Category Archives: Art

A Local Evening in Germany

A few days ago, my son came to help me put up Christmas decorations and, wanting to reward him, I offered to take him and his girlfriend to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose a local family-owned German restaurant here in coastal, west-central Florida. We go there often and are friends with the owner and his lovely wife who immigrated here a number of years ago. Just stepping inside their restaurant always makes us feel as though we have traveled back in time and are journeying down memory lane, once more.

We were a military family and we lived in Germany for three years. Our home was in Morbach snuggled in the Hunsrück Mountains near the Mosel River and not far from Luxembourg. At the time, it was a rather small village with delightfully helpful people and was not an area known much to tourists. So, most of our friends were either fellow Americans or German neighbors or people we met while we were there.

Every chance we got, we traveled around the country, trying to cram in as much history, art and culture as possible and as I looked around the restaurant at all the beautiful objet d’art that decorated the rooms, I was reminded of some of those experiences. Folklore fascinated me and how it was manifested in artwork and in particular, woodcarving. In the Black Forest, I met an artist who sold me three of his works that he had hand carved. He explained that the styles might be different in each, but they were based on German fairy tales, folklore and history.

The first object was a witch with a cat sitting on her shoulder. It was 8 ½” tall and carved with large strokes of the cutting blade which, amazingly didn’t hamper the detail of her figure or face or of the little animal. This technique actually created shadows and wrinkles and character.

Witch with cat

Witch with cat

The next object was a mask about 11 ½” tall.  I was captivated by the fact that the carving totally followed the grain of the wood; the center was the tip of the nose. It had to take real planning to imagine ahead of time how to accomplish the carving. The kind of thinking-ahead required of a chess player, I thought. Amazing!

 Carved Mask

Carved Mask

And the last object was a mountain climber which measured 22” from the top of his upper hand to the bottom of his lantern.  The carving technique on this work was similar to the witch with the wider carving strokes and was also rendered from a single chunk of wood, except for the feather in the climber’s cap, and of course, the metal lantern. I found it enchanting that the lantern actually lights up and hangs from the ceiling by the climber’s rope. Since then, I’ve seen this piece often copied because of its uniqueness and popularity.

Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Germany will always be a special place to me. I have wonderful memories of good times, good people, and good experiences that I shall cherish always. Opportunities to spark those memories again and again abide in my local German friends. Thank you, Dagmar and Uwe.

Do you have a place or people that remind you of a cherished previous time in your life, just by going there and seeing it or them? I’d love to hear.

Coco Ihle is the author of  SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month

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Secret Lives by John E. Stack

Children always seem excited when they see their teachers in a different environment outside of school.  They often wonder if teachers do anything other than teach and grade papers.  They always ask teachers what they do in their off-time, because in the student’s mind the teacher lives at the school.  Even though it really seems that some do, most of us lead exciting lives, married, raise kids, and work other jobs (is writing another job?). 

What if teachers did do more than teach?  What if the middle schoolers we worked with were actually alien rather than just acting as if they were from another planet? What if….?

The above is the proposed forward to my latest submission, Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).  Secret Lives is my first attempt at something like a novel or rather a story other than a picture book.  We are always told to write about something you know or you are interested in.  So I did.

Let’s see, I have spent ten months a year for the last eighteen years teaching in the same middle school.  With that, I have worked around a lot of the same teachers and many new teachers that rotate through our school.  Some of the personalities are unique.  Sometimes the faces change, but the personalities stay the same.

I’ve taught close to two thousand students.  I would try to describe the normal student, but who is to say what is normal.  I have had parents ask “What happened to the sweet, little girl I used to have?  It’s like some alien sucked her brains out and didn’t give them all back.”  Or, they wonder why their sons stopped taking showers and why hygiene now means nothing.

So, I took a handful of experience (eight four-day trips to Washington, DC with four bus loads of eighth graders gives some experience), several teacher personalities, and a fascination with astronomy mixed them all together with a little humor and came out with something like a story.

God gave me a little leeway and allowed me to create a planet system around a known star.  In that system is a planet named after an Englishman named Nigel that I go to church with.  I got to determine what the people looked like and the environment in which they lived.  I also got to develop worm-hole technology.

