Pattern, texture, color, and a project with beautiful surprises! This month twenty-three students at Yorktown High School created designs for book covers. I joined them as a guest artist, collaborating with artist and educator, Erika Lucas. With Erika, the students experimented with watercolor painting and carving and printing stamps. I brought materials for marbling papers.
There are some tricks to successful marbling. A good way to start is with shaving cream. It’s easy to squirt the cream onto a flat surface, spread it, and then gently drop or splatter ink on top. Drawing ever-so-lightly with the tip of a skewer or plastic spoon, the students made swirls and patterns in the colors. They placed a paper on top of each design and pressed softly to make contact everywhere. Then, lifting up, gently scraping the cream from the paper, and rinsing revealed a bright image!
The students went on to explore more traditional techniques. Once again, a light-as-a-feather touch led to success — swirling patterns of color.
We have a bumper crop of pumpkins this year but absolutely no sunflowers. I guess the squirrels ate the seeds.
My friend, author Jackie Jules, grew sunflowers on her deck. Her seedlings vanished once, then twice. But did Jackie give up? No. In fact, I bet that she sang as she watered her plants– songs of maidens and magic seeds. Her flowers bloomed in the brightest gold.
More than a thousand miles away, I dreamed of blossoms and howling guards that chased away the squirrels. In the morning I’d walk the dog and sneak past a neighbor’s house for a glimpse of her sunflowers.
Then one day Madelyn Rosenberg came to my rescue. She was typing away. I imagine her looking like a brunette Katherine Hepburn — author/ journalist. She took a break to bring sunflowers to everyone at our writers group. Madelyn, how did you know? I just had to paint them.
————— Even if plants can’t hear storytellers, what do we know of how plants respond to sound? A study of caterpillar crunching! From the California Academy of Sciences.
A sunny afternoon and we couldn’t resist drawing outside.
I looked in my bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Nature Drawing by Clare Walker Leslie. Beyond the front door we sketched blue skies, puffy clouds, cherry trees and architecture — inspiration all around us.
Making prints is like magic. You can paint an image on a sheet of plastic, place paper on top, apply pressure and lift the paper. Suddenly you have a new design!
This technique uses wet watercolor with either wet or dry paper, and I never know exactly how the paint will spread. On a grey day, we experimented. Our first grade students created prints with tempera paints on construction paper. In an instant the room filled with spring colors.
My daughter planted seeds and placed the pots in our kitchen window. They’ve sprouted! We forgot to label the containers, but we’ll recognize some of the vegetables by the shapes of their leaves. As for the others … oops! Expect a few surprises.
In April and May, I’ll join first graders to create art inspired by nature. One of the first things we’ll do is sketch the plants sprouting up at school. The students love to remind me to “visualize.” It’s fun to close our eyes and think of a picture and then paint it! Here’s my painting of the salad I’ll eat — made up of vegetables grown in the next few months.
How do you imagine you’ll enjoy the outdoors this spring?
Dancing. In my dreams. Last month I broke my femur. Thank goodness the surgeon put it back together. Now I’m painting and thinking about dancing. Maybe in the spring.
One of my favorite fairy tales is The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. I have A Little Golden Book published in 1954. The story is retold by Jane Werner with pictures by Sheilah Beckett. I love the colorful dresses, the trees studded with leaves of silver, gold and diamonds, and the mystery of it all. Where do the princesses disappear to in the night?
In my family we learned to accept responsibility early in life. I was the sous chef, and I fixed the turkey. Okay, I might be padding my resume. I assisted the chef.
I was an enthusiastic carnivore as a child, but now I really love vegetables. My daughter tends our backyard garden, and this week she’s built a hoop structure with pipes and sheets of plastic. It will protect the parsley, thyme, kale and other greens through the winter. I’m thankful to have children who like to grow things that I like to eat!
As we plan holiday menus, I’m reading The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, written by chef and farmer, Chris Fischer, in collaboration with chef and writer, Catherine Young. You might have seen the recipes and review in The New York Times food blog. The book tells the story of a family farm on Martha’s Vineyard, complete with descriptions of mouthwatering meals and recipes for ingredients straight from the seashore, pasture and garden.
Last year I wrote about recipes and books to share with children over the holidays. You’ll find several books by Virginia authors in that discussion. Many writers released new titles this year. I hope to write more about them in a future post.
A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.
My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.
Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.
Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.
Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.
I love the holidays, the friends, the lights, the music. I can barely sing a note, but that hasn’t stopped me. And then there’s the food…
Betty Crocker’s step by step cookbook for kids taught me to make Long John Silver Sandwiches, Canned Peas Deluxe — just think of the gastronomic flair — and Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Of course, I had lots of on the job experience with my mom, my grandmothers, a very talented dad and generous aunts. I loved the illustrations in Betty Crocker’s 1957 edition. On the cover, the young fellow is tasting, while the girls whip up the batter by hand. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that boys do all the campfire cooking and girls do most of the serving and dishwashing. Thank heaven for all you feminists out there, because my husband knows how to wash dishes!
Now I’m inspired by authors, who write about food and celebrations with friends and families. Here are just a few:
French toast by the author of Dream Boy and How to Behave at a Tea Party, Madelyn Rosenberg
Recipes for griddle cakes, turkey soup, blueberry pie and more by the author of Emily and Carlo, Marty Rhodes Figley
A review of The Bakeshop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn in Books Together by Anamaria AndersonWhat a Way to Start a New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle by Jacqueline Jules
This Gingerbread Man has adventures all year round. Look for him in books by Laura Murray.
update December 9, 2014: For those of you who are curious, the well-known illustrator, Gloria Kamen, created the drawings for Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls.