing warm because it is so cold outside.  Brrrrr!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now For Something Completely Different - A Sock Monkey

The National Weather Service has been warning us since yesterday that we are in for a big winter storm, so a trip with friends to Milwaukee today was canceled, and tomorrow's trip to the opening reception of Watercolor Wisconsin will be canceled too.  We went shopping for food, laid in a stock of books and prepared to hunker down.  As I type, cars are spinning their wheels on the hill outside the house, and I am in here wrapped in fleece, drawing sock monkeys.

Hey, who doesn't like a sock monkey?  My dad wore Rockford socks, the kind with the red heel, as long as I could remember, wore out the toes and heels inside his Redwing work boots.  So when I see a sock monkey, I think of my dad, in stocking feet.  His work boots, mucked up from being in the barn, were behind the kitchen door.

Actually I doodled this guy in response to an online challenge at Doodlers Anonymous.  Check it out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Bouquet - Studio Atalier Challenge

5x7 inches, acrylic with touches of oil pastel and tissue paper collage

Oh dear.  Skies are gray.  Snow keeps falling.  Icy patches are building up where we walk, and the house is too cold for my comfort.  I have a space heater in the studio, so when I go there to paint I can at least be a little warmer.

Yesterday I headed over to my local painting group, and tortured them with constant chatter, something I have to stop doing.  I think the need to blather on comes from a built up need to interact with other people, especially this time of year when I spend so much of the day inside in solitary pursuits - the talk inside just builds up and has to be released!

Anyway, when I got home I decided it was time to paint something in response to an online challenge, and this little painting was the result.  Not my favorite, perhaps.  I don't always feel compelled to paint florals, but I wanted to experiment with a brighter, simpler style than usual.  I was unhappy with the tabletop, so on a whim I added tissue paper stripes, just to echo the orange in the flowers.

Want to try your own version?  Head over to to Studio Atalier and take a look at the original, then see what you want to do with it (or another reference photo).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Birthdays, Deathdays, and an Acrylic Pear

December 8th.  On this day in 1930 my mother was born. And thirty years ago today I had to pull over as I was driving to school because I had burst into tears on hearing that John Lennon had been shot.  In many ways today was a day that had me staring out the window to the snowy yard, reflecting on mortality, missing my mom, and missing John a little too.

So, I decided to go to the library to look for a little more jazz and electronic music for my painting play list on the iPod, and then actually sitting down to paint.  I've been playing around with acrylics, really playing, just doing little exercises from Robert Burridge's website, except that it didn't take long for me to start branching out from his examples.  I started playing down gel medium and pressing in plastic screening for texture, and also pasting down collaged elements, though they ended up disappearing under paint.  I was using only a triad of red, yellow and blue, plus some white, and trying to be sure to get a strong sense of light and shadow, and good contrast.  Finally I got out the oil pastels and adding that over the top of the acrylic.  I'm not sure how effective it is, but it sure is the cure for a mild case of the blues.

I did about a half dozen of these, and none looks just the same.  They're all 5x7 inches, which gave me a sense of being productive, if nothing else.  I love pears, and tend to think of them as food, rather than stand-ins for feminine shapes, cellos, or some such nonsense.  When I was in high school for several years one of Mom's school friends who taught in Oregon took to sending her a box of Harry and David pears every year. Mother didn't eat fruit, but I coveted those pears.  She'd give me the box and I'd hide the fruit in my closet, and eat pears, one a day, until they were gone.  Heaven.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Men of Milwaukee

I swear, since I retired from teaching I have become less and less focused on tasks at hand, or scattershot in how I spend my days.  For the past year or so I have been actively researching my family, and also my husband's family.  His family is harder, because not that many people seem interested in family history, or have kept good records.  I have been trying to learn more about his grandfather's family, and finding relatively little information.  I was especially interested in a couple brothers who started a successful heat treating business, and I was excited to discover a biography of one of them in Men of Milwaukee: A Biographical and Photographic Record of Business and Professional Men of Milwaukee (Volume 1 1929-1930).  Sure enough, there was a photograph of his great uncle, and more information then I had ever found before. But the book ended up being interesting to me for another reason.  The photos of all these white men, mostly German immigrants, with their short haircuts, serious expressions.  It occurred to me that it would be fun to do a dozen or so sketches from the old photos, practice modified contour drawing, and using a range of values in each one.  All are in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using Inktense watercolor pencil and an ink pen.

I'm having a ball.  The sketches vary in likeness, though that doesn't especially bother me.  These are the first four I did last night and today.  Maybe I'll improve as I go along.  No procrastinating here, because the book will be due back at the library in a couple weeks.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

3x5 inches, paper collage on vintage post card, 
loosely based on a painting by John Marin

It's Thanksgiving, a day set aside for considering our blessings, for cooking and eating, for parades, and endless marathons of televised football.  When I was a child, and our family had one small black and white television, no remote, lousy reception, my dad was king of the day.  No food was put o the table that he did not like.  No television program was watched that he did not select.  I remember him watching a Thanksgiving Day football game, and since even then I did not like or pretend to understand football, I went into my bedroom to read.  I came out occasionally, checking to see if the prostrate and apparently sleeping form of my father still had a football game on.  Sometimes, if he looked unconscious, I would try to switch the channel, but he would mumble that he was awake, to leave the game on where it was.  I remember crying out in frustration that the game HAD to be over. I'll never forget the Thanksgiving so long ago.  He looked me in the eye and told me the first one WAS over.  This was the next one, and that there would be another after that.  This may be part of what turned me into a reader. 

Today, though I miss my dad very much, and though my sweet husband is taking his turn in watching the Thanksgiving football marathon, I am thankful for my own television, tucked away in my studio.  Of course I am also thankful for my health, my current family, friends, security.  But I thought I'd take a moment to thank all the online folks I have met through this blog an other web sites.  I consider many of them to be great sources of inspiration, instruction, and encouragement.  I started participating in online book groups back in 1995, and nothing has spurred on my reading like knowing these fellow readers, with whom I could discuss books any time of the day or night.  Since then I have added artists to my online friends and acquaintances, and they too have helped me think about my art more seriously, and have been a wonderful source of ideas and support.  Thank you, all of you who have stopped by to read and to comment.  I appreciate every one of you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Musing on Art and Blood Donation

Sketch done in pocket moleskine notebook - about 20 minutes

Yesterday I decided to go out and give blood.  I have been giving blood pretty regularly since I was eighteen, probably because my dad, who I admired greatly, often donated.  When I was in sixth grade, attending class in the National Guard armory (since I was a Baby Boomer and there were not enough classrooms in Elkhorn to accommodate all of us in the regular elementary school) I watched him donating in the gymnasium area.  I was fascinated.  In college I gave as often as I could because the ladies at the Whitewater armory not only had homemade cookies, they provided egg salad sandwiches, which I adore.

I miss sometimes.  Once in a while we are out of town, or I'm not feeling chipper enough.  One time the Red Cross deferred my for a whole year because I had the audacity to visit the Dominican Republic.  I assured them that I never left the pool at the resort we visited, and that I was protected by the rum and pineapple drinks with little umbrellas I consumed, but they were adamant.  Take a year off and be sure I hadn't contracted malaria.  I hadn't.

But, on the whole, I give regularly. Now that I am retired, I can wander in any time, and don't have to be part of the after-work rush and long lines.  Yesterday was interesting for two reasons though.  First, they asked me to give double red cells.  This was a first.  They hook you up to a machine that takes twice as many red cells as a regular donation, and returns all your plasma and platelets back to you, along with a little extra saline, as a bonus.  The up side is that you get to give twice as many red cells, and they use a finer needle than in regular donation, which improves comfort.  The down side is that it takes a half hour - oh, and the saline solution is colder than your blood.  I was warned that I might get chilled - nothing new for me there. Since the nurses couldn't get me started for a while, I had time to go out for a latte, and to locate a novel and my sketchbook.  I thought I'd pass the time drawing and/or reading.  My little Moleskine sketchbook and a pen ended up keeping me occupied most of the time. 

The machine, pictured in my rudimentary sketch, looks a little like an old fashioned tape recorder, except with all sorts of clear plastic tubes.  I was engaged pretty fully, and I didn't notice any discomfort in my arm, didn't feel cold.  Occasionally a nurse would call to see if I was OK, or a volunteer would try to offer me coffee (not necessary after a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte), but mostly I drew.  When I tired of that and tried to read I discovered something interesting.  I felt squirmy.  My hands and feet were cold.  My lips were cold.  The book made no sense.  Now I imagine that those sensations were there all along, but when my attention was diverted by trying to draw the machine, none of them registered.  What is it about the way art takes us completely out of our situation into a different place? 

Somebody, somewhere knows.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Collage and a Poem

3x5 inches, mixed media collage, loosely based on a painting by John Marin

Emissary of Light
by Mary Jo Balistreri
in the 2010 Wisconsin Poets Calendar
tiniest mandarin
sun in my palm
without seed or netting
with no strings attached
segment after sweet segment
of spiraled radience
a the year spins cold
as the indigo mood lost lost jobs perisits
you give hope
from a baldchin of boughs
balls of orange fire
a taste of paradise for the taking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When in Doubt - Tear and Paste

3x5 inch abstract collage on an old postcard

I'm in some sort of artistic limbo lately, not sure of what I want to do, sketch, do figure drawing, paint, or what.  So I've reverted back into something comfortable - collage.  I was at the library this past week thumbing through some withdrawn books for sale in the friends shop, and I found a ratty catalog from a show featuring painter John Marin.  The loose and abstract quality of many of his landscapes spoke to me, and I realized that doing a series of little abstract collages would be a way to get going and use some of the many prepared papers I have filed away.  It would also give me a chance to study Marin more. I use papers collected from old books, magazines and catalogs, maps, painted tissue papers, and pages from National Geographic that I've altered with Citra-Solv cleaner. Note to self - pay more attention to using a variety of values, as well as concentrating on color and texture.  This is a chance work on composition.

I did several of these little pieces last night, and was excited by the results.  It occurs to me that I might also paint over the top of the collage work, simplifying some of the shapes.  Or, I might paint a new abstract and use the little collage as a reference.  I'm not sure where this may go. The reception I've gotten from a couple people who have seen them was cool at best.  Oh well, sometimes you just have to please yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Masonic Mystery Man

One of the pleasures of my ongoing family history project is that I occasionally stumble upon distant relatives from across the county in the course of my searching.  While looking into a great grandmother's family, I found a woman online who is related to the Leaver family.  She had posted this photo on Find-a-Grave, an online site that tells where people are buried, and sometimes has biographical information.  She said that the photo was of Henry Leaver (1825-1911) in vintage Masonic dress, 1870, Elkhorn, WI, and she let me have a copy.  She is sure of the photo's identification, but I am not.  I'm guessing that the man in the photo is great grandfather George Edmund Pierce (1854-1933).

I have some reasons for my belief.  Henry Leaver is a great-great grandfather.  He was born in England, and then lived in a number of places, according to census records, none of which is in Wisconsin.  He lived in Illinois, Iowa and Colorado - where he is buried.  In 1875 he lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  He could well have been a Mason, but I have no proof of that other than this photo.

On the other hand, George Edmund Pierce (1854-1933) lived his entire life in the Elkhorn area, was active in civic affairs, and was mayor of Elkhorn for two terms.  I have a stack of membership cards suggesting he was active in several Masonic groups. The problem with the cards is that they all say Geo. E. Pierce, which might be George Edmund Pierce, but could also be his son, my grandfather, George Earl Pierce, who also was a Mason for more than 60 years - as was his brother H. Leaver Pierce.  I received the cards in a stack of family materials after my mother died, so there is nobody in the family to ask.

The Masonic lodge in Elkhorn is no longer active, but I attended an open house this week in Delavan, WI.  I took along the photo in question and found out that the man is dressed in regalia belonging to the York Rites group, and my own internet research leads me to believe the crosses on his uniform and the elaborate hat are worn for the Knights Templar.  From the membership cards, I think Geo. E. Pierce was a member of that fraternity. In addition, at the open house there was a book that someone had assembled listing members from area lodges, and both my Pierce grandfathers are mentioned, though not Henry Leaver.

Finally, I think the man in the uniform looks more like George than Henry.  These are two group photos of George E. Pierce, with his spade beard.  One is him with his wife, Mary Leaver Pierce (Henry was her father), and children.  The other is of him and men I don't recognize.  He is seated in front on the left.

I have a picture of George alone, but it isn't good quality and he is much older in it.  The best picture I have of Henry when his beard was dark is this one:

It is possible that Henry Leaver was a Mason, and that the photo of the man in uniform is of him, though I think it would have had to have been taken in Iowa, rather than Wisconsin.

I showed some of this to a Mason at the open house  - who turned out to be my high school guidance counselor - who said he'd check with the national organization to see if it has records of George E. Pierce's or Henry Leaver's Masonic affiliation. 