My aliens are called Nigelians (Nigel) and they are very humanoid.  The only differences are their lack of noses and ears.  While on Earth they wear assimilation suits to disguise their differences.  They also have tufts of hair rather than a full covering.  There are other differences, but maybe you can read about them later this summer.

If you have ever been to Washington, DC, you may have passed by the Old Post Office.  I have been to the building once and even took a group of students up into the clock tower.  Most of the story takes place in DC, but the Old Post Office became the home for our school and was the center for a lot of the action in the book.

I also tried something that I haven’t really attempted since I was a boy (and that was a long time ago) — free-hand drawing.  In the military, I was trained as a architectural draftsman.  I learned straight lines and right angles.  This was something different.  I did sketches, perspectives and some doodling.  Eventually, I completed all the drawings except for one, which was submitted by a student.  I did make some changes, but gave her the credit.

I have to admit that completing this book was a lot more fun than the picture books I’ve been doing.  There was more freedom in writing, in the ideas, and my thought process felt more alive.  I also got to learn a lot about DC.

When we continue to try something new we continue to grow in our art.  And, as long as we enjoy what we do it is not a job. Keep an eye out for my new adventure.  Read, write and enjoy.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  He is also the author of the upcoming books Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and  Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

 

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Medieval Brass Rubbings

Being a romantic, I’ve always had an affinity for the Medieval through Renaissance periods of Britain; roughly between the 5th–17th centuries. Some really beautiful artwork can be found in catacombs and tombs in churches and abbeys, particularly in England, in the form of monumental brasses, which memorialize burials of important people of the day. Brass plates were often etched in effigies of the deceased and sometimes included relatives, pets, armor, status, even occupation of the individual. For historical or artistic value, many people have sought to copy some of these brasses onto paper. I decided I’d like to do that too.

Medieval brasses date back to as early as 1015 AD, I was told, but most of the ones that have survived through the ages are from the 14th century on up to the present day. Many were lost during the Bubonic Plague or Black Death beginning in 1347 AD, building and reconstruction projects, and destruction from wars throughout Europe. Although, the largest collections of brasses are in England, others can be found on the Continent.

Much information can be gleaned from these brasses, such as style and fashion, occupations and status, genealogy, heraldry, the history of armor and even ecclesiastical history. In fact, one could spend a lifetime studying this subject. For me, though, I was interested in learning the craft of rubbing and having a couple pieces of history in my home as mementos of my trip. I have a room with a 6½ʹ tall x 4ʹ wide medieval tapestry and I wanted a couple of brass rubbings for that room, as well.

I lived in Germany at the time and researched for several months to find brasses of the right ilk and then headed for England. Unfortunately, many of the really old brasses are not available anymore for rubbing, because they have been worn down over time, but replica brasses have been made, many of which are exact copies of the originals and are available for rubbing. There are also miniature brasses for those who don’t have time to rub a large one.

To make my rubbing, I used a special black rag paper, a gold metallic, hard wax block and a smaller pencil shaped wax tool, and masking tape to affix the paper to the brass. Many people have thought that making rubbings would be easy, just like coloring. But I can tell you, if you want a really good rubbing, it takes time and patience and sensitivity in one’s fingertips to feel through the paper to the raised areas of the design in order to know where the edges are. The weight of pressing down with the hard wax tool one uses to actually rub is tricky and the consistent direction one rubs makes for a neat and attractive finished product. Achy fingers are a given, before a brass rubbing is completed, I can assure you, but the finished product, for me, was well worth it.

I now have three framed brass rubbings. A small one, I rubbed myself, which is about 26ʺ tall x 10ʺ wide, and a pair, each 3½ʹ tall x 16ʺ wide, of Sir Roger Bellingham, d. 1544 and his wife Elizabeth, d.1500 from Kendal, Westmorland, England; my knight in shining armor and his lady.

If you are interested in learning more about brasses in England you may wish to visit The Monumental Brass Society online. My brass rubbing are below. I also have some grave stone rubbings that I made here in the U.S. Have you ever done any rubbings?

P1020390             P1020400      P1020411

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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You Are What You Ink by LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

I’m getting my fifth tattoo today. Some of you may smirk at the measly amount of ink adorning my body while others will wince with dismay at the whole idea. To tattoo or not tattoo — a great way to get people talking, isn’t it?

