Skull or Day of the Dead

SkullRecently I have reconnected with a student from my earlier days as an art teacher.  And, I do mean early!  Maybe 25 or more years ago was the last time I saw him. What a surprise to find that he had earned his master degree in theater arts and is still living near by.

Teachers have an odd job. They rarely see the final product of their work.   During the school year, we see sparks of possibilities in every student.  Students graduate, and we don’t keep in touch but with a few. We’re left wondering “whatever happened to…”  “Did he (or she) use the talents that were so apparent?” The ones that struggle, that work the hardest, always leave a mark on our hearts.

So soon I’ll have some answers.  The student, that is now a man, asked me via email to submit a  piece for a Day of the Dead show in our town’s new historical societies’ building.  A show that he is curating.  When we meet at the show,  I’ll get to here about his journey from my classroom to now.  What an adventure it must have been!

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Survival for Illustration Friday

survivalThis was a rather easy theme to do this time as I’ve been preparing digital art lessons for my high school students.  We’ll be creating robots using PhotoShop and their cell phone cameras.  The plan is for them to go around our campus taking photos that will be used as the backdrop for their battle scenes.  I introduced the idea before we left for Spring Break so they’d have plenty of time to play out scenes in their imagination.  I’ve got a great group of kids this years, a lot of talent.  It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with as we proceed with this project.

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Nativity Revisited

nativityrevistedLast night I was invited by a dear friend, Mrs. Moore, to Black Nativity Revisited put on by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. I had a little problem with the “revisited” in the title. Why was it there? Isn’t it the reason for the season? However, as the night progressed, it became so important.

I left late in the dark to a crowded freeway headed to a part of Oakland I didn’t know. When I stopped for a red light, a homeless man appeared out of the darkness right up at my car window with a palms together begging. I was taken aback and tried to explained through my tightly shut window and locked door that I couldn’t reach my purse, didn’t have any cash in my pockets. I just couldn’t help him. There were cars lined up behind me. I didn’t have time for this, I thought.  I was going to be late. As the light turned green, he signaled he understood and backed away into the night.

When I finally reached the church, I was greeted warmly and let in to the performance held in the sanctuary. I couldn’t completely settle down to enjoy the jubilant  performance. The beggars face haunted me on and off throughout performance of the Christmas story.  I revisit the Nativity story every year. It doesn’t change. I do it to honor and celebrate this glorious gift from God. But on this night, it changed for me.

During the performance last night the phrase “no room at the inn” was spoken and sung I don’t know how many times . It’s repetition, though, called upon me to rethink about the beggar I had just left on the street. Had I not just refused him entrance into my life? Why didn’t I roll down my window? Why didn’t I make the extra effort to reach for a couple of dollars? Why didn’t I just stop, let the cars behind me wait, and give something to this man in need. Some would try to ease my conscious by saying I was a woman traveling alone at night. But I didn’t feel threaten. He didn’t approach me in hostile way, made no movements that indicated I should be weary. He just want some help. I turned him away like the inn keepers in Bethlehem. I had no room for him.

I read somewhere, long ago, that the people who come into your life which  you find most frustrating or disturb your day to day existence, are there to teach you something; most likely something about yourself. Last night that beggar came knocking on my door, and like the inn keepers in Bethlehem on that most holiest of nights, I turned him away. The inn keepers, that turned Mary and Joseph away, missed being there when a miracle occurred. They missed  seeing Emmanuel, Jesus, Son of God, Comforter and Prince of Peace. What had I missed by not giving a minute two more to a beggar?

Or, maybe, I didn’t miss out.  Maybe I got to play a part in the retelling of the nativity story.   For the beggar reminded me to keep my inn open. To remember that we all are walking miracles brought into this world to give it something special of ourselves. I revisited the nativity. I learned I am part of the nativity; that I live it everyday. Last night I was an inn keeper. Today I might be a shepherd, tomorrow one of the three kings. That the next person I meet might have lesson for me. Whatever part I play, giver or receiver, I must keep my heart open and greet everyone as though they might hold a message I need to hear. And sometimes, slow learner that I am, I might have to be revisited again and again to get the point.

Merry Christmas to all, and may you be open to the miracles that surround you.

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Jungle Nymph for IF’s Spirit.

junglenymphHere in the Bay Area, we just finished one of our coldest weeks ever.  Those living in the east, probably think of us as wimps. I’ll admit it, but even so, we all probably begin to fantasize about warmer climates when we’re chilled to the bone. And even though, we can’t travel to the heat of a jungle paradise, our imaginations can take us there in spirit.

Science now confirms that what you think your body feels.  Strong memories can be felt by the body.  It can’t determine the source of the minds reaction. It can only follow.  So let your reveries take you to your favorite warm climate and bask in the virtual sun of your own creation. Stave off the cold for just a little while.

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mike2smWho’s that handsome dude?

It’s Mike White; all dressed up for the Pooch Pow Wow held at Ol’ Niles area of Fremont, California.

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Tension for Illustration Friday


















Tension? Let me tell you about tension.

Graduation angst is all over the faces of my high school seniors.  Like deer caught in the headlights, they see the near future rushing towards them, and it is finally hitting them that life is about to change.  They’re experiencing the tension of leaving that safe forest of daily school routine and taking those tentative steps of crossing the highway of life into adult hood. Being part of the lucky class of 2013 might be adding to the tension.

The piece above is actually my example for my students final art project.  The theme is facades, and they have all the PhotoShop skills they’ve gained this year to use to make their pieces.  I’m excited to see what their interpretations will become.

I’m finding that I really like working in pencil, and then scanning that drawing into Photoshop.  Sometime I begin directly in PhotoShop, but after teaching how to use the program all day, I really miss the feel of traditional media. To be able to combine the two is so freeing as I can manipulate my drawings endless with no fear of corrupting the original.

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Wild for Illustration Friday


It’s April, and the world is in bloom. I’ve spent the weekend working in my backyard garden trying to get it back in order after it’s been neglected for so long.  Winter in California is a holiday compare to other parts of the country , but still it can be cold and wet.  During the winter, my garden is best experienced from behind a window in a warm and cozy room.  The sunshine this weekend,however, demanded an extended stay outside.  So I shot myself outside and hunkered down to do  some serious weeding and trimming.  A rototiller rejuvenated raised beds with a health dose of organic matter, or in more earthy terms, cow manure. The wild hinter lands are less a jungle and my winter, white skin has the beginning , if not a summer tan, at least a spring one.

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WINGS for Illusration Friday

togetherWEB Wings—
To fly
To carry you
Beyond the everyday
To places yet unknown With hopes
That something new And miraculous
Will happen.

Mysteries abound
If only you are open
And willing to quiet
That ceaseless voice

There’s another voice
To guide you where
Truly belong.

Listen—And fly…

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Myth for Illustration Friday


Joseph Campbell’s books, the Power of Myth and The Hero With A Thousand Faces come to mind  from this weeks prompt from Illustration Friday.  I strongly believe we all follow the the path of the archetype hero.  We walk the stages of the myth story as described by Campbell. Whether it be the stage of leaving home to begin a quest or meeting the trickster that will divert us from our adventure, our life paths seem to be headed towards a goal. We illustrators draw these stages over and over again in hopes of helpings our viewers to get closer to their goals.

At the present I think I am at the end a conflict stage in my quest.  It’s been a year of struggles. Only now am I becoming more aware of the treasures I have gain from walking my path.

I began this piece last June when summer vacation began.  Freed from the responsibilities of teaching high school students, I had time to sit down and draw.  I started out doing the deletion technique on bristol board using ground graphite.  I attacked that sheet of bristol board. What started out as a giant scribble transformed into a jungle of vines entangling my hero; stopping him, holding him and not letting him move forward.  I think my subconscious was trying to work out my real life frustrations. I had been dealing with the death of my mother and the tasks of taking care of my 87 year old father. And like my hero, stuck and not moving forward, I had to learn to pause, breathe and just let go of trying to hold it all together. When I did, things began to settle down and I could handle things much better.

Isn’t it always that way with a tangle? You can’t fight it into order, you got to let go first.

Once the pencil drawing was done, I let it sit for a few months. Only last Friday when I learned that myth was the Illustration Friday prompt, did I look at it again. To finish it off, I scanned it into PhotoShop and with my new Wacom tablet started adding color. I’m still amazed at the fine quality of line and control the Wacom stylus gives me. I would have been fearful of trying to add color to the graphite drawing, but on the computer I stay tangle free. My quest is complete.

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Another PhotoShop Edit

Final16X20webThough I’ve been working with PhotoShop for a long while, I’m still amazed with what you can do with it.  I generally use it for painting original drawings, but lately I’ve been using it to photo editing.  This time my niece-in-law ask me to update a cherished photo of her mom and dad for a Christmas gift.  The original image was so dark and dead looking, but PhotoShop brought it back to life.  That program and my Wacom tablet are just too cool with work.  So much room for creativity!Scan

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