We shall see.

Friday, November 12, 2010

California Dreaming

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

It's too bad really, that having fun can be exhausting.  A few months ago we learned that my husband's college roommate, our best man from our wedding, was soon to be the father of a bride.  His oldest girl was getting married in Los Angeles.  We were invited.  Our first reaction pleasure at the event and our invitation, and our second was that Los Angles is pretty far to go for a wedding.  Los Angeles traffic is famous, and not for good reasons.  But then we thought more about it.  We have been friends with the family since about 1970.  He was our best man.  I wanted to see Disneyland. We really should visit my husband's brother who has been asking us to visit since about 1975.  In short, we booked our plane tickets, and I bought a little black dress.

It all worked out well.  We rented a a car, found our way to the downtown hotel, and started seeing how much we could see in four days.  We breakfasted at the central market, walked to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, then on impulse bought matinee tickets in the lobby to see the L.A. Philharmonic.  We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we went to the wedding.  The wedding was outdoors at Cafe Pinot, near the Central Library.  I didn't understand that all festivities were to be al fresco, and my dress was sleeveless.  While the denim jacket I threw on for the walk made an interesting statement, I was glad when the mother of the bride loaned me a spare shawl.

The next day we left our hotel and headed south for my brother-in-law's house in Seal Beach.  I'll never forget the first time I saw him, when my husband and I were still dating.  We cut our college classes to sit in front of the television to see his brother as a contestant on The Dating Game.  Today he is a retired policeman, real estate salesman, and food writer.  He knows great places to eat.

 spotted at Tomorrowland, Disneyland

Tom Every's Forevertron, North Freedom, WI

I think my brother-in-law wanted to be our tour guide to the area, but I really really wanted to visit Disneyland once.  Call it an item on my "bucket list."  Like lots of Baby Boomers, I lived and breathed Disney movies and television shows as a child, and wanted desperately to ride the Tea Cups.  I was startled by some of the wonderful sculptures in Tomorrowland, and was reminded of a huge and fanciful scrap metal sculpture here in Wisconsin, the Forevertron, assembled by Dr. Evermor, aka Tom Every. Don't you see a similarity?

Anyway, we rode the Monorail, watched Steamboat Willie, rode the bobsled at the Matterhorn, visited the Pirates of the Caribbean, all sorts of things I should have done as a person without bifocals and silver hair. 

It was great fun

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Self Absorbed

I've been reading Peter Steinhart's interesting book, The Undressed Art: Why We Draw.  He mostly discusses his experiences in west coast life drawing classes, the delights and challenges of drawing from life, and how difficult it is to be a model in these classes.  I'm not currently going to the class I attended all summer, mostly because I don't like driving twenty or so miles and back in the dark, and also because the winter sessions are a little later, and I get so wound up I cannot sleep when I do finally make it home.  Still, I miss the experience, the excitement of drawing live, with a time limit, in the company of other people.

So, I have been drawing myself in a mirror.  I don't take any more than twenty minutes total, and I'm working without looking down at the page much, though I do glance down occasionally.  I thought I'd do a whole series of these between now and the end of December, and see how my renderings change over time.  They are not flattering, but they look weirdly like me.  I enjoy seeing what will happen under my pen each day, and am interested how different aspects of my face and posture are emphasized in each drawing. They aren't boring, and assigning myself to do these is getting me back in the habit of drawing every day, a habit I seem to have lost over recent weeks. I'm limited by the little notebook I'm trying to fill, maybe 3x5 inches, with flimsy paper that won't take water media.  Maybe it was supposed to be a journal, but I rarely keep a paper journal.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grandma and Mom

8x8 inches, watercolor

I haven't painted in ages, most of the summer, in fact.  I decided the best way to get going again was to take an online challenge.  So I painted this little picture of my great grandmother and my mother as a child for Maury Kettle's blog "Watercolor Passion" - see the sidebar for a link. 

I'm guessing the photo was taken about 1931.  If course it was in black and white, and the scene was filled with a complicated background of trees and beach and water in the foreground.  I just didn't worry much about any of that, and went to the body language and expressions.  Mom looks much more unhappy in the photo; she never did like putting on a bathing suit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Costumes, and a Poem

My dad and a friend, about 1940, dressed for Halloween

I found this photo this past summer in a plastic tub full of miscellaneous items I cleaned out of  Mother's apartment when she passed away a few years ago.  I always meant to get back into those stored items, but never did until I needed the tub for storage.  I adore this picture with the homemade pirate costumes.  It looks to me like it was taken at Millard Elementary School, where I also went to grades 1-4.  What I failed to notice before is that there is snow on the ground.  I wonder how many times I had a fun costume, usually something Mom sewed, and had to go out in a winter jacket? 

My husband and I went out today and got a few accessories for our costumes.  I have various skirts, blouses, shawls, boots and so on that can be assembled into gypsies, witches, or historical characters.  I indulged in a store-bought witch's hat I like, and think later I'll see how I can mix and match to make this year look a little different than other years.

We also indulged in another fresh quart of cider, pumpkin doughnuts, and a couple of pumpkins to carve later on.  I am such a sucker for Halloween...

Hey, Ma, Something’s under My Bed
by Joan Horton

I hear it at night
when I turn out the light.
It’s that creature who’s under my bed.
He won’t go away.
He’s determined to stay.
But I wish he would beat it, instead.

I told him to go,
but he shook his head no.
He was worse than an unwelcome quest.
I gave him a nudge,
but he still wouldn’t budge.
It was hard to get rid of the pest.

So I fired one hundred
round cannon balls plundered
from pirate ships sailing the seas.
But he caught them barehanded
and quickly grandstanded
by juggling them nice as you please.

The creature was slick.
He was clever and quick.
This called for a drastic maneuver.
So I lifted my spread
and charged under the bed
with the roar of my mother’s new Hoover.

But he snorted his nose
and sucked in the long hose,
the canister, cord, and the plug,
and vacuumed in dust  
till I thought he would bust
then he blew it all over the rug.

Now this made me sore,
so I cried, “This is war!”
and sent in a contingent of fleas,
an army of ants
dressed in camouflage pants
followed closely by big killer bees.
But he welcomed them in
With a sly, crafty grin,
And he ate them with crackers and cheese.

I screamed, “That’s enough!”
It was time to get tough.
“You asked for it, Creature,” I said,
as I picked up and threw,
with an aim sure and true,
my gym sneaker under the bed.

With each whiff of the sneaker
the creature grew weaker.
He staggered out gasping for air.
He coughed and he sneezed
and collapsed with a wheeze
and accuse me of not playing fair.

Then holding his nose
with his twelve hairy toes,
the creature curled into a ball,
and rolled ’cross the floor
smashing right through the door.
I was rid of him once and for all.

The very next night
when I turned out the light
and was ready to lay down my head,
I heard my kid brother
cry our to my mother,
“Hey, Ma, something’s under my bed.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dane Co. Farmers Market

I love living close to Madison, with its many cultural opportunities, the university, restaurants, and the Dane County Farmers Market.  I was horrified last week to realize I hadn't visited the market all summer, so we decided to go this past Saturday.  I was a little sad because I have giving up sugar and flour in a effort to shed pounds gained this past summer, so that meant no cherry or apricot bars from my favorite bakery vendor.  But the fresh vegetables and people watching made up for that loss.

This view is from the steps of the capital building, and you can see not only part of the market, which surrounds the capital, but Lake Mendota in the background.

There's always lots going on along with the market, especially buskers like this one, and political activists looking to hand out pamphlets or solicit signatures.

Don't want to buy food?  There are always plants and cut flowers available.

There were lots of pumpkins, traditional jack-o-lantern types, white ones, and these warty ones. 

I'm not sure what these women were celebrating, but their bouquets of balloons typify the cheerful atmosphere found at the market.  I'm grateful to have had such a lovely day to soak up the atmosphere.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spooky Moon Dance

6x6 inches, paper collage

I finally went upstairs to the studio and finished this submission for the current Illustration Friday challenge: Spooky  It has been ages since I completed a challenge of any sort, and I thought if I was going to get this done before Halloween I had better get off my backside.
I was inspired by a design I saw in a restaurant created by punching out sections of metal, and I thought I could do something similar using wee bits of paper.  I had visions of a series until I actually completed this guy.  The little snips of paper are very small indeed, and were difficult to position.  Originally it was just the skeleton on the dark background, but I wanted more color, so I planned the moon.  Yellow was too close to the light snippets that outline the figure, so I settled on blue to spark up the design.

Now I can't get Van Morrison's Moondance out of my mind....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good News

I'm posting this photo I took at the Lincoln-Tallman restorations here in Janesville because I haven't painted anything I like well enough to share, and the little collage I started isn't finished.  The truth is that I took this photo last October.  At the time I didn't notice the single leaf framed in the window, which only goes to show that there is good luck in the world.

I was pleased yesterday to learn that my watercolor of a salmon was accepted in the Watercolor Wisconsin show at the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts in Racine.  I like that painting very much.  However my painting of two lemons was not accepted, so tomorrow I have to drive to Racine to collect it.

I'm hoping that my new planned route will avoid all the road construction I encountered on my last trip there, and also that I can have enough time to do some family history research in Muskego.  It's clear to me that I have been spoiled by my local library with its excellent collection and technology that almost never lets me down.  I wrote to two small community libraries asking about newspapers on microfilm, since I'm looking for old obituaries.  One of them has a limited collection on microfilm due to a fire, and no microfilm reader at all.  The other has the actual newspapers going back to 1942, "not indexed in any way."  I'm not getting my hopes too high here in the research department.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle and Then Fell Off

OK, I have not worked in my studio in four or five weeks.  I've gone to art shows,  and I've thought about it, but either it was so hat I couldn't face time in that little room, or I had other things to do and places to go.  I worked ages on an computerized family tree.  Blah, blah, blah.  So today I decided to sit down and play with a monotype image of a musician friend, working on masa paper.  I had high hopes - then after I applied the base, the colors, dampened the paper and rubbed to lift the image, I tore the paper.  I repaired it for this posting with the magic of Photoshop, but it was not a good thing.  So, having nothing to lose, I went back in with watercolor and black in and a brush.

Looks like I got back in the saddle and then fell in the dust.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peak Experience

Yesterday I drove to Racine to the Wustum art museum to drop off a couple watercolors for their Watercolor Wisconsin show.  We shall see if they are accepted or not.  There is a whole lot of road construction between Janesville and Racine, and in the city as well.  I got royally lost, and ended stopping at a gas station to buy a map of Racine. I had Google driving directions, but that didn't help me with all the detours I encountered.

Anyway, the drive both was as made fine by the autumn landscape - fields of corn and soybeans being harvested,  and the colors of the hardwood trees along the way.  I thought it was time for another poem.

from the 2010 Wisconsin Poets Calendar, 
by Katrin Talbot

It's the time of year
even with the crisp taps
of chilly nights,

the balding maples seem to be,
reluctant to relinquish
their dazzling threads,

holding onto their armfuls
of gold
like greedy bankers
who know the
market's going down,
one slow dance
at a time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Indian Summer on the Upper Mississippi

Indian Summer has arrived here in southern Wisconsin, warm sunny days after the first frost.  The days are pleasant, and the nights are cool and bug free - heaven.  The colors here in Rock County are starting to peak, the trees gaudy in russets, oranges, and shades of gold.  We had a little trip this week on the Mississippi River, an alternative to our usual drive up the River Road from Prairie du Chien to Lake Pepin.  This time we saw the scenery from the middle of the river.

Dick booked us on an excursion boat called the Celebration Belle. We left from Dubuque, went up river sixty or so miles to Prairie du Chien, stayed overnight in a motel, then returned the next day. There was good food on the boat, and live music all the way, but the real reason to go is to see the river, the bluffs, the trees, and the bald eagles.

 The Mississippi was a flood stage, since heavy rains about a week ago.  At Dubuque many docks were under water, same with riverside parks and some cottages.
 This is lock and dam 11 near Dubuque.  The gates are all open, since the river is at flood stage.  The boat still goes through the lock since otherwise the current would be too swift to control the boat.

 This is one of the three captains on the excursion boat.  The pilots house was open, and we could go in, watch, ask questions, and get a good look at their navigational equipment.

 There weren't many pleasure craft out, since the current was so swift, and there was so much debris in the water, though we did see a couple canoeists.

 The trip went past some little villages, like Specht's Ferry, Cameron, and Guttenburg, Iowa. 

 Freight trains run all along both sides of the river, and when they sound their horns it echoes off the water and the limestone bluffs.

 There were a couple dozen tow boats with barges on the upper Mississippi, but this is the only one we saw.

What we mostly saw was blue sky, wide expanses of water, flooded islands, and at least a dozen bald eagles.  It was relaxing, lovely and a good way to celebrate autumn.