800px-Alice_05a-1116x1492

Tattoo # 1

When folks hear I’m getting a new tattoo, the natural question is what am I getting? True to writerly form, all of my tattoos are literary — specifically from Alice in Wonderland. My ink-marked road began back in 1992 with the Caterpillar smoking his hookah tattooed onto my left thigh. A few years after that, I balanced things out with the Mad Hatter on my right thigh. Later on, I added the Cheshire Cat on my back and more recently, a playing card painting roses on my foot. For my next tattoo, I’m branching out into Through the Looking Glass for the White Queen, along with her wonderful quote ‘sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

I considered the Red Queen but as I explained to a friend, the Red Queen has taken on menacing connotations since appearing in Through the Looking Glass. Anyone who has read Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars series or watched Resident Evil knows what I mean. I’m not sure how I feel about putting something sinister on my body. Would it imply I’m sinister? Reveal my dark side to the world?

This got me thinking about what drives folks to choose what they have tattooed on their skin. If you ask someone about her tattoo, you’ll hear a story in return. The story could be about the design — be it a Chinese character denoting a name, an Egyptian symbol for Osiris drawn on a napkin at a bar by a tipsy friend, or a favorite piece of art reimagined just for you. The tattooed person might choose to reminisce about the experience — perhaps the ink was drawn by a renowned artist, maybe the tattoo shop clientele was rougher than expected tinging the experience with a little fear, or possibly close friends came along as support during the session. Sometimes the story is about why she got the tattoo — it could be in memory of a parent, to commemorate a momentous event, or a reminder to be strong. The stories are as varied as the human experience.

A tattoo is more than ink cut into flesh. For most folks their tattoos express how they think of themselves, who they present to the world. I’m a fantasy author and one of the first stories I remember loving was Alice’s crazy journey though Wonderland. Tattooing her world on my body tells the world a little bit about who I am and what I like. Some folks want original art on their bodies, while others sport family portraits. A gorgeous design of flowers twining around your arms could lure you to the tattoo parlor chair while your friend would rather have words from a favorite movie coiling around her arms.

Oftentimes, a non-tattooed person will mutter, “I don’t know what I’d get” — I think that’s a sound reason not to get a tattoo. You’d better like what you pick — because it’s going to hurt and be permanent. Tattoo removal notwithstanding.

Tribal designs, Chinese symbols, family photos, movie characters, album covers, favorite foods, a lover’s name, a child’s birthdate — anything can be mined for ideas. If someone chooses a menacing, evil design, be it historical, religious, literary, or simply violent, he is embracing a philosophy, declaring an affiliation with something disturbing. It’s a deliberate choice.

Of course, the Red Queen isn’t all bad in Through the Looking Glass, but she gets bad rap since she’s often confused with the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. You know, “off with their heads’ — that Queen of Hearts. In fact, The Red Queen even helps Alice become a queen and celebrates with her near the end of the book.

Mmmm — perhaps # 6 will be the Red Queen after all. A kinder version of the character.

I’d love to hear your stories about your tattoos in the comments.

With thanks to Amber Hettman for the title. In addition, a shout-out to Brynn Sladky at Blacklist Tattoo (http://blacklisttattoo.com) for designing and inking tattoo number five.

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic. She added the ‘six impossible things ‘quote as well as some other wonderful details.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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It’s In the Doing – by Paul J. Stam

Second ImageI am baffled by the amount of complaining that swamps the Internet about how hard it is to write. So much that I wonder why people bother to write. There is a plethora of articles such as: Dealing With Writer’s Block, and The Demon of Procrastination etc.

Procrastination I understand; it is doing what you want to do rather than something you think you must do. But writing is something I want to do, love to do, and so the things I procrastinate at are such things as paying bills, or making, or keeping, doctors’ appointments.

To be very honest with you I have never had writer’s block, whatever it may be, unless it is responsibilities that keep me from doing what I love to do. Right now I’m working on two novels; one is Second Image which is in the final edits (so much so that I even made a tentative cover for it) and the other is an unnamed apocalyptic novel in the 1st draft.  The only thing that blocks me from working on one or the other of them is an obligation of some kind, or another love which has come into my life recently, and that is ceramics. Continue reading

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Mose T’s Jick Jack Suzy to Tico Bird

I have a mini gallery in my breakfast room devoted to a special folk-artist friend from Alabama. His name was Mose Tolliver, or Mose T, as he was known, and although he’s no longer with us, his memory lives on, as “they” say. Mose was born on July forth somewhere between 1920 and 1925 (nobody really knows for sure), and he was one of twelve children. His schooling went as far as the third grade with dyslexia hampering his ability to read and write.

P1020316

In the 1940s, he married his childhood friend Willie Mae Thomas and they had 13 children, 11 of whom survived. He worked with plants and designed creative yard plans with an unusual flair and became a respected gardener.

He worked from time to time for McLendon Furniture Company (sweeping out the shipping and delivery area early each morning) and during the late 1960s he was severely injured when his legs were crushed by a load of shifting marble which fell from a forklift. The accident left him unable to walk without assistance. He was encouraged to try oil painting by his former employer, who offered to pay for lessons, but Mose decided to explore this idea on his own. Little did he know that his life was about to change, forever, again.

First, he painted birds, flowers and trees and later added people and animals, all the while developing his own unique style and sense of humor. Even the titles of his paintings were unique, as was his signature with a backward “s.” He used any surface he could find: wood scraps, metal trays, Masonite, furniture, cigar boxes, even a piano, and items that were given to him. He’d display his paintings in his yard and later on his front porch and in his living room and eventually they started selling.

Mitchell Kahan, a former curator at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, AL, admired Mose’s work and set up a one-man exhibition for him in 1981. After that, Mose shared an exhibition entitled, Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, with another folk artist at the prestigious Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. First Lady Nancy Regan visited this exhibition and met Mose.

mosenancyreagan

A friend took me on my first visit to Mose’s home on Sayre Street back in the early 1980s. After that, I used to go often. I was fascinated listening to him tell stories and show me his current paintings on the walls and his “pure paint” in its cabinet at the foot of his bed, also there in the living room. I found out that “pure paint” was gallon cans of exterior house paint, first oil-based, then later, water-based latex, which dried faster. He was so prolific, he needed faster drying paint, and whatever colors were in the cabinet were the colors of his latest art pieces. He painted them while seated on his bed, his walker close at hand.

mose & coco

As time passed, I started taking him pieces of wood left over from my neighborhood construction sites and he seemed pleased to have some unusual shapes to use. In the early 1990s, I redecorated my kitchen and asked Mose if he’d create a painting for me of strawberries to hang in that room. I brought a bowl full for him to use as a guide, but he was more interested in eating them. Several weeks later, I visited again and there was my strawberry painting. I think it may be one of a kind. I really cherish it. But, more than that, I cherish my times visiting with this gentle man, hearing his stories and witnessing his love of life. He was truly inspirational. I was saddened to hear of his passing in 2006 at the age of 82.

Mose Tolliver’s work has appeared at such renowned institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, The American Folk Art Museum in New York, The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, The New Orleans Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Art Museum and many more throughout the world.

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Thinking in Pictures, by Sheila Deeth

I joined Pinterest. H-E-L-P. I have a page at https://www.pinterest.com/sheiladeeth/ and I’m “pinning” pictures to it. Sometimes I “repin” and wonder what it means. Then I join groups and find their folders added to my page, which is a good thing, right? I think… Maybe…

To be honest, Pinterest really shouldn’t scare me so much. I’ve always loved drawing. I might even be the last person around who can claim to love Microsoft Draw. But words are my first love, and how will posting pictures get people to read them?

I joined Google+ where I have another e-page at https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SheilaDeeth/posts. That link is filled with glorious images too. Then I joined a picture group and played with… words. So what do you think?

I tried so hard, but the text still disappear into petals and leaves. The background’s too full of things to see, I guess. But what about this? (And yeah, I really do like coffee!)

I took this photo with empty space left for words, so perhaps I’ve got it sussed. And in fiction, maybe the trick’s to make sure I don’t let the background get cluttered. I’ll try to take my own advice as I work on Subtraction today, but here’s the beginning of Part 2, where I introduce Andrew’s childhood friendship with Evie. I hope it might whet your appetite, and I hope it doesn’t clutter up the tale of his future too much.

Ten-year-old Evelyn, neat, tiny, and wreathed in long dark curls, was playing with eleven-year-old Andrew on the ground behind their houses. A neighbor’s cat had climbed the old oak tree that rose from summer’s unwatered dust and debris. Evie pranced among twisted roots as if the ground burned her feet. “You’ll have to rescue it, Andrew!” Hands flew to her hips while her skirt swung wide. Meanwhile Andrew thought of an unrescued red rubber ball lost somewhere in undergrowth. Finding that would be much more interesting. But Evelyn shouted again. “Andrew, you’ll have to climb up there and carry it down.”

Scents of green dripped around him with drifting leaves. Scents of brown kicked up from the dry earth around Evie’s feet. And emerald eyes stared out among the shadows of a black cat’s fur.

Ever-practical, Andrew measured the lack of earth-bound branches and the width of the old oak’s trunk. He angled his fingers out from his thumb, stared past them, then answered solemnly, “No way.”

“But you’ll have to, Andrew!” Evelyn’s stamping feet threw puffs of dirt around her legs.

So Andrew asked, “How?”

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Infinite Sum, will be released soon, and Subtraction is the third novel in the series.

 

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Pia Pucknucker On Hold For Now by Linda Lindsly

So for now “Pia Pucknucker And The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure” is on hold and due to come out in May, not March as I originally thought.    But that’s OK, because I’m still excited to have it published.  Lately, I have been conjuring up some new ideas that will take Pia Pucknucker on a new adventure.  Pia’s interest in solving mysteries as a private eye, include everything from a stolen bike (who done it) to unraveling mysteries of the past (the Indian treasure) or just finding answers to strange circumstances that keep Pia wondering why.  And Pia will also include her best furry friend, Thumbelina, on every new adventure she encounters.  Any ideas of  past childhood adventures that anyone has to share would be great.  A simple idea can spark a whole new adventure for Pia.  I remember growing up and playing with the kids in the neighborhood until we were called in for supper.  Everyday my friends and I would get together and do plays in our garage and charge neighborhood kids a dime to come and see what we were up to.  We also played softball and dodge ball on the street with our teams in place.  Every now and then a new kid on the block would join.

As  I think about all this, life was much simpler and we always would interact with each other, even fight and argue with one another.  But it was always understood that we were friends despite our differences.  We would just make up and go on.  Children don’t get to interact with others the way we did back then.  Most parents today both work and outside of school, not much social  interaction.  Activities are scheduled  and planned, which is good, but not much freedom from time restraints.  Also, the world is unfortunately not a safer place to have kids playing unsupervised or playing in the streets like we did back in the old days. We didn’t even have to wear helmuts to ride our bikes!

Well, enough of memory lane stuff.  As my ideas flow I’ll be jotting them down and envisioning what I’ll be illustrating and just go from there.  I’ll share my ideas and anyone who reads this can critique me on these ideas as well as share stories of their own.  I think that would be cool!

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Red and Black, by Sheila Deeth

Just how did Sylvia get from this

to this?

I should have known better than to let her loose with Paint on my computer. But if you want to know more, you’ll have to look out for Infinite Sum, coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. She wrote it all down when I let her loose with Word. So now Divide by Zero will be part of a real ongoing series, and my dreams are coming true. Meanwhile, in Sylvia’s nightmares…

A slash of red; a slash of black; and Sylvia’s paintbrush turns beauty turns into terror and darkness again. Her youngest child is almost ten, but Sylvia’s world seems destined to fall apart. Her therapist believes the answers lie in her art, but will they be found among boxes and frames in the attic, or in the angry colors she pours onto canvases in class? As memories new and old pile ever higher, Sylvia learns life is more about the infinite promise of joys to come than the sum of things done. Even so, will her nightmares let her go?

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Infinite Sum, will be released soon.

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Happy Christmas to All

Xmas card

You heard Paul exclaim on his blog post that night
Merry Christmas to all and a year of Happy delight!

 Mele Kalikimaka
Merry Christmas

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou
Happy New Year